The Tiers Of A Clown

A reported further 1,024 cases in 24hrs in Nottingham yesterday. Numbers further afield into the suburbs and wider county have taken an alarming jump also.

(Image: Nottingham Post)

A made a (probably final) visit to my ‘local’ in the city last night under Tier 2 restrictions which include no mixing with other households. The manager expressed that he would now prefer to close up completely and that to continue staffing the pub, even with just a single person didn’t make sense. There had been very few customers in the two days since new restrictions.

The experience? Well I sat listening to the Down The Slope Hibs podcast featuring an interview with Super Joe Tortalano, on my bluetooth earbuds, sipping pints of Bitbuger. Pleasant enough, but I can do that at home. In fact the pub that I know which is invariably lively with an interesting mix of folk felt more like Seafield Crematorium.

Streets and businesses in the city and local towns have all but emptied it appears. A popular public opinion is to impose a ‘complete’ lockdown. It feels very much like March again here. That’s me done, I’ll be imposing a self-lockdown – for the winter if necessary. Grim maybe, but it might be as well to find acceptance of this now.

University Challenge

(Image: Jem UoN Blogs)

A few figures surrounding the city’s university population as we wait for our fate regarding lockdown today.

University of Nottingham
Students: 35,000
Staff: 10,000
Active confirmed cases (students): 1,510
Students in private accom: 677
Students in university halls: 523
Students in purpose-built accom: 310
Increase in infected students in last 7 days: 1,085
Active confirmed cases (staff) 20

Nottingham Trent University also has over 33,000 students but has declined to publish figures for infection rate among student/staff. (There are no prizes for guessing why.) The above figures can therefore most likely be doubled.

In addition:
City tops the UK for new infections
Median age of people with Covid-19 (city): 21
7-day rolling rate of new infections at Sept 4th (city): 71
7-day rolling rate of new infections at Oct 8th (city): 830

I’ve no wish to vilify students – quite the contrary and I feel they’ve been badly treated – but whilst local authorities and the government continue to ignore these types of stats, closing hospitality, shops and their attendant services is never going to make sense to the public. They’re clearly not the only reason for the dramatic increase in infections in this city but at the beginning of Sept the city’s figures were some of the lowest in the UK. It’s now at the paramount for infections since the large student population returned.

Lockdown Two?

SEPTEMBER 11TH 2020 and here we are, awaiting our cue from Westminster in the morning. Doubtless this will mean more severe restrictions to a wide range of the public. One wonders about compliance in these days.

The amount of people who don’t appear to be subscribing to social distancing, mask wearing and so on is widespread and rife. I stepepd off a bus in a quieter part of the city last night at 7pm and was immediately confronted by scene with 15-20 older teens huddled up together in a tight group. Not a single mask between them. This is not unusual in my experience. It’s like those people are completely oblivious to the situation or think it doesn’t affect them in any way and is not relevant to them. It’s by no mean exclusive to that particular age group either.

Three young females, students judging by their conversation, were walking around the pub with no masks on. All got up to visit the bathroom at the same time…and took their drinks with them, almost unbelievably.

I anvassed a group of friends in the pub about the idea of forming a support bubble between two of our households. Not one person was aware of how they worked. Nor were they interested.

My bus service is pretty decent regards people following safety procedures. It helps that it travels to a rarer route and so has few passengers on these shorter eenings for hispitality. However, a passing tram was rammed to the rafters with students without a mask between them again. The University tram stop was also packed with those waiting for another service.

Probably like many, I feel tired and disheartened with the situation. I personally went through 5-6 months of working from home, living alone whilst barely seeing a single person. Doing my bit like so many others and now here we are again, facing a potential full lockdown in essence. The days are becoming colder and the nights longer without even a few warm summer days to cheers us. The government simply have little idea what to do, they missed their big chance earlier in the year. I don’t even have the energy to be angry at the significant amount of people ignoring the rules. Those without a single care for the health and lives for others. I have no idea of the way out of this but I’m certain that their way isn’t the correct one.

Tipping Point

THE BELOW was written prior to the storm now blowing through about students being confined to their rooms in thir residences – a truly shocking development I consider. The Government’s Test And Trace system has also now staggered into life, albeit with attendant problems.

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I’ve maintained for some time that there will be a ‘full lockdown’. It will be dressed up as something other than that, something with a snazzy new name, say, a ‘circuit breaker’, combined with a spiffing new world-beating three-word slogan to accompany it. (It’s understood by the Government that the public cannot take on information without it written in three parts on a lecturn).

The two-week period variously mooted really doesn’t mean too much. When the two weeks are drawing in another two weeks will be announced – after first being leaked out to break it a little more gently of course – and so forth. They did this in one-month periods on the first lockdown with people becoming increasingly upset each time it occurred. A point about locking down in any form might be to provide breathing space to get the crucial track, trace and isolate sytem going. The problem is the government have had six months to come up with this majorly important tool but decided to give the job to mates and ignore those digitally illiterate Luddites, Apple and Google. Actually criminally negligent.

I know that there are great difficulties and I have much sympathy with parents but for me the children should not have returned to school just yet. Teaching should have been rolled out 100% digitally with various support given to parents to facilitate it, along with a suspension of school term(s) or even a full academic year if necessary.

Similar for the students in higher education. Teaching should be conducted 100% digitally for now. This would have been preferable for the students who now, as well illustrated by recent reports, face a potentially fairly miserable and restricted experience at university. It could also cost many of them a great deal of money being tied into accommodation for an academic year that has arguably only a thin chance of being actually delivered face-to-face. More money needs to be found (but won’t be) to support not only furloughed workers and parents but also the businesses that are nearly on the brink of extinction.

It’s a question of priorities, the UK government can find outlandish sums for Trident (£200b), for bailing out banks (£500b) and so on. Those issues have their own arguments but it illustrates that money is always found when deemed ‘necessary’. It will allow the country’s citizens to suffer though, to lose their jobs, to go without food and lose their homes. To see people experiencing great mental health difficulties to the point of suicide. To witness the significant growth in domestic abuse.

Yes me too, I’m glad I don’t have to now make the decisions on the way forward in this dire situation. One thing for sure though is that if the UK government hadn’t made consistent and continual mistakes – sometimes almost wilfully – throughout, those decisions wouldn’t now have been so difficult or acute. A problem is that apart from not appearing to care all that much they’re really not all that bright. They simply lack the ability, thinking and industry to deal with the huge problems facing the UK.

It’s 10pm And All Is Not Well

I’M SURE the thinking that some people become increasingly drunk later in the evening and less observent of social distancing measures is a logical and reasonable point. However, significantly, it’s a moveable feast.

I wouldn’t particularly argue one way or the other regarding closing times in pubs in particular but certainly, someone who wants to get innebriated won’t allow n early closing time in public houses to change that. They’ll go out earlier, go on to homes afterwards, drink stronger drinks or drink them faster to achieve the same effect.

These things are indicated to me through treating drink dependent people for a good while. A top down, directive approach rarely works that well in these things beyond a certain point. Far better that people become educated and actually want to show these behaviours without being ‘forced’ or ‘blocked’ into doing so.

There are strong suggestions from scientists and health experts that the Government have not consulted with regarding the likely benefits or otherwise of adopting this latest policy. So much for ‘following the science’.

Unfortunately, many of the general public have stopped listening to or wanting to acquiesce to the UK government’s constantly changing instructions. They have no faith in them nor do many trust them due to their incompetence, weekly u-turns and abject failure as much as anything else.

The genie is already out of the bottle I’m afraid.

Good Luck, Magpies

BEST WISHES to Notts County in their Play-Off Final against Harrogate at Wembley Stadium today. Just one year ago, this club looked like it was about to become history. Huge tax bills, a winding up order, staff not paid in two months and a transfer embargo in place. Asset strippers were circling. Less than a week before the first game of the season Notts had just a handful of players and had to bring in around thirteen bodies in order to field some kind of team.

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Today, after surviving these times, the hard-working players, their excellent manager, Neal Ardley and the modest and skilled young club owners, Danish brothers Alexander and Christoffer Reedtz, the club has an opportunity to return to the Football League at the first opportunity. Whatever should happen during the ninety minutes, the past year has been one of stability and growth for the old club

Good luck Notts,

In Nature’s Lap, We May Relax

Again. I read reports of huge queues outside my local Sainsbury’s supermarket with attendant forty-minute waits to enter the store. It’s been a pattern, particularly at the weekend recently, to the point that the car park entrance has been closed off and bottles of water being handed out to the long line of people standing outside the store in the hot sun.


