Monday, December 31, 2007

Who's Gonna Build The Wall

Track of the year:

Ghostwriting Gabo, a brilliant account of a young mans encounter with Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I seem to get fairly regular visits from someone in Emmetsburg, Iowa, which looks like a nice place; whoever you are, have a happy new year!

If you don't believe me when I tell you how good The Wire is, have a listen to Charlie Brooker:

The poignancy of piers

A talk on happiness, with some very nice pics too:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I Don't Want To Go Home

Is that Dimitar Berbatov, singing?

I hesitated before buying an Observer this morning, knowing it would be full of rehashed shit and predictions regarding who the movers and shakers in all sorts of wanky endeavours will be during the coming year, and I was right. There were two articles worth sharing though, first a very good, very enlightening profile of Benazir Bhutto ; second a bloody hilarious interview with darts commentator Sid Waddell.

A pretty miserable but predictable 1-1 draw for us yesterday against a Fulham side who otherwise cannot score in a barrel of fannies, but I'm not downhearted, despite our next three fixtures being Manchester Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal. None of the teams around us will pick up many points and by the time that games that actually mean something to us come around again, Mr Eck will have stamped his personality on the team and we will move smoothly away from the drop zone.

Gary Mcsheffrey is coming in for some awful stick but I think he has improved a lot since Mr Eck arrived; he still isn't very good, but he's better than he was and could get better still if he regains a bit of confidence. I wish Blues fans had a bit more patience, because he is getting merciless stick, which can't be helping.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Smoking Again

Radio Scotland has given us a little Christmas pressie with a highlights programme from Dean Friedman's Real American Folk, trust me, it's a winner. I generally hate this time of the year, with every radio programme, newspaper and magazine doing little more than rehashing yesterday news, but we can be thankful for small mercies.

Another irritating feature of the season is lists, every paper and every blogger has to tell us what they believe are best books etc of the year. I'm no good at this, because I can't remember what I had for dinner half the time, never mind what I read in February. This year though I came acrtoiss some brilliant writers, who were new to me: Ray Banks; Peter Temple, Don Winslow, Ken Bruen, Willy Vlautin, Niall Griffiths. Vlautin gets the nod for book of the year, as it has left me salivating for his next one, which comes out in April, I think.

Record of the year is Elvis Perkins Ash Wednesday, there are no other contenders.

Telly of the year was the Wire, with the last, searing, heartbreaking episode of The Sopranos being the best single hour and a half.

Radio of the year: Count Arthur Strong.

Soap opera of the year: Birmingham City FC

Comedy of the year: Birmingham City FC

Useless, dissembling twat of the year: Steve Bruce.

Best list I have come across, Ray Banks.

Iraq: The Hidden Human Cost

Lots and lots of good stuff at Barcelona Review

Find yourself some radio goodness.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mother and Child Reunion

Is it too late to wish everyone a happy Christmas? Probably.

I found myself in Cardiff on Christmas Eve and had two nice surprises: Spillers was still open, so I could browse their superb roots selection and get the Mrs something half decent and half obscure for her stocking, and, out of nowhere, a Borders bookshop has appeared. I had never been in a Borders before, and given that it incorporates a Starbucks, I suppose someone will tell me it is unethical to shop there but we are talking Cardiff here, a literary desert. And it is good, I got a brilliant music magazine imported from America with an ace CD attached and a load of books that were not available in Waterstones, just up the street. And the staff were cheery, a small but not insignificant point.

When I first moved to Cardiff it was well served for bookshops with at at least two good independents in the town centre, then Waterstones came along and swallowed everything up. For a while it wasn't too bad. There were two Waterstones within about a hundred yards of each other, but they were quite distinct. Now there is just the one, and it is awful. I remember when Waterstones first appeared and it was a real breath of fresh air, with a good selection of books, not just a load of bestsellers or Richard and Judy recommendations, and staff who seemed as if they had probably read a book themselves, at least once. Now it is the devil.

Three points for the Blues today with a 3-0 win and the fans are bickering, with some saying the result is all that matters and others wishing for a bit more. Personally, I would have wished for a bit more. As was the case with our defeat to Bolton last week, 3-0 flattered us. Middlesbrough were very poor, but we weren't much better, we created very little and all our goals were very lucky.

I think I still like Mr Eck, I like the things he said about a passing game when he arrived, I like the way he talks about us needing to have more belief in our ability and I like the fact that he has won us some points. I like the fact that, regardless of formation, we seem to have a more positive intent about us. I find it strange though, that for all the talk, he leaves our most innately talented players out. Fair enough, I suppose, if he doesn't trust them and generally, the cut of his jib sits well with me, he is still learning about the players he has, and he seems willing to make changes when he deems them necessary.

There was an interesting move today with him putting Larrsson on the left and Mcsheffrey on the right, a move which worked quite well, although I think we waste Larrsson when we don't play him in the middle. Teams have been killing us down the left all season, so with the introduction of Quedrue at left back and Larrsson ahead of him, we looked a bit more solid. Mcsheffrey had his best game of the season and seemed to put himself about a bit more than usual, plus it was a move that the opposition would not have anticipated.

Having said that, it was poor, all huff, puff and endeavour with very little subtlety or finesse. We rely on set pieces or mistakes by the opposition for our chances, we don't really create anything, and when we do, we look more like rabbits caught in the headlights than cold blooded assassins. Which reminds me. Cameron Jerome is not good enough, it as simple as that. I don't care how young he is, I don't care how hard he tries....he has no touch, he has no awareness and he lacks finesse.

We have a new Villain, O Connor. Every one has decided he is crap and not worth his place on the bench and when he comes on, the grumbles start. I am astonished. He has hardly started, but the minds have been made up and every misplaced pass is greeted with loud groans of disapproval. I think he is a good player, and given a run, and some love and patience he will prove it, but our benign and tolerant fans have taken against him.

The crowd was low, again. Well, some of us said years ago that if you want to be blase and price the working class diehards out, you do so at your peril; there will come a time when you want them back and they will say, sorry old chap, we have found better ways of spending our Saturday afternoons. We attracted a bunch of dilettantes when we went up last time, the kind of people who would post on message boards that no price was too high for the privilege of watching Man Utd and Arsenal and who would argue that everyone can afford it if they want it bad enough, Christ have we never heard of credit cards?

Well, thankfully, most of the dilettantes have fucked off, but the price remains too high for the old guard and they will take some persuading to make the financial sacrifice to come back. Lets hope Mr Eck makes us all believe that the price is worth paying. I think he will.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Just One Victory

The Tin Roof Blowdown is brilliant. All my usual caveats about Lee Burkes overblown prose apply, but still, it is brilliant.

There was a good article in the Guardian earlier in the week by a bloke recently returned to these shores; he commented upon changes in the language, or in other words, cack phrases, and wrote wittily on the concept of menus for coffee. Talking of cack phrases, when did "final episode" become "seasons finale"?

So, having courted and been rejected by one defensive bugger, the FA go and sign Capello, who was sacked by Real Madrid, having bored everyone half to death. Oh Joy. The papers tell us that above all, he is a pragmatist and will play to the strengths of the players he has available, lets hope we have a couple of fast and witty strikers coming through.

I am not xenophobic in these things but the appointment is a real condemnation of English football. There is no English manager who is remotely good enough, or innovative enough for the job, and there hasn't been for years. How many thousands of individuals have been through the English coaching system over the last 20 years? How many professionals have played and learned under English coaches? Yet. not one of them has come through and shone.

