The Plastic Hippo

August 30, 2012

Impeccable

Filed under: Education,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 12:03 pm


It is a rare occasion when this humble blog agrees with anything that the Leader of Walsall Council says. However, exceptions make rules and, for once, Mike Bird had uttered something that is correct.

Commenting on the appointment of a new Executive Director for Children`s Services, he said:
“One of the most difficult, onerous and specialist roles at any council is the head of children`s services.”
Spot on there, Mike. Not a lot gets past councillor Bird. Sadly, the member for Pheasey Park Farm soon reverted to the default position of talking nonsense. In another exception that proves the rule, the woeful Express and Star seems to have done some actual investigative journalism and turned up the remuneration package for the incoming head honcho. The E&S however, seem to have lifted a ghastly and rather frightening photograph from a Kent news website. “Council boss costing £1000 a day” screamed the lurid front page headline. When asked to justify this expense, the mathematically challenged councillor Bird said:

“Very few people have the highly-demanding skills needed for the post which in Walsall sees a responsibility for 250 who have child protection plans and 520 children in care and as a result payments of £1,200 a day are common.”

“We have negotiated a daily charge of £974 of which £224 is paid to the agency who provided the successful candidate. We realise all very well these are big sums to the person in the street but we must point to the risks if things go wrong.”

If it were not for the fact that the lives and futures of vulnerable children were at stake, this utter drivel would be hilarious. It is difficult to know where to start with this total buffoon. Perhaps the leader of the council, a man who twice attempted to increase his own council allowance by claiming that he worked 365 24/7, is suggesting the new Executive Director will take direct control of the 770 cases he has mentioned. At less than two pounds, per day, per child, this seems excellent value for money even before we consider the responsibility for schools, adoption, fostering, youth provision, physical and learning disabilities and, say it softly, safeguarding. Okay, forget about responsibility for schools. As Academy status is forced upon schools and therefore no longer under the control of the local authority, the considerable work load is significantly reduced.

Our glorious leader seems rather triumphant at negotiating such a reasonably daily rate but this suggests a contract similar to a supply teacher brought in to cover illness. Has such an important post been contracted on a daily basis and does paying £224 every day to an agency represent value for money? It is very kind of Walsall`s answer to Carol Vorderman to inform the person in the street of the nature of big sums but most of us are aware of the highest council tax bills in the region, the missing receipts that cost us millions and the very big sums in out of court settlements for wrongful dismissal of council staff. For 1,200 quid a day you could hire Kate Middleton to turn on the Christmas lights or persuade ABBA to reform and do a gig on the Arboretum band stand. In terms of the risks if things go wrong; hey Mike, things have gone wrong, very, very wrong.

Outgoing Executive Director Pauline Pilkington was awarded an MBE in the 2010 New Year’s honours list but a visit by Ofsted led to her resignation in late July because safeguarding in Walsall was judged to be inadequate. There was much wailing of Ofsted being unfair coming from the idiots around the Walsall cabinet table which seems just a little ironic when these same incompetents pounced on schools that Ofsted had unfairly judged to be failing. Schools became Academies without adequate consultation or, in some cases, the support or agreement of parents, pupils or staff. Those that live by the sword usually die by the sword but in Walsall, the cabinet member with responsibility for children and young people remains in place and continues to receive her cabinet allowance.

And so we welcome to the politically toxic Borough of Walsall a Ms Rose Collinson as new Executive Director and, hopefully, the saviour of our children. Having been again out foxed by the dreadful E&S, the council rushed out a rather bizarre press release to announce the appointment. The PR informs us that the former Director of Children`s and Adults Services at Medway Council has “an impressive track record of achievement” and went on to report that she “has built a reputation for transforming poorly performing children and adult services into units which deliver and sustain significant efficiencies”. The words “significant efficiencies” will strike terror in the hearts of parents, teachers and social workers and the lady herself is quoted as saying: “My focus is to ensure that staff, partners and stakeholders achieve the very best for our children, families and adults while progressing service value.” It seems that “progressing service value” is as much a priority as vulnerable children. Splendid, what could possibly go wrong? It might be worth taking a look at the impressive track record of Ms Collinson.

