The Sixty-First Year of Service

I met met Jim Summons the other day. A nice old man with a gentle smile, a casual observer would say. Over the last eleven years I’d seen him faithfully and fastidiously operate the paper stall in Haverfordwest Station’s ticket hall but I’d never thought much about him.

This meeting was different. For the first time in nearly two years, I was about to make a train trip and pitched up to buy tickets in advance. It was hot, and Jim sat by his stall laden with an extraordinarily wide range of daily newspapers, periodicals and magazines. The ticket hall (a grand word for a space big enough for three socially-distanced people in these times of plague) was empty except for Jim. He sat in silence on a small stool leaning back against the wall next the entry doors. His white shirt matched the colour of his hair, and a well-worn leather cash bag which reminded me of the bag our co-op milkman used to carry on his rounds in the fifties hung on a strap diagonally across his body. In those days, it contained not only cash but a delivery note book full of pages, held open at the appropriate page by a rubber band, with details of the milk supplied and detachable sections which he left with his customers to confirm their weekly purchases. The bill was always hand-written in those pre-computer days.

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Spin

What is it about spin that is so fascinating? Why do we love to spin things and what is spin? Evolution designed our hands with an opposing thumb to make spinning an easy action. Flicking the thumb against the middle finger can summon immediate attention. It can also twirl a dart, which travels more accurately towards its intended target. A gyroscope is stable until it stops turning.

It was a crucial moment in the England vs Ukraine football match. Kyle Walker had the football in his hands, pondering where to place the throw-in. He whirled the ball in his hands. He spun it again as if to settle his mind with the distraction of the ball’s rotation. And again, he spun the ball in the air. He had made up his mind. He threw it in and the game resumed.

Spinning.

In other sports, we see Roger Federer spin his racquet as he prepares to make or receive a serve. It must help him concentrate and he is not alone. So many tennis players of all abilities do it.

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A Grave in Kolkata





PETER CUTHBERT HAD BEEN MEANING to visit his cousin Beatrice in Spain for years but like so many promises to himself, he pushed them aside due to lack of time, money, work commitments, or because he had not been able to organise and coordinate the trip with other matters. In February 2008, he finally made the trip to see her.

When he and his wife Janet subsequently visit India on holiday, a chance mention of a museum in Barrackpore revives dormant memories of a Grandfather who died mysteriously in India during World War One and Cuthbert embarks on a surprising voyage of discovery.

‘Thank you for a great story! Nicely paced, with a wonderful sense of place and culture. Intrigue and adventure all woven together with a clear sense of mystery.’ Ronita Sinha

Available now on Amazon as an e-book for Kindle readers. Click here.

Politics and Sport: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

In 1966, England achieved, for many, the zenith of their sporting achievements. They had climbed the mountain of world football and had come to the top above the greats of S. America and Europe. The small group of working class lads, including one who had started out working as a cleaner on the railways, had achieved a high-water mark that looks impossible to be reached again.

Politicians have always been known to associate themselves with sporting heroes. An endorsement from a sporting icon is worth thousands of votes and so how much more valuable would it be if a whole team capable of winning the World Cup said vote for X?

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Capital or Labour


Marx believed societies developed through class conflict. The bourgeoisie controlled the means of production for money and the proletariat sold their labour into that production in return for money wages.

Which is the overriding consideration when tackling a pandemic emergency?

Today, 26 January 2021, the UK passed 100,000 deaths, a grim statistic. Did it have to be this bad? How have others countries done?

Of course, any pandemic will also cause peripheral damage, cancer or heart operations missed – possibly causing deaths– businesses wrecked, mental health damaged, etc. Any eventual report will include so many factors in the argument as to whether the UK has done significantly better or worse than similar nations. Its complex conclusions will be heralded as success by the government and a failure by the opposition

Osborne and Cameron’s response to the banking catastrophe, which can be traced to 15 September 2008 when the investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, sending shock waves through the global financial system and beyond, was to cut costs and freeze public sector pay to balance the budget or at least minimize the increase in the deficit. The pain fell on the low paid. Crudely, you could say that capital (the bourgoise) won, labour (the proletariat) lost.

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The Highs and Lows of 2020

This year, people have written millions of Christmas cards with the sentiment that 2020 was a strange year, a terrible year, a dreadful year. Yet even in this difficult year, many found glimmers of hope. Although we cancelled holidays to see loved ones, we found the slower life, typical of the fifties when we didn’t take holidays or go out for meals, to be a refreshing reminder that there is so much good all about us.

Now is a good time to look back to find the highlights amid the morass of mediocrity. The year brought unfamiliar words into everyday English: furlough, Zoom, lockdown, working from home, and COVID-19.

The highlights of my year were:

January: Britain leaves the EU at 11.00pm on 31st.

February: Keir Starmer launches his successful bid to lead the Labour Party away from the nadir of the 2019 election hammering. Global warming reminds us of its terrible power as storm Jorge brings flooding to many homes across the nation.

Storm Jorge

March: An overdue lockdown begins on 24th.

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Rugby Recalled

The team of the 1974/75 season

Everyone passing threescore and ten becomes more interested in the past. What twenty-year-old would look back? At that age, the world is one’s oyster and life is there to be grabbed with both hands and shaken like a rag doll.

With the passing years, things change, memories weaken, joints stiffen, arteries clog, each breath exchanges less oxygen than the breath before and despatches become more important than hatches or matches.

The problem with old age is that you run out of friends. Grab every opportunity, I say, to relive old memories, laugh at former errors and drink to absent friends with current ones. Today, we have silent still photos to prod our minds and pique the memory. We can recall ‘with advantage’ in a way that may well be denied tomorrow’s children with their videos and audio.

We all have particular associations which will last with us; school, university, regiment, sports club, etc. Before Facebook wiped the earth with its American power and rich functionality, Friends Reunited proved to be a popular platform for reminiscence. We can find so many friends on the Internet but there’s no substitute from meeting up in person.

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The Dying of the Light

I watched Donald Trump’s news conference held today, 6th November at 5 am GMT.

The tie had changed from the red of the war god Mars to insipid stripes of indifferent colours, the face had turned from orange to ashen and the voice had become is less strident, even if the demands remained stubbornly the same. His statements rang less true.

Donald Trump is dying in a way Dylan Thomas forecast seventy three years ago.

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Prophetic words indeed as the forty-fifth generation of the Father the of the Nation is removed and passes away into (relative) obscurity.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The Reunion

Introduction.

Thirty years after his degree in Business Studies in France, Peter Cuthbert and his wife Janet are invited to a Reunion Ball on a Saturday in May. Gaston Cahour, the de facto leader of the Group Fourteen, additionally invites the other members of the group to a dinner at Le Lapin on the night before the ball. Over dinner, old times are fondly remembered, until the untimely death of Marie-Louise is recalled.

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