Barber Shop Bullshit

Hello everyone!

Is this the worst blog on the planet? Probably. By its very nature a WEB-LOG should be a series of life observations or even just updates surrounding interesting subject matters.

haircutHowever, this is always off subject and hardly ever updated. But that’s life.

Or, to be precise, mine.

I had a strange day today where I reinvented myself. Not like Bob Dillon, Ziggy Stardust or even David Bowie.

I assumed the lives of three of my best friends inside fifteen minutes.

Dan is a tiler. He’s married to Claire, has two kids and lives in Surrey.

Chris is a media mogul. He too is married, has two kids, Freddie and Esme and lives in Herefordshire.

Marv is an actor. He might as well be married, has two kids and lives in Lancashire.

I’m single. I have no kids and live in a sprawling manor house and live in West Berkshire.

I live vicariously through them. It’s far cheaper and I know everything about their families, their work experience and, for no apparent reason WHATSOEVER, this happened today:

I found myself getting my hair cut in Wiltshire at lunchtime.

The lady cutting my hair was lovely. Very chatty, in no way annoying and I warmed to her immediately. However, as our conversation started, for some reason I began to make up a series of lies that got me into a right pickle.r0_24_5315_3095_w1200_h678_fmax

Things began to become quite absurd once we established I didn’t live in this particular Wiltshire town.

I said I lived in Surrey.

“Yes – To Claire”
“Yes, two – one of each.”
“What age are they at?”

At this point I left Surrey and Dan’s body and became Chris:

“Freddie is nine and Esme is five.”
“Lovely names, what are you doing here?”

I then became Marv:

“I’m an actor.”

Now, I have no f****** idea where this was going or why it was happening but I couldn’t stop. Just as I was describing how I was bringing Shakespeare to underprivileged kids in inner city schools, she mentioned that it was the summer holidays.

“I know!” I said, “We’re setting it all up ready for the new school year. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire! As soon as my two little terrors go back I’ll be in front of a load of adolescents. Still at least it’ll open my eyes to what’s in store for me!”

I’ll not bore you anymore but I rounded it all off by talking about the mess all kids make on the sofa and how food gets down the sides.

I just stopped short of naming my godson ‘Oliver’ before telling her to keep the change from a £20 note through the shame of my complete bullshit and half running out of the shop.maxresdefault


(I called the children I don’t even have ‘two little terrors’).

The guilt is tearing me apart.

I’ve got more money than Dan, Chris & Marv though.

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I was driving to Kempton which, as with most journeys to racecourses that surround the M25, requires me to savour the delights of driving through Bracknell.


There are two good things about Bracknell.

1. The KFC drive-thru.
2. Bracknell Leisure Centre.

Bracknell Leisure centre is the scene of Kevin Keegan’s legendary fall from his bike in an episode of Superstars in 1976.

The KFC is located adjacent to the scene of the crash and I’m of the opinion that there should be a blue plaque to commemorate such a horrific but strangely comic event.

What was KK thinking? He was England captain for heaven’s sake. Surely proving that he could ride a bike into the first turn faster than Gilbert van Binst paled into insignificance ahead of Liverpool’s upcoming European Cup campaign.


Poor Gilbert van Binst. I really feel for the lad.

Sadly, his minor role in such an iconic moment will remain his only footnote on British Television’s rich tapestry.

‘Many are called but few are chosen’.

Gilbert remains neither.

I’m often found, sat in the KFC car park consuming a Zinger Tower Burger, asking myself if I’m the only person aware of what happened all those years ago, only two furlongs away.

Kev took it well, too well as things turned out, by chatting to Ron Pickering and drinking Tizer. At least I hope it was Tizer.

He collapsed later that day and spent days in hospital with blood poisoning. All because of the desire to get his hands on the Ferguson Shield. They even got a video recorder thrown in. No wonder Andy Ripley took it so seriously.

It’s all about holding your line and getting to the inside on the first turn when racing a bike on an ash running track against a Belgian footballer. It’s a bit like breaking from a good draw at Kempton over six furlongs.

You’ve got to hold your ‘possie’.

On Wednesday evening I was on the Bracknell bypass trying to get on to the M3 when I saw a magpie doing what magpies do.

That ‘flap flap-glide, flap flap-glide’ thing that makes them look like they enjoy the glide bit, but that they resent the flapping. But this magpie seemed to be flapping over the street lamps, gliding between them and flapping over the next. This went on for about half a mile.


The Glide Phase

Do birds have any notion of how incredible the gift of flight is?

