Saturday 3 December 2016

Week 17 - The Grambler on Cuba

Stewart was an amazing person - A wonderful husband, a fantastic brother, a loving son and an adored uncle. He was also a brilliant friend and colleague and is missed by so many people. His family are determined that his death will never be in vain and are doing their part to beat bowel cancer for good. We are fundraising for the Bobby Moore Fund which is part of Cancer Research UK and specialises in research into bowel cancer. If you wish to donate to the fund, you can via .

If you haven’t already done so, please read the article which appeared in the Daily Record and learn from Stewart’s story that you must never be complacent. It makes grim reading for us, his family, even though we were beside him throughout his ordeal, or battle; call it what you will.

Similarly, if you haven’t heard it, please listen to Geraldine’s moving radio interview which was on Radio Scotland recently.

Stewart began writing The Grambler when he was between procedures and hoping for some form of recovery. He loved all aspects of football and was a lifelong Motherwell supporter. His wish was that The Grambler should continue after his death and I have been happy to oblige. Welcome to The Grambler, the most ill-informed blog you are ever likely to see. Read on and enjoy


You have probably heard on the news that Cuba’s former leader, Fidel Castro died this week. He was a man who polarised opinion as evidenced by the messages from world leaders and soon to be leaders. Barack Obama chose his words carefully and, while not actually praising Castro, he did at least acknowledge him as being an important world leader. Donald Trump, in typical Mr Trump fashion called Castro a brutal dictator. Oh dear. His first chance to be a diplomat and that’s the best he can do.

Politics aside, it gives me the chance to reminisce about my visits to Cuba. Yes, Mrs G and I have been there twice. I loved it. And do you know what I loved most about it? There were no golden arches enticing us to eat hamburgers. There was no white haired, goatee bearded old man trying to sell me bits of chicken coated in batter. I didn’t have to endure a six or twelve inch long sandwich with the exact same fillings as I can get in almost any other country in the world. There were no coffee houses named Barstucks or Cotsa. It was wonderful. All the bars and restaurants of Havana were owned and run by Cubans. Businesses were run by Cubans. Isn’t that just how it should be when you go abroad? I don’t want to eat in a branch of a food chain. I want to eat in a restaurant run by someone from the country I am visiting. Did I say politics aside? Sorry. In case you were wondering, I am not being politically biased towards Cuba. I like Bali for the same reasons.

The people who live in Cuba are not wealthy. They may not have mobile phones strapped to their heads at all times; they may not have fancy cars. Indeed, many of the houses they live in are little more than shacks. What Cubans do have is a sensible diet and a very good health service. I don’t recall seeing any obese people over there. Nor did I see anyone who looked undernourished.

There are undoubtedly shortages. Not for us tourists. We were bringing much-needed cash to this isolated country, so we got all we wanted. Actually, locals also get all the food they need by means of rationing. Like wartime Britain, when rationing was in effect, the diet is balanced and nourishing. It may not be exciting, but it provides a healthy diet.

The people, generally, appeared to be content with their lot. However, I was always aware that, as a tourist, I was looked on as a source of easy money. It was actually very easy to fall prey to the less scrupulous types wanting to part you from your money. I’ll give you an example or few.

Too many people begged for money. They weren’t the sort of beggars you might expect. My idea of a beggar is someone who is dirty, unkempt and dressed in old clothes. That wasn’t the way it worked in Havana. Anyone would stick out their hand and ask for money. I recall an occasion when an elderly, very well-dressed lady approached us and asked for a dollar. How odd that they always asked for a dollar given the animosity between Cuba and the US.

Another way of being fleeced was to buy food in a restaurant which either didn’t have a menu or had a menu that had no prices. We learned this when we sat down in a very nice restaurant to ask for food. When we asked to see a menu, the waiter tapped his temple and said, ‘Menu in here.’ Yeah right. Think of a number and double it. Ah well. You live and learn... Or do you?

We also learned to ask the price at the beginning of the journey if we ever used a taxi. We tried using a local taxi of the type that is famous in Havana. It resembled a giant orange on three wheels...


Anyway, we climbed aboard this taxi aka death trap and asked the price. ‘Meter,’ said the driver pointing at a digital readout on some gadget mounted between the handlebars. We foolishly said okay and set off. As we travelled, I noticed that this readout was fluctuating all over the place. One minute it read 7.00, the next it read 2.00 followed by 5.00. I knew we were about to be ripped off. When we stopped, the price had amazingly settled on 10 pesos (10 dollars). How it managed that, I don’t know. We later learned that we should have paid no more than six for that journey. You live and learn... Or do you?

