Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 16th January 2018

IT has been described as a “charming anachronism, a very British institution,” yet, unless you are a sports fan, the martial tones of Out of the Blue probably don’t mean a lot to you.

Hubert Bath’s theme music has been played, with one exception in 2013, since 1948 at the start of the BBC’s Saturday teatime Sports Report program. Furious tweets rained on the Beeb the day it wasn’t played at the opening of the show. Presenter Mark Pougatch had to reassure listeners it had not been axed and indeed it was played an hour later.

Sports Report has been part of my life, right from when I was a nipper listening to the likes of Raymond Glendenning and Eamonn Andrews, along with reporters speaking live from grounds across the country, filling my young imagination with the sights and sounds of that Saturday’s games.

I must have been no more than five or six years old when I first heard Sports Report, although I was barely six months old when it first broadcast on 3rd January, 1948. I’ll never lose the thrill of those famous words — “it’s coming up to 5 o’clock and it’s time for Sports Report”.

You’ve got to be 70, as both myself and Sports Report are, to remember the Light Program, where it stayed until 1964. Then it moved wavelengths to the Third Program, next Radio 2 then Radio 5 and now its home is on BBC 5 Live.

Every Saturday I went to watch a local team and rushed home for Sports Report. As an adult fan, it was invariably on the car radio going home from games. Now I don’t get to hear it as much because I’m working at games, or listening for the results on Radio Cumbria.

But every time I hear Out of the Blue my mind returns to the great broadcasters like Des Lynam — reputed to have saved the theme music when BBC officials planned to replace it — Peter Jones, Mike Ingham, John Inverdale and, today, Mark Chapman. Plus, of course, the voices of John Webster, James Alexander Gordon and Charlotte Green, who have had the most important job of the lot, reading the results accurately. East Fife 4, Forfar 5. Remember that one?

It’s a year of anniversaries on the BBC. None has greater resonance with me, and I guess millions of other sports fans of a certain age, than Sports Report which was, and still is, the king of sports programs.

WHOOPS, SERGEANT MAJOR

YOU might think the Ministry of Defence ought to be more concerned with the defence of the realm than delving into the world of political correctness. But apparently not.

Words like chaps, mankind, manpower and sportsmanship are not to be used by our soldiers, sailors and airmen, lest they give offence to any passing snowflakes. The armed forces are turning gender neutral with new guidelines to avoid gendered language in favour of neutral terms.

People, friends and folks are suggested alternatives to chaps. Crikey, what would Monty have made of that at Alamein? And are our front-line troops, who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, really soft enough to take umbrage when their CO calls them chaps?

It gets worse. Military ranks are to say “average person” rather than man in the street, to use “homemaker” instead of housewife. The MoD says it is “continuously promoting a modern, inclusive working environment to ensure individuals are recognised and feel valued”.

“Sergeant Major, please don’t shout at me. I need to feel valued.” That’ll be a lot of help when dealing with hidden explosives and terrorists armed to the teeth. New Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson wisely stepped in when a leaked document presaged the end of the Army slogan “Be the best”. Brass hats felt it was too elitist. Talk about men led by donkeys. If our chaps don’t aspire to “be the best” then heaven help us if our country is ever under threat.

NHS NEEDS PLANNING

WHEN is a crisis not a crisis? Answer: When it’s Theresa May talking about the NHS.

The Prime Minister’s comments about the pressures on the NHS made it apparent that she is out of touch. Nobody believes Mrs. May’s view that the NHS is “better prepared for this winter than ever before”.

Certainly not the thousands of patients whose operations were cancelled over the holiday, or those forced to wait up to nine hours in ambulances outside hospitals.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did say something which, for a politician, sounded eminently sensible. In apologising to patients he admitted pressures were facing the NHS and made the key point that the edifice might be more manageable if budgets could be agreed on a 10-year basis.

I’ve always said the health service was too important to be run at the whim of political parties, and that the problem with government is its short-termism. Health secretaries soon move on, up or out, and parties are only interested in winning the next election, whereas organisations like the NHS need long-term vision.

It’s probably too much to expect rival parties to work together, but it’s clear social care provision needs to be included in long-term planning.

According to latest figures, hospital waiting lists are now the longest on record, waiting times have doubled in two years, bed-blocking is at its second highest level and the crisis is affecting cancer treatment. Dr. Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: “Our health service is reaching crisis point from a combination of increasing demand and inadequate resources.”

The test of a government comes in a crisis. “Keep calm and carry on” is the Prime Minister’s less than reassuring message.

PASTIES AT DAWN

LET’S put it this way, I don’t anticipate Carlisle United’s veteran chairman Andrew Jenkins turning up for games at Brunton Park wearing a single earring while riding an electric-powered motor bike.

There’s clearly more than just a generation gap between the United boss and his counterpart at fellow League Two side Forest Green Rovers, ex-hippy-turned-millionaire businessman Dale Vince, who has turned Rovers into the world’s first vegan football club.

Mr. Jenkins was clearly unimpressed by Vince’s green credentials when Carlisle visited recently. So much so he wrote in the United program on Saturday: “Obviously I’m from a family originating in the meat trade. Each to their own, and although I never eat much on a match day I couldn’t pull myself together to sample the food on offer. What would happen if, when vegetarians came to our club, all we could offer was an all-meat menu.”

Good news, I guess, for the unreconstructed, principally male, middle-aged denizens of Carlisle’s legendary paddock. It appears there is no plan to turn United green or to do away with their favourite Brunton pasties.

Dale Vince once lived as a hippie in a converted van before founding a green energy company now worth a reputed £100 million. At Forest Green’s New Lawn ground they fertilise the pitch with seaweed, recycle water and have a solar-powered mower. Food stalls are totally vegan and Vince, the only man to get into Wembley’s royal box without a tie, claims sales have quadrupled.

Pencilled into my diary is Saturday, 27th January, when Forest Green come to Carlisle, especially when Vince said of fellow League Two chairmen: “I expect some will be hideously stuffy and will ban me from the board room.”

Andrew Jenkins is chairman of Pioneer Food Distributors as well as having been chairman of Carlisle United for well over half a century and someone much respected in the football world. Is he planning a vegan option for Mr. Vince, or will it be Brunton pasties at dawn for two chairmen with vastly different views on life and food?

BITCOIN CONFUSION

GOODNESS knows, I’ve tried. If it’s the duty of a newspaper writer to inform readers, I have devoted considerable time and effort to seeking to understand the bitcoin phenomenon. Completely without success.

Hands up all those readers who know their bitcoins from their fivers. Two of you. Is that all? Maybe it’s my age. After all, I’m less savvy about technology than your average three-year-old.

But money that isn’t money? How does digital currency work? Apparently those who did get bitcoin made a fortune overnight. But one financial big-hitter is now warning that it’s a lottery and could crash soon.

I’ll stick to my Saturday 10p yankee at the bookies. It sounds safer.