Saturday 31 December 2011

The A-Z of 2011 Blogposts

This year I only posted 428 times on this blog. Well down on last year but we all know the reason for that. However, I decided to see if using the alphabet could I come up with a cross section of what I had written to sum it up.

I warn you in advance some posts may require tissues other loose fitting shirts in case you split your sides with laughter.

A is for Advent Calendar (well worth a browse through this little collection if you haven't already)
B is for Blood Ban
C is for Christina Taylor Green born on The day world tragedy and died in and on another
D is for Derry, First, Presbyterian Church
E is for Effin
F is for Fox, Liam
G is for Gay Off Switch
H is for Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
I is for IDAHO Day
J is for Jeffrey Donaldson fact checked
K is for Knight to see you to see you Knight
L is for Language, use of
M is for MTV EMAs
N is for Northstead, Maor nua ar an Mhainéir na
O is for The Open
P is for Pride being repugnant
Q is for Questions to the Prime Minister
R is for Reevsey
S is for Lis Sladen
T is for Theological non-look at homosexuality by PCI
U is for Union, European
V is for Vulcan Hobbits
W is for Will and Testement (pre-rapture version)
X is for Xavier Tondo
Y is for Yes (or rather no) to fairer votes
Z is for Zero (is in getting to)

My Predictions for 2012

Somehow I didn't get around to publishing any predictions for 2011 so I don't have to report back on my annual abysmal performance. However, I'm up and ready for another go this year.

  1. Andy Murray will win in Australia in past years I have hedged my bets with Andy saying he will win a Grand Slam event either in Australia or the USA. This year after his Asian Autumn and the fact that Novak Djoković showed that Rafa and Fed can be beaten he will return after the injury at the end of season World Tour Finals he'll be back to go one better than both 2010 and 2011.
  2. Barak Obama will be President and president elect. Of course the next term doesn't start until January 2013 but Obama with new running mate Hillary Clinton will see off the republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. He will do so despite losing both North Carolina and Florida among the big scoring states in the electoral college.
  3. Rory McIlroy will win The Masters. After the blow up on the final nine holes at Augusta last year the Northern Irish golfer will come back and dominate the event on the course that suits his style of play. He will again lead after the 2nd and 3rd days. Pushing if not taking some of the records along the way. But on the 63rd hole of the Tournament the 10th on the last day he hits his tee shot straight down the middle. He birdies to extend his lead and heads back towards the inevitable green jacket.
  4. Kim Jong-un will be overthrown. Before the end of the year the people of North Korea will overthrow the inherited dictatorship of the Kim family. The young leader will not survive a year in his new position. He will flee in exile to Japan where he will enjoy the freedom he experienced briefly when he studied in Switzerland, handing power over peacefully to the people's uprising leadership.
  5. British women will shine at the Olympics the men will not do badly either. Beth Tweddle will retire after an inspired performance sees he lift gold in the Uneven Bars. Rebecca Addlington will win double gold again! Keri-Ann Payne will win the swimming marathon in the Serpentine. Sarah Stevenson will lift the Tae Kwan Do gold. Despite all this success some of the above will not make the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist.
  6. Greece will send its smallest ever team the founding nation of the Olympics will because of economic constraints send its smallest ever Olympic team just to maintain it's ever presence at the games. It will fail to send any teams for the team events, rowers or equestrians because of the cost and only send individuals and sailors who are able to get their own boats to Weymouth.
  7. Manx Missile will take Green and Gold. Mark these dates in your diary 4th, 5th, 6th,14th, 16th, 22nd and 28th July. The first six will be the stage wins that take Mark Cavendish to a second consecutive Green Jersey in the Tour the France the final one is after that little training jaunt around France (Belgium and Switzerland) sees him find along the Mall to pump the air wearing the Team GB jersey he wore to the rainbow jersey to Olympic gold.
  8. A DUP MLA will take part in Belfast Pride. Maybe I will fall down on this one but I really want to see the DUP take up the invite to engage with the other parties in the debate that is now traditionally part of the Belfast Pride week. I don't expect them to take part in the parade this year but a step to turn up to the debate with our politicians is a step in the right direction and will take place in the year that Jeff Dudgeon has received an MBE in the New Years Honours.
  9. William and Kate will give birth to a daughter. The third in line to the throne a Princess whose position will not be usurped by a subsequent brother will arrive in the Autumn/Winter of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year. After speculation she will be called Diana in the press it is announced her name shall be Margaret Elizabeth Victoria.
  10. Gareth Malone gets a gong. In the Queen's Birthday Honours Gareth Malone will have bestowed upon him for services to choral music and the armed forces the honour of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). Sam Stevenson representing the women of the Military Wives Choir will be bestowed as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
  11. Seb Coe wins Strictly Come Dancing. Fresh from running a very successful Olympics Lord Coe becomes the oldest ever winner of the glitter ball dancing with Natalie Lowe.
  12. Maggie Thatcher will win an Oscar and die on the same day. I was going to say in the same year but I'm being bold and say that on 26 February Meryl Streep will win the best Actress award at the 84th Academy Awards and the Iron Lady herself will pass away in her 87th year.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Advent Calendar Day 25: Christmas Day

This year I've been doing an advent calendar of treats throughout the month of December. As this is the last day Christmas Day itself, I though I'd post it earlier just in case your children have rudely awoken you. But also something rather uplifting.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Advent Calendar Day 24: Christmas Eve

This year I've been doing a Christmas Advent Calendar of treats. So on Christmas Eve there can only be one treat in store a little Perry Como.

Friday 23 December 2011

Advent Calendar Day 23

During this run of Christmas treats there hasn't been that many adverts. But this year John Lewis produced one where the twist in the tale had me in tears ths first time I saw it.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Well the important one out of three ain't bad

The evening that Gary Lineker announced the 10 nominees I stuck my neck out and made my predictions.

  • 3 Rory McIlroy

  • 2 Alastair Cook

  • 1 Mark Cavendish

  • So I may have got the runners up wrong but at least I was right about the British public for a change.

    As for what I said about the runners up. I ruled out Darren Clarke making the top three as he wasn't the best golfer on the list, but like in 2006 he was the runner up on a purely emotional vote. I knew that Mo Farah would score highest of the two athletes, but I was expecting the hero of the Ashes to be battling with Cav for the top spot. From the cheers in the studio at the start of the evening I thought that was definitely the case.

    Thankfully it wasn't and Cav won. He started as he always starts a winning interview appearing to be shy. But soon got stuck in thanking the teams that help make him great who look after him and get him towards the line where he then sprints for the line.

    Surprisingly considering the success of British cycling in recent years the Manx Missile is only the third British cyclist to win BBC's Sports Personality of the Year following our other road race world Champion Tommy Simpson in 1965 and Sir Chris Hoy in 2008.

    However, Cav did point out that the success of British cycling is leading to more people taking to two wheels more often:

    "Now I see so many people out riding bikes, commuting to work or doing it as a hobby, they can see what it's like to ride."
    Sadly it comes in the year that the first cyclist to be killed on the roads of London had in the past been part of the Sports Personality of the Year shows. Gary Mason the boxer was a name I think was missing from the sports people who had lost their lives this year in the tribute just before the final award.

    ITV delete Tim Minchin #ITVfail

    One of the things that fits well into a Jonathan Ross special TV show so well is a song from Tim Minchin. A song from Tim will always make you think. His offering for this Christmas was no different.

