Tag Archives: Donna

Candle with care: I’m sick of the tick of the birthday clock

22 Oct

I USED to love birthdays. Particularly those big ones with a zero on the end. The ones when your boss would send you home early to have a quiet family celebration…only for all hell to let loose when you opened the front door.

One moment, silence and slight concern that nobody was in. Then, as you peered into the deserted hall, an explosion of noise as doors flew open, laughing faces appeared from nowhere, the kids rushed into your arms  –  and 100 voices burst into a chorus of you know what.
The party would go on forever as you ate, drank (too much) and caught up with the lives of surprise visitors from out of town and friends you’d all but lost touch with. Your boss and the colleagues who had masterminded the show would turn up after work and the party would go on through the night.
Yes, life was fun at 40…and blowing the candles out was a piece of cake.
How times change. Birthdays used to take forever to come round, yet I swear I’ve had four of them this year.
And the only good thing about the damned things is that if they keep coming, you know you are still alive.
I’d better amend that, because I don’t want my friends and to think I didn’t enjoy our little celebration at the weekend. Nineteen of us took our zimmer frames, hearing aids and skin tucks for a bit of a bash in Guardamar. It wasn’t a night at the Ritz, some would say more like the Pits. But, like so many local expats, my crowd love the bustle and boom of Vicente Jaen’s chaotic restaurant, where plates of freebie food fly at you from all angles before you even give your order – and then you are submerged by enough food to fill a herd of starving elephants.
There’s no written bill and the only till is the wad of notes tucked away in Vicente’s pocket. It’s all a bit of a shambles, really…but as irresistible as the march of time.

In the chaos, my plan for a table for 20 was redrawn as a 12 and an eight and I spent the evening  sitting with my back to most of my guests. The experience confirmed my mathematical theory that the volume of noise generated by a boozing Brit is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed. The longer we celebrated, the louder some of us got (not me, of course)  – and the more disgusted looks headed like daggers in our direction.
It was all good fun and great to have so much support in the absence of my family, who are all in the UK. Thanks for the good wishes, cards and presents, guys, but you’ll have to remind me who gave what because everything got mixed up in the chaos of the evening.
One thing I did notice in the haze of alcohol (two gin and tonics – I can’t even get drunk these days) was that there were no candles on the cake.
Perhaps Restaurant Jaen is a no-blow zone, I thought. Because I could definitely have seen off all those little sticks of flaming wax. Well, three or four anyway – I can only eat a few in one sitting.
Anyway, in two years I’m due to hit another BIG birthday. I want whoever provides the cake to make sure it displays one candle for every year of my strife (pun intended).
I promise faithfully that when it comes to blows, every one of those candles will be extinguished in a couple of seconds.
And maybe the grandkids will let me help…
Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es), October 19, 2012

They pink it’s all over – but I still love joke birthday cards

22 Oct

IT was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and no, I’m not telling you how old I am.
But judging by the sort of birthday cards I received, my friends (the few I have left after all my moaning) clearly believe I have reached my dotage.
Apparently I am no longer a suitable target for those corny joke cards the ‘younger’ community bounce off each other.I didnt even get a card making fun of my being old. You know, the sort that make you seem glam until you get the punchline inside.
A year older…and no sign of any joke cards

On the front, it will say something like ‘’What Do You Like To Get Up To In Bed, Sexy Lady?’ Then, when you turn inside, there’s an old dear in a flannelette nightie sitting on the loo saying ‘I Like To Get Up To Wee.’

That one’s dreadful because I made it up. But you know what I mean.

Anyway, virtually every card I received was one of those schmaltzy affairs you send to great-grandma on her 97th birthday.

I’m talking about the pink ones covered with pretty flowers and the message To a Dear Friend.

Admittedly, I automatically orientate to this type of card for my 83-year-old  stepmother – but with good reason. She gets the pink schmaltz treatment because she has no sense of humour – or sense of anything, for that matter.

Anyway, this plethora of pinko cards all but convinced me that my friends had made a pact to tell me subtly that, in their eyes, I am now officially OLD. The fact is I love funny cards…and always have done. Providing they are not too crude, that is.

