Wednesday, December 24, 2008

While You Were Sleeping

It is 9.25 on Christmas Eve and I have been to work, come home, put every Felice track I have on a playlist and pressed repeat, cooked a ham, the best I have yet done (a bastardisation of Jamie Oliver's jerk ham), made some sausage rolls, made some stuffing for tomorrow, arsed about a bit, introduced the youngest to Lynrd Skyrd and Bob Marley (neither of whom I'm overly fond of) and had a bit to drink. I'm about ready to collapse, but it will be hours before I get to bed, then it will seem like minutes before I am woken up again. It probably will be minutes.

My record of the year list still consists of the Felice Brothers, but two mentions have to go to famous children................Teddy Thompson, who I will be seeing in January and Elvis Perkins, whose album is brilliant; most of it is anyway and it will stand up for years to come.

3 good articles today slagging Cameron off in the Guardian. I can't be bothered linking to them, you know where the Guardian site is, but it's nice to see that, finally, he is getting some stick. One of the articles is about how his front bench rebelled against him and his idea of banning them from taking up dozens of directorships. They said that they would point out that he doesn't need directorships, because he has inherited millions.

This tells you all you need to know about the bastard Tories. The old Etonian leader(s) are hypocrites and the rest of them are so consumed with greed they would rather betray their leader than give up easy money. Note that they didn't rebel on a point of principle, they squealed like stuck pigs because it was suggested that they concentrated their efforts on the jobs that are elected, and well remunerated to do.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Steady Rolling

There is a great piece by AC Grayling on secularism in todays Guardian. Christian nutters have had it too easy for too long; it's time to fight back.

Which gives me the opportunity for a moan. My nipper goes to a school on the other side of town. We made a rational decision to send him there because it is the best school in town. The Welsh government won't tell you that, because they like to keep these thing secret, but, as I worked for the council at the time, I saw a report which is not publicly available, which made it plain that to send him to our local comp would have been irrational to the point of lunacy. Its a bit of a pain, with all his new mates living miles away and it's a bit a pa9in paying the extra bus fare, when he could have walked.

Which brings to my point. As he waits for the bus, he is surrounded by dozens of kids waiting for a free bus to a catholic school in another town, and every bus stop I pass on the way to work has loads of kids wearing that schools uniform, waiting for the free bus. My nipper cannot get free transport because there is another school nearer to him. Well there is another school nearer to the Catholics too, but they get free transport because they believe in fairy stories. I have mentioned before that most of these kids were in the Church Of Wales as juniors, because that particular school has a better reputation than others. It ain't just, I tell you, and the bigger injustice is that the local school are all shitholes and public money goes to faith schools.

Play flow, it will relax you.

Hallelujah, Christ, I am sick of that bloody song, whoever is doing, mostly though, I am sick of hearing it constantly hummed everywhere I go. I'm not sick of Leonard Cohen, especially his narration of the Tibetan Book of the Dead:

Have you seen Outnumbered on the BBC? That's us, that is.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jesus On The Mainline

If you are of a spiritual bent, or even if you are just a curious bystander, you will most definitely appreciate this: When Jesus met Buddha

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Song For My Father

It's been how long?

It hardly seems worth it anymore, but like the bloody Blues, I just can't give it up.

Throw a shoe at Bush

I have been trained over the last few months and I am now qualified to teach certain simple self defence moves to carers who might be at risk of assault. I can guarantee that if anyone attempted to assault me, they would succeed, yet I can stand in front of a room of people and demonstrate techniques to them which will reduce their chances of getting hurt. I am living proof of the old adage that that those who can, do, and those who can't, teach.

My old Mondeo is knackered and I am having to change it, which is not something I enjoy doing, which is why I always drive knackered old bangers until they literally fall apart. The Mondeo is going to Oxfam, who will auction it and keep any proceeds. Bear this in mind if you have an uneconomical old banger, it could still do some good. I wonder how much I would get for the Mrs?

The Guardian has a new list of 100 best websites. The interesting thing is how uninteresting it is. Nearly everything on the list is well known, whereas a few years ago nearly everything would have been new. The reason I started blogging was because I was finding so much stuff that was just, so new, so different, so plain everything seems a bit old hat and everyone knows where to find stuff that interests them. The comment box that invites other recommendations is empty, so far anyway. The web has stagnated!

Here is my end of year list:

A magnum photo essay on life and death in Brazil............ a man will talk to you as you view it, just so you know: Requiem in Samba

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Teach Your Children Well

Is it it safe to come out now mom? Has the world begun to understand that social workers don't go around killing children? Probably not. But, now that the great and rational British public is in the mood for extreme vigilance, I have the answer.

Anybody who has demonstrated a predisposition for violence, should not be allowed to keep their children; anybody who has demonstrated an inability to provide appropriate care for their children, should be denied them: so, anyone who has ever smacked a child, please step aside while we take them to a place of safety; anyone who feeds their children a diet of processed shit, please step aside, so that we can care for them properly; anyone who has been drunk in front of a child, step aside, old son, you are not a fit parent; anyone who smokes in front of their children, please stand in the corner with a dunces hat on your head while we take the little darlings away; anyone who doesn't encourage their children to thrive and reach their fullest potential............ who dresses them head to toe in leisure wear, who is ambivalent about school performance, who doesn't help with the homework, will you kindly just step out of the fucking way while we arrange for your children to have a better life. That should do the trick.

Vatman and Dobbin............ta Bob

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Frankies Gun

So, those social workers have been going around killing children again. The bastards. They are worse than Poles.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I am a bit indisposed at the the meantime, have a read of a fantastic article by Ian Bell, on bankers.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ruby May

I've had a bad back for a few weeks. Initially it was excruciating, but it's not so bad now and it comes and it goes. At the same time, or thereabouts I also developed a severe pain in my right bollock. I say pain, sometimes its pain, sometimes it's discomfort and sometimes it just feels downright weird. It would also come and go, to an extent, but never disappear and for the last week it's been quite alarming. So I took myself off to the G.P

I actually bumped into my GP in Sainsburys the other night and she asked me how I was, to which I replied, with a cheery smile, "fine thanks, how are you". I was hardly about to explain my bollock predicament while a teenage girl passed my plums through the scanner. I wasn't about to explain it to her anywhere, actually, what with her being a her.

We have two GP's in the local practice. The Sainsburys lady, who is very good, and her partner, who is very bad. Usually, you would do anything to ensure that you saw her, rather than him. Unfortunately, you can only book appointments a week in advance, otherwise you just have to claim it's an emergency and go along and sit in the waiting room for several hours, usually next to a young man with an extremely restless leg, and get whoever you get. This time I was in luck, and got him.

He is a strange but likeable chap. He always has a half eaten item of food on his desk, a Welsh cake on this occasion. He has a very Welsh accent and a distracted air. He asked me what was wrong and I told him about my back. Then I told him about my bollock. He invited me to stand up and drop my trousers and underwear; he then performed a perfunctory cough and drop. Then his phone rang and he answered it, leaving me standing there with my pants and trousers around my ankles. For about ten minutes. I genuinely think he had forgotten I was there.