It appears that she joined Medway Council when it was formed in 1998 and became director in 2006. She resigned from her post in March of this year. No reason was given but during her employment there, she faced some challenging issues, not least a complete shambles over selection examinations known as the Medway Test, an increase in the number of Medway Primary Schools being judged as inadequate, controversial Academy conversions and the resignations of Head Teachers and other senior staff. In September 2009 she incurred the wrath of local Conservative MP Mark Reckless (oh if only his first name was Eric) who suggested that she misled the Conservative cabinet of Medway Council regarding the closure of two primary schools. Prior to her departure earlier this year, a petition calling for her resignation and that of the cabinet portfolio holder due to incompetence, school closures and failings at a number of primary schools was offered to the local Ombudsman. Due to an increase in the number of primary aged children, Medway Council has had to commission the building of a new primary school. Here in Walsall, councillor Bird has stated that “her track record is impeccable”.

Interestingly, Medway Council is also welcoming a new director this September. She is a Ms Barbara Peacock, formerly of Sandwell Council and has also been described as having “an impeccable pedigree”. Perhaps Ms Pilkington MBE should apply for the vacant post in Sandwell by highlighting her impeccable record in Walsall. At this point, perhaps we should pause for a lesson in English. For the benefit of councillor Bird and the chief executive at Medway, “impeccable” means without flaws or error; perfect, faultless and incapable of sin or wrongdoing.

Perhaps we should end with a lesson in mathematics in the hope that councillor Bird has the ability to understand big sums. Last year, outgoing Pauline Pilkington received an annual salary of £114,328. During her time in Medway, Rose Collinson was paid £121,000 every year but now she will receive about £170,000 of Walsall tax payer money every 12 months. Are you keeping up, Mike? Add to this another £50,000 paid to the mysterious agency that found this angel of mercy and you are looking at about seven fully qualified, experienced social workers who do not have “significant efficiencies” or “service value” as part of their job description but would rather concentrate on the safeguarding and protection of children.

As a reward for failure, Ms Pilkington received a performance related bonus of £5,739, expenses amounting to £2,670 and a further contribution of £14,360 from the people of Walsall to her pension pot.

Goodbye Pauline, hello Rose; you will find the axe under your desk. It must be a great feeling being impeccable.

August 28, 2012

Welcome to the pleasure dome

Filed under: Fiction — theplastichippo @ 11:12 pm


Look, some of these fancy overseas holidays are frankly over-rated. Instead of propping up failing economies with our hard earned Euros, we should stay at home and buy British.

The promise of continuous warm sunshine, white sand beaches, azure blue seas, friendly natives, inexpensive delicious food and plenty of affordable local booze might be tempting to the unpatriotic naysayers who continually run down our wonderful country, but these easy pleasures become tedious compared to the delights of an English summer. A holiday suggestion of a walking tour of Walsall`s lost architectural heritage and perhaps a picnic with some of the delightful characters that congregate outside the fine hostelries in the town centre was rejected and we ended up joining the common herd heading abroad.

Leaving home, even if only for a short period, can be a bit of a worry. People beyond our borders are different and difficult to understand. So it was with some trepidation that we journeyed by taxi to Birmingham International Airport. Our charming driver respected our privacy by only speaking to ask for a pound coin when we arrived at the airport. This was for the “drop and go” area which would allow him to stop for 30 seconds to allow us to alight in the same metropolitan borough as the departure terminal. With the entrepreneurial spirit that made Britain great, he spoke again to ask for the return fare in advance. We, of course, were happy to pay for the guarantee of being picked up on our return and were impressed that the hard-working driver was so busy and popular that he started to leave for his next job before we had informed him of our return flight number and arrival time. We wrote down the information and it gave us confidence that he found it important enough to place it in the glove compartment along with a number of fixed penalty notices.

Finally in the queue for flight check-in, we savoured the last moments in England. Birmingham International Airport is certainly the finest transport hub ever conceived and is possibly the most sublimely beautiful building ever constructed on this or any other planet. With breathe-taking perfection of form and functionality, this palace is worthy of Xanadu or Elysium. We were delighted when the departure board indicated a two hour delay to our flight meaning that we could linger and enjoy this earthly paradise for longer than expected.

Making our way “air-side”, a series of holographic images of a woman issued helpful instructions regarding the disposal of liquids and the purchase of plastic bags. Real men and women issued further instructions and because of the general hubbub, were forced to shout but added an endearing “guys” at the end of each barked order so as not to sound too offensive. “Keep moving, keep moving…guys” appeared to be a favourite along with “this line, this line… guys. Keep moving”. Ranks of plastic bag vending machines offered complete protection to the safety of our borders at a mere pound a pair and bins had been thoughtfully provided for the disposal of bottled water, sun block, shampoo and other liquids in quantities more than 100 mil. In the interest of national security, we would have the opportunity to purchase these items beyond in the fabulous boutiques in the departure lounge for twice or three times the price.

