Chinese Wall

My 11 year old son has a favourite impression he trots out several times a day.

‘I will build a wall and make America great again.’

Quite how he’s been exposed to Donald Trump, the president who makes George Dubya Bush look like a Rhodes Scholar, is beyond me.

But it strikes me we are so confused, as a nation, as a world, with politics, lies and stupidity that there is little hope for a bright future for that young lad, irrespective of the merits of his humour.

Trump has targeted Mexico as one of his ‘Jew’ cards, following the example of a certain European party in the 1930s. Mexicans are to blame for America’s morais. Forget the fact that Mexico is responsible for quite a few products that make American firms big bucks. As opposed to those same American firms choosing to relocate production back to the US. Mexico is good for the US money men.

If you were going to look inwardly, as a leader you’d be pushing for production to return home. Investment going to US firms and jobs going to US people. The more people earn, the more taxes they pay, the more money the government has…it’s an upward, positive spiral.

The same could have been true for Brexit. British jobs in Britain, not Chinese factories throwing out tat at cheaper prices so the British public can just about afford it.

If the truth is that British firms can’t manufacture goods in this country for a reasonable price, then the system is broken.

China has long been the answer for the bosses, from drum companies to car manufacturers, toy firms and clothes labels. Chinese corporations making millions. Chinese workers enjoying a plentiful supply of labour despite poor wages, poor conditions and human and animal rights abuses by the bucketload.

What Chinese companies do would never be allowed in Britain today.

But try buying something that doesn’t have made in China written on the label inside. I know. I’ve tried.

Slice by slice, jobs in this country are vanishing. The options are zero hours, or worse, the gig economy.

Today, reports British police can’t answer to 999 calls because of savage cuts to their rank and file.

We know about the NHS.

What about the old nationalised industries? The quickest I’ve personally known a British Gas engineer arrive to deal with central heating glitch which left my 90 year old grandmother with no ability to cook, have hot water or heat, was four days.

Not forgetting the prices that keep soaring, for that poorer service.

Today, it emerged that the new British passports once we exit Europe will be produced by a Franco-Dutch firm.

Cheaper. No doubt propped up by national grants and EU grants.

Not quite in the spirit of Brexit.

For me, Brexit is just the same as Trump’s infamous wall. It’s a different playing of the blame game, although I’ve written before that I understand Brexit because all we’ve ever done as a nation since we went into the Common Market is complain about the injustices. Even though some of them had everything to do with the British government and nothing to do with Brussels.

I hear and read from Brexiteers, who are just as passionate towards their cause as the remain crowd. I read comments from Trump supporters that are just as strong in their beliefs they chose the right man as those who decry him as an idiot.

We’re in a mess. It’s the open secret that many people dare not acknowledge.

We get a diet of lies, damn lies and skewed statistics that could prove an orangutang was a cheetah in the media, both mass and niche – anything that can back a point of view.

A bloodless civil war. With everyone the victim. Sooner or later.



For The Love Of Money Is The Root Of All Evil

Or so I learned in English Literature at school, studying Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Prologue.

And I never thought this would be the way I’d start a rugby-themed blog.

But the game I have loved since I first got to see Coventry win the old knock-out cup on telly in 1973 has increasingly shown signs of self-destruct.

It’s in the decision-makers, the power-brokers of the modern game chasing the bucks rather than spreading the gospel of rugby for its own merits, to people who might just fall in love with the game as I did, but might not bring a financial return to match.

It’s the buck-passing when, amazingly, a Romanian referee is appointed to a crunch clash between Spain and Belgium, the shock result of which allowed his own countrymen to automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in Japan.

It’s the club versus country row, most notable between the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Clubs. It’s the Premiership clubs wanting to shut off relegation, to keep the top table a cosy little club, retaining advantage of television money for all those involved.

They’re also among the pack chasing the buck in the US, a supposed emerging market for rugby union. I applaud the desire to help the American Eagles become a regular fixture at World Cups and more. I applaud the desire to help rugby union become a force for good in North America.

But why isn’t a little bit of that investment going to established rugby countries, like struggling Samoa? What about Tonga, Fiji? Or does it suit the power-brokers somewhere that some of these South Sea Islanders have little option but to pin their colours on New Zealand or Australia, or other nations?

And what about the emerging markets in Europe? What about the Georgians, Spanish, Romanians? Is there a good reason there couldn’t be a three tier ‘Six Nations’, with promotion and relegation? What would the Georgians, who made some real friends at England’s 2015 World Cup, do with a share of profits from a game at Twickenham? How would that help boost rugby in that country?

