Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Nostalgia by the tonne in Berlin

There were big parties in Germany on Monday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was so long ago now, that my youthful staff members Basil, Bill and Barker (sounds like a 1960s folk band) have no memory of it at all! But for many the memories are fresh. Thousands of people were split up from their friends, families and lovers when the Communist leadership in East Germany built the wall literally to stop people escaping to the Free West. That’s why its destruction – and reunification of Germany into one big country again - was their happiest historical moment. Meanwhile some folk have been celebrating – and reminiscing – by snapping up old East German products that disappeared after the country reunified. Communist Cola, toothpaste and even pickled gherkins are all being purchased in a fit of nostalgia. There’s still a small bit of the Wall standing. Go to see it if you ever get the chance. Just one bit of advice- while you’re there don’t spend your cash on any of the “genuine fragments of wall rubble” that are on sale. So many of these have been flogged that you could have built a wall stretching twice around the world! If you want some,give me a call. I’ve got thousands of tonnes of the stuff from, er, a hillside in Wales.
A MEDIA storm erupted this week involving Gordon Brown and the sorry situation in Afghanistan. But it wasn’t to do with troop numbers, pensions for veterans, helicopters, battles with the Taliban or even whether our boys and girls should be out there at all. No, this week’s big story ignored all these serious issues and focussed on. . . the Prime Minister’s handwriting. You see — one of our brave lads, a young serviceman called Jamie Janes, was killed on the front line last month. Gordo wrote a letter of condolence to his mother but, due to his bad eyesight and dodgy handwriting (something he openly admits to), it looked like he wrote the surname “James” not “Janes”. The Sun got hold of the letter and went to town on Gordo, accusing him of disrespecting troops and insulting Guardsman Janes’ mother. Now don’t get me wrong, I can see why Mrs Janes is devastated. But the Sun has really gone too far. Gordon Brown sends personal letters to the relatives of all servicemen and women who lose their lives on the front line, something that has brought a small degree of comfort to a lot of people. The fact that his handwriting has made one name look wrong is no reason to attack him. Anyway, national papers like this should be focusing on the real issues surrounding this conflict. So far the Daily Sport stands head and shoulders above the rest in calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan. That’s what counts — not whether an “n” looks like an “m”. When our troops’ lives are on the line the Sun, which is backing the Conservatives to win the next general election, has resorted to petty political point scoring. It’s they who should be ashamed.
AS I was driving through London the other night I caught sight of a giant poster for the new Stereophonics album Keep Calm and Carry On. The album cover features the four Welsh fellas sitting around a table in the middle of the sea. It reminded me of a strange political incident the other week when the government of the Maldives went a step further and actually held their cabinet meeting under the Indian Ocean! Maverick President Mohamed Nasheed hosted the meeting in full scuba gear and 20 feet below the sea’s surface, to highlight the threat of climate change. He raises a very valid concern. Experts reckon that if global warming carries on at its current rate the Maldives could be submerged within 100 years. Their problem is that they depend on the whole world to sort out climate change. And at the moment we’re doing a poor job of it. And if we carry on like this there’ll be lots of places which will end up beneath the sea. Let’s start taking the climate thing on a bit more energetically. And until then my advice is go on holiday to the Maldives by all means. But don’t buy a house there unless it’s waterproof.
ONE person whose dedication to veterans and families noone could question is Lance Corporal Katrina Hodge, known to her mates as “combat Barbie”. Gorgeous Katrina is just 21 but has already served in Iraq and won the prestigious Miss England beauty competition. That’s a strange combination if ever I saw one! Now she’s due to head off to Afghanistan but first will be given a short break to compete in the Miss World contest which takes place in South Africa in December. And if she takes the crown Kat wants to help charities that look after wounded soldiers and their bereaved families. Gorgeous, charitable, brave and patriotic — she sounds like the perfect girl. On behalf of Daily Sport readers everywhere I’d like to say good luck Katrina — we’re backing you all the way!

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