Thursday, December 30, 2010

Slippin and Slidin

How chuffed I am to see England retain the ashes, on Australian soil, with 1 game still go. Magnificent. But the media are at it again. James Lawton in the Independent has said that the performance was close to perfection, not just cricket perfection, but sporting perfection. Old Lawton is paid to write about sport, and he does it well, he sees loads, it's his job to see loads, but, come on, perfection? It was a brilliant performance, against a demoralised team made up of fragile prima donnas (1 or 2 apart). A brilliant performance, but not a perfect performance. Cricket is too subtle and beguiling a game anyway to be perfect.

I hope the media calms down a bit, we don't want these players being eaten up by their own hype. It wasn't long ago that we could not imagine an England team without Flintoff and Jones (Simon, not Geraint). Well, now we have a better team, let's just let the team be. Much has been made of the stout, no nonsense virtues of Breslan. The day he turns up with a fake tan, an elaborate tattoo, and a remodelled haircut, is the day that the decline starts. It is not insignificant that the form of Bell has improved since he lost the boy band haircut.

That video up there, it's Steve Earles nipper and he is touring next month. Small venues, cheap tickets.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Spare Me

Blues returned after the midwinter break to earn a point against Manchester Utd and upset Alex Ferguson.  The game showed the best and worst of Blues. The best was our obduracy and fighting spirit, the innate bloody mindedness of players who will not accept that they are beaten until the final whistle goes. The worst, 2 distinct spells apart, was our complete disinterest in threatening the oppositions goal.

We started pretty well, very solid, very tough, without showing any inclination to make acquaintance with van der Saar, then had a period where we took the game to them a bit more but without offering any real threat. Manchester dominated the second half,  probably because we allowed them to and it wasn't until they scored that we started attacking with any intent.

McLeish has a bit of a blind spot here. He says that we create chances but don't put them away. Sorry, Eck, but we create very few chances and we are expecting Jerome to have a strike rate comparable to Gerd Muller or Paolo Rossi if we are expecting him to knock in many of the very few chances that fall his way, our problem is that we don't create enough chances. Our midfield is not quick enough to support the front one, or, frequently, the front 0, as we tend  to have every single player back to defend set pieces. This tendency does not discourage the defenders from booting the ball up the pitch though, to no one.

The fact is, we are capable of passing it, we are capable of putting the opposition under pressure and we are capable of creating chances. We show it every time we go behind. Eck should stop blaming the strikers for their poor conversion rate and instruct the team to play with a more positive intent. We slipped into the bottom 2 yesterday before hauling ourselves out; snatching last minute equalisers will not get us up the table.

There is a huge rumour that Robbie Keane will be coming to us when the transfer window opens. This is good news. However if he has to feed on the kind of scraps that the current strikers have to sustain themselves with,  he will be looking very skinny by the seasons end. I think Eck has seem the light though, and we will all be enjoying a goal feast in the coming months.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Country Dumb

By Christ it's been snowy. I don't like it, 2 days is OK but then it just becomes irritating. Played havoc with the sporting weekend too, although rugby clubs didn't seem to have the same trouble as football clubs in getting games on. I watched a bit of the Leicester v Ipswich match, which was played in a white out, it was hilarious. I'm sure that in the 60's and 70's far more games would have been played in the conditions. It's not political correctness gone mad that has caused the change, it is a culture of litigious freeloaders gone mad. Councils and clubs are scared that some dope will fall and break his arse bone and sue 'em.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Ashes. It was the end of the first day and England were struggling and I made some disparaging comments. England then decided to make me look stupid by dominating the rest of that game and the next game. I read articles seriously asking if this was the best England team ever or the worst Australian team ever. This England team is not even English, so it s a moot point anyway. Besides, I don't look so foolish now, after the worst bowler in the world destroyed the best batting line up in the world. Once upon a time, I am sure, people would reflect before making stupid statements. I blame 24 hour news channels and bloggers.

Talking of stupid, I came across this splendid correspondence between a disgruntled fan and the board of the Cleveland Browns. I hope it is true, because it is brilliant.

There is a piece on Blues in this mornings Guardian which is depressingly accurate. It doesn't say much more than I have been saying for months, but reading it, it just sort of hits home how fucking awful we are. There are those who will say that so long as we stay with the elite none of it matters, but I beg to differ. Epic defensive goalkeeping displays like the one against Chelsea are all well and good, but I don't want to see that every week and I don't want to spend 120ish quid every fortnight to watch a team that is proud to finish a match having had no shots on target. There is a balance and we are extremely out of whack.

I remember many years ago going to a match between Crewe and Reading. Reading were flying high at the time but playing shit football, Crewe had a reputation for playing the beautiful game. Reading won. I remember in the boozer afterwards that Reading and Crewe fans were having a furious debate, with Crewe fans saying that they didn't care where they were in the league, they would not want to watch that shit week in, week out. The Reading fans just gloated. I'm with the Crewe fans. I don't go to watch the likes of Gerrard and Fabregas display their silky skills; that is not what I pay for, I pay to go and support the Blues, and supporting the Blues has become a very unappealing pastime.

So Saint Vince has had his comeuppance. From Francis of Assisi to Rasputin in one easy stride. I still keep reading and hearing that he is an accomplished political operator and is the conscience of the coalition. I don't believe it. He didn't have much of a conscience when he was employed by Shell, he hasn't shown much of a conscience in the coalition and it wasn't very accomplished to blurt out all that shit to 2 women he didn't know. I think he fell victim to his own vanity. A lot of these lib dems look a bit out of their depth: being responsible for making tough decisions is very different to sitting on the fence, trying to be all things to all men.

Metafiletr still come up with good stuff, like this fantastic photo essay on Hells Angels

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sweet Talk Sweet Talk

I am a bit disgruntled with modern life. Whenever a comic has gifts with it, always cheap, nasty tat, they put the price up. That's not my idea of a gift.  Here you are, have a gift, now you owe me 3 quid, for the gift. Shysters. It never happened with Whizzer and Chips.

I keep hearing about the Arsenal game at the weekend. The big news is that it will be Ryan Shawcross' first game against the charmless bastards since THAT tackle. Fuck me, what has the world come to? A player was tackled in a rough, tough, mans sport and got injured, it happens all the time, always has, always will, yet when it happens to an Arsenal player, we have to keep hearing about it for years and years after………if you don't believe me, ask Martin Taylor. The media, and Arsenal, are killing the fucking game; as Ricky Hatton was fond of saying……."it ain't a tickling contest".

There is a threat of snow, which means that there will be no bread or bananas to be had for days to come. Big society, my arse. I was foiled in my attempts to panic buy yesterday and I was foiled again today. If the snow comes, we will starve. Mind you, I managed to get hold of 2 sledges today, so the snow will undoubtedly pass us by. I was a very popular man as I walked through Ebbw Vale with my sledges, practically the whole population approached to ask where I had nabbed them from. If I liked the look of 'em I told 'em. I was a bit worried I might get mugged.

I don't really like Julie Burchill all that much, she's a bit too shouty and a bit too knee jerky for my liking, like a female Richard Littlejohn, but she can write like a bastard and stick the boot in like a Richard Allen character, and both qualities are evident as she tears into posh bufoon Charlie Gilmour and his oafish ilk.

Whenever I see David Cameron at Prime Ministers Question time, I think, well, he's insouciant, then I think, fuck me Dave, this is no time for insouciance.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Set 'Em Free

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Birmingham City Woeful. That’s all I have to say on the matter, except that I hope the players have been instructed to go to their rooms for a long, hard think.

