Magnificent Time

THOSE great musical poets, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, summed it up perfectly.

‘I don’t like cricket…I love it.’

While I’m unable to take part in Rugby Cricket Club’s 175th anniversary on November 2, I thought I’d pen a few memories of my brief and minor involvement.

Because I had fallen out of love with the game, or at least playing the game, when I turned up at Webb Ellis Road. The club restored that love for cricket and those years form a central part of my best sporting memories.

Back then Rugby CC had a team of great characters, great players who somehow contrived to underachieve as a unit, but who retained a great joy for being part of that club and that sport.

We got thumped week after week but had so much fun.

Who can forget Nick Fawcett wetting his hair forward to lead the Oasis singalong in the clubhouse, in those days when we partied through to the small hours? Or the misapropration of the Chris De Burgh song, which became Who Pays The Pizzaman when late night orders had been phoned through? Sue and Nicky behind the bar certainly had their hands full at times.

I played Saturday and Sunday without fail. The one time I tried to take a break saw a phone call in the early hours of a Sunday morning, begging me to play because everybody else was hopelessly drunk and couldn’t stand up. The giggling in the background still haunts me to this day. When I arrived at Bedworth Oval later that day. I won the toss but didn’t know whether batting or fielding would be the lesser of two evils, the state people were in.

Or the time I got ‘misled’ at the West Indian Club after covering the first Afro-Caribbean Carnival in the town for the Coventry Evening Telegraph. I was, somewhat naively, drinking unproofed Jamaican white rum and Red Stripe; to excess. I suffered the only hangover in my life, half set fire to the house and couldn’t see straight.

Then I got a phone call asking me where I was. After trying to explain I was told someone else would take the toss and we’d probably bat. There seemed a polite belief in my protestations that I would get to the ground as soon as possible.

Waiting on a taxi, I got there to find the Coventry and North Warwickshire batters already at the crease and being told: ‘You’re opening the bowling.’ This after having won the toss. Typical.

It was the greatest opening over of my cricketing career. First ball – wide. Second ball – wide. Third ball – wide. Fourth ball, wait for it, and yes – wide.

Following a pint of beer handed me on the boundary by Nicky, I started to sober up. I think my figures ended up as nine overs, no wickets for just 19 runs and I took two towering catches in the outfield. There was a suggestion much later that night that I should get drunk more often. Especially after the 70 odd I scored with the bat after a second serving of hair of the dog.

There were never any recriminations. Everyone was so friendly and forgiving, although the mickey-taking could be savage. Like when ‘Crowman’ brought his air rifle and maimed a crow on the outfield instead of killing it outright.

The West Indies and Warwickshire great, Alvin Kallicharan, may have gone, but the transformation from Central League champions to whipping boys never made sense to me. Because we had better players than many other teams. We were a better side than most others.

The afore-mentioned Fawcett, whose sterling work on the ground made it the best and truest wicket I ever played on, together with Colin Watson, one of the greatest clubmen, Andy West, Paul Henderson, Charlie Robards, Jim Woods, Paul Lloyd – some names have fallen foul of the old memory banks, but I remember their faces, their laughs, their zest for life, the fun times we had together.

Big Charlie, the spin bowling gent, Big Nige, Big Trev and guys like Des Henderson, the reluctant wicket-keeper who always saw the bright side in life. I swear he was at his happiest when we were being trounced by 10 wickets or losing by 100 runs. Not because he wanted to lose, but because he loved being involved in the game.  Such a lot of fun to be around.

Most of those involved at Rugby CC were fun to be around. While other teams I played in would be involved in harsh debriefs after a loss, Rugby’s finest were more often wondering who would be what Tellytubby and which Spice Girl was their favourite. Yes, it was that era.

Not that Fawcett would ever be dissuaded from telling anyone of school age that the greatest poet ever was Kate Bush and that they should read her lyrics to learn a few things.

I often felt it was a big shame Miss Bush never wrote a song about cricket. He’d have been delighted. Maybe that would have been the go-to song rather than Wonderwall.

