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Sunday, April 23, 2017

St George's Day



Today is St George's Day where we celebrate the dragon slaying patron saint of England.  Except we don't.  Unlike the saint's day celebrations of our Scots, Welsh and Irish cousins, St George's Day is almost completely ignored in England.  Worst still, our flag, the cross of St George now has unpleasant associations with far right racist groups so that even displaying it in some parts of the country causes trouble.  The only other time it makes an appearance is when our dire football team takes part in their inevitable disastrous performance in a major tournament.  

Interestingly, when you do a Google search for England flag babe you mostly get pictures of girls draped in the Union flag, which is the flag of Great Britain not England. It may well be that this confusion of England with Britain is part of the reason we don't celebrate St George's Day.  Unlike our Celtic neighbours we don't have to shout out about our national identity.  We are English.  That is enough, 365 days a year.  

Still,we like these five young ladies from 2007's Miss England competition. Eventual winner Georgia (appropriately) Horsely is second from left.  This was the competition where the organisers reputedly told the girls to 'fatten up' - so they had more womanly figures and didn't encourage anorexia in young girls.  Quite right!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

30 Things I have never done



The ladies of Oxford University Women's rugby team


There is a big Rugby tournament going on in parts of Europe at present.  I was out with my friend A last week and I mentioned that I had never attended a Rugby match, which she seemed to find incredible considering I live eight miles from Twickenham Stadium, the home of Rugby in Britain.. We started talking about other things I hadn't done and she got more and more incredulous, so she got me to write them down.   What this list needs is some illustrations, I thought, so I found some appropriate ones.

The key thing with these is that they're not things I haven't done and would like to, (like going up the Nile on a steamer) they are things I haven't done and have no intention of trying!

So I have never:




1 Been to a rugby match.

I can actually see that rugby is a good game (unlike football (soccer, that is), which is tedious) but I have never been to a match. Partly, it is because I have never been into the tribal elements of team sports.  I used to follow athletics quite closely (and I have been to quite a few athletics events) but it is still horribly drugs ridden so have largely given up on it, except for when the Olympics comes around.




2 Been to a cricket match


Now this is a key pillar of British (do they play cricket in Scotland or are all the pitches marred by caber impact craters) cultural history, so I should be in favour of it but, again, it is stupefyingly dull.  I have been invited to a couple of Test matches (in the UK and Bombay) but I turned them down. I went to the Oval for a conference last year and even the sight of the pitch made me start to doze off. 




3. Played golf

I have played crazy golf on the Isle of Wight a few time with young relations but it stresses me out as I have no hand to eye co-ordination.  I can't imagine trying proper golf, let alone watching it.  If you do take it up you immediately lose all your dress sense and start to look like you have stolen your clothes from a dead clown or Rupert Bear.  I once had lunch with the Council of Lloyd's in the eighteenth century Adam Room, which, curiously, tops Richard Roger's construction kit insurance headquarters in the City.  As we were sitting down, Lord somebody or other, who was sat next to me, asked if I played 'goff".  When I said that I didn't he ignored me for the rest of the lunch.  

On the subject of attendance at other sports events, given I used to live in Wimbledon, I did go there for the tennis once (dragged there by a girlfriend) and while I enjoyed the sight of tall, fit looking women in short skirts on court, it is another tedious game and is, basically, sport for girls.




4, Been hunting, shooting or fishing

I don't really approve of bloodsports and anyway it is fabulously expensive.  My particular friend. Sophie, happily blasts away at all sorts of poor wildlife around the world but she is Canadian.  She also doesn't shoot anything she can't eat, which is where I would draw my ethical line.




5 Been to a pop or rock concert

Until I was seventeen the only non classical or jazz records I had were three Beatles records given to me by my aunt when she got married.  Although I have some pop on my iTunes, there is very little past 1985 (and most is sixties).  I never really got the hang of rock because most of it is so musically bankrupt.  I have about 450 rock tracks (out of 24,000) on my iTunes and more than half of that is Mike Oldfield (who I do like).  Again, like sports, I am not into the shared experience thing of going to a concert,  I don't like classical concerts either, mainly because I like to whistle along with the tunes (which is why I don't like Bruckner - it has no tunes).  I have been to three concerts in the last thirty years: Stacey Kent, Clare Teal (both jazz singers) and the Barry Gray concert at the Festival Hall where I got to chat with Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson.

As I get older I am getting more and more resistant to the thump, thump, thump of modern music which seems to pervade Britain.  I am amazed, when watching the Eggheads quiz on TV, how almost none of the contestants can answer basic questions on classical music.  Do they not realise that pop music is all low grade, commercial juvenilia?




6 Been in a helicopter

I have been in far too many aircraft but I have managed to avoid those flying death traps, helicopters.  I nearly went in one once to get from Vancouver to Victoria but I pulled out at the last minute and went in proper plane instead. I will never, ever, go in one of these!




7 Been in a hot air balloon

Flying is awful but sometimes you cannot avoid it but the thought of taking to the air in a piece of eighteenth century technology for recreational purposes (after all you can't go anywhere specific in one) is beyond me,  Oh look, an unexpected power line!