The kettling debate continues. It tickles me to see people on football message boards vigorously defending the actions the police took against the great unwashed. Many of them would be the same people who rage against the machine when the rights of football fans are infringed, or when kick off time are changed in the name of good public order, or potentially difficult matches are designated bubble matches

I recognise that it is difficult for the police. I am a man of peace and have no sympathy at all for those protesters who wish to engage in violence, but I wonder how many of them actually wish to be violent. I don’t know, but I suspect that it is a small group, and I suspect that they have a bit of previous, some of them may not even be in education at all, but attach to themselves to any demonstration in order to pursue their hobby of acting like complete pricks. The police are pretty adept at isolating troublemakers at the football these days, I am sure that the skills utilised by officers in football intelligence are transferable, why not get some of those brainiacs involved to try and limit the potential that the worst among us have to act the goat.

This is a huge dilemma for democracy. We all have the right to air our views and we have the right to dissent. We should be allowed to gather in our thousands, if enough of us feel strongly enough, but we should also be responsible enough to gather in our thousands peacefully.

No one voted for this poxy coalition, but this poxy coalition is what we have. This is what our electoral system has served us up, and we have to live with it, which doesn’t mean that we should sit back meekly and accept everything that is thrown at us. We have a right make those who are increasing hardship for millions of people feel uncomfortable.

The current presenting issue is tuition fees, but over the coming years there will be many others. The problem is, that many people will look at police tactics, and wonder if they really want to run the risk of being whacked about the head, or charged by a horse, and whacked about the head, or corralled somewhere he doesn't want to be for hours, unable to even enjoy a shit, and many people will choose to stay at home. Kettling is an awful tactic. It imprisons people against their will and most of those ketteld will be innocent of any crime and will not be offering any threat to public order or the stability of the nation. Democracy loses

Those who wish to take to the streets, probably thousands upon thousands of people, should do so in a benign and good humoured way, otherwise the message they are trying to get across will be diluted and all protesters will be lumped in with the great unwashed. Our hegemonic media will gleefully focus on the bad shit. Organisers of marches and protests should work intelligently with the police to stop protests becoming hijacked, but the police also have to work intelligently with protest organisers to ensure that measures put in place are not too draconian.

Mikey Delgado puts it better.

Enough of that bollocks. I finished the Alan Warner, and, while it was a bit of a struggle, I would actually recommend it. The blurb talks of his brilliant imagination, and he surely does have a brilliant imagination, although he does have the posh English girl slipping into a Scottish brogue from time to time. It is impossible not to warm to all of his characters in the end, even the grotesque, vulnerable Manda. This is not my usual crime fiction, this is literary fiction which focuses on working class women, and does so with a dispassionate, yet warm and humorous eye. It doesn't romanticise and it doesn't demonise, and in British fiction, it is a hugely refreshing change not to be reading about the existential crisis of some upper middle class berk.

So, I dived into Nesbo's Snowman. God, it was a comfort. I have barely started but  I feel right at home in it and I know I am going to be pissed off when I finish it. I shall have to ration myself. Have I mentioned KO Dahl on here? He is another brilliant Scandinavian, as good as Nesbo, but he only seems to have had two books translated. This is a crime against the genre loving British public, and needs to be adressed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Annie, Lets Not Wait

As a general rule, I support the police. I work with some chaps who do terrible things and the police frequently get involved and they are always quite sensible about it. They are a bit like us, I suppose, they have seen, and know about shit that really doesn't bear contemplating, so they are not given to over reacting. Also, I see 'em at the Blues, and, less frequently at demo's, and they show fucking remarkable restraint. The public ain't nice. The public at football matches ain't nice at all. They will spit at, kick at and verbally abuse the police, and yet the constables stand there, stoic. I admire them, hugely.

But. By God, they really are agents of the state. They will take any provocation from football fans and Saturday night drunks, but gather in large numbers for a political cause, and it will be whack a mole time. Talking of drunks, I am drunk now, and one should not blog drunk. I have loads of really erudite observations on all this shit though. Won't post 'em tomorrow, local derby on……..too emotive. Come back around Wednesday. It will be brilliant.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I'm still struggling to find a book that agrees with me. I'm persevering with Alan Warners "The Stars in the Bright Sky", but it's a struggle. I've had Jo Nesbo's Snowman sitting by the bed since the summer, but I've been saving it for desperate times. I think desperate times are upon us. The Mrs thinks I'm a nutter for saving up books like that, she just gets stuck in and devours 'em, straight away. I'm a bit fed up with the marketing of Nesbo. Having been reading him for a couple of  years I don't want people thinking I've only picked him up because, apparently, he is the new Larsson. He is miles better than Larsson for a start.

This whole Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Operation Payback episode is starting to read like a Larsson novel. I can't help but have an image of some huge, fat, hairy bastard with no social skills, sitting in some basement  manipulating everything. 3 massive cheers for whoever is behind Operation Payback.

Johan Hari's article on wikileaks in this mornings Independent was brilliant, and is well worth reading, and sharing.

There was also a very good article by the reliably indignant Robert Fisk on the influence of Qatar,

I was listening to some tory berk on the radio this morning, going on about Big Society and how we should all be out in the snow, being neighbourly, helping each other out, and gritting the roads ourselves. He said, helpfully, that he believed that some councils even provide boxes of grit, so that we could do just that. Something struck me. I wondered what kind of community he lives in, and if he has a neighbour within a hundred yards, because around here, big society kicks in and everyone is out, shovelling, being jovial, and we are not a neighbourly bunch. I don't include the git who helps himself to barrow loads of grit from the only grit box. I just assume he is a tory.

There is reason to assume he is a tory, as, it turns out that the rich are unempathetic and selfish:  the poorest 3rd donate more of their cash as a proportion of income than the richest third. It comes as no surprise to me. All this talk of Big Society smells to me of people who do not really participate in society, people who are pretty much excluded from society, by reason of wealth.  They don't realise that the little people go around helping each other out and empathising with each other all the time. If your view of the world is filtered by the scaremongering prism of the Daily Mail, you might not realise that.

It looks as if Alan Pardew will be the new Newcastle manager. He must be mad if he takes it; the fans have made it clear that they don't want him and it can only end in tears. Look what happened to Gary Megson at Bolton and Sam Allarydyce and Ruud Gullitt at Newcsatle. Pardew will not be allowed a single error of judgement before the fans turn against him, and then the press will all pile on. I predict that the reign of Pardew will be nasty, brutish and short.

Driving home a bit earlier, the starlit sky was stunningly beautiful, and the crescent moon, which was hanging as low as teenagers trousers, seemed to be smirking, cheekily. I decided that I would blip it. Can't find it. It's there somewhere, because it is still a beautiful starlit night, but I can't see the moon anywhere, it must be so low that it has dipped below a house or a hill. Is it a bleeding portent of something?

The government has been wheeling its big guns out all day to talk about tuition fees. I can stomach it from the tories, but not from Nick Clegg. Even the odious Nick Robinson had him wriggling about in an interview somewhere or other. He is like a whirling dervish with his vaccilations. He says that it isn't fair that those who don't go to university should subsidise those who do, but those who do go pay back plenty and we all benefit in many ways. I wonder how much we all subsidised Cleggs education and when he is going to pay us back?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Where Dreams Go To Die

John Grant | Where Dreams Go To Die | A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.
">John Grant | Where Dreams Go To Die | A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Well. That was a dainty dish to set before the swine last Wednesday, wasn't it? Enough has been said now, the world doesn't need my contribution, but I will point out, because few others seem able to do so, that as far as hooliganism went, Blues fans were innocent: it was evil Villa fans who threw flares, broke up and hurled seats, smashed up toilets so that they could enjoy the perverse pleasure of wading about ankle deep in each others piss, and who broke through a door separating the fans in the Railway End  (it will always be the Railway End to me) so that could attack Blues fans. Sore losers.

It was a relief and a pleasure to see us go a goal down early on against Spurs, it meant we had to play a bit, and we did play a bit, at times, and played well. Some Blues fans are now eulogising Zigic because he had a half decent game. It is a typically bi polar response. He wasn't as bad as everyone said last week and he wasn't as good as everyone is saying this week. He looks OK and if he continues to learn how to handle himself in what must be a pretty alien environment, he could turn out to be a bit of a bargain. I have high hopes for Beausejour as well, another player who isn't as bad as everyone has made out; I think it is pointless asking him to be a warrior though, just give him the ball and encourage him to take the others buggers on, see what happens.

