Monday, 16 February 2009

The Death of Children's TV

Something that makes me despair nowadays is the sight of early morning TV on a weekend.

Rarely am I at home on a Saturday morning, such is the pull of work, but on the rare occasions that I am, I'm probably one of the minority that berates the sight of yet another cookery programme!

My childhood weekends usually revolved around getting up early to watch my favourite Children's TV programmes before going off out on some farmyard adventure with my neighbours. Looking back now, it's incredible what the pull of good quality children's TV could do to a kid. I mean, I'd voluntarily and quite happily get up before 8am on a weekend to watch such morning classics as the Racoons or Chip'n Dale Rescue Rangers or Ducktales (I can still sing the Ducktales theme tune almost off by heart - scary or what!).

For those to young to remember, or old to's a little reminder...

What it all led to, for me, on a Saturday morning, was the magnificent, unmissable, 'Live & Kicking'. I was slightly behind the curve in that I was to late for 'Going Live' but in in Live & Kicking, you could find my childhood wrapped up in one, simple, superb programme for children.

I've always been a 1992-1993 kinda person. Much of my striking memories from my childhood coming from those cross-over years between going from primary to secondary school. Nothing was ever more striking than 9am on a Saturday morning, listening to those opening chords of the Live & Kicking theme tune!

Here it is from that first ever episode with Andy Peters and Emma Forbes back in 1993!

It makes the shivers run down my spine just listening to it now! All the components made it a hit. Whether it be Trevor and Simon ('We Don't Do Duvets') or the launching in the UK of what become that houshold name (and quite tight too for they were and indeed still are, awesome!), The Rugrats, this was a copper kettle hit from start to finish. From 9am until 12.15pm you knew where you could find me - on the sofa with a bowl of Corn Flakes with Ani, Emma & co.

Indeed from 12.15pm onwards, I didn't move much as my afternoon was then consumed by Grandstand. Again, those striking opening chords meant that my afternoon had arrived! My despair of the loss of children's TV is almost matched by my despair at the loss of decent quality sport on the BBC - thus making Saturday afternoon watching nowadays on the BBC mediocre at best.

Here's another those fantastic Grandstand opening titles of the mid 1990s...

But I digress, as is often my way. Back to the Children's TV...

So Saturday morning was usually a good old BBC day for me. Sunday morning though usually had a good bit of Channel 4 and surprisingly (for me), a fair bit of decent US children's TV. Whether it was 'Saved by the Bell', 'Sister Sister' or 'Clarissa Explains It All' (was that a Sunday morning programme?!), I usually had plenty to watch. The climax to my morning viewing (before switching back to Channel 4 to watch 'Little House on the Prairie') was Grange Hill, old style, back on BBC2. I always preferred watching the earlier Grange Hill on a Sunday (having been to young to watch it first time round) than I was to watch the then 'current' version during the week.

Children's TV was, to pardon the pun, alive and kicking. But now quite frankly, I feel sorry for children of my nephews and nieces age. Yes if you have Sky TV or digital, there's plenty of children's TV channels to choose from. But the weekend, 'terrestrial' vintage, has long gone. The 'SMTV' generation is no more. What we have now is fractured and shows no semblance to what went before.

Weekday children's TV has also suffered. Where's the likes of Fun House, Finders Keepers and Knightmare now? Where's the overall programme that held all the component parts together? Perhaps those rose tinted glasses are shining especially brightly right now but it seems to me the something has been lost and my generation of children perhaps should be thankful for what we had.

Such is life and everything moves on. But for this little boy, the era of early 90s Children's TV, lives on.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

ARE....YOU....READY? LET'S....PLAY...Snooker?!

As an avid sofa supporter of pretty much every kind of sport going (although I admittedly have little time for flat season racing and boxing), I've been greatly intrigued by the recent thinking about 'modernising' snooker by 'jazzing it up' a little, to make it a more eye-catching sport for us mere mortals to watch.

I think it's the great Ronnie O'Sullivan who has started the recent round of fevered debate on this issue by explaining his opinion that if snooker is not going to fade away and die as a spectacle, it needs to take a leaf out of the Darts handbook to survival.

As a likewise fan of darts, I find it an intriguing idea, but one at the end of the day, which might just be slightly flawed.