I was unsure, so I took it up with Marv, as I often do, via text:


I was thinking as I drove to Kempton last night: Do you think birds appreciate flight? Do they enjoy it or take it completely for granted? I think flying would be great.


They totally take it for granted and moan to each other about not having hands. That’s what I heard anyhow.


F*** me, I hadn’t considered the handless payback. If they possessed that awareness, it would be a brilliant conversation to have.


No creature has it all his own way. Do you think chickens have any idea how f****** tasty they are?


If they do, it probably only dawns on them at the very last minute.

So there you go. A philosophical moment that combined all of life’s great pleasures. It’s taken us full circle – from the KFC in Bracknell, the scene of Keegan’s fall, down to the junction with the M3 and right back where it all started.

How good chickens taste.

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Telecommunications: The Apprentice, The Assistant & Nine & A Half Weeks of Hell

“Far too many placed horses”. That was my observation to The Trainer at our end of season meeting. It was terse, certainly to the point and quite possibly uneccessary. But that’s what I felt and so I said it. 

He also collared me on my dismal lack of updates on this blog but I provided my doctor’s letter that cited “Severe Lethargy” as the main cause of inactivity. I picked up my five figure sum for my season’s contribution and walked out. I don’t need the stress.

One person who has done all of the stress and indeed all of the text for me in this edition of the blog (with minor guide editing from yours truly) is the Assistant Trainer.

Michael Channon Junior is much maligned. Indeed this happened most recently as he became a subject of ridicule in Luke Harvey’s perennially lazy column in the Newbury Weekly News. 


Cremin knew he was in trouble

So, I hacked both his email and Facebook accounts to provide you with his epic tale of anger and woe that took place in the Spring of 2013.

It all began after the arrival of our seven pound claimer Daniel Cremin who wanted to get his own telephone and broadband services and inadvertantly cancelled Michael Jnr’s last March. 


Mum? Mum? MUUUUM!!!?

The following is one man’s struggle to speak to his mother and do whatever young(ish) people do on the internet of an evening:

March 11th 2013

Michael John Channon, Facebook Entry:

There was much confusion and utter fury last week when my Sky phone line, Sky TV and Sky Broadband were inexplicably cancelled because BT had been instructed to take over my phone line because of a new customer.

All they could guess was that an idiot had given them the wrong address. Nothing had come to light until the post arrived this morning. A BT envelope for Mr Daniel Cremin (7).

He doesn’t live at 2 Hodcott Cottage, he lives at 2 Hodcott Bungalows.

He is however, an idiot.

April 2nd 2013

MJC Facebook Entry:

Got a bit angry with Sky today after they announced that my phone and broadband were now “Active” again after being cancelled. My telly works which means I can watch the racing again but I sent an email response to their announcement regarding the other stuff.

MJC Email to Sky:

Right, we’ll start again shall we?

I’m in love with the information that the helpline number you’ve provided is “a free call from your sky landline”. This would in some way suggest that my landline was working.

That’s utter class that.

You’ve not worked there long have you? Or do you revel in using irony as a form of communication?


“We’ve got our best man on the job”

Broadband still isn’t working either, but you’re probably aware of this.

If you like, you can contact me telepathically – anytime, any place, anywhere.

Or send a carrier pigeon.

You are a shambolic organisation of high farce.

April 10th 3013

MJC Facebook Entry:

Why would SKY send me a customer feedback survey to complete?

I even went so far as to add one of those additional comments after ticking “0” throughout the form itself.

MJC Additional Feedback Comment to Sky:

Sky is just abysmal. The worst service I’ve ever encountered and an automated help service that is about as effective as a carrier pigeon with asthma without the gift of flight.

I never, ever fill out customer feedback forms but I’ve made an exception in this case. I would crawl over broken glass in order to advise even my most hated enemy to avoid Sky in all its forms.

Dreadful, insulting and insipid. Expensive as well when you take into consideration the fact that you get charged money for a service that doesn’t exist.

Christ, I could keep going here – I genuinely believe I’ll be married before my current broadband issues are resolved.

You don’t know me, but if that were to pass, your service would officially be slower than evolution.

April 15th 2013

MJC Email to Sky:

“Hello Faceless Person,

I want to cancel my Sky broadband and my phone line.

I’ve just tried calling Sky, but I was put through to someone with the worst grasp of English in history. I live in England and English is more or less my primary language (I can order a banana ice-cream in French, but that’s not going to help with this torrid chapter in my consumer life now is it?).

