Sunday, 27 September 2015

RWC - Bulletin 3

Whoops! England ran into an implacable Welsh unit and now stand on the threshold of elimination from their own RWC. Wales were superb, Faletau and Biggar notably so. But it needn't have been like this. England froze in the face of the victory their first hour's play had seemed to earn. Their previously creaky scrummage was working splendidly and the line-out was good, the much lambasted Farrell was kicking faultlessly and all was well in the world. But actually it wasn't - for in amongst the polished muscularity one part of the collective English anatomy was not up to the job - this team lacks brains. A penalty was conceded in the very first passage of play and by the end they were no closer to learning the lesson. Unprofessional. As, I'm afraid was Robshaw's decision making in those final dramatic minutes. Kick your bloody goals - I was taught this by two wise men in my youth, my Dad and J.G. Smith my coach at school. And if you're not going to take the offered points then at least make a better fist of your line-out drive, rather than going down the narrowest (and thus easiest to defend) channel. If this was some sort of elaborate double bluff by England then it sure as Hell didn't work.

Overgraduate/BFP conveniently remembers his Welsh heritage 
Oh well. This is Dai Roberts signing off with a hearty Cymru am bloody byth. Oh and a reminder to my Welsh cousins that it is not alright just to beat the bloody English - there is further business to attend to.

Refereed a game of uncontested scrums yesterday, which is always a little unsatisfactory but it was a run-out for the dodgy legs. Those same legs did a two hour run/shuffle this morning and I'm feeling it now. Thirteen days to go.

Monday, 21 September 2015

RWC - Bulletin 2

Never ever before have I been so proud of my Japanese heritage. Well of course I made that bit up because I have no oriental connection of which I am aware. But my oh my, what a thing - quite simply and after all has been considered, the single most important result in the long history of international rugby union - South Africa 32, Japan 34. Nothing more need be said, just revel in our sport shattering its way out of parochialism.

International rugby's greatest moment
Another pleasant weekend surprise was to see Richie McCaw actually sin-binned for once. Not surprising was the forensic way that his New Zealand team unpicked the seams of their Argentinian opponents and constructed their victory. They are a highly impressive and ruthless outfit, but they can be beaten. By whom is not yet clear. England started fitfully, France well enough, South Africa woefully. As for Wales, we learned very little from the relative stroll against the amateurs of Uruguay, and as for Ireland, I am inclined to think that they are coming nicely to the boil, their physical peak having been very calculatedly scheduled for the crux of the group stages.

The unfairness inherent in five team groups is laid bare by Japan having to face Scotland only four days after the Herculean effort against the Boks. Fiji also suffer in having to take on the fresh Australians. Australia need to be watched - they arrive with a scrum that actually works, rather in the face of their own Union having fought a thankfully unsuccessful battle to 'depower' the scrummage to the point of extinction.

After Friday's wretched spectacle on the refereeeig front, things thankfully speeded up over the weekend and we were not subjected to quite as many unnecessary longeurs of video officiating. It is hardly an original comment (nor one that hasn't been made here before) but Nigel Owens is brilliant. I would not care a jot (and nor I suspect would the England camp) if he were to do the England/Wales match. And yes I do know that is not allowed - I'm just making the point.

Finally, am I the only one perplexed by the use of Cardiff as a venue? No doubt there was some financial imperative  or possibly some back-room deal over the voting for the hosting rights. Whatever, it was wrong when England and others got home advantage during Wales's RWC and it is wrong now.

Finally finally, and in case anyone is bothered, I got through my own refereeing appointment on Saturday without any new damage so BFP is still on the road, or at least he will be when Waitrose deliver the bloody shopping - already fifteen minutes outside the two hour window.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

RWC Bulletin 1

So it's here - Rugby World Cup 2015 kicked off last night with an indifferent England beating a determined Fiji.

For England: much to worry about, in particular some basics that should be in place by now if the team is to have any realistic chance of going deep into the tournament. For decades we have taken it as read that the England set-pieces will be strong. The current scrum is not strong. The current line-out is limited (ie whenever they throw long they lose the ball). On both counts one has to wonder if they are missing the brain-dead Dylan Hartley. Perhaps most distressing, why oh why is the passing of professional players so poor? Brad Barrit had a notably poor game in that respect - one attempt to put Johnny May away would have embarrassed a competent schoolboy.

