And so a dream dies.
Wales’ hopes of winning three consecutive Six Nations Championships came crashing down courtesy of a 29-18 defeat at the hands of the English.
In all fairness, an impressive England side thoroughly deserved their win and players like Mike Brown, Luther Burrell, Danny Care and Courtney Lawes put in solid performances. England sealed a Triple Crown victory (beating the other three “home nations”- Wales, Ireland and Scotland) which comes courtesy of a competent, attacking team, who showed some great vision in the Wales match,
That being said, they did get a lot of help from a Welsh side that gave “sloppy” a bad name.
The boys never really looked like a genuine threat and there were far too many handling errors on display, which meant even our half-attacks stalled.
George North, aside from a few flashes was nullified by the English defence, and Taulupe Faletau was anonymous for the first half. Others fared slightly better although Gethin Jenkins suffered from seemingly being singled out by the referee (more on him later) to the extent that when his 10 minutes in the bin were up he opted not to return to the field.
The only performance in a red shirt deserving of real praise was Leigh Halfpenny, who’s sensational kicking earned all of the Welsh points. Unfortunately after making a try-saving tackle Halfpenny was forced to retire from the game and is now said to be out for the rest of the season, and means someone will have to fill his rather big boots next weekend.
Although Wales were weak around the park, the worst performance came from number 10 Rhys Priestland, who’s kicking from the hand was woeful. I’ve never been a massive fan of Priestland, who even at his best is merely passable. He impressed against the Italians, but he was terrible against the Irish and in the defeat of the French I struggle to remember him doing much. Against England he fell apart.
The frustrating thing about the Priestland situation is that Wales have two possible replacements- James Hook or Dan Biggar, who did come on after an hour of play, but who should have been called off the bench sooner. Changing the line-up clearly isn’t an issue for the coaching staff after they dropped Mike Phillips after his tantrum against the Irish. In my opinion Biggar should start against the Scots, he’s a solid player at 10 and a more robust player than Priestland, who sometimes looks terrified of taking a hit. His kicking is less erratic and also, I get a personal buzz from seeing him in the red jersey because in my past life as a sports commentator I was calling for him to join the Wales squad back in ’09, so whenever he does play I feel smug.
Watching the Wales game was immensely frustrating, not least because I did it with my English flatmates. Wales’ performance was so bad that I was almost as embarrassed by them as I am by these chumps:
Adding further irritation were the antics of referee Roman Poite, who sin binned Gethin Jenkins around 10 minutes into the second half having seemingly been singled out by the ref. I appreciate that this sounds like Welsh fan whinging, but that’s genuinely how it seemed, but the worst thing was that twice Poite called for the TMO (Television Match Official) and then appeared to not listen to their recommendations. That being said, he’s still not my least favourite referee, lagging behind Alain Rolland and Joel Jutge.
It’s now a three horse race for the title, after France and Ireland picked up the expected victories over Scotland and Italy respectively. With three teams tied on 6 points the France vs Ireland match looks set to be the decider.
I’d say Ireland are favourites at the moment, because after thumping the Italians 46-7 they now boast an 81 point advantage, so any victory against France will gift them the win, unless England win in Rome by more than 50 points. England should win, and that will be enough to place them in second place at least, but even away from home I think Ireland can edge out the French and take the prize, hopefully allowing Wales to finish third.
And if I’m being honest, an Ireland victory is the outcome I want the most- the French have been inconsistent and I can’t bear to think of the smug chorus of “Swing Low” that will echo around if England win, so next weekend, I’ll be cheering on Ireland.
Round 5 predictions: Victories for England, Ireland and Wales (current score 8/12)
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Having been impressed with John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars I’ve been keen to check out some of his other work and so last month I picked up a copy of this, his second novel.
The story concerns seventeen year old Colin, a 17 year old former child prodigy who is starting to realize that he might never have a “eureka moment”- something that matters. Due to head for college after the summer Colin is in a funk, having been left heartbroken by being dumped, for the nineteenth time, all of which have been done by girls named Katherine.