Is there any way of getting rid of this horrific service without climbing the walls?

You cannot even understand a customer who is trying to cancel a “service” that doesn’t work, is costing me money but is totally fictitious.

If I were to agree to do a days work, not turn up, not explain myself coherently yet still take money for providing no service whatsoever, I’d expect to be held accountable somewhere down the line.

I’m left, however, to merely send angry emails to a faceless, mythical “Help Centre” that clearly has special needs.

In that case, may I suggest that I offer my services to somehow help you help me?

I’ll do anything, I’ll even draw a picture if that helps.

You have my mobile number, if someone with an IQ above that of a root vegetable would like to call me up, confirm the cancellation of this service and allow me to put my life back together, that would feel like a victory for humanity in the face of mounting incompetence.

I could have had lunch with Grandma this lunchtime, but instead I’ve had to put up with this nonsense.

April 20th 2013

Two MJC emails to Sky’s CEO Followed:

Dear Mr Darroch,

I emailed you two days ago with, what I thought, was a lucid and concise summary of my suffering at the hands of the Sky Landline and Broadband “service” of which I’ve been a victim this past month or so.

I’m aware that you are a busy man, but you must surely have an underling who monitors the numerous weirdos and tragic cases that must pester you via the inter web.

Therefore, I urge him or her to LOOK AT THIS FUCKING EMAIL and solve my problem.


The Threat of Grandma brought the Sky saga to a close – Eventually

If that doesn’t happen, I’m going to have to get REALLY, REALLY SERIOUS.

I might even break into Sky HQ and nick a stapler or even a hole-punch.

I mean it. I spoke to Grandma last night and she was lost for words.

Don’t make her come over there.

Yours Sincerely,

Michael Channon

Cancellation duly followed with an offer of sincere apology.

April 22nd 2013

MJC Facebook Entry:

The Sky saga is at an end. Like a bitter divorce or a dismal 0-0 draw at Southport on a Tuesday night, I can look forward to a better future from now on.

But is wasn’t so.

April 24th 2013

MJC Facebook Entry:

A letter from Sky arrives this morning to say that my installation and broadband costs will be debited from my account on 26/04/13. Just the small matter of £153.32. And I said that the saga was over……..

The Sky matter was finally resolved and he contacted British Telecom – A new dawn began.

May 3rd 2013

MJC Facebook Entry:

I’m now with BT! Text message telling me that my phone line is now active which I thought was “Great News” this morning.

However, they also think that I’m Daniel Cremin (7) and it turns out that my new phone number isn’t my new number. It’s someone else’s old one.

It belongs to a woman who lives on Catmore Road in the village and I’ve just had a lovely chat with her. Her name is Kate.

Still, BT says that it works and I suppose they’re right in a technical sense.

Just not in my house.

I’m being billed for it so I hope that Kate doesn’t have friends in Australia.

Sky got a 1/10. BT might be similar.

May 4th 2013

A debut MJC email to BT:


I switched to BT because Sky provided THE WORST SERVICE IMAGINABLE.

The problem arose because someone moved to the village I live in, applied for a BT landline, gave my address and so my landline, and consequently my broadband, was cancelled.

So I tried to sort it out with Sky.

Dreadful service, little intellect and no action whatsoever taken to help me. In the end I had to contact Sky’s CEO to get the service cancelled.

I’ve been with BT for less than 24 hours and this is my situation:

Broadband Hub arrived yesterday. Text saying that broadband is now active.

It isn’t.

Text saying that my landline is now active this morning.

It isn’t.

The phone line is completely dead.

So I contact BT. (This is where the retarded magic began)

My new number is apparently 01635 28****.

The only trouble is this line belongs to a lady called Kate who lives a mile or so up the road from me. I had a lovely chat with her because the first person I spoke to from BT did a line check and came back to me saying that the line is working perfectly and that he’d just spoken to someone called Kate.

He was taken aback when I informed him I don’t live with a person called Kate.

I did the same and had a lovely chat with her and discovered that she lives on the Catmore Road just outside West Ilsley. She’s by the Barracks and on a beautiful day like today I can imagine the views are quite magnificent across the Berkshire Downs.

However, I digress.

The first person I spoke to at BT left me with a number to do a line check and book an engineer if there was a problem (08000285705).

Tell me, if you are phoning from your work office because your home line is completely dead, what’s the point in doing a line check on the line I’m calling on?

And how can you do an automated line check on a line that doesn’t work?

Being cut off when you’ve been put on hold for 20 minutes is another joy that both yourself and Sky clearly provide in unison to your customers.