Finally, he instructed me to make myself decent and take a seat, which I did. He said there was nothing wrong with my bollock and the pain was referred pain from my back. I said my back wasn't really hurting anymore and that my ball was, and also wasn't hanging right. He said everybodys bollocks hang differently: one is always higher than the other. Fuck me! I have been intimately acquainted with my testicles for 49 and a half years, and I think I know how they hang.

I told him that I was aware of the propensity of bollocks to hang skewiff, but that nevertheless, mine just didn't feel right. He assured me that, while they may not feel right to me, they felt perfect to him! He further assured me that they were a good size and very smooth! He then told me about the kangaroos ability to withdraw his balls up into his abdomen, then gazed into me eyes, with a triumphant look on his face.

He told me that I should keep taking painkillers and eventually it would all go away. He then said he had some ointment he could prescribe, and I said that I would welcome anything that might help, so he wrote the script. He said that I had to be careful with this ointment and I should wear gloves when applying it, because it is derived from capsicums and is very fiery stuff. He was very clear on this point. I asked, as politely as I could " you mean to say that this stuff is so potent I have to wear gloves to apply it and you expect me to put it on my bollocks!!!!!!!!!"

He chuckled and said in his lovely, lilting Welsh voice, "good God man, don't put it down there, it would be excruciating...................PUT IT ON YOUR BACK" It's a good job I asked, because I did put it on my back and it makes deep heat seem like an ice pack.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Heat Treatment

It’s nice to see the Tories being shown up for the bunch of over privileged toffs that they are, and it’s nice to see that the press can occasionally have a go at them. There was a telling piece in the Guardian today relaying an encounter that a holiday maker had enjoyed with George Osborn on a Greek beach in the summer. As Osborn strides forth, having disturbed the ambience of the beach, with his enormous great boat, his family troop behind, while the nanny struggles behind with the bags. That’s the kind of man he is, absolutely accustomed to blithe displays of arrogance while a minion does the donkey work. And the Tory party is full of his ilk.

While George was swanning around Greece, his leader and fellow Old Etonian was accepting free flights from Rupert Murdoch. These were not Easyjet deals, these were flights on private jets and were worth in themselves something like £34,000. No doubt it was all legal, above board and scrupulously ethical, but it does demonstrate that these Tories live on a plane (no pun intended) so far removed from the rest of that they may as well be professional footballers.

Meanwhile, down to earth hockey mom and political outsider Miss Piggy Sarah Palin has spent a very down to earth 155 thousand dollars on makeovers in the past 8 weeks. Actually, that’s a lie, the Republican party machine, which she claims to be aloof from has spent it on her. I’m sure she deserves every penny.

High flying Wolves went to Norwich, who hadn’t managed to get a single point for three games and got hammered, while we beat Crystal Palace who had been unbeaten in three with a lat minute winner. So, we go back to the top of the table, despite not really putting in a single decisive performance all season, and certainly without having managed to thrill the crowd. It’s all very prosaic and I will say, yet again, this league is crap, any half decent team should get promotion very easily. We may not be playing particularly consistently, but we are picking up points consistently and I think we will comfortably finish on top. Even though it is obvious that we aren’t very good.

While we are on the subject of football, Joey Barton seems to be genuinely contrite, but then he has seemed genuinely contrite before. At least he recognises his demons and is trying to address them, and he recognises that it is a long process. However bad his behaviour is, or has been, he has learnt it over a lifetime, and he is now trying to unlearn it. I wish him luck, but I fear for him.

I popped into the local library on the way home from work to pick up the Booker winner. While I was there, I looked on the ”returned today shelves" and there, winking at me, was the new(ish) Don Winslow, as bright and as fresh as babys smile. Despite the fact that there was not another soul in the library, I snatched it from the shelf as quickly as I could, fearful that some other scoundrel would appear, and deprive me of it. As I grabbed it, I noticed that next to it, also in pristine condition was the new Ken Bruen, (I didn’t even know there was a new Ken Bruen) and next to that was the new James Lee Burke and, fuck me, sitting next to that was the new Pelecanos. I didn’t dream it, it actually happened and all the books are now sat in an impatient pile next to my bed. I can’t begin to tell you how deeply in love I am with Cwmbran library.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reelin' In The Years

May I respectfully urge you to get an earful of Teddy Thompson; he's a chip off the old block and no mistake. Click here and you can make your own mind up.

Bugger me if a book about the Indian economic miracle hasn't won the Booker. I have ordered it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pablo Picasso

Remember this? Picasso Potatohead.

Charlie Brooker on the credit crunch: For years, money was just appearing from nowhere, or so we were told. People bought houses and bragged about how the value kept zooming up, and up, and up. In fact they didn't seem to be houses at all, but magic coin-shitting machines. It was all a dream, a dream in which you bought a box and lived in it, and all the time it generated money like a cow generates farts. Great big stinking clouds of money. And none of it was real. And now it's gone. Your house is worth less than your shoes, and your shoes are now, in turn, worth less than your mouth and your arse. Yes, your most valuable possessions are now your mouth and your arse, and you're going to have to use both of them in all manner of previously unthinkable ways to make ends meet, to pay for that box, the box you live in, the one you mistook for an enchanted, unstoppable cash engine.

I have heard two comments from bankers in the last few days that have had me pissing myself laughing. The first was off some financial genius who said that we can’t seriously expect the banks to hold bonuses down; that would only lead to the brightest and the best leaving these shores for Asia, or some such place. Yes. I’m sure that financial institutions the world over are queuing up to offer jobs to the idiots who got us into this mess in the first place. The berks should be forming an orderly queue on the roof of the nearest tall building and wait patiently to do the decent thing and take a header off it.

Another mind of magnificence complained that the bail out puts so many restrictions on them that shareholders dividends will be diluted out of existence. Please excuse me while I shed a quiet tear for all the shareholders.

Talking of economic miracles I came across this piece in the Sunday Herald on Indian Dalits, or untouchables changing their religion to avoid the institutionalised oppression that they suffer at the hands of their supposed betters. The piece isn’t actually about economics, but it does interview a man who earns pennies by climbing into sewers and cleaning the shit out with his hands and it reminded me of something I heard last week about the average weekly wage in India, which is still counted in pennies for the vast majority of the population. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that the haves are actually trying to make it illegal for the have nots to convert to other religions, mainly Buddhism.

I didn’t see any of Englands game at the weekend, so I’m hardly qualified to comment, but I will anyway. First, the booing. I shared my thoughts on booing last week, so I will just point out that the booing of Ashley Cole was anything but good natured, so I’m agin it. On the other hand, if someone has to be booed, young Ashley is a deserving case.

It’s not so much the booing that interests me, but the response to it. The press has been more or less unanimous in condemning it, which strikes me as being a bit hypocritical and many of them have poured scorn on the booers, questioning their judgment, and suggesting that they aren’t there for the football, but for the theatre; which was exemplified by the rapturous reception received by Beckham. It’s a fair point that, actually. Maybe the new generation of football fans are getting the footballers they deserve.

