Big Dick Energy - You've Either Got It Or You Haven't

Toffee doesn't think she has it. But she does.

I tweeted the other day that if I never hear about Big Dick Energy again, it won't be a day too soon.  Most people are fed up to the back teeth with reading about it. But that's not going to stop me writing about it…

If you've been holidaying in the Siberian wastes without your phone over the last couple of weeks, you might not know what I'm talking about. Explanation: it's nothing to do with the size of a man's manhood (thankfully - I can't cope with all that smutty business. I'm a buttoned up Brit). It's all to do with charisma and confidence. People who light up a room have it. Those who suck the energy out of it don't; those people have SDE (Small Dick Energy).

Now I find myself looking at everyone and labelling them as BDE or SDE - often they're in between so I label them ADE (Average Dick Energy), which I guess is most people.

Although it's nothing to do with "size", that's how the whole thing began when Ariana Grande tweeted and soon deleted  about how generously endowed her fiancé Pete Davidson was (eww - too much information, Ariana). In the way of social media, the whole thing escalated and evolved. In fact, so removed is it now from men's body parts, it's acknowledged that women have it too.

It is confidence without arrogance, a quiet assurance. It's about not trying too hard, about being happy with who you are and not feeling the need to put others down to make yourself feel better. It’s about radiating energy that attracts people and gives the impression you have your life together. People with BDE make others feel good. 

Conversely, those with LDE exude a toxic masculinity, arrogance, pettiness and an in-your-face attitude.

In a way it's a comforting concept. We women may know handsome, successful men who we'd walk across broken glass to avoid - and other men don't really understand why. And then there are the average looking men who always have women buzzing around them. You'd never attach the #metoo hashtag to this man.

Of course, it's the same with men. They might think they want a Victoria's Secret model to hang out with but they so often prefer a sassy confident woman who's good company and makes them feel good about themselves. Not that a Victoria's Secret model can't have BDE but it's not a prerequisite of the job.

What I find fascinating is that your BDE could be my LDE. Harry Styles has been held up as a man with BDE but, maybe I'm just too old, he's just a little boy to me. And Robert Downey Jr?  No, definitely not.

So who are your BDEs? Here are ten off the top of my head. It's not my definitive list; I'll have changed my mind by tomorrow. In fact, I'm already changing my mind...

  1. Dame Judi Dench
  2. England football team manager Gareth Southgate (but definitely not his predecessor Sam Allardyce)
  3. Tom Hanks (but not Leonardo Di Caprio)
  4. Meryl Streep
  5. Michelle Obama (but not Hillary Clinton - and that's nothing to do with their politics)
  6. Hugh Jackman
  7. Comedian Jo Brand
  8. Sir David Attenborough
  9. Writer Anne Cleeves (not 100% sure about this one as I've never seen her interviewed but she writes as if she has BDE)
  10. Prince Harry (but not Prince William - he's ADE in my rating)





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How To Sound Like A Football Expert Even If You're A Numpty



As World Cup fever sweeps the land and the sounds of the iconic It's Coming Home ring in your ears, you may be one of those people sitting there feeling like a numpty as everybody except you seems to know what the hell is going on and who all the players are. So I've cobbled together a little crib sheet so you can sound vaguely knowledgeable as England take on Croatia in the semi-finals.

The first thing you should know is that all true male England fans genuinely believe that with the right breaks they would be playing for their country or managing the team - and that they know better than anyone on the pitch or manager Gareth Southgate.

Right, so here are a few facts about the players, so you at least know which club they play for - and there's the odd comment you can throw into the mix that might impress or surprise one or two people.

There is a squad of 23 players and here they are:



Harry Kane's little girl Ivy in a picture posted on Instagram

Captain Harry Kane, 28, born in Walthamstow, London (captain of the team, he's not in the Army or anything).
Plays for Tottenham Hotspur, signing for them at the age of 11.
A few details: The Guardian ranked Kane the fifth-best footballer on the planet in 2017. Kane abstains from alcohol during the football season and has a full-time chef to optimise his nutrition. He went to school with his fiancee Katie Goodland, who is pregnant. They already have a little girl called Ivy. Manager Gareth Southgate applauded Kane's “belief in being able to score every time he plays.”
You can say: "He's such an inspirational captain," and, "He could well win the Golden Boot [awarded to the player with the most goals]."

