Thursday, December 31, 2009

One More American Song



The Duke and The King are the band of the year, this year and probably any other year. Simone Felice is a songwriter of rare  talent and I love him. The above video is not the best song on the album, but it's a lovely video.  Not that it matters, because there is not a bad song on the thing.

11 unbeaten for the Blues. It may not mean much to you, but it means a hell of a lot to me. The media loves us, even the Canadian press is writing big articles on us, but it won't be long before they regard us as affectionately as they do Bolton and Blackburn, so I will enjoy the love in while it lasts. Also, I might point out that I am among very few Blues fans who have consistently supported Big Eck.

I forget that some people who support the Blues were not even born when we had Francis Burns and Hatton in the team, being prodded along by Howard Kendall and Alan Campbell with fast pacy full backs (too many to mention) always offering a threat to the opposition. That team never reached 7th. Never came close. This team may yet fall away, but, for now, well, fuck me, it's good.

However. In the internet age, I have been aggravated by those message board habitues who slag off the likes of me when we have said, we not only can do better, we should expect better. At the start of this season the general mantra was, 17th is glory. My mantra has always been 17th is failure, we are the second fucking city, we should be aiming higher...........16th at least. Who do you think we are, people say.........we have no right to expect anything other than scraps from the rich mans table. Just be thankful that we are here.

In the past I have pointed to the success of much smaller teams in Spain and Germany and France to argue that there is no reason we should accept mediocrity, and I have been mocked, because, obviously, those leagues are shit. Well, fuck me sideways, we are seventh and now every silly sod thinks we can qualify for Europe. Eck is no longer tactically naive and all of a sudden the sky is the limit. I hope we don't lose two on the trot........the phone ins will be full of Blues fans committing hari kiri live on air.

Not a bad idea for a bit of half time entertainment that, actually.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Helpless



See that little video up there? I was at that gig, it still puts bumps up and down my spine. The End of the Road is the best festival there is, but don't tell anyone about it, we don't want the riff raff turning up and spoiling it.

Should I be proud that I have google wave? Should I be proud that I have no idea what I am supposed to do with it?

This new machine is ace……… I hadn't realised the stone age I was previously living in.

Blues remarkable run continues and we have Chelsea at home on Boxing Day. I no longer anticipate that the wheels will come off and while I don't expect a win, I don't expect a loss either, nor a draw for that matter………what I am hamfistedly trying to say is that whatever happens it will come as no surprise.

My employer, as generous as ever has decreed that snow days do not exist and if you can't get into work because of the snow, no matter how hard you tried you will take leave, unpaid if necessary. The public purse is safe in their hands.

Still, the drive in is an adrenalin rush and it is spectacularly beautiful, almost otherworldly. It's a privilege to see it all really.

I have wasted a fair bit of time this week playing basketball.

Should you be lonely or bored over the coming days return to the following link which has many good links to some outsanding radio programmes.

We had the usual debate about Christmas dinner saying that it costs too much and is too labour intensiove for what it is and that the kids don't enjoy it so what's the point. So we decided upon lamb curry with various accoutrements for the adults and home made pizza for the kids. Then we changed our minds.

So, we will be pretty much having a Jamie Oliver Christmas, despite last years Great Turkey Disaster. I made the gravy last weekend and it is truly something else. No giblets involved, I'll still cook the little bleeders up though, because the smell  of giblet stock bubbling away is the smell of Christmas and I couldn't let the pussies down. I have prepared the young mans  herby cranberry butter to anoint the turkey with, the big ham is on the go and I shall do Jamies stuffing as soon as I have stopped arsing about here. The stuffing alone has cost more in ingredients than our usual Sunday dinner. I trust in Saint Jamie though.........although not when it comes to cooking the actual bird............after last years debacle it is back to Delia.

Actually, the main reason we I changed my mind is because I want to do his chilli with the leftovers. And I am not going to be a fairy with the chilli

Little Charlie is responsible for both the snowman and the picture.






Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cherry Lips



So, my misgivings were misplaced and the Blues won again and now we are about to play Blackburn at home. We will moida da bums. One thing that is significant and doesn't seem to be much commented upon is the fitness of our players; I cannot remember a time when we have been able to field the same team so consistently. Hats off to the fitness guy.

The Guardian had a link to a very beautiful photo essay on Sicilly yesterday and while I was browsing around the site I came across this similarly beautiful essay on an amateur football club in Madrid.

I can't work out this damn spellchecker in Safari, it seems to work fine everywhere but on blogger.

Martin Kelner is always good in the Guardian on Mondays, yesterday he was inspired.

Late edit. We did moida da bums.............just about! It would be nice to win comfortably, but fuck it, tonight we were awesome.

Celebrate by watching this bloody marvelous documentary on the End of the Road Festival.

Friday, December 11, 2009

To Be Young

I finished the Larsson last week, and it was no good, really. Highly readable, and a page turner, but nonsensical. I only mention it because his lover seems to have been done out of her share of the cash, which seems a bit unjust. His actual family are coining it while she gets nothing. Chuff me, it must run to many millions, you would think the buggers would share it.

In certain circles I am known as bit of a Wilco aficionado, which is as nonsensical as a Larsson plot. Years ago, I was really struggling to find any music I liked because I was a snob. (I don't think the internet had been invented) and I read a review of Summerteeth and bought it. I had considered Wilco to be nothing more than an American college rock band, even though I knew nothing of them. It was OK, nothing special, but I played it again and like it a bit better and little by little it grew on me. It's never a classic though.

Anyway, I started winding people up saying that they are the best band, the most underrated band, etc, etc, etc. And people like me, snobs like me, wouldn't have it, so I went on a bit more. I now do actually think that they are very under rated and that hey are one of the best bands, well, ever, certainly for consistently producing music of the highest quality and also for always moving on, adding a bit here and there, never allowing themselves to become stale and formulaic.

There are still people who won't have it and I still wind them up by making out that I am their greatest fan. All of which is a long winded way of pointing out that the Independent has named their last one album of the year (never! not even in my top ten……..it is good though) and that there is a good interview with Tweedy in the paper. The album is available on spotify.

I have geeked myself and bought a mac. Can't work out how the spellchecker works and the checker on Blogger has gone. So this post may not actually be readable. I can spell, but I can't type.

Kirsty McColl's children went on holiday with their mother and found themselves swimming in her blood when her life was ended by some chump in a speedboat. A rich mans servant admitted his guilt and was fined 61 quid. It is a sad, sorry and murky tale.

Blues V West Ham tomorrow. History tells us that we should lose this one. As happy as I am with recent results, we haven't performed all that well.In the past when we have found ourselves in similar situations we have started to believe our own hype and screwed it up. If we wind up with 3 points tomorrow I shall not only be beside myself, I shall be very fucking excited regarding our future prospects.

Having finished the Larson I started the new James Lee Burke. When I read the overwrought prose and saw that the main characters name was fucking Hackberry or something equally ludicrous, my heart sank. This could be the first Lee Burke I give up on.

If anyone can tell me how the spellchecker on this poxy machine works, I shall be forever grateful.

Can't fucking embed youtube clips either!!!!!

MACS ARE FOR TOSSERS.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Driving to work this morning Robert Peston came on radio 4, so, obviously, I had to switch station, so found myself listening to a discussion on 5 live all about Tiger Woods and whether he should try to rehabilitate himself by going on Oprah or Letterman. FOR FUCKS SAKE!!!!

It looks like Labour has belatedly decided to fight back a bit. We have had the assault on the class base of the upper echelons of the Tory party, which is fine by me and today I heard Ed Balls more or less slaughter the bloke on the Drive programme, again on 5 live. I didn't hear all of it as I was flicking between stations, but Balls seemed to be in a very aggressive mood. Evidently tired of the traditional five liove shtick of trying to prove that they are brave and fearless interrogaters, he rounded on the bloke and accused him of bias and of not presenting the British public with a balanced view. It was great and made me piss myself laughing.

It's nice to see the media indulge in a bit of Tory bashing too. I have heard both Hague and Cameron have to work hard to evade answering questions about Michael Ashcroft in recent weeks, there has been a fair bit of support for the Eton bashing and the Independent today has a good article on a visit Hague made, at Ashcrofts expense, to the Turks and Caicos islands. Odious bunch of bastards, the Tories.

Like best of lists? This should keep you going.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sebastian



Bloody hell. Blues unbeaten in 6 games. 3 wins on the trot.

I need a lie down.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Rise



There is a very good and moving programme on the World Service detailing the experience of the Argentine squaddy during the Falklands war. You can hear it here.

