Saturday, August 09, 2014

General Summer Musings

Roger and I sat in the pub a few weeks ago and discussed doing a sports blog about the aftermath of the World Cup; sadly, outside of creating two new FIFA initiatives: The Best Dressed Goalkeeper Award and the World Challenge Trophy (not Cup, trophies aren't as prestigious) we didn't come up with much. 

This new WCT would be a competition entirely for the 16 teams that get eliminated at the group stage of the World Cup. They will go into a new competition where they are split into four groups of four and play each other once until the winners and runners up of these groups qualify for the first knock-out stage. The 8 teams left then are joined by the 8 losing teams from the 1st Knock-out stage of the actual proper World Cup, who then split into a further four groups of four and the winners and runners up of those then enter a draw with the losing Quarter, Semi and Finalists from the actual World Cup, plus one Wild Card entry (probably Barcelona) in a knock-out competition. 

The winner of this Trophy (remember trophies are not as good as cups) will then play yer actual World Cup winners, in Qatar, during June, at midday. However, even if the winners of the World Challenge Trophy win this play-off, they won’t be classed as better than the winners of yer actual World Cup; who then go onto play the winners of the Universe Cup… which as we all know is usually played between all planets that aren't gaseous giants. 

This was one of the more lucid conversations we have.

It seems we might be witnessing the death knell of one of our favourite haunts. We have been using Pooja, the vegetarian Indian restaurant in Wellingborough for well over 10 years and despite question marks over service, hygiene, illegal immigration statuses and language, the standard of the food has never really dropped. Yes, occasionally you’ll get not so good food, but even chefs have to have holidays. However, the last couple of times we've been there I haven’t been impressed with the food, the service or the general feel of the place – despite a lot of these things never having been that good to start with. We went there last week and I fear it may have been the last time. Everything was … not right. The food was adequate; the service inadequate and the level of understanding between us (seasoned Pooja aficionados) and the waiter was wholly inadequate – our starters arrived followed promptly by our mains - yes, all at the same time. Not good and likely to be the final nail in its coffin.

I was tempted to have something with potatoes and went for a dosa - it was disappointing; i could have done better with the right tools. Speaking of right tools...

My potato experiment yielded probably the same amount of spuds as my standard year would – not brilliant, but free and at least a month of divine chips and roasts. The quality of these potatoes is pretty fantastic and it makes me want to send a bunch of photographic, videoed and written testimonials to the ‘heritage potato specialists’ Carroll's, where we originally got the spuds from. Back at Christmas, we bought 25kg of Mayan Gold potatoes for our Christmas spud treat (yeah, I know, sad) and they were bloody awful and barely usable. I ended up dumping most of the box in the shed and by February they had pretty much turned into seed potatoes, so I planted most of them. I now feel as though I got my money’s worth. Oh and the chips really are to die for.

What’s been happening in the road now that Fishwife has disappeared?

I feel the new neighbours don’t deserve nicknames, although Sam is ‘funny man’ to me. This is because he’s actually a very funny bloke (honest), even with the comedy moustache… We've pretty much hit it off with them, but I can’t help feeling we've become something like surrogate ‘parents’ – looking after the dog, being invited round for food and generally acting with these neighbours in a way we've never really interacted with them before, but also imparting the kind of wisdom that has allowed us to be relatively comfortable in our home ownership. It’s also good to make new, young, friends, it makes me feel less old first thing in the morning when I look at myself in the mirror and think I'm looking like some old bit of weathered leather.

However, this morning I woke up with a teenager’s spot on the end of my nose! How? I mean, I have a big hooter, but big yellow blobs surrounded by angry skin is something you see on a boy of 15 not a 52-year-old man. It’s gone, but it’s still … there and visible and I'm quite vain about that kind of thing…

I am growing increasingly agitated by Fuckwit's deception of the DWP and as their neighbour I’m oddly privy to things that normally I wouldn't be; like for instance last week when he was charging around like a 20 year-old in the morning, came waltzing down their garden, while I was out here on the laptop, and was stopped and told by Fat Lady she was not alone in the garden – their personal gardener was doing some work – suddenly he’s walking like he needs a fucking zimmer frame and acting like the 30 foot journey had just about killed him. When the gardener was gone, he was back to normal and that is just lazy deception and it should be found out.

