Idle thoughts have a habit of turning into articles.
Under the title: Jan Toms, Brief Biographies, I regularly contribute articles to the online magazine Wordpress. 'Biographies' covers everything from people to buildings to animals and machines.
Do check out some of the recent scribblings at
Herewith, a sample or two::
Up the Rovers!
The last time I went to a football match was in 1974. I took my son, a nine-year-old Portsmouth fan, to Fratton Park to watch his favourite team and since then, the shenanigans in the soccer world have passed me by. Suddenly, forty-two years later I find myself dipping my toe into that ocean of masochism known as being a football fan.
It is a novel experience, looking each week to monitor my team’s progress, learning to talk about how “we” rather than how “they” got on in their latest match. This is what proper fans do, buy the shirt, shout the slogan, assume they are an essential part of the squad and suffer the agony and the ecstasy of the latest encounter. Unfortunately, since I threw my weight behind my team, they haven’t won another match - and they were doing so well.
So who are these gladiators who have me metaphorically screaming from the sidelines? Not Bristol Rovers, not Blackburn Rovers, but Forest Green- the very name conjures up a rural idyll. They are hardly local. For that, I would need to return to Portsmouth, or perhaps Southampton, or even Bournemouth. Forest Green are born and bred in Gloucestershire and have been strutting their stuff for 127 years with changing fortunes.
Since 2010, something has happened. A whirlwind with a mission and money in his pocket came along and transformed them into something that past fans would not recognise. Present fans are still scratching their heads and wondering what the hell happened, still adjusting to the fact they have become the only VEGAN football club in the country.
There is much more. Forest Green green, so green that solar panels on the stadium roof power the robot lawnmower that cuts the 100% organic pitch. So green that rain is stored beneath the turf and then recycled to keep the grass – green.
So who is this Svengali who has transformed a struggling collection of players into a team that everyone is talking about? His name is Dale Vince and I imagine him as a sort of love child between Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Corbyn, with a good dose of Sir Alan Sugar thrown in.
Dale Vince is one of those phenomena with drive and a steamroller of a personality that manages to change the unchangeable. Ever the rebel, as a youth he took to the roads, a New Age traveller in an ageing van that was even then powered by a wind turbine. His CV will report him protesting at Molesworth peace camp, rallying the troops at Stonehenge, with fire in his belly and the Garden of Eden in his soul.
So, when it all began at Forest Green Rovers, did the club supporters listen to his plans for making their team ethical and sustainable? They did not. They saw an outsider, a bloke who had made a load of money and wanted to overturn everything that was traditional and comfortingly familiar. They were there for the beer the burgers and the footie. Happy they were not.
But Dale Vince is made of stern stuff. Inspired by the possibilities of solar power he turned entrepreneur and set up his own company, Ecotricity. It is doing awfully well, so well in fact that you would need to win those Euro millions several times over to compete in the wealth stakes.
Wind and football are only a part of the story. Dale Vince is all about power, not just turning on the lights, but turning the wheels of industry. Then there is transport. To prove a point, he built an electric car that is faster than a Ferrari. He called it Nemesis, the Greek goddess of vengeance. His first eleven football team each has an electric car, stylish, sporty and advertising loud and clear that green is good – well, not loud actually because I believe electric cars are soothingly quiet.
Inevitably this radical stand causes controversy. From the mild taunting from the stand of “what about the sausage rolls?” to the glee with which the press relay how Forest Green players sneak into a baker’s to buy pepperoni pizza, the public eye is always on the lookout for something to highlight. The players aren’t ‘owned’ by their boss and as long as they keep away from meat on match days what they do in their spare time is up to them. However, as the BBC so succinctly put it, dietary habits are known to be a factor in recruitment.
What an upheaval. Kitted out in their ethically sourced, snazzy green and black strip, the lads seem remarkably fit. If I am reading the statistics correctly, it seems that very few yellow cards are issued and even fewer red ones. Listening to the fans, it is clear that his ethos is slowly seeping through. People are beginning to acknowledge that recyclable, unpolluted power must be better for the planet. Grudgingly they recognise that if it takes ten times the vegetable protein to produce one of beef, then veganism just might make sense.
I have been to a few funerals in my time and they are always different. Perhaps it is time to take a deep breath and remind that it WILL happen to me.
I was about to mention the "victim" the deceased, for once that person stops breathing, he or she is at the mercy of those left behind. All in all, perhaps it is better to plan your own funeral in advance so that whether you are there or not in the 'watching over you' sense, you get what you would have liked. It will of course also save the next of kin from squabbles, headaches and deciding whether they can get away with a plywood coffin.
Once you've popped your clogs, the first question is to decide what it is going to be - church and graveyard? vicar and crematorium? no vicar and firing the remains out of a cannon? woodland resting place, chapel, synagogue, temple, mosque, in essence: bones or ashes? That done, one can get on with the nitty gritty.
You can't really beat a nice view, although you may not see much of it.
Ideally, one would hope that the officiating person will say nice things about you. With the changes in our society, vicars have often not even met the deceased person so they rely on information supplied by the family. Unless you are expecting to go to heaven, perhaps it is better to find a reliable friend to conduct the ceremony. To be on the safe side, why not write your own tribute - no need to boast, but just to make sure that your brave wartime deeds or academic achievements are acknowledged. Don't go on for too long, though, or the mourners will begin to get restless. At one funeral I attended the service exceeded the time expected to the point that the mourners were panicking because their cars would almost certainly have tickets on them. You don't want their attention wandering
Most of us would rather not think about when we are no longer here but every now and then a thought pops into one's head. In passing, cousin Carol might have asked if, "when you have finished with it," can she have Grandma's stuffed parrot, or you might have wondered who within the family would most appreciate your own artistic endeavours. To avoid your self-portrait ending up on the skip, why not leave it to Aunty Rose, whether she wants it or not?
One hopes that you have had the good sense to leave a will. Just mentioning what you want to your friend Ethel isn't going to make it happen. There are of course the big items such as a house, or shares in Microsoft, but bear in mind things inherited from different sides of the family because somebody in that particular branch might really want it back. To save writing a will the length of War and Peace, you can also start a "living will," a record of who you would like to be informed when you go and which persons you wish to be offered the opportunity to have a souvenir of your friendship.