James Miller


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Small Feet, Large Choice


I have small feet of just a size six, although they are quite a wide fitting. So typically, I've been wearing Church's shoes in a 6G. But their shoes unless you can find them at an outlet like Bicester are just too expensive.

I get my shoes repaired at Busy Bee in Newmarket, which is one of the last proper repairers who can rebuild leather shoes. It is at a price, but then it's a lot cheaper than a new pair of shoes.

Last week, I bought a pair of shoes in the shop by John Spencer of England.

John Spencer Shoes
They are very comfortable and a very good purchase.

It should be noted that Busy Bee has these shoes in a four. But then a lot of their customers are those that work with horses.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Electricians, Labourers, Plumbers and Carpenters


You talk about a recession, but how many people are like me. Reasonably cash-rich and feel that they need to have a few small jobs done around the house. Or in my case, the stud. I’ve probably got about forty days of work that I need done, from digging holes and filling sand-bags to re-skinning a barn, installing a shower and wiring up new lights.

What is needed is a web site to tie all of these people needing jobs done, to those that can do it.

Sort of like a cross between eBay, Ryanair and B&Q.

A lot of the time we all have too much inertia to put that small job in the marketplace. But that may well be the difference between someone paying their mortgage or not!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Clash of Sports


Yesterday, there was racing at Newmarket and football at Portman Road. I have season ticket at both.

This is the e-mail I wrote to the BBC.

Not really about a long journey, but today is the best days racing of the year at Newmarket and Ipswich are at home. I’m a member at Newmarket and a season ticket holder at Portman Road. There are quite a lot of people who are the same as me.

It’s not the only time it has happened. Surely, in this day and age, with computerised generation of match fixtures, it should be possible to ensure that Ipswich are not at home on the three or four Saturdays, when Newmarket stages a big meeting. Especially, as race meetings are known several years in advance.

Luke Harvey felt that there was only one choice.

I would have agreed with him, but I sit with friends at Ipswich and sometimes Newmarket can be a lonely place by yourself.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Looking Back at Belarus


So was the trip worthwhile? Was it fun? Would I go on an England trip again?

I know the answer to all these is yes.

Perhaps, I'll go to the Ukraine or Kazakhstan. And I won't dress like Borat!

It might even be more fun to do the Ukraine overland in my Lotus. After all Kiev has strong links with Haverhill.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mugged by the Hotel


As I said earlier the Belarus Hotel was rather tired.

Unfortunately, it didn't leave me unscathed, as the door-stop in the bathroom kicked my foot when I bent over to put something in the bin. At least the toe was only bruised and not broken.

But that incident does sum up the structure of the hotel. My room wasn't very good, the curtains didn't close, the bath didn't hold water and the shower didn't work. So I had to go without a bath for two days! But living alone it doesn't really matter!

Although the staff were very helpful and did their best.

Belarus Hotel Pool, Minsk
On the other hand, Celia would have loved the pool.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

David Beckham


When you see David Beckham play, you realise what an icon he is.

I have only seen him play twice in the flesh in recent years and both were in the last week; Kazakhstan at Wembley and Belarus in Minsk.

In Minsk, his cameo appearance was greeted with a large amount of goodwill by both the England and the Belarus supporters. He gave everybody a good and friendly greeting, which is something many sportsmen always forget.

It may be that his career with England is coming to an end, but I'm sure we haven't heard or seen the last of him.

I wish him and for that matter, Victoria, well!

The Russian Supporting England


Sitting next to me in the stadium was a Russian. And he was a fully paid-up England fan too, complete with a large Saint George's cross.

We chatted, exchanged cards and he took the photo of me below.

James Miller in Belarus
I mentioned this story and apparently there are a couple of Dutch who also support England.


But then I also remember when Ipswich played in the Olympic Stadium in Moscow in 2001. The Town fans were augmented by large numbers of ex-pats living and working in Moscow. There were Dutch, Germans, French and Italians to name but four.

I've just looked up Saint George.

He is the patron saint of many places including Greece, Catalonia, Genoa, Lithuania, Palestine and Istanbul for a start. Moscow is also on the Saint George list.