For me, snooker is all about those hushed tones in an auditorium. The whispered commentary of Ted Lowe and now more recently of Clive Everton (whose commentary I randomly, but jubilantly bumped into whilst surfing the myriad TV channels in Phuket in Thailand last February!), John Virgo et al along with the real sense of fair play that is rarely seen in sport nowadays (apart possibly, from the golfing arena) makes it a rather unique sporting experience. I say this as one who has as yet, been unfortunate to have not yet witnessed a live professional game of snooker in the flesh. But I'm sure when that day comes as it inevitably will (it really would have to be in the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield really), it'll only enhance my sentiments. I don't really like to think of myself as having the same thinking as Stephen Hendry but on this, we have worryingly similar views.

Having said that, a problem with snooker which Ronnie O'Sullivan alludes too, and quite rightly so, is the fact that the 'modern game' has not got those great characters that were ever present during snooker's greatest decade - the 1980s. The era of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, Kirk Stevens, 'Big' Bill Werbeniuk, Ray 'Dracula' Reardon and Dennis Taylor has long gone. These were real characters.

But where are the characters in today's game? The current generation are yonuger, more professional and it must be said, much more adept in larger numbers than their older contemporaries. But apart from Ronnie, there's no obvious 'big names' who can catch the public's imagination. It's not necessarily the players fault, but it is an edge that has been lost in recent years. Losing the charms which make snooker, snooker, will only be to its detriment in the long run I feel. But if we could energise the young whipper-snappers playing now into being perhaps, slightly more entertaining around the table, it would do no harm!

To see a true genius in action, here's a clip of Ronnie O'Sullivan's unbelievable record-breaking 147. In just 5 minutes and 20 seconds!

But for Snooker at it's very, very best, here's a clip from the climax of that incredible, legendary final of finals from '85 when our Dennis humbled the great Steve Davis on the final black in the final frame, to win his 1st and only ever World Championship.

Ted Lowe's commentary alone makes it compulsive viewing! This, at the end of day is what makes snooker the incredible spectacle that it is. The players play their part of course, but it's the sheer tension and drama in an arena where you could hear a pin drop that makes it a wonderful, absorbing experience!

Bringing in the darts style introductions, whilst great for darts, just wouldn't cut the mustard here. This is snooker after all! Let the action speak louder than anything else!

Still loving those glasses Dennis! Even after all these years!

Monday, 2 February 2009

It's (s)no(w) joke!

This snow malarcky has rather amused me today.

Panic! What do we do? Will our whole infrastructure, indeed, our whole way of living collpase under such grave circumstances?!

Well Ceredigion is still here, unbowed, unabashed and only very, very , very, very slightly the whiter shade of normal!

I've heard from many friends this morning who couldn't make it into London to work which gives them that bonus extra day off. Or then does it? In such circumstances should it be a day off or just an opportunity to work from home? I know which one I'd choose given the luxury!

As it is, I woke this morning at 6.30am to the gentle, caressing sounds of Strauss on Classic FM with the soothing tones of Jay Videlingum reading the 6.40am and 7am news bulletins. From the headlines, it sounded as if even Cardigan might get snow it was that bad! So I went to the window to see if there was just a dash of the white stuff on car and house roofs. Don't be so daft! In Cardigan?! Snow?! Ha! So to work I went and before I knew it I was fast asleep on the bus (it has been to known to happen from time to time). I suddenly awoke near the end of my journey, in Llanbadarn, and suddenly, as if by some magical deliverance, it was white! Not that white really, but whiter than Cardigan!

But as ever, its been pretty calm going here. I'll be off home to Cardigan in a few minutes and expect not to see a flake of snow when I arrive. This is deepest darkest west Wales after all. In over 8 years of living or being connected with Aberystwyth, I can only remember one truly impressive snowfall in which a thick blanket of snow covered the town centre, the trunk road through town, the lot - back in February 2004.

So, as I've sat here working away during the day, the constant reminders of the 'carnage' being encountered across the country, does amuse me. I'm sure our friends in Russia, Mr Medvedev and Mr Putin would be chuckling away if they saw how much utter chaos such a relatively small amount of snow (relative to what they experience at least) was having on us here.

That in all fairness is the point - this isn't something we're used to in such quantities in such a short space of time. Perhaps however, with global warming accelerating, we should see this as the beginning of a norm. Weather patterns are so distrupted nowadays who's to say more severe weather like this is not going to become an increasingly normal occurence?

But going back to my general feelings as the day has unfolded, as Duncan Borrowman had it on his Facebook status today, 'how to invade England. 1 Wait for it to snow. 2. Walk in.

