Sunday, October 21, 2007

Nil from two

During this great weekend of sport, in which the country ended with less world champions than it started, questions were raised as to whether we should switch our national sport from football to rugby.

Do you have to declare your national sport to the UN? I mean, does the National Sport Security Council sit and have conversations that start; “Sir, our intelligence informs us that the Afghans have developed an unauthorised liking for the pole vault”?

The argument basically goes that we’re better at rugby than we are at football. This, despite the fact that the rugby world is comparatively tiny, making us a big fish in a small pond and despite the fact had England won on Saturday night it would have been a travesty to declare them the best in the world.

The second argument is that football is boorish, bloated and over exposed, whereas rugby is more refined and cultured. After all, despite having a controversial try disallowed, there was no apoplexy, no derision, and no cries of foul.

This is because despite the endeavour, tension and excitement; after the final whistle blows; nobody really cares about rugby.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cracking eggs

You won’t find any meaningful analysis of the Rugby World Cup from me. However, I have enjoyed the tournament. The Wales v Fiji game was a ding dong battle and the France v All Blacks game was pure theatre from the French standing nose to nose with the snarling Kiwi haka to Jean-Baptiste Elisalde sprinting in towards his own line to punt the ball into the crowd and ensure victory.

I admire what England have achieved, though they are a one man team, I know Johnny Wilkinson couldn’t win games on his own. More importantly, England can’t win without Wilkinson. Without him on the pitch, their efforts are largely redundant. Unlike many, I like to see heroes being heroic.

But, the problem with Rugby is that it is only accessible at a certain level. From an outsider’s point of view, a vast majority appears to be about big men lying on top of each other. Its difficult to know whether Sebastien Chabal, the modern day cave man and hairy scary bastard, is a good player or just a hairy scary bastard. He looks great when his beard and hair is drenched in mud, sweat and others’ teeth, but what’s he doing lying on the floor in the first place?

The rules don’t help, they’ve been invented to make the game as aesthetically pleasing as possible, but you can only trust that the referee isn’t making them up like a game of Mornington Crescent. Players can be penalised for going in on the wrong side and doing things in a scrum that no end of TV replays can clarify. With England so reliant on Wilkinson’s penalties, who knows what might win them the game – eating fish fingers in a ruck or doing impressions of Ronny Corbett with one foot off the ground perhaps?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

African queen

GMTV is not known for its subtly. The only shock is that they haven’t yet managed to get the advert breaks sponsored.

This week they’ve been running a trailor promoting a week in which Fiona Phillips is flying out to Tanzania to visit a girl she sponsors. The little girl’s name is Neema.

It’s not right to criticise this, and I wouldn’t. But the trailer opens with an introduction highlighting that this little girl and millions of others, have little hope. In short, they are so poor they will die without help.

The trailer continues to a soundtrack of authentic African music. Lots of pictures of children with no shoes and living in mud huts studying from old textbooks.

Fiona herself is shot, sans make-up, staring into the middle distance from what may be the back of a safari jeep, but may also be the balcony of her five-star timber framed hotel suite.

Whilst it’s nauseating and patronising, it just about maintains its credibility. Then the final caption comes up, in their infinite wisdom, they’ve chosen to call this segment of the show Finding Neema.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Going postal

Broadly speaking I am for the man in the street and against The Man. Therefore I do want to sympathise with the striking postal workers. In addition to this, I really dislike Adam Crozier, who has made a career out of turning quintessentially dusty and crusty old English institutions into ugly moneymaking machines. The man has no soul.

That said, you suspect that he’s right when he says that the postal service needs modernising. The strikers, as much as I want to support them, are probably in the wrong.

The ‘postal chaos’ hasn’t really been chaotic at all bringing into question just how much we rely on the service. Emaciated children aren’t running around the streets, no tanks have rolled through the shires. A woman on the TV said that some of her mail order customers wouldn’t have their fancy dress costumes for parties at the weekend.

This evening I got home to find a pile of post, mostly junk, but a pile. It was about 4 times the normal amount of post. Perhaps 4 days worth. In short, it does seem that the sorting offices have cleared the backlog on the first day back. Which may suggest that the post office has approximately four times too many people working for it.

A case for The Man? Perhaps.

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