Of all the responses from the players, Steve Gerrard made some sense and Rio Ferdinand thoughtfully provided a text book example the kind of arrogance that has turned the nation against the players in the first place. I can’t remember the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of the fans being despicable. Well, Rio, the people who pay your wages may or not be despicable, their booist tendencies may be unwelcome, but they are entitled to an opinion; it might serve you and the others well to try and reflect upon the reasons for the booing, you might learn something about yourself. Anyway, the next time I see Ferdinand I shall boo him, even if it’s in the cheese aisle at Sainsburys.

The Chicago Way has restored my faith in pulp fiction. An old style, hard boiled, wisecracking detective, with an inability to sustain a relationship but capable of taking a punch, takes on corrupt cops and the mafia, whilst surrounded by more femmes fatales than you can shake a stick at. Just the job for a tired and weary head.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

This is the Day

So, there we have it, we have a big bold government, unafraid to take big, bold decision to save capitalism the banks, the nation. There doesn’t seem to be too much to take issue with regarding the big rescue plan, and even if there was, my feeble financial brain wouldn’t understand it, but, as you might expect, I have some thoughts on the matter.

I have been hearing all day about how the banks will have learnt their lesson. What lesson would this be then? That they can continue to make merry with the finances of the nation, risk the collapse of all our financial institutions, and when it all goes tits up, the government will step in and rescue them. The taxpayer will foot the bill, initially, anyway. Meanwhile, the banks themselves can continue to rob the rest of us blind.

I don’t find it curious, but I do find it aggravating that we must save the financial institutions at all costs, whereas when manufacturing industries go wrong, the market dictates that they must fall, even if it means that entire communities will be devastated. At least the iron masters were producing something; these chuffing bankers are motivated by nothing other than greed. It’s funny how the market can only be interfered with when it is the big financial institutions that are at risk. I admit that I know too little about all this economic shit to have a coherent opinion, I just can’t see why a labour government hasn’t felt able to make big, bold decisions on behalf of the poorest in our society; on behalf of the desperate and the destitute............. those with no hope, of whom we have no shortage.

Whatever happened to the trickle down effect?

The UK’s record on alleviating childhood poverty has been slammed this week; can we have a big, bold policy decision on this please? How about the equality gap, can we have a bit of boldness there? Oh, sorry, forgot, there is no money. How about a big bold strategy to finally ban the insanity of allowing our children to be assaulted?

“…..we, the data fiends, are going to take over the world... Starting with this book." a review of an interesting book exploring some common myths regarding football stats and opinion.

David Davies, ex big wig at the FA and occasional rubbish presenter of the Sunday morning sports show on 5 live has a book out, and you can't escape the bugger, which is a good thing, because he furnished us with some details of the disciplinary hearing which preceded Eric Cantonas trawler and seagulls quote. Apparently, when he was invited to speak by the disciplinary panel, Cantona began 'I would like to thank the chairman, I would like to thank Manchester United, I would like to thank Mr Ferguson, I would like to thank the prostitute with whom I slept last night, I would like to thank...' It made me laugh, anyway.

We don't seem to be able to escape long pieces on the film about the Naples underworld, Gomorrah, either, which is a good thing, as far as I am concerned.

What is most striking about her is that she seems perfectly untroubled by either curiosity or the usual processes of thought. When answering questions, both Obama and Joe Biden have an unfortunate tendency to think on their feet and thereby tie themselves in knots: Palin never thinks.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Idiot Wind

The Wire chronicles. A little treat for the bereft among us.

Never one to be accused of not labouring the point, I feel the need to point out that Capello has been in the press all this week commenting on how our poor, sensitive footballers don't like playing at Wembley, because they sense that some of the crowd are hostile, and will grumble when the players make elementary errors, and even, on occasion, boo. Tottenham fans booed their team at the weekend and the Independent reporter had an interesting observation on it, he said: "It helps that the fans were sanguine, the boos at half-time and full-time being desultory rather than furious, as if they felt the scoreline meant booing was required.........."

Some Blues fans have developed a penchant for booing, a trait which has led to even more discord in the ranks. Some say you you should never boo at the game, others that it's ok to boo after the game, but not during it and others still that you should never complain about the Blues ever. Never. Not at any time, anywhere, whatever the provocation. In fact, there can be no provocation. Our role in life is simply to love the Blues, obediently and unquestioningly. Personally, I am of the don't boo at the game but enjoy several hours of drinking and complaining bitterly afterwards persuasion.

The Independent quote has got me thinking though, and I think that the anti booing brigade should cool their heels. They like to sit proudly on a high horse, the anti booers and they will often comment that it never used to be like this. I'm not so sure, I am fairly certain I have heard booing down at St Andrews for as long as I have been going, although we have never been serial booers. What is certain is that for as long as I can remember, we have been serial grumblers. You hear it every time there is a misplaced pass; a loud collective groan goes up from all sides of the ground, and it often gets louder as the game goes on. The volume of the groan is often at least as loud as a collective boo, but I bet that most of the groaners and the grumblers would say that they never boo.

What I want to know is, what's the difference? Does a desultory boo mean more or less than an exasperated groan. The groaning gets on my nerves, even though I must groan, moan and mumble myself on a fairly regular basis, and what is worse, is that the groaning is never desultory; it is always heartfelt and smacks of impatience and intolerance. So, I propose, boo at will, so long as it is good natured and tolerant booing, and tell all the groaners, message board stylee, to fuck off to Vile Park. Christ, before long, the only spectators would be the ballboys, the linesmen and the photographers.

Meanwhile, I have struggled on and finished Snitch Jacket, which receives a well merited boo and a groan. I might even throw in a mumble or two for good measure.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Too Fast To Live

There was a Stephen Wells article in the Guardian yesterday on the maltreatment of refs. As is usually the case with this particular writer, it was way over the top and designed in part to elicit a response on the Guardian blog, but he made some good points.

The remorseless battering of our refs gets on my nerves, or, as the good ladies of Abertillery would say, I have just about had a tit full of it. There seems to be a malaise among commentators and ex players and pundits and reporters and those fine folk who phone in to radio shows: they just can't let go. I am all for giving the ref a bit of abuse of the game, one of Saturday afternoon greatest pleasures is being allowed to tell some bloke who is doing his best that he is a useless fucking cunt, but lets not dwell on it, there will be plenty of other opportunities to vent ill considered personal abuse towards another human being.

This is my problem with it. You will get someone like Alan Green or Andy Gray witness a bad decision and then become apoplectic. Green, in particular will squeal like a stuck pig, then there will be a debate in the studio and close forensic analysis from every conceivable angle and speed. Then the match reports will comment upon it and the phone in will debate it and before you know it the entire nation has been seized by a moral fucking panic. Because Didier Drogba fell over. Again.

There is a moral point to be made here. Refs are not allowed to be human, to be flawed, they are not allowed foibles, they are not allowed frailty. Not only that, their every error is unforgivable and must be pored over, again and again and again. They are told that at the very least they must get the "big decisions" right. The trouble is, every decision that they get wrong is considered to be a big decision. Managers, in particular trot this line out; managers who, obviously, have never made a flawed decision in their lives.