Not a bad week then, for the Blues, with points gained against good teams and knocking Villa out of the cup, and a definite improvement has been shown over the last 5 or 6 games, but we need some wins, we need daylight between us and the rest, we need to be a bit more pro active and a bit less reactive. Once we decided to have a go against Spurs we caused them plenty of problems; Eck has to find a way of balancing our defensive solidity with a bit of wit and elan.

There was a good piece the other day on the Zonal Marking site, all about wingers who play centrally. If Eck really doesn't want to play 4-4-2, we have the players who can play in that sort of hybrid winger / inside forward role……Helb, for one, but I also think Fahey and Gardner could have some potential there, and it would go some way to solving the problem of linking up between the defence and the attack.

There was a bit of a brouhaha over the world cup vote last week. I can't say I was bothered, one way or the other, but the outraged responses of the media and many of the fans has been amusing, and it now appears that Boris Johnson has withdrawn an offer of hospitality to genial old Sepp. Very classy that, very dignified, very stiff upper lip.

John Pilger has written a brilliant piece in the New Statesman on Vietnam

Get Your War On is back, in rude health.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sea of Tears

If the connoisseurs had been salivating at the prospect of Fulham V Birmingham City, they would now be disappointed. It wasn't a bad game, but the game was not characterised by the silky skills of the participants (Hleb apart).Blues looked quite lively in the first half, as did Fulham, actually, but, Fulham looked very vulnerable every time Blues attacked with malign intent……. and there's the rub; Blues were not malign enough, often enough.

Blues took the lead after some fucking superb, high class work by Hleb who put Larrsson in to score. YES!!!! was my first thought. My second  thought was, shit, we are going to close up the shop now, and invite them to try and burgle us. The obduracy of our defence is rightly lauded, maybe I'm a philistine, but I prefer to watch the beautiful game. This was an occasion when Blues could have given us a treat, Fulham were there for the taking, but no, onto the back foot we went. The mantra seems to be "what we have, we hold"

Fulham looked much livelier in the second half, but only because we allowed them to. Whereas we were passing the ball forward in the first half, we resorted to lumping it aimlessly up the field, or in the general direction of Cameron Jerome, which has the same effect as an aimless punt up the field, as the ball immediately comes back. And there we were: a practice game, attack v defence. Until we got burgled.

From there on we huffed, they puffed, but no one blew the house down. It was a fair result in the end and a point for us, away from home, is not to be sniffed at. I am convinced though, that with a bit more ambition, a bit more heart and effort in going forward,  we would have scored more. Mind you, we were much more adventurous than last week, doubling the number of shots we had on target. Still, we have gone above the Villa, and that will do nicely. Very nicely.

The England cricket team sailed off to the antipodes with the expectation that they would murder an Australian team which is in disarray. The players were full of it, ex coaches were full of it, the media was full of it, social media was full of it. Even the Aussies waded in. 3 days in, Australia are, predictably, murdering us.

I shouldn't like boxing, but I do and I will be searching for a stream of the Froch fight later on (I don't like it enough to actually pay for it!) Meanwhile, here is a brilliant report of the Pacquiao v Margarito ruckus

God: a divine North Korea

Transcript of the Blair  / Hitchens ding dong.

I'm struggling to find a decent book to read. I've tried the new Jonathan Coe and couldn't get on with it, A John Connolly which had promise but failed to keep the promise and not one, but two Alan Fursts, which were both horrible. I have just started Haileys War, but have no great hopes for it. It is freezing cold out there; one of life's pleasures is to be in the warm, snug as a bug, immersed in a book. I am fed up. It seems like a waste of a beautiful winter.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Blues 1 Chelsea 0. I know Chelsea had screwed up at home to Sunderland the week before so there isn’t quite the shock there that there might have been, but this is still a hell of a result for Blues. It is also a hilarious result. Throughout the game, Chelsea had more shots than any other team have managed in any prem game this season. Blues had one shot on target. And won. We did what we do well, defended for our lives without ever really looking to add to our lead, and, due to a combination of utter brilliance by Ben Foster and good luck, we prevailed.

I’ve said before that we are capable of defending stoutly against even the best teams. We don’t find it so easy to score goals against the lesser teams though, which could become a problem. I read that we are creating chances this season but are not putting them away. I don’t really buy that, our mindset is a cautious one, and we don’t go for it until we have too. We do create chances then, but panic has set in, I wonder if our strikers (I’m looking at you Cameron) would have calmer heads if we played on the front foot a bit more consistently.

Ed Milliband returned to work today after his paternity leave. Finally, the opposition will have some consistent leadership. Given the free ride that this bastard coalition has had since the election, I would have quite liked Ed to have taken a shorter break. It is as if he starting all over again now. Of course, it could be that he is a
zen socialist. I like the sound of that. I don’t know what it is, but I like the sound of it.

Being slightly less than svelte myself,
I was interested in an article by Johan Hari this morning, all about how he lost some weight, with the help of a personal trainer, which isn’t an option available to all of us. It tells us nothing new, except that Hari is surprisingly funny, and he makes some pertinent points about physical education in schools at the end of it, points that I have made myself in the past, so I obviously agree with them.

My youngest came home from school the other day clutching some kind of mission statement, which stated the schools commitment to an overtly Christian value base. I suppose that’s preferable to an overtly fascist value base, but it dismays me, all the same. We have a school at the end of our road which has the reputation of being the best primary in town, but it is a church school. We didn’t want the nippers to have an overtly Christian education so sent them to an ordinary LEA school, further away, and with no reputation at all. The oldest two have now moved on but youngest is still there. I’m sure they have had God shoved down their throats much more than would have been the case at the church school. Mind you, it seems to be compulsory to own a huge four wheel drive vehicle at the church school, so we wouldn’t have fulfilled the eligibility criteria anyway.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Farewell Sorrow

It was a bit of a non event at Eastlands today. Blues put on a performance reminiscent of last years invincibles and held Manchester City at bay for a valuable point. Not that they took much holding off. I said yesterday that Manchester City are profoundly unimpressive and their performance today has done nothing to change that view.

The cognoscenti, typically, are hailing one of the great defensive performances of all time. It was a good, solid defensive performance, against a poor team, who offered little attacking threat, so I wouldn't go overboard, just yet. We are very capable of nullifying the threat of even very good teams, that's what we did last year. The test is at the other end, where we create little and put away hardly any of the few chances we do create. Defending well is all well and good, an away point is all well and good, and I am very happy with it, but the flaws which have left us at the wrong end of the table are still there. We need some wins.

Also, we should not let the euphoria of a well earned point blind us to the fact that, once again, Cameron Jerome, made completely  the wrong decision and even then screwed up his execution, when we were very well placed to score. It would be irrational to pretend that a 0-0 has transformed our season. But I'm happy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A grim Tuesday night for Blues saw them play like half wits and go 2 down to Stoke before coming back to 2-2 and finally lose 3-2. The cognoscenti are unhappy, they think we are too negative and lack pace. No shit, Sherlock. Some of us have been saying that for the last two and a bit seasons. Not that I would be so crass as to say "I told you so".

We have the profoundly unimpressive Manchester City tomorrow. A comfortable 3 points for us, I think.

I'm as prone to hype as the next man. When the Haye v Harrison fight was announced I was filled with a massive indifference. Now I can hardly wait.

Johan Hari on blistering form, laying into young Nick Clegg: the man who cleared a space in his swanky new ministerial offices and staged a bonfire of his principles. Remember when Portillo was beaten? Remember that elation? Imagine that times 100. That's how I will feel when the good citizens of Sheffield deliver their verdict on him at the next election. All assuming that the outcome is the one I want, of course!