Jesse Lingard, 25, born in Warrington
Plays for Manchester Utd . He joined Manchester United's youth academy at the age of seven and progressed through the age groups.
A few details: He was part of the Manchester United team that won the 2010–11 FA Youth Cup. He is a cousin of Everton women's player Gabrielle George. He's been  hailed world football's social media king with messages like these on Twitter @jesselingard and Instagram @jesselingard:



You can say: "I love Lingard's Twitter and Instagram accounts, don't you?" or "Lingard's work rate is phenomenal."

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, 24, born in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
Plays for Everton, signed from Sunderland for £25m.
A few details: Third most expensive goalkeeper in history, most expensive British goalkeeper of all time. Criticised for being too short to be a goalkeeper at 6ft 1in but is now happily proving everyone wrong. So far he has hardly put a foot - or hand - wrong. But you know how it is in football, a few bad moves and he's the enemy again.
You can say: "At least he's proving his worth as the most expensive British goalkeeper ever," if he's doing well, or "God, you never would have thought he was the most expensive British goalkeeper ever," if he's having a mare of a game.


This is what Kyling is all about! 
Kyle Walker, 28, born in Sheffield
Plays for Manchester City, signed from Tottenham for £45m.
A few details: His first big club was Sheffield Utd and at the age of 18 he joined Northampton on loan. He'd never driven  on the motorway before so his dad made him follow him and his mum down the M1. Walker said: "My dad was petrified of me driving on the motorway and thought I was going to kill myself or something." He started a bizarre internet trend with people imitating the position he was in when treated for cramp, soon dubbed "kyling".
You can say: "Let's hope he's man of the match like he was against Sweden in that friendly in 2011," or "If he scores I'm going to start Kyling!"

Eric Dier, 24, born in Cheltenham
Plays for Tottenham Hotspur, signed for Sporting CP (Portugal) for £5m in 2014
A few details: Dier moved to Portugal when he was 7 after his mother was offered a job running the hospitality programme at UEFA Euro 2004.  In 2010, his parents returned to England while Dier remained in Portugal, living at Sporting CP's academy. He is the grandson of Ted Croker, a former secretary of FA. He became an England World Cup hero when he scored the winner in a penalty shoot-out against Colombia.
You can say: "He's so versatile. It's good to have a player , who can play midfield, centre back AND right back," and, "His confidence has soared since he scored that penalty."

Phil Jones, 26, born in Preston
Plays for Manchester Utd, signed from Blackburn for an undisclosed sum, believed to be around £16.5m in 2011.
A few details:  Known for his physical power and build, Jones has been called a "jack of all trades" for his ability to play at centre-back, right-back or as a defensive midfielder. He is also known for the faces he pulls while playing. In fact there's a Twitter account @facesofphiljones that includes posts like the one below:



You can say: "I love that Twitter account with all those pictures of Phil Jones pulling faces. It's a riot!" and, "He always looks so comfortable on the ball."

John Stones, 24, born in Barnsley
Plays for Manchester City, signed from Everton for £47.5m in 2016
A few details: He was the world's second most expensive defender in history, behind David Luiz. He was pictured with some heavy-looking strapping and ice around his left calf after the Belgium game. Thankfully, it seems to have done him no harm and he was back playing brilliantly in the 2-0 defeat of Sweden.
You can say: "Lothar Matthaus [captain of Germany when they won the World Cup in 1990] believes Stones is one of the best defenders in the game." 

Harry Maguire, 25, born in Sheffield
Plays for Leicester, signed from Hull for £12m in 2017.
A few details: Maguire's brothers, Joe and Laurence, are also footballers, Joe at Fleetwood Town and Laurence at Chesterfield. Spanish midfield Cesc Fabregas raved about Maguire in his column for the Daily Telegraph. An England fan last week got a tattoo of Harry Maguire's face on his chest.
You can say: "Well, if Fabregas is raving about him, you gotta sit up and take notice," and "He's been immaculate in England's back three."

Jordan Henderson, 28, born Sunderland
Plays for Liverpool, signed from Sunderland in 2011 for an undisclosed fee thought to be around £16m-£20m.
A few details: Jordan Henderson is England's lucky charm.  Henderson extended his unbeaten record in an England shirt to 30 matches (he didn't play in the Belgium game) in the match again Sweden.
You can say: "Thank God missing that penalty against Colombia hasn't affected him," and, "His positional understanding is remarkable."