How and why did we become so intolerant. It's fine to feel betrayed by the ref at the game, but why let it linger, why can't we move on? Why do their errors hurt us so much? Blues have a team of mediocre players, who make mistake after mistake, yet they aren't subject to the same scrutiny, but look at the cars in the car park; consider that these oafs earn plenty more in a week than I do in a year, and then consider that this lot are the second tier...................the upper echelons earn riches that can barely be imagined, but we tolerate their mistakes. Down at the Blues we indulge their mistakes, even look upon them fondly, so long as we see them sweat metaphorical blood for the shirt. Should we not be expecting perfection from this lot, rather than the poor, beleaguered refs?

Moreover, the players cheat, so how can they claim the moral high ground? The managers condone and probably encourage cheating, so how can they claim the moral high ground? Larsson put a cross in today from a ball that was a good two feet over the line, he knew it, everyone in the ground knew it, but he still had a go at the linesman and told him he was wrong. He could not have believed this to be the truth, so why did he do it?

Similarly, there is a curious moral relativism when it comes to players falling over. If a player, particularly a player who does not hail from our fair isles falls over without having been touched, he is a cheat and beyond contempt. If a strapping 6 footer, built like a brick shit house falls over after the tenderest whisper in the ear from a defender, he is clever. It is OK to play for a free kick or penalty. The euphemism is that he went down easily and the justification is that the defender made the challenge and actually touched the man. The reality is that it is cheating, just as much as falling over following no contact.

The poor old ref is on a hiding to nothing. He has players in his ear all through the game, waging psychological warfare, trying to influence the next decision and the one after that, and he has players cheating all through the game, as well as having 30 thousand screaming chimps giving his every decision dogs, chimps abuse. We should all show the refs a bit more respect, not because of some brainless campaign, but because they deserve it.

We often hear of players talking of the unbearable pressure of playing in front of demanding crowds. England don't like playing at home, nor, this season do Blues, because the comments of some fans verge on the impolite. My favourite ever Blues player Cameron Jerome has whined about this earlier in the season. What a bunch of fairies. Untold riches filling up their pockets every week, however badly they perform and they can't take a little constructive criticism, yet the ref, who earns a pittance in comparison, has to stand tall and take it all through the game. And before the game, and after the game, long after the game. As human beings, as moral entities, with hearts and souls, if we have any compassion at all, whose side should we be on?

Blues continue to perform like an enigma wrapped in a riddle. We won again today, but did nothing to warm the cockles of a sparse crowd. This only confirms what I have said all along, this league is shit. We play poorly every week, we create hardly any chances every week, but there we sit, right at the top (as I type this, anyway). Many of my fellow fans are happy. For them, winning is all that counts, and the fact that we have the best defence in the league is source of pride. I think it's a shame. Our best two players today were Augustien and Jaidi. One of them is midfield dog who goes around tidying up and playing short, sensible balls, and he does it very well, the other is a monster. It's a bit sad that these two are our most noticeable players.

Today, as is ever the case, we had no fluidity through the middle. We at least had cohesion at the back, but I believe we have it in us to be much more mobile and threatening going forward, but we just don't seem to have the bottle, or wit, to fully commit to all out assault. We did go at them at the beginning of the second half, which was pleasing, but soon settled back into defensive mediocrity. I don't care how many points this gets us; it's fucking tiresome. We keep hearing about our embarrassment of riches in the forward areas, when we should be focusing on the embarrassment of hardly being able to scrape more than two chances together in any match. In a shit league.

I don't pretend to know anything about tactics or the finer details of footballing philosophy, and we are not a long ball side to the extent that we were under Bruce, but I think that there is still too big a gap between the midfield and the attackers. If we knock it up, hoping that we will win the second ball, as often seems to be the case, surely one or two of the buggers need to be a bit nearer the action. We seem very slow to react and support the front two (or one). It all seems a bit safety first.

Two things in particular got on my nerves today. First, with a couple of minutes to go, we won a corner. Jaidi ambled up and Faddy was about to send the ball in, when Larsson ran over to the corner and insisted that they play that annoying keep it in the corner bollocks. It was not difficult to work out that there was at least 6 minutes left. Did the arrogant Swede, really think we could keep the ball that long? Well, we couldn't, the dope lost it in about 6 seconds flat and QPR were on the attack.

Then, a good ball got knocked through to Cameron Jerome, but the defender got a desperate, stretching leg there first and knocked the ball in the general direction of the keeper. Jerome just gave up, went back on his heels, before realising the keeper had completely miscontrolled it. He then went in and got booted on the inside of the knee for his troubles. If he had shown more commitment in the first place, had he been more alert, the goal would have been at his mercy. I will state, again, for the benefit of all those who, mystifyingly, cannot see what is in front of their eyes. Cameron Jerome is shit.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Tear Stained Letter

The comedy club of Newcastle continues to have us all rolling in the aisles. When he was at Wimbledon, Joe Kinnear, the caretaker manager used to come across as quite avuncular and jovial, as soon as he turned up at Newcastle though, he looked old, sad, lost and bewildered. Time (a full week) in the job seems to have taken its toll, if this transcript of a press conference is anything to go by. You need to read right until the end for the full belly laugh.

For ages and ages, every time I bought something from Amazon it told me that Snitch Jacket was waiting to be purchased, so eventually I purchased it. It's one of the strangest books I have read, and not in a good way. Some of the prose is superb, some of the dialogue is brilliant, but the thing as a whole is fucking annoying. It comes across as a cross between a Confederacy of Dunces and the Big Lebowski, and Benny's wife brings to mind the crazed and irritating dame in the Jeff Bridges boxing movie Fat City. I shall persevere, but I'm not happy.

I recommend that boxing film, by the way, it's not brilliant but you can probably get it for about threepence.

Hows this for the greatest 12 minutes of Kevin Rowlands career?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

So Long, It's Been Good To Know You

As a general rule, I cannot stomach Jamie Oliver, so had not considered watching his new programme, in which he tries to teach the whole of Rotherham to cook, having read this review, however, I shall take a peek. Alternatively!

A photo essay on phone sex operators.

As it happens the Archbishop of Canterbury should stick to the Bible, because he knows nothing about Marx’s Capital.

Blues won easily at Cardiff on the weekend, but not as easily as they should have and drew a game with Derby last night which they should have won, and, as is ever the case, Blues fans cannot agree whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. My own view is that it is an OK thing, but, nevertheless, a slightly disappointing thing. 4 points from two away games is not to be sniffed at, but we seem intent on taking the lead and then sitting back and making things difficult for ourselves, which, frankly, pisses me off, regardless of the result.

I can never understand the kind of thinking which allows for a team to play attractive(ish), attacking football until they take the lead, and then go into a defensive shell. Over many years under many managers I have seen Blues do this. They go out and take teams apart, creating good chances, while the opposition, barely muster anything, then we score, and just keep passing the ball back to them and say, get past us if you think you can. If nothing else, it is piss poor to watch and, if the opposition aren't getting a sniff when we attack them, why just allow them into the game? Clearly, I know nothing.

Talking of knowing nothing, I think I have finally weaned myself off football message boards. When I first got onto the net, years ago, it was great, for an exile, to be able to seek out and share opinions with fellow Blues fans, and find news on the Blues that was not otherwise available down here in sunny South Wales. Christ, I used to drive out to Hereford of a Sunday morning on the pretext of having a nice drive out, but in reality to buy a Sports Argus. I got back the cost of the internet connection simply in the petrol money saved!

