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Bigger than Manchester United: Two-faced Ferguson’s ego trip

11 May

I’ve met Sir Alex Ferguson on a couple of occasions (well, been in his company ) and I have to say it was a pleasant experience. Even if the Manchester United boss’s red-nosed jollity had been inspired by a glass or six of vintage vino.

So why do I find it so pleasant to see his 27-year reign at Old Trafford finally come to an end?
It’s not that I’m anti United — how can I be when half my family are dyed-in-the-wool Reds? It’s just that I have no time for two-faced people. And I’m afraid Fergie is a classic example of a split personality .
You can’t argue with the Scottish super-boss’s record as a football club manager. He has no peers in terms of success over more than two decades. What I find disgusting is that Mr McMighty has become bigger than Manchester United—and that his employers  allowed him to do so.
Fergie’s press conference bans on newspapermen who dare to criticise  him or his team  have become folklore in Fleet Street. One agency reporter felt the full weight of Fergie’s wrath  a while back just for asking a question about Ryan Giggs. But it was nothing new. Over the years, Fergie has slapped ridiculous sanctions dozens of journalists who dared to write or say something he didn’t like.
Sir Alex is vindictive with it, too. Not for him the “let bygones be bygones” approach. His ludicrous vendetta against the BBC went on for almost a decade—fuelled by a Panorama programme which investigated the business activities of his son Jason, who was then a football agent.
Another example of his petulance was the recall of two players on loan from United immediately after Preston North End sacked another of his sons, Darren.
The fact is that Sir Alex became the victim of his own success. He seems convinced that he is even closer to the Almighty than Jose Mourinho and the late Brian Clough.
And the United board are entirely to blame for the situation. Quite simply , they lacked the bottle to tell Ferguson ‘‘Either talk to the BBC along with the other broadcasting companies, or find yourself a new job.’’
OK, we all know what would have happened. United would have been looking for a new boss many years ago. That has been the problem at Old Trafford for a long time. Quite simply , the board were just as scared of Fergie as the frightened media rabbits who bowed and scraped to his every whim.
They humbled themselves in the eyes of the Mighty Dictator,  which makes me suspect that few of those who cover United matches on a regular basis always write exactly what they think.
And I find that very discomforting.

Ryanair kicked me in the ribs – my airline fracture’s killing me

4 May

I SUPPOSE it was fated to happen after all the bashings I’ve given to the airline the world hates to love.

Not satisfied with fleecing me of 50 euros on the outward trip, Ryanair kicked me in the ribs on my return flight to Alicante from Manchester.

Well, I’ve got to blame someone – and they’re used to it!

I’ve been doubled up in pain for the last 10 days, with the prospect of  two more weeks explaining why I’m crawling about like a 90-year-old crab.

After my heinous crime on the flight to the UK (and the €50 fine levied by a human Rottweiler at the boarding desk who would have preferred the death sentence), I arrived at the departure gate in Manchester prepared for a handbag war.

I’d replaced the criminally large one I took to England with a mini-handbag which fitted easily into my hand luggage and took my place in the Ryanair ‘Priority’ queue ready for the flak to fly as it had at Alicante.

No such luck – Jonny Rottweiler and the Air Pirates were nowhere in sight,  just a couple of polite lady pussy cats.

Here was the reality of ageism. The young Spanish jobsworths at Alicante had both been in their twenties. The British-Asian women who checked me through the boarding gate at Manchester were double their age – and consequently graduates in tact and diplomacy.

Before joining the queue, I had plonked my 10 kilos of  cabin luggage into the Ryanair size rack and, surprise surprise, it just about fitted. But then, of course I couldn’t get it out. I pulled and pulled and eventually a  male passenger did the job for me.

I half expected Rott-man to appear with a set of scales and weigh my bag in at 10.1 kilos. Which I presume would also incur a €50 fine.

Come to think of it, why do Ryanair not check the weight of hand luggage carried  by passengers  with online boarding cards? (I shouldn’t have mentioned that. They might get ideas).

