I made my first visit to Crufts yesterday, dog-tired, appropriately enough,  after a long, fruitless football trek to north London to watch the tottering Totspurs go out of Europe with barely a whimper.  It was the perfect antidote, seeing all the top dogs strutting their stuff, groomed to the nth degree, wagging their tails and enjoying life.

The happiest of dogs, a flat coat retriever (foreground) and a waggy working lab (not the sainted Alice – she was at home).  These two were in the beginners’ section.

The Welsh springers on their best behaviour for the group photo.

There were lots of bright eyes and bushy tails on show at the NEC, Birmingham but I was a bit bleary-eyed because I’d got home at half two in the morning, via foot, tube, train and car.  The cars in the car park at Birmingham International were covered in snow but luckily, the main roads home were clear and after a shower and a mug of hot water, I fell into bed at about 0330.

It was cold but the snow was soft and easily cleared and the roads home were only wet and not busy.

Such is the schedule of the travelling football fan.  Spurs supporters got off the train at Milton Keynes Central, Rugby, Coventry, Birmingham, perhaps even Wolverhampton (don’t mention Wolves!)  Are we all eejits, stark raving bonkers or just ever hopeful?

The atmosphere before the game on Wednesday night was brilliant, loud, raucous and optimistic (surely we could dig deep and produce one of our better nights).  A friend in Ireland called it a season-defining match, saying “they’ll either make us proud or capitulate….but I’ve a good feeling about it.”  You see, ever hopeful despite having no clue which Spurs would turn up.

Sadly, we were turgid, lacking any semblance of vim, vigour, nous or forward momentum.  In truth, A.C. Milan, I Rossoneri (The Red and Blacks), resplendent in their famous red and black stripes, rarely looked ruffled as they managed their way to a  nil-all draw, to win 1-0 on aggregate and send their supporters into such raptures that they concentrated on their singing and saluting their players and stopped making rude gestures at the few home fans who were still in the stadium.

No words needed. Viva Milano.

Near the end, when we were down to 10 men after our World Cup winner Romero was sent off for a brainless challenge, the remaining players stood where they were, separately, making no effort to gee each other up or show any belief that we could score once, let alone twice.  As Milan attacked, a fan behind me yelled, “Go on, score, put us out of our misery.”

I, as ever ever hopeful, urged us on to one last effort and their goalie made a great save, low down to his right.  Then I realised that a goal for us would mean extra time, possibly penalties (ever optimistic) and no train home that night….

My friend in Ireland messaged:  “Oh God, that was an awful watch.”

“At least you weren’t there!”

“So true…and I’ll be in bed in 10 mins…”

That was timed at 2212!!!

Ah well, there’s nothing like live sport…

Now I’ve got an apology to make, on the subject of tampons as useful for stemming nose bleeds.  The DWD (dog-walking dermatologist) is pretty sure she did not advise such a thing and that I should issue an errata (or erratum cos it’ll be singular), which I’m happy to do, quoting her in full:-

“I’m pretty sure I was talking about using them for other leaks of a motoring kind, cos I was talking about the Mongolia Rally.

“Anyway, if you shove a tampon up your nose, you’d need to cover it in Vaseline otherwise it can damage the lining of your nose and worsen the bleeding.

“Wouldn’t want you to cause harm to your readers and get myself a terrible reputation!!!”

You’ll be glad to know that far from signing any sort of non-disclosure agreement, I let the DWD know that I’d be using her denial and wise advisory words in full.  Also, there will be no pictures to accompany this element of the blog.  At least, none with any connection to the subject.

This murmuration is another McKenna special, one of a series, and I had a hard time choosing my favourite.


This one’s really dark and dramatic.

Finally, mulling over small fields (nerd alert, this is golf), no cut, shedloads of dosh and suchlike, I came across “Shark Attack! Greg Norman’s guide to aggressive golf.”  It was written with George Peper and published in 1988 and Jack Nicklaus wrote the introduction, which included the phrase:  “…there are certain things that no one could ever teach Greg Norman – his courage, his charisma, his determination and his unparalleled belief in himself…”

So here’s a bit of Greg we could all emulate – if we put our minds and our backs to it.  It’s the short putts that he would work on “to hone not my touch or my stroke but my nerves…

“The idea is simple.  You try to make 25 short putts in a row.  Start with 2-footers.  That may sound easy but try it.  Note when you get to the last few balls, how tense you become.  If you have no trouble with the 2-footers, go to 3-footers.  I bet you don’t make 25 of them in a row on your first try.  In fact, you may be there quite a while….”

Good luck.

Greg, by Harold Riley, from Beyond The Fairways by Dai and me.