Saint George is also the patron saint of lepers, horses, herpes, riders, armourers and syphilis.


Belarus 3 - England 1


The real reason to go to Minsk, was to see England play Belarus for the first time. Pages and pages have been written of the result, which was a good one for England, so I will leave that out of this report.

Belarus 3 - England 1, MinskThe stadium is reasonably modern, having been built for the football of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and holds about 40,000 spectators. It doesn't have a roof, but then it didn't rain, whilst we were in Minsk, except for an hour or so on the Tuesday.

Belarus 3 - England 1, Minsk
This picture shows the Belarus Militia, who were tasked with keeping the England and Belarus supporters apart.

When I went with Ipswich to play in the Olympic Stadium in Moscow in 2001, the security was heavy and humourless. I also heard stories of fellow England supporters, who said that when England had played in Moscow a couple of years ago, they had not been any better.

But the actions of the Belarus Militia were probably nearer to those of the Suffolk Constabulary than anybody else. They were professional, well-drilled and dressed for the coldish weather rather than trouble. There were smiles and laughs too. The only English words I heard from the Militia was Please!

Was there any trouble?

On the details from Sport Options, it just said that we were to make our way to the stadium for seven. We all walked down more or less in small groups and I certainly didn't hear anything untoward at all. It was the same on the way back.

Afterwards, we didn't hear of any trouble, whilst we were there and it would appear that there were no reports in the papers, on the radio or on television.

It was a good result for everyone, in many more ways than could have been expected.

Gardens and Girls in Belarus


I may have given the impression that because of the past history of the country, Belarus is a grim and very sad country. It is not!

Girls and Leaves in Yanka Kupala Park, Minsk
As I walked out of the city on the morning of the match, I walked through Yanka Kupala Park, which lies close to Victory Square and the River Svislach. This group of girls, probably in their late teens or early twenties, were playing with the leaves, throwing them in the air and taking photographs of each other.

They are typical of many of the girls and young women you see in the city; well-dressed, well-groomed and nearly always in stilleto-heeled boots. That is not to say that the men aren't well-dressed either! I think it is true to say that I hardly saw a pair of unpolished shoes!

Just as the people tended to be immaculate, so were the gardens.

Gardens in Minsk
The picture shows the gardens by the River and in front of the Belarus Hotel. Remember, that at this time of year, it's starting to get cold and it is not a good time for gardening. All of the fountains had already been emptied for the severe winter.

But one thing that has to be said about the young women of Minsk. There are so many.

But then for every hundred women in Belarus, there are only eighty-eight men. So perhaps, they have to be smart...

My Father was a Printer


My father brought me up in a printing works and whenever I get the chance, I always sort out what I call proper printing; i.e. letterpress.

Great Patriotic War Museum, Minsk
The image shows a simple printing machine in the Great Patriotic War Museum, that was used to create a rudimentary newsletter during the war.

Great Patriotic War Museum, Minsk
Great Patriotic War Museum, Minsk
If you don't know, type is laid out in the case in a non-alphabetic and almost random manner. It would appear from the case shown here, that Cyrillic is no different.

The reason we talk about upper and lower case letters, is that tradionally, small letters are in front of the compositor in the lower case, with the large letters raised above it at the back in the upper case.

Jelena Valendovitch


Great Patriotic War Museum, Minsk
I took this picture in the Great Patriotic War Museum of the citation of Jelena Valendovitch, who helped save a Jewish mother and child from certain death.

Here is an extract of what Jelena did from a book called The Path of the Righteous By Mordecai Paldiel.

After the fall of Minsk, in June 1941, the city's 90,000 Jews were herded into a ghetto set up in a nearby suburb. In a single night (November 7, 1941), 12,000 of them were machine-gunned to death alongside the mass graves they had been forced to dig. Two weeks later another 5,000 were killed. More executions followed, and by February 1943, subtracting the 10,000 or so who had managed to escape, only 9,000 Jews were left. They too would all soon die.

Living in the Minsk ghetto in 1941 were Katia Tokarski, her mother, and her two-year-old daughter Vala. Whenever a German raid seemed likely, Katia passed Vala through the barbed-wire fence around the ghetto to a friendly gentile woman outside. Dangerous as this might have been, she reasoned that it was less dangerous than taking Valla into one of the ghetto's underground bunkers. there had been too many cases of babies being smothered so that a banker's location would not be revealed by the sound of an infant crying.