Anyway, on to the meat of this article – how Ryanair condemned me to suffer.

Despite the relaxed atmosphere at Manchester airport, I was happy enough to get past the boarding gate. A particularly helpful gentleman (yes, they do still exist) helped me get my 10 kilos’ worth aboard  and I settled into my reserved front-row window seat (at €10 extra, a snip for creaking oldies).

OK Mr O'Leary, you win. Please put us down
You win, Michael. Please put us down

Two  po-faced women were already  filling the two adjacent seats. I smiled at the fatty wedged next to me and made a light-hearted comment designed to break the ice. She froze me out with one cold look. No problem, I thought,  she’s probably foreign and didn’t understand me.

She turned to her pal and spouted something in fluent Jamie Carragher. There we are, I knew she was foreign.

As passengers without reserved seats (which was virtually everyone) funnelled through the plane, the male steward asked the Liverpool lasses if they had reserved the seats they were in.

‘’No’’ .

‘’You can’t sit here then,’’ he told them, to my intense pleasure. “Anywhere after Row 6, please.’’

Reluctantly, the Liver Birds  headed for the rear of the plane, to be replaced by two suited young Spaniards who DID have reservations. Great, I thought – convinced I’d get in a bit of  Spanish practice during the ensuing  two and a bit hours.

No chance. Los chicos babbled away so rapido that I barely understood a palabra – and I quickly realised they had nothing in common with a grumpy old geriatric.

Because of back problems, I have difficulty bending down. So when, soon after take-off, I dropped the Ryanair flight magazine, the sensible thing would have been to ask one of the Spanish guys if he could help.

But this was ‘Grabber Granny’ hour, so down I stretched to rescue the fallen literary classic.

After two or three failed attempts, I sat up again and thought ‘I’m making a fool of myself. I’ve got to get it next time.’

I lurched forward and felt a big crack in my lower ribs, accompanied by a fierce pulled-muscle type pain.

Since then, I have thought of little but Ryanair. When I’m not yelling for relief, that is.

I think of them when I wake up in the morning, when I sit down or stand up,  when I get in and out of my car, in fact I never stop thinking about the floor of that plane.’ They had no right to put it there.

I’m in pain just about every second of the day. And I’m told the only cure for  rib damage is rest and patience.

Michael O’Leary, you’re a cruel man.I have only word to say to you and your airline.


How Peter Andre opened a door to happiness for sick Daisy

31 Mar

GHOSTLY WHITE: Daisy in hospital recently
Peter signs a CD for Daisy in 2010

THE past four months have been a living hell for my granddaughter Daisy.

She’s spent roughly half that time in hospital, has lost two stone in weight and her once-rosy cheeks have been replaced by a ghostly white complexion.

She is currently on a medical regime which involves taking 32 pills a day…plus a fortnightly injection she describes as ‘’like a really bad wasp sting’’.

Even when Daisy is not in hospital, she’s bent double in agony much of the time and cannot go to school. Such is life for a 12 year-old with a particularly aggressive type of Crohn’s Disease.
At what should be the most exciting time of her life, she’ll become a teenager next month not knowing what the future holds. If she is lucky, the ulceration of her bowel will respond to treatment and the digestive spasms that crease her up will ease – just as they did for her older sister Rosie, 21. She has the same incurable illness as Daisy, but has been in remission for four years.

If she’s unlucky, Daisy will require major surgery. It all seems so unfair for a youngster whose dad suffered a massive brain haemorrhage when she was three years old and has been in hospital, paralysed and blind, ever since.

Last Friday Daisy was discharged from her latest hospital stay, even though she was far from well. The lives of her medical team would have been at risk had they refused to let her go. Her mother Hayley  had booked tickets to see Peter Andre ‘Up Close and Personal’  at Manchester’s Apollo Theatre and this was one event she was NOT going to miss.