This compares badly with almost all of our neighbors, who produce players who become successful coaches seamlessly, and they do it as a matter of course. Cruyff, Koemann, , various Germans, Tigana and may others seem to finish playing, take high profile jobs and enjoy immediate success. Maybe English players are just thick. The old truism about Gerrard and Lampard being unable to play together has raised it's head again, well, if they had any intelligence it wouldn't be an issue; ask Tevez and Rooney.

Mr Ecks first home game tomorrow and the Blue hordes are beside themselves with anticipation, having forgotten the immutable law that the bastards will always let you down. It would be nice to be proved wrong.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Peace Train

I was about to start this post by saying that it feels a bit daft sitting here typing garbage in the certain knowledge that no one will read it, but having just checked my stats I see that I have still been getting visits during this hiatus, so now I feel guilty, which doesn't mean that any of this tripe will be worth reading.

As readers of my various blogs will have noted over the years, I am in the wrong profession and my working life is, well, dismal really and a few years ago I became a bit of a spiritual seeker; not in any profound way, but I would read a bit here, meditate a bit there, albeit without any consistency. Over the last twelve months my working life became worse than ever and the harder I try to find an alternative, the more entrenched I seem to become.

However, I decided not to moan about it, as I did in the past, nor swear revenge on those who were mistreating me and I determined to just try to keep my head down, be civil and polite to everybody, never lose my rag, accept my own part in my circumstances and just try and get on with it. The stuff that has gone on hasn't just affected me, it has affected others, in a much more profound way and one poor bugger has probably lost his position and his pension after many years of selfless service.
He and I were, are, victims of a nasty little coterie of gossip mongers and trouble makers, who seem to delight in causing trouble for others, whether it is justified or not.

Well, things have turned around a bit. The complexity of the work that I do is now recognised and I have been assured that senior managers are now aware that I have been most unfairly treated, which is gratifying. The point of all this is that without the spiritual shit I have read and the meditations that I have done, I would have been raging against the world for the last twelve months and demanding that not only is justice done, but that it is seen to be done.................and my position would have got worse. In a very small way, I have been trying to tread the eightfold path, and, in my case, there seems to have been some benefit in it.

Not that I have rendered myself incapable of righteous rage, far from it. I have been raging of late about the coverage of the dodgy donations to Labour. I am neither an an apologist for, nor a supporter of Labour, but this whole business is making me mad. The Tories accepting the moral high ground on these issues is laughable and the fact that no one challenges them is sickening. We don't have to do a historical trawl either, we just have to look at Michael Ashcroft, who is intent on buying a win for the Tories. A high ranking tory and a peer of the realm , who cannot tell us where his home is, not that he is trying to avoid paying tax in this country or anything as morally dubious as that.

The media, the pack animals have sniffed Gordon Browns blood and will not rest until they have satisfied their blood lust; it is the perfect illustration of power without responsibility. Meanwhile the Tories get away with murder; the sole focus of political reporting has become the haplessness of Gordon Brown. Cameron is praised to the high heavens on account of his his patrician ability to pour scornful abuse on someones head without advancing the debate or engaging in any kind of philosophising at all.

The soap opera at the Blues continues and Steve Bruce has departed for Wigan, where his style of play has already drawn comment from one of his new players. Wigan are going down, as sure as eggs is eggs. Dave Whelan must have lost his marbles. Meanwhile, the takeover of the club seems less likely and we have snaffled Scotlands manager.

The first signs are very encouraging, not least because we won our first game under the new regime, not that many buggers in the media seem willing to give us any credit for it. Two things struck me in Big Ecks first week: one was the way in which he spoke about the game and the way it should be played, with an emphasis on passing the ball. He noted that every player at the club should be able to pass the ball. The second thing was comments made by the new assistant relating to the club and the fans. He said something along the lines of it being a proper club with proper, passionate fans. I know that it was all PR, but it made a change from seeing the fans slagged off by the board and the manager.

The game against Spurs was interesting. Some Blues fans pointed out that Mcleish chose a similar formation to Bruce, which is true enough, but there were significant differences. The most noticeable change was that already, after only two days in charge, the team were actually passing to one another; even trying to pass it out from the back. They weren't actually very good at it, to be honest, but Rome wasn't built in a day and they will surely improve. Another pleasing factor was his willingness to go for the points, which in this case worked a treat; it may not always come off, but when it does, by Christ it is sweet.

Friday, November 09, 2007

We Shall Not Be Moved

A lovely quote from Ricky Hattons dad: And if Ricky wins, what then? Might it go to his head? "Don't worry about that," Ray responds firmly. "The people around him will make sure of that. If myself or his brother Matthew don't tell him he's becoming a Billy Big Bollocks then, take it from me, his mother certainly will."

On Wednesday, my gaffer snuck in after hours, like a thief in the night, and emptied his desk of all his personal belongings. Another good man gone, for no good reason. This is a piss poor game I find myself in. I could go on, again, about the wicked managers, but sod it, we all know about that now. I had the misfortune to spend the entire morning with a load of them, and in the end, you can't help but pity them, with their determination to have the last word, even though several others have already uttered it.

Driving across to Abertillery this morning I saw the most stunning, vivid rainbow I think I have ever seen and it just stayed there, for miles; then, the colours of the trees on the main road down to Ebbw Vale were something to behold, following which, gazing out of the window, mid morning, the colours on some bush against a dark sky, were brilliant and jaw dropping.Later still, driving through the Wye Valley, there were stunning shafts of brilliant white light piercing the distant gloom. I'm not even going to start on the splendour of the Severn. As good as it was, and as much I appreciate nature and beauty, I'm still skint, but the beauty has gone, just like my old gaffer.

Have a read of a young, hip, Kelmanesque Muslim. Seriously, it's good, and it's free, but you might want to buy it.

Blues play Villa on Sunday and I try not to care, but I do. I hate these games, really, really hate them. I will have a knot in my stomach from now until Wednesday, whatever the result. I won't be going, but watching on the box is probably worse than being there. No one that I will see on Monday will give a monkeys; I don't have to worry about endless, merciless piss taking if we lose, but there is something primeval at work here and a loss will leave me feeling utterly trampled. I think the family has learned that it is probably best not speak to me for several hours after these games.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Message To You Rudy

I thinks it time for one my periodic moans about 5 live. Hardly any mention was made of Calzaghes momentous win yesterday, but Paula Radcliffe winning a race was treated with as much reverence as a royal wedding. I watched the start of that race, because I liked the look of the bridge and as the camera panned across the faces of the elite runners, it struck me, uncharitably, that they were all extremely ugly, maybe it's because they are so cadaverous.

Anyway, the point. As ever the sports news bulletins were dominated by the contents of the mornings sports chat show, rather than actual news. So, the headline story was about Jimmy Greaves thoughts regarding the Spurs board. Excuse me, but this is not news. If the thoughts of ex pros constituted news, Goals on Sunday would be setting the news agenda. Gary Richardson had also interviewed Lawrence Dallaglio, and the news bulletins through the day were dominated by the fact that he had phoned Brian Ashton. Well, the Saturday papers were full of this, as were the Sunday papers, so how was it worthy of such prominence?

It wasn't worthy of such prominence, neither of those two things were worthy of being mentioned at all, but the BBC has come to believe that it presenters are so important that any old drivel becomes the main news of the day. It happens every Sunday, have a listen next week, you will see that I am right. I like Gary Richardson, he's like a slightly less irritating version of Nicky Campbell, but they share the same fault; they are both determined to make the news, rather than report it and they see it as part of their job to trip people up..................pressure them into saying something they will regret. It has all become very predictable and very tiresome and it is hardly any wonder that no one ever says anything interesting on the radio anymore.

