Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Birthday Football Post

Blaming John Terry for everything is probably one of the few shreds of comfort I can get from the last two years. If it hadn't have been for him and a racist altercation with a mixed heritage QPR footballer, I wouldn't be wondering how I wandered into an alternative football reality where Spurs were struggling to even be 6th best team in the country, again.

I have, for a couple of weeks now, been trying to work out what I actually want to say about my team, the chairman, his recent managers and that event above, which heralded the beginning of the downfall for a football club the former England captain never played for...

Most football fans are aware of what John Terry actually said to Anton Ferdinand; the fact the then England manager, Fabio 'Beaker' Capello, chose to fall on his sword as a direct result of the Chelsea captain's racist views is perhaps the most bizarre twist in this (and suggests yet again that racism is an issue that concerns the British far more than other countries and cultures). There had been suggestions that all was not well within the Football Association and that Capello was rapidly becoming persona non gratis anyhow, but by the time the N word had been uttered a few times in Southwark court, it was the Capello man's removal from the captaincy that caused the schism to become permanent.

To the casual observer, what this had to do with Tottenham - then lying in 3rd place just 5 points behind Man Utd and 4 behind City and being touted, as Liverpool are today, as a clever bet for the premiership, is nothing at all. But, within 20 minutes of Capello's decision to quit the ramifications began to hit home. The bookies had installed then Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp, as 1-6 favourite to replace the departing Italian muppet. Roy Hodgson was next best placed at 7-2 - the bookies saw this as a foregone conclusion, especially as Harry had been involved in some inappropriate contract negotiations that had put his not particularly good relationship with Spurs club chairman Daniel Levy under even more strain and there were smart journalists already forecasting that even if Redknapp pulled off the impossible (and won something), his position might have become untenable despite unprecedented success. Plus, he'd just walked away Scott free from a tax fraud case after admitting he was a dimwit and didn't really extort HMRC. The press seemed to think this exoneration was enough for the FA to walk barefoot over broken glass, just to put matchsticks in his shit.

The problem was the press were so convinced that Harry became convinced, Daniel, also convinced, started to play hardball - because that's what he's good at - and the only thing that really suffered was the form of the team in the Champions League driving seat. What had been an inconceivable dream the February night Spurs annihilated Newcastle by five goals, became a surreal joke by the end of May. Beaten out of 3rd place, after an actually not-that-disastrous run, by our greatest rivals and then being denied Champions League altogether by Chelsea and bloody John Terry's heroics in Munich. No Spurs supporter can be blamed for thinking that someone (probably God), somewhere liked screwing around with their club, especially when Daniel Levy decided that Harry had 'taken the team as far it he could'.

Ironically, John Terry is rumoured to have been involved in the player revolt to get rid of Andre Villas Boas - the young manager tasked with becoming Chelsea's new and cheaper version of Jose Mourinho. Had Terry not been instrumental in the then 33-year-old Portuguese manager's removal, he - AVB - might never have become a cheap and worthy gamble to replace the aged Redknapp.

Harry was now this unfortunate unemployed English 'national treasure', who had been kicked out of a job by fate and then didn't get the job everyone thought he was nailed to, the press now focused on AVB: was he as good as was first thought? Could he take Spurs to a new level? AVB's first job was the fact there was little or no unity in the squad he was inheriting; Modric wanted out; Levy wanted rid of Van der Vaart and it was obvious that some 'senior' players had problems with the new man.

I don't know what happened when AVB took over, but it was clear he probably didn't have a lot of say in the players Levy brought in to replace Modric and VdV. It was like he was given Redknapp's squad with a few substandard replacements and challenged to prove he was a good manager and then, and only then, could he have the keys to the bank vault. That seems like a naive and silly suggestion/accusation to make, especially with the Premier League and its economic giants, multi-million pound companies are not just run on an ad hoc, day-to-day basis, with the bosses switching on their PCs each morning and peering through gaps in their fingers hoping some financial catastrophe hasn't befallen them. Football clubs have more contingency plans than you can shake a stick at - what else do you think Daniel Levy does?