Two years ago, Daisy was photographed with singing heartthrob Andre at a CD signing at a local ASDA store in Manchester – and prayed for the day she could see her idol in concert. Now it was actually going to happen…with family friend Louisa, a qualified nurse, joining Hayley’s entourage at the Apollo in case Daisy’s pains became intolerable during the evening.

We’d been racking our brains for a way to contact Peter Andre in the hope he might just find time to say hello to her. We knew it was a forlorn hope…and with 3,500 fans yelling for his attention at the Apollo, that forlorn hope quickly deteriorated to ‘no chance’. Their seats were four rows from the back…just about as far from the stage as it was possible to get.

Frail Daisy was dwarfed by adults vying for the best viewing points and as everyone leapt to their feet to welcome their hero, she was left staring at people’s backs. In desperation, she stood on her seat to get a better view and was immediately ordered down by the fans behind her.

In tears, she resigned herself to the worst. At least she could hear her idol, she reasoned. That was better than nothing.

Then fate took a hand in the most dramatic way. Someone pointed out a free seat in the very back row; here was a chair Daisy could stand on without fear of being ordered to sit down and where she could get an uninterrupted, if distant, view of her beloved Peter.
The six-stone waif was about to enter dreamland.
In the distance, Andre left the stage as his dancing entourage began a routine to the tune of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Then the hand of fate took over. ‘Suddenly Peter emerged from a door just to Daisy’s right, singing – and started walking along the aisle behind us,’’ says Hayley.

“Daisy turned round and he saw her straight away. She was crying hysterically and Peter came straight over to her and started singing to her. He touched her face and she grabbed his arm…and then he moved away.

“Daisy somehow found the energy to jump over the seat and run after him but was held back by one of his minders.

“But it was an amazing experience for her and a fantastic pick-me-up that none of us could have dreamed of.’’

Daisy is still overcome by the experience: ‘’I can’t believe what happened. I and lots of my friends had been tweeting him for two weeks hoping he might just agree to say hi to me but it was more in hope than expectation. Then it just happened all by chance. I actually felt the muscles in his arm and I can tell you he smelt wonderful!’’

A great perfumance, you might say – and one that brought a rare smile from a child whose happy personality has been knocked sideways by her health problems.

We all know that pain and happiness just don’t mix. But for those few wonderful seconds at the back of the Apollo, agony turned to ecstasy for a sick child…and the hand of fate showed its gentle side.

Thanks, Peter.

Losing weight is easy using DDD! (What’s DDD? Read on…)

31 Mar

IT IS now 11 weeks since I started a sponsored slim, prompted by the double incentive of trimming my figure by at least 16 kilos (35 pounds) and raising £500 for research into Crohn’s disease,  which has afflicted the lives of two of my grandchildren. To put myself under even more pressure, I decided to expose my progress – or lack of it –  in The Courier, the expat newspaper I edit on Spain’s Costa Blanca. 
Six weeks into my diet, my 13-year-old granddaughter Daisy had lifesaving (the surgeon’s word)  surgery to remove part of her intestine after her weight dropped to five stone (70 pounds). I’m delighted to say she is making an amazing recovery whilst, of less significance, I have managed to shed exactly 20 of those 35 pounds. 
At the same time,  CICRA (Crohn’s In Children Research Association) has so far benefited by over £600 – and if enough kind people stick with me, I’m confident we’ll round it up to £1,000 well before June 30. That’s my deadline to hit my goal weight of 77.2 kilos or 170 pounds. 
Meanwhile, I’ve been chronicling the action (or is that contraction?) in my Grumpy Old Gran column in The Courier. Anyone with nothing better to do can find my confused ramblings at  Even better, feel free to sponsor me at (I said ‘feel free’ not ‘it’s free’!) Anyone who donates £1 or more will be rewarded…albeit in Heaven.
If you haven’t all surfed off somewhere else by now, the following is my latest update – published in The Courier on March 29, 2013.
Oh, and if you are wondering what DDD is, you’ll have to read on.
Hey, it’s suddenly gone very quiet. Is there anybody there? 

