Saturday, 30 April 2005

Wishful Thinking

BBC News Online, Friday 29th April 2005

A number of celebrities from both sides of the Atlantic have joined together to encourage the media to pay them less attention.

Speaking from his home in Madrid, superstar David Beckham led calls for greater disinterest on the part of the general public. The moderately-able-in-the-grand-sweep-of-the-sport’s-history footballer told the BBC, ‘Like many well-known people, I have enjoyed being the centre of attention over the last few years. I like to have my picture taken, and having thousands of people chant your name every Saturday is undeniably a great buzz. But I get more column inches in the papers than most international conflicts, and I’m just increasingly aware of how absurdly disproportionate it all is.’

Asked if breaches of security and allegations about his fidelity to his wife had prompted his change of heart, Beckham demurred. ‘That stuff is certainly unpleasant, but it’s about a lot more than that. Like, the other day, I was reading about Johnson Beharry, who has just won the first Victoria Cross for over twenty years. Did you know he saved THIRTY members of his unit during an ambush? Now that’s bravery. I am ashamed to be called a hero or a leader when I think of him. Instead of reading about me, people should read Surviving the Sword, a deeply moving account of the treatment of prisoners of war at the hands of the Japanese.’

Beckham conceded that his wife is taking her time to come round to his way of thinking. ‘When she read that Private Beharry had been awarded the Victoria Cross, she actually asked me if the medal was named after her. I was appalled by her self-absorption, but felt even worse when it dawned on me that I am just as bad. In the future, I’ll do my England interviews, and the odd advert for adidas as part of my boot deal, but that’s all the media attention I want.’

American ‘character’ actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who made screen history when her own face was used as her butt double in sado-masochistic spankfest Secretary, was equally self-effacing. ‘Recently I opined that America was “responsible in some way” for the 9/11 attacks, and that “not to have the courage to ask these questions of ourselves is to betray the victims of 9/11”. I shudder when I read those words now. What do I know of the suffering of the victims of 9/11, or indeed of international relations? Nothing at all, that’s what. I’m so sorry for being so immature.’

Gyllenhaal’s brother Jake, who starred in the environmental disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow, told the BBC: ‘Maggie has a point. I now appreciate fully that when I did all those interviews for my film I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I am in no better a position to tell you how advanced global warming is than I am to create an intranet for a medium-size business. Although I am inclined to believe that the movie’s depiction of cataclysmic floods was a gross distortion of what is remotely likely.’

Old hands at the Hollywood-Stars-As-Commentators game joined in the down to Earth fun. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have long been the toast of left wing activists everywhere for their earnest support of democratic rights and tree liberation. But speaking with breathtaking candour, the couple recanted totally. ‘I was just trying to get laid,’ said Robbins. ‘I never gave two hoots for all those tribes I went on about, and I drink Coca-Cola like a bastard. Why would I want to eat some revolting overpriced carob bar in the name of “fair” trade when I can munch down a Snickers? I was just trying to impress Susan with my right-on ramblings, in the hope of getting some hot – albeit somewhat older – tail.’

Sarandon added: ‘The irony is that I was motivated by much the same thing. I thought that by appearing trendy and knowledgeable I could make myself desirable to Tim. In truth, I’m far from convinced that President Bush is a bad man. He’s certainly a lot cuter than John Kerry. And I was talking last week to Kelsey Grammer about why he’s a Republican. He was pretty persuasive, I must say.’

Cameron Diaz, who had become increasingly involved in political activism, was perhaps the most repentant. ‘I haven’t been sleeping well at all,’ she said, articulating every sentence as though it was a question. ‘Susan and Tim have shown me that I have basically been behaving like a silly teenager. For example, I was on this talk show the other day, advocating an end to world hunger. There was this professor from the University of Chicago on as well, making what I now recognise to be a series of very cogent arguments about why following conventional wisdom may not be the best way to achieve that end.’

‘The next day, the media only reported what I had said – it was something fatuous like “We should all love each other more”. This professor, a genuine expert, had just been totally ignored. I’m going to keep my big goofy mouth shut from now on, except when I really know what I’m talking about.’

Not all celebrities appear to have been hit by this wave of self-deprecation, however. Narinder Kaur, who appeared in the second series of the UK version of Big Brother, was adamant that she still craved the limelight. ‘What? It sounds like they want to be less famous,’ she said incredulously. ‘Why would anyone want to be LESS famous? Do you think I can get more TV time now? Can you help me get back on Channel Four? I don’t mind what I do. I could be good as a celebrity commentator on one of those “100 Greatest Pop Songs” programmes. Or I could do lesbian sex with Jade Goody. I’ll even eat my own shit if they’ll film it. Do you hear me? I’ll EAT MY OWN SHIT – anything – just get me back on the fucking telly.’