Would she have mentioned the white-helmeted Watson taking a fearful bruising when we played Moseley? Their paceman, Dale Maynard, had been bowling at England in the nets the previous week and peppered our man on the head and the body as he racked up the runs. Courage under fire.

I think I went out to bat at four, with a floppy hat and precious little other protection. Watson had every arm guard, chest guard, right guard and life guard in his coffin. I hoped to channel my inner Botham and it worked. With Maynard nearing the end of his spell he reserved the hostility for the man at the other end and dished up some tame half-volleys even I couldn’t miss.

A few years later, I was facing Darren Gough in the Yorkshire League and I think I had even more protective gear on than Wattie ever owned.

Personally, I never had any confidence in my abilities, but I was fiercely competitive. So to be accepted at Rugby Cricket Club, at that point the highest standard I’d played, was truly the beginning of a magnificent time.

Enjoy the anniversary and thank you for the memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not Good Enough, See Me

THERE’S enough faux outrage in life these days.

With context duly set, I was a bit aghast at the commentary during Tonga’s brilliant effort to pull off a Rugby World Cup upset against France on Sunday morning.

There was a little bit of the Midlands that was willing Tonga to do the giant-killing act and for Coventry Rugby’s David Halaifonau to shine.

A proud moment for everyone involved at the club. Halaifonau is the latest addition to Cov’s board of internationals, which include such footballing luminaries as Ivor Preece, Peter Jackson, David Duckham and Graham Robbins.

So imagine my indignation when presenter Martin Gillingham told the millions of viewers that Halaifonau, on the left wing, was playing ‘in the lower leagues’ for Coventry.

Lower leagues?

That just about sums up today’s Premiership-centric attitude that suggests no other teams in the game are worth knowing about, or acknowledging. Rugby below the millionaires’ club isn’t important. Proud histories forgotten for the lure of the pound.

For anyone who cares, Coventry was one of the biggest clubs until the leagues were introduced and professionalism soon after. While other clubs gained rich benefactors, the old-style approach embraced by those at Coundon Road meant the club was slipping down the rankings.

Cov wasn’t the only club to suffer. It survived financial woe and the threat of being consigned to the history books, were it not for the brave efforts of supporters.

City businessman and entrepreneur, Jon Sharp, emerged to save the club, aided by worthy allies, but it was the arrival of a new Director of Rugby in Rowland Winter that spearheaded a new chapter. He saw the history, saw the potential. We scrapped our way to the National League One title to return to England’s second tier.

Sadly, it seems that the importance of the Greene King IPA Championship has fallen by the wayside to those controlling the game, the RFU and the Premiership bosses. Not like the late 80s when Coventry first slipped into the second division of English rugby.

Somewhere along the line, as more money flooded into the top table of teams, the importance of a thriving, competitive game got lost as the Premiership looked to those with an inordinate amount of money to join its ranks.

The threat of ring fencing remains. Perhaps after Newcastle Falcons, relegated last year, bounce back up, as London Irish did last time out?

It’s bad enough that some Championship clubs, like Cornish Pirates and Jersey, for example, would not allowed into the Premiership club if they carried all before them this season. Their grounds don’t meet Premiership criteria and there is a shortage of groundshare options unless they do a Wasps, up sticks and find a new home miles away.

Essentially, forget the rugby. Forget any reward for success.

Cov, too, fall into the same trap. If Cov were to end the campaign at the top of the Championship table, they would not meet the Premiership’s criteria for grounds. In some ways this is logical, because imagine Leicester Tigers fans descending on the 4,000 capacity BPA. Or Northampton Saints supporters?

Or Wasps. It was okay in a pre-season friendly last time out, but a Premiership league fixture at BPA?

The options open to Coventry are limited. Had Coventry City FC still been the resident team at the Ricoh arena, maybe Cov could have played its games there. But groundsharing with Wasps? No. It just wouldn’t do.

And St Andrews, Birmingham City’s ground currently home to the Sky Blues in a second exile from Coventry, is just too busy to allow for yet more fixtures.