Just the excitement of taking on one of Europe’s big boys in any of the Six Nations sides should stir up enough enthusiasm for the game in Tbilisi, from sea to mountains.

It might be a spur to the authorities to do a little bit more at grassroots level, just like the respective unions in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, trying to encourage and shape a new generation of forwards and backs.

We know that the RFU enjoys substantial paydays from home games at Twickers, the New Zealand RFU is reporting a bumper take from the recent Lions tour – we know there is money in the game.

And maybe that is the problem.

It’s in the conduct of players.

They command vast sums in wages and other benefits today and why not? This is a tough sport that won’t allow a long career at the top. And those salaries are dwarfed by those in the round ball game.

But isn’t there a touch of the round ball game creeping in, too?

Why don’t referees march teams the 10 yards for back chat anymore?

Watching the Italy Scotland game, Scottish captain John Barclay was out of order the way he spoke to the referee on one occasion. Body language, the way he spat the words out. I was surprised the referee, while telling him to move away, didn’t respond in stronger manner.

I see the same from Dylan Hartley, the England skipper, at times, although he often looks like a petulant schoolboy rather than the gnarled warrior Barclay appeared. Either way, it’s not on. Or at least it never way.

Owen Farrell, Dan Biggar, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton all seem to indulge in ‘football-style’ appeals to the referee or assistants. They’re not the only ones, but they do seem the worse culprits.

And why do players these days insist in withholding the ball from the other side? It’s getting worse. It’s happened in every Six Nations game I’ve watched this year.

I watched Welsh scrum-half Gareth Davies take a quick penalty at the referee’s whistle on Saturday, despite obviously knowing the penalty had gone against Wales. To stop France having the advantage they deserved.

His erstwhile colleague and rival for the nine shirt, Rhys Webb, last season claimed he’d scored a try against England when clearly he’d been a yard or two short. At that point Wales had been under the cosh. The referee agreed to have a look at video evidence and the red shirts got a chance to rest, recover and go again.

Wales are not the only side doing it.

But their skipper on Saturday, Alun Wyn-Jones, dropped on a ruck from the other side, after being cleared out, he saw the opportunity and just dropped. He knew what he was doing, slowing ball down.

No-one else appeared to see it. Referee or assistant referee. Commentator. But it happened.

Last year, sides, notably New Zealand, Ireland and Wales, were grabbing players ankles at the ruck when they were trying to slip back into the defensive line. Sometimes a little way from the ruck.

Now we used to drag people into rucks, as well as clear them out, when I played. We’d try and keep people in mauls, anything to slow the ball. But it was legal. It was also the spirit of the game, an approach both sides knew and understood, as well as the referee.

There’s so much going on now, for much higher stakes, that every infringement spotted or missed counts.

It’s the sneakiness of what goes on, contrary to the values of rugby, that disappoint me.

Make no mistake, I remember well the days of a line out of scrum being a basic free-for-all. If someone who has been brought up in the modern era watches a video from yesteryear, I think they’d be shocked. The classic Baa-Baas 1973 game against the All Blacks is readily available on Youtube. The line outs and scrums are chaotic, like something out of a Keystone Cops short. But everyone played the  same way, to the same rules, with the same spirit.

That’s what I’m missing.

And, for me at least, money is the answer.


Sign Of The Times

So we’ve done it. The blue and whites will be renewing some old acquaintances and treading a different path next season.

Promoted. And in some style.

Into the Championship, English rugby’s second tier. One sidestep away from rejoining the big boys at the top table.

Not that it will be easy, but I’ve been buoyed by all I’ve heard coming out of the Butts Park Arena.

The financial situation, despite five home games fewer in the Championship, is on course to improve.

Players have been lined up to add strength in depth.

This is a big deal.

I’m a Cov diehard, although my journalistic career took me to some of the jewels of English cities, including Hull, Stoke on Trent and Peterborough, I’ve never lost the love. It’s deep. Fellow supporters will understand that. Even when I’ve worked abroad, or served with the army abroad, I’ve had an eye on Coventry Rugby’s results. What a miss Ceefax is.

And I’ve been loyal. When we lost, I never blamed the players or the backroom staff. I stuck with them long and hard.

I’ve said before, I wasn’t impressed with the way the departures of Scott Morgan and Dave Addleton, among others, were handled.

But with hindsight, it was the correct, if a brave, decision.

Credit much go to Jon Sharp, Phillip Crossman and the backroom team. It’s the signings under their leadership that have led us here.

