The BogPo says: Let’s boo the whole rotten sport! Just another woman, making a go of it. Keepin’ it cool with Granny Weatherwax. Van News Weekly.

Could have been among the greats: Justin Gatlin.

“…no commentator dares to mention his name without prefacing it with ‘drugs cheat’.”

Let’s boo the whole rotten sport

If Justin Gatlin was roundly booed by the near-capacity crowd at the World Athletics championships in London last Saturday, most people think he has only himself to blame.

The 35-year-old sprinter is a controversial character who has twice served penalty bans for drug offences. Most people if asked would say they favour a lifetime ban on athletes caught cheating even once, but then people are an unforgiving lot until they get into trouble themselves, or their children and best mates do, and then it’s always somebody else’s fault.

Few, one suspects, are capable of unpacking the words ‘drugs cheat’ to understand the differences between substances that might in other circumstances be considered perfectly innocuous, and those that genuinely enhance performance. Perhaps they even take medication themselves that would fail a WADA test. The rules for athletes are pretty harsh, as is the testing regime.

One infringement might have been forgiven but two has made Gatlin the Mephistopheles of athletics. A shame, because without this monkey on his back, the powerful Floridan could well have been among the greats of the 100 and 200 metre sprints. Instead, he’s in a sinkhole.

So detested is Gatlin, so toxic the climate within athletics over the doping issue that no commentator dares to mention his name without prefacing it with ‘drugs cheat’. That he was being booed more possibly because he had the bad manners to beat the hugely popular Usain Bolt in his farewell 100 metres final , running what was actually a clever tactical race against an under-par champion –  is a secondary consideration.

British athletics is furious that the 2012 London Olympics produced some 23 subsequent revisions of drug test results leading to the withdrawal of medals and the cancelling of record times, weights and throws. A hundred and seventeen more athletes were disqualified before the games had even begun. It’s been claimed by insiders that one in ten athletes are probably cheating.

Those results and the hideous sham that was Vladimir Putin’s personally sponsored cheating programme at the Sochi Winter Olympics have led to a two-year (so far) ban on official Russian teams and a major upheaval in the International Athletics Federation.

Gatlin’s first ban resulted from a trace of an amphetamine he claimed must have been in a prescription drug he’d been taking since childhood for ADHD. His appeal against a two-year ban was successful. The second offence was for testosterone, a muscle-building hormone detected six years later, which he could not explain.

My own view is that it takes more than one person to cheat in athletics. According to Wikipedia:

“Gatlin was coached by Trevor Graham. Among athletes Graham has coached, eight have tested positive or received bans for performance-enhancing drugs. After Gatlin’s failed test, Graham stated in an interview that Gatlin had been sabotaged. He blamed massage therapist Christopher Whetstine for rubbing a creme with testosterone onto Gatlin’s buttocks without his knowledge. The therapist denied the claim, saying: “Trevor Graham is not speaking on behalf of Justin Gatlin and the story about me is not true.”

“On August 22, 2006, Gatlin accepted an eight-year ban from track and field, avoiding a lifetime ban in exchange for his cooperation with the doping authorities, and because of the “exceptional circumstances” surrounding his first positive drug test. Gatlin appealed against the ban; an arbitration panel reduced it to four years at a hearing in December 2007.”

How easy is it for sport-addicted youngsters to challenge what their coaches tell them to do, or have the knowledge to question the legality of substances they are being administered by physiotherapists and team doctors?

While lesser rival athletes continue to twist the knife, raising eyebrows publicly whenever Gatlin runs, there is no denying his prowess and there have been no further testing problems since his return to the track seven years ago. He is undoubtedly a great athlete. He beat Bolt by one-hundredth of a second to win the 100 metres at the Golden Gala meet in Rome in June 2013, and lost to the taller, younger man by just 0.1 of a second at both the Beijing and Rio Olympics. The rivalry was similarly close over 200 metres.

One could describe the booing as unsportsmanlike and unfair. The British press has manifested its usual revolting partisanship. It has been harder to know whether they disapprove of his past cheating or of a ‘gatecrasher’ (as The Telegraph called Gatlin, who holds many records in a long if interrupted career) having the gall to beat their people’s hero. Which is to ignore the fact that Bolt was also beaten into third place by another American, the promising youngster Chris Coleman – who barely rates a mention in any of the press coverage.

