Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We regret the error

Occasionally, just occasionally, journalists get their facts wrong. Yes, even me. And sometimes that means that newspapers have to print an apology. There's a whole website dedicated to spotting such things.

However, there is getting something wrong and then there is really boobing, as this apology in The Sun reveals:
"In an article published on The Sun website on January 27 under the headline 'Gollum joker killed in live rail horror’ we incorrectly stated that Julian Brooker, 23, of Brighton, was blown 15ft into the air after accidentally touching a live railway line.

"His parents have asked us to make clear he was not turned into a fireball, was not obsessed with the number 23 and didn’t go drinking on that date every month.

"Julian’s mother did not say, during or after the inquest, her son often got on all fours creeping around their house pretending to be Gollum."
Apart from that, the paper got everything spot on.
(yes, I know the cutting is six years old, but I got sent the link today - first with the news, as ever - and thought it worth sharing).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jolly fine boating weather

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, speaks exclusively to the Vole's imagination about today's Boat Race

"This afternoon, our glorious capital on the banks of Old Father Thames will stage one of England's great sporting occasions, an event as ancient and venerable as the river itself, in which the men in dark blue give a damn good thrashing to a bunch of wastrels.

"I'm talking of course about the noble battle between police and protestors.

"I am delighted that in this modern age with so many other possible distractions, like getting your mistress pregnant or upsetting people from Liverpool, people still have a yearning to steal policemen's helmets on Boat Race day.

"In my time, you did it after the race, of course, and were taken straight to jail without passing Go or collecting £200 where you spent a night in chokey before being given a slap on the wrist and a £5 fine.

"Students today are less patient and want to get their protesting out of the way early before they head down to Putney to watch the Boat Race.

"As Mayor of this fine city I am, naturally, neutral. I don't care who wins as long as it isn't Cambridge. I have often wondered, though, why the Marines have yet to win the Boat Race. I know they give the students a head start, but they have an outboard motor for heaven's sake.

"It is good to see an Old Etonian in this year's Oxford crew even if his name - what was it again? Lulu or something? - suggests that he does not come from pure English stock. Not like us De Pfeffels.

"I was a dry bob when I was at the alma mater. Couldn't stomach those early mornings and the obligatory boater played havoc with my hair.

"I did know a few chaps who messed about in boats, though. Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps won the Silly Bugger award at Christ Church after flipping the college ninth VIII by trying to tap a swan on the shoulder with his blade, while Bingo Little is always catching crabs, he tells me, when he goes out punting with the daughter of the Balliol boatman.

"When I mentioned this to Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, he quipped that it brought a new meaning to my customary greeting of 'what ho!'

"The morning after the Boat Race is always a bit of a stinker for the rowers, I am told. The pounding head, the aching arms, the nagging feeling that you forgot to check whether the cox had bobbed back to the surface after you threw him into the billowing w.

"My advice is to take a glass or two of Mulliner's Buck-u-Uppo, order a hearty round of eggs and b. and sing lustily of the thrashing you have just given the Tabs.

"Unless by some fluke or act of dastardly cheating the Tabs have won (I have long suspected that they take a short cut round the back of the Harrods depository), in which case yah-boo-sucks to them. No one likes a show-off."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Diet update, two pounds lighter

For those who were wondering, my Lenten fast is going reasonably well. I turned down the customary lunchtime pints when I went to the pub with my colleague Nigel last week and I have tried to avoid mid-afternoon snacks at my desk.

I did have a few glasses of wine while out with friends last night but it was counteracted by an hour and a quarter of tennis the day before as the scales, which only lie when they give bad news, show that I have shed two pounds.

Only another three stone or so to go...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Country life

There's not really much more comment that I can make on this article that the headline doesn't cover:
Pervert caught pleasuring himself in slurry for the third time
Those long winter evenings in Cornwall must really drag.

Strangely, in the long list of complaints against this disturbed individual, masturbating in the muck spreader is mentioned first before they move on to tamer pursuits such as setting fire to outbuildings and killing livestock.

We're all doomed

I was interested to read in today's paper that while the International Atomic Energy Agency has declared a state of emergency at the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan, it is in fact "the lowest on its sliding scale" of warnings. Not that you would know it from some of the headlines...

Here for those without an IAEA handbook are the other marks on their apocalypse scale:
  1. State of emergency
  2. Oh-oh
  3. Cancel that dinner reservation
  4. Holy crap
  5. Lucky I wore brown trousers
  6. Run like the wind
  7. **** *****ing ****ety **** ****
  8. Boom

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rugby shows its maturity

Halfway through the second half of the rugby match in Cardiff yesterday, Wales were fortunate that an illegal try they had scored was allowed to stand.

Ireland had kicked the ball out of play, it bounced into the crowd and Wales, seizing another ball from a ball boy, threw it in quickly before a lineout had formed and Mike Phillips charged down the left flank to score. According to the rules, the try should not have counted: you can only take a quick throw-in with the ball that was kicked out. The assistant referee, who was asked by the referee if it was the same ball, boobed.

It was a mistake, a bad mistake and one that possibly cost Ireland the match. Consider, then, the sensible and balanced reaction afterwards of the Ireland coach, Declan Kidney:
"We lost by six points, it was a seven-point decision, but look at what's happened in Japan. That's life isn't it."
Compare that with the hysteria, the sense of injustice and, above all, the anger of football managers when a decision goes against their side.

If Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger had been in Kidney's position, they would have gone ballistic, questioning the referee's parentage, competence and eyesight and probably refusing to speak to the media if anyone dared to suggest that the result was in any way caused by the failings of their players or the coach's strategy rather than a gaffe by a man with a whistle.

