Monday, 21 March 2011

Bloody Brilliant Britain: The Wildlife

British wildlife is, to put it plainly, 'quaint'. Other countries have Bears and Tigers, Gorillas and Crocodiles. They have animals with every variety of natural weaponry including claws, teeth, venom, pincers, stingers, talons and so forth.

We have....hedgehogs, doormice, robins, ducks, rabbits and foxes. Not exactly the Elite fighting forces of the animal kingdom. But like us as Brits, what they might lack in ability, they more than make up for in character and 'a stiff upper lip'.

The following is a list comprising of my top 3 British animals

3) The humble cow (Bos primigenius)

Cows, as everyone well knows, are docile beasts. They dot the hillsides and fields of our great island, munching away at our plentiful supplies of grass seemingly without a care in the world. Tranquil, peaceful, chilled to the max - behold the cow.

However, I reckon that cows are secretly 'double hard bastards'. Quite often, in human society, the most dangerous individual is the 'passive aggressive' type. That is, the person who stockpiles rage, which typically, will eventually manifest itself in the form of an enormous outburst of homicidal mega-anger:

It is therefore my theory that over a period of time, the average British cow has been storing immense amounts of potential rage. Put it this way, they've been domesticated, subjugated, shot in the head with bolt guns, abducted by aliens (according to popular sci-fi) and sent to the mutant-hybrid frenglish world of Jersey. When it goes off, and it will, it'll be curtains for us all.

"Don't fuck with me dawg!!!!"

2) The noble Badger (Meles meles)

For me, the Badger is THE quintessential British animal. My entire knowledge of them is based on Wind in the Willows, i.e. they generally live in well appointed homes, wear smoking jackets and are very wise.

However, I was utterly flabbergasted to read the following on the most reliable of all Internet sites. The always 100% factually accurate Wikipedia:

"Badgers can be fierce animals and will protect themselves and their young at all costs. Badgers are capable of fighting off much larger animals such as Wolves and Bears. Honey badgers in Africa have been known to fend off multiple lions, hyenas and other dangerous top tier carnivores. The many venomous snakes in Africa are also consumed with ease by the ferocious African Honey Badger. Badgers can run or gallop at up to 25–30 kilometres per hour (16–19 mph) for short periods of time".

Other than the recurring nightmare that I am now having about being chased by a galloping Badger, my other chief preoccupation which followed the reading of the above information, is to wonder how a badger might 'fend off' multiple lions and/or hyenas.

So using my pre-existing knowledge of the Badger, I have constructed the following situation which would explain how it might be possible for a badger to overcome the natural savagery of a Hyena:

  1. A hyena spots a badger and begins the chase
  2. The Badger accelerates to 'galloping' speed
  3. Badger makes it back to the safety of its underground sett
  4. The Hyena is able, also to squeeze into the underground sett - things are now looking bad for the badger
  5. Upon entering the sett, Hyena finds Badger sitting in an armchair doing the Times crossword.
  6. Badger offers the Hyena a snifter of his finest brandy and a nice cigar.
  7. Hyena accepts
  8. Brandy is consumed in large quantities by the Hyena
  9. The Hyena awakens in a random location, covered in vomit with a splitting headache and a black eye.
  10. The Hyena experiences terrifying flashbacks of Toads driving sports cars and moles boating on lakes.
So there we have it, the subtle plying of a ferocious carnivore with the use of a fine liquor and a nice Cuban is most probably how a badger might be able to negate the savage natural weaponry of a Hyena.

"I say old chap, you wouldn't have the right time would you?"

Finally my no1 spot for best British Animal goes to.....

1) The Rebel - The Otter (lutra lutra)

"Why the Otter for no1 spot?" you may ask. Well, in my opinion the Otter, represented by 'Edal' has made the ultimate statement of intent against the injustices caused by man.
In this case, the statement was made directly against a man whose superiority over animals has been repeatedly demonstrated by his fearless prodding and poking of animals for the entertainment of human children. He is known as....The Nutkins:

Terry Nutkins himself is one of many men who advocate the protection and sanctuary of all animals. In himself is not the enemy of the otter. But, he is a representative of mankind and in turn, all of the horrific things that we have done to our animal co-habitants. For me, the otter simply said: "I don't care how much you profess to have my best interests at heart, I'm gonna bite your fucking fingers off".....

Here's how it went down:



Take that smarmy look off your face Nutkins, or you're 'avin it!

So in conclusion; Africa, you can keep your
cornucopia of majestic savannah roaming beasts. Asia, you can continue to pride yourself as hosts of the great jungle dwellers such as the Elephant and the Tiger. But you know what; "Beatrix Potter never wrote shit about no Lions!"