Raheem Sterling, 23, born in Kingston, Jamaica
Plays for Manchester City, signing from Liverpool for £44m, one of the most expensive footballers of all time.
A few details:  He's probably one of the most controversial of the England players and is often picked on by the Press. He was criticised for having an M16 rifle tattooed on his leg by the Press and  by anti-violence groups but he said that the tattoo had a deeper meaning and referred to his father who was killed when Sterling was two years old. He's a bit of a Marmite player with the public - you either love him or hate him.

You can say: "I hope that rifle tattoo means he can shoot at goal. Geddit?" or, "At least he always shows a willingness to run behind the other team's defence."

Kieran Trippier, 27, born in Bury
Plays for Tottenham Hotspur, signed from Burnley for a reported £3.5m
A few details: Trippier joined Manchester City's academy at the age of nine but his family are Manchester United fans. He is a David Beckham fan. He said: "Beckham was the one I always looked up to. The technique, his crossing, on the move or set pieces. He is the one I used to look up to on crossing the ball.”

You can say: "You can see he's moulded his game on Beckham's. He's got that style about him."

Dele Alli, 22, born Milton Keynes
Plays for Tottenham Hotspur, signed from MK Dons in 2015 for £5m
A few details: Alli watches the best players to try to learn from their style of play, including Lionel Messi, Xabi Alonso, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi as well as his idol Steven Gerrard.  His teammate Harry Winks described Alli as being like Fernandinho, but Dele Alli has described his own playing style as "a cross between Gerrard and Yaya Touré."  In a bit of footballer's cliche, his girlfriend is lingerie model Ruby Mae.

You can say: If he's doing well, "He says he's a cross between Steven Gerrard and Yaya Toure and I can see why." If he's doing badly, "He says he's a cross between Steven Gerrard and Yaya Toure. My ass."

Trent Alexander-Arnold, 19, born in Liverpool
Plays for Liverpool, spotted at the age of a 6 at a community summer camp by academy coach Ian Barrigan who offered him the chance to train at the academy.
A few details: In 2015 he was singled out in his autobiography by former Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard, who tipped him to have a bright future at the club. He is the nephew of former Reading and Millwall footballer, and former Manchester United club secretary John Alexander.  His maternal grandmother, Doreen Carling, was once a girlfriend of former United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, before moving to New York City. 
You can say: "Did you know Alexander-Arnold's grandmother was once a girlfriend of Alex Ferguson?"

Danny Rose, 28, born in Doncaster.
Plays for Tottenham Hotspur, signed from Leeds for £1m in 2007.
A few details: Rose's younger brother Mitch Rose plays for Grimsby Town. He is the cousin of footballer Michael Rankine, whose uncle Mark Rankine also played professional football. He was also eligible to play for Jamaica through his Jamaican grandfather.

You can say: If he's playing well: "Thank God he signed for England and not Jamaica." If he's playing badly, "He should have signed for Jamaica, not England."

Jamie Vardy, 31, born in Sheffield
Plays for Leicester City, signed from non-league Fleetwood Town for £1m in 2012, a non-league record.
A few details:  Before turning professional, Vardy combined playing non-League football with a job as a technician making medical splints. In 2007 when playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels, he received a conviction for assault following an incident outside a pub, and had to play with an electronic tag fitted for six months.
You can say: "I bet he's the only England player who's ever played football with an electronic tag!"

Goalkeeper Jack Butland, 25, born in Bristol
Plays for Stoke City, signed from Birmingham for around £3.3m.
A few details: Like Nick Pope (see below), he's unlikely to play unless Jordan Pickford is injured or England are 7-0 up near the end of the match (we wish...). In January 2014, Butland had his car, an Audi RS5, stolen from his house in Walsall. In December 2015, Butland donated £5,000 to the Great Britain women's deaf football team.
You can say: "Liverpool should sign Butland. They need a good goalkeeper, although Klopp seems to be sticking with Karius."

Danny Welbeck, 27, born in Manchester
Plays for Arsenal, signed from Manchester Utd for £16m in 2014
A few details: He is known for his work-rate and has been described as strong, quick, and good in the air. Welbeck was a regular for England’s youth sides and both he and Rose were part of the squad for the U17 World Cup in 2007. Alongside them was Tristan Plummer - now a regular on hit Channel 4 show Gogglebox
You can say: "Fancy Welbeck and Rose playing with Tristan Plummer from Gogglebox in the England under-17s."

Gary Cahill, 32, born in Dronfield, Derbyshire
Plays for Chelsea, signed from Bolton for around £7m in 2012
A few details: Cahill almost did not make the squad this summer – Gareth Southgate dropped him for the March friendlies – and it was only his late-season improvement for Chelsea, winning back his place, that got him into the squad.
You can say: If he's playing well, "Thank God Southgate decided to include him in the squad." If he's playing badly, "Why the hell Southgate included him in the squad I'll never know."

