The glass-half-full approach

As you've asked, my routine so far has been to walk to the lake, do some work, then at 12.30 settle down with a drink. Yes, I know - disgusting, starting at that time of day, where will it end? Ten hours later is the answer, having watched three live games, one after the other.

Now that I've watched 33 games in succession, I am staggering about dazed and overdosed, cut off from life, reality. You enter a haze, a tunnel, lose track of day and time and place. Thank God the World Cup comes round only once every four years. What am I saying, wash your mouth out.

The 12.30 games are over, so it's down to only two a day - easy, though I do sometimes find myself watching the clock, counting the seconds, hoping for compassionate leave. But I am proud to be one of the retired, the elderly, the bedridden, the freelancers of the globe, who are slumped with me, cheering their lads.

I have my little charts to fill in. Stupid, really. Everyone knows the score. I don't have it exclusive. But I also add stars for each team, which is my opinion, unique to me.

Perhaps my most important contribution to global fandom is my goals analysis. I started categorising goals around 40 years ago when I was doing a book about Spurs. Being in the dressing room discussing every goal, I thought I should keep a record. So I devised five categories of goals.

First, there is an Error - by a goalie or the defending side - when a goal seemed unlikely. Then a Scramble - when, again, it looked fairly unlikely, but with pressure and luck it goes in. Dead Ball covers free kicks, penalties. Set Moves means a sequence of passes, ending with a cross, a shot, a header. Individual is when the most important element has been one person's brilliance.

I won't tell you the results so far - do contain yourself - but it means I am frightfully busy. Oh yes, she thinks I am lolling there half drunk, only waking up to shout abuse at the screen, which is only half correct.

I do find I have to put my wine glass down to write up my notes, so that decreases the intake. And I have to concentrate in order to decide how to classify each goal. Scrambles are hard, for oft I am tempted to list them as Errors. But it is my game, my project; I can change my own rules.

I am thinking of posterity, knowing that the world will be grateful for my analysis, but there is another reason I keep such detailed notes. After every game, I stagger out of my TV room, into the light and the real world, to be greeted by my wife.

Do I know you? That's my first reaction. Oh, yeah, now I recognise her. "Who won the game then?" she asks, nicely. What game? That's my second reaction. If I concentrate really hard, I can usually remember the score in the game just finished. "And what happened in the afternoon game? Did Italy win?"

The awful thing is, it has totally gone. At this stage, each new game washes away the old. I can't remember who played, let alone the score. That's why I need my aide-memoire . . .

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

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When will the government take action to tackle the plight of circus animals?

Britain is lagging behind the rest of the world - and innocent animals are paying the price. 

It has been more than a year since the Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to passing legislation to impose a ban on the suffering of circus animals in England and Wales. How long does it take to get something done in Parliament?

I was an MP for more than two decades, so that’s a rhetorical question. I’m well aware that important issues like this one can drag on, but the continued lack of action to help stop the suffering of animals in circuses is indefensible.

Although the vast majority of the British public doesn’t want wild animals used in circuses (a public consultation on the issue found that more than 94 per cent of the public wanted to see a ban implemented and the Prime Minister promised to prohibit the practice by January 2015, no government bill on this issue was introduced during the last parliament.

A private member’s bill, introduced in 2013, was repeatedly blocked in the House of Commons by three MPs, so it needs a government bill to be laid if we are to have any hope of seeing this practice banned.

This colossal waste of time shames Britain, while all around the world, governments have been taking decisive action to stop the abuse of wild animals in circuses. Just last month, Catalonia’s Parliament overwhelmingly voted to ban it. While our own lawmakers dragged their feet, the Netherlands approved a ban that comes into effect later this year, as did Malta and Mexico. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, North America’s longest-running circus, has pledged to retire all the elephants it uses by 2018. Even in Iran, a country with precious few animal-welfare laws, 14 states have banned this archaic form of entertainment. Are we really lagging behind Iran?

The writing has long been on the wall. Only two English circuses are still clinging to this antiquated tradition of using wild animals, so implementing a ban would have very little bearing on businesses operating in England and Wales. But it would have a very positive impact on the animals still being exploited.

Every day that this legislation is delayed is another one of misery for the large wild animals, including tigers, being hauled around the country in circus wagons. Existing in cramped cages and denied everything that gives their lives meaning, animals become lethargic and depressed. Their spirits broken, many develop neurotic and abnormal behaviour, such as biting the bars of their cages and constantly pacing. It’s little wonder that such tormented creatures die far short of their natural life spans.

Watching a tiger jump through a fiery hoop may be entertaining to some, but we should all be aware of what it entails for the animal. UK laws require that animals be provided with a good quality of life, but the cruelty inherent in confining big, wild animals, who would roam miles in the wild, to small, cramped spaces and forcing them to engage in unnatural and confusing spectacles makes that impossible in circuses.

Those who agree with me can join PETA’s campaign to urge government to listen to the public and give such animals a chance to live as nature intended.


The Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe was an MP for 23 years and served as Shadow Home Secretary. She is a novelist, documentary maker and newspaper columnist.