Category Archives: World Cup 2010

Dear Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition

Dear Mr Corbyn,

I write this open letter to you as a member of the Labour Party and someone who desperately wants see our beloved country heal its wounds and come together.  We both know that the policy of austerity enacted on the people of this country since 2010 has not only decimated our public services but has also driven up our national debt to unprecedented levels. Neither of these outcomes can be disputed. They are a matter of fact.

I have always believed you to be a man of truth and principle and your voting record down the years in the House of Commons proves my point. Doing the right thing by people is a cornerstone of your leadership of the Labour Party.

On the subject of truth, I found my original copies of the EU referendum campaigning documents which came through my door. The outlandish and false claims made by a Leave campaign did not fully register with me at the time, but now, with the country riven by division, it is easy to see that the claims were both dishonest and fundamentally wrong.

Within the leaflet ‘Who governs Britain?’it stated the following:-


  • The cost of membership is about £19bn gross per year’we all know that the actual net contribution is closer to less than half of that.
  • ‘The total cost on the economy of EU membership is calculated at about £190bn per year*. That equates to about £7000 per household’. The * relates to a study in 2015 by Professor Tim Congdon. We all know that the ‘cost’ to the British economy is nothing like that number, indeed we are told by the ONS and IFS that there is a net benefit to the economy from our EU membership.
  • ‘Almost all areas of our domestic policy are now controlled by the EU. The Westminster Parliament has surrendered control, even down to the level of legislation on hair-dryers, electric kettles and vacuum cleaners’. How can this claim stand up to any scrutiny, especially in light of the last few months in Parliament?
  • ‘Literally millions of people have flooded into the UK from poor European countries. This has driven wages down, property prices up, and put unsustainable burdens on housing, the NHS, roads and transport etc’. Besides the lazy use of ‘etc’ all the evidence points to the net contribution made by EU citizens living in the UK. It is both disingenuous and inaccurate to make this statement.
  • ‘The EU intends to import millions more migrants from Africa and beyond. Once these migrants are established in any EU state, they will have the right to come to Britain.’Another nebulous and wholly inaccurate statement.
  • ‘The EU intends to allow Turkey to join with its population of 75 million – all of whom will have the right to come to Britain. Turkey’s porous borders with the Middle East will mean even more illegal immigration to the UK’.

I think you will agree with me Jeremy that these claims were cunningly designed to instil fear and loathing into the hearts and minds of those who read them. I truly believe Brexit was the wrong answer to the right question. The real question being asked was ‘do you want to see real change in this country and take back control of your lives and your futures?’. To blame the EU for years and years of policies that put markets before people creating a society that judges people not on their worth by what they do for others, but by how much money they have, is the wrong answer. Our nationally elected governments have driven these policies consistently for many years. Our governments have full control over their budgetary and taxation policy.  To infer anything otherwise is simply wrong.

I have watched with admiration the way that the Labour Party have made themselves more democratic and accountable to its members in these last few years. Members, all of whom have invested in their membership fees and many who have invested time to support key campaigns.  This democracy should be ultimate. The EU referendum was an exercise in democracy and that should be respected. But before some lecture us on democracy, will those same people call our current parliamentary electoral system for what it is? Fundamentally undemocratic given the vagaries of the First Past The Post System. This system delivers power to the winning party on the basis of no more than 40% of votes cast. Since when was 40% a majority anywhere? So democracy and ‘our democratic system’ is at best fluid, and at worst flawed and not actually democratic.

I think you will be aware that the vast majority of Labour members want another chance to express their preferences to either remain or leave the EU, via a People’s Vote. Given that we have all found out a lot more in these past 30 months. I doubt the Remain campaign would get a red bus long enough to put ‘We could spend £39,000,000,000 on the NHS instead’?

Jeremy, you are a democrat. You believe in people and you believe in the interests of the many over the select few. Many people voted to leave the EU and they voted for a variety of reasons. There was no single united vision for Brexit. It was not the fault of those that voted. As Mary Wollstonecraft said, ‘No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks’.

Jeremy given the amount of false and disingenuous claims made by Leave and not withstanding the fact that Electoral Law was broken, the vast majority of Labour members are looking to you to lead by making the case for a better informed democratic People’s Vote. If you believe in doing the right thing, then please ensure we are told the truth and given the chance to make our voices heard on the biggest issues we will all face.

Yours sincerely, 

AG Payne


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Forward, Comrades?