Our trip to Havana was just part of a two centre break. We flew from there to the next part of our holiday. At the airport, I realised that we had very few pesos left [Presumably because you had been ripped off so much. - Ed.] and I decided to change some money at the airport money exchange. Mrs G was waiting in the queue to go through security and I was in a bit of a hurry. You can guess what is coming, can’t you? The girl behind the desk handed me my pesos and I rushed as quickly as I could to join Mrs G. I didn’t check the notes I had been given until after the plane had taken off. You’ve already worked out what happened, haven’t you? Yep. 20 pesos short. Now, that may not sound a lot, but the girl behind the desk had probably pocketed a fortnight’s wages by fleecing me. Of course, if I had been sensible enough to check the money at the desk she would would probably have said sorry for the 'mistake' and given me the correct money. How often did she pull this stunt? Could be quite a wee money spinner. You live and... yeah.

There was an amusing ‘criminal’ incident happened at the hotel where we stayed. It didn’t affect me, so it was amusing. A young cleaner was pushing a basket-load of dirty linen along and happened to pass right by the restaurant where we were eating. She was obviously very friendly with one of the waiters, because she stole a wee kiss from him as she passed by. During this brief encounter something happened. A bottle of vodka from the restaurant bar was calmly dropped into the laundry basket by the waiter. The girl then continued on her way. I have no idea where the bottle was destined. A party? To be sold? Who knows? It made me smile.




Footy news? My favourite story this week concerns Everton manager Ronald Koeman. Everton fans were not pleased when he posted a picture of his lovely Christmas tree on antisocial media. The problem? Nothing wrong with the look. Nothing wrong with the design. It was the colour of the decorations. Red. Everton fans don’t like the colour red. Some of them have been causing a bit of a stink on Farcebook and Twatter. Daft, I know, but true. I suppose the supporters of the other Liverpool club don’t much like the colour blue, but come on, it’s a Christmas tree. I thought red and green were the traditional colours at Christmas time. Obviously not for Everton fans.




Were any famous or notorious people born on the 3rd of December? Of course. Here are some I’ve heard of. Samuel Compton 1753 (Inventor of spinning jenny. Or should that be ravelling nancy?), Josef Gelinek 1758 (Composer with wobbly head.), Joseph Conrad 1857 (Polish writer from a very non-pc age. One of his novels is called The Nigger of the Narcissus. Shock horror!), Andy Williams 1927 (Singer. Famously introduced the Osmonds to the world. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like him.), Jean-Luc Goddard 1930 (Lisa’s dad.), Valerie Perrine 1943 (Inventor of worcester sauce.), John ‘Ozzy’ Osbourne 1948 (Has been dubbed ‘the godfather of heavy metal’. What does that mean? Does he send it a cheque each Christmas and birthday?), Mike Stock 1951 (With Aitken and Waterman, introduced Rick Astley, Sonia and Princess to the world. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like him.), Nicky Stevens 1951 (Singer with Brotherhood of Man. You remember them. Course you do. Save all your kisses for me. Them.), Mel Smith 1952 (Merry bloomin’ Christmas. Time for a clip?  Ladeez and genullum I give you Mel and Kim Rocking around the Christmas Tree.   Well, it is nearly Christmas. ), Eamonn Holmes 1959 (TV presenter. Remember Holmes Under the Hammer? That wasn’t him. Unfortunately.), Daryl Hannah 1960 (Ectress. Played a mermaid in Splash. Er.. that’s it.), Katarina Witt 1965 (Skatey bloke.), Brendan Fraser 1968 (George, George, George of the jungle...), Daniel Bedingfield 1979 (Chanter. Natasha’s big brother. Also likes camping.), Anna Chlumsky 1980 (Ectress. Starred in My Girl. Er.. That’s it.) and David Villa 1981 (Footy bloke. Spain’s highest goalscorer... for Spain. Sorry pardon excuse me? Remember Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas was the Spanish international who scored the most goals for his country, which had been Hungary during his scoring days. He played his last four internationals for Spain after becoming a Spanish citizen. Does that make sense? [My brain hurts. - Ed.]).






Let’s move on to grambling matters. How did we do last week? Worse than the week before. 68 pees. Mince, or what? Let’s see how the games went. Read on...


Aston Villa vs Cardiff - Prediction Home win

Result - Aston Villa 3 Cardiff 1


The hosts took the lead when Jordan Amavi crossed for Albert Adomah to tuck home his first Villa goal.

Rickie Lambert's calm finish when one-on-one levelled the score, but Jonathan Kodjia's header restored Villa's lead.

Cardiff dominated the second half, but saw Lee Peltier sent off for a second yellow, before Rudy Gestede netted a penalty after Jack Grealish was fouled.