Rowland Winter, for one, and then the rest of the coaching staff that have been brought in around him. Imagine being able to bring in coaches like Nick Walshe and Louis Deacon?  Luke Narraway, too. What has he helped bring to Coventry, both in terms of playing and defensive duties?

The decisions to bring in players of the calibre of Niles Dacres, George Oram, Phil Nilsen, Scott Tolmie, Phil Boulton and James Stokes.

The way that the some of the remainers, like Rob Knox, have upped their game. I’ve always said he was a class footballer and he’s shown desire to be part of this new, upward direction.

Is there much to be unhappy about?

Not today.

And I guess one of the biggest nods should go to the supporters, long suffering and loyal. Those regulars, the season ticket holders, the away day team. A big plus for Coventry players is that they have always appreciated that support. It means as much to them as it does to us.

We’ve been one of the best supported teams in National League One and not without good reason. Hopefully that will improve now we’re champions and moving upward.

Me, I think of the Cov old boys who have stuck through thick and thin and who are regulars at BPA. The great Steve Thomas, sublime Peter Rossborough and the old Cov Dog, Tony Gulliver, among others.

My old CET colleague, John Wilkinson, whose move to BPA has had such a positive impact in terms of social media coverage; that old stalwart, John Butler, and then the legend himself, Harry Walker.

This is a day for everyone involved in Coventry Rugby now and in the past to celebrate, raise a glass or a cup of tea. Pride in the club, pride in city.

It’s been a long time coming.

I’m looking forward to finally seeing my team, for the third time this season after missing only a handful of games in the last six, at Plymouth, which is nearer the darkest corner of Cornwall when I am currently in exile.

My son is immensely excited. His first taste of Coventry Rugby was against Plymouth Albion at the BPA last year and he was hooked. In fact, I’m bringing the tribe.

As much as I’m grateful for the much improved social media effort on matchday, and wouldn’t miss Cowshed Tim’s coverage for the world, there’s no substitute for being there.

And next year, I’ll be 15 minutes down the road when Cov travel to Cornish Pirates. Happy days indeed.


Land Of Hope And Glory

Dear Eddie,

First things first, I do think you’re the man for the job. There’s something you bring to the table that positively influences the players under you.

But things aren’t going quite the way we hoped, you and I.

And while I don’t think we need wholesale changes, I’m unsure about your policies of sticking with underperforming players.

We’ve won ugly – and that’s alright with me.

Except, I would have expected us to put teams to the sword, irrespective of how they front up. That’s not happened and whatever the mixture was Down Under when we beat your countrymen in a test series for the first time ever, we’ve failed to march on.

We let France slow our ball down, but they accelerated off scraps, ran hard and fast, good lines and good lines of support. We didn’t seem to have an answer.

You like aggressive players, but there are great rugby players who don’t have to show their aggression other than in their tackles and running into contact. Just because some of the artists in England are bashing their heads into three foot brick walls, doesn’t mean they’re not up to the job.

I think Courtney Lawes has been immense, but, no matter how many times he’s played there for Northampton or England, he’s not a back rower. He’s either in as lock forward or replacement, or he’s unlucky.

I know you rate Owen Farrell, that shows in the decision to make him vice-captain and then captain against France. He’s not a 12. He doesn’t lead the line, misses tackles and gets caught out too often. Yes, every once in a while he becomes the second playmaker,  but too many times he’s put into space by Ford and then slows things down in deciding what he wants to do next. The way it’s working, the second playmaker is just slowing attack down.

I know England would miss his goal-kicking, but he’s either a 10 or he’s not. We have exciting inside centres – Ben Teo ran straight and hard against France. We’ve got young talent that you’ve flirted with, when desperate, but you’ve tended to stick with the old guard because you were winning.

If we were going to make a great tilt at the World Cup, maybe it would have been wiser to sacrifice a Six Nations and blood the younger crop, giving them a good run in the big pond.

We’ve electric pace on the wings, but the ball doesn’t get there very quick. What is it with the scrum halves waiting for perfect ball, allowing the defence to settle? What about the scrum halves who could get in and fire the ball out, keeping the pressure on?

Not these guys pointing and waiting for everything on a plate. Not these guys winding themselves up to pass, losing vital seconds, not these guys grabbing the ball and taking a step backwards.

Coventry’s Steve Thomas, one of the best nines not to be capped by England, could probably teach the potential candidates a thing or two. Take the ball into contact hard, support the ball and ball carrier quickly and hard, fire the ball out for another assault.