    However, Peter Fincham ITV's director of television decided, after the show had been edited and was in ready to air format that Minchin's song wasn't to be included. To read what Tim thinks about the decision himself here. Here is the song in question:

    Reading the comments in question I find that I am not alone as a Christian who is not offended by the song. Indeed the amount of the bible story of Jesus life that Minchin incorporates into the song is something that may cause an US network concern because of the amount of religion that is in it.

    Yes it is satirical. Minchin is a comedian and a very good one. His comedy is of the clever variety and make you think as well as laugh. This song does just that. I think that two different people could very easily listen to this song and come away with different reactions. One would look into just what Minchin said about Jesus to see if it was actually true, or someone could turn around and just laugh at the irrelevance of Jesus and just enjoy their long weekend to celebrate his irrelevance thank you very much.

    If Peter Fincham is this concerned about possible complaints one wonders if producers will bother to send him tapes in advance if good stuff is not allowed to be aired. Will ITV be able to compete with Channel 4 and the BBC and others in cutting edge satire, humour and drama if their director of television is going to be this scared to cause offence.

    ITV once was seen as the more rebellious sibling in the TV family, but Fincham's self censoring if OTT and is actually causing me concern for just what freedom of speech ITV and other broadcasters will allow in the future. This is the wrong step over this excellent, IMHO, piece of satirical musical comedy.

    Advent Calendar Day 22 - Happy Birthday Dad

    Day twenty two of the advent calendar is the day that my Dad would always wake up to some extra cards and presents because it was his birthday. But it has been 5 years since he did so having passed on early in 2007. But my dad loved his big band music so today in a tribute to him that is where this advent calendar shall be visiting.

    Wednesday 21 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 21

    Well the days are winding down towards the end of this advent calendar. I hope you've enjoyed it so far. I think I've missed out on a little bit of rock so far. So to make amends I've called on the Boss to sort that out.

    Tuesday 20 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 20

    Christmas is getting closer and today's song actually was released in the first year that I actually did what the title of the song says. We did travel by road from Kingston to Stranraer (via an overnight stay in Glasgow). I'm sure this song did come on the radio

    Monday 19 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 19

    This next contribution is a song that is available to buy today that could be the Christmas number one. It is in the shops or available online so go buy it now, the money* goes to the Royal British Legion and SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association). Anyone who watched BBC's The Choir in October and November plus the Festival of Remembrance will know that these women have the REAL X-Factor this year.

    *50p will be donated from every digital single and 40p from every physical single.

    Sunday 18 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 18: Fourth Sunday in Advent

    The final Sunday before Christmas itself brings about another more sacred contribution to my Advent Calendar of delights. After the Ukrainian Carol of the Bells last week I've decided to use another of the Carols has some more unusual choral words. So as arranged by Malcolm Sargant based on the Polish original here's The Zither Carol:

    Saturday 17 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 17

    Maybe it is the nostalgia of no longer having to battle the London West End crowds to get to work, or even to get about work in the run up to Christmas, but when Chris Martin mentioned the lights on Oxford Street in last year's song I sort of did get all teary eyed. The people I worked with were a good bunch and we usually had a good let down the hair evening on a Sunday when we shut up the shop earlier together as a Christmas do.

    So today's offering is of course Coldplay

    Friday 16 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 16

    Each day I will continue to bring you a Christmas Youtube treat on my advent calendar. Of course back on day two I did say I wish I could have included a certain song from a certain film. Well I'm not going to let that Cherry slip through my fingers.

    Thursday 15 December 2011

    What is...are...the biblical definitions of marriage?

    Certain groups opposed to marriage equality will like to tell you that marriage is defined as one man and one woman. They are clearly missing out on how the men of God were told to view marriage.

    Now clearly marriage has been redefined since the days of the bible and churches don't insist on parts of the law of Moses such as the rape victim having to marry her rapist. God chosen people and the line that bore Jesus were a line of polygamists and men with concubines.

    Just saying. So why when they say that marriage is all about love and point to Leviticus as the reason that man and man can't be together and woman and woman can't be together that so often the marriage then is not about love. That the love often comes with a subsequent wife or concubine.

    Advent Calendar Day 15

    I was hoping that today's advent calendar was hoping be a treat for the Friends of Dorothy unfortunately I couldn't embed Judy Garland's original film version of this song. Instead I give you Katie Melua's version from The Two Ronnies a couple of years back.

    Wednesday 14 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 14

    Carrying onwards ever onwards towards the sound of sleigh bells one does wonder what all the good boys and girls are wanting for Christmas. A few years ago an antipodean songstress added her twist to this classic Eartha Kitt number. Christmas now just wouldn't be Christmas without Kylie

    Tuesday 13 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 13

    Another day and another surprise from the cannon of Christmas wonders. I always love it when there is a group or person you'd not expect to take a certain Christmas route. Today is one of those, it is this year's Christmas offering from The Killers yes you did hear that right and it is somewhat different from their usual style as well.

    Monday 12 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 12

    Carrying on with my little reveal of goodies via YouTube for the run into Christmas is a piece of music that appears in Home Alone, The West Wing and several films and TV shows. It is actually Ukrainian in origin and there are so many options I could have used to show you here, but I think that sometimes the simplest bare vocals are the best. So here it is.

    Sunday 11 December 2011

    Did Cameron wish for a furious Clegg?

    It isn't just me who was rather irate about David Cameron's handling of Europe early on Friday morning. It appears that Nick Clegg his Deputy is equally angry.

    Of course in 1992 the Prime Minister was special adviser to Norman Lamont on Black Wednesday when his reaction to an Exchange Rate Mechanism crisis was to up interest rates first from 10 to 12%, then to 15%, then back down to 10% and withdraw from the ERM. All in the space of 24 hours. Maybe if he had stayed around the table in Brussels for a few extra hours we would have had some diplomacy, but then maybe we didn't have a diplomat at the table. Two years later there was a Cabinet member training in the way diplomacy works in Europe, but he was sleeping in his flat in Sheffield at the time of the negotiations.

    So what was the problem that Cameron ran across, surely it couldn't have been the issue of more fiscal union of the Eurozone countries, that was something that his Chancellor George Osborne had been talking about for months. Although I doubt his talk of a two speed Europe was going to be us against the other 26. Or does that become a three speed Europe those in the Eurozone, the nine not in that yet and then us now?

    As for the autonomy of 'our' banking sector, the Tobin tax that was negotiated had a separate veto attached to it. So what additional threat was the Prime Minister protecting his friends in the city from, as this wasn't mentioned in the communique from the EU leaders.

    The Prime Minister said that he couldn't let 'our' banking sector suffer while he protecting the parts of Britain that we enjoy like the single market. HANG ON A SECOND! The single market was set up to allow freedom of movement of resources across the EU whether labour, trade, influence etc. So the Prime Minister to protect the single market is ring fencing one favoured indusrty and vetoing the rest of the 'single market' from making inroads or approaches to changing that dynamic. What if the Germans were to do the same with their car industry, or the Estonians with their internet business, or sacre bleu the French were to do the same with their viticulture. Bang goes the champagne at Tory conferences.

    How can the UK operate in a single market if he claims that it has the sole property rights to a certain industry? It doesn't work. Either you are in a single market where the industries can decide how and where they wish to operate or you are not. So how is the PM protecting a single market by doing this. What if a new industry wants to relocate to the UK, but the other EU countries that currently have parts of it are reluctant to let that go. The PM will argue that we are in a 'single market' but they will reply, but you have your banking industry, remember Brussels.