What “Think Tank” came up with that policy?

Having spoken with several of your call centre employees, I’m yet to find one who can process the information I set before them.

So I’ll spell out my issues.

1. I suspect the line you are checking has not got a fault.

2. I suspect the line you are checking is 01635 28**** – This is the phone line that Kate on Catmore Road has been using as a BT customer for a number of years.

3. I know that 01635 28**** is the number that you have under my name, my address and my bill.

4. I don’t think this is a crossed line.

5. I do suspect that you’ve allocated an identical number to me, a new BT customer.

6. I don’t think I live with Kate on Catmore Road. If I did, it would mean that my residence spans and area covering well over a mile.

Perhaps you think that her house is annexed to mine, which means my property encompasses a cricket club, a 14th Century Church, two racing stables, a village pub, the village hall and the Old Rectory (a house I’ve always thought is idyllic)?

If that were the case, I’d be the tenant of a property worth well in excess of £45 Million.

The thought of the heating bills alone make me shudder, so let’s hope that BT have got something wrong here

Or I’m in real trouble.


That’s a larger area than ideal to pay for.

Is there anyone who can get a grip on this situation?

It took me two weeks to finally cancel my Sky Account and move to BT, but the sense of Deja Vu is already quite terrifying in terms of customer care and common sense when it comes to solving a problem.

To recap:

The problem is the fact that I’m paying for a service which simply isn’t being provided, with little hope from your team of ANYTHING being done about it.

I shan’t hold my breath and will scour the globe for another company capable of employing English speaking call centre personnel with the ability to take an interest and actually do something.

Yours Sincerely,

Michael Channon

May 6th 2013

MJC Facebook Entry:

Just had a grovelling apology from Christine at BT. My issues will be resolved in three working days apparently.


The BT Gang did all they could at HQ

As a footnote to our conversation she added, “May I also add Mr Channon, and I hope you don’t think it inappropriate, I’ve worked here for fifteen years and yours is the funniest complaint we’ve ever received. The whole office loved it.”

But nothing happened.

May 12th 2013

MJC Email to BT:

“Alright, long time no speak!

You mentioned three working days – that’s a long old time in BT speak isn’t?

Hey, never mind, we’ll always have the traditional form of emails to keep in touch.

Thanks for the “Discover BT” one by the way.

All I’ve managed to “discover” is the customer complaints email address in my short, but dismal time as someone paying you money for nothing at all.

Your email begins with:

“Welcome to BT Broadband. It has so many useful features. We couldn’t fit them all in one e-mail.”

I love the bit that says, “You’ve made the right choice.”

I’m glad I haven’t made the wrong one. Could you imagine that?

I currently have a BT Hub that just flashes a light indicating that nothing works.

If I’d have made the “Wrong Choice” who knows what might happen? Perhaps Virgin have a Hub like a Transformer that folds open and expands into a rapier like robot assassin capable of slicing me in half while I’m eating my lamb chops during Emmerdale.

So if that’s what you’re alluding to then yes, I have made the right choice.

So I’ll settle for a Broadband service which does what yours does at the minute as opposed to taking a risk on a service that provides broadband but might splice me in twain at any given moment.

Let’s move on to the telephone.

I remember our first cordless telephone, we felt terribly posh when we got it.


Damon loved Debbie – And she loved him

It was made by BT funnily enough and we got it the week when Damon was murdered by the side of a canal in Leeds on the off-shoot of Brookside called “Damon & Debbie”. It was a sad time in our household.

I can honestly say that none of us – my Mum, my Sister or myself saw it coming. They were so happy together and I vividly remember how hard it hit Sheila.


Bobby & Sheila – Devastated

Bobby was his typically gruff self, but he was visibly shocked and although the Corkhill family did all they could, the Grant household, once a place of joy and laughter, was never the same again.

Even now, all these years later, I often wonder if the loss of his younger brother instigated Barry’s spiral into Merseyside’s criminal underbelly.

Where was I? Oh yes, the phone line. Can you get the phone line to work?

That would be really handy because my Mum (the one mentioned above) can’t get hold of me at home on my mobile due to the dreadful signal we get in West Ilsley. Vodafone is only eight miles away, but that’s another bugbear of mine..

I’ve sort of paid for the landline you see as I’d like to contact people telephonically.

As you might have gathered, I’m an avid watcher of “TV” and what with all the advances in technology like that whole moon thing, the pneumatic tyre and our ability to live beyond an average age of 32, a “Landline” would really move me into the modern world no end.