It was almost as if the other runners were expected to throw the race to let the hero Bolt go out on one last high. Wouldn’t that have been as bad as cheating? Typical was The Sunday Sun:

Usain Bolt sunk as drugs cheat Justin Gatlin ruins golden goodbye by storming to 100m gold

Bolt showed characteristic sportsmanship, hugging his tearful rival as the boos rang out.

Gatlin is probably no more a ‘drugs cheat’ than hundreds of other athletes, and in a different time would have been regarded even on his reduced record as a great sprinter. The minefield of anti-doping regulations makes conforming to an absolute ideal virtually impossible for most ‘human’ beings, who are subject to illness, injuries, wear and tear.

Testosterone taken over time builds the kind of fast muscle that enables a sprinter to explode out of the blocks and is therefore an obvious candidate to be banned, although it occurs naturally in the body. Amphetamines can stimulate performance and stamina, but don’t persist.

So there are grounds for questioning Gatlin’s right to run. But he ran within the rules, apparently clean for the past six years. Despite that, 24 hours later the BBC Sports unit is still discussing what they are calling his ‘controversial win’. It seems he has a right to run, but not to win.

The sneers and jeers and evident distrust of a man who came from a deprived background in rural Florida to become the oldest man ever to win an individual Olympic sprint medal and one of the five fastest men in Olympic history do little credit to the armchair athletes.

Nor to veteran miler Lord Coe, the IAAF president, whose own position as regards ‘who knew – and how much was in the envelope?’ over the doping scandal in the past has previously been questioned, along with his well-funded years as a global ambassador for Nike sportswear.

Coe made clear at the trackside his distaste that Gatlin was allowed to run. But doping violations are just the tip of an iceberg of corruption in international sport, that goes all the way up to national federation officials motivated by easy money and the desire for medals and national glory at any cost.

If we’re going to boo Justin Gatland, let’s boo the whole rotten sport.


Just another woman, making a go of it

Worse if anything than the media hoopla over Bolt’s ruined Last Run, Gatlin’s disgraceful victory, Sir Mo Farah’s amazingly predictable third World Championship win in his last-ever 10,ooo metres on Friday night, is the curious fact that the media has barely acknowledged the arrival of an athlete who seems destined to become one of the great female distance runners of all time.

Almaz destroyed a top-class field to win the 10,000 metres.

The tiny Almaz Ayana, 25, running in only her first race of the 2017 season owing to injuries, set off after ten laps and over the next twenty minutes totally demolished a field of 30 supposedly top  athletes to win the women’s 10,000 metres by a distance of 330 metres – more than half a lap. In the process she lapped the entire field apart from the small following pack, some of them twice.

After a few admiring words, no fuss at all has been made of the dominant young Ethiopian. Not our idea of a celebrity, perhaps.

And the amazing thing is, her London performance – though not another world record – repeated her incredible run in Rio last year, when she trashed another world-class field to break the existing 23-years-old record by an incredible 14 seconds, and still appeared to be accelerating effortlessly at the finish. It left your Uncle Bogler in tears, again. Oh dear. As the Mail on Sunday reported:

“Olympic champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia produced an extraordinary display in her first race of the season winning the world 10,000 metres title by almost a minute on Saturday. The 25-year-old, who smashed the world record when winning in Rio last year, finished over 46 seconds clear of her legendary compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba, the three-time Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion.”

Why wasn’t this THE story from the weekend? Maybe the clue was in the Mail story that greeted her win at Rio 2016: “Disbelief at amazing 10,000m. world record: a hefty dose of scepticism accompanied Almaz Ayana’s gobsmacking victory…” Or maybe it was just that it wasn’t the men’s 100 metres, a 9.8-seconds thriller in an era when attention spans are getting shorter by the hour?

The story went on to quote Sarah Lahti, who finished 12th and set a Swedish record of 31:28.43: ‘I do not really believe she is 100 per cent. It is too easy for her. We see no facial expressions.’ So that’s proof then. Although I don’t think Botox is on the banned substances list? Doubt was further cast when an Ethiopian squad coach was found with drugs in his hotel room. And even the previous women’s world record, set by China’s Wang Jungxia in 1993, was suspected at the time to have been drug-assisted.

Oh, well, I guess she’s just another woman.