Meanwhile, I’m sat in the garden with my cat buddy by my side, sipping a cup of Italian coffee and listening to some vintage songs on the radio, relaxing after a busy working week. I’m taking in the scent of sweet honeysuckle, something I look forward to each summer. A breeze gently rustles fresh green foliage on the trees. It is an idyllic situation in a most simple and fundamental way.

Technology! I have an online Sainsbury’s grocery order with a helpful supermarket ‘colleague’ placing two weeks’ worth of food and drink on my doorstep this evening at 8pm for which I’m grateful.. It takes me all of five minutes to store if I’m dawdling. I now fail to understand the allure and attraction of spending precious time queuing to enter a supermarket, on a beautiful day especially. Of course, doing so also owns its anxieties too at the current time as many people have expressed.

I will not be heading back to trudging around supermarkets in the future, social distancing present or not. Experiencing change via a lengthy lockdown has finally allowed me to see the light on this little chore, quite literally.

Epitaph On My Ever Honoured Father

O ye whose cheek the tear of pity stains,
Draw near with pious rev’rence, and attend!
Here lie the loving husband’s dear remains,
The tender father, and the gen’rous friend;
The pitying heart that felt for human woe,
The dauntless heart that fear’d no human pride;
The friend of man-to vice alone a foe;
For “ev’n his failings lean’d to virtue’s side.”

Robert Burns

John Archibald Frew 1921-1984 b. Musselburgh, Scotland

Nottingham: Garden City?

The city of Nottingham presently has something of a disaster on its hands to deal with. As Property Consultant, Tim Garratt says. we are in ‘car-crash territory’ with the conundrum over Broadmarsh Shopping Centre, the major southern gateway into the city.


(Image: Nottingham Post)

Currently half-demolished with water probably pouring into it and an owner, INTU who are billions of pounds in debt and seemingly financially unable to give the developers the go-ahead to resume work. Probably ever.

I’ll leave others to discuss who’s fault this all is but it brings up interesting thoughts of how modern city centres might look in the future.

It’s not quite as simple as this now things have progressed/regressed but for many years I’ve always believed this very central site should be utilised for outdoor use, an attractive park, performance areas, markets, fairs, events and so on. Retail is dying and the Coronavirus outbreak has brought forward change in a few important aspects of daily life a few years it might be argued. One of those is less use of our cities for shopping purposes due to online shopping.

Major developments in this city have often been linked to student accommodation, another bubble that might conceivably burst due to the effects of the virus as universities take a significant step forwards online learning meaning less demand for local accommodation. This might well be quite disastrous for Nottingham as it has continually geared up for increasing demand to the detriment of a great deal of anything else..

So what are we left with, apart from a few more hardy larger retail businesses (who are also these days under threat) In addition, an over proliferation of restaurants of a similar type and quality which come and swiftly go and fashionable modern, expensive themed bars which rarely show any kind of longevity of lifespan?

Some rather more abstract thinking is now required for the future health of our cities. I hope that Nottingham can possibly, even under duress, be one of the cities that grasps new opportunity and change.

Mr Fox

I often think that in a presently mad world, full of angry people, nature and animals often seem to make more sense than most things.

I feel most fortunate that although living in a suburb, my situation is cheek by jowl with open agricultural land and hundreds of acres of pretty woodland which would undoubtedly have formed a part of old Sherwood Forest in times past

The benefits of working from home. This week has had a couple of afternoons with a fox spending most of the afternoon in my garden. Sitting a few feet from my window it’s a major and happy distraction from work. It’s been rainy here like most places, making for longer uncut grass in the back garden. A glimpse through the window offers a pair of foxy ears poking out of the grass. Almost comically so.

I understand that foxes and cats – unlike foxes and dogs, tend to leave each other alone and pretty well tolerate each other without any great angst. My lad, Gigi, was straight out there though, ears pricked up, searching through the undergrowth for our visitor. To no avail.

It’s like a beautiful, fascinating little soap opera playing out in front of one’s eyes and it certainly beats sitting in an office in the city – hands down.

Ten Weeks of Quarantine

Almost ten weeks for me of living a most solitary life at home. Providing telephone counselling for my clients being the main contact with the outside world.

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It’s okay, I remain strong and resilient and will indefinitely but of course, sometimes the time can drag, there’s a hint of monotony and it can be a little lonely… And then this lad steps in on a Saturday night (and every night) while I’m having a quiet evening alone and comes to me

Gigi has been a faithful friend throughout. I’m certain he can sense my need in that strange spiritual ways that animals often seem to be able to. When people don’t call and the texts and emails fall silent, he’s always there. Cuddled up tight on my lap and showing affection. He makes sense of many things. I do love him.

The Greatest Virus Pit In Europe

Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t live on a small island. Less than six per cent of our land mass is built on. An issue is rather density of population, and we’re not even the highest in Europe for that.


(Image: James Mylne/PA)

The real issues are that the UK didn’t lockdown that population effectively and clearly, didn’t do it remotely quickly enough, that we lacked testing, a tracking and a tracing ability, The mixed messages sent out for the entirely of the outbreak are UK Conservative government decisions.

These are the real reasons the country has ended up with approximately 36,000 of our loved ones dead according to latest data. Some estimates put the figures as high as 53,000. Another is the highly infectious disease which the government under-estimated. Headed by another virus, our ridiculous cavalier Prime Minister, Johnson.

It’s no surprise that people seem not to understand the lockdown rules, let alone the section of people who seek constantly to find loopholes. The government’s communication strategy appears to consist mainly of anonymous leaks to the media, which are then reported and subsequently partially denied. Witness the drip-drip of information this week.

The government are totally directionless at this point. Prime Minister Johnson, who previously couldn’t manage to stay out of the media has become a recluse in hiding with the politicians appointed to speak in his absence appearing to know next to nothing. The UK is constantly missing targets for testing – even with transparently artificially massaged figures, it is ill equipped with PPE which NHS employers are gagged from talking about and has refused technology from established industry leaders in favour of providing a ‘nice little earner’ for a track and trace app being created by a crony of the detestable Dominic Cummings. Would you really trust that? I’m struggling.

The UK now has the appalling record for second most Covid-19 deaths in the world after the USA. This government did NOTHING as it watched the experiences of other European countries ahead of us in this pandemic and an opportunity to learn.

I can’t imagine many other countries will want to accept people from the UK in the future which will hopefully satisfy the Brexit brain-dead at least. They can stay at home resplendent in their blissful ignorance.

The UK is proudly now the greatest virus pit in Europe.

Good Friday


Love Hurts


Good Friday Prayer

O Jesus, Who by reason of Thy burning love for us
hast willed to be crucified
and to shed Thy Most Precious Blood
for the redemption and salvation of our souls,
look down upon us here gathered together
in remembrance of Thy most sorrowful Passion and Death,
fully trusting in Thy mercy;
cleanse us from sin by Thy grace,
sanctify our toil,
give unto us and unto all those who are dear to us our
daily bread,
sweeten our sufferings,
bless our families,
and to the nations so sorely afflicted,
grant Thy peace,
which is the only true peace,
so that by obeying Thy commandments
we may come at last to the glory of heaven.


The Peregrine Falcons of Nottingham

Life and nature goes on, although for some it must feel as though it has ground to a halt. The peregrine falcons are back nesting in Nottingham city centre, perched many storeys up on a ledge of Nottingham Trent University’s Newton Building, as they do each Spring. A welcome sight for all and this year, a small reminder that the world keeps spinning and the seasons continue to evolve.


A Peregrine Falcon in its characteristic missile-like dive

Peregrines are possibly my favourite creatures with their staggering speed in a dive for prey. Some claim this to be recorded at 160mph, other claims even reach to 200mph. Whatever the truth, they are truly magnificent. I hope they are enjoying the relative peace of the city centre in the year of 2020.

Watch them live.

A Night In…

It’s early days to be fair but television’s response to people having to stay home has been pretty lukewarm in my view. Reading of plans to bring extra entertainment to Saturday night vewing saw the BBC that they were going to announce repeats of ‘Gavin & Stacy’.

Really? Is that typical of the BBC’s conception of adding extra pizzazz to our screens?


Another example is that of ‘Match of the Day’ being replaced by ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys Live’. I’m no fan of the former with it’s dreary presenters but what kind of insane decision is it to replace it with that absolute garbage, ‘jokes’ out of a Christmas cracker and all. I appreciate they’ve had to have second thoughts since the outcry.

Perhaps the TV companies have decided that we are a captive audience and that they don’t really need to try to schedule decent quality viewing for that reason. If so, they really are not helping in a difficult situation.

