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!