Preston North End vs Burton Albion - Prediction Home win

Result - Preston 1 Burton 1

Ooh! ’It the bar

Jackson Irvine put the Brewers ahead, when he pounced on a loose ball from Matt Palmer's corner to fire under keeper Chris Maxwell.

But Callum Robinson poked home Greg Cunningham's cross to dash Burton's hopes of a first away win this season.

The hosts pushed hard for a winner as they dominated the second half, but Albion held on.


Chesterfield vs Bristol Rovers - Prediction Away win

Result - Chesterfield 3 Bristol 2


Jay ‘Tessie’ O'Shea scored twice but substitute Billy Bodin notched up another 15 minutes from the end to force the Spireites to hold on and register back-to-back wins for the first time since August.

Rovers came out of the blocks rapidly and took the lead within three minutes when former Spireite Peter Hartley bundled in the ball from close range after a corner.


Doncaster Rovers vs Leyton Orient - Prediction Home win

Result - Doncaster 3 Orient 1


Doncaster found themselves behind after 19 minutes courtesy of Callum Kennedy's brilliant 35-yard free-kick that slammed into the top corner.

Though they pushed almost constantly, it took Rovers until the stroke of half-time to draw level when Chelsea loanee Jordan Houghton slammed in from the edge of the box.

Doncaster took the lead after 59 minutes when Orient substitute Josh Koroma hacked down the on-rushing Matty Blair and Liam Mandeville converted the penalty with confidence.

The third goal also came from the spot seven minutes later. Tommy Rowe was clipped in the box by Tom Parkes as he twisted and turned, with Mandeville slotting in again to give Doncaster the cushion they deserved in a one-sided game.


Morecambe vs Plymouth Argyle - Prediction Away win

Result - Morecambe 2 Plymouth 1


Morecambe opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 20th minute. Dean Winnard was bundled over in the penalty area as the home side swung in a corner and the referee pointed to the spot, with Michael Rose sending goalkeeper Luke McCormick the wrong way.

The visitors came into the game with Graham Carey going close before Argyle were gifted an equaliser in the 43rd minute when home goalkeeper Barry 'Cock' Roche failed to claim a right-wing cross to give Oscar Threlkeld a free header at the far post and he scored from six yards.

The second half began in controversy as Jordan Slew was shown a second yellow card for a dive in the area after Roche ran from his goal to challenge.

And Morecambe took advantage as they won the game with a 63rd-minute Peter Murphy header from a Rose corner.

As Peter Green once said, oh well. Let’s move quickly to this week’s Grambler selections. What has he/she/it randomly selected for our bet this week?

Game - Result - Odds

Birmingham vs Barnsley - Prediction Home win - Evens

Burton Albion vs Rotherham - Prediction Home win - 3/4

Fulham vs Reading - Prediction Home win - 19/20

Norwich vs Brentford - Prediction Home win - 10/11

Sheffield Wednesday vs Preston - Prediction Home win - 4/5


Hmm... every game is in the English Championshit. A bit weird. Does The Grambler know something we don’t [Nope. - Ed.].

The bets have been placed (10 x 20 pee doubles plus 1 x 20 pee accumulator) and if they all go according to The Grambler’s Prediction, the Bobby Moore Fund stands to receive a whopping...


Even more whopping than last week [Yes, but it didn’t win, did it? - Ed.].




Teaser time. Yay! Last week I asked you which Scottish side was one of the losing semi-finalists in the very first European Cup back in 1956. The answer was Hibernian. The early fifties had been a golden period for Hibs; an unchanging forward line had a lot to do with that success. The ‘Famous Five’ forward line had been pretty much a fixture since 1949. Four of the five were in the 1956 team - Gordon Smith, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond. The fifth member, Bobby Johnstone, had moved on to Manchester City the previous year.
One for this week?  We move to English Premiershit territory.  What is the record held by Kevin Nolan?  That's it.  Simple question.  What's the answer?




As usual, let’s finish with a mention of the main reason for continuing to publish this blog – to raise awareness about bowel cancer. If you have any bowel problems, don’t be fobbed off with the line that you are too young for bowel cancer to be a consideration. Just point your doctor in the direction of




And finally, Cyril? And finally Esther, I wonder if anyone spotted the Blackadder reference in this week’s article? No? Oh. Well, this week’s concluding link should clear it up for you. Ladeez and genullum, I give you, from Blackadder the Third, Amy and Amiability .  Apologies for the subtitles and the generally juddery nature of the link.  Hopefully, it won't detract from your enjoyment of this classic episode.


Happy grambling.


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