John Archibald Frew 1921-1984

My dad, John Archibald Frew, of Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland suddenly died thirty-six years ago this day, just after midnight on January 1st, 1984, shockingly, shortly after I’d celebrated the bells with him.

Consequently, this time of year is never easy – even after all these years. In those early years afterwards it haunted me, especially at Hogmanay, a time when I would be sure to travel to Edinburgh each year, to be under the stars on the High Street at the Tron Kirk with thousands of others,purely to escape the suffocating sense of his loss and to feel closer to him.


There’s never a day that passes that I don’t think of him, all he imparted to me, the lessons he taught me. I can hear the soft tones of his voice any time I care to listen in my mind. John was the product of a very hard background. The grinding poverty of the 1920s and 1930s meant that he often went without shoes on his feet as a boy. His upbringing helped toughen him as hard as teak for the trials he would go through subsequently in his adult life. Let it not be ignored though that he could show rare wisdom and at times be a very funny man indeed.

He strived for a living in the mines of Scotland as a young boy of fourteen years, working all day long partly immersed in the water of ‘wet pits’. Following that, he worked at the naval base in Scapa Flow, Old Norse meaning, ‘bay of the long isthmus’ on the remote, Scottish Island of Orkney, then travelled the world many a time as a proud Merchant Seaman. The German U-Boats tried their utmost but couldn’t kill him off in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

In current times, he would have been so proud, I know, to think that Scotland, the country he loved so much, could have the opportunity to stand alone and manage its own affairs.

My dad was my rock and his memory remains that to this day. I owe him much.

Fond memories. John Archibald Frew 1921-1984 ‘Life’s work well done’.

Frostnip in Banff, Canada

FROSTNIP IS THE COMMON TERM for first-degree frostbite. It’s characterised by one’s skin turning pale or blue and feeling cold to the touch. If one stays out in the cold with these symptoms the skin may begin to feel cold to the touch and to tingle. The tingling can turn into quite severe pain and needs some simple first-aid. That first-aid generally means getting out of the cold and rewarming the affected areas. Failure to do this can result in moving through further stages of frostbite occasioning very serious tissue damage with consequential grave results.

It was on a frigid late December afternoon that I took to one of the outdoor skating rinks of the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta for a skating session. The rink was deserted apart from myself and whilst very cold indeed, was welcoming under the fairy lights and seasonal music emanating from an outdoor sound system.

Banff Springs Hotel, Alberta, Canada


It was quite heavenly, the cold air icily refreshing my face as I traversed the wide open spaces of the rink, accompanied only by the familiar sound of my skate blades cutting sharply and crisply into the ice as I turned this way and that.

What could possibly go wrong?

Outside the skate-changing shack next to the ice was a handily-placed thermometer which I glanced at a couple of times when passing. The temperature, already very cold, was dropping slowly. I was warm though, with a fleecy top, ski pants and gloves and working up a head of steam on the ice.

Moraine Lake, Banff, Alberta Canada

Crystal Ski Resort, Alberta, Canada

I finally ended the session in the darkness, apart from the pretty lights of the rink and glided slowly to a halt at the shack, sat and began to remove my skates to change to shoes and take the short walk by the picturesque Bow River. Back to the warmth and a hot drink in the plush hotel.

As anyone who skates will identify, it takes but a few minutes to complete this procedure and I sat for a few moments afterwards admiring the wonderful and peaceful scene in front of me. I noted the outdoor thermometer registering at –28C.

It was only then that I began to feel the tingling in my fingers, moving into my hands. My first experience of frostnip. Walking ever more rapidly back to the hotel, the pain actually began to feel quite intense, in fact it was very painful indeed. I’d had my hands out of the ski gloves for only a few brief minutes but it was long enough.

Breaking into a run back to the hotel room and slightly confused by the sudden pain after feeling relatively comfortable, my partner of that time, a Canadian native quickly ran the hot taps in the bathroom and stuck my aching hands underneath them. There I stayed for the next thirty minutes until the pain began to subside.

Two pairs of gloves were in evidence for the next outdoor skating session, that time on an amazing frozen lake.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 7.12.19

A winter-sun December Saturday it is and it comes as a relief in case the atmosphere inside Meadow Lane this afternoon becomes decidedly frosty. I’ll be meandering through the city for Notts County’s 3pm kick-off versus Sutton United in the Vanerama League. Heady days.


The Magpies have been experiencing a fairly torrid time of late after an excellent run of nineteen games in which they lost only three. Things have slightly nose-dived since however with Notts drifting out into a mid-table berth. It’s all very disappointing for the team’s faithful and appears to be pointing very much towards another season of non-league football for the club unless there is an immediate and dramatic upturn in fortunes.

The city and its roads will no doubt be overcrowded today, exacerbated by Christmas shoppers, thousands of students and the (I have to say) pretty naff Christmas Fair in the Old Market Square, set to fleece visitors or their hard-earned.

Back in the heartland, Hibs take on the tough challenge of the Dandy Dons of Aberdeen. It would be good to think that Aberdeen will turn up with less of a cynical attitude than on various other visits in the past few seasons. Hibs manager, Jack Ross has the task of lifting the team after a disappointing road trip to Dingwall midweek with a 2-1 capitulation. Seeing Hibs yet again give up a lead is not edifying at the moment and questions are being asked.

These questions are invariably concerning the Hibs defence which is achieving sieve-like qualities recently. There is a major problem at Easter Road in this area of the team with several key players aging at the same time. Great and good servants such as David Gray, Lewis Stevenson, Paul Hanlon and a soon-returning Darren McGregor have for some time been needing replacements coming through but Porteous aside, there has been little by way of that. Anyhow, thinking of you, Hibees from my spot at a game here.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 16.11.19

It’s international break weekend (boo) so just the one fixture under scrutiny today, Notts County v Barrow. I’ll meander along to Meadow Lane via a quick watering hole stop to witness any damage or otherwise. Two days ago it was looking like this might be a boat trip with part of Nottingham under water. Today presents two teams in fine form, the Magpies having lost only three in the past nineteen games and Barrow having won a tremendous nine out of ten previous away games It’s fair to say that it’s anyone’s game today and the team that comes out of the traps in the best fettle will prevail. Arguably rare at this level too, both teams are renowned for trying to play good football and a passing game so it should be a reasonable spectacle which always makes the afternoon more agreeable along with the Scotch Pie and Bovril.

(Image: Economist)

North of the border and Hibs, well it’s all been happening, apart from a blank football Saturday. New manager, Jack Ross, safely installed, we can only hope for a little stability returning to Easter Road after a slightly disastrous first part of the season. It’s almost been laughable seeing some of the comment about him before barely setting foot in Leith. I sometimes wonder what drives this kind of attitude of sky-high expectation, albeit the Hibs support certainly deserves a little bit more success over the piece one could argue. Safe to say, apart from Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klop, any candidate is going to get trashed by one section of Hibs fans or another. Good luck Jack Ross, I still believe Hibernian is a fine club, well run and with some potential. You’re going to need some good fortune though.

South Africa – World Champions 2019!


You were absolutely awesome today and played like men, with heroism, skill and determination. You brought pride to your nation.


The South Africans were not in the slightest scared by England’s bull and over-confidence

The following was sent to me by a South African pal before the game:

‘One of the teams in the Rugby World Cup Final will run onto the field knowing they have a better head to head success rate over their opposition; at home, away, at neutral venues, at World Cups and in World Cup finals. They will know in their last 17 matches against their current opposition they have won 13 games, had 1 draw and lost only 3 times. They will also know they are in fine World Cup form, having scored the most tries, the most points, dominated key statistics like lineout steals and scrum penalties and also conceded the least tries at the tournament so far.

They will take confidence from knowing they have won two World Cups in six attempts (with two bronze medals also secured), never lost a World Cup final and have never been beaten in a World Cup knockout match by any northern hemisphere side. They will also be boosted by the fact they won their most recent involvement against the British and Irish Lions, have just knocked out the World Cup hosts in the quarter finals and also knocked out the six nations grand slam champions in their semi final. They will run onto the field with the support of a Rainbow Nation behind them, knowing anything can happen in a final. The other side, England, will run out as firm favourites.

Goosebumps! Lekker Bokke!’

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 2.11.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game.

A squelchy day in the rain is promised for me at Meadow Lane for me today as Notts County take on Hartlepool United at 3pm The ‘Monkey Hangers’ are pushing for a play-off position where the Nottingham side currently reside after a quite magnificent run of form of late. The Magpies, fresh from battering Woking 4-0 in midweek away from home in a seriously good performance will be attempting the tightest defensive record intact.

