Friday, May 12, 2006

Ian Fleming nicked his family name, you know ...

FOR SOME people it’s the sight of the first swallow. For others it’s the first swallow of lager in a pub garden. But the arrival of summer is clearly cause for celebration.

For me, the trigger point was 11.41am on Thursday morning. I was stuck in a sweltering traffic jam on the M42 on my way to a family funeral, so wasn’t in the best of moods. And then a gentleman called Henry Blofeld picked up a microphone in a commentary box at Lords and suddenly all was well with the world.

There is something wonderfully reassuring about Test Match Special on the wireless, especially when it’s one of the old guard at the mike and passing buses and pigeons loitering on the square become as noteworthy as a decent cover drive.

It is also reassuring that the sport seems to be in rude health, with near sell-out crowds for the first three days against Sri Lanka who, to be honest, aren’t exactly a top drawer attraction. Just the right time then for the masters of ineptitude who run the game to conspire to remove it from terrestrial television and sell it to Sky for a few pieces of silver.

We should be used to the incompetence of our sports administrators by now. Rugby Union regularly kicks off the season without knowing what the rules are regarding relegation and has a wonderful play-off system whereby the team that finishes fourth can end up being crowned champions. The Football Association have just appointed a new manager who they swear was their first choice for the job. The slight problem is that in trying to convince the media that this was indeed the case, they inadvertently revealed that he was in fact third choice, behind Arsene Wenger and Big Phil Scolari.

But cricket’s latest blunder is a classic cock up. With millions of kids still buzzing off the Boy’s Own exploits of our Ashes-winning team, and with the future of the sport threatened by the sale of school playing fields and health and safety rules that insist on full body armour and a foam ball, what better way to promote interest in the game than to remove it to a subscription-only service. Brilliant.

to avoid commenting on the antics of Mr Prescott, mainly because everyone else was having such a good time ripping this so-called working class hero to shreds. And never can a politician have suffered crueller treatment than The Sun’s decision to illustrate a fact-free whimsy about what else the round-heeled Tracey Temple might have said in her diaries with a picture of a chipolata.

Funnily enough, I step forward to speak for the defence – well, to a point. There has been much feigned outrage about the Deputy Prime Minister’s habit of seeking sexual satisfaction while on the job, so to speak. The idea that the taxpayer was funding his clumsy gropes via his grace and favour homes and his government cars seems to annoy some commentators more than the original offence of committing the kind of blatant sexual harassment that would have any other boss instantly sacked.

Well what was he supposed to do? Take the slack-knickered trollop home to Hull and say: “Budge up, Pauline, there’s three of us in this bed”? Of course he was going to use his free houses to fumble with the hired help. Where else was he supposed to go? Hampstead Heath? Clapham Common? A picnic area just off the M4 near Bath?

And another thing. The received wisdom – backed, it must be said, by plenty of hard evidence – is that John Prescott is thick. Well consider this: he lives like a Lord on a massive salary and expenses package; he has the use of a grace and favour flat in Admiralty Arch and a fine country house called Dorneywood; he is helicoptered and chauffered around this country and abroad on a whim; when he finally falls on his sword, he’ll have the consolation of a gilt-edged pension plan that will allow him to live out his days in extravagant comfort; and, in return for this lavish remuneration, he now has to do absolutely no work at all.

So who’s thick now?

STILL AMONGST the lower classes, we must mourn the imminent departure from these shores of the manufacture of HP Sauce. The Birmingham factory is to be shut and production moved to Holland.

When I was young it was regarded a sign of sophistication to have a bottle of brown sauce on the dinner table alongside the open milk bottle and the plate of white sliced bread and marge. It was only when you moved on to antimacassar ownership, a further step up the social scale, that it was banished to the cupboard.

As ever with these things, the stench of hypocrisy lingers along with the scent of vinegar and malt blended with fruit and spices. Only last month the makers of HP Sauce launched a campaign to save Britain’s greasy spoon cafes, under threat from the influx of £5-a-pop coffee houses. Surprisingly, that national altruism doesn’t seem to apply when shareholders’ interests come into play and “out-saucing” means cost savings.

And anyway, what do the Dutch know about sauce. They put mayonnaise on their chips.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who's ever met a three-year-old racist, of anyone remotely surprised that Gordon Brown has decided to support England in the World Cup, or of anyone shocked that Sir Alan Sugar went for the blonde apprentice, rather than the carpet-muncher with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just thought I'd get my post in before the Tourette's kid wakes up...

Have a splendid weekend

8:11 AM  
Blogger Lord Elpus said...

My dear old thing! At least by selling cricket to Sky those who wish to see it and have the money to pay for it can get guaranteed coverage of every ball. When terrestrial telly covers cricket, they keep wandering off to the races, or squeezing it in whenever there's a break in Wimbledon.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh it`s quiet this week - has the nu labour police closed you all down.

they`re watching you - oh hang on there`s a knock on the door..

6:43 AM  
Blogger The Weardale Militia said...

Er Umm sorry I have not been able to participate recently but I have been in Durham. I was not able to respond to your column because illegal aliens fighting their deportation case were using most of the Internet connections. Similarly all the free legal aid was being given to the asylum seekers so I had to do my time and read old copies of Readers Digest. I forgot how bad Humour in Uniform could be.
Anyway I am a better person for it and will not set the dogs on to ramblers trespassing on my land – well till the next time.
Nice to catch up on your column.

10:42 PM  

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