Sunday, 25 May 2014

#F1 - eyes on the prize

I think it's fair to say that Lewis Hamilton didn't look very happy at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix earlier this afternoon.  His troubles began yesterday, in Qualifying, when his teammate Nico Rosberg made a mistake - causing Yellow Flags, and denying Hamilton the chance to snatch Pole position away from his teammate when it looked like he was on a very good lap indeed.

There was inevitable controversy around this incident; reminiscent of Michael Schumacher's infamous stunt in Qualifying at Monaco eight years ago, speculation as to whether Rosberg had scuppered Hamilton's flying lap on purpose rumbled on through the night, and into this morning - despite the race Stewards' ruling that Rosberg's mistake had not been deliberate, and that he should be allowed to keep his Pole position.

Naturally, Hamilton was unhappy about how his Qualifying had ended - but he seemed to take a relatively philosophical view on raceday, putting the events on Saturday behind him and looking to maximise his chances in the race from second on the grid.  However, he ended the race in second (where he'd started), and with more grievances than ever - especially over the way in which the team handle Pit Stop strategies between their two drivers.

Hamilton has felt hard-done-by on several occasions this weekend, and (depending on your perspective) you might look at his race weekend in Monaco and feel he does have a point.  However, he has to remain stoical, put these issues behind him and look ahead to the next to the next Grand Prix in Canada, in two weeks time, instead of dwelling on what he perceives as the injustices of the previous race.

To allow oneself to slip into a 'victim' mentality is one of the worst things that can happen to a world-class sportsman.  If Hamilton starts to believe he is the subject of some conspiracy within the Mercedes AMG F1 team, he will effectively derail his hopes of claiming a second Word Drivers' Championship victory this season; he will become paranoid and resentful, and he will start to kick against his team instead of working with them, and he will cease to make calm, rational decisions on the track, instead allowing himself to become motivated by revenge and an attempt to vindicate himself.

When the stakes are so high, and the margins so tight, it is understandable that tensions surface and frustrations boil over when things don't go your way.  Hamilton's reaction to a disappointing weekend is nothing surprising - but how he handles that disappointment over the next couple of weeks, and the mindset with which he approaches the race in Canada two weeks from now, will tell us a lot about his Championship bid this year.

Luck plays a part in any sport.  Part of being a successful sportsman is the acceptance that you don't always get the rub of the green, and sometimes things will go against you; those who are at the very top of their game, in any area, are those who deal with that the best, and getting sucked into the downward psychological spiral of a 'siege' mentality is not the way to do that.

To win the World Championship this year, Lewis Hamilton needs to make sure he doesn't lose sight of the big picture - he needs to keep his eyes on the prize, and not let little things drag him down.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Your right not to vote

It's Polling Day!  The most magical day of the year!  Children awake at the crack of dawn, to find the stockings they had hung up beside the fireplace, so empty and unfulfilled the night before, stuffed full of shiny new polling cards and campaign literature; the whole family gathers to exchange election gifts, and then sit down so a sumptuous home-cooked Polling Day dinner; we sing election carols, which tell and retell the glorious tale of that first election, all those many years ago - it is a story everyone knows, but which never gets old.

I have voted in every election since I turned eighteen.  I consider voting to be an important part of citizenship.  However, I also fully support the right of those who don't wish to vote - for whatever reason - not to do so.  It's a shame not everyone feels like this.

In the past few weeks - as in the run-up to every election - politicians, activists, celebrities (whose own feeling of self-importance won't allow them not to stick their oar in) and ordinary people have been reminding everyone to vote.  "Remember to vote!" they say, in a patronising, mothering tone - as if those who don't are simply forgetful, careless, or plain lazy.

Campaigns like Never Forget To Vote use powerful, emotive rhetoric about "Nazis" and "protests" to encourage people to go out and vote on Polling Day.  We are told time and time again that people "fought and died" for our right to vote - not to use that right is an insult to the brave men and women who fought for freedom and democracy.  We are told that, in many countries around the world, the right to vote is still very much in peril - if we don't vote in our own elections, we are insulting those who don't have have the same democratic rights we in the UK enjoy.  For women, especially, the emotive spectre of the Suffragettes, and their struggle to extend the franchise to women, hangs over anyone who dares not visit the polling station.

It's all a load of hyperbolic rubbish, really, isn't it?

