Tough guys

Those Tour de France riders really are made of steel. Tyler Hamilton is continuing to compete despite a broken collar bone, another had a high fever and Jimmy Casper had to ride in a neck brace because of a severe neck injury. Jimmy was interviewed after the stage and asked if it wasn't really painful cycling with a neck injury. Instead of yelling, "Well what do you think!", as I would have done, he just shrugged his shoulders in a rather Gallic way and said, "

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Spinning out of control

We've just been watching Jon Snow on Channel 4 news interviewing Alastair Campbell. For those of you not based in the UK, Campbell — an un-elected Press Secretary for the Labour party — is complaining loudly about the neutrality of the BBC and their defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan. Gilligan reported that souces inside the intelligence service were unhappy about the Iraq dossier being beefed up (or 'sexed up' as the media seems to have it) with some rather dodgy information at the last minute, to make the case for war stronger.

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The wildlife is revolting

Wildlife seems to be fighting back: after the lives blighted by otters allegations, comes the 'family besieged by swans' shocker. This story was on page 1 of our local paper, the Oxford Times: Residents of a canal-side community say they are being kept under virtual siege by a family of swans. A pair of swans, followed by their six cygnets, have been pecking at cars and front doors, intimidating residents, terrifying children and leaving a mess in gardens in Lane Close, Kidlington.

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Gaelic is dying

I read a very sad article in Thursday's Guardian today (yes, I know it's Sunday already – give me a break). The number of Gaelic speakers has declined 15% in the last 10 years to less than 60,000. Once it falls below 50,000, it will be officially declared dead. I love the Gaelic language. When I lived for a summer on a boat in the Isle of Mull, my only aural entertainment (apart from the sea, seals, deer, curlews and oystercatchers – which were wonderful) was Gaelic language talk radio, a tape of Billy Connolly and a recording of Faure's Requiem.

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Blair states the obvious

Mr Sawford asked: ``Do you have a message for the people on that rally, bearing in mind that many of them are your friends, not your enemies." Mr Blair replied: "First of all that we should be glad that we live in a country, this country, not the case in Iraq, where people can come together and demonstrate their position on political issues of the day." Speaking about possible war he added: "

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Snow makes UK grind to a halt

The recent snow chaos, with motorists stuck in their cars for 20 hours, might have been tailor-made to showcase the Great British Stereotype. Namely: British infrastructure, creaky at the best of times, inevitably buckles under the strain of totally unexpected events — such as a snow storm that was clearly indicated on all of the TV and Radio weather forecasts. Despite the fact most conversations between British people are principally to do with the weather in some way, we have a fundamental inability to cope with any meteorological conditions more extreme than a light drizzle.

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What is greatness?

So, Winston Churchill won the Greatest Britons poll in the end. A fairly worthy winner I suppose, but frankly, I don't see the point. For one thing, I don't really see how you can compare such a varied bunch of people at all and come out with a single measure of "greatness". Are we judging people in the context of their time, or ours? Elizabeth I was certainly a strong and intelligent woman, and it's nothing short of miraculous that she even managed to survive for 45 years, let alone keep power for that length of time.

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Death and showman

So, in the end Gunther von Hagens didn't get arrested at his little freakshow, I mean educational event. Should he have been arrested? It's true that the the average member of the public (if there is such a thing) has a shocking lack of knowledge about his or her own body. This must contribute to health problems and to exacerbate fear when something goes wrong. If a doctor tells you that your spleen is damaged and may have to be removed - and you don't know what the hell your spleen is or whether you can live without it - it's very frightening.

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Discontented winter

So, it looks like the Fire Brigade are almost certain to go on strike in the next few weeks. I can't say that I'm surprised, or, for that matter, unsympathetic. They get paid pretty poorly for a dangerous and difficult job, and they've lost patience. I'd be amazed if they do get a 40% rise, but it pays to aim high, I suppose. House prices being what they are in the South, public sector workers have no hope at all of buying a family home (nor have I, for that matter).

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Mr. Popularity

So Saddam got 100% backing for another seven years, eh? With 100% turnout of 11.5 million voters? Yeah, right. A BBC correspondent on Today said that when asked whether they thought that the result was slightly laughable, they said that it must be right because nobody would vote against him. Impeccable logic. Love this though...