Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 30th May 2017

THERE’S nothing more pathetic than hearing politicians claiming allegiance to football teams.

They think it draws them closer to the common man, but rarely do their protestations of lifelong support stand up to questioning.

Remember when Tony Blair was pictured playing head tennis with Kevin Keegan? The then-PM bragged about growing up as a Newcastle United fan, but got it all wrong about the Gallowgate end.

David Cameron became confused over Aston Villa and West Ham. At least they both wear the same colours. When he took his son to watch QPR he was seen sitting, not next to the common man, but in the directors’ box with billionaire steel magnate Laskshmi Mittal.

Alastair Campbell never ceased reminding people of his support for Burnley and at least there’s something a bit more down to earth about Gordon Brown’s love of Raith Rovers and Roy Hattersley’s enduring backing for Sheffield Wednesday.

Carlisle United have a genuine loyalist in the shape of Lord Clark of Windermere. The former Labour minister shouted Jimmy Glass to go forward from the Warwick Road End before his fateful goal, and he’s a regular at Brunton Park.

Glenda Jackson once confessed that her favourite football team was Tranmere Rovers. I don’t suppose she’s seen around Prenton Park very much these days as Rovers languish in the National League.

Still, that’s better than fashionable protestations of support for the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United by MPs who’ve most probably only ever watched games on TV.

However, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron stood up to an inquisition of his football supporting credentials in an interview with the free newspaper Metro last week.

Farron, who is seeking re-election as Westmorland and Lonsdale MP, told the interviewer he was a staunch Blackburn Rovers supporter. When asked the question who was in goal when Rovers won the Premier League in 1995, he rattled off the answer, Tim Flowers.

Unfortunately Farron’s favourites have just been relegated from the Championship to League One. Tim will be hoping Blackburn’s demise is not an omen for the Lib Dems in the forthcoming election. “He was the last Tim F to win anything,” remarked Farron presciently.

TOM’S A FAN

BARGAIN Hunt regular Tom Plant — he’s the chubby-faced one — is a big fan of Keswick.

Well, not exactly Keswick the tourist resort. More the historic but sadly defunct Keswick School of Industrial Arts (KSIA), which was founded in 1884 by Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley and his wife, Edith, to provide the unwaged of the town with work and training in arts and crafts skills.

KSIA stuff pops up from time to time on TV programs like Bargain Hunt and Flog It. Last week Thomas urged a pair of contestants to purchase a copper jug for £16 and quickly turned it into a £22 profit at auction. He commented to viewers: “I’m a fan of Keswick, particularly items made between 1890 and 1920.”

The school of art ran for 100 years, and after it closed in 1984 it became an Italian restaurant, retaining the old facade and the motto “The Loving Eye and Skilful Hand”. It stands alongside the River Greta, and since the disastrous floods in December, 2015, it has remained shut and is now a forlorn shadow of its inspirational past.

You can still find plenty of Keswick stuff on sites like eBay and, rather sadly, in car boot sales. I looked up an on-line site and found prices varying from under a fiver for a cake slice to £500 plus for copper trays.

Where once the Rawnsleys had 100 workers attending classes, the school of art finally succumbed to cheap imports and inadequate marketing.

As antiques expert Thomas Plant indicated, it’s the early items that are increasing in value. KSIA had some talented craftsmen and designers — W. H. Mawson, son of the famous landscape gardener Thomas was one — and items which bore the school’s mark can be found in churches all over Britain.

CORNFLAKES AND A KIP

THERESA May’s manifesto pledge that every primary school pupil in England will be offered the chance to go to a breakfast club at school may have one major flaw. For youngsters addicted to social media, staying awake long enough to eat their cornflakes and toast might prove to be a challenge too far.

Children as young as nine are being woken up more than 10 times a night by constant messages on their phones, experts warn. A survey reveals that kids cannot bear to turn off their devices at night and many sleep with them beside their beds.

The trend is causing sleep deprivation in both primary and secondary school pupils, meaning they are unable to concentrate in class. On-line digital safety organisation Digital Awareness UK found that children are spending time on their mobiles in bed and many parents are unaware their children are checking Snapchat and Facebook when they should be fast asleep.

A poll of 3,000 pupils aged 11 to 18 found 45 per cent. admitted they checked their mobiles after going to bed, and almost all agreed using a phone in bed affected their school work. Mrs. May’s breakfast clubs may be a means of fuelling kids for a hard day’s studying, but for the growing number of social media addicts, whose parents seem oblivious to the hazards, an hour’s kip might be more beneficial.

UNWELCOME PAUSES

IF there’s one thing we older people are short of it is time. We’ve got less of it to look forward to, so we hate wasting it.

Which brings me round to Masterchef and other television programs where presenters think that long pauses before declaring who has won and who is going home add to the drama. They don’t. They are just frustrating.

They drive me potty. You sit there in front of the TV while John and Gregg stare smugly at the contestants for around 10 seconds before announcing what most viewers will have guessed anyway.

Just give us the verdict for heaven’s sake. Some of us old timers need to get on with our lives. Or have a nap in front of the telly before we go to bed.

SHOW TIME

“DON’T worry, it’s your first and that’s always tough. I’ll keep you right.” Never have a few words from a senior fellow journalist felt so reassuring to a wet behind the ears junior reporter.

Harry worked for a rival newspaper, but he helped me through that first agricultural show. Leaving school a few months earlier, I might have known a few words of Latin, and what logarithms were, but my education taught me precious little about the ways of the country, about tup hoggs, butterfat yields and poultry. Well, with Harry Watson’s invaluable guidance, I learnt about “real life” pretty darned quickly.

A full page of show adverts in last week’s Herald took me back over half a century to summers, spent travelling round shows from Brough to Skelton, from Greenholme to Dufton’s famous “Fellside Royal.”

Last autumn a survey by Asda showed that 41 per cent. of children didn’t know where eggs came from. That was just an example of their ignorance about where their food comes from. The shows are not just part of our rural tradition, they present an important educational tool. It’s vital, as Mrs. May might say, that we retain a strong and stable farming industry. I’d make it compulsory for every school, once a year, to spend a day at a show. And I’ll always have a place in my journalistic heart for Harry and his calming advice.

BOMBSHELLS OF A DIFFERENT KIND

I HAVE no plans to fly into London City airport, but if I did I would be worried that the bloke running air traffic control was 50 miles away, somewhere in Hampshire, looking at a bank of computer screens in order to guide my plane in.

In fact, everything about our reliance on technology worries me. The very fact that hackers anywhere in the world can bring the NHS grinding to a halt and quite possibly turn the lights out.

Watching the Army blow up that World War II device under the M6 the other day got me thinking. Hitler sent bombs, half of which did not go off. Nowadays you can bring a country to its knees just tapping on a keyboard. Hitler was scary. But these anonymous villains possess evil powers we hardly know about yet.