1920s slang

I’m just going to get on the ameche and tell my blue serge I love her. She’s in the hen coop at the moment so I may as well kick the gong around. Nerts! This is wonderful.

41. Jack: another name for money. (Other words for money: “rubes,” “kale,” “mazuma.”)

42. Johnson Brother: a criminal.

43. Kick the Gong Around: to smoke opium.

44. Knee-Duster: a skirt.

45. Lalapazaza: a good sport.

46. Lens Louise: the person who steamrolls the conversation.

47. Meat Wagon: an ambulance.

48. Middle Aisle: to get married. Example: “I’m going down the middle aisle.”

49. Mustard Plaster: someone who isn’t wanted but won’t leave.

50. “Nerts!”: “That’s awesome!”

KP too good for dreary, old-fashioned England

So the fallout of England’s winter continues unabated. Prepare yourselves for the mother of all introspection.

I just read the following on Twitter:


There’s only so much room and dispensation for mavericks. Well, I don’t know who Steve Booth is, but it’s fair to assume he’s probably British and supports the England cricket team, and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that his view is shared by many England sport fans. And if we learn nothing from the bleach-clean of this England team in the last few weeks, you would hope that the treatment of Kevin Pietersen is one lesson we may in future look back on with regret and a turning point in the attitudes towards our sportsmen.

What’s wrong with having a maverick?

Steve Booth is wrong – all the best teams in the world have had mavericks, and often relied upon them. West Indies: Lara, Richards, Gayle and others. Australia: Warne, of course. India: Ganguly perhaps. Pakistan: where do we start? And what about Sri Lanka? Muttiah Muralitharan, maverick arm himself. What about football? Was Pele a maverick? How about Campese for Australian rugby, or Jonah Lomu?

And yes, of course they are more likely to unsettle an established team. They might be born with fractionally better eyes, faster reactions, bigger muscles or a desire to succeed and win which outstrips their peers, but in nearly all cases they train and prepare incredibly hard, not a trait you associate with these so-called geniuses. And to reach that level of commitment requires the hardest of noses, the most stubborn of chins and a bloodymindedness likely to rile even the most zen of managers and captains. So, how exactly are these managers and captains managing and captaining?

What Steve’s comments show is that it is England who can’t cope with mavericks. As a country we still can’t hug and celebrate our winners in the same way other nations can and do. To most people’s astonishment, particularly our own, Great Britain took home a stash of gold at the London Olympics and the nation unshackled its chastity belt to experience an orgasm of celebration. That was unprecedented. England won the 2003 Rugby World Cup then quickly sank back down to its knees, only occasionally stumbling on to its haunches. England winning the Ashes in 2005 was another rare event, the rarest of its type given how closely fought that series was, but the following series confirmed England wasn’t ready to take on the world. Several players fell by the wayside through injury, so we can’t blame the nation’s psyche entirely of course. But it’s further evidence of a country far more comfortable appreciating the rich light of a winter’s afternoon than bask in summer’s victorious glare.

Pietersen needs attention and the warmth of adulation in a way few English cricketers, or fans, can get their heads around. This isn’t to diminish other players’ guts, determination or desire to succeed; for them, contributing to the team may mean just as much (or in some cases more) than dominating an entire series with two swashbuckling, daring innings. But England have been too inflexible, conformist, conservative and rigidly uninventive to accommodate a man willing to forsake the country of his birth in order to show the world his true talents. You only need look at the funereal approach to entertaining its fans in the last two or three seasons to know that those in charge were terrified of anything, anyone, threatening risk.

And what’s worse is that this move smacks of the ECB attempting, rather pathetically, to make a bold statement. “It’s time for a change. Time to clear the decks and start afresh.” Does that include dumping your best player, your prized asset – in fact, the only asset that competing teams are scared of? Oh, right. You really do have no idea how to manage different characters.

Pietersen came into the side a showman, a grinning entertainer bereft of insecurities, bereft too of political nous and gravitas, but too gloriously naive to realise his adopted country required it of him. He departed without so much an ovation, though the applause by his fans will ring loud in the ears of the ECB for years until England finds a cricketer with Pietersen’s skill and Andrew Strauss’s sober diplomacy. I suggest such a beast doesn’t exist, and for that we should be thankful.

Pietersen dropped – for the final time?

