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