But all is not lost. The bonus point was (just) secured. Nor should we be too disparaging of Fiji as opposition. Regrettably the injustices of a tournament structure that persists with pools of five are such that Fiji now get a limited turn-round before thay have to face a fresh Australia.

The worst aspect of the game was the video refereeing which added fully twenty minutes to the playing time. Yes, we want officals to get it right but for Heaven's sake boys get a bloody move on. 

A bit of bad news: BFP felt a twinge in the other calf yesterday and had to abandon a run. He has agreed to referee this afternoon so fingers crossed please. We are too close to the big day to tolerate any drama.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

On The Sofa With Walter And Jeremy

Today's guest on Dave's Sofa of Life are...
Walter Bagehot and Jeremy Corbyn of course, for Walter is seldom far from my mind and Jez is fascinating me. I watched Prime Miniser's Questions yesterday and was thoroughly stupified by the lack of any spark. The Boy Cameron could hardly believe his luck as the ordinarily baying crowds opposite were reduced to meek silence as Jez read out emails he had received from the public. This may have been an act of genius but I'm tending to another view for now.

What of our boy Walter? Well, it just so happens that I have been reading his articles filed from Paris during the 1851 coup d'etat. Those missives are provocative and vigorous, befitting a tyro writer finding his voice.
... even I can'tbelieve in a Government of barristers and newspaper editors, and also as against the Red party who, though not insincere, are too abstruse and theoretical for a plain man. It is easy to say what they would abolish, but horribly hard to say what they would leave, and what they would find.
Quite. Mind you I don't think I should push my luck by repeating Walter's views on universal suffrage or Jez and the boys will be picketing my local Waitrose to stop me buying Good Ordinary Claret.

Au revoir mes amis. 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

25 Days To Go

Big Fat Pig is not counting his chickens but things seem to be coming together. I have been genuinely touched by the generosity of those willing to sponsor me and that spirit has kept me going in my training efforts.

Today we had another landmark - BFP dented the pavements for just over two hours, his longest run since way back in 1996 when a rather slimmer pig did the London Marathon.

My giving page can be found at

The State Of The World: Thoughts From The Sofa Of Life

Contrary to this Hegelian prognosis of 'standing at the end of history', which has been recently revived by Francis Fukuyama - this late student of Hegel as read through the eyes of Alexandre Kojeve - the present harbors [sic] many ironies, contradictions and perplexities. Ernst Bloch's phrase of 'non-contemporaneous contemporaneities', ... is more appropriate to capture the fractured spirit of our times. (Seyla Benhabib)
These perplexities are brought unhappily into focus by the religious and political background to the refugee crisis. As so often (a by-product of my reading him so much, rather, I suspect, than any unique brilliance on his part) Walter Bagehot got me trucking down this path.
I have just read (in a charge of Archdeacon Manning's) rather a good sentence on ecclesiastical history. 'The world persecuted the church in the beginning; espoused her in the middle ages; is disowning her now.' It must have been an immense gain in the middle ages that all their systematised thought was Christian and spiritual. (Walter Bagehot, 1847)
If Manning's analysis of ecclesiastical history is useful, it has to be remembered that it speaks only to the Judeo-Christian experience, and even then the timing of the phases has been different as between Judaism and Christianity. An application of the three stage test to Islam is intriguing. Which stage (stages?) is Islam in? Might I suggest that the extremists believe themselves at war with the infidel and the apostate and that this is the sole proper response to their persecution by a western 'end of history'. Secular Islam in the West struggles to deal with the simple appeal of this fundamentalism at one extreme and  gaudy faithless societies at another. As for the poor old godless western majority, having disowned faith ourselves we are speared by post-colonial guilt and inbred liberal tolerance. In the eye of the emotional storm pragmatism gets turfed out of the window.  There is no ready evidence of any politician having both the willingness and the intellectual heft to understand the situation, much less respond to it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

I Said It Would Be Interesting

I've just amused/terrified myself for an hour first reading an anodyne Robert Peston assessment of Corbyn's economic policies and the string of 'Have Your Say' responses to it - Would Corbyn balance the books?