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Bloody Brilliant Britain: The Weather

I love Britain. Pure and Simple. It is however, like any tempestuous relationship, marred by moments of anger and despair. However, no matter how badly it treats me, how hard it kicks me in the arse, how much it makes me furious, I love it and love being part of it.

Now you might think i'm about to wrap myself in a union jack and start singing "rule brittania" or something. I'm not. Whilst I am nationalistic at heart I suppose, that sort of stuff is not for me. That sort of stuff says, "I want to be part of something bigger" and "I want to be near lots of people who think like I do".

It is certainly a demonstration of unity, but not one i'm interested in.

My love of Britain is different. My love for Britain is one appreciative of its subtle details.

The weather

British weather is awesome. It is awesome because we literally get to experience every conceivable form of weather that exists on this planet during the course of a year - but usually in a rather non threatening sort of way. Yeah, sure, we get some pretty bad shit go down from time to time; the floods in Gloucester were pretty bad and it got helluva cold back in Dec 2010. But compare even these extreme British Weather events with those experienced by our planet dwelling brethren, and we really don't have much to complain about. Here are some examples:


Tornado Location - Iowa, USA 1993
Damage to area - Small Farming community wiped from the surface of the earth

Tornado Location - Birmingham, UK 2005
Damage to area - Dave Harris at no43 had to replace his new roof tiles


This is a bit poignant with the recent trouble in Japan. I don't mean to make light of the situation, but this serves as a powerful reminder of why I love living in Britain:

Tsunami location - South East Japan, March 2011

Damage - Catastrophic. Entire towns destroyed. Death toll may exceed 10'000.

Tsunami location - Cornwall, UK 2008

Damage - Ethel (pictured left) caught a cold

I have only ever experienced what may be described as 'a major UK weather event' once.

Back in September 2002 I was drifting off to sleep when the room started shaking. I literally had no fucking clue was was going on. The news had been spilling out so much fearmongering tripe about terrorist attacks since the 9/11 incident, that I was convinced that some crazy bugger had set off a bomb. Assumption incorrect.

What I had experienced was an earthquake measuring 4.8 on the richter scale. I'll admit I was pretty scared for the 10 or so seconds it lasted. The personal loss I suffered was as follows:

- I spilt my blackcurrant squash
- My Pink Floyd poster fell off the wall (mind the pun)

It was a typical UK weather event. Neither notable or particularly damaging, but boy did we talk about it:

Here are some genuine tales of terror from a BBC forum set up for the emotionally scarred 2002 quake victims:

I was in bed watching Casino when I heard a loud bang. I assumed it was my son turning over in bed in the next room. Then the house began to sway. Very weird experience.
Lisa, Bristol, UK

After a heavy weekend, my girlfriend and I were heavily asleep when the earthquake struck. I remember waking up but soon returned to sleep. In the morning we discussed it in bed and both agreed it was the washing machine.
Adam and Delma, UK

Watching John Wayne film on TV. The whole room moved to and fro for about 15-20 seconds. Never slept afterwards as husband down at Builth Wells at a sheep sale.
Margaret Evans, Wales

My desk shook and the mouse moved so far as to bring the monitor out of hibernation. It was very unnerving.
Jenny Cunningham, Sandbach, Cheshire

I've never been so terrified... I called the police but they said there was nothing they could do... Why do I pay my taxes????

Ian, England

And it is this forum and many like it that demonstrates another great aspect of British weather. Namely that through its diversity and failure to adhere to any kind of professional predicion, we have all, as a nation, become amateur climatologists.

We might not be able to spot a cumulonimbus from a cirrus, or properly determine the location of a lightning strike, but damn can we make some serious conversation about the weather.

It is the very best of 'ice-breakers'. You can randomly walk up to 99.9% of British people without knowing a thing about what motivates, interests or amuses them, confident in the knowledge that they will be able to engage with you in some serious, hardcore weather convo:


Scene: Bus Stop, 8:15am, Overcast
Occupants: Me. Burly looking labourer type (BLLT).

All of a sudden a few drops of rain fall from the sky.

BLLT: 'Tut'
Me: Here it comes (mock laughter)

Proceeds to piss it down

Me: I wish the summer would hurry up and get here
BLLT: I know. I got a week off next week and i'm meant to be taking the missus to the lake district
Me: Ive heard it's set to clear up a bit next week
BLLT: Arr. Tuesday and Wednesday are meant to be dry and there might even be a bit of sun in places.
Me: Hope so
BLLT: Yeah, well there's an area of high pressure forming that should push up by late Monday and a prevailing south westerly wind is set to bring milder temperatures.
Me: Sorted.
BLLT: Here's the fucking bus finally!

So there we have it. British weather is generally unthreatening, always varied and as such has given us a true staple of idle conversation in Britain.

I wish we'd get a bit more sun sometimes, but in the grand scheme of things, we've got it pretty good.

