There is a predator in Scottish football, and it’s called Rangers. I had hoped that last year’s turmoil would have put a little humility in the soul of the newborn club, and that it would be a little more considerate in its treatment of others. In years gone by, the Old Firm have seen the other Scottish clubs as mere breeding grounds. Celtic seem to have moved on from that, but not so New Rangers.
Even though the club is banned from the transfer market until September, pre-contract agreements are in place already with players poached from four Scottish sides. Trust me, there will be more, even though the Ibrox club will play next season in the third tier of the football league. The club was bust last year and it has still to prove that it is financially stable once more, but the old attitudes and practices of the Murray era remain, and money is being spent that only one other Scottish club could match and no Division Two side could possibly justify.
If that sounds bitter and jealous it probably is, but when our national game needs stability and quality more than ever before, it irks me that the bloody great cuckoo in the nest in Edmiston Drive is doing its best to undermine it.
A rare thing in Cataluna this month; a sunny day. The downsides are that more rain is forecast for later and that it’s cold. The natives say that it’s the worst May they can remember. Doesn’t seen too bad to me!
I’m going well off BBC Breakfast. More and more it’s a platform for the grinding of axes, and a video box for actors, authors and musicians with something to sell. The presenters are amiably smug . . . apart from Carol Kirkwood and Sally Nugent who should be given the whole show to run on their own . . . and the content is formulaic. Just occasionally, though, something does catch my attention and stops me from switching to Lorraine or to Sky News.
This morning there was a guy on arguing, in all seriousness, without a flicker of a smile, that bus passes should be taken from senior citizens and given to young people. There was also the obligatory guy arguing that they shouldn’t. Neither impressed me. I have a bus pass, but I use it very rarely, because if I have to go any distance I will either drive or take the train. However it isn’t just a bus pass, it’s an entitlement card that is programmed to be my library ticket as well, with the potential to serve other purposes. If Kim Jong-Eck and his Government decreed that I couldn’t have it any longer, it wouldn’t bother me, but I would take up the cudgels for those people who really do need the concession to let them go further than their own front door. Likewise I’d probably support travel concessions for jobseekers, during business hours, when the job centres are open and when interviews are held.
However I’m concerned that the bus pass argument is throwing up a smokescreen for a problem that is threatening the whole economy. Travel costs are becoming prohibitive for many people, but nobody in power is doing anything about it, not even demonstrating that they understand or care a toss.
I have just renewed my senior railcard in Spain, for another year. It cost me €5.35, and it gives me 40% off every journey. It pays for itself in one journey to Barcelona. In the midst of the worst economic crisis in its democratic history, the one thing that the Spanish government is not raising significantly are the rail fares, recognising that if people have to choose between getting to work and food, there is no way back. On the other hand, in Britain rail and bus costs are spiralling. It’s time the lamentable UK government, which can offer only fudge and compromise at a time when strength and clarity of purpose is needed most desperately, realised what is wrong with its own infrastructure and addressed it. Instead of pledging billions to create a high speed rail line between two English cities at some time in the dim and distant, it should be sorting out the shambles that our public transport system has become.
Nine years ago, my step-son’s birthday party took place in a garden in St Marti d’Empuries. There was a band, a trio who sang Flamenco, led by a girl with a voice like a bell. She’s a solo artist now. Her name is Silvia Perez Cruz. Check her out, folks.
If North Korean nuclear reactors get everyone wound up . . .?
I don’t watch a lot of daytime TV. Most of it is too cheap and cheerful to hold my attention for long, but there are a couple of exceptions. One is Bargain Hunt, on BBC1. I rarely watch it all the way through, usually tuning in for the business end when the two teams, Reds and Blues, find out how just sharp their three buys at antique fairs have actually been, when they’re sold at auction.
Regular viewers will know that break even is a good result; somewhere in the world there will be an anorak who could tell you what the average score actually is, but my guess is that it would be in double figures and would have a minus in front of it. But analyse it more deeply, to produce stats for each of the auctioneers who feature regularly and that would vary. For there is one who stands out head and shoulders from the rest . . . metaphorically, for she’s not very tall.
Those contestants who are lucky enough to have their choices sold by Anita Manning, at Great Western Auctions in Glasgow, are on a winner from the off. I can’t remember a show where Anita didn’t return a profit for the teams on the majority of items, and in one I watched last week, she was in the plus column with eight items out of eight. I need to move on some paintings soon to create some wall space. I know where they’re going.