The Peston article is of no great intrinsic merit, but the readers' comments are by turns hilarious and scary. One can hear the clatter of apoplectic keyboards all around the country. Very occasionally a shaft of light breaks through the stygian gloom of cant and shines like the rail at the end of the nave (I will confess the last simile is stolen from Clive James). One contributor even manages to quote from Hotel California, as if that could be relevant. Priceless stuff. Better than anything I can offer you, so I won't.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A Couple Of Silly Films

I've not taxed the old grey matter too much with my film watching this week.

First up was The Recruit. This is one of the many films in which Al Pacino plays Al Pacino. It also has Colin Farrell, who undeniably has presence. Also undeniable is the implausibility of the plot but it does keep you sort of guessing. Mild fun. 5/10.

However if it is implausibility you want then go straight to Mission:Impossible II (what is it with the colon?). Now before you howl, I do know that this franchise is not about cinema verite. However this instalment  is just too knowing and, bluntly, silly. And what is the word I am looking for to describe Thandie Newton? Oh I know - rubbish. Plain bloody rubbish. 4.5/10.

Politics Just Got Interesting Again

As you will have noted (possibly with surprise) I have largely kept my nose out of the Labour leadership election, indeed I described any potential comment as being an intrusion on private grief. But now it's all done and dusted and they've done what would have seemed unimaginable six months ago - Jeremy Corbyn is to be the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

And on the whole I have decided that this is a good thing for me as a spectator. The sameness that has afflicted the last two decades of British politics will now be banished and we will encounter a different vision. It would be wrong to deny that I think Corbyn barking but it will be diverting to see in operation a man whose instincts are so deviant - his natural reaction is to favour the Arab over the Jew, unilateralism over multilateralism, Irish Nationalism over Unionism, collectivism over individualism. It all reminds me of my politically charged adolescence. Just don't make me wear flares and high heels, and please don't tax us at 80%.

Oh, if only, if only, there was a credible libertarian voice in British politics. Now that really would be interesting. Bollocks to Cameron and Osborne and their shaming budget deficit. At least Corbyn, the poor deluded darling, is honest about his addiction to government debt - rather like that nice Mr Mugabe, Corbyn's view is that there is no moral imperative to honour national debts, hence they can be taken on with a clear conscience. So far as one can tell the Cameron/Osborne plan is to steal from those few barmy enough to have saved and to hope that interest rates never go up. Fat chance.

Man at C&A
One final problem with Corbyn, actually two. Number one - why does he clearly hate the affluent so much? They don't all hate him- you can trust me on this. Number two - on what one might take to be the biggest day of his political life, why did he not wear a tie? Would he wear one to a wedding? I'm not an habitual tie-wearer myself but there are certain occasions that merit it. The flouting of such conventions in public life is not cool, it is in fact a form of showing-off and an assertion of superiority. Think Gordon Brown in his lounge suit at the Mansion House. Whatever happened to him? He abolished boom and bust you know.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

32 Days, Optimism Restored

I ran for 108 minutes this afternoon which lifted me out of a mild depressive funk. I feel nicely knackered now. A couple of days of rest since the 10k on Sunday seems to have replenished the batteries and I have even started to make some vague attempts at fund-raising. If you think you could support BFP and more importantly the good people at Mind you will find the link in the margin of this blog.

I remembered to eat before running, mindful of Sunday's travails. I think I've settled on a bagel with peanut butter and jam. I also had one of the energy gels I got in Sunday's pre-race goody bag.  Perhaps I should also try one of the sachets of porridge they gave me.

Queen Elizabeth today became our longest serving monarch. The BBC described her as driven by service and sustained by faith which all sounds rather marvellous until you consider that this might well be how the leaders of toxic perverted Islam now see themselves. That is not meant as a side-swipe at the monarch because I'm a considerable fan, but rather as a glum observation on the pitiful refugee crisis that so besets Europe. On which topic a little light is shed (or more accurately the lack of light is analysed) by the estimable Matthew Parris in the Spectator Columnists . While you're there check out the top drawer rant by a back on form Rod Liddle.     

