Archive for July, 2011

Senor Hibbie

July 30, 2011 2 comments

Back in Scotland after an interesting trip via Barcelona, where I visited my new bank and was introduced to Senor Campos, the manager. Amazingly, he revealed himself to be a Hibs supporter. (My Aussie pal Fred will love that.) Sr. Campos speaks no English, which must make his affliction a little easier. He’ll be pleased this evening though, his team having nicked an away win at Inverness, even of it was courtesy of a last minute comedy goal.

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Hell of a weekend. Eileen had never heard of Janis Joplin. I had to explain who she was, and what became of her. For a while now, whenever I’ve read of another Amy Winehouse excess, I’ve found myself thinking of her. Some things may be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we should resign ourselves to them. God knows, the government takes enough in tax from the sale of alcohol, so how about investing some of it in a system by which individuals would be licensed users? Doesn’t seem like a brain-buster to me, but it’s green-field thinking, whereas Westminster is strictly brown-field.

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Our Frida’s mother was Norwegian. A couple of weeks ago we had the pleasure of meeting her uncle and aunt for the first time. Physically, they don’t live anywhere near Oslo, or Utoya Island, but in a sense we all do. Profound sympathies to the bereaved, to the survivors and to the entire nation.

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On running a menage

July 22, 2011 5 comments

I became disillusioned by Scottish football years ago. It began to die with the grandiose, unrealistic dreams of David Murray and was further wounded when smaller clubs reacted to the Bosman era by employing clapped-out Continentals thus denying careers in  the game to talented young Scots. It still has a pulse but it’s getting weaker by the year, and the idiots who are currently running it, none of whom appear to have a grounding in or understanding of my country, seem to be doing their best to finish it off.

For example, this is July 22. Tomorrow, the Scottish Premier League 2011 – 2012 season begins. This is madness. Okay, times have changed but the fact remains that the majority of Scottish families take their holidays in July. Many of these people will have bought season tickets for their clubs, and booked their flights and digs, all before the league programme was published. When you buy a season, you become a creditor of the club in question, and its debt is redeemed with every home match you attend. Thus, hundreds, probably thousands of fans across the country will not be receiving full value for their investment, and will effectively have been cheated by the clowns who drew up this ridiculous schedule.

If you think this is just QJ having a rant, I am not alone. For example, Terry Butcher has been forthright on the situation.

Terry, who has become a stalwart of the Scottish game, is actually a football man. The fact that he and people like him were presented with these fixtures as a fait accompli, shows the  lack of understanding of the realities of the game among its senior administrators. Or could it be that Scottish football has become just another business that holds its customers in contempt?

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July 21, 2011 1 comment

Back to the Murdochs, one last time, and to the final questioner during their inquisition, Louise Mensch, MP. Although the purpose of the hearing was quite specific, she managed to include in her line of questioning an assertion that Piers Morgan admits in his book ‘Insider‘ to having landed a story while editor of the Daily Mirror by hacking into someone’s phone. The only issue being . . . he didn’t. Not unnaturally, Piers . . . most people love him or hate him, but I’m indifferent . . . was outraged by this, not least because the allegation was made under the protection of parliamentary privilege.

I’ve just watched on YouTube, a nine minute interview with Mrs Mensch on CNN, Morgan’s current employer in the US. He joined in by telephone and invited her to withdraw  her remarks. She refused, but declined to repeat them, hiding once again behind the cloak of privilege. However she also refused to apologise; indeed she seemed to glory in the attention she was receiving, and in Morgan’s anger, accusing him of threats that again he did not in fact utter, as she smirked her way through the broadcast in a manner that most of her American audience must have found as appalling as did I.

Mrs Mensch and I have certain common business interests, so maybe I shouldn’t say this but I will. I believe that her use of her position to make apparently defamatory remarks, whoever the subject may be, without apology or even regret, is a disgrace to the House of Commons and brings it into disrepute. It may be that no sanctions exist that can be taken against her, but if there are, they should be invoked.

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Mark of the man

Bob Skinner is glorying right now in his back-door tipping of Darren Clarke to win the Open. I cannot let that stand without retaliation, but first, I’m going to tell you a story.

