…And the Nominations Are…


Let’s have a quick round-up of the nominees for this year’s award for
Best Picture with a (Non) Sporting Theme:

cranium

Starring Alan Pardew and David Meyler. Dir: Alan Pardew.
(Also nominated for “We Need to talk about Alan”).

.

coma

Starring Harald Schumacher and the body of Patrick Battiston.

.
crouching

Star: Eric Cantona. Prod: Eric Cantona. Dir:Eric Cantona. From an original screenplay by Eric Cantona. Half time oranges by Eric Cantona. And some fishermen.

.

french

Star: Zinedine ‘Popeye’ Zidane.

.

hairspray

Prod: Andrew Lloyd Webber & Michael Ball. Exec Prods: Frank Rijkaard & Rudi Voller.

.

kungfu

 Star: Nigel de Jong. Prod: Michel Platini & Stepp Ladder.

.

platoonStar: Maradona. Music. Lyrics & Choreography: Madonna.

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Who Do You think You’re Kidding?


Things are definitely changing around here, and some of them not for the best.

I took off this morning on another one of what my doctor, Mr Lansley, calls “life-extending promenades” this morning. I know he means well but I’m not sure Dr Lansley understands just how far “a half hour’s walk” is. Or, come to that, if he understands anything at all about my health. Anyway, the novelty of the yomp to the post office is wearing off already so today I decide to turn the other way into the village itself. This way is a little more interesting as I pass by or through all the hustle and bustle which country life can offer.

I therefore reach the top of the lane and turn left this time, past the school with its newly installed metal detector and courtesy black maria which the children seem to find very interesting indeed. I stand to watch several of them playing a game of Hopscotch (or HopCaledonian as they are told to call it nowadays) through and around the metal detector. I started to reminisce about my time at the school and all the lovely knife-free years I enjoyed there, before I am awakened from my daydream and shooed away by a man pointing a Taser and wearing a flak jacket in school colours. I am a mixture of embarrassed and annoyed, but in any case shuffle off in the direction of the newsagent’s and the football fields beyond.

I no longer use this newsagent. I spent years gleaning from it all the info about the outside world I could. It was a lovely sight. A lovely big sign outside reading “The Village News” above the window was flanked by smaller ones of a bygone day: The News Of the World, News Shopper and even Horse&Hound were all represented in enamel signs down the sides of the shop. Proudly and efficiently run by old Mr Turnbull and his younger wife Susanna, it was a constant source of news, gossip and entertainment.

Sadly, as in everything nowadays, the shop has had a makeover, renamed itself “T’News of T’Village” and is daubed with posters for the Yorkshire Post, Salford Sentinel, and Whippet Magazine. The shop window has been widened, the counter brought closer to the door, and there’s even a space in the background for customers to enjoy a cappuccino or a flat white, run by the serial liar Mrs Kirkwood. (Amazing they haven’t pensioned her off yet.) The company has brought in a whole new staff to help out old Bill. I went in there one Sunday afternoon and found Jack Duckworth and Seth Armstrong serving. I had not a clue what they were on about and left sharply, never to return.

Mr Turnbull takes to the streets to sell the riveting Tameside Express

For your information I now pop along to Mr Humphrys who runs the paper stand on the corner. He doesn’t carry any of the tabloids or the magazines, and is only interested in the broadsheets, but at least I can understand what he’s talking about. And he and his friend Mr Naughtie (“Naughty Naughtie”, my mum calls him) do have a laugh when one of them accidentally mispronounces Mr Jeremy Hunt‘s name.  The only alternative place to get my news from is Holmes’– the convenience store in the high street. But I fear that if the manager, Eamonn, doesn’t stop tucking into the pasties (“well, no-one else is buying them any more”) they’ll be no room for anyone to get into the shop to buy anything. Fat eejit, so ye are.

As I passed them, Old Bill had young Charlie helping him pile up sandbags outside the door of the shop. They looked very sad. Mrs Kirkwood had her sunglasses on, so I knew it was about to rain. I put up my brolly, upped the pace to a stroll and continued up the path.

The school football pitches lay silent, save for the rustling of Ginsters Dwarf packets being blown about in the goal netting, and old Mr Fry, the omnipresent caretaker re-marking out the lines with his trusty, squeaky wheely machine. I’m sure that’s not what it’s called and that Mr Fry would take the time to tell me, at length, what its real name is, but I intentionally don’t catch his eye. I’m getting bored of him telling me everything about everything. It seems like he’s everywhere I go. And he keeps asking me to follow him. It’s creepy, I reckon. Why he doesn’t find himself a nice wife I’ll never know.

A small boy is told that Mr Moon is unable to play at the village concert.

Much excitement was to be had, apparently, up at these pitches at the weekend as two of the immigrant boys did frightfully well in their respective soccer matches. Young Fernando scored three goals. IN ONE MATCH. Putting to bed the fear had by his new PE master, Signor Baldio, that the boy needed to be fitted with calipers to sort his legs and feet out.