A spokesman for Channel Four said that the station is screening a “50 Greatest Big Brother Contestants” show sometime next year, but that they have no plans to invite Ms Kaur to take part. ‘Bubble, Kate Lawlor, Brian Dowling, Helen Adams and even that ghastly faggy guy Marco from last year all seem to interest people more,’ the spokesman said.

Thursday, 28 April 2005

All’s Well That Ends Well

Judgey didn’t play last night after all. But in a funny way, what happened was even better. I realised, to my delight, that I finally feel like I belong somewhere.

Yesterday’s match was between two teams made up of players of modest ability. They played well, and certainly got stuck in. I enjoyed it hugely, and what has gradually been dawning on me sunk in properly. Oxfordshire is my home, and I will be happy here. Chippy won 2-1.

Don’t get me wrong. I made lots of friends in London. I also still want to explore America. But ever since I was a child, and despite the fact that I have often been happy, I haven’t ever really felt comfortable in my surroundings. I always thought my life would take off properly at some point in the future, and that I was just treading water. Now I feel that I can be settled.

In Oxfordshire I can be immersed in the countryside. I can keep up my training with Marco, which I am benefiting from greatly. I can see old friends, and have pretty good access to London. I can watch Oxford United, and get fit and eventually start playing again myself. Whether or not the future Mrs Greeves lives in Oxfordshire I’ll have to wait and see.

This post is rambling, and it is self-indulgent. I am trying to define a feeling that is perhaps indefinable. At long last, I believe that this is my time, this is my chance to shine, and this great county is my manor.

Watch out – Big Tom is Back.

Tuesday, 26 April 2005

Judge Not That I Myself Will Not Meet Judge(y)

I am so excited, and I just can’t hide it. Tonight I am off to watch Chipping Norton play their local rivals Bicester. It’s a Southern Hellenic Premier League game, or something like that, and it doesn’t get much better than this.

First of all, I am going with my old friend Paul, who is always good value. Second of all, I haven’t been to a game for a while. Third of all, it’s a derby match with a lot of needle. But most of all, I MAY GET TO MEET ALAN JUDGE.

Judgey - as of course y’all know - was one of Oxford United’s goalkeepers during our heady days in the old First Division, and played in the 1986 Milk Cup Final victory over QPR. My first game at the Manor was a league match between these two clubs, and Judgey had just dislodged Steve Hardwick from the side. He became, and will always remain, my footballing hero. He now plays – how frequently I do not know – for Chipping Norton.

It is possible that there will be a chance to meet him at some point tonight, and get him to sign a photo of himself in an old Oxford match programme. Do you have any idea how PROFOUND that is??? It is the equivalent of a boxing fanatic meeting Muhammad Ali. Except that most boxing fans worship Ali, and they get to see him on TV and in books all the time. Alan is MY goalkeeper, the first-choice keeper in an unfashionable team at a specific moment in time. I was a young boy when I first saw him. The memories of a first match are as deep and affecting as those of a first day at school.

He works these days both as a goalkeeping coach and local driving instructor. Attentive readers of this blog will know that I do not drive, but am planning to learn. The temptation to hire him is enormous. Quite what he would make of a very large skinhead making clear his idolatry while attempting to negotiate roundabouts I’m not sure, but it would be fun to see. But maybe not for Alan.

‘So Alan, remember the 1986 Milk Cup Final?’

‘Sure do.’

‘Yeah, great day. You know, I loved watching you play for Oxford. You were my favourite player. I always wanted to be a goalkeeper myself.’

‘Oh right. Mind this turn here.’

‘Yeah. I think my first memory of you must be seeing you leaping to try to keep out a QPR goal in a league game. I was only about 12.’

‘Right. I’m feeling old now.’

‘Yeah I bet! So … why didn’t you save that shot?’

‘Well, I …’

‘You should have got to it.’

‘Well, er just slow down a bit.’

‘WHY. DIDN’T. YOU. SAVE. IT. ALAN? It wasn’t hard.’

‘Oh boy.’

Alan is in his mid-forties now. He has turned out for Oxford very recently when they have had injury problems, and done brilliantly. He has even battled back successfully from bowel cancer, to his immense credit. But tonight, all being well, he gets to meet his Number One Fan.


Monday, 25 April 2005

The Search is Over

If you are a politician or a journalist, represent a business or a charity, are in the media, or indeed if you fit into none of these brackets, you may well find yourself needing some first-class research. I am delighted to recommend The Research Shop.

Created by two good - but more importantly highly able - friends of mine, The Research Shop churns out fantastic material at an amazing rate. It is a great comfort to have a comprehensive brief on you when you go into a meeting or are about to give a speech. But an EXCELLENT one can take you to a higher level, and enable you to perform far better than you might have dared hope.