We in Britain are fortunate to live in a democratic country.  We are not hapless subjects writhing beneath the heel of some despotic tyrant.  But democracy is, above all else, about choice; those wars we fought so long ago to preserve our freedoms were not waged so that we should have the right to vote, but so that we could choose to vote.

I know (or know of) many people who are choosing not to vote in today's European Elections.  These are not people who do not care, or who have simply "forgotten" to vote - they are interested, intelligent, politically-active people, many of whom have, in the past, been members of political parties, or even stood for election themselves.  Their choice not to vote today is exactly that - a conscious, informed decision to abstain from voting.  That is as valid a choice as any.

There are many good reasons to vote today.  But there are also good reasons not to.  And in the end, it is each individual's choice whether or not to exercise the right to vote.  Not to do so in no way diminishes the struggles or accomplishments of those who put their lives on the line in the name of democracy or freedom - indeed, that is a big part of what those people were fighting for.  A conscientious abstainer is as much a part of the democratic process as anyone.

Let's drop the pretence that anyone who doesn't vote today will have blood on their hands once the cyborgs rise up and enslave all of the free peoples of Europe (or whatever).

Sunday, 18 May 2014


Don't believe the UKIP lies.  The idea that all politicians are the same, or that all 'mainstream' political parties are the same (or however you want to phrase) is one of the most ludicrous concepts to have permeated the public consciousness in recent times - as even the most cursory glance at a manifesto will tell you.  However, there is one way in which all politicians are very much alike; they are all universally adored by the people in their local area - at least, according to their own Tweets, they are!

With the European Elections coming up in less than a week, now, politicians and activists of all parties are feverishly taking to Twitter to try and create a good impression.  The good impression they all want to make goes as follows:

They have been out-and-about in the local area (wherever that is - some of them don't even know themselves!), meeting the local people "on the doorstep" (which always sounds very draughty, to me).  It is hard, physical work because it involves a lot of walking, not to mention carrying pieces of paper - but it's all worth it, because for the local candidate and his or her team of enthusiastic volunteers, engaging with the voters at this personal level is such an invigorating and life-affirming experience.

Personally, I suspect that a healthy proportion of people who answer their front doors to find an out-of-breath gaggle of political zealots armed with shiny leaflets standing there just tell them to sod off again.  But these respondents are carefully filtered out of the picture painted on social media, and the stories we read on Twitter are all of local residents who are not only keen to lay all their concerns (about "local issues" - like parking outside the school, and the planned closure of the duck pond) at the feet of the politicians whom they trust explicitly to deal with such matters, but are eager to make it clear just how delighted they are by all the hard work the party has done so far on their behalf.

No matter which party a candidate or activist represents, or the area in which he or she is campaigning, his or her canvassing activities only ever elicit "a very positive response from locals" - or, at least, appear to.

Frankly, it's getting a little tedious.  Yes, we know there are elections around the corner - but do you honestly think that telling everyone on Twitter how many local people you have spoken to (as if that's supposed to impress us?!), and how much all of them liked and respected you (as if we're going to believe that?!) is going to get you any more votes?  Maybe you should Tweet about your policies instead…

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Sweet #FACup

As a British sports fan, I know I'm supposed to support the underdogs.  That's why I would love to see Atlético Madrid beat Barcelona today and win La Liga - breaking the two-club stranglehold of Barcelona and Real Madrid which has existed in Spanish football for years.  That's why I know I ought to want Hull City to beat Arsenal today, and lift the FA Cup for the first time in their history.

But, I don't.  The truth is, I want Arsenal to win today - and not just because the dodgy Penalty which Hull were awarded against Norwich earlier in the season still rankles!  No, I want Arsenal to win because, if they don't, the insufferable gloating of thousands of football fans gleefully pointing out the continuation of Arsenal's run of seasons without winning a trophy will be excruciating.

I can't be the only person getting fed up of this tired and and one-dimensional statistic being trotted out at every opportunity.  Not only is it tedious in the extreme to hear about how Arsenal haven't won a trophy since 2005 (also an FA Cup, as it happens), it is completely disingenuous to claim that this in any way makes Arsenal a 'failure' as a club, or that this is something of which they should be ashamed.

Fernando Alonso hasn't won the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship since 2006 - but everyone still recognises that he is one of the top drivers in the sport right now.  In the light of that fact, one has to be particularly obtuse to point at this one aspect of Arsenal's recent record in football, ignoring all other factors, and claim that this somehow means they are not a successful football club.

