Conservative Party leadership contest

Well to be honest it’s not one of the elections that I get too involved in – the contest for the next leader of the Tory party. But let’s face it, this’ll be 3rd time(?) in recent history that a  Premier is elected without a vote from the people and something tells me that can’t be right. Whilst the members of either main (or indeed any) party can elect who they like to lead them, surely the victor cannot assume automatic rights to be PM without a general election. It’s just not constitutional. Christ we could end up with Jeremy Hunt as our leader on the world stage. Arghhh. And whilst I’m on the subject I think that if the Queen were to abdicate, then we should have a referendum on who should succeed her. That’d rattle a few Establishment cages eh but at least we might end up with a youthful monarch with young kids, lovely wife and contemporary views on life (unless folks voted for Princess Anne I suppose ho ho ho). Let the people have their say, I say (except they got it a bit wrong in the EU referendum but we can correct that please baby Jesus).

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The Sopranos – mi piace tantissimo!

Here’s a little sequence of coincidences. One of the delights I get when over in Italy is going through our box set of the Sopranos. I love the programme but usually just watch it by myself first thing in the morning or later at night. Believe it or not it is 20 years since it first aired and it remains a great example of intriguing plot lines and brilliant acting. The series ended in 2007 and I’ve re-watched all the episodes several times since then but I never get bored with it. During our recent visit I managed to get through series 1 and 2 and most of series 3 – the early days when Livia was such a major psychological influence in the life of her son Tony, played superbly and with constant brooding menace by James Gandolfini…

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Life

Today would have been my youngest brother’s 60th birthday, sadly we lost him very suddenly and shockingly 3 years ago after he was diagnosed with incurable cancer. The same cancer as I had. My lovely sister, the baby of the family, is currently undergoing really difficult treatment for a nasty form of spinal cancer. She’s managing the situation with courage and lots of strength. My dad in his late 80’s had a procedure to remove a cancer spot only recently. My wife’s sister and brother have both overcome having the disease and her niece has similarly come through the experience successfully. Yesterday we spoke with a dear dear friend who is recovering from having a major operation to remove cancer and in a week or so’s time she’ll resume her chemo treatment. The operation went as well as could be hoped and we’re crossing everything that the prognosis remains entirely positive and her recovery continues totally. It’s a horrible horrible disease but I’m in awe of the work that the NHS does in helping people deal with it. I know they get lots of stuff wrong and I’m the first to complain when their admin is hopeless, they postpone procedures at the drop of a hat, and keep you waiting endlessly. But they saved my life at least 3 times and many people we know have cause to thank them too. I wanted to post something uplifting to celebrate people fighting and winning their battles with cancer but wanted to avoid something mushy like ‘You raise me up’. I thought this might be approriate especially since anyone who’s had to spend the night on a hospital ward knows, no-one sleeps…

 

 

Isn’t it ironic?

Europe eh. What more can you say about it that doesn’t sound oddly unexpected? The newly-formed Brexit party, led by the delightful Nigel Farage, won 29 seats to the European Parliament in the recent elections. A massive victory. And this was for a party only 5 minutes old that doesn’t believe in the EU and wants us out asap. That’s its only policy. It’s likely that none of its elected members will ever sit in the parliamentary chambers in Brussels and Strasbourg. Unexplainably weird? Yep. You want more?  We used to be pretty regular, and you’ve got to assume popular, winners of the Eurovision song contest. Then just over 20 years ago every country in Europe started seemingly hating us and we ended up just about last in every competition since then. It happened again a week or so ago; our chappie came last with a miserable total of 16 points whilst the winner received 492. That’s what it’s come to – the country that gave the world The Beatles, The Stones, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Elton John and countless other musical greats, got well and truly twatted in a popular music contest by dozens of countries that have contributed just about Jack Shit to such culture, including the musical giants of Belarus, Albania, San Marino and some place called North Macedonia. Sigh. OK it wasn’t a total surprise.

Then, not content, after a few days the event organisers made a statement admitting that they’d actually made an error in the calculation of the scores for the United Kingdom. So instead of 16 points we’d only scored 11 or something. Two thoughts; what kind of organisers get the arithmetic wrong adding up 16 points? And couldn’t the twats just have said to themselves ‘look it’s bad enough we have to admit this but let’s give those poor Brits a break and not inflict any more shame on them?’ Of course they couldn’t. They couldn’t wait to ladle on a bit more sardonic embarrassment. The nation that stood up to tyranny and evil, sacrificing over 1 million soldiers and civilians in the process, to save Europe in two World Wars in the last century and paved the way for a post-war federation of mutually supportive peaceful trading states, is now a European pariah.