Having enjoyed the professional and efficient service offered by the UK Border Agency, we passed uniformed men reassuringly armed to the teeth protecting sumptuous displays of “irresistible and essential international fragrances” costing more than the return taxi fare. Having to negotiate a path that meandered and weaved around the glass cases placed conveniently and directly between security control and the access to the aeroplanes resulted in an urge to buy something, anything that was both expensive and useless. Rationality returned with the realisation that a thimbleful of unicorn perspiration was free of duty and would not attract income to the exchequer. It would be far more patriotic to buy the irresistible and essential fragrance upon our return and in so doing pay our duty of taxation.

There can be no finer experience than spending three hours in the departure lounge at Birmingham International Airport. The shops were full of treasures and the airport operators have thought of everything to delight even the most experienced of travellers. They have even catered for the vilest of social pariahs by providing a smoking area adjacent to a charming drinking establishment. At the door to the leper colony, a helpful notice informed nicotine addicts that the security code required to open the door could be obtained by making a purchase at the bar. The perfect way to stimulate growth in the economy is to charge a smoker twice the price for a beer in order for the smoker to smoke more cigarettes. On the way back, a fifth invitation to spend £10 on a raffle ticket to win a sports car was for the fifth time politely declined. The idea was attractive but as the car had been manufactured overseas, the purchase would benefit the economy of Bavaria rather than that of Castle Bromwich or, indeed, India. At last, the flight was called and armed with the most expensive bag of crisps in the known universe, we left this sceptred isle.

As for the holiday? Yeah, well. It was fine if you like that sort of thing.

After days and days and days by and in the pool, on the beach or in the sea and nights inside tavernas or watching the moon and stars, we eagerly awaited our return to England. Imagine our delight as the coach arrived to transfer us to our departure airport and our joy at being told to hurry up in a Lancashire accent by a holiday rep we had never seen before. At the airport, she told us to join the queue outside the terminal building and disappeared.

After half an hour in the midday sun the queue had not moved and the children were becoming irritable. A search party was organised to gather information, the rep was found and firmly told us to return to the queue. After an hour, the queue had not moved and an elderly woman became quite distressed. Another search party was dispatched and this time the rep did not hide her irritation with her inquisitors. After an hour and a half the queue had still not moved yet the departure board was displaying two check-in desks open for our flight. A third search party discovered that the rep had left the airport with a coach load of incoming tourists. A quick conversation with a Greek airport official resulted in us being rushed straight inside to check-in; offered water, prioritised through security and into the air-conditioned departure lounge with every local airport worker we encountered offering profuse apologies. Another example, perhaps, of indolent southern European workers ruining the profits of our banks. The letter to the holiday company regarding the lassie from Lancashire had been composed before the aircraft doors had been closed.

Clear skies gave us views of Venice, the Alps and the Rhine valley and a tail wind would return us to the bosom of Birmingham International Airport 15 minutes early. A thick unbroken wall of grey cloud marked the English coast and a welcome home. Descending into drizzle, the cloud remained unbroken until, after being stacked over Kingstanding, we plopped out at about 2000 feet and to the east of Spaghetti Junction. Aston looked glorious in the rain.

Safely inside the terminal, the queues for e-passport machines were longer than the queues for the lovely human passport control as the machines seemed to be broken so we decided to once again enjoy the good-natured bonhomie of the UK Border Agency. A very nice man directed our party to different desks and after explaining that we were all together said: “Desk A, Sir, now. Next person, desk J, now.” At least we were now sirs and not guys.
Desk A was nearest to the exit, which was nice. Desk J was not. Apparently Mrs Hippo was asked if our son was our grandson, which caused some delay. Back at Desk A, another nice man in a nice suit said: “Move beyond the exit doors, Sir.” An explanation that we were a family resulted in: “Move beyond the exit doors, Sir. Now.” A hand gesture waved toward the delayed family accompanied by a shrug and a quizzical expression gave this protector of homeland security a very good reason to reach for his radio and ask for security to attend passport control. It is heartening to know that we are so well protected.
Safely reunited and avoiding being shot dead, we hugely enjoyed an entire game of travel Monopoly whilst waiting for the baggage to arrive. The new grandson was victorious using a strategy that bought all four stations and the utility companies. At the end, a hotel on Mayfair was worthless. Suitcases reclaimed, we ventured out through the last chance winding path of irresistible and essential fragrances to meet our taxi driver. Scanning the little hand written signs at arrivals, he was nowhere to be seen. We telephoned. “Ah yes”, said the voice, “he`ll be with you in a couple of minutes.” Six hours earlier we stood outside an airport terminal in temperatures of 30 degrees plus. Now we stood for an hour outside an airport terminal for an hour in cold pouring rain. It was so good to be home.