I know you’re obviously terribly busy, but the three working days thing is dragging on a bit now.

In fact, I’ve just come back from a three-day holiday in the North West of England. Marvyn, one of my dear friends, looked closer to solving my Broadband and Landline issues and he spent a large part of the weekend falling in love with a cast iron spiral staircase in a pub beer garden (See photo attached).


Marv – BT’s Managing Director. Possibly

Like I say, BT’s response team don’t strike me as having “Imminent” as a buzz word.

I’m not even going to comment on your invitation to ‘Set up my BT bill online”.

The irony is just too much – Do you purposely provide your dissatisfied customers with such ammunition?

I’ve asked Marv to get off those stairs and come down to sort out my landline within “three working days”. He does a lot of temping does Marv so ‘Three working days” can span up to three months at times.

Is Marv your MD?

Love ya,

Michael Channon

May 14th 2013

MJC Facebook Entry:

Phone call last night: Christine from BT has made me a “High priority customer”.

May 15th 2013

MJC Facebook Entry:

Text from Christine: “The line has tested to a further fault in the frames unit at the exchange so the issue has been passed back to Openreach engineers.”

There could be something going on here.

May 16th 2013

MJC Facebook Entry:.

After nine weeks and six days. I have a “Landline” which works. A full statement will follow when the full impact of this event sinks in.

May 17th 2013

MJC Facebook Entry:

They say that anticipation is everything.

Yes, anticipation is everything until you realise that the pinnacle towards which you strive is a massive disappointment.

Nine weeks, six days and seven daft e-mails and I finally have a “Land line” on which to converse with my Mother when I’m not driving, trying to understand a Norman Collier impressionist or appease a Paternal tantrum at work.

And what happens?

Mum’s fucking voicemail happens that’s what. I might just send her an email instead.

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Not the sexiest title I’ll grant you that, but I’ve been trying to “sex things down” since I accompanied my great, great grandson to the Justin Bieber concert last week.  He was miles away from my veiwpoint – I was by the exit, next to the bar. The lad wasn’t even in my eyeline for the whole evening if I’m honest.


In fact that goes for both the great, great grandson and Justin Bieber – one’s now on the side of every milk carton across the capital, the other in every tabloid newspaper in the land. None of the family seem to care.

By way of a token excuse though, I did spend the “Gig” perusing the anti-post markets for the Cheltenham Festival.

To be honest, I’m not really an expert on Cheltenham but ‘The Trainer’ is sending a load of horses there simply because none of them (and I mean NONE of them) seem capable of winning a five furlong juvenile maiden at Bath in late April.

Not one of them.

In fact, they don’t even look like the types that I usually back blind in the Thirsk seller on the first day of Royal Ascot.

To help you though, here they are – I’ve grabbed the form book by the horns, wrestled it to the ground and kicked it to death:

CALGARY BAY – Big unit, I suggested ‘The Trainer’ bide his time and go for a back end nursery at Windsor. I’ve been ignored. He runs in a race for loads of other big horses. At Cheltenham.


Calgary Bay – Great Big Horse (Too Big for the page in fact)

LOCH BA – Big unit, didn’t take much breaking when he arrived in the Autumn and seemed a natural until he got loose twice this season. He ended up running riot on the outer track at Kempton and then the inner course at Newbury. Blatantly unsteerable but he goes to Cheltenham too.


Loch Ba – Another Great Big Horse

SOMERSBY – Saw a film by this name starring Jodie Foster, she’s far better looking than the horse. That said, the horse would definitely have the measure of the lovely Miss Foster (how she’s still single I’ll never know) because apparently there’s a few jumps to negotiate and as great an actress as Foster is, she wouldn’t be able to jump these jumps.


Somersby – A much better racehorse than Jodie Foster

They’re much bigger than any vaulting horse the vulnerable starlet from ‘Silence of the Lambs’ would have encountered in the gym class on the set of ‘Freaky Friday’, so I’m definitely not being sexist.

My tip is to forget Foster – back Somersby, he should be a ‘shoe-in’ as all he’s got to beat is a sprinter and this race is over a whopping TWO MILES.

At Cheltenham.

Luckily, Somersby too is a Big Unit.

 (I also think a trip in excess of ten furlongs would blunt Jodie Foster’s speed. Besides, she’s not even entered).

FOSTER’S ROAD – At last I’m on familiar territory as this lad has won on the flat. Not certain to get in a handicap for horses that aren’t units as big as those other units previously mentioned that jump bigger jumps. I do however digress.