When Jonathan Joseph gets the ball in space, his first instinct is to keep hold of the ball and only pass it on when he’s run out of space. We need distributors, we need people who can create space and time and who can get it out to the flyers.

Manu Tuilagi is not the answer.

Teo can do the crash ball job, but what about a back line that isn’t all bristling arrogance and fight?

What about a backline with speed of limb and speed of thought?

Farrell doesn’t meet that requirement at 12. Maybe he is a 10 and you have to jettison Ford and the vision that he brings.

Brown isn’t the answer at 15 either. Not that Watson had a stormer against France.

Why haven’t more of the successful Under 20 sides been given a tilt, as Stuart Lancaster gave opportunities to Ford and Farrell?

What about Mallinder at 15? Class player,  but has he the appetite for rugby’s top table? We might not get to know in time for next year when he might be the difference for England.

What about Joe Simpson or Dan Robson as scrum halves, to put pace on attack? What about Christian Wade? As a finisher, he’s exciting, would beat Superman out of a telephone box and would surely score tries galore.

So his defending isn’t top notch, but you wouldn’t pick a striker in soccer for his defensive abilities, would you?

Just think of a backline that could include Henry Slade, Ben Teo, Elliott Daly in the centres. If you worry about losing Farrell’s boot, you’ve Slade and Daly to factor in as well as Ford.

What about the try-scoring nous and pace of Johnny May, Denny Solomona and Christian Wade on the flanks? Not forgetting the eel-like qualities of Jack Nowell?

What about Daly, or Watson as shouts for full back, as well as Mallinder?

Because something has gone awry and badly. Time is running out before William Webb Ellis, the cheating schoolboy from Rugby School, is handed over in Japan.

Oh, and do me a favour. Let’s get ritd of the negro spiritual. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot was all very well in the ’80s and ’90 . This is a different England. Take a glance on YouTube at Rule Britannia, sung at the very English proms. If it was alright for the slow march of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, England’s regiment, it would be alright for England’s rugby men.

Think how Land Of Hope And Glory would make those proud boys wearing white and the red rose feel. Ten feet tall, six foot wide and able to clear out every one who stood in front of them.

There’s Jerusalem and I Vow To Thee My Country as alternative shouts, but the chariot must take a different course.

As must England. Back to the days of dominating teams, securing quick ball and putting the screws on before they have a chance to regroup. So many teams last season and this, we’ve looked indecisive, unsure of how to react, what to do. Rugby is a simple game and you have the personnel at your fingertips to excel.

Yours sincerely,

Mark (a bloke who never played at your standard, has no coaching certificates and has been an armchair watcher of England since the early 1970s)




Devil And Daughter

Being a stay-at-home dad, a house husband or whatever else you might call it has its challenges.

And I’m left amazed at how those women, like my gran and mums of yesteryear, ever coped. As well as those looking after babies and young children still. But back then, they didn’t have access to McDonalds and the lure of TV, which appear to have become staples of the modern parent.

My daughter is 10 months old and shows all the hallmarks of those pesky Velociraptors in the original Jurassic Park movie. She watches and learns and then tests for weaknesses.

While I feel blessed to witness her growth, from smiling to laughing, crawling to walking, there’s something awfully tiring about living with an active baby.

Just when she lies on the floor, eyes closing and thumb in her mouth, and I think it’s safe to move and do some work, she’s suddenly at my ankles, like a faithful collie. Except, she’s up to mischief.

All the time.

Just when I think she’s being hypnotised by In The Night Garden on BBC iPlayer, she comes to life when I get the easel and paints out.

She’ll be asleep – or pretending – and suddenly rush into the kitchen as soon as I start to empty the dishwasher. She has a fascination for the dishwasher and the vacuum cleaner.

Open up the laptop and she’s there, bashing on buttons and pushing it closed.

Leave the TV remotes or mobile phones anywhere in touching distance and she’s away. She’s managed to programme the telly in a way we can’t comprehend. Or put right.

And her reach is growing.

Sit down with a sandwich or snack and she’s there, hands grabbing for a taste.

Put simply I can’t do anything until her brother comes home from school or my wife returns from her shift at work.

We’re trying to teach my daughter the word ‘no’ and what it means. She’s not impressed. When the snow hit Cornwall big-style, we got out the portable radiators. It was farcical to hear my wonderful wife trying to explain they were hot and not to touch. To a 10 month old.

Our daughter’s response was to grab hold of the radiator and hold it while staring at my wife – not so much in defiance but more as if ‘where’s the problem?’