How did it come to this? I really don’t know. Could you imagine them humiliating France or Germany in quite the same way? I doubt it. In fact any other country would have pulled their investment and left the whole overblown ridiculous Eurovision circus long ago. Except that we Brits take these things in our stride; millions of our people love the whole campfest and can’t wait to tune in to Graham Norton’s nice sardonic comments. We know we’re destined to be losers (currently) but we keep a sense of humour about the whole thing. Not because we’re losers – we’re actually a nation of unbelievable achievers – but because we are self-deprecating and enjoy irony. Unlike some nations I could mention here known for their national chauvinism and lack of humour. But I’ll resist naming names.

So undaunted by Europe’s seemingly hostile attitude towards us, we did the only thing that a retired British couple with broad shoulders and thick skins does and followed our irrational love of (almost) all things European, and headed out to Italy for a quick break.  To our place in Marche in fact. No doubt it’ll be sequestrated by the Italian authorities under orders from Brussels as soon as we officially leave the EU on 31 October, should it come to that. But until then we’ll keep heading there, even though the last visit was a sodding nightmare. In fact every trip seems to involve a bloody drama but this one was remarkably crisis-free. We were joined by our super eldest (17 year old) grandson Sammy and his good friend Zak. Sammy last came with us when he was about 6 and we loved having some cool Italy time with him again. After a very wet start, we enjoyed truly fab weather. We spent days at the beach and the boys had time at the gym and two long walks and one hot hilly run to maintain their fitness during close season. We ate out and also shared much time with our super friends and neighbours John and Christine and their friend Mac and lovely Freddy. We’re all pensioners and I’m the young kid on the block, so you can tell how jurassic the company was. So how the young fellahs felt holidaying with grumpy (not really) old senior citizens I do not know. But I think they really enjoyed it. And we loved having them join us. They never experienced Italian sunrises nor indeed any sense of mornings but they loved the afternoons. Teenagers eh. But reassuringly Sammy told us that he thought there was so much about Italy to enjoy eg the weather, food, girls, friendliness, helpfulness, atmosphere and views like this, love him…

You see Europe, we don’t do grudges. We genuinely wanted him to experience Italy as a young man and make his own opinion about it. And despite being surrounded by aged, silver and in my case shaven-headed people, he found joy. That’s what matters. And he found fun, contentment and a sense of wanting to belong without any sense of resentment towards we Brits. I believe real ordinary people in Europe want us to continue be a part of the whole EU enterprise. It’s not a song contest folks, this is reality. I don’t want to get all political; I just wish that our children and grandchildren are lucky enough to continue to embrace being part of feeling truly European.

pp

 

 

Marks and Sparks my word

I’ve written about the sad slow demise of the high street before now and another big name tumbled recently with the collapse of Jamie’s Italian restaurant chain. I really liked it when it opened because I am a bit of a fan of Jamie Oliver’s recipes and of course anything that celebrates great simple Italian cooking is fine by me. That was when he had just one or two restaurants and the menu was delightfully different and the wines tasty and the prices about right. Then before you could say ‘turkey twizzlers’ he’d gone and opened restaurants all over the place. The exclusivity had gone. And I can remember telling Carol whilst sat in a Jamie’s Italian in the beautifully evocative Tuscan-like setting of Milton Keynes shopping centre that I thought the helpings were become less and less substantial whilst prices were becoming alarming high. Crucially in the rush to expand, the Italian-ness had just disappeared. And the place was half empty. That was at least 2-3 years ago and I forecast then that the chain wouldn’t survive and, no surprise, that was our last visit. Hey ho, I say this without any pleasure at all.

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Rumours

I read an interesting article today in the i newspaper sports section. It posed the question, what have these names got in common…

Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Ruben Dias, Bruno Fernandes, Gelson Fernandes, Kalidou Kalibahy, Nicolas Pepe, Adrien Rabot, Saul Niguez, Christian Eriksen, Kieran Trippier, Jan Obiak, Matthijs de Ligt, Paulo Dybala, Daniel James, Idrissa Gueye, Philippe Coutinho, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Wilfried Zaha, Thomas Meunier, Mauro Icardi, Moussa Dembele, Ben Godfrey, Nikola Milenkovic, Harry Maguire, Aaron Was-Bissaka, Patrick van Aanholt, Jadon Sancho, Gareth Bale, Toby Alderweireld, Joao Felix, Declan Rice, David Neres Campos, Kostas Manolas, Hakim Ziyech, Joao Cancelo, Marcos Llorente, Toni Kroos, Raphael Varane, Youro Tielemans, Robert Lewandowski, James Rodriguez, Keylor Navas, Lika Jovic, Jordan Pickford, Juande Ramos, Jack Grealish, Giovani lo Celso, Gianluigi Donnarumma and no doubt several others?

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Getting away from it all

Just look at this view, stunning eh. When I was back working for BT I used to drive to and from work in London and I’d spend nearly 5 hours a day on the road. When it came to time off I’d yearn to go places to get away from it all but mostly away from the car and roads and traffic. Places just like the scene above in fact – wandering round the lakes, on the moors, in the dales etc. Ah the peace and tranquility eh.

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