    The Prime Minister may well have backed himself into a corner in order to protect just one industry. He has decided to lift us out of the centre of the EU. As the Guardian reports Clegg fears as
    the "lonely man of Europe", with less influence, not more, for the City of London, less influence with the US and less foreign investment.

    If Cameron has indeed put the interests of the city above manufacturing and real jobs he will find it increasingly hard to rely on support from the Lib Dems. If the fall out from this decision to step outside of the decision making of Europe means that we have to try and survive on our own pulling power Cameron may realise that unlike in the time of some of his influential forebears, there is less of that than 100 or 200 years ago.

    Advent Calendar Day 11: Third Sunday in Advent

    Once again we reach a Sunday so my advent calendar will take on a more sacred feel for today. Christmas Eve traditionally the BBC goes to King's College Cambridge for Midnight Mass, traditionally I usually miss it being out at a service myself.

    But also by tradition this is usually one of the carols that they sing.

    Saturday 10 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 10

    Today's surprise behind the window was actually recorded just last month. Having seen the fresh chestnuts in Sainsbury's while we were checking out their range of products at their new store here in Bangor and the singer is appropriate for one reader who got a rather startling present at Christmas last year, he knows who he is.

    Friday 9 December 2011

    Fly the Red Flag O'er the Muppet Show

    You may have heard that Fox Business News called the upcoming Muppets movie if teaching communism to kids. I don't know how, where in these lyrics is there anything that can be misconstrued in such a way.

    It's time for Communism
    It's time to prove Marx right
    It's time for Marx and Engels on the Muppet Show tonight.

    It's time to raise the masses
    It's time for proletariat
    It's time to raise the red flag on the Muppet Show tonight.

    Why do we always come here
    I guess we'll never know
    It's like some kind of future
    Where the nobels have to go

    And now let's get things started
    Let's march on Washington
    It's time to get things started
    In the most socialist and communist even Marxist Muppetationist
    Fly the red flag o'er the Muppet Show!

    Of course don't just take my word for it here is the evidence that David Letterman dug up.

    I'm stepping outside, look after the pound for me - Cameron.

    During Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday David Cameron answered the first two questions like this:

    The British national interest means absolutely that we need to help resolve this crisis in the eurozone. It is freezing the British economy, just as it is freezing economies right across Europe. Resolving this crisis is about jobs, growth, business and investment right here in the UK. At the same time we must seek safeguards for Britain. That is the right thing to do.

    Then to Ed Miliband's first question:

    we will have the key aim of helping to resolve the eurozone crisis, and we believe that means European eurozone countries coming together and doing more things together. If they choose to do that through a treaty at 27 in which we are involved, we will insist on some safeguards for Britain—and, yes, that means making sure we are stronger and better able to do things in the UK to protect our own national interests. Obviously, the more countries in the eurozone ask for, the more we will ask for in return, but we will judge that on the basis of what matters most to Britain.

    Now today the answer to the crisis the one that Cameron said was about ' jobs, growth, business and investment right here in the UK' was one that he and he alone couldn't get involved with. Apparently it was over regulations of the banks that the problem arose.

    Now as a Lib Dem we praised Vince Cable on calling for more regulation of the banks well ahead of the crisis that kicked in. We shouted about the lift of regulations on banks under Labour. Indeed in our manifesto we said we would :

    Work through the European Union for stricter international regulation of financial services and banking.

    Because here is the thing Mr Cameron there is no such thing as a purely UK Bank bank anymore. They all have interests overseas, or are the UK Interest of an international bank. Therefore Cameron has thrown out the bath water, baby and all to spite his face. There will be discussions going on that the UK will be excluded from that will affect the UK Banking sector that we will not have any control over.

    As for the aim of securing the EU, these talks in Europe were to agree to explore the possibility of working together. The details have yet to be thrashed out. Mrs Thatcher even when she disagreed about the move to a Single Market did stay in there and thrash out the details she could live with over Maastricht and other Treaties. David Cameron has put the UK so far on the outside that we're not even sure if we'll get the jobs, growth, business and investment that he's looking for. We're not even sure if our largest trading partners the rest of the EU are going to be allow such investment.

    It's almost like the EU are sitting in Scotts camp on his return from the South Pole with 27 in the party as a blizzard blasts outside. But out into Hurricane Bawbag steps David Cameron with the words, "I'm stepping outside, look after the pound for me".

    Advent Calendar Day 9

    Keeping on finding new, interesting and fun Christmas related clips to fill up my advent calendar for you here is a little Muppet inspired, Queen related and nativity rich combination.

    You don't believe me?

    Watch this.

    Thursday 8 December 2011

    Hurricane Bawbag

    The Scots, and indeed those of us in Northern Ireland, are battening down the hatches in the face of horrendous storms. The locals have nicked named it Hurricane Bawbag, though the pesky Germans are calling the depression Friedrich.

    However, I'm hearing of blackouts in the North of Ireland (Donegal, Derry and Antrim) as well as Dumfries and Galloway, Clyde and Central Scotland. But it doesn't stop there being a little bit of humour to lighten the mood. The hashtag #HurricaneBawbag top trended not just in the UK but World wide.

    Although it appears to have blown away Sky News's atlas, because they say (see above) that "In Northern Ireland, Malin Head was hit by steady winds of 58mph and gusts of 80mph." Malin Head may well be wear generations of my ancestors lived, fortunately with a bank of earth sheltering them from the Atlantic winds. It may well be the most northern point in Ireland, but it is not in Northern Ireland.

    There are rumours circulating that Hurricane Bawbag may just be Sir Alex Ferguson still going through post-game analysis with his players after yesterday's Champion League performance. But it appears that the storm may also be making a bit for Olympic trampolining gold as it has been gathering equipment.

    Of course even when the lights are oot there is still a guitar that can be played and a Bob Dylan classic that is calling out to be rewritten.

    Update while the mainstream media shied away from using the term Eddie Mair did ask should he use in on the PM programme on Radio 4. In the words of a famous Scot Magnus Magnusson he however started but did not finish reading out the Wikipedia page entry. Apparently scrotum is not acceptable language in drivetime, though bawbag was.

    Philip Schofield also fell foul of trying to anglicise the term later in the evening. When he tweeted:

    Just looking through my timeline! Scotland! Are you ok? And who thought to call the hurricane ball bag?!!

    For hours he was getting people correcting him or telling him to get his Glasgow Accent out or check with Lorraine Kelly or John Barrowman on how to pronounce it.

    However, the SNP's Rob Gibson MSP did give Bawbag a namecheck on Scotland Tonight

    Advent Calendar Day 8

    It is yet another day on my advent calendar of goodies for this year. I found this and give you some amazing choreography. The title is the 12 gays of Christmas but as the original with poor sound quality said, not all these gets are necessarily of the gay persuasion but they obviously are members of this dance school.

    Wednesday 7 December 2011

    Doctor in Narnia?

    Well Christmas in recent years has meant a new stand alone episode of Doctor Who so will 2011 be any different? Of course not!

    Judging by the name of the episode and clips I have seen there may even be a little cross over with one of Belfast's favourite sons Clive Staples Lewis. So here is the prequel to The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

    Advent Calendar Day 7

    Continuing my advent calendar of Youtube treats there are of course some advents that really seem to sparkle with the season and some that don't. I think this one from Marks and Spencer in 2007 hit the right balance.

