F*** the Police to Father’s Child

 

ONE of our department’s wide-ranging daily discussions as we prepared to leave an almost empty office the other day revealed pretty much none of us wear a watch.

There were a variety of reasons, but mainly it came down to them being an irritant banging on the desk – an argument rather ruined by the bangles which live on my right wrist, albeit considerably thinned out from the full off-duty array – and the fact there is just no need.

If you want the time, you don’t need a watch. There’s some electronic device not too far away with the right time on it.

In my case that’s usually my phone , although bizarrely when freed from the constraints of work and a 9 to 5 routine while travelling, a watch did appear on the wrist that was not getting all cluttered up by bracelets.

And that’s generally what my phone gets used for, telling the time, an alarm and when really bored, checking Facebook, Twitter and e-mails. There’s some largely-forgotten apps on there but the one thing it rarely gets used as is a phone.

Sadly, the same can not be said about a surprisingly large number of the people who use the same bus as me in the mornings.

Anyone who has been paying attention for a while on this blog will know my long-serving car fell victim to the decluttering my life before heading off to Africa – it would have cost more to get through an MoT than it would make when sold, so off to the scrapyard it went. A sad farewell to an old friend.

Which has meant the vast majority of my journeys are by bus – at least to work, a couple of colleagues have somehow volunteered their services as a taxi service for the journey home. At very reasonable rates.*

That all adds up to plenty of time to listen to music and people watch. Or, increasingly in recent weeks, people listen.

If my phone rang on the bus, my reaction would be traditionally British – sheepishly answer it and get the whole thing over as quickly and quietly as possible, just in case anyone might overhear.

Even if it rings in the office, the process of answering it involves scurrying away to a quiet corner, not so much to avoid being overheard but more to avoid disturbing people (something that does not normally affect my behaviour in the office).

Would that were the case for some of my fellow passengers.

It had been an occasional irritant, particularly the guy who always seems to sit one row in front of me in the morning and does not so much talk on the phone as grunt or make some equally non-committal noise before launching in to some lengthy, shrill rant and cutting the conversation short.

And then there was the bloke who phones his office halfway through his journey to explain how he is stood waiting for a bus that has not arrived and that he will be a bit late.

Those are occasional examples which are as entertaining as they are irritating, but then came the girl who sat directly behind me on a journey home after a Sunday shift.

No idea what she was saying. Was listening to music and none of it was in any form of coherent sentences, just loud exclamations and laughter, all while eating her way through at least four packets of some unidentified food.

And then there’s the regular. The girl who parks herself in the front window seat upstairs and simultaneously goes through the three main tasks of her journey to work – eating breakfast, doing her make-up and conducting a lengthy, loud phone call, apparently to the same person each morning or to a variety of friends who all have babies.

The breakfast is normally something pastry-related, although she admitted to having a bag full of Kiwis to keep her going through the day. Presuming she means fruit as her bag is not big enough for a flock of birds or collection of small New Zealanders.

The make-up routine has progressed to doing her hair, no matter what impact it has on the rest of us – particularly the poor woman sat directly in the firing line of that hairspray.

But she still seems surprised when the bus hits a speed bump, despite having a clear view down a long, straight road through that large front window at the speed bumps which have a tendency not to move overnight.

But nothing can quite match the sheer inane nature of the conversation, filled as it is with such wonderful insights delivered with the conviction of someone confident nobody has delivered such information so insightfully before.

All delivered at a great volume, particularly when moaning about the noise being made by a crowded bus crammed with early racegoers heading for The National Hunt Festival in Cheltenham.

Can vouch for the volume as through all of this, my headphones are in but can still hear it. The volume is generally turned down a touch to avoid being overheard, but there is little choice (other than live tweeting the phone call) than to crank up the volume to become one of those irritating people who subject fellow passengers to their musical tastes.

And what they have been subjected to most recently has been the first dent in the F section of the A-Z journey through my iPod – from the expletives of NWA to Michael Kiwanuka.

We’ve had Fairytales (notably festive ones of the New York variety from The Pogues), Fakes (Plastic Trees from Radiohead – twice – and a version  from Juliana Richer Daily, plus Tales of San Fransisco from Arctic Monkeys), taken a few Falls (On Me from REM, Falling Out by Veronica Falls who have been one of the discoveries of this journey and Falling, the Twin Peaks theme re-imagined by The Wedding Present), gone Far (Gone and Out by Jesus and Mary Chain), Fast (Car, Tracy Chapman) and bid Farewell Appalachia with Stornoway. Who we are about to bid farewell to.

And we had Faron Young.

Have already held forth in this blog about how the first side of Prefab Sprout’s Steve McQueen is damn near perfect (near perfect – perfection is reserved for side two of Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain) and its opener still sounds magnificent almost 30 years on.

A classic, hugely overlooked pop tune, four in the morning or any time. Certainly beats listening to someone else’s phone calls..

*Free

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D&P Blues to Date With IKEA

BACK in the midst of time, back when my journalism career was no more than an impending work experience spell at what became my first paper, back in my teens, back even when my body could withstand a game of rugby, a poor refereeing decision cost us a place in a cup final.