I might be a boring old drone to some, but no one can say I don’t have a sense of humour. So I assume the reason no one sent me a card I could laugh at is that the entire planet now sees me as a coffin dodger.

I scoured the cards for even the slightest hint of humour and the nearest I could get to a giggle was one bearing the message ‘Especially For You…’’. Well, Who else would it be for, tonto?

That’s me off everyone’s Christmas card list. Now where did I put my Zimmer  frame?

From Liverpool to Leeds: Ten hilarious football tales

3 Jan

During my 30-plus  years working for national newspapers in the UK, I heard more 0ffbeat tales about sports celebrities than I care to remember – many of them first-hand from colleagues who were there at the time. You’ll find links to a whole series of anecdotes on the Home Page of  this website – but here are a few tasters to get your laughter buds baying for more. And yes, I do suspect one or two of the stories may be apocryphal. But who cares as long as they make people smile…

LATE NIGHT EXTRA: Legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly was fuming on the night several of his superstars arrived back at their Belgian hotel 45 minutes later than the boss. ”Where do you lot think you’ve been?’’ blazed Shanks as international quartet Ron Yeats, Ian St John, Roger Hunt and Ian Callaghan returned from a drinking session well after the boss’s midnight curfew. ”That’s it!’’ he ranted at Yeats, St John and Hunt. ”You’ll never play for Liverpool again – and you can forget about international football as well. You’re finished!.’’ Then, turning to his blue-eyed boy Callaghan, he added: ”And I’m going to tell your missus about you.”

DON’T CRY FOR LEE: Manager Gordon Lee wanted a word with his Newcastle chairman Stan Seymour. He marched into the club chief’s office, only to be told by a secretary: ‘’Mr Seymour is not available. He’s gone to see Evita.’’ Lee retorted: ‘’I don’t think so. He wouldn’t go and watch a foreign player without telling me first.’’ When Lee moved on to manage Everton, the Merseyside media soon discovered his geographical knowledge matched his familiarity with Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. After a dismal showing in a home Cup Winners’ Cup leg against Standard Liege, defiant Gordon looked ahead to the return in Belgium and rapped: ‘’Just wait until we get them in Standard!’’

EMMY AWARD: Hard-man Tommy Smith had two pet hates in football – Leeds United’s Allan Clarke and his own skipper at Liverpool, Emlyn Hughes. And not necessarily in that order. When Hughes clashed with Clarke in a goalmouth melee and old squeaky voice Emlyn found himself on the deck with blood pouring from his nose, Smithy showed himself in his true colours. ”Maybe that Clarke’s not such a bad bloke after all,” muttered Tom the compassionate.

With manager Jock Stein in hospital, Celtic No.2 Sean Fallon was dealing with press enquiries at Parkhead. When one reporter phoned to enquire about an injury to Scotland full-back Danny McGrain, Irishman Fallon admitted: ‘’I don’t think he’ll make Saturday’s game. He’s suffering from a Grain stroin.’’

GENTLE-MAN JIM: It threatened to be a bloody battle. Spurs and Burnley had fought out a particularly vicious FA Cup stalemate – and the replay promised to be even more physical. The teams were kicking in before the game when Jimmy Greaves, who was never noted for his ball-winning ability, approached his equally timid-tackling opposite number Jimmy McIlroy. ‘’Hey Jim, why don’t we mark each other?,’’ said goal-king Greavsie. ‘’Then neither of us will get hurt.’’

TOM AND JURY: Tommy Docherty was always the first person to poke fun at himself – as with his version of the

Tommy Docherty: Success as a failure

infamous court case in which he was accused of perjury – and acquitted. ‘’I admitted to the judge I’d lied on oath, but he didn’t believe me,’’  is one of the one-time Manchester United boss’s classic quips. Tongue-in-cheek Tom is also particularly proud of his dubious achievement as manager of Rotherham United. ‘‘I promised the chairman I’d get them out of the Second Division (now the Championship) and I did,’’ he recalls. ‘’I took them into the Third.’’