Fabian Delph, 28, born Bradford
Plays for Manchester City, signed from Aston Villa for a reported £8m in 2015.
A few details:  In 2008 he was convicted of drink-driving. He has a vegan diet.  He left the England squad briefly to return home to be at the birth of his daughter. He said the dramatic penalty shoot-out with Colombia sent his wife Natalie into labour!
You can say: "I wonder what effect being a vegan has on his fitness?"

Ashley Young, 33 (he had his 33rd birthday on July 9), born Stevenage
Plays for Manchester Utd, signed from Aston Villa in 2011 for an undisclosed sum believed to be around £15m-£20m
A few details: Ashley Young has courted controversy, having been accused of diving by the press and has been spoken to by former managers Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes about diving to gain an unfair advantage. His "hero and role model" is Ian Wright.
You can say: "That corner kick against Sweden was a belter!"

Marcus Rashford, 20, Wythenshaw, born Manchester
Plays for Manchester Utd, after joining the academy system at the age of 7.
A few details: On 25 February 2016 Rashford played in a UEFA Europa League match, scoring two goals in a 5-1 win. This made him Manchester Utd's youngest ever scorer in European competition, beating George Best's record. He was born on Halloween.
You can say: "He scares me, that boy. Well, he was born on Halloween."

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 22, born Lewisham
Plays for Chelsea, signing for them at the age of 8
A few details: Loftus-Cheek was compared to Germany great Michael Ballack by former Chelsea and England manager Glenn Hoddle, who said that: "He reminds me of Ballack – physically and the way he plays", and went on to say: "He gets in the box and he moves well off the ball."
You can say: "He gets in the box and he moves well off the ball."

Goalkeeper Nick Pope, 26, born in Soham
Plays for Burnley, signed from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed sum
A few details:  England penalty hero Eric Dier credited Nick Pope with helping him with his technique from 12 yards.  Although Pope didn't play in the game against Colombia, Dier has thanked him for  helping him prepare for penalties. 
You can say: "He's played well for Burnley. It's a shame we haven't seen more of him but you couldn't leave out Pickford after that Colombia game."

So there you are, a few hints and tips to turn you into a footballing expert.





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Lessen The Grump In Gran



I've bought a skin cream that claims to fight the “seven signs of ageing”.

Oh good. Where do I rub it to stop me from having to get up in the middle of the night to pee?

I've also been looking for something to get rid of my  tendency to say embarrassing things out loud when I intended to keep them in my head.

And I hope this cream can stop me from beginning every sentence in an annoyed tone with "in my day…" The younger members of my family will be delighted.

Will it stop me from frequently feeling as unaccountably evil as Lady Macbeth going through the menopause?

And prevent me from going up to nubile young things at parties and saying, "Those shoes are going to ruin your feet," like some judgmental geriatric.

Will it stop me from looking at men in uniform and instead of thinking, "Phwoar,"   wondering if they've  bunked off school for the day?

Hopefully it will stop me from swearing at predictive text. Why, stupid phone and tablet, change a perfectly sensible sentence with every word spelled right into some incoherent gobbledegook? Why? Why?

Yes, I have high hopes for this cream. I'm anticipating it will not only make me look 30 again but will also make me act 30.

Not much to ask, is it? 







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Cream Teas: Cream Or Jam First?

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I HAVE once more gone to the foot of our stairs, shaking my head in despair.

What great national issue has caught my attention this week? Whether it should be a hard or soft Brexit?  Was Gareth Southgate's team selection against Belgium the right one? How can we tackle global warming?

None, of the above. Today is National Cream Tea Day and it has been brought to my attention that some daft boffin at Sheffield University says that jam should be put on a scone before the cream.

Yes, I know, all you fellow Devonians are shaking your heads and tutting, wondering how anyone could be so misguided as to think (whisper this, please) the Cornish have been getting it right all along with their slapdash way of slathering the jam on first.

Mathematician Dr Eugenia Cheng says that if you put the cream on first, the jam is in danger of running off the edge.

Are you completely mad, Dr Cheng? Jam sitting on top of proper thick Devonshire clotted cream is going nowhere.

I get your point that if you sit it on top of that runny Cornish stuff, it may possibly dribble over the sides. But it’s not a proper cream tea without proper DEVONSHIRE clotted cream, preferably with proper homemade Devonshire jam.