Let’s not forget, Cov have just laid out oodles of cash for a 4G playing surface. It would be foolish to even look elsewhere. Maybe there could be enough sponsorship and help from the RFU and other bodies to build new stands in quick order to boost Cov’s capacity.

But the Premiership timetable is unforgiving and it would be likely any team going up with a venue of sub-10,000 seats would be told ‘no’ unless a groundshare could be organised.

Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park has an official capacity of 10,200, while Yorkshire Carnegie’s Emerald Headingley Stadium holds 21,062 – not bad considering their average attendance was 1,460 last season.

The English game is already failing those outside the Premiership, which swallows the lions’ share of the RFU’s handouts to clubs. Only Premiership players are considered for English international duties these days. Not like the old days when club’s played a variety of fixtures and then the best players turned out in the County Championship, which meant the selectors could see those from unfancied teams in action.

How else would ‘Stack’ Stevens, from the small Penzance and Newlyn club (today’s Cornish Pirates) have earned 25 caps for England or been chosen for the famous 1971 British and Ireland Lions tour of New Zealand if it wasn’t for county rugby?

This is the man who famously had to turn down the Lions on another legendary tour, three years later, because he was too busy on his family’s farm in the Duchy.

The man who skippered England and was part of the famed XV, including five Coventry players, who beat New Zealand at Eden Park in 1973.

At one point, we had commentators who understood the game, understood the histories and knew the players.

According to a recent conversation with a friend at BPA, whose dad was a regular at Coundon Road during the glory days of the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, apparently some youngsters in his grandson’s school don’t know about David Duckham, Peter Rossborough or Peter Preece.

They were only three alumni who were part of that famous England team to beat the All Blacks in their backyard. A British Lion, three stalwarts of the Warwickshire county side, members of the England Sevens side that won the first ever international tournament in 1973, with all three being part of the Cov side to win the knockout cup that same year. with only Preece missing out on the club’s 1974 triumph.

I doubt Mr Gillingham would know either.

 

 

 

Family Tree

DAYS after the shock news that I was going to be a father again, we would-be parents made the trip from Cornwall to Coventry to tell my family.

And introduce our unborn daughter to the delights of Coventry Rugby.

We dropped the bombshell and then hot-footed it down to Butts Park Arena to see the blue and whites in Rowland Winter’s first campaign as Director of Rugby.

I guess she never had any choice in the matter, but our Lizzie has become a diehard Cov fan. From being dressed in Cov beanie hats and scarves to graduating to a first team replica jersey, she’s been immersed in all things Cov Rugby despite growing up in Cornwall.

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On Saturday, she won over fellow fans with her shouts of ‘Come on, Cov!’ – just not for the camera – and the intense interest she found in the rugby.

She watched the action, clapping, cheering and smiling as Cov ran out winners against visiting Bedford Blues.

She took it all in her stride, but then, not long into her two years she was being wheeled around BPA as the Forsters enjoyed their dose of Cov Rugby.

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My son, who becomes a teenager tomorrow, spent much of his life in North Cyprus as a Norwich City fan, but is now a big Coventry Rugby fan.

He still knows little about the mechanics of the game, despite rugby lessons at school, but I think has been infected with our enthusiasm for the club. Mr Winter was also kind enough in the promotion season to invite Henry to meet the players, creating new memories and establishing a love for the side that I could never instill.

We made that season’s final game – thanks to a late morning decision by Mrs F – and one of Henry’s treasured moments was to stand with Niles Dacre and Scott Tolmie and hold the cup.

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All joking aside, I don’t try to push the kids into supporting Cov – no, honestly! – but love the fact they do. We’ve now signed them up for Coventry Rugby Supporters’ Club, to support the magnificent work they do for the club.

Whenever Lizzie sees rugby on the telly, she shouts ‘Come on, Cov!’.

It’s nice that she just thinks all rugby is Coventry Rugby.