    Tuesday 6 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 6

    Today's addition to my Advent Calender comes courtesy of Harry who is doing so well on Strictly Come Dancing and Dougie update, make that King Dougie, who is doing well on I'm a Celebrity but the words and music come from the Beach Boys.

    Monday 5 December 2011

    Five on the Fifth December 2011

    Sadly Stephen Chapman announced early last month that this was going to be the last month of his 5 on the 5th series. Check on the link to find out what the others have contributed to this grand finale. As for the theme he appears to have been a good predictor of weather systems as early this week he said it would be Winter Weekend on the weekend that a lot of the UK saw its first snow of winter.

    Here are my Five for the Fifth for December

    Last night my mother shouted out that it was snowing.
    It fitted the theme so it had to be captured.

    But in the morning I couldn't get a good shot of the snow
    it had all gone
    but there was other wintery conditions on the car

    It may have been cold in church on Sunday morning
    but it was looking the part

    We also popped into the Christmas shop

    People think that Old Saint Nick has a one day a year job
    but it appears he works weekends too
    at least for part of the year

    That's it for another month...indeed that's the last 5 on the 5th apparently. Do check by the rest and see what they have posted, if you haven't before also check through the links to previous months.

    Advent Calendar Day 5

    Continuing my advent calendar of YouTube treats I'm handing it over to Linus to explain what Christmas is all about.

    Sunday 4 December 2011

    Advent Calendar Day 4: Second Sunday of Advent

    Now I know it is only the first Sunday of Advent, but the four Sunday's are the four that lead up to Christmas Day. But with that being a Sunday it means that the first Sunday of Advent was last week.

    However, for my Sundays in the advent calendar I am going to be more religious in outlook. Doesn't mean the religious elements aren't going to be fun.

    So for a start I'm letting some silent monks perform Handel's Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah.

    Saturday 3 December 2011

    Don't let this woman near the White House

    Michele Bachmann claims to stand up for family. But here latest utterances show contempt for women and men across America. I'm not just talking about those who are LGBT but actually those that she wants them to marry.

    She was attending a cozy little Town Hall meeting only to be asked a question by Jane Schmidt who is head of her high school Gay Straight Alliance. The question was:

    "What would you do to help protect GSAs in high school and protect the LGSBT community?"

    The answer came back from the Republican chasing her party's nomination as Presidential Candidate:

    "All of us have the same civil rights...There shouldn’t be any special rights or any special set of criteria. We all have the same civil rights."

    The teen came back with a sharp follow up question:

    "So, why can’t same-sex couples get married?"

    The start of the congresswoman's response was shocking:

    "They can get married..."

    What? I though she was opposed to gay marriage saying things like "I do support a constitutional amendment on marriage between a man and a woman, but I would not be going into the states to overturn their state law."

    but she carried on:

    "...but they abide by the same laws as everyone else; they can marry a man if they’re a woman, or a woman if they’re a man."

    Ah that sadly is more like her.

    But hang on a cotton pickin' minute. What about those women who marry those gay men, or those men who marry those lesbians? What about them. Do they have rights to have a happy family life from the family loving Bachmann? Do they have the right not to have to deal with their spouse spending time at the gym or golf club or sewing circle or choir or whatever with their same sex friends without fretting about a relapse? Do they have the right not to have to deal the physiological issues of their spouse constantly denying who they are?

    This of course has nothing whatsoever to do with the considerations of the Lesbian or Gay individual that Bachmann is forcing to be Bisexual when they may not identify as that.

    Forcing people to hide their sexuality and go into a marriage of convenience for the sake of fitting in is what people did before we accepted that is was natural for some of us to be attracted to those of the same sex; and desire to form a permanent sexual bound with that individual.

    Surely Bachmann's proposal contravene the First and Eighth Amendments of the US Bill of Rights. The first is freedom of speech and expression, she is denying that expression through the right to assemble in the bedroom with the partner of their choice. The eighth surely inflicting this cruel and unusual punishment as excessive to be able to benefit from all the civil rights as she is advocating.

    Below is the exchange captured on YouTube and note the lack of overwhelming applause for Bachmann's comments.

    In which I agree with C of E on civil partnerships in church - sort of

    So the Church of England have said they won't hold civil partnership ceremonies in their churches. I say good.

    Now many of you who know that I am a campaigner for equal marriage may be a little shocked by opening line, but let me explain.

    The consultation in England and Wales is not as complete as the one the is drawing to a close in Scotland this week. It only has one option a civil partnership to be carried out by a religious celebrant. The Scots are looking at equalising marriage, allowing religious groups to carry out same sex marriage and looking at the necessity or not of maintaining civil partnerships if that is the case, as well as looking and the England and Wales proposals. You will notice as I do that Northern Ireland hasn't got any consultation on equal marriage of any type going on or pending.

    However, why do I agree with the Church of England on this? Probably not for the reason that the Bishops are in opposition but for the sheer hypocricy of the idea of civil partnerships being carried out on religious premises when a civil marriage is carried out by the same registrar at the registry office of other designated building. Of course the Government aren't proposing that civil marriage is to be carried out on religious premises that would be pointless. If people want a religious location to carry out their ceremony of commitment they want the hymns, prayers, religious lesson for marriage all interspersed within the ceremony. But with a civil partnership that cannot be the case, so it is nowhere near equal.

    You see for me as an LGBT person of faith a civil partnership in a church just isn't the same as what my other friends get. Also a civil ceremony should not be in a religious setting, if you want a civil ceremony its because for whatever reason you don't want a religious element. However, there are religious groups that want to be able to carry out same sex marriage. There is religious freedom in the proposals which allow religious groups to opt-in to the ability to carry out same-sex ceremonies. Because of that the Church of England is not opposing the proposals.

    I repeat.

    The Church of England are NOT opposing the suggestion of civil partnerships in religious buildings, they just don't see it as something that their church will buy into.

    Note before anyone criticises me for having a go at the good that Lynne Featherstone has achieved in getting this far, I'm not. On the day that she made her announcement at Lib Dem conference I did talk to her about these issues. She said she had done the best she could, seeing as the men who debated our coalition deal had forgotten to include anything in their deal about this issue and that she was aware it was far short of what the Lib Dem policy on the issue was and she'd carry on working for that to be fully implemented.

    Advent Calender Day 3

    Another treat for Christmas coming up. Not everyone will be wishing for a white Christmas especially those in the Southern Hemisphere, people like Tim Minchin.

    Friday 2 December 2011

    There once was a Effin lady on Facebook

    You may a recognised Saint and the brother of Saints Culain and Dairmid. You may have been an Abbot and Bishop of Ros-mic-Truin. You may also have written Vita Tripartita (The Life of Saint Patrick) about the patron Saint of the island of your birth and life. But the campaign to get the village in Ireland named after St. Eimhin has been deemed offensive by Facebook.

    The problem is that the Parish of Effin in County Limerick which Ann Marie Kennedy (pictured) tired to add as her home to her Facebook profile. All she got was the option of Effingham in Illinois or New Hampshire. Why she didn't get the one in Surrey which at least is in the same continent is another wonder.

    But she attempted to set up a Facebook page to get Effin recognised on Facebook was this was disallowed for being offensive. Therefore

    There was an lady who hailed from Effin
    But Facebook thought she was cursin'
    Because her hometown named for a Saint
    Was deemed offensive not quaint.
    Now they're worried over in Ecclefechan.

    Advent Calendar Day 2

    This Christmas I'm doing an online advent calendar of Youtube treats. There is one song from Love Actually that I really wanted to include but the embedding everywhere is disabled.