The suggestion that he had to prove himself makes some sense, although in the world of Premier League football, you get the impression that you need to hit the ground running or face revolt. I don't believe that Clint Dempsey was on Spurs' radar at all; but shorn of a #10 and poacher, the American seemed like good business - the fact he was prepared to give up British football after one season with a so-called top side, I think says more about AVB's first year in charge of Spurs than Clint Dempsey's ambition.

AVB took a vibrant, exciting and woefully inconsistent team and turned them into a dull, boring, uninspiring and very slightly more consistent football team, constantly knocking on the door of a Champions League place in his first season - last season - but failing by a whisker. Intellectual fans excused the change in style, putting it down to the players not being AVB's players. The blindly faithful sheep-loving supporters bought into the ethos that AVB was the future of football and those who watched the games and followed the team witnessed the birth of a world class footballer, who [ahem] Bale-d the team out of many probable dreary defeats and bore draws. Spurs might have finished 5th, but it wasn't that tough a season with the top 5 teams a distance away from Everton in 6th and 13 of the 20 teams taking less points than ever before, between them all.

The new season promised much as things were going to be happening that Tottenham could take advantage of: Mancini - sacked from Man City. Ferguson retired from Man Utd. Mourinho coming back to an old and less quality Chelsea side. Arsenal and Arsene still in decline (apparently). The top 4 were going through major transitions; Everton were going to lose their manager and Liverpool were utterly rubbish without Luis Suarez - who they were liable to sell. All Daniel Levy had to do was persuade Gareth Bale to stay for one more season; buy the players AVB needed to put round the Welsh wizard and the club could, theoretically, go better than the nearly season - the season of John Terry's unwitting influence. The team could challenge for their first crown in 52 years.

However, football fans all know what happened. Bale went. Suarez stayed. Pelligrini replaced Mancini. Mourinho came back. Wenger stayed consistent and Moyes replaced Ferguson and Man Utd become the new laughing stock of Premiership football, but had it not been for Spurs, they would have won the accolade by a mile; now the two teams are fighting it out to see who starts next season in July (and, sadly, it's advantage Spurs)... 

The weird thing is this: during the 1990s when football manager simulations came out, one tactic often tried and almost always failed was the replacing of the entire team. This was proven in real life by Liverpool's grandiose spending of a similar period that yielded a new hall carpet and the white lines in the car park being repainted, that was the success of Benitez, a man who decided that the team that won the Champions League was actually rubbish, so he replaced them all except Gerard and won nothing, ever.

However, as a Spurs fan, once the inevitability of Bale's departure became clear, the expensively assembled bunch of replacements was tickling parts other transfers failed to reach. it never once dawned on me that, as stated, history does not favour the wholesale changer. This is Tottenham, they don't do things by the rules - we sold Elvis and bought The Beatles and The Stones!

The opening weekend of this season saw Arsenal lose at home to one of the previous season's masterful underachievers and Spurs beat newly-promoted Crystal Palace, at their ground, 1-0, in an utterly demoralising and boring encounter that was instantaneously excused by 95% of Spurs fans as a 'settling in period' and 'probably three good points considering our historical record against promoted and destined for relegation clubs'. 

The team's performance that day was not an exception to the rule.

The problem was, in some fans' eyes - mine included - we'd stopped playing football the Spurs way and had seemed to run out of creative ideas and were winning games by a combination of luck, boredom and penalties. Others praised the 'win ugly and at all costs' mentality and at times, when the players seemed to forget what the 'master tactician' had drilled into them, they even looked capable of producing dynamic football again. Then the wheels began to slide, one came close to coming off and the honeymoon period was well and truly over. Spurs' expensively assembled bunch of misfits might have managed to find their way into the top 4 by the time a rubbish West Ham arrived at WHL, but at no point during that season's opening period did they look comfortable - they actually looked very capable of being torn to shreds... 