She picks up the size 4 ball I bought for Henry and runs into furniture with it. A right little bruiser. Often, she’ll run at me and ‘tackle’ me round the knees, which is good technique from the off.

I’ve a sneaking suspicion she’ll be a future skipper of Coventry Rugby ladies team.

 

 

Ticket To The Moon

SO, Saturday’s visit of Bedford Blues sees the first run out of Coventry’s ticketing system.

I know that technology is a must in our lives today – how long before the first robot rugby player? although James Haskell might argue it’s happened already – but there was something refreshing about turning up at Butts Park Arena with £15 in my hand.

It was always good to share a hello with the guys doing such a sterling job at the turnstiles, the first sign I was ‘home’, in an environment of friendship and welcome.

Now the big push is to get advance tickets.

And I’m confused.

We looked at heading to BPA on a sprint up from Cornwall this weekend, watch Cov, grab some stuff from the family archives, and then sprint back.

As much as our 12 year old VW Passatt can sprint.

Advance tickets? Two x £15, one x £2, plus three x £1 admin fee. Total £35, £32 to Cov, £3 to  ticketing agency for the privilege of using its software.

Alternatively, on the gate it’s two x £17 and one x £2 – £36, all of which goes to Cov coffers.

What would I rather do, when the saving is just £1?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no arguments about the cost of watching Cov. I’m not in a position to buy a season ticket and circumstances dictate that getting up to BPA will be difficult this year at least.

But I’m a bit cynical of new technology when I can’t see the benefits. After four decades in journalism, cynicism comes easy.

I’ve seen somewhere that it will ease issues at the turnstiles. I might be in the minority here, but I was a regular at BPA since returning to the UK in 2012 and never saw problems at the turnstiles. Yes, there were queues, but the guys manning those turnstiles were expert at keeping them flowing.

I’m the bloke who goes into a supermarket and likes going to a till manned by a real live person rather than serving myself.

Okay, it takes a bit longer but I enjoy the human interaction.

The same always held true at Cov. I enjoyed the badinage, the jovialty, the sense of belonging.

I heard the guys on the turnstiles giving a warm welcome to opposition fans, too. Rugby family counts.

So, if we do make it for the Blues encounter, we’ll be happy to turn up, exact cash in hand and say hello at the turnstiles. We’ll queue in the pouring rain, watch everyone else rush through on a fasttrack and still be happy – because we’ll be seeing my team – the team that has now become our team for wife, 12 year old son and two year old daughter, who shouts ‘Come on, Cov!’ every time she sees rugby on the TV.

I just hope that Cov still ensures walk up and pay is still an option .

I do know that Cornish Pirates are charging £10 per adult per Championship Cup game at Mennaye Field, with children aged between five and 16 costing £1 entry. Booking fee is £1.75 plus a further 50p for tickets to be posted out.

There are five other Championship Cup games going on this weekend. It’s also interesting, given the average attendance last season.

Ealing Trailfinders, who host Ampthill, charge the highest entry, at £20 for adults, with a £1.50 advance booking fee. Under 16s go free.

Hartpury, hosting Jersey Reds, don’t appear to have an advance booking option, and tickets remain at £15 for adults, with Under 16s again free.

Newcastle Falcons, relegated from the Prem last time out, welcome Doncaster Knights. A club getting an average of 9,166 fans in last season’s top flight, entry to Kingston Park will cost either £10 in the North or South East Stand terracing, or £15 for the South Stand. Under 16s are charged £5. There is a £1.50 admin fee for booking online and a £1.50 charge for tickets to be posted out.

London Scottish, playing host to Nottingham, charge £18 per adult in the Tartan Terrace, with children again going free.

Finally, Yorkshire Carnegie. Given the club’s troubles, the website is not forthcoming in details about this weekend’s visit of Pirates. I went on the website, pressed the ‘buy tickets’ icon under the fixture and was taken to a generic page with no details other than a Varsity fixture next month.

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If I have to register to find out details, then Yorkshire Carnegie is the only Championship Club taking this approach.