The Wales coach, Warren Gatland, in his turn acknowledged that his side had been lucky, a touch of graciousness that you never hear in football.

That's not to say that Ireland have taken the decision on the chin. Brian O'Driscoll, the captain, and other players have said that the try cost them and that the referee should be embarrassed by the mistake - although O'Driscoll tempered his comments by saying "everyone's human and mistakes happen all the time" - but by the time they get together tomorrow to prepare for the next match, it will be forgotten.

After all, Ireland really lost the match because they failed to score the points that their possession in Wales's half demanded, because Jonathan Sexton missed a kick in front of the posts immediately after Phillips's try and because Paddy Wallace cut inside rather than making what would have been a certain scoring pass outside him in the last minute. Those errors will be what they concentrate on, not the referee's howler.

It's why I like rugby more than football. The players and fans have passion but they also have respect. A rugby referee may be taunted during the match, but when the final whistle goes all grievances are forgotten. Everyone makes errors and players make more of them than officials.

The spirit of the game is more important than the result. It is a shame football has forgotten that.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

40 days in the slenderness

To church this morning for the daubing of the ashes on the forehead and the start of my annual month and a half of attempted self-improvement and inevitable self-loathing.

Each year, I try to lose weight during Lent by cutting out all those things that are yummy: cheese, curry, beer, Belgian chocolate-coated toffee popcorn from M&S and so on. Normally I last three weeks before, chuffed at losing a couple of pounds, I go on a chocolate bender and put it all back on. Not this year.

I now have more incentive really to make an effort to lose weight and keep it off, not least a four-month-old daughter and a rather snazzy new purple velvet jacket that I bought on a whim but cannot do up. I also went for a medical check-up recently and while my cholesterol level is astoundingly low for someone with the fat content of a pork scratching, I have nudged up to the 19 stone barrier and this clearly has to stop.

I don't like being a fatty. It makes me depressed a lot of the time (a feeling that I soothe by eating, unhelpfully) and I often wonder whether I'd be treated with more professional respect if I were slimmer. People tend to like chubbies but they rarely take them seriously. You are seen as ill-disciplined and slovenly, although I in return don't trust anyone with a micro-waist. They are clearly freaks.

I don't believe Kate Moss when she says that nothing tastes as good as being thin feels. She has clearly never tried Cornish Cruncher with balsamic pickled onions or the Duchy Originals chocolate-coated orange peel. But she has a point. Being thinner would make me more happy.

So, to try and find some discipline where none has previously existed, I intend to open myself up to ridicule and maybe encouragement by posting my diet efforts publicly on this blog. I started this morning at exactly 19st (just over 120kg) and hope by losing 2lb a week to shed a stone by Easter. I'll update readers here every weekend, hopefully without getting too boring about it.

All your support, abuse or tips very welcome.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Telling porkies

I like a bad joke as much as the next person but there is a time and a place for them and perhaps a sombre Commons statement on the crisis in Libya is not the right occasion in which to crack a feeble and mildly offensive gag about sausages.

John Baron, the Conservative MP for Basildon and Billericay, rose in Parliament yesterday to ask William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, whether he thought it was ironic that we should send "a British warship [the HMS Cumberland] named after a pork sausage to rescue Brits from a Muslim country"?

Hague replied, witheringly, that "it was important to send the nearest royal naval ship available, irrespective of its name" and that the HMS York had also been there. "I hope he has no difficulty with that," Hague added.

Baron, not to be confused with the actor who played CJ in the original Reggie Perrin, is right that the HMS Cumberland has the nickname "the fighting sausage", although it was of course named after the English county and is the eleventh ship to carry the name, the first being in 1695.

If Baron was hoping to grab the news with his feeble gag then it has worked, on this blog at least, but is it really what he went into politics to achieve?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Never dull when following England

Good old England, singlehandedly keeping the World Cup interesting. First by almost losing to the Dutch, then by almost beating then almost losing then tying with India and then last night by failing to defend 327 against Ireland.

The bad news for South Africa fans is that England very rarely have two bad games in a row these days. I fully expect England to beat the Proteas in Madras on Sunday, then lose to Bangladesh in Chittagong and then beat West Indies, which will probably just squeak them into the quarter-finals.

England's bowling looks terrible, though. All credit to Kevin O'Brien, Ireland's hero last night who made the fastest century ever recorded in a World Cup match, but if you're going to bowl long-hops down the leg side, you are going to get tonked.

Well done Ireland, though. Having agonisingly failed to close out a win over Bangladesh last Friday, they have restored the reputation of the associate nations. If they beat the Dutch and one other side, perhaps West Indies, they could reach the quarter-finals.

The match on Sunday against India was an emotions-shredding rollercoaster. Surely 339 would be too many to chase (until Ireland's exploits yesterday it was 26 more than anyone had ever made batting second at the World Cup) but Strauss and Bell got England going with a stand of 170.

At this point, a few hundred Indians got up to leave. Never understood the point of that. I know that no one wants to see their team blow it but games against England are never over until the final ball. As Zaheer Khan dismissed Strauss and Bell with consecutive balls, the smug expressions on the faces of the English journalists in Bangalore swapped places with the dejected countenances of the Indians.

But in three glorious swipes the match was turned again. Six for Bresnan, six for Swann and then, off the first ball he faced, six for Shahzad. Match tied, honours even, no one wholly satisfied.

That was Sunday and it kept me fairly busy with an 800-word match report, a 400-word quotes piece, 400 words on England's bowlers and three panels of stats. It was 2.30am in Bangalore before I got to bed.

Two hours later the phone rang. Steven Davies is gay, can you write 700 words? Oh well, who needs sleep? Anyway, I had to be up at 6.30am to fly home. When I left, England were still in the World Cup. Blame others if they don't win from here.