West Ham, without a recognised striker, won 3-0. AVB blamed the fans - who were now getting on his back with a degree more legitimacy and the unconvincing mini-recovery after this set-back was well and truly punctured by a smash and grab raid by Newcastle and then a serious humiliation by Man City.

The knives were out for AVB - he was clearly now in a situation where he was really out of his depth of ability again and despite another mini-revival (even if some of the performances were painful to watch), being beaten at home by Liverpool 5-0 was to spell the end of the AVB experiment. This is a team that finished a long way behind us in previous seasons giving us a lesson in attacking, free-flowing football. If I'd been AVB I would have quit from embarrassment.

The general consensus and feeling is that Daniel Levy sacked his Portuguese manager. The actual truth is most certainly closer to the hypothesis that Levy had no intention of sacking the manager, but wanted him to change his approach towards, predominantly, one of his squad's outcasts. As a businessman, you don't spend a lot of money on something practical and then put it in a box and never look at it again; you get it to pay its wages. AVB's refusal to entertain pampering Emmanuelle Adebayor's ego was the thing that caused the change and Adebayor's form and attitude would conceivably play a part in deciding what happened next.

With AVB's departure came Tim 'Youth Development' Sherwood, someone who is allegedly 'a Gooner' and has no experience whatsoever managing a top flight football team. Sherwood was bullish and said arrogant things that immediately isolated some and galvanised others. The strange thing is a huge portion of the Spurs crowd never wanted Redknapp to leave and Sherwood was as close to Redknapp as they were ever likely to get close to again, but they hate him as much as they hated AVB. Tim talked up his 18 month contract and his determination to be manager next season, but it is clear that this is now going to be unlikely. As a result, Sherwood is now blooding some of his young charges - Bentelab, Kane, Fryers - maybe in the hope that the next man in sees the good job he did with these kids (and to prove a point, perhaps?) or maybe for others to see the transformation he was responsible for in Adebayor's return to being a world class footballer.

What now? Three more wins would see Tim equal AVB's haul from last season and yet still finish 7th. How about Louis Van Gaal? Someone else maybe? Does Levy have a clue? Are some of our expensive signings just a bit rubbish? Is it even fair to analyse Spurs in this fashion, given their already legendary comedy status with managers and poor signings? Being a Spurs supporter is never dull (except when AVB was in charge) and there is an element that suggests that die-hard fans don't want success - nearly is so much better than failure.

What would I do if I was Daniel Levy?

Well, I think I'd actually give Sherwood another season. I'd give the man his 18 months because he's actually not doing too bad at all. He's out of his depth, floundering and getting emotional and I actually think that if we're going to let a man go through this in public and learn all the time then it's a bit stupid getting rid of him. Or do Spurs really plan their strategies on an ad hoc basis - I ask again? 

I think Soldado, Lamela, Chiriches, Chadli and Paulinho will all be much better in their second season; Christian Eriksen will be a £40million+ player by the end of next season and if Levy gave Sherwood a few quid to buy another striker, a decent left back and another central defender, we might be okay - other than that, there is the basis for Spurs to do what Liverpool have done this year (especially if the Europa League is treated like an training exercise for the Academy). 

But, I kind of think that's common sense and this is premiership football, therefore common sense is as much an illusion as Spurs challenging for something or acting like the chairman knows what he's doing.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Windermere Self-Immolation Society Day-Trip to Frinton

In the last few weeks, I've found I have had more time at this time of night (after 11:00pm) than I have had for a long time. My days were and still are full of work, the difference between now and a few weeks ago is that Will has gone and while I am in no way blaming him, I did allow him to be a distraction for me, which meant that I ended up doing lots of stuff after the wife went to bed. I even convinced myself that my best work happens when everyone else is winding down for the night.

I miss having Will at the end of Facebook messaging for about 18 hours a day, but it has allowed me to reorder my day and schedule it properly, allowing me the luxury of having late nights to myself again... and Christ is it boring.

Tonight was descending into the prospect of staring at the computer screen, willing myself to feel tired enough to a) be able to go to sleep and b) stay asleep past 6:00am and then I thought, 'I could write a blog entry', so, here I am. I warn you, I'm a wee bit out of touch...

