All entries for January 2005

January 13, 2005

On Mark Butcher

Is time up for Mark Butcher?
His two Test Matches against South Africa produced one decent score (in the First Test) from 4 innings. His most notable other innings was his 13 from 70 balls. The pressure must have been on, you'd think to be forced down to a strike rate of only 24. Well, er no. England were on a roll after Strauss and Trescothick had put on 272 for the first wicket. Admittedly his innings lasted overnight, but if digging in was required, see Thorpe in that innings, who also scored a century.
In short, his form wasn't very impressive before he was injured, much like last summer.
Robert Key, whilst not the most proficient of batsmen, is producing the goods. Admittedly he had a duck in the last test, but then made a gritty 41 when England were on the rack in Cape Town, and is, as I write, approaching a century in J'burg.

Is there a way back for Butcher? There are many pros and cons. Key would be considered very unlucky to be dropped again come summer, for a potentially misfiring Butcher. But, generally speaking, many would say that Butcher is naturally a better batsman. one also need to remember that whilst Key is vulnerable to the short ball, Butcher appears vulnerable to injuries. It seems to me that Butcher is becomming increasingly reliant on that innings against Australia a few years ago to maintain his fragile reputation.

Even if Key fails to impress, who's in South Africa to take his spot? Ian Bell, who has been on the fringes of the side for about a year now. He even bowls a bit (Which Butcher used to do). He's surely going to be fancied for the Bangladesh series that preceeds the Ashes, and if he does well there…

Much as I like him, I don't think there will be many games left for Mark Butcher. When and if he gets back into the England side, he will have to cement his place immediately, otherwise he'll have to go back to Surrey and be outplayed by Mark Ramprakash…

On Prince Harry's fancy dress.

Writing about web page

Storm in a teacup, surely.

Prince Harry was photographed at a fancy dress party dressed as a Nazi. As far as I'm aware that doesn't mean he is a Nazi, nor condones what they did. But apparently, according to Doug Henderson MP (And I pity anyone from Newcastle who is unfortunate enough to have such an idiot as an MP) this means he is "not suitable" for Sandhurst. Quite why, I'm not sure.

Personally, I think it was a very clever take on the party's theme, which was "Colonial and Native". Turn up as the latter, and he'd have surely be lambasted for racism and not being aware of other cultures. Dress as the former, and he'd be condemmed for condoning Britain's Imperial past – about which one could write lines such as "the trappings of a genocidal dictatorship" as appeared in Today's Jewish Chronicle.
Perhaps Mr Henderson thinks that sort of costume is more befitting a British officer.

Take this picture:

He's surely not suitable to be on our screens.
What's that you say, he's not really a Nazi? Just dressing up? Oh, my mistake…

January 06, 2005

On the passing of Humphrey Carpenter

Writing about web page

I learnt of Mr Carpenter's death yesterday whilst listening to Radio 3's In Tune, of which he was a former presenter. I haven't been a Radio 3 listener for long enough to remember him on that particular show, but I shall certainly miss his soothing, friendly yet slightly mischievous vioce on Radios 3 and 4. It was the latter that he had worked for most in recent years, presenting a programme called Brief Lives, which was essentially a biography/obiturary programme, a medium to which he was particularly suited as he had written several.

On Radio 3 he established In Tune, the "drivetime" show on the network, and created the sort of relaxed but knowledgable atmosphere I can only dream of when presenting on RaW (Wednesday 7pm and Monday 11pm, if you're interested). The programme has gone from strength to strength in the same vien with its current presenters. In fact Sean Rafferty seems to me a bit like an Irish version of Carpenter. He also pioneered Night Waves, a nightly Arts programme, which is so unashamedly high-brow it could hardly be made anywhere but on the BBC.

The amusing thing was, when looking for his obituary on the BBC website, I struggled to find it, as its title referred to the writer of the Mr Majeika children's stories. I confess I didn't know this, but did know he edited the Oxford companion to Children's Literature. He was also a talented musician ona variety of instruments. So, an exceptional broadcaster, writer and musician, knowledgable in all areas of the arts, and indeed religion (His father was Bishop of Oxford) – a polymath if ever there was one.

I have considered attempting getting into radio, and as I mentioned above, present on RaW. If I could ever be like Humphrey Carpenter, I would be happy, and need go no further. The loss to British radio to my mind is as big as when John Peel died. He may not have been as well known, but there are some people will miss him terribly. I am one.

Times Biography

On the naming of Children

Writing about web page

Today (Or rather, as I'm up quite late, yesterday) the list of the most popular names given to new-born babies was released. The big noise was that the UK has a Muslim population significant enough to get Mohammed into the top 20. But this is not what I want to talk about.