It was 73 years ago today, the 17th August 1945, that George Orwell’s masterpiece, Animal Farm, was first published. After six years of total global war, peace had finally just been restored after the world had witnessed two final monumental acts of mass murder had been inflicted on Nagasaki and Hiroshima and learned of the evil that was The Holocaust. The peace that ensued was going to prove to be fragile and the new world orders of the Soviet Union and NATO led by the United States of America, were diametrically opposed in their ideologies around communism and capitalism. The sun was finally rising and yet it was like there was a massive eclipse, blocking that light out and the Cold War was about to begin,

For me, and some of my friends who I am working with now, Animal Farm was and still is one of the most important and influential books we have ever read. Furthermore, unlike many seminal works of literature, we all read it when we were children, I think I was about 10 years old, as it was presented as a child’s fairy story. Animal Farm is a fable and an allegory and for me and some of my friends, rather than being a polemic about the reality if communism, we feel it is actually about the dangers of oppression. George Orwell (real name Eric Blair) had fought alongside the International Brigades against Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War and had seen first hand how the different factions of the socialist left had been far from united and actually at war with itself. He suffered the oppression of the Stalinist backed forces whilst fighting what he had assumed was the common enemy, Franco. The rest as they say is history.

73 years on, and the world has entered a very dark place again. Animal Farm is as relevant today as it was on the very first day it was published. The western world is ‘led’ by a character who seems to espouse a spirit of revolution, whilst seemingly coming from an incredibly privileged background. This character tweets propaganda, with a healthy helping of downright lies, in bite sized chunks, designed to provoke outrage and division with his randomly capitalised words to spark even more outrage amongst the ‘liberal intellectual elite’ that he blames for everything. Simplistic slogans are thrown around regularly in order to fuel this division and forge support from ‘his core’. Slogans like, ‘Make America Great Again’, ‘Drain the Swamp’, ‘Fake News’, ‘Lock Her Up’ seem to draw on ‘Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad’ and ‘All Animals Are Equal’ for inspiration. Surely its only a matter of time before those slogans get altered in the style of Animal Farm, maybe we will see ‘Make America Great Again, at the expense of everyone else’, ‘Drain their Swamp’, or maybe just  ‘Your News is Fake News’.   Over in the east, there is another ‘strong man’ who rules with an iron fist and wants to conform to the old Cold War battle lines. In the Middle East we have more ‘strong’ rulers in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  Zealous nationalists are trying to tear Europe apart and we see the rise of religious fundamentalist turbulence is everywhere. Many people believe ‘free speech’ is being shut down by this same ‘liberal intellectual [left wing] elite’ and yet are so confused that they seem to want to not only blame ‘the other’, whoever that may be (usually an immigrant) and actually ban what others want to wear, say and even think.

When I read first Animal Farm, I remember really liking the idealism of the farm and all it stood for. The characters of Old Major, Boxer, Mollie and Snowball were great and I connected with them and even Napoleon’s approach showed some sense. But I will never forget ending up as I closed the book, thinking to myself, ‘Is that it? Is that really it? Surely there must have been a better way, a better outcome for all? Surely the oppression shown by the pigs and their attack dogs ends up being no different from Mr Jones the farmer, the very man they overthrew at the start?

And that is why, 73 years on, my friends Imre, Georg, Rachel, Matt and a few others have decided to make a videogame of Animal Farm. We have received the permission and the official licence from the estate of Eric Blair and we will ensure that we respect the original ideas and motives of Orwell himself. We will definitely not mess around with the characters or the narrative, and as Imre often says, ‘we are not going to do Animal Farm in space!’. But where games can and do differ from literature and film, is that it will give players real choice and agency. We have embarked on that journey together and have already had plenty of creative challenges. We will definitely avoid being preachy, so player choice is everything. The world is complicated and the problems we all face are not solved by simplistic and ultimately untrue slogans. What we hope to do is to allow players plenty of options which will then effect their journey and experience delivering outcomes and consequences which may please or disappoint them, or just leaving them scratching their heads, just like I did as a 10 year old!

I will leave you with this Orwell quote, ‘No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?’. Remind you of anyone?




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Russian Roulette?

via Russian Roulette?

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July 9, 2018 · 6:12 pm

Russian Roulette?

Some people asked us if our blog was all over, well it was, but due to a teeny bit of friendly hassle we have decided to revive it one more time!