Over on another pitch, little Adolf Suarez also scored three times, even though parents were assured at christmas that he was to be expelled for calling some of the other boys “Schwartzers”.  His coach, Mr Kenneth Gorbals (pronounced Goebbels), sadly now blind in both eyes, did offer something by way of excuse, but no-one understood him. And on Pitch 3 John the School Bully amazed everyone by staying on the pitch for the whole of the match, and without abusing or maiming anyone. He got rather excited when he scored a goal, but his dad rushed on to the field of play and administered some pills, which he’d secreted in a little baggie down his sock. After the match ‘Bully’ was seen talking to the nurse, Mrs Bridge who seemed to be backing in to him. A lot.

It’s sad to think that in a matter of weeks the pitches and the ancient trees that surround them will be dug up and tarmacked over for use as an Olympic car park. Oh well, we all have to do our bit, I suppose. What’s hundreds of years of history and a few old Oaks when compared to ensuring the success of a corporate carve-up sports tournament ?

The Terry family takes on the Suarezes in a friendly kick about on Sunday morning.

The school’s newly-appointed Temporary Chief Coach, Mr W.O.T. Wovers (Cantab) said that he was “wery happy with all the boys he’d seen in twaining” and that he was confident in their ability to do well in the tournament this summer “especially against fwance and the Ukwaine”.

On the far side of the football pitches I could see the SBS training in the village pond. Their activity was only hampered by having to steer their boats around the Astute-class nuclear submarine which the Royal Navy have parked, sorry moored in our pond, much to the annoyance of both the ducks and the local flasher.  Sadly, since the local ARP warden, Mr Johnson, announced that our village was a prime Al Qaeda target this summer, the whole place has been a hive of activity, with varying degrees of success and popularity.

The site for the gun emplacement – originally destined to be on top of the Conservative Club – has been moved (thank the Lord) and will stand proudly, perched on top of the ICU building at the local Hospital. Mr Johnson tells us that, not only will this deter the “Mad Raghead Mullahs” from bombing our NHS hospital, but it will ensure the general security and safety of all those waiting hours in corridors to be seen by the woefully short-handed staff”. I can certainly see that no right-minded burglar would want to break into the hospital now.

A crack team of nurses abandon their posts at the gun emplacement as they
remember they’ve left an elderly patient alone with young Dr Shipman

As I turned for home, I paused for a moment and removed my cap as a funeral cortege passed by. They were burying old Mrs Blears who died suddenly and horribly in a freak razor-wire accident. She was wrapping the aforementioned wire around her chimney in an effort to dissuade the Taliban from mounting an attack on her home, when she slipped and fell through the wire to the ground. Only the wire catching her across the neck and in her mop of lovely ginger hair saved her fall. Sadly she died from the injuries sustained. Had she been rescued in time she may have lived. Apparently she hung there for four weeks before anyone noticed she’d gone. One neighbour said “I’m so relieved she’s dead: I thought I’d gone deaf”. Another was quoted as saying “Let’s just remember what she did for us and for herself and enjoy the peace and silence now she’s gone”.

I buy my paper from Mr Humphry’s I see that they’ve decided to allow drug users to represent the village in the summer sports day. That’s good. It’ll give School Bully something to do in the closed season. I did see his dad and Mr Chambers having a good old chin-wag earlier (which is strange, given Mr Chambers’ colour), but I’m sure whatever was said could be easily taken out of context.

Ok, gotta go now. Have to buy one of Mr Coe’s lottery tickets for a place in the Air Raid shelter. S’funny, I always thought there’d be a place for all of us in the shelter when the time finally came, given all the taxes we’ve paid over the years and how long we’ve lived here. Not to mention that many of us had to move out of home to allow Mr Coe to build that big bunker of his. But apparently some seats have to be reserved for special friends of Mr Coe, and their friends and their families. Which is only right, I suppose.

A Five Eighth and a Half.


It’s sad to hear that Michael Lynagh, the great Australian fly-half (or 5/8 in some circles) has suffered a stoke at the age of 48. Having suffered similar a year at go and at a similar age, my thoughts are with him and hope he gets as much luck as I did, enjoys the same amount of excellent care and attention I did, but put on only 1/2 the weight. Lynagh comes from that rare breed of tackling stand-off halves (no, nor have I) and played in, and though not captain, led an Australian side full of superstars such as Campo, Nobody and Willie Ofahengaue, who not only were a joy to watch and won the 1991 World Cup but also tackled, rucked and mauled like demons (yes, it was that long ago). Michael was a brilliant kicker, runner and tactical thinker and was a true great of the game. Horrible to think of him cooped up in a hospital ward, but one trusts he won’t have quite so many rows with the hospital staff as your correspondent did (I swear, it was the drugs talking).

