Andy Flower sacked as England coach

Well well. Didn’t see this coming.

Andy Flower has paid the price for England’s Ashes humiliation and his reign as coach is over.

Telegraph Sport can reveal Flower was called into a meeting at Lord’s on Thursday and told his time is up by Paul Downton, the new managing director of England cricket who has been conducting a review of England’s disastrous tour to Australia.

It will be announced when England return from Australia that Flower will be stepping down after being given no choice by the ECB but to call it a day.

Flower has coached England since 2009 in which time he has won the Ashes three times and led England to their first World Twenty20 title in his first year in charge.

England beat Australia 3-0 last summer in the home Ashes but succumbed to a humiliating 5-0 whitewash in the return series Down Under.

Has there ever been an England tour so calamitous in terms of results? I hope Flower is remembered for the good he did England, not just this tour. But, as Mike Atherton once said of captaincy, all tenures must inevitably end in some degree of failure, and the same is true of coaching.

Nick Hoult has the scoop.

WW1 and family genes

My grandfather, bottom left

My grandfather, bottom left

My maternal Grandfather was born in 1898 and died around 1958 or thereabouts. Having never met him (or, sadly, my Grandmother) I only have snippets of their character from my mum and inevitably don’t hold much emotional attachment to them. They are names, and were important figures in my mum and her two brothers’ lives but mean little to me.

And yet, it struck me the other day, without them both I would not be here. Without them, my mother wouldn’t have been born, nor met my dad, nor had me and my brother as children. My girlfriend wouldn’t have met me, and somebody else would be living in this house and doing the job I do. I owe my existence to their survival.

So far, so obvious, so sickly.

The reason this all came to me was the dumb realisation that my grandfather fought in and survived WW1 – fought as a 2nd Lt, the rank of soldier who most got culled throughout the war. It occurred to me how little I knew of his feats, or how he managed to survive while millions perished. I’d always been blase about his involvement, partly because it was in World War One (most of my generation’s grandparents were likely born on or around WW2), a war about which I know embarrassingly little, but also because nobody in my family knows much either.

That’s how it was, of course. If you survived the hell of war, you certainly didn’t talk about it, and my grandfather was a wallflower at the best of times. Not even his son, my uncle who fought in Malaya in the 1950s, knew anything of his father’s deeds, other than he was awarded an MiD (Mention in Dispatches) and the troop/company to whom he belonged. We know nothing other than several cuttings from the London Gazette that my cousin discovered.

So, if I am indebted to his survival, I’m also indebted to his parents. And theirs. And my great-great-great-great grandparents. Had just one of those people not survived, or met a different husband/wife, I wouldn’t be here. None of us would. I’m not sure if genealogy has a connection with the butterfly effect, but it does seem to share similarities. It’s also a mind fuck. Had one of the Hun’s stray bullets headed in his direction, I wouldn’t be inflicting this rambling saccharine nonsense on whichever poor soul is reading it.


Castlepoint Lighthouse, Wellington, built by my family

About ten years ago I was arguing with my aunt about our paternal family history. To my astonishment, a quick Google search uncovered my entire family history stretching back to the early 1600s. The only missing parts were, well, me and my brother and father. It had been done by a lovely bloke who was housebound due to an illness, and had discovered that his family, Taylor, and ours had married in the 15th or 16th century. Since then, he helped me find the tiny little Cornish town where my family lived, Phillack, near St Ives, which is doubly odd considering all the family holidays we had there as a kid. Makes you wonder…

Since knowing my family’s history in such detail, I have to admit it’s changed my outlook on life a little. Knowing all that they accomplished gives you an incredible feeling of duty to carry it on. Hasn’t quite gone to plan as yet, as I haven’t built any ships, engines, lighthouses, mines or buildings or been a politician nicknamed Peanut, or had a road named after me, but there’s time yet.

Musik macht frei: the Auschwitz cellist

Yesterday was the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and Newsnight had a wonderful piece on Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a cellist imprisoned by the Nazis but who survived thanks to her being a musician.

The really remarkable thing about the video is what she said of Dr Joseph Mengele, the notoriously murderous physician who did all sorts of foul experiments on twins and the general population. It was he who decided who lived, who died and who should be experimented upon, yet even he and his broken brain saw beauty in Schumann. Musik, nicht arbeit, macht frei.