It was Wednesday 20th June and we were at Royal Ascot with friends from Cheltenham and Norfolk. It was a great day’s racing and I got a couple of big winners (and that came in handy given what was to unfold). Whilst I was having a drink, with my good friend’s Drew and Galton and I uttered a classic Andy Payne one liner ‘I can’t stand watching England on TV, I am going to go to Russia’. As soon as I said it, I knew I had to go and knew I had probably opened my mouth too quickly and too early, not for the first time in my life!

When Russia was announced as the venue for the World Cup, I had instantly decided to give it a swerve. All the talk of violence did not help and I thought my England away days were behind me. But this team, this manager and the few England fans out in Russia meant that a special atmosphere was building.

So that was it. A drunken promise, next stop Russia. I had said to Kirsty on the morning of the Belgium game that I was going to go, no matter whether England got past the last 16 or not. That night we lost 1-0 and I jumped on the FIFA website and after about 5 hours, I landed 2 tickets for the quarter final in Samara. The risk was that England would lose their game against Colombia and we would be supporting either Colombia, Sweden or Switzerland.

But following England has always been a very big risk. Kirsty focused on flights and hotels and by 5am Friday morning we were all sorted. All that had to happen was for England to get past Colombia.

Kirsty contacted me on the day of the Colombian game and said we had been invited around to our friends’ house in the village. My general rule is that I don’t do England or West Ham on TV unless I am on my own. But Kirsty persuaded me to accept and we watched the game with Sally and Chris and had a great night. And what a game!

The next day we left the UK and went to visit our good friends Dawn and Jon in the south of France. We had already booked a short trip to see them and both of us were determined to visit at least for a couple of days. So we flew from Bristol to Toulouse and hired a car to their house near Carcassonne. We had a great 36 hours with them and their brilliant daughters, Phoebe and Naomi, before setting off at 5am on Friday morning to drive 5 hours to Lyon.

From Lyon we flew to Moscow. Luckily we had done our research and got our FAN ID cards which grant a visa to enter Mother Russia.

The Aeroflot flight was great, although the stewards were more like security guards given the propensity for fellow passengers to not follow inflight announcements.

Getting into Russia was hilarious. My passport carries a picture of me in my bearded Taliban state. The passport control officer at Sheremetyevo Airport actually laughed when she saw my picture. ‘That bodes well’, I chuckled to myself.

We picked up our tickets for the Sweden game from the FIFA collection desk and grabbed a couple of Russian SIM cards too. We managed to get slightly spivved off by a Russian bloke who persuaded us to get a taxi into the city. We needed to pick up our FAN IDs and the address seemed to be at Spartak Moscow’s ground. So our taxi needed to go there, drop us off, wait until we got our FAN IDs. The instructions I had were specific….’The FAN ID distribution center is located at: 73, Volokolamskoye Highway, Moscow (Москва, Волоколамское шоссе, д. 73). You can get to the FAN ID distribution center as follows: from the Tushinskaya subway station (Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya line), along the even-numbered side of Tushinskaya Square, walk to the Volokolamskoye Highway. Then, to the right, along the odd-numbered side of the Volokolamskoye Highway, to street number 73. The Distribution Center is located on the other side of the entrance to the SDM Center’.

The problem was that the cab driver didn’t really understand the English instructions, so it turned into a proper caper! I got dropped off at Spartak’s ground only to find everything closed up. There was a print out on the door of the FAN ID centre which gave some instructions .

I showed that to the cabbie and he then took off at speed. Traffic in and around Moscow is heavy to say the least. The FAN ID place closed at 8pm and it was now 7.25pm. Precisely 30 mins later we arrived at our destination. Hilariously it was a stone’s throw from where I had been dropped originally! The ID centre was very efficient and the staff very polite and professional. We had made it with 5 mins to spare and both had our FAN IDs and our tickets. Phew!

The cabbie then drove us into Moscow itself to The Budapest Hotel. What a great old grand place that was! As we were soon to realise metal detectors accompanied by signs saying ‘No Guns’ are on the doors of most hotels. The staff were great and the room was amazing. Old, yes, but crazily magnificent.

We went out to watch Brazil vs Belgium and found a bar near Red Square. It was great. There were a load of Colombian fans supporting Brazil and spirits were good. We got a couple of great Pizzas and some Russian beers. I am a Pizza snob. If you don’t have the right dough and a Pizza oven, forget it. This place had both.