Thirty-one years ago, the Open came to Muirfield on the rota, and in common with the rest of Gullane, I took time off work to enjoy it all the way through. As fate had it, my good friend Doctor Golf was an exhibitor in the main commercial tent that year, selling his excellent custom made golf clubs under his Kugar brand. The practice then, and now for all I know, was for stand-renters to be invited to a press reception, with Bollinger, before the big show got under way. Since he was a beer man pure and simple, DG was kind enough to give me his invitation, in the hope that it might generate a little publicity. I’ve never been hugely keen on champagne at lunchtime, but I did my bit; a couple of bottle later, I managed to persuade Joan Simpson, from the Evening News, t0 accopmpany me back to the Kugar stand, with a view to including the range in a future piece, but really just to show the Doc a face.

As we left the reception area, I was speaking to Joan and so I failed to see the guy heading in the opposite direction, and bumped into him. He was a big man, bigger than me, and I’m not a midget. I blinked, looked up at him, and said ‘**** me, you’re Mark McCormack.’ For the younger set, and non-golfers, Mr McCormack was at that time the most celebrated sports agent in the world, founder and CEO of the International Management Group, now simply IMG, and a regular commentator on the BBCTV golf team. He was also a very nice man, for instead of grunting and going on his way, he smiled and said ‘I am indeed.’ My response was to ask him if he’d like to come and see my mate’s golf clubs, and he replied ‘Sure’. Thus it was that I made Doctor Golf’s day. I don’t know whether Mark bought any clubs, but his mere presence there was enough. A class act.

Which brings me back to where I began. IMG is still there, but sadly, its founder left us in 2003. Today, the hot ticket in golf management is Andrew Chandler, known as Chubby for very obvious reasons. It’s a remarkable fact that each of the three major championships contested this year has been won by a Chandler client, each one a first time winner. I regard that as an omen, and that is why I am tipping, as winner of next month’s US PGA, a fourth of Chubby’s boys, Lee John Westwood. Eat your heart out, Skinner, when he lifts the trophy.

Incidentally, I have one other memory of that day. As Mark swung Doctor Golf’s product, I happened to glance across at the opposite exhibit. I can’t recall whose it was but I do know that standing there was a young free and single Greg Norman. He was not alone; he had another sports star of the day at his side, tall, blonde, early twenties, and very attractive. No names, no pack drill, but every time I switch on Question of Sport these days, there she is, in the chair.

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The past is Orange

I’ve said it before but nobody listened so I’ll put the question again. Am I the only person who’s concerned about the apparent ease with which mobile phones can be monitored? When will the Culture Select Committee decide to call the enormously profitable telecommunications companies to account, and ask them what action they’re taking to protect their customers, something they have clearly failed to do in the past? It’s got to the stage at which I’m more than a little pissed off because my phone doesn’t appear to have been hacked. It’s like being the only kid on the street without an ASBO.

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Father and son

July 20, 2011 2 comments

At times it may have dragged, but yesterday’s Murdoch inquisition made fairly compulsive viewing. Like most commentators, I thought for the first ten minute so so that Rupert was no longer firing on all cylinders, until Mr Sheridan MP bowled him a nice long hop, concerning a back door visit to Number 10. The old man seemed to wake up, smacked it for six in the manner of all good Aussies, and from that point was reasonably okay. That’s what the New York Stock Exchange thought, given the 5%+ rise in Newscorp shares. Yes, questions of corporate governance may have been left hanging in the air, but you can bet that where the act needs sharpening up it will be and that all of his editors will have Rupert growling in their ears much more frequently, for a while at least.

Overall, I thought that James performed pretty well, all things considered. I say that, because if I were him, viewing the tapes today, I’d be firing my PR advisers. If I’d been briefing him, he would have gone in there with a complete, detailed timeline so that every time he was asked to put a date on something, for example, when he first became aware of an occurrence, he’d have had the answer literally at his fingertips. That’s basic stuff and they didn’t do it.

As for the pie-chucker, those around the incident might possibly have let Mrs Murdoch get a few more shots in before he was huckled away. I read this morning that he’s been charged with a public order offence and bailed to appear before magistrates later this week. I’m sure he’ll be given more than a slap on the wrist, but I suspect that worse will befall the person in charge of security for the hearing.