We had kept in reserve a pound coin for the wonderful “drop and go” facility and travelled with increasing joy through the M6 road works and the rain. Arriving home, the driver demanded payment and hungry children demanded fish and chips. The driver was to be disappointed, but not as disappointed as the hungry children.

Being a Bank Holiday Monday in Walsall, the local fish and chip shop was closed. It is great to know that our British economy is so much healthier than that of some failing nation like Greece. Better not tell that to the couple who ran our regular and favourite family taverna where we enjoyed our final evening meal. When the settlement came for this last repast, the bill did not include the meals for the children. We questioned this mistake, of course, but Leo said that Greeks do not make mistakes.

“Leave now, Sir” he said. “Leave now, and come back.”

August 20, 2012

Leaving on a jet plane

Filed under: World — theplastichippo @ 1:03 pm

The taxi`s waiting, he`s blowing his horn. With grey skies over Walsall, we are out of here. Tomorrow will watch the sun rise over Albania and will cool our feet in the Adriatic.

With United Kingdom government ministers locked in a deadly contest to see who is the most corrupt or the most incompetent, any relief from the madness, however brief, is most welcome. The calculated destruction of all that made this country great is an act of vandalism that is hard to bear and a week away from the carnage can only be considered as respite care. So, we will spend our Euros in Greece and hope and pray that our wretched coalition government falls apart whilst we are away. Sadly, the alternative does not look too promising.

Have a good week, I shall be in denial and thinking only of the price of Amstel and Ouzo. Ya su, kalispera.

August 19, 2012

White riot

Filed under: Music,Politics,Rights,Society,World — theplastichippo @ 7:00 pm

Punk is a musical genre that mostly past this humble correspondent by. With formative years spent listening to Pink Floyd, Hendrix and King Crimson, a three power chord trick with lots of gobbing was, frankly, of little interest.

Peer pressure, however, resulted in an undergraduate hippo being dragged against his will to see an up and coming beat combo known as The Clash who performed at the student union in 1977. The gig was awful, but the realisation that writing skill and musicianship was now secondary to the outpouring of incandescent rage proved to be as significant as the two previously sensible female house mates attending the gig wearing only bin liners, garish make-up and a terms student grants worth of hairspray. Memories of that far off night and its slightly disturbing eroticism were recalled upon hearing Fiona Bruce utter the words “pussy riot” on the BBC 10 o`clock news. The fragrant Fiona, who herself once sang in a punk band, toned down the usual pouting and CTB eyes and reported on the importance of freedom of speech.

The “performance” by Pussy Riot staged at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow was blatantly offensive and not just to members of the Russian Orthodox Church. Obscene language and potential blasphemy might be possible to forgive but their “prayer” to the Virgin Mary imploring her to remove President Putin was musically dire even if the sentiment was honourable. Being caught red handed in possession of limited musical ability does not, however, warrant a two year custodial sentence and Vladimir seems keen to squash even the most basic forms of dissent and criticism. Who could have foreseen that the Russian Federation would be ruled by an individual with vast personal wealth and power prepared to consign people to prison who are found guilty of having an opposing view? Perhaps we will see the return of padlocks on the decanter, alarms on the samovar and Uncle Joe Stalin making a comeback by playing the V Festival next year.

Central to introducing gulags for the Facebook generation is the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Kirill, who, in the midst of accusations of vote rigging, described the election of Putin as “a miracle of God” and is also alleged to have made bundle on importing duty free cigarettes disguised as humanitarian aid. This man of God described the three convicted women as “doing the work of Satan” and helpfully added that a “liberal society will lead to legal chaos and then the apocalypse”. It is worth remembering that this chap had a very expensive Swiss watch immaculately air brushed from his wrist but not its reflection in the photograph on his official website and is suspected of having very close links to the KGB during the Soviet era.

