Humvees for Goalposts


Messi’s footwork part of anti-Syria conspiracy-TV

By Oliver Holmes REUTERS

BEIRUT, March 21 (Reuters) – Barcelona footballers don’t just have a slick passing game, they can also secretly indicate arms smuggling routes to Syria, a pro-government Syrian television channel claimed this week.

Without a hint of irony, Addounia TV superimposed a map of Syria on a screen [above) to show how Lionel Messi and his team-mates, representing smugglers, had kicked a ball, representing a weapons shipment, into Syria from Lebanon.

The subtle signals to rebels were transmitted when Barcelona played Real Madrid in December, said the channel, which is owned by a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad. It did not trouble viewers by revealing Barcelona’s motives for the exploit.

“First we see how the guns are brought from Lebanon,” the presenter comments as one player passes the ball. “Then they cross into Homs and give the weapons to other terrorists in Abu Kamal,” he added, referring to rebel strongholds in Syria.

Messi’s final flick indicates the successful handover of the weapons to their destination in eastern Syria, he said.

Bizarre it may be, but paranoid conspiracy theories are common coin in the deeply divided and conflict-ridden state.

Messi smuggling in AK47s to Homs. (AET)

This is not, of course, the first time vital messages were sent by strange means. There’s the famous case of The Daily Telegraph Crossword during the build-up to D-Day when all the codewords which were to be used in the invasion of France – Omaha, Utah, Neptune – started appearing as crossword answers in the daily newspaper.

Let’s not forget the time when The Manchester Grauniad published a free wall poster for your bedroom showing all of Montgomery’s tank movements in the run up to El Alamein, The Daily Express front page on the morning of 9/11 read “Does Flying United Airlines Give You Cancer?” and Charlton Athletic’s tactics were so close to the attck formations of  Mussolini’s Republican Guard that Churchill considered disbanding the club. Don’t believe me ? How dare you !

So before you poo poo the reuters story above, take a butchers at England’s crap running between the wickets next week in Sri Lanka and ask yourself: what are they trying to tell us ?

They may be trying to tell us that they don’t know what they are doing. Or maybe they are signalling to militants in Yemen ?

Or not.

Advertisements

Jumpers for Goalposts


Ah, those were the days.  When we used to have a kick-about in the street outside my house, there would invariably be someone who wanted to be Peter Osgood, one who’d play as Peter Lorimer or Georgie Best or even  Derek Hales (well I had to look up to someone, didn’t I ? and I reckoned I was better than Killer was, anyway.) We didn’t have anyone who was hard enough to pretend to be Dave McKay.

Take a look at one of the great sports photos of the 70s. There’s old Dave about to throttle that little-shit-of-little-shits, Billy Bremner – no softie himself. But where Bremner – like  Ron Harris, Nobby Stiles and anyone who put a Leeds Utd shirt on – was a kind of slide-my-studs-down-your-calf-and-into-your-achilles-when-ref-isn’t-looking-sorta-bloke, Big Dave was a sort of snap both your shinbones in two if you try to get past me, in front of the ref, the linesmen, the opposition bench, the BBC TV camera and four JPs and still argue the toss that I played the ball first-sorta-bloke. A very very tough bloke. A great photo.

McKay is reported to be in poor health. It will be a shame to lose another character of my childhood. A reminder of when football was a contact sport, professional players could be built like Fannie Lee and still get picked for the side, and Alan Rough and Derek Hales were in gainful employment, somehow.

Wishing Dave McKay all the very best. Let’s hope the today’s millionaire show-ponies spend a little less time crying and rolling around on the grass this weekend. Big Dave would have given them something to cry about.

Fair Play and Fablass


For those unlucky enough to be watching NZTV coverage of the rugby let me tell you what happened. The welsh flanker and captain Sam Warburton picked up an opponent in a tackle, turned him over in the air and spear-tackled him, head-first, into the ground. A sending-off offence. So Irish referee Alain Rolland sent him off. The tv coverage missed half of this. TV in 1957land isn’t interested in anything that doesn’t involve some part of Dan Carter’s body, but you’d have thought at least ITV, who took the tv feed here in Blighty might have spotted a) the serious foul and b) the red card. They didn’t.

The first the pundits and commentators knew of it all was when they saw pictures of Warburton on the bench. They assumed he had been given a yellow card. This was Warbuton’s Rooney moment. A week after Wayne had been hounded out of town for kicking a player in the leg, Sam was given legal aid for trying to break a bloke’s neck. “Our little Sammy didn’t mean that”. “He’s not like that.” Well, Mr and Mrs Warburton, he did and he is. Sorry.

