Game On!

I like to think my blog observes good netiquette. This means that I try to abide by the rules of the officers’ mess, as explained to me by my father who served in WWII – rules designed to prevent unnecessary arguments amongst people that have to work as a team. No mention of sex, religion or politics then …

Ho hum … weather’s been nice today, hasn’t it?

Ah, to hell with it! Are you as fed up as me with the low level of political debate everywhere? In place of long-term solutions, all we get are short-term promises and glib soundbites. There is little real analysis, in-depth investigation, development of expertise. We are governed by fear and ruled by division. Where are the big ideas to tackle the huge problems we face in the world? Where are the people with courage to speak the sometimes unpalatable truth about what should be done?

The system rewards those who play safe. A biased press pounces on anyone who promotes adventurous solutions which threaten the status quo. And far too many politicians, particularly those in office, seem to have adopted/adapted José Mourinho’s football methodology (click link for the sport side) as outlined by his biographer, Diego Torres:

1. The game is won by the team who commit fewer errors.

2. Football favours whoever provokes more errors in the opposition.

3. Away from home, instead of trying to be superior to the opposition, it’s better to encourage their mistakes.

4. Whoever has the ball is more likely to make a mistake.

5. Whoever renounces possession reduces the possibility of making a mistake.

6. Whoever has the ball has fear.

7. Whoever does not have it is thereby stronger.

Now such shenanigans may bring dividends in soccer – send everyone to sleep and sneak in the back door, perhaps – but it’s no way to run a country. Leadership is about much more than hanging back and waiting for opponents to screw up. You have a responsibility to come up with fresh ideas. And with a frightening plethora of international problems facing humankind, from spreading conflict to ecological degradation, we need outward-looking statesmanship – no gender bias intended! – rather than petty, parochial point-scoring.

Football and politics have one obvious thing in common: both are corrupted by money. But it’s one thing to strangle soccer in pursuit of victory, quite another to stifle public debate in pursuit of private gain. Politics may be the art of the possible, but it should also be the science of the necessary. Let’s hear from all sides before we reach conclusions. For without contraries, as William Blake said, there is no progress.

With so much to be done to create a world fit for future generations, it’s high time we upped our game. Football can be beautiful. Politics can be true.


Image result for foot on ball




Shock and Awe

For my final comedy clip, I’ve chosen a few moments that barely raise a laugh … more of a gasp, if truth be told. Very few comedians before or since can rival Bill Hicks in sheer, dangerous, furious bravery and this short sequence is something of a masterclass in satire.

The words are spare and there is as much mime as message. He doesn’t preach or hector – at least, not here – but simply allows the story imagery to do its work. His silences draw us in, making us complicit in calling a whole world of moral priority into question and leaving us with nagging discomforts that may yet – who knows? – translate into worldwide policy changes. We should Pursue such ideals with a vengeance.

I’m not holding my breath, though …

Pride Cometh Before A Fall

Here are two funny moments from the BBC sitcom Only Fools And Horses. We laugh at Del Boy’s attempt to impress the ladies and at his younger brother Rodney’s attempt to regain his lost dignity. You may have seen these before but it’s well worth focussing on the seriously deluded character Trigger who provides the comic foil in both clips and whose lugubrious, straight-faced clowning is so vital to the humour in each. There’s a sweet innocence about Trigger that contrasts with the brothers’ slightly Bitter edge …

In The Art Gallery

The fourth in my series of comedy moments features Peter Cook and Dudley Moore from their ground-breaking 1960s sketch-show Not Only … But Also. Their wild and zany humour was a refreshing change from the rather buttoned-up comedy of the time – Spike Milligan always the honourable exception, of course – and we particularly looked forward to their Pete & Dud routines, broadcast live in front of a real studio audience.

This left them excitingly vulnerable and Exposed. You never knew what would happen and neither, half the time, did they – although how much was planned and how much was spontaneous is still a moot point. Peter admitted that he tried to make Dudley laugh and it’s obvious in both of these extracts that the latter is trying hard not to – but if all this strikes you as rather juvenile, please remember that we were still at school and had to battle fits of the giggles in front of solemn and frequently pompous teachers almost every day …


Storm in a Teacup

My admiration for the US sitcom Frasier knows no bounds. There has never been a Better comedy series. The writing is sharp, the performances wonderful and the fully-believable characters are held together by deep bonds that replicate real life.

There are many clips on YouTube and this moment – from an episode I’ve never seen – struck me as a great example: the understated playing by Frasier’s screen family providing the perfect setting for melodramatic grand guignol acting from the mismatched couple, high tragedy crashing and burning into low farce. The ending is at once astonishing and understandable.

I find myself laughing as much out of amazement at its daring theatricality as I do from delight at its comedy.

Yer What?

My grandma used to complain she could understand None of the words in pop songs.

A more common problem, perhaps, is mishearing particular words or phrases. These errors are known as mondegreens and come from Lady Mondegreen, a misinterpretation of the phrase laid him on the green from the traditional ballad ‘The Bonny Earl of Murray’.

My search for stuff that makes me laugh – beginning with Spike Milligan in my previous post – continues with this wonderful (if slightly bawdy) example of stand-up comedy from Peter Kay. I was born in Bolton and can confirm that most people from Lancashire are funny, if not quite this amusing …

Rolling in the Aisles …

There seems to be something of a laughter deficit at the moment. Real laughter brings a therapeutic loss of Control and I’ve seen grown men and women helpless with laughter when Spike Milligan does his stuff. Without laughter we lose perspective, so here is Spike (aged 76) accepting a Lifetime Achievement gong at the British Comedy Awards:

Postscript:  Immediately after this event, Spike sent a fax to Prince Charles which read: “I suppose a knighthood is out of the question?”