8 Been in a light aircraft

 I turned down a lift in a light aircraft back from St Malo once and I also turned down a flight in a two seater Spitfire, owned by a friend of a relative.  I was almost tempted by this but you know that these pilots who "want to take you for a spin" want to fly upside down and do loops.  The cemeteries of the world are full of light aircraft pilots and their passengers.




9 Ridden a motorbike or scooter

Driving a car on the roads is one of the most dangerous things you do regularly.  So why make it even more dangerous? Added to this, motorbike riders seem to think that the normal rules of the road don't apply to them but always get furious when some poor car driver knocks them off their naturally unstable conveyances, probably because they are trying to do something they shouldn't. 




10  Driven a van

I have more than enough problems driving a car (I hate it) and I probably only do about thirty minutes driving a week, so have very little road sense, can't parallel park and can't back into car park spaces.  Why would you back in anyway?  Surely you want to do the backing into the widest space, i.e, out, not into the narrow space.  It baffles me, this one..  In supermarkets, I always look for those triple slots, where you can leave a car's width on either side.  Trying to do any sort of manoeuvering where you can't see behind you and have a wide vehicle to deal with, as in a van, would be beyond me. 




11 Hired a car

Given my total lack of driving ability I wouldn't dream of hiring a car, which always seems to be an expensive, complex and stressful process anyway, as the rental people always seem to want to tell you that you have nicked the paint so they can charge you extra.  Good job I don't live in America!




12 Smoked a cigarette

Not once.  Ever.  Not even been tempted to try. They are just disgusting.  Sophie has been known to smoke a cigar, occasionally and, oddly, I don't find that smell to be as offensive as cigarette smoke. Wouldn't want to try one, though.  There are enough things that can go wrong with your body without significantly adding to the risk.




13 Taken any illegal drugs

Because they are even worse for you than smoking and also they are illegal.  Where do all these hip and trendy metropolitan people think their drugs come from?    Because, by taking them they are directly supporting organised crime, violence and murder.  Very hip.  Having spent a lot of time in Colombia and seen what the drugs trade did to the ordinary people of the country, this one gets me really cross!





14 Been caving

Recently, a friend went on one of these management team building courses where they had to go into a cave at night. Not a nice, open, hole in a cliff sort of cave but one of those wriggle through a tight gap ones.  I am very claustrophobic (I got about thirty feet into the Great Pyramid once, with a lady and we both looked at each other and bolted for the open air again) so the thought of pot holing terrifies me.  I don't even like watching it on TV.   I asked if anyone had refused to do this and he said no.  I would have refused!




15 Been rock climbing, bungee jumping or abseiling

What do you think?  As you may gather, I am very risk averse (I was in a bad accident when I was small and spent a lot of time in hospital) and anything involving precipitous drops seems idiotic to me.  Some people are thrill seekers and get a "rush" from this sort of thing, I am told.  Many of them are dead. I went ski-ing once but it was cold, wet and dangerous.




16 Been camping

Honestly, I get uncomfortable if I have to drop down to a four star hotel, so the idea of sleeping in a tent seems ghastly. 





17 Been scuba diving

Actually, I have always wanted to try this but I am a poor swimmer and don't like being out of my depth.  Also, it's one of those activities that is more complex and technical than it appears, so my chances of drowning would be quite high!




18 Been white water rafting

Great opportunities for drowning or getting concussion while suffering motion sickness. Horrible!




19 Been on a roller coaster

Recent events at Alton Towers theme parki have shown how dangerous these pointless things are.  I get motion sick on a carousel so the thought of careering around on a vertiginous, narrow track maintained by bored students holds no appeal whatsoever.




20 Been go-karting

I don't like going fast in anything so being close to the ground on a tea tray with a lawnmower engine does not sound very appealing.  It's all a bit corporate team building, too.  I am not a team person!




21 Been paintballing

This also has more than a little of an IT consultants awayday about it.  A young relative used to go sometimes but it doesn't seem like very good value (the pellets are really expensive) and can be painful.




22 Played darts

I would be completely useless at this and as darts seems to be popular in a certain sort of pub it is unlikely I would be found in an environment where it is going on.  I did go ten pin bowling once and a friend has a snooker table but I was as good at both as you would imagine.




23  Stayed in a youth hostel

I didn't go abroad on holiday without my family until I was twenty three and by that time I was earning enough to stay in proper hotels. I do not want to sleep in rooms with strangers, unless they are female and they have asked to be there!  I went on a car ferry to Jersey once and had a shared cabin with a stranger, so I went and slept up on deck.




24 Been to Iceland

Not the shop where third rate celebrities pretend to buy disgusting looking frozen desserts (although I haven't been there since it was called Bejam) but the country.  I haven't been to Cyprus, Bosnia, Montengro, or Macedonia either but the one European country I have no desire to visit is Iceland.  It's basically Mordor. A dark, grim, treeless nation inhabited by puffin eating cod snatchers in dubious sweaters who can't keep their volcanoes, fishermen or investors under control. Britain's new enemy in Europe.  