KP gone, never forgotten

That, surely, is it for Kevin Pietersen’s involvement with England. He’s been overlooked (or whatever is the consolatory phrase for someone who has been thrown out with the rubbish, probably prematurely). Binned. Dumped. Jettisoned. For the better? Well, I don’t think anybody will agree that it’s for England’s short-term good that he has been dropped but, perhaps – just perhaps – this signals the first significant moment of leadership for the new management team. And yes, I can’t believe I just wrote “management team” in the context of cricket, but such is the changing world and all that.

I wonder if he and Flower will be sharing a pint. A pint of bitter, no doubt.

With the announcement of England’s World Twenty20 squad expected on Thursday, the ECB took the unprecedented step of holding “policy meetings” solely to discuss the eligibility of one player: Pietersen. He spent the day of his sacking giving a class on spin bowling to his Surrey team-mates at The Oval.

“Clearly this was a tough decision because Kevin has been such an outstanding player for England as the fact that he is the country’s leading run scorer in international cricket demonstrates,” Downton said.

“However everyone was aware that there was a need to begin the long term planning after the Australia tour. Therefore we have decided the time is right to look to the future and start to rebuild not only the team but also team ethic and philosophy.

“England cricket owes a debt of gratitude to Kevin who has proved to be one of the most talented and exciting players to ever represent the country and his 13,797 runs are a testimony to his immense skill. This decision brings some clarity now for the future of the England teams and we all wish Kevin the very best in the rest of his career.” The new of England apparently forcibly retiring one of their most experienced players comes less than a week after Andy Flower stepped down as team director and follows the retirement of Graeme Swann during the disastrous Ashes tour.

A career that spanned 104 Tests and more than 150 limited-overs appearances over nine years, during which time Pietersen became England’s leading run-scorer in international cricket yet constantly divided opinion, may now be at an end, little more than a year after his successful “reintegration” to the team on the tour of India.

Waves “as high as houses” in Devon

Wow. Torcross is generally sheltered inside Start Bay (map), but this morning it’s been absolutely pummelled by the sea. Here’s a video from the Start Bay Inn.

Another on YouTube

Before-and-after photos from childhood

Nice idea, this: grown-ups reenacting old photos:


Money madness

Things I learned this week:

At $51m the Sochi Olympics is the most expensive ever.

Apple’s revenue for the last quarter exceeded Luxembourg’s annual GDP. Annual!

This is bonkers. What the hell is Apple going to do with all that sloshing dosh? Just sitting there making minor, underwhelming improvements to iPhones and iPads?

NFL and other American acronyms

Just read a passionate piece from John Stern on the NFL. Ah – now, no sooner have I finished that sentence than I’m already feeling uncomfortable over its accuracy: is it NFL, or the NFL?

See, this is my ignorance and my own shame, made all the more acute given I work for the American sport colossus, ESPN. I really know nothing of any note about American sports and, what’s worse, my indifference towards it has morphed to dislike and dismissiveness. It’s not that I don’t appreciate its skill; what little I know of it has dispelled that particular nugget of ignorance. And it’s certainly not that I wouldn’t enjoy it myself if I spent time getting to know it. No. I think it may actually be a form of anxiety.

To be a sport fan, or sports fan as my American employer insists it is spelled, requires dedication to the cause and an unwavering loyalty, but you can only reach that level of commitment once you’ve mastered how it all works. The nuances of its rules, the lingo, the exceptions, history and form – never mind all the teams and players, and associated statistics. And it’s those two things which I’m most  fearful of: if I did spend time getting under the skin of an American sport, or any other sport for which I’m not familiar, I worry that I could become almost hyper obsessed with it.

The Premier League doesn’t have this. Yet.

It happened with cricket, albeit when I was 12, and I’m definitely nowhere near that age now. But it could easily happen again, and John makes a compelling case for NFL to be my victim. Or me to be its, depending on the outcome. It’s also worth pointing out that American sport in the UK is a far, far bigger beast than you think. In 2004 Google says it was indexed at 21 (whatever that is). In 2014? It’s 100. The interest has gone up five fold.


I used to work with John when he was editor of The Wisden Cricketer magazine, and remember being starstruck when introduced to him on my first day working for Cricinfo (whose office we all shared) in 2005. I’d read TWC and its former incarnations since I was 12. He couldn’t have been more diffident or affable, yet here I was expecting a larger-than-life media mogul who also had a vast cricketing knowledge; a combination of Piers Morgan’s bluster and blind confidence, and anyone who appeared on Mastermind in the 1980s (bespectacled, lack of social skills yet absolutely obsessed with their subject).

Disappointingly I got neither, just a top bloke, writer and editor.

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.