Foster’s Road & Gill Hedley

The Somersby/Jodie Foster link must stand for something and, as a superstitious type, I’ve had a grand on Foster’s Road (albeit in a high state of opium induced judgement).

SGT RECKLESS (“THE POLICE HORSE”) – Big unit, runs really well. In fact, I reckon that running is his strongest suit. That will stand him in good stead as I’m assured that Cheltenham’s unique contours and idiosyncratic undulations favour a horse that’s good at running.


The Police Horse – Unfortunately, Richard Hughes has the ride

Apparently, It also lends favours to horses that can jump but this won’t bother Sgt Reckless because (quite rightly) he’s running in a race where there’s no fences in the way to slow horses down.

He would be my NAP of the meeting but just for those of you who pour over every expert’s analysis of the Festival, I’ve broken down this horse’s strengths and weaknesses into finite detail:

Strengths: Running & Eating.

Weaknesses: A head that is the size of a piano.


A head bigger than Joe Royle’s

I’m not sure if the running and eating bit can outweigh having a head that was clearly donated by an elephant who had a head transplant because his first head was far too big to drag across the unforgiving plains of Africa.

Like I say, I’m not a Cheltenham expert.

You’ll just have to weigh up the evidence that I’ve so generously put before you.


The Police Horse

Thanks for reading and watch this space – The blog will return. In another ten months if the regularity of the previous efforts are to be any sort of an indication.


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Months of excitement reach boiling point this afternoon as the country’s biggest secret is let loose like a big angry rhino or something. Whatever it resembles, it’s big. Very big.

The Olympics have been big news for what seems like decades thanks to Lord Coe and David Beckham’s tangible charm and no little corporate appeal forcing the five rings committee to allow Great Britain to overhaul the capital’s public transport system. All in the name of a massively overhyped sportsday.

As a part of the process, national treasures, two bob celebrities, and Will-I-Am have carried the Olympic Torch across the country, invariably in locations with which they have absolutely no connection with whatsoever. Until now…..

Biddlecombe – Underwhelmed by his send off at West Lockinge

After several hush hush dinners down at the Eyston Arms, The Trainer & Terry Biddlecombe have finally come clean and announced that they are to be carrying the torch when it’s rerouted on its Oxford to Henley leg to West Lockinge today, where Terry (being the fitter one of the pair) will traverse the Ridgeway on the uphill leg of the relay. He’ll then rendezvous with The Trainer in that car park where everyone throws litter out of their vehicles on an hourly basis. It’s strange because there isn’t a McDonalds for miles around and yet the Yank Clown’s burger boxes are an omnipresent eyesore at this picturesque part-time dogging spot. It’s hugely annoying.

Anyhow, it’s from this scenic location that the pair will head down the hill in the Trainer’s gallops wagon and into West Ilsley for a press conference, photocall and a huge celebration in The Harrow. When I say “huge”, to this pair a pint and a half of Guinness represents “off the rails” so if you want to get in on the festivities you’d best be on time.

They’ll be asleep within the hour.

Biddlecombe set off at 8am this morning and The Trainer is expecting him at about mid afternoon tomorrow.

All the hype, merchandise and terrible logo take me back to my Olympic heyday and that monumental tussle with the Swedish deadshot Oscar Swahn. It was London, 1908 and we went head to head in the shooting. None of these namby pamby targets or clays back then – this was the running deer event and despite my modesty, I must confess that I was one of the most conscientous and dedicated sportsmen of the time.

I used my gamekeeper’s family in the off season to keep my eye in. Old Man Burke was very understanding and luckily he was Catholic and he never ran out of children.

Owens – Great athlete, forgetful dresser

I had to settle for silver in ’08 but it was as a coach that I enjoyed my greatest success, most notably with Jesse Owens in 1936. His all conquering haul that year was slightly ruined by the fact that we couldn’t really go out on the lash after his final gold in the 4×100 metres final.

They were very strict on dress code in Berlin at the time and the daft sod forgot to bring a jacket!

How we laughed about it later.

The Olympics represents everything good in sport – a competition promoting peace, without the burden of politics, religion, racism or indeed the M4 flyover near Isleworth this time around.

Good luck getting there from Heathrow.

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America – it’s brilliant.

Everything about it is terrific – You’ll not find a single soul in these parts that has a bad word for the place or it’s great sporting people.

Go Yankees!