A man on Twitter, a man I wouldn't know if he walked up and punched me on the nose, keeps recommending that I listen to music he likes, and I'm glad he does, because he likes some brilliant stuff. I doubt that I would ever have heard of Hayes Carll or Kendel Carson without his recommendations and they are both, fucking ace. It does beg the question though, what are American parents on when they name their children? If you like Caitlin Rose you will definitely like Kendel, and if you don't know Caitlin Rose, you are depriving yourself.

Hayes Carll 

Kendel Carson

Caitlin Rose

I'm reading Serpentine, by Tom Morton. I've seen it in the library loads of times without being tempted, mainly because he is best known as an afternoon DJ on Radio Scotland. I couldn't see how a DJ could be any good and assumed it was just some vanity project. I was wrong. The book is utter nonsense and is as implausible as they come, but by God, it's a page turner. Funny in parts too. Bit risky as well. And cheeky. I think he is probably a bit of a card.

Watching the nipper train tonight, another Dad said, I didn't know Charlie was left footed, I said he isn't. The man was gobsmacked as Charlie is more comfortable with his left than most of the others are with their right. That's my boy. Genuinely two footed players are as rare as rocking horse shit………I hope he remembers his old dad when he is raking in the millions. You never know, if he keeps it up he might even be as good as me, one day.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Dixie Chicken

My prediction was awry. The immutable law did not kick in, although it threatened to, We were pretty shit though. Of course, seeing your team come back from 2 goals down makes your heart swell with pride; then you remember that you were playing the team who are bottom of the league, and that you looked second best for most of the game, and the heart becomes a little less swollen. The game showed up the beauty and absurdity of it all though, with 2 very poor teams somehow managing to contrive an excellent finish.

Following yesterdays mumbling about art and protest, Bob Piper has alerted us all to this.

Danny Baker is poorly. His mate has written a rather beautiful appreciation. Remember, without Baker, we would never have been able to enjoy the unique wit, wisdom and insight of David Mellor of a Saturday tea time. We have a lot to be grateful for.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Beasley Street

Blues play West Ham tomorrow. Their owners used to be our owners. It would have been nice to welcome them back with all the hospitality for whichthye  St Andrews crowd is justly famed for, but it won't happen, not to David Gold. He has been banned. This is hilarious. He and Sully disrespected  Yeung et al, all through the changeover process, and probably also stitched them up like kippers. Having trousered the money, Gold wanted to stay on, but he was told to go forth and multiply. He made some rather rude comments in one of the papers this week and has now been banned from the ground. We are a class act and no mistake.

As for the game, everyone is confidently expecting us to win comfortably, on the grounds that West Ham are even worse than the Villa. They are ignoring the immutable law……." The Bastards Will Always Let You Down". Get your money on a West Ham victory.

There was a decent article in the Guardian this morning on the best football documentaries. The Graham Taylor one gets a mention, as it should because it is brilliant. I was pleased to see  a mention for 'Six Days to Saturday" a 1963 documentary all about Swindon Town. It is really good in itself, but is an absolutely fascinating piece of history. Players walk to the ground, they live in terraced houses,  and Ernie Hunt supplements his income cutting his team mates hair. Yes. That Ernie Hunt.  If you get a chance to see it, you should.

There was also an article by John Harris, bemoaning the lack of a counter to the coalition in the arts. Hang on John, son, it's only been 6 fucking months. Give the artists time to sharpen their pencils. I'm sure there is plenty of stuff out there, in the pubs and the little places, he should probably get out a bit more. A more pertinent point is that protest music is usually shit. Billy Bragg is shit. I prefer Charles Bragg. Crass were shit. John Cooper Clarke was brilliant, but he looked at  desolation rather than politics. The best political band we have had is Gang of Four, and they were hardly a laugh a minute.

In literature, the best protest writer this nation has seen in many a year is James Kelman, and look what happened when he won the Booker. The poor fucker was lucky he didn't get strung from a lamp post for his working class temerity. Crime is the best source of radical literature, and crime emanating from Glasgow, and Edinburg, and, to a lesser extent Dublin, is the best of a very good bunch. It does not call for revolution, but it examines the minutiae of wrecked communities and people and psyches in way that you won't see in the mainstream. It's there though, if you care to look for it.

Never mind all that. I am listening to Elliot Brood, again. What a band. Even listening in a warm kitchen on a miserable, black winters night, as soon as I hear the first chord, I am back in a tent, in a field, in Dorset, going apeshit, with a few hundred other old bastards, all grinning from ear to ear.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

One of Those Days in England

Not a bad result, in the end, against the Villa and the ref. If Cameron Jerome was a footballer, rather than an athlete, we might have won it, but at least we stopped the rot. Steven Carr is more gracious than me, praising the ref for having a good game and handling things well; I thought he was mediocre, could have given us at least one pen and should have sent the hot headed and unstable Reo Coker off. The good news is that we are showing signs of finding some form, all we have to do now is find some goals and we will be laughing.

I read yesterday that Danny Alexander was horrified at what was left for him by Labour. Christ, Dan, knock it on the head willya? It is tiresome. I also heard Vince Cable defending some outrageous policy or other. In a coalition we have to compromise, in the national interest, he said, again. I'm fed up of it. At the risk of being a bit repetitive myself, how come all these compromises end up with the poor getting the shitty end of the stick? Mind you, they are being brave these liberals. A poll  has said that the public has turned against PR and it seems pretty clear that the public has turned against the libs. May I be the first to mention turkeys and Christmas?

Some photos of Liverpool in 1975 by Paul Trevor. I am very impressed with these and I envy the photographer his chutzpah. I can be a bit snap happy myself, but I don't have the courage to approach strangers, I don't even have the courage to snap people I don't know from the safety of a long lens. Can't remember who it was, but someone took a load of pictures of people in Merthyr Tydfil in the seventies and had them published a year or two ago. Brilliant stuff.

I missed a train in Cardiff yesterday and decided to just walk around taking random snaps, without framing or focussing. The results were predictably shit, but one or two were quite pleasing.  I might adopt it is an approach.

Hah. I remembered.  Some pics.

How times change, not so long ago, if I had missed a train, I would have headed straight for the nearest boozer, and I wouldn't have been in any hurry to leave it.

Our trade journal, which, truth be told, is only scanned for the jobs, used to have pages and pages and pages of vacancies. Hundreds of vacancies. Last week there were 4. Not pages, adverts. This week there are 10, but only 4 for actual social work. Bear in mind that there is a recruitment and retention crisis in social work. The bite is on.

Eligibility criteria has been tightened in our department. I had to compose a letter to someone I had assessed but who wouldn't be getting a service. There must be a standard letter, I thought, but there wasn't, so I e mailed colleagues in other authorities asking for a copy of their standard letters. None of 'em had one. They don't exist, but, everyone agreed that we need one, because eligibility criteria is becoming so tight that soon the only buggers with an IQ low enough to qualify for a service will be Villa fans. I invented one in the end, a nice personal one, much better. If anyone wants to buy a copy, I'm happy to negotiate a fair price!

I've been reading "The Rising" by Brian McGilloway. His stylistic resemblance to James Lee Burke is stark and it puts me off a bit. It's not just the familiarity of the characters, it's the sentence construction. It is incredibly readable but there are bits and pieces that grate with me. Like Lee Burke, his hero will piss his wife or someone (always female) that he admires off, and, rather than explaining, the hero will say something like: "I saw David O'Leary today".  The hapless partner will be expected to understand why this represents a terrible event. The wife / comrade will then go off in a huff and the hero will feel guilty. The good news is that unlike Lee Burke, he does not present the women as angels………..long suffering, but not angels. In fact the Devlin wife comes across a bit of a harridan.