If you are still wondering what the ending of the Sopranos was all about, there is a very good, convincing explanation here. It's worth reading even if you don't need it explaining.

The Guardian has laid into Rudy Guiliani; it's good article with a very entertaining comment thread.

An interview with David Lynch

A load of photos that will make you go oooohh!

Thanks to Bob Piper for the following clip of Jeff Stelling, having a rant against poncy southerners. All sports presenters should be as knowledgeable and witty as Jeff.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sunday Papers

I am getting a bit fed up of the preponderance of women in the BBC sports department, if they were any good, I wouldn't mind, but, by and large, they aren't, and I simply can't listen to Jackie Oatley. She shrieks and I have yet to hear her say anything insightful, I appreciate that the same could be said of Alan Green, but there you go. There also seems to be a preponderance of yanks discussing the football on 5 Live, or maybe it's the same one, putting himself about a bit. Why is he there? He adds little, he has no great insights, he doesn't make jokes, what is the point of him?

I'm not against women per se, or even yanks, but unless they are really adding something, why not use blokes, with a history in and a deep seated understanding of the nuances of the game, (not just any bloke, obviously, that way we end up with David Mellor) The Argentine woman on the Guardian podcast is superb, and at least one of the women on Sky sports is better than anyone on the BBC. In fact, why not employ everyone involved in the Guardian podcast, everyone of them is witty and knowledgeable about the game.

The podcast shows that is not difficult to find people who can talk easily about the game, but the BBC seems intent on diversity for diversity's sake, regardless of quality. Here's an idea, why don't they show how brave and forward looking they are by giving a microphone to a much under utilised group........the bloody working class?

The Guardian today has an article on some lost classics from the sixties that have been reissued. I used to fall for this shit once, I would read glowing reviews of someone I had never heard of and go out and buy it. I now realise that the reason these things are lost is not because they are cruelly neglected, but because they are shit; they were shit then and they are shit now. It's just the record companies milking a gullible public, with the connivance of the press. Don't fall for it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Boxer

I was about to have an early night last night, then I came across Gravity Golf and ended up having a late night, don't say I didn't warn you.

Does the world need me to weigh in with my opinion on the sheer effrontery of the Saudis? No, it doesn't, not when we have Robert Fisk, who does righteous indignation> better than anyone this side of John Pilger:
The sad, awful truth is that we fete these people, we fawn on them, we supply them with fighter jets, whisky and whores.

Talking of righteous indignation, Seville are hugely and impressively pissed off with Tottenham:
"I can assure you that we at Sevilla will pour all of our energy and all of our force into making sure that Tottenham pay the consequences of this situation, a situation that they have illegitimately provoked," said Del Nido. "We will do everything in our power and use all the means at our disposal to make sure of that. Here in Spain, we're not used to treachery existing between clubs. Nowhere in European football has something like this happened before with the season under way. I will leave it for Spurs and their fans to take a look at themselves and define their behaviour."

Of Alves and Kanouté, Del Nido added: "I doubt very much that Tottenham have the money to buy them. Tottenham will get the response from Sevilla that they deserve. And that response will be to channel all our energy into getting what we deserve after they have behaved the way they have behaved."

The pay slip of a Liverpool player has been doing the e mail rounds, and he gets a lot. Who would have thought it? Does he deserve it? Probably not, but at least he's paying tax in this country rather than bogging off to Switzerland. At least I think he's paying tax, I didn't pay much attention to it, not being overly bothered. I only mention it to contrast it with a couple of genuine sporting heroes, who also earn bucketloads but who undoubtedly earn every penny.

Yes. I am going to go on about boxing again. No other sports compares for genuine sportsmanship, for dignity, humility, respect and reverence, and our brave Brits are the cream of the crop. I have said before that there is no sportsman on the earth like Ricky Hatton. He is soon to take on Floyd Mayweather, a bone fide genius of the fistic arts, but not in Hattons class when it comes to the common decencies. I fear for Hatton, I can't see him doing it at the weight, but his technical ability, his fearsome punching, and the sheer indominitability of his spirit might see him through it. In which case, he will be the sportsman of this and every other year, before or since.

We are lucky; as well as good boxers we have good boxing writers, the best of whom is Kevin Mitchell, who has written a beautiful piece on Hatton. If you didn't like him before, you will after reading this.

Before that though, Joe Calzaghe fights in Cardiff on Saturday night, in a fight he could well lose; the pair of them have fought something like 80 fights between them, both of them remaining undefeated. Someones heart is going to be broken in the early hours of a Cardiff Sunday. Calzaghe is probably the best fighter we have had for years, even better than Hatton, and while he is no shrinking violet, he is possessed of some humility and he always gives due respect to his opponents. It's going to be great night of boxing on Saturday and Calzaghes stablemate Maccarone is also fighting: believe me, Maccarone is one hell of a fighter, and, funnily enough, a likeable and humble guy.

Frank Keating has reminisced about great Welsh boxers. I met one of them, who rarely gets mentiond, but Keating gives him a namecheck. He was a former heavyweight champ of Great Britain who became punch drunk and ended his fighting days fighting in unlicenced bouts in the US. I met him through my work, when he was more or less gone, not really knowing if he was having a shit, shave or haircut. The size of his mitts were something to behold, but, even as I gave him news he did not want to hear, he treated me with respect and comported himself with great humour and dignity. Boxing had forsaken him, he was in a state. The fighters are heroic, the sport itself is not.

I have read god knows how many interviews with fighters over the years and over the last few weeks and they all say the cannot hide in the ring (Hatton has always given great quotes on this theme, but I can't remember any!) You can't pretend and you can't get away with talking about it, what I like about boxers is that they always know when they have been beaten fair and square and always give credit to the other bloke, unlike failed rugby players and cricket coaches, who can't rush into print soon enough to explain how their failings had nothing to do with them, it was always someone elses fault.

Monday, October 29, 2007


So The Sopranos has gone, never to return, and we are left hanging, as well as bereft. I thought it was a brilliant ending, once I had worked out that it had actually ended and my telly hadn't gone on the blink. David Chase has said that for those who have followed the series closely, the ending is obvious, but it isn't to me. On the one hand, I think the family just carried on; just a normal family, doing normal things; on the other hand, the series was full of references to mob films and I am telling you that the guy who went into the bogs came back out and whacked Tony.

There is a blog out there called Secular Backlash, and I recommend it without reservation.

A funny thing has happened. After the daily bleating in the media, Steve Bruce has finally met Carson Yeung and the bugger has gone all shy, we have heard nothing. Hopefully we won't be hearing any more.

A good game and a good win for us on Saturday and we should cherish Daniel de Ridder while we can, he looks to be a bit special. Despite scoring 3, I remain unconvinced by our goal scoring potential, although we do look much better in our approach play. Maybe it's a work in progress and the players haven't quite got it yet. The theory seem to be that the tireless,energetic and ever willing Cameron Jerome will cause a bit of havoc, leaving big holes for the midfielders to exploit........ and it works, up to a point, but we don't actually create that many chances, which means we need a striker who will score more often than he misses. Cameron Jerome is not that stiker.

The opening paragraph of the West Brom report in the Guardian raised a smirk:
If the Championship table was decided by position on the moral high ground, West Bromwich Albion would have been promoted already. They are the purists of the lower divisions, who will not under any circumstances compromise their belief that football is played by passing and moving rather than kicking and chasing. They do not think they are better than the rest; they know they are.