My mother, a farmer’s wife, used to make her own clotted cream. It’s easy to do. First milk your cow. Take a big pan of the fresh milk and leave overnight to allow the cream to rise to the surface. Then “scald” the milk by putting the pan on the warm hob of the Aga. On no account let it boil or simmer. Leave for a few hours.

Remove pan from heat and put in a cool place and the clotted cream will float to the top, ready to be skimmed off.

As for Dr Cheng, I’ll wager a year’s supply of home-made scones that she has never scalded a pan of milk in her life.

And how can you take a scientist seriously who even suggests (the easily shocked among you might want to skip the next bit) that you can use whipped cream. I know. Sacrilege. I shall have to lie down in a darkened room in a minute. Although, to be fair, she did come out on the side of clotted cream as it was denser.

She says the total thickness of the scone, with all its elements, should be around 2.8cm. She says this would provide a relaxed open width of the mouth when you come to take a bite.

However, the measurement is based on the size of her own mouth. I haven’t seen a picture of this woman so it’s difficult to judge whether she is skimping on the ingredients or being too generous. She could, for all I know, have a gob the size of an opinionated politician in full flow, or it could be a petite rosebud like that of a delicate Japanese geisha.

Now Dr Cheng thinks (she hasn't) solved the great cream tea scone conundrum perhaps she could turn her hand to solving other great culinary disputes.

Here’s one for her to consider: cup of tea – which comes first, the milk or the tea?


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Facial Recognition


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A rather adorable Shar Pei puppy.

I remember reading an article about supermarkets installing facial recognition technology at their check-outs so they can determine your gender and approximate age and so better target products.

I'm not sure if it ever happened - but I live in deepest darkest rural Devon so if it has, we'll be the last to get it. Some advantages, then, of living in the ass end of beyond.

This is how it works. You pop into Tesco for your weekly fix of Turkey Twizzlers. There is a screen at the till,  your face is scanned  and the next thing you know you are being bombarded with adverts for poultry-related fast food products.

I can't get very hot under the collar over what some people branded "an invasion of privacy".

It's already happening on the internet. You look on Amazon for a gift for your 85-year-old aunt and the next thing you know ads for incontinence pads and anti-wrinkle cream pop up on every site you visit; like every octogenarian is sitting at home pissing themselves, worrying about how they're going to pull a toy boy when they have a face like a Shar Pei puppy's.

Sure as eggs is eggs, I would never be shown an advert for anything aspirational. No trendy clothes,  designer jewellery, holidays on Bali and sexy sports cars for me. No it would be stairlifts, facial hair removers and gadgets to help you put on your socks.

Worse, I could be shown a nasal hair plucker, treatments for erectile dysfunction and a book on How To Pull Birds In Your Eighties because I've been mistaken for an old man.

So you’d better perk up and look  your best every time  you pop into the supermarket. No trackie  bottoms,  jumper covered in cat hair and mascara smudges under your eyes, not unless you want WHAT WERE YOU THINKING to flash up on a screen in front of you.


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I Tried But It Died




I WANT to be a gardener and I've TRIED to be a gardener. But my list of actual gardening achievements could be written on the tip of a dibber. I've tilled things and then killed things through a mixture of blind ignorance and wilful neglect.

As my mother said wryly to me one year: "A little water is a wonderful thing..."

This year, though, the garden is much improved on previous years - not because of any prowess on my part but because my lovely brother comes every week or so and strims, mows and plants on my behalf. I even have vegetables growing - actual plants you can EAT. 

If only reading about gardening would translate into horticultural expertise, I would be a stalwart member of the National Gardens Scheme throwing my garden gate open every summer so people could marvel at my intricate landscaping and novel use of floral colour schemes. Instead, family and friends tut a lot as they tiptoe among my raggle taggle plants which are determined to last just a season before taking their roots off to that big Kew Gardens in the sky.

I have devoured the Dr Hessayon series of gardening "how to" books and read hundreds of thousands of words of gardening journals listing what to do each month. I have watched hours of garden programmes on TV.

 I have listened to weeks of Gardener's World on the radio. Books on gardening line my shelves. I even have one called Grow Your own Drugs - which is about medicinal plants before you think my lack of skill is owing to the ingestion of illegal greenery.