I have thought about blogging quite a bit in recent weeks, wading through the quagmire that is the English countryside with four very brown dogs. Every other day I rail at some injustice or example of fuckwittery; ejaculate profusely at the wife when she gets home from work and then can't be arsed to articulate it all again [you are all aware that the word 'ejaculate' was something Dr John Watson did quite a bit in Sherlock Holmes's company, aren't you?] in a blog.

The injustices of our government; the demonisation of our poor and disabled - things I would have been incandescent about a year ago, now fill me with anger and then ambivalence and finally apathy. My days are too full of the realities of modern day business fuckwittery to rage against the machine any more than I already do... And trust me, a lot of my apoplectic rage in recent weeks will come back and bite me on the arse - I half expect the bank/printer/e-commerce/major on-line retail outlet [delete as appropriate] to tell me to fuck off and never darken doors again, fairly soon. The prospect makes me wince, but I can't say it would be a shock. But the incompetence of the world just pisses me off beyond what is healthy...

So, here I am. Do I have anything to moan about? Loads of stuff, but, you know...

The new neighbour, who I christened something derogatory a few months back, is actually a thoroughly decent chap - very friendly and quite conscientious. I think his missus is having a hard time ... post-natally ... but they have pretty much blended into the surroundings and, by the looks of things, won't be the newbies much longer. The loud woman who lived next door to the people who live next door to Fishwife have gone. They left quickly and quietly and over a month ago and I only found out because Fishwife knows most things. 

All the shenanigans at Mr Miserable's place has changed the landscape over there and the Lithuanians are almost part of the scenery. Back on my side of the road there's much happened. The weed smoking dude who I've always wanted to get friendly with and his lovely partner also did a moonlit flit; Fuckwit or his lard-arsed concubine have been quite ill recently; sick enough for paramedics and ambulances and there's Fishwife, who, it seems, has sold his house and is waiting for the chain to not unlink and we'll have brand new neighbours...

That's something to fill you with excitement and trepidation. I might sound like I moan about Fishwife (I mean it's not exactly flattering, but I'm not going to say his name in case anyone I know knows him!) and his loud kids, but they've been, head and shoulders, the best neighbours we've ever had and they will be missed.

I was back on the radio today after an 11 year hiatus. I like going on the radio. I always reckoned the way I could talk I'd make a great talk radio host; but the weird thing is, like many of my generation, I would rather have the graveyard shift playing all that eclectic shit I love and you never hear on the radio.

You can see I'm out of practice, I've been doing this an hour and this is as far as I've got; usually I can get between 2500 and 3000 words down in an hour - especially if I'm on one (hence why there's always mistakes).

Right, no point in boring you all rigid. Let's do this cos we ain't for yonks...

Effercio et Ineptias
  • I have been listening to Sam Healey of North Atlantic Oscillation and his sublime solo album Sand. I reviewed it last year; I'm still listening to it and almost as much.
  • However, I have also had the pleasure of: Lorde, London Grammar, Engineers, Billy Joel, Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters and Amanda Palmer.
  • St Vincent is worse than some of the shit Roger listens to.
  • I have barely picked up a book let alone read one.
  • TV: Shameless US; TWD; Almost Human (quite good - interesting ideas); Sleepy Hollow (bonkers brilliant) and True Detective (blimey!). There are others.
  • Health is as good as can be expected. Catching a cold was a nightmare and I now fully appreciate how dangerous the common cold will become to me in the future. But generally I'm still walking three miles a day and I'm just about back to normal after the cold (it only lasted 6 weeks).
  • I met a 19 year old dog today who had more bloody life in her than my Lexy (8). The old girl actually was one of the many good things that Monday February 24th brought; I love old dogs, we don't realise sometimes how brilliant old dogs are. My dogs are just starting to get older and the next ten years will, hopefully, be pretty good ones.
  • Radio Northampton hasn't changed that much; Bernie Keith was 10 years older, a little greyer and now sports a beard. he also has a lovely dog, who realising I was a soft touch gave me a hard time in that new continual 'fuss me' stage.
  • I have tried three different saag paneer recipes in the last three weeks; each one had pretty much different spice mixes - which was why I wanted to do them because while I like my cheese and spinach curries, I fancied a variation on a theme. Ha! Do you know what the first one tasted like? The second and the third; that's what and all three tasted just like my usual saag paneer recipe - the similarity was almost disturbing. Spinach does that to most things.
  • We had some ground frosts back in November...