As with Lee Burke, the hero is flawed but sensitive, more flawed than sensitive. We are expected to sympathise with  a hero with few redeeming characteristics, but, to give the author credit, we do sympathise. As with Lee Burke the major villain is a devil, as cunning as a fox, as amoral as a gold buyer in a shopping mall, and as duplicitous as Gideon. The hero and villain enjoy a strange relationship, reverse side of the same coin. Yin. Yang. In short all of McGilloways books get on my nerves, all of Lee Burkes books get on my nerves. But I can't put 'em down.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I'm sitting here, contemplating tomorrows game and listening to Mickey Newbury. He is brilliant, how come I had never heard of him before?

Nick Clegg was outraged the other day, when a labour MP talked of London being socially cleansed as a result of the housing benefit cuts. He got himself into quite a lather, and did that thing that Cameron does and pretended to be really angry. A simple phrase, that's all it was, and, despite his rather funny protests, an apposite phrase. It's a pity that he can't get a bit more worked up about the damage that he and Dave and Gideon are wreaking upon us all. It's strange, isn't it, that every time this cabal of clowns sees unfairness, they put it right by kicking the poor in the teeth.

We have the Villa tomorrow, at Krap Alliv. We owe them a doing, and tomorrow we will pay that debt, in spades. I am sure of it. Villa are a bit shit to start with, but they are missing a few tomorrow, and we will win, at a chuffin canter!

I went see The Duke and The King again last night at The Fleece and Firkin, in Bristol. I hadn't been there for a good 16 years and it was not as I remembered it. I'm sure it used to have an upstairs. I mentioned a few weeks ago that the new album wasn't much good. I was too hasty, and have revised my opinion……….it is superb, it just takes a few listens. They put on a brilliant, and intense show last night, and played with just some red lights in the background, so they were just about in darkness. Turns out Simones dad had died a day or two before, which probably explains it. It would also explain the lack of playfulness that you usually get with this lot and the frequent group hugs that went on through the set.

Whatever, it was probably the best I have seen them, and the packed crowd lapped it up. There was a bloke behind me, who had come on a whim, who just kept repeating, over and over; " this band is amazing" I hope they get their due and sell loads of records and make loads of cash, they are seriously talented, as individuals and as a collective but I will miss seeing them in small, intimate venues.

I have also had a listen to the new Giant Sand, "Blurry Blue Mountain". It's beautiful.

Last year, the twelve men of Villa were very fortunate to beat us, in fact it was unjust. Stephen Carr endeared himself to Blues fans by strolling off the pitch giving the wanker sign to the Villa fans. He has further endeared himself this week by saying that he does not regret his gestures; he only regrets being treated like a child by the disciplinary committee. If only Harriet Harman and Boris Johnson had the same backbone, both of them made salient points  this week and both of them have backtracked, shamefully.  Tossers!

While I am on about Boris, what has happened to his hair? He used to be liked because he was a Bunterish buffoon, scruffy, with unkempt hair, now the hair is very artfully scruffy………..slightly distressed, probably. It is clear that some stylist is carefully arranging his hair to make it look like he has just give it a quick rub with a towel and left the house. This is uncool. By all means tidy yourself up, but, c'mon, be natural.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bur Oak

#90.1 - BOWERBIRDS - Bur Oak
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I predicted that Blackpool would stuff us. I was so confident of this that I dropped Foster and Dann from my fantasy team; a decision which cost me many points; it didn't matter though, because my ability at fantasy football is as good as my ability at predicting football results: shit.

What I did get right was that it would be a good game. Blackpool came to attack, and, surprisingly, we set out with attacking intent ourselves, with both O'Connor and Zigic picked, as well as Hleb. It was, as the sages say, end to end, and both teams created, and missed chances with pleasing regularity.

The good news is that we scored 2, the less good news is that they were from set pieces. I would love to see us score from open play, it hardly ever happens. Zigic showed his quality with both goals, winning a good header and putting the ball against the bar from an acute angle, with ace goal poacher Ridgemill following up.  The two combined again for the second, with Ridgemill doing very well to keep a wayward attempt from Johnson in play, which allowed Zigic to show a true strikers instinct to pounce on a clumsy bit of control by a Blackpool man. I would bet one English shilling that Jerome would not have been alert enough to score that one.

It would be nice to say that we then went on to hammer a poor defensive team who were committed to reckless attack, but we didn't. As ever, we settled for what we had and shut up shop, or tried to, Blackpool continued to create chances, although the result was never really in doubt. Replacing a striker with a left back showed our ambition. Not many Blues fans would agree with me, but this gets on my tits, a bit. It costs a bleeding fortune to go to a match, and it would be nice to see us really go for it and show no mercy. Still, it was a good and much needed win, and we played really well, so I shouldn't  complain.

It's been a bit of a depressing week in politics, although none of it came as a surprise. It is highly amusing to hear Cameron and Osborne talk of the shit they have inherited, with absolutely no sense of irony. It was almost as funny as reading about how Clegg, the bastard, lectured people in Nottingham on life in the "real world" It is true, that the world he inhabits is real to him, but to most of us, it is the stuff of fantasy.

Nick Robinson was funny too, calmly taking a placard of a protester and demolishing it. I can no longer decide why I hate the twerp: I don't know if it is because he is a motherfucking Tory bastard, or if it is because he such an oafish little twerp. Still, it's nice to live in a democracy, where you are free to opine, although, to avoid potential embarrassment, it might be worth asking Robinson if it is OK before you open your trap. I loved the way another placard popped up; it was like whack a mole.

Genuinely funny is this Guardian piece about a bloke who replied to spam e mails and gave the spammers a bit of a runaround.

I have, just this very day, discovered Netsayi. She is bloody fantastic, and she has plenty of stuff available on Spotify. Do yourself a favour and check some of it out 

I have been working my way through the Jamie Oliver 30 minute book. It's a misnomer, it should be titled "30 minutes if you have an army of helpers, don't include the washing up and can afford very expensive ingredients". Most of it is actually superb, I did his rogan josh tonight though and it is garbage. He recommended a curry paste and as I suspected, it was no good. You can't shortcut a curry! The lemon pickle was profoundly disgusting. Don't let that put you off though, it's a good book!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Small Town Saturday Night

After yesterdays little Shearer rant, it was interesting to read James Lawtons obituary of Malcolm Allison. It is a shame that we have more Shearers in the game than we do Allisons. Allison was forward thinking long before it was fashionable, and was a bit of a card to boot.

It would be stretching a point to say that Blues were unlucky against the Arses today, as we were thoroughly outplayed, but we did OK. It is no disgrace to be out passed and outmanoeuvred by Arsenal, but I thought we played with a lot of courage, if not much finesse. Plenty of teams go there and get hammered; we avoided that, despite having to play against 12 men. What has Martin Atkinson got against us? I'm sure he must be a Villa fan.

I watched on the  PC (yay for the interweb) and amused myself by tweeting throughout the game. Early on I said that we needed to be braver or we would get stuffed. Just before we  scored. My original comment was justified, I think, because we had got ourselves in a good position, but were too scared to get on the front foot, and as result lost the ball and were lucky not to go behind following a swift counter attack.

Our goal was a good one, a good cross from the unfairly maligned Fahey was met by a good header from the criminally maligned Zigic. Zigic was a plus point. He is a much better footballer than Jerome, if not quite in the same league as an athlete, and should keep his place. He does not offer the same power and athleticism, but he does offer touch and awareness. If I wanted to see a big black bloke running fast with a sulky look on his face, I would go to Birchfield Harriers. I have no interest in seeing such a chap at St Andrews. If we have to rejig the team to suit Zigic, so be it; it will pay dividends.

We played well (ish) throughout. We didn't create much, we never do, so could hardly expect any different at the Emirates, and there were times when the Arses cut through us as effortlessly as Jamie Oliver slices a garlic clove, but we not only held firm, we tried to pass our way out of defence. I cannot stress enough how happy this made me. We have a tendency to hoof it away when we are under pressure, gifting the ball back, but, today, we made the buggers win the ball back. I like that.