Arsenal are a team who have not finished outside the Top 4 in the Premier League since 1996.  That level of consistency, at the very highest level, is a much more remarkable statistic than the fact they haven't won a trophy for nine years.  They have the third highest tally of League Titles in history (behind Liverpool and Man. Utd.), they have the second highest tally of FA Cups (behind Man. Utd.), and they still hold the record for the longest unbeaten run of Premier League games.  (That they have achieved this on a much more limited budget than some Premier League clubs have available to them is even more impressive.)  Moreover, I don't imagine there are many clubs in this country whose supporters and players wouldn't want to swap their 2013-14 seasons for Arsenal's!

It is harsh on Hull - who have had an excellent season, staying up in the Premier League after being promoted from the Championship this time last year, and reaching an FA Cup Final (that, in itself, is 'success'!) - to say so, but I shall be cheering on Arsenal when this year's Final gets underway this evening.  If the Gunners can go from winning Sweet F.A. to Sweet FA Cup, that will shut a lot of people up - and that will be a very good thing indeed!

Time to cut off the roadworks queue-jumpers

It is a quintessentially British thing to get so wonderfully infuriated by queue-jumpers.  So why do we accept such shoddy behaviour, which would never for a moment be permissible in a queue of pedestrians, on the road?

The diagram above details a very common scenario on Britain's highways.  When roadworks are being done on a dual carriageway road, and one of the lanes is therefore closed after a certain point, most people are sensible enough to get themselves into the correct lane nice and early (these lane closures are usually signposted from up to two miles back, so there's ample time to prepare).

However, there are always a few impatient, discourteous, uncivilised drivers about.  These are the people who dress like estate agents and drive Audi A6 Estates, or BMW 1 Series.  (It has long been an ambition of mine to find these men who drive 1 Series and tell them, in the style of Tom Baker in Blackadder: "you drive a woman's BMW, my lord!"  …but that's another topic entirely.)

The car in the right-hand lane in my diagram is one such driver.  He knows that the right-hand lane is soon going to be closed off - and he knows that this is why the majority of cars are pulling over into the left-hand lane.  But he sees an opportunity to overtake a few cars, so he pulls out into the right-hand lane, accelerates to 80mph, and races down to the very point at which it is no longer possible to drive any further without pulling over to the left again - then he flicks his indicator on and waits for somebody in the queue of traffic to let him in.

He gains relatively little from his reckless, insufferable rudeness - but other drivers, who have had the sense to move into the left-hand lane early, end up having to let him in ahead of themselves, thus inflating his ego and encouraging more of this uncouth behaviour.

Well, I say no more!  We, as a nation, must tolerate this sort of thing no longer!  We should not allow roadworks queue-jumpers the satisfaction of thinking they have stolen a march on the rest of us - leave them sitting at the point where the traffic cones bar their way, and do not let them back in.  They will soon learn.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

#NCFC - the future's yellow

Every fairytale comes to an end after a while.  Norwich City's relegation to the Championship last weekend marked the end of an era which had seen the club gain back-to-back promotions after the dark days of a 7-1 defeat to Colchester United in League One in 2009, and go on to spend three successive seasons in the Premier League.

It is with no inconsiderable trepidation that I take to the airwaves of the internet to write about the situation at Norwich City now.  However, one of the greatest things about sport is its ability to get people talking; differences of opinion are common, but there is always room for debate.

For Norwich fans, the 2013-14 season has been characterised predominantly by acrimony and bitter disappointment.  It has been a season of frustration and anger, with few high points, considerable periods of misfortune, and culminating in relegation from the Premier League.

There is little mileage, however, in a backward-looking 'blame game', at this point - and fans who are looking for a single figure of woe at whose door they can lay all the responsibilities for this train-wreck of a season are going to be disappointed.  Who will be our scapegoat now that manager Chris Hughton is gone?  Club CEO David McNally?  Interim manager Neil Adams?  Record signing Ricky Van Wolfswinkel?  No, far more productive than a bile-satiating but ultimately fruitless quest to apportion blame is to look to the future, and think about how we move on from this.
The question on everybody's lips now is "who will be the next manager?"  It's a good question.  Already, there are rumours flying around that Malky Mackay has been offered with the position.  A favourite with the fans, and widely regarded to have been very wrongfully treated during his time in the Premier League with Cardiff City, Mackay was already on Norwich fans' managerial radar long before the sacking of Hughton at the beginning of April.