If you’re tempted to try out The Research Shop, I definitely encourage you to take the plunge. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised. They are able to call on the services of a wide range of experts, which means that they can cover a huge range of subjects.

I am always more than a little in awe of people who set up successful businesses. There must be something immensely satisfying about it, although I don’t doubt that it brings its frustrations too. But a good businessman or woman is like the finest artisan – they take pleasure in delivering a top-drawer finished product, one that exceeds the customer’s expectations.

I must declare an interest that goes beyond friendship; I have done some work for The Research Shop myself. But I’m very picky about who I work for, and anyway quality speaks for itself. I hope this post throws some business the way of my buddies. But I’m also confident that once you sample their work, they’ll hear from you again (in a GOOD way!).

By the way, I benched 100kg for 2 reps today. I’ll be stronger than Hell by the end of the year. A-WHOO!

Sunday, 24 April 2005

Last Orders

Just a brief note to those of you whose websites I currently link to. I will be making a few changes in the next few days, and those sites which do not link back to me will be removed. A free pass will be given to sites that don't link to anyone however, which is arguably ironic or capricious, but which is definitely the way it's going to be. Deadline is a week today (i.e. Saturday 30th April).

By the same token, advice about good blogs that I might like to link to would be gratefully received at Not that any of you mofos appear to be reading this, as I hardly ever get emails about the blog!

Thursday, 21 April 2005

Oh. My. God.

I turn 30 next January. I’m actually looking forward to it – I’ve had a feeling for some time that my thirties will be better than my twenties, and that I’ll somehow grow into myself during that period. It really isn’t very old, and when I see Marco bench pressing more than he ever has before at the age of 47, I realise that physical degeneration is a long way off. Indeed I plan to get much fitter than I am now in the years ahead.

But someone said something to me yesterday that did cause your humble blogger to puff out his cheeks and whistle. My working life is HALF OVER. I’m not halfway through my career, but I am half the age I am likely to be when I retire. That is quite a thought, and makes the career decisions I am currently agonising over all the more profound.

I have got to: 1) work out what I TRULY want to do; 2) get motoring as it will almost certainly involve a career change and 3) decide where I want to live. None of these decisions is remotely straightforward. The things I passionately enjoy doing do not readily provide an income. Making a decision to do one thing will necessarily mean deciding not to do others. And I don’t even know what COUNTRY I want to live in (it’s between England and America), let alone what part of whichever country I settle in. Almost all the jobs I’m suited to seem to be in London, I place I absolutely hate.

Of course you may be reading this thinking ‘join the club mate’. Well quite; we all go through this. That doesn’t make it any easier though! I want to find a job that enables me to write, to pursue my interest in politics, to have enough time for friends and powerlifting, and that has sufficient flexibility that I could go off from time to time to undertake other … projects (which I don’t want to elaborate on now!).

This is no small task. Any bright ideas gratefully received at

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

Make Saccharine Liberalism History

Extra-terrestrial channels are carrying a very striking advert at the moment. Shot in black-and-white, and narrated by Liam Neeson, it features various megastars from film and pop clicking their fingers, to signify the fact that a death occurs in Africa with appalling frequency. The advert is for the campaign Make Poverty History. The name of this movement demonstrates such colossal ambition that one can’t help but be impressed. But on the off-chance that Ms Cameron Diaz, Mr Justin Timberlake and Ms Kylie Minogue do not have a flawless grasp of global economics, I thought that instead of taking their word for it, I’d have a further look at what Make Poverty History is claiming.

The campaign has three main themes: dropping debt, trade justice, and more and better aid. I am willing to take the third one as read – there is no doubt in my mind that aid should be increased and made more effective, and I don’t propose to examine this further. But full marks to the Conservative Party for accepting this thesis. The first two claims are more contentious, however.

Dropping ‘Third World’ debt has been a trendy cause for some time now. Make Poverty History calls for a fair and transparent international process to decide how much debt should be written off, instead of leaving matters to the creditors. Hmm. I’m pretty sceptical that any international process can be either fair or transparent. If the United Nations or other multinational organisations such as the EU are anything to go by, then we can expect neither fairness nor transparency. There can be little doubt that we should write off vast swathes of debt, and apparently the UK has already cancelled 100 % of that debt owed to it directly. But there has to come a point when we expect countries to exert some level of fiscal responsibility. I don’t see any evidence that Make Poverty History accepts that.