I have spent many a happy hour in those magnificent gardens that throw open their gates to the public. I discovered the Elizabethan Gardens in Plymouth when I had a holiday job as a waitress-cum-chambermaid in Newton Ferrers. The hotel is now closed, the closure having nothing to do with my lack of ability to put cutlery in the right order or do hospital corners on beds - at least I don't think so.  Frazzled, on my rare days off I visited Plymouth Hoe. One day I did a little exploring and found the Elizabethan Gardens nearby. One of the attractions, apart from the tranquillity and beauty, was that entry was free - an important feature for a hard-pressed student on minimal tips. It was so atmospheric I half expected Sir Francis Drake to join me on a stone bench and invite me for a game of bowls on the Hoe.

So I really don't know what it is that turns this normally placid woman into a serial killer - but freesias flee as I approach and beets beat a hasty retreat. I put the healthiest of seedlings into a bed and the next day they wilt and flop over. If they could cough, they would. Flowerbeds? More like hospital beds.

Still, I wasn't quite so bad as one of my friends who tilled radishes and waited and waited for them to appear above ground on the plant. She thought they grew like tomatoes. I at least know the theory if not the practice. Even she has now grown into a green-fingered genius.

There's one thing about gardeners, they are always quick with advice. They witter on at me in some arcane gardeners' language, strong on words and phrases like dwarf cushions - which are not something to make Happy and Sneezy's lives more comfortable, but swathes of short flowers - double-digging, when I don't have the time to single dig, and  free draining, which is not something being given away on Gumtree.

It doesn't help that my lovely neighbour is the most brilliant gardener. She has created a beautiful English country garden out of nothing. There is colour all year round, a fishpond and a vegetable plot. There are arches with plants crawling around them and little paths leading to yet more horticultural delights. It has everything I aspire to. I look across with envy. She must stare at my garden and wonder if a localised hurricane returns every evening. She's too kind to mention it and instead leaves gifts of runner beans and strawberries on my doorstep.

But this year I am determined to get to grips with this gardening malarkey and extend my repertoire beyond the tub of tomatoes and cut-and-come-again lettuces I grew last year. I have a cunning plan. I am going to paint my nails, dress up in a big straw hat and a long flowery skirt, take my glass of wine out into the garden - and tell my brother what to do. 


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Come on, England!


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This is Fred Keenor, my grandfather's cousin, who was captain
of Cardiff City when they won the FA Cup in 1927. It was the
only time in its history the  FA Cup was won by a non-English
team. I love the way Fred is showing off the cup with a
cigarette dangling from his mouth! By all accounts he was a
hard drinker and smoker.

HAVE you been watching the football World Cup? I expect my American friends are distinctly underwhelmed by this "soccer" that the rest of the world finds so fascinating.

In happy news, England at least won their opening game against Tunisia. They played well if not brilliantly - but when you're an England fan you take what you can get.

I don't know if USA football stars are as pampered as our top soccer players. I was reading the other day how the Manchester City stars get their huge gas-guzzling cars warmed and delivered to them after training. Heaven forbid they might have to walk 100 yards and get into a motor a few degrees short of body heat.

The HUGE salaries paid to top football players are a relatively new phenomenon. Back in 1961 the last pay packet  for Tom Finney - Sir Tom, one of the greatest English footballers ever –  amounted to the princely sum of £20 ($26). Sir Tom spent the whole of his professional career at Preston North End and was known as the Preston Plumber because his dad had insisted he learned a trade.

Still 20 quid was a not inconsiderable sum in those days but bearing no comparison to today's eye-popping sums played to stars in the Premier League. *See list at end of story

One story about Finney made me smile. In 1954 Preston North End reached the final of the FA Cup. Tom Finney was asked by the other players to inquire about the possibility of a bonus. He approached the chairman who was shocked at the brazen request but promised to investigate the possibility. The next day he told Finney he had good news.

“We’ve ’ad a board meeting and to reward your efforts in getting us to t’final, your wives will be getting an ’andbag." Long pause for effect. "EACH!”

I don't know how much Chelsea players received after winning the FA Cup this year but it was a share of millions of pounds - enough to buy their WAGS quite a few designer 'andbags.

Here's that list I promised you. The more astute among you will have recognised that there is actually not one English player on it, which goes a little way to explaining England's bad form in world and European matches. Manager Gareth Southgate doesn't have that big a pool to pick from.

Premier League wages PER WEEK: The top 10 earners in English football

1. Alexis Sanchez Manchester United £350,000
2. Paul Pogba Manchester United £290,000
3. Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City £280,000
4. Romelu Lukaku Manchester United £250,000
5. Sergio Aguero Manchester City £220,000
6. Yaya Toure Manchester City £220,000
7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic Manchester United £220,000
8. David de Gea Manchester United £200,000
9. Eden Hazard Chelsea £200,000
10.Virgil van Dijk Liverpool £180,000





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Handy In The House


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Feels like my house hasn't been decorated since Stone Age times.