The top boys' name is Jack, as it has been for several years. Among the top 10 for girls is Katie.
I think names are very important. They give a first impression. There are certain names that might be considered "lower class", and thus if you heard that name you would expect the bearer to be from that stratum of society. Similarly, there are "upper class" or "posh" names.
Names can be more subtle, and some names have a variety of shortenings. Each of these, and their spellings give different effects. For example, a former girlfriend of mine was called Nicola. She went by the name Nicky, but not Nikki. It is therefore quite useful to have name which can be shortened, as you can then use your name in different ways to give a different impression. Many people know me as Andy, but if I generally call myself Andrew, and certainly would do for say, a job application.
However, the thousands of people called Jack and Katie don't have this option, and are stuck with one name. I reckon this is largely because people these days don't realise "Jack" is a diminutive of "John". I say give your children a full name. They can become a Jack later if they wish.
The BBC has a picture series of famous Jacks. The first, Jack Nicholson, was born John. Jack Charlton was originally Jackie. Jack Straw's first two names are Jack John, which is a little unusual, but he could get away with being John if he wanted. Jack Kerouac's real name was Jean-Louis. Jack Lemmon's given name was John. Jack White is really a John. Jack Black's real name is, apparently, Thomas. That's at least 7/10 (Not including Mr Straw, and I couldn't find out about Jack Dee) who aren't actually Jack. You see my point – all these new Jacks can never be John. The same goes for Katie – and Katherine is such a beautiful name, too.

Diminutives aside, counting Jack as John, 7 from the top 10 male names are biblical (If anyone knows a bibilical Oliver or William, let me know). That's pretty good going for traditional names. So if all these biblical names are good enough, what's wrong with John? And whatever happened to Andrew, anyway?

One last musing – Nathan has survived as a name, Solomon less so admittedly, but even so – where are all the Zadoks?!

January 04, 2005

On Sportsmanship

Writing about web page

I watched Manchester United play Tottenham Hotspur this evening, the latter having been the recipient of my support for well over 10 years. To summarise the match: Man U were dominant in midfield, but without Rooney and RVN were unable to create too many decent chances (Also thanks to MoM Ledly King). When they did, Paul Robinson was equal to the challenge. Spurs created a few half-chances but never really threatened, except in the last 20 minutes when the game became a little more free-flowing. 1–0 to either side looked increasingly likely.

Then there was the incident, which some commentators have called the worst "decision" in Premiership history. Roy Carroll came out of the area to clear (poorly), then retreated hastily. Meanwhile, the ball came off a few players and ended up with Pedro Mendes around the half way line on the Spurs right. He hit it first time, attempting to lob Carroll. Nice idea, but it appeared the Ulsterman was back on his line and in no trouble.

However, a fleeting glance off the ball meant he dropped it, spooning it across the goal line. With a horrified look that matched those on the faces of the United supporters behind him, he turned, and despairingly scooped it out of the net after it had bounced a yard over the line. he gets up, and to his surprise he sees that paly has continued. Old Trafford was in uproar, as was The Bar.

Now, the referee and his assistant were clearly incompetent. It has been claimed that the assistant was too far away from play, but from the replays it is apparent that he was clearly at least in line with the penalty area. For the distance the ball went over, that was close enough. Either he gave up watching, thinking Carroll had it, or he's biased. Either way, he shouldn't be officiating.

Roy Carroll, on the other hand, knew. He knew it was a goal. He knew that there was no getting around it afterwards with the replays etc. Surely he should have done something about it, made it obvious it was a goal? Did he? No, he just carried on. He implicitly lied to the ref, to the rest of the team, to Tottenham, and to both sets of fans. It defrauded Spurs of 2 points, which come May could mean a significant loss of revenue (It's £500,000 per league place, let alone any European ramifications). It brought the game into disrepute. In short, he should be severely punished, and I hope he gets what he deserves.

However, he could have saved himself the outrage of a nation of fans, the shame of being a cheat and any disciplinary measures by being a sportsman. What's happened to Sportsmanship? Even in one of the most gentlemanly sports there is, cricket, many batsmen stand their ground when they know they've got an edge, putting the umpire under greater pressure. Today Boeta Dippenaar got a huge edge which carried to a slip – not the wicketkeeper, a slip – and he was given not out. Besides the incompetent umpiring from Daryl Harper, he could have walked off the field. I'd like to think I would have.

How can we respect sportsmen, who earn the adulation of millions, when they're nothing but cheats?

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