The new people across the road appear to building an extra world and I've been reliably informed that the Lithuanian family, next to them, also have some kind of expansive summer house out back. The work going on at the two houses seems never ending – hot tubs, bricks, cement, fence panels. I also noticed that the woman formerly known vaguely as the Sexually-Explicit woman appear to have a job that involves her wearing expensive evening gowns, low-slung dresses and a general sexiness that loses its impact the closer you get to looking at her face in any detail; and she rolls back between 7 and 8:00am and pretty much disappears until the early afternoon. Casino worker? Hostess? On the game? I'm such a sexist…

We've had about four new families move in around the vicinity in the last few months and I'm losing track of everything – the street is changing and becoming a young and energetic place with kids and stuff.

Watched Godzilla tonight and was impressed with it to the point of ‘would watch again’. I'm probably influenced by the fact I think Monsters is the best film I've seen in the 21st century and that was directed by the same person.


I discovered I had WiFi. All I had to do was switch it on. My phone bill appreciates it; the wife has started to use the laptop (mainly to enter competitions). I suggested to her that before long she'd have a Facebook account and would be posting cute animal pictures. She called me a cunt and tried to knife me...

I realised recently why very old people actually like the sound of death.

On October 18th it will be 25 years to the day since I opened Squonk!! It has been suggested that I do some kind of reunion or get together. However, I am actually working - at a comics convention - that day, so if some kind of Squonk party was planned it would have to be on another day. The thing is I've been looking at the number of people from those days that I have had some contact with in recent months (and the fact that others are regulars at the Northampton comic shop) and it would seem that this is an idea that appeals not just to me. So, if you were an ex-Squonk person and have had no reason really to get in contact; do it now - let's explore the possibility of a bunch of comics and ex-comics fans having a piss-up and talking about Mr Fantastic's bizarre sex life with the Invisible Woman - it makes hide the sausage something completely different!

This has been written over the space of 19 days between July 22 and August 10.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Shit

I haven't had a bad year so far, but it could have been better...

Compared to last year, this year has been a cake walk. However, in many respects it has been hell.

Enigmatic to the point of contradiction; that's me.

I talk about my health a lot, or I did when I wrote this blog like 'The Diary of a Curmudgeonly Hypochondriac'  and then Borderline Press came along and out went my ability to write myself into oblivion. I sometimes sit and think how did I manage to churn out two blogs a week on average?

My health is an issue again at the moment. I had a moment about a week ago when I felt as good as I did during the summer of last year. Warm sunny weather has a habit of rejuvenating me to the point of an almost bi-polar scale. I was breathing okay; I had no real aches and pains (they have, as the doctor said, contrarily dissipated as I've gotten older, plus I don't think I have any more discs I can slip - he says frantically searching for a piece of wood to touch) and a 5km walk with the dogs was a piece of piss (not for Lexy however, but we'll get to her).

I am enrolled in COPD Exercise Group. At 52, I am the youngest there by a decade and the bastards are making me work harder. It's odd; in many ways it might have contributed to my current malaise, because it's a bit like sitting in a room with 20 people who could all be my mother. The group do exercises to help prepare us to deal with our breathlessness in a better way. As the chief person running it said to me, "Ah, you're the fit one; we're going to work you harder." I'm doing it for educational reasons and to learn to breathe at the right times. It sounds stupid and it is, but I smoked for 30 odd years and for most of them without filters and with copious amounts of illegal things in them. I'm pretty sure I fucked up my brains as well as my body.

I kind of wear my COPD as a badge - not overtly, but it sits there as an excuse for many things. It isn't the (general term) illness more the I have a chronic illness - LOOK! I also use it as a hairshirt.