Driving into work this morning I heard an interview with John Lydon, on radio 4 of all the peculiar places. It was a bit snidey, the posh interviewer wondered if the audience at the upcoming PIL shows would miss Jah Wobble, Lydon wondered back if they might also miss any of the 37 others who passed through the band. These days I find Lydon to be a bit of a laughable figure but I found this interviewer to be very disrespectful. Maybe it's a class thing.

She was obsessed with getting Lydon to admit that he had sold out, as if any individual should be defined for the rest of their life by the things they did and said as twenty year olds, and she impertinently asked if he had given the money he had earned from his butter adverts to charity. I don't recall ever hearing ubiquitous media lovies like Stephen Fry being asked how they spend the money they make from their innumerable adverts. Cheeky chuffing cowbag.

To cap it all, the oafs in the studio made a point of referring to him as Johnny Rotten. I look forward to hearing them mockingly refer to Cassius Clay next time he is in the news.

The social work task force has presented its report, God bless it. After the Lydon interview, they interviewed two social workers and inadvertently put their finger on one of the problems with the profession. One of their experts had spent 7 years on the front line and is now director of applied social work at Derby polytechnic as well as being deputy director of the British Association of Social Workers.

After seven years, practising social workers are barely competent. After all in the old days when tradesman were properly trained, it took at least 3 years to become a gas fitter. Social workers like to think of themselves as professionals and few professions would consider you to be fully trained and competent after a mere seven years of practice. So this lady, after a measly seven years is now a director of a social work course and assistant director of a professional organisation. This is not unusual, management and academia in social work is full of people who have barely practised the game, in fact, many managers have never practised at all and have no social work qualification.

So, we have educators and key decision makers who have little or no knowledge of the mechanics of the job. And then we wonder why the profession is a laughing stock.

I read last week about the dark web........ a big long, scary article, all about this mysterious web where anything goes and no one can be found. It is not just dark, it is deep, much bigger than the so called surface web..........very, very scary, but I can't figure out how, if the thing is so large, how come I nor no one I know has any idea what it is or where it is. Unless every single person I know is lying to me. The scoundrels. What are they up to?

I'm currently reading Stieg Larrsons second book, all about Lisbeth Salander, poor orphan Annie, barely educated but with the mind of a genius and who certainly knows all about the dark web. It's all very implausible and, frankly, it is getting on my fucking nerves.

Charlie Brooker on Dubai: A sarcastic version of Las Vegas.

It's the time of the year for lists, and, what joy, it's the end of the decade so we dont just have best of year lists, we have best of decade lists, including, on The Independent website, "best adverts of the noughties". Excuse me while I go and open a vein.

It's being so cheerful that keeps me going.

There's not actually all that much to be cheerful about is there, although there is plenty to laugh about. For instance, going on the Community Care website to read about and discuss the social work task force report, you see that the main story is about councils cutting recruitment and training for social workers............which flies fully and rudely in the face of the recommendations of the report. Didn't make the news bulletins though. But, it gave us all a much needed chuckle.

Actually, for Blues fans, there is a fair bit to be cheerful about. 5 games unbeaten in the prem. Definitely not to be sniffed at. I have heard it said that a poor Blues side beat a very poor Wolves, but that's nonsense really, we are very far from poor. We took an early lead and I though oh shit, cattenacio time, and it was, to an extent, but it was not as bad as the previous week. We didn't just lump the ball back to Wolves and we did try to keep hold of it, although we could not be described as adventurous. Still, it was better. Maybe Eck really is a genius and sets the team out to do precisely what is required according to the opposition.

Some Blues fans though, are even more miserable than me, and a number of them have taken against Chucho Benitez. More nonsense. He has only scored once but there are mitigating circumstances. He is used as our outlet, so he spends most of the game chasing balls that have been lumped into the channels, which he does very well. He then has to control the thing and wait for the cavalry to arrive, all the while being harassed by hairy arsed defenders. Admittedly, he does have a tendency, once he has done the hard work, to take the wrong option, but bugger me, he wouldn't be the first foreigner to need time to adapt to the demands of the prem, and the Mexican League is unlikely to have presented similar challenges.

He is quite short, with a low center of gravity. he is strong, has pace, has a decent first touch and can turn on a tanner. Physically, he puts me in mind of players like Lineker, Greaves, Romario, and Muller. All had similar build, all had superb goalscoring records, but, they were goalmouth poachers, they didn't score many goals after chasing the ball into the corners and then having to hang around for five minutes until a man wearing the same coloured shirt arrived on the scene to help out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

One More American Song



A quick scan through the online papers has just provided me with the information that Catholic priests in Ireland have been systematically raping children for years (no shit, Sherlock) and that the Irish police have colluded with the church hierarchy to cover it all up. Then I saw that a daft kid is being deported to America where he will be tried for being a daft kid; albeit a very clever daft kid and then I read (no shit, Sherlock) that there was no real rationale for invading Iraq. Bloody depressing. Not just the acts themselves, but the lies, collusion and moral bankruptcy that has accompanied them. Makes me proud to be a member of the human race. Still, things could be worse, I could be a Bangladeshi in the slave state glittering paradise of Dubai.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dylans Hard Rain



I seem to be in a minority of one as far as it goes with the Blues; everybody else is delighted with out our defensive tenacity and never say die attitude. They don't mind us sticking 11 men behind the ball, kicking the thing straight back to the opposition and inviting them to find a way around us. The consensus is that it is back to the glory year under Bruce, when we first got promoted. Halycon days. They say, some of them, we aren't a team of billionaires, what do you expect? We don't have a team of Messi's and we must do whatever we can to get every point we can.

They are reasonable points, but I have issues with them. Fans who were calling Mcleish a thick Scottish eejit a few weeks ago have warmed to him, because we have had a couple of half decent results. Some warmed to him when it became evident that he was favouring a passing game, others when it became evident that for all the rhetoric, in the end, points win prizes and if that meant hoofing it, so be it. Now everyone loves him because we snuffed Fulham out in a most prosaic style. The previously naive Eck outhought the old boy Hodgson. He's not naive, he is a tactical genius.

The problem I have with the notion that we must play an ultra defensive game and not even attempt another attack if we go ahead is that it is illogical. If we have been playing a neat passing game, limiting the oppositions chances, and creating one or two of our own........ as we have done regularly, we have proved that we can stand tall, pass the ball and progress to the other end of the pitch, where the chances of the opposition scoring are extremely slim. By what logic do we become incapable of doing that? Sitting back and passing the ball back to the opposition is inviting disaster. It worked against a weak Fulham, it won't work too many other times. If the bloody opposition don't have the ball, they can't score with it, so why give it back to them? Make the buggers work for it.

The other argument, that it is a return to the dogged style that proved so successful with Bruce is just nonsense. In that first season that Bruce got us up, we were pretty woeful until January. The legendary doggedness was getting us nowhere, other than back to where he had come from. It was the January signings that turned that season around and the biggest influence was Dugarry. The qualities that the French chap brought were not primarily defensive. His first thought was to attack, his instinct was to keep the ball and put the opposition on the back foot and keep them thinking. It was not our defensive qualities that took us to unimagined heights that year, it was a maverick Frenchman whose idiosyncratic insistence on taking the game to the opposition led to us scoring plenty of goals and thereby winning plenty of points.

What I am trying to say, in short, is that I am right and every fucker else is wrong!

The banks have won. Again. I want to be a banker, where do I sign up?

We live halfway up a mountain. More acurately we live on a huge estate halfway up a mountain, surrounded by other, huger estates, but there is plenty of green around, there are not many houses higher than us and we can see straight across the Bristol Channel to England on a clear day, so it can be a pleasant vista. This morning driving down, was amazing. The sky was a deep bluey grey, massive hailstones were assailing us mercilessly, and the most vivid, huge and perfect rainbow was straddling the mountain, while further down, a huge and brilliantly white sun broke lustily through the gloom. It was all a bit strange and a bit wonderful. Made for dodgy driving conditions though, I don't know how I got to Abertillery in one piece.

A person at work spoke her mind in front of middle managers. That person is no longer in work and others have been advised to keep their traps shut. I offer no comment.

Not so long ago, in the course of my daily grind, I would come across families who I thought were cheating the system. We all did, but we would hesitate before airing our views as it would be frowned upon, it would be considered that we lacked empathy. We would be advised not to make value judgements, we would be invited to engage in a little self reflection. How things have changed; now, it is assumed that every family who is supporting a disabled person is on the fiddle.

