So what has been the sporting highlight of the week?
The start of the Paralympics... the resignation of England cricket captain Andrew Strauss, the ongoing KP controversy... Laura Robson’s US Open defeat of Kim Clijsters... the early exploits of your favourite football team..?
Well I’ll give you a couple of other ideas which won’t have made the back pages... my first ever club, York CC have reached the final of cricket’s national club knockout. The side includes a fellow former pupil of St Peter’s School in Nick Kay and one of the finest slow left-armers outside the county game, Dan Woods.
Reaching the semi-final in 1995 was arguably the highlight of my cricket career... losing it was one of the lowest points, but York have done superbly to reach the final and hopefully they’ll be able to repeat the success of another of my old clubs, Chester le Street, and lift the trophy.
But I hope none of the lads from Clifton Park will be offended if pride of place goes to Gateshead Thunder rugby league side, who brought to an end a run of 64 consecutive defeats against professional opposition earlier this week.
Back in 2003, I watched Thunder defeat Workington to complete a sequence of forty-something matches without a win... I should really remember the exact number because I went to every single bloody one of those games! By coincidence, Workington were again the team to be on the wrong end of a long-awaited result on what must have been an emotional night on Wednesday.
I have met some good people and made a lot of friends through watching Gateshead Thunder since 1999 and even though I no longer live in Gateshead, the love of the club never goes away. So this blog is dedicated to coach Kevin Neighbour, the players who have given so much to the club... and the sport, to everyone behind the scenes and on the terraces. You may not have made the national headlines, but what you have achieved is absolutely fantastic and I salute each and every one of you...
Over the past year and a bit, I've mentioned a few bands who may not (yet) be household names, but who are extremely talented nonetheless... to a list that includes Killing for Company, Gundogs, The Karma Heart, This Elegant Chaos and Eras, you can now add these five youngsters... Everybody Looks Famous.
I am rubbish at trying to pigeon-hole any band into a certain genre, but if you enjoy music that's on the rocky side of pop and vice versa, then Everybody Looks Famous are definitely worth a listen; they've certainly done a grand job of keeping me company on my 100-mile trek to and from work today!
I've attached a link to their web site... if you click on the Facebook icon, you'll then get the chance to download a free EP... all you have to do is hit the "like" button. What could be easier.?
And seeing a those tracks have cost you nothing, why not treat yourself to a new book... one about Marie Prevost perhaps?!!! Okay, plug over, just download the songs and let me know what you think about Everybody Looks Famous...
PS: Just a quick note... the song that plays when you enter their web site contains a certain word favoured by Mrs Brown...
As a youngster, I was simply captivated by spaceflight and held spellbound by the grainy television pictures of those extraordinary astronauts, the bravest of pioneers, who ventured into outer space... and all the way to the Moon.
Yesterday, the first man to set foot on the lunar surface, Neil Armstrong, passed away at the age of 82.
The exploits of Messrs Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are so well known that they don’t really need to be repeated here... but if you want one piece of information that you may not have heard before, it is interesting to note that the three men who formed the Apollo XI crew were born within just 284 days back in 1930. Armstrong is the first of the trio to pass away... but his place in the history not only of space travel, but in the history of the world is forever secure.
In 1969, Neil Armstrong took mankind’s “giant leap”... he has now taken his final step. May he rest in peace.
So a 27 year-old has been pictured partying, albeit naked, with what he thought were “friends”...big deal? Well ninety-nine times out of a hundred probably not, but when the hundredth person in question is third in line to the throne, you can be sure it’s front page news.
Prince Harry has found himself making headline for the wrong reasons on more than one occasion (viz. the German “fancy dress” uniform in 2005) and for the modern-day press, a Royal Prince is much more than just fair game... he’s a guaranteed money-maker, so editors up and down the country must have been rubbing their hands with glee when these latest phone-camera images surfaced.
I accept that the Royal Family as an institution has a credibility to preserve and that behind palace doors, Harry’s escapade won’t have gone down particularly well. But... he’s 27... he’s single... and since when was a young single man not allowed to have some fun; or does a royal total bestow a lifetime of abstinence as well as a lifetime of privilege? You’ll have to answer that one for yourself.