We must bear in mind we were missing Gardner and Faddy. This will not mean much to non Blues fans, and may not mean much more to a few actual Blues fans, but they were our most influential players early in the season. We did alright.

Having said that, Carr seems to have become a bit accident prone and Bowyer is not as effective or dynamic as he was……..everything seems to be an effort for him: he  still gives his all though. There won't be much point buying replacements in January, as Eck has a baffling tendency to not trust the players he signs. It makes a bit of a mockery of his "due diligence" mantra.

Aesthetically, the Arses were a disgrace today. If they had been Wolves or Stoke they might have had three sent off. One of them, possibly Arshavin, stuck his knee into Ridgemill, not once, but twice. The first may have been forgivable in the heat of the moment, the second was dealt after he had time to cool down. An innocuous slap about the face would have seen him sent off, so how does he, or anyone else, get away with sticking the boot in?

This was typical of the Arses performance throughout. Spiteful, petulant, and sneaky. Lets not forget the blatant dive by Chamak for the pen either. Not to mention the outrageously dangerous, dirty tackle by Wilshere on Zigic. While we are at it, Song could have been booked at least 3 times. At the risk of sounding like a pathetic victim, our players got booked for very innocuous challenges while the likes of Song and Arshavin got away with murder. I wonder what Wenger would have to say about his team if he had watched as a neutral.

Should be a good game next week at Stans. Cheap tickets for a game against unfashionable Blackpool should draw a crowd, and Blackpool will come to score goals, and may well stuff us, as we never set out to score goals. I would much rather see us play the likes of a very decent Blackpool side, with  both sides going for the win, and with us having a realistic chance of a win, than pay scary prices to see us put 11 men behind the ball against the likes of Chelsea.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chain of Fools

There is an interview with Alan Shearer in the Telegraph this morning. It is interesting. He says that he has all his badges and would like to manage England, and goes on to explain why he should never be allowed near the job.
According to Al, tackles of the kind that Danny Murphy so deplores, should, in fact, be tolerated…..nay……encouraged…….nay………..applauded. The De Jong tackle was ok, because he went for the ball: that he also intended to take the man is irrelevant; he was always taught to “take everything”. He extols the virtues of hardness and toughness; he likes players who are nasty. Talking about Arsenal he speaks more admiringly of the team of 10 years ago than he does the present one; the reason being the old lot “was an absolute nightmare because of Bould, Adams, Keown, Winterburn and Dixon. You knew in the first 10 minutes you’d get battered.”
He says he admires the great managers, but he also relishes the tale of himself giving a sheeps heart as a present to one of Newcastle’s foreigners who was deemed to lack courage. Great man management, that. He talks, probably correctly, of the fans loving the harder, more physical side of the game and says that a hard tackle generates a louder cheer than a great pass. 
He is dismissive of those who say he is not very good on Match of the Day. The only people who are complaining are critics and punters. It’s strange that he values the opinion of the punter when he is applauding a robust challenge, but considers it worthless when it comes to a general appreciation of football, or the art of criticism. He says “I’ve actually played the game and can pick something out that the people watching can’t see like why Fernando Torres is struggling.’’   Well, Al, that’s all well and good, but the problem is, you don’t say anything. You may understand it, but you don’t articulate it, that’s why you are shit.
The bigger, and more important issue though, is his philosophy on the game. It is rooted in the past, deep in the past. The inglorious past. The past that is characterised by failure after failure after failure. Humiliation after humiliation. How does Al explain this? He doesn’t. This is why he should never be let near the England team. He refuses to see that the game has progressed, and has left England in it's wake. Has he noticed how Barcelona and Spain play the game, how Germany have evolved? He probably has, but doesn't see that it has any relevance to us. The man who doles out sheeps hearts as gifts and who was famously ignorant of the existence of Hatam Ben Arfa , probably doesn't spend much time trying to broaden his horizons.

Shearer out!

Rogan Taylor was entertaining this morning on the subject of Liverpool, unfortunately, the clip begins with Robert Peston.

Blues go to the Arse tomorrow and it is as plain as the nose on yer face that we will moida da bums!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Love Hurts

The Tories seem to have taken a liking to the word fairness. Jeremy Hunt was very keen on it on newsnight last week. "Snot fair"! he squeaked. Hard working families have to limit the number of children they have and so should the scrounging classes. No one ever mentions working families who don’t work hard, don’t know why. "Fair" comes up over and over again, like a neocon mantra. Everything the government does, it does in the interests of fairness……………it is only fair that……………it is not fair that. I don’t like it. I think it is crude and simplistic and leads to a crude and simplistic analysis. I would much prefer them to use the word just, mind you I would like them to consider what the word actually means before trotting it out.
There were good articles in the yesterdays papers on this. The best was in the Sunday Herald, by the reliably cogent Ian Bell and I recommend it with big brass knobs on, the other was by Will Hutton, who makes the rarely heard point that there are plenty of undeserving rich knocking about, and that, as well as being undeserving, they actively seek to undermine the system, to which I say, "Snot Fair"!

I wrote this the other day, but have only just got around to posting it, and since writing it the use of the word fair seems to have developed into something of a national crisis, every time I open a paper, or a web page or turn on the radio, someone is debating what the word actually means. If it carries on, the word will become utterly meaningless, if it hasn't already. I heard Nick Clegg describe the new proposals for tuition fees as fair. Er, beg pardon? This is the same Nick Clegg who only a few short months ago pledged, along with every other lib dem, to resist any rise in tuition fees. Already, the word fair, when uttered by liberals and conservatives, seems to mean the exact opposite of its original meaning.

Similarly, to "Clegg", will come to mean: "to abandon all ones principles and dignity"

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Our Spanish Love Song

There is an article in todays Independent all about the street food of Britain, and it helpfully provides recipes, so we can all make our own street food, at home. We may even sell it up and down our streets. The recipes include: Scallops with celeriac, bacon and seashore vegetables; Black pudding Scotch duck eggs, and, Lemon granita. I don't know what street the bloke lives on, but I very much doubt it is the same street as me. Around here, street food consists of very dodgy burgers, sometime with a strange, sticky, yellow substance, and bacon baps, bought from heavily tattooed women in vans, and very fucking delicious they are too. Mind you, for all I know they all do scallops with sea vegetables, but I have never thought to ask.

As a lad I used to love the exotic street food of dear old Brummagem. You had the blokes all over town with their carts (think cover of Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic !) of hot dogs and burgers, sitting in hot water, and boiled onions. They hit the spot, every time. Best of all was the caravan thingy, that mysteriously appeared in the night by the pigeon park. You could get a proper cheese cob………a crusty cob and a slice of cheese cut half an inch thick. That was it, no mustard mayo or sea veg required. Invariably though, at 4 in the morning, waiting for the night bus, I would go for a pie and a bovril, and, invariably, I would suffer, because, then, as now, I had a chronic inability to learn from my mistakes.

They had a tendency to stick a wooden fork in the middle of the pie, which was always very hot, before sticking it in a paper bag and handing it to you. Week after week, I would order a pie and a bovril, bite into the pie, fork and all, burn the roof of my mouth, yelp in surprise and drop piping hot bovril down my leg. It was embarrassing and it was painful. I always used to fall over the same garden wall when I was completing the two mile yomp from the bus stop too. Exhaustion, probably.

It's been a good week for the coalition, innit?. Gideon and Dave make up policy on the hoof and make themselves look like complete tits, Michael Heseltine turns into his own spitting image puppet and gets bested by some genial old duffer on newsnight and Jeremy Hunt turns out to be a bit of a silly hunt. And the Mail on Sunday turns on Nick Clegg. I would be pissing myself if it wasn't all so depressing.

No football today, it's the international break. I hate the international break; it's bad enough when England are playing but they haven't had a game this weekend. Bloody hell, Tony Currie and Gerry Francis managed to play at the weekend having had an international in the week, surely these athletes with there scientific training methods and diets could manage as well as those podgy old buggers.