But Lahti’s kind of reaction has become typical, any ebullience over a possibly unlikely sporting success now being tempered with a heavy dose of cynicism. Gatlin may not be entirely responsible – we’re sceptical enough about our own national cycling hero Sir Bradley Wiggins and his mystery Deliveroo pharmaceuticals – but his story is symptomatic of how money and greed have poisoned the well for the entire sporting sphere.


“…we don’t have an automatic right to win everything.”

As if our moral outrage over other sprinters being allowed to beat a below-par Usain Bolt into third place weren’t enough, we’re now being enjoined to hate the South African Caster Semenya, who pipped Britain’s sweetheart Laura Muir into fourth place in the women’s 1500 metres heats last night.

Caster Semenya: let her run.

Never mind that after taking on the role of pacemaker right from the start, Muir made the tactical error of slowing the race from a 64-seconds first lap to a 71-seconds second lap, thus failing to break the field, and left herself too little in reserve for a final sprint to the tape after she was swallowed up by the chasing pack.

Ho no, the fact that she did well to hang on for fourth place and qualify for the final in which she managed sixth was entirely eclipsed by Semenya’s hyperandrogenism, a hormonal condition that makes her look all big and muscly and flat-chested, and run like a bloke.

No matter that the race was actually won by the distinctly female-looking world champion, the Kenyan Kipyegon, over whose gender there can surely be no quibble; and that America’s experienced 30-year-old Simpson ran a near-perfect race, darting through in the final split-second to take silver.

No, as far as some sections of the British media and partisan crowd were concerned Muir’s failure to medal was entirely down to the cheating of Semenya, who should be taken away and force-fed with oestrogen until she grows a pair. Worse, this response has become a regular feature of the coverage whenever she runs: ‘is she or isn’t she?’, despite the IAAF clearing her after successive medical examinatiuons.

Remarkably, the Daily Mail leapt to her defence, arguing: “The treatment of Caster Semenya has been shameful… show her some respect and let her run.”

Will we ever grow up and understand that just because we’re British, or in this case Scottish, we don’t necessarily have an automatic God-given right to win everything all the time?


Keepin’ it cool with Granny Weatherwax

(Photo: Images)

The Lancet reports, excess heat could kill up to 150,000 more people a year by the end of the century – very possibly within your children’s lifetime. That’s just in Europe. Though it  rather presupposes the Sixth Great Extinction won’t have run its course long before then.

Europe: still in the grip of a 40 deg+ heatwave, expected to relent gradually after Wednesday.

Italy: Extreme heat, storms in north. More fires across south. Drought persists in Italy’s grainbelt, 60% + crop losses across all outputs. Deliveries to northern markets failing. Water shortages looming.

Greece: extreme heat. Island of Kythira ablaze. The entire Aegean area has been plagued by earthquake swarms in recent weeks.

Austria: powerful thunderstorms trigger flash floods affecting mountain communities.

Russia: noonday temperature currently (7 Aug) in Norilsk, northernmost city in Siberia, 21C, 72.6F. Recklessly, desperate authorities have started chemically seeding clouds to combat wildfires consuming the Taiga.

Japan: Typhoon Noru claims two lives in Kyushu, moves on over Honshu main island, bringing 60cm rain in 48 hours. Flash floods in Osaka area. More heavy rain following on behind.

China: Heavy rain affecting the northeast up into Mongolia. Flash flooding, 100 thousand people affected, 25,000 acres of crops damaged. Liaoning – 1,000 flood refugees trapped on higher ground by rising water, being rescued again. Two dead, 350,000 affected in Jiling province. Damage estimated at $700 million.

India: Ten dead, new widespread flooding in Uttarakhand. ‘Huge loss’ of property. More heavy rain forecast.

Pakistan: “At least 5 killed and others injured after floods and landslides in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. Meteorological Department issued warnings for glacial lake outburst floods after heavy rain and temperatures up to 5 degrees higher than normal (caused) ice to melt.” 116 people have died as a result of flooding or landslides in Pakistan since the start of this year’s monsoon.

Korea: extreme heatwave continues.

USA: again, New Orleans experiences flooding with up to 3ft of water as a tropical storm brings up to 10 inches of rain in 4 hrs to the city. “The rate of rainfall in many neighborhoods of the city was one of the highest recorded in recent history.” New York State is on flash flood alert, as is Manhattan, with more heavy rain also forecast across Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware. A ‘rare’, out-of-season tornado causes casualties and damage in Toledo, Ohio.