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Pam Salmon

Good to hear from you again. If I’m free and can do anything else for Poppy Scotland, I’d be glad to help.

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Xenophobia rules, okay? No.

July 19, 2011 3 comments

Further to my ‘xenophobia’ post a few days ago, just for fun and with tongue slightly in cheek, I went through the step-by-step process of submitting an on-line complaint to the BBC about the anti-Scottish ‘joke’ to which I had taken exception in one of my grumpier moments. Today I received a response from a lady named Joanne Docherty. This is the relevant part of her message:

‘It is a recognised and traditional part of British humour to make jokes about people within the British Isles. For example, the English are lampooned as “stuck up” and superior in their attitude to other races.

‘One can argue that telling jokes about any nationality is wrong but usually such jokes are affectionate and free from malice. We do not wish to compile a list of banned subjects but do try to ensure that jokes on certain subjects are not overdone, and also that they are genuinely funny.’

I don’t believe that Joanne, or the Corporation quite grasp the true situation. This One doesn’t argue that telling jokes about any nationality is wrong but . . .

Correct me if I’m mistaken, but as a Jock, I feel that I have a degree of licence to crack as many Jock jokes as I choose, because I’m poking fun at myself. However, if I go on live telly and crack one, in my distinctively Scottish accent,  that casts an Englishman as a stuck-up, snobbish, effete twerp, I am likely to cause offence to a significant chunk of the viewing audience. Likewise jokes about sheep and Welshmen, (or New Zealanders)  or the time-honoured Irish one-liners. In other words, whenever humour crosses borders and targets (or ‘lampoons’) another national group, then often, and for many, it will cease to be funny.

If the BBC really believes that it can dress offensive remarks in a cloak of affection, then it really does not understand the nations that it serves. Time for broadcasting to be devolved completely to Holyrood and for the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation to be created. Its motto? Forget that crappy, limp-wristed ‘Nations Shall Speak Peace Unto Nations‘. My SBC  wouldn’t look beyond ‘Nemo Me Impune Lacessit‘, which, for the non-Latin speakers among us translates very roughly as ‘Watch It Jimmy!

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Big D

Eileen and I spent yesterday afternoon glued to the telly, and she’s not even a golfer. AJ will tell you that I am the world’s worst tipster, so I eschewed from going public on my fancy, although Bob Skinner was bold enough to predict on Facebook that An Irishman would win. He hasn’t told me whether he meant That Irishman, but given his shrewdness I suspect that he did. I certainly had a sneaking fancy for him, in the conditions that were forecast.

Not all things that are meant to be will happen. This one did: the image of Big Darren holding up the Claret Jug is so right that it grabs your gut. Right for a whole raft of reasons; he’s come through personal tragedy to find another happy place, he’s secured his standing in the game, and he’s made sure that he’s not going to be forgotten with the rise of his younger compatriots, GMac and Rors. He’s up there on a par with them as a major winner, and I am sure those lads would agree that is beyond appropriate.

When it was over, I found myself trying to recall a more popular Open Champion. I can’t, and I have to go back to the eighties, to Seve and to Sandy Lyle, to find anyone on a similar level. I’d like to be able to say Nick Faldo, who,  for my money, was the best player these islands have ever produced, but he was so focused on his game that he never took the time to make himself loved. That’s the secret ingredient in the mix of greatness.

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Run that past me again?

Further to the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson, having read all of his statement I find much of it lacking in logic, and the rest riddled with self-praise and bull-shit. In its totality, I don’t believe a ******* word of it. The Home Secretary said it took her by surprise. If that’s so she can’t be very close to her colleague Boris, who revealed that he and the departing top cop had a discussion about his intention, before coming to the shared conclusion that it was probably  appropriate. In the aftermath the politicians were united in their praise of Sir Paul, declaring that the force has moved forward under his leadership. If progress means going from shooting an innocent electrician seven times in the head, as happened in his predecessor’s time, to simply assaulting a drunk newspaper seller who later died of a heart attack, then you can’t argue with that. Come on, T & B, if he was that good, you should have kept him on.