So far so fairly sensible. It’s the trade justice stuff that really annoys me. I quite agree that African countries are excluded from free trade, and indeed have written about this elsewhere. It is not fair for wealthy nations to flood poor countries with their products and put up barriers themselves. But the ‘fair trade’ movement goes further than that. It wants African producers to be given massive protection, and would have us all buying ‘fair trade’ products at the expense of Western goods. In terms of the first of these, it is not at all clear that that is what’s best for Africa. Surely investment and competition will lower prices and improve services there, just as they do here. If foreign companies go to Africa looking for labour, that is a good thing. And in terms of the second, just forget it frankly. It is not sustainable, it is not in our interests, and it is not going to happen on a significant scale.

The Make Poverty History site is a lot more reasonable than I had expected. To a certain extent I wish them well in pursuing their goals, and in achieving their ULTIMATE aim I wish them nothing but the best of luck. But I hope they will welcome vigorous debate. I also hope that the broader movement can stop being so blinkered and bigoted.

It is convenient to set up America or the Catholic Church as bogeymen. But America has made massive strides over the last few decades to help other parts of the world, with precious little thanks. The Pope is blamed for spreading HIV, but anyone engaging in promiscuous sex clearly isn’t remotely interested in what he had to say, so how can it be his fault? He didn’t say to people ‘Don’t have sex outside marriage, but if you do, be sure not to wear a condom’.

The truth is that many of Africa’s multitudinous problems stem from the fact that several of their own governments are incompetent, corrupt, oppressive and venal. It sometimes seems to me that one of the best things we could do is send in the troops to effect regime change in various parts of that continent. But that’s a debate for another day.

Finally, Make Poverty History wants us all to wear white armbands. If a movement has a ribbon or an armband, that is always a bad sign.

Monday, 18 April 2005

Let the Rocket Soar

Home alone last night I caught the final few frames of a first round match from this year’s Snooker World Championship. Ronnie O’Sullivan, the defending champion, came within an ace – or more accurately a fluffed black – of being knocked out by Stephen Maguire. But the Rocket got his head down, and showed the sort of class that few people in any sport can muster to fight back and win.

Afterwards he came into the BBC studio to be interviewed by Hazel Irvine and John Parrott. As an aside, I must say how good the commentary and punditry is on BBC’s snooker coverage. Everyone involved, whether an ex-pro or not, is highly engaging, and it really adds something qualitative. Anyway, Ronnie’s interview was quite extraordinary.

Following such an epic battle, one might have expected him to be either elated, or utterly spent. He wasn’t really either, although he was clearly pretty tired. Instead - and I’ve noticed this phenomenon with the Rocket before - he was amazingly candid, reflective and philosophical. You don’t get platitudes from Ronnie. You get the BARING OF THE SOUL.

He basically said that he is not enjoying snooker at all, has scarcely practiced this year, and would have been equally happy if he had lost. He also said that while he enjoys winning, he’s not sure if he can be put up with the lifestyle required to be a success, and may have to settle with being eighth or ninth in the world. Then he might ‘pick it back up again’. Hazel and John seemed slightly incredulous, but not that incredulous, and it seemed clear that Ronnie meant every word – this was no psyching out tactic (I think).

To put all this in context, let me remind or inform you that Ronnie O’Sullivan is considered by many experts to be the most talented snooker player who ever lived. He is MONSTROUSLY skilful. In the past he has not only played whole frames left-handed, but also said that he might try playing that way for a whole SEASON, despite being naturally right-handed. He has won the World Championship twice, and has actually had a good season this year, despite not having much fun. He is so good he can win games even when his head is very far from being alright.

I play and enjoy pool. I don’t play snooker, as I am not remotely good enough to make doing so worthwhile. I’m pretty rubbish in fact, and this has a curious effect when I’m watching. If the match is tight, and someone I want to win has a difficult shot, I find myself conjecturing whether they will be able to make it as if they had MY level of ability. Needless to say this increases the tension more than tenfold, as a professional player is much more than ten times better than me.

I can only begin to imagine what it must be like for Ronnie O’Sullivan to be so effortlessly brilliant. Don’t get me wrong; I know he’s worked very hard at his game (guided in recent years by the legendary Ray Reardon). But nevertheless he is blessed with an ability that many professionals would surely contemplate killing for.

What I will not do is have a go at him for wasting his talent. It is HIS talent, and he is under no moral obligation to maximise it if he doesn’t want to. I just hope that his happiness and working like buggery to fulfil his potential can coincide. I’d love to see what he can do. He also strikes me as a really good guy. In the Soundbite Age, someone who conducts interviews with such a lack of self-censorship is bound to be sympathetic. He’s the Ann Widdecombe of snooker. Moreover, Ronnie has shown great fortitude in getting on with life with his dad behind bars.