We then did a bit of a walk around the area into Red Square, which is very impressive indeed, took pictures of the Kremlin and all the rest. A couple of Russian lads jumped three lads with Brazilian, Belgium and French flags and it seemed like the police let them get away with it. Other than that there was no trouble at all. The streets around Red Square were chokker and it seemed like plenty of Russians of all ages were enjoying the atmosphere, all be it in varying states of inebriation!

We turned in about 1.30am and had to be up at 4am to get our flight to Samara.

The hotel gave us a breakfast box each, which was incredibly sweet of them, given we were missing the restaurant opening. The cab driver, like most people spoke no English. He seemed to know where we were going this time to the airport south west of Moscow Vnukovo and dropped us in what looked like a scene from Shaun of the Dead. It was 5am, the sun has just risen and everyone was trailing bags behind them across rubble and into a very old USSR style airport.

We had to line up to check in and whilst doing this Kirsty witnessed a mother dish out a proper belting to her daughter, who must have been about 20yrs old. The Russians seem to be a no nonsense people, and life does seem pretty tough. No one batted an eyelid!

Our flight was at 7.20am so we had time to kill. The breakfast box came in very handy indeed. Another thing I noticed was a kids’ play area which was being prepared to be opened. The lady was laying out all the toys and a huge train set. Kirsty said to me ‘that won’t last five minutes when the kids arrive’. About an hour later, the kids did arrive. All of them were playing nicely with each other, and one boy was playing so precisely with the huge train set it made me smile. Clearly an engineer in the making. Everywhere you go in Russia, children are at the centre. They are really well behaved and incredibly polite. We could learn a thing or two from Russian society.

When we got to Samara we were greeted by a load of Russian lads in English football shirts – Spurs purple away, Forest white away and Port Vale home kit!! I have no idea what that was all about.

We took a cab to our hotel, the Angel Hotel, which didn’t look great on Google Maps to be honest, but beggars can’t be choosers! How wrong we were. The staff were amazing and the hospitality wonderful. We were treated kindly all the way. We put our heads down for an hour and then hit town. We shared a cab with some Chinese girls who were there to watch and support England. Two of them had full length Adidas football socks on! We had a great chat with them in the cab and Kirsty managed to impress said ladies by recalling the tale of my OBE day at Buckingham Palace as they were huge British Monarchy fans. This was after I had shown them both my Spain 82 World Cup tattoo. Lord only knows what these Chinese thought of us.

We got dropped off by the beach and walked along the front. I have to say the statues and the architecture were hugely impressive. Samara was once the centre of the Soviet Union’s space industry and to prevent knowledge leaking out, it was a closed city. There are statues of Sputniks, Cosmonauts and Soyuz rockets all over the place and it really appealed to my inner 7 year old NASA space fan boy.

We took a pacey stroll along the promenade and up into town to meet up with our mate Shane a fellow veteran of many England away days. After 35 mins walk we finally met them in the Czech Duck, a little bar in the centre of town. The walk was really pleasant, it was a hot day and there were virtually no people anywhere. It felt like we were walking through a film set…

The Czech Duck was great. Lovely staff again and good food and drink. Shane’s lot were all in good spirits. All pretty much my age, not an England shirt to be seen.

We had a great time, plenty of laughter and FaceTimed Jon and Dawn who’s party was in full swing. Shane, Jon and I had spent an hilarious few days at Euro 2004 in Seville, and yes the championships were actually held in Portugal. It was pre social media and Google Maps and we literally could never find our hotel or our way out of Seville. On match day, we drove to Lisbon, without a map. I figured if we followed the sea all the way to Albufeira and turn right and head north we would get there. We called Jon’s wife Dawn up en route when we got lost and she talked us through using her atlas, from Manchester.

Kirsty had been chatting to a Russian guy at the bar, she doesn’t speak a word of Russian and he didn’t speak a word of English but somehow they managed to communicate and just before leaving he came over and delivered Kirsty a cocktail that he’d bought her, so hospitable! We ended up leaving the bar a bit later than we planned and took the shuttle bus to the Samara stadium. It’s a long old way but the stadium is pretty futuristic. Think Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome meets Blade Runner. Most of you will have seen the game. The loudest chants were from the Russian fans with their ‘Rus. Il ia’ chants which sound like ‘Bra Zil Ya’ to the uninitiated. I have never been more relaxed watching England and that was despite Jordan Pickford pulling off two great saves that Gordon Banks would have been proud of ! We met David, a lovely man from Florida who was the same age as me, although he had only done seven World Cups. He had been at the Belgium vs Brazil match in Kazan the night before and just loved watching as many World Cup games as he could . Lovely bloke. Here’s a picture of David before the England vs Croatia game.