Sorry, you cannot step around one clear connection. Yesterday morning, Sir Paul was revealed to have stayed for free . . . with his wife . . . at a health resort, while recovering from an injury sustained during an operation to remove a pre-cancerous growth. The media made much of a connection between the resort and Neil ‘The Wolfman’ Wallis, the former NoW exec hired by the Met as a grand a day consultant, but to me that is quite irrelevant. Forget Wallis; forget the Commissioner’s acceptance of News International hospitality on 14 occasions. Sir Paul took a quite unnecessary five-week freebie, which he still asserts was entirely proper. Maybe so, but he resigned on the day the story broke. 

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Boris the Bold

July 18, 2011 4 comments

When I’m in Spain I tend to tune in to news channels fairly regularly, so last night I caught the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson shortly after it happened. I have to say that it was not the BBC’s finest hour, not that they’ve had many of those lately. As the situation evolved, News 24’s late night presenter, Annita McVeigh, seemed to elbow Jane Hill, her calm co-host, aside as she became more and more strident in her efforts to dictate events rather than report them.

The buzz word in the Corporation these days seems to be ‘talent’. Not a lot apparent in Ms McVeigh, I’m afraid. As I watched, I found myself recalling the time when her colleague Carrie Gracie attempted to bully my friend the Lord Foulkes, and was handed her head in a basket, live on telly, and I found myself hoping that some one would give her the same treatment. Step up, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. Bob Skinner thinks that Boris is a buffoon, and it’s certainly true that a comparison between his DNA and that of Coco the Clown would yield interesting results. However he is a very bright buffoon, much too bright for Ms McVeigh, as she should have realised very early in their conversation. Poor Annita. While it’s often wise to quit while you’re ahead, it’s almost invariably wiser to chuck it when you’re six goals down and playing into the wind. She didn’t know that, and in her ignorance she compounded her misfortune by quoting criticism of the Mayor by his predecessor, Red Ken Livingstone. This was the equivalent of my grand-dog Benny bowling an off-break to Garfield Sobers, and the result was as predicted.

The virus that is Jeremy Paxman (Incidentally, I couldn’t believe it on Saturday when the chair of the BBC Trust said in interview that he doesn’t know how much Paxman is paid.) seems to have spread to more and more of his colleagues these days. News programmes are becoming arenas, and political interviewees are seen universally as targets for rudeness and aggression. That’s how it was last night,  but God, how I love those rare occasions when a sacrificial Christian kicks the shit out of the lions.

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Sometimes I have to read a news story two or three times before I believe it. Sometimes I have to check the masthead of the paper to make sure it isn’t a Daily Mash spoof.

Today has given me one of those moments. You have the Commissioner of the Met staying for free in a luxury health club while recuperating from an injury, with the force’s public affairs department trying to justify it. (Hold on, I must read it again.) No, I didn’t have a CRAFT moment, that’s what it says. And more: the same story reveals that Sir Paul Stephenson was offered hospitality by News International on 15 occasions and accepted 14 times.

As my dear old granny probably wouldn’t have said, that simply buggers belief. I expect the heavy hand of Mayor Boris Johnson to fall on Sir Paul’s shoulder any time now, as he booms the fateful words, ‘You’re nicked!’

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Three days, that’s all, and Bob Skinner has 73 Facebook friends already. He’s a big believer in police accountability, so the more he has the happier he’ll be. Remember, location Gullane. He’s a little shy about uploading photos, but I’m trying to persuade him.

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Okay, it’s my day for bashing the BBC but on News 24 this morning,the twat who did the paper review, after commenting on the happy couple from Largs who just won large on the lottery, was allowed to crack a ‘joke’ which I might have found funny in the pub on a Friday night, but took ill out when I heard it on the public broadcasting channel. An hour later, he was allowed to do it again. Let’s see if Newswatch runs my comment next week, and if so, whether they give the offence a further airing.

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July 16, 2011 1 comment

Further to my previous post: in the wake of the Hutton inquiry into the sad death of David Kelly, and the shouting match between Andrew Gilligan and Alastair Campbell over the so-called dodgy dossier, the BBC instituted a programme called Newswatch, as part of an initiative to make its news department more accountable to the public. It gives viewers an outlet for their views and complaints, and it’s been running since 2004, presented throughout by the impeccable Raymond Snoddy, OBE, a free-lance journalist employed by the Corporation for the purpose.

Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. News accountability is allowed 15 minutes per week, and that’s it. The programme is broadcast only on the news channel. It’s shown twice. The  first screening is at 8:45 pm on Friday, when much of the population tends to be celebrating the coming weekend, and the rest is watching Coronation Street or Question of Sport. The second showing is at 7:45am on Saturday, when much of the population tends to be asleep or in the act of rising.

In other words, it’s a fix. BBC news accountability is a complete sham. Newswatch is hidden away from the general viewing audience, as a deliberate act of policy. True accountability would see it shown at least once, after each of the major BBC1 news bulletins, One O’Clock, Six O’Clock and Ten O’Clock, and at peak viewing times on the other BBC channels. Isn’t it ironic that Newswatch should have been born in response to the Hutton Inquiry, which was, of course, also a fix.

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The analogy doesn’t fit all the way through, but I’m beginning to think of Henry II when I see Rupert Murdoch on today’s news bulletins beating his breast and making brief, chaotic public apologies. No turbulent priest has been dispatched, but the aftermath is shaping up to be the same. ‘My words were misunderstood and misinterpreted by people who acted with excessive zeal’. No doubt this will be his story when he makes his pilgrimage to Westminster and presents himself before my old acquaintance Whitto’s select committee on Tuesday, to be ritually and painfully scourged by its un-monastic members. Like Henry he will survive, and who knows, may also be played by Peter O’Toole in the movie version.

But will the highest standards of British journalism survive, or are they already dead? Everything is distasteful about this saga. I heard it described today as the story that won’t go away. No it won’t, for Murdoch’s rivals won’t allow that. Previously cowed and intimidated by the biggest baddest dog on what used to be Fleet Street, they are turning on him in a frenzy that is as self-righteous as it is vicious. It is also very dangerous. If phone hacking is that easy, I for one do not believe that it has never been done for the benefit of any newspaper other than those owned by News International. As for bunging police officers for information . . . don’t make me laugh.

Objectivity seems to have disappeared from the agendas of some formerly unimpeachable journalists. I won’t go on about Robert Peston, who by now must have caused more viewers to change channel than any other TV reporter, but his colleague Nick Robinson seemed to me to have his story written even before he went into the room for his unusually aggressive grilling of Dave Cameron last week . . . pre-prepared also, for he seemed to have an extra camera in there filming his questions to give his piece added edge in the bulletins.

I’m a terrible old cynic, but I know this; at the end of the day, the political machine always wins, even if it has to shed the odd cog now and then. So, the ladies and gentlemen of the non-Murdoch UK media should be very careful where they step. This knot is going to take a while to unravel, but it’s pretty certain that the present Press Complaints Commission, which is less of a deterrent to media misbehaviour than my dear old cat is to mice, will be replaced by a new body, one with tiger teeth. The more moral outrage they generate, the sharper they will be. They say they represent the views of the public, but don’t believe that for one second; it’s not your axe they’re grinding, its their own, and the whetstone is jealousy of News International.

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The ancient ones are the best; thank you, Mike

In ancient Greece (469 – 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”
 “Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.”
“Test of Three?”
“That’s correct,” Socrates continued.
“Before you talk to me about my student let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“No,” the man replied, “actually I just heard about it.”
“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is   what you are about to tell me
about my student something good?”
“No, on the contrary.”
“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?”
The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.
Socrates continued, “You may still pass though because there is a third test – the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really.”
“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?”
The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more.
This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.   It also explains why Socrates never found out that Plato was banging his wife.
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Maryna Kriel

You say, and I quote ‘Read a book by another author that mentioned Skinner and most of his work mates, being consulted by the main character in the book, but can\’t remember the name of the author or the title of the book. Have your characters ever been mentioned in a book by another author and if so, could you please let me know.’

You sure you’re not geting confused with The Loner? If not, I would seriously like you, and anyone else who reads this, to try to remember, because it would be news to me and I might like to follow it up, possibly with serious intent.

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