    So instead I leave you with this.

    A nice little addition I've found since it this, dedicated to all those who get caught dancing along or singing out loud to the music on their iPod or in their head.

    Thursday 1 December 2011

    World Aids Day 2011: Getting to Zero #WAD2011

    Today is World AIDS Day and the theme for 2011 is Getting to Zero. What that means is:

    • Getting to zero new HIV infections
    • Getting to zero discrimination
    • Getting to zero AIDS related deaths

    The first one is up to YOU know your status and your partners status and play it safe until you do. HIV can be passed on by heterosexual as were a homosexual sex, it can also be passed on by intravenous drug users sharing neddles. So be careful folks. Treat each new sexual partner with safety first, you won't know if they are affected on first contact.

    The zero discrimination about HIV and AIDS is harder to achieve when you get groups like Christians for a Moral American making comments like this about the recent hospitalisation of George Michael. Yes 30 years on we still have ignorant people who think that HIV and AIDS are gay diseases. I had a conversation in a chat room during the week about people not wearing a red ribbon. Some don't wear it because they feel it marks them out a either LGBT or having HIV themselves. Some of the people who thought that love it when a straight celebrity appears in the gay media (yes the naked issue of Gay Times is out) supporting the LGBT community by identifying with them, but they seem nervous about supporting those living with HIV so positively. Of course those that wear the ribbon are those living with HIV, their partners, family, friends and supporters. At least that is how it should be. 

    HIV is affected whole communities in parts of Africa. This is where the greatest number of AIDS related deaths occurs. All because the people there cannot afford the medications that many of those in the West take for granted these days. Many people can live successful lives living with HIV with their meds, but the companies who have produced the live enhancing and supporting meds for HIV are in it to make money and the Africa epidemic is something they are not prepared to do.

    Of course not every area of the world is prepared to met all three of the zeroes this year. But the focus should be on one that can be most effective to a region or nations situation. All three require education to the risks that are still there and the things that can be done to overcome the stigma, the risk and the ability for those living with HIV to remain strong.

    If you have a ribbon wear it with pride today. If you haven't see if you can find one (if not for this year for next December).

    Finally I wish I were down in London today to take part in the World AIDS Day Swish down Old Compton Street at 6pm. However, those folks at Gaydar radio put in a little practise earlier. Now radio isn't the best medium to share such an activity with everyone, so they YouTubed it here:

    Advent Calendar Day 1

    This year just like an advent calendar I'm going to give you a little Youtube treat each day to hopefully get you in to the mood. First up here is one band that I have used before at Christmas time but this time not with a song you'll know.

    Tuesday 29 November 2011

    People who inspired me: Richard Lowry 1955-2011

    Earlier tonight while over at my brother's he turned to me from Facebook to tell me that Richard Lowry had died earlier today.

    Mr Lowry as we knew him was the younger Economics teacher at Regent House Grammar School when I started my A' Level in the subject. But he was the one who was more inspirational. He was only 15 years older than us but he had ways to get us involved in practical Economics.

    When it came to learning about how the stock market worked, he gave us all pages of accounting paper and the sum of £500 on the credit side. For the next three months until the end of that first term we would trade shares at the closing day closing prices from the previous day. He would have to sign off any transactions so on the days we didn't have him for economics we would end up in his hut with our broadsheet paper ( in my case the Guardian, or the new Independent) to carry out our trades. At the end there was a prize of a mint Bank of England one pound note* in a frame. That One Pound Note has traveled to London and back then off to Scotland and back in my safe possession since.

    The first time I watched the budget was actually in one of Mr Lowry's classes, wonderfully scheduled for the Chancellor's presentations (they were in the Autumn in 1986). We knew what we were looking out for and were filing in notes of key changes as we went through. It is something I've done many times since, so the fact that I learn of his death on the day of a Chancellors Autumn Statement seems even more poignant.

    However, with Doctor Bell seemingly part of the furniture at Regent Mr Lowry looked for better options so before the end of our first year of our A' Level he went of to Glenlola as the head of Business Studies. He later went on to be head of sixth form and Vice Principal. He'd only taken half our our A' Level classes but we always looked forward to them. When he let at the start of June his substitute was Sammy Wilson who is now in charge of the Northern Irish Executive budget.

    One morning  he drew up a graph of a good type on the board and started to tell us what to write about it, then half way through started to say that in reverse this meant something else, which got more and more ludicrous as he carried on speaking. I either sadly, or happily, don't have all that he said as more and more of us stopped writing until he got the the line. "Many people have taken this reverse theory as truth and written long studies of this principle but are no better than April Fools" Yes there were a few still writing when he got to those last two words. One person even didn't stop until he wrote down 'fools'.

    It was Mr Lowry who inspired me to take Economics further to University (okay I started out at Polytechnic, but my degree is from a University). Of course doing so also got me involved in politics, not the them and us of Northern Irish politics but the real politics of the rest of the UK. I got involved with the exciting new party that had just formed from two founding parties in their first freshers events in September 1988. It has led to so much more (see the political experience tab).

    I seen him occasionally around Bangor since he took the role at Glenlola and had told him about standing for Westminster in 2005. He was truly and inspiration that led me to what I've been involved with for the past two decades.

    He truly was an inspirational teacher. He took early retirement in January 2010 on health grounds, sadly he has died at the all too early age of 56. So my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sharon and sons Matthew and Peter.

    * Younger readers (who aren't from Scotland) may not believe in the mythical one pound note, whose greenness is mentioned in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The reason being in 1987 they were phased out.

    A gender balanced Sports Personality of the Year Shsortlist #BBCfail Updated

    Yesterday I posted about how the BBC had managed to produce their Sports Personality of the Year list without including a single woman. Today I'm going to produce a gender balanced list of champions, looking at some of the criteria of the all-male list, I have the double World medalist, the emotional champion winning year, the complete dominance of her sport, the inspirational captain and the one who's put disappointment aside in a preferred event to succeed elsewhere.

    Mo Farrah

    Rebecca Adlington like Mo Farrah above came back from the Worlds with a gold and silver medal. Only see got gold in her longer event the 800m and silver in the 400m. She had also tried to compete in the 200m, but as the result of failing to make the semis in Shanghai has decided to concentrate on just her two gold medal defences for next year.

    Rory McIlroy

    Beth Tweddle well if the English Cricket Captain can make the all male top ten I'm putting Beth in there. She may not have won any world titles this year but she did inspire the GB women's team to 5th place overall, their highest ever position. She put in possibly her last world level uneven bars routine to lead the way with 15.666 and made the apparatus final in the floor. A mistake in qualifying meant that Tweddle didn't make the uneven bars final but in the team competition she showed she is still the best.

    Mark Cavendish

    Chrissie Williamson while Cav produces the sprint finish how would you like to swim 2.4km, cycle 112 miles then run a full marathon. Now do that against the best in the world and for a fourth time cross the line first. But for illness last year she may well have been celebrating her fifth in a row. Yeah talk about rowing Sir Steve Redgrave only won his SPOTY after five Olympic Titles four years apart (okay there were Worlds in between). Chrissie has dominated the world Ironman scene for the last five years. Surprisingly I don't recall any of our world class Triathlon competitors being short listed for SPOTY.

    Alastair Cook

    Victoria Pendleton may have lost her World Sprint Title earlier in the year for the first time since 2006 but came back in the Europeans to take two of the five golds in what should be Team GB&NIs star event next summer. The set back of failing to get to the medal rounds of her favoured sprints once again didn't deter Vicky who won Gold in the Kerin and Team Sprint.