Now, when new charges come in and people like me, dinosaurs like me, point out that many people will not be able to pay and others will refuse to pay, a chorus will come back........"The trouble with people in this area is that they all want something for nothing............they are all getting benefits, so why shouldn't they pay............they should stop using their benefits for wide screen tellies and fancy holidays"

All fair points, but it is a little unfair to brand an entire demographic as scroungers and cheats, moreover, this mantra has been repeated over and over again: when we stopped providing domestic support, when we started charging for personal care and for respite and for day services and when we stopped providing transport. How far do these people think that disability benefits go? I preferred the old days. I am proud to be a dinosaur. I might get a badge made up.

The little video at the top is Ryan Bingham. Recommended.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes



Charlie Brooker on I'm a Celebrity and X Factor. Very, very astute. Funny as well, obviously.

A win for Blues today, that's us unbeaten in 4. It was fucking dire though. Hodgson has complained about our style of play and he is right to. I now dread us getting an early goal because that is the game dead. Moreover, the audience at The Horrible Historys first world war doodah made more noise than the Blues fans.

There are people who visit here who will really enjoy the following:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Save It For Someone Who Cares



Work is terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible. I wish I could tell you about it, but I can't. I have learned that particular chuffing lesson.

So what else is there to talk about? Stephen Fry? OK. He is still whinging about some unkind comments on his twitter page. As an habitue of football message boards I have some sympathy for him, but not much. His curly headed pal, whose name I forget, indulged in a festival of swearing and abuse in Fry's defence, which is OK, apparently.

So, what else? Terry Henry. I couldn't give a stuff about Ireland or France to be honest, but this little incident has generated some heat, with the moral high horse dwellers having a field day. I suspect that every single one of them is a hypocrite. The best thing about it was Liam Bradys barely coherent interview on 5 Live the morning after, which prompted Jimmy Armfield, a master of drollery, to comment, " I don't think he's had his breakfast yet".

Another good thing I heard on the radio this week was John Humphries interview with the increasingly odious David Cameron, in which Cameron blithely dismissed his u turn on a referendum over Europe. For a man whose favourite insult against poor old Gordon seems to be ditherer, it was rather funny. Actually, it wasn't funny at all but it was nice to see the chinless bastard put on the spot for a change.

Can't say I have been inspired by much music lately. The Duke and The Kings album is easily the best thing I have heard all year and nothing is coming close to it yet. However. Mumford and Sons are alright and are available on spotify. Their website is pretty good too and isn't just the usual marketing device. It even has a book club, which is alright by me.

Should I mention the Blues? OK then. The previous owners are having a bit of bother letting go. They don't seem able to do it and keep turning up in the press with ill judged and ill mannered comments. Meanwhile the new lot continue to play a cute PR game and have won most fans over. It is all a bit murky though, the truth is we have no fucking idea who owns us.

On the pitch we are doing OK. We have enjoyed two draws in our last two games and now everyone who was calling him a useless Scotch pillock with no tactical nous at all is hailing him as a genius. I urge caution. I have never doubted Eck but it's a bit early to be getting carried away, we are still perilously close to the drop zone, our scoring record is abysmal and we need a few wins. Draws are not enough, lucky or not. Don't tell anyone I said that though.

And Cameron Jerome is still shit. A lucky toe poke does nothing to change that.

I finished the Levien pretty quickly. It was a damn good page turner. He has been involved in some pretty shit films and is apparently involved with the filming of The Winter of Frankie Machine. I'm not sure how I feel about that. He writes good books but makes shit films. I won't hold my breath.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Little Hitler




It's been a long time. Just logging on I came across some comments that needed moderating which were quite rude and insulting. I don't really mind, people are rude to me and insult me all day every day, online and in the real world. Only comments on older posts are moderated and that is to prevent porn spam, but the chap who has taken a dislike to some of the stuff I said about some our neighbours at the Wychwood festival seemed to think that it was because I am some sort of Stalinist.

Well, he's half right. I would have been happy for his alternative view to appear, including the insults, but if he is going to accuse me of being a Stalinist, well, fuck off comrade, the world will have to remain ignorant of your views regarding my emotional well being.

I say chap, it might not have been a chap because, he didn't provide a name, he was an anonymous poster. So he can fuck off for that reason as well. The gist it of was that I had a little moan, in what I recall as an otherwise very positive and cheerful review, about the lack of consideration shown by some of our neighbours, I think I even outed myself as miserable git because of it. He knew the people I was on about and disagreed with my perception of them. There you go, my perception differed from that of some others. One other, at least. His view has now been shared. Minus the abuse.

Mind you, this is not the BBC, it's my chuffing blog, and while I don't
mind anyone disagreeing with me, if you are going to insult and abuse me anonymously, you can get fucked. I am not Ann Robinson and this is not Points of View.

Talking of festivals, I declined the opportunity to take up early bird tickets for next years End of the Road, which was a schoolboy error as the line up is already looking superb, and they have only announced 6 of 'em.

Have I mentioned that I was in a car crash in the summer and had 6 weeks off work? The week I returned I managed to crack a rib, but struggled manfully in then I caught a dose of the flu and was off for 4 days. When I returned I was bollocked for lacking commitment and threatened with disciplinary action. I pray to any God that happens to be out there, don't let my free spirited nippers become wage slaves, with their prospects subject to the whims and fancies of some psychopath in a shiny suit.

All this time off afforded me plenty of book reading time though. I read The Twelve by Stuart Neville, which is every bit as good as Bob Piper said it would be and I read the new Pelecanos, which is everything you would expect from Georgie Boy. I read the utterly, utterly brilliant Lush Life by Richard Price............I was really pissed off when I finished it, and what else, Christ, I can't remember, loads of books.

I read "The World Made Straight" by Ron Rash. It's one of those trailer trash type novels which document the lives of poor white folk in a depressed America; people who live in communities much like the ones I work in, where the major employers have gone and left little but pollution and decay behind. It's a damn fine novel and sits along other, similar and similarly affecting works by the likes of Daniel Woodrell and William Gay. Bleak, but brilliant, and, frequently, beautiful.

So we have this white trash genre and we also have the Irish crime genre. Some of the best crime novels are coming out of Northern Ireland.........the aforementioned Neville, and Brian McGilloway being to the fore, then you have the likes of the incomparable Ken Bruen, as well as Gene Kerrigan Adrian McKinty and a number of others who I can't quite recall.

It's almost as if literature has it's movements or phases, just like the world of popular music, with it's Mersey scene and Madchester, and Two Tone and (don't laugh) Brumbeat. Maybe it's just tied in with economics and momentous social change. Whatever, it all makes the obsession the English media has with reviewing only novels that reflect middle class angst and insecurity look a bit pitiful.

I have just finished The Long Fall by Walter Mosley. I'm not a huge fan of the bloke generally, but I loved this book and fairly whizzed throught it. His earlier work has grated a bit because to my mind it has been, to some extent, overly concerned with documenting the experience of black Americans...........it has all appeared to be a bit worthy. I might have to take another look, because this last one has got it all.

Started a David Leveine this afternoon. Never heard of the bloke before but early signs are promising; so promising that I am having an early night so I can get stuck into it.

Monday, October 05, 2009

River Man



I'm afraid this comes into the category of "you couldn't make it up". The daughter is doing brilliantly at everything, as are the other two and as good behaviour and achievement needs to be rewarded, the Mrs decided that instead of her weekly riding lesson, she could go trekking with a pal and the little 'un, the guitar hero.........out on the wild and windy moors.

So we got up at the crack of bloody dawn on a Saturday and headed for the hills to a trekking centre at Llanthony Priory, admittedly a very beautiful spot. Nice place, nice people, nice horses and by and by off they trekked, leaving us at a bit of a loose end. There were obvious footpaths up into the hills so we decided to to take a little walk and then come back and loaf about drinking coffee.

We didn't get far. Up a hill and through a field we went until we came to a stream and a signpost. The signpost said, very boldly, all walkers go left, no public access to the right or ahead. I went right. The Mrs said, "where are you going? We can't go that way"

I had spotted a log, over the stream, and declaimed in my best scoutmaster voice, as I stepped onto the log and pointed to the hilly horizon, "I am going to safely ford the stream". The bastard log rolled and I took a cartoon like header straight into the stream. I say straight into the stream, I actually bounced into the stream off a rock, which I hit with some force with my chest.

So there I was. Soaked through, having broken a 200mm camera lense and in some pain and distress. The Mrs thought I was having a heart attack. I was worried that I was going to get bollocked for spoiling a walk in the hills. There was nothing left to do but spend a couple of hours mooching about, waiting for the nippers to come back, all the while with an arse that felt like I was wearing a soggy nappy.

