Friday, 30 July 2010

I have the good fortune to be working currently at Merlin, an international aid and development charity. Its not the biggest of the charities working in this area but it has carved out a reputation as being pretty good on its feet in an emergency (we were in Haiti soon after the earthquake) whilst also hanging around long enough to help put more durable arrangements in place in those countries that need it most.
Sustainable healthcare provision requires properly trained health workers. Without them it will simply fall apart. So we are currently campaigning for world leaders to step up to the plate and commit to having properly trained health workers in those countries that need it most.
You can go the campaign page here. Read the stories about people working in some of the toughest countries in the world and then decide whether the campaign is worth supporting . It costs nothing to add your name to the petition but if the campaign has whetted your appetite and you wish to find out how you can donate just follow the links to the main Merlin site.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

They think its all is now

In spite of temptations to add to the outcry about England's lamentable performance in the 2010 World Cup, I initially decided to say nothing. It seems that Fabio Capello was asked to take a group of tired (in one or two cases downright unfit) and not particularly motivated players to take on the world. How could we expect any more than the debacle that followed.
For England's players the priority is the Premiership. That is evident when, between tournaments, clashes between club and country are settled in favour of the former. And why shouldn't they be? These players are highly paid to play for their clubs, not for England and certainly not to risk injury whilst playing in their country's colours.
The Premiership itself is a high speed, spills and thrills affair: great for the viewing millions worldwide and certainly a better spectacle for the neutral than the rather more sedate ((if technically superior) football on offer in the Italian or Spanish Leagues. But the physical demands on the players must be huge and come late May after 38 league games, two cups and maybe even some European games there cannot be a lot left in the tank. Little wonder they look lacadaisical. The players need a holiday, not another 4 weeks of football.
But the players are certainly not blameless. They are quite happy to receive huge sums of money that reflects the riches that come from subscription television, notably Sky but also latterly ESPN and a host of overseas buyers. In fact it is subscription television that has undoubtedly been the key factor in creating the monster that is the Premier League. Billions paid for broadcasting rights quickly get paid to the clubs but then just as quickly are turned into huge salaries (£90,000 a week anyone?) paid to some not particularly outstanding players. And to the agents skimming off their percentage. Wage bills are now such a high proportion of a club's total expenditure that many are now reduced to spending money they do not have either to simply stay in the League or to compete for a European place. In fact the biggest irony of the present set up is that in spite of the billions that have gone into football the game has never looked more bankrupt. How can this be?
What subscribers like me have to acknowledge is that so long as we keep paying our £20 a month to watch football we are simply perpetuating a problem. And so it was yesterday with a heavy heart I decided to forego my weekly (in practice, if you choose, it can be a daily) fix of live football: I cancelled my subscriptions to Sky Sports and ESPN. I will continue to watch anything free to air and I may use some of what I save to watch my beloved Charlton away from home as well as at the Valley. But what I cannot do is acknowledge that I am part of a problem and then do nothing about it.
Now to get another 100,000 like-minded followers of lower league football to do the same.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Sunny Afternoon

A gorgeous summer afternoon in July saw us go to Paddock Wood for the annual Hop Farm festival. A great day out and all within 30 minutes drive from home. This year the bill was topped by none other than Bob Dylan. On a very full festival bill there were some excellent support acts, all of whom acquitted themselves very well, among them Seasick Steve, Mumford and Sons and a new name to me Johnny Flynn. Such was the wide appeal of the line-up that ageing and wizened old hippies like me could rock along to Ray Davies singing "You Really Got Me" or Dylan (albeit with much of the voice all but gone ) singing "Like a Rolling Stone" whilst the younger generation enjoyed Mumford's "Little Lion Man" or Laura Marling's "Alas I Cannot Swim".
However what really struck me was that how this contemporary music really appealed to all ages. I saw a group of lads joining in with old Kinks numbers as if they had grown up with them, grandads appreciative of Johnny Flynn's eclectic folk; and everyone rocking out to bluesman Seasick Steve among whose armoury of eccentric guitars was the quite astonishing Diddley Bow (an old piece of wood, one string, and what appeared to be a can of coke at one end) . In my youth my father was less than polite about my 70's Progrock LP's ('Is that on the right speed?'). Such divisions in this post rock'n'roll era seem to be a thing of the past. We all rock together.