This morning I downloaded a bill from BT. On reviewing it, I saw that my direct debit payment for May had not been collected. I wasn’t sure whether this was BT’s fault or my banks, and so to check, i used the BT live chat system. The following is the text of the discussion.
My on-line question: ‘I’m looking at my latest bill which has led me to review my bank account. I note that my monthly direct debit to BT for May has not been collected. Who’s at fault here, you or my bank?’
‘Mohd Khalid: Hello. I’m Mohd Khalid. Thanks for that information, I’ll check it and get back to you in a moment.
Mohd Khalid: Hi Quintin
Quintin Jardine: Yes
Mohd Khalid: Quintin once the bill is generated it will take 14 days to be taken from the bank account.
Quintin Jardine: I know that. My point is that last month’s bill has not been collected and is showing as unpaid on the bill I’ve just downloaded. I don’t like this and I want to know why it has happened.
Mohd Khalid: Quintin have you paid your annual line rental saver amount?
Quintin Jardine: Yes, on April 26.
Mohd Khalid: Quintin your bill amount was take from your line rental saver and it will be carried forward to your next bill
Quintin Jardine: I do not understand that. My line rental saver has nothing to do with my monthly bill. Simple question. Did you present a direct debit at the beginning of May?
Mohd Khalid: Quintin, when ever you make a line rental saver payment , that months direct debit is not take from the bank account, its take from your line rental saver and later it is carried forward to you future bills and once you receive your next bill it will be very clear to you.
Quintin Jardine: If last month’s payment is taken from my line rental saver account, why is it showing as unpaid on the bill I’ve just downloaded?
Mohd Khalid: The bill was generated on 23 rd however you made payment of line rental saver on 26th if you make line rental saver within 14 days of bill generated, it will be take from your line rental saver and, prior to that you had an amount of 18.72 has been taken from the line rental saver, once you receive your next bill it will be very clear, Quintin
Quintin Jardine: Mohd, it will not be clear. It will never be clear. It is idiotic, but I accept that BT is the idiot, not you. Thanks for your attempts to help.’
Watched the end of Scott and Bailey last night, the best series yet, IMO. I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. And yet . . .
I read something a few days ago which argued that it is the most sexist show on current television. The writer may have a point, for there isn’t a single male in the series who isn’t either a murderer, an adulterer, a cuckold, or an idiot, with the exception of the one black character in the show, who seems to be the token male good guy, and maybe also the new sergeant, but he hasn’t been around long enough to reveal his character flaws.
The thing that saves it for me is the fact that it doesn’t spare its women either. Janet’s marriage broke up, thanks to her having it away with a colleague. Rachel’s went the same way for the same reason, plus she appears to be a functioning alcoholic. Gill, the DCI, mate one minute and martinet the next, has a cop ex-husband around too, with an eye for the female officers. And then there’s Rachel’s mother, of whom the less said the better. Even the ultimate villain in the current series was female, Helen, played by the magnificent Nicola Walker. It’s as well she was killed off in the end; too much competition for the big three.
Whatever, roll on next year.
The continuing spat between Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods, elevated by the former’s unfortunate ‘fried chicken’ remark, has obscured, unfortunately, the fact that this is a very important week for the European Golf Tour, with its flagship event, the PGA Championship, being played at Wentworth. Remarkably, it is the only tour event being played this year in England, and one of very few of any stature that to be staged anywhere in Europe.
The very name ‘Race to Dubai’, under which the European Tour now trades, is a signal that it is no longer what it claims to be. I am assured by those in the know that the sponsors in Britain, Germany, France and Spain just ain’t there any more, but that sits oddly against the fact that the US PGA Tour, in the face of its own national economic slump, is able to offer weekly prize funds in excess of $6m. In any other industry, the executives presiding over such a decline would have been replaced by now, but there is no sign of that happening in European golf. Instead, they are sitting on their hands while the top players defect to America, taking advantage of lax qualification requirements to maintain dual Tour status. The fact is that the majority of last year’s victorious European Ryder Cup team now live and play most of their golf in the US, while in Europe, complacency rules and fans of the game across the continent have little or nothing to go and watch.
(By the way, if Sergio’s wisecrack wasn’t racist, what the hell was it?)
Bigger and better than ever, Arrels de Vi 2013 is up and running in St Marti d’Empuries. One session down, three to go and the weather is holding. See you there?