When I wrote at the time about the various managerial options open to the club, I said that, in my opinion, Mackay was a good manager, but not necessarily a 'step up' - and although he should've been given more time by Cardiff, his record in the Premier League was, overall, quite poor.  Of course, the situation has changed now; Norwich will be a Championship team next season, not a Premier League team, and Mackay has a proven track record of getting a team promoted from the Championship.

However, I feel the club needs to tread very carefully here.  To allow ourselves to slip into the mindset of being a 'Championship club' could be a very slippery slope indeed.

Now, I don't buy this nonsense some fans seem to be pedalling that it's better to be in the Championship anyway.  Some people are saying that the Championship is a closer-fought, more exciting league; that the games are better to watch; that the league is more open because it's not dominated by a handful of super-rich clubs; that "at least, in the Championship, we might win some games".  I am reminded of an expression my Grandfather had - that "it's better to be bottom of the top group than top of the bottom group".  It might help to make you feel better about relegation to say these things, but this is a loser's attitude; the Premier League is the elite of football in this country, and it is where all clubs should want to be - if you don't want to be in the top flight, then what is your raison d'être as a club?

So, let's forget that argument straight away.  As a football club, we want to get back into the Premier League as quickly as possible.  But again, we need to be a little careful here, and not take too shortsighted an approach.  Winning promotion again would be fantastic, of course - but this time, that needs to be sustainable.  What we need is a strategy which not only gets us back into the Premier League, but keeps us there.

This is why I am slightly wary of the forthcoming managerial appointment.  I am worried that those making the big decisions at the club won't be thinking big enough - that they will start to think of us as a 'Championship club', and therefore appoint a 'Championship manager'.  The groundwork for becoming an established Premier League team needs to start now, not after promotion, and that comes from the top, with a good, ambitious manager.

Malky Mackay might win automatic promotion with Norwich, just as he did with Cardiff - and that would be excellent.  But would he then struggle in the Premier League with Norwich, as he did with Cardiff?  Mackay is a safe and solid choice, and would do a good job - but, in my view, there are better managerial options out there.

In my previous post about Norwich City's managers, I spoke of Michael Laudrup (inexplicably sacked by Swansea during the season just gone) as being my preferred candidate.  In his first season at Swansea, Laudrup's record was excellent, and I think his style and approach would suit Norwich well.  Another name to throw into the hat (which was not the case back in February), would be Tim Sherwood - with the highest win percentage of any Spurs manager ever, and with links to Norwich City already, Sherwood was let go by Tottenham just this morning, and will surely be looking for opportunities to get back into management.

Again, as I said before, it is easy to throw these names around.  Hey, while we're at it, why don't we try and get Jupp Heynckes out of retirement?!  The other side to the coin is whether these managers would even want to come to Norwich anyway.  As a newly relegated club, whose form in the league over the past few months has been pretty dire, we are surely an even less attractive destination for ambitious, forward-thinking managers than we were before?

Well, maybe so.  But this is where we need to bring our biggest strengths into play - namely, the club's strong financial position, and passionate fan-base - and, again, where our top brass need to be thinking big, and long-term.  We don't know what options Laudrup or Sherwood (or, for that matter, Heynckes!) have on the table already; it may be that an approach from Norwich would be by far and away the best job offer either of them has had since their respective sackings - or it may be that they're both already being courted by Man. Utd., Arsenal and Real Madrid.  Who knows?!

What we need to do, though, is approach these managers and set out a vision for the club.  We need to show them that there is money available for transfers, and that they will be allowed to bring in the players that they want; we need to assure them that we're not the sort of club to indulge in knee-jerk sackings the moment we concede a goal or lose a game; and, most importantly of all, we need to make it clear that the club has long-term ambitions to become an established part of the Premier League, and that we are building this from the ground up, starting now.

There is no doubt that this is going to be a very hard task for whoever takes over.  The Championship is very competitive, and lots of clubs are after that prize of promotion, and a shot at the big time.  But this is why it is now so important to lay the foundations for a long-term plan; relegation from the Premier League is not a reason to be less ambitious - no, it is a reason to be more ambitious.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

#Eurovision aftermath

OK, no one expects the songs in the Eurovision Song Contest to be heavyweight musical masterpieces oozing with integrity and artistic merit.  The contest has long been a showcase for Europe's lowest-common-denominator bubblegum pop music and questionable fashion choices.

That being said, even in the world of expendable cheesy pop, there are still good and bad examples of songwriting.  Unfortunately, Eurovision more often seems to give an unreasonably large platform to the latter.