Generally, she just ignores us.

Now our daughter can be as the devil incarnate, but she gives smiles as if they are going out of fashion. From the moment you go into her bedroom to lift her out of her cot to the last hug of the day.

It’s amazing. Life affirming. Special in a way I never knew existed.

So while she may well ignore all the flashing lights and sounds of her toys, which take up most of the front room, and interrupt every task I might tackle, I can’t help but love her to bits.

We all do.

So it might be a juggle, to cook her a meal, cook a meal for the rest of the family, get drinks, brew tea all the while changing nappies, clearing up her mess and trying to keep her entertained.

It might be frustrating – and how other mums, dads, grans and grandads cope, I’m left with simple admiration – but it’s worth every second.

At least she’s never given us any problems during the night, sleeping through from the off.

I’m wedded to the idea she’s going to get worse, that I might never finish another painting, a story or project, but it’s a delight watching my girl grow up. She has the same sense of mischievousness that my great gran had. And that will be something to embrace.



Winter Words

In Game Of Thrones, everyone is worried about winter coming.

So it must be in National League One this season.

Coventry on the verge of another return to English rugby’s second tier, with the astonishing success of Rowland Winter and his team in transforming the club from also rans to front-runners.

For now, it all comes down to the numbers game.


Just seven games separating Coventry Rugby Football Club from the Championship. Lose those seven and Championship ambitions come to naught if the following pack win theirs.

It shouldn’t happen. As the closest three teams all have to play Coventry in these last round of matches. They also have games against each other to factor in.

So it’s down to Coventry to steer themselves safely to the title in the remaining games. And what a remarkable position Director of Rugby Winter and his merry men have put the club in.

Let’s not ignore the vision and courage of chairman, Jon Sharpe, in ringing the changes and bringing in Winter.

There can be no doubting the positive difference made by the DoR who came to Coventry via Cambridge and Northampton.

There have been splutters along the way this time out, the indignity of a dreadful, out of character, reverse at Blackheath, but a dominant display against second-placed Darlington Mowden Park has proved any naysayers wrong.

This bunch of men proudly wearing the blue and white want to be part of something special. For some, they were sold on Cov because of Winter’s vision and approach. They’ve delivered as much as he and the other coaches have.

By all accounts, the performance at Darlington, hitherto unbeaten at home this season, was terrific. Coventry 42-DMP Nil tells its own story.

Another six try showing from the 1874 boys, another nil in the against showing – the third time this season.

And it’s the statistics that are fascinating.

Winter’s wonders turned in a league record for Cov last term out, with 130 tries. They’re already amassing a new season record.

And last year, Cov won 20 of their 30 matches, lost nine and drew one. They scored a total of 974 points for, with 733 against.

At this stage, we’d shipped 557 points, 224 more than now. What satisfaction Winter, Nick Walshe, Louis Deacon, Luke Narraway, Tony Gulliver and the other backroom staff, including Max Hartman and Hannah Walker, must be feeling. Players getting back to fitness in record time, great attack, great defence. Entertaining rugby. Rugby as it should be played.

On Saturday, Coventry should smash that points record of 974 from the first season of the Winter era. They are currently on 970 with the magnificent seven games left. Lord help Caldy!

Also under the threat is the 1,011 points record Cov set in 2014/5, the best showing in National League One for Cov. Also the points record set that year of 112. We’re currently on 109.

There’s a key statistic that shows the epic effort this team have put in, on and off the pitch.

Points difference.

So far this term it stands at 637.

Just for comparison’s sake, the next highest points score in the league is Blackheath on 615 for – 22 less than Cov’s points difference.

The next best defensive record is Plymouth Albion on 366, but they have two games in hand. An average of 17.42 points scored against them each game as opposed to 14.47 against Cov.

We’re also top of the table in terms of attendance – by a long way, too.

Total attendances at the Butts Park Arena this term stand at 12,368, according to NCA Rugby. Plymouth comes next at 7,383, followed by Darlington on 7,323 and Moseley on 7,183.

What price the impact of a strong Cov away following at Moseley to push up their average gate? Same could be said for the Darlington fixture.

The champagne for the title is on ice. One game at a time is the mantra coming out of Butts Park Arena, and no qualms with that.

But maybe on Saturday, several league records could be smashed well and truly. In the coming weeks all should have tumbled.

It is the 30th year of national league rugby for Coventry and there have been more disappointments than successes in that time.

That has all changed.

Winter is here.