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It’s been a while I know, but a cruise around the Aegean is not to be scoffed at, especially when one has the chance to live the highlife courtesy of a beast by the same name. Highlife Dancer’s five timer this season won me enough to fill the coffers tenfold and with coffers the size of mine, that’s a pit of financial fodder too tempting to leave alone.

The Russell Brown Trophy Entries - The Trainer's Attempt, Bottom Left

My absence has been sorely missed in and around the environs of Ilsley. The Village Fete for example descended into farce such was the enthusiasm that The Trainer and his Odd Eldest approached the Victoria Sponge contest. Under its inaugural title as “The Russell Brown Trophy”, Senior and Junior went all out for victory in a tragically doomed attempt of culinary ineptitude.

As keen as they were to win, neither The Trainer or his bungling Assistant share a single gene of cookhouse competence and after half a dozen abysmal attempts, they panicked and entered the Fete Tent with a last minute botch job of crass insensitivity.

The Trainer's Victoria Sponge.

Thieving a burger bun from an adjacent stall and filling it with the jam from a fellow contestant’s entry is hardly the sort of behaviour that encapsulates the community spirit  a village fete sets out to achieve. It also doesn’t make the end result a Victoria Sponge.

It makes it a Jam Butty.

Not Happy in The Harrow. Apparently, "It was all his idea"

Thankfully the disingenuous duo were seen for what they were and held up as such in front of a baying mob of locals. The Trainer raged off to stew on the unfairness of it all in The Harrow blaming his Assistant, who suffered the humiliation of having to devour the “sponge” and smile at the same time.

Mick Kinane's Eyebrows Enjoying a new role in the Public Eye

Such public shame hasn’t been seen in the village since Jamie Magee was caught fiddling the cricket scoreboard during the traditionally bad tempered East v West match for the Ilsley Challenge Cup in 2008.

“I’m Irish” was his only defence.

Time moves on at pace and there have been several scandals that made my summer sabbatical more than a little timely. The Great Fire of Hodcott for example made huge headlines in the Newbury Weekly News, with The Trainer being asked by one of the local paper’s newshounds as to the extent of the disaster.

The Newbury Weekly News ran with the headline: "SH*T HOT"

How many people have lost their homes? Did the horses survive? Will the yard recover? That sort of thing.

“What? It’s the ******* muckheap at the bottom of the gallops. Don’t ask me how it started, I’m just about pissed off with it. It’s blowing right through my ******* house”  was The Trainer’s response.

There was a cat stuck up a tree a few years back, but as stories go in West Ilsley, this was a big one. “The Fire”, as it’s referred to in hushed tones by the locals, will pass into folklore.

That was high summer however and now the depths of winter muster on the horizon. Essentially, next season has already begun.

The yearlings are nearly all in. They are challenging and incredibly complex and that’s not just the horses. Their names must be learnt overnight to ensure that mistakes aren’t made with The Trainer drumming the mantra “Detail, detail, detail” into each and every member of staff – so much so that paranoia soon reigns supreme.

Indeed, whilst sound engineers, a lighting director, a seven man camera crew and producers arrived last Friday, Michael Junior put together a list of yearlings to be filmed for the excellent website

Fat Ali was then despatched to polish and parade the yearlings with the instructions, “Start at the top and work your way down the list.”

This seems like a simple enough set of instructions, until the aforementioned paranoia is taken into consideration. The staff no doubt have all heard of Refuse to Bend and Clodovil, they are even familiar with Footstepsinthesand Colts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Occasionally however, unfamiliar or first season sires can confuse those that handle them.

With the film crew waiting for almost half an hour and with storm clouds now gathering, it was feared that Fat Ali had done a runner. He was found a short time later, sweating and confused in the top barn, scouring the nameplates looking for the elusive juvenile:

Filming Friday - Not the name of a first season sire


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Sandwiches took their toll on Gazebo construction

It’s been a while, but I’ve been locked away in rehab for the past fortnight. When you reach three figures you see, the sheer scale of the finger food on offer means that The Royal Meeting is a tough course to navigate. Not as tough as the six furlongs of the Coventry Stakes you understand, but I’ll let that one lie.

It wasn’t the alcoholism that did for me over the five days though, it was the fog of sandwiches offered up that make it such a hard slog. The sort of week long diet that made you hanker for a wheat allergy.

Gazebo construction in the rain - A bad idea on Day 5 of the Royal Meeting

Bollocks to it

As I decended into a bread fuelled shambles, I allied myself to that David Evans chap – the one who insists he’s not Welsh. He might be a common type, but at least he didn’t offer me a sandwich.