A football hits the back of the net

It’s been interesting watching Notts’ progress since the shaky days of late summer when a side was cobbled together just two days before the first game of the season. They have grown in stature, cohesion and confidence week-by-week. Pleasing too to see Notts boss, Neal Ardley grow with the team after the relentless pressure he had been under since joining the club. A good and decent man.

After the game it’s a dash home by tram and bus to Redhill and hopefully access some coverage of Hibs in their League Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hampden Park. There have been tough times for the Hibees this season of course, with the team consistently offering mediocre and punchless displays. Celtic meanwhile sit atop of the Scottish Premier League and are scoring freely. Expectations will be modest for all Hibees today but at least the team have shown some solidity and resilience of late. My wish is that they have a really good go at Celtic and don’t allow them to play their football. ‘Mon the Hibs.

Nottingham Forest also find themselves pushing for a play-off spot currently after relinquishing what might easily have been a second spot berth for them with two successive defeats. They travel south to Luton Town today hoping to get back on track. Manager Lamouchie reports healthy selection problems.

Peter Cormack, Dementia and Protecting Footballers

Some sobering news about a former footballing hero of mine today, Peter Cormack. Peter and his family have disclosed the news of his dementia diagnosis and symptoms of it he has been experiencing for some years.

Peter was an entertaining and swashbuckling attacking midfield for my team, Hibs, moving to Nottingham Forest where I was able to watch him many times as a youngster. I loved to watch him play and so did my dad who had a very high regard for our fellow Edinburgh native. As a boy I liked to try to emulate his prance-like run as Peter ran on the balls of his feet.


Perhaps Peter’s high watermark as a player came when performing for Liverpool in what became a trophy-laden career, as well as gaining nice full Scottish caps. As a player even as a skinny youngster he could certainly ‘dig’, pass the ball and had excellent control and vision. He was also versatile enough to leave his midfield berth and take over in goal for Hibs in an emergency as well as playing up front or in wide positions as well as his normal midfield slot. His great talent was spotted at an early age by then Hibs manager Jock Stein among others, when in 1964 in a prestige friendly game against Spanish giants, Real Madrid, Peter, just seventeen years-old scored against the legendary club.


(Image: Shoot Magazine)

Peter, though not a big man by any means was so very talented in the air – a great header of the ball due to his agility, ability to leap and his superb timing. It brings up the subject of another former footballer, the late Jeff Astle – also an exceptional header of the ball – who passed away due to a degenerative brain disease in 2002 caused by repeated traumas through heading the heavy leather footballs of the day. This is in light of a recent dementia study that has resulted in the Scottish Football Association considering a ban on Scottish children heading the ball

On a wider note, I have a growing feeling that professional footballers, perhaps due to considerations of their their ‘wealth’ (or assumed wealth) are being somewhat sacrificed for the needs of the game. In Peter and Jeff’s day footballers were perhaps considered differently with much more modest rewards available from the game. In the modern era, it seems to me that players are increasingly vulnerable to addictions such as those of gambling, alcohol and recreational drugs. Stories of depression, anxiety and even suicidality in players due to pressures of the industry and attendant lifestyle are becoming more common and are almost certainly under-diagnosed and reported due to stigma and ignorance. It’s almost as though the players cannot complain about the issues or problems they are experiencing in the public’s view due to arguably, a minority being paid fortunes to play the game many would love to.

I do feel the football industry and individual clubs need to focus more on the health and well-being of football players – no matter how much or little they earn. Money is not a protective factor for health or mental health in these circumstances. Tales of excess and ruined lives litter the professional game and those stories are certainly not relegated to the modern era solely. Players it appears are increasingly more indulged and overprotected in everyday matters of running heir lives and careers. Their personal health and well-being however seems to be a lesser consideration. In some ways, attitudes in the game have not evolved significantly from past days with certain subjects still being subject to stigmatisation.

Good luck and bless you Peter Cormack. You gave me so many happy memories which I will always cherish. Let’s all wish for the better protection generally of the professional football players of today.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 19.10.19

A not too shabby day in Hood Town (i.e. it’s not raining) and it’s another bus-walk-bus to the south of the city and Meadow Lane Stadium to watch Notts County take on a team I haven’t seen since the 1960s – Belper Town, in the FA Cup. Back in those pleasant football-going days it was Belper travelling to Arnold FC’s Gedling Road ground in the now-defunct Midland League. ‘Mary’s’ as Arnold were long known from their days as Arnold St Mary’s FC hold fond memories of Saturday afternoon and Wednesday evening football kicking off at a ground that was walkable from my folk’s front door. A call in at a Front Street chippy for a sixpenny ‘mix’ (chips and peas) with the gang and home to watch Dad’s Army on the telly. Those were the days.


‘Eight One…Eight bloody one!’

In 2019, Belper Town reside in the eighth division of League football and Notts in the fifth. The ‘Nailers’ from the nearby Derbyshire town being expected to bring some 1,500 supporters to Nottingham. Should be fun.

Meanwhile, my dear Hibees travel to Hamilton in Lanarkshire to face the Accies at New Douglas Park. A curious and unpredictable one this after the international break with Hibs showing a little more resilience in the three games prior. Hibs don’t have their problems to seek currently with few of the close season additions being termed as a success. They particularly struggle up front with new signing Doidge not firing as yet and Florian Kamberi out of sorts once more. I’ve a feeling there will be more questions asked of manager Heckingbottom come 5pm today.

The international break came at an inconvenient time for Nottingham Forest who were on a fine run of form and points gathering when the league had its short hiatus. It will be interesting to see if they pick up things where they left off against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium tomorrow and my hunch is that they will. They have shown a reliable resilience this season so far. It’s too early to be considering prospects for the season currently but I’d absolutely love to see the Garibaldi Reds back in the top flight once more where I believe they belong.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 12.10.19

Autumn rolls relentlessly on and for me it’s another visit to Meadow Lane Stadium in Nottingham to watch Notts County v Torquay United. How the not-mighty have fallen as the representatives of the English Riviera make the long trip to civilisation, possibly populating a motorised scooter. The Magpies’ boss, Neal Ardley appeared in the local media the previous day answering fan questions and reaffirmed what a genuine, principled and real football man he is. Well done Neal.


Meanwhile, the team in black and white stripes continue their press towards the play-of positions and with a good and sizable squad look well placed to make a charge on promotion as the season wears on.

The cat will no doubt come to the end of the drive to wave me away on this brave quest of bus, tram and terrace warfare.

At the same time, my one true football love, Hibernian, kick-off at New Douglas Park as they take on Hamilton Academical in an unpredictable-looking fixture. There have been some more encouraging signs from the Hibees of late after a fairly terrible time this season so far with at least a little more grit being apparent in their play. However, the jury remains firmly out on manager Heckingbottom at the moment, if only for having a silly Yorkshire name. The grand old team still appear to be labouring under some mediocre close season recruitment Do what you’ve got to do Hibs and put a display on please for my pals in that faithful away support in deepest Lanarkshire.

Edit: Just to make sure you’re paying attention at the back, the Hibs game is next week.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 28.9.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game and it’s off to the city and Nott’s County’s Meadow Lane I go for the 3pm kick off against Fylde FC. It’s bargain giveaway day today as owners of club, the Reedzt brothers, have kindly offered the game for just £3 admission as a thank you for the club’s faithful sticking by their team in the dark days of last summer.


Surprisingly, my new cat-pal-visitor decided not to follow me in the persistently precipitous weather. Cats are so smart. Notts Manager, Neal Ardley in almost a year at the club hasn’t overseen his team experience back-to-back wins in all that time and after a midweek away win, here’s another chance for the Magpies. My Saturday afternoon will be punctuated by a Scotch pie kindly provided by my Glaswegian pal at half time and earlier, checking up on the goings on at Easter Road where Hibs play Celtic. Probably by viewing my iphone through my fingers.

It’s turbulent times at Easter Road of course. Most of the dialogue features releasing Manager Paul Heckingbottom as nauseam with little debate about any other subject. I remain convinced that the Yorkshireman will find it incredibly difficult to turn fortunes around. His own lack of popularity being partly attributable to some challenging and slightly dismissive comments directed at the club’s supporters.

It was good news for Nottingham Forest last night as after an exciting 3-2 away win they went top of the Championship. Great to see Forest on top again – even if it may be short-lived. They are looking like strong challengers this season and play some exhilarating football at times through the likes of the excellent João Carvalho, Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban.