Sadly the table is decided by more traditional means, and is being led at a canter by Watford's pragmatists..............

Just what the world has been waiting for, the garbage I typed about England the other week:

The English football team has ballsed up its chances of qualifying for the Euro 2008 and it’s all the refs fault, apparently. I disagree with this view and I even have some sympathy for Steve Mclaren, who always seems to have the air of a slightly pissed uncle at a wedding to me. I blame Steven Gerrard, who has come to think of himself as the soul of the nation: The Peoples Frowner.

There were some statistics the other year that showed that Liverpool won more often with him out of the team than it. This statistic probably no longer applies but still it makes me chuckle. While Benitez put him out on the left he had probably his best ever season, but he moaned he wanted to be in his best position, through the middle. He has now got what he wanted and Liverpool’s form has dipped. Oh dear, what a shame, never mind.

A couple of years ago, with this golden generation seemingly at its peak, old Sven (I bet he is pissing himself) tried to accommodate both Gerrard, Lampard and Beckham, with Beckham playing a withdrawn role. The press mocked this idea before it was tried and delighted in its failure, but why did it fail? Because of Gerrard. At the time Lampard could not stop scoring and I think the idea was that Beckham would play his precision passes out to the wings and meanwhile either Gerrard or Lampard would belt through the middle and cause havoc as quality crosses came over. It didn’t happen.

This might be because the plan was flawed. It might also have been because Gerrard is either too selfish to actually try and put his teams needs above those of his own ego, or maybe because he is just too thick to understand instructions. We have heard over the years that Gerrard and Lampard cannot play together, which is a stupid notion. The reality is that the pair of them should be able to complement one another, it’s not that they cannot do this, it’s that they won’t, and I believe Lampard is less at fault than Gerrard; he doesn’t seem to have had too much trouble adapting to different partners, with different styles at Chelsea.

So, put Gerrard in the middle for Liverpool and their form dips, put him in the middle for England and we fail, consistently. It is probably only the genius of Sven that enabled England to qualify for the last few tournaments. We need someone in charge who is not worried about egos and will tell the buggers what to do, someone like, and I am not joking here, John Toshack.

It’s not just Gerrard, of course, he just happens to be the one that irritates me the most. John Terry insisted that he would be fit to play the other night when it was pretty obvious he wouldn’t be. What arrogance to put his own desire to play over the need of the national team like that; to want to play when not match fit when there are perfectly adequate replacements available. That is the mark of this England team, this golden generation. They have believed their own hype and believe themselves to be special talents, despite enough evidence to the contrary to persuade even the dullest of patriots.

We might as well give up with Mclaren now, he is a goner anyway and while we are at it we should dispose of all those players who have consistently been found wanting, we should look for a manger with the strength of character to have several coherent strategies and the strength of will to put his ideas into practice, regardless of fragile egos. We should then allow that manger the time to experiment, the space to fail, and to get things right. We should say to those players who have failed so miserably, again and again, that now that they will have a free summer they should attend a training camp, where they will the time to refine their skills, learn familiarise themselves with their colleagues and how to adapt to the needs of the collective. You would think they would jump at the chance. Those who plead that they are otherwise engaged should be banned from playing for England. There is not one of them that we would miss.

The worst thing of all is that we had to miss a weekend of supporting our teams for this shit. If this is the best we can serve up, we may as well go back to the old days when they would meet up after their club game, play the game, then go immediately back to their clubs. We may have been shit in those days, but at least we weren’t denied our weekly fix.

Which reminds me of another cack phrase which has been much in evidence this week: “ he/ they didn’t play for the shirt” ………. or………. “isn’t fit to wear the shirt”. I’m not sure what this means. Actually, I do know what it means, it means there was a lack of passion and a lack of desire, a lack of will to bleed for the cause. The problem is, we have had plenty of players who have demonstrated such an ability over the years, and we still haven’t won anything. It is meaningless anyway and is a cack phrase, parroted by cack people, people with small brains who cannot accept that their team can be beaten, fair and square.

We will all have read how competitive sport is character forming and teaches people to lose well as well as win with dignity. Theses traits don’t seem to be much in evidence among football fans or phone in participants. Maybe it is the difference between those who participate, or who did participate and those who never have, who get their pleasure from watching, not doing and do not tolerate defeat well because they have never had to courage to risk experiencing a taste of it themselves.

The rugby has thrown up a cack phrase as well: “career defining”, although we are not hearing it as much now as we did earlier in the tournament. Any game of any significance was accompanied by that phrase and again it is nonsensical. Is the game on Saturday career defining for Johnny Wilkinson, or the game 4 years ago, or the game that he first played that led him on his path. Mind you, it’s not the essential cackness of these phrases that gets on my nerves, it’s the laziness. Some wordsmith will come up with a phrase, then the whole world will pick it up and use it as if they have just made up. I swear I read “career defining” in 5 different articles before England played Samoa. Bone idle some of these highly paid spinners of wisdom, surely they could make up their own cack phrases?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Crocodile Cryer

The good news..............Martin Stephenson and the Daintees have a new album out, I have only heard one track, which to be honest is OK, but, you know, that band should have been as huge as the soft spot I have for them and I will bet that the album is as good as anything else you will hear this month. If you look at Stephensons blog he mentions Micheal Mara who is brilliant as you will see if you search for him on you tube. Why do brilliant songwriters and musicians like these two (and many, many others) exist only on the margins ? Their music isn't difficult, it is very accessible, but we need a degree in research methods if we want to hear it. It's a crime.

The last ok album to be overpraised was Bob Dylan and you will recall that much was made of his band sounding like a really good, tight band, as in, a proper band, not a bunch of jobbing session musicians. One of the many delights of the Plant album is the beautiful playing of the band which is much better that the Dylan lot, and they probably are jobbing Joes.

Megson has gone to Bolton and the poor bugger was booed before he even got through the door. Those Boltonians probably don't realise what a good songwriter he is!

I came across both of the above in the magazine Rock and Reel. I have become fed up with Uncuts obsession with the sixties and rock and roll behemoths, so I thought I wold give this magazine a try. It's pretty good and you get a cover CD, which has a Martin Stephenson track on it, but is pretty crap otherwise, with a strange DJ thing going on between tracks. The best thing about the magazine is that it smells exactly like a football programme. Dunno why, but I had a hot dog and bovril for tea, followed by a wagon wheel, washed down with a pint of weak piss.

Blues V Wigan tomorrow, probably a six pointer, but who cares......... when is poor old Bruce going to get his new contract?

If you're proud to be a Brummie clap your hands: Most music lovers are aware that Birmingham has a world-renowned concert hall; what's less widely known is that it has two. Symphony Hall may have the greater profile now, but when the Town Hall opened in 1834, Birmingham gained one of the first and finest symphonic halls in Europe.

A month or so back, I kept hearing a track by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on the radio, and everyone kept raving about it. The track was no better than all right and I thought, here we go, an album that doesn't happen to be utter shite gets over praised because it is made by some wrinkly old rocker. Having heard the album a few times, I was wrong, it deserves most of the praise it is receiving, it is not, as one berk said, as good as Gene Clark and Emmylou Harris though, nothing could be. Does anyone know if they were actually on the same continent when they recorded it? I hope it was a warm and intimate studio experience, it sounds like it was, but I am old and have become cynical.