We played the game out, the players showed their gratitude to the fans and Gareth Southgate allowed himself to let rip and all was well. The PA played ‘It’s Coming Home’, ‘All You Need is Love’ which was our wedding entrance song, and ‘Wonderwall’. All was well.

As soon as the final whistle blew, Kirsty and I started thinking about the next leg. We needed to cancel our flights from Samara to Moscow to Helsinki to London and get as much cash back as we could. Our mobiles were low on charge and we needed to get back to our hotel which was north of the stadium, whereas the city centre was south of the stadium. So all the free transport laid on by the city was actually useless to us. Getting a cab was nigh on impossible and it was as a three hour walk to our hotel. At times like these you have to think out of the box. I flagged down a car offered him 1,000 Roubles (about £10) and asked the driver if he could take us to the Angel Hotel. He agreed and seemed to know exactly where he was going. He introduced himself and told he was a Tartar, there were 7 million of them in Russia and they were Muslim. He was another driver who only knew one speed. Ridiculously fast! As we were hurtling along at 100kph, he then asked if he could do a selfie with us. I said yes of course, thinking he would do that when we arrived at the hotel. Without further ado, our crazy Tartar then put his phone up, smiled and took about 10 selfies, at full speed. What a character !

We got back safe and sound and totally exhausted. Lack of sleep, nervous energy and dehydration plus the tension of getting these flights cancelled in time meant there was no post match wind down. Quite the reverse!

We duly got the flights cancelled, all be it without a 100% refund, and then watched the Russia vs Croatia game in the bar with a mad West Ham fan and loads of Russians who insisted buying me, not Kirsty, loads of Vodka shots. It was a tense game, and we really felt for the Russians who pulled the game back from the brink only to lose out cruelly on penalties. By the time the game finished it was 1am and we were totally bushed.

We decided to get an early night and focus on getting our transport, hotels and most importantly our semi final tickets in the morning.

We overslept somewhat and got on the case on all fronts. By now various mates we in touch all wanting to know about how they could get tickets. What felt like a million WhatsApp groups were pinging and everything was frenzied. One of my school mates, Dom, who now lives in South Africa has decided to come. We managed to screw up booking our hotels in the frenzy and Kirsty managed to get the hotel to contact and honour the deal. We booked our trains only to find out that bookings would not be confirmed until ‘office hours’,’ whatever they were! We had our iPhones and iPads on the FIFA website constantly to get our tickets through a legit source. Dom was doing the same as was Keith another friend driving back from London. I managed to get through, got all the way to check out only find that Visa had sent me a code by text. Trouble was my phone SIM was a Russian one so the text message obviously did not get to me. I needed something to get the SIM out with. This was worse than watching England take penalties and as soon as I took my Russian SIM out, I would lose my connection and thus the tickets! By the time I had run downstairs to reception to get a huge pin, the application had timed out!!! 30 minutes later Kirsty got in, and we had 3 more tickets in our shopping basket. I’ve never seen Kirsty so nervous as she put her details into the site. She was holding one index finger with another as she typed it all in as her hands were shaking so much! Eventually we got to the confirmation page, and then it asked for some PIN code which Kirsty had never had!! Once again we were foiled !!

By this time Dom had managed to get two singles for him and Keith. Meanwhile other mates were getting frustrated by the FIFA site and tempers were fraying!! Another hour went past and we had both lost energy and I was already looking at other ‘sources’ for our tickets. Then suddenly Kirsty shouted ‘I’m in!’. And so the process started again. The same tension mixed with frustration. She got to then end again only to be booted out for some other random reason.

So three times we had got through only to fall at the final hurdle….

I had made progress with other options and decided we would go to the stadium when we got to Moscow and graft for some tickets. It was 5.45pm, we had eaten and drunk nothing and felt pretty cheated, but I had had years of this.

You just have to keep trying every which way. Just as we were about to leave to go into town, Kirsty said she would try one more time and noticed that there was a note of a successful request in her FIFA account. We did a double take, WhatsApp ed Dom and asked him to share his successful transaction and after about 20 mins agreed it looked like we had bought two tickets after all. But we were not 100% certain.