25 Played poker or bridge

I have no gaming ability whatsoever, so card games are quite beyond me.  I used to play Sooty snap with my cousin's children but I wasn't very good at that either.  I also don't enjoy board games and always lose at them.  




26 Learned to play a musical instrument

I am quite musical (I am told) but don't have the patience to learn a musical instrument   I don't enjoy learning how to do things.  If I can't do something straight away I lose interest. 





27 Ridden a horse

One of the most dangerous pastimes there is. Being in close proximity to large animals makes me very nervous.




28 Owned a pet

I never could understand the appeal of having an animal in the house, which would then die after a few years.  Basically, the only good animal is a cooked one.




29 Sung karaoke

Oh dear, that sounds like IT consultants away day again.  This was arranged for a work Christmas party once, so I didn't go.  You only have to watch the X-Factor to see how many people think they can sing and can't.  Torture!




30 Been to a dance 

A slight rider, here.  I have danced (if you can call it that) on New Years Eve 1975, at Brasenose College Ball in 1980 and in the bar of the Reval Hotel in Lithuania with Swedish Anna (who I had just met) in 2006. I was very drunk on all three occasions. The thought of going somewhere with the sole purpose of dancing would be horrific. I don't enjoy dancing and, am very suspicious of men who do.  As my father used to say: "dancing is for women, children, homosexuals and black people".  Dancing is ridiculous and you look ridiculous doing it unless you are very, very well trained. Although I love Strictly Come Dancing, dancing is, fundamentally, about showing off and there is nothing worse than a show off! Fortunately, dancing in 1975, when I first tentatively did some with a girl called Debbie on New Years Eve, seemed to involve gently jiggling up and down with your arms bent and your hands held up at shoulder level. Then came Saturday Night Fever which encouraged show offs all over the planet and, from then on, made dancing, particularly for men, an embarrassing minefield   I couldn't then (as I still can't) understand why dancing was supposed to be fun; it was totally ghastly.

It is often said (usually by people on Strictly Come Dancing, for example) that anyone can dance but I actually don't agree with this.  I think dancing is an innate ability, like being musical, having ability in languages, being good at maths or drawing. While you can improve a little through teaching, if you don't have that basic ability nothing that anyone does for you can help. It is best just to acknowledge your limitations, therefore! If you are no good at something you should not do it!

So,there are my thirty things in life I have no intention of trying!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The anniversary of the adoption of the Canadian flag





The Canadian national flag is such a well known, iconic symbol that it is surprising to note that it was only officially adopted on 15th February 1965. Designed by George Stanley and based on the flag of the Royal Military College of Canada, it was actually not the favoured one of then Canadian Premier Lester Pearson, who promoted the one below.  The blue colours were a political sop to Quebec (whose flag was blue and white) which was particularly opposed to the continued use of the British red ensign (most of the rest of Canada was happy to continue using a flag with the Union flag in one corner as Australia and New Zealand did).




Pearson's choice, designed by Alan Beddoe,doesn't have anything like the impact of the winning one but Pearson, in  a minority government was trying to keep Quebec happy. 


Canada's flag until 1965


As our regular readers know Triple P has a strong affinity with Canada and has to congratulate them on selecting such and excellent flag 52 years ago today.



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Happy Birthday to me (and Rachel Riley)!







 It is Agent Triple P's birthday today so we need no excuse to post some more pictures of one of the few famous (at least in Britain) people also born on January 11th.




We wonder what particular aspect of pert TV quiz Countdown numbers whizz and science presenter Rachel Riley we respond to?




We last gazed, raptly, upon Miss Riley's derriere when she was in the 2013 series of Strictly Come Dancing. Going out in week six, as she really had no dancing skills whatsoever (a state of affairs I have a great deal of sympathy with), viewers were stunned to learn that the 'Curse of Strictly' had struck again.




This is an observable phenomenon where celebrity dancers on Strictly either break up with their existing partners while on the show or hook up with their professional partner romantically (or both).  After she left the show (and her husband (first, she claims)) Rachel started an affair with her professional dance partner Pasha Kovalev.  




They are still together, although what Oxford Maths graduate Rachel and Siberian born dancer Pasha find to talk about is intriguing.  She is currently learning Russian so she can talk to his family. 




What is Russian for 'bend over', I wonder?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Jessica Ennis-Hill annunces retirement




We need no excuse to post pictures of the lovely Jessica Ennis-Hill, who announced her retirement from athletics yesterday. In 2012, as the poster girl of the London Olympics, she was hugely visible in the media yet, despite this enormous weight of expectation, went on to take the gold medal in the heptathlon.






She just missed out in Rio, taking a silver, having taken time out to have a baby but, at the age of thirty, it will be nice for her to stop the punishing training for this multi-event discipline.




Although we enjoy shots of her displaying her iconic abdomen and pert derriere, this shot of her as an Amazonian Britannia is really stunning.