I drove over 400 miles today, accompanied by the rudest, most ungrateful pair of miserable bastards that it has ever been my misfortune to do a favour for. Just thought I'd mention it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Take Me To The River

So poor old Martin Jol has gone. I shall miss the droll old bugger, mind you I suppose he could still end up at Blues. Maybe the trigger happy chairman at Bolton will sack his new manager and offer Jol a job; I'm sure the fans would be distraught.

These Tottenham blokes are a bit ruthless and have ideas above their station. When have Tottenham ever been any good? (I know, 1960). Two top five finishes and they forget their history, including the history of the board in choosing shit managers. They stumbled upon Jol and now they've let him go, I fully expect them to revert to their traditional hapless and clueless ways.

Look at the news feeds for Blues and you will see that they are dominated by Bruce and his bloody contract again. It's all becoming a bit undignified.

In the post I lost last week, about England, I blamed Steven Gerard for all our ills and I certainly can't be bothered to go through all that again, but I am pleased that the generally charmless Benitez has shown himself to be unafraid of his reputation. It's not the first time either..........I recall Benitez telling Gerrard that his best position, for the team, (as opposed to himself) was on the left, with Cissoko in the middle, and he stuck to his guns, despite all the bleating by Gerrard and his media lackeys. It will end in ears for Benitez mind, players have all the power, ask Sammy Lee, or Jol, or any poor bugger who ever tangled with Alan Shearer at Newcastle. Maybe even Mourinho was a victim of it.

Although I find it hard to like Benitez, as well as standing up to the giant ego, he should be applauded for reasoning that a bit of brain is preferable to the old British standby of whole hearted but brainless commitment and endeavour.

I suppose I should applaud this unusual reversal of roles, with the workers having power over the bosses, I have difficulty seeing these buggers as representative of the proletariat though.

Talking of Liverpool, and the proletariat, there was a good article in the Guardian the other day on a weekend of excess in the town, and it is not as snotty as you might imagine.

There is also a good article in todays Independent on the founding fathers of some of our best and worst football clubs.

Oh, nearly forgot, happy birthday, football.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Waltzing Matilda

Dunno why, I've been thinking about Jolly Swagmen.

Reading some of Johnny Wilkinsons comments over the last few weeks I thought the bugger had, by accident or design, stumbled upon Buddhism, and bless my cotton socks he has.

The England team are being very stoic about the try that wasn't, all very noble and gentlemanly, but I wouldn't mind hearing one of them point out that the purpose of the video ref is too avoid costly mistakes. England may still have lost, but who knows?
I suppose the country will move on now and leave rugby to the middle classes for the next four years, when we will all become instant experts again.

Steve Bruce is no gentleman and will happily berate match officials, as he did yesterday, when blaming the ref and the linesman for our defeat against Manchester City. It's always someone else's fault in Steves book: a person, or persons, or the universe conspires against us. I heard Gus Hiddink on the radio this morning and he made the point that it is no good blaming external factors for defeats, you have to look at what you did wrong and where you can improve; you have to look at weaknesses in the opposition and work out how to exploit them. Steve doesn't seem to be very good at that.

I also heard Brian Ashton, and many, many others, during far too much post match navel gazing on 5 live, answer the query "did the best team win", with the comment, "the best team always wins". There is a lot of truth in that, so with Blues sat just one point above the relegation zone and having lost the last 4 games while scoring only one goal, I ask again, what has Steve Bruce done to deserve an extension on his contract almost two years before his current one runs out?

And it ain't just Bruce, Mclaren is as bad, as this fantastic article illustrates.

When did the F.A appoint Steven Gerrard to be official on pitch advisor to referees?

Have you seen Catflap? It's all about football, and some of it ain't bad.

George Bush, alone and isolated in his bunker.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Going Back Home

Some chump has done something unnecessary to a cable somewhere in Abertillery and we have had no email or internet access at work for a couple of days, we haven't been able to access our recording system either. This doesn't exactly render us impotent (no more than usual, anyway), but it is a pain in the arse. I decided that the best way I could spend a couple of hours yesterday was in composing a blog post, so I did, a long one, all about the England football team, with a few bits and pieces about Turkey and Blues added on. It was a masterpiece. My intention was to send it to myself then post the bugger, but, two days later, the BT engineers are still looking for Abertillery, so I couldn't.

I didn't want the effort to go to waste, so I thought I would print it out and then post a heavily edited version. So, I pressed print and then went for a slash. When I came back someone was holding the thing up and saying, in a bewildered tone, who has printed all this nonsense about the Turkish parliament and the England football team? I said nowt.

Talking of the internet, two people in Neath have been sacked for overusing it in works time. Neath council have now agreed with the union that internet access will only be permitted before and after work and during breaks. Lucky buggers, my employer doesn't allow access for non work purposes at all, at any time.

Talking of work, I have never suffered such anti English abuse as I have today, quite vicious stuff too, with no leavening of humour. A lot has been to my face, but I have also noticed people talking quite pointedly in an anti English fashion just loud enough so I could hear. I was shocked, never having experienced it before in twenty odd years.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Seasons In The Sun

I haven't read Anne Enrights booker winner, nor am I likely to, but I have enjoyed the critics getting all arsy about Howard Davies comments that they generally aren't much bothered whether a book is readable or not. Call me old fashioned, call me thick if you like, but I do like a book to be readable. Someone in the Independent today said that they were glad Ian McEwan hadn't won because she had bought "Saturday" on the basis of glowing reviews but had found it mediocre. This happens all the time and I would cite the last Will Self effort as a case in point. Glowing reviews all round and the massive bloody thing is unreadable. The problem is, the media consists of a self serving hegemonic coterie of the upper middle classes who make a good living praising each others work.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was reading a Guardian thread about Brooklyn writers (prompted by the article I linked to oooohhh, yonks ago) Some people on the thread mentioned the fact that like the newish Brooklyn writers, who we must allnow disparage, our own fiction is dominated by a type, a middle class type, an angsty middle class type. It is not often that voices outside of the elite are heard and when they are, well they had better not speak too loudly. Remember the fuss when James Kelman won the Booker? The metropolitan elite were beside themselves. Call me an inverted snob, but I can never get very far into novels by the likes of Ian McEwan or the rest of our established literary elite without tossing them contemptuously aside.

Where are the Brummie writers? The authentic voice of working class middle England? They don't exist, why is that, are the people of Birmingham fit only for engineering, or service industries? There is Jonathan Coe, but, well the milieu of his Birmingham is a place I simply don't recognise, which doesn't make him a bad writer or a bad person, obviously. We also have Malcolm Bradbury and David Lodge, writing from the heart of Selly Oak.

The working class voice simply isn't heard. There is David Peace, I suppose, and the superb Niall Griffiths, but you have to search very hard for anything else. The last books by both of those writers are superb, and are full of literary merit. They are as brave as they are brilliant, and while they do get reviewed, it is without fanfare.

Scotland is full of great writers. The crime writers get their share of kudos and then there is professional bad boy Irvine Welsh but there are loads more beside, going back at least into the seventies, with Kelman remaining the capo. Some of these authors are writing brilliant prose, albeit in a particular vernacular, but just as our middle class writers apparently do, they are addressing universal themes; the difference being that they do it with verve and energy: the writing is much better, much more vivid than the established writers who fill up all the review pages, yet you have to search them out. You have to wait for someone like Bob Piper to tell you about them.

So sod the Booker and sod the arts pages. If you haven't read any of these buggers, do so as soon as you can and then search more out: James Kelman, William Mcillivany, Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, David Peace, Niall Grifiths. There are loads more and that's without even starting on Irish and American writers but it's getting late and dredging my memory is giving me a headache, plus, I have to finish Ake Edwardsons Frozen Tracks.