I must admit that I sort of wanted Stephen Maguire to cause an upset last night. It’s always exciting to feel you are witnessing the dawn of a new era in sport. Now I hope the Rocket goes all the way to a third world title.

Saturday, 16 April 2005

Rover’s Bark is Silenced

My heart goes out to the now redundant Rover workers and their families. I may be an ardent free-marketeer, but that does not mean that I think anyone should rub their hands with glee at the fact that 5,000 people will be losing their jobs.

What lessons can be learned from this? Well actually, I think that will take rather more investigation and thought than anyone can undertake immediately. Certainly the Government must reduce red tape considerably. Maybe the management was inept. Perhaps there is isn’t a future for the mass production of cars in this country. Whatever conclusions are to be drawn, they will only be the right ones if they are unsentimental.

Pouring public funds into obsolete industries is not the way forward. It makes a nation uncompetitive, it is at odds with basic fairness and ultimately becomes nothing more than charity, and it inhibits innovation and desirable changes to the economy. I for one am glad that coalmining in this country is all but dead – it was environmentally unsound, a miserable and dangerous job, and the market does know best - as painful as that can be to admit. If we want people to have the opportunity to do a different job to the one their father did, we have to have a flexible economy.

BUT … We should never ignore the impact that job losses have. The closure of coalmines devastated communities, and many of these places have still not recovered. It is no good those of us who tend to be a bit glib about the free market (and I admit to falling into this category) simply ignoring the impact of globalisation and all that jazz. Yesterday was a sad day, a BAD day, and I hope no-one on the Right says otherwise.

Retraining has to be the key to all this. No more agonising about the fact that we are shifting from a manufacturing nation to a service-based one. Let the focus be on giving people the skills they will need to compete. And let the Government not assume that education should end when someone turns 16, 18 or 21.

Good luck to all involved with Longbridge, and God Bless.

On a more mundane note, I realised just now that I have made a terrible faux pas. My link to Peter Ainsworth’s website referred to him as ‘Peter Ainsworth MP’. He is of course NOT an MP any more, now that we are in the General Election campaign proper. It’s a delicious aspect of the British uncodified constitution that we have no Members of Parliament at this time. It may not be a unique one, but I can’t be bothered to establish that point either way. If you happen to know, email me on

Certainly, if there’s any justice in the world, Peter WILL be returned as an MP at this election. He is a splendid fellow - decent, thoughtful, able and funny. He also has exquisite taste in former employees, who include your humble blogger …

JT in my Mind

You will notice that I now have two links to James Taylor websites. I have surprised myself by going a month on my new blog without mentioning Ole’ Stringbean.

Simply and straightforwardly, I LOVE James Taylor. His music has been the soundtrack to my life since I was in my teens, and I just never tire of sitting down to listen to Carolina in My Mind, Fire and Rain, Something in the Way She Moves, Copperline, and a holy host of other songs. JT’s voice is as clear as a bell, at once soothing and commanding. He is a fine lyricist, and his complex guitar picking means that he is a truly three-dimensional musician.

I can tolerate people making fun of Oxford United. I wince inwardly, but accept it, if someone mocks weightlifting or expresses boredom when I mention it. God knows I don’t expect friends to agree with my politics. But if anyone slags off James Taylor’s music to me, that is beyond the pale.

Fortunately this rarely happens, and indeed many people are delighted to learn that I share their love for JT. Some of these people are hot girls who seem to think I’m incredibly sensitive for liking James Taylor. Given that I look like a football hooligan, this is most welcome. If you are a beautiful, funny, kind and intelligent woman who thinks it’s sweet that I like James Taylor, email me on, and maybe we can go for coff … just kidding.

I have been to two of James’s concerts (last year and the year before), and incredibly, they EXCEEDED my expectations. Incredibly, because I was like a pubescent girl about to meet Peter Andre or whoever. OK, not EXACTLY like a pubescent girl, but you get my drift.

James has kept the standards up over the years, and keeps producing great stuff. But he also has the class and the confidence to play all the old favourites too when he does a show. This only serves to compound the enjoyment.

I went to South Carolina last year to work on a Senate race. I had become interested in the Carolinas thanks to Carolina in my Mind, which made that part of the world sound so beautiful (it is). So he is indirectly responsible for me making a number of good friends. I can’t shake the uneasy feeling that he might hate me for being a Republican, but there you go.

Finally, a love for JT is something I enjoy being able to share with my Mum. So all in all, God Bless James Vernon Taylor.

Friday, 15 April 2005


I've added a few more links. By incredible coincidence, Oliver Kamm has recently posted on the Henry Jackson Society. I had just decided to add both to my links.