Liberal societies across the world were swift in their condemnation of the conviction and politicians and celebrities leapt to the defence of the punk band. The US State Department said it was concerned over the verdict but made no comment regarding the fate of Bradley Manning. Here in the UK, Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said without any trace of irony: “I am deeply concerned by the sentencing of three members of the band Pussy Riot, which can only be considered a disproportionate response to an expression of political belief.” He offered no comment regarding the Twitter joke trial, the Simon Walsh trial, the Tommy Sheridan trial or the upcoming litigation regarding Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. Madonna expressed her support for the band and was promptly accused of being a whore by the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and is now being sued for millions by some crackpots who accuse her of encouraging children to take up homosexuality. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O`Brien does not appear to have made any comment regarding Pussy Riot. This silence is characteristic as he has now decided not to talk to the Scottish government because he objects to the notion of same-sex marriages. Perhaps the cardinal agrees with the Russian Orthodox Church in believing that feminism and the freedom to love another human being regardless of their gender is an abomination and the work of the devil. The cardinal should remember that it is not just Julian Assange that is accused of sexual misdemeanours and, if the charges against the Wikileaks founder prove to be true, his alleged victims were adults and not, as in the case of the clergy, children.

Faith, of whatever variety, cannot be underestimated and hooliganism motivated by religious hatred is a serious offense. Imagine if you will, some morons from the EDL working out how to plug in an electric guitar and then bellow their hatred in a mosque. As Dobby the house elf said, if Pussy Riot had attempted their stunt in certain places of worship in the Caucuses, they would not have got out alive and this is the significant point. If organised religion is strong, why does it feel threatened by three young mediocre female punk musicians, a man wanting to share his life with another man, a woman who does not wish to be beaten about and forced into subjugation or the questioning of texts written thousands of years purporting to be the undiluted words of God? As the only evidence of the existence of a supreme deity is the testimony of those that believe in the existence of a supreme deity, theism has to sadly remain a theory and not fact. As organised religion continues to oppress, abuse and, in some cases, stone, mutilate and publicly execute anyone that questions the interpretations of old men with scary beards, the idea that a rather poor punk band is about to destroy the legacy of Abraham is preposterous. The church, in all its corrupt manifestations, is killing itself.

Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevitch might not be very good musicians but they are young and have the potential to improve. Sadly, it is difficult to say the same regarding organised religion. If there is a heaven, imagine recently dead clerics arriving at the pearly gates only to be turned away with the sad realisation that Pussy Riot are the house band at Saint Peter`s bar and grill.

Nostrovia or, put more correctly, Na Zdorovie.

August 15, 2012

Boris the spider

Filed under: Literature,Music,Politics,Sport — theplastichippo @ 1:00 am

It is not clear who first suggested that any publicity is good publicity but we can assume the phrase is derived from the Oscar Wilde aphorism “There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about”. Mayor of London Boris Johnson is clearly familiar with the works of Wilde.

There is a certain amount of skill involved in playing the fool and this country enjoys a long tradition of clever people pretending to be idiots. Along with Feste, Malvolio and Bottom, the performance of the Mayor of London would grace a comedy worthy of Shakespeare or, more appropriately, in the role of Algernon Moncrieff in The Importance of Being Earnest. As an upper class twit blessed with the arrogance that only privilege can provide, Boris plays the part rather well.

It would be a mistake to dismiss the studied buffoonery of appearances on Have I Got News for You and countless toe-curling photo opportunities as the actions of an imbecile; Boris is a very shrewd politician. Mercifully, the closing ceremony of the recent sports fest only required the Mayor to do some Dad dancing to the Spice Girls, wave a flag and then pass it on. The thought of him actually being allowed to speak to a global television audience must have sent a shudder down the spines of those that believe Britain`s reputation has been enhanced during the last two weeks and it was left to the closing ceremony organisers to offer a suitably embarrassing counterpoint to the opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony offered the delicious prospect of an unmitigated disaster but instead delivered a triumph, much the chagrin of curmudgeon cynics including your humble correspondent. The closing ceremony offered the prospect of a triumph but instead delivered not so much a disaster, more of a celebration of the bland and the inconsequential. As life imitates art, gone were the NHS volunteers who danced the demons and child catchers off the stage, only to be replaced by fashion models, huge egos and manufactured celebrities devoid of any actual talent. It is certain that the world will cherish the image of the Spice Girls, Take That and a group of young men apparently called One Direction lip syncing to formula pop. A scantily clad item kept turning up to deliver some annoying urban yodelling and claimed it was not about the money as she was driven around in the back of a very expensive motor car.

