Sunday, 29 April 2007

...happy when skies are grey

Yesterday it was sunny. Really sunny. I squinted so much on the way there and the way back I still look like I'm faking gratitude on receipt of a present from an elderly relative. It was disturbing therefore that Middlesbrough was covered in cloud which I guess is the consequence of the industry that pretty much defines the place. I parked in a back street and walked towards the ground which is made all the more incongruous by the wasteland that surrounds it. The ground itself is OK on the inside even if it's a bit drafty. We deserved our victory and the Spurs fans were relentless in their mockery of the Boro support but I kinda felt bad being part of that. It's no bloody wonder they're quiet: It's a really depressing place.

Flip n flyer

It's not often that a toy lives up the hype of its box. We bought this thing this morning in JJB. It was reduced from 11.99 to £9, then to £7, then to £6 then finally to £4. The obvious desperation to offload their surplus stock and the superlatives in the packaging hooked me in as intended and as we drove back I thought 'D'oh! I've got something else that will give us 2 minutes of disappontment that will clutter my boot til I sell the car.' But... it's brilliant. You chuck it like a frisbee then catch it by its string and spin it about and ...err...stuff. Clearly I'm lacking in the same kind of superlatives and I've already put the packaging in the recycling box so I can't copy them. I do remember they used lots of exclamation marks though. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But what does it mean?

Walking along the canal I see the Spurs cockerel crest. On the ground. Left, as it were, by a bird. Is it a sign of imminent success or, more literally, an indication of impending crappiness?

Friday, 27 April 2007

Groundskeeper Willy

London: 4.30pm

The board of directors are investigating claims made by some Spurs supporters that ground staff employed to urinate on away fans at half time deliberately targetted members of Martin Jol's blue and white army. 'Well, you know,' said Jol with a shrug, arms folded tightly across his barrell chest, 'it was a pish poor performansh all round.' A Homeresque wisp of hair fell cocquettishly across one battle hardened eye in the spring N17 breeze as he continued, 'In Holland people pay good money for that.'

Favours for Sailors

I wish I lived closer to a port. I need to earn some extra money to pay for my phone bill. It's at times like this that I understand what people mean when they describe a 'sinking feeling'.

Arcade Art

Saturday pm. Shooting things in an arcade with boy, girl and best mate. I now have a photographic record to remind me of the fun we had. It's rather impressionistic.

Buying tickets online for category A games is always something of a lottery. I needed three tickets and the only ones I could get were East stand and one of them was restricted view. This means that one of only two pillars in the ground partially obscures the goal. Of course there's no price reduction for this but there you go. After a bit of seat juggling with the guys around me I managed to shift my son back a row and it was his teenage sense of the purile/ inane/ scatalogical that first spotted the benefit of our seats in terms of the score readout on the 'Jumbotron'. This kept us amused for most of half time. Well, it kept him amused, I'm much more sophisticated.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Jenas you p***s

There's nothing like shouting your mouth off and being made to look like a git in front of your son and your mate. My git status was further elevated by the fact that several tens of people around us in the East Stand at WHL on Saturday could somehow also hear me. 'Shy' and 'retiring' are two adjectives ascribed to me (by drunk people who have never met me) and 'enthusiastic' and 'passionate' by those that have been to football with me and enjoy euphemisms. Don't get me wrong; I'm no boo boy (or even a boo old man) but at 2-1 down to A*****l and well into the second half Zakora and Jermaine Jenas were simply not doing what they needed to be doing: providing service to Berbatov. Any more games like that this season and he'll be even more tempted by whatever Man Yoo or Chelski can offer. Finally, Martin Jol heard me from the other side of the pitch and replaced Zakora with Defoe but still I wasn't happy and, as frustration got the better of me (not, I might add, to the point of convincing me to leave early like some of the fair weather mob around me) I made no secret of my desire (metaphorically) to see JJ take an early bath. So, when he belted home the equalizer with 30 seconds left of injury time I was ecstatic of course but very conscious of the harumphing around me. I had no idea Spurs fans could hurumph so audibly. "Two- one, and you f***d it up" the die hards explained diplomatically to the remaining "scummers" (of course I mean that affectionately and without vitriol) and those around me looked at me and telepathically chanted " You're a git, you're a git, you're a git".

Still, it wasn't as bad as earlier in the season when I went to see the Mighty Os in action against Gillingham. 3-0 down with ten minutes to go, I was as loud as the next man demanding the substitution of the woefully inept left back. Of course he went on to score a hattrick.