Colin’s summer seems planned out, with his father keen for him to do extracurricular activities and more learning, but plans change when Colin’s slacker best friend, Hassan, suggests a road trip. The duo convince their parents to allow them to go and hit the road. Winding up in a small Tennessee town named Gutshot.
They land a job documenting the locals’ oral histories for Hollis’ the owner of the local factory, and Colin believes he has found his eureka moment- a mathematical equation that explains why his relationships with the Katherine’s have failed. And which may allow him to predict how any relationship will pan out.
As the summer progresses Colin works on his theory while his boss’ daughter Lindsey tries to teach him how to tell a decent story without getting lost on a pointless tangent, of which Colin’s stories, and the novel itself, are full of. He also has to think about what he wants from life and his friendship with Hassan comes under pressure when Hassan starts dating a girl. Can their friendship change? Will his theory work and could that win the 19th Katherine back?
One of the quirky things about this book is that, unusually for a novel, it has foot notes. These include random facts associated with things characters mention, Venn diagrams and anagrams, which Colin, the socially awkward hero loves. The novel is told, third person, from Colin’s viewpoint, meaning we get all these obscure factoids thrown in, breaking up the flow, the same thing that Lindsey criticizes him for, which I thought was a nice touch.
Green’s writing is brilliant, extremely clever and filled with wit it had me smiling to myself frequently. The story unfolds in a slightly predictable way, but the road to the ending is still worth taking and enjoyable. Green’s writing may not be accurate of real teenage speak, but so what? It’s got real spark and the dialogue features some wonderful moments.
It doesn’t quite match TFIOS because the story doesn’t have the emotional power of that book, but it never tries to, in fact it instead focuses on smaller, more internal problems- insecurity, fear of the future and teenage self pity. Colin could have come off terribly, but Green keeps us on side, even when he exasperates the reader. It’s definitely worth a read, and I gotta admit I’m slightly peeved at today’s young adults for having a writer like Green on the scene (I will be checking out more of his stuff).
Verdict: A well written and entertaining novel that uses it’s narrator to spin off in weird tangents. The plot is at times predictable and it can’t match Green’s third book, but it’s still extremely funny in places and chock full of nice touches. Green manages to take an odd, emotionally stunted protagonist and get the reader to engage with them fully. 7.5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Well, my Lent isn’t going amazingly.
I’m not religious, but I always try to give up something for Lent, mainly for my own reasons. This year I was planning to give up chocolates and sweets, because I’ve been less healthy since coming back to uni and I want to shift some weight. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but I could stand to cut them out.
Today however, two days into Lent, I cracked. Well, technically I forgot it was Lent, like I said, I’m not religious, and I was offered Cadbury’s Roses, which are like the nicest chocolates.
I was offered them by one of the women in the office I was in today. I’m out on placement, and while I’m mainly in one place, I’ve had days like today where I’ve gone to other places to get more experience of the services on offer.
Anyway, the woman who had the chocolates offered me one and I took one, and it being early March I asked her if they’d been a Valentine’s Day present.
I should have just kept my dumb mouth shut because she just replied with “No, nobody loves me enough to give me Valentine’s”.
I think she was joking but it still made me feel like six feet of crap. I didn’t know whether I should apologize or say something, anything to break the moment and so the awkwardness just hung over us like an uncomfortable cloud.
And then she smiled at me and asked “Did you get many Valentine’s this year?”
It was probably just making conversation, and I may just be being paranoid but I got the sense that she knew, or at least thought she knew what the answer was going to be. I could’ve lied but I was still embarrassed/awkward and so just confirmed that I had received nothing.
So what I learned today was basically- just take the chocolate, say “thank you” and then shut the hell up.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Today I had one of those moments of sheer joy and luck, where random chance lets something good land in your lap.
I’ve spoken before about walking around looking for money on the floor, and how you never seem to find it when you’re looking but will occasionally stumble on some when you’re not.
I was walking home from work when I saw something out of the corner of my eye.
A five pound note.