I couldn't have put it beter myself!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Best Adverts Ever?

Last year when I began my blog, I wrote the following post about great TV advertising.

Well, I've seen some excellent current examples in recent days, so much so that I've decided to extend this post and to re-print it...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

One of my little pet hates - something I would happily put into Room 101 given the chance, is bad TV adverts. There's nothing worse than a badly thought out advert that I have wasted precious seconds of my life watching. On the flip side, there is nothing better than a good, funny advert that not only makes you smile, but makes you remember what it is that was being promoted, days, weeks, months, even years later. After all, that's what advertising should be all about!

So I've trawled through my memory bank for some of those iconic, or at least to me personally, memorable adverts that have made me smile and which basically, did exactly what was said on the tin!

Iconic Advertising
Sometimes, it's the music that makes it memorable, sometimes, the iconic one liners.

Cadbury's Milk Tray is right up there with that famous line - 'And all because the lady loves Milk Tray'.

The 'Hovis' advert with Dvorak's famous New World Symphony, directed by Sir Ridley Scott is another iconic advert.

A personal favourite of mine from growing up in the 80s was the Yellow Pages advert - with J.R. Hartley looking for his book on fly fishing. Again, the melancholy and suddenly uplifting finale to the music, added to the piece.

This 'French Polishers' Yellow Pages advert was also ace!

The Hamlet adverts were superb. Again, the classical score, and the line - 'Happiness, is a cigar called Hamlet'. I've never smoked, and I don't agree with smoking advertisements. But as an advert of its day, did it do what it set out to do? Absolutely! The best one? Definitely, stuck in the bunker!

1992 was a kind of iconic year in my life. I don't really know why, but it was just a year from which everything else kind of flowed - even though I was only 10. From that year, the amazing Tango adverts. 'You Know When You've Been Tango'd' - a classic line. This was the re-make after the original, controversial 'happy slapping' original was banned!

Peter Kay's John Smiths adverts are just superb. Every one a hit. I'm biased as I think he's the best comedian in the UK - but looking at these adverts you can see why. Again, just fantastic humour and classic lines that everyone remembers. 'Top Bombing', 'Now come on, avante'. 'ave it'. Top draw advertisments!

Whatever happened to the Fairy Liquid adverts? Again, a long-running, famous brand of advertising with that hook - 'Now Hands That Do Dishes Can Feel Soft As Your Face, With Mild Green, Fairy Liquid'.

The BT adverts were also up there. Two in particular - Bob Hoskins' 'It's Good To Talk'...

...and Maureen Lipman's 'An 'Ology?!' Classic!

Maynards Wine Gums 'Set The Juice Loose' advert is just awesome! Simple, ridiculous, but incredibly catchy!

Now, I love Weetabix (it's my second favourite cereal), and this modern 'I Will Survive' advert mightn't go down in folklore as a great, but I loved it all the same!

That Vitalite advert has also stayed with me from my childhood - simply because of the tune!

The Guinness adverts have always had a touch of class about them. 'Good Things Come To Those Who Wait'. This one always won me over, simply because of the musical score. I've always thought of Guaglione as being the 'Guinness advert song'. Good advertising works guys!

There's also the 'Mambo No.5' Guinness advert from 1990.

Even the modern one is a hit!

There's also a few dodgy ones which I must admit to liking as they take me back to my childhood. The 'Birds Eye Potato Waffles' advert really isn't great, but then, the tune has still stayed with me years later, so perhaps it is! They're 'Waffly Versatile'!

This Bran Flakes advert is also rather awful - but I liked it! They're Tasty, Tasty, Very Very Tasty, They're Very Tasty!

Another awful but memorable cereal advert was Ross Kemp's Kelloggs Fruit'n Fibre escape - comically shocking!

Even Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes got in on the act! I remmeber this one well!

But, going back to some classic stuff - 'Papa! Nicole!' The Renault Clio adverts were great. The Vic and Bob wedding finale was blindin'!

The Ferrero Rocher advert was another favourite. A great tune and a visual image - 'The Ambassador's Reception',

Like Renault Clio, the Stella Artois adverts showed that there are plenty of foreign adverts that have become iconic. Again, it's the music and also the tag-line 'Stella Artois -Reassuringly Expensive'.

Honda make fantastic adverts. Easily their best one for me is 'The Impossible Dream'. Simply because I love the song sang by Andy Williams.