One of the symptoms of COPD they don't tell you about straight away is the propensity for depression. People become more vulnerable to it and I have had an unopened box of Citalopram sitting on the microwave oven for 9 months, because for the last 12 months I have been the COPD equivalent of bi-polar. Up and down like the Assyrian Empire, that's me. The reason it is unopened is because I feel as though I have it in me to beat it myself and the problem with this type of depression is it tends to be linked almost directly to how you feel on a specific day and how much the related symptoms are 'playing up'. I yawn a lot. Not because life bores me, but because I feel crappy and tired. This tends to be the trigger for me - incessant yawning. Then it goes away and I still feel ... worthless.

One of the nurses at the COPD thing chatted to me about seeing a shrink (they do with everyone there), mainly because my issue appears to be complete and utter self-loathing. I fucking hate myself for being so fucking stupid for so fucking long and fucking up what could have been a better life (for me and the wife). My mini obsession with time has come full circle and now I don't think about the way life is drifting away, but all the months I've wasted.

It has manifested itself in a variety of ways. I almost scared off my new Commercial Manager because he seemed to be on the receiving end of my ire, frustration and lack of patience. I have neglected my Borderline Press duties, especially over the last few days while I have been very low...

The other thing about me is, especially amongst those who know me personally, I rarely seem down in company. The 'life and soul' gene always manages to resurface and I can be Mr Happy at a pub quiz or out for a beer with Roger or One El. Meet me while I'm walking the dogs and you'd think I was on happy pills - but to be fair, walking the dogs is something I do enjoy and it does help enormously... Usually.

Now, the miserable and downhearted missive above, on the surface, sounds like all kinds of things. I'm not looking for sympathy - Christ, that's the last thing a self-loather wants! I'm placing you in a place where you can see that, at times, I have felt everything is a load of shit...

Yesterday, was bad. I sat in the garden with the laptop and stared at it for an hour. Young Sam from next door tried to engage me in conversation and I must have been feeling glum because I normally would have jumped at the chance of engaging the boy in some useful advice. I like mentoring people, I have a lot of success at it (not that my commercial manager would agree). But, you know, I was so wrapped up in hating myself that I didn't even want to talk. Gods, I must be ill!

It got to about 1pm and I decided that I was just making myself feel ill. I'll take the dogs somewhere nice! I thought and then tried to talk myself out of it. Oh Jesus, why, oh why, didn't I listen to my hateful self, just this once?

We went to the water skiing lake, near the Brackmills Industrial Estate; near the golf course and behind Delapre Abbey - for those in the know - it's a pretty safe place for dogs, well equipped with bins and not busy during the week, as the water skiing club tends to take over at weekends - whatever the weather. (I'd do a screen shot from Google Maps to show people who don't know the town what and where it is, but as they've fucked up Google Maps so it now looks like a fucking Super Mario game, I won't...)

I usually do a circuit of the lake; it takes about 45 minutes and there's plenty of opportunity for the four dogs to have a swim, a drink or cool down. It's a brill place on a sunny day and it was just the tonic I needed. I decided to circumnavigate the lake, something we hardly ever do, because I had an idea we might be a bit adventurous. Once upon a time, there was going to be a road between St James (Jimmy's End) and the Bedford Road, by Avon Cosmetics HQ. It was going to alleviate traffic from the town centre, but for some reason, back in the 1970s, it was halted. There is evidence of the groundwork done back then even now and until yesterday I never knew you could walk from the end of Ransome Road (the Jimmy's End bit) all the way through to Avon.

Now, most people know Avon Cosmetics - they make smellies - and when we got to a little footbridge over a very stagnant looking brook, we got hit with a waft of stink that I attributed to either the stagnation or possibly an open sewer. It was not the kind of smell you associate with Avon. Two cyclists went past and we exchanged hellos and I commented that that horrid smell wasn't the dogs; they laughed, we all laughed...

We turned around because there was no where else to go without venturing into town and walked back down this path I never knew existed. All the time I could smell this vile stench of human effluence - or at least that's what it smelled like. We even saw a couple walking their dog and one of them commented that the sewers must be chucking up. And we all chortled. We walked all the way to the back end of the Abbey and then, as it was hot, we walked back to the lake, to let the dogs have one more paddle before going home. It was now 2.45 and we'd been walking for nearly 90 minutes.