For the next 80-odd minutes (it’s still going on as I speak) the bleating from various welsh former players and their collaborators whinged and whined about the decision: Referee Rolland had administered a “huge injustice”. No he didn’t. Steve Ryder – the ITV anchorman – even said the welsh were “cheated” by the referee. No they weren’t. I happen to know that Mr Ryder is a Charlton Athletic supporter, so he can be forgiven for not having seen a lot of real sport. Fit professional men running around at pace must be very confusing to old Steve. Luckily he had former Rugby stars to help him out.

Francois Pienaar, the Matt Damon impersonator,  said the tackle was excusable in the cauldron that is a world cup semi-final. No, Matt.  Semi-final or no semi-final, you can’t pick a bloke up and spike him into the ground. When the kiwis do it to Brian O’Driscoll during a British Lions tour there’s a national outcry. If it were a Frenchman doing it to Lee Sixpence Ha’panney, Gareth Thomas would have been screaming blue murder. Not just screaming.

Next to Francois was Larry Dallaglio, looking lost without big Johnno to stick the boot into. Larry manfully joined in with Steve, Frank and welshman Martyn Williams in vilifying the ref. Oddly none of them lambasted the welsh for not taking advantage of drop-goal situations. Nor was the boot of Stephen Jones (surely now, the winner of Club Foot of the Year Award) blamed for the fact that they lost by one point. I lost count of how many kicks he missed.

The refs have been woeful this tournament and here at The Sharp Single we may have pointed out a few of the culprits. Rolland was never on our hit-list and certainly won’t be because of this performance. Though he nearly snuck in there when, with five minutes to go, he awarded a penalty to the Welsh in front of the posts. A shocking decision. Even Gareth in the comm box admitted it. Fortunately, Lee TwoBob missed the kick for the three points. If he’d have kicked that one the Taffs would have won the game due to a rank decision.

Didn’t hear Ryder and friends moan about that one.

The French were a poor rugby side all match. The Welsh looked up for it and none could have begrudged them the win. But they didn’t. Until the Australians change the rules, the side with more points wins the match. That’s how it works. Sorry. The English were shite all competition and are already back home paying their fines (those of them who aren’t still in Kiwi gaols). Good riddance to them. The Scotch never even bothered to send a team. So please, Wales, take it in good grace, shut up and fuck off home. Oh, and pick up those chips from your shoulders before you leave. Thanks.

Tomorrow Rugby Union meets Rugby League in the second semi-final. A game one side wants to play without forwards. After all, they beat the SAffers without any so why not the ABs ? If they win this cup it will be the death of Rugby Union. The Death of Rugby Union.

I pause here to allow my Aussie mates to pick up the keyboard and tap away furiously (cue the phrases “whingeing poms”; “spectator sport”;”jonny fucking wilkinson” etc etc  ad nauseum).

It won’t of course come down to the forwards. It’ll all be decided by a moment of genius or stupidity by Quade Cooper. By not changing his name from Quade, you’d have thought he’d been stupid enough for several lifetimes. Sadly not. This bloke makes Campo look like a solid and safe pair of hands. He was born a Kiwi but plays for Aussie. How to make friends and influence people. Quade (my spellchecker still doesn’t like that)  has the chance tomorrow to make a lot of friends, on one side of the Tasman or other.

So I shall remove my beret and don the Silver Fern in the hope that a team still using the scrum and lineout to secure good ball can prevail over the 13-man, tap-thru-the-legs tactics of the Wallabies. I wonder if, as the teams come out, they’ll be a bloke pretending to make noise by blowing into a conch shell, jumping up and down and sticking his tongue out ? I do hope so, it’s so frightfully exciting. Not at all boring.

I worry that referee Craig Joubert is officiating this one. Clearly the better of the refs on show, he should be doing the final not the semi. One can only surmise what that means. Bryce Laurence or Wayne Barnes anyone ? Now THAT would be a final worth watching.

Retreat Australia Fair


Bloody Christmas. It’ll be the death of me. Even allowing for the size of me in the run-up, following a week of a pretty-much non-stop eating and drinking fest I am – if I do say so myself- a big unit. It’s not that I’ve been painting the town red – or any other colour come to think of it.  I’ve been confined to barracks for the duration, with only occasional trips to Sainsbury’s to break up the monotony of yet another tin of Roses washed down with a nice peppery Shiraz.