    Luke Donald

    Sarah Stevenson is a World Taekwando champion. Building on her bronze in Beijing she was working towards greater heights in London next year. However, this year she lost her mother in January of a terminal condition and her father to a tumour 3 months later. Therefore it was an emotional performance dedicated to her absent parents that lifted Gold in Korea last month.

    Update According to the BBC here is a full list of those nominated by the main newspapers plus Zoo and Nuts. Where were the votes from Cosmo or Prima.

    Here is the rundown of actual nominations, in order of nominations, from a largely male press core o 27 publications:

    27 Rory McIlroy (Golf) 

    26 Darren Clarke (Golf)

    25 Mo Farah (Athletics)

    23 Mark Cavendish (Cycling) 23

    18 Alastair Cook (Cricket)

    17 Dai Greene (Athletics)

    14 Andy Murray (Tennis); Andrew Strauss (Cricket)

    11 Luke Donald  (Golf)

    Amir Khan (Boxing)

    Rebecca Adlington (Swimming); Jenson Button (Motorsport) 6

    Alastair Brownlee (Triathlon); Keri-Anne Payne (Swimming); Graeme Swann  (Cricket)

    James Anderson (Cricket); Stuart Broad (Cricket) 4; Sam Warburton (Rugby Union) 

    Carl Froch (Boxing); Scott Parker (Football); Sarah Stevenson (Taekwando); Sam Tomkins (Rugby League); Sam Waley-Cohen (Horse Racing); Chrissie Wellington (Triathlon)

    Kath Grainger (Rowing); Victoria Pendleton (Cycling) 2

    Nicola Adams (Boxing); Ben Ainslie (Sailing); Gareth Bale (Football); Ian Bell (Cricket); Dmitri Berbatov (Football); Glen Chapple (Cricket); Hannah England (Athletics); Jessica Ennis (Athletics); Dario Franchetti (Motorsport); George Groves (Boxing); Lewis Hamilton (Motorsport); Tony McCoy (Horseracing); George North (Rugby Union); Shanaze Reade (BMX); Stef Reid (Paralympic Athlete); Jamie Roberts (Rugby Union); Wayne Rooney (Football); Paul Scholes (Football); Louis Smith (Gymnastics); Yaya Toure (Football); Jonathan Trott (Cricket); Judd Trump (Snooker); Hayley Turner (Horse Racing); Patrick Viera (Football); David Weir (Football)

    So there were a total of just 12 women nominated from 51 names put forward. I'll work out the breakdown by sport later but there seems to be quite a chunk of the England Cricket team.

    Robinson takes "Them and Us" on Tour

    Oh dear! What can the matter be?
    Peter Robinson might be starting a calamity.

    At the weekend Peter Robinson called for an end of "them and us" in Northern Ireland politics only it didn't seem present from his party in the chamber of Education Training Colleges yesterday. Now it seems he wants to step into Scottish Politics, or does he?

    Of course the big question for Northern Irish Unionists over the SNP's call for separation is that once the Union starts to break up in one part what is to stop it happening elsewhere. Look at recent history.

    The USSR  in 1990 the Russian Federation started to pass laws that superseded the USSR declaring sovereignty over its territory the largest of the Soviet Republics. In March of 1991 a referendum on the preservation of the Union only carried a majority in 9 of the 15 Republics though passed overwhlemingly as a whole. The seeds of separatism were watered as a result. The coup d'état against the USSR President Gorbachev that August further strengthened the position of the Russian President Yeltsin. On 8 December the three largest republics Russia, Ukraine and Belarus had signed Belavezha Accords which declared the Soviet Union dissolved and the Commonwealth in Independent States in its place. On 21st all the Republics but Georgia had signed the Alma-Ata Protocol confirming the accords. It led to the Christmas Day announcement that Gorbachev was declaring his position extinct and the following day the Supreme Soviet followed suit.
    Yugoslavia coming out of the first world war the Kingdom of Serbia, and the States of Croatia and Slovenes were united. They became known as Yugoslavia in 1928. The ethnic tension of the various groups started to grow after the death of Tito in 1980. In 1986 Slobodan Milošević tried to restored the sovereignty of the Serb majority, the Croatians and Slovenes objected. In January 1990 an extraordinary congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia was convened. Milošević insisted on one person, one vote to ensure the plurality of the Serb voice was dominant. The Slovenes backed by the Croats wanted more power devolved to the republics, they were voted down. Their delegations then left the congress effectively dissolving the all-Yugoslavia Communist Party. In 1990 the Republics decided to hold multi-party elections following the collapse of communism elsewhere. However, there was ethnic unrest in a number of the republics throughout 1990 and eventually on 25 June 1991 to the declaration of Independence of Slovenia and Croatia  but due to communication in Slovenia the transition of power from the Yugoslav led to some light skirmishes. Of course that wasn't the case with Croatia or later with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    In both the above cases there was a domino effect as each of the constitute parts wanted independence from the Union. Is what Peter Robinson fears that a Scottish secession going to lead to a Welsh pursuit of the same and then a why are we united to just England from Northern Ireland leading either to independence or a united Ireland?

    Is he saying there is an end of them and us, but  we don't want us to become them by stealth `because the United Kingdom ends up breaking up. There are many good federalist arguments to be put forward for a high level of devolution across the UK as reasons to safe the Union but give power to the local people (not just disproportionately to Scotland). Having Peter Robinson using such overtly Northern Ireland needs this without addressing issues across the UK as a whole is not the way to do it. Peter really needs to get out the us mentality himself on this one, realise that his small world's eye outlook needs to see what can be of a benefit to all in the UK if he wants to keep the Union not just what he can keep for himself.

    Monday 28 November 2011

    Updated with predictoins: Sports Personality of the Year 2011

    This evening the shortlist for the SPOTY are being unveiled on BBC's The One Show. Once Gary Linekar announces who they will I shall be listing their reasons for the nomination and their chances IMHO of how they will do.

    Mo Farrah was, for me, actually a surprising omission from the 2010 short list when he won double gold in the 5000m and 10,000m at the European Championships. This year at the world he won gold in 5000m after achieving a silver in the 10,000m. He also won gold in the European Indoor 5000m this year. For a distance runner to keep winning this is an outstanding achievement.

    Andrew Strauss the England Cricket captain who in the winter became only the third England captain to have lead the team to victory in the Ashes both Home and Away in the winter tour. The team made innings of over 500 in four of the test. In the first test there 517-1 (Strauss being the man out stumped for the first time in a test for 100) came too late in the day. But the 644 in the last test was an England record on Australian soil. Although he did make his 19th Test Century and his 6000th test run it wasn't his greatest personal series.

    Dai Greene the Welsh hurdler like Mo Farrah was absent from last year's list. He'd won the 400m hurdles both in the European and Commonwealth championships. So this year to top it he won the Worlds, pulling through on a strong field in the home straight. He's also earlier in the year won a time of 45.82 in Birmingham which is second only to Kriss Akabushi in the UK record books.

    Rory McIlroy the young Northern Irish golfer looked set to lead the Master from start to finish before shanking his tees shot on the 10th having led for 3½ rounds. Having shot the worse losing round for a leader in the Masters he then in the next Major the U.S. Open led from the start again. He went into the final day already holding several records. This time he didn't add that of choker as he scored the lowest aggregate score by some 4 shots in U.S. Open history. In the P.G.A. he hurt his wrist playing against a tree trunk, but played on. However, in his next four tournaments he was always in the top 3. He won the Shanghai Masters the richest tournament in the world and ends the year World Number 2 behind another of those shortlisted.