EIRE RAID WARNING: League of Ireland champions Shamrock Rovers were convinced they had the answer to mighty Honved of Hungary in the European Cup, The lads from Dublin trailed 2-0 from the away leg, but on the eve of the return manager Jim McLaughlin unveiled a unique plan for beating the magnificent Magyars. ‘’We’ll be concentrating on all-out attack…mixed with caution,’’ he insisted. No prizes for guessing who won the tie 5-1 on aggregate.

BETTER BY CALF: England legend Nat Lofthouse reckons he was frightened of his own Bolton teammates in his playing days. Well, two of them anyway. Full-backs Roy Hartle and Tommy Banks had such a fearsome reputation that striker Lofthouse maintained: ‘’When they were playing behind me I used to put shin guards on the back of my calves.’’

THE BALD TRUTH: Rival Midlands bosses Ron Atkinson and Jim Smith decided to travel together to a dinner they were both attending. Their teams had been having mixed fortunes, with Atkinson’s West Brom near the top of the old First Division (the Premier League’s predecessor) and Smith’s Birmingham seemingly heading for relegation. They pulled their vehicle into a multi-storey car park near the function venue, left it on the top deck, and got into the lift. Big Ron turned to the Bald Eagle and quipped: ‘’You’d better press the button because it’s you who’s going down.’’

NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY: Peter Withe’s whip-round was apparently for the driver taking the Aston Villa players to their pre-season friendly in Dusseldorf. But the man behind the steering wheel didn’t get a pfennig. Withe invested the money in an inflatable rubber sex doll, which was duly named Doris and went on to become part of Villa folklore. The obliging lady was adorned with the number 12 on her back – and the name of newlywed Colin Gibson’s wife across her torso. She was then left in a suitably compromising position in Gibson’s room at the team hotel. Gibbo was not amused – and poor Doris proved no match for him or the pair of scissors with which he cut her to shreds.


Defiant Spanish smokers facing 100,000 euro penalty

3 Jan

D-Day has come and gone – but how much better off is Spain now that bars and restaurants will no longer be polluted by smoke? Assuming that Spanish tobacco addicts choose to honour the new legislation, that is.

I’m in the UK at present, but I gather from friends and Spanish internet forums that the general public seem to be accepting the changes reasonably amicably.

Breaching the new law will initially cost smokers a 30-euro fine, but bar owners face a 600-euro penalty for a first offence, soaring to a potential 100,000 euros if they repeatedly ignore the legislation.

Smokers caught several times could also face a six-figure fine. But if  my good friend Graham Lilley’s Day One experience counts for anything, few expats will risk  the wrath of the enforcement boys.

Graham, who runs the popular Ricardo’s bar in El Raso, near Guardamar, told me: ”I didn’t need to remind my customers. They all came in telling me smoking is no longer legal and insisting they sit outside!”

Graham, an asthmatic, reluctantly decided against a smoking ban inside Ricardo’s last year because he feared he would lose more customers than they gained. Now he says: ”I’m happy the decision has been taken out of my hands but I hope it’s not the thin end of the wedge. No flambe dishes, no smoked salmon – and what about the mosquito candles?!”

Graham Lilley - happy with ban

Meanwhile, some Spanish bar proprietors seemed to be testing the water to see if the government really mean business. A friend in the Costa Del Sol reported hours after the new legislation took effect: ” I just went past our local bar in Benalmadena and only two men were sitting in there. One was smoking, as was the barman/owner with him!’’

That’s 630 euros the government missed out on for starters – unless the police walked in afterwards and chose not to join the fumadores.

A Javier-based member of one expat forum reported: ‘’ Not an ashtray in sight in our local. Lots of smokers enjoying the sun outside, though. I guess the real test will come when it rains…’’

Another revealed: ”Driving back from Torremolinos this morning my wife and I popped into a bar/cafe in Velez Malaga. Signs everywhere – Prohibido Fumar. A young guy came in and lit up. The staff told him to go outside!’’

And from the colder northern climes of Bilbao came the revelation: ‘”The major bars on the street where I live have put a table outside with an ashtray. People seem to be respecting the law up here, which I’m thankful for.

‘’There’s a LOT of anger – we were giving the smokers in the family a hard time yesterday at the family dinner and an uncle was saying he’ll no longer go to the bar. However, I doubt this because the daily coffee is a good excuse to leave the house.