I love British Weather and I love Britain!

Problems and Solutions: How to Fix the FA Cup

Ok, so here it is. Matter of fact. Like it or not....The FA Cup is dying! Year by year, the world's greatest domestic club cup competition is being reduced to a shadow of its former self. The big teams no longer hold it in high regard, premiership club managers use it as an excuse to blood a few youngsters and even a portion of footballing fans consider it as an inconvenient break in the league season!

If the league cup is the Mickey Mouse cup of English football, then this is looking certain to be dubbed the Donald Duck sponsored FA Cup competition.

Why Do we love the it? Because at its best, this sort of thing happens:

and of course, once in a while, one of our favourite clubs gets in on the action:

To understand its decline, we must look at the causes. A couple of esteemed colleagues and I discussed this very matter recently and put it down to the following reasons:

1) The dominance and importance of the premiership
2) The amount of games top clubs now have to play as a result of inclusion in the Champions League/UEFA Cup.
3) Finally, and hugely can get to Wembley without reaching the final!
We shall take these points one by one, and see if, through reasonable and rational thought, we can identify some 'root and branch' reforms to assist the FA Cup in reclaiming its past glory.

Ok, so the premiership is good. The fans it, the players love it, the media practically salivates onto their microphones over it and because of this, money gets chucked at it from everyone with a few quid to a few billion quid in their pocket.

This avalanche of cash means that the premiership's importance to those involved in it is paramount. With relegation, comes a huge financial loss, day trips to Doncaster and incidents involving people with three teeth hurling house bricks at the team coach. In short any distraction to the feat of avoiding relegation is met with despondency.

Quite simply, to counteract this sentiment, there must be greater financial reward for winning the cup. The current payout is naff - £1,800,000 for the winner. The big clubs are never going to be persuaded by such a trivial amount. Let’s make it £20,000,000 for winning the thing. I'm sure that a few oil rich Sheikhs or Russian gangsters could be convinced to chivvy in for this .You watch everyone get motivated then. I'll concede that this does little to address the problem of a growing financial gulf in the English clubs, but hey, this is about restoring the FA Cup to its proper place.

Now the European issue brings further problems for the status of the FA Cup. Quite simply, European club football is a joke. You might think you like it, you may never miss a Champions League game – regardless of who’s playing, you might have even been duped into thinking the format is great. It’s not. It’s shit!

When a team finishing 4th in their domestic league can call themselves contenders to be the greatest club in European football, something is very wrong with the system. It’s another example of money talking. The champions league is the greatest money spinner in World football and has done much to create the financial gulf in domestic club class that I spoke of earlier. There should be three distinct European cups, similar to days gone by:

1) A 2 leg knockout cup reserved for only the winners of every domestic league in the EU.
2) A round robin cup/knockout cup for the also-rans of their respective domestic leagues (2nd & 3rd placed only)
3) And this is where we come in…a European 2-leg knockout cup for the winners of the primary club cup of the EU nations. It should be considered more prestigious than the UEFA cup – and prized accordingly - but should be seen as a lesser cup than its Championship winning counterpart. If the winner is already in the Champ cup it goes to the runner up.

Again, this would do much to incentivise teams to battle for FA Cup glory. This was how it was before and it worked. Greed has just blinded people as to the simple perfection of this format. In addition, fewer games played by the big guns might re-ignite their passions for winning their domestic cup trophy.

Finally, and this is where I see the simplest and most achievable of reforms to aid the struggle of the FA Cup, STOP PLAYING SHIT MATCHES AT WEMBLEY!!!!

Throughout the history of sport, one of the great rewards for reaching a competitive sporting final has been the fact that the individual/team is allowed the great honour of plying their trade on the grandest of stages. From the Coliseum of Rome to the heralded Madison Square Garden of New York, to the Molineux (writer bias detected), the greatest sporting stadia have always been reserved for the best of the best in their respective sporting fields.

Wembley has become a whore of the sporting world. Semi finals, lower league trophy finals, and – slightly off point- Bon Jovi concerts are all now regular features at our premier national stadium.

So I say, fuck off Jon Bon, take the Johnson’s Paint Trophy and stick it up your arse. Wembley is for winners (and runners up). Wembley should be reserved for only the following events (in no particular order):

1) The FA Cup Final
2) The World Cup Final
3) The newly formed (see earlier comments) European Champions Cup Final
4) The return of Christ.

So these are my humble suggestions to make the FA Cup brilliant again. Tear my logic to pieces if you wish, or support my statements. But be constructive! Let’s enact some people power and get a dozen good suggestions and march them straight to the FA headquarters and say “Oi, Bernstein, sort it out!”

Beer Wars: Operation Pork Scratching - A mission overview

For full logistics and tactical information regarding the upcoming Operation Pork Scratching, please click here