The dogs had another splash and we headed back to the car; all the time this stink was permeating the air. I even said to a grandmother and her charges that the smell wasn't the dogs.

Now, when you associate my dogs with rolling in unwanted things; Marley is pretty much the main culprit. At least four times a year, this disgusting canine will find a dead bird, fox, pile of shit to roll in and leaving us with the job of hosing her down in the garden.
Ness prefers extremely vile things - she'll roll in vomit if she finds it; she's not too keen on shit, for obvious reasons. we refer to her as 'pig pen' because of her resemblance to the Peanuts character at times. Ness has rolled in stuff about 5 times in 7 years.
Murray is far too highly strung, snobbish and above being a dog to ever consider rolling in anything. He did it once, when he was about 15 weeks old, hated it and has never done it again.
Lexy ... Oh my strange orange dog, who every week gets more and more like Gifford, not just in looks but also in habits. Lexy's shit rolling escapades are few and far between. She rolled in fox shit five days after we got her, I bellowed at her, she's never done it again. Until yesterday...

We got back to the car and at times the smell disappeared. Marley had skulked off somewhere and when she came back she looked like all the world's guilt in medium sized dog form and she jumped straight into the car like she knew she was in trouble. The others got in, Lexy, as usual, at the rear. They had their biscuits and a drink; I shut the car up, got in and couldn't smell anything. It must have been something around the lake. We drove away, I opened the windows to let some air in and suddenly there was the smell again - almost confirming it was outside and not inside. The route home for a third of the journey takes you passed where we had just been, so the smell remaining still didn't register, until we started to get closer to home and there was still this horrid smell.

Marley. It was Marley. I was convinced it was Marley and when we pulled up, I grabbed her, put her on her lead, dragged her out the back, growling at her and calling her all the miserable shitbags... and got the hose ready. I reluctantly checked to see where she'd smeared the shit all over herself and couldn't find anything. She smelled of ponds.

Ness, police dog, was hassling Marley (because she was in trouble and Ness likes to bully) and I got a waft of it from her. Grabbed her, put her on the lead and found her neck had something unpleasant on it. Under the hose she went and I cleaned it all off. There wasn't much, and you know when you get that horrible feeling rising? I looked at Murray; he was as clean as he had been when we went out. He'd got his legs wet and that was about it. he can be so boring sometimes...

That left only one other option.

Now, one of Gifford's weirdest traits (and trust me he had a lot) was when he went for a swim, he'd get all twitchy and crazy afterwards; rubbing his paws on the carpet, rubbing his face against the bottom of the sofa, running around shaking. Oh and Gifford, never, ever, rolled in anything. Not once in 16 years did he have another mammal's faeces smeared on his face, in his ears or up his fucking nose...

My day, that had started so badly, had descended into me feeling as bad as I have done for a long time, was now getting worse 10 fold. God (if any of them exist) has a fucking funny sense of humour...

Shit. There was shit everywhere. The house stunk of it and there was Lexy, sprawled on the sofa, looking all smug and happy, having wiped her face all over everything! Now all that was going through my mind was Oh Christ, the wife is going to kill me!

There was so much shit on Lexy, she needed two baths and because it was a nice piquant brown colour, pretty much the same colour as the fucking dog, I wouldn't have seen it during the walk - perfect camouflage shit!

The sofa was stripped of its covers; cushion covers removed; it was on the carpet, skirting boards - for fuck's sake the house has been fumigated and I can still smell it! I was on my hands and knees with disinfected hot water scrubbing shit off of everything I could find. The wife got home and after the initial 20 minutes of abject horror and disgust mixed with a seething hatred for her 'favourite' dog, we started to talk about the walk and how I was telling everyone that the horrible smell wasn't my dogs when, of course, all the time it was.