Edwardson is new to me and as usual I have started with the last one in a series, rather than the first, but what the hell. This is not exactly an enjoyable book but I have enjoyed reading it as much as any I have read for ages. It is slow, almost ponderous, but that is part of its charm, you sink into it over time, it is a book to relax with. It bills itself as a "Winter" novel but it doesn't concentrate on this one character; it pays as much attention to the hinterlands of an entire squad of detectives plus a large cast of supporting victims and perpetrators. It is complex, intelligent, bleak, despairing and powerful. There aren't many laughs in it, but there are some wry moments. I think I can recommend it.

Old Gordon should get Chavez to help him with policy making; I guarantee that cutting the working day to 6 hours would be a winner. It would be in our house anyway.

Blues have refused Bolton permission to speak to Steve Bruce about their managerial vacancy. Jesus, have Bolton got no sense? Anyway, I confidently predict that should Bolton genuinely be crazy enough to want him, they will get him, mainly because I no longer believe a word that ever comes out of my club. If they say he ain't available, he is.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Big Girls Don't Cry

I know there are very many important things going on in the world but the question of Steve Bruce's contract is vexing me. I can't figure out why he is making such a fuss; it can only be that Sully is provoking mischief.

Bruce has 20 months to go on his existing contract, in a business notorious for its volatility. He wants an extension to it, which I suppose is fair enough, but you wonder why he thinks he actually deserves it. He might say because he got us promoted and we have a wonderful 8 points from 9 games, which is one point above the drop zone.

There are Blues fans who are extremely grateful to Bruce for getting us back up, but I'm not one of them, for the simple reason that we shouldn't have gone down in the to start with. He did well to get us up in the first place, then, apart from half a season, we trod water, before our truly embarrassing relegation season, which included a 7-0 home defeat(albeit in the cup). I don't know how many times he has talked of a "horrible night" since, but it has been too often.

So, over the last 4 season, Bruce has done just about enough, before failing miserably, and then doing no more than could reasonably be expected of him. The jury is still out as far as this season is concerned. Hardly glorious, yet he has been hugely well rewarded. Still he wants more. He has done the bare minimum of what we could have expected but wants to be rewarded with extra years on his contract.

Maybe it's because he loves the club and the city and the fans so much, but I doubt it; I have never got the sense from him that he has any fellow feeling with the local citizenry. He has spent about 8 years of his life employed in the city but I can't recall him ever talking about it with any warmth; if anything, he openly regrets not leaving us for Newcastle. When he talks about the fans it is usually to slag us off and to remind us that we can never expect our club to be anything more than mediocre.

It's not for the love that he wants to stay then, so it must be the money, nothing wrong with that, we all want to the best for ourselves that we can. The trouble is, Bruce hasn't done anything to earn it yet. A new and improved contract should be offered on the basis of extraordinary achievement, on the basis of doing more than we could reasonably have expected. This clearly isn't the case. Let him stay, by all means, but only offer the bugger a new contract if and when he has done something to deserve it, when we have progressed and developed as a club and as a team.

The whole business leaves me feeling a little bit bitter. Both Sully and Bruce have demonstrated a lack of regard and respect for the club. Sully is playing silly buggers and trying to cause trouble for Carson Yeung and Bruce is being selfish. He says that lack of progress regarding his contract risks destabilising the club, but no one really needed to know anything about it; it's only his whining that has brought the issue to the fore and I doubt if the players give much of a monkeys anyway, certainly not when he has almost two years left on his existing contract.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I have never been a big rugby fan, having tended to view it in class terms. We never played it at school and the first game I actually played was when I was about 21, when I started turning out for Witton 3rds. I only did it because my mate Len would ask me at about half ten of Friday night and, being more idiotic than usual at that time of night, and more than usually full of camaraderie and love for my buddies, I would agree to turn out. Plus, there was no all day drinking in those days but after the game you would get straight in the bar, which not only opened early, it was heavily subsidised.

It was OK. I was surprised that I enjoyed it, surprised by the fellow feeling and togetherness, but never exactly enthused and once I moved to Cardiff I never played again. I always found it a bit of a myth about violence on the field being followed by friendship off it; I always found that nasty buggers were just as nasty on or off the field. Maybe it was an anti Brum bias as we tended to play in strange places in Staffordshire like Cannock.

In one of my first games, when I barely understood the basics of the game some clown hit me with a horrible late tackle. Some bloke who happened to be walking around the pitch, with his dog, said, "oooh, that was late ref". He had nothing to do with either side, he just happened to be passing. The ref told him that he was in charge and ordered him from the stadium. Those were his words "I order you from the stadium ", he then gave a penalty against me because of the outsiders intervention, and no one gave a murmour. The "stadium" was a patch of shit, glass and brick laden greenery on some hellish estate, and this is why I have never really fallen in love with the game, for all the camaraderie and fellow feeling, it is pompous and servile.

Having said all that, the England Rugby team over the last week have been heroic and I am as proud as I can be to be an Englishman. I am proud of those sporting giants and all of us should be humbled by what they have achieved and the manner in which they have done it. They have proved that, no matter how bleak a situation seems, there is always another day, always a chance to put things right. Plus, Johnny Wilkinson must be the most self effacing, dignified man in any sport.

A bonus is, of course, that my Welsh family, friends and acquaintances can stick their anti English opinions up their collective arses. Never mind their own humiliation they have been telling me for the last two weeks how we are going to be hammered and how much they are going to enjoy it. I wonder if the buggers know how to spell hubris?

Not only that, I am now a published writer. My article for Community Care is in this weeks edition, heavily edited and anonymised, but what the ain't bad for a snotnosed kid from Balsall Heath who left school without even a CSE and who was advised, aged 16, by a man called Sparks, who I believe went on to lead the council, to knock any high faluting thoughts of journalism on the head and to seek work as a lorry drivers mate.

On a lighter not, Eyebrowy is superb, if you are disillusioned with the posh ghetto that is the British music industry, there is every chance that you might like it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Oh What A Night

I have been encouraging the tired, stressed and distressed among my circle of acquaintances to try meditation for years, to much mockery, I might add. Well, don't just take my word for it!

So New Labour has stolen some Tory policies and has run scared of an election because they thought they might lose. Well. Shock. Horror.Hold the front page. All Labour has done is demonstrated what we have all known, all along, that they exist to be in power and they will shift their position accordingly. They don't have the courage of their convictions because they possess neither courage nor conviction, but I am no longer bothered by that; it would be like being bothered by the wind or the rain....pointless.

What I am bothered about is the sheer ruddy cheeked Hooray Henryness of David Cameron. I can't stand the bloke and if I was aggressively inclined would suggest he has the kind of face it would be nice to take a cricket bat to. I am a passive and gentle soul, however, so I shall go and meditate instead.

Steve Bruce wants a new contract, which is fair enough but I wish he would stop squealing like a stuck pig about it; it's becoming embarrassing, he has nearly two years left on the present one for Gods sake. The bloke wants jam on it. Mind you I bet Sully, the rodent, got many gold stars for mischief making when he was a nipper.

There is tragedy on an almost hourly basis across the world, much of it caused by us, yet so little of it gets reported; there has to be disaster of epic proportions in Asia or Africa of the Middle East before our press notices. A bunch of people get shot in some place we have never heard of in Bumfuck USA though, and the rolling news channels swing into action. I just this second saw a headline on the BBC about some shootings in Cleveland and genuinely thought something bad had happened in Middlesbrough, but no, it's Cleveland Ohio. I'm sure it's very bad and sad news for the citizens of that state, but bad things are happening elsewhere too, and we rarely get to hear of it.