The countryside might be beautiful, but as far as I am concerned you can stick it where the monkey put the nuts. It's bloody dangerous out there. From now on, come the weekend, you will find me in my living room, watching the box.

We are all in together, that's what the Old Etonians are telling us. Times will be tough, the public sector will suffer pay freezes and job losses, there will be probably be tax increases, tax benefits to working parents will be cut (inheritance tax is OK though), we will all have to work into our dotage. So while the fat cats got fat, the poor bloody infantry in the public sector carried stoically on, poorly paid, in cramped, uncomfortable offices, using antiquated equipment. Now that fat cats have screwed us all, who has to pay? We do.

It distresses me that that our media gives the Tories such an easy ride. Osborne comes across as a dimwit and is hailed as master of oratory. Grayling comes across as a buffoon and is tickled. Comments from respected economists to the effect that their policies will lead to 5 million unemployed and that all their statements on the credit crunch have been wrong get very little publicity. The 4th Estate. Power without responsibility.

There are pockets of discontent though.
Stuart Jeffries
Johan Hari
Seamus Milne

In the unlikely event that you missed it, Charlie Brooker on the Mac.

One of the highlights of my year was The Wychwood festival and one of the highlights of that was The Mummers, so I was looking forward to seeing them again at The End Of The Road, but they cancelled, and this is why Very sad.

Have a look at the invisible man.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Girl in Port



I don't much talk about work on this blog (actually, I don't much talk about anything on this blog) but I have been driven to it. First off I have been off for 8 weeks and returned this week. Same old same old. Nothing changes, apart from I have a diminished ability to put up with nonsense.

I work in local government, for a social work department, a department which is in the financial shit. You can't say the hierarchy aren't addressing the issue, I have spent two full afternoons this week discussing how we can cut costs and evidently, while I was away, there were huge staff meetings and many "task and finish" (cackest phrase of all the cack phrases) have been set up. The task is to identify the opportunities that the crisis will bring. Fuck me, I'm all for a bit of positive thinking, but this really is idiotic.

I have been in the game for many years now, since the Tories forced councils to introduce savage cuts to services for the weak and the vulnerable, the feckless and the fuckless. I remember the false dawn of a Labour victory, when we all thought that, finally, we would be able to deliver a good service to the weak and feckless etc etc. I remember how year after miserable year we have been forced to look for opportunities, to innovate, to fit square pegs into round holes and services were cut, as day centres closed and as charges were introduced. And now there are more cuts and once again it is the neediest who will miss out, whose quality of life will diminish and the idiots tell us to look upon it as an opportunity. Insult to injury.

Why is this happening then? Because we had to bail out the banks who made merry with our money. The nation paid out and paid out and paid out, and now the poorest of all, the neediest of all, those least likely to complain, because they wouldn't know how to complain, will pay the harshest price. I know I'm an innocent, but why the hell isn't the government squeezing the financial institutions and the mega rich until their bastard pips squeak? How come it's always the rich what gets the pleasure and the poor what gets the fucking blame? Capitalism, ain't it grand?

Meanwhile.........................Blues continue to surprise us all with the manner of their play and last week even managed to pick up 3 points. Tomorrow we bid fare thee well to Sully and Brady. I will miss Sully, he is a card, Brady though, can fuck off, can't stand the woman. It's going to be an interesting ride from now on; I'm not convinced that the new owners have any more money than me. We say goodbye to the porn king and welcome in the casino owners; we don't seem to be much good at attracting investment from fine, upstanding pillars of the establishment. Still, I'd prefer a bunch of chancers to a bunch of old Etonians.

I've been labouring under the misapprehension that The Duke and The King are not available on Spotify: they are, you need to do & rather than and. You might also want to spotify the new Chris Smither and the new Richard Hawley while you are at it.

Did I mention I bought a tripod? A really sturdy bleeder, pans, tilts, extends, does all sorts, but must be about 30 years old.............no matter, I love it, which is a good thing as I have got the quick release plate stuck in the damn camera so I will never be able to use another one.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Mornig That I Get To Hell



Better late than never. Possibly. A review of the End Of the Road Festival.

Being bright sparks, we choose our festivals carefully, to avoid high summer. We prefer to take our chances in late Spring and early Autumn. So we spent the last few weeks of August and first few weeks of September anxiously perusing the long range forecast and reassuring ourselves that, whatever it says, it's all a load of bollocks anyway. Still, it's like an itch that has to be scratched.

The week before, we were told by the eldests school that no unauthorised absences would be authorised (????????????) and he chose to drop out out, even though my attitude was so what? he can just be sick. We managed to find a suitable place of safety for him and, amazingly, managed to sell his ticket, which put some much needed cash into the beer fund. That left us with just the two to worry about kitting out for all weather eventualities, from wintry storms to a late heatwave. We tried to minimise the packing, we really did, but we still manged to fill the boot of a huge estate and a very big roof box, whilst forgetting to pack a table, pillows and a pump for the air beds.

The good news was that we both had Thursday off, so packed then and cooked then; we always like to take a hoard of good stuff to festivals, and we were ready to get off as soon as eldest was packed off to school and we had rendezvoused with the farting Harrises, our festival companions. It was a very easy drive down to Dorset and we managed to pick up a pump en route before arriving at about half eleven.

In all my long years, I had never been to Dorset before and I was struck by the beauty of the place and the rolling countryside that just went on and on endlessly, and the festival is held deep in all that emptiness.

So, we got there, to the car park, happy and earlyish, with a boot full of stuff and roof box full of stuff including the worlds heaviest tent. We had purchased a trolley and duly proceeded to load that and the kids up and off we trotted, for out first yomp of the day. We knew that there would be several yomps, so were prepared for a couple of hours of hard slog between transporting stuff and setting up camp.

The trolley was brilliant, but it was also crap, too small, with tiny wheels and it kept overbalancing and tipping over. We would never have carried it all though. And it was hot. And I was hungry, and thirsty and a bit grumpy, and so were the kids and this was just the first trip. An added complication is that I am a bit anti social and find the sound of people enjoying themselves offensive, so insisted that we yomp and yomp and yomp, far from the madding crowd.

This unilateral decision didn't meet with universal approval and the buggers took advantage of the slow progress I was making with the trolley to park themselves near people, between the bogs, the rubbish tip and a pond. Except it wasn't a pod, it just appeared to be one. My youngest spent ages gathering stones to throw into that pond, which wasn't a pond, the poor bugger. At this point I had to drum into my head that I would not say "I told you so" if we were kept awake until 6 am at any point during the weekend.

Setting up took fucking hours and the poor kids were bored shitless. Thank God fartmeister Harris was on hand to help out or we would still be there now. Still, it got done and we were sitting back, necking bubbly and scoffing the previously prepared food while other poor buggers were standing in an enormous queue. And the sun was shining and it was glorious.

Around 5ish we made a plan, it was good plan; some might argue that it was brilliant plan. We decided to go and have a mooch around and see what was what. So the six of us (two were still to arrive} ventured forth. Slowly. Never underestimate the ability of a bunch of nippers to slow ones progress. Never understimate the ability of a middle aged man (me) to come over all petulant and state that he didn't care what happened, he was not going to miss the Duke and the King.

Somehow, eventually, we got moving, and, 6 hours after arriving caught the end David Thomas Broughton. Didn't see enough to form an opinion, but he looked very fetching in green and I liked the way he shouted at the children. On the way over, I noticed the price of the grub, which was a bit scary. One nipper had some jerk chicken and the other two had pancakes, which delayed our progress further, and the prices were eye watering. Strangely, it doesn't matter how much the beer costs, I am always able to shrug that off.

I'm not sure what happened then. My Mrs went somewhere with the 3 kids ( one adult and one child were still to arrive)and me and my mate found our way to the beer tent en route to The Duke and The King. I had hoped the Duke etc would be good. They were amazing. they brought a moistness to the eye and made the hairs on my arms stand up. This is a special band, if you get the chance see them, see them, before it is too late. We felt a bit guilty, and wondered where the Mrs was with the nippers and did look around a bit for them but to no avail. They were at the front, hanging on the barrier, wondering where we were.

My youngest, who is 8, said he didn't think much of them, mainly, I think, because I play them and the Felices a lot at home and he finds them a bit mellow, plus I think he was still in a bad mood over what was for him a long and empty afternoon. But over the weekend he came to appreciate them in retrospect. In years to come he will come to appreciate what a big deal they are and how fortunate he was.