So I said to Kirsty we should get to the ticket collection point in Samara as soon as possible and get them.

We got another crazy taxi driver just as the heavens opened and we were treated to a colossal storm. That made no difference to the driver who pelted around Samara at top speed whilst on his mobile… you literally couldn’t see a hand in front of your face. We found the collection office deep inside a random shopping mall and the driver waited.

A quick visit to the office, we got the tickets safely in our hands, despite the Russian guards demanding I deleted all of the pictures I took inside the office, and we were back in the cab and off to celebrate!

It was 7.45pm, the sun was going down on Samara and all was well. We found a great bar with great music right on the river Volga, watched the sunset and enjoyed the moment. I had also fixed up some other mates with tickets so all in all it was another hell of a day! Beer and neat vodkas were consumed and we slept like babies after a day of hard graft where the hotel room was turned into a war office, hours and hours of tactical manoeuvres and we’d won this skirmish… onwards and upwards to the next battle in Moscow!

Tomorrow we travel back to Moscow, by train for 17 hours, Kirsty was talking to the hotel receptionist and saying that if you travelled on a train for 17 hours in the UK you’d end up in the sea, he looked at her and said that he had a Russian train journey once that last 7 days….. the adventure continues!

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RIP Mungo, you lovely man

Mungo Amyatt- Leir 31st May 1968- 16th January 2017

mungo-1‘Hello, Mungo Leir speaking, how can I help you?’
‘Ah, Mungo, it’s Andy Payne, you left a message on my answer phone, something about a dragon’s cape?’
‘Ah, yes, thank you Andy. I really do appreciate you calling me back. Have I caught you at a convenient time? I would like to talk to you about a game I am making called Dragon Scape and wondered if you could help?’
That was early 1989, and it was the first time I had ever spoken to my dear friend, one time business partner and surrogate brother, Mungo Leir. When I asked how on earth he got his name. he told me that it was his father’s idea who thought it would give his son a ‘distinctive and international flavour’ as well as providing some mirth given his son would sound like a country once ruled by a great military leader, namely a bloke called Genghis Khan.
I never did actually get fully paid for the work I agreed to do, but that didn’t matter as Mungo and I hit it off immediately, besides, Mungo acknowledged that he would honour the debt down the line and most importantly it set up a friendship that lasted for 28 years. Mungo was true to his word, and I never doubted he would be.
Mungo had a spell working with Jeremy Cooke and Howard Newmark at The Software Business, where our paths crossed again. Then he worked with greg Rice at Instant Access and we worked together once more. It was only when Mungo set up a games business with Roger Large that we began to get really close. This was summer 1996 and in 1997 all three of us agreed to become partners and rename the company, Just Flight.
We had no office and worked from home, using the internet and meeting up once a month in a hotel to chew stuff over. We were a virtual company before that was even a thing. Those were great days. Mungo was the ideas man, Roger was all about sales and I did everything else. It was fast, furious, frustrating, hilarious and mostly chaotic. When we couldn’t get any magazine coverage for our Flight Sims we decided to set our own specialist print magazine up and called it PC Pilot. When we decided to branch into Train Sims, we set up our own label, Just Trains. Then we decided to branch into strategy games, and set up Just Play. All the time, Mungo, Roger and I would see no barriers and just get on and make things happen. We did a JV in Italy and one in the USA. There was very little time for planning, indeed if I did plan, Mungo took little or no notice, we just had a load of fun. We eventually got an office in Cambridge in 2000, which we shared with PC Pilot and designers Fink Creative. We painted the office and furnished it like it was our own flat way before Google made that stuff cool. We built a shower and kitchen and practically lived in the local boozer, The Champion of the Thames. We often slept in the office, and Mungo and I did many an all-nighter, crunching the impossible workload we had made for ourselves. We shared fantastic times with our mates and fellow workers, Alex Ford, Dermot Stapleton, Olly Hilton, Darryl Fickling, Dan Stoneham, Dale Nicholson, Mark Embleton, Wolfgang Schwarz, Marc Siegel, Ruth Chaloner, Martin Wright, Richard Slater, Simon Martin, Richard Pomfret, Scott Phillips, Paul ‘H’ Hyslop and loads more.
Mungo and I sold PC Pilot in 2003 and agreed to go our separate ways, business wise, in 2004.