For what it’s worth, I’m not really interesting in reading the story or seeing the pictures. Prince Harry has carried out his official duties in an increasingly mature and engaging manner and he and his brother have done much to bring the monarchy into the 21st century... and it would certainly be difficult to deny the huge popularity of the Queen and the Royal Family in this Jubilee Year.
But Prince Harry has also served Queen (or Grandmother) and Country in a military role as well... stories of the sacrifice that many have made in the line of duty are sadly all too familiar... so I will ask again; since when was a young single man not allowed to have some
Being perfectly honest, I would say that the Charles/Diana/Camilla triangle was far more distasteful than this current “scandal” and although I have reservations, I do hope that this story disappears sooner rather than later (although editors will always reserve the right to resurrect....) and Harry, along with his brother and his sister-in-law can carry on doing what they do best... proving that the Royal Family has a place in modern society and being figureheads of whom (for almost all the time) we can be justifiably and immensely proud.
Just thirteen days after I was born, a twelve year-old child named Keith Bennett (left) was lured into a Mini pick-up by Myra Hindley and the youngster was driven to Saddleworth Moor where he was brutally murdered by Ian Brady.
Keith’s body has never been found and his mother Winnie Johnson spent the nextforty-eight years trying to find the location of her son’s grave to afford him a proper burial and bring some sort of closure to an unimaginable ordeal.
Winnie Johnson passed away yesterday without ever learning the truth...
I really don’t know how I feel about all of this... my first emotions were a mixture of sadness that Winnie died with nearly half a century’s worth of questions unanswered and admiration for the resolve, strength and undying love that Winnie displayed since her son was so callously robbed of his life.
But now I’m actually angry... angry that someone like Ian Brady believes he has the right not only to take an innocent life (in fact lives...), but subject those left behind to years of ritual mental torture. I’ve read that he has been diagnosed as criminally insane... so what? Should his mental state afford Brady the opportunity to live his full life, when that choice was denied to each of his victims?
I’m not going to get embroiled in a debate about the death penalty... there will be those who know far more about the ethics of the subject than I do... I just feel that morally (and I will admit to emotively as well), a prison term of whatever length simply didn’t (and doesn’t) fit the crimes. True, a death sentence would have denied Winnie Johnson the closure she craved (although “justice” may perhaps have been done)... but history will relate that she never got it anyway...
I guess it’s a moot point anyway, given our legal system, so I will return to Winnie Johnson... the remarkable Winnie Johnson. I’m not a particularly religious person, but God bless you Winnie... and if there is somewhere beyond this life where you and your son can be reunited, then I hope you can finally rest in peace...
There’s nothing worse (in blogging terms) than subjecting loyal readers to a day-by-day account of a holiday... That said, the first place we visited....
We have just returned from a week-long cruise, a break for which we have been working and saving for a long time... The ship, the Thomson Majesty, was superb; we were treated really well, the food, the drink, the facilities, the entertainment - everything was fantastic. It’s a brilliant way to relax and visit several countries all in one go... and if money was no object...
Anyway, we went to Koper and Piran in Slovenia, which were lovely... Venice, which was full of water and bloody tourists... and also Kotor in Montenegro, which was surrounded by stunning scenery, but not the most interesting of towns. However, the highlight was definitely the two days we spent in Croatia.
It helped that the weather was glorious, but perhaps even more importantly, the tour guides we had were wonderful. Apparently, the kids start learning English whilst at primary school and it shows... they were even able to chat and joke in a foreign language; I know some native English speakers that can’t do that..!
First up was Split, a port built around the ancient palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian... a forward-thinking reformer, who could be incredibly ruthless but would become the only Emperor to voluntarily abdicate.
His mausoleum was probably the most jaw-dropping piece of architecture on the whole trip (Venice included)... and it was interesting to see a black granite sphinx, an ancient artefact which may have watched over centuries of history, but wasn’t able to withstand a group of students clambering over it a few years ago... hence the fracture running right through the body...
Away from the palace, there is also a statue to St Gregorius of Nin, whose polished big toe is supposed to grant a wish to anyone who touches it... I’ll let you know.
The other city we visited was Dubrovnik, a beautiful walled coastal city steeped in history, littered with palaces and churches, but bearing the scars of the 1991 siege during the Croatian War of Independence. Modern Dubrovnik also has numerous cafés and restaurants; the locals were really friendly although I had a bit of trouble getting used to the currency, the Kune, which has such high denominations, you assume you’re paying a fortune for something that actually is reasonably priced (I guess that’s just the Yorkshire-man in me).
