Tuesday, March 28, 2006

28 March 2006: Onwards

An update on numerous issues relating to this blog seems a good idea:

Iraqi blogger Riverbend (see my blog from last May for more details) is up for the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction. Good for her! One of the more interesting and readable blogs, Riverbend's was also one of the blogs I found harder to extrakt from, due apparently to a wider-than-average vocabulary. Sadly, Ahmed didn't make the shortlist. And his is my favrouite blog, too.

Harry's move to Pompey was nicely swept under the carpet earlier in the year but today on SaintsForever, Steve Grant (a board moderator, no less) made the following statement:

He [Harry Redknapp] shares ownership of a racehorse with a Spurs director. The same Spurs director who made s**tloads of money on the betting for Redknapp to become manager of Pompey last year.

Interesting, if potentially libelous. What's your source, Steve?

Elsewhere, marathon fever grips Southampton as Kevin and I continue our relentless training drive towards April 23. Well, actually we've just done a bit of running (Kevin a bit less than me due to a dodgy knee last week) - last week the long run was 17 miles, this week it will be 21. After that the 'taper' begins - easing back the training. A wise professor named Dave Cliff told me this morning "the only thing you can do in training in the final two weeks is injure yourself". Sounds like permission to slob out and eat doughnuts to me. Remember, you too can be part of the 2006 London Marathon: sponsor me by clicking here and look out for my dodgy shorts...

Photo: Matthew Evans

And finally, yes, this week there's a bunch of us off to Texas to see me get married. Gloria has insisted I don't wear the shorts to the wedding. I'm thinking of wearing them underneath the tuxedo trousers. Just don't tell her, ok?

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

14 March 2006: Hastings

Did the Hastings Half-Marathon on Sunday.

An interesting experience: running up and down hills and along the sea front with about five thousand other people of varying running abilities. Kevin and I were pleased with the time of around 2 hours 10 mins, although I have to say I did sprint off at the end and finish a minute faster. Full results from the Hastings Half-Marathon website results page: note that although I appear as finishing in 2h12m, it took about 3 mins to get under the barrier at the beginning.

All that was supposed to have been taken into account by the electronic timing. On the back of our running numbers was a small electronic chip with a wire running around the edge of the paper, presumably some kind of mini transmitter aerial to tell the system when we started and finished. Seems it only told them when we finished, but that's ok, I can do the maths to figure it out.

One thing I was looking out for and never did see was something described in point seven of the race guidelines, published in the official programme. I've scanned it in so you can see I wasn't making it up.

Click to view full-size

I looked and looked but never saw a single marshal(l) with a hand-held badger. They did have little scanners for reading our chips, so perhaps that's what they meant. Still, it was greatly disappointing, particularly as Dr Chip reports the ability to make you see badgers by simply by testing your implants.

I don't know, maybe I got it wrong. Maybe we were supposed to implant the chips into our heads, and when the marshalls came along at the end to scan us, they would turn their dials.. slowly.. slowly.. slowly.. and suddenly all I can see is...

more badgers

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

7 March 2006: Sale

It's true, and I can hardly believe it.

The story is this: on the Plymouth Argyle supporter's website (Pasoti), a person going by the name 'Saturday Service' last Monday posted a message stating that Plymouth Argyle were going to buy their ground, Home Park, from Plymouth City Council, who have owned the ground for a hundred-and-some years. The figure was to be in the region of £2.7 million and the details were to be announced towards the end of the week.

The week ended with no announcement, but a growing Pasoti thread that split (as usual) between those who backed the original posters and those who didn't (is it me, or are all internet messageboards exactly the same?). Several people were keen to point out that 'Saturday Service' had only registered for Pasoti some three weeks before and didn't carry the authority of longer term posters such as Mr Newell, Mr Hinches or Mr McRae. However, numerous people backed the story up from varying (always un-nameable) sources, and thus the story carried on a little longer than the normal "Sturrock sacked and about to return to Argyle" or "The real reason Nathan Lowndes left" threads. *cough*.

Then this morning, this happened. And the chairman said this.

If you can't get to those links (not sure how the login system works on the official Argyle site, and it's not been reported anywhere else as I write this), the gist of the story is this: Plymouth City Council have agreed to sell the freehold of Home Park to Plymouth Argyle for a figure of £2.7 million. This not only frees up the club from its rent obligation to the council (not that they paid a lot of rent), but more importantly gives the club an asset against which to borrow money to fund the completion of the 'New Stadium' - phase two of New Home Park, which involves demolishing the Mayflower and Grandstand blocks, and replacing them with brand new two-tier stands, making Home Park all-seater and finally completing the project begun some five years ago. Final deal is still to go through (surely it couldn't fall through now...) but it all looks hopeful.

Of course, the big question on Pasoti this morning is not when this will happen, or whether the deal includes the car parks and surrounding grounds, or even if the only reason the council sold the ground was because they need £2.7 million to keep council tax down (the City Council also today released news of a 5% rise in council tax for the coming year). The question is: who is 'Saturday Service'? He/she hasn't posted since Tuesday (after being roundly roasted by the usual cynics) so the question is, as Frank so eloquently asked this morning, "how did you guys know?"

Sunday, March 05, 2006

5 March 2006: Shorts

Wore the crazy flower shorts to church this morning. Gloria once said she doubted I'd ever wear them, so I wore them to the Sunday morning service just to prove I'm not ashamed. In case you're unfamiliar with them, they look like this:

The purpose of this flowery exercise was to raise a little awareness for the fact I'm running the London Marathon this year (in case you hadn't realised it yet) and I was up at the front asking people to sponsor me and support the Oasis Trust's 'Children @ Risk' campaign.

The ridicule was kept to a minimum, which was good, and I got a good number of people to sign up on the sponsorship sheet and a good few more taking my paper flier and saying they'd be keen to sponsor online. Several asked me if I'd be wearing these shorts for the actual marathon itself: the answer is "quite possibly". With cycling shorts underneath to prevent being rubbed up the wrong way, these (nominally 'swimming') shorts are actually very comfortable to run in. Not to mention standing out a little in the crowd.

So we'll see how things work out at the Hastings half-marathon next week. Meantime, if you'd like to sponsor me, check out my online sponsorship page at www.justgiving.com/duncmcrae. And if you'd like to see more photos of the shorts, let me know and I'll see if I can put a gallery together on something like www. DuncanLooksLikeAFruit.com.

Happy running.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

1 March 2006: Confidential

Next, intimate tales of Southampton Football Club's first 'underground' Chairman. The action-packed diary of a man who's just a klingon away... from history!

Rupert Lowe - Confidential!

One of the hardest things to do from the secure, undisclosed location is to be able to communicate my needs and agendas to the public. Wooders and George do their best, better than Harry ever did, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like enough. Life is hard, twenty-four seven in the bunker, and my one goal – the defending and promoting of the business – never seems to be appreciated by anyone. The situation was exacerbated last week when Kim Wilde decided to put a non-specific cat among my well-fed pigeons, ducks and grouse. Cowie was the one who provided the first alert, a text message from his business meeting in Crawley.

OMG R, Tommy’s dad’s shares sold 2 sum1 2.5mill wtf now, wz it u? lol

Hard to disagree with Cowie’s hard-nosed business-oriented analysis. But no, it wasn’t me. I called Wooders down for an emergency audience.

SCW: What’s happening? What’s the emergency?
RL: Someone’s buying our shares. Two point five million of them. Nine per cent.
SCW: It wasn’t me! Honestly!
RL: I never said it was.
SCW: Then please stop pointing that shotgun at me.
RL: OK, but it goes no further than these four walls. They’re listening, you know.
SCW: *pause* The walls?
RL: The walls, the floor, the Echo, everyone. They’re everywhere. Listening for signs of weakness. Maybe they even bought the shares just to see how we’d react.
SCW: I’ve got to work on Marian’s groin strain. Is there anything you want me to do?
RL: I want your advice. I know I rarely ask for it, but these are exceptional circumstances. I need you to advise me to make a public statement about that Strode-Gibbons man.
SCW: What do you think I should advise you to say?
RL: Something denying we’ve had any contact with him. Something saying we’ll resist his takeover deals. Something showing strength and winningability in the face of the unknown.
SCW: You think it’s him? Strode-Gibbons is really trying to take the club?
RL: Him or one of his men. There are many of them. And more are joining all the time. It is like the growth of the Empire. And Darth Vader is starting to make his presence known. We must send in Luke Skywalker to destroy the Death Star before it is too late. And you are the key to this, Han. Wooders.
SCW: Is any of this in my job description?
RL: You knew the mission when you took on the role. Director of Football means so much more than directing the football. You are to advise me to deny Vader the chance to extend his empire. If indeed you haven’t already turned.
SCW: Actually, Vader wasn’t the Emperor. The Emperor was.
RL: Don’t take that tone of voice with me!
SCW: OK, OK, please put the gun down. I’ll do it. Whatever it is, I’ll do it. What exactly do you want?
RL: For the moment, nothing public. I’ll issue the statements required by the Stock Exchange and remind everyone that such large transaction must be accompanied by certain information disclosure. I need you to advise me and back me up when it all goes wrong. Publicly.
SCW: Would this make me some kind of fall-guy?
RL: We’ll have to see who the buyer is first. And if it’s anything to do with you…
SCW: Gun down, sir. Down.

Friday, nine-fifteen AM. Wooders was lucky to escape the fire. It turned out he was nothing to do with it after all. Kim Wilde, who kept calling himself Michael to hide his previous fame and career, bought the shares. I’d met him a few months ago at a public function where he tried to get me to buy his houses. He was from Liverpool. Didn’t like the Rooney chant. Maybe that was when he began planning his revenge.

Saturday, five-twenty PM. Called Wilde to the secure, undisclosed location for an audience after the footer game.

RL: Welcome, Kim, welcome.
MW: Good game today, eh? Best for a couple of years, eh? Who’d have thought Higgy would ever get a goal in the right net for a change, eh?
RL: Your jedi mind-tricks will not work on me. Now, I hear you have been buying shares.
MW: Yeah, Thompson said he was happy to sell all the shares that weren’t his so he can stay on the board. I thought, well, nice day, sun’s come out for a change, I could always do with a few shares in the club. Give me something to look at in the executive box when the game is slow, eh?
RL: We need the answer to one question, Kim. *pause* Why? Why would you choose to buy all those shares? Why now? What is your agenda?
MW: I already told Keith all this already. Don’t you read SaintsForever?
RL: As you are new here, I will overlook your use of the blasphemous phrase. There are people in that place who do not approve of my direction of this company. They consider the sports side of the business more important than the financial aspects. Fortunately the appointment of George has thrown them a bone to keep them quiet for a while.
MW: So what d’ya wanna talk about then, eh?
RL: You must understand, this business is a large-scale long-term investment scoping a variety of interests. I need to know whose side you are on. There is a war coming. I take it you know there is a war coming.
MW: You’re talking about Andrew Strode-Gibbons?
RL: Yes. And the darker forces of The Seven who ride like Nazgul through the night, barely visible, scouring the stock exchange for the lost shares of legend.
MW: Well, I don’t know about that. Andrew bought me lunch a few weeks ago but he had me pay for it, said his money was tied up in some bank transfer for a few days but he’d pay me back. Never has, ya know. Funny little man, eh?
RL: So you’re not in league with his dark forces?
MW: Look Rupert –
RL: Here you call me ‘Sir’ or ‘Mister Chairman’. There will be no exceptions.
MW: OK, Mister Chairman, OK, please put the gun down.
RL: This is where indiscipline starts. Indiscipline leads to fear, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Judge me by my size, do you?
MW: No, no, just please put the gun down.
RL: So you claim you are an independent, not involved with the battle.
MW: No, yeah, that's right, I’m just a bright sunny scouser with some money and I thought it might be nice for a fan to own a few shares. That’s great, innit?
RL: The war is coming. You will have to choose a side. There will be none who are not aligned. If you are not for us, then you are for them. I need to know who you will side with, Kim.
MW: I’m just a happy –
RL: *click* I need to know.
MW: *pause* I’m with you.

The hardest thing is getting across to the public how much I love this business. I make wise investments and deeply-considered trades, appoint those who I know can do well for the company. Getting Kim on my side was only another small step in that process. It’s one battle to take ground, another to keep it. Wooders and Kim are on my side. But for how long? The war is coming, and all will be involved.

End of partial diary, late February 2006.

Sincerely yours,
Rupert Lowe… confidential!

Note: thanks to McDougal for the unintended prompting to put such a thing together. The real deal can be found at HarryShearer.com, for example here and here.