For this Saturday I have a strategy. I will demand loudly and enthusiastically the substitution of Dimitar and Keano from the first whistle. On my past form we'll be 6 up with a hattrick from each by half time.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

London, Berlin, Bradford

It's funny if you look at the following websites how attractive Bradford is made to look. Yep, it does have all the things pictured in these links and some of the architecture is fantastic.

But it has a big gap in the middle where a big part of the city centre used to be with a massive fence around it. It reminds me of the Berlin bunker area that was cordoned off while they argued about the nature of the holocaust memorial. It's possible the whole Berlin thing was prompted by my appointment in 'Little Germany' and my route that took me along Hamm Strasse. An uncharitable view might suggest that it was from a very little bit of Germany that its name derives: perhaps somewhere in the Dresden 'ground zero' some time around 1944 but really it can be quite nice if you keep to the beaten track. I'm told that Bradford put in a bid to be the European city of culture for 2008 but nothing happened and it stifled the development somewhat but only after a considerable amount of demolition. The fractured aspect of the current city centre leads to weird juxtapositions of things like a magnificent cathedral or the civic centre surrounded by run down shopping precincts full of Cash Converters, stolen mobile phone fencing establishments and amusement arcades.

My walk also gave me a good opportunity to realise that just because the sun is shining up here, it doesn't mean you're going to be warm. Everyone else had only shirts on but they are a) not southern 'poofs' and b) probably insulated with extra layers of chip fat or something.

The residue of Bradford's industrial past is everywhere. Converted or derelict mills, mill owner houses, worker accommodation and chimneys define every view. Whenever I talk to people about the possibility of buying somewhere up here though they say: " Check the post codes." Some areas are reputedly pretty much no go areas for police and outsiders but it seems pretty tame compared to Peckham or Plaistow so maybe it's all relative.

In one respect, though, Bradford is very much like strolling down a Parisienne boulevard: Everyone up here smokes.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007


A bloke e mailed me at work today to ask me if I'd posted him something. I said I hadn't and I wouldn't post it: I'd just e mail it to him when it's done. He emailed back to say that I shouldn't post it because he sometimes doesn't get post and he wouldn't want anyone else reading it. I said I had no intention of posting it. He thanked me but included his full home address and a request to send it there instead ("just in case"). It was at this point that I knew I could just walk away... but I didn't. " I have nearly done it. Let me get it finished and I'll e mail it this afternoon. It would have been done but people keep e mailing me" I also added a "!!" to make sure he understood that although I was ribbing him, it was meant in a lighthearted way and I accepted that it wasn't really funny, it was just one of those things you do to stop yourself from saying what you truly feel. " Shall I come and get it? I could be there by 4." Maybe he resented my cavalier use of a double exclamation mark as a replacement for gesture and intonation ;-) Maybe he's got a lot on with people bugging him with inane e mails. Or maybe he's just a twat.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Are we there yet?

"Can we stop at a garage, I need water."
"We're stuck in traffic, there isn't a garage."
"But I need water."
"We'll stop when we find one."
"Are we there yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
"Yes. I'm driving round in circles just for the heck of it."
"Why did you park so far away?"
"Because I'm a sadist."
"My feet hurt."
"But we only just got out of the car."
"Can I go on the swings?"
"No, you're 27."

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Pollution and History

The drive to Hampton Court Palace will take 42 minutes said my Tom Tom. Nearly 2 hours later after a crawl through Clapham and Wandsworth we arrived in time to see Henry VIII play Cardinal Wolsley at bowls. The king was rather good actually. Once I'd coughed up half of London I was amazed at the freshness of the air and country feel of the place. I spose the rich dudes on that side of town pay for all the good oxygen and all us common lot get the crap stuff full of CO2 etc. Like on Total Recall but without the mutants.

When I was a kid I hated the whole stately homes thing. We used to visit them all the time and I reckon it could have been made interesting but somehow one picture looked like another and one stately room was just a vast, uncomfortable room ideal for running a matchbox car across. Thankfully a lot of places have upped the ante a bit and Hampton Court is no exception. OK, the Henry and Cardinal "actors" are a little cheesy and don't teach you much but the guys preparing food in the kitchens are knowledgeable and interesting. I so wanted one of their pies.