The Pork Pie was preferable to Evans's other offering

Indeed, all he offered in the car park throughout the week was a month old pork pie. He became quite attached to it actually and stopped offering it to anyone after Thursday.

It was one of those pork pies with an egg in the middle, so at least he made an effort.

Running the gauntlet of sandwiches reminded me of the good Earl himself. John Montagu was also a man of the turf and he and my father became great friends when he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty.

John Montagu, The 4th Earl of Sandwich

They spent many a happy time playing pontoon on Brighton Pier and spent 30 Guineas on a colt called “Rustic Chambers”.

He wasn’t the best put together and not a comfortable ride, in fact he proved to be the most miserable experience the pair had together. Mind you when you think of the stunts you could pull in the company of the 4th Earl of Sandwich in Brighton during the mid 18th century, a disappointing experience on the racecourse was a small price to pay.

In the 21st Century however, Rustic Chambers certainly are not acceptable.

Michael Junior continues to be a source of amusement and The Trainer’s soon to be second tallest son has yet again become the victim of Secretary Susan Harding. Indeed, her moronic inability to book any hotel room that combines a convenient location with a small degree of civilized comfort is reaching proportions of legendary status.

For the past two years The Trainer’s Son has done nothing but complain about the hotels he’s been booked into by Miss Harding. Indeed his two previous visits to the Bosphorus Cup saw him booked into hotels of real distinction.

Racing Secretary Susan Harding - Not a Tour Operator to trust

In 2009, Susan found him a hotel that the cab drivers of Istanbul simply could not find. Having walked for several miles he found it situated next door to Mosque.

In the middle of Ramadan.

With tannoys blaring.

Sleep was not included in the price.

With the entire English racing fraternity staying at the Marriot Hotel overlooking the Bosphorus only 2 miles from the track, the Intrepid Assistant Trainer stressed in no uncertain terms his desire to be in the Marriot ahead of Halicarnassus tilt at retaining the Cup in 2010.

He was in the Marriot Hotel this time, but the one 25 miles away from the track. Which in Turkish road system terms is about 3 hours away.

Michael Jnr - Will be booking his own hotel rooms from now on.

By coincidence, Newcastle Racecourse also has a Marriot Hotel nearby.

Ahead of last weekend’s Northumberland Plate, Michael Junior was yet again booked in by Susan Harding although not in the Marriot by the track.

This one was a little further away, but that was the least of his issues as the accompanying video makes clear.

Michael Jnr’s North East Nightmare

I can’t say anything more about that really. Apparently he was found scalped by Apaches the next morning.

Not a single one of Michael’s colleagues at West Ilsley found it funny either.

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Things that were not witnessed on Day 1:

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"I'll put you through now Jaber....."

They’ve all been here this week. Whilst walking the grounds on Monday the Irish lilt of former crash test dummy Mick Fitzgerald was clearly visible behind the shoulderless frame of Luke Harvey ahead of the Oaks contest. It was the usual press scrummage as the Trainer was yet again reminded that he hasn’t won a Classic.

He loves that.

In the meantime, Sam Hitchcott has faced the media amid a frenzy of rags to riches style questioning, although it’s blatantly obvious that he’s far better suited to rags and the riches would be wasted should they ever be bestowed upon East Grinstead’s smallest celebrity figure.

You can just see though, in the back of his mind, a question as to whether the Oaks ride aboard Zain Al Boldan will actually happen.

Indeed, The Trainer is also up in the air, whilst Susan Harding has had to install a new phone to alert Hitchcott to any developments to his fate.

It's not rung yet, to the relief of Hitchcott

It’s a tricky situation alright but the little man has done everything asked of him. His A-Z of the North of England has been jettisoned from his battered Audi in favour of the byroads of Epsom and Ewell, whilst he’s also brushed up on his cliches with “Better than sex” very much at the forefront of his mind on the advice of Mick Fitz on Monday morning.

The nervous energy surrounding the yard has called for even higher security than ever, with Gotham City’s finest drafted in to just mill around wondering what to do. That’s what all high profile organisations do – look at the BHA – Mark Johnston will no doubt take on the role of Batman to prompt anything sensible to take place with that lot.

A little bit of politics there.

Not long to go now, so good luck Sam Hitchcott. No doubt the bunting will be out on the streets of his adopted town of Hungerford if ZAB brings home the bacon, or even wins the Oaks.

The Trainer will probably moan about the Friday traffic.

We’ll take the phone off the hook on Friday morning.

The office at West Ilsley is awash with the clueless and concerned

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