    Andy Murray the Scot started the year with his second Grand Slam final, but lost the final to Novak Djoković. He was beaten in the semi-final of the other three Slams. But in the Autumn had an good swing winning four out of five tournaments in the run up to the World Tour Finals, overtaking Roger Federer to World Number 3 on the way. But he was forced to retire hurt from the London season ender and Rog jumped over him again.

    Alastair Cook in the very successful tour of Australia managed to become the second highest ever England run scorer in a series with 766 (only Wally Hammond 80 years earlier scored more in a series), including 3 centuries. His 235 not out in the first test (his first test double century) at the Gabba beat the record of Don Bradman. He was man of the series in Australia. He took over the One Day International captaincy for the summer. He secured a 3-2 series win over Sri Lanka, and he again was man of the series. In the test series against India he came within 6 runs of his first test triple century.

    Darren Clarke the second Northern Irish golfer in the shortlist. The elder statesman of Northern Irish golf. Who was most famous for his 2007 emotional return to competitive golf after the death of his wife Heather. Nobody was talking about Darren as an Open hopeful. His compatriots Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were being talked about. He hadn't made the top ten of any major since 2001. However, after his 20th Attempt he finally won the Claret jug and for the first time since 1910 a country other than the USA had won back to back Majors.

    Amir Khan last December just before SPOTY Amir defended his Light Welterweight title for a third time. This year saw firstly a defence against the Irishman Paul McCloskey who had been unbeaten in 22 fights but it was another defence for Amir after a TKO in the 6th. His only other fight of the year was against the IBF champion Zab Judah in an unification bout. In the 5th Amir landed a knockout blow to the belt and walked away with the two belts. He'll be fighting American Lamont Paterson on 10 December before SPOTY takes place.

    Mark Cavendish the Manx sprinter was on this list last year. This year he wore the leader's jersey in the Giro d'Italia for one stage, having won the first stage and two others. He also won the Olympic trial event the London Surrey Classic and two stages on the Tour of Britian, leading for the first two days and on points for the first three. But of course the reason he is nomiated is as the first British man to win the Green Jersey of the Tour de France with yet another five stages and also the World Championships in Denmark. Meaning next year when he isn't leading on points he'll be in the rainbow jersey, the first Brit since 1965.

    Luke Donald secured the PGA money list title, currently also leads the European Tour Money list and is the world number one ahead of two other UK golfers. In February he won the Accenture Match Play Title beaten the eventual world number one in the final. He also reached the final of the Volve World Match Play Championship a win would have made him world number one, but after 14 straight match play wins he lost. However, when he beat Lee Westwood in a play-off for the European PGA title he overtook him to be world number one. In all he won four titles in the year.

    So this year's list contains No women!!, three golfers (two of whom are Northern Irish, two cricketers, two athletes (a long distance runner and a hurdler) a cyclist, a boxer, an a tennis player. Two Northern Irish, a Scot, a Welshman, a Manxman and five Englishmen.

    So who is going to win?

    I'm ruling out Strauss as he isn't even the best Cricketer in the list and the same applies to Darren although it was good for him to win the Open, he is only the third best golfer in Northern Ireland and third best in this list, although a big personality. I'm also going to rule out Andy Murray again this year, although he is winning titles he is not world number one, nor won a major title which everyone else left is.

    When it comes to the athletes there is pure gold, ok Mo has one silver. But to have run almost ½ of a marathon with the 5000m heats he for me has the slight edge, not that Dai Greene's acheivements have not been outstanding.

    The two remaining golfers are Mr Consistent in Donald against the man who has had us on the edge of our seats so often this season in McIlroy. They may well by number one and two in the world but it is the way that have dealt with expectations this year. Rory has led 7 rounds of the Majors this year won one and had 5 other top three finishes, Luke has carried on strongest in match play events but also has was a play-off while Rory has lost a couple. Objectively I'd like to say that Luke edges this contest, but it seems that everyone loves Rory's story, the comeback from the Master's to the US Open. However, with three golfers in the mix that vote may be split too much for any of them to win.

    Amir Khan is trying to be the fifth boxer to win the title, following Cooper (twice) McGuigan, Lewis and Calzaghe. He has picked up a second belt this year and been dominant in all his games since he was last considered. In some years he may well have stood a chance but there are others who will certainly beat him; one of the golfers, one of the athletes deserve to, but there is no split boxing vote and last time a boxer won another Ricky Hatton came third.

    However, I think the real contest is between Alastair Cook and Mark Cavendish. The last time a Brit won the World Cycling Road Race Championships he also took SPOTY and that was without winning much of note that year. But in a sport like cycling at which Britain has excelled in recent years Cavendish has risen to the very top this year. Cook similarly has shun in a year in which those who play his sport have been reasonably successful, we'll forget the limited overs matches in Australia.

    The same argument can be made about both that they wouldn't win without their team. But Cook certainly has to be the one to face each ball he faces and there have been a lot of them this year, and Cav wouldn't have teams working so flat out for him, controlling grand tours or the GB guys the World Championship if they didn't know that he could put in the acceleration that would defeat anyone else in the world. Indeed there were times that Cavendish's team lead outs didn't go as planned and he still won, including the World Champs.

    That is why my top three this year is:

    • 3 Rory McIlroy
    • 2 Alastair Cook
    • 1 Mark Cavendish

    Sunday 27 November 2011

    Questions to the Prime Minister 21 Years Ago

    It was 21 years ago that Margaret Thatcher was last called upon to answer questions as Prime Minister.

    She already knew she was not going to answer another series of PMQs and unlike the usual fighting last one before an election there was the sycophancy from her side and jeers each time this happened from the other side. There was a planted question about how many she had answered, at the time the answer was "His question is the 7,498th oral question to which I have replied in 698 Question Times." There were two more tabled questions after that point,

    Those who asked questions were:

    • Alan Haselhurst Conservative MP for Saffron Walden since 1977, he is one of only two MPs who were called that day who are still members today. He was later to be Chairman of Ways and Mean (Deputy Speaker) under the various speakers of the Labour Governments from May 1997 until June 2010. He had previous been MP for Middleton and Prestwich during Heath's government 1970-74.
    • Neil Kinnock the Labour leader of the Opposition at the time MP for Iswyn (1983-95) formerly Bedwelty (1970-85). As leader of the Labour Party from 1983-1992 he was the person who asked Mrs Thatcher more PMQs than anyone else.
    • Dame Jill Knight Con Birmingham Edgebaston 1966-97 she was one of the two MPs who introduced Section 28 into the Local Government Act 1986
    • James Molyneaux Ulster Unionist Lagan Valley 1983-97 formerly South Antrim 1970-83. He was the leader of Unionism in the House at the time. 
    • Maureen Hicks the Conservative who had beaten the national trend by taking Wolverhampton North East off Labour in 1987, as her question points out after 40 years, but she lost it in 1992.
    • Alice Mahon was the Labour MP for Halifax from 1987-2005 she would later be a regular rebel to the Blair Government and resigned from the party in 2009 as she was "sickened" by the smear tactics employed by the party under Damian McBride
    • Donald Thompson had been the Conservative MP for Sowerbury from 1979-83 before boundary changes found him in the seat of Calder Valley until 1997. Having stood and lost Sowerbury in both the 1974 elections and losing Calder Valley to Labour in the 97 landslide his seat reflected the state of the Government.
    • Rosie Barnes one of the remaining post-merger MPs who remained the rump of the SDP in the commons, along with David Owen and John Cartwright, having won the 1987 Greenwich by election and holding the seat 4 months later in the General election.
    • David Wilshire Conservative MP for Spelthorne from 1987-2010 it was he upon seeing Jenny lives with Eric and Martin in an Education Authority resource centre that led to him with Jill Knight drafting the Section 28 amendment.
    • David Winnick is still a Labour MP who was first elected for Croydon South between 1966 and 70 then returned for Walsall North in 1979, therefore spent his first 22 years in the House in opposition. It was he who in 2005 successfully proposed an amendment of 28 days detention without trail to the Governments 90 day failed proposal.
    • Robin Maxwell-Hyslop who was the Conservative MP for Tiverton from 1960-1992 is the longest serving ever member on the Trade and Industry Sub Committee from 1971-92. He'd lost out in Derby North in the 1959 Election which returned Mrs M. H. Thatcher as a new MP in Finchley.
    • Gavin Strang was the Labour MP for Edinburgh East from 1970-2010 who later was one of the 12 Labour backbenchers to support the SNP and Plaid Cymru call for an inquiry into the Iraq war. While the lady may not have been for turning from 2007-09 Strang said he was retiring, not retiring and then finally that he was retiring in 2010. He has the honour of being the last MP to ask Mrs Thatcher and PMQ.
    Of this list only Donald Thompson and Robin Maxwell-Hyslop are no longer with us along with the Speaker Bernard Weatherill.

    There was a mistake made the Speaker when he called Mrs Barnes before Mrs Mahon at which point Bob Cryer the MP for Bradford South stood up in anger. He was to killed in a car crash less than four years later aged 59. He started out as MP for Keighley from 1974-83, before taking the European seat for Sheffield from 1984-9 and returning to commons for Bradford South in 1987. His wife Ann later held the Keithley seat from 1997-2010 and his son John was MP for Hornchurch from 1997-2005 and since 2010 has been MP for Leyton and Wanstead.

    Shock at the death of Gary Speed

    I've just got in from church and like the rest of the nation am shocked to hear the sad news that Gary Speed, the Welsh national football manager, has been found dead. More so when you realise that he was only 11 days older than I am myself, and it appears that he has taken his own life.

    It was only yesterday that I along with many other saw him on Football Focus. He was on the start of a reasonably successful international management career having lead the team to five wins from the ten games in which he was in charge.

    He only retired at 40 in 2010 after a long career in the game, he scored in every season of the Premier league up until 2007. His playing saw him make his debut for Leeds at 19 as I was starting out at University, then Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United He seemed to have gone on and found his managerial feet very quickly. The shock seems to be universal as teams he has played with and against are sending their statements of condolence to his family and shock at what we are coming to terms with today.

    Gary Speed 8 Sep 1969 - 27 Nov 2011

    Thursday 24 November 2011

    Yes Freddie We Still Love You

    It's hard to believe that 20 years ago we heard the sad news that Freddie Mercury had passed away.

    I know exactly what I was doing that evening. One of my former house mates called me for the second night in a row. The previous day he'd called me because the Freddie had announced that he was HIV positive and had AIDS and my friend from University had contracted HIV through a bad dose of Factor 8 to deal with his haemophilia. My friend had always been one to panic, it is the reason that why I at the age of 22 was already more well read on HIV and AIDS than a lot of people on the news or in Parliament who should have known better.

    That night I had been constantly screaming at the radio as I listened to a radio phone in and then my phone went. My friend was panicked that people would think he was going to die tomorrow. I asked had he contracted AIDS yet, the answer he gave was "No!" so I said "You and me are just going to have to keep on educating people like that out of their ignorance."

    I never thought that day that 20 years later there would still be so much stigma attached to HIV especially as the meds that are available now give people a much greater change of never getting AIDS and give a far better quality of life, if you ignore the regime of pills, than people thought was possible 20 years ago. Little did we know that 2,750 of those 4,500 + haemophiliac HIV cases would still be with us. At the time many of us who knew them were reassuring them that doctor were working on something to improve their chances of survival knowing that previous breakthroughs were having only limited success.

    Freddie's tragic death did two things for generation. It brought many of us back to the music of Queen, even it appears brought one nine-year-old to their music for the first time. Indeed I loved the fact that earlier this month just up the road at the Odyssey in Belfast at the MTV Europe Music Awards that Roger Taylor and Brian May accepted the Icon award on behalf of Queen. I can only imagine what Freddie would have thought and said, probably "About time!".

    The other thing it did was highlight the issues of HIV and AIDS, it made more people learn about the facts than before that time. That in turn made it easier for people living with HIV to find people who didn't shirk away from letting them use their toilet, or use the same mug as they had. Admittedly there are still far too many people, especially here in Ireland who seem pig ignorant when you read various comments threads. But from his legacy came the Mercury Phoenix Trust which is one of the charities working for those with HIV and AIDS especially in Africa where Freddie was born, but worldwide. There have been charity events in his name for HIV charities for 20 years now, including tonight at the Rossini Theatre in Civitanova Marche, Italy.

    Not everyone has had the past 20 years in full as days of their lives. But Freddie, we still love you.

    Thank you for the music and on behalf of those living with HIV who have benefited from you late coming out about your disease have benefited from your legacy in other ways. "Sometimes I get the feeling I was back in the old days - long ago" today is one of those days.

    For absent friends.

    Tuesday 22 November 2011

    L, the U and Everything: A-Z of the Music I have J is for

    There are a number of options for J in my tour through my record collection.

    There is of course the King of Pop himself. Or maybe some Elton John or Jamiroquai.

    Instead I went for the guy whose complete works (well up to a certain point) I have the guitar and piano music for, none other than the Piano Man Billy Joel. But what music to pick.

    Because anyone listening to the entire Billy Joel collection will know what an amazing pianist he is here is a little bonus.

    Friday 18 November 2011

    Typical of Sepp Blatter to only see one option #showracismtheredcard

    Just heard Sepp Blatter, surprisingly still the President of FIFA, say that there should be a "zero tolerance" approach to racism. Zero tolerance does not equate to a handshake at the end of the game to deal with it. Indeed zero tolerance should mean that a player or official or fan who is racist during a match shouldn't be anywhere near the game at the final whistle. He says he was left with "no option but to apologise", actually I can think of another.

    He says that the reason he is not resigning is because "When you have a problem, you have to deal with it." Now many have spotted that Blatter is not au fait with issues of discrimination only because of his comments about racism 2 days ago. But where were they when myself and others pointed out his lack of sensitivity to gay footballing fans regarding the selection of Qatar as 2014 World Cup venue. Of course there is a problem, but a man who only sees the problems after he opens his mouth to put his foot in it is not the man who will proactively deal with these things. That much is clear from the whole host of Blatter gaffes through the years.

    If we truly want to show racism the red card (and for that matter homophobia) in football we need a man in charge who can see it for the depth of the issue that it is, rather than something that only a post game handshake will deal with. It needs someone who has enough understanding of the issues whether it be corruption, racism, homophobia or whatever without upsetting fans, world leaders, etc whenever he tries broach those subjects.

    As that is the case there really is only one course of action, one option that Blatter must take: resign.

    Update Please sign this petition to join the worldwide support to kick racism out of FIFA starting at the top.