I glanced around, nobody was looking about on the floor or walking away, and so, in line with my rules (see above link) I was entitled to keep it. This left me with a big goofy grin on my face and I quickly used my new found wealth to hit Tesco on the way home and pick up supplies.
Of course, slightly tempering my joy was the fact that I didn’t feel truly comfortable until after I’d washed my hands and also the fact that I knew that somebody had lost out so that I could benefit. I’m hoping whoever lost it wasn’t extremely hard up and part of me hopes that it was some extremely rich person for whom a fiver is nothing. Or someone shady like an embezzler or a drug dealer.
But of course, it rains on the just as well as the unjust, and it was probably some average Joe on their way home from work or out shopping.
This sours it slightly and it’s times like this that I wish I believed in karma and could hold to the hope that it’ll all balance out in the end.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
One of my favourite books that I read last year was The Psychopath Test, and so I was keen to check out more of Jon Ronson’s stuff so I snapped this up eagerly when I saw it in HMV especially as it dealt with conspiracy theories, which is something that interests me despite the fact they mainly baffle me.
Ronson spends times with Islamic fundamentalists, separatists, the KKK and others who are convinced that the world is ruled by a group of shadowy figures who meet in secret to decide the future of the world. Ronson writes in a wonderful manner which recognizes and relishes the absurdity of some of the theories he encounters, but at the same time he finds himself getting sucked into it.
He worries he’s being followed while on the trail of the Bilderberg group in Portugal and goes to investigate the mysterious “owl ceremony” held annually by the great and good believed to be at the centre of the conspiracy.
Ronson’s writing zips along with wit and energy, and while he clearly despairs and loses patience with some of his subjects he’s never overly harsh on them and it’s often their own flaws that prove their undoing. In fact he even deals with some of them with an odd affection, they may hold ridiculous beliefs, some even offensive ones, but Ronson warms to them, there’s sympathy for these outsiders throughout, with the barbs only reserved for the truly odious.
As expected some of the characters he meets along the way are oddballs, from the temperamental and insensitive Ian Paisley who he finds preaching in self-imposed exile in Cameroon to David Icke and his theories of reptilian overlords.
All may agree that someone is pulling the strings behind the scenes, but they argue over who- space lizards, the Catholics, the Jews, big business. The Anti-Defamation League contends that most are blaming the Jews through the use of code words and while the “international bankers” as code kinda works I get the impression that Icke genuinely believes it’s space lizards.
Ronson sketches the players well, showing great insight into those he meets and little moments that show their flaws, failings and real feelings. It’s an interesting insight into prejudice, paranoia and conspiracy theroies which kept me entertained throughout.
Verdict: An entertaining and engaging look into the different theories of who rules the world. Ronson’s writing is light and easy, but gifted with wit and insight. Definitely worth a read even if it can’t quite match The Psychopath Test in the fascinating stakes. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Okay, so I routinely bookmark news stories that I’d like to write about, sometimes they get a post to themselves, but now and then a few smaller ones pile up and I do these News Grab Bag ones, so this is a collection of stories that caught my eye earlier this year but which I never got around to writing about. You may have heard some of them before but I hope you enjoy.
Early contender for badass of the year
It may only be the start of March, but it’s going to take a lot to topple James Grant as 2014′s badass champion.
Grant, a doctor in New Zealand was out fishing when friends when he was attacked by a shark. Now at this point I’d probably lose my shit completely and yell for Aquaman to come to my rescue, but the Kiwis, like their Aussie neighbours, are made of stronger stuff. Grant pulled his diving knife and repeatedly stabbed the shark which was sinking it’s teeth into his leg.
The shark swam off and Grant and friends returned to shore. At which point he did what every self respecting man from down under would- went for a pint. Admitting that adrenalin may have had something to do with it, Grant treated his own wounds with a first aid kit while having a beer before deciding to take himself off to hospital.
Going out in style
Being a morbid so-and-so I’ve spent far too much time thinking about what my funeral will be like. This mainly revolves around the music selection, although I have given some thought to my coffin. However, none of my ideas are as elaborate as two instances unique funerals that I read about recently.
