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February 5th 2012
There have been two surprisingly similar stories this week, both involving unpopular people being humiliated by being stripped of largely meaningless baubles. In both cases this was done because of offences that have never been proven in court. In both cases the decision taken was, I believe, wrong. But in both cases it should never even have been possible. I speak, of course, of John Terry and Fred Goodwin.
Mr Goodwin has lost his knighthood and Mr Terry has lost his England captaincy; you might believe that the latter is unimportant, but it's difficult to claim that the former is any more vital, isn't it? Let me turn to Fred the Shred first. You may remember back in 2009, when Sir Fred (ah, halcyon days for His Shredness) first hit the national consciousness, that Harriet Harman said his contracted pension was not 'enforceable in the court of public opinion'. I was one of many, many people to point out that this was a ridiculous statement, and my opinion has not changed, but it looks like she was just a couple of years ahead of the trend. Goodwin has become the first person ever to be stripped of a knighthood without being found guilty of a crime - and, just to show that Fred is not alone in the court of public opinion, Stephen Hester has been cornered into giving up the bonus he is contractually entitled to. I'm not saying that Goodwin is without sin, and very possibly he should be facing criminal charges - or at least some stronger sanctions from the FSA - but the fact remains that he is, in the eyes of the law, innocent. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe strongly in 'innocent until proven guilty', and that should apply to everyone from the richest banker in the land to the poorest unfortunate living under a bridge. Stripping Goodwin of his knighthood is a petty, nasty move that sets a poor example to the nation and reeks of politicking of the lowest kind. It might be a vote-winner (it might not, of course) and no one's going to shed many tears for a man whose arrogance and hubris cost the tax payer a lot of money - though it should be remembered that Goodwin didn't actually cause the entire recession single-handedly - but that doesn't make it right. If the Queen is good for anything (and I'm not sure) then surely it's stopping cheap tricks like this? But she just waved it through.
I realise that supporting a banker - and a failed banker, at that - makes me sound like the worst kind of Tory stereotype. Honestly, I do. And I'm genuinely conscious that this could be a lazy knee-jerk reaction to our nation's favourite past-time of banker-bashing; contrariness for the sake of it. But I don't think it is. The more I read about Goodwin, the less I like him, and I don't think this problem should ever have occurred because I don't think he deserved a knighthood in the first place - the whole honours system is, frankly, a Yes, Minister episode - but I can't rejoice in such a clear case of mob 'justice' in action.
And so to John Terry. He's been accused of racist abuse and the court date is set for 9 July which, unfortunately for the England team, is after Euro 2012. You can see how this puts the set-up in a bit of a pickle: the England captain having allegations of racism hanging over his head - like a Damoclean B-word - isn't ideal. The captaincy of England might not be a big deal, even for those within football (you basically just get an armband and have to shout a bit louder when the cameras focus on you), but part of the job involves turning up at anti-racism events, and that would be very awkward. All the same, Terry strenuously denies the allegations, and while the FA has said they are not inferring [sic] his guilt, stripping him of the captaincy is a fairly clear statement that they're not standing by their man. Personally I would like to see calling an opponent a c*** (which Terry has admitted) punished just as severely as calling them black, but that's not the world we live in and that's not the basis of the FA's decision. Just as in the Goodwin case, a fairly unpleasant individual has had an honour taken away without his guilt having been proven. And just as in the Goodwin case, the issue should never have arisen: Terry had previously had the captaincy removed after he was discovered to have had an affair with Wayne Bridge's ex-girlfriend, and for no apparent reason it was returned to him a year later. If Capello had simply stuck with Rio Ferdinand as his captain, he wouldn't be in this mess (and, by the bye, Ferdinand would not be so disillusioned by international football). As it is, the FA has got itself into such a position that punishing a man before his guilt has been proven seems to be the best way out. It's a mess.
In other news, I'm having great difficulty in creating a new comments facility for February (the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that I didn't make a new one for January either) so I'm going to abandon it until Freewebs starts working properly again. Don't hold your breath.

On this day in 2011... Man Utd, who hadn't lost a single Premier League game this season before today, got beaten by the mighty Wolves, and we deserved it too.

February 10th 2012
Twitter has taught me many things over the last few years. I've discovered, for example, the names of two of the members of One Direction, that there is a band called One Direction, that One Direction fans call themselves Directioners, the name of Justin Bieber's mum and the birthday of Harry from One Direction. And now Twitter has taught me something else: a new meaning of the phrase 'as if'.
No, not the short-lived and unloved comedy drama As If (sorry Simon), but the common-or-garden two-word phrase. Forgive me if you're already au fait with the newly (?) adopted meaning, but I shall explain: 'as if' has, for as long as I can remember and no doubt longer, been used to described an unlikely hypothetical situation: "As if Ed Miliband would ever become Prime Minister." But increasingly - on the Twittersphere and, very possibly, in real life - it is being used to describe an actual situation that is actually happening. And is unlikely or, sometimes, simply unpleasant. Such as: "As if I'm stuck in traffic on the M5!" Whether this 'evolution' of the language is here to stay, or will go the same way as "missioning it", is yet to be seen. Hopefully Twitter will keep me posted.
In other news, you'll be pleased to know that I am now a fully fledged professional, and not just in the getting-paid-to-do-my-job sense. Thanks to my Professional Skills course, in which we discussed difficult questions like "Should actuaries know what they're doing?" and "Is it a conflict of interest to advise a client from whom you're stealing?", I've got a cheap-looking certificate insisting that I'm a pro. The positives of this course were that it was in Oxford, so I got to see Simon, and that it's been reduced from two days to one.
Speaking of Simon, he has tried to introduce me to several sitcoms over the years, with minimal success. Sometimes this is because the sitcom is rubbish (What I Like About You, for example) but usually I reckon it's because anything suffers when the build-up is too big (this, btway, is not limited to Simon's recommendations: the very same phenomenon was recorded in HIMYM with Ted, Marshall & Jerry Maguire taking the place of Simon, me & Samantha Who?). After a litany of failures, though, we may have hit the bullseye with Happy Endings. It's not up there with my favourite sitcoms - at least not yet - but I've seen a few episodes and it's got plenty of funny lines & good performances (and I must say that the stunning Elisha Cuthbert doesn't hurt). Well done E4 for snapping it up.

