Not too long now until the referendum which will decide whether or not Britain remains in the European Union.
Every single news bulletin seems to include yet another theory about what may or may not happen depending on the outcome of a vote that polls suggest could be very close.
Clearly it’s a hugely significant decision, but what bothers me is the fact that those who expound these various theories are supposedly experts in their respective field, yet how can two people be an authority on the same subject, yet have differing, often polar opposite views?
In my simplistic world, only one can be right… or more precisely, a maximum of one.
Given the consequences of the outcome of the referendum, how are ordinary folk supposed to make an informed choice based on political and financial arguments that are effectively guaranteed to be wrong (a minimum of) fifty percent of the time?
It’s ridiculous; you might as well place your cross in the box based solely on the toss of a coin….
I’ve spent more than enough time (roughly five minutes or so) reading articles and listening to opinions from both sides; and for what it’s worth, I reckon there are three sound reasons for leaving (the third being by far the most compelling):
Now onto really important matters… will Nick and Carla actually tie the knot in Coronation Street?
Well to say it’s been a hectic few days would certainly be an understatement, but today I am able to reflect on a fantastic week and the completion of three more Time to Change challenges.
The first was to arrange a face-to-face interview with an international athlete, and by default that was accomplished (several times over) last Friday when I spent the day with members of the Ireland squad taking part in the Netball Europe Open championships in Newcastle. As well as being able to talk with Joan Young and Mo Crilly (coach and manager respectively), I had lengthy conversations with Níamh Murphy, Tania Rosser, Gen Slater and Ali Higginbotham… as well as a first for me, a “face-to-back” chat with Kirsty Owens during her pre-match physio session.
The aim of the day was (and still is... I haven’t made much progress yet) to compile an in-depth feature about an international game day and being allowed behind the scenes with such a great group of girls was fantastic—I’m so grateful to everyone involved with Netball Ireland who made the day possible and made me feel so welcome; now I just have to make sure the article does justice to their skill and remarkable dedication.
The following morning, I stepped up to the oche at the Cleveland Inn for my 12 hour solo darts marathon on behalf of the Jenny Wallwork Foundation and Grangetown Netball Club. It was quite a tough day, especially given the condition of my hips, but to be honest if it was going to be easy there wouldn’t have been much point doing it.
I’m not a “natural” fundraiser—and after the first four hours I wasn’t much of a dart player either—but with a bit of money still to be received, I will definitely reach my target of £500… and that makes all the aches, pains and one whopping blister on my big toe worthwhile.
Again I couldn’t have arranged or completed the event without a massive amount of help (venue, raffle prizes, support on the day—including the BDO World no.1, Glen Durrant, and my local MP, Anna Turley— donations etc), but I do want to say a special thank you Diane at the Cleveland/Cobbler’s Champagne Bar who was around for the whole twelve hours and made sure I had everything I needed. Well almost… she couldn’t supply me with new hips, but she did manage to make sure we stayed put when the brewery wanted the pub evacuated following an early morning gas alarm!
The third leg of this veritable challenge-fest was my stand-up farewell at The Stand Comedy Club back in Newcastle last night. This third attempt was only planned because my second (in Middlesbrough last year) hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped… unfinished business and all that.
My slot was at 8.54 (all very regimented…), towards the end of the first half and despite my nerves, I have to say that the self-deprecating intro and selection of what I hoped were humorous one-liners went down better than I could have ever possibly imagined. Nothing fell flat, and one “joke” (obviously in the loosest sense of the word) got applause… actual real applause!!!
I will share it with you, but only on the understanding that the written version doesn’t reflect the sublime quality of verbal delivery (nor my ability to lie)… anyway, here goes: “Some Native Americans are still relying on smoke signals to communicate after giving up on mobile phones because they could only get apache reception….”
© Richard Kirby (Comedy Gold) 2016
After I’d come off stage, one of the other acts actually asked why I was packing in, and several members of the hundred-plus audience came over to say they’d really enjoyed my “performance” (term used as per “joke” above)—one even said I was “mint”… never been called that before. It was an amazing few minutes, made all the more special because my wonderful wife Elaine was there to see it. I love you darling—and I promise that I have definitely retired!
This blog ends on a fairly abrupt serious note, with a link to an article I wrote back in March. If you want to really understand why I’m doing these challenges… why mental health awareness is so important; then all you have to do is click this button….
Monday night’s final whistle at Stamford Bridge sparked some truly remarkable scenes in Leicester, as the city’s football club was confirmed as champions of a division the bookmakers (and many others beside) believed it had no chance of winning.
Around this time last year, the Foxes looked all but doomed to relegation, before manager Nigel Pearson oversaw a miraculous escape from the yawning abyss. Subsequently however, under the outwardly unassuming but clearly inspirational guidance of Claudio Ranieri, the players have arguably redefined the adjective “miraculous”—their feat being as close to unprecedented as anything ever witnessed in a sporting arena.
Clearly this has been no fluke. Leicester City have been consistent throughout the season, losing just three league games thus far (with two still to play). Chelsea’s 2014/15 championship winning side only lost three games, but before then you have to go back to 2008/09 to find a club that suffered three or fewer defeats: that team was Liverpool… they lost just two games… yet still didn’t win the title.