You’ll excuse me now as the Hibernians have just kicked off and gone ahead courtesy of any own goal by Celtic’s Ajer…


Notts performed grittily in grinding out a 2-0 victory. Another clean sheet would have been pleasing to them as would a terrific goal by forward, Thomas. I think many have seen the team perform better this season and lost. A moment of note was when the referee was injured in a collision with a Fylde player. Needing to retire from the game, the announcer on the public address system requested any ‘fully qualified referees to please come forward’. Handily, the Pavis Stand generally finds itself well stocked with ‘referees’! The Magpies now find themselves on the cusp of the play-off places for the first time this season.

Hibs competed well in a slightly tempestuous and feisty game with quite some controversy. Manager Heckingbottom managed to get himself banished to the stands after kicking a Gatorade bottle in anger, hitting a linesman! Some good signs but much work to do.

Nottingham Diary: September 2019

It’s been a turbulent week on Nottingham’s roads with simply just traversing the city a little problematic to say the least. However, sadly, lives have been lost.

Cityscape(1)(Image: Invest in Nottingham)

Last Saturday evening, a man was stabbed to death in the centre of the city. A friend passing mentioned that he had witnessed the victim being unsuccessfully resuscitated. Another pointless waste of life. The fact that part of the city’s roads were closed for forensics that evening and through most of the next day is of no consequence by comparison.

Wednesday brought another fatality, this time on the main thoroughfare, Upper Parliament Street in the heart of the city. A local man, just 34 years-old, was hit by a single-decker bus and was was reported dead the next day. Passing the scene later in the day was a hard view, with the unfortunate victim’s rucksack still lying in the road behind the bus and hard to not see.

Friday came and saw city centre gridlocks due to different reasons. The earlier part of the day saw demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion by way of a massed cycle ride and later, a gathering in Old Market Square. No question that there are difficult issues to be faced here. The movement’s methods will continue to be debated by the public.

It’s still Friday and it’s that day and weekend where Nottingham’s thousands of students descend back on the city. A lighter note at least to see the pavements near my office teeming with students and their parents, arms full of bedding, clothing and foodstuffs for the young incomers. Perhaps the most amusing sight being two young lads each absolutely laden with two-litre bottles of mineral water, maybe concerned about the availability of running water in their new homes. A visit to the supermarket on leaving work saw a scene resembling a plague of locusts having swarmed its formerly heavily laden shelves.

Some people find the preponderance of students around the city from late September onwards an irritation but not me personally, notwithstanding that they’re not vomiting, staggering and crying in the street in the early hours  in the suburb where I live. I do like though, to see that youthful ebullience tinged with trepidation as they leave home for the first time and sort themselves into their new friendship groups in a strange environment. And let’s face it, there’s nowhere stranger than Nottingham at times.

Finally, and like most Saturdays from September to May in Nottingham one of the city’s two professional football teams are playing at home, this week, Nottingham Forest. Approaching the ground is Trent Bridge where a ‘police incident’ has been reported. This, sadly, is modern day code for a possible suicide attempt, in this case a possible jumper from the Trent Bridge into the River Trent’s dangerous currents far below. An increasing trend in these troubled times. I do hope this person is safe and goes on to continue forwards into a content and meaningful life.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 14.9.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game.

A sunny September day in Nottingham and it’s a trip to Meadow Lane to see Notts County v Halifax Town. The last time I watched these two football behemoths face off must have been about 1973 at The Shay in Halifax, comfortably the most awful football ground I’ve ever stepped in (and that’s a few).

Image may contain: shoes and boots

There’ll be no loose shale underfoot on the terrace for opposition fans to throw at each today in a comparatively sterile atmosphere.Just a need to duck no doubt from a few errant long balls coming down from the stratosphere from Notts’ cultured defenders.

My first love, Hibs’ supporters are on the sixty-mile road to Kilmarnock to see Hibernian play. Come on the Hibs!

Forest take on league leading Swansea in a tough-looking fixture on the road at the Liberty Stadium.


Notts ran out worthy winners by a goal to nil having played practically half the game with ten men after captain, Michael Doyle received a red card.

Hibernian suffered a miserable-sounding 0-2 reverse to Kilmarnock amid fresh clamour for manager Heckingbottom’s head – preferably before the Edinburgh derby in just seven days time…

Forest had a terrific 1-0 win over first-placed Swansea with skilful Portuguese midfielder, João Carvalho apparently showing his full range of trickery.

Happy 75th Birthday, Pat Stanton

Happy 75th Birthday Pat Stanton, Hibernian legend.

Perhaps no player embodied the ethos of the Hibernians more than Pat. On the field of play he was elegent, poised and personified class. He played the ‘Hibs way’ and led by an an example that few, if any, could ever match. What a glorious and wonderful footballer he was. You knew you were in the presence of greatness when watching Pat Stanton play the beautiful game.

‘What a time that was at the Hibs. We were the last of the romantics.’ – Pat Stanton’.

A descendent of Hibernian co-founder Michael Whelahan an emigree of County Rosscommon after the Great
Famine in Ireland, Pat Stanton upholds the link between present day and the 1875 of its Irish founding fathers.

As a young man, Pat with his dark, Irish good looks, and gentlemanly and kindly manner was a fine ambassador for the club he loves. He remains so at 75 years. Safe to say, no player in the club’s long history demands more respect and fully deserved, downright adoration. Happy Birthday, King Paddy.

Suicide: Risk Factors, Warning Signs And How To Talk To A Person With Suicide Ideation

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and as so many talk of ‘raising awareness’ as the saying goes nowadays, I’d like to talk a little about communicating with a person experiencing suicidal thoughts. Perhaps a good place to start is in understanding risk factors for suicide and recognising the sometimes subtle warning signs.


Each and every suicide is a tragedy, and one which leaves unanswered questions. Most often, suicidal thoughts develop from deep feelings of hopelessness and an inability to cope with certain challenges in our lives. From this, a belief that taking our own life is the only possible or most simple solution to our problems can grow. A great pity of course is that those very challenges are often temporary in nature. A permanent solution – suicide – is applied to what in essence is a temporary problem. Indeed, it can be seen that most people who survive suicide attempts go on afterwards to live full and most rewarding lives.

Risk Factors

Arguably, the most prevalent risk factor for suicide is that of depression but there are many others. These diverse factors include experiencing chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychiatric disorders, suicide in the family, substance abuse and not least, a previous suicide attempt. Impulsive thoughts, particularly in the young, can play a role too.

Warning Signs

If a person is felt to be at risk due to any of the above they may exhibit behaviour such as mood changes – even to the extent of a sudden and unexpected upbeat mood. They may alternatively display completely new behaviours. These behaviours can indicate a person who is actively suicidal.

A common myth about suicide is that those who ‘talk about it are not the ones who do it’. This is a fallacy. Whether people talk about it or not has no true bearing on the likelihood of them completing a suicide.

People with suicide ideation will commonly talk of not wanting to be a burden to others in their lives, of having nothing to live for or not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. They may talk of feeling trapped in some way or of their unbearable pain, whether physical or emotional pain. These types of words can indicate a person who is contemplating taking their own life.

Talking To A Suicidal Person

Here we encounter another great myth about suicide, the notion that talking to someone about their suicidal thoughts is somehow encouraging them to carry out the act. In these situations, it is important to begin a dialogue, to initiate a conversation about the subject. The conversation can include discussion about sources of help and assistance such as attending the GP or a therapist. It is wise to identify a help line such as The Samaritans and to keep that number in their phone or wallet/purse. An agreement can be made to follow up these actions with a future chat in which progress can be reported and reviewed.

I feel it’s better to be fairly direct with a person by asking similar to the following questions:

  • How are you coping with your problems?
  • Are you thinking about dying or hurting yourself?
  • Have you made any plans to take your own life?

The latter – making the distinction between a person experiencing suicidal thoughts and one who is actually making the plans to do it is of high importance. This is not only for the helper/listener but also for the person themselves in understanding and clarifying their own situation a little better.

Samaritans: Freecall. 116 123 (24 hours)   E. (response: 24 hours)



‘Sir’ Geoffrey Boycott

Ex-cricketer, Geoff Boycott is awarded a knighthood by the recently departed Tory leader. I’m no fan of the honours system and here we see a particular beastly example of it. Boycott was found guilty just over twenty hears ago of beating his partner, Margaret Moore and received a three-month suspended prison sentence plus a fine of 50,000 francs.


Margaret Moore after the 1996 attack

The court was told of him punching his partner twenty times with Boycott’s story being that she’d had an ‘accidental fall’.

We have to consider if the subject of domestic abuse is still not taken seriously. 