‘’People will stay home more? This week, sure, people are going to be stubborn. Next week too. Week three? People will miss their coffee. Week four… we’ll see.’’

Personally, I’m beginning to wonder whether there will in fact be ANY real change. Unlike Britain, the winter weather in Spain does not freeze everyone virtually to death so it won’t involve any great hardship for smokers to indulge their unsociable habit outside on a partly-covered terrace.

And once the temperature warms up, it will be back to the old routine. Everyone will make for the terrace, the smokers will light up – and sanctimonious battle-axes like me, too hot to go inside and avoid the fumes, will carry on moaning.

PS. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the cool reaction of smokers to the flak I’ve been flinging at them this past couple of days. I fully expected an angry backlash over all the mickey-taking, particularly my recommendation that they try the balcony option (click here). All I can think is that perhaps the new anti-smoking laws in Spain fitted in nicely with everyone’s New Year’s Resolution.

Cats v Dogs: A tongue-in-poo look at the habits of our pets

30 Dec

A doggy or a moggy? Donna takes a humorous look at the benefits and brickbats of ownership

I love cats more than any other animal. They are to me the most mysterious, fascinating and wonderful creatures on earth. And not only can they read your mind, they can also manipulate it to  their own advantage.

That’s the voice of 40 years of cat ownership speaking. Oh, and I didn’t own any of my moggies – they owned me.

From Fluffy to Thatcher, from Geoffrey to Henry and from Lucky to Sooty, I was THEIR pet, not the reverse. If it didn’t suit them to live in my home, they’d have been off like a flash to appoint some other purr soul as honorary daily food-and-milk supplier.

ALL IN THE NAME: My cat Geoffrey (Geoffrey Boycat to give him his full name) is a fine cricketer!

Some of us are cat people, some dog people and some, like me,  care for both. Only we usually have a preference and in my household, moggies have always held the edge.

To start with, they allow their owner more independence. If you’re not around for a few days, it doesn’t really matter as long as someone is there to feed them. Leave a dog on  its own for two days and you’re not only in serious trouble with the animal authorities, the poor mutt will also have moped itself into a candidate for the canine nuthouse.

Then there is the cleanliness issue. Dogs love to pepper their noses with  the ghastliest of savouries left for them by their fellow barkers. The browner and smellier the better for Fido and his pals, and the worse for those of us whose shoes squelch the stink into our  rugs and carpets when we get home.

From my experience, there’s nothing more frustrating  than trying to house-train a  puppy. It will pee and poo to order providing you let it out a minimum of 250 times a day. But pop out yourself for five minutes and you open the door on your return to a mound of doggy dung and a floor awash with a ship-load of urine.

The yelps when Little Poo  is left momentarily on its own are bad enough. But they are nothing to the yelps of human anger that boom into the stratosphere when Mr and Mrs Owner discover what poochie was up to while they were out of the room.

Yet to a dog lover, those Close Encounters of the T*rd Kind are all acceptable in exchange for the pure, uncomplicated love you are guaranteed in return for just being there. Who cares that Fido spends all day rolling in mud, urine, vomit and the faeces of every animal on earth? It only takes a couple of hours to clean him up – and then those luscious licks and doggy hugs make it all worthwhile.

Unless, like me, you’re already so browned off by those pooper bloopers that you’ve vowed never to have a dog again.

Cats are a complete contrast. House-trained before they’ve ever seen a house, all a kitten needs is a litter tray and it will wee and poo  into it ad infinitum. Mind you, removing the hail of stones that hurtle around the house in mini-puss’s attempts to  bury the residue with its lethal back feet can take twice as long as clearing up after any untrained puppy.

Moggies also need no  teaching when it comes to cleaning themselves. And thereby hangs another tale – plus body, head and legs.  Before you  know it, puss has licked herself  bald and is coughing up a two-ton hair ball. You rush her to the vet thinking she’s on her last legs but fear not…they all do it.

Unless, like my Molly, the furry one suffers from feline asthma and vomits up nothing but wheeze.