A self-confessed recovering drug addict celebrated the noble British tradition of substance abuse and a man who resembled a bloke who works at a builders` merchant attempted to recreate something called a rave. Russell Brand`s long awaited rehabilitation into civilised society suffered a setback after his rather good trouncing of a barking mad bigot earlier in the week on Newsnight and the fact that Fat Boy Slim is not fat, slim or a boy sums up the message that Britain was sending to the world. Whoever decided that booking Muse for the gig really needs a good talking to. They were reminiscent of a bunch of fourteen year olds who, after two weeks of practice in Dad`s garage, were unleashed in the upstairs room of a back street pub on a Monday night and allowed to turn the amps up to five.

Sadly, the two best performances of the night came from people who are dead. Freddie Mercury rose from the grave and led an audience response. By the end of the evening he probably rose again to strangle the scantily clad urban yodeller who destroyed We Will Rock You. After 32 years, the ghost of John Lennon was evoked to ask us to imagine no countries, no religion and no possessions. That would make staging the next Olympics difficult, might upset the athletes who thanked God for their performances and try prying the medals out of the grasp of the winners.

Perhaps the most subversive act of the evening, apart from Del Boy dressed as Batman confusing the living daylights out of overseas commentators, was Eric Idle. You must remember him, he`s the Python that wanted to be a rock star and make lots of money. The performance of Always Look On the Bright Side of Life was layered with more irony than a Conservative Liberal Democrat lasagne served up with partisan cheese. The anthem that encourages us to be cheerful in the face of a brutal, oppressive regime in the act of crucifying dissenters and the innocent was absolute gold dust. As a bonus, we had “Indian dancing” and Idle proclaiming that “life`s a piece of shit”.

Two days earlier, when asked about sport in schools, the oaf Cameron got suckered into one almighty blunder by suggesting that competitive sport in schools had been replaced with “Indian dancing” without offering any evidence of this ludicrous claim. Boris the spider was making his move. Clearly, someone in the Prime Minister`s communications teams had knowledge of the content of the closing ceremony and would like to help Boris become Prime Minister. The briefing that Cameron received would have focused on competitiveness, ambition and dedication. Mentioning “Indian dancing” would appeal to the racist underbelly of Daily Mail readers and the fossils that inhabit the Tory back benches. Dave obviously did not know that “Indian dancing” would feature in the closing ceremony and was totally stitched up by Tory apparatchiks who see a popular Boris as a better bet for survival than a hopeless, doomed Cameron. The gloves, as they say, are now off.

The Mayor of London, addicted to the cult of personality, has seen his big chance. He has already exploited the success of the games for his own political ambition and has conveniently forgotten that the whole extravaganza was secured and financed by a former Mayor and a former government. His role was an easy one; evict the poor, militarise London, pay the bribes and invite Rupert Murdoch to support him in his bid to take over the world. Perhaps the majority of British people would prefer to see Murdoch returned to these shores handcuffed and in an orange boiler suit, but Boris decided to invite the dirty digger to the games as his personal VIP guest. He justified this largesse by saying:
“There`s a sort of demonisation of Rupert Murdoch who, as far as I understand it, is not a proscribed character, he`s not a convicted criminal. He`s not even under any criminal investigation.”

Boris Johnson, who once described allegations of phone hacking at News International as “codswallop”, has a role overseeing the Metropolitan Police. When the Met, clearly on the back foot, wished to press charges of “corporate offences” against the Murdoch Empire, quiet words were had and such a ridiculous affront to a respected greedy bastard went the way of a medal prospect for the Libyan ice hockey team. Rupert now likes Boris and Rupert does not like Dave. Sport is a great leveller and who can forget this wonderful quote from Boris Johnson when advocating the appeal of the games:
“There are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters.”

That is disturbing on so many levels.

The closing ceremony was concluded by The Who, arguably one of the best live bands ever (I`ve seen them six times since 1971) and a firework display. Even that was a disappointment worthy of a bronze medallist weeping at “letting everybody down”. Townshend and Daltrey, now approaching their respective seventieth years, sang of hoping to die before they get old and, for some reason, decided to change the “only teenage wasteland” lyric to “more than teenage wasteland”. The Who, in happier times, have sold out once before with their wonderfully ironic 1967 album The Who Sell Out and this particular fan of Mr Townshend was willing him to conclude the spectacle with Won`t Get Fooled Again. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Sadly, this was not to be.

On reflection, perhaps they should have ended the gig with this:

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