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I heard the most interesting thing on the German Government’s English-language radio service – apparently the people of Berlin welcomed the Red Army as liberators in 1945. But, according to  Deutsche Welle, the good citizens of Berlin soon tired of the boorish Soviets and were grateful when the Americans saved them from starvation during the Berlin Airlift of 1949. Most of the item on the radio was about how wonderful the Americans were. This was a bit of a surprise because the Americans had no interest in fighting to “liberate” the people of Berlin from the Nazis until Hitler declared war on them in 1941. Liberation came courtesy of the fickle Red Army, at least according to DW.  The German radio programme did acknowledge that the British and some private airlines may have had something to do with the airlift, but apart from one token RAF pilot interviewed, the item focused on how wonderful Americans are. I was a little surprised to hear how delighted the people of Berlin had been at the arrival of the Soviets, but if the German Government says so………

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More than a decade ago I came across an odd little book in a second-hand shop. It was written by a Scots guy who at one point had spent some time riding around North America on freight trains in either the 1920s or 1930s. I think the Americans called such people “railroad bums” . Or maybe Hobos. Anyway, it turned out that this fella had ridden some trains that had gone through Alberta, which is where I live for the time being.  He recounted in the book that his fellow travellers strongly advised him not to get off the train in Alberta because it was widely believed by them that the province’s population was mostly crazy. Our Scot was told that Alberta was basically the last place in the world to be populated by white people. Many of the settlers had already failed badly in other parts of the world, such as Australia, Africa, eastern Canada or the United States. The province was the last chance saloon for some real strange dudes. I can’t say how valid the advice our Scottish chum was given actually was. But to this day Alberta has a reputation among other Canadians for being a bit of an odd man out among the provinces. There can't be many governments who, as the Albert provincial government did in 1975, would appoint a murderer as Solicitor General. Roy Farran was never convicted but anyone who was unaware of his confessions to the killing wasn't doing a very good job on the background check. For more on Farran

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OK, if I hear one more idiot on the radio refer to football as “The Beautiful Game”, I’m going to throw the wireless out of the window. With the World Cup on at the moment, the airwaves are full of poseurs talking about “The Beautiful Game”. Anyone who has actually played the game knows it is very seldom beautiful. I suspect that many of the balloons who describe it thus are just trying to jump onto some kind of bandwagon. Needless to say, we have a lot of people on Canadian radio who use this hackneyed and misleading label. Few I suspect, if any, ever played the game seriously.  Football, or soccer as it is called here, is still catching on in Canada. For many, it is still a game for schoolgirls. The professional men’s teams are nothing to write home about. Here in Edmonton there is interesting once-a-year tournament in which the various immigrant communities play their own version of the World Cup.  That’s about as good as it gets. Professional sport in Alberta is either ice hockey, just called hockey here, or Canadian Football League; think American football with slightly different rules and dominated by Yanks who can’t get a game in the NFL.  The same is true of most major Canadian cities. Only when more people actually play football in Canada will the phrase “Beautiful Game” get a well deserved banishment. Mind you, if Canadian journalists don’t  know much about football, neither do many of English ones. I heard one say last week that England’s first home defeat wasn’t until 1953. The Scots had been beating the English in England for decades by then and the Republic of Ireland were first non-British to beat England, in 1949. 

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Maybe I'm just not listening to the right radio stations, or podcasts, or whatever; but there don't seem to be many novelty songs around these days. When I was kid there seemed to be lots of silly songs or monologues on the radio. Hmm, some examples: Right Said Fred, My Boomerang Won't Come Back, Have Some Madeira My Dear, My Brother, Here I am at Camp Granada, Monster Mash, etc, etc. By the way, I'm not guaranteeing all the preceding titles are the ones on the sleeves of the records concerned. What's happened? Has the world become a far grimmer place? All people seem to sing, or apparently want to hear, are songs about shaking something called a booty or shooting folk dead. OK, I know that's an exaggeration, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of humour out there these days.

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I see there’s a giant poster in Wishaw wishing the English football team the worst of luck in the World Cup. In previous blogs I’ve explained that in the case of football, there is a case to be made for this Anyone But England attitude; after all, the Football Association did end the annual clash with Scotland in 1989 because it reckoned the Scots were so rubbish they were not worth wasting time playing. The end of the oldest international fixture in the World. Oh, by the way BBC World Service, the first international was not played at Wembley in the 1920s, it was played in Glasgow in 1872. Football, or as the World Service often calls it “soccer”, is the most popular team sport in the World, so a station that bills itself The World’s Radio Station, shouldn’t be spouting such nonsense. But back to this poster in Wishaw. Most English people are unaware of the all too valid reason for the bitterness and maybe the Scots who persist with ABE are just coming over as childish boors. Many are English people hurt by ABE because when England fail to make the finals of some major international competition they throw their support behind one of the other teams from the British Isles which has qualified. And on the subject of the BBC, it must take a lot of the blame for ABE because many non-English sports fans find its coverage of their team both patronizing and dismissive, especially if the team is playing England. And that frustration is transferred to the England team rather than to the ignorant Home Counties Broadcasting Corporation.  Anyway, maybe it's time to let bygones be bygones and set a good example when it comes to manners. Nothing will stop the English going on and on about their 1966 World Cup win, even if it owed more to poor refereeing than to footballing prowess. 

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