The circles I mix in have very little interest in football at all and absolutely no interest in the Blues, so it was good to be able to share the Blues obsession. I actually think those of us outside the city become even more obsessed, because we don't have the opportunity to share and vent with those around us. You quickly realise though, that a noisy minority of your fellow posters are a bit moronic and don't actually want to engage in discussion and debate, and resent any attempt on anyone else's part to do so. Still, like an addict, you carry on and you become moronic yourself. You respond to the insults. And then you stop, then you take a peek and you start again, but I think I've had enough. Life is too short, too rich and too varied to waste it engaging in meaningless dialogue with those whose sole form of entertainment seems to consist of winding people they don't even know up on football message boards.

I bet the world is glad I shared that!

The Pomegranate

Once when I was living in the heart of a pomegranate, I heard a seed
saying, "Someday I shall become a tree, and the wind will sing in
my branches, and the sun will dance on my leaves, and I shall be
strong and beautiful through all the seasons."

Then another seed spoke and said, "When I was as young as you, I
too held such views; but now that I can weigh and measure things,
I see that my hopes were vain."

And a third seed spoke also, "I see in us nothing that promises so
great a future."

And a fourth said, "But what a mockery our life would be, without
a greater future!"

Said a fifth, "Why dispute what we shall be, when we know not even
what we are."

But a sixth replied, "Whatever we are, that we shall continue to

And a seventh said, "I have such a clear idea how everything will
be, but I cannot put it into words."

Then an eight spoke--and a ninth--and a tenth--and then many--until
all were speaking, and I could distinguish nothing for the many

And so I moved that very day into the heart of a quince, where the
seeds are few and almost silent.

Khalil Gibran

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea

There is a good piece in today's Independent praising the lower football leagues. There is an emphasis on there seeming to be a greater connection between the clubs and the fans, which, unfortunately, isn't true of the Blues and there is also an insistence that the atmosphere in the grounds is better than in the prem, which again, sadly, isn't the case with the Blues. If only my two local non league teams played in a proper ground, rather than athletics stadiums with only one side of the pitch having a stand, I would go and watch the odd game, but somehow, it just doesn't feel right.

We don't seem to be able to open up a paper without reading about some controversy related to creationism, here's what a Buddhist thinks of it.

Blues play Cardiff this afternoon, in a game that they will win easily. In fact we will moida da bums. Cardiff is about 20 miles from where I sit, yet I am sitting here, not there. This is because the game has been designated a "bubble match". I have no idea what this means, but, in essence, had I wished to attend today's game as a Birmingham fan, I would have been required to purchase a ticket and travel from the club. So I would have had to get up this morning, drive 90 odd miles to Birmingham, only to come straight back again on the coach, even then I would not have been given a ticket, only a voucher, which I would then exchange for a ticket at some mystery location. I think proof of identity would also be required. I would then have to go We hear again and again from Washington that we have turned a corner in Iraq and are on the path to victory. If so, it is a strange Brum on the coach so I could drive myself back to where I started. If had wanted to sample one of the many delights that Cardiff and its environs has to offer I would have been out of luck.

We hear again and again from Washington that we have turned a corner in Iraq and are on the path to victory. If so, it is a strange fun, doesn't it?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Seasons in the Sun

James Crumley has kicked the bucket. He was no spring chicken and he had been poorly for a while, but it's sad, just the same. His books are worth a look, if you like that sort of thing; they won't change your life, but they will take you away from it for a short while.

I know that at least two people who pass this way from time to time like Sam Baker, so it's only fair that I let them know that he performed live and was interviewed on the Iain Anderson show on Thursday. If they don't visit before next Thursday they have had it, because the programme is only archived for a week.

Poverty kills. It's great isn't it? Ever piece of research we see related to poverty and inequality tells us that the poor get the shitty end of the tick, every time, yet still we persist with absurd notion that capitalism works. The increasingly idiotic Nicky Campbell said on the radio this morning that capitalism is the only way, because it is our way. Ye fucking gods. Meanwhile,as Bush squirms and bleats and squeals that the state should intervene to save the banks and his mate Paulsen gets on his knees and begs for help, you can buy a house from some poor skint dreamer for 800 quid. Thats his own fault though, so fuck him. Capitalism. I love it.

Talking of freedom loving peoples: 6 years in Guantamano. It will make you are proud that you are on the right side.

The Quietus on The Wire.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Statue of Liberty

If you go to Chicago Public Radio and have a mooch around you will eventually find the page of This American Life and if you mooch around there you will find this , which includes a short piece by Richard Price on a night spent with some New York cops and you will probably love it. Price, in case you were wondering wrote The Wanderers, Sea of Love, Clockers and loads more brilliant books and screenplays as well as contributing to The it has to be worth a listen.

I can now safely advise you, if you like that sort of thing, to purchase Kittyhawk Down. The plot is complex but, just about, believable but that is secondary to the characters, all of whom are recognisably flawed human beings and all of whom have a hinterland; which made a welcome change from the uncomplicated simplicities of the characters in the last book I read. Very good stuff it is.

The Life and Death of the Football Song

Saturday, September 20, 2008


So, just to spite me, the Blues go and lose at home to Blackpool, however, we can take comfort from the fact that the defeat was thoroughly well deserved.

Have a go at loops of zen, if you find it calming, you are a better man than I.

Charlie Brooker had a hilarious piece in the Guardian the other day all about men shaving their goolies; he also commented upon the the latest trend in scarf tieng, which has been getting my gander up for ages, but every time I have moaned about it, people have given me strange looks, I'm glad to see I'm not alone.

John & Sarah in St. Paul

Friday, September 19, 2008

Editions Of You anybody there? Long time no see. While we are here lets all laugh at dull Americans.

Talking of dull Americans: What kind of person tells a self-aggrandizing lie, gets called on it, admits publicly that the truth is not at all what she originally claimed—and then goes out and starts telling the original lie again without changing a word?

It's the last episode of the Wire next week and it doesn't bear thinking about. It is bound to be an anti climax after this weeks programme, which is possibly the best hours telly there has ever been. David Simons book on life with the Baltimore homicide squad(the basis for the superb "Homicide" cop show, has just been re released so he has been all over our media and he comes across as a good guy. The best piece I have seen was in the Guardian a few weeks ago and was a very thoughtful consideration of two distinct Americas.

While we are giving credit to the good guys, the Guardian has a good piece on Elbow and while you read it you coud do worse that listen to Guy Garveys radio show on radio 6.

Or, you could listen to Dean Friedmans "Real American Folk" which might be the best show on the radio at the moment, unfortunately, it is a shorts series and it only archives for one week, so you will have missed most of it. Last week he played a long, long song by the brilliant Steve Forbert, you won't be hearing him in many other places this week.

So, capitalism is covering itself in glory. Again. How come every time the government bails out some incompetent financial colosus, the markets recover? I though that the government was supposed to be the devil? We may as well just nationalise the lot of the them.........the banks, the insurance companies, the pension funds................hand the fuckers over. And stop crying!

