“It’s all gone a bit flat here.”   These were the words of BBC 5-Live’s chief football correspondent George Riley in his report from Rio this morning, following England’s rapid exit from the World Cup at the hands, or should that be feet, of Costa Rica – before we had even played them!  As might be expected, his report was heavily cliché-ridden, focussing particularly on the need for facing uncomfortable Truths.

World Cup

Last night’s message from the Costa Rica fans

He was making his comments from the comfort of the massive World Cup Media Centre in Rio de Janeiro, but was he reflecting the mood of England fans in Brazil, or the atmosphere among the thousands of two-bit Fleet Street hacks whose long summer holiday watching the Girl from Ipanema had just been cut drastically short?  Because the greatest Truth to be faced here is that, were world cup success for our soccer team measured purely in back-page column-inches, then we would have won more trophies than Brazil and Germany put together. Continue Reading

When an 89-year-old is told by his care home that he would not be able to go on a trip to France, you might expect him to just accept it and settle down in his armchair for an afternoon snooze. But Bernard Jordan is made of sterner stuff. In fact, one might have thought that the over-officious staff at his home in Sussex might have recognised this, as he had already demonstrated such qualities seventy years earlier, on 6th June 1944.

Read more about the 70th Anniversary events in the Daily Telegraph

Which is why Bernard hatched an escape plan that may not have been as complex as some of those in the annals of Colditz or Stalag Luft III, but was nevertheless just as daring. He simply pinned his medals under his coat and told the staff that he was going out for an early morning stroll. Then, having enlisted a lift to the station from a friend, he made his way to Portsmouth to board a ferry for Normandy, where another veteran bound for the D-Day 70th Anniversary celebrations took Bernard under his wing. Continue Reading

I first came across Sam Eason a couple of months ago when he supported Scott Matthews at the Colston Hall in Bristol, and was really impressed with his short set.   So when I saw a poster for Sam Eason & Friends at this super venue, I decided to pop along last night to see how he would be as a headliner.

Sam EasonAt the Colston Hall, he performed his own songs with a friendly and relaxed air.  He quickly built a good rapport with his audience, raising  a smile with his occasionally self-deprecating little links between the songs.  Armed with acoustic guitar and looper, his music is very much in tune with the current crop of singer/songwriters, with observations on life and love, told from the viewpoint of an observer who appreciates the lighter side to life.  He was joined there for the last two songs by his wife, Beth, whose harmonies fit his vocals perfectly, and it is easy to see where the inspiration for his uncomplicated love songs comes from.

He has produced three EPs since 2011, plus a digital album of demos and covers, and I bought the latest EP called Leave the Dark Low that night, the title track being the opener for his set at the Old Theatre Royal, and one well-deserving a wider audience. Continue Reading

The problem with Arts Festivals is they are a bit like grapeshot, lots of up-and-coming performers taking their opportunity to put themselves in the limelight at small venues around a town, but ultimately competing against larger heavily-sponsored events.   Which is why, as a festival-goer, it sometimes pays to ignore the big-banger ‘do’ that is advertised weeks ahead on every billboard, and look instead for that potential hidden gem.  Which is how I found Matt Cook at the Bath Fringe last night.

The Old Theatre Royal in Bath is another hidden gem.  It is tucked down a quiet cobbled side street behind Marks & Spencers’ loading bay, so you would be lucky to stumble across it.   It is also quite an anonymous building that has been the local Masonic Hall for nearly 150 years, but originally came into being as the City’s first purpose-built Theatre in 1750, becoming the inaugural home of the Theatre Royal company in 1768.  The original auditorium space, along with its superb acoustics,  still exists and is the part used for their annual series of Festival gigs.

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To a certain extent, we all have our destiny encoded into us – medically at least – as Crick and Watson discovered when they revealed the structure of our DNA.  Some people also believe that our future is written in the stars, or at least those in the sky at our moment of birth, which is why Astrology is so popular.   But what of our name – is something coded into that as well?

name anagrams

Those of you who do Pub Quizzes will have encountered the round where the quizmaster produces a list of anagrams of celebrity names and asks us to identify them.  We are amused by some, for example: ‘occasional nude income’ reveals Madonna’s full name (Madonna Louise Ciccone), ‘go gets beer’ becomes George Best and ‘O Dear, I’m a gonad’ is Diego Maradona.  Some others may be a little more profound, such as ‘old west action’ (Clint Eastwood), ‘got St Leger tip’ (Lester Piggott)  or ‘genuine class’ (Alec Guinness).   But it’s the ones that are a little too close for comfort that cause us to raise an eyebrow.  Who would have thought that the anagram for Osama Bin-Laden would be ‘a bad man – no lies’? Continue Reading