    Thursday, February 06, 2014

    Album Review

    8194 Satake
    Every Great Man Is Unique

    What is going on? A band bursting with opal fruit like brilliance with a sound like the lucid dreams of a donkey with really bad shits. Ormonde Crotsville's blisteringly weird album of jazz kazoo mixed with baroque screaming is like nothing you've ever heard before and probably won't again, as EMI have dumped this band faster than you evacuate your bowels after 17 pints of Guiness and a bat vindaloo.

    Schnorgle is 17 minutes of dwarves being strangled by kittens in jumpers with a melody not dissimilar to Auschwitz. I'm not sure if it's a musical instrument bassist Blag Hôgenstraub is playing or the recording of his cat being castrated but it certainly adds to the entertainment.
    Attend the Fjords is a 2 minute yodel. Crotsville at his most sublime, singing - pub stylee - the Norwegian national anthem in Swedish. Pure genius.
    Violent Scalding is a percussion piece where Vorm Placento, the Venezuelan drummer, immerses himself in a vat of boiling hot water while guest musician Jimmy Page talks about turning 70.
    Pound hog is just plain dutty.
    Chortz is like a solid gold sausage of an instrumental. It's fiercely dubstep while only using violins and frozen bananas on Tesco bags stretched over seals' teeth. Groovy.
    Dying in a Leningrad Apartment staffed by Drunks is the weakest song on the album, mainly because it is just organist Dong Boo making noises like he is masturbating to an episode of The Munsters. However, this might be deliberate as this meandering wart of a song bashes into and then defenestrates The Attack of the Turkmenistani Bastards - a veritable temple to jazz kazooeyness.

    An utterly genital-fondling fruitcake of an album, full of egg white and Polyfilla.

    Of course, the thing that comes lurching like a man with half his brain smashed away at you is whether or not every great man really is unique or if uniqueness is not really unique but a bit samey.


    Track Listing:
    1. Schnorgle
    2. Attend the Fjords
    3. Violent Scalding
    4. Pound Hog
    5. Chortz
    6. Dying in a Leningrad Apartment staffed by Drunks
    7. The Attack of the Turkmenistani Bastards
    8. Schnorgle (reprise)

    Thursday, December 26, 2013

    2013 - The Year In Review


    2013 -

    Illness diagnosed
    Wilson disappointed
    Bowie impressed
    Despair arrived
    Amplifier shocked
    Acrimony incurred
    Hopkins monster
    Ade provided
    Salvation descended
    Cold remained
    Will excelled
    Summer sparkled
    Borderline Press
    Followed by
    Mushroom abundance
    566 Frames
    Convention season
    Zombre book
    Sand brilliance
    Corporate Leeds
    New friends

    2014 -

    Hope horizons

    ... time, never enough of it any more.

    May 2014 be better than 2013. 

    Once upon a time I knew a man called Mr Chan. He said, "I don't want life to be better, I just want it to be fairer."

    Saturday, November 09, 2013

    Album Review 4 of 2013

    Only four? Blimey...


    I've been blessed. 2013 has been a veritable cornucopia of musical brilliance; everything from the sublime David Bowie album to the very unsubtle Amplifier, something or someone has come along to fill this year with delights, and to think it started so badly...

    2013 began with me really looking forward to the new Steven Wilson album and being so unbelievably underwhelmed by what, in my humbled opinion, turned out to be some shite jazz rock homage to King Crimson done really badly, I thought the year was unlikely to get any better. I mean if I get so disappointed by the god-like Steven Wilson, what hope have Amplifier got, especially after that meh last album? And what's that? There's a new David Bowie album coming out? Oh, for the love of God, the universe and everything else...