Each room has it's own security guard/ guide/ bored person. They can't wait to assault you with their niche knowledge about their room. Mostly it's charming but you have to have an exit strategy. S's strategy is feigning interest in some invisible point in the distance and shuffling towards it. Mine is to listen and nod for an hour until they run out of things to say. I was getting hungry after looking at all the fake pies (it really is worth going just to look at how big pies were then- no wonder Henry was such a fat bastard). I went up to Nigel in the Queen's ballroom: 'Where can I get something to eat here?' I queried amiably. 'Well,' began Nige, quite promisingly, 'this room was used to entertain guests....blah blah...'
'Nooooooooo....,' I thought.
'Really?' I said, nodding enthusiastically as I saw S disappearing into the Queen's bedroom with a hand clasped over her mouth.
An hour later we made it too the tea room on the far side of The Wilderness (posh and hyperbolic they are them rich folk). 'PIE!' I demanded. The nearest they had was a kind of fish finger the size and shape of a tennis ball. I had that with carrots and chips.

Defining pleasure

Walking around Chelsea territory today with the most beautiful woman in the world who happens to be wearing a Spurs top.

Hearing my son start at chant at WHL on Thursday night.

I am bursting with pride.

I told someone I just got out of prison

He laughed. Vladimir (for that was the name I made up for him), said 'Look at my hair, I have too.' We sat in awkward silence for a moment and Vlad (when you've shared something like that, you soon come up with the most incredibly creative diminutives) strutted off towards the bar. Eventually he came back with our pizza but there was something menacing about the way he put it on the table. 'Pepper?' he asked. 'Yes,' I said, becoming convinced that he'd laced my dinner with polonium or monosodium glutamate or something and was going to try to steal my girl. When I put this possibility to S, she giggled into her garlic bread and looked whimsically towards the kitchen door. As we sat at the bar after dinner I vowed never again to tell a strapping Russian with a shaved head (who, incidentally, was something of a dead ringer for the psychopath in 15 Minutes- not the fluffy one with the camera, the mean one with the knife) that I was just out of prison. 'I just got back from Iraq,' I said to the girl behind the bar.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Elderly relatives always said...'s not the winning that counts, it's the taking part. Even before the reinvention of the speak to the palm 'WHATEVER', that's what I was thinking whenever I heard that irritating cliche. I knew that they only said that cos I was utterly useless at sport stuff, I ran like a girl (pretty much a verbatim quote from my sister that one) and my jack of all trades approach to life left me out of running not only for bronze, silver and gold but even for the 'tried quite hard' ribbon. I represented my school once in cross country running[there must have been some mix up with names or something] and I came second to last just in front of the kid with the special shoe that made both his legs the same length (really). I'm sure no-one told Geoff Hurst after that hattrick that winning wasn't everything and that he should just feel happy to have taken part at the expense of the world's greatest striker and, frankly, he should be spending his time commiserating Germans and complimenting their leather shorts. No, they had no need to because it is the winning that is everything. At least that's what I thought...until last night. We drew on the night, we lost overall, Spurs are out of Europe but somehow it felt like we'd won because it wasn't only (eventually) the team that took part , it was the whole ground. My son said after the game that he'd enjoyed it more than the 5-1 over Charlton earlier in the season. The noise was deafening; we supported that bloody team so loudly I'm convinced it was the difference between the feeble first and gutsy second halves. We drove back to Yorkshire singing like we'd beaten the G*****s, won the Champions League FA Cup Premiership Grand National Monaco Grand Prix Combined Trophy for first rate chaps and discovered a cache of cakes and money under the car just before setting off. Taking part was everything. We were there. Of course if we lose to A*****L next week, my son will hear this elderly relative utter those words and I know what he'll be thinking: "Whatever, dad."

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Aldgate Girl Supports Spurs

Sources close to Martin Jol today revealed that they were especially pleased to hear 'S' would be watching THFC in their quest for European glory at the lane tonight. 'It'sch jusht vat I am liking.' said Jol. Whilst father and son travel to the lane to see Spurs turn around the 1-2 deficit (a la Man u?) from the 1st leg in Seville, S will be keeping an eye from the comfort of her sofa. Matt is particularly pleased: ' I can't believe that she actually a) wants Spurs to win, b) gives a damn, c) doesn't want me to shop for shoes instead. I have found my dream girl.'

The dodgy penalty decision that let Sevilla back into the game last Thursday means that Spurs will have to go at them from the off. Berbatov needs to find his feet again after a couple of disappointing games in an otherwise sparkling season. He also needs to avoid a booking if he's to see the first leg of the semi. An early goal will settle Spurs but, if it's anything like a lot of the evening cup games at the lane this year, Spurs will leave it late and make sure that everyone is obliged to stay to the end, even if they have to drive back to Yorkshire after the game. Extra time looks like the most likely 90 minute outcome though a strong performance from King if he makes the starting 11 could bolster a defence that's been depleted by injury for much of the season. Chimbonda back on the right, Lee out left and Dawson and King in the middle will surely worry the Sevilla attack. Spurs best hope is that Seville try to defend their lead. S predicts a tight match and says that whoever wins Lennon will remain gorgeous.