But then it could just be a sign of the times. Hitting the Fans Info link brought this up…

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Old Grey Whistle Test

ANOTHER rugby season, another million confusing decisions by referees that appear to go against the established laws.

I know World Rugby is constantly tinkering with the game to make it quicker, more attractive, safer, but I wonder if I’m losing the plot or if the inconsistencies in approach and interpretation is hurting the global game.

I wonder if it’s part of the quest for more watchers, taking a ‘complicated’ game by other sports to audiences who won’t know the difference?

I hope not.

To an extent, it has been ever thus when it comes to inconsistencies.

Like it or not, rugby is played differently in England compared to New Zealand, the South Pacific islands to Scotland, North America to South America and Wales to France.

Referees in any given country get used to the way teams play, whether through accident or design, coaching or weather conditions, and blow up accordingly.

I used to hate it when we had a Southern Hemisphere referee England against a Southern Hemisphere side. I always knew we’d be on the wrong side of a few critical decisions. It still happens, and not just to England.

Still, World Rugby has briefed the panel of officials on what is and isn’t acceptable.

So why did New Zealand whistleblower Ben O’Keefe and his Test Match Official, England’s Rowan Kitt, find Reece Hodge’s no arms tackle on Fijian powerhouse Peceli Yato deserved no admonishment or punishment?

It was a crucial moment in the Australian pool victory. Yato had already scored a try but took no further part in the encounter, while Hodge, with no card, was able to score eight points to steady the green and golds to a 39-21 win. What if he had been red carded? Yes, Yato would still have been taken off, but Australia would have been down to 14 men against a spirited Fiji. Could Fiji have sprung the surprise of the tournament? Having watched them in action, the answer is ‘yes’.

The result cannot be changed, but the tackle has remained in the spotlight, now subject to a citing report.

It looked a clear red to me, the armchair ref, and the respected South African referee, Jonathan Kaplan wrote today: ‘To me it was completely clear and an almost textbook example of the type of challenge they are trying to outlaw.’

As a proud Englishman, but who cares even more passionately about rugby’s core values and code, I’d have sent English captain Owen Farrell off for his bloody awful tackles during last year’s autumn internationals, particularly the one against South Africa.

And this year, after watching Dan Biggar’s leap to tackle Maro Itoje round the head in the World Cup warm up, I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t even warned, let alone cited.

Was I watching a different game?

The offside rule also appears to be a take it or leave it for some referees. I think New Zealand were at times so offside against South Africa that the ref might have mistaken them for Springboks. They’ve not been the only ones. French veteran Louis Picamoles appeared to be in a different time zone when he snaffled the ball against Argentina.

He was offside by maybe a yard. I’ve rewatched the match this morning and he’s clearly in the wrong. But when Wayne Barnes had not punished a series of offsides by the French after they slipped ahead with 10 minutes on the clock, maybe he knew luck was on his side.

The message is, look in the book – if you get away with it, keep trying to get away with it.

And yes, I know referees haven’t got eyes in the back of their head, but they do have two further pairs of eyes to help them out. And a TMO monitoring the game. The blatant offsides I’m seeing, even at English Championship level spoils my enjoyment of the game.

Shall we move on to rolling away from the tackle? Maybe not. You’re supposed to, but I’ve seen New Zealanders, Welsh and Irish players at the break down, not rolling away and indeed, ‘making a nuisance of themselves’ as one commentator put it. Some have held onto the ankles of opposition players at the ruck, still playing a part when they should be out of the game.

What about blocking? My sport has turned into a pale imitation of American football in the way players now block to help their catcher deal with box kicks. Refs seem content to allow it now. They also appear to have taken a softly softly approach for players in front of the ball carrier. Crossing, we used to call it.

Above all, rugby has always been about accepting Sir’s judgment. So why do so many players think they’re wearing the blue of Chelsea or the white of Tottenham when it comes to appealing to the ref these days? Conor Murray, David Sexton, the aforementioned Biggar, pretty much every All Black seem to think they can tell the ref his job.