Meanwhile, the Welsh RFU’s resident Kiwi, Warren Gatland has also been taken crook, suffering with that very common but nevertheless annoying injury: fractured heels. Apparently Wazza was up a ladder cleaning the windows of his Waihi Beach holiday house on the Bay of Plenty, when he stepped back to admire his work. This brings two questions to mind: since when did they start building two-storey buildings down in 1957land ? and; who forgets they are up a ladder ? The former Waikaito hooker (Aha ! there’s a clue immediately) is laid up with both legs in plaster while his summer duties for Wales are handed over to real Welshman Rob Howley.

It’s a pity Gatland isn’t English as not only would he be able to still coach the national side, but he’d be more effective than Dylan Hartley (unless there was a Dwarf Tossing competition approaching) even with the plaster casts. 3/4 of English fans think that if the incumbent English hooker would 1/2 as good at throwing a ball than he as at throwing midgets across bars, he’d deserve his 2/3 of each match he somehow gets every week. As it is he’s been banned for a 1/4 of the season for biting for attempting to chew off 1/3 of and Irishman’s finger. Not that Warren would need to be English to qualify. There’s only a tiny fraction of the team who are.

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.

Foregone Conclusions.


It was a shock to wake up this morning (no changes there, then). No, I mean to say it was a shock to wake up this morning and discover Vlad the Putin had swept to an election victory in Russia, and once again the great man sits on the throne of the third biggest power in the world, after USA and FIFA. If only Barack Obama could be so sure of victory in this year’s election, but I guess there is no Jeb Obama resident in Florida who could steal the vote for him, so he’ll just have to trust  Minty Metro, the Republican Tool-of-Choice, to win it for him. Which he surely will ?

FIFA, of course have long-since had elections far more corrupt than that of either the Soviet Union or The Russian Federation, so we can expect Herr Blatter to remain in his position til he has accrued enough cash to be able to retire and hand over the reins to the Crook-in-Waiting, Michel Platini. Then, of course, we can all sit back and wait for Mad Michel to launch a series of decrees even more self-serving and dictatorial than his predecessor, Sepp the Swiss Soccer Swindler.

Who do I let these people get to me ?

Anyway, just to show that it’s not what you take out of life, it’s what you Putin, take a look on another on a theme. It’s quite fun, and includes a guest appearance from my old employer TIME, formerly of this parish.

Clement Atlee, Henry Cooper


The only time those two names will ever follow each other in a sentence.

Here’s another chance to hear the best bit of sports commentary ever, For those very few of you who haven’t heard this, treat yourself to a listen of a speech by Bjørge Lillelien, a commentator for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. His boys (the Norwegian football team) had just beaten the ‘mighty’ England in a world cup match in 1981. Purists will note that, since then, no-one in the world is remotely surprised when any team at any sport beats the mighty England team at any port whatsoever. And never will again.

But at the time our Bjørge got a little excited.

…and now back to you in the studio.

Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Sousa Vieira de Oliveira


Not only a brilliant footballer, but a lot of points in Scrabble, Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Sousa Vieira de Oliveira, or just Socrates to you and me, has died. Having survived a long career of being forced to wear some of the smallest shorts in sporting history, his hobbies of smoking, drinking and fathering kids (see And Where were the Germans? previous post) finally caught up with him.

Said The Daily Telegraph:

“Socrates – who also played at the 1986 World Cup finals – was a flamboyant footballer who boasted a myriad of contradictions.

He was a qualified doctor who never gave up his enjoyment of a smoke and a drink; he was an outspoken political activist, regularly protesting against the Brazilian military junta of the 1970s and 1980s.

He once listed his heroes as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and John Lennon, fathered six children and spent his retirement penning passionate articles on politics and economics as well as sport.

Socrates won 60 caps for Brazil, scored 22 goals and was a contemporary of the great Zico.

After officially ending his playing career in 1989, he bizarrely reappeared 15 years later, at the age of 50, with Garforth Town, an amateur side in the backwoods of northern England where he featured for just 10 minutes of action.”

A bit of a bolshy bastard, who loved a gasper (this is me talking now, not The Telegraph), Dr Socrates is remembered as much as a champion of the little man and a fierce campaigner against tyranny and dictatorship as he was for his swift, elegant play, his back-heels and his marvellous goal celebrations.There’s a video on Youtube of his appearance at Garforth Town, but this is how you really wanna remember him.

In a world when all we’re left with is the dignity and charm of John Terry, the wit and wisdom of Joey Barton and the grace and sportsmanship of Robbie Savage, it’s nice to remember a time when soccer was populated with gentleman and scholars, in every sense of the word.
And shorts that cut you in half.

That’ll Bring Water to Your Eyes

MovemberGrid

You Know Nothing, Mate


There are things you just know.

During your lifetime you pick up knowledge. Stuff that is just true and there’s no row about it. You know it’s true because, not only did mum and dad tell you, your teachers told you, the tv news told you and even Hollywood told you. Stuff like “all scousers are funny”; “all cockneys are the salt of the earth (they only slaughter their own)”; “all trombone players wear sandals”; and of course “all welshmen can sing and would never ever intend to break your neck on the rugby field because they’re nice blokes and just not like that”.

These are the