Well. There was more beer and not a little confusion. A man I barely know outside of football messageboards managed to recognise me ( hey, Paul) and told me of a secret gig by Simon et al later on, for which I owe him many pints, and me and the fartmeister were stuck. We didn't know where my Mrs nor any of our kids were and we didn't even know if his Mrs and second child had even arrived. Conundrum. Back to the campsite or back to the bar, or aimless wondering, hoping we bump into them? We chickened out and went back to the tent, where we found 'em. Everyone was happy, and we back over the field in time to get beer and see Euros Childs, who was a bit of a disappointment.

It's all a bit of a blur after that. Tiredeness, beer, unfamiliarity all took their toll. I know the two wives took responsibility for the kids as usual. Still, with all the kids and their different needs and wants, not to mention the adults (the male ones, anyway) it's all a big compromise. Mostly, we were just wondering around in awe of the surroundings.

Ask any football fan, any proper football fan, especially one who was brought up in densely populated bit of a densely populated city about their first time. They will all tell you about the jaw dropping greenness and vastness of the pitch when they first clap eyes on it, and the stands rising skywards. It is an unforgettable, indelible moment. Never to be repeated.

Unless you go EOTR. Walking into the garden stage field was just like that. Unbelievable, unforgettable. Fucking beautiful. I wanted a moment with the Mrs just to take it all in, and I have been around the block once or twice. And the whole damn site is just like that. It is amazing. Truly amazing.

Where the rest of them went, God only knows, but I saw quite a bit of Vetiver, who were much better tahn I expected and a bit of Explosions in the Sky, who were as dull as I expected. The field for eits was heaving.but somehow we all managed to meet up and agreed that this band was not our cup of tea and we wondered away.

Yes, we wondered away, and found ourselves in the same tent as the wonderful Herman Dune. I shall repeat that. The wonderful Herman Dune. Quirky, dancy, daft, fantastic, with room enough for the kids to either get into and dance along, or just lark about.

My Mrs, the good egg, took my nippers home and I went for more beer, having told the others I would be heading for the tipi at some point. Turns out I was lucky. The security was a bit heavy handed, apparently and was refusing people entry, but I was too tired to notice and just strolled in. Met my pals, we beered up but quickly went different ways as the unsuitablity of the tent became apparent and it became every man for himself. I ended up with a decent view, if I really bent my neck; not ideal for a man suffering from whiplash.

The D and the K, after a bit of a sorry start put on a storming set. My message board pal saw me after, and, true blagger that he is, pointed out a better way in and made the telling point that although the night was young, at about 2 am(ish), he supposed us old fuckers were going to bed. He was partly right, we were going back to the tent, but we had come prepared and sat out in the cold, drinking wine, nice wine, actually, talking shit and freezing our bollocks off, until god knows when.

Overnight, I was glad of our huge tent, not because it was warmer, but because it just feel so...................reassuring. A home from home. Another huge and welcome surprise...................at some point, all the revelry stopped, and a huge mass of people headed back to the campsite and, obviously, they were noisy, but as they reached their tents, they shut it, most of em did anyway and even those who wanted to chat loudly only wanted to chat loudly and didn't do it for hours, so, some precious and unexpected sleep was had.

Saturday dawned and as is usual I woke early, feeling like shit, but it was beautiful. The bogs were usable, the kettle was boiled, the view was spectacular and the promise of a beautiful day was peeking shyly at us. The rest of our gang wasn't so keen to rise, thankfully, so we had relative peace, and relative quiet, for a bit. Fartmiestr Harris had hit the cider in a most unwise fashion the previous night, and although he surfaced, it was clear he was best left alone.

I cooked, I brewed tea, we ate, we drank, then the two Mrs tidied it all up and sorted the kids out, while I tormented the still slumbering fartmeiser. I have to confess, I didn't just torment the fartmeister; I watched the large group of young campers who had pitched up by us and tried to work which ones I could take, if it came to it. I might be old, but I'm not mature.

Off we trotted, and found ourselves at the Garden Stage, where the Leisure Society were kicking things off. I had had a listen to them and considered them to be not my cup of tea, but, as it turned out, they were very much my cup of tea. A fantastic band, and possibly the politest band in the history of pop.

We mooched around the woods for a bit and then watched the very sharp and very arch Darren Hayman, of whom I had not previously heard and he was brilliant. How good can this festival be? the earliest bands on the Saturday morning both turn out to be brilliant, and the day had hardly begun.

One way or another I found myself in the Big Top when Motel Motel were on. Christ, they blew me away. Honestly, they were brilliant, full of passion, energy and fire and despite it still being very early, they were clearly having a ball. Plus, the young scoundrels can harmonise with the best of them. Nuance. This band understands the meaning of that word. Look out for them............if they keep going, they might not be big, but they will be special.

I had a strange interlude then. Despite going with my wife and two of my children, my mate, his wife, and their two children, I seemed to be spending most of the time on my own. A blanket had been put in the garden stage area as a central point for the kids to head back to and, obviously, one adult needs to be there at all times, and I hadn't putt a shift in yet.

Anyway. I wondered back and all the other adults were there. I tried to tell them how good Motel Motel had been, but they didn't get it, how could they? The Low Anthem came on, and I started to feel like absolute shit. I had to take myself off and ended up in the dish cafe with a cup of ginger tea and a bottle of water. Despite feeling like shit, this was highlight of the weekend. I could still hear the Low Anthem, but I couldn't see them. What a wonderful band, absolutely timeless. And. I was siting down, on my own, quietly editing photos, surrounding by beautiful people enjoying the quiet ambience. Twenty minutes that will stay with me for ever.

It all became a bit chaotic on the personal front after that. Beer was taken. Kids and adults all pursued their own interests. It became important to eat and as result of this basic human need and the necessity of rounding the kids up and queuing at 4 different stalls we missed a bit. But we gained a bit also. And we saw the Fleet Foxes queue up for a fish curry and have to sit on the grass and eat it. The curry, not the grass.

I had given up on the tipi, which was a bit of a pisser, because there was a fair bit I would have liked to see in there, but it was no environment for a man with whiplash and it was no environment for nippers, which at least simplified things. There was stuff going on, lots of it, but I ended up on point duty in front of the graden stage while the women went to see Wildbirds and Peacedrums. Fuck knows where the fartmiester was, necking some crafty ciders, no doubt. Anyway, I ended up falling asleep to the extremely lovely but soporific Alela Dianne. The women came back ecstatic. They came back................changed. I don't think they were sad at missing the lullabies I had endured.

Then what. Fuck me, we all got woke up. Okkervil River took to the stage and just blew the place apart. I wasn't really familiar with much of their stuff but it didn't matter, they, well, how else can I put it? They rocked, and they had the grooviest audience participation handclaps of the weekend. I want to see them again. I heard they played a secret gig in the woods the day after, but it's no good mourning what you miss at this do, you will miss loads and you just have to accept it and enjoy whatever treasure happens to be before you.

Fleet Foxes followed OR, but I didn't hang around for them. I saw about about 15 minutes before heading off to see Charlie Parr in the tipi. The tent was surprisingly empty when I got there, which was not surprising as it turned out that old Charlie had already finished. So I knocked back a swift one, replenished the glass and had ten minutes worth of The Heavy, before heading back to the bar en route for Josh T Pearson in the Big Top.

Pearson was absolutely something else. Scary and hilarious; if you don't believe me, ask the violinist who accompanied him on a couple of songs. There couldn't have been more than 30 people in there to begin with, but it soon filled with Fleet Foxes refugees. He was astonishing. One man, a guitar and a huge personality held a very appreciative audience spellbound. Yet another privilege.

We all had an early night then. The others had mixed feelings about the Fleet Foxes. Some loved em, some were disapointed. Whatever, following the obligatory food stop and the not so obligatory jamming session the 8 year old enjoyed with Dirty Projectors (that might have been the night before!) back to the ten we went. Where we carried on drinking. In the cold. It wasn't long before the cold saw us off and we were all tucked up warm.

The one sour note occurred here when some arsehole bastards decided to have a party until about 6 am. Minor quibble though.

Sunday, bloody Sunday. Bright, bright sunshine, warm, warm sun. Sometimes, as tired as you are, it is a joy to be alive.

I can't say much about Sunday. We got up, we ate, we drank lots of tea, we took stuff back to the car and we were at the Garden Stage in time for Bob Lind and his two mates Cocker and Hawley. Lovely way to start the day, that was. Gentle, old fashioned. Sundayish.