My impression during the live television show last night was of an endless parade of unremarkable, instantly forgettable tunes - but it is only the day after that one realises how disposable so many of these Eurovision entries actually are.

If nothing else, pop music of this sort can at least boast irritatingly catchy chorus hooks with simple lyrics and melodies which get stuck going 'round and 'round your head, whether you want them to or not - well, usually, anyway!  However, looking back over the events of the previous night, or twenty-six songs which were performed, I can remember only a handful of them.

Interestingly, I remember the chorus to the Greek song 'Rise Up' (which also featured performers on trampolines), which came nowhere in the voting process.  I remember some parts of the Dutch song - which came second, but which I actually thought should've won.  (Even more remarkably, I actually have one mutual friend with the Netherlands' singer on Facebook.)  And I was pleased to discover that I remembered the chorus of the British entry too - despite its being rather short on words!

As for the winner - Austria's bearded lady, Conchita Wurst - only one line from the song (the crabwise sequential run into the chorus) has stuck in my mind, despite having heard it twice.  As Rod Liddle notes in The Spectator, while Conchita Wurst can certainly sing, and the Austrian song was by no means bad, it was not the best song of the evening - its extraordinarily high tally of points can be ascribed in no small part to its novelty factor.

However, rack my brains as I might, that is all of last night's musical content which I can recall.  Sure, I remember plenty of the acts' gimmicks - the Romanians' circular piano; the erotic Polish milk-churning; the Swiss whistling (Swisstling?); the Spanish singer looking like she'd just got out of the shower - but none of their actual songs.

While this slapdash approach to songwriting can work in the surreal crucible of the Eurovision Song Contest, in the real world such tracks would, in all likelihood, sink without trace.  Could it be that it's not actually as easy to write a catchy pop hit as so many people seem to think it is?

#F1 - racing is about winning, not looking good

While watching the Spanish Grand Prix earlier today, I saw this Tweet from former BBC F1 presenter Jake Humphrey, in response to a team radio message sent to Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo from his team's garage:
I'm a big fan of Jake, and usually have a lot of time for him, and for what he has to say about sports…  But this post irritated me - and, frankly, made me quite cross.

It is no secret that a Formula 1 car goes quickest when it is in clear air, not when there are other cars close around, disrupting the airflow.  Racing is about going as fast as you possibly can - so why would you expect Ricciardo and Red Bull to do something which they know for a fact is going to make them slower, purely for your entertainment?

The teams and drivers are there to do a job - and that job is to drive their cars as fast as they possibly can, finish as high up the order as they can, and score as many points as they can.  If the way to do that is to 'drop back and maintain a two second gap', why wouldn't they do that?!

Sport is great entertainment - but it is, first-and-foremost, a high-stakes competition (after all, that is what makes it so exciting).  So, to expect anyone competing actually to harm their chances of a strong finish is crass and foolish in the extreme.

The drivers are not there to make your Sunday afternoon a little bit more exciting, they are there to win races and score points - and they will never stop seeking the best and most efficient method of doing so.  That is as it should be.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

We're all going on a Summer Halal-iday

Well, here we are again!  Just two days after I wrote about the massive overreaction to the news that Subway would be converting many of its UK sandwich shops to an entirely Halal menu, in response from demand from Muslim customers, this so-called 'scandal' keeps on growing and growing.

Yesterday, The Sun newspaper broke the news that common high-street restaurants like Pizza Express have been using exclusively Halal meat for years.  (Pizza Express later pointed out that this information has actually been freely available for some time.)

Naturally, everybody was outraged.  ('Outraged' has become the standard national response to any news story, no matter what it says.)  People were outraged that they were being fed Halal meat without their knowledge; they were outraged that national restaurant chains were kowtowing to a minority religious group; other people were outraged that the first group of people were outraged, claiming that their outrage was the result of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim racism - and still more outraged that this story had been printed in The Sun.

But if people calm down and think for a moment, instead of either spewing knee-jerk racist prejudice, or knee-jerkily accusing others of racism, we can see this is a story about food, and food labelling, as much as it is about religion or ethnic minorities.

To many people, where their food comes from, and how it's been prepared, matters.  Like, really matters.  People want to know whether their vegetables are organic or not; whether their eggs are free-range, or from a 'battery' farm; whether their meat has been grass-fed or, um, fed with other stuff.  Likewise, they might want to know how their meat has been slaughtered.