ONE of my friends expressed some envy that I was living with a man who was so skilled. Yes, the better half is a cabinetmaker who can expertly turn his hand to most things practical.

Hands up all you women who wish you were married to a man so handy? Yes, well, you can put them down again, if my experience is anything to go by.

The fact that he is perfectly capable of being a demon around the house -  replacing hinges the split second before they need it, changing washers in taps, slapping up fresh wallpaper and paint every year  or replacing the flanpangibbet in the hoogimaflip - doesn't mean he actually does.

I may live with a man with City and Guilds qualifications in all things useful, but Ideal Homes my home isn't, because it works like this...

City and Guilds man spends all day hammering, mending, making, scraping and building so the last thing he wants to do when he comes home is start all over again.

I sometimes get so frustrated that I take up the paintbrush myself. He is horrified because he knows that I’m Mrs Slapdash and will never finish the job to his exacting requirements.

“Drop that paintbrush, and step away from the wall,” he says, eyes narrowed to slits.

He carefully removes the paintbrush from my hand as I try to scrape off the paint that is covering my hair, face, hands, arms and old T-shirt. Now you’d think that this would be his cue to take over, to finish the job with a few majestic sweeps of the brush.

“There, darling, that’s the way we paint a wall.”

But, no. The paintbrush goes into the turps for another day. It feels like the last person to decorate my house was a Neanderthal with a handful of charcoal, painting aurochs and bison.

Still, as my lovely late mother never tired of telling me: “Cobblers’ children always have the worst shoes.”




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It's A 1dRfl Life

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I WAS telling my young niece that there was no such thing as mobile/cell phones when I was a child. She looked at me open-mouthed in that horror-struck way young children have when presented with astonishing news by ancient relatives. 

She’d have been less surprised if I’d told her I was the one who started the Great Fire of London. I hardly dared mention that when I was young every single phone looked exactly the same - a huge lump of black bakelite with a silver dial that would sprain your wrist if you tried to lift it. Not only that, but many houses didn’t have a phone at all. 

The better half lived in a village. His family didn’t have a phone but there was a telephone kiosk at the end of his courtyard. He said he and his sisters answered the phone if they heard it and then carried messages to people throughout the village. 

Young people these days know nothing of these trials and tribulations as they all have a phone permanently welded to their hand. And, by the way, I don’t know why a 16-year-old who can babble away like a mynah bird on speed to their friends can only manage an inarticulate grunt when asked a question by their parents. 

If they’re not talking into it, they’re writing away at the rate of knots in some kind of gobbledegook which I’m led to believe, is known as “text speak”. It all seems a waste of two perfectly good opposable thumbs, if you ask me, which they could be using to tidy up their bedrooms or bake a cake for their beloved aunt (me).

Heaven help you if they actually send you a text. By the time I’ve figured out what the hell they're talking about, they've turned up at my door expecting their dinner.  How was I supposed to know that they were cumin (no, not the Indian spice but "coming") because they were *vin (starving. Star-vin, get it?).

1dRfl, I'm told, is wonderful and ilbl8 is I’ll be late. There are hundreds more of these tortuous abbreviations which all young people seem to know by some kind of osmosis from the moment their parents pay for their first phone.

Well I have a message for these teenagers, rtpprEulzgts. Write proper English, you lazy gits.
 




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No Time For Tea - Too Busy Learning Nuclear Physics


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AS I gallop towards the twilight of my years I avidly read any article that tells me how to hold back the ravages of time. Hopefully there are a few more years before I am pushing my Zimmer frame towards the sofa to settle down to watch daytime television with my milky cup of tea and bowl of prunes (have to keep regular). 

I'm considering taking up nuclear physics for nerds or brain surgery for beginners. 

You see, I was always quite hopeful that my brain would stay relatively sharp because various articles told me that doing crosswords kept senility at bay. I love crosswords – even those obscure cryptic ones.

“How on earth did you get that?” the better half asked me the other day, as I worked out that the answer to “deer controller employs English guy behind the scenes” was “stage manager”. I tried to explain that: 

deer=stag;
controller=manager
Stick the E for the English in the middle of "stag" and "manager" and you get “stage manager”
I.e. the “guy behind the scenes”.