Mungo and I with members of 617 The Dambusters, and in the centre Flight Lieutenant Bob Knights DSO, DFC when we launched The Dambusters

But the friendship was never over, just on hold. We had ridden the Cresta Run in St Moritz many times together, indeed Mungo dislocated his shoulder in 2000 crashing off wonderfully on Shuttlecock corner. He never liked the fact that I got the fastest time that year either, and was not in the slightest bit worried about the damage he had done to his body. We went skiing together, we went sky diving together, we ran together, drank together, raved together and he even took me up in his aircraft on a wondrous trip along the south coast taking off from Shoreham.
One of the best nights we had was in LA, at E3 after a party at The Playboy Mansion, when our hire car got towed away by the LAPD. I was incensed at the Old Bill and Mungo had to play the part of peacemaker. When he sweet talked the copper to see reason at the car pound, I sneaked under the gate, grabbed the keys from the desk and managed to drive off without being noticed. I will never forget Mungo’s face as he was distracting the copper only to see me drive off. By all accounts Mungo did his best Lord Charles meets Hugh Grant impersonation and made his excuses, and left, fast. How we never got nicked that night I will never know.
Mungo had some hard times, but was always a man to come up with a plan, thinking big and delivering. As a lifelong Conservative, Mungo had threatened many a Damascene moment and we often talked and disagreed with each other on political issues. But, Mungo had joined the Labour Party in early 2016 in order to support Jeremy Corbyn, Unlike many other Tories who thought would be a wheeze to get Corbyn in, Mungo actually believed in the politics that Corbyn stood for. Ever determined and driven by principle, he was one of five fellow members of the Labour Party who had taken the Labour Party to the High Court in August of last year over the ruling that ‘new’ members did not have a vote in the leadership election if they had joined the party, like Mungo, after January 12th 2016. I saw him the day of the ruling and we had a proper laugh. We embraced shared a few beers and above all laughed. He liked my Brexit protest beard, although felt that Brexit was the right way to go. As I say, we often disagreed on politics. But none of that ever mattered.
He was an eccentric, irascible, infuriating, talented, hilarious, warm, emotional, gentle, kind, precise, and lovely, lovely man. We often joked that we had been brothers in a previous life and felt certain that we would be brothers again the next one. I really hope that is true.



Mungo passed away yesterday, and I got the news of that tragedy early today. I have to admit, I have been pretty numb ever since I heard the news. In 2016 we lost so many talented superstars and the world got pretty dark. Now in 2017, I have lost my little brother superstar. Rest in peace amigo, you made your mark and you spread love and peace to so many. Thank you for the good times, I know you will have a glint in your eye, just like you always did. Shine on you crazy diamond xx


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#oneaday 63; Tax. Stab 1

Tax. Blimey. There’s a 3 letter word to get everyone’s hackles up. 3 letter words can be like that. Tax is a word that never seems to be associated with anything good, or at least I can’t remember it being so. Poll Tax, value added tax, council tax, road tax, even purchase tax back in the old days made grown men and women weep. Indeed it feels like it still does!

And tax is now right slap bang in the centre of our politics. It could well be the key defining subject for the next general Election in 3 years time the way that the tax bandwagon is rolling right now. Mind you, some would say that tax is always the most important issue at ANY general election.

The person who has the most say over tax in the UK is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, currentlyMr George Osborne. Even he is now talking all about tax. How rich people are avoiding tax, legitimately and otherwise, and how this is fundamentally wrong and needs immediate attention and reform.

Even the Mayor of London election campaign has become a race based on whether Boris or Ken has avoided more tax than each other. Some of the media have fallen over themselves to accuse Ken Livingstone of channeling his fees into a company to avoid paying personal tax, an accusation that is fundamentally so naive it must be political. I am no Livingstone supporter, but I do like to see fair play.

Form what I can understand, Mr Livingstone has set up a trading company and that company issues invoices for the goods and most probably services Mr Livingstone supplies – like public speaking, writing, media appearances and so on. That company pays Mr Livingstone a salary on which he pays tax at the national rate. Every year, the company will declare its profits (or losses) and pay corporation tax to the UK Government via the Treasury. The rate of corporation tax (currently has just moved down to 24% from 26%)  is different than the rate of personal tax (currently 20% for earnings up to £35,000 and then 40% on the additional earnings between £35,001 and £150,000 and 50% for the earnings over £150,000). Right or wrong, these tax rates start off easy, but soon get complex. So Mr Livingstone will pay tax on his income, via PAYE (pay as you earn) and NI (National Insurance – which is an additional tax of about (12% of your income) which actually ends up being higher than corporation tax, which his company will also pay provided it makes a profit, which one would hope would be the case.