IN the fullness of emptiness (otherwise known as dieting), a stone and a half is not a massive amount of weight to lose.
I am not in the same league as those ‘Slimmer of the Year’ winners the formal diet groups use to promote their weighers (that’s a play on ‘wares’, you know I can’t resist a pun).
Anyway, I mean  those sylph-like ladies  whose ‘before’ picture portrays a bouncy castle with a moonface perched on it – and whose ‘after’ photo makes Kate Moss look like Humpty Dumpty.
At the start of this week, my official weight was 84.8 kilos (187lbs) – a far cry from the 205.5lbs I blubbered in at  11 weeks ago.
It’s now reached the stage where people are actually NOTICING  that I’m visibly less portly than when I began Dumpy Old Gran’s Sponsored Diet 11 weeks ago.
I’ve also been staggered at the number of strangers who offer me encouragement and advice – and ask me whether I am following the Weightwatchers, Slimming World or whatever diet.

My granddaughter Daisy…surgery saved her life

It happens  just about everywhere from supermarket car parks to Indian restaurants and even Wok Buffets.
Yes, believe it or not, Donna’s Delicious Diet allows me to dine out three or four nights a week – and still lose weight.
It’s all down to instinct. I have friends who keep telling me I am doing it the wrong way but I am losing weight and they aren’t, so there!
Anyway, I tailored my own diet to keep it simple. The basic DDD rules are…

  • Minimal intake of bread, potatoes, pasta and rice
  • Fry as little as possible – if you have do, fry it in its own juices
  • Eat lots of fresh veg and fruit
  • Avoid biscuits, cakes, sweets and gooey desserts (two squares of chocolate allowed each day).
  • And finally, as little alcohol as possible.

Fish and most meats are OK as long as grilled, oven-cooked or microwaved. I opt for chicken much of the time for health reasons, while steaks are reserved for restaurant forays. For me, a medium-rare sirloin accompanied by a nice salad takes some beating, even when I am not dieting.
At this rate, I’ll soon be the best judge of steaks in the Costas (all offers gratefully accepted!)
And those Indian and Chinese outings? Well, I can still get away with a Tandoori mixed grill, which was always my favourite Indian dish anyway – plus ONE poppadom. The difference is that I used to drown it all in curry sauce and top it up with a Peshwari nan. Fat lot of good it did me.
Until Sunday, I had a blanket ban on Chinese food because so much of it is fried. But since my three companions voted unanimously to stop off at a Wok Buffet  and I was in someone else’s car, my plan was to just sip a drink while the others poured oodles of grease into their digestive systems.
Had this been a traditional Chinese restaurant, I would not have eaten. But I had no problem jumping out of the frying pan, tempting as it was, and enjoying  a large prawn and tuna salad. That was  followed by a cocktail of fresh  strawberries, lychees and kiwi fruit, none of  which broke my self-imposed rules.
My friends tell me  I should drink eight glasses of water a day, that I can’t do it without lots of exercise and that I mustn’t eat after 7pm.
So what am I doing right?
Still, the way things are going, I’ll soon be a catwalk figure. Yes, I’ll be able to walk my cats that challenging 200 metres to the recycling bins and back without gasping for breath!
As well as my ongoing weight reduction, I’ve also lost a total of 55 centimetres in body measurements, including eight centimetres off my midriff. And that’s with very little exercise because of the danger of straining my less-than-perfect heart.
Going back to the diet itself, I never did eat a lot of carbohydrates, so it’s been no problem cutting out chips, pizza, pasta and potatoes, and minimising my bread intake.I’ve also developed a taste for fresh cabbage, cauliflower, carrots etc, which go down nicely with roast chicken, cold meats, salmon and tuna.
I’ve got into a routine that is rapidly becoming a lifestyle, rather than a food-deprivation experience. And I can’t imagine ever going back to my old greedy ways, which would have killed me.

A spoonful of Sugar…and a rubbish job for the boys

3 Mar

Alan Sugar: Lord of the Apprentice

I CAN’T say I like Alan Sugar – indeed, I can’t imagine a more ­unlikely marriage of sweet name and bitter sourpuss.