USA: Las Vegas, Nevada – one victim died and 7 others were rescued after flash floods in two areas of the city. Flash flooding submerged parts of Kansas City, shutting down parts of highway I-35 and flooding other streets across the city. Vehicles were submerged and drivers left stranded by flood water.

USA: Staff at the US Department of Agriculture have been told to avoid using the term “climate change” in their work, with officials instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead. The primary cause of human-driven climate change is also targeted, with the term “reduce greenhouse gases” blacklisted in favor of “build soil organic matter”.* Sound policy indeed. Dig more shit in, the BogPo says. (The Guardian, 7 Aug.)

Mexico: Tropical storm Franklin now building over the Caribbean is expected to head across the Yucatan Peninsula towards the capital, Mexico City, bringing up to 300mm of rain.

Venezuela: as if the country doesn’t have enough to worry about, severe flooding after days of torrential rain has caused several major rivers including the Orinoco to burst their banks, with about ten thousand people affected. Well done Floodlist for reporting this four days after the event.

Arabian peninsula: It’s currently 43C, 117F in Baghdad and Kuwait, a little cooler in Riyadh – only 40C. Across North Africa temperatures are in the high 30s to mid 40s currently: 95 – 100F. Not as bad as July and August the last two years when searing 50C + heat killed hundreds. The forecast is for temperatures ‘building across the week’. Satellite map shows virtually no cloud cover across the region. Long drought is causing severe crop losses in Egypt.

Africa: heavy rains persisting across mid-western and central Africa, eg. Nigeria. Bad news for elusive anteaters:

On the way out: the only living species of the order Tubulidentata.

“Hotter temperatures are taking their toll on the aardvark, whose diet of ants and termites is becoming scarcer in some areas because of reduced rainfall, according to a study released Monday. Drought in the Kalahari desert killed five out of six aardvarks that were being monitored for a year, as well as 11 others in the area…”

World: despite the record heatwaves in Europe, Asia and the US west and midwest, provisional global weather data give July as only the second hottest on record, after 2016; it seems Antarctica has been letting the side down. The US NOAA report for June states:

“June 2017 was characterized by warmer to much-warmer-than-average conditions across much of the world’s land and ocean surface. The most notable warm temperature departures from average were present across much of central Asia, western and central Europe, and the southwestern contiguous U.S. where temperature departures from average were 2.0°C (3.6°F) or greater. … Overall, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature for June 2017 was 0.82°C (1.48°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F) and the third highest June temperature in the 138-year record, behind 2016 (+0.92°C / +1.66°F) and 2015 (+0.89°C / +1.60). June 2017 marks the 41st consecutive June and the 390th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average.”

The good news for climate-change deniers is that the mysterious North Atlantic Cold Spot is persisting; hence our indifferent summer here in the west of Britain. Scientists imagine it’s caused by the Gulf Stream losing energy and sinking, allowing colder water from the Arctic to move south. The bad news is, the cold water is being replaced by warmer water flooding from the Pacific up through the Bering Strait, leading to further loss of ice cover.

Strangest of all: U. of Ottawa’s much-Followed climatologist and vlogger, Prof Paul Beckwith reports that on July 20, for the first time he believes in history, the weakening and fragmenting northern and southern jetstreams both crossed the equator at various points all around the globe into one another’s hemispheres, pulling hot and cold air masses with them and creating a huge vortex over the Pacific. This chaotic mixing is attributable to rapidly warming water in the Arctic and has no predictable weather outcomes.

Climate and Extreme Weather News #51/ D Mail/  NW Global temperature report/ Floodwatch/ NOAA/ Paul Beckwith/ the Guardian/ local weather reports.

*Footnote: actually the BogPo finds the phrase ‘climate change’ to be far too wishy-washy and unthreatening a concept. What does it mean? It is itself the politically correct solution to the problem of what to call this existential threat to humanity. ‘Climate chaos’ or ‘weird weather’ would be a better description.

Scientists are far too cautious and media unsavvy. Precisely because they are not ‘a community’, have no organization or finance, they have as yet found no means of countering the slick PR messages, myth-making and outright lies of the denial conspiracy. Who cares about the ‘truth’ anymore? Let ’em have it with both barrels. We’re fucked, okay? Suck it up, people of Earth.