Over past decade or so, Britain has seen a huge increase in concern over welfare in farming, and the origins and provenance of food.  Celebrities chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have emphasised the importance of quality produce, and quality of life, alongside initiatives like the RSPCA's Freedom Foods campaign, and the Red Tractor scheme.

And it is not just on the basis of animal welfare that people will want to know how their food has been prepared.  As political writer and journalist Sunny Hundal mentioned on Twitter, Sikhs are traditionally forbidden from eating Halal meat because of the process.  A sikh's right to be able to eat only non-Halal meat on religious grounds is surely no less important than a muslim's right to be able to eat Halal meat for the same reasons.

There is little doubt that at least some of the furore surrounding the latest Halal meat 'scandal' is racially and Islamophobically motivated.  People who dislike Muslims on principle will try to use this story as an excuse to spread fear about immigrants 'coming over here' and turning Britain into 'an Islamic state' - that is the divisive, anti-immigrant rhetoric of racist groups like the English Defence League, and is both hateful and wrong.  But it is not racist to care about food provenance, and many people's objections will be not to Halal meat itself, nor to Islam in general, but simply to the fact that what they were buying was not labelled as such.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Sandwich review: Chicken, Ham & Cheddar from deli2go, and Smoked Ham & Coleslaw by Marks & Spencer's Simply M&S range

The official description for each of these sandwiches is:
Roast chicken breast, smoked formed ham, mild cheddar cheese, tomato, mixed salad leaves, and English mustard mayonnaise on malted wheatgrain bread (left)
Smoked British ham with shredded cabbage, carrots, onions and mustard in mayonnaise on malted brown bread (right)
Now, I have decided to review these two sandwiches together, instead of individually, for a number of reasons.  Firstly, both fillings include ham - nothing hugely weird about this, of course, but in bought sandwiches bacon is far more normal.  And, secondly, I ate these two sandwiches within a couple of days of each, and was struck by the similarities between the two of them - even if they purport to be vastly different sandwiches.

If I were asked to describe both sandwiches in one word, I would say:  'overmayonated'.  (I know that isn't a real word, but I am hoping it will catch on.)  Both M&S and deli2go have made the mistake of simply lathering their creations in mayonnaise in the hope that this will make them enjoyable.  It doesn't.

The creamy swathes of mayonnaise ensured that the other flavours (which could have been so good) were left sadly muted and subdued.  In much the same way that putting too much milk into a cup of tea or coffee will ruin in, here the flavours of smoked ham, onions and English mustard which should've come bounding strongly through were barely present.

It was a shame that deli2go also chose to use 'mild cheddar cheese'.  A strong cheddar would've saved the sandwich from interminable blandness - as it was, however, the mild cheese simply added to the overall palette of tasteless dairy creaminess, and added nothing to the sandwich save its texture.

On the whole, I was left disappointed by these two sandwiches - either of which could quite easily have been salvaged with stronger flavours and slightly less mayonnaise.

I would not buy either of these sandwiches again.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Halal can you go?

Following the news that popular sandwich shop Subway is going to stop serving pork across many of its UK outlets in response to 'demand' from Muslims for an 'all-Halal' menu, I'm left (as I so often am) wondering what all the fuss is about.

Naturally, this issue has sparked some considerable debate (including an online petition to stop the changes going through).  People are outraged.  Incensed.  How dare Subway do this?!

Well, Subway are a private company; it is their prerogative to serve - or not to serve - whichever foods they choose.  Personally, if I were in charge of making these decisions, I would not replace pork with Halal alternatives - I would serve Halal alternatives alongside non-Halal menu items, in an effort to cater to the widest range of customers possible.  However, whoever it is who is actually making the decisions has clearly chosen a different approach, and feels that this way of doing things is better.  Fair enough.

I've seen a lot of responses to this news story on social media from people who say they will no longer be spending their money in Subway shops, because they don't agree with this decision.  Again, that's fair enough - just as Subway can choose which foods to serve, their customers are free to choose not to go there if they don't like the items on offer on the new menu.

But don't paint yourself as some sort of revolutionary just because you're no longer popping into Subway in your lunch hour!  This is exactly how markets are supposed to work - if a company's product is not what you'd like, you don't buy from them.  You're not 'boycotting' Subway; you're not an activist changing the world, whose heroic deeds will be sung about in great banqueting halls in centuries to come; you're simply choosing where to buy a sandwich.

This issue has garnered the response that it has because it is to do with Islam - but what the headlines essentially boil down to is: "Sandwich shop changes menu; some people preferred it before."  Shocker.