As an 8 year old, the 1990 Toys R'Us advert was very exciting. Even though I always thought it said 'There's millions of debris all under one roof'! This is the full version.

To finish on a few modern adverts which I think are fantastic, 'Compare the' is top draw. Simples!

But without doubt, possibly one of the best adverts for me of all time is the Skoda Fabia 'Cake' advert. Julie Andrews singing that iconic song, the sheer madness of making a car out of cake. Singing along whilst licking your lips at the thought of eating that car, it just worked on so, so, so many levels! The icing on the cake of TV adverts I would cringingly dare to suggest! Here it is once more!

There's many I'll have missed but these are a sample of what for me, makes good advertising. Mostly from the 80s/90s admittedly, but then that's when I grew up watching TV! Clearly I'm not going to show which ones are bad examples of TV advertising because I don't want to waste my life watching them again - but suffice to say, most insurance 'no claims' type adverts are right up there!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Now, in modern 2011 time, I want to add a few more...

This 'Innocent Smoothies' advert is quite absurd and yet it plays on that very point, and that makes it fantastic advertising! Using a well done sound track with Brian Blessed is a master stroke!

Then there's the 'Go Compare' franchise. They've jumped onto the Meertkat advertising bandwagon and whether you like it or not, it's ain't half catchy! Here's Gio Compario!

This new advert featuring 'Two Jags' John Prescott is the latest in a line of very good Omid Djalili adverts for the brand.

Finally, a call out which I first made when I originally wrote this blog post and which I ask again...

One advert I can't find anywhere but which I adored as a child was a Yellow Pages advert which had the Ramones hit 'Baby I Love You' as the theme tune. It showed a young kid with glasses grow up and get married and have children of his own. It's another iconic advert which introduced me to that fantastic song and if anyone can find a link to it (with the original music!), Yell!!


Wyboston is a small village in Bedfordshire in eastern England.

For most people, it's probably never even registered on the radar. But for a number of years now, for Lib Dems at least, it's become synonomous with training and socialising.

I've just returned from a packed weekend at Wyboston and looking at it, it's really a rather amusing get together.

The 'Wyboston' weekends are the large get togethers that the party has to bring together MPs, candidates and campaigners to train them and bring them up to speed on modern innovations in preparation for forthcoming elections. They used to be the 'Peterborough' weekends but the party grew and bigger training facilities were required.

My only previous visit to a 'Wyboston' weekend was back in the autumn of 2004. I think it may have been the first year the party had used the Robinsons Executive Conference facilities there, I'm not sure.

It's an incredibly long journey to get there and back from west Wales but at least when you do, everything is under one roof. The training and conference rooms, our accommodation, and the eating facilities are all enclosed in the one location. So, as it turned out, I found myself inside the building from about 3pm on Friday until 10am this morning and I didn't step outside of it in the meantime.

The training is intense but was very productive I felt this year. There was a good smattering of members from across the entire country present and I was particularly impressed to see such a good turnout from the west country and from Scotland (again, a fair distance away from Wyboston). I can count at least 17 of our MP's being there this weekend which is over a quarter of our whole Parliamentary party which was pretty impressive (most of the remainder would have been at one of the two other 'Wyboston' weekends during the previous 2 weeks). So there was a real sense that the MPs were present and it's a good opportunity for newer members and campaigners to meet our Parliamentarians in the flesh in a relaxed environment.

That, as with any real get together of the Lib Dems such as conference, is the beauty of these 'Wyboston' style weekends. When we get together, it's like a family reunion. You get to see friends you haven't seen for months and there's the opportunity to catch up on news and gossip. There's also the chance to meet new names and faces. The dinners we had this weekend, certainly gave a good opportunity for everyone to relax and unwind after a full-on training schedule.

I've been involved with the party since 2001. I began going to conferences proper and getting involved in the wider party from around mid-2002 onwards. When I first started working for the party in 2004 and attended that first 'Wybsoton' weekend, the characters were very different to those I saw this weekend. Some of course are still there. The irrepressible Lord Rennard, our Chief Executive, was present with the same level of bonhomie with which we have become accustomed. Many of the Campaigning Directors and Deputy Directors are still in post, whilst many others inevitably, have moved on.

So it was slightly odd in a way, seeing so many new faces. It reminded me that I've been involved in the party for some time now. There were certainly more 'new' faces there this weekend than 'old' ones. This gave me an opportunity to get to know new people who will probably become a part of that extended Lib Dem 'family' that has continued to grow over the years. This weekend was no exception, but as with many such events, it's odd how I often find myself getting to know someone new and spending much of the weekend in their company. This time round it was Alex who works with David Heath MP who was usually sitting next to me during the long training sessions. It's always nice to be able to get to know someone new during the course of these weekends and she proved good and amusing company.