Then what? Bob Log 111. Christ. What can a man say about Bob Log? Nothing. I don't have the facility with the written word to describe him. Inspired, virtuoso, lunatic. A man amongst men. If I come back, I want to be Bob Log iv.

Food intervened again. Round the kids up, make arrangements with the other adults, queue for the piss corner, queue at the outlets, let the nippers have a look around and a play on the mushrooms and a bash on the drums and, once again, you have missed stuf, but you still win. Anyway, missed the Magnolia Electric Co, all but 5 minutes and it looked as if their set had been, well, electric. Missed loads more besides.

Again, it all gets a bit vague. I had been drinking very slowly and sensibly, but drinking nonetheless for several days, with no decent food and hardly any sleep (this is not a complaint) Steve Earle came on a did a typically robust Steve Earle set, I wandered about and caught a miniscule bit of Brakes and wished I had caught more before getting in for most of the brilliant Alasdair Roberts rather disappointing but still brilliant set.

I'm not sure what happened then, apart from some toilet and beer queuing. Saw about half of the uninspiring Neko Case set before a huge debate vis a vis Richmond Fontaine and The Hold Steady. To cut a long and convoluted story short, the kids would watch The Hold Steady, the first half with the women and the second half with the chaps. A pisser.

Vlautin and his mates were brilliant and I really didn't want to leave, but leave I had to. As luck would have it, the others didn't like The Hold Steady, so I got to see more or less all of Willy, a great, great man.

My Mrs and youngest had had it, and went back to the tent and me and the others had a huge late suprise. Apart from the organised and disorganized stuff that goes on in the tents half the night, all sorts of impromptu, unannounced stuff goes on in the fairytale nooks, crannies and walks around the site. And all the bars stay open. We hadn't previously realised this.

It's a beautiful site, a beautiful festival. I really can't tell you how good it is, because I really don't know how good it is; too much goes on that I know about and miss and Christ knows what I don't know about and miss.

It is a special place and a special festival. Don't tell anyone about it, they will only fuck it up.

Some pics

Some more pics.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Have a gander at this piece on the beautiful and brilliant Duke and the King and while you are doing that you will be able to listen to some live tracks.

And there is more good stuff here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

There were some celebrations among the mainly British soldiers on the aircraft home, which soon fell silent. It later emerged that one of the rescue party was also dead, mortally wounded during the raid. His blood-soaked helmet was in front of me throughout the flight


I have lots to say, but I am short of time so can't say it, but I can point you in the direction of a piece written by Stephen Farrell, for the New York Times.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tears On My Pillow



Have I mentioned Blues game against Stoke on Saturday? No? Well, best leave it at that.

I finished the Adam Creed, which was OK, more than OK, then very quickly got through Brian McGilloway's Borderlands. Very, very good read that, but again...........the bloody violence. It's a long time since I read any Hammet, but I'm' sure he didn't need to be so graphic, and he was a bloody master. And another thing, as good as McGilloways writing is, I think he owes a large tip of the hat to James Lee Burke.

While we are at it, this is as good a blog on crime fiction as you will find, and the links in the comment thread following the McGilloway piece are worth following. Adrian Mckinty is a brilliant author himself, very violent though. He also has very good blog.

Anyway, I then moved on to the newish Declan Hughes, and after enjoying the first couple of chapters, had enough. Too much crime, too much self loathing; I decided I needed something a bit more literary, so I got stuck into American Rust (scroll down a bit for an excerpt), and what happens, very early? What is the event that will shape the whole narrative............a brutal bloody murder! It's enough to send one, whimpering, in the direction of the new Pelecanos.

Actually, I am sticking with American Rust. I am barely into it, but it has the feel of a book that will have me going to bed early to read it, I don't think there will be many laughs in it, although, having said that, it is not without humour. It puts me in mind of the work of William Gay in it's bleak descriptions of place and of Mark Poirier in its descriptions of relationships and friendships, although, clearly, it is not like any of those at all. I'm just trying to give a flavour of it and that's the best I can do. I am suffering from a head injury after all.

I will return to the Hughes, too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, but I needed a change.

Via twitter, I came across this piece by Charlie Williams, on a book signing in dear old Brummagem, which raised a titter.

Thomas Pynchnon has new book out, and someone has put togetehr a playlist, complete with YouTube links, to go with it and a damn fine list it is. I would have preferred a spotify playlist, but I suppose you can't have everything. There is also a very good trailer for the book.


The other day, I made some Thai green curry which can be a bit of a palaver. It was very quick and very delicious and even the kids ate it without complaint. Here's the recipe I used, more or less.

Friday, August 21, 2009

One Way Ticket To The Blues




Reasons to be cheerful:

The sun, she shines. Er, that's it for now.

So, this is what I said the other day: I don't know what the board can do to improve the relationship with fans. Well, Sully could stop slagging them off, that would be a start, but I think that they are no longer trusted. They have promised too much without delivering in the past and gratitude for saving us 15 years ago seems to have gone. They don't seem to have much ambition for us and don't seem to love us anymore, if they ever did; I think the relationship is doomed. For Eck, on the other hand, it is easy, get us playing decent football, forbid the buggers from just knocking the ball straight back to the opposition as if it was a park game of attack and defence and win us a few chuffing points!


And what has happened? We have played some decent football, gained three points and scored a goal. A late goal, and a penalty at that, but, nevertheless, a goal. Now everyone loves Eck. What else happened? Bugger me, it looks like the board are actually on their bikes and that the much maligned and ridiculed Carson Yeung will be buying us. Who knew I had such power?

As you would expect, there is disagreement among Blues fans as to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. All that can be said for certain at this stage is that it is a thing. Personally, I am excited by it, not because I have any great hopes, but because it's yet another loop on the roller coaster ride. There is never a dull moment with this club and whatever happens, it will be a laugh. Actually, it might not be a laugh, but I'm willing to be optimistic for now.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Autumn Leaves



Reasons to be cheerful:

1:3 points

2:home made bread

3:an 8 year old and his card tricks.

Blues won their first home game of the season last night with a last minute injury time goal from a penalty, which is always a sweet way to win. Reactions among Blues fans seems to be mixed, with most of 'em edging on the side of euphoria. If we fail to beat Stoke on Saturday the euphoria will quickly turn into despair; that's the nature of the modern football fan.

I thought the performance was encouraging, but uninspiring. I have supported Eck all through the relegation year and through most of last year, and I am not going to start knocking him now, not now he is trying to put all his fine words into action,but some fans are hailing us as the new Brazil which I think is a bit over the top.

It's interesting to note that most of the papers describe both sides last night as pretty poor, and it is actually hard to argue with that. From a Blues fans perspective it is good to see them play through the midfield and knock the ball around, but we shouldn't forget that Portsmouth didn't really come to play and were happy to allow us all the possession we wanted. The difficulty arose in the last third, where we simply couldn't break them down or create clear cut chances. Again.

Some blame the strikers for this and I have some sympathy with that view. The two who played last night didn't seem to cause the Pompey defence much trouble, although things improved when Phillips came on. We still seem to have a problem with the midfield supporting the attack, not just in getting forward when we mount an attack, but in surprising the opposition with one of the middle two in the midfield breaking forward. It's all very well playing pretty passes, but we need an element of surprise as well, and we don't seem capable of it at the moment. Still, it's a work in progress and so far, it's looking good.

Not many turned up to watch it, and as I mentioned the other day, season ticket holders seem happy, but the pay on the day prices are harsh. I will not be ghettoised in the family stand, so to buy any other seat last night would have cost me, with tickets for the kids, about 70 odd quid;I would also have had to book time off work to get there and pay for petrol, parking, food, drinks etc etc etc. I would have had no change from 150 quid and I am not prepared to pay it.

Some will argue that if you are a proper fan you will find a way and you will accept a shit seat in a shit stand (still expensive, just not as expensive), cut down on the fripperies such as food and drink and just get yourself down there. I would counter argue that supporting the Blues is an ascetic enough experience without turning the whole day into a joyless exercise. Blues won't reduce the prices because they won't want to upset the season ticket holders, which is fair enough, but they will only get young and old people with a decent disposable income down there, because for most families, certainly those who like to do other things as well as go down the Blues, it doesn't represent good value.

The final test has started and as I type 4 overs have gone and England have not lost a wicket. Despite the rain that is pissing down and the wind that is howling just outside, it's a good time of the year, with the football having started and the cricket still on and the weather...........er, best not mention the weather actually. But then you think back, well I think back, and think, well, I went to a festival at the end of May and Glastonbury has come and gone and so has the tennis and it's the last test match and the football has started and all this signifies the end of summer and it has just passed me by. And Cook has just got himself out.