Put a load of pasta in a pan of boiling water and while that's doing fry up some chopped bacon, then chuck in a big handful of broken walnuts followed by a load of spinach. Drain the pasta, add some creme freche to the bacon watnot and mix it all up together. A beautiful tea, in ten minutes flat. Who needs Nigella?

Monday, October 01, 2007

I Got Me Parka!

Was it the Sussed who did "I got me Parka", which contains one of the great lyrics..........."I used to be a punk, but now punks sunk, I got me parka!" One of them has reminisced about the Brummy punk scene and it's pretty accurate, apart from the comments about Dansette Damage, who were just as awful as their name suggests they were.

Talking of which, sort of, the poet Simon Armitage has written a very good, witty article on his middle aged attempts to become a rock and roll star.

Somehow, this blog has been named 65th best leftie blog in the land. Mystifying.

"I became a monk because of my love for peace and my love for Buddha. My heart is so full of sadness."

Seymour Hersh on U.S Plans for Iran.

I had just started The Brooklyn Follies, (I don't just read crime and thuggery, you know) when I came upon this. It's a brilliant piece, but it's put me off Brooklyn, a bit. Mind you he does speak very highly of Motherless Brooklyn, which is one of the best novels I have read in years.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Melting Pot

So, according to the "cohesion" minister for the new, modernised, outward looking Tories, there are too many darkies in the country. The party is populated by buffoons.

The Sunday Herald on the crackdown in Burma. The same paper on the business of oppression, or, how some British companies help prop up the Junta. The Guardian believes that there is still hope.

There is a good article in Observer Sports Monthly on the football team that Robbie Williams has created in L.A.

The war on terror: The Big Lie

All That Whitman Stuff

Friday, September 28, 2007

God Gave Rock And Roll To You

Those Burmese monks..............what dignity...................what selflessness. They are, or should be, an inspiration to us all.

A slightly snotty article on Manu Chao.

A pint and a molotov cocktail

A long unmechanized moment, sex provides one of our remaining
freedoms to move outside of time. What sort of thing is this to say?
Why would we want to move outside of time? Well, it smells in here, for
one thing. It’s horrible in here. And everything we love is going to die.

25 skills every proper bloke should have at his disposal.

I have had to postpone reading Runt, because my Mrs snaffled it, that's how good it is, she has taste. She wondered off to bed clutching it at about 7 O Clock tonight, so she will probably have finished it by now. It won't be to everyones taste, but have a look, use your judgment, and if you feel like it, give it a go; it is a small but major piece of work. I only wish I had a stepdad, so I could call him Notdad. I have plenty of relatives who could answer to Drunkle.

Meanwhile, I have got stuck into the new Camilleri, which is everything that you would expect of my favourite Sicilian Marxist.

I spewed out a lot of anti management verbiage the other day, and as well as putting it on here, I sent an edited version as a letter to our trade magazine, "Community Care". A nice lady e mailed back today to say they wouldn't publish it as a letter but will publish it as an article. I have to admit I am a bit chuffed with that.

Blues have been in the news a bit this week. Sullivan has again been a bit immoderate in his comments and has explained to the world why he despises us and has also, more or less, accused Carson Yeung of being a chuffin chancer. Meanwhile some Aston Vanilla director has stirred up a load of trouble by telling lies about the cost of our tickets for the game with them and, also, has hilariously compared David Gold to a pig. Meanwhile, a bloke we got on loan at great cost knackered his knee within 20 minutes against Liverpool and one of our goalies, on his debut against Blackburn, brained himself. Spark out. Twerp.

Of course it was outrageous of the Villa guy to suggest that we would we charge 55 quid when everyone knows it is an entirely reasonable 45. As the world now knows, our David is intent on lowering prices and getting the plebs back in. So, as well as a bargain 45 quid to see the Villa, you can get a restricted view seat for tomorrows game against Manchester Utd for just 30 quid. You may not be able to see anything, but you will only have to shell out 30 quid. I bet you all wished your own clubs were as generous. We are lucky, us Blues fans.

Not as lucky as players or agents though. Two million for a player no one has ever heard of and who has a penchant for knackering himself, plus 200 grand on top for his agent. Why don't he pay his chuffin agents fee himself? Sully said that he has paid that money, but he hasn't, gullible Blues fans will be paying it for years, every time they fork out a fortune for some useless piece of tat.

Or, every time they buy a new shirt. The Blues, the favourite club of impoverished football fans the length and breadth of the land, have a tendency to release three new shirts every year, and have put out a new shirt every year since 1983, I think. I know that was before Golds time, but bugger me, his protests on behalf of the impoverished ring hollower and hollower the nore I ponder them. Sully has one thing right, the love affair is over and we are going through a prolonged and painful divorce.

May I be free from anger and hatred.
May I be free from greed and selfishness.
May I be free from fears and anxiety.
May I be free from all pain and suffering.
May I be free from ignorance and delusion.
May I be free from all negative states of mind.
May I be happy and peaceful.
May I be liberated from bondages.
May I experience Nibbanic peace within.

Then practice Mettá towards all beings sharing peace and happiness:-
May all beings free from anger and hatred.
May all beings free from greed and selfishness.
May all beings free from fears and anxiety.
May all beings free from all pain and suffering.
May all beings free from ignorance and delusion.
May all beings free from all negative states of mind.
May all beings be happy and peaceful.
May all beings liberated from bondages.
May all beings live in Peace and Harmony.
May all beings experience the Nibbanic peace within.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Flowers In The Rain

There is no doubt that the Burmese monks are heroic but I thought Buddhists were supposed to pretty much accept their lot................... accept their karma and meditate all day. I thought it was striving and yearning for something better that condemned us to a life of suffering. It just goes to show what I know. I suppose they are acting out of compassion for others. They are very brave though; let's hope it doesn't end in tears.

Orwell: Shooting an elephant

Talking of heroism, Blues defended heroically to earn a point at Anfield. Not very heroic really, is it, set in context. We should all be rejoicing apparently, but as you might expect, I'm not particularly joyful. After we played Chelsea in our first game, Bruce congratulated himself on his bravery in not setting out simply to defend. That philosophy didn't last long.

He quite openly admits our sole purpose on Saturday was to stifle Liverpool and the tactic worked well. Mind you, Bruce has shown over the years that he can set up a team to defend; it's the other bit, at the other end of the field that he struggles with. We needed a point, we set out to get a point and we got one. Great. I am happy with that, a good job, well done and a point that I suppose we can regard as a bonus.

I am worried though, that this is now the template. Sit back, defend, stifle the opposition. If it's a top team, settle for the point, if not, try and hit them on the break. Battle, fight for the shirt ("not fit to wear the shirt" is another on my list of cack phrases) sweat blood. Oh dear. I know there are lots of Blues fans who will settle for that, who think we should only aspire to be whole hearted and tireless, but I can't agree. The problem is, I forecast, that Bruce will now view this style of play as our best option.

Well, I won't be forking out 45 quid too often to watch that shit. Let the defenders defend heroically by all means, but also let the midfielders and forwards play a bit too. I have stated repeatedly that if the limit of our ambition is to avoid defeat and to stay up by the skin of our teeth, there is no point being in the divison.