Murder Deferred

The culprit referred to in the last post has come forward. Andrew assures me that the site said they would email to confirm the post was to go up, and that being so, I guess there was no danger of a fabricated comment being put up in my name. This was a jokette between Andrew and me. So all is well after all. Although he hardly helped matters by addressing me as 'Greevesy'.

This weekend I do plan to post, but I will be focussing – hopefully – on getting my film script finished. It has languished for too long.

By the way, I would be grateful if those of you whose blogs I have linked to could return the compliment, if you have not already done so. And Andrew, get your thumb out of your arse and relaunch your own - excellent - blog.

I’m Not a Nice Guy, I’m a F***ing Evil Psychopath

Bad Tommy has surfaced this morning. A couple of kids are playing football immediately outside my house. I like a kick-a-bout as much as the next person, but I must be approaching middle-age, because I went outside to tell them off. I inquired as to whence they came, and instructed them that they may not kick the ball against my wall.

All these reality TV shows about the underclass have clearly rubbed off, because before I went outside I half expected them to say ‘Piss Off, Mister’. In fact the boy I addressed contorted with fear, and stammered out an explanation that he is the grandson of my neighbours. He even called me ‘Sir’. Duly placated, I encouraged them to have fun.

They had not picked a good day to rile Big Tom, because I received an email this morning asking me to confirm a post on a website. The site is a platform for people who are not voting in this election to explain why they have reached that decision. Evidently some wag tried to post something in my name to the effect that I was too busy holding forth to remember to register. Satire is all well and good, but using my email address in this way is not on. Fortunately the site sent me an email asking me to confirm the post was mine, so in fairness to them, they seem to have a secure system in place.

Funnily enough, it was an email to friends lambasting myself for not registering in time that prompted someone to suggest I start this blog. So the premise of the libellous email was inherently false. I only started venting my spleen on the Internet AFTER realising I wouldn’t be able to vote this year.

The only other site I contribute to is Conservative Home. So any posts apparently from me on other sites can be considered fabrications unless otherwise indicated here on my blog.

Whoever attempted to defame me can consider themselves well and truly in my bad books. If you have any moral character at all, you will own up immediately. On this occasion, I promise to make an exception and not kill and eat you.

Put Me In The Pentagon

I am disproportionately proud of finally having managed to set up links to other blogs and websites. Simply clicking on the names of the sites listed to the right will take you into whole new worlds of wit, erudition and provocative prose.

But come back to me afterwards, you bastards.

Thursday, 14 April 2005

It’s a Lot Easier Just Watching

Staggeringly, the recent IPF World Powerlifting Championships were on British Eurosport the other day. Even better, Marco – my powerlifting coach – spotted this and taped them. So last night I sat down to watch extended highlights.

It’s funny practicing a sport that there is limited opportunity to watch. I plan to attend meets as a spectator whenever I’m free, but televised elite competitions will be few and far between. I’m just grateful that I have an expert coach, as trying to decipher everything from magazines and books would be pretty tricky. Hand and foot spacing, for example, are crucial and you really need someone else to watch and analyse what you’re doing. I am lucky to have that.

It was vital last night not to get too disheartened. These guys were lifting vastly more than I can, but then they are the best in the world, and I have only been training in earnest for a couple of months! The squats and bench presses were around two-and-a-half to three times what I can manage right now. Yet to my amazement, some of the competitors just outside the medals were deadlifting less than twice than what I can currently do. That is a VERY good sign, I reckon.

The IPF is a highly respected federation. They restrict the extent to which lifters can wear supportive gear. Some multi-layered bench press shirts used in other federations are thought to improve a lift by around 300 pounds – which is more than I can bench press at all! Frankly you may as well lift with a pulley. The IPF is much more sensible. Wraps and other supportive equipment have a role to play in most powerlifting competitions it seems, but I have no intention of relying on them to do my lifting for me, and will use only a bare minimum (perhaps for safety’s sake and to be competitive). I am attracted to this sport in no small part because it is an OBJECTIVE test of strength and character. Anything that corrupts that must be eschewed.

I can’t wait until my first competition. I will be doing a charity bench press one in September, but my first three-lift competition – where I will almost certainly get hammered – will be some time next year.

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

Thanks But No Thanks

Inspired by a friend who suggested I do this, and in the same vein as a previous post, I will be drawing attention to individuals and institutions that the Conservative Party should ignore.

I am deliberately turning my attentions away from the likes of The Mirror, Mr Peter Tatchell and ultra-Left trade unions, who would not expect the Tory Party to come calling for advice, and who would not expect any advice to be heeded. Indeed hardcore Lefties occasionally hit upon wisdom – albeit probably by mistake. I have in mind other organisations and specific people that are not currently considered the Enemy, some of which the Tory Party has sought to build bridges with.