Hopefully, it will be a glorious Autumn; I can't let a glorious autumn pas me by.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Mistake



OK, I admit I got it wrong, I hadn't worked out the culprit in Suffer The Children, although my suspect was involved. The actual denouement was more ludicrous and melodramatic than I thought it was going to be, but what the hell, most crime book are ludicrous. It's a great read, beautifully written, for the most part, credits the reader with some intelligence, is possibly a bit provocative in its themes and keeps you turning the damn pages. What can be wrong with that? Give it a whirl.

Happy Lady, Happy House

3 things that caused me happiness yesterday:

Blues lost. Well actually, I'm not exactly ecstatic about that, but the performance was the kind of performance Eck has been promising us. In the first half of our crucial final game last season, we played superb, sharp, incisive football, using the midfield rather than just booting the ball up the field and giving it back to the opposition. We made Reading work hard to get the ball back and they struggled to cope. Once Reading applied a bit of pressure in the second half, we reverted to default hoofball mode and nearly paid the price.

So, I was a bit worried that against Manchester Utd, at old Trafford, we would just sit back and invite them to do their worst. We did, to a limited extent, but we also played through the midfield, passed it around quite nicely and created a few chances. French Frank played well in the centre of defence and all of the new signings looked to have a bit of quality about them. So, they made me happy. Blues lost, and made me happy. How often do you get to say that? The happy bit, not the lost bit.

I bought a new muffin tin, to do Yorkshire puddings in. A really heavy little bugger with six thingies. Turned out perfect Yorkies, and if that doesn't make a person happy, then that person has no happiness inside them.

The family walk. The Mrs likes a walk, preferably up a mountain, or around some beauty spot, many miles away. She will say, upon waking of a Sunday morning, let's go for a walk. Well, I am a bit of a stick in the mud and a bit of a misery guts and my Sunday preference is a read of the papers, a bit of dinner and and a watch of the sport; many hours of a watch of the sport actually. If I suggest a walk around the local park, I risk wrath.

Yesterday, aware that Blues were on the box, and kicking off early, I suggested 3 unlikely options and, very tentatively, a stroll around the local park, stressing that the characters who make a walk around that place unpleasant would all be still be gently snoring the previous evenings cans of cut price Stella off. Happily, the youngest nipper also expressed a preference for a walk around the local park, so I won, and it was a beautiful, peaceful walk, and the buggers have actually improved the area around the lake, so that it is genuinely quite beautiful.

Sod, it, while we are are being happy, let's have a 4th thing................the Mrs fixed a dripping tap, which actually gives two causes for happiness: the drip, drip, drip of the tap has gone and so has the drip, drip, drip of the Mrs complaining about it.

Joe Queenan on French gangster flicks: The message seems to be that no matter how dire the situation, no matter how intense the heat being generated by the police, a man should never stint on creature comforts, especially pyjamas.

Martin Kelner on the new ESPN coverage of football, also containing a dig at the annoying habit of Andy Gray on Sky to refer to everything in the present tense. Everyone does that now, have you noticed. "So I walk into a bar and the barman goes, what do you want" Drives me nuts, not nuts enough to affect my general happiness though.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It Makes No Difference



No sooner do I post that the Blues fans and board are experiencing irrevocable differences than Carson Yeung pops up again, with a takeover bid, although no one is saying much, not even our usually loquacious board. Has the news made us all happy? No, it hasn't. It has set brother against brother, mother against son; the blood feuds that will arise from this will go on for centuries.

While I was innocently perusing the sports pages the other day, my eyes fell upon a quote by John Terry; "England can win world cup" and my heart sank. Why can't these arrogant chumps learn to keep their traps shut. If Joey Barton has ever got anything right it has been in ridiculing the egos of the likes of Terry, Lampard and Gerrard........"we were shit, buy my book". Luckily, in Capello, we seem to have a manager who sees things for what they are and who is also skilled in the art of keeping egos in check.

A very good article on football management here. I should hate Graham Taylor, but I don't; he seems to have a lot of dignity about him, and I like the way that he refuses to forgive and forget.

I am currently reading, or struggling with, "Suffer The Children" by Adam Creed. The writing is brilliant. The characters are well drawn, if a bit predictable, the plot is interesting, the moral dilemmas are intriguing, but the violence and the torture is unpalatable. Lots of authors spoil very good books with unlikely plot developments or violence that it is as implausible as it is unnecessary. I nearly gave up on it, but will persevere because the of the quality of the writing, but I reckon I know what the outcome will be. I shall report back when I have finished and I promise to be honest.

Why do good writers do that? Why do they throw in a load of gratuitous nonsense? Is it because they disrespect their audience and think that they have to throw in a bit of sex and violence to sell their books? I don't say that the Creed book would be better without the violence and torture, but it certainly wouldn't be worse.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Paradise Lost



Bugger me, is it that time already? England have hardly finished being shown up by a bunch of Aussie journeymen and the football season is back with us. It's been a long close season, with no international tournament to keep us occupied but the cricket has been good, or intriguing anyway and we were treated to epic rides in Le Tour by Cavendish and Wiggins, so the long, hot barbecue summer hasn't been completely wasted.

I heard on the news this morning that Aung San Suu Kyi has had 18 months added to her sentence after some American loon swam across the water to visit her. Burma, gross violater of human rights, a country which takes the piss out of the international community yet again and find illegitimate cause to lock up the person who won the last free election, sits back and laughs while we lovers of freedom, we slayers of the tyrant Hussain, posture and weep and wail and wring our hands but do nothing. Apparently, there is nothing to be done.

I heard that she accepted her new sentence with immense grace and dignity, which seems typical of the woman. She seems to be a living embodiment of the benefits of meditation. I do wonder though. I read a lot of basic Buddhist texts and self help books. The Buddhist books don't really make any great claims for meditation changing your life dramatically, but some of the self help books do. I often read that if we were to practice meditation diligently and lived our lives in a good, non harmful way, our lives would inevitably improve, but then you see what has happened to the monks in Burma, who, presumably spend their entire lives meditating and being selfless and it is all too easy to conclude that it is all bollocks.

I don't really think it is all bollocks. Meditation is most definitely a good thing and practiced regularly will improve your sense of well being, also, for a very short period, I tried really hard to practice being compassionate to everyone, even people who had it in for me, and things actually turned around a bit. I can't be arsed to be so compassionate anymore (no one said it is easy) and things don't look too clever.

I fear the Blues manager will have to practice living the compassionate life and learn how to meditate this coming season, as the knives seem to be out for him already, both in the clueless national press who have him odds on to be the first manager sacked and amongst some of the message board aficionados.

I think he will be alright. I think he will have learned a lot over the last 18 months, and he will have more of an idea of how to put his ideas into practice and he will have more of an idea of which of his players he can trust.

He hasn't been given much of a budget, but we had decent coterie of premier class journeyman anyway and continuity can't be a bad thing. Most of the players we now have, whilst not being exciting, have some experience and an ability to use the ball well, people like Carsley, Bowyer, Ferguson and McFadden. Larrson was OK last time we were in the prem and although most fans don't rate him, I think that Gary Oconnor is the best striker we have, and that given an injury free run, he will prove it. We still have Kevin Phillips and we have signed Benitez, an unknown but potentially exciting quantity.

The defence is a bit of a worry, it wasn't that good to start with and now Ridgewell and Taylor are crocked it looks very thin. We have signed two of the best centre backs from the championship, but it remains to be seen whether they make the step up in class. It is a big step and it is a harsh and unforgiving environment for someone learning his trade, we shall see. We have probably improved the goalie in signing Joe Hart but we still lack a decent left back and I'm not convinced that Carr, as well as he played last season, is the answer at right back. But the window is still open.

It's a shame that there is still a rather joyless feel around the whole club. No one seems happy; the board don't seem happy and have been accused of putting money ahead of team preparation in the pre season schedule, Eck is hardly exuding jubilance and bliss. After an initial flurry of activity in the transfer market, it has all dried up and there has been no big name signing, which has pissed some people off and, once again, the price of match tickets is an issue, although season ticket holders seem quite content.

I don't know what the board can do to improve the relationship with fans. Well, Sully could stop slagging them off, that would be a start, but I think that they are no longer trusted. They have promised too much without delivering in the past and gratitude for saving us 15 years ago seems to have gone. They don't seem to have much ambition for us and don't seem to love us anymore, if they ever did; I think the relationship is doomed. For Eck, on the other hand, it is easy, get us playing decent football, forbid the buggers from just knocking the ball straight back to the opposition as if it was a park game of attack and defence and win us a few chuffing points!