    There have been about a dozen quite stunning albums this year - albums to leave you wondering how music like this has never been done before - each of them vying for potential album of the year; the position that Steven Wilson might have been a shoo-in for had it not been for his album's utter awfulness. Looking across all the CDs I've bought - actually purchased with hard cash - which usually are the contenders for album of the year, it was still pretty much a fight between Bowie and Amplifier. If you'd have said four weeks ago that Sam Healey would become odds on favourite to win that personal honour, I'd have said, "Sam Healey? Where do I know that name from? He's in a band I like, I'm sure of it?"

    I believe my album of 2012 was the almost perfect collection of ditties called Fog Electric by that Scottish band with the catchy name - North Atlantic Oscillation. If you'd prodded me, I would have remembered that's where I've heard the name before. He wrote Mirador possibly the most beautiful song of the 21st century so far.

    Sand (by Sand) is quite ... breathtaking. It is also mind-numbingly beautiful. Fantastically inventive and some wondrous thing that can remind you of everything ever. If I told you there was hints of Elbow, Simon & Garfunkle, Genesis, David Holmes, Sugar, Phil Spector, Adam and the Ants, Bob Dylan, the Moody Blues, Fatboy Slim and so many more I just can't put my finger on; yet complimenting all the influences is this utter perfection of an individual's record, would you be impressed? I think it is only spoiled by its 43 minute duration; it needs to be a couple of hours longer. Yet for all of the 10 stunning songs on this album and my desire for it to be neverending, the best song is less than a minute and a half and has the longest title.

    Sam Healey is a bit of a sea man. NAO's albums are called Grappling Hooks and Fog Electric - both have songs about the sea and sailors and things nautical and you can see his fascination with the sea sneaking through in this; even the title/band name - Sand - is something you associate with the coast and frankly he could have a fascination with it for as long as he likes if he continues to produce music like this.

    Let's also get one thing straight - there is prog in this album, a fair bit of it; there's also theatrical pomp rock and a fair bit of electronic wizardry, but if I had to put a label on it, I'd probably call it 'Almost Pop' because just about every song on it has you singing along to bits of it; tapping your foot to some weirdly 1970s mellotron or thinking someone unleashed Brian Eno on the Brady Bunch.

    That's the other thing about this album - bonkers schizophrenic; it doesn't know where it is from one moment to the next, except Sam... Sam knows exactly where it is and where its going and that is why it works so well. Musical genius? I wouldn't say he wasn't.

    This is the album I began this year expecting; this is the album Steven Wilson wishes he could make. This could be the album of the decade so far, because I can't think of another album I've reviewed in recent times that has got


    Thursday, November 07, 2013

    One Man's Pain

    It might be deemed as slightly unprofessional for me to complain about things that relate to my new job - you know, the publishing business thing that has prevented me from regaling you with the stress of being me on a twice weekly (sometimes thrice) basis. You know, my employer might not like it (that'd be me then) and it might be viewed as a little defeating.

    So let's talk about my mate Bill Wall.

    Bill thinks he might be getting too old to be running a fledgling business in 2013, because it is seriously fucking up his life. Not only is he surrounded by a level of incompetence that belies belief; he's of the opinion that possibly he's dead and this is just some kind of hell. Or perhaps he's in a virtual world and he's playing 'Have A Shit Life' from the makers of Sim City, in 2563.

    Bill signed up for a recognised mail company - not one that recently floated away - took his first consignment of parcels down to their depot and two weeks later received a bill that almost made him cack himself. An example, because it is so ludicrous it's worth repeating - a 397 gram parcel sent to Poland cost £55 - (I will cut and paste that several times, be warned) The royal postal delivery service would have charged Bill £4.95 and he thought it would be a good idea to avoid them.