Meanwhile, reports that an army of wheelchair using fans have pledged revenge for an assault on one of their number during the first leg have been played down by Police. 'We have a special wheelchair stinger in place and, of course, we will continue to position these hooligans in the crappiest position in the ground where they are most likely to get hit in the face by the ball.' Rio Ferdinand is said to be on hand if things turn ugly.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

I can't think...

...cos my son is watching 'Walker Texas Ranger'.
'Why do they still have cowboys in America dad?'
'What's the IRA?'
'Why are there Irish people in Texas?'
'Do Irish people really sound like that?'
'Why didn't he just use a mobile phone?'
'He has a rubbish beard.'

Met an aunt and cousin for the first time today. No offence but Walker Texas Ranger is more fun.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Duck Race

A thousand or more plastic ducks race towards the finish line in a breathtaking Easter event at Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire. Everyone cheers but it's impossible to tell which is your duck as the numbers are small and written by an old man with a shaky hand on the underside. As I buy tickets for me and my son and on behalf of my girl, my best mate and my sister I have plenty of time to wonder whether I'm gambling or simply giving to charity. I decide it's gambling and make a mental note to get a pound from each of the people I bought tickets for. Unless I win. Presumably all the ducks are the same size and weight but I became perturbed by the rapidity of some and the apparent refusnik will of the stragglers. It's a microcosm of life: ducks scramble over one another to get to the top; most are happy to be part of the mass and many seem to give up totally right at the start. All are yellow. Although just down the road from BNP heartlands like Rochdale and Burnley, Hebden Bridge is scarily white and middle class. This is a strange kind of socially conscious middle class though: everyone dresses like they're downwardly mobile aspirant farmers. After fighting my way past yet another lesbian drum collective I understand why the duck race works in Hebden: Duck races are different, incongruous and odd in a very English way. BUT they are re-assuring because in all that difference there is nothing unexpected and, oddly, a sense of conformity. After all, all the ducks are the same colour.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

catching a mood

I like this photo of me. My son took it without me knowing and it gets me as I am. Yeah I'm not looking at the camera so you can't see an expression but there's something about the heaviness of my shoulders that suggests my mood. I also like the idea that I feel different to that photo now; it kinda emphasises my high spirits.

Lego GTA

this is why I love technology

We may be related

When I look at kids now I often wonder what they are thinking about and how old I must look to them. I can remember thinking uncles and grandparents were ancient and that was when they must have been about the age I am now. Granted they all used to wear suits and ties (or cardigans and ties- man, why did that go out of fashion?) and I tend towards the scruffier options BUT...I bet I look ancient. Whatever. This video is from when some kids in my family may have thought that stuff themselves. If you know the girl in this cine film, you'll know that in some ways she hasn't changed but in others there have been some tangible alterations. I love her loads anyway.

Spurs Violence in Seville

I'm old enough to remember the riots by Spurs fans in 1974 and the trouble that I witnessed first hand in Holland and Belgium in 1984. I also saw the footage of the trouble on the terraces last Thursday eve in Seville and think that everyone should be careful before jumping to conclusions. In the 70s, Spurs 'fans' rioted. Simple was over the top and (rightly or wrongly) the club was punished with a Europe ban that only lapsed because it was an embarrassingly long time before THFC made it back into Europe. In the 80s, the thing had both Holland and Belgium we were targetted by their hard core supporters and were then attacked by the police- both attacks a response to perceived trouble caused by a generation of violence that was still pretty abundant on Saturdays in England (no Sky making everyone go to matches on Sunday lunchtime or after work on a bloody Monday night). I'm no thug (really) but I was chased by some blokes with swords (inside the ground), bitten by a police dog and hit over the head in a random baton charge. That was 23 years ago. I don't need to go on about the the changes and their effectiveness post Bradford and post Hillsborough, but suffice to say, English clubs have sorted it by and large. I saw a bloke ejected from the Park Lane end last Sunday for swearing a bit too vociferously! Trouble is Italian and Spanish clubs haven't sorted it AND travelling English fans will always be a target even after so long. What seems to be a new phenomenon is that the police are so eager to have a go that they don't even wait for a minor scrap between fans as an excuse to wade in and hit people very hard with sticks which no doubt compensate for inadequacies elsewhere. Now they just wade in. If Spurs (or Man Yoo, gawd bless their cockney fans) get fined, banned, closed door semis or whatever then UEFA will have made a huge mistake. Bottom line for me though is I won't take my boy abroad til it's sorted. Thinking about it...I can't believe I was allowed to go...