The supermarkets insist that they are helping us in this time of crisis, well keeping petrol at a painfully high level even though prices have dropped isn't helping me much. When you walk in Tescos you will see huge signs by the fruit and veg advertising this for 65 p and that for pennies and you will think, "that's a bargain, thank you Tesco for helping me out, what a public spirited and philanthropic organisation". What the big signs don't tell you is that the bargain broccoli, which comes wrapped, is actually about 80p more expensive per kilo than the loose broccoli further down the aisle..............and it is a similar story with all their so called bargains, the evil bastards. No crisis is so great that some capitalist pig won't find a way to fleece the poor.

I read a piece in one of the papers ages ago about readers block. I can't be bothered to find it because it was actually quite boring. It's premise was that we all, from time to time, suffer readers block and need help in overcoming it. It was a typically middle class piece which referenced all the usual suspects. Amis, A.N Wilson, Julian Barnes, Salman Rushdie. Privileged people who write about the concerns of the privileged classes. It's no wonder that aficionados of those types get readers block, they write about and for each other.

Stick to the book reviews of the quality press and you will soon get readers block, but aficionados of the internet need never suffer such an appalling fate. I come across brilliant writers, of whom I would never have heard had it not been for the net, nearly every week, so many of them in fact, that it is impossible to keep up. It is becoming increasingly fashionable to sneer at the amateurs who who populate the internet in the pages of the quality press. Well, they would sneer wouldn't they, as they are being shown up for the narrow minded elitists that they are.

Somewhere or other, weeks ago, I came across a recommendation for Harry Hunsicker and trotted off to the library to see what they had. Nothing. A nice lady asked if I was a member of the Gateway to Learning scheme. Never heard of it. Apparently, there is scheme in this corner of South Wales where you can borrow books from loads of different authorities, for free, and it doesn't contribute to your existing allowance, it's in addition to it. I think it's designed for learning, rather than devouring cheap American detective fiction, but there you go.

Anyway, a couple of days later, not one, but two Hunsickers arrived, and to be honest, I wasn't impressed. "Next Time You Die" was alright, well plotted, with good characters and, in the vernacular, a page turner and it did the job. It seemed a bit derivative though. The hero has has a best pal and minder: a hard as nails nutter who happens to be gay, all very well and all very Joe R Lansdale. He also has a partner, a beautiful and sassy broad, again, all very well, but also all very Dennis Lehane. My biggest quibble with it though is the glorification of violence. As with too many of these books extreme violence is always justified, and it gets on my nerves. Having said all that, it is brilliantly done.

The second one, I read, "Crosshairs" I didn't read, got fed up about 50 pages in.

I'm currently reading Kittyhawk Down, by Gary Disher. I have no idea how I came across this book but so far I am glad I did. It's a bit reminiscent of, but not derivative of Peter Temple, not just because of the Australian setting but because of the milieu. To think, at the star of the year I had no idea what a "ute" was, now it's almost part of my vocabulary. I think I recommend it, but I am only half way in.

It's been a good couple of weeks for football fans. I don't usually take much interest in the affairs of other clubs, but the events of the last few weeks have been absolutely fascinating and we must all give thanks to the comedy club of Newcastle for entertaining us all so royally. Long may it continue.

We might all be wishing for new billionaire owners and I am sure that supporters of QPR are very grateful to to the aging, and oddly grotesque playboys who now own them, but I am also sure that most of them would rather not be paying 40 quid to watch them play Derby. It will all end in tears.

As for the Blues, we are set to make our best start since I don't know when and still we aren't happy. I said all through the summer, and was laughed at all through the summer, for saying that we would piss this league. I based this not on the fact that we are brilliant, but on the clear evidence that this league is shit. And so it is proving. We haven't played well yet, but have dropped only one point all season and if I am not very much mistaken have the best defensive record in the league. On Tuesday we went to Bristol City, one of the stronger sides in the divison and won comfortably. We have nothing to worry about, it will be a stroll in the park.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stay With Me

Bugger me, Russia is in the news again and funnily enough, it has been like living in Soviet era Russia for the last few weeks. There is only one truth, and the truth is that the Olympics are unequivocally a good thing. It might be true, but it is very strange and a bit unnerving not to hear or read one dissenting opinion. What is even stranger is that outside of the papers and the telly and the radio I have not heard the thing discussed; no one seems to give much of a bugger. Hurray and good for the chaps that did so well, but, you know, life goes on, and life isn't all that good.

Is it me, or has the media lost all sense of reason in reporting Britains glory? I'm sure that I read that the athletics coaches job is under threat because our performance was so poor. Take away the cycling medals and the hooray henry type sports and we didn't exactly cover ourselves in glory did we? Especially as most of the buggers are professionals.

You may have surmised, I am going on about sport again. The 5 live phone in today focussed on competitive sports in schools. Gordon Brown (who, for a man who wrote a whole series of articles on brave politicians is proving himself to be a sorry disappointment) has said we need more competition, as he jumped on the nearest passing bandwagon. Some Labour politicians have been pointing this out for years, so he is a bit late to this particular party. The 5 live phonees were pretty unanimous that limp wristed leftie councils had ruined the nation with their anti competitive ways. I didn't hear any mention of the selling off of school playing fields having a detrimental effect.

Despite the national euphoria, I will not budge from my stance that competition kills kids interest in sport, especially at an early age. Nor will I budge from my stance that the first thing that our nippers should be taught is that sport is good, that sport is fun and and that exercise is a good thing, in and of itself. I won't go on about this nation of couch potatoes again, nor about Finland, but to use a phrase that usually makes me want to throw up, how about a bit of joined up thinking?

On this hand we are urged to be more active, to try this sport, this activity, on that hand we are assailed by articles in the press on age specific activities, public spaces urge us to get off our behinds, it's good for us, our families, the nation, yet the facilities on offer are shit and people who were put off sport at an early age are discouraged from participating. JOIN. UP.THE. THINKING. The Pippas of this world will find their own way: the rest of us, the big wobbly mass, won't.

There were several themes in this mornings phone in, one of them being that the elite athletes need even more public money spent on them. We need to give them the best equipment, pay for them to spend most of the year abroad, honing their skills and pay them a handsome wage on top. Fair enough, up to a point, but as professionals, operating in a market, if they can't sustain themselves, well, tough. I am sure that most of these supreme individuals would want the laws of the free market to apply to the rest of us.

The biggest theme though, was that we were killing our kids with kindness and I just don't buy into this theory. We weren't actually awash with glory through the 30's 40's and 50's, and, as mentioned, the selling off of playing fields has probably had a bigger effect on the nations sporting prowess as political correctness gone mad.

I am not against competition, far from it, but I do believe that we need to foster a love of sport first. Despite my current fat bastard status I was good at all sports as a nipper and could handle myself in a scrap, so this is not the bleating of a life long weakling (just the bleating of a middle aged weakling!) I truly believe that if we encourage all nippers to enjoy sports and give them good facilities and coaches, and emphasise that it is, above all else, fun, we will breed winners and we will breed a generally fitter nation.

My eldest gave up football because the training was crap and he, along with about 30 others were marginalised within the club, at the expense of about 10 or twelve stars, who coincidentally, were the sons and friends of the sons of the coaches. He would get to touch a ball about ten times in a 2 hour session.

