26 February 2010

Pimp my NINO

The brilliant and lovely Hattie Crisell has retweeted a message from @sexyexcutive, a twitter character who embodies all that's fascinating and repellent about the executive lifestyle. It goes "I pay a bit of extra tax in return for a more memorable and prestigious National Insurance number."

And of course there are people who would do that. I think the government's missing a trick here. This could be as big a money-spinner as personalised number plates. That's established the principle that vanity is a taxable commodity, so let's extend it. How much would Peter Stringfellow pay for a NINO that reads, when you turn it upside down, "I had to have my penis surgically reduced in size (because I care about women)".

Postcodes could be next. In this modern world there's no need for a postcode to be determined by something as arbitrary as your address. I'm stuck with an SE6 postcode, while I'm actually an SE3 kind of guy. I'd be willing to pay more for that.

There could be an auction for the most prestigious codes. Hey, MPs, you want to keep SW1A 0AA? It'll cost you.

And once postcodes are disassociated from actual geography, journalists will have to find a new phrase to deplore perfectly logical and understandable local variations in health care, because there really will be a postcode lottery, presented weekly by Jenny Falconer and some bloke from Bolton.

24 February 2010

Charlton 1 Brighton 2

In the past I've been a bit of a pollyanna, I'll admit. I've seen promising signs in average displays. There was always something to hold on to, either a bit of individual talent, or some indomitable spirit, something to make you think things will get better. Not last night. I really think this was a new low, and just can't understand why the team that played so well on Saturday could produce that embarrassingly inept display.

OK, the pitch was heavy and difficult, and - without disrespect to them - I'd imagine Brighton are more used to playing on a dodgy surface. But it shouldn't take a genius to work out a way of dealing with a boggy central area.

The team looked tired. Actually, they had looked tired towards the end of Saturday's game. Brighton didn't look tired though, and they've had about as much play recently.

So, in the tradition of football blogs, I'm going to make a bold statement based on no real evidence at all: the training programme is clearly going wrong and someone - let's pick Kinsella for no reason at all - needs to be sacked. Yeah. That'll sort it out.

Once again, I see I've not mentioned the events of the game at all. Instant oblivion is sometimes best.

21 February 2010

Charlton 2 Yeovil 0

I believe I said we'd demolish Yeovil. Well, not quite, but for all but a short period of the second half we were completely on top, and even the geezer next to me only said once "If we give away a goal now it'll be panic stations". This is a new record for him. I remember when we lost 6-1 at home to Leeds a few seasons ago, his concern that if we gave away a seventh goal we'd really be in trouble.

I'm a useless football pundit (no, don't disagree, oh, you weren't) and if I'd thought about it I'd have said that leaving out Semedo and putting Llera in defence was asking for trouble. But although the defence did lack a bit of solidity, they kept a clean sheet for the first time in ages. Dropping Semedo meant that Bailey and Racon took centre midfield, and took it well. Racon was generally efficient, while Bailey was more noticeable as he made a few spectacularly bad passes, but also some incisive interventions. He really seems to have a fast football brain and plays some brilliant early balls.

Talking of which, there was one of the most painful incidents I've ever seen. A Yeovil player received the full force of the ball in his gentleman's area. The crowd, especially the male section, winced in sympathy as his bedroom furniture was unexpectedly rearranged. If only that could happen to Ashley Cole or John Terry.

So, after a period of downward drift, the team's winning again, and playing lovely football. The dream's back on.

(The rest of this entry is probably best avoided).

Talking of which I had two epic dreams last night. First I was taking part in some night road running north of Tunbridge Wells. I knew it was north of Tunbridge Wells because at one point there was suddenly much less grit on the road, and I realised this must be the border between Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge and Malling District Council. The idea was that people run through the dark country roads, some with torches, some without. If they survive they pick up points to get more equipment. Some expert explained what the new equipment was, but I didn't understand what he was saying, so I just nodded and smiled and asked the way to a hotel.

Then, I found myself on foot arriving in  Worthing. What's the first thing anyone does on arrival in Worthing? Find the railway station, to get out, of course. On the approach to the station there was a bakers, which had a window display of its ludicrously fancy bread - it was baked in the shape of old master paintings, for example - arranged by date. So you could buy bread that was a few days old, presumably cheaper.

When I woke up, I couldn't believe I'd made such an obvious mistake. Highways, and the gritting thereof, are a county council responsibility.

11 February 2010

Goodbye, old friends

I used to get very annoyed by Big Brother. Don't watch it, people would say. I don't, I replied, it's just that it's taking up tv time that could be better used. But it's Channel 4, they'd say, if they had that time, they'd only show even more episodes of Friends.

It's true. In London you're never more than 10 yards away from a rat, they say. In the land of Channel 4, you're never more than 30 minutes away from a repeat of Friends.  Surely, even people who like it hate it now. Me, I don't hate it but I don't like it. I don't like it so much I've never watched it.

So the news that Channel 4 is going to stop showing it next year has filled me with alarm. If Friends is what they show now when they've got nothing better to offer, what will they show when they haven't got that? And with Big Brother going too, that's a whole summer to fill with - what?

Between now and next year they've got to find a huge amount of cheap programming. Monkey tennis is getting nearer and nearer.

01 February 2010

He's Scottish again

Picture of Andy Murray
Imagine if Andy Murray had been born a hundred miles further south. A very gifted English tennis player with the chance of winning his first grand slam. Do you think the people of Scotland would be cheering him on? Of course not. He'd be English, not British, even when he was winning. He could be playing against Osama bin Laden, they'd still cheer when he lost. The same happens with football, and in summer the Scottish nation will be supporting Algeria, Slovenia and USA as the need arises.

Frankly, people of Scotland, it is childish to carry on like this. But you started it, and I am continuing it. I can't see any reason I should support Andy Murray simply because he's from a country that's in (and largely doesn't want to be in) a state of political union with England. On the other hand, I don't see any reason to be against him simply because of his nationality.

There are plenty of other good reasons not to support Andy Murray. His personality. His mother. His neck. The fact that if he wins anything he will be everywhere. Already he's disrupting the television schedules every time he plays. If he actually wins, he'll have his own channel, though if it replaces E4+1 perhaps that's no bad thing. (Although people who miss something on E4 must be grateful for the chance to miss it again.)

Motivational poster
I have to be honest and say I would have said exactly the same about Tim Henman if I'd been a'blogging back then. The main reason I dislike Andy Murray is not because of his compatriots or because he's a miserable git or because his mother scares me - it's because he's a tennis player. Tennis players battle it out with golf players for the title of most boring sports people. They are so focused on the inner game that they never say anything interesting. Listening to them is like being trapped in a room full of motivational posters.

Meanwhile, footballers are regularly mocked for being stupid. But yesterday afternoon, one of my favourite footballers, Darren Bent, was obviously watching the Arsenal game, and tweeted: "Rooney unreal wow". It's not clever or articulate but there, Andy, Timbo, Sue, Cliff, there is what passion for a sport looks like.

Final thought. If I happened to be a top British or even English tennis player, I'd change my name to "My Face". And I'll leave you to work out why.