“Stephen’s Story”: the remarkable Stephen Sutton


Today (May 30th),  a remarkable young man and life force, Stephen Sutton, will be buried.

He died from Cancer having fought the disease from the age of 15. The video above was an inspirational speech that Stephen gave to a conference in 2013 called “Find Your Sense of Tumour” that is held annually by the Teenagers and Young Adults With Cancer organisation.

This morning I watched as the television news covered the amazing outpouring of support and celebration for a remarkable life as a vigil was held at Lichfield Cathedral.

To read about this and some background to Stephen’s life see this article from the Guardian.

Here is a photo of Stephen taken in hospital shortly before he died.


You can see the smile that he always had and his now famous “thumbs up”. We are all the richer for his life and the inspiration he gave us to live our lives to the full and not sit around feeling sorry for ourselves.

R.I.P. Stephen

Persistence: a key life skill

I watched a really interesting TedX video yesterday on YouTube by Steve McNamara, the English national Rugby League coach. The talk was called “Talent That Whispers”.

In the talk McNamara focusses on four players, Ryan Hall, Sam Tomkins, James Roby and Jamie Peacock,  who have been the backbone of the English national team for the last ten years.

He stated that none of these four players was considered an outstanding talent when they were younger. Each of them had to come into the game and work their way up through sheer hard work, dogged determination and drive.

Any of them could so easily have quit when they were struggling to get to the top, so many do. McNamara states that it is people such as them that he looks to when developing the talent and abilities of the national team. The main reason he gives is that these people do not cave in when the going gets tough.

He said he had seen so many glittering talents that shone like a bright stars when young and yet disappeared almost overnight. This was what he called ” talent that shouts”, “look at me, I’m brilliant” but cannot withstand the hurdles when they come, that rises too high, too quickly but crashes to the ground like a spent rocket on Fireworks Night.

He ended his talk with a great story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree. This plant grows in fertile land in China. The farmer plants the seed, waters and cares for it and after the first year only a tiny growth is seen. The next year he does the same, again there us hardly any growth, the same process goes on for another three years. In year 5, after a few weeks, the tiny shoots begin a massive spurt that takes about five weeks. The tree can grow to 9 feet tall!

The question is, did it take five weeks to grow or  five years? The answer of course is 5 years. The key is persistence, grit,determination. The ability to persevere even when things get tough and the inner-belief that you will get there in the end.

Yesterday my football team, Tottenham Hotspur, appointed a new manager, Mauricio Pochettino. This morning I have read reports that state that he has to achieve a top 4 position in the Premier League next year or lose his job. This is not the way to run a club. As the Chinese Bamboo Tree story shows, it takes time to nurture a group of players. It takes persistence and it takes defeat and failure in order to achieve success.

I obviously wish Pochettino well in his new endeavour but I have visions of a bright firework briefly lighting the night sky that lies on the ground, a spent force, whilst the owner goes rushing to his box to light a new one!

Persistence is an important life skill as is patience. There are many in sport as well as every walk of life who would do well to nurture these key skills.

Sir Nicholas Winton: humanitarian

Yesterday, May 26th 2014, was the 105th birthday of Sir Nicholas Winton. Now there were no great fanfares to mark this landmark birthday. There were no special television programmes and I would imagine that most people reading this post will never have heard of this remarkable man.

To give you an idea look at this:


The rescue of the 669 children was a great achievement, but after the war Winston did not mention it, even to his wife. By chance she was cleaning in the attic of their home in 1988 and discovered an old briefcase containing some old and dusty files.

These files were filled with pictures and details about children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia, as it then was (The Czech and Slovak Republics now), who Winton managed to get to Britain by persuasion and the use of money that he raised in a very short space of time.

To see what happened see: http://youtu.be/irv5RlY2qxE

After the war, moving to Maidenhead, England, Winton became an active member of the Rotary Club. The birth of his son, Robin, in 1956, with Down’s syndrome got Winton involved in charity work. Contrary to the conventional wisdom of the day, he and Grete (his Danish wife) didn’t put Robin in an institution, but kept him at home until he died in 1962. 

“He was a lovely kid — very loving and affectionate. Father was so appalled at the level of understanding and advice that he got involved in Mencap,” his son Nick stated.

Later, Winton turned his attention to helping the elderly, and today he still helps raise money to build Abbeyfield retirement homes in his region. It was for this work that he received the M.B.E. and was later knighted. His wartime heroics had  been forgotten.

It is thought that there are now 5000 plus people who owe their existence on this planet to this man! Sir Nichols still wears a ring given to him by some of the children he saved. It is inscribed with a line from the Talmud, the book of Jewish law. It reads:

“Save one life, save the world.”

He is, without doubt, a great humanitarian and he deserves (although would not invite), greater public recognition. In a very small way, I hope that this post contributes to that aim.

The difference between cats and dogs

I am a few weeks away from getting our new Bichon Frise puppy.


This follows a period of nearly five months when we tearfully had to say goodbye to our Shetland Sheepdog (sheltie) Skye who was nearly 13 years of age.

My wife and I are certainly “dog people”. My brother on the other hand dislikes dogs but has had cats  continuously in the almost twenty year period that we have had dogs!

Recently, I found a brilliant piece about the difference between cats and dogs. I do know of some people who own cats and dogs together that seem to coexist very well, but generally people tend to come into the ” cat” or “dog” camp if they have to choose and want a pet.

They say that “you own a dog but a cat owns you”. Maybe this reflects the psychology of choosing and coexisting with either a cat or a dog.

For your entertainment, I append below the “dog’s  and cat’s diary”. Which camp do you fall into?