There may have been other factors, but let’s put it down to the ref. It seems to be the fashionable thing to do.

It was a close tussle in a second team semi-final against local rivals, a place in the final at Kingsholm – Mecca in terms of rugby in Gloucester, if Mecca was overlooked by a cathedral – up for grabs in my first season of senior rugby.

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Forget Twickenham, the real home of rugby

If memory serves, we (actually, think it was probably me) were penalised late on at either a ruck or a scrum, the opposition kicked to the corner and, eventually, turned pressure into points and snatched a lead we didn’t have the time or opportunity to regain.

And that is as close as my playing career got to Kingsholm – thankfully, my journalism career went there and a lot further – and in the list of great rugby heartbreaks, it doesn’t really register.

Nor do my experiences match up to those of the experts who have spearheaded the criticism of referee Craig Joubert after Scotland’s rather more high-profile loss to Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

Yes, Joubert was wrong to run off the pitch without shaking hands with the players. It is one of the key tenets which rugby holds onto as part of the mutual respect among all concerned (regardless of what some of the physical battering involved may suggest) that it believes (rightly, much of the time) elevates it above other sports.

And he was rightly castigated – although ex-internationals, generally with a Scottish accent, suggesting he should “never referee at this level again” within minutes of it happening, did little to uphold the traditions of the game they claim to be defending.

Why Joubert ran off has not been proved. Suggestions have ranged from the need to use the toilet to fearing for his safety – amid isolated reports of a bottle being thrown at him – but they need to learn the facts before making quite such outlandish reactions. Especially one persistent rugby irritant.

But, more worrying to rugby’s image – both of itself and from the watching sporting world – is the way so many experts, ex-players, fans, keyboard warriors and, most worryingly, World Rugby, dived into the torrent of abuse and blame Joubert has received in the minutes, hours and days following his award of the deciding penalty against Scotland.

Let’s look at this coldly.

World Rugby took 24 hours to review and assess the controversial offside decision before categorically stating Joubert was wrong (an appalling decision which far outstrips any mistake made by the South African).

Experts either made their judgements from the safety of the stands – a long way at Twickenham – or, having seen the replay from every available angle and speed. They could not agree on anything other than Joubert should have gone to the video referee (TMO), something he was not able to do in that situation and which, for the first few games of the tournament, they had been telling us was being called upon far too often.

The Twitterati didn’t bother too much with any evidence (rather like the despicable cowards who attacked Wales wing Alex Cuthbert after their defeat to South Africa).

Joubert had one view, very little time and no confession from Aussie scrum-half Nick Phipps that he had intentionally grabbed at the ball – an act which, in the letter of the law, would turn the penalty into a scrum.

No, Joubert had no help but made a perfectly justifiable decision based on the evidence in front of him – and how on earth is he supposed to judge what was going through Phipps’ mind, especially as the player himself was appealing for the penalty?

Not Phipps’ fault, nor the unfortunate, penalised Jon Welsh, nor Joubert. Right or wrong, his decision was perfectly understandable. Unlike the reaction of his bosses at World Rugby who should not be pointing fingers, but looking at how they could help him.

Less technical laws relying less on interpretation and more on hard evidence for starters. More convenient, more efficient TMO rules for seconds.

And all that from a decision which would have been forgotten if it had happened at any other stage of the match – rather like the other decisions which are now being pored over (and spuriously tweeted out by another former international) from throughout the 80 minutes.

Take it to extremes, there was a case for a knock on in Scotland’s ultimately winning try against Samoa in their final group game. Rule that out and Japan qualify, not Scotland.

Didn’t hear too many complaints about the referee then.

That’s extreme and, to be honest, absurd. That’s sport with all its infuriating frailties which somehow add up to the drama that makes it special.

The result stands, whatever evidence anyone comes up. Or at least until some bright spark with too much time and money comes up with the idea of a legal challenge, based on a verdict on Joubert already delivered by World Rugby.

But above all, Scotland did not lose solely because of that decision or any other made by Joubert. They conceded five tries, they threw a risky lineout to the tail when defending a lead in the dying moment, they conceded 30-plus points (which would have been a lot more if Bernard Foley had been on form with the boot and Australia had played anything like they can) and over the course of 80 minutes, made other errors.

As did Australia, as did Joubert. And that’s sport. Why the best team doesn’t always win and why we can’t always pick the winners.

Unless you are betting on Southern Hemisphere teams that is.

The rugby has been supplying much of the soundtrack of the last few weeks, but there’s also been the little matter of starting out on the D songs on the A-Z iPod Challenge.

And wading into the shallows of a new letter has been distinctly uninspiring with plenty of less than great album tracks and little to really grab the attention from Uncle Earl to Pavement.

There’s been a few exceptions, the ever-reliable Ryan Adams popping up (twice) with Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains) while the Dan section produced several listenable tracks, most notably Johnny Cash’s reading of Danny Boy and Daniel by Veronica Falls, one of those bands who keep going up in my estimation as this trek goes on.

Unlike an awful lot of rugby fans.

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