If your cat is a Tom, then you have another problem or three. First and worst is his territory spraying, and the pungent, difficult-to-remove smell it creates. Then there’s his sexual appetite, which he’ll inevitably impose on all the local moggettes – accompanied by a cat’s chorus loud enough to drown out a 30-piece orchestra.

The solution to that one is simple. Have Tiger Tom snipped in the bud when he’s a few months old and the spraying and s****ing will be a thing of the past.

If you have a dog, you will of course need to take it for walks. Unless you are a lazy bitch like one or two of my friends – and end up with a mutt that’s even fatter than its owner. In such instances, at least fatso and her pet won’t need a pooper scooper to clean up the dog mess, though not that many people seem to bother if the pavements in my locality at El Raso are anything to go by.

People not clearing up the mess left by their dogs in public places is a big problem everywhere. But here’s a question for you: If you saw a threatening-looking yob’s pit-bull pooing outside your home and he didn’t clean up the mess (the yob, not the pitbull), what would you do?

If your answer is ‘nothing’, score a brownie point for honesty.

Cat-walking is strictly for models, of course. But at the end of the day, you’ll shack up with the pet that suits YOU, whether it be a dog, cat, rabbit, kangaroo or a 15-foot crocodile. My 11-year-old grandson would happily have the lot – particularly if the croc came with a guarantee to eat his sister.

As for me, I’ll stick with my two moggies back home in in Guardamar. Even if I am at my wits end hoping they are OK while I spend Christmas and the New Year here with my family in Manchester. Don’t worry, while I am away some good friends are feeding them both – along with three or four strays who have adopted me (and particularly my daily food offerings) over recent months.

They all used to be straggly. Now they are verging on obese. But I’d happily take them all with me everywhere I go if only they could speak English.

PS. Question: What do you call a brown Spanish cat? Answer – a chocolate gato.

Corrupt or not, Blatter and his bunglers have lost the FIFA plot

24 Dec

During last summer’s World Cup, I wrote a magazine article in which I described Sepp Blatter, the most powerful administrator in world football, as ”an ageing plonker”. I now accept that at the FIFA chairman is not ageing. He’s decrepit.

Indeed, he is so far past his sell-by date that I suggest his native Switzerland considers putting him out of his misery. Euthanasia is perfectly legal there, after all.

Now I love football but, like just about every fan in the world, I think its administrators are in another world when it comes to moving into the 21st century.

Soccer is the world’s most popular game with billions of fans and ludicrous amounts of money passing through its coffers. Yet while other major sports like tennis, rugby, American Football and cricket have long since been using modern technology to adjudicate controversial moments, the Methuselahs who orchestrate the game’s structure continue to insist that decisions must be left entirely to the human eye.

Even if those decisions are patently wrong and unfair, as they often are.

Take England’s disallowed goal against Germany, for instance. Frank Lampard’s rocket shot bounced down off the crossbar at least a yard over the line and then came out of the goal – and the referee and linesman were seemingly the only two people in the stadium who failed to spot it.

The German goalkeeper knew it was a goal, of course. But since honesty is the last thing one expects from professional footballers (we won’t mention being faithful to their wives), there was no way he was going to tell the referee. Let’s face it, England would have done exactly the same had it been the Germans who scored, so dishonours even there.

However, had the referee merely been allowed to consult a video replay, as are officials in other major sports, justice would have prevailed. As it was, nobody knows what might have happened had England been level at 2-2 at halftime rather than 2-1 behind. Why, they might even have won. (well, in my dreams).

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a player or manager speak AGAINST the use of video playbacks to confirm or over-rule controversial refereeing decisions. And the argument that the delay would detract from the game has long since been shot down by the evidence of other sports. In rugby and cricket, for example, the anxious wait for decisions like ‘not out’ or ‘no try’ to appear on the screen invariably ADD to the excitement rather than detracts from it.

Yet Blatter and his fellow FIFA duffers have consistently resisted calls for any sort of technology. And that has inevitably led to people like myself asking ‘Why?’

And in the absence of a logical reason, I can’t help pondering the recent corruption allegations over FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia.

Now I am well aware of the laws of libel, so I am not saying someone is bribing Sepp and his sidekicks NOT to say yes to the technology companies. But it makes you wonder, particularly as Blatter’s election in 1998 was later sullied by allegations that an African federation official had been offered a 100,000 dollar bribe to vote for him.

