Rather guiltily I was nursing a sense of schadenfreude when England were 2-0 behind against Croatia on Wednesday. And I was not at all anxious ahead of the earlier Israel v Russia match, which Russia had to lose (apparently unlikely, but it did happen) for England to stand a chance of qualifying for the 2008 European Championships (ie by beating Croatia). So England are out, and the manager Steve McClaren has been kicked into touch.

I don’t follow football so closely to judge whether this a fair comment on McClaren, and wish him no ill. In any event, as the Croatia game wore on, my nationalism was asserting itself, hoping for a reversal of the reversal. It came and went, England clawed back two goals and all too inevitably, it seemed, conceded a third.

But the reason for my mixed emotions was that I was secretly hoping that if McClaren went, the job would go to Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill, even though he’s ruled himself out today, it appears. The reason for my enthusiasm was simple. He once quoted William Goldman’s famous line: Continue reading ‘nobody knows anything (football version)’

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stopping time

19Nov07

There is an expression in probability theory that I’m not qualified to explain with perfect accuracy: “stopping time”. It is used to describe the uncertain length of a gambler’s sojourn at the roulette table when he is determined to double his money; stopping time arrives when either the target is reached or the gambler runs out of money.

In a way, a blog’s lifespan might be defined by such a period. How long to devote to it? Is there a target audience or revenue to make it worthwhile before interest or ideas run out? Perhaps too, the offline period (as the Knackered Hack has just experienced) might be defined by stopping time… each day goes by… the reader checks… no new updates. When will it reappear?

I haven’t found many intermittent blogs, but I think the concept has merit. The problem is that they are bound to be less discoverable as they will be less aggressively part of the so-called “conversation”. We really should prize those who write only when they have something to say.

The reason for this blog’s absence is more deeply personal, and starting again was akin to that feeling in a marathon when Continue reading ‘stopping time’

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Among the reasons why blogs stop updating, bereavement is unlikely to be high up on the list. But that is why the Knackered Hack fell silent these past few weeks.

Spending an extended amount of time in limbo in hospital brings to the fore all sorts of extraneous thoughts about time and uncertainty, not to say the complexity of information that tired, exhausted relatives have to absorb and sometimes make important decisions from.

Hospitals are all about corridors, lifts, stairs, inadequate eating facilities, irregular food and drink, and not a lot of fresh air. That’s especially true if you are there for a long-term vigil and not just popping in during visiting hours. There was a moment when I realised that it had some of the hallmarks of the Opec meetings I was required to cover professionally in my early 20s. They involved endless days in hotels in Geneva or Vienna, chasing important-looking men speaking English with thick foreign accents, the majority of whom were under the mistaken impression that they were in control of things. Time was completely elastic. In fact we even called it “Opec Time” because nothing ever happened when it was meant to. When the Hotel Intercontinental in Geneva gave us watches with the Opec logo on them we all laughed.

But the business of how to manage your own expectations in hospital — and how your expectations are being managed by the medical authorities — is a serious one. There are definite differences between junior doctors and the more senior consultants. The key qualifier, in my recent experience, is frankness. Hope in a hopeless situation is very confusing, but I guess the younger you are as a medic, the more idealistic: the closer you are to your original motivations to help and do good. You are less used to death and less practised in the application of those heuristics that permit the cutting through all the possible treatments that a modern hospital has to offer to the more simple need for palliative care, which, where it involves ever larger doses of morphine, is itself terminal.

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Tweet Times columnist Simon Barnes has endorsed those of us who wear our hunter-gatherer-ness on our sleeves. In a short essay on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, Barnes spoke of the fans he has been accompanying on assignment while covering the Rugby World Cup in France:- The rest are here in pursuit of […]

Tweet When James Bond arrives at his Istanbul hotel in From Russia With Love, he finds that the room is bugged (naturally), is moved to the bridal suite, and orders breakfast: green figs, yoghurt and coffee — very black — for nine o’clock delivery. As this has been the week of social proof, I’d like […]


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