Katia's mother and daughter, like Katia herself, had blonde hair and fair complexions. Since it was obvious that the raids on the ghetto would continue until there were no Jews left, Katia proposed that the three of them should escape to the Aryan side and try to pass as non-Jews.

"No, my daughter," Katia's mother responded. "I was born Jewish and want to die Jewish. Why go somewhere else only to meet death? I prefer to meet it here." But she urged Katia and Vala to escape without her. "Maybe the two of you will make it. A beautiful blonde girl, speaking good German! Who knows?"

For the time being Katia decided to do what she could for Vala. In the early morning hours of September 1, 1942, she reported to her work detail with Vala tucked in her arms and completely covered up. The day had not yet dawned; and in the semidarkness the guards at the gate did not notice anything. Once outside the ghetto, Katta slipped away as the detail turned a corner and ran into the ruins of a bombed-out building.

What followed was like a modern-day version of the biblical story of Pharaoh's daughter and the infant Moses. Katia set Vala on the pavement in front of the building and hid a short distance away to see what would heppen. The child played quietly for a while, then began to cry. Before long a tall man happened past. He picked the child up and studied its face for a moment. Vala, as if instinctively, touched a finger to his neck.

"At first," Katia relates, "I almost ran over to him, but I controlled myself and stayed where I was." With the child in his arms, the man walked away, and Katia followed at a safe distance. Eventually he entered a house. Making a mental note of the address, Katia left and rejoined her work detail.

The man who had taken Vala home was Misha Gromov, an escaped Russian POW. He was living with Jelena Vandendovitch, who had found him wounded in the city park, and her young son Eugenyi. When Gromov told Jelena how he had found the infant, she realized at once that the child was Jewish. She decided to protect her, telling her neighbors that the girl was her neice from a distant village.

Back in the ghetto, Katia was uneasy about Vala. She felt she had to see her at least once more to make sure she was being well cared for. One day about six weeks later Katia again managed to slip away from her work detail. Rushing to the house where Gromov had taken the child, she entered, opened the first door she came across, and, pushing aside a curtain, found herself face to face with her daughter.

"When she saw me, Vala stood up in her crib. The woman in the room, thinking that the presence of a 'stranger' had frightened the child, took her in her arms." Stepping over to the crib, Katia silently caressed Vala's leg. "She began to weep, and I wept too. Then the woman understood everything. She sent the man [Misha] away, telling him to lock the door on his way out. And that was the beginning of my friendship with Jelena, my daughter's rescuer."

Jelena offered to hide Katia is the Nazis began to liquidate the ghetto, but Katia would not accept. "Wherever I go death follows," she said. "The safety of your home means more to me than my own life." Deeply moved by Katia's reply, Jelena promised to take care of Vala no matter what. With this, the two women parted.

In the months that followed the makeshift family of Jelena, Gromov, Eugenyi, and Vala managed very nicely. Gromov's illegal earnings as a watchmaker were enough to support them, and whenever a neighbor became too inquisitive they moved to another dwelling. As far as Vala was concerned, Jelena and Misha were her parents.

Meanwhile, with Vala safe Katia was now able to look out for herself. On March 30, 1943, she escaped from the ghetto with some other people and joined a partisan unit operating in the nearby forest. Unknown to her, Jelena had joined a partisan unit operating about 30 kilometers away from her own.

Over the next few months, Katia was told on more than one occasion that her daughter had been seen with the other band. One day she decided to find out whether there was any truth to the stories. The journey through the forest was dangerous, but at its end she was tearfully reunited with Jelena and Vala. Katia arranged for them to be housed in a village about 4 kilometers from her unit's camp and from then until the liberation in July 1944 visited them every two or three days.

As for Misha Gromov, he too joined a partisan unit, but he did not live to see the end of the war. Several days before the liberation of Minsk, he fell in battle.

This is just one of many stories that you can read about the atrocities of the Nazis and the heroism that fought them. I think living in the UK, we have our views of the horrors of war, but they are small compared to what went on in mainland Europe.

