Wednesday, April 24, 2013


So I finally finish ‘The Constant Gardener’ by John LeCarre and do you ever have one of those coincidences where you unintentionaly read two books that are actually along the same lines. Its ok to do that intentionally, but after Grisham’s The Appeal I didn’t really need another ‘Little man versus evil multi national corporation.’

But that’s what I got.

But in a far more complex, drawn out, evocative narrative. Sometimes you don’t want complexity. Those kinds of novels where you have to have a note book to hand to jot down who is who. I always think a book does itself a favour if it has a list of characters at the front with a short bio. Or maybe I’m just becoming more cerebrally challenged as I get older?


Think its time for a classic next, and ive picked The Trespasser by DH Lawrence. I know nothing about it but it cant be any more raunchy than the Chatterley Mellors tryst!

One for the ladies!

I’m about fifty pages in, and although its lacking the shock value of Chatterley, I cant help but feel that Lawrence was one sex obsessed dude. Or should I say sex supressed as this was written in nineteen twelve.

The two main characters in this novel are illicit lovers, but I’ve just read a paragraph which, shall we say, is describing the last moments of a romantic evening, and I had to read it again, and then read it to Debbie and ask ‘Have they just done it?’

In contrast, it reminded me of reading Ian Mcewans ‘On Chesil Beach’ which the pastor of my church had quoted from only the week before. So I took it as bedtime reading on a fishing weekend with the lads to the lovely Wye Valley. We intended to have a lazy start, visit the tackle shop before fishing mid-morning, so, as I had no requirement of the tackle shop, I took my book down to the breakfast room with the intention of having a leisurely breakfast and to start my book.

The restaurant was surprisingly full and my mates were all still enjoying their fried plates of protein so I went over and joined them.

‘what book have you got there’ asks my good friend Paul as he relieved me of it and started to flick through it.

‘Oh just a Mcewan novel I reply. Nothing special’

Paul has now stopped on a page and I notice his eyes widen and then to my horror READS ALOUD a pretty explicit description of a ( somewhat unsuccessful) honeymoon night!

The restaurant had gone deathly quiet with everyone looking at us, and all I could think to say was ‘My pastor recommended me that!’

This is NOT my Pastor and good friend Steve. He's much better looking, and younger!
But here’s the thing about DHL, (no, not the courier) in the morning ‘she tried to wash herself with the white and blue morning, to clear away the soiling of the last nights passion ’ which to me is a little bit more intimate than a description of a love scene? It’s as if he wants to titillate and shock, push acceptable boundaries, but not in an obvious way, or maybe just tell the world that he knows what goes on when men & women’s undercarriages meet.

And whilst I’m at it, back in Chatterleyland, why does he call a woman’s height of pleasure ‘Her crisis’?? A thesaurus gives us the following alternatives: Disaster, catastrophe! Emergency, calamity (hardly) predicament, crunch, watershed (alright I’ll give you that one!)

All I know is that when Debbie now burns a cake, and declares that ‘she’s having a little crisis’ there is a begrudging respect that she can multi-task”!

Mmm, looking good luv!

You know what, at the end of the day, its hardly 52 shades of grey is it! I'm mocking the man, but its actually a sad indictment of society today, as I would imagine 100 years ago Lawrence would have caused the same sized waves to literature as Jonny Rotten did to music. It would definitely have been lock up your daughters time!

Today, whilst Chatterley as a title is still synonymous with something a little shameful, it really is tame compared to rap lyrics, Nuts magazine or some pretty disturbing internet images which our children are only a couple of mouse clicks away from..We have been warned.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I’ve made it to fifty. In fact, like a child, I found myself telling someone last week that I was fifty and a week old! Unsurprisingly, this has been the year where many of my friends have either or are imminently turning fifty and it seems that you either celebrate it unashamedly with a big party, or you make it something of a non event.

I still feel young, in spite of the stress I’ve faced over the past three years, I still run, workout, and lust after the female form. However I’m aware that my hearing is deteriorating, I no longer have 20/20 vision, and it’s a constant battle keeping on top of unwanted ear hair, nose hair, eyebrow hair and worse still, I am aware of a bald patch forming on the top of my head!


I felt I got my birthday about right, having all the family round but I passed on the party. But I was genuinely touched by the presents, cards and Facebook messages. It kinda said ‘youre alright Cobby’ and that’s what we all want to hear.

My Mum found this wonderful piece of Jonathan Cobb history,aged 7. I'm frustrated because I have stupidly saved it in pdf so cant download, and original is sitting at home. Anyway it reads as follows;

'June 25th 1970
I wish i were a socer star and cume famusfore all the gols I scord like pele. The tems I wode play for is Chelsey and England. I wod do my best an i howp i sown will get a medall and i wod be senter forwod
I wod do my Best not to hold the Ball and cice eney Bodey wich is a fawl'

(We worry about the state of education in our schools, but 43 years ago we still had some way to go!)