But you have to respect the Lord of the Apprentice, if only for his entrepreneurial nous.

I read old Grate and Lyle’s autobiography recently with mixed feelings. Admiration for the way a pimply working-class lad built himself a multi-million pound empire, to disgust at his innuendo in one chapter that gazumping is a noble trait. Gloat if you must, Lord S, but in my world, renaging on an agreed deal just to make more profit is both immoral and dishonest.

Maybe that’s why I’m a journalist rather than a businesswoman, but if business success means jumping into bed with the devil, then I’ll settle for bankruptcy any day.

Having said that, nothing would be more welcome right now than an injection of a few thousand Sugars into the Spanish economy.

Coming from the UK, a country where most of the unemployed youth are either workshy or short of a marble or two, it’s weird to encounter university graduates struggling to find work even in bars, let alone at the challenging level their skills deserve.

With 50 per cent of under-25s having no work – and little sign of the situation improving – more and more young Spaniards are joining the exodus to countries where their talents are in demand.

I know a number of well-educated Spanish lads in their mid 20s who speak four languages, yet when it comes to work, have only the odd summer shift earning buttons at a beach bar to look forward to.

Their obvious route to self-respect is to head for a country like France or the UK, where they can utilise their knowledge of French and English. Or to South America, where the cultural ties with Spain would make them feel more at home.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to puzzle out how young entrepreneurs among the unemployed could make themselves a few euros. The most original idea I’ve come up with would work best in the UK, but that should be no obstacle to Spanish youngsters prepared to travel.

So what is this great idea? Well, it’s linked to the fact that the refuse collection service in Britain has deteriorated in recent years to the point that in many areas it is, in a word, rubbish.

Example – in Bury, Greater Manchester, where my family live, the cash-strapped council only remove general household waste once a fortnight.

And for the vast majority of families, that is simply not enough. Enter the budding impresarios.

The gap week presents an open invitation for enterprising youngsters to whip superfluous rubbish down to the local tip for their neighbours at a couple of quid a trip.

The neighbours would welcome it. But the council would naturally try to put a stop to it, while the official binmen would go on strike in protest. Indefinitely, with a bit of luck.

And that would leave an army of youngsters with an open door to start their own refuse collection service.

It couldn’t happen, of course, because official  jobsworths would block non council employees dumping large amounts of waste at the local tip.

But wouldn’t it make a welcome change for British homeowners if they had a super-efficient daily collection service whizzing around the streets at night. You know, like in Spain.

But then, we Brits have had a lot more practice when it comes to bureaucratic  incompetence.


Thanks Tulisa – your bitchy comments have given Christopher the X Factor

8 Dec

A COUPLE of months ago, I vowed never to watch the X Factor again after joke singer Rylan Clark was manipulated back into the show by the collusion of the judges. Well, I have a confession to make – I’ve started watching it again.

And that’s because there’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing so-called experts with egg all over their faces.
 In their desperation to see the back of vulnerable Christopher Maloney – and, perhaps with a little coaxing from Simon Cowell – three of the judges have constantly pilloried the camp Scouser. But as someone who delights in seeing an underdog win, I’m happy to say that the cynicism of Tulisa and Co has rebounded on them bigtime.
 It is rumoured that Chris regularly gets TWICE as many votes as any of the other competitors and if that’s so, then he will this weekend become the first X Factor winner with no X Factor.

I accept that fellow finalists Jahmene Douglas and James Arthur have vastly more appeal to the younger generation.

But I’m fed up hearing Maloney berated by people like Tulisa, an average singer who has no  right to be judging the talent of vastly superior vocalists.

It seems all the negative comments have inspired the public to cast a sympathy vote for Maloney. – particularly sentimental old grannies like me who find him cuddlingly vulnerable.  All three finalists are assured of a big future, so it doesn’t really matter who wins.

But how enjoyable it would be to see Tulisa’s bitchiness come back to bite her in the bum.