    The same company who believe that a 397 gram parcel sent to Poland [should] cost £55 also gave Bill an account and got him to sign a direct debit. They also installed software onto his computer that has caused a 'runtime error 217' on it and he now believes his network no longer works and it might even have put a Trojan in his system.

    The good news is Bill has been told that his first bill for just shy of £300 for 13 parcels will be drastically reduced, by about £240; however, no one there has assured him they can fix his computer and he currently has no way of using their software or to print labels; so he's having to use the more expensive royal version.

    Then Bill had problems with taking money from people face-to-face. He needed some way that people could pay him with a credit or debit card, to increase his earning potential. So his slightly understaffed bank went off and sorted it out for him - he says, "trust me, it's a damned sight more complicated than that, but we haven't got all year to tell this story," and who are we to argue. His bank set up this payment facility - Bill needed specific equipment for this facility to work - he needed a specific mobile phone and he'd just got himself tied into a new contract with a state of the art Sony phone, which wasn't compatible with the payment facility.

    Suddenly Bill had one of those small portable card reader jobbies and an account with the company who processes all the transactions and absolutely no way of setting it up or using it. The bank that did all of this for him have kind of crawled under a stone.

    Blimey Bill, that's been tough luck! And don't forget: a 397 gram parcel sent to Poland cost 55 fucking quid!!!

    Except that wasn't the end of it. The same company that have the card reader gadget also set up an e-commerce system on his website, because that's going to be Bill's primary revenue source and you need something right and proper to put trust in customers'. Bill was singing the praises of this conglomerate of banks and finance companies about how much cheaper than other less reputable companies they were and yet it was a bit like indirect taxation - all that extra tax you pay isn't taken out of your wage packet so it doesn't really count. Bill is being charged a whacking great chunk of his potential profit just to have the service. It costs him nearly £300 to set it up; then £50 a month and 2% of his transaction fees and while he isn't suggesting he's been mis-sold, he is suggesting that some of the charges were possibly glossed over.

    Bill tried to explain to these new and unexpected keepers of his soul that he was just starting out and the charges levelled at a new business seemed almost punitive. 

    Oh pray tell, how many ways are there to say ... tough shit?

    And then Bill got what is called in posh circles as 'trots extremus' and considered just going and getting a job, once he got off the loo.

    In case you forget: sending a 397 gram parcel sent to Poland will cost £55 if you're an idiot or they just saw you coming.

    Poor old Bill. I'd like to sympathise with him, but I've had it even worse and I've also had the shits...

    Saturday, October 05, 2013

    Spoiler Warning

    (The following review is mostly ambiguous, but it does kind of give the entire thing away, so if you haven't seen this TV series DON'T read this, even if this is essentially the reason why you should watch the TV series.)

    Your next box set: Breaking Bad

    "Convince yourself, you are someone else..." Is a line from a song, by Swedish band Junip, which was used to preview the finale of this TV series. In a way that is entirely what Breaking Bad is about - convincing yourself you are someone different.

    We came to this series very late. In fact, we started to watch it just as it was entering the end game in real time. Real time... yeah, I think that was one of the things that surprised me so much about this TV series; at some point in season 5 the main cast are sitting round the pool in Walter White's modest Albuquerque home and they are talking about the last 12 months - the entire life of the series we were watching. Was it really just 12 months in the lives of these 5 people?

    This is the story of a mild-mannered chemistry teacher who has let the world walk over him; has lost a potential fortune and is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He is married to a selfish woman, has a son with cerebral palsy and a baby daughter on the way and he's just turned 50. This is bad enough, but through a series of events he loses just about everything he had left, except his family. It is when he has nothing left that he comes up with this idea that he could make crystal meth - a highly addictive drug that is common in the USA but has not really made the inroads in the UK - all he needs is the right people to help him.

    Enter Jesse Pinkman - a feckless waste of space ex-student of Walter's who really is just a complete and utter dick, but through Jesse the next 12 months unfolds in some of the most jaw-dropping TV moments you will ever witness!

    But... it's about a chemistry teacher and a wanker, how can it be so good?