Over the years, I've met or spoken at some level with most of our MPs, but certainly not all of them. These weekends often give an amusing opportunity to digress at the bar with one of these MPs I've never really spoken to before and this weekend was no different. Listening to Nick Harvey MP in good form at our dinner table on the Friday night was entertaining, as was, for the first time, having a good chat with Malcolm Bruce, an MP since 1983, at the bar last night. From thrashing out peace in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East, to drinking a whiskey in celebration of Burns night today, he was in particularly good form.

It's these little snippets which I enjoy most from these get togethers. Despite all the hype and all the stress that goes into political life, you are at the end of the day, just dealing with human beings and breaking down that barrier to talk to them about every day issues, is always great fun.

So, as well as learning much this weekend, my 'Lib Dem family' has grown that little bit more during the past few days. As it the way of things, I'll no doubt meet up with many of them again when our spring conference in Harrogate come around in early March.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Dr Strangelove has left the building...

It was a fantastic few hours watching Obama's inauguration last night.

Everything (apart from the Chief Justice's slip-up and the lateness of the oath of office itself) seemed to go perfectly.

I had been rather annoyed in seeing many of my friends Facebook status updates in recent days expressing hope that Obama would make it to the ceremony itself. I understand the concern, but did it really have to be expressed? I think it shows that many still had a feeling of disbelief that after 8 years of Bush & Cheney, something good could come out of it all. Did Obama really beat Hilary? Did he really win the general against bull-dog McCain? Are we that lucky?! I suppose, with the sheer enormity of what had happened and had gone before, it was reasonable to be weary and to hope that nothing bad would befall him during the transition. It must be said, I was rather relaxed about it all. America has turned the corner to such an extent that I felt it was going to go smoothly.

Dick Cheney in his wheelchair was a rather bizzare and in a way, a rather comical sight. Doesn't it signify better than anything, how moribund this out-going Presidency had become?! He also looked thoroughly unhappy and clearly didn't want to be there which added to the occasion! He did strike me as resembling Dr Strangelove. Seeing him being wheeled off, and Bush flying off into the distance, was as good as anything I witnessed yesterday.

Michelle Obama is going to be a fantasically fiery First Lady. As fiery as Abbey Bartlett off the West Wing? Possibly so - and there's nothing wrong with that! Having young children in the White House for the first time since the Presidency of JFK will also do wonders to the Presidency as an institution - not mentioning the fact that young Malia and Sasha seem like smashing kids who are lapping up the attention and the limelight.

I think, more than anything, the wonder of yesterday was seeing the whole spectrum of American society not only out there in Washington watching the inauguration, but doing so with beaming smiles that showed a hope and pride for what they were witnessing. The fact that Americans of all races and all creeds were coming together for what was in effect, a national celebration, was wonderful to see.

The speech itself was surprisingly businessmanlike. But maybe, we shouldn't have been so surprised. There's much to do and Obama seemed to want to give across the impression that it was time to lead, and that time was immediate. No sweeping gestures, just an understading that the work begins now. Quite right too. My favourite line in the speech? Easily the one where he said "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist". Fantastic stuff.

What of the future? Well, his announcement to start with of his intention to close Guantanamo was expected. But nevertheless, within hours of assuming the Presidency, it's a clear signal of where he means to lead his country and how he plans to deal with the outside world.

A few constitutional throughts did strike me. Once Joe Biden had been sworn in as Vice-President, in the intervening minutes whilst the orchestra was playing, if anything had happened to Obama, then I presume it would've been Biden, not Cheney who would've been in charge. More interestingly, because the whole inauguration was running some 5 minutes late, Obama hadn't actually been sworn in at the stroke of noon. As far as I'm aware, Bush's Presidency came to an end at that point. But because of the delay, his successor hadn't been sworn in by that time. So, who technically, was in charge between 12pm and 12.05pm when Obama swore the oath of office? Surely it couldn't have been him as he hadn't taken the Oath. So for those 5 minutes, was VP Joe Biden actually, technically, the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America?! Of course, it doesn't really matter, but these little thing intrigue me!