Still it allows time to reflect on the Blues. The jury is out. It's like 12 Angry Men. Brother is against brother, families are being split, blood feuds are commonplace, it's like being in the Camorra.

Eck is either an idiot or a genius. Jerome is either a misused player of the highest class, or a donkey (he is a donkey) Zigic has hardly played, but, apparently, he is shit. Michel has hardly played, but, apparently, he is shit. Redmond is 16 years old, he played 10 minutes against fucking Wimbledon. He should start every game, apparently. It seems that he is a sort of hybrid of Stanley Mathews, Pele, and  Phil Summerhill. It's the same old same old with Blues fans. We are either the best in the world or the worst in the world. There is no in-between.

Having said that, I'm not happy, but I wasn't happy last year either. We are defensive minded. For all our pretty passing, which is exaggerated anyway, we don't pass it that much, we offer no poke. I have gone on about it long enough before, there is no need to repeat myself, but I will say that as long as we have Jerome in the team, and as long as the midfield refuse to support him, for whatever reason, we will struggle to score goals, and, therefore, we will struggle.

There is a worrying new trend though. We don't appear to like it up us. In two games this season, West Brom, and, I forget the other, possibly Wigan, or Sunderland, we were cruising in the first half, looking very comfortable. In  both games though, the opposition came out in the second half with a much more purposeful intent and we caved in. We didn't have courage on the ball, we didn't pass it, we got rid of it, shifted it on, usually to an opponent and we invited pressure. It does not augur well, it augurs ill.

Life would be shit though, wouldn't it, if we didn't have a football team to worry or bicker about. I raise a glass to shit football teams and fickle fans up and down the land.

I have  had a bit of a lucky streak with books. The last Don Winslow is better than the previous one, The last Walter Mosley is superb, and the most recent Brian McGilloway, while all too reminiscent of James Lee Burke, is as readable as his others. I have just, this very day, discovered Denise Mina, and I like her a lot, a hell of a lot. Best of all Ryan David Jahn "Acts of Violence" It is brilliant. The first 60 pages got on my nerves and I thought, this isn't a novel, it is series of vignettes………..very clever, but not really a novel. But then, out of the blue, it gripped me, and it didn't let go, and it is still gripping me now.


Nearly forgot, Henry Winter, the brother of England's most influential Muslim, has written a very warm article about Joe Hart and Ben Foster. Common denominator: Us!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fortune Teller

Forest Fire - Fortune Teller from Johan Hesselgren on Vimeo.

I have just endured enjoyed an exciting weekend. Myself and my mate were allowed out without adult supervision and we went to the End of the Road festival, which, as everyone knows, is the best festival there is. Without wives to control us, nor children to be cared for, we set off like a pair of decrepit teenagers, and, I am profoundly embarrassed and humiliated to report, we acted like a pair of decrepit teenagers too.

We arrived about midday on Friday and were a bit surprised to find that there were loads more people than were there at the same time last year, so we had to walk further from the car park and base ourselves at the far end of the field, which was OK by me, especially as, compared to previous festivals, we had hardly anything to carry.

We got ourselves established and had a bit of scoff and some drink and, as always happens, became extremely chilled and comfortable; so much so, that it was a bit of wrench to leave the bucolic bliss of the field and take ourselves off to the actual festival.

The first band we saw was Eliott Brood, who blew me, and the rest of the tent away. I was dimly aware of them before, but they took me completely by surprise. Just 3 of them, one on banjo and occasionally ukele, the guitarist remaining seated. The racket that these 3 made was glorious and as much as they blew the crowd away, it seemed that the crowd response also blew them away, they were clearly having a brilliant time themselves. This rates as one of the best and most enjoyable gigs I have seen. Ever. And I have been to a lot of gigs.

Nothing else quite matched up to that on Friday, not that I am complaining, it was still a beautiful place to be. I have seen EOTR described elsewhere (can’t remember where) as like crossing over into Narnia, before it all went tits up, and it is as good a description as I have seen. Everywhere you turn there is something just a bit different, just a bit lovely, just a bit wonderful, and despite all the noise and the hubbub and the bacchanalia, there is always a quiet spot, for those occasions when only a quiet spot will do.

I had been looking forward to Trembling Bells, as I really like their new album and I think Baby Lay Your Burden Down is the song of the year so far. I love it. They were disappointing. Don’t know why, maybe it was me, but there seemed to be something lacking and I soon got distracted by the guitarists stout brogues and the comings and goings of  other bands hauling their equipment in. The poor sound quality didn’t help. They were alright, but they didn’t quite do it for me.

We followed that by having a peek at Jessica Lee Mayfield……………the winsome and wonderful Jessica Lee Mayfield. She played her sad songs in the Tipi tent, to an appreciative, but seated and, in some cases, unconscious audience and seemed to win most people over, although she couldn’t quite wake everybody up. She put me in mind of the female characters in books by the likes of William Gay or Daniel Woodrell……fragile, damaged, mistreated, fatalistic, but sparky and spirited. Like Elliot Brood, she seemed to be enjoying herself hugely, which is always a great help and it was evident that she was hanging out in the Tipi hours after she had finished her set.

After this, we somehow got all our timings mixed up, so, going into the Big Top to see….er…… can’t remember who, I was surprised to find Edwyn Collins halfway through his set. Dunno what the first half was like but the second half was wonderful and I am fairly sure that he will have been chuffed with the warmth and enthusiasm of his reception, but he has probably grown used to that. We got a bit distracted by the physiology of the human brain during this set. Although his speech was OK, he was much clearer when he was singing. Why the hell is that? I am assuming here that everyone who reads this blog is aware that Ed suffered a massive stroke a couple of years ago.

We only caught the end of Modest Mouse, but what we saw made us wish we had seen more, but then we would have missed something else. We peeked at the New Pornographers, but the tent was so packed we couldn’t be arsed with it, so retired to the tipi, where we found  a hay bale to rest our weary arses on and continued drinking and congratulating ourselves for being so wise as to find ourselves at such a great festival. A couple of young Americans appeared on the stage at some point, I have no idea who they were and, frankly, was past caring, but they were alright.

Winding our happy way back to the tents, at time far too late for people of my age and shape, my pal suddenly disappeared. He had tripped over a guy rope and went down with alarming speed, and was lying face down on the ground, imitating a starfish, while trying to pretend that nothing untoward had happened. Rather gallantly, I tried to assist him, but he believed that me efforts were insincere and responded to my good graces with extreme profanity and petulance, which left me helpless with laughter.


A few years ago, we bought a huge polycotton Bear Lake tent and alongside it we bought a cheap pop up tent to use as an extra sleeping pod for the eldest nipper. Rather unwisely, this is what I took to the festival with me. It had rained in the night, and it was wetter in the tent than it was outside it. I had put the sleeping mat on top of a yoga mat and a picnic blanket, so apart from the water dripping down from the roof of the thing, I was quite dry, but everything that hadn’t been so protected was sodden, wet through. The water had got through my trousers, through my wallet and and out the other side, it was as though they had come out of a washing machine that had failed to spin. The universe had paid me back for my hilarity at my pals misfortune. Another punishment was having to listen to a grown man whinge and whine about his bruises and swellings for the rest of the weekend!

Aside from that, I felt pretty rough, and the dope I had chosen to spend the weekend with had been kind enough to bringer a cooker, but…………… gas. It was grey and drizzly, but warm, and little by little I summoned up the energy to drag myself to my favourite spot on the whole site, Café Dish, where I turned my nose up at the herbal brews on offer in favour of two cups of coffee.  They did not revive me.

What did revive me was Forest Fires, the first band up on the main stage. This festival has a genius for putting bands on very early, of whom few have heard, who turn out to be brilliant. To be honest, I can’t remember too much anymore, too much else happened, but I do remember that they didn’t play a duff tune, that the singer is a very cool dude and that the strange guitarist is a genuine axe hero. I would see them again without any hesitation whatsoever.