Ness had got it on her because in the car, she always stands next to Lexy - it's a dominance thing. We imagined the snob - Murray - saying 'Oh boy, you are in so much trouble' and Marley desperate to engage with Lexy so she could get some of that lovely smell on her, but Ness was in the way, so that was never going to happen and by 7pm last night, we were laughing like drains. The fucking dogs...

This morning we were still laughing about it and I have to take the shitbags out again today and only last week we sat and watched a woman defecate in the bushes near where we walk sometimes. The wife is convinced the shit was human. If it was then whoever crapped it out must have been on a fox shit diet, because I think it was far too pungent to be human. Whatever it was, it was shit and if you could have been a fly on the wall watching me cleaning Lexy in the yard, you would have been highly amused.

I'm not even phased by England's departure from the World Cup. I have dogs and shit to keep me entertained!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Naïve

This was written on the Sunday before the Bank Holiday Monsoon started. Today's weather forecast was for intermittent rain - heaven knows what persistent rain must be like...

With periodic insomnia comes the ability to enjoy oneself in the strangest of things… Oo-er, taken out of context that could be construed in all manner of ways! Actually, I’m not that bad with sleep at the moment; I get a good solid 5 to 6 hours a night, most nights. It doesn’t mean I have any more free time though; time like money is something many of us take to the extremes – used within our limited means.

No, it’s quite simple. I came to the realisation that I spend very little time doing anything I really enjoy. Running a business has proved to be as time consuming as expected and if I don’t do something pleasing, then I might as well kill myself now…

After another winter, spring has been kind and allowed me to sit in the garden and hammer away at the keyboard of the netbook. I have decided that I need to do some more writing for pleasure – it is, essentially, the reason I write. I haven’t written anything creative since finishing the first (and so far only) draft of Robotz (out in October!). Plus, it doesn’t matter how long you do this; how well you know something or as hardened as one can get, you need an escape from the fantastic highs and the crushing lows and the last time I was prolific was last summer…

But, how can I sit in the garden and work on my latest (to never be finished) opus when I have The Naïve to talk about?

Huh? Some other idea? A new Borderline Press project? The Naïve certainly sounds like a concept worthy of my one-time drug-addled mind. Nope. Not even close. As cold as a zombie’s tit as they say somewhere, in some reality.

The Naïve is the (collective) name for the new next door neighbours.

They’re lovely. Honest. Two very well meaning and obviously hard working youngsters – both 24, but in our eyes, barely 12. They have a dog. A puppy. They gave in after two weeks of him destroying the house and keeping the world awake with his pitiful separation anxieties (bless his little heart) at night, but the fact they’re now seemingly dependent on our advice to be able to exist on a day-to-day basis is quite cute (and scary). Obviously they’re fine, but I wonder now what we were like when we were that age. I mean, obviously we thought we knew everything and took the world full on; but years of having that bashed out of me by the drudgery of reality has probably clouded my memory of 24. Was I really that … that … young?

Still; good kids and long may they stay together and not have children. The wife has already forecast we’ll be dog-sitting before long (and has occasionally forgotten they are just kids). I believe this is essential as their dog is likely to rival Godzilla in size and the fence separating the gardens is old, dry and prone to breaking. Stick a big dog next to it with 4 noisy shitbags on the other side and you have a recipe for disaster and much splintered wood.

Anyhow...

So, I’m sporting a youngish Michael Eavis look at the moment and wearing shorts as often as possible, despite the up and down nature of the weather. I am also writing a story that is using three or four other ideas of the last ten years in a new way. I'd talk about it, but I'm still optimistic I'll do more than 5000 words.

The maverick potato planting seems to have 50% worked. I’ll not know for a while if it has been 100% (or even close to that) until probably the beginning of August, at the earliest; but my plan of just digging deep holes, sticking all those shit Golden Wonder I bought at Christmas in and forgetting about them, has at least produced lots of foliage. The method behind this is that every year I grow spuds, the ones that I’ve accidentally left in the ground over the winter produce the most potatoes. So I’m attempting to meet this idea halfway.

There will be the usual plethora of raspberries, rhubarb and strawberries, but the red and black currants will this year take their rightful place among the large fruit harvests. I’m having a go at growing two different styles of coriander – because I struggle to grow the stuff and I use it by the bucketload. I am trying some spinach and beetroot experiments and I have a herb garden! 

