Like a Million Party Poppers

Last year New Year’s Eve pyrotechnics were all big bangs but no punters. The pandemic saw to that. This year, punters were back in force, lining the banks of the Thames. To mark their return, London Mayor Sadiq Khan put on a show of shock and awe. There were nods to various events from 2022 – the lionesses’ historic win in the Euros, fifty years of London Pride, standing tall with Ukraine and, of course, remembering Her Maj. The sky exploded like a million party poppers, a spectacular musical extravaganza to celebrate London’s extraordinary diversity and strong sense of inclusion – a city for all – and it was a marvellous sight to behold.

It’s All About the Money, Stupid

Despite coming from a football-obsessed family and a football-obsessed country in a football-obsessed world, I’ve little interest in the beautiful game. But starting tomorrow it’ll be wall-to-wall coverage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Unless I move to Mars or become a hermit for the duration, it’ll be impossible to avoid the unremitting flood of games, goals, news and views coming at me from every direction. But I’m not a total killjoy. Even I hope our home countries of Wales and England do well.

But here’s the rub: how did a country with little or no tradition of playing football, no venues to speak of and summer temperatures hot enough to melt the slap on a drag queen’s face win the bid to host the big daddy of all competitions? Record bungs and backhanders, naturally – or so it’s alleged. Associated football is drowning in the filthy lucre, the richest sport on the planet, so there’s a bottomless pit of petty cash to go around. At least some sense has prevailed and kick-off has been postponed to late autumn so players and fans alike don’t drop dead in the heat.

Setting aside the well-greased palms, there’s also the small matter of civil rights – or lack thereof – in the oil-rich nation ruled with an iron fist by an absolute monarch. When it comes to the footie, Qatar may be strictly Sunday morning kickabout but it’s in the top flight for limited freedoms for women, enforced (and sometimes deadly) labour akin to modern-day slavery and oppression of LGBT people. Of course, this won’t stop the circus rolling into town to take the Sheik’s shilling.

The beautiful game just got ugly.


PS. It now seems FIFA’s President, Gianni Infantino, thinks being teased at school for having red hair and freckles is the same as being banged up in a Qatari hellhole prison for being gay. What a prat.

A Home for a Gnome

There may not be fairies at the bottom of our garden – they live in the house instead – but we are now proud owners of a handsome garden gnome. This is what the Encyclopaedia Britannica has to say about the diminutive mythical creatures:

Gnome, in European folklore, dwarfish, subterranean goblin or earth spirit who guards mines of precious treasures hidden in the earth. He is represented in medieval mythologies as a small, physically deformed (usually hunchbacked) creature resembling a dry, gnarled old man. Gob, the king of the gnome race, ruled with a magic sword and is said to have influenced the melancholic temperament of man.

Harsh, but it could be me, I guess, especially the small and gobby bit. No doubt I’ll be gnarled one day too.

Little statues of gnomes are popular garden ornaments across the realm – from cute to quirky, silly to satirical, naughty to the truly naff.

But only two people in the world have a handmade bespoke gnomic effigy of Joe Jacobson, the Welsh professional football player, in full Wycombe Wanderers strip. It was a surprise (and deliciously surprising) birthday gift from the luscious lady who owns the second Joe gnome. If Wycombe Wanderers ever make it to the Premier League, it could be worth a bob or two.

As for the cards I received this year, there seems to be a pattern developing. What are they trying to tell me?

Rain, Rain Go Away…

British weather is famed for being predictably unpredictable – rain one minute, sunshine the next, with the mercury up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. The poor Met Office struggles to keep pace with an ever-shifting forecast. It’s no wonder the weather is Britain’s favourite topic of conversation – that and the footie (but best not go there). But so far this summer the weather has been predictably wet, windy and miserable even here in the driest county in the land (usually). A few warm days and a couple of BBQs in early June does not a summer make.

We may sit around the house in shorts trying to pretend it’s summer but who has the heating on in July? We do, that’s who. As more benevolent foreign climes are off the agenda this year for obvious reasons, we try to make do with what old Ma Nature chucks at us but please, old girl, stop pissing on our parade.

Every cloud, as they say. The damp and dismal weather has at least provided a bumper crop all around us, particularly now it’s become de rigueur to let the grass grow to encourage wildflowers, bees and other pollinating insects. And the ducks quite like it too.

Sing, Canaries, Sing

Sing, Canaries, Sing

Football, as we all know, is filthy rich – a huge multi-billion pound global business and a not altogether honest one, with bungs and bribes flying about like confetti. While the beautiful game is not my cup of char, there’s no denying the considerable passion it stirs. After a few difficult years in the shade, the Norwich City Football Team – known as the Canaries – have just been promoted to the English Premier League, the richest of them all, I’m told. The city threw a party to celebrate and thousands of devoted fans pitched up to cheer the team on as the boys in yellow and green paraded through the streets in an open-top bus. It was impossible not to be swept along by the enthusiasm, lighting up a very dull day. The boost to the club’s coffers – not to mention the players’ wages – and the local economy as a whole should be substantial. Well done, lads.