Saturday just got better and better, one of the highlights of which was the wonderfully spiced goat curry from the Caribbean stall, which both lifted the spirits and provided a bit of ballast. Phosphoresence was one of the way up there highlights of the weekend. The singer looked a bit like Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas, and there was yet another genuine axe hero on stage, not that band were heavy. The chaps songs are wonderful stories, a bit like Richmond Fontaine, and, like Vlautin, I’m sure the bloke could write a novel. Anyway, it was mid afternoon and they hit the spot.

Moddi were on just after and I missed them (or is it him) which is a pity, because later on I saw him (or is it they) put on a rather lovely set in the woods. I have since spotified them (or him) and they would been worth seeing.

In complete contrast, we did see Voice of the Seven Thunders. Strange lot, this lot. The main chap seemed to be in a bad, or at least a sarky mood. Maybe it is just part of his schtick, and, not being an aficionado, I didn’t get it, but he seemed like a right moody fucker. It didn’t help that he is a dead ringer for Tim Lovejoy, a man who is probably hated by his own mother. To begin with, they seemed to be enjoying themselves, amongst themselves, but they did not seem to appreciate their surroundings, then, when one of his pedals started playing up, even the good humour that they had shown between themselves went. Whatever, it was brilliant, thunderous music.

It may be beer related, but our sense of time went askew then. We headed back to the tents to get our night time attire on, namely, a fleece, and enjoy a drink sitting down and headed back over, by which time we had missed most of the Unthanks. We enjoyed what we did see, good, warm and fun.

I’m not a huge fan of Iron and Wine, but I don’t dislike him. We watched the first bit of his set and it was obvious that he is held in some reverence but we soon wandered off. I have since read on blogs and message boards and in the papers that he put on a warm and beautiful set. In fact, a peerless set, and I missed it, or most of it. It didn’t matter though because while he was being warm, beautiful and peerless, Caitlin Rose was being warm, impish and brilliant. She is virtually a child, but by God, she has a fine pair of classic country and western pipes with which to sing her literate and edgy country songs.  She is going to be absolutely massive.

We popped in to see Black Mountain but they were not cutting it for either of us, so we headed back to the main stage for Yo La Tengo. I can pretty much take or leave this lot and hadn’t really planned on seeing them, but, and this seems to be a matter of some debate, they were superb. They played some of their quiet songs, which I generally prefer, but the last half hour or so was serious wig out shit, and was spellbinding. The drummer has some stamina, in her little arms to keep that beat going. They were another band who seemed to be enjoying themselves hugely and it really does make a difference.

The Tipi tent last year was a bit of a pain in the arse so I hadn’t really planned on seeing anyone in there this year, but they had added another huge tent to it and it was much improved; in fact, the bands were not really in the tipi, they were in the adjoining tent, which left the actual tip itself as very rustic drinking joint. So long as you got a bale of hay to sit on it was great. You could sit down, drink, enjoy the ambience and then when something started up, just stroll around and enjoy it. So we repaired to the Tipi tent.

It was something else, another way up there highlight. The Low Anthem and Christ knows who else were on stage, all dressed like loons, behaving like loons and playing raucous stompalongs like loons. Everyone, band included had huge smiles on their faces and the place was jumping. Just one more brilliant and unexpected surprise.


Sunday dawned and I felt like shit. There had been no rain but still water was dripping onto my head. On the plus side, the weather was looking superb. We roused ourselves and trudged like refugees to the Café Dish for more coffee, which we enjoyed in some little garden effort while the peacocks pecked around for food. Then we had  a wonderful breakfast of pie, mash, peas and gravy, which was just about the job and set us up nicely.

Dylan Le Blanc kicked things off and his exquisite country tinged soft rock was just what was needed at this early hour. It was noticeable that the main stage area was much fuller than at the same time last year, so we made the decision to get there very early for all the bands we wanted to see there in order  secure a good spot. We hadn’t bothered all that much with the main stage up until now, but today was different. Today promised to be special. Timing was crucial. Timing is not our strong point.

We had a general wander around all the loveliness and relaxed with a cider (over rated) sitting on a stone and watched the world go by. We saw a bit of Kath Bloom, but were too knackered and out of sorts to really appreciate her and got back over to the main stage for Daniel Lefkowitz. Fuck me. How can this man not be a huge star? Just on his own, with a guitar, a voice and a very wry look on his face he held the by now packed Garden Stage spellbound. He can’t be too much of a secret, because there were plenty of other artists at the back of the stage watching him. EOTR had done it again…………taken my breath clean away.

Dunno what we did then, mainly dossed about, keeping our beer intake up and taking in little bits and pieces here and there. The timing. The crucial timing. It still wasn’t our strong point. One of the bands I was most looking forward to was The Felice Brothers. We managed to miss the start. Only just though and we did manage to get a good spot. The Felice Brothers were superb. As mad as shithouse rats, every one of them, but superb. I don’t know what was going on behind me, but around me and in front of me everyone was going apeshit. I could go apeshit now, 3 days later, just thinking about it.

We stayed put for The Low Anthem who had possibly been the highlight last year and didn’t disappoint this time either. They seemed a bit warmer and looser if anything, and, once again, seemed to be really enjoying the spirit of the place and having fun, which, I feel the need to repeat, makes a huge difference; it seemed to be a very short set though.

Wilco were the band I was most looking forward to; I think Tweedy is one of the all time great songwriters and it is hard to think of anyone else who has written so consistently over such a long period… must be at least 20 years he's been at it. I was a bit wary, as this was the first time I have seen them and I was prepared to be disappointed, but I needn't have worried. They were magnificent, from start to finish. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, brilliant song after brilliant song, Tweedy invited the audience to shut the hell up towards the end so keen was he to just get on with it and bang out as many songs as possible. The garden was packed and everyone was going for it, in their own ways, whoops, roars, headbanging, footstamping, bloody air guitar, silent, rapt attention. In my not so humble opinion, it was a classic.

That was the end of the garden stage and it would have been a brilliant way to end a brilliant day. But the day was not over. Dengue Fever were supposed to be playing last in the Big Top, but they pulled out, to be replaced by Steve Mason, which was fine by me, as I love his new album. Walking over, it occurred that the music didn't sound familiar, or rather, it did sound familiar, it sounded like Caitlin Rose. God knows what happened to the other feller, but I don't care, because once again, Rose was ace.

The goodness still wasn't over. While James Felice was exuding bonhomie at the merchandise stall after his set, I asked if they were doing any other sets, and he said they would be in the Tipi at half twelve. Once Rose finished I wasted no time getting there. Someone else was on, don't know who but their audience evidently thought they were good because they were getting a brilliant reception. They finished and as their crowd headed away, another crowd was heading straight for the stage. It was clear that the Felice set was no secret.

After a longish wait, they ambled on, and tore the place down. It was utterly brilliant, and I am now more convinced than ever that they are all insane. The place was rocking and the goodness was added to by the presence of sundry Low Anthems and Deer Ticks on the stage, joining in. The set ended with a good natured stage invasion (started by James Felice) which left security looking extremely nervous. All that was left to do was to hang around and drink and talk shit with any passing kindred spirit until far too late. 

The festival surpassed all my expectations, and once again I discovered plenty that I wouldn't otherwise have done, and missed loads that was probably just as good as the stuff I saw. Apart from the bands, the whole ambience, the vibe, is just special, and it is great to be around like minded souls, who do not think I am a posing obscurantist for liking bands hardly anyone else has heard of. 

As a final thought I tip my hat to the bar staff who remained cheerful and patient to the very end of what was clearly a weekend of epic drinking for at least half the crowd.

Some snaps what I took, rather a lot, actually.

Mind you………….I felt a bit sorry for myself on Monday. And Tuesday. Today as well, actually.