First up, in Puerto Rico young boxer Christopher Rivera was gunned down. At his wake he was posed in full boxing regalia and mourners were allowed to pose with their lost loved one. It all seems a little weird to me but it’s unique and pays homage to what was an important part of his life.
The second story also revolves around what the deceased loved. Over in the States Bill Standley was laid to rest astride his Harley Davidson bike. His sons assisted in building a special coffin which would allow this to happen, after Standley started it while battling cancer. Described as a “quirky man” by his daughter, Standley would show visitors to his home the coffin and tell them his plans, which might seem grim to some but I gotta respect the dude for his creativity and sense of fun.
The fact that I’ve never been called up for jury duty is something that bugs me a lot. I think too many court room dramas have left me with an unrealistic impression of trials and how dramatic they are, but even taking this into effect I’m curious to see how the system works and also have dreams of being the sole voice for compassion and decency, Fonda-style.
People who have done jury duty have told me it’s either dull or distressing. Either way, it’s an experience that’s light on laughs.
Or usually it is, but recently in a London court room the judge had to tell the jurors to stop laughing.
To be fair the case they were hearing was a bizarre one. The accused is said to have attempted sex with a sheep after a cow wouldn’t perform fellatio on him. I defy anyone not to read that sentence and not snigger, it ranks high on the weird crime stories I’ve heard.
Well nobody can say they didn’t see it coming
There’s an obscure passage in the Bible about the handling of the snakes, which I’m only aware of because I read The Years of Living Biblically. Some Christians have taken this line to believe that God’s love will protect them from snake bites and snake handling preachers exist, who handle venomous snakes as part of their services.
It’s attention grabbing to say the least and there’s even been a TV show in the USA, which features Jamie Coots. In a tragic, if unsurprising turn of events, Coots died in February after being bitten by a snake.
I’m not religious and so this practice strikes me as extremely bizarre. For one it feels a bit presumptuous to test God’s love for you, I mean, I know the Christian almighty is a caring dude but that seems to be pushing it. If God does exist he’s got enough on his plate without having to deal with folks who are putting themselves needlessly at risk just to prove a point.
My sympathies go out to Coots’ loved ones, but I can’t help feeling that this was a stupid way to go out and this sort of practice really needs to stop.
Out for Justice
The Sochi Winter Olympics finished recently (the Paralympics kick off this week) but in the run up there were a lot of fears about the safety of the games, with terrorist attacks and the usual problems of having a high profile event coming into effect. It was debated in the media and it’s the type of situation where you need experts to come in and discuss it. You know the type- ex-military types, or security officials from previous games.
But Russia Today clearly decided they needed something more. They needed someone with real experience, a man who’s taken on the mob, terrorists and saved the lives of a battleship’s crew. What a guy, right? The problem is that these weren’t one guy. They were several guys, all fictional, with one linking factor. They were all played by the same ponytailed ass kicker.
Yes, I’m talking about the man, the legend, Steven Seagal.
Russia Today went right to the big guns for advice on how to keep the games safe.
What’s in a name?
I always feel bad for people with daft or unusual names. At best you’re gonna waste time telling people how they’re spelt, or else face open ridicule because your parents didn’t think it through.
I don’t go in for governments telling people how to live but I’ve always felt that there should be naming office and when particularly moronic names come up they get to veto it. “You want to call your kid ‘Pineapple’? Yeah, his name’s gonna be Jeff”.
So I was kinda pleased that down Mexico way they have a rule that “prohibits giving children names that are derogatory or that don’t have any meaning and that can lead to bullying,”.
That quote comes from the Civil Registry director in Sonora, Cristina Ramirez. Already failing to get by are Rambo, Facebook and Lady Di, the last kid in particular dodged a bullet there.
I’m all for it. I mean, you might think it’s cute, but your kid’s gonna have to deal with it their whole life.
Younger readers might not know this, but we used to have these things called VHS cassettes which had movies on. And not only that we had shops that would rent you a movie for a night or two. Kind of like a library.