Monday, 7 September 2015

34 Days To Go And Much To Do

Team Roberts (pictured) comprising BFP and Daughter Number Two (DN2) did the City of Birmingham 10k yesterday and it proved a very useful wake-up-call as the Team enters the last five weeks of preparation for the Royal Parks Half Marathon. This was DN2's first organised race and my first for years. It was tough. The longish downhill drag at the start sent an enthusiastic five hundred runners charging off too fast, certainly for the liking of poor old BFP. Still we both finished and have our chunky medals to show for it - DN2 came in seven minutes ahead of her perspiring old man.

I had optimistically decided to use the 10k as part of a hard training week. I'd been out for three outings in the course of the week including one ninety minute stretch and then refereed a match at AOE on Saturday afternoon - my first officiating since March 2014. The accumulated miles certainly told as I struggled up the final hill on Sunday. The event also reminded me just how much nervous energy you can use up in the build-up to a race, worrying about just how much to eat (I elected abstinence and this proved a bad mistake), when/where to have pee, wondering how to respond when what seems like the entire field tears lemming-like down the first hill leaving our hero feeling that he was running alone at the back of the field. I wasn't literally at the back and certainly plenty of people paid for the early pace but it was difficult not to be disconcerted by it all. Hopefully the Royal Parks masses will include more people set on observing BFP's steady plod.

So what next? Some hastily convened experiments on pre-run eating and a series of steadily longer runs. Also there will be a proper taper before the big day. I won't be refereeing that week.

PS. I really enjoyed the refereeing. Sunnybank Avenue looked a picture and the players behaved themselves, as did, for the most part, the referee. All in all a tonic in what can seem a very gloomy world - I refer to the refugee crisis not to my own unimportant and passing moods. I had started a blog about the various pieces of hypocritical sanctimony spouting forth on this atrocious subject last week but binned it as inadequate to the subject matter. Just occasionally even I know my limits. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

A Disturbed Night

I slept poorly last Saturday, kept awake to a marked degree I suspect by my gluttony at our old favourite The Ship Inn. As is usual I listened to the radio as I endeavoured to fall asleep. This generally works but on this occasion rather than being lulled to sleep I was still listening in the small hours. I encountered an adaptation of Iris Murdoch's A Severed Head. Murdoch is not an author with whom I am familiar, one of the many lacunae in my reading.

I found the story both brilliant and disquieting and I suspect this reaction says rather more about me than it does about Murdoch. Despite my liberal arts veneer I do have trouble with casual immorality. I can't remember being quite so disturbed by something since reading Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden. That experience left me with admiration at the craft but with no desire to read any more of his output. In this I am almost undoubtedly wrong, a fact not least signified by his being one of the Groupie's favourites. 

Time for the OG to grow a pair.

On a lighter note I ran for ninety minutes this morning without mishap. We're getting there. Slowly. Very slowly. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Black Dog Leaps From Behind Metaphorical Bush

My depression has been in a lengthy remission - pretty much since I left my job. Funny that. In particular Summer 15 has been a notably happy one. So maybe it is the passing of the season (for on the Roberts calendar September is forever autumn) or maybe it is something deep and repressed but today has come as a bit of a shock. There was the old inability to get out of bed, or rather the old fear that doing so would only be to provoke some calamity. Eventually I hauled myself out and went for a run, which did me the world of good. Self-healing. Hardly earth-shattering I know but an advance for me.

Perhaps it is the price I pay for another great weekend (Anglesey) or perhaps it was foreboding at my commencing self-imposed exile from alcohol until after the half marathon. Perhaps, but no not really. It's just one of those things and it's a bloody nuisance.

That weekend? A strenuous and stunning walk on Saturday from Porth Eilian to Amlwch; a lazy Sunday; a brief stroll at Menai Bridge on the way home. And some televisual/filmic highlights. On Saturday night we watched Woody Allen's Zelig. Terrific and clever. One should never mistake brevity for slightness. 7.5/10. 

Better than pizza
Sunday evening flirted with farce but ended in fun. It turns out that the Benllech Pizza House takes only cash. It also turned out that the village's two cash machines were out of money. So I had to abandon the margherita and the pepperoni in the shop and we dined of bread and pate. The evening was rescued by rewatching five episodes of the estimable Hebburn. I can't recall if I've sung its praises before but if you've never encountered it, search it out. Funny and affecting.  

LIfe goes on. I'm going to do some therapeutic floor cleaning.