The Great Patriotic War Museum in Minsk opened the eyes of many of the England fans to just how awful the last war all was.

The Museum to the Great Patriotic War


Great Patriotic War Museum, Minsk
This is a sombre place tucked away in the Central Square. In the picture it is the plain building to the left.

If you go to this museum prepare to be shocked. But then if your country loses so much of its population, then you have the right to tell the truth exactly as it is, without any mellowing of time.

Great Patriotic War Museum, Minsk
Great Patriotic War Museum, Minsk
Great Patriotic War Museum, Minsk
Great Patriotic War Museum, Minsk
Great Patriotic War Museum, Minsk

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Eating Gluten-Free in Minsk


I did not want to be adventurous with my eating in Belarus.

As a coeliac, there is nothing worse than having to travel on a plane or drive down the motorway, with your guts telling you in no uncertain way that they are unhappy with the gluten. Your best course of action when this happens, is to sit near a toilet. Or sometimes permanently on it!

I had prepared by bringing a good box of supplies with me.

Gluten-Free Supplies
The box contained Trufree crackers, Fruit Break bars and Oskri Sesame Bars. If the worst had came to the worst then I could have existed on them, plus a few bananas, other fruit and a salad or two.

The Belarus Hotel has a Panorama restaurant on the twenty-second floor with expansive views of the city.

Nighttime View from the Panorama Restaurant, Minsk
I'm afraid that the picture doesn't do the view justice!

I thought I'd be careful and only have a main course with a glass of wine. At least the menu had an English translation and there seemed to be a lot of choice.

I'd also brought one of CeliacTravel's excellent menu cards in Russian, so I gave it to the waiter and asked if a pork something was OK. He took the card and checked with the kitchen.

I was getting a bit apprehensive, but when the meal arrived, I had no worries. The pork had obviously been cooked without any source and it came with some onions, peppers and tomatoes. They did bring a cup of tomato sauce to go with it, but I decided that as I was ahead I'd stay there.

I had no reaction to the meal at all. The card had done its trick.

The two breakfasts that I ate in the hotel were fine too. But then with a buffet, you can usually be fairly careful about what you eat. I stuck to fruit, cold meats and vegetables.

So would I be more adventurous if I went to Belarus again? Probably, especially if I went with someone, who understood their cooking better than I do!

As a postscript here, much of the cooking in Belarus is based on potatoes. They even make pancakes that way. So if you're careful, it isn't one of the most difficult places to eat gluten-free.

But you'll have to take your own biscuits or bread!

Zaslavskaya Jewish Memorial


My father's ancestors were probably Jews called Muller, who came over from Germany or Eastern Europe in about the 1820s. If they weren't Jewish, they were certainly German, but my father always maintained that they were Jewish, although he was very much an agnostic. He was also proud that he'd fought Oswald Mosley and his black-shirted fascists at the Battle of Cable Street. Interestingly, he was a left-wing Tory all his life, so although the battle is claimed by communists and socialists as their own, it was very much one fought by all of those who detested Mosley and his aims.

But what happened in the East End of London was tame compared to what happend in Minsk.

A total of over 700,000 Jews were killed in Belarus In World War II. Many in Minsk were murdered by the 12th Lithuanian Police Auxiliary Battalion, who are thought to have killed over 42,000 Jews, partisans and Communist Party members.

The Zaslavskaya Jewish Memorial has been built at the spot where five thousand Jews were killed in March 1942.
Zaslavskaya Jewish Memorial, Minsk
Like the Island of Tears, it is immaculately kept.

Street Statues in Minsk


Minsk has a lot of street statues. These are a few pictures I took whilst walking around the city.

This little ballerina was down by the station, which you can see in the background. Note the Stalinist tower block, which is one of a pair. They did have spires but the concrete wasn't that good, so they were removed for safety.

Street Statues, Minsk
The next pictures show three of a larger set of scupltures set along Pobediteley Avenue, which is one of the major thoroughfares of Minsk. It also leads up to the bridge which crosses over the river to get to the gardens which lead to the Belarus Hotel.