My youngsest recently joined his first club, the other side of town from his brothers alma mater. Because he joined late last season, he has also been marginalised, but in a good way. He is stuck with about 10-12 other late comers, so they have 2 hours of really intense, small sided games, and he loves it, because he is always involved. They have had a couple of games, and they have been hammered, but come Monday, they are back at training, raring to go, and week by week you can see them improving. The coaches will leech this sense of joy out of them in time; they absolutely hate it when they lose, but, in the meantime, these kids are learning to play the game and love the game, and they are having a laugh while they do it.

The head coach has been complaining that next year they will only be allowed to play seven a side games and he thinks it is wrong, whereas I rejoice, as this is how the little buggers will learn to love the ball and play the game. The chap doesn't seem to appreciate that the game is about the kids, rather than him, although, he does more than I am prepared to. This country has a bigger number of teenage dropouts from football that any other, because it is not fun. The Dutch have it right, small sided, non competitive games, which encourage a deep understanding of the game and a honing of skills. I suspect that most of those football coaches who phoned Victoria Derbyshire this morning saying that they had to subvert the prevailing ethos would be happy to turn out players in the same way that the Dutch do, but I fear we will never get through to them, and we will always rely on the hooray Henrys to provide us with our short lived Olympic joy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Girls Pussy

Blues win at a canter to maintain our unbeaten run, while the Villa get stuffed at Stoke. It might be puerile to delight in such trifling matters; some might even call it facile..................I call it a small slice of heaven.

Celebrate this most satisfying days by wrapping your ears around The Real Tuesday Weld.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cobham Blues

There is a piece in the Guradian today on cult bands, I won't link to it, because it's garbage, but being me, I had to come up with my own favourite cult

76 civilians, many of them children, were killed today by a US air strike,I suppose good buddies will claim that there is no moral equivalence between their actions in countries to which they have not been invited, and the evil Russia.

Agnes Poirier writes a slightly snide article in todays about the reluctance of the British nipper to learn a language. My eldest, who started what I can only understand as his second year last year, was really, really keen to take German, but, as he didn't do well enough in Welsh, he was denied the opportunity. I am sure Welsh nippers are given a raw deal............Welsh has been compulsory for donkeys years and still no bugger can speak it. Throw money at it by all means, for those who want it, but don't deny kids who have the sense to see that it is pointless and irrelevant other, more meaningful learning opportunities.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Little Boxes

There is a superb article in the Guardian on Richard Price, who has written several fantastic books, including The Wanderer as well as a couple of superb screenplays, including the vastly under rated Sea of Love and has been a contributor The Wire. If you aren't familiar with him, you are in for a treat and I recommend that you read Clockers and Samaritan before anything else, then proceed with caution, as some of his early stuff is a bit crap.

The first chapter of his latest, Lush Life.

Years ago, I read The Grass Arena, by John Healy, which was an astonishing book. Healy had led a thoroughly miserable life and as a tale of redemption and as a story that should bring hope to anyone, whatever their background and circumstances, this ranks up there alongside Jimmy Boyle. It has now been reissued and if you haven't read it, I urge you too, this man has earned every single penny of royalty he gets.

There is a very good piece on Healy here, by another reformed bad boy.

Having a little browse around the consistently superb Cwmbran Library the other day, I came across the new James Kelman. I was a bit surprised, because I am a huge fan of Kelman and consider him to be the nations best writer, by some distance. I had remained completely unaware that he had published a new novel though. It had slipped completely beneath my radar, and it's not a slight thing, it is bloody huge. How can this be; do you think that huge new novels by the likes of Rushdie, or Amis or Mcewan, detailing the minutiae of middle class life would be issued with so little fanfare? I don't.

A very good piece on snobbery towards Scottish writers.

It would take someone much more curmudgeonly than me not to be delighted for the athletes who have been winning medals for the nation in China, not that I have seen much of it as the radio tells me everything I need to know before I even rise from my pit, plus, in the sports that we have done well in............ well. I wasn't interested in them 4 weeks ago and I'm not really interested in them now and I certainly won't be interested in them in two weeks time,however much the media circus insists that we are all showjumping, sailing, rowing and cycling aficianados now.

I don't think it's over curmudgeonly to feel pretty nauseated by the BBC's coverage either; the next time they bleat about the licence fee, I hope someone has totted up the cost of the corporations Olympic coverage, which has been bloated, to say the least. How many ex athletes are being paid to offer banal insights? Jesus, is too much to ask for a bit of critical analysis as to opposed to endless cheerleading for "Team GB"?

Still, the cycling has been superb.

For all the success, I will not deviate from my position that the London Olympics are a waste of money and that if we genuinely want to create a lasting sporting legacy for the nation, all that money would have been better spent on creating and improving facilities in every community in the land; in providing facilities in state schools that are comparable to those found in public schools and in ensuring that access to clean, warm, welcoming facilities is easy and cheap, and to providing access to sports that are not necessarily competitive, for the old, the fat and the feeble amongst us...................that's me, that is.

We are a nation of couch potatoes, fatties and diabetics. We drink too much, we smoke too much, we eat shit all day long and we sit on our fat behinds exacerbating our health problems, building up cholesterol and raising our blood pressure. Our youth is disaffected and rat like, hanging around trying their best to look menacing. Many of us would prefer to type gibberish on the internet than go for a run. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, but it is a problem that affects mainly those in the lowest income groups, who lack motivation, who lack access to good facilities; who can't afford membership fees. All that money spent on the London Olympics would have gone a long way to addressing and resolving these issues.

It is noticeable that we have done better in sports where the initial outlay is pretty expensive, horse riding, boating, cycling and the like. I have no idea what the class profile of our winners is, but I strongly suspect that many of them had privileged backgrounds and had access to sporting facilities not readily available to the hoi polloi. Finland might not win many gold medals (where art thou, Lasse Vieran?) but it's citizens are much fitter and healthier than ours. I might be wrong though; not everyone called Pippa is necessarily a posh tart, I suppose.

None of which matters, because proper sport has been with us for two weeks now and Blues have managed to win three games on the trot, including a victory away from home having gone behind. So, hip hip hurrah for Team GB and come on you Blues my little chuffing lovelies.

Many Blues fans have been telling people like me, who think we should piss all over the Championship, that we know nothing, that the Championship is a tough league and that we will struggle. I acknowledge that it is early days yet, but I also acknowledge that they are all talking shit; this league is no good, last seasons excitement was due to most of the teams being rubbish, rather than good. Blues haven't even played well yet, and already we look comfortable; they may as well call a halt to proceedings now and just hand us the title.