Certainly, Blatter’s logic seems to be at variance with the entire population of the world. Apart, perhaps, from his cronies in Geneva, all of whom are presumably blokes. And that brings me to another negative aspect of the man’s background.

Seedy Sepp does not seem to hold women very high in his esteem. Indeed, he seems to see us merely as sex objects. According to Wikipedia, in the early 1970s he was elected president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, an organisation which tried to stop women wearing tights instead of stockings and suspender belts.

Then, in 2004, he angered female footballers when he suggested that women should “wear tighter shorts and low cut shirts… to create a more female aesthetic” and attract more male fans.

I’ve got news for Mr Blatter. If he spent more time sorting out football’s injustices and less on ogling the girls, then it might start living up to its billing as ‘the beautiful game’.

He could start by introducing a law that works wonderfully well in rugby and ensures that cheats who illegally prevent a certain score don’t prosper. In such circumstances, referees can award a ‘‘penalty try’’ – yet in football, the worst a team can suffer is a red card for the offender and a penalty kick for the cheated side.

When a Uruguay player prevented Ghana winning their World Cup tie by deliberately stopping a goalbound shot with his hand, the correct decision should have been ‘goal’ – even though the ball did not cross the goal line. The incident happened at the very end of extra time, so the red card did not help Ghana in any way.

And when they missed the resultant penalty kick, any advantage was completely wiped out.

Uruguay celebrated their reprieve by winning the penalty shootout that followed and Africa’s last representatives in the tournament were on their way home when in the eyes of every fair-minded person they were really the victors. But the concept of introducing a ‘penalty goal’ award to foil the cheats has probably never crossed Mr Blatter’s mind.

Ghana did not get justice, they were robbed because the laws are an ass. It’s the sort of thing that makes football appear even more stupid than the heads-in-the-sand brigade who run (or should that be ruin?) the game.

So how is football ever going to be dragged into the 21st century? Maybe we should offer sleazy Sepp an inducement to hand the whole caboodle over to us girls. Then we could sort it all out in no time and let him concentrate on whatever else he does for kicks…

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.co.uk

I’ve been bleating about the incompetence and obstructiveness of Blatter’s bungling regime  for years. Not least in September 2006, when I wrote in a Sportingo.com article under the heading ‘The FIFA joke that Blatters to deceive’:

Rugby referees use it at the slightest excuse, while Test umpires call on it to adjudicate virtually every contentious cricket incident. So why do the stuffed shirts who run the so-called ‘beautiful game’ continue to defy logic and refuse to allow video technology to judge big-time football’s controversial moments?

As any unbiased German will tell you, soccer officials have been getting it wrong ever since the 1966 World Cup Final. Yet, amazingly, 70-year-old Sepp Blatter and his bloated FIFA bunglers would have us believe that utilising TV recordings to ensure major decisions are always right would be a retrograde step.

Try telling that to any player, manager or fan whose team have been cheated out of a goal or a penalty by a misjudgment of the human eye.

Nothing is more certain than at some stage in the new Premiership season, a referee will rule ‘no goal’ when slow-motion proves the ball has clearly crossed the line – or reward a blatant dive with a penalty. Consultation with an off-pitch video referee with access to immediate playbacks, common sense to all but the immense idiots who run the game, could end such controversial incidents once and for all. But FIFA president Blatter and Co would have us believe the delay while the TV official adjudicated would be detrimental to the continuity of the game.

How ludicrous! Just ask any rugby fan – Union or League – how much his enjoyment of a vital match was ruined by the nailbiting tension as he awaited confirmation that the winning try was legally scored.

Or find a cricket umpire who’d rather do without the luxury he now has of knowing every run-out decision is correct. Sometimes it is literally impossible for the human eye to judge whether or not a batsman has made his ground.

England-Pakistan sporting relations may be in turmoil over split Hairs of the Darrell kind. But I’m afraid, Mr Blatter, that continuing to deprive football fans of video justice is just not cricket. Or soccer . . . if you and your ageing administrators know the difference between the two.