Street Statues, Minsk
Street Statues, Minsk
Street Statues, Minsk
This was an unusual pair of horses and a carriage, which appeared to be outside some sort of art gallery, museum or perhaps an art dealer. But it didn't seem to have any signs to say what it was all about.

Street Statues, Minsk
Street Statues, Minsk
This one was by the Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Street Statues, Minsk
There is one big difference between these statues and those you would see in a Western city. No artists are credited and there is no sign on any to give any information at all.

Cathedrals, Churches and Religion


I am an atheist, but that doesn't mean that I have no interest in religion and the buildings in which it is practised. Minsk has several large churches and cathedrals; some of which are Eastern Orthodox and some of which are Roman Catholic.

Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Minsk
The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit is stunning and one of the last surviving monuments in Old Minsk.

Church of Saint Simon and Saint Helena
This is the Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is not so impressive, but sits iconically to the north of Independence Square.

On the morning of the match I walked out of the city centre, explored a few sites and then caught the Metro back to the centre. Buying a ticket is simple in that you just hand over 600 roubles, which is about 15 pence and they give you a plastic coin, which you enter into the ticket barrier.

Saint Alyeksandr Nyevsky's Church
This was the exquisite little Orthodox Curch of Saint Alyeksandr Nyevsky, which is surrounded by a well-kept cemetery. It was one of the places I visited on my walk through the city.

Felix Dzerzhinsky


Opposite the offices of the Belarus KGB, stands this statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who was the founder of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police. Although we think of him as Russian, he was actually born in Poland to an aristocratic family.

Felix Dzerzhinsky
The statue was erected in 2006, which probably says a lot about how the Belarus government sees the KGB.

The Sad Past of Belarus


Belarus is a medium-sized country, which covers an area just a bit smaller than the United Kingdom. But it only has a population of just under ten million. Minsk itself has a population of 1.7 million, so is just a bit larger than greater Birmingham.

But neither the UK or Birmingham have suffered as much in the last century as Belarus.

Around a quarter of the population of Belarus were murdered by the Nazis in the Second World War, which like the Russians they call the Great Patriotic War. It wasn't until 1973, that their population recovered to the levels of before the war. That level of death would be equivalent to the UK losing the whole population of Greater London.

No wonder many of those in the east feel so strongly about any threat perceived or otherwise that we may or may not pose to their existence.

Just down from the hotel is a monument to those lost in the ill-judged Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Island of Tears, Minsk
It is called the Island of Tears and it is a sombre place. Like much of Minsk, it is clean and tidy, with some pretty impressive statuary.

Padlocks on the Island of Tears, Minsk
But why do have all these padlocks on the gate? It must be something symbolic, but as there was nobody there who spoke English, I do not know the answer.

Later I went to Victory Square to see the main memorial to those who died in the Great Patriotic War.

Victory Square, Minsk
It is an impressive monument and dominates the square, which is actually more of an ellipse these days.

This picture gives a more detailed view of the base of the monument.

Victory Square, Minsk
Note that at the bottom there is a St. George's Cross.

English Wreath in Victory Square, Minsk
The wreath was laid by England Fans and bore the legend, Never Forget, in English and Russian.

Interestingly, this wreath does not seem to have been reported in the English press, but you will find mention of it on an official web site in Belarus.

Money in Belarus


The currency in Belarus is the Belarus Rouble and there are about four thousand or so of them to the UK pound.

But there are no coins at all!

So everything is paid for in notes. The smallest of which is only 10 roubles or about a quarter of a pence.

I should also say that my Nationwide cashpoint card worked well in the cash machine in the hotel. I didn't use it anywhere else. I also didn't use a credit card, but that was more through no need than any other reason.

More Queuing at the Belarus Hotel


Belarus seems to love queues and yet again at the Belarus Hotel, there were more to check in. Not that they were too bad, as Sport Options got us all organised.

A Twin Room in the Hotel Belarus
So perhaps after another hour or so, I'd got my room on the third floor, with a nice escape route over the roofs in case of fire.

Escape Route from the Hotel Belarus
I don't know why I'm paranoid about fire, but I've lived in tower blocks in the Barbican, where they leave nothing to chance. I doubt that concrete hotels in Belarus are as fire safe.