Meanwhile, my cunning plan of lulling passers-by into believing my house is occupied by garden hating Neanderthals has succeeded – the front garden looks like it has been designed by someone who doesn’t even know how to spell ‘garden’.


What else? An apricot. Just the one (there were 3 but the high winds during April took two of them out). The six ducks (five of which have only been with us a year or less) are belligerent, noisy and will bully you if you give them half a chance. They really make the last bunch look like chickens.

The lawn is in good shape. The teazle plants are taking over the wastelands at the bottom - by the newt and frog pond. In fact, everything just looks ahead, healthy and capable of taking on the world armed with just damp toilet paper and a smile! It's a shame the summer we're all expecting is already over.

There is much more I could about, but, you know, keep 'em wanting more is an expression that both gigolos and I adhere to.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The End of an Era

I feel like one of those wartime reporters, sitting at a window, watching the conflict (or lack of it) from my portal and chronicling, for history's sake, a momentous event. All I need is a glass of scotch, a butt-less cigarette hanging from a determined mouth and a fedora and all will be perfect; but it's 8.45am and even in my most reckless days that was an unlikely scene.

Fishwife is moving out.

Possibly the best next-door neighbour I've ever had, despite the ridicule and scorn I have poured towards him and his loud, pooh-fixated family. The second van is loaded and I expect, because he is just so bloody organised that they could be gone before I get back from an envelope run to Staples in town.

I haven't had a chance this year to pay much attention to their antics next door; there's the occasional 'Daddy, I've done a big pooh!" screamed down from the bathroom window with triumphant assertion and I've wandered down to let the ducks out on a weekend morning and found their eldest knee deep in chicken shit, reinventing home poultry farming at the age of 10, while surrounded by a bunch of birds that obviously think a slightly odd sounding child is their god. But my gut feeling is they've been lying low because they've wanted to move. They are a big family and the house they are in is in many ways smaller than ours despite being technically identical (it's long and boring story also architecturally meh).

He still knows everything and I expect he'll have more idea than me what goes on in the road long after he's moved, just down the road (about 500 yards).

The street is taking on a new complexion and my busy work (and illness) schedule has meant that I don't really have new nicknames for any of them. In fact, we've had three new families move in since I last wrote about this place and I'll be dipped in pooh and shouted at if I've even seen one of them or would know them from the potholes in the road. Anodyne? I might have to move myself.

By the way, I'm bashing this out like a pervert on a fetish site because I've been ill again. Again, you say? Heh...

I've been attacked by my chest - to quote Joni Mitchell - from both sides now! My COPD means that catching a cold is bad and catching a chest infection is ha ha ha. I got both at the start of April, wobbled through until a week before my birthday, when I had the suspect mole removed, in a minor surgery done at my local surgery. It went well and I shall remember the sound of the doctor cutting my flesh for as long as I live. Four days later, on my birthday, I went out with the wife and friends for food and started to feel a little dodgy. The day after I was quite poorly; it appeared I had another cold and it looked like someone had mixed the inside of my chest with mushy peas - and that was just the stuff I was hacking up. By the time Tuesday came around and I was back for the removal of the stitches, oozing joined the hacking and I again marvelled at how the human mouth can fill up with unwanted saliva when faced with something putrid...

My chest wasn't just bad, it had gone bad too. I was a pus-ridden borderline septicaemia case and was given industrial strength antibiotics. I phoned the wife up and asked her to buy a gun; if I was a fucking horse I would have been put out of my misery by now!

Still, the drugs appear to have worked; my chest infections are either gone or are so far removed I can function on something more than autopilot and it gives me the chance to sit here, in my dressing gown, with the window slightly open and the blinds manoeuvred so that I can see out but no one can see in, and watch as Fishwife and family ride off into not quite a sunset, more like a damp and slightly chilly English morning. I won't be able to do it again. I think I'll miss him...

Thanks fella.

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.

    2/10

    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)