To give a further insight into this man’s character, in 2017, when asked about his prospects of gaining a knighthood he commented that he would be more likely to be given the award if he ‘blacked up’. He then bluntly stated that knighthoods were given to West Indian cricketers such as Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Vivian Richard ‘like confetti. (Clue: they were much better and less selfish cricketers than you mate).

I had a brief experience of Boycott a lot of years ago as a youngster. After leaving school I had a job at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground for a few months. Part of my duties on match days were to go out on to the pitch at the end of the session and ask the batting team whether they would like the light or heavy roller to be used on the wicket before the next session. I remember Boycott’s slightly threatening response to this simple and unassuming question: ‘I want the heavy roller and I want the full f**king seven minutes lad.’

I mean really, to a sixteen year-old kid?

Compare this say to gentleman, Clive Lloyd, the West Indies captain’s response: ‘The heavy roller please young man, thank you very much’.

Gambling Urges and Cravings (3) What Can Help With Them?

In general terms, it is good for a recovering gambler to be as busy and occupied as is reasonably possible. This is not necessarily a lifetime strategy but certainly a most important contributor to overcoming the addiction in earlier days of abstinence. To plan activities, tasks, work and pastimes as regularly as possible is the gambler’s friend and this concentration on activity can assist in preventing gambling urges and cravings forming. What can the gambler do however, to deal with them if and when they arrive?


(Image: Rasto Belan)

It has been an observation of mine from clients that the beginnings of gambling thoughts and urges are most often of a positive nature. Thoughts about opportunity and winning, coupled with additional thoughts about ways of spending those winnings characterise their first notion when the subject of gambling first pops into the head. One might say that without this feeling of positivity, the urges to gamble might be quite ineffectual and short-lived, for obvious reasons. These thoughts contain little balance or cost benefit thinking so an initial task might, after recognising and acknowledging the thoughts, be to challenge them. A train of thought might develop thus: ‘I have time and opportunity to gamble, money to do it with and that football match/horse race has very attractive odds. I could easily make money on them. With those winnings I could buy this or I could pay off that…’. At this point a challenge is required, ‘But what happened the last time I gambled? I lost money I couldn’t afford to lose and left myself short of funds all month. I felt depressed and anxious. I couldn’t talk to my partner and it affected our relationship’. Just an example and like many strategies practicing it makes it more effective.

Another main area I like to concentrate on is that of mental exercises to distract the gambler from gambling thoughts. Again, the initial acknowledgement and recognition that one is having those gambling thoughts is necessary and we can then turn to the distraction techniques. The central principle is that if there are thoughts about gambling in someone’s head then the most beneficial thing that can happen is simply to remove those thoughts as we cannot concentrate on two trains of thought simultaneously. Counting exercises are popular and effective, often the more menial the better. In my office I venture the idea of counting the many leaves on a pot plant, or looking through the window at a nearby building and counting windows, roof tiles or any other feature. It sounds unlikely but it is effective. Concentrate hard enough on the exercise and at this point those gambling thoughts will be extinct, they will not exist We have already established that for most gamblers, the urges are not long-lasting – possibly minutes typically – and so (thankfully!) these exercises need not last long at all until the gambling urges pass. A footnote might be that occasionally, gamblers believe their gambling urges last much longer that the minutes we talk of here. I would posit that much more likely is the fact that for those people, shorter urges are returning over and over again during the day – much like the waves described earlier

Of course, there are many other distraction strategies to choose from but an important factor in whatever one chooses is to have the strategy pre-planned and ready for any urges and cravings coming along. Know these environment, recognise where and when they most often happen and plan accordingly. I also like the idea of simply talking to others, be that face-to-face or over the telephone as conversations can be quickly engrossing. Other strategies people have mentioned to me include, taking a cycle ride, walking the dog, playing with their children and generally participating in hobbies and pastimes. I quite like to hear of physical activities that are in complete contrast to the gambling activity. All of these can assist a gambler in dealing effectively with gambling urges and cravings.

Gambling Urges and Cravings (2) Why Do They Happen?

Gambling triggers, broadly speaking, can be placed in two categories – external and internal. External triggers are arguably easier to identify and are exemplified by such as physically passing betting shops or casinos, encountering gambling advertising on the TV or receiving communications electronically from gambling companies, i.e. emails or texts offering ‘free spins’ and other offers. We can observe that external triggers to gamble are from things the stimuli we see or hear from outside of ourselves and induce us to gamble. In addition, we can think here of the way that people, places, situations and times of day can offer external triggers. People might often relate the influence of other people as confined to sharing time with others who gamble but other people who create certain moods in a person are less identified but can be highly relevant, as will be explained. Places and situations can perhaps be more easily recognised, examples being at home alone, with an opportunity to gamble online or being in a situation of needing money for whatever reason and gambling to acquire it. Times of day might follow a pattern of opportunities around work, home and social life. For the purposes of this discussion however, I am more interested in the subject of the other category, that of internal triggers.


(Image: Jeff Prieb)

We can relate internal triggers to how you are feeling and the thoughts you are experiencing – your mood patterns. A classic example might be of a person experiencing low moods, feeling upset or depressed and this creating gambling activity as an ‘escape’ from those moods – classic escapism. This can be easily compared with other addictions and their escapism factor. Perhaps a most obvious example might be that of alcohol, where someone might indulge in ‘drowning their sorrows’ to use a well-worn phrase. The alcohol might work well temporarily in masking or ‘fixing’ those unwanted feelings for a time at least. A problem being that after the return to sobriety the cause of the low mood may still exist (and be exacerbated by a hangover!) The same is very much true of gambling. Individuals can ‘lose’ themselves in the gambling activity which offers them distraction from whatever is creating their low moods. This I feel, is especially true for those indulging in gambling which requires frequent use and response such as online games or fixed-odds-betting terminals (FOBTs) in betting shops or fruit/slot machines in arcades or other environments.

Another mood type which can influence and induce betting can be boredom. Being under-occupied, living a generally humdrum lifestyle or lacking excitement or interest can lead to the need to chase a ‘buzz’ or a pattern of gambling behaviour which provides thrills – even if only in a gambler’s addiction. Other moods might be anger, frustration, loneliness or numerous others. It’s a useful exercise to question whether any of these moods are applicable to oneself. It may well be key to understanding the prime driver for the behaviour and therefore beginning to work on helpful changes.

As an aside, the subject of ‘addictive personality’ can be interwoven with this subject. Like many, I do not subscribe to such a concept and there is much evidence against it. Suffice to say, people can reach out to various maladaptive coping strategies such as alcohol, drugs or gambling due to the same basic underlying problems in their life. It’s important to remember that people have been trying to ‘fix’ their feelings since biblical times and this provides a good explanation for the above behaviour.

We know that cravings only lose their power if they are not reinforced by further episodes of gambling. This for me is a pivotal consideration in stopping urges and therefore stopping gambling happening. So how long might this desirable state of affairs take to come about – that of the urges declining to the point of extinction? Statistics – which may well not be the most useful resource when thinking about this subject would indicate that a majority of ex-gamblers’ urges and cravings disappear in around 6-12 months. This can be a little disheartening and worrying for people trying to stop but really shouldn’t be. It does not mean there is a likelihood of 6-12 months of purgatory, being deeply troubled by these urges, for after a much shorter period they can be rendered into mere feeble thoughts than can be easily batted away. The length of time that people experience gambling urges is highly variable due to numerous factors such as the level of the former gambling habit, personality traits and circumstances but a pattern emerges indicating that often, urges decrease quite quickly to the point of being much less troublesome after say, a month of abstinence. Some people don’t even experience urges at all it should be recorded. We therefore can see an encouraging pattern for the recovering gambler of the urges decreasing in both frequency and intensity to the point of extinction. The task becomes ‘easier’ at the days, weeks and months of abstinence draw on.

I sometimes use a nice analogy for urges and cravings and that is of a stray cat. If a stray came to your door and you feed it, what would most likely happen? Yes, it will return for another feed. Gambling urges and cravings work in much the same way. If you feed them by gambling they will certainly return.

In summary, one of the reasons it is often more difficult to decrease gambling levels as opposed to stopping it completely is because the addiction continues to be ‘fed’, albeit on a decreased scale, thus creating urges to gamble further. The cycle can then occur of gradually heavier gambling and a return to the various issues this creates. For people who have never been what we might term as a problem gambler gambling more casually can hold together, it is however, most problematic for a person recovering from problem gambling and not advisable.

Finally, urges can be quite intense in the early stages of stopping and can endure for a period of time after the gambling stops so be prepared to accept them as part of the change process,

Gambling Urges and Cravings (1) What are they?

Often, people speak to me in my capacity as a Gambling Practitioner about the subject of the strong urges and cravings they are experiencing whilst dealing with their addiction. Of course, such feelings can leave a person in recovery feeling vulnerable, not to say, anxious. It can also rob them of their confidence in their ability to overcome a gambling addiction and crucially become a part of the process of lapsing or relapsing. To that end, some psychoeducation around the subject of urges and cravings can be hugely beneficial.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         (Image: Jeff Prieb)

It’s important to understand that urges and cravings are actually a natural part of modifying (either abstaining from or decreasing) the gambling activity. Naturally, the more a person understands them, the more this will assist in overcoming them.
I often ask if clients understand the underlying cause of their urges to gamble but find that very few have an accurate conception of why this is. More often they will refer to certain personal triggers which whilst certainly a contributor are an accessory or facilitator to the underlying reason. Simply speaking, urges to gamble are caused by gambling itself. They are generally the result of reinforced gambling activity over a period of time and can endure for a further period after becoming abstinent from the gambling activity. It follows then that if a person has a history of heavy gambling in particular, it’s quite likely they may still experience strong urges after stopping.

What we see from the above is that people fall into a vicious cycle of gambling activity creating urges – urges creating gambling behaviour – gambling creating further urges and so on. It’s for another conversation but here is where an initial intervention and plan is put in place to stop gambling by controlling funds, access i.e. phone/betting shop and/or time and opportunity.

A useful way in which to conceptualise how a gambling urge works is to think of it being similar to a wave on a beach. The latter will begin as a mere ripple initially before building up to its strongest point prior to breaking and flowing away when it hits the beach. The comparison is of a gambling urge beginning as a small thought in someone’s mind, growing and overtaking other thoughts before finally ‘crashing’. The latter is a direct comparison with a wave breaking, where the urge reaches its culmination – either by gambling or by avoiding it.

We find that urges can last for seconds, minutes or for more protracted periods. This can depend on what you are doing (are you occupied with other thoughts especially). Keeping oneself occupied and busy really is the recovering gambler’s friend – preferably occupied with things you enjoy doing but not necessarily. Clearly, the thoughts about gambling then have less opportunity to occupy your thoughts and create those urges. Duration of thoughts can also be influenced by how a person is feeling and this comes into the area of triggers for the activity.

Some Thoughts On Depression

Seeing ‘no light at the end of the tunnel’ is a subject worth understanding how to think about. It can be acknowledged how difficult or even impossible, that can feel at times. A good subject for general discussion then.

Some define it as a ‘dark tunnel’ others as a ‘dark maze’ to find their way through. From a philosophical viewpoint, bringing about ‘light’ might be thought of as attempting to deliver oneself into a better place – one where one feels happier and more content. Sometimes this can be discovered in finding meaning or purpose in life in some way. So how do we do that? It can present a daunting job to many.

I would like to propose a certain ‘re-framing’ of expectations about one’s life. This doesn’t amount to ‘settling’ (for less) in my view (for this can indeed be a ‘happier’ place). It does though entail learning how to comprehend and enjoy those simple things in our lives that we sometimes find ourselves overlooking.

I often think of this change process as a stepped approach. Psychology for example can be so effective in helping with this and yet effective psychological support can be a longer process which takes time to help and re-orient people’s thought and behaviours. Rather, for me, a behavioural approach initially can be helpful – the ‘first aid’ if you like. Clearly, psychology is suited to treating deeper causes rather then just resultant effects/symptoms. However, it may take time, that’s a given. By contrast, behaviours – by using a behavioural approach can change the situation overnight and quite possibly give one the lift needed to get you on the road. Maybe we should consider some of those behavioural factors. Some of them will been overlooked because they feel ‘difficult’ for someone lacking motivation to help themselves into recovery. Nevertheless, they are worth examining.

We can focus on the fact that, yes, some days will just feel utterly rubbish. I think it’s helpful to have an acceptance of that. What we can say though is that there will be times also when that hurtful feeling will pass and you will feel more well. Remember that too.

Living in the present. We might say that in living too much in the past, there lies triggers for depression from when living though previous difficulties and times. Conversely, looking too far ahead and too often, there can lie the anxieties of not being certain about what the future holds. We can never know these things for certain. I present therefore a suggestion to live in the present as much as we can. Practice a little mindfulness and live life.

Social comparisons – try to avoid them, upwards or downwards. Downwards social comparisons (comparing yourself to others who are less fortunate in order to make you feel better about your life does not work. Indeed it can be counter-productive in the way it may make you experience guilt feelings about this. Making upward social comparisons towards people you see in a ‘better’ position than you can of course be sapping and soul destroying. I think the principle here is don’t judge yourself by others. In fact don’t judge yourself at all if you can begin to avoid doing that.

Look to those simple pleasures as much as you can and concentrate on those small things that fleetingly make life feel beautiful. Holding your child, his or her laughter and smiles and you nurturing the child to adulthood. On the note of children, I have a friend who has a picture of herself as a youngster, growing up in the country she came from. Her intention is to look after that little girl every single day as she sets off to to carry out life’s sometimes tough and demanding business.

Further, we all know the small but not insignificant things than can help us. A splash of fresh air and daylight, being active, enjoying friends and family, taking a little exercise, looking after your sleep and eating good food. Getting into ‘good habits’ as a certain football manager from these parts who was ‘the best in a group of one’ would say.

I hope some of this makes a little sense to anyone reading and doesn’t sound too fanciful. They are, for me, things that have taken a long time to understand better in some cases. this is not just through education and training but just as much through passing through a few things in my life too. Those who know me may remember that I had a personal tragedy a few years ago, the quite violent suicide of a partner, one that took a lot of thinking, hard work and yes, sheer perseverance to get through. There were certainly times when I couldn’t ‘see the light at the end of the tunnel’ either and felt like I’d be better off not living. I made mistakes (because I’m human), tried and tried again and I probably feel more content these days than I have in many a year, even through my personal losses. A huge factor in arriving at that point was finding something I could do that brought great meaning and purpose to my own life but’s another subject for another day.

Social Media And The United Kingdom 2019

What an ignorant and disgusting cesspit social media has become. Certainly a reflection of what this country has developed into – a place I increasingly despise for so many reasons. Division, selfishness, self-serving politicians and their hideous believers. Good friends becoming former friends due to their beliefs. I do believe this country is all but done too. It will never be the same again.


As for the former, I’m seriously considering distancing myself from the friction and negativity of social media generally. Not a plea for comment or opinion, seriously, just an observation of the reality of the situation and the experience. I feel other ways of spending one’s time are becoming more attractive than trawling through the garbage spewed up constantly through this type of media.

Sorry, it just had to be said.

Of course we are all allowed out own opinions on major issues, that’s a given but I find the cowardly and aggressive way these views are often expressed through the medium of social media a little pathetic.

I’m not sure what the exact answer is as I would also greatly miss talking to friends that I can’t normally enjoy the company of. I am thinking that the way we manage and interact with social media is key. Having said that I walked away from it for a few weeks not long ago and didn’t miss the habit of it at all.

I think a problem generally is the invasive and provocative nature of reading things on social media that we violently disagree with in principle – that even offend our personal code of conduct and what is ‘right’, moral and honourable in life. In ‘real’ life it’s likely that we wouldn’t keep the friendship or even be acquainted with such individuals that we might consider as having what we discern as despicable views.

I have a general premise for my thoughts on this overall subject. Evolving over a long period of time, through both professional and personal learning, I have come to extol these and attempt to practice much of the thinking around Positive Psychology. I find it directs me towards a more content life. Increasingly, as a part of that, I refuse to let the constantly negative that surrounds us be part of my own thinking, especially as regards individuals who behave and communicate such views. This is not a ‘Pollyanna’ way of thinking but more about understanding what things contribute to the ‘good life’ and what things subtract from it. The latter I increasingly see social media as exemplifying.

Les Strongman

i WAS SO SORRY to hear of the passing of a real Nottingham sporting legend. Les Strongman. Canadian Les, hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, joined the inaugural Nottingham Panthers line-up immediately after the war in 1946 and over eleven seasons iced 508 times for the Panthers recording 733 points (402+331). Les also had stints playing in Malmo, Sweden, Zurich, Switzerland and for the Wembley Lions in London.


Les Strongman appearing for the Nottingham Panthers 1950/51.
Les was reputedly the first hockey player in the UK to wear a helmet after sustaining a head injury when hitting the boards at Lower Parliament Street

When the club reformed in 1980 after being extinct for twenty years, Les re-joined in a coaching role and latterly coached the younger teams and took a committee role. Many will remember him for his newsagents business opposite the old Nottingham Ice Rink on Lower Parliament Street which he kept for many years. I managed to see him skate in charitable affairs and his coaching role long after retirement. Well into his sixties, his style was remarkable, super smooth and effortless. The left wing also had a laser beam of a shot. The greatness of his youth was still clearly evident.