The Belarus Hotel
I'll talk more about the hotel later, but it is a bit of a paradox. It's ugly and set in beautiful, well-kept and safe gardens. My room was very tired, but the staff were generally helpful, even if a lot had no English at all.

Arrival in Belarus


It's funny but everyone complained about the fact it took an hour or so to get through immigration in Minsk.

I didn't, as I'm old enough to remember the 1970s, when it took at least three hours to get through US immigration. I'm told it's getting worse again, but it doesn't bother me, as North America is probably the most unfriendly place for a coeliac like me. They seem to have ever more imaginative ways of getting gluten into food every year.

They'll be injecting it into bananas next!

Not that I eat them in the States as they are all those tasteless dollar bananas, which never have the flavour of those Fairtrade ones from the Windward Isles.

The only problem with the wait was that I'd had a cup of coffee spilt down my trousers and I was distinctly uncomfortable. I must admit that I smiled at Celia as to my predicament and she would have laughed if she could or can.

The Joy of Early Driving


I rose at three, although perhaps rose is the wrong word. More like crawled out would be better. But after a cup of tea and a quick check of e-mails, it was off on the road to Luton.

What a joy at that hour of the morning and a journey that normally would take about and hour and twenty minutes, was completed well within the hour. I saw a badger too scuttling down the road at Brinkley and a fox tried to get itself run over on the dual carriageway in Luton, but I perhaps only passed the odd car and the occassional truck.

Wouldn't it be nice if motoring could always be like that?

I've just checked in and had a reasonable breakfast of bacon and eggs. But I would have preferred something I knew was gluten free. Even the tuna salad had pasta in it. Why? You can get a vegetarian option, but why not one for me and the one in a hundred like me?

I'm writing this at a pound Internet kiosk. Just put your money in and type. Great!

Now it's off to Minsk. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Belarus Visa Wrapped in Red Tape


By red tape, I really do men red tape, as Belarus is a country that is still rather communist and doesn't have one of the most open political systems.

So getting a visa has not been the easiest of tasks.

I had to go to the Belarus Embassy three times; queue up on the Thursday and then find out it shut at twelve-thirty, join a queue at eight-thirty on the Monday and then wait for ninety minutes and then go back again the next day to get the visa.

Three trips at a cost of thirty or so pounds each and nearly a hundred and twenty for the visa itself. Rumours abounded that they'd put the price of the visa up for the period of the match!

Compare this with getting a Russian visa for the victorious Ipswich trip in 2001. The visa was included in the price of the package. On the other hand, I got a Russian visa to go and see the eclipse and guess what? The Russians cancelled the trip, as all their politicians and hangers-on wanted to go.

But at least I got one this time.

I should also say, that the Belarus Embassy tried a lot of peoples' patience. But England football fans just stood there and took it all.

Off To Belarus


We talked a lot in the last few weeks of Celia's life and one of the things that came up was football. She hated it, but it had been part of my life ever since my father took me down to White Hart Lane to see Spurs in about 1957.

My earliest memory is a match in which Newcastle and the great Jackie Milburn were defied by a goalkeeper called Ted Ditchburn, who was then approaching the end of his career. Ditchbuirn was so dominant, that he even missed a penalty. In the second half, Tottenham ran out winners by three goals to one. I'd also seen quite a bit of the famous double side, but I was also introduced to Ipswich, as my parents had retired to Felixstowe. So I lucky enough to see quite a bit of Ramsey's amazing championship side of 1961-62.

How would Ted Phillips have fared today? Very few people hit the ball as hard as he did, but would the modern light balls, just bend too much. We will never know.

When I looked at the England qualifiers for South Africa in 2010 with Celia, I said that if she didn't mind I'd go. Or at least I'd go to one or perhaps two of them. I remember her laughing about this, as she didn't feel she'd be here to complain. I hope I can be as relaxed when my time comes. Or at least on the outside.

So it was that I bought a package to Belarus from Sport Options and tomorrow, I'm off to Luton Airport for a very early start.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Memories of Student Life at Liverpool in the 1960s


Last week, I showed someone who works at Liverpool University around Newmarket, the Heath, the Sales at Tattersalls and my stud, Freedom Farm.

