Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Territorial Or Tactical

Laws of the Game: Rugby Union, 2011
Law 8.1(b)
Advantage can be either tactical or territorial
It is also provided that the game cannot end on the award of a penalty - the resulting penalty must be allowed to be taken.

And this matters why? Well because on Saturday at Twickenham, the perennially controversial (I think he rather likes it) Steve Walsh got it wrong, or less charitably simply bottled it. Watch the replay on iPlayer and at 80.14 elapsed time you will see an English maul totter towards the Welsh goal line. As that maul collapses Walsh utters the words 'collapsing the maul, red 3.' He then awaits the advantage. The passage of play ends with David Strettle adjudged not to have scored the try. Walsh blows for no side. Had England really enjoyed a sufficient tactical advantage in one failed attempt to cross the Welsh line? Was the matter of feet advanced beyond the position of the prospective penalty really a sufficient territorial gain? Was it bollocks. Charitably, he forgot. More realistically he bottled it. He is paid to get these things right.

If you really want to have some fun with this scenario, you can argue that 'red 3's' cynicism (that's the brilliant Adam Jones whose talent would have been more widely understood if he didn't have such daft hair) should have been rewarded with a yellow card. Net effect, penalty and England elect for the scrum free from the encumbrance of Wales's best scrummager. Best case scenario, England score try, convert and finish at 19-19. None of this actually  bothers me too much. Draws are unsatisfactory in rugby and Wales were the better side. But, like I say, Walsh is paid to get these things right. Oh well it's only a game, as I'm famous for never saying. Ray Prosser had an answer to such glibness - 'What the f*** do we have points for then?'

Sunday, 19 February 2012

All Of life Is There

Man and beloved Cannondale in
perfect harmony
Well ok not all of life, not even all of my life, but quite a nice slice of it. It's been a busy few days.

On Friday and putting aside the various excuses (all plausible but none compelling) I got out on the bike again. I am very saddle sore today but the virtuousness has not quite dissipated. It is going to be a diet of cycling and swimming from now on - the running just causes me too many bloody injuries. I'll leave the running for my refereeing and the few triathlons I still aim to do. I love the event but the road running just doesn't love me. The latest addition to the catalogue has been a thigh pull which lamed me a couple of weeks ago. Old age, a super-structure too large for the chassis (ie fat) and bad luck are all against me. As the Pet Shop Boys so ably put it, what have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?

As it happens, yes I am
It was off to that London again on Friday evening to stay with Daughter Number One, who, by the way, is admirably well-adjusted, self-sufficient and altogether an example to her old man still scrabbling around in search of his destiny. The purpose of my southern travel was my Olympic volunteer training alongsige 9,999 other 'Games Makers' at Wembley Arena. I am prohibited from reporting upon that training in detail (which I know sounds prissy but I take such undertakings seriously)  but suffice it to say that my anticipation of the Games is heightened. I sat between a giant man from Matlock (of roughly my age at a guess) who charmingly admitted that he had now conceded he would never compete at a games and that this was his only chance of involvement, and a nice young lass from Bristol University who sported, I noticed, one of those 'WWJD' (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets, though not at all ostentatiously. I have decided that, on balance, I find such things admirable. Which you will probably agree is pretty big of me.

Soothes the savage beast
The low point of the weekend was my laughable attempt to find the only West End cinema showing Coriolanus yesterday afternoon. I tramped all over Bond Street, Picadilly and Regent Street in the pissing down rain getting ever angrier with an unaccommodating world - this I believe the psychiatrists call displacement activity, an action contrived to help keep me from the realisation that I'm a wanker who really should write things down. By the time I reached the divine ICCo (it stands for Italian Coffee Company) at 46 Goodge Street (write that down because you should go there) the displacement had ceased to be operative and I was firmly convinced of my wankerdom but £4.50 on a pepperoni (I know - it really is that cheap) later I had calmed down a little and resolved to cut my losses and head out of the Smoke for home.

Trains are good for self esteem because almost invariably one encounters people so much more dreadful than oneself. It is terribly reassuring. Yesterday it was a youngish affluentish couple, married, though not to each other and who plainly felt it droll that they were going to Birmingham to visit Imogen who, poor soul, has ended up being forced to live there. WWJD, I found myself wondering. To which I answered that he would probably travel economy and thereby expose himself to yet worse privations.

I was pondering a bottle of cab sauv as I settled my weary self before the television when I had a moment of inspiration. Might Coriolanus be showing at the Midland Arts Centre? Well what do you know. So I dashed back out and across the city and even had time for a bolted glass of sauvignon blanc before hunkering down in an aisle seat for a satisfying cinematic two hours.


Ralph Fiennes gets much right. His  Caius Martius Coriolanus is bloodily magnificent, unforgiving and unforgiven. Vanessa Redgrave's Volumnia is perhaps even better. James Nesbitt does his best Martin McGuiness as Sicinius the tribune. Liberties are taken but hey ho, they always have been. Allowing Menenius an honourable suicide gives the character greater moral heft than the text warrants but it works in its modern context. I can even accept the intertextuality of Coriolanus' elevation/descent (this can depend on your political sympathies) into Colonel Kurtz territiory. See it - an intelligent and provocative addition to the canon. What we now need is a similarly bloody Julius Caesar to stand alongside this and Julie Taymor's raucous Titus in a modern Roman trilogy. Perhaps Tarnatino could be persuaded to have a stab - how marvellous if the bard could provoke him into a finally mature film.

Seeing Redgrave in such magisterial form reminded me that the last time I had seen her was in an irritating interview about Anonymous. No doubt dutifully toeing the party line she gave credence to that film's advocacy of the Earl of Oxford as author of Shakespeare's works. I will let the real David Roberts (professor of the species, head of the School of English at BCU) explain why this is unworthy bollocks,
If you see Anonymous and feel remotely persuaded by it, find a copy of James Shapiro’s Contested Will or Samuel Schoenbaum’s Shakespeare’s Lives. There, you’ll find a commodity that doesn’t concern Emmerich or his backers: the truth.
Quite. That bit of specious crap from Redgrave puts me in mind of something similarly assinine currently making news. Sean Penn. Creditable actor and if we do have to query the sanity of a man who married Madonna we can at least credit him with having divorced her. But now he is on the movie star equivalent of a state visit to South America and Sean thinks that we Brits should give Las Malvinas to poor little Argentina. Has this man no sense of irony, indeed has he never seen his own role in the brilliant Team America? Sean son, a word to the wise - keep your trap shut. And I should stay away from Catterick for a while as well. A nice piece in The Telegraph (not words you hear from me that often) spears this knob rather well,
America’s claim over Malibu is tenuous and rooted in patriarchy. Sean Penn’s house is a mocking reminder of that brute chauvinism, with its high white walls and spacious interiors. Its swimming pool is an insult to the honour of the Mexican people.
The Unquiet American
And while you're at it Sean, how about giving, I dunno, say, Massachusetts back to native Americans. Be a nice gesture.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

February Face

... You have such a February face
So full of frost, of storm, and cloudiness.
Much Ado About Nothing 5.4.41-42
Paul Lewis
From my Shakespearean insults desk diary. February is rather that type of a month and my mood was not lightened by hearing Richard Dawkins on Today as I drove to Leeds this morning. How does such a proudly irreligious man manage to sound so pious and sanctimonious - is this irony lost on him? The more sorry he feels for me in my delusions the more I dislike him. Which is of course irreligious of me but what the hell.

Richard Dawkins
Just one more thing about Dawkins - have he and that whingeing consumerist pile of indignation Paul Lewis ever been seen together because they share the same toe-curling voice. We should be told. As you can see The Overgraduate may have another scoop on its hands here.

But enough of that. My day improved vastly as I sat in a meeting in which people talked honestly about profit, risk and health care without succumbing to liberal hand-wringing. It can be done.

Now has come the time for me to comment on the first two rounds of the Six Nations. Greatest indignation has to be reserved for the avarice which one has to assume led to the France v Ireland fixture being scheduled to kick off at 9.00pm local time in the middle of bloody winter on a pitch which lacks under soil heating. Did you hear why there is no such heating by the way? Apparently because the Stade de France (magnificent, been there) is built on land infested with pockets of methane and it might go up in flames if electricity is introduced. Anyway I now understand the cancellation was the fault of the referee, which rather stands to reason given his nationality - English. Please remember that racism is not racism when practised on the English, merely justifiable payback for centuries of oppression. This is the Gibson-Harinordoquy Law.

Talking of my mate Imanol Harinordoquy, probably the most fearsome thing about the current French team is that as sound a judge as Saint-Andre believes he doesn't need the magnificent beast in his starting line-up. Scary.

Other highlights - the English outlook is not too sunny but there is praise for Alex Corbisiero and that yeoman Englishman Mauritz Botha. Wales were impressive against the Scots (for whom Richie Gray is immense) but I still harbour the feeling that they could get sorted out up front against the French. You have to observe however that not a single Englishman would make that Welsh back line. Wales to win quite comfortably at Twickenham I'm afraid. This is not to condemn the coaches of England - as I observed in the autumn, England really don't have many outstanding players at present and , most frustratingly, one of the few, Ben Youngs, is currently playing like a tart. Not for the want of trying. It seems to be hurting him even more than it does his admirers. To add to the frustration Danny Care is playing the rugby of his life but is banned from England duty for being a piss-head. Is that why I never got a cap? No Dave, that was because you were no bleeding good.

Ireland: any side would miss O'Driscoll. Period. But the Irish have been the instigators of the most effective new defensive tactic - the stand-up tackle. Watch how well Donnacha O'Callaghan does this and thereby creates the turnover. Clever and strong.

Final standings? 1-France; 2-Wales; 3-Ireland; 4-England; 5-Italy; 6-Scotland.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Encore Une Fois Je Suis Etudiant

It's started, it's official and I've got the student card to prove it. Student discount here we come. Only five years (with a following wind and a dollop of inspiration) and you might have to start calling me Dr Roberts. Loving it already - I've got my beloved on line library access back which means hours of fun making obscure searches on Jstor and EEBO.

But, but, but, there's still a few things bugging me despite my happy student outlook. Ed Miliband - just what the hell is he for? David Cameron - given that his principal opponent is so gobsmackingly inept, why doesn't he take the opportunity to actually do something interesting/radical/not crap? France - how on earth can they have the gall (yes that is deliberate) to tell the hapless Greeks how to behave? For the Germans such behaviour is perhaps understandable if ultimately indefensible, but the French, give me a bloody break.

Loads of money
Fat cats. Actually some middle sized cats as well. In my old days as a jobbing commercial lawyer I evidently enjoyed the luck of the draw because the number of inexcusable capitalist gobshites I met was quite limited. Yes there were some but more often I encountered people who worked hard, played harder and had the humility to admit to some good fortune in doing well for themselves, even in one notable case (the utterly peerless Alan Robert Murrall) where no such modesty was required. Yet now the evidence of guileless, gutless greed lies all about us, deep and crisp and even. As I have said before, my generation has blown it and all I can say in my defence is that it wasn't me guv. But still it irks me, nibbles away at my nether regions that perhaps I have been wrong all along. Damn you fat cats, you have made me doubt myself and if I'm wrong then what on earth will become of the world?

But hey ho, there'll always be Shakespeare and Bagehot and bad jokes with good friends. And more, much more than that, there will be Sharon. The boy Roberts done good.