Anyway, this whole tax issue is definitely going somewhere. The politicians know that grassroots feeling towards ‘tax avoidance’, ‘tax management’ and ‘tax evasion’ (that’s the illegal one) is starting to boil over and organisations like 38 Degrees and UK Uncut have been on this issue for over a year now. The Treasury believes that the whole tax system needs a major overhaul, with the goal being ‘simplification’ and there is a mood at the margins to make the UK a tax haven for businesses and individuals, which is something that would encourage inward investment from foreign based companies, principally American, and would only mimic what happens in Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the Netherlands all of whom have a more company and therefore individually friendly tax regime.

Charities are up in arms because the Chancellor is talking about capping the amount donors can make to charities and write it off against their tax. The media and some MPs are calling for personal tax returns of MPs to be made public. UK Uncut have called for the tax affairs of large corporations such as Vodaphone to be investigated and potential Mayors of London are accusing each other of tax evasion. This whole issue is set to run and run and it will be interested to see where it ends up. As a PAYE person, I don’t have a lot of choice about how much tax I pay. I do like the fact that a charity can claim back some of the tax I have paid on anything I have earned via GiftAid. That really is a nice tax rebate scheme and it does do some good!

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#oneaday 62: Please release me, let me go

I got a text today from one of my mates who was asking what day I was actually  leaving for the Ukraine to watch England contest the European Championships in June. My answer was simple, this time I am not bothering. England FC have become toxic, much like most football and certainly anything  to do with the Premier League. Yes the quality is there, but the loyalty and committment from many of the players just follows the money.

Two things have happened though that give me some hope and neither would I normally applaud or agree with the outcomes.

First, it looks like John Terry’s time as an England captain is finally over, for a second time. He may even have played his last competitive tournament game for England. I admire John Terry on some levels, there is no doubt that he is a true legend at Chelsea giving any team he plays for 100% of everything he has, and Chelsea rarely lose when he plays. But the FA have decided to sack him as skipper and have shown some leadership, even if it is a tad misguided. Terry is innocent until proven guilty, but the authorities should have brought the trial forward and got it out of the way before May. It is clear that some if not all of the other England players have had enough of their captain. His last outburst in South Africa was damaging beyond repair and he is guilty of hubris on occasion.

In sacking Terry, the FA have now pricked Mr Capello into action and he is not a happy bunny. Fabio has appeared on Italian TV and said that he is effectively unhappy with the decision and with the fact that he was not consulted. David Davies a journalist who used to be an executive director at the FA, has stated that some of his contacts are convinced Capello will quit. Personally I agree with him. Mr Capello has only got 5 months of his contract to run and forefit if he resigns. It will appeal to his Italian sense of ‘justice’ to resign. He knows he can only lose in the summer, he is working for money and no longer cares about what his employers think. If he walks away, in his mind he walks with his dignity intact, it was his decision. I believe Capello has lost the dressing room anyway, so this move would be the only chance of a win he would have this year.

Meanwhile the king in waiting is Poplar’s very own crown prince, Harry Redknapp who is currently on trial for tax evasion. Harry was by all accounts, banged to rights, but given the lead accusor and witness for the prosecution is a News of the World journalist, Harry may just find that his luck is in and he walks free. I hope he is innocent and proved so.  If he is, he will carrying on walking north all the way to Wembley and take control of the England team as soon as the season is over, although the FA will cut a deal with Spurs to borrow him for the friendlies planned between now and June. He will make Scott Parker his captain and try and forge an English birth certifcate  for Luca Modric and Gareth Bale. Harry has plenty of friends who can fix these things.

If Harry falls foul of the law and is detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, then the FA may turn to the hardest number 3 on the planet. Mr Stuart ‘Psycho’ Pearce who has been managing the U21s for some time. That would be confusing to many, but the players would love the motivation of messrs Redknapp and/or Pearce and there may just be a modicum more effort shown this summer. Failing that Alan Pardew would do a fine job.

If Capello stays, and worse still Terry is picked for the squad, expect England to repeat their performance in the Euro ’88 tournament P3 W0 D0 L3. Wayne Rooney may not get a game!

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