But surely the most impressive aspect of our time in Dubrovnik was the fact that I managed to thank the guide in her native tongue – and she was suitably impressed. So, with a couple of photos, I will bid you doviđénja...
Having been away for the past week, I've not even seen a computer, let alone had the chance to blog... but I'm back now and your respite is over...
Some holiday stuff will follow over the weekend, but for now I just want to remember my Gran, Gertie, who died on 13th August 1987, a quarter of a century ago last Monday.
She was a kind, but formidable, forthright woman... sometimes maybe excessively so, but in Gran's eyes I was the grandson who could do no wrong - even when I did... I don't care how many times I say it, but I was blessed with four fantastic grandparents and I was especially close to my Gran during my younger years... and through some difficult times.
I remember going to Darlington Memorial Hospital the night she died... we spoke one last time and she told me not to rush into a relationship with the person I would eventually marry... She was rarely wrong... It would be almost two decades before Elaine finally came into my life... how I wish Elaine and Gran had met...
Anyway, back in the hospital, I ended up saying things like... you'll be better soon... everything will be fine... even though we probably both knew it wouldn't. I never said I loved her that night... and I never said goodbye.
It might be twenty-five years too late, but I love you Gran xxx Rest peacefully xxx
This is my last blog before we head off on our travels... so it's time to reveal the winner of the most fiercely-fought Olympic contest - that of the best looking competitor. My female readers will notice the lack of any male presence in the final 3... if the truth be told, there wouldn't have been any blokes in the top 100, but you're more than welcome to send in any suggestions (which I will, of course, respectfully ignore).
I've watched many a fantastic performance from female athletes in many different sports and events; Katherine Grainger and Jessica Ennis have provided my two stand-out moments of the whole Games... but I'm paddling in shallow waters right now as I deliver (in reverse order) my attractive medallists...
(Ukraine, Triple Jump)
(Netherlands, Field Hockey)
I promise that normal serious service will resume when I return...
I feel very anxious this morning... actually I have been for a while, but put it down to work and lack of sleep. Now I suppose it could be pre-holiday nerves, or (and this is more likely) me just carrying my half empty glass around with me. Wish there was just a switch you could flick to suddenly make the worldly cares disappear... or a way of adding just a few more drops to your glass to tip it into the “half full” zone. God I really bloody annoy myself sometimes...
There again, it has been a long year... in many ways quite a difficult one. Towards the end of 2011, I sank pretty low... and used this blog to kind of “reveal all”...something which I absolutely don’t regret; but there are still bad moments and difficult days and whilst I’m not naïve enough to think that “depression” in its varied forms ever goes away completely, I am so much better now than I was a few months ago...
That said, having a work restructure hanging over your head is always unsettling but let’s be honest it doesn’t take much for me to get into worry mode and if it wasn’t work it would be something else.
Very much on the plus side, I’ve got a fantastic family (parents, children, sister, nieces, nephew, cousins, aunties, uncles... I’m very lucky) and friendships that mean a hell of lot to me... maybe not many, but trust me it’s all about quality! Also, through the power of social networking, I have recently found (albeit in the virtual sense for now...) friends with whom I’d had no contact in over a quarter of a century; Ruth, Margaret (damn... Maggie... Maggie... Maggie... I must say Maggie)... it’s lovely to be back in touch.
But as we prepare to set sail for Italy, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Corfu... for what I really hope will be the “holiday of a lifetime”... now seems like the appropriate time to thank my wonderful wife Elaine, who has been there every single step of the way... when things were bad... when she didn’t understand... she never gave up on me. Thank you darling... and I love you... more than you will ever know xxx
So what do we know this morning that we didn't know yesterday?
Usain Bolt is the fastest human being that has ever lived... nothing new there...
Put Ben Ainslie in a sailing boat and he'll win a gold medal... yeah... knew that too...
Andy Murray is actually British and not Scottish... ahh now I didn't see that one coming!
And Ukranian triple-jumper Anna Knyazyeva is right in the frame for the best-looking competitor at London 2012... well you weren't expecting a deep and meaningful blog on the first day of my hols were you?!!
All my own work... almost.