What it actually says is:

‘I wish I were a soccer star and become famous for all the goals I scored like Pele. The teams I would play for is Chelsea and England. I would do my best and I hope I soon would get a medal and I would be a centre forward. I would do my best not to hold the ball and kick anybody which is a foul. ‘

I don’t want to  do a self analysis at this anniversary. You know, benchmarking yourself against compatriots and how successful they were by this age.  I guess I’m a little scared to, but I’ve never had a hunger to be massively wealthy, or to achieve worldly success, but there are times when those desires , kept hidden away in a locked box in our mind, somehow Houdini like, wriggle free and push themselves to the front of our minds and say ‘He’s got a bigger house’ ‘She will be able to retire in 10 years’ (some hope me!) or ‘Two holidays a year. That would be nice’

I’m pleased that as a seven year old I saw the benefit of endeavour and fair play, and if I have to justify myself to anybody but myself or my maker, I know I can say that those attributes have been consistent.  I noticed on the news this week that a recent survey by the MCC  showed that two thirds of uk children feel under pressure to cheat at sports because of a ‘win at all costs’ culture .   On Saturday morning, go up to Memorial Park (or your equivalent) and see Fathers with number one haircuts, 4x4 offroaders as their vehicle of choice, signet ring, obligatory sleeper earing, staffy dog named over disgraced boxer  screaming at ‘kevin / Danny / Jason ‘ to ‘Get stuck in’ & ‘let ‘im know yer ‘ere’

Hi Dad!

Showered, lunched (McDonalds) back in 4x4 to White Hart lane, Highbury, Kenilworth Rd, Father & son adorned in replikit will together shout to a highly paid ‘Kevin / Danny /Jason’ to ‘Get stuck in’ & ‘let ‘im know yer ‘ere’

Am I over egging this if I conclude that Son is getting a subliminal message that Dad will love son if he is a ‘winner?’

I remember that day when I realised that Cobby wasn’t going to ever captain Pompey.  Never to be interviewed by Chris Kamara and hear those words ‘I just wanna  thank me Dad’

He’s a happy enough chap, seemingly content in his own world of gardening, reggae, ska and Steller. No, not the lager, that’s the name of his girlfriend.  

I feel successful when I look at him. That's my boy! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


The John Grisham novel was devoured in less than a week. I have moved on to a Le Carre. He of the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but that’s not the one I’m reading. I’m reading The Constant Gardener, which I am trying to remember whether I have seen the film. A hundred pages in, and nothing is triggering a memory. Anyway, we’ll see. It’s got a picture of Ralph Fiennes on the front who has a remarkably similar profile to mine. He became a great actor and I chose financial services….i guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles!

No, its not me!

The Appeal by Grisham was a cracker based on litigation between the behemoth Chemical company and the little guys who have suffered because of the dumping of toxic waste. Naturally, the bad guys are the corporation and in particular the evil CEO but I enjoyed it particularly because many moons ago I worked in Lloyds of London and we dealt with a large number of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cases.

Some of the tricks these companies got up to was pretty shocking and these weren’t fiction! I remember one company who poisoned a lake through their illegal dumping and paid a man to go out in his rowing boat each night and pick up the dead ducks and dispose of them. Some clever Para-legal found the man, who admitted he was being paid by the big boys and it was Punitive damage time!

I never liked working in insurance, and I still have a mistrust of the industry which does look to wriggle out if it can, either through policy small print, or through defending the in-defensible. The Grisham novel powerfully makes its point when a representative of the big corporations has a personal tragedy which is caused by a third party liability. He finally understands how an event like this is literally life changing. In fact it’s not all about the money, albeit that will help. But the book vividly highlights the immoral link between liability (or denial thereof) and profitability.

Even though The Appeal was written in 2007, I have noticed a trend in fiction (whether book or film) towards the demonization of mega wealthy corporate bosses who, since the credit crunch, are rightly taking flak for their immoral pay. Alan Alder plays a Hedge Fund manager in the surprisingly charming Tower Heist and he is simply a criminal in a suit. 20 years ago, the same character would have a stocking over his face and a sawn off shot gun, but now instead of robbing banks, it’s the banks that are the robbers! The thieving is less violent but as equally devastating.

In truth, they’ve always been around. It was 1987 when Gordon Geko famously announced ‘Greed is good’ but there was still something likeable about him. However characters like Carl Trudeau in The Appeal, John Veals in Sebastian Faulks excellent A week in December’ have absolutely no redeeming features. They have but one goal: To accumulate money.

It’s a challenge for us all. Although we might not be successful at it, it doesn’t mean that money doesn’t run our lives or take up too much of our time pursuing, whether successfully or not. Uh oh, another polemic from Jon, but there has to be more to life than the pursuit of the material? Maybe one good thing that can come out of the banking crisis is that we can revalue the power that money has in our lives?

I’m fifty tomorrow.

I have always found that on anniversaries which end in zero, I become somewhat introspective and take stock of where I am in my life. As a natural born cynic this is never a good thing, and I know that in my personal analysis I will be hard on myself because I am behind the curve of where many of my compatriots are in terms of financial success.

But success comes in many forms and fortunately I will be reminded of this as I look at my loving family (& dog!) and a wealth of friendships that mean so very much to me.

In fact, I am rich beyond compare.