I was filled with hope after the Chelsea game and almost started to believe that Bruce had discovered some joy in the beautiful game; that he had seen the benefits of being positive, and that may still be the case, but I doubt it. He is (rightly) proud of his teams achievement on Saturday and history shows us that he suspicious of flair, fearful of wit, perplexed by imagination. It's going to be long, grim winter.

Nafti knows what I am on about, he said as much after the game, so that will be him dropped then.

Bruce keeps banging on about loyalty. Whenever we get a decent result he uses it to have a go at the fans who complained that we had been relegated and then complained at our style of play. He can't let it go, it's as if he wants to win to spite us. The complaints people made then were valid, and they remain valid; it would be nice if Bruce acknowledged that and moved on, but no, he wants us to be grateful for what we have had to endure. A more cynical type might ask him what kind of loyalty he has shown to Clemence and DJ Campbell and Oji and Kilkenny and Sadler. The bugger wants jam on it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cincinnati Fatback

One of the Alabama 3 has expressed his lack of gruntle at one of his mates being chucked out of a hippy festival. Apparently, the A3 are invited to such do's because they have a bit of an edge............the article is quite funny, but the chap does come across as a bit of a pillock. I like the A3 but they aren't really much more than a bunch of pub rockers who got lucky; he should be grateful that they haven't gone the way of Roogalator yet. Who are Roogalator? Exactly. I loved Roogalator, by the way.

Blues away to Liverpool tomorrow and I confidently predict a 1-0 win to us. Nuff said.

Yesterday, I killed a big bloody bird and no, it wasn't my Mrs. I was required to drive all the way up the A470 to Dolgellau, and back, with a service users parent in the car. The A470 is a beautiful road, but man, it was gruelling. Anyway, somewhere up north, I caught a glimpse of a large brown beast coming out of a hedgerow, strutting its funky stuff like Larry from the A3. I was just about to remark upon the beauty of the beast, when it eyeballed me, and then just legged it, not away from the traffic, but into it. More precisely, into me. There was a sickening thud and I observed its last few proud twitches in the rearview mirror.

It was quite distressing. I have probably killed millions of small insects every time I get into a car, but this was a big, proud looking thing, and there was a horrific noise and feathers flew and there was blood and distress. I wondered if we are all destined to kill something as we make our speedy and clumsy way through life and concluded that it is probably a miracle that we don't create individual carnage every day. When I got up north, one of the strange people with the strange Ian Rush accents told me how much he likes to go out shooting wildlife.

If you find yourself heading north on the A470, try the Dolwen garage caff, a real old fashioned kind of a place, with food cooked on the premises, amazingly pleasant staff, an outside toilet, and incredible value for money. You might think it was 1970. We used to spend all our school holidays with relatives in Devon and if we got the boat across from Shaldon to Teignmouth there was a little caff in a wood hut that used to do the most wonderful cottage pie; it's the best caff I have ever been in. The Dolwen caff reminds me of it.

There was Freds caff in Acocks Green too, but that is a completely different story. Then there was the Italian caff in Acocks Green village, forget the name, but where the only words ever spoken by the proprietor (Mario?) were "cup of tea, 3p, fuck off"
If you know where you are looking, you can see which of those shops was the Italian caff in the pic, which might to be of interest to about, oooooooohhh 3 people.

I hesitate to mention the Sopranos for fear of some clot thinking it would be a jolly jape to post a spoiler, but this last series is brilliant, up there with the first one for drama, tension, and laughs. I caught a black look from the Mrs when I pissed myself at Uncle Juniors fishmonger joke.

Talking of pub rock, it doesn't get much better than this................

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Weight

Maybe I don't get out enough, but until last week I had never been referred to as a mushroom before (as in kept in the dark and fed shit), now I seem to be hearing it every day. In less than a week, it has joined my list of cack phrases, along with gems such as, "tactically naive" and "position has become untenable". Where did it spring from, how did it become so ubiquitous and why does everyone who uses it think they are being terribly witty and clever?

Our glorious chairman used it the other day to describe football fans. He meant well, but coming from the biggest shoveller of shit in the game, it was a bit rich. He wants all other premiership clubs to follow Blues lead in cutting prices to enable poor saps like me to fill the ground. He didn't mention that Blues only reduce prices to prevent embarrassment when it becomes clear that no chuffer is going to turn up; he didn't mention the high cost and low quality of all the merchandise at Blues and he didn't mention that if you want to see our next game you will have to fork out 45 quid. I love the bloke.

You may not want a recipe for muesli, but the methodology for it is one of the funniest things I've read in ages. I made a huge pot of it and it's ok if you like that sort of thing, takes a bit of getting through though.

Why is it, that when I am sitting at my desk, thinking up new ways to avoid work, that when the little e mail noise whistlers its little whistle, I get all excited and happy at the though of some interesting and amusing missive to brighten up the monochrome monotony? The reality is that it is always some chump with a grievance being all arsey and impolite and discourteous. Is this the same for everyone, or just me? While we are at it, when did downright incivility become an acceptable method of social discourse?

I work in a profession with an image problem and a recruitment crisis. No one wants to do the job and those that do get themselves trained seem to have more sense than me and naff off out of it very quickly. Different authorities try different schemes to encourage recruitment and retention and reports are written and hands are wrung because it is a very complex issue. But aside form all the retention payments and promises of annual appraisals and development days there is one thing that would go a long way to help (apart from overtime payments) and that is if we were treated with a bit of respect and courtesy by our managers.

Most social workers I know have broad backs and thick skins and will happily take abuse all day long from service users and carers, we will listen politely as colleagues in other disciplines comment rudely on our collective shortcomings but what really rankles is the airy, dismissive, intolerant and downright discourteous manner of middle managers. They are almost caricatures of management types one might have hoped were extinct:." don't bring me problems, bring me solutions". I think this is common place, and not just in the authority I happen to find myself in, pals in other authorities say more or less the same.

I have been in this game since 1993 and have seen many, many middle managers come and go, like butterflies, flitting from one place to another, and they have all shared the same characteristics of egomania and intolerance of dissent. They all seem to have been educated in the Pol Pot Year Zero school of management. For them, there is no history, there is only now; for them, there is no dialogue worth having, only instructions to follow. Dissent cannot and will not be tolerated. This places us in a difficult position; we are trained to challenge and to enquire and to look beyond the superficial., we are expected to dig deep, but we aren't allowed to do that in our offices.

This isn't a trifling point, it is a very serious issue, which goes to the heart of the daily social work experience. The power imbalance is such that you dare not question these men and women in suits, these power dressers extraordinaire. They remind me of Blair's Babes......... confident, supremely sure of themselves but, ultimately, vacuous: able to learn key phrases but unwilling to understand the actual meaning of words or the consequences of actions. Social workers who question what quickly becomes the prevailing orthodoxy get labelled as awkward, as fearful of change, as dinosaurs. The brave carry on and get sidelined, the meek keep quiet and keep their heads down.

It all makes for an unhappy work experience. I don't think I know one social worker who would describe themselves as truly content, but most of them would concede that they actually like the nuts and bolts of the job; it's the politics and the poisonous personalities within their own departments that they can't stand. It's quite shaming really. Shaming on people like me, who put up with it while quietly seething, and shaming on the managers themselves, who surely, to be so fearful of an alternative opinion must be, deep down, completely lacking in self respect and dignity.

My advice to those within departments charged with addressing recruitment and retention problems is simple, ask the middle managers, the professional bureaucrats, to be a bit nicer, a bit more compassionate and a bit more tolerant. It would work wonders.