On this day in 2004... After 9 pages of Brave New World I decided that it's not for me...

February 15th 2012
I don't care what you say, I love this song.Musical taste is a funny old thing. There was an article in today's Times listing the supposed worst years for pop music (1961, 1976, 1985 & 1999 apparently - disregarding the fact that Hotel California was released in 1976) which included the following, about 1985: "The remaining members of the once excellent í60s band Jefferson Airplane morphed into Starship and released We Built This City, which is not only the worst song in the history of mankind, but also the nail in the coffin of all that was once great about rockíníroll." Well. I bought Crown of Creation, having heard good things about Jefferson Airplane, and found it barely listenable; We Built This City, on the other hand, is a fantastic track.
I'm not sure I have a point, except that I've rather given up on the idea of the superiority of musical taste - and probably should have done so a long time ago. While I cling to the notion that there are certain artists of inescapable quality (The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, etc. - and I'm well aware that many people would disagree even with this threesome) and some who are decidedly poor (The A*Teens, for example), the middle ground is up for grabs. I am a big fan of Cliff Richard and I very much enjoy Meat Loaf. I find the Stone Roses dull and I don't understand people who think that the Sex Pistols were musicians. Is that better or worse than the other way round? I don't know any more. Consider this my very belated decision to celebrate the music I enjoy and not worry too much about what other people like. With the minor addendum that hip hop is all rubbish. Oh no he didn't!
In other news, you'll have noticed that Mick McCarthy is no longer the Wolves manager, having paid the price for a poor run of performances that culminated in a 5-1 home defeat to our local rivals. While Mick has done incredibly for us over the last few years, and remains an excellent manager, the wheels had somewhat fallen off and it was time for him to go. None of the potential replacements out there really set the pulse racing, so I think that Alan Curbishley (currently favourite) is the best of a fairly average bunch... assuming Sir Alex Ferguson doesn't fancy a change of scenery. Whoever takes over will be the seventh Wolves manager since I started supporting them, following in the footsteps of Graham Taylor, Mark McGhee, Colin Lee, Dave Jones, Glenn Hoddle and Super Mick... so long as it's not Neil Warnock or - heaven forfend - Roy Keane, I won't be too distressed.

On this day in 2006... Durham is to Oxbridge as Nottingham is to Warwick.

February 24th 2012
Last weekend I added to the number of football grounds I've been to, by going to see Ipswich Town take on Cardiff City at Portman Road - the reason we headed over that way is that my housemate Dave is an Ipswich fan. He, Martin & I made the 6 hour coach journey to the Mecca of Suffolk (that's Ipswich by the way, not Bury St Edmunds), via London, and were not disappointed by what we saw. After the excitement of the Ipswich keeper nearly getting sent off for a crude lunge on a Cardiff striker - somehow it was only a booking - there was plenty of open and exciting football, culminating in a 3-0 victory for the Tractor Boys. Hopefully it will be a similarly happy result for the home team when I drag some friends to see Wolves later in the season. Although there were plenty of empty seats, Portman Road is a very nice little ground (with a capacity of 30,311, it's just over the size of my beloved Molineux) - I'd rank it alongside Villa Park and Old Trafford as the nicest I've been to.
In other news, I'm occasionally accused of ranting here, so let me introduce a topic about which I've ranted in person over the last couple of days. Why is it that game show hosts insist on asking contestants what they would do with the money if they won? I'm not talking about million pound wins, here, I'm talking about a few thousand. If I were on such a show, and was asked such a question, I'd ask in return why on earth I would spend my money any differently based on where it's come from. Money is money; income is income - I'd spend my prize-money on the same things I usually spend my money on: food, newspapers, DVDs, the occasional pair of jeans, shampoo. If I won £5,000, say, it would go straight into my bank account - I wouldn't dream of blowing it on a holiday (the usual answer that contestants seem to make), or a big one-off purchase. The same goes for my bonus from work. Am I so very unusual?

On this day in 2009... I was at Tom's place yesterday, so we rather expertly made pancakes, a reuniting of Team Thomas.

February 25th 2012
For most of this week, I've been listening to this 1961 classic by Dion. If you can listen to it and not click your fingers, then I apologise for making such an insensitively casual (casually insensitive?) reference to fingers, because you are clearly a double amputee. Or possibly you can't click your fingers.

On this day in 2004... Doug's just complained that my diary doesn't have paragraphs...

what was I listening to?
Parachutes - Coldplay
what was I reading?
True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole - Sue Townsend
what was I watching?
An Education
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