Go on, give it a go! BogPo’s Project of the Week. (Google Images)

“I’m beginning to wonder if this is not some sort of metatextual situation comedy…”

Van News Weekly

An unmistakeable waft of cannabis hangs in the air of the busy street.

So he’s out there again today, my neighbour, fitting a green carpet into the back of his little white van, parked illegally as usual on the pavement, right on the corner of the main road.

(That’s the vehicle he sometimes advertises  – though not today, your friendly ‘man and van’ – that he will use to cart your garbage off to the recycling centre a mile down the road. In palatial comfort, obviously.)

There are half a dozen bolts of carpeting piled on the pavement next to the van, that they’ve been trying out. The carpets presumably came from the same source as the motorbike they loaded into the back last week, i.e. very possibly off another van.

My neighbour and two younger ‘helpers’ in shorts, vests and baseball caps have been at it all morning, fitting that little piece of carpet in the back, flexing their tattoos in the sunny intervals, enjoying the bantz, assisted by loud music. After a break for lunch they’re back at it again.

Fitting 1.5 sq yd of carpet in the back of a van, were I moved to do such a thing, is a job that might take me an hour at the most to do really nicely. It would probably take my hi-to mate from over the estate, Gareth Carpets, about ten minutes. And I’m not even working-class.

I’m beginning to wonder if this is not some sort of metatextual situation comedy, like The Office, whose point I am clearly missing.


It’s twenty to ten at night, Day 4 of their holiday, and they’re still out in the garden having another fitful conversation I can hear through the wall. What do they find to argue about? Occasionally an angry young man can be heard going off the rails. Happily an entire day of rain is forecast for tomorrow.

Long division, and the day my trousers fell down

Personally, I don’t care to be ‘ruled’.  I don’t need to be ‘led’.  All I ask from government is competent administration.


from: Laura Facebook, Chief Political Editor, The Boglington Post. @laura’sweeplace

Hurrah! for me. In a May 2013 Post, I predicted that after a vote to Leave the EU, Chancellor George Osbogl would immediately slash corporation tax in order to attract more large US corporations to come in and, er, not pay any tax. He’s already announced a cut from 20% to 15%, although he’s not saying when. ‘By 2020’ is his best guess.

Meanwhile after ten days of shockwaves reverberating around the world, the pound is back down again at $1.31, where it fell to the morning after the vote, and the FTSE 250 is still down 2.5%.  The Bank of England has effectively pumped another £150 billion into the banks to forestall a lending crisis, while slides are already appearing in house-building, the property market, the food and services sectors….

Did we do the right thing, I wonder?

You tell me.


As of this morning, 6 July, the pound has fallen to $1.28.


Edel Voice

Interestingly, the Austrian supreme court has overturned the result of last month’s presidential election and there is to be a re-run.

So it is possible to ignore the will of the people.

Personally, if I were asked to vote for a bunch of politicians calling themselves The Freedom Party, I would throw a few things in a backpack and run several hundred miles in any direction, screaming in terror.

I mean, you just know, don’t you, that if you vote-in something calling itself The Freedom Party, missing children will be turning up on rubbish tips before breakfast.

The reason for re-running the election is that it was not won by The Freedom Party. But they lost by only a whisker, 30 thousand votes, and so reckoned they had a good chance of getting a re-run if they blamed foreigners who weren’t supposed to vote for abusing the postal system. And the supreme court fell for it.

Is any of this starting to remind you of anything?


Voting for change

And in Australia, not a spelling error, Down Under they’ve just run a General Election and, guess what? That’s right, the result was too close to call. Independents and minority parties increased their share of the vote to the point where neither of the main parties looks like getting a working majority. The outcome depends on recounts and votes not yet counted from remote cattle stations, places like Brisbane.

It’s the same the whole world over. People are sick and tired of living in peace, with falling crime, package holidays and a 50-inch 3D TV in the bedroom. The trouble is, they don’t know what comes next. What could replace Parliamentary democracies, other than brutal dictatorships or even more brutal anarchy? The answer is more fragmentation, splitting up the old duopolies, smashing their cosy relationships, the divvying up of ‘power’ (God, I hate that usage!) between increasingly indistinguishable centrist parties, until no-one is in charge.

It looks like the end of civilization as we know it.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the electorates of Britain, Australia, Germany, Austria – pretty much everywhere, and probably in November America – that it isn’t all the fault of politicians.