The first in this occasional series is below. I would be very grateful for further suggestions. Next up is the National Union of Teachers.

The Commission for Racial Equality

I seethe with rage towards organisations such as this. Headed by New Labour’s Trevor Phillips, the CRE acts as though it is the sole arbiter of whether racial discrimination exists in a given scenario, and seems to invariably conclude that it does. A quick browse of the CRE website, which I must concede is most informative, is very revealing.

Apparently, public bodies are obliged to engage in ‘ethnic monitoring’ of staff and job applicants, and schools have to do something similar. Quite what happens when the outcomes don’t fit the models I don’t know, and how discrimination – as opposed to any one of a number of other factors – is considered proven is also unclear. There is a further obligation to ‘promote race equality’. Whether this extends beyond not being racist to ensuring that each race is proportionately represented is equally unclear.

The CRE has an obsession with the Police, and has just conducted an in depth study into them. Inevitably the CRE asserts that the Police are ‘frozen solid at the core’. Sir David Calvert-Smith, who led the inquiry, has commented that we should be at a stage ‘where real and measurable progress can be made on race equality without innocent black teenagers being murdered’. What a fatuous remark. How many people want black teenagers to be murdered for goodness sake?

The CRE is fed by a poisonous fuel. The fuel that gives it life is the liberal Left’s obsession with identity politics. Sensible people see that it is right and proper to be proud of one’s heritage, that racism is a bad thing, and that public bodies should be free of it. But they also see that race is comparatively trivial, and that the essence of a human being is much more complex. Harping on about race demeans us all.

The idea that a violent crime is worse – and should be subject to a stiffer penalty - if it is committed against a black man, or a gay man, is revolting. If we are to reach the nirvana of a society free from social prejudice, or get as close as is humanly possible, public bodies should pay LESS attention to matters of gender, sexuality and race, not more. The likes of the CRE will not profit, of course, because they depend on the inflammation and invention of tensions for their funding and their existence.

At the last General Election, lots of people got their knickers in a twist about the fact that some Tory candidates refused to sign a CRE pledge stating that they would not engage in racist campaigning or discrimination. Given that such behaviour would be illegal, the CRE may as well have asked MPs to pledge that they would not punch members of the electorate. John Prescott must be relieved that they didn’t, however. It didn’t matter that William Hague had signed the pledge on behalf of the whole Party anyway, the CRE and our opponents made hay from the fact that some MPs thought it a waste of time.

I for one refuse to accept that the CRE should be the arbiter in these matters. I don’t need the CRE’s stamp of approval to tell me that I am not a racist. If they are going to be able to do root and branch investigations into public bodies, and hold forth about what they find, then they should be vastly more accountable. Better still, their public funding should be withdrawn, and they could become another whiny, self-serving and boring pressure group. If they try to whip up hatred during this election, I hope Michael Howard (the Jewish son of immigrants) tells the world that he doesn’t value the CRE at all.

All Rise

The Rise of Political Lying, by Peter Oborne, has been published and is in all good bookshops. It chronicles the increase of mendacity among politicians which began under Major, and which has soared under Blair. Peter writes with verve, incisiveness and wit, and I heartily commend the book to y’all.

Most of us - in fact all of us except the most blinkered fellow travellers - have some sense that Blair is especially deceitful. The Rise of Political Lying formalises and codifies this sense, providing concrete example after concrete example of where the current Government have demonstrably told falsehoods. Peter offers hope at the end by making a number of highly commendable suggestions about how to improve matters.

Subjects as diverse as the Iraq War, the Millennium Dome, a Blair family holiday, a steel contract, the departure of a civil servant and a phantom UK Sports Institute in Sheffield are all covered, as are several more. It’s a cracking good read, and cheap at twice the price.

Oh, and I had the very great pleasure of being one of the project’s researchers!

Tuesday, 12 April 2005

What Do I Know Anyway?

This is probably a cardinal sin for a political blogger to commit, but I have to say that I don’t think I’m right about everything. Indeed I am certain that I am wrong about some things, although obviously I don’t know what in particular I am wrong about. Moreover, I am never more than 95% certain in ANY political views that I hold. I remember seeing an interview with Willie Whitelaw where he admitted something similar (albeit after his political career was over), and I was rather impressed by his candour.

In a similar although (probably) distinct vein, my tastes have also changed somewhat as I near 30. Several things that I was resolute that I did not enjoy now please me a great deal, and vice versa. In order to lose more weight, I now go on a reasonably lengthy and brisk walk every day. Whereas once tearing up a hill would have seemed like torture, I now inwardly wince if a car slows down beside me, in case someone is going to offer me a lift that I would find it too rude to decline.