Dark Sky App – the only app worth buying

Dark Sky's radarDark Sky is one of the few apps I use that I rely on. I’ve used it most days for over a year; it cost £2.49, a princely sum for a mobile app, but has paid for itself time and time again in predicting when it’s going to rain and for how long.

I first came across it on an up-and-comers piece in the New York Times, or possibly the Washington Post, last year. It was claimed by several reviewers that for quick trips on foot, when you weren’t sure if the heavens were about to release a month’s rainfall in seven minutes, it predicted the likelihood with uncanny accuracy. And saved you from getting absolutely rodded with rain.

Bollocks, I thought. If the iPhone has taught us anything, it is that we love weather and love knowing what might happen with it in the next day, 48 hours or two weeks. There are an avalanche of near-pointless weather apps in the App Store, so many that developers have taken a zen approach of minimalistic design in order to distinguish themselves from one another, dispensing entirely with numbers and icons and simply using colours to reflect the conditions. Cute, but pointless. I assumed this app was another fabled attempt to beautify the mundanity of weather by employing an overpaid UX agency twerp with horizontal hair and purple, skinny jeans.

But Dark Sky doesn’t attempt to forecast miles into the future – just as well because even in 2014, this is the darkest of scientific arts. It looks ahead by 24 hours and shows you where the rain currently is, on a map – a normal map with contours and boundaries and not coloured shades of blue and green and purple. It then animates where the rain is likely to be, and using your brain you can see whether it’s going to hit you or not. Or, in my case, whether it’s going to screw up my day’s cricket (I used to use for this, as do most cricket journalists, but Dark Sky is infinitely more accurate and useful).

Dark Sky

Their latest update is out today and it makes an invaluable app now beautiful, along with temperature displays and other neat additions such as finding out where the nearest storm is relative to your location. The more you zoom out, to see the country as a whole, the further back in time you can “view” how grizzly the weather has been. And if it’s about to wazz down near you in the next 20 minutes or so, you’ll be notified.

This will probably be the only geeky app-love post I write this year, as most of the others I use add little but stress and annoyance to my life, but Dark Sky is the absolute bomb – especially for a country mesmerised by the gloomy grey blanket above our heads.

NFL bad lip reading

I should not find this as funny as I do. Whoever does this for a living is ridiculously lucky.

A man’s life is a long time waiting

“I could be wasting my time so much more productively”

20:30. If you added up all the moments spent by men waiting for their better halves, it should roughly equate to the same amount of time it has taken for humans to decode DNA. It’s a very, very long time, just waiting and waiting and waiting.

I am here, sitting on my sofa, waiting for her to get ready. We’re only going down the road for a pint, but at 20.30 on a Saturday, I’m definitely ready to have several. Yet despite three precursory warnings of “So then. Shall we?” and “Let’s go?” and “Do you want a drink?”, I’m still waiting, stuck in a warp of existential anxiety; really keen for a drink, but knowing that I probably don’t have enough time to get twatted without really going for it. Waiting so long, in fact, that I decided I may as well write about it.

I was taken back to when I lived with my best mate. Then, we would make split-second decisions. “Pint?” This question was followed by what seemed an eternity for both the proposer and the recipient. It probably amounted to no more than five seconds, yet such is the questioner’s urgency – and his mate, so aware of how crucial his answer has now become – that those five seconds feel almost as long as the 45 minutes I have spent waiting this evening. But, decision made – “yeah, quick one” – we’d be inside the pub and a third of the way down our first pint in under 10 minutes. In 20 minutes, we’d be setting yet another gut-wrenching ultimatum. “‘nother one?” Another five-second chasm before the inevitable “well, one more won’t hurt, will it?” Once the third pint has disappeared, there’s no point asking or answering any more questions. The drinks will keep coming and you’ll keep watching them slip down your throat.

It’s those snap decisions you realise men and women, both, cannot make together. Well, we can. They can’t. And I will never understand why!