The Dog’s Diary

8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing! 
10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm – Milk bones! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm – Dinner! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

The Cat’s Diary

Day 983 of My Captivity

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Bastards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.” I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now …

Jimmy Hogan: the forgotten genius of football

I have spent quite a lot of time recently investigating the history of soccer using the amazing resource that is the internet.

By means of a Google search I have been able to construct links relating to a name that came from an accidentally found article from a website about coffee!

The initial source was a post called “Coffee Houses of Vienna: Birthplace of Intelligent Football”., which was an excerpt from Jonathan Wilson’s book ” Inverting the Pyramid“.

In the post Wilson looks at the role that the Coffee Houses of Vienna played in allowing football tactics to be developed that were totally different from the “kick and rush” physicality that had endured as the basis of the game for so long, particularly in England, the country where the game had developed.

The central figure in this change in philosophy was Hugo Meisl. Meisl was a close friend of Jimmy Hogan, the man from Burnley, Lancashire who had played soccer for Rochdale, Burnley, Fulham, Swindon and Bolton Wanderers.

Hogan was a real thinker about the game loved and wanted to develop his ideas about training with a ball, using close control skills and playing the game on the ground and not as an aerial bombardment!

He found problems in getting his ideas across in his home country that was dominated by non-ball physical training and a philosophy of “kick and run”.

The next phase of his career was as a coach, mostly in Europe where he pioneered his brilliantly innovative training methods in The Netherlands, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, France and in partnership with Meisl, in Austria, producing the so called Austrian ” Wunderteam“.

His training methods would influence a new generation of coaches in Hungary who would produce the great Magyar team of the 1950’s who famously took on and thrashed the English national team 6-3 at Wembley Stadium in 1953.

The leading player in the Hungarian team was Ferenc Puskas, who had developed a magical close control of the football using Hogan’s methods.

To see an example of this  below is a link to a  video of Hungary’s third goal, scored by Puskas. He receives the ball from the right with the great English defender Billy Weight in close attendance. In one movement Puskas traps the ball, pulls it back in a one-two pass to himself, leaves Wright stranded and out of the game,  then shoots the ball into the net with a beautiful left foot shot.

Ferenc Puskas goal for Hungary.

This one goal showed Hogan’s ideas for all to see. He was at the match but not as a guest of the English F.A. but with tickets from Aston Villa’s allocation, as he was working with the youth team at the time!

After the match, Sándor Barcs,[6] then president of the Hungarian Football Federation, said to the press, “Jimmy Hogan taught us everything we know about football.”[7] Gusztáv Sebes, the Hungarian footballer and coach, said of Hogan, “We played football as Jimmy Hogan taught us. When our football history is told, his name should be written in gold letters”.[8]

The reaction of many people in England though was very different Hogan was accused of being a ” traitor ” by some. He never really managed to get his ideas to make changes within his own country and his managerial career at Fulham and Aston Villa as well as a short spell coaching Glasgow Celtic would only be remembered by a small number of players such as Tommy Docherty and Ron Atkinson ( see: Ron Atkinson on Jimmy Hogan: http://youtu.be/EYsiuGiQHsc ).

The “tip-tap” ideas that Atkinson refers to at the end of the video would form the basis of the Total Football” of the Dutch and subsequently to the brilliant Barcelona team of the last few years which swept all before them with outstanding free-flowing football, not to forget the Spanish national side which has won the last two world cups using the techniques pioneered by the genius coach Hogan.

He is lauded as an all time great by European coaches and footballers but he is largely forgotten in his own country. It makes you wonder just what might have been if he had been listened to! In the forthcoming World Cup Hogan will no doubt be smiling from above as his home country battles teams from Europe and South America playing the type of football he had the vision to imagine.

How coffee helped cause the American Revolution


This is a really interesting article  from Blog Mabelle, a fascinating website that I mentioned in my previous post.

This post argues that the current anti-Moslem attitudes in the United States ignores the powerful influences on Enlightenment thinkers like Locke, Montesquieu and even Newton of great Islamic thinkers.

It states that many of the ideas of these thinkers, the revolt against the power of absolute monarchy and the separation of the state from organised religion which were so important to the founding fathers of the American Republic, were ideas that stemmed from the Islamic world.

Most importantly, the post discusses the place of Coffee Houses in acting as a forum of ideas that would lead to revolution and political change. These coffee houses had their origins in the Islamic world, as indeed did the drink of coffee itself, which spread from there to Britain and Europe.

It is an important article in that it makes us think about the things that connect us to each other and how we need to try and understand a culture, country, religion in all it as shades of grey and not tar everyone with the same brush.

Blog – Mabelle


The internet is an Aladdin’s Cave of undiscovered gems! I did a search on Bela Guttman, the famous footballer/coach who famously “cursed” his former club Benfica after he was sacked on asking for a pay rise.

This followed the 2014 Europa League final match where Seville beat Benfica on penalties after a 0-0 match. The result was the 8th time since Guttman’s curse that Benfica had played and lost in a major European final.

On looking up Guttman I found a really interesting link to a book by Jonathan Wilson called “Inverting the Pyramid“. This link connected Guttman to a place, Viennese coffeehouses and a time, the 1920’s and 30’s.

This all led to a search on the importance of coffeehouses in intellectual history. I found a really good book about the subject by Marksman Ellis called “The Coffee-House: A Cultural History”.

Which leads me to ” Ma Belle” Coffeehouses. They are a chain of coffeehouses in Kosovo. They have a superb website that does not just extol their own virtues but brings together, in their blog, a collection of great posts on the history of the coffeehouse.

It was a great discovery and I have  already read some really interesting and thought I provoking material as I sipped my midmorning coffee of course!