Not that I'm over excited. Eck keeps telling us about the beautiful game that he wants us to play, but our players seem incapable of it and soon resort to the long ball, or, worse, to just shifting the ball on............ getting rid of it, rather than passing it, and Eck himself has complained that we indulge in too much tippy tappy. I think the problem (not that it is much of a problem in this league)is that our strikers remain divorced from the rest of the team; there is little coherence between midfield and attack; it is noticeable that our best moments have been when Larrson has come in from the wing and created an extra link. Of course we now have Quincy, who looks like he has the ability to unlock any cattenaccio, at will. Thank God we got relegated, this is going to be one hell of a season!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ain't No Sunshine

Driving to work the other day, listening to my daily ten minutes of 5 live, we were treated to an interview from the swimming pool with the aunt and uncle of a man who had just finished 4th in a race. The chap hadn't even won a medal, we didn't even get his mom and dad, we got his aunt and uncle and they were all from New bloody Zealand. What the chuff is going on?

When we are not being treated to hyperbole regarding a load of second rate athletes from obscure sports, the media is getting excited about the start of the new football season; they don't seem to have noticed that for the vast majority of football fans in this country, the season started last week. In fact Blues have played, and won, two games already.

We took a trip up last week to the big city, 7 of us in all, including 2 seven years olds making their first trips to a football match, one of whom was the son a Villa fan. Ho ho, ha ha, tee hee.

It was a wet and bedraggled bunch of Bluenoses who made their early way to the ground and I sensed very little excitement about the place, which was disappointing, if understandable. I remember my first game, getting on the choo choo at Tyesley with what seemed like hundreds of other Blues fans and then getting off at Bordesley and being carried along by a huge crowd, down the dark steps, into a tide of men and boys, all wearing Blues scarves, all happy, excited, laughing and larking about and full of optimism.

There didn't seem to be much of that about last week. It was almost as if people were turning up out of a sense of duty.

Much has been made lately (among Blues fans anyway) about the board and the match day experience, with most fans finally lacking gruntle. I say finally, because for far too long our fans have tolerated substandard fare, on and off the pitch. There have been articles in the local press, opinion has been sought, surveys have been compiled, so improvement was inevitable. I jest.

I don't buy programmes anymore, not for years and years and years, but when I did, you couldn't move for programme sellers inside or outside the ground. Two nippers were attending their first game, so a programme was required. I didn't think about it really, it was just sort of in my mind that I would get a couple as I passed one of the legion of vendors. Except there was no legion of vendors.

Not to worry, there is a little club shop near the main stand entrance, so I would go in, get a couple of hats and scarves and programmes. Asked for a programme, they don't sell them. In a club shop. Got the hats and there was no implement there to take the price tag off. A small thing, I know, but it might occur to someone that items bought on match days might actually be worn on match days. We didn't see a programme vendor at all after that.

I tried to smuggle two bottles of water in but Blues are on top of some things and I had no chance, and had to bid a fond farewell to the bottle tops. I had considered taking a camera, but I expect that the ever vigilant gateman would insist upon me removing the lens before I could gain entry. My brother went to the bog and while he was there decided to give his specs a little clean and went in search of bog roll. No bog roll. Twenty minutes before kick off at the first game of the season and no one had thought to put bog roll in the bogs. Mind you, you would have to be very desperate to take a shit in those bogs. First game or not, I did not go anywhere near the catering!

The game was a bit of a non event. Eck talks the passing game, but we see very little evidence of it and in the second half most of them resorted to their favoured tactic of just getting rid of the ball as quick as they could. Passing wasn't in it. But there can be no better way to win a dull game than with an injury time winner, when most rational people have long given up hope and headed home.

I felt a bit sorry for the nippers, because they are now surely condemned to a lifetime of misery, even the Vilers son went home clad head to foot in blue and white.

I was going to go on about the nauseating hypocrisy of America and our media in relation to to Georgia, but I can't, it's all too obvious and I am too tired and too forlorn, so you will have to make do with this article.

Monday, August 04, 2008

It's The Rich What Gets The Pleasure

Polly Toynbee meets the rich. Again, the equality gap raises it's ugly head; the focus of the article is not on facts and figures though, it is about the opinions that extremely hard working drivers of the economy hold. Anyone who reads football message boards will experience a depressing feeling of deja when they read the stunning vacuity of some of the statements.

Another addendum regarding the Don Easton book: don't bother with it!

Many of my favourite writers (the ones who aren't American anyway) are Scots and thanks to the wonders of the web one of my favourite papers is the Sunday Herald and my favourite radio programme is a Scottish one. I have wondered here before how it is that Scotland can consistently produce such great artists while Wales can't and neither can my dear beloved Brum. I have wondered why Brum, in particular, with it's immense size, history and multiculturalism can't produce art in the same way that Scotland can. Well, the old place isn't as shit as I had come to believe.

Here we go, another Guardian link, this one to an article by a Zen nun. Reading that I thought about how I took up yoga a few years ago and via the meditations that end the sessions explored meditative techniques and came to Buddhism. I must stress that I am not a practising Buddhist, very far from it, but I try to incorporate tenets of Buddhism into my daily life. From various Buddhist readings I came across positive psychology and the "new science of happiness", neither of which particularly convince me, but are interesting nonetheless. Which is a long winded way of introducing The Happiness Project.

Friday, August 01, 2008

No Spitting On The Bus

I need to add an addendum to my recommendation of the Eaton book: the quality of the book itself is rubbish and is really detracting from my enjoyment of it. It’s one of those small, tightly bound efforts that you have to bend right back to read. After one reading session the thing looked like it had been read and reread over a twenty year period. I wouldn’t recommend buying it second hand.

The Olympics haven’t started yet, and I’m sick of them already. I can’t understand how the nation can become obsessed by the physical frailties of various hop skip and jumpers and throwers and swimmers for 4 weeks and not give a stuff about them for the next 4 years. Radio 5 is exercising its usual right to go into overkill, which, once again, is rendering the station unlistenable.

Hopefully, we will get some good writing out of it. It's good to see Pete Davies mentioned in that article, his All Played Out remains the best book on sport that I have ever read..

David Conn had a decent article in the Guardian this week about the London Olympics, which more or less echoes my view that the money would be better spent on providing good quality grass roots sports in every community, rather than on concentrating it all on showpiece stadiums, and elite athletes. I have read about Finlands impressive efforts to get people involved in sport before and I am absolutely convinced that the more people that engage in sport from a young age and are encouraged and provided with good quality, pleasant facilities throughout their life, the better it will be for everyone.

Meanwhile, here in Wales: Wales’ flagship programme to boost activity rates and improve fitness levels has no action plan to achieve its targets.

I just heard on the radio that the police and CPS are a bit upset that Barry George has been found not guilty. I notice reports say he has been found not guilty, rather than that he is innocent. The poor old police will have to find the real culprit now, except that they still clearly believe that George is the guilty man.

The newish BBC I player is garbage. All I want to do of a Friday night is crack open a bottle of something nice, listen to a weeks worth of Iain Anderson, and arse about on the web, annoying people on message boards; but, over recent weeks, the i player hasn't let me do that; half the time it just doesn't load. Moreover, even when it does, you have to click an inordinate amount of times before you get to hear anything, and I usually end up looking at the playlist, rather than listening to the music, but that might just be me! It was much more straightforward before they improved it. Earlier I got fed up clicking on and off different Anderson shows which just wouldn't load and clicked on the I player tab. Bugger me, there was a Nick Lowe concert winking at me, so I clicked on it, and it was superb, so if you like the old bugger, go to the I player, it's there for us all to enjoy.