An apt tune for the occasion had the organisers asked me for my opition, would've been 'Goodbye, Hello' by the Beatles. Goodbye Mr Bush, hello President Obama.

Actually, taking in the significance of the entire event, the best part for me, even better than seeing Bush and Cheney fade away into hoped for obscurity, had to be when Obama made his oath of office and said "I, Barack Hussein Obama..." That was enough for me. For America to have elected an African American with the middle name Hussein, and to hear him proudly announce his full name in front of a global viewing audience of millions, is worth its weight in gold and demonstrates better than anything else, that the only way is up.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Growing up with Dubya

It's quite odd, looking back, to realise that today is in fact, January 19th 2009.

For too long, I've been waiting and waiting for this day - and the next. Long before Obama was even in our headlights, I've been waiting for the day when America's 43rd President would be leaving high office.

It's a sobering thought, but pretty much since I left the steady, calm confines ofYsgol Gyfun Dyffryn Taf back in August 2000 to enter the real world, this man they call 'Dubya' has been stalking my every move.

I came to University in Aberystwyth that September. I well remember listening to the 2000 US Presidential election results coming through in the computer room in Pantycelyn that November. I also remember far too well, bursting into said computer room, yelling out 'Al Gore's won Florida!' when it was announced on the US networks. Of course, the rest is history. I can vaguely recall avoiding Dubya's inauguration ceremony that January 20th. It wasn't his victory anyway, so I wasn't going to participate in his moment of crowning glory!

Through my years as a student in Aberystwyth, undergraduate and postgraduate, and into my years in politics in Cardigan, he has remained. The 2004 election night I recall was particularly galling. I'd been laid low by my only bout, to date, of tonsilitis. I was at home in the hills of north Pembrokeshire, recovering. I actually did think that Kerry had a good chance of winning it. I stayed up all night to watch the results (of course) and watched in growing horror as our Dubya held onto Ohio and Florida to secure another 4 years in the White House. How could they re-elect him after Iraq?! I was non-plussed to say the least.

From then on, January 20th 2009 has been a far flung speck of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

In many ways, I have sympathy with Dubya. Like Blair, I credit him with doing what he belived was right. He was blatantly wrong time after time after time, but I sense his belief that he was right, like with Blair, was a guiding principle. Unfortunately, it's a guide that has left the world a much more troubled place than it was on January 20th 2000. It must also be noted however, that for the last 8 years, Sandie Shaw has played a surprisingly significant role in global politics. That is, of course, if you swop Dick Cheney with our Sandie. Dubya, has quite simply, been the puppet on Cheney's string. He's been in charge all along and will be shown by the history books to have been the most powerful VP in US history.

That in a way, is what made the past 8 years so unpalatable. As much as I detested Dubya, the thought of his choking on his pretzel and not seeing it through to the other side, only meant a President Dick Cheney and if there was only one thing worse than Dubya in office, then it was that.

So when Obama came along, not only was it a feeling of relief that January 20th 2009 was finally approaching and Dubya could finally go back to his ranch, but there's also been the feeling of excitement, that actually, we are on the brink of a potentially historic Presidency. Indeed, it will be historic as it is, but Obama seems to have the qualities that will raise him above many of his predecessors. We will see what happens. No doubt we'll feel let down by many of his initiatives (or lack of them) but then with so much hype around his coming, a touch of reality is needed here. Will we see the great change in emphasis in Middle Eastern policy that is needed now more than ever? Maybe, maybe not. With Hillary as Secretary of State I have my doubts, but here's hoping. What there will be though is a new sense of purpose and a feeling of American renewal which is desperately needed.

8 long years. It's a scary concept but just like Reagan in the 80s, Dubya has been there throughout the entirety of this decade. Indeed, with tomorrow, comes the end of back-to-back Presidencies. Not since Jefferson, Madison and Monroe between 1801 and 1825 have we had 2 successive Presidencies that lasted their full two terms. Obama will hopefully make it a 3rd.

Its been a dark decade with Dubya in power. America deserved and deserves better. It's a fantastic country which has been badly let down by its Government. Now, the waiting is finally over. That elusive date, January 20th 2009 is upon us. There's hope and there's relief shared in equal measure.

I grew up in the shadow of Dubya, and now it's time to move on and look forward to a different, more progressive American and global future. In years to come, will they mention the 44th President in the same breath as the 16th, 32nd and 35th? Here's hoping. But I think it's safe to say, that Dubya, the 43rd, will go down in history in the same breath as the 14th, 15th and 29th.