England’s scrum half, Ben Youngs, did it today, calling the NZ ref, Paul Williams, to show him Manu Tuilagi had somehow the manouvred the ball down to score England’s first try against Tonga. Watching the replays, it seemed Tonga had held the ball up and I question how much time a player is allowed to wriggle after the tackle is deemed complete?

When we have players, with very much vested interests, pointing the referee towards key decisions, I wonder what’s become of the sport and its codes of respect.

I worry more for the message the inconsistencies send to players regarding the laws of the game.

In this Rugby World Cup, I’m ready for more blatant offsides, more appealing to the ref, more blocking, and more players merely ‘making a nuisance of themselves’. Back in the day, if a player was on the wrong side of a ruck, he was punished by the opposition and the ref.

I remember a desperate tackle as full back right in front of my posts, the flood of their players and my decision to try and slow the ball down. My cotton jersey was ripped from my back, which was bloodied by studs, like a gang of dyslexic Zorro’s had got hold of me.

The ref’s view? ‘You knew what you were doing.’

Today? I reckon I’d get away with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always The Sun

IF ONLY had been that easy when I began as a cub reporter back in the 1980s.

Find an old story, repackage it as news and sit back and defend journalism and press rights.

Sadly, fact – and provable fact at that – was king back then. And actual news. New stories that were happening. That hadn’t been written about or covered elsewhere. Exclusives.

You had to prove you’d got people on the record to your news desk, let alone a court should anything go wrong.

Rumour and hearsay was a big ‘no no’.

As were old stories, unless they were for a memories or nostalgia page, or, if there was a big anniversary coming up. Think November 14 for the Coventry Blitz, for example.

Now, cards on the table, I haven’t read The Sun’s story about events connected to Ben Stokes, England’s redeemed cricketing hero, but I can’t see my editors back then buying into it.

First of all, the defence coming from The Sun is that the events it splashed all over the front page on Tuesday is in the public record is odd to an older journalist – no problems at face value, except you’re 31 years too late. Hardly contemperaneous, is it? Not quite a scoop of the century.

Secondly, a member of the family spoke to their reporter. Whoopie doo. I wonder if there was any honesty in talking about how they wanted to cover it? After all, 31 isn’t a normal anniversary to reprint old news. Maybe I missed that memo.

No, The Sun and its stable-mate, the once-respectable Times, wanted to cash in on Stokes’ new standing as a national hero. At any cost. Publish and be damned taken to new lows. Rupert Murdoch will be proud at how much he has taken the great role of journalism and torn it apart.

Although I have some sympathy with the idea. It could have been news if Stokes himself had agreed to take part in the piece. He didn’t. I’m sure he still remembers his treatment in certain quarters of the British media when he was accused of affray and lost his England place.

But then I don’t quite understand the reason for the story, either. These events happened 31 years ago. Stokes is 28. These events didn’t shape him into the cricketer he is today. I’m sure the aftermath, the impact on his family was something he may well have been aware of, but it had no direct impact on him.

Can somebody tell me what the story is and why it is regarded as ‘news’?

Maybe I can thumb through some of my old headlines and sell them as news? Because, believe it or not, I was writing stories 31 years ago. Maybe they could be the gift that keeps giving?

 

 

 

Wonderful Life

HOW bloody awful to know about the Royal National Lifeboat Institute helping save the lives of people desperate to get to Britain.

May 30, 1940 – when 19 RNLI boats, two crewed by RNLI volunteers, doing their bit for King and Country and Empire.

Bringing French, Belgian and Polish troops to the UK alongside the boys we wanted home.

Dunkirk.

Carnage that no-one should have experienced, least of all the brave civilians heading over the Channel and back in the face of unprecedented fire.

Today, cheap headlines that the RNLI is daring to expand its work to other countries. An organisation that has existed to save lives is now under fire for, well, saving lives. The politics of hate in my country is a disgrace.

People talk about the Dunkirk spirit, or the Blitz spirit, as if they were glorious chapters of our country. In reality, they weren’t. The lads coming back from Dunkirk had lost a battle, were ashamed and horrified by what they experienced. I know, because I talked to a lot of them.