Not at least in the way they imagine. We expect far too much from politicians, and complain endlessly when they deliver.

Personally, I don’t care to be ‘ruled’. I don’t need to be ‘led’. There’s too much arrant nonsense talked in politics about ‘power’. All I ask from government is competent administration. And unfortunately, that’s just what we’re not getting.

Part of the reason is that Thatcher and subsequent budget cuts have fatally weakened the Civil Service. Where politicians formerly fronted policies, they are now expected to manage them. Part, too, is that we have a crisis of competence in all our institutions, both public and private.  And part is that no large-scale institution can be maintained, that is flexible enough to cope with the pace of social and technological, global…



(Concorde, Anglo-French development, 1976)…. “As they soared above the clouds … (the) aircraft offered gleaming proof that a new, more unified era had dawned in Europe.

“….Faced with new challenges and rapidly changing times, the nations of Europe turned toward one another for help, pooling their resources, talents and markets in new co-operative ventures. In 1973, the United Kingdom was admitted to the EEC. By the end of the decade, the European Monetary System was established, and the continent was well on the way toward achieving the unity that plays such an important role in our society today.”

-From an introduction to ‘100 Years of Popular Music’ – the ’70s. (International Music Publications Ltd, 2003)

How times have changed. From hope to nope in a generation.

Fucking cretins. I want my European citizenship back.


Buying a season ticket to Old Trafford is like voting to Leave the EU or joining the Church of England: placing absurd faith in something that nowadays exists in name only.

Field punishment

Our occasional sports correspondent and star Portugal midfield supremo, Boglinho writes:

Look, we expect a lot from premier league footballers too. In the clubs that pay tens of millions to acquire the best talent from all over the world, they rule the roost. The English Premier League is supposedly the richest, the most talent-studded of all the European premier leagues. Yet you take these cosseted, gilded young baboons and sort them into their own national teams, or ask them to beat Bayern Munich instead of Arsenal, and they can’t play for toffee. It’s a system based on over-expectation, on media hype, that works only in its own rarefied bubble. And then 5000-1 outsider, Leicester City goes and wins the Premiership.

Yet the desperate fans with their songs from the terraces, wrapped in their dad’s well-worn scarf, go on demonstrating their loyalty year after year to these ghostly, overpriced simulacra of the original teams, that have kept only the traditional names in common. Buying a season ticket to Old Trafford and new-edition £100 red shirts for the kids every season is like voting to Leave the EU or joining the Church of England: placing absurd faith in something that nowadays exists in name only.

Djokovic goes spinning out of Wimbledon in the second round, losing in four to an amiable, shambling, nine-foot-tall American whose greatest previous triumph was appearing on a TV dating show (she stood him up afterwards). The world’s number one, expected by the end of the tournament to become statistically the greatest player in the history of the game, a man who has won $100 million in prize money, played inexplicably poor, club-level tennis that was painful to watch. Had his family been kidnapped? Had his new restaurant poisoned all the diners? We shall probably never know. We just saw one of the world’s greatest athletes stumbling around with a glazed expression, muttering to himself and smashing the ball into the net, point after losing point.

And I’m not referring to Marcus Willis, a perfectly nice chap and competent club player – but only a ‘qualifier’ –  with the prettiest girlfriend in the history of ever. He was turned by the media into a national joke, like the unfancied Olympic ski-jumper from Cheltenham, Eddie the Eagle, because after a surprise knocking-out of a low-ranking seed he came up against Federer on Centre Court in the second round: every young player’s dream nightmare. A joke, but also a national symbol: the underdog’s underdog. So he took a couple of points off the Master, waved cheerfully to the crowd, and now he’s a celebrity. How’s Federer doing? Who cares, we’re British.

Djokovic’s female counterpart, Serena Williams too had a poor start, being fined $10 thousand for petulantly throwing away her racket after losing some unimportant points. It’s been a fractious week in SW19. Playing against a little-known qualifier in the second round, nevertheless the second greatest woman player in tennis history and number one seed was down a set, shouting at herself like a bag-lady, a haunted expression in her eyes as the terrible ghost of Serena managed somehow to dig in and claw her way back to win. The eventual scoreline did not reflect how close she had come to defeat. Meanwhile the second seed, Muguruza, the new kid on the block, with huge sponsorship deals lining up and a massive weight of expectation on her lovely Spanish shoulders, was already on her way home, beaten in the first round.