Reed And Right

WHEN I first met Peter Reed, in the old composing room at the Coventry Evening Telegraph, he was the target of the most foul-mouthed, tongue in cheek rant anyone could imagine.

Well, I was 14 and I was shocked. A schoolboy on work experience inside the hallowed world of newspapers. Not any old newspaper, but the paper I had grown up with. When it meant something to work at the Coventry Evening Telegraph.

Peter? Or Pepe as he was nicknamed? He took it all in his stride, smiling with reddening cheeks, as the torrent of filth made it through his lobes into his lobal system. All a great joke and he was in on it, despite appearing to be the butt of it.

My introduction to the world of newspapers. To the world of work.

It was such a treat making it inside, past the huge wooden desk where uniformed security men prowled and denied entry, into this fantasy world.

As a child, my step-father, one of Peter’s colleagues in the comp room, would thrill me by waving out of the windows as I waited for the number 5A outside the old Lunn Poly building opposite.

My work experience, with emphasis on the word experience, was in the Coventry Citizen series offices. Peter was the chosen compositor who worked on the Citizen’s pages until the work flow got too much and others came to help. Or vice versa, when he returned the favour for Telegraph editions.

A bloke who had time for anyone no matter the pressure he was under. Hot metal had gone and Peter was engaged in the near surgical work of slicing up words on bromide paper and placing them skillfully on a mocked up page. A Reed who got it right.

A craftsman, an artisan, a team-player who put brand Telegraph and Citizen first. They all did in the comp room.

They were the guys who helped ensure we journalists got it right. They corrected us, helped us, especially us juniors still learning the ropes and making mistakes. When I first got into designing pages, I’d go and ask Peter’s advice first. He always gave it willingly. It wasn’t just the journos, the advertising people got plenty of help, too.

It was my turn to repay the compliment some years later, when I was at the CET and Peter doubled up as the Citizen’s motoring correspondent, a role he loved. He’d ask my advice on writing and, such as I ever knew, I was willing to offer any help I could.

There was one legendary week, when Citizen Editor Barrie Clark, one of the best journalists Coventry ever saw, got hopelessly drunk on deadline day afternoon. With all the capable journalists gone, after carrying BC back from the Town Wall Tavern, or Rising Sun, wherever we had been, I ran along the corridor to see Peter.

He thought I was joking when I said BC  was completely out of it, left sat at his desk, a cigarette mostly of ash precariously dangling on top of reams of press releases and page proofs. We forgot the fire risk as I led Peter to see what he thought of the situation.

His face turned a sickly shade of pale, but between us, with my fledgling knowledge of newspapers and newspaper design, we did it. Even BC approved the following morning when he scoured the pages he hadn’t designed or edited or signed off.

Extraordinary circumstances and all that.

As the comp room suffered savagely in the first round of cuts for profit at Telegraph towers, I would still go and enjoy chats with Peter, even though our paths for work didn’t cross very much.

He was always interested in the world of the Telegraph and Citizen, of cars, of people. A number one nice guy in a world of nice guys. One of a number of people who had a positive role in shaping me.

The other day I was asked for my memories about the Telegraph in the days of hot metal, which were before my time, but I talked fondly about the comp room and its characters, the laughter, the practical jokes – the sheer joy of working for team CET.

In the days when we were a family, from newspaper seller to classified ads bod, security to van drivers, circulation, print room or the ladies in the canteen. They all brought in stories, all knew the area and all cared about the brand. Pride. Simply put. Pride.

Peter swallowed some of his, when the knife in the back came for the comps. He continued to work for the CET when others opted out or were forced out. It’s not that he couldn’t have been a success elsewhere, but I always thought his heart was at that junction of Corporation Street and Upper Well Street.

He was such an able worker, but shy. He wrote some great motoring columns, not that I, notoriously ignorant of all things auto, understood. But I understood the writing part, not the specifics of engine design or drag factor. Peter had it nailed on in engaging style, but careful to keep it simple, stupid. Exactly the approach some of us full-time writers were encouraged to take.

His smile and gentle sense of humour marked him out as special. I never heard him snap at anyone, even when his patience was tested to the limit.

After he had finally left the Telegraph I bumped into him on a rare visit back to Coventry. Working for a charity, helping victims through court appearances, he was as stressed as ever, desperate to do the best anyone could do. Because his standards of serving and helping others was higher than most.

I’m sure he won as much respect in that role as he had through his years at the CET.

I got to thank him often for the help he gave me. Because that’s what he did best – help others.