    I think that's why it took us so long to watch it and why there are so many people out there professing to have never seen it: the premise, on paper, looks a bit thin. It's the only thing that is.

    Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul - the protagonists - are chalk and cheese, yet soon you see something developing between them - a chemistry, if you will. Plus the meth they cook is so good everyone wants a piece of the action, which links the two of them together even more. As the short first series segues into series two, we are introduced to the 'real' supporting cast - not Walt's family, but the likes of 'the lawyer', 'the fixer' and the 'villain' - three utterly crucial elements for making this TV series as good as it was.

    Saul Goodman - a lawyer (just), who has his fingers in more pies than you could imagine. Mike - a hitman and problem solver who works for Saul, but really works for... Gus Fring, the head of massively successful chicken restaurant chain who is also the largest drug baron in the southern United States. Three characters who would help turn this into quite possibly one of the most spectacular TV shows ever made.

    By the end of series two you are still rooting for Walt; he's still the 'hero', but from season three on, Walt really becomes the chemical mastermind persona he has invented for himself - his is Heisenberg and you start to see the flicker of megalomania behind those dark, bespectacled, eyes.

    To say that carnage rules the next couple of series is a slight overstatement, but it's never too far from the surface. People get killed that you just wouldn't expect to die and things are never predictable. You think you can guess what is going to happen next and its the last thing that does happen! This is what made this series so enjoyable, you kind of had to give up second guessing it because anything you thought might happen wasn't a patch on what they actually opted for.

    Then, at the end of series four, you wonder what the hell a fifth season could have in it. It ends; just about every loose bit is tied up in that explosive perfect season finale. When the final series begins it acts almost like an epilogue - the loose ends of the loose ends seem to get tied up ... But that was the TV show's charm, the ability to lead you down a path only to be rugby tackled from the side. Series five proved that not all of the loose ends were tied up; in fact the ones left were a lot more unpredictable than Gus Fring. As the final series progressed, things just got grimmer to the point where you knew, deep down, there wasn't going to be any form of happy ending...

    I liked the analogy that for the entire series Walter thought he was in charge, but in reality he was never 'in charge'. He was always controlled by something - whether it was Fring or his own love of being a super villain. How he took control in the series' final episode and did everything the way he wanted it done was a fitting tribute.  A good friend of mine said he felt the finale was rushed (it was 75 minutes long) and I can see that, but I can also see that it was necessary. The time frame of the series: 12 months pass between series one episode one and series five episode seven, but a further 12 months pass from that point by the swimming pool and the bloody riot at the very end, in fact, all the finale action largely takes place on Walt's 52nd birthday.

    In the end most people got what they deserved; like real life some things were fairer than others. I'd spent three seasons hoping that Skyler White would die in the most horrible of ways and, remarkably, that Hank, the consummate professional cop would get his man, because it was what he deserved. Or that Jesse would actually live happily ever after with that cute girl and her son; but nothing I 'wanted' happened yet it was still one of the most mind-blowing TV shows ever and like The Sopranos its kind will probably never be repeated.

    I watched the finale last night, after managing to avoid most spoilers (no thanks to Malcolm Alsop for almost killing my enjoyment by using his Facebook status to tell the world what had happened) and worked it out that we started to watch the series midway through August (so about 8 weeks in total to watch 60 episodes) and yet I feel as though a huge hole has been excavated in me, one that I don't see any other TV show filling at the moment.

    People will tell you that you really should have watched it. Trust them; these people are right. This is essential television; it is culturally superb; it is what television was created for, to entertain, to shock, to get a reaction. Vince Gilligan cut his teeth on The X Files but will be catapulted into the same arena as Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams on the strength of this show. Bryan Cranston is already a huge star and I expect a bright future for Aaron Paul, whose character, at the end, got what he deserved.

    So did we.

    Rating: 10/10

    Addendum: This is the music used to preview the finale: it is possibly the loveliest song I have heard all year and the words... Jesus, you would have thought they had been written specifically for the final episode...