Like a library they had fines if you were late getting them back. Which is fair enough. I once went overdue on Anaconda and had to pay an extra £2, it was worth it though because I love that movie.
I think it was the one time I was late taking it back and once the fine was paid it was done and dusted.
But what if you went overdue by a long time.
And lived in a country as daft as the USA.
Well, you could wind up like Kayla Finley, of South Carolina, who went to a sheriff’s office to report a crime only to be told she was a wanted woman. The reason why there was a warrant out on her? She hadn’t taken a video back 9 years ago.
Ouch, that’s gonna be a hefty fine.
Finley was understandably miffed about the whole thing, especially as she was jailed overnight. She’s due in court and aims to fight the case.
Adding salt to the wound is the fact that her undoing might be down to Monster in Law, a painful failure to make a comedy and a black mark on the careers of it’s leads Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez.
Hopefully the matter resolves itself easily, and Finley just has to pay a minor fine. I can’t see them asking for too much because, well, it’s not like they’d have got much demand for a VHS copy of this movie in recent years.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I usually order the books I read by alternating between fiction and non-fiction, so after some Sherlock Holmes I decided to read this book, only to discover that this is actually a novel. It’s a historical novel, so it’s based on true events and so the book it reminded me of most was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood which similarly tells a true story but with the style and verve of a novel’s prose.
Keneally embarked on the project after meeting one of the Jews saved by the efforts of industrialist Oskar Schindler, who ran a factory and kept his workers safe from the horrors of the concentration camps. Keneally interviewed various of the people who made up the list Schindler compiled of the “skilled workers” he needed for his factory, and gathered their stories along with historical record before telling the story.
What emerges is a story that shines a light on the horrors of the holocaust, which is at times extremely hard going. I read mainly over breakfast, and this book wasn’t exactly light reading over my Coco Pops. But it’s still well worth reading, being an engaging, captivating read, mainly thanks to the story, the struggle and trials the Jewish workers faced is one that needs to be told, so that the horrors are never forgotten and the obsessive crusade of Schindler is heroism at it’s best.
But Keneally doesn’t gloss over Schindler’s failures, he’s a serial adulterer, drinker and lives large off his factories at the start of the war, but as time goes on he seems to become increasingly obsessed with sparing as many people as possible from the gas chambers.
It’s this that makes his actions all the more remarkable, it’s commented that before and after the war he was average, but during the war, as others plumbed new depths of depravity he rose in decency. On the surface he played the good party member, hosting Nazi officials and presenting them with gifts, but secretly loathing them and their actions.
Keneally takes time to introduce the major players, recounting their actions and offering reasons and insights into their characters, some of it may be conjecture, but it makes for a compelling read. There’s Schindler himself but we also see various Nazi officers, most notably Amon Goeth, the commandant of the nearby camp, an evil and deluded figure who routinely executed prisoners for minor infractions or seemingly out of boredom. Goeth is a monstrous figure, but remains a human one throughout, never fully realizing how he is viewed or how evil his deeds are.
We also hear stories from within the ghetto of Krakow, as the Jewish population hope they can just live under the latest persecution but quickly come to realize that the Nazis are more determined and vicious than any that had come before. Their attempts to survive and the little quirks of fate that help them make it through.
There’s immense tension in these accounts, and the references to dates only heighten this, as the end of the war nears I found myself willing time to pass faster so that people would make it. Keneally allows us to hear what became of several of the major players,
There were times reading this book when I was reduced to tears, and others where moments of courage and kindness filled me with joy and renewed respect for the strength of the human spirit. You may already know the story, or even seen the movie, but it’s definitely worth reading the book which provides a deeper insight and more background into those involved.
Verdict: A gloriously well written book that tells an emotional and compelling story from the world’s darkest hour and the way that some will rise to protect others and the best of mankind. Keneally may have taken liberties but it’s still a magnificent piece of work and the story deserves to be told. It will hit you hard, though. 9/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO,