Friday 3 May 2024

Why We play the game

 When the battle scars have faded

And the truth becomes a lie
And the weekend smell of liniment
Could almost make you cry.

When the last rucks well behind you
And the man that ran now walks
It doesn’t matter who you are
The mirror sometimes talks

Have a good hard look old son!
The melons not that great
The snoz that takes a sharp turn sideways
Used to be dead straight

You’re an advert for arthritis
You’re a thoroughbred gone lame
Then you ask yourself the question
Why the hell you played the game?

Was there logic in the head knocks?
In the corks and in the cuts?
Did common sense get pushed aside?
By manliness and guts?

Do you sometimes sit and wonder
Why your time would often pass
In a tangled mess of bodies
With your head up someone’s……?

With a thumb hooked up your nostril
Scratching gently on your brain
And an overgrown Neanderthal
Rejoicing in your pain!

Mate – you must recall the jersey
That was shredded into rags
Then the soothing sting of Dettol
On a back engraved with tags!

It’s almost worth admitting
Though with some degree of shame
That your wife was right in asking
Why the hell you played the game?

Why you’d always rock home legless
Like a cow on roller skates
After drinking at the clubhouse
With your low down drunken mates

Then you’d wake up – check your wallet
Not a solitary coin
Drink Berocca by the bucket
Throw an ice pack on your groin

Copping Sunday morning sermons
About boozers being losers
While you limped like Quasimodo
With a half a thousand bruises!

Yes – an urge to hug the porcelain
And curse Sambuca’s name
Would always pose the question
Why the hell you played the game!

And yet with every wound re-opened
As you grimly reminisce it
Comes the most compelling feeling yet
God, you bloody miss it!

From the first time that you laced a boot
And tightened every stud
That virus known as rugby
Has been living in your blood

When you dreamt it when you played it
All the rest took second fiddle
Now you’re standing on the sideline
But your hearts still in the middle

And no matter where you travel
You can take it as expected
There will always be a breed of people
Hopelessly infected

If there’s a teammate, then you’ll find him
Like a gravitating force
With a common understanding
And a beer or three, of course

And as you stand there telling lies
Like it was yesterday old friend
You’ll know that if you had the chance
You’d do it all again

You see – that’s the thing with rugby
It will always be the same
And that, I guarantee
Is why the hell you played the game!

One Hundred Years of the Mellish Family and Westcombe Park RFC

It is May 2024 and it was about a 100 years ago that the Mellish family first became involved with ‘Combe. Nobody quite knows when three brothers Tom, John and Bill Mellish first joined and started playing for the club. As there is a first team photo 1925-26 with John Mellish in it, the probability is that he must have joined a season or two beforehand to learn the game if nothing else. Rugby would not have been played at any school that the sons of a dockworker would have gone to. In all probability they joined the club in 1924-25 or earlier. Their slightly younger cousin, Richard James Mellish, aka Dick Mellish, my dad (born 1907), joined a couple of years later and I have a photo of dad in the 1930-31 “A” XV photo.
Tom Mellish captained the club in the 1929-30 and I know, that his brother Bill captained the “A” XV for at least one season – date unknown. Tom, John and Bill appear to have left the club in the early thirties. Tom became a referee and stayed involved with the game for a number of years. John Mellish, a policeman, was also a keen boxer and was the European Police Welter Weight Champion for 1931. My dad also boxed and was the Sussex Scout light-weight boxing champion in 1922. Whether dad and John ever used their boxing prowess on the rugger field is unknown!
Dad stayed on playing for ‘Combe and was club captain in 1936 -37 and again in 1946-47. Dad “officially” stopped playing rugby at the end of the ‘46-47 season. I was due in the October and because of my mum’s badly damaged legs (She was caught in an air-raid in 1940) they were expecting problems. I do recall that dad would always take his kit along and if one of the lower teams was short of a player, he would join in for them. He always said “don’t tell your mother”; but she always knew. Apart from the dirty kit dad would be stiff and sore on Sunday morning, a feeling that I got to know well over the years!
Dad became involved with the admin side of the game and was Team Secretary for a number of years. These were the days when you had to post a card to each member of every team telling them which team they were in and where they had to be the following Saturday. Dad was Hon. Treasurer from 1964-68 and President from 1966-68.
His youngest brother John, born 1921, played for ‘Combe after the war. He was a No 8 and played for the 1st XV for a number of seasons. John stopped playing relatively young and became a referee. John then became heavily involved with training and vetting of referees. He carried on with this when he left the UK and took his family and settled in Richmond, Virginia, USA. I recall being at Heathrow in the early nineties waiting to catch a flight to San Francisco. In the crowd milling about the terminal, I spotted a number of people wearing track suits with the words “California Rugby Referees on Tour”. I spoke to one of them and mentioned that my uncle was a referee in the States, but that he lived on the East Coast. He asked me his name and I said John Mellish, he then yelled “Guys we have John Mellish’s nephew on the flight with us”. It appeared John was well known in referring circles in the States and had worked tirelessly in helping set-up the organisational structure – he was rewarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to Rugby in America.
Dad was the eldest of five brothers and although only John played, two of his other brothers, George and Gordan were involved backstage as it were helping run the club, serving behind the bar etc. The ladies were also involved; my mum, Grace (Gordon’s wife) and Jean (John’s wife) helping prepare the sandwiches and cups of tea for the players after the game. This was long before the advent of professional staff and hot meals after the game.
Gordon’s son “young Gordon” played for the club in the late fifties and early sixties. I started playing for the colts and twenties in about 1962/3. I went off to college in 1966 and on finishing moved to Canterbury and played rugby there. Moving to Bromley in 1977 I re-joined ‘Combe and played for the “A” XV. alongside Robin Taylor in the front-row. I then started coaching min-rugby when my sons started to want to play.
My middle-son Andrew now graces the field for ‘Combe (starting playing for the club aged 45). My two grand-children Henry and Georgia, although both keen on rugby, live in the West Midlands and play mini-rugby there. So, it looks as if the tradition of the Mellish Family playing for ‘Combe may be drawing to a close – but who knows what the future may bring.
Barry Mellish 1st May 2024

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Barry and Julia Christmas Letter 2023

We are all still the right side of the grass! As we get older this is sadly not always the case with our friends and family. Early in the year we travelled to Norfolk for the funeral of our cousin Barbara. Sadly she was not the only one we lost during the year. We pray for those we have lost and offer our love and prayers to their family and friends. As we get older, we are susceptible to aches and pains! Julia has been diagnosed with Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). She is having therapy for this and hopefully by the New Year there will be an improvement.
Our year continued much as always. Various trips to our lodge in Devon. Meetings with our friends from college days. A family lunch in Stratford–upon-Avon (more or less equidistant for all of us). Church was somewhat busier than usual as our parish priest was ill for several months which meant we all had more to do. Hopefully he is well on the road to recovery and will be back in harness before Christmas.
The ultimate event of the year was the surprise family gathering for Julia’s “21st” birthday celebration which we held on the last weekend of October. She knew that Lawrie, Emma and the grandchildren were coming down as it was Henry's and Georgia's half-term. What she did not know was that Hélèna and Sam were also coming down from Stockport, staying with Andrew and Gaew. Julia and I had celebrated the actual day with a few days away in Norfolk.
We all gathered at our place on the Friday. Then on Saturday/Sunday we had a family party, helped along by a large delivery of food and drink from Waitrose. The Monday saw some of us at Horniman's Museum at Forest Hill - well worth a visit if you have not been. The unexpected highlight of the trip was meeting the pest controller!! He had a Harris Hawk which was being used to keep the pigeons away. He was a lovely guy and let the children get close to the bird. Tuesday Lawrie and I took Henry and Georgia to Greenwich Park, the Maritime Museum and a walk under the Thames, a great day. This coming Christmas and New Year will be spent at “Mellish Mansions” along with the family for all or part of the time.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Christmas with Good Health and much happiness for 2024.
With all our love and prayers, Barry and Julia

May be an image of 7 people

Sunday 10 December 2023

The Boat People

 The news is full of stories relating to boat people, Rwanda, International Law, has Rishi done enough or has he gone too far? There is no doubt that there are lot of problems in the good ship the United Kingdom: There are not enough houses, the NHS is struggling with not enough beds and not enough staff. We are bursting at the seams and it is all the fault of the boat people!!

If we stop the boats we solve the problem, at least that is the narrative that is being portrayed.
The only trouble with this is that the migration figures do not stack up. The provisional estimate of total long-term immigration for year ending (YE) June 2023 was 1.2 million, while emigration was 508,000, meaning that net migration was 672,000; most people arriving to the UK in the YE June 2023 were non-EU nationals (968,000), followed by EU (129,000) and British (84,000).
Net migration for YE June 2023 was 672,000, which is slightly higher compared with YE June 2022 (607,000) but down on our updated estimate for YE December 2022 (745,000); while it is too early to say if this is the start of a new downward trend, these more recent estimates indicate a slowing of immigration coupled with increasing emigration.(Figures from the Office for National Statistics website).
So all the focus is on circa 50,000 boat people out of a total net migration number of 672,000. There is a lot that the politicians, of all parties, are not telling us. Blaming migration is an easy way to avoid confronting the reality that for years we have underfunded the NHS, that we have not built enough homes and that it is overlooking the fact that many in the caring porfessions are migrants.
Many of the systems in the UK need a complete overhaul, we need a long hard honest discussion about the type of country that we aspire to be - but it is so much easier to blame the foreigner!

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Russel Brand

It appears that he is/was a loud obnoxious character who glorified in "bedding" as many woman as possible. We may think that his behaviour is reprehensible and that he should be avoided at all costs, particularly by women. But these are not criminal offences. I seriously wonder if it is possible for him to obtain a fair trial if criminal proceedings are brought against him. 

So far there are "allegations"  and these might well be true. But there are no official criminal charges. Yet in the "Court of Public Opinion" he is guilty! I do wonder why Channel 4 Despatches and the Sunday Times didn't go to the police, perhaps making a profit and creating a "buzz" was more important to them than justice and the criminal law.

It is also interesting that so many people are now saying, "I always knew he was a bad one"; "It was common knowledge in the industry how he behaved". Yet nobody did anything at the time. It would appear that when he was about thirty he was able to use BBC car to ferry a sixteen year old girl to and from his bed. Not illegal but why did the BBC go along with it?

We are living in amoral times.

PS - Where is Albert Pierrepoint when you need him?

Unhappy Times

 These are not happy times. Across the West, the vast majority of voters are fed up with the status quo, furious at the political class and desperate for alternatives. They believe society to be broken, that the post-industrial economy and globalisation generally aren’t working for them, and are angry at the vast cultural, social and technological changes that they feel have been foisted upon them. 

Almost wherever one looks, from New Zealand to the Netherlands, hundreds of millions no longer feel in control, valued or even consulted by the self-satisfied ruling class. In the UK, 70 per cent believe the country is moving in the wrong direction, a YouGov poll reveals. An NBC poll found 74 per cent of Americans saying their country is on the wrong track. 

We have entered the lengthiest period of prolonged popular disenchantment since the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of democratic politics, a disturbing state of affairs that urgently requires addressing if countries aren’t to fall prey to demagogues. It has become rational to be pessimistic, especially when elections don’t change anything. 

Life expectancy may have peaked; economic growth has been feeble for years, as have real wages; certain groups have seen their prospects plunge especially severely; home ownership is increasingly out of reach; the family is under extreme pressure, and women are having far fewer children than they tell pollsters they would like; loneliness is exploding as it becomes harder to form and stay in long-term relationships; secularisation has left an unfilled spiritual void across the West that is being met by dysfunctional ideologies and social movements; and crime is far too high. 

In many countries, university over-expansion has created a toxic two-tier society, fuelling elite overproduction. Woke storm-troopers have seized control of culture, education and business across the English-speaking world, imposing nihilistic gender extremism and critical race theories. The governing classes have got it shockingly wrong on many other issues, from foreign policy to Covid to money-printing, and never atone for their mistakes. 

In Europe, including Britain, there is a popular consensus that there has been and remains too much immigration. In France and several other countries, integration is widely understood to have failed. There is growing scepticism of the rush to net zero: while Western publics are very concerned about climate change, they aren’t prepared to see their living standards decimated to deal with it. There is an increased suspicion of the surveillance society and of the war against cash, and a growing urban-suburban his sense of alienation is especially prevalent among the working and lower middle classes, as well as the young, but no element of society is immune from it, other than perhaps multi-millionaires. As ever in times of dislocation, a small minority has embraced outright conspiracy theories (such as on 9/11) or despicable prejudice (such as anti-Semitism), fanned by rabble-rousers with no real solutions. 

But even for the sensible majority, the belief in progress that used to define the Western psyche has faded, with hope replaced by despair, bitterness and fear. The political phenomenon of our times is mass discontent, and yet this crisis continues to be largely ignored by an unempathetic ruling class. Its only answer is more of the same: higher taxes, more social-democratic tinkering, more power to unaccountable bureaucracies such as the EU or WHO, increased immigration, and even greater social engineering. 

In the past, when the ruling elites were conservative, such estrangement might have led the public into the arms of the Left. Contemporary elites are centre-Left utopian technocrats, and today’s counter-revolutionaries are on the Right. Almost everywhere, that is where the populist energy, the desire for change, lies. 

In America, Oliver Anthony, a previously unknown musician who has shot to fame with Rich Men North of Richmond, symbolises this shift. He rails against low pay, welfarism, state-subsidised obesity, woke social control and rich Left-wing elites. His song, now number one on Apple ahead of Taylor Swift, encapsulates how Right-wing populism has become the anti-establishment movement globally. It is no wonder that the Republican party has been taken over: even if Donald Trump is destroyed, his second and third-placed rivals, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy, are revolutionaries. 

The latter two are great, but not all of the Right-wingers riding the international populist wave are good news. Some would be a disaster; others fantastic. Some rising parties are anti-capitalist, a grave error. In other cases, public concerns about the volume of immigration are being hijacked by politicians with an atavistic hatred of the other. Germany is in deep trouble, thanks to Angela Merkel, but it is hugely troubling, including for historical reasons, that the AfD is getting 22 per cent of the vote. Marine Le Pen has moderated her policies, but I’m unclear how her statist economics would save France. 

Yet the global Right-wing revolution is gaining ground regardless. In Italy, Giorgia Meloni is prime minister. In the Netherlands, the anti-net zero farmers’ party has surged. Across the Continent, including in Scandinavia, mainstream parties are adopting once unthinkable policies on immigration. In Spain, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, a rising star, is advocating Thatcherite populism. In New Zealand, the centre-Right is ahead in the polls and the libertarian ACT party has rocketed. In Argentina, one leading presidential contender is an anarcho-capitalist. In Paraguay, the Right-winger Santiago Peña has won the presidency. Benjamin Netanyahu regained power last December. 

There are, of course, exceptions to the global shift to the Right: Brazil, where Lula’s neo-communists are back, and, of course, Britain, thanks to Tory uselessness. Brexit was the first domino to fall, the start of what will prove to be many international counter-revolutions against the Blob. The Tory party had a golden opportunity to channel this insurgency into a mainstream yet drastic programme of renewal. Boris Johnson could have been in power for a decade, yet he, together with Rishi Sunak, blew it, embracing net zero and social democratic profligacy and failing to control immigration and the public sector. 

Keir Starmer will win, and then seek to impose Left-wing solutions on to an increasingly Right-wing world. 

Wednesday 14 June 2023

House Prices

 There is a great deal in the media about the decline in house price inflation and the fact that in some areas the price of housing is in decline. I couldn't give a damn about the valuation of my house. Why? Because it's all a complete con and I am an house owner of 52 years. 'So your house has gone up £25k (or whatever), well what are you actually doing with it?' The great drawback about the one house I live in as an investment is that I can never get access to the money (unlike other assets like bank accounts, equities etc. that can be drawn out and spent) - and that seriously limits its use as an investment. And I am not interested in downsizing or Equity Release. The main beneficiaries of house price inflation are bankers, estate agents, housing investors, house builders and the government. House price inflation does not benefit most of us. Throughout our lives it amounts to nothing more than an unrealised paper profit, making us feel they are richer than we actually are. The way most of us eventually cash in on our one house is by dying - and that is generally not considered a win.