In that specific instance there is an obvious reason – I’m fitter and so exercise is inevitably more enjoyable. But other changes are less clear – where once I disliked onions and mushrooms I now like them hugely. I once thought powerlifting was too static and plodding for my tastes – now I can’t imagine what life would be like without doing it. I used to watch a great deal of television; now I find I am MUCH more choosy, and don’t like to watch more than a couple of hours a day, plus the occasional film.

The most striking example of this phenomenon is the fact that I disliked SEVERAL of my best friends when I first met them. I’m pleased to say it doesn’t really work the other way. Funnily enough, I have always known immediately if I found someone attractive or not.

I’m not quite sure why I’m writing all this. Maybe it is in the hope that if I do have to move back to London – which seems increasingly likely - I’ll find a way to enjoy being there!

Wednesday, 6 April 2005

You Actually Couldn’t Make It Up

The Tory Party really is in trouble. You see, if MPs are hopping around the other parties and defecting all over the place, it doesn’t make mathematical sense to voluntarily shed people. Surely the point is to increase the number of members of your Party!

Doubtless Stephen Wilkinson and Paul Marsden (and Robert Jackson and Kilroy-Silk for that matter) all claim that they switched parties for noble reasons. Yet I can’t help thinking that someone who waits until the eleventh hour before betraying their soon-to-be-erstwhile colleagues is probably an a-hole.

One thing that troubles me is the realisation that lots of people will vote for the Liberal Democrats on the grounds that they are ‘moderate’ and ‘middle-of-the-road’. Mark Steyn recently demolished this kind of thinking in an article on the Pope. The idea that the truth is always to be found somewhere in the middle of the spectrum - and that BOTH extreme ends are inevitably occupied by the barking mad - needs crushing into powder.

Barry Goldwater was notably wise on this matter, as he was about so very much. He famously said: ‘I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.’ Great Man.

The other notion that must be dispelled is that the Liberal Democrats are either liberal (they believe in high taxation and socialised public services) or democratic (they adore the unaccountable and unelected European Union and United Nations, and would strengthen both).

So Paul Marsden has defected from one party and then back again. It must be the only significant thing he has in common with Winston Churchill.

Tuesday, 5 April 2005

A Weekend in the Country

I just had a splendid weekend. A couple of days in the Cambridgeshire countryside with Richard, Lara, Oliver and Jasper are always extremely agreeable. The gang were moving house, and naturally turned to Big Tommy G for some assistance. Others – including the estimable Matt – were enlisted, and it all went amazingly smoothly. I doubt Lara will discover the holes we made for several weeks. Only kidding Lara.

What was especially pleasing for me personally was the clear confirmation that all this powerlifting training has resulted not only in improvements in the gym, but translated into overall strength gains. Matt’s face when I casually remarked ‘the dishwasher was surprisingly light wasn’t it?’ told me all I needed to know. Heavy flowerpots, loaded boxes and sundry goods all went up like buttercake. The only troublesome item was an enormous trampoline. We wheeled it in (it’s circular), but I had several visions of being crushed under it as the heavy rim tilted it towards me.

I also drove a car for the first time. Yep – your correspondent had never previously driven a car. Richard sat beside me as I took a Fiesta up a track in first gear, and I am looking forward to learning now – something that I had never had any appetite for.

The Baileys are a delight. My godson Oliver and I took on Matt and Jasper (who made a string of fine saves) in a game of garden football. I scored the winner in a 10-9 victory, and Oliver and I celebrated in style by hurling ourselves onto the trampoline. We then lost a water fight. But Oliver’s determination in the tackle won the day in the football. Great things await both these boys.

Goodbye to a Great Man

Farewell, then, to Pope John Paul II. His death on Saturday brought to an end a remarkable papacy that will be long remembered. Chief among his achievements must be his resolve in standing up to communism. History will surely judge that he stands alongside Reagan, Gorbachev, Thatcher and Nemeth as a key player in overcoming this revolting and murderous philosophy.

Inevitably some people will latch on to his strident views on homosexuality and contraception. It sometimes seems as though tolerance extends only to those without the temerity to pass judgement. The liberal Left’s conflation of prejudice with the assessment of behaviour is a cancer eating away at civilised society. That racism, for example, is an unmitigated evil is beyond serious dispute. Sexual mores and other behavioural decisions are of a wholly different order. Long may people feel free to comment on and debate them, even if those people do not share my views.

The Pope stood for the love of all mankind, of each and every member of the human race. That he asserted that some of us – all of us – are sinful does not in any way detract from that love. The leaders of other faiths have been quick to praise him, and it is particularly noteworthy that Jews have stressed their gratitude for his papacy; he evidently did much to mend fences in this regard.

We should all mourn the passing of a man dedicated to freedom and love.
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