20.42. Still waiting.

The UKIP Shipping Forecast

This is simply brilliant. Caustically written and wonderfully produced:

Bieber on a rollercoaster to destruction

I never imagined I’d have cause to write about the spoilt little brat, but here I am – and at least I’m forecasting his demise, not applauding his genius like his misguided disciples. I just got a CNN alert (I’ve had them for 12 years and still don’t know how to turn them off) that he’s been arrested. That alone made me angry; how has Justin Bieber become of the global breaking news agenda? He “was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and drag racing this morning”, and for some reason CNN seem to think this is a shock or bad news.

Bieber’s actions today are a positive sign. The world of music and entertainment doesn’t need him and clearly he feels the same way, edging towards the cliff of destruction before he jumps off spectacularly. He’s clearly growing up and showing an existential awareness beyond his years; he acknowledges his own pointlessness and is seeking a way to rectify it, and in doing so, obliterate his name from public life in the only sensible way possible.

Well done Biebs

Internet journalism in 1981

Great video from 1981 on the wizardry of computers and how it might change journalism, one day. We have come far!

BBC’s WW1 centenary season

The BBC have had a pretty shoddy few years. Savile and Newsnight; pay-offs and salary disputes, camera trickery and other sleight of hand within its management. The organisation – not something everyone would deem it fit to be called – is so vast that many who work there consider it a corporation of mini corporations. But for all its many faults, the BBC continue to produce some of the most watchable, popular and educative programming anywhere in the world. Who else could even contemplate competing with the ambition they have shown in their World War One “centenary season”?

Of course, a centenary only happens once, and let’s not be naive: the BBC, like all companies, needs success – now more than ever. Success for them is in numbers, eyeballs, readers and consumers, so there’s no grander way to prove their worth than by dramatising parts of our history whose stories have yet to be properly told. And why not start with the bloodiest of conflicts? Seems as good a place as any.

The scale of this project is startling in its ambition. iWonder guides (digital interactive content); 1400 separate local stories; apps and microsites; nine or ten TV documentaries on TV, yet more on radio. Fully-fledged films. Programmes dedicated to the art and music born during the war. There’s even a radio programme called Day By Day broadcast every day between June and August showing the build-up to the war, “live”, 100 years on. The list goes on.

As a friend said the other day, the only annoyance is the pre-curtain-raiser anxiety of knowing that you can’t possibly watch everything, but there’s a part of me which wouldn’t mind putting my life on hold for a few months and gobbling it all up. I’ve been fascinated by World War Two all my life – I think most of my generation are, in fact – but know little of its predecessor. The BBC’s going to change that and I’ll happily pay my licence fee for that.

Talking of which…

* * *

It’s coming to that time of the year when I have to renew my TV licence. I always hold an unjustifiable grudge about this; I love the BBC, its programming, authority and balance. Well yes – the scandals are a bit of a blight, as are the pay rows and bonuses, and some of the output is outrageously repetitive and often the presenters talk to us as though we’re imbeciles and I hate it when the local news people with enormous shiny faces just appear in between programmes “with YOUR 90 second update” (it’s mine? Oh, thanks, but no thanks).

But apart from all that, I admire the BBC and watch its channels (and listen to its radio) more than any other broadcaster, and £145 a year represents incredible value for money.

Anyway. This came up recently while C and I were comparing Portuguese and British media (we are thrill-seekers). In Portugal the equivalent licence fee is included with their electricity and costs roughly €3/month, but all they get for that are two measly TV channels (RTP1 and RTP2) and some radio. The rest is privately owned and, overall, the quality is fairly mixed. Their daily national evening news, for example, lasts an interminable hour-and-a-half, every night. And on their commercialised channels, you can forget brief four-minute advert breaks. You have enough time to make dinner and, in some cases, gobble it up, salted cod and all. In contrast, not only is our news distilled to about 25 minutes, but we have a stack of regionalised news centres around the country.

£145 is a lot of money, but we get a vast amount. BBC 1, 2, 3 and 4, and BBC News. The entire BBC website is free and uncommercialised. Mobile apps; catch-up apps, supportive apps and other appy apps. The BBC World Service, the largest international broadcaster. BBC Radio. And bear in mind, when the licence fee was first established in 1948, it cost £2/year – the equivalent to over £70 in 2010, but you didn’t get much for your money.

We are a nation of moaners, and that’s a good thing, but we really have no idea how lucky we are to have the BBC.