Evil

Friday, June 12, 2009

Shine On You Crazy Diamond



Hazel Blears has some regrets about the way she left the government. I bet she does. I wonder if she would be as regretful if her pals had succeeded with their pathetic attempt at a putsch?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ghosts of Cable Street




Well, thank God that this years summer coincided with our weekend away. We are now hoping and praying that summer returns in September when we attend the End of The Road festival, which, for a Blues fan, must be the best named festival in the world.

Ah, the Blues. As I predicted from the moment we went down, we have gone back up and a strange an unfamiliar harmony has settled about the place. People are even beginning to warm to the board. Quite right too. They have already started spending money and more of it than we are accustomed to and everyone seems delighted with the players that have been mooted to join us. I will hang fire a bit before expressing delight as they are either lower league journeymen (who may, nevertheless, cut the mustard) or exotic foreigners of whom I have never previously heard. The signs are good though.

The world has managed over the weeks without me commenting on the current political pickle and I am sure it could last a few more weeks without input from me, but it won’t have to, because I have an opinion or three.

There is something that is really beginning to bug me, and that is the easy ride that David Cameron is enjoying. Somehow, he has managed to place himself on the moral high ground and I can’t understand it. Poor old Michael Martin got hounded out of his job because many MP’s turned out to be immoral freeloaders, and many Tory MP’s turned out to be extraordinarily extravagant immoral freeloaders. Apparently, it was all Michael Martins fault.

Right from the start, Cameron managed to hitch himself to a populist bandwagon and has managed to keep himself firmly hitched to it, despite milking the cash cows udder to within an inch of its life. All his expense claims manage to fall into just within the maximum. I read somewhere that he is independently wealthy (inherited, not earned) to the tune of 30 million quid, yet he will take as much as he possibly can out of the public purse to subsidise a second home. Fair enough if he needs a floor to sleep on when he is away from the family home, but how palatial does the floor need to be?

Johan Hari wrote a good article on Cameron the other week, wondering how he gets away with it, and it is a very good question.

Then we have had the unedifying sight of a bunch of Labour MP’s who no one has ever heard of resigning, some of them with nasty little smirks on their faces. Have they resigned because they helped themselves to the nations petty cash? No they have resigned because they don’t much like Gordon Brown. Pathetic. I don’t much like Gordon Brown myself; he has been a sorry disappointment, but he is preferable to the political pygmies who currently oppose him.

The little leadership crisis appears to be over, the plotters having displayed their lack of nous and their inability to organize a piss up in a brewery to magnificent effect. I hope now that Labour comes out swinging and goes for the Tories and also demands that the news media, particularly the BBC subjects Tory policies and personalities to the same forensic analysis and questioning that Labour is subject to. I am no fan of new labour, but if anyone thinks that the fucking Bullingdon Club and the party of the duck island owning classes will be an improvement, they need their bumps felt.

I keep hearing that the election of 2 BNP oafs to the European parliament is a bad thing, but I think that it is a good thing, Nick Griffin getting egged and scurrying away from his scrawny assailants is the best laugh I have had in months. Did you know that neither Griffin or his mate would be allowed to stand in local elections, because of their criminal pasts?

A superb video of the utterly brilliant Two Gallants performing in a Houston car park

Sunday, June 07, 2009








Sunday dawned and once again I was up with it and once again it was beautiful, and once again I endured an agonising walk to the bogs. I think I had trenchfoot of the bollock region. There's something really lovely about rising with the sun on a beautiful day, especially if you have a Mrs who always makes sure that there is a cup of tea waiting. The camping field was really quiet and the few others who were up just pottered about, quietly enjoying the morning. What with the crowds and with everything else that goes on it is easy to forget that you are actually in a beautiful location.

Our Sunday morning more or less followed the routine of the previous day, minus the shopping trip. It is amazing how time can fly when you are basically doing not very much at all, apart from enjoying the weather and the company. The kids always disappear off to lark about on the racecourse itself, which puts us in the wonderful, but unaccustomed position of having time to ourselves.

Suitably rested and refreshed, we made it down to the arena in time to see the Beetroot Kings. I didn't really expect to pay much attention to them, intending merely to dump our stuff at our usual place and just lie back, soaking up the rays and the ambience. But they were good, and it wasn't long before I had been drawn down to the front. There was nothing special about them, but they had something and I can well imagine that in a club they would have the place rocking. For the time of the day that they were on, it was a very impressive performance and more than a few people were tentatively shaking a foot or a leg.

The brood had wandered off in all directions as usual, participating in the many and varied activities that are on offer. This is remarkable thing about Wychwood; it feels very safe. We park ourselves where we do because it is a very easy and identifiable spot to get back to and it never gets crowded, so it works as a safe and recognisable harbour for the kids. We then just let them go off and have fun. They didn't really bother with any of the organised activities this year and were happy to enjoy the freedom they had to just amuse themselves for about 16 hours every day.

Anyway, as early as it was, it was hot, so I once again hit the cider and once again it hit the spot. Next up on the main stage were Shtetl Superstars, who were alright, but a bit contrived and quite a few people seemed to actually get a bit pissed off. I didn't watch them, I just sat back and listened to them, enjoying the drink and sunshine and watching the world go by. I have had worse half hours.

I had, by now begun to feel really shit. There was the thigh problem, obviously, but my eyes started stinging and streaming tears and my sinuses became painful and I felt just weak. Despite the bucolic ambience, I started to feel a bit sorry for myself. Not for long though, because Justin Adams and Judeih Camara appeared on stage and just about blew the place away. It was a fantastic privilege to see this pair and their drummer; such virtuosity is rare. If you get a chance to see them go and see them, they were the definite highlight of the weekend.

Cara Dillon was pleasant enough but it all just sort of drifted by. I may have nodded off. Bellowhead were a different kettle of fish. I have their first album so knew I would like them, and they put me in mind of Barelyworks so I expected their live performance to be good. It wasn't good, it was outstanding. There was still a large crowd and just about everyone in it was bopping. hopping, jigging, reeling and dozy bloody doeing. They got the evening off to a fantastic start.

I had a brief look at The Travelling Band after Bellowhead, as everyone seemed to be raving about them. They sounded like they could be very good, but I was still feeling lousy and was in no mood for the awful sound quality in the tent they played in and didn't hang around long.

Unfortunately, the momentum built up by Bellowhead didn't last as half the crowd left once they had finished and the next band on the main stage were Dub Colossus. They should be done under the trade descriptions act as there was no dub and who the colossus is God only knows. They seemed very disengaged as they noodled some irritating jazz funk fusion shit, and I was very glad to see the back of them.

So, here we were, at the last act of the festival, and who was it? The Dhol Foundation. I thought the organisers must have taken leave of their senses. I had never heard of them, but the programme indicated that they were some sort of community youth club type ensemble. I needn't have worried. All the previously lost momentum returned, in spades and from the very first beat the crowd was jumping. Really jumping............jumping as if their very lives depended on it, and the jumping continued, joyously.

The Dhol Foundation were brilliant and brilliantly unexpected. The beats were amazing, but the best thing was the sense of fun that they brought to the occasion, the main man, Johnny must be the most engaging front man in music. What a way to end proceedings, with the whole crowd Bhangra dancing with huge smiles on their faces. I even forgot about my bollocks, albeit briefly. I don't know if their set was short, but it seemed very short. Whoever booked them as final act is a genius.

Everybody loved TDF, especially the kids, but, when it's gone, it's gone. We headed to the Silent Disco, but everything has started to feel a bit flat.I think the sun and the drink and the lack of sleep and the realisation that tomorrow we would be back in work clothes, rather than ridiculous outfits, had hit home. We didn't stay too long, and funnily enough, there were no complaints when we decided to head back to the tent.

As we crossed in front of the main stage, walking on an enormous bed of crushed plastic, my nipper noticed that the songlines tent was just closing up. He remembered that TDF had said that they would be in there, signing stuff and he hared off across the field. I tried to keep up with him, as best as my grievously afflicted bollock region would allow, and bugger me they were there and were more than happy to hoist the little chap aloft to have a picture taken with them. By Christ that boy was pleased and proud. TDF will always be heroes in our house.

And that was that, apart from sitting up drinking with the good companions until about 3 am, until the cold once again proved too much and the pit beckoned.

A Wychwood Spotify playlist.

Some pics.

Some more reviews
Gigwise

Independent

The Sun

Talking of geniuses, the man who invented sudocreme will always be welcome in this house!