One good thing about the end of the football season. We’ll get rid of that appalling little Italian bastard from the Ladbrokes ads.
What do you do when you find yourself freed from the daily necessity of creating a couple of thousand words of priceless prose, and maintaining a couple of diverse but complex story-lines? To be honest, I don’t really know, but this time a solution has fallen into my hands.
Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19, see the annual Arrels de Vi wine fair, in the historic village of St Marti d’Empuries, near L’Escala. It was created by my step-son, Dominic, and has become a hugely popular local event in a very few years since its inception. It’s put together by friends and family, and we all know our roles, from building the tents, to setting out the tables, to looking after the grandchild when necessary. For the last three years it’s been blessed by weather that has been, if anything, too good, but this weekend’s forecast seems to be saying that keeping the wine at optimum temperature won’t be quite as difficult this year.
What is a wine fair? In this case it’s upwards of a dozen of the finest producers in Catalunya, gathered together in one place to show off their best product, with one modestly priced entry ticket giving you access to them all. There are tapas, there’s music in the evening, there’s a creche for kids, and this year there’s an art stall, where Manolo Sierra, one of Emporda’s leading pintors, will be selling original work. If you’re planning a surprise, short-notice weekend break, or if you’re in the area, it’s the place to be.
Will I be there? Wouldn’t miss it.
This will become one of the most shared videos ever, so I may as well join in.
A word to the wise in and around L’Escala. VaiVe, home to the best sandwich in town and our favourite xiringuito, is open for the 2013 season. Tragically, I am on a diet and so the Chickenpig is off limits but I will get along well enough on the salad.
The boss and I enjoyed an excellent Saturday evening, dining at La Terrassa d’Empuries, in the village of Sant Marti, yards from where Primavera’s house would be, if it existed. We know all the restaurants there and visit them by rotation. Last Saturday it was L’Esculapi, next Saturday ….. We’ll see, guys.
What’s left to say about Sir Alex? Pretty much nothing, except for me to add to the wave of reminiscence. I saw him play a few times. He was okay, but part of his genius lay in realising early on that he could achieve much more in the dug-out than on the field.
Whither Man U under David Moyes? Time will tell, but I’m hopeful.
It’s been an interesting journey, and not the easiest I’ve ever undertaken, but Skinner 24 is finished, edited, spell-checked and ready for transmission to Headline,when I’m good and ready.
It doesn’t matter how many books I’ve completed, (as it happens, S24 brings the total to 40) I always feel the same wave of relief when it’s done and dusted, just as I feel the same uncertainty whenever I switch on the computer to begin another. The day I take the gift for granted, and stop trying to do better next time, that will be the day I lose it. So far I seem to be pleasing more people than I’m upsetting, (even allowing for the guy who wrote to me today and after beginning by admitting that he wasn’t very far into Funeral Note, proceeded to tell me what was wrong with it) and that gives me great satisfaction.
What’s next? A few weeks’ R&R, then I’m on the road in Central Scotland for the launch of Pray for the Dying. Hopefully, the latest Skinner won’t get in the way , and I’ll be able to speak sensibly about it in Biggar, Edinburgh, Haddington, Glasgow and Newton Mearns. One thing I’ll tell you now, PftD will introduce you two a new detective pairing, of whom I have great hopes.
This morning an 81-year-old man was arrested in Wilmslow on suspicion of raping an under-age girl, in 1967. He hasn’t been charged as yet, just hauled in for questioning. The story would probably have gone no further than the Manchester Evening News, but for one thing. The man involved has been named as Bill Roache, who has played Ken Barlow in Coronation Street for 53 years and as such has earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest serving soap actor.
If Mr Roache is eventually charged and convicted, then I don’t care how ‘historic’ the allegation is, he deserves to feel the weight of justice, and I have no pity for him. But if he is not, if he is innocent, what damage will have been done to him?
I support absolutely, the right to anonymity of victims of sex crimes. However, the present post-Savile climate has led me to wonder, given the extent to which mud sticks and even a disproved allegation can taint, whether accused persons should have the same right, at least until charged, and possibly until they are convicted. Dunno. What do you think?
I’d forgotten about Amanda Knox. I’d have been happier if that state had continued, rather than have to read that she’s made $4m from her book. Regardless of guilt or innocence, it would be nice if she used most of that to set up some sort of foundation in memory of the girl she was cleared of killing. Will she? We’ll see.