In addition to being a great gentleman, Les had clearly been a very special player and was often talked about along with his amazing line-mate, fellow Winnipeg native Chick Zamick as centre ice to Les. Together they plundered hundreds of points for the Nottingham team in a wonderful partnership.

After many decades living in the UK, Les decided to re-emigrate back to Canada in his senior years to be closer to his son and daughter. He died peacefully, aged 95 years after a lifetime of achievement. He will be remembered fondly in the city which he chose to call home for so many years.

Rest in Peace, Les Strongman

A Notts County ‘Protest’

A Notts County ‘protest’. This is a football club that faces possible extinction in just four days time. A winding up order due to an HMRC debt of approximately £250,000 has been served and postponed twice in hearings. The coming Wednesday hearing could dictate prior administration or even possible liquidation on the day. No more football club.

The club’s Chairman and owner, Alan Hardy, has a litany of arrogant, reckless gambling on Notts’ future in order to feed his narcissism. His building interiors company is in receivership with 100 staff unceremoniously made redundant without payment due to money taken out of it to feed his football vanity project.

Nott’s County’s playing and non-playing staff remain unpaid after reassurances of meeting this commitment by the owner.
He has seemingly, continually lied about the future of the football club by issuing false promises. He has additionally, embarrassed himself, his family and the club by accidentally exposing his genitals on a Twitter post. A short while ago he manifested his lack of humility by complaining endlessly and finally appealing against yet another speeding conviction – driving at fully 77mph in a 40mph zone. Apparently, Mr Hardy is the ‘busiest man in the world’ and the laws of the land do not apply to him.

He has not denied negotiations with a consortium of possible new club owners who have at the helm a convicted fraudster with a changed name who shamefully embezzled money out of pensioners and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Hardy has presided over the Nottingham club’s demise in being relegated from the Football League after a long 157 year history. Currently the team find themselves without enough players to adequately cover requirements and using last year’s kit as Puma state they have not received payment for a new one from the club. Today the team also find themselves in their first friendly fixture of the season away at Nuneaton Borough FC, needing to drive their own transport to the game due to no money being available for a team coach.

The image shows the extent of Notts County’s fans’ action in response to the near-complete demise of their club –just thirty fans protesting outside the Meadow Lane stadium. (Apparently, it was raining). Plenty do care though care and it’s those faithful and persevering souls I feel sorry for.

Lambley Under Water Once More

Extensive flooding in the area from last night with the main street in the local town closed (now opened again). Houses flooded and businesses closed. Several roads were closed and public transport halted.

The local villages invariably take a battering in these times and Lambley was in the news once more this morning.

Lovely Lambley in Nottinghamshire has been flooded so many times over the years, I think they might now have their own Navy.


Reports from last night tell of up to four feet of water in places in the village. Travellers were stranded, including a minibus full of Indian tourists, perhaps visiting the area for today’s Cricket World Cup match at Trent Bridge I’m guessing. Happy and reassured to hear of the local villagers taking people into their homes in the early hours for refuge from the conditions.

Nottingham: June 2019

Just the two stabbings then in Nottingham city centre last night, at 3.30am and 4.05am.

One on Goldsmith Street in the centre of student land and the other on Mansfield Road, a busy main thoroughfare, both in the middle of the city. It’s notable the time of some of these violent incidents but by no means always is this the case.

Goldsmith Street Stabbing

Mansfield Road Stabbing




People are concerned, for themselves, for their young ones growing up into this danger and lawlessness and for our older people. The underfunded police make misleading claims about ‘isolated incidents’. Other profess that Nottingham is ‘no worse’ than other cities.

Only, I don’t believe this. Nor did I believe it either when the city’s ‘Shottingham’ image was continually and steadfastly refuted by the local authorities, the police and the universities seeking to bring in more and more students.

There is no way I would want a daughter or son of mine to study and live in this city the way it is now.

Nottingham used to be a great city to live in or visit. It was vibrant, with good facilities, great sporting culture and charismatic and historic architecture everywhere. Some of these things still exist to an extent of course but the mood of the city is ugly and its streets are no longer comfortable or safe. It feels more like a ghetto each month that passes.

We see the unfortunate and disadvantaged who sleep rough in most cities but there is no question that the amount of homeless people on Nottingham’s streets has exploded in recent times. Most short walks through Nottingham entail running a gauntlet of people begging and sleeping in shop doorways.

Large communities of students upset their neighbours on a continual basis, robbing them and their children of sleep and peace, vomiting in the streets, breaking glass and staggering around. I am not anti-student having worked for both local universities and understanding the positives they also bring to the city.

Now we have a daily report of the stabbings and slashings which are almost certainly nevertheless under reported. The city’s drug problem is clearly totally out of control and the city centre streets often hazardous with groups of drunks teeming around the streets on busy nights Worst of all arguably, are the frequent suicide attempts, completed or not, from the likes of the multi-storey car parks around the city and the lack of action taken to stem this.

The Nottingham of 2019 is not a vintage one and it’s sad and worrying to see its deconstruction. In the meantime, self-serving politicians argue about Brexit and sit on their hands as usual.

Notts County Depart The Football League

Yesterday saw the black and white side of the football divide in Nottingham depart the Football League after a disastrous season. On the final day of the season, Notts required all three points at Swindon Town with the Magpies’ relegation rivals Macclesfield needing to lose at home to Cambridge United. It was a difficult task but one that looked  for a short period into the second half of the games with Notts a goal to the good and Macclesfield trailing by a goal. ‘ It’s the hope that kills you’ as the saying goes though with matters coming to an ignominious end among tears of sorrow among the faithful at the final whistle.


(Pic: Nottingham Post)

It’s at least good to see that many true football fans can recognise the sadness in the situation of Notts County being relegated from the Football League yesterday. The ending of 130 consecutive years in the League, which they were a founding member of. Notts have been in existence for 157 long years.

Living here, I’ve taken the opportunity to attend Meadow Lane quite regularly this season (and Forest too) and observed this absolutely disastrous season unfold. Most would apportion much of the blame to Chairman, Alan Hardy, a local businessman who bought the club 30 months ago. An attention seeking, somewhat egotistical figure, he has in the past few months presided over not only the demise of Notts County but also his largest company, Paragon, leaving a redundant, unpaid workforce and a trail of creditors including many smaller sub-contractors.

Earlier this year he added to the circus by inadvertently posting a picture of his genitals in a Tweet. Yes, you did read that right, he left his phone’s camera roll on the image he posted. Prior to that he was prosecuted for speeding at 77mph in a 40mph area which he continually griped about in the media and arrogantly appealed against.

Sacking two managers earlier in the season, (the first one widely reported as being allegedly heavily on the sauce) he panicked and sanctioned the signing of several players in January for third Manager, Ardley. The problem is that around 80% of the Manager’s choices did not want to sign for the Magpies due to their perilous position and also because by now many agents refused to deal with Notts due to previous non-payment.

notts 2

Distraught Notts fans (Pic: Nottingham Post)

Neil Ardley has struggled with an almost impossible situation since his appointment in November. He’s shown himself to be a good, honourable and decent man though naturally has had much of the blame set on his shoulders. The club’s supporters have been magnificent in their support, turning up in average numbers of 7,300 at home, the third highest in the division.

I’m not a Notts or Forest supporter, I’m 100 per cent Hibs but I enjoy the local teams here doing well and creating a vibrant sporting culture in the city I live in. Notts County meant a great deal to my late mum’s brothers for many years. We know how this works in football, these are the ties that bind, through the generations. I myself was introduced to Nottingham football as a youngster by an uncle who who would kindly take me to both Meadow Lane and Forest’s City Ground on alternate Saturdays. A very varied experience with Notts at the foot of the Fourth Division playing in front of 3,000 fans and Forest challenging at the top of the First Division with regular attendance between 30,000 and 40,000.

At this time there is said to be a takeover in process by a South African consortium. The truth of that is subject to some doubt though. It would not be overly dramatic to say that the whole club’s future lies in the balance. Things will be tough on the field too, there have been some notable successes of teams leaving the Football League and returning stronger, Luton, Lincoln and Mansfield etc. but there are many more that have stayed in obscurity, almost fatally wounded.

Congratulations to Macclesfield on their hard fought survival, they deserved it. I do feel incredibly sad for Notts County’s supporters though after the darkest day in their long history. A little piece of my family background disappeared with it too.