A Christmas at home can in certain circumstances, I am almost sure, be fun. But the lurgy put paid to most of our plans, with several members of my nearest and dearest (including my most dearest: me) coming down with the latest bout of cold/flu which has been doing the rounds. The Incumbent and I have had to introduce a strict latrine rota, lest we bump into each other in the smallest room in the house, both of my daughters were laid low for the majority of the festivities and the rest of us have been giving everyone who is a potential carrier a wide berth.

None of this, of course has affected my appetite. I find shite tv schedules the perfect solution to a rumbly in my tumbly. Pringles, peanuts, After Eights, pickled eggs, mince pies, christmas cake, Quality Street and more peanuts have been shoved down my gullet as I gorge myself on re-runs, repeats and rank tv shows in the the name of Happy Birthday Jesus.

Moving is becoming a problem. Thank god for the elasticated waistband on my new pyjamas. My ankles still haven’t healed from last season and it takes a good ten minutes for me to loosen up before I can waddle around the house in comfort. As the days pass, getting up the stairs is becoming more and more exhausting, to such an extent that I may have to consider using the sink in emergencies.

Thankfully I don’t have to get myself fit for next cricket season. I fear it would be a pointless task. In the state I’m in I’d struggle to put on my jockstrap, let alone bowl anything like a straight ball in the vague direction of a batsman. On the other hand, watching the shocking display by the Aussie bowlers in Melbourne gives me pause to think that maybe, just maybe, my chance of an international career is not quite over. Dare I consider applying for Oz Citizenship ? Surely I’m better that Mitchell Johnson ? – even in my shape !

Lucky for the Australian cricketers few of their countrymen witnessed how bloody awful they really were. Aussie fans tend to bugger off home if there’s the slightest chance of their team not winning. I never thought I’d feel sorry for Ricky Ponting, but it must be tough playing on your home turf, against stronger opposition, when your own personal form is shot to pieces and your home supporters won’t even hang around to shout for you. What a bunch of wankers.

The Barmy Army may be full of fat, annoying, boring, neanderthal racists (it is, believe me) but at least they stick behind the team through thick and thin. This bunch of fair-weather Ozzie ‘fans’ head for the beaches or the barbies the minute their opening pair are back in the hutch (or after the opening 12 balls, if that makes it simpler for you). And this from the country that brought the world the phrase “whingeing poms”. WHINGEING ?!?! How would we ever know if you lot are whinging? You’ve all fucked off !

Of course, you all stayed put when we took our eyes off the prize and you won in Perth. OF COURSE YOU DID. WATCHING A WINNING TEAM IS GREAT. But a few days later and your batsmen couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo or your bowlers couldn’t hit 12 stumps and you lot are no-where to be seen after the opening exchanges. Why not stick around and cheer on your team in the hour of their greatest need ? No ? Only sing when you’re winning ? Sports fans my big fat 46 year old arse. Enjoying winning and enduring losing (in our case a LOT of losing) are all part of being a fan. Some of us are fans of both English Cricket AND Charlton Athletic Football Club. We know a little bit about losing.

If you can’t take losing, don’t buy a ticket to the raffle. But having watched first your rugby union side and now your cricket team under-perform this winter can I suggest that you’d better start getting used to watching your sides take a drubbing?  It won’t hurt you, we’ve been doing it for years, and after this little blip this winter we’ll doubtless be doing it for years to come too.

You could do worse than read Peter Lalor, below, in The Australian. He’s wittier and immeasurably less one-eyed then his boss, Malcom Conn, and he might just teach you how to take losing with a tad more humour and a shed-load more dignity.

Peter Lalor in The Australian (27.12.10)

HOW many of the new toys of Christmas morn lie motionless and broken within 24 hours? Their shiny promise a forlorn memory recorded only in the improbable picture on the package?

A wheel gone here, a switch broken there, a light that flashed for a moment and dimmed, a leg detached or a circuit shortened. Australia’s performance in Perth was the cheap Chinese gift that never made it to Boxing Day. A glittering, but poorly engineered work that shone for a moment.

The minute the Christmas paper was off the MCG pitch things began to fall apart. There were tears by lunch (4-58) and despair by tea (10-98). You can fish around all sorts of ways to paint the picture.
The scorer announced they had lost 6-40 from 18.2 overs, somebody else pointed out they had lost 9-61 after Shane Watson departed and so on and so forth….

…If you were out Christmas night in Melbourne, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in the UK. Those pubs and takeaway places that were open in the otherwise deserted streets were lousy with English accents and song.

While the locals were at home trying to piece together broken toys, the visitors – and there are thousands upon thousands of them – were out in force. At 2.37pm yesterday, as the centre wicket began to take the appearance of a mass grave, a song rose from the Southern Stand.

It was as loud and as rousing an anthem as you have ever heard at this proud sporting stadium.
It was the Barmy Army singing “God save your gracious Queen”.


Anatevka


So we’re making progress. The advert is in and the dustman are on steroids.  The house has never look tidier although, to be honest, that’s no great boast. But everything is heading in the right direction, if not quite at ramming speed, then at a very jaunty pace.

As you know, Railway Cuttings is to be put up for rent as the company,  Sharp Single International Holdings (UK Ltd) seeks to consolidate its position in the market. Last week the agent came round to assess the estate. It’s a nervous time, renting your house. Will other people see it as you do ? Will they ignore all the little imperfections and those little-jobs-you-were-going-to-get-around-to-but-never-managed-to ? The door to the barn is hanging off its hinges and the mock tudor gabling atop of the east wing still needs attention for a touch of rot, but otherwise my man was quite impressed.

The drainage in the lower field is still a problem, but only the keenest of eyes would spot it. Seven of the nine bedrooms are in excellent order, he said, and of other two he said the fact that one contains a gin distilling apparatus and the other a bowling machine with practise net shouldn’t be too off-putting to prospective tenants.

“You never know, Mr B,” he chuckled “we might find an alcoholic cricket nut?”
“I doubt if there’s another one in the area” I sighed.

The duck house was, he thought, a rather charming feature and once the moat and the gravel drive had had a little de-clagging then he couldn’t see any reason why the property shouldn’t fly off the shelf. He took a couple of snaps and left me to my chores, while he contacted Country Life to negotiate an acceptable rate for a display ad, hopefully opposite the Girl with Pearls. He’s suggested putting an advert in House and Hound but I thought that would be just a little pretentious.

OscarAdvert

So for the worst part of a week now that’s what I’ve been doing : de-clagging. I read somewhere that to make your house more attractive to buyers you should remove every third item from the shelves, bookcases and kitchen. Apparently it gives the impression of space and cleanliness, a minimalist look that’s so popular these days. Hmmm ok.  I decided that I’d remove every other item on show. I’m moving out anyway so the more I remove now the less work for me later on.

Out went the stack of old newspapers I’d been keeping “just in case” (you remember newspapers, right?). Off the walls came the hat collection, gathered from around the world and my travels on eBay, and hung on hooks to cover unsightly marks, scratches or stains. But I did need to keep something on the walls – to make it look lived-in and homely- so I left hanging my display of memorabilia from the 1947 Cup Final – Charlton Athletic 1-0 Burnely (aet)- and my framed Derek Underwood jockstrap.

Hidden from sight was the, now I come to look at it, worrying-looking collection of exotic, once opened booze bottles – the type that you have a crack at late on Boxing Day when there’s nothing else left (and then hurriedly replace the stopper): Greek gin, Spanish vodka and Japanese scotch, Pink Cloves, Jamaican ouzo and grappa. Some of it donated to the cause over the years, and some collected by myself at some time, somewhere and in a some heightened state of optimism that it’d taste just as delicious as it did when that dodgy waiter served it to me during that summer holiday all those years ago. No, the bottles definitely had to be put away. Not disposed of, you understand, just hidden. Well, you never know, do you?

Some of this stuff MUST be drinkable

The first swoop through the house was pretty successful, if a little tiresome and depressing. Thanks to staying up all hours to watch the Ashes cricket in Australia (you knew I’d get to it in the end, didn’t you ?) I’ve been suffering from sleep deprivation and there are early signs of exhaustion. Usually the English are so piss-poor that after the first match I could ignore the rest of the series, but it seems that the Aussies are rather less than average this time out so I fear I shall feel like this for the next 6 weeks.

So I wasn’t in the best of condition to lug dirty great bags of rubbish to-and-from the attic to the rubbish bin outside. Poor bloody dustmen. I trudged through the house carrying two bin-liners: one for stuff for the tip, the other for eBay (they’re pretty much interchangeable), in my semi-conscious state dreaming of Australian wickets to the soundtrack of Fiddler on the Roof. I snapped myself out of my malaise. It’s not as if the Tsar’s Cossacks are running me out of my little dwelling but the Tossacks from Natwest surely will if I don’t make other arrangements soon, so moving out before the bailiffs move in is by far the best plan of action.

But nevertheless I can’t say it made for happy work. When you systematically go through each and every item in your home you find yourself dwelling over the history of it and the enjoying memories for several minutes, before stuffing it into one bag or the other. Most bits you find, of course, turn out to be complete crap and something you haven’t thought about, let alone looked at for several years. It’s a time for that good clear-out you always promised yourself, but it’s still a less-than satisfying thing to do, if for no other reason that you realise just how much useless shite you’ve accumulated over the years.

The exciting news, of course, is that the new property is taking shape. The Incumbent is, as I write, overseeing work on The Sharp Single’s new HQ down in the pretty little hamlet of Dartford. Unfortunately somehow we managed to hire the firm of Hamza and Hawking to carry out the refurbishments of the new offices and they are less than perfect. If you poke your head out of the window and listen hard you may be able to hear the squeals of pain as The Incumbent inserts a spirit level into Mr Hawking.  The Incumbent doesn’t suffer fools gladly (she makes allowances for me, bless her) and these cowboy builders obviously didn’t realise there was a new Sheriff in town. If by the end of the day they’re not strung up by their plumb-lines I shall be very surprised.

For those of you who don’t know it, Dartford is in the heart of the county of Kent in the South East of England. Set amid rolling hills of fabulous English countryside, it is famous for The Peasants’ Revolt (tick), hop fields (tick tick) and for being the main escape route out of Essex (tickety tick tick).

Inshallah,  the 2011 Sharp Single will be published from its new premises, a huge purpose-built, neo-Georgian villa complete with billiards room, a nine-hole putting green and bar. From my desk (I’ve been allocated the potting shed) I shall enjoy the grand vistas of the oast houses, apple orchards and cement works of the surrounding area which some critics aren’t already calling the most exiting and up-and-coming town east of Erith. There is, of course, ample parking.

So now I sit and I wait for the phone to ring. I imagine in a week or two there will be a long queue forming outside of people eager to rent this undes-res. I envisage scenes akin to Shallow Grave as I carefully select my first tenants. It might be fun. It could be tortuous. It will be another story.

Time Gentlemen Please


Autumn. Conkers. Squirrels. Cold snaps. Crisp mornings, chilly nights. Leaves falling off, evening closing in, windscreens frosting up. Harvest festivals, the bringing in of the sheaves. It’s a time of change. It’s the end of the season: time to pack away the pads and the bats, put the snorkel back in the loft, the Speedos (still unworn) in the bottom drawer. It’s the start of the season: out with the gumshield, buy a new tube of the liniment, dust off the woolly hat, eek out the hipflask. The ground takes a stud, the grass no longer grazes your knees, you can see your breath as you gasp for it by the corner flag.

Things to look forward to: The Ryder Cup; The Ashes Series; the first M&S Christmas advert; the smell of a hot radiator; Trick or Treat. Things to dread: Charlton in a relegation six-pointer; the new season of The Apprentice; Strictly Come Dancing; The Labour Party conference and Guy Fawkes Night (if that’s not repeating myself).

By way of a change, and in a vain attempt to redeem themselves in my eyes, The BBC weather bureau accurately predicted the end of the summer. They said the last day would be Wednesday and, sure enough Wednesday it was. It was gorgeous. As it happened three of us took to the golf course and we couldn’t have picked a more splendid day to waggle our mashie niblicks around in the open air.

My pal, Big H, is a member of the local golf club, Blackheath, and kindly invited Shaun and I to play a round with him. Blackheath is the world’s oldest golf club, which was fitting as I played it like the world’s oldest golfer. To be fair, my first half-dozen holes were decent enough for one who hadn’t picked up a club for over seven years. However, the effort of whacking a little ball around a few miles of parkland soon took it’s toll on these old bones and by the 10th I was sweating audibly, my feet were quite literally bleeding and I was screaming for my mum long before I limped up the 18th.

I have spent many a year explaining (mainly to women and Americans) how tiring and taxing on the body a game of cricket can be, but imagine the look of incredulation on The Incumbent’s face when she saw me the following day, looking as if I’d been run over my a truck. It’s an age thing, you see, and no matter that 80 year old men happily play four games of golf-a-week without so much as a stiff back, or that there are 50 year old cricketers leading their club’s averages, my body has decided to call time early on my chosen sporting careers. I’m not in the Autumn of my cricketing or golfing life, more like the New Year’s Eve party of it- somewhere between the “can I put your coat up in the bedroom” and the “Auld Lang Syne” of it.

The previous weekend I’d had to cry off the last cricket match of the season, citing knee and ankle failure. It was a depressing decision to have to make, knowing it’d be the best part of seven months before my next one. But I was in so much pain it seemed the sensible thing to do. When later the chance to play golf came along I couldn’t resist digging out my 30 year-old golf shoes (the style of which attracted much derision and mirth from my playing partners) and borrowing a set of clubs.

As nice as they are, it was more than my pals could manage to conceal their amazement at my lack-of-fitness. I dunno why: I’ve never been fit. But the rapidity of my decent into a pool of moaning sweat had them fearing for my wellbeing. Dare I play again ? Will I be asked ? If I do play, will the paramedics be on stand-by? Or do I give it up as a bad job, wait until the 2011 cricket season begins and believe that somehow my body will repair itself in time for me to take an active part ?

There have been discussions (albeit a wee bit one-sided) on trying to get fit. Swimming has been muted. Someone actually mentioned joining the gym. Someone else even suggested dance classes. I glazed over like Homer Simpson at a school play. My mate Johnny Mac (he who has just run from John O Groats to Lands End) even said to me over a pint the other night that “everyone want’s to stay fit, don’t they?” He could tell from my expression he may as well as offered me a half-pint.

So I am seriously considering giving it all up. I’ve had a decent run, after all, and maybe it’s time to stand aside and yet youth flourish ? On most summer Saturdays, by the time I strap on the knee-supports, apply the Ralgex and pop half a dozen pain-killers the game’s already started. If I can’t meander around a short-ish, flat-ish golf course without squealing like a stuck pig maybe it’s time to look for other ways to participate in sport ?

I know how to cut up a half-time orange, fill up the tea-urn or run the bath for the lads while they’re out on the field of play. If pushed, I could be the linesman or touch-judge, as long as the players don’t run too fast. At a push I’d drive the team bus. I could umpire, though don’t ask me to caddy (those golf bags are heavy). There are many, much older than me who will scoff and scorn me for being such a lardy wimp, people who keep themselves in reasonable shape and whose weekends still entail pulling on the boots or the plus-fours, polishing off their bowls or even donning singlet and trotting off for a brisk 10-mile run.

But it just sounds too much like hard work to me. Pass me that shooting stick and hand me the program. I’ll queue up for the Bovril, I’ll happily prepare the picnic basket. Let me join the 100 Club and if you’re short I’ll even mark out the pitch, put out the flags or help out behind the bar. I love the game, I adore the competition, I am never happier than when I walk onto the first tee, or take a shiny red cricket ball on my hand or (back in the days of yore) jog out onto the field and stare down my opposite number. I’d always rather lose 22-21 than win 40-nil. But now it hurts. A lot.

It hurts more than it ever did. It starts hurting sooner and it hurts for longer. Sometimes it even hurts before the match starts. So as I sit here, three days since I peeled off those painful, painful golf shoes and I’m still feeling the pain, it’s now surely time to say “time’s up” My cricket captain never reads this rubbish so I’ll have to write and tell him. I’ve announced my retirement to him before and he ignores me, but this time I mean it. Honest. Having not donned golfing troos for the best part of a decade, my pals won’t exactly mourn my passing.

I can always meet them in the bar after. I’ll be snuggled up in front of Strictly, awaiting Sports Personality of the Year. Anyone fancy a game of crib?

Fußball Kommt Nach Hause


Day 24 in the Why Bother House and Mike is in the diary room…

The most extraordinary news to come out of South Africa is not that we lost, not that we were given a lesson in football, not even that the world now accepts that Sepp Blatter is a git, no more qualified to run FIFA than I am to run The Smaritans. No, what is quite extraordinary is that there were no reported acts of mindless hooliganism after the match. Whether the Foreign Office and Officer Smellie successfully stopped the English Formation Garden Chair Throwing Team from traveling to the World Cup, or the Nazis of St George were simply priced out of the market is unclear.

Some have suggested the preposterous theory that our footy fans have learned to accept defeat and to respect Johnny Foreigner. Whatever the reason, it does seem rather ironic that on the night that England go down to the biggest defeat and humiliation in their World Cup history, their fans have finally stopped rearranging the furniture of the world’s bars and bistros and have started to get themselves a reputation as “true sports fans”. Who’d a thunk it? I wonder if they mastered the tune to “No Surrender to the IRA” on the Vuvuzela?

So now we enter that traditional period of mourning when the only noise to be heard is the scraping of knife sharpeners all over Fleet Street and the jingle jangle of coins in sporrans as the jocks giggle themselves silly while they revel in the Auld Enemy’s demise. And it’s a fair cop. Who but the most one-eyed of Englishmen could fail to see the humour, inevitability and justice of last night’s debacle? One Caledonian chum with understandable glee sent me this “newsflash” this morning:

“The England players’ plane home is being diverted from Heathrow to Glasgow, where they are expected to receive a heroes’ welcome”

I expect the bars of Glasgae and Embra were rammed-out last night, packed with revellers with Gorbals accents and fake German replica shirts. Inspector Smellie had seized a shedload of dodgy shirts bound for “Up the Road”, but one must assume a few got through. There’s nothing our brother fitba fans enjoy more than see the English bastards take a good shoeing (on or off the field).

Talking of shoeings, the Groinstrain Correspondents of the British press sure are giving the once great Fabio a severe pounding in the knackers this morning. How things change? Just a few months ago the back pages were gushing about this Italian genius, lauding his tactical nous and giving thanks for his not being Sven. True to form, they’ve dropped him like ‘Arry Redknapp drops ‘is aitches and will, in all probability, hound him out of office.
Fabio Capello and England’s timeline of failure. Countdown to meltdown: how it all went wrong for Capello and Co.” offers The Telegraph. “Should Fabio Capello have resigned as England manager after their defeat?” asks the Guardian.”On Your Bike, You Greasy Wop” orders the Daily Mail (I may have made one of those up). You get the picture. The bandwagon has been kick started and its springs are heaving under the weight of the Groins, itching to say “we told you so” when, in fact, they said exactly the opposite.

Why Appy Arry or Woy of the Wovers would even consider taking on the job is beyond me, but the Fourth Estate’s finest seem set on the fact that it should be one or the other. I shall send my commiserations to them now, poor sods. The first task for whoever gets the job is to send out that search party for John Terry. He went missing in the English penalty area last night and hasn’t been seen since. Whatever Fabio could be blamed for, we surely can’t take him to task for the Keystone Cops defence last night. Cole and Johnson had all the speed and acceleration of Glacial Erosion, while Terry looked like he was wearing callipers. It’s a pity Matthew Upson didn’t show up, he would have loved it. Has Gareth Barry actually lost a leg?

Once Fabio has been dealt with, the journalists will doubtless turn their attention to the team. Our Wayne, Frank, Steven etc will suddenly be dubbed “useless wankers” having been feted as Gods for years. Perhaps Theo Walcott will actually have a chance of making the squad next time ? (unless he’s burnt out by then, of course), but whatever happens, the headlines will be vicious and hurtful to several young men who only months before were, apparently, world-class.

The Colonial press, of course, take a different view. It’s not the manager’s (sorry, coach’s) fault they went out, nor do they blame the team. No, it’s the game itself which is to blame.

I guess that means the American population will retreat to the ball parks and the basketball courts, to watching The Lakers and The Cowboys, The Yankees and The Blackhawks. They can give up pretending they either understand or care about ‘soccer’ for another four years. I wish I could. Charlton Athletic are due to lose to AFC Bournemouth on August 7th. If the New York Post think it’s a stupid game, they should come down to the Valley one weekend.

We don’t know the meaning of stupid.

Times Up


Dear friends and others

After what seems like only 10 months at The Times, Mr Murdoch and I have decided to part company (though I don’t think he knows it yet. He’ll doubtless be distraught when he finds out). My last day here will be Friday June 4th, after which I shall be sat on my arse at home watching the World Cup and Test Cricket.

So this is just a quick note to say bye-bye to those with whom I’ve worked here, and hello to all you out there who might wanna employ me in future (oh come on ! surely?) My mobile should remain the same, if I can get the bastards to give me my PAC code.

Keep in touch, it’s been a blast. Honest.

MB
Soon Not-to-be Features Picture Editor
The Times
London

Mike is available for wakes, strikes, global recessions, individual depressions, international financial slumps, natural disasters, acts of God, play-off humiliations, county court judgements, redundancy settlements, post-mortems, political carve-ups, serial killings and weddings. Standard network rates apply. Calls from mobiles will be higher.

The Allotment of England


I was born in Erith and went to school in Dartford. If you didn’t, this may not be your cup of tea. However, if either of these places are dear to your heart, then have a listen to this half hour of Mark Steel (Swanley boy, above) on BBC Radio 4 tonight. Very funny. (Unless that offends anyone at all then I retract it, of course)

Mark_Steels_in_Town_Series_2_Dartford

I suppose this will drop off into the biosphere very soon, so many apologies if Auntie Beeb removes it . It’s an acquired taste for locals. The rest of you can jog on.

.

What’s My Motivation for This?


It’s the little things in life that really get up my nose.

