Saturday, 21 June 2014

Back home (we won't be thinking about you)

As England make their excuses and leave the competitive bit of the World Cup after just two matches, there seem to be plenty of people quoting Einstein's definition of insanity as doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. Danny Kelly cited it on his TalkSport show this morning, for example, as did Matthew Norman in the Daily Telegraph.

But the endlessly repeated pattern of England underperforming at major tournaments (when they qualify) reminds me instead of Russell Braddon's excellent satire The Year of the Angry Rabbit (1964). This is the Australian prime minister explaining why he's appointed such a duffer as minister of defence:

'General Sir Alan Jacks has never once, since 1940, been right about anything. It is totally unreasonable to expect that any man, unless he be possessed of supernatural powers, can sustain such a record much longer. Soon, therefore, he's going to break it. Any day now, General Sir Alan Jacks is going to be right. And when, soon, he is, I want him, gentlemen, to be right not just on behalf of my government, but also on behalf of Australia.'

I know that England have been getting everything wrong for forty-eight years, but surely it's just a question of holding their nerve?

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Lost World (Cup)

As the England football team 'limber up' (copyright all media outlets) for their World Cup match against Italy this evening in Manaus, one's thoughts naturally turn to Britain's other great moment in this Amazonian town.

Because it was here, in 1911, that Professor Challenger joined his colleagues - Professor Summerlee, Lord John Roxton and Edward Malone - at the start of their first adventure together.

'Outside lay the yellow, brassy glare of the sunshine, with the shadows of the palm trees as black and definite as the trees themselves,' wrote Malone, in his account of the expedition. 'The air was calm, full of the eternal hum of insects, a tropical chorus of many octaves, from the deep drone of the bee to the high, keen pipe of the mosquito.'

Sounds idyllic. Of course, the four men were later to find themselves assailed by pterodactyls, iguanodons and the odd megalosaurus. But that's what happens when you stumble upon an elevated plateau that's home to a prehistoric lost world. Tricky blighter, Johnny Jungle.

Not that I'm suggesting the Italian team are a load of dinosaurs with all the slow-moving, slow-witted charm of a stegosaurus, of course...

Saturday, 7 June 2014

A circular matter

A long, long time ago, back in the 1980s when I was young, I used to sing (for want of a better word) with a band called the Circle of Shit. I'm not quite sure why that name wasn't instantly on everyone's lips, but somehow we never became successful.

If you go searching the internet, you'll find no reference to us existing. So, as a small step to remedying this situation, I made a video for one of our early demos.

And here it is.

Also in the group: Phil Hughes and Martin Herring on guitars, Millree Hughes on bass and Peter Hewitt on drums.

Friday, 6 June 2014

They also serve

I wrote a book once about the Second World War. It wasn't very good and it sold very badly, but I enjoyed the research.

The structure of the book called for each regiment and corps in the British Army having its own short chapter and, perhaps inevitably, the most interesting stuff was about those who served in a non-combatant role - the kind of people who tend not to get much mentioned in the media's memory, but without whom the war effort would have ground to a halt.

I think there should be greater celebration of the contribution made by the Royal Army Pay Corps, for example, or the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

Or, this being the seventieth anniversary of D-Day, the Army Catering Corps - because those who landed on the Normandy beaches would soon need feeding. Then there were those in the Pioneer Corps whose responsibility it was to unload stores, to evacuate the wounded and to bury the dead.

Nor should we forget the Army Dental Corps. Medical personnel comprised four per cent of the British forces in Normandy seventy years ago, and for every thousand men who landed on D-Day, one was a dentist. Landmines can do terrible damage to a man's jaw, and it was a key part of the dentists' job to perform emergency surgery.

Not quite as dramatic or cinematic as the image of infantry storming the beaches, but it takes a certain courage to do your work under fire when you're unarmed.