Brave, brave men. History has been confused with propaganda. But they were soundly beaten and the spectre of Nazi occupation of mainland Britain was a very real fear. Our successes in the Battle of Britain, again with brave, brave men and women in the firing line was conflated for propaganda reasons. We won, but the horrors continued. The Luftwaffe didn’t just give up.

Many of those who survived the Coventry Blitz, two months after the Battle of Britain had ended, remembered the terrors years later.

More than 500 dead. The biggest air raid in history and a new word, Coventrated, for a city wiped off the map.

Not quite, Hermann, old boy.

My grandfather, who flew Spitfires and Mustangs during the war, was stationed at Oxford in November 1940. He saw the big orange glow on the night-time horizon, knew it was Coventry and didn’t know if his family had survived.

My grandmother, Coventry born and bred, walked among the destruction and the dead. A proud, patriotic woman, who did her wartime duty as a volunteer with Coventry Fire Brigade as well as her day-time job at the Alvis – target for those Blitz bombs – she remembered the looting of the dead, of the homes and businesses hit. She was 15.

Many of the people talking about the spirit of those days appear not to have the courage or common sense of the majority back then. And they’re loving the rabble-rousing headlines.

The nonsensical idea of public funds for the Institute to do its job of saving lives being misused to help the vulnerable from ‘Bongo Bongo land’ plays to the populist movement. And it’s heart-breaking.

I live in Cornwall where the RNLI is king. Those volunteer crews, risking life and limb, don’t have a chart where they only save white, middle-aged, working people. They save everyone and everything they can.

People. No matter who they are or where they come from. Dogs, horses, cows, even a hawk in the Thames recently.

Preserving life is the simple job of the lifeboat crews.

Even at the expense of their own. Remember Penlee, the awful tragedy where a community here, Newlyn, was ripped apart from the loss of the crew. Brothers, husbands, sons…

How quickly we forget, eh?

Somehow, it’s news that the RNLI is doing its job elsewhere. The ignorant among us will stop supporting the charity. How dare it help Johnny Foreigner?

How dare it? Because it’s something we’ve done for centuries. From the Hugenots to the French aristocracy when the guillotine fell across the Channel. For the Belgians in World War One. Jewish Germans and Poles during World War Two. Among others.

The outstanding pieces of journalism in the Mail and Times could well cost lives. The casual racism I see on social media will not understand that not only British charities, but also the British government, is busy helping communities overseas.

Think the armed forces is just about fighting? No, they’re busy working with communities around the world trying to help them rebuild.

What about our disaster relief agencies? They’re not sitting around waiting for a hurricane to hit Grantham.

Charity should begin at home, is the oft-heard cry. I agree. But then I hold government accountable, rather than charity. The fact so many families have to rely on food banks illustrates where the British government is failing its people. We’ve seen again and again it has the money to spend on MP’s wages and expenses, no matter how many times fiddling goes on. We don’t chase multi-million pound making corporations for taxes, or billionaires with loopholes – the Mail’s owner is French-domiciled for tax purposes.

Our government will chase small businesses, struggling to survive, for a few pounds when it suits. It drops taxes for the super rich and then complains there’s not enough money in the pot. Until an election or time of governmental crisis, when there’ plenty of sweeteners on offer. Ring any bells?

Our government sends soldiers, sailors and airmen and women to war, yet it’s the job of charities to mop up the mess when they return. How can the government always find the money for conflict, but not the brave people it sends?

Yes, but immigration is too high, the populists cry. Arguably, yes. But the RNLI is not teaching people to swim the Channel. Just as the British government could have achieved its own immigration targets had it not slashed the number of people on the ground at ports and airports, or patrolling our waters. It wasn’t bending at the knee to Brussels wishes, as the popular rumour goes.

Reason. Common sense. Fair play. Where have the British characteristics so cherished gone?

The social media-born phrase, Haters Are Gonna Hate, seems the perfect epitaph for the Britain I once knew.