He stared at me. “Sorry,” he said, “All I heard was blah, blah, blah.” I didn’t like to tell him (a cabinetmaker) that I spend my life hearing “blah, blah, blah” when he starts wittering on about spindle moulders, edgebanders, routers and visits to the saw doctor.

I mean, what does a saw doctor actually do? I have visions of a handsaw, badly damaged after an accident with a careless chisel, lying on a table while a man in an overall tries to fix its shattered teeth before wrapping it in bandages.

Oh dear, senility seems to have kicked in already. I’ve forgotten what I was talking about. Oh yes, keeping my brain in good working order.

Sadly for me, a study found that doing crosswords is not enough for the over 60s to keep their brains sharp, as I have so often read. It is much better to learn new skills. The important word is “new”. You must get out of your comfort zone. Not only that, you must continuously challenge yourself.

As Dr Denise Park of the University of Texas at Dallas, who led the study, said: “When you are inside your comfort zone you may be outside of the enhancement zone.” I almost heard “blah, blah, blah” in that quote but I think I know what she means.

Researchers found that those learning new skills showed more improvement in memory than those taking part in non-active or social activities. Dr Park said: “This is speculation but what if challenging mental activity slows the rate at which the brain ages? Every year you save could be an added year of high quality life and independence.”

So I’ve started looking through all those evening class brochures to see if I can learn anything new.  Brain surgery and nuclear physics are sadly lacking on the curriculum. I certainly won’t be quilting (five thumbs on each hand) but photography sounds appealing. Or I might learn a foreign language - îmi iubesc pisica.

And if there’s a course in saw doctoring, edgebanding or spindle-moulding then I’m all over it like a rash.





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How to Piss Me Off

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Angry? Me?

I HAPPENED across a post on the internet called How To Piss Off A Londoner.

It wasn't a very good article, including things that would piss off anyone - queue jumpers, litter louts, people walking slowly on busy pavements, that kind of thing.

Like no one living anywhere else in the world is bothered by queuing for 20 minutes only to have some cross-eyed oik with B.O. insert their body between them and the next person along.

And, yes, Mr Moron, please drop your Macdonald's carton with half eaten burger likely to attract rats right outside my house, I don't mind a bit.

People walking slowly on the pavement or, worse, ambling in the supermarket, annoy the hell out of me. I want to shout, GET OUT OF MY WAY, YOU DAWDLING DUNDERHEAD, but I'm far too polite and make do with a semi-audible tut.

But the article got me thinking about the things that do piss me off. First off, assumptions. I may be a woman of a certain age but I am busy all day long. I haven't yet broken out the Sanatogen Tonic Wine to sip with my Rich Tea biscuit as I fall asleep watching Countdown so don't assume you know what my life is like. I have a triathlete sister who represents Great Britain. She is 74. Tell her it's time she started to slow down at your peril.

I don't want advertisers telling me how I should be spending my money, assuming all I want to do is save for a funeral plan or sign away my house in some shifty equity release. I don't need a stairlift, a walk-in bath or a little gadget that picks up things off the floor for me because I can't bend down . When that time comes, I'll let you know.

Until then, I'll spend the whole lot on cocaine and toy boys if I want to. The fact that I wouldn't know cocaine from sherbet dab or that any self-respecting toy boy wouldn't come within 100 yards of me is irrelevant. I like to keep my options open.

As a baby boomer I am also pissed off with being blamed for all the perceived ills of the younger generation as if it's all my fault that they find it difficult to afford a house. The only way the better half and I could afford to get a foot on the housing ladder was by working every hour that God sent to scrape together a bit of money and then working our fingers to the bone to build it ourselves. Get rid of that £1,000-plus iPhone, cut down on the nights out, holiday in Bognor rather than the Bahamas and you're on the way to saving up for a deposit.

Then there are those black eyebrows with square corners (what IS all that about), people who repost any old crap on Facebook without checking it out, posts/emails/tweets without any punctuation, people telling me to cheer up it might never happen, butter too hard to spread on bread, impossible to open blister packs, people who don't say thank you for some little courtesy, dog shit on pavements, motorists who don't park in the centre of parking bays, people who drive two inches from my bumper and people who drive too slowly, unsolicited phone calls, wet spoons in the sugar bowl, people who continually check their phone when they're with you, reality TV...

...and a million other things that qualify me for the Grumpy Old Woman tag, but I'll leave it there for now. That Bargain Hunt won't watch itself and I have a packet of custard creams with my name on.




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