People who step onto a train (or into a lift) before you are able to get off. Wouldn’t it be easier for me to get out first, thus creating room on the train? Never mind common courtesy! Then there are those others who, when you’re waiting for a lift having pressed the button and made it light up, come along in front of you and press that button very same button again- as if you hadn’t thought of doing that. “IT’S ALREADY LIT YOU CABBAGE !! I ALREADY PRESSED IT!!”

They are right up there with people who, while you’re stood holding a door open for them, say nothing and just saunter through. Not a thank you, kiss-your-arse, NOTHING. Or worse, they walk through the open door not even bothering to take their hands out of their pockets to take the door from you. Bastards.

Short people using umbrellas in public places. They are a danger to my eyesight. I’ll go blind soon enough, thank you very much, and don’t need any help from you attacking my retinas with your steely spikey spokey pokey brolly. Then again, I really despise those who take something from you, whether a cup of tea, a pencil or whatever and who not only don’t say thank you, they don’t even look at you by way of acknowledgment. Grrrrr…

While none of these annoyances, taken individually, would force you to unleash the forces of hell, imagine how you would feel if all of the above happened to you in the space of one morning?

Well , welcome to my world.

My bad morning had started early, (as early as last night, in fact) as I’d lost my glasses. This was the first time it’d happened to me in the six weeks since I’d been viewing the world in glorious HD. I was worried, and it irked me. I’d either left them at work, or in the pub, or on the train, or somewhere. Bugger. Still, I was so knackered last night, couldn’t be arsed to worry about them, so I decided to sleep on it.

I woke up this morning and immediately started to worry about them. Bugger. And Charlton had lost again.

With my spare pair of specs (£9.99 Foster Grants from Sainsburys) in my top pocket, I set off for work by my usual train. I don’t like my spare pair. Ok, so they’re approximately £337.21 cheaper than my lost pair, but they do look every bit of that. Ill-fitting, cheap-looking plastic frames and, in all honesty, I can’t see out of them. Dunno why I bothered really.

Having squinted my way through the morning’s reading matter, the train started to pull in to my stop. I made myself ready by the door, the train came to a halt and I pushed the button to open the door. I hadn’t even time to put my worst foot forward across the threshold when a 50-something, short, fat woman pushed her way through the doorway ARSE FIRST, while she closed and shook her umbrella dry. As she try to push her way in, I gave her the gentlest of knees in the sphincter. She stood bolt upright. “Oops, sorry!” I lied, as I squeezed through the rather small gap between her and the doorframe. I didn’t bother looking around to see the look on her face, I have a decent enough imagination on me. I stomped off to work.

In reception, the queue for the coffee bar was too long to worry about so I headed straight for the lift. One of the three lifts had been out of action for weeks so the wait for one of the other two can be irritatingly long. I pressed the button. Nothing happened for a while. Then it did. A youngish bloke holding a grande latte walked in front of me and pushed the button again. I assume he must have been able to hear me snorting behind him. Then he pressed it again, and then taptap…taptaptap, like he was sending morse code. Amazingly, after only seventeen presses of the button, the lift arrived. I said nothing, I just ticked.

Up to the second floor and as the doors opened a girl from the features desk made a feint to get in before I got out. I can only assume the black look on my face, resplendently framed in cheap plastic glasses, put her off. Only a nutcase would wear them, surely. She made a tactical retreat. “Thank you” I barked, forcing a smile.

Down the corridor I huffed, to the door at the end. I could hear footsteps behind me and as I reached for the door and I turned to see a young, suited bloke about ten yards away coming towards me. I pushed the door open, went though and then waited, holding the door for him to take. He walked straight through the gap, saying nothing, leeaving me holding the door as he walked past, like I was his sodding doorman.
“My pleasure” I called after him. He looked over his shoulder and smirked.
“Pig” I added.

I can’t tell you.

The next twelve minutes went relatively well. My mood was much improved by the discovery of my glasses, in their case on the desk where I had indeed left them the night before. Hurrah! All was again well in the world, so I went to buy a round of coffees. Returning to the office, I passed them around to the chaps, and all but one thanked me and offered me the cash. The last bloke, never took his eyes off his pc, just held out his hand for me to give him his cup. Having grabbed it from me, he slurped it and set it down on the desk, eyes still focussing on the screen.
“Oh, don’t mention it, Phil” I squarked.

He didn’t.

I walked over to my desk and booted the waste bin 8ft across the room. Another colleague sniggered, sensing my well-disguised exasperation.
“Well, Mike, if you didn’t wanna work with clowns, you shouldn’t have joined the circus”

And it was still only 10.30.

KimAd.