Leicester have (to date) won three more games than any of the sides below them. Over a full season in any sport you finish where you deserve. I suppose you can dress up statistics to show pretty much what you want; but the truth is Leicester are the best side in the Premier League and their success is as richly deserved as it was unimaginable twelve months ago….
Of all the debates that surround this most wonderful achievement, I’ve found two particularly interesting. To a lesser degree: what was the defining moment of Leicester’s season? Much more significantly: is this genuinely the greatest sporting story of all-time?
Looking at the former, I’ve heard cases put forward for the 3-2 victory over Aston Villa, overturning a two-goal deficit to claim the three points in a pulsating finish, and the outstanding performance to sweep aside Manchester City at the Etihad; but my “moment” came on a February evening at the King Power Stadium when Liverpool were the visitors. Some sublime skill in his own half from Riyad Mahrez… a long ball downfield… which was collected by Jamie Vardy who unleashed an unstoppable 30-yard shot that simply flew past a despairing Simone Mignolet.
Watch the goal again and see the look on Vardy’s face as he celebrates a stunning strike with his team mates. He knew it was something very special… and perhaps that one swing of a right boot was the perfect microcosm of Leicester’s entire season. The Foxes are something very special.
But the greatest sporting story of all time…? That’s another matter altogether… and a totally subjective one at that. One-off shocks in football are relatively (and I use the word guardedly) commonplace, but to maintain such impressive levels of performance over a full season is something else altogether.
There are parallels with Brian Clough’s magnificent side which won the old 1st Division title in 1977/78 (with Leicester slightly ironically finishing bottom), the year after being promoted into the top flight. Forest went on to claim European glory as well; Leicester still have that adventure to come—but the vast sums of money that exist in the upper reaches of the sport make football a completely different game to those heady days of the 70s, when you at least had a fighting chance of being able to pronounce the names of your favourite players.
And the scale of Leicester’s achievement is further evidenced by the fact that they defied odds of 5,000/1 to win the Premier League. Bookmakers rarely get things wrong; but it was their considered opinion that finding Elvis Presley alive and well (nearly forty years after he died…) was only ten times less likely than the Foxes beating the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal et al….
It’s much harder to draw valid and objective comparisons with accomplishments in the wider sporting world (especially when one has literally only just happened—and it is really only the passage of time that allows us to reflect on the true impact of sporting achievement). Will Leicester City winning the Premier League ultimately be considered “better” than England’s memorable victory in the 1981 Headingley Ashes Test for example? England were “only” 500/1, so perhaps not… ah but 500/1 in a two-horse race….
My favourite moment in British sport is Ann Packer’s 800m gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. To come from almost last to first in the closing 150m in the final over a distance she’d only ever run competitively twice before the Games—and to break the world record in the process… that’s pretty incredible.
In fairness, there are numerous other examples, but if I list them, it may detract from the main reason for writing this blog, and that is to congratulate everyone involved with Leicester City, the players, manager, staff and supporters on your brilliant season and wonderful success.
5,000/1 says you won’t celebrate….
So much has been written about this week’s decision that the 96 Liverpool supporters who lost their lives at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough were unlawfully killed, but I would just like to add a few more paragraphs.
I remember listening to the tragic events unfold on that April afternoon over a quarter of a century ago, but today I would like to pay my own small tribute to men, women and children who didn’t return from what should have been a day of sporting celebration, and to all those who fought so hard and for so long to reveal the truth that others had tried to bury beneath a disgusting web of lies and deceit.
Families suffering the most unthinkable grief somehow found the strength and courage to challenge a fundamentally flawed and corrupt establishment, and a cowardly gutter press intent on one-sided sensationalism. But to continue that fight for twenty-seven years is truly remarkable; and to be totally and so publicly vindicated must have released an overwhelming tide of contrasting emotions.
The calculated actions of the South Yorkshire Police were and remain completely indefensible. Notwithstanding what happened on the day itself, the police took blood alcohol samples from the victims, checked computer records on the national police database and subsequently “altered” 164 witness statements in an attempt to deflect blame and their own culpability onto innocent people who had died watching the football club they loved in a stadium where they had every right to be protected by those whose job it was to ensure individual and collective safety.
Maybe the families have their “justice” with the verdict from the coroner’s court—but surely they’ve every right to also demand accountability from those involved in such a shameful and reprehensible cover-up. That said it is particularly sad that some campaigners did not live to hear that verdict… the only thing these wonderful people could not overcome was the passage of time.
Since the jury’s decision was given, the reaction in Liverpool has understandably been incredibly moving and, like many others right across the country, I have been genuinely touched by the coming together of the red and blue halves of this magnificent city. Sporting rivalry is fine… but there comes a point where the city is bigger than the club you support; and the good folk of Liverpool have shown immeasurable strength through unity, as well as true honour and dignity.
Today I salute the city of Liverpool, everyone who fought for “truth and justice”, but most of all the 96 supporters who perished… but will never walk alone.
Rest peacefully x