It’s been the triumph of expectation over hope.

These people are expected to win every time, but you can’t. No-one could. We ask too much of them. And we love to pull down our idols. They are like ageing gunslingers, knowing that every punk in town wants to make a name for themselves and that, one day, you’ll be a fraction of a second too slow on the draw, and out go the lights.

The EU referendum was supposed to decide whether Britain remained part of the great postwar unifying experiment in Europe, an undiscovered land 26 miles away, or – what? Nobody knew what, just imagining we were far too important to be part of anything so common as a Common Market. Imagining we would ‘rule’ ourselves at last, free from the shackles and the sight of foreigners doing well. And the underdogs won.

It was probably a category error. Individual economies find it a struggle to survive in the modern world. Trade barriers are going up everywhere. And we weren’t being ‘ruled’ by foreigners. It was a media myth. A meme. The marginal result left everyone stunned, even the people who voted to leave. It left the country unexpectedly leaderless, without government, without opposition and with a sinking currency. ‘Be careful what you wish for’ is an old Chinese proverb that warns us to think through the possible consequences of our actions. To do that, you have to have some idea what those could be.

Now the vultures are hovering over the carcass of 900 years of Parliamentary democracy.

A history of which far too many ‘voters’ seem blissfully ignorant.


Getting shirty

Is it something that happens to everyone, that as we age we find the medians have shifted behind us?

Why don’t the shoes I buy, the shirts I buy, the trousers ever seem to fit properly anymore? Have people changed their physical size and shape? Or is it just because the stuff is always made in Cambodia or somewhere and they can’t believe Westerners look like this?

I’ve bought three shirts this year. None of them fit. At Christmas, I spent £80 on an emergency shirt on sale in London, size L (I’m a 16.5 in collar size, which is, or was in my day, a size L), and couldn’t get my arms in the sleeves, let alone button around my chest. They called it a ‘slim fit’. How can you have a large-size ‘slim fit’ and still not expect even to get your skinny old arms in, let alone your Santa Claus?

I had to give it away to my son, who’s a couple of sizes younger. Then last month I bought a size 16.5 (L) shirt in a local store and you could of fitted two of us in it, or gone camping. I had to tuck the tails into my socks and rollup the cuffs. Yesterday I bought a going-away Hawaiian shirt, again a L, and it won’t do up round the middle. Yet the other size L stuff, T-shirts I bought in the same shop fit fine, so it can’t be me. Are they just getting careless with the labelling? In January I bought a pair of jeans in my size, 36 Regular, it says on the label, but they turned out a 38 and I had to spend £20 on a belt to hold them up. Size 36 is the new 38, for our new generation of overweights. No ‘slim fit’ there.

So yesterday I also acquired two pairs of shoes, that are too wide in the heel and too narrow in the toe, but it was all they had that fit at all, so I have to put up with sore little tootsies and heel blisters. You have to go on-line to find any half-sizes or width-fittings, then you don’t know what you might be getting for your money.  One online store had very nice-looking shoes in half-sizes that stopped at size 8 and refused to reply to my mild expression of surprise, as I’m a 10.5 and I don’t think I’m any sort of freak.  The jeans I bought yesterday fit beautifully in the fitting-room, until I’d worn them half an hour and the waistband expanded and they went strangely baggy in the knees and kept falling down, so that I had to improvise braces with the dog’s lead.

It’s no wonder old fogeys moan about everything not being the way it was.

It isn’t!


So farewell

I was about to comment on the fact that the Grim Celebrity Reaper seemed to have gone on holiday last week. No longer.

RIP this weekend British ‘Mrs Merton’ comedienne Caroline Ahearne, 52; ‘Deer Hunter’ director, Michael Cimino, 73; Elvis’ guitar player Scotty Moore, 74; no-longer living embodiment of the Jewish moral high-ground, Nobel prizewinner, Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor Elie Wiesel, 87; and award-winning Iranian director (Godard said film began with DW Griffith and ended with Kiarostami), Abbas Kiarostami, 76.

Can’t quite see the connections, but there you go. It’s all random, the knottiness of stringiness.

-UB (66)


To cheer you up, while listening to their classic 1977 duets on YouTube, I’ve just noticed that my tabs have compressed the names to ‘Bill Evans and Tony Benn’…

Now there’s an image to make your day!