We got talking about life in Liverpool and especially the University in the 1960s.

I've mentioned that in those days, the Rag Week was in February and was called Panto Week, as traditionally the University had block-booked the last week/night and the audience was full of students. There are a few references to Panto Week but only a few. And one is mine! Can't find too many references to Liverpool University Rag Week either.

Perhaps students are more studious these days. But then they don't have grants but loans. Not a good idea! Celia would never have got to University if she'd had to borrow the money.

Panto Week was infamous, but by the 1960s I think it was calming down. There was a Ball too, which was held in the Mountford Hall. One of the guys I shared a flat with was Ian Brown and he was on the Panto Committee, when it was run by Trish Kinder. I've not heard from Ian since I left University.

I do remember going everyone down into the City Centre on the Wednesday afternoon of Panto Week and creating chaos. Note that Wednesday was early closing day. I bet now, you wouldn't be able to that without millions of permits. If at all!

A group of students broke into Walton Jail. One reputedly had his leg in plaster and the whole episode made the papers, as prison break-outs were rather an epidemic at the time. But not break-ins.

We also block booked the Everyman and ruined a performance of Under Milk Wood. The luvvies weren't pleased, but surely they had a full house and should have put up with the raucous behaviour.

It's funny how Liverpool has changed names. The Picton Library, is now Liverpool Library. I suspect Picton must have had a dubious past.

There was also the story of the UAU Rugby Championship. Liverpool were not noted for their rugby and in those days would have always been thought inferior to such as Loughborough. But in perhaps, 1966 or 67, Liverpool got to the final and were to play Loughborough.

Liverpool were supposed to be underdogs, but someone had decided that the final should be at Birkenhead Park on a Wednesday afternoon. So large numbers of students took to the ferries and walked to the ground on the other side of the Mersey.

If ever a crowd won a match it was that crowd. The Telegraph described how the mini-Kop almost rioted, but that was a bit excessive. We did however, systematically bait the Loughborough full-back, Sugden. I seem to remember him not having the best of games.

I think in the end Liverpool won the match on penalties.

It's still the only time, I've ever watched a rugby match live.

And then there were the bands; The Searchers, The Who, The Move, Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Tremeloes, Screaming Lord Sutch, Manfred Mann etc. etc. It was one a week in the Mountford Hall.

It all feels like yesterday.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Big Cat Diary - 2


Just watching again.

I've walked with the Masai and Jackson the guy on the Beeb is very typical. Except that his English is perfect.

Everyone should walk with the Masai at least once.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Big Cat Diary


I was watching this on BBC on Sunday night, when they showed a piece where a cheetah was protecting her five cubs from a lion. They don't like each other.

Here's what I said in Travels With My Celia(c), whilst I was on holiday in the same area.

In one incident we were returning to camp and saw two lionesses stalking a herd of Thomson’s gazelle. Just as they were about to strike, a cheetah spoiled their supper, by tripping and killing a gazelle. To say the lions were angry was an understatement and only by using its speed, did it escape being killed.

We tend to think that animals are cuddly and have nice temperaments. Pet bunnies might be like that, but there are no rules in the wild.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Death Records to be Given to Credit Reference Agencies


This is very much to be welcomed, but it should go further.

My wife died last December and as far as I know there has not any fraud, but some financial institutions seem to be incapable of knowing that she has died. In one case, I received a new credit card from one company eight months after she died.

Proper systems would help to alleviate the problems that get heaped on you by bereavement. My local council, St. Edmundsbury, adjusted the council tax after being informed by the Registrar. So it can be done!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Fathers Against Sons


It has happened many times in horse racing. Alan Mackay has raced against his son and we now have the Hills twins racing against Richard’s son, Patrick.

This piece on the Hills from the Telegraph.

Richard remains close to his twin. They live near each other in Newmarket, share an agent and regular lifts to the races. Earlier this week, Richard, Michael and Richard's son Patrick were all drawn next to each other in the stalls at Lingfield. "It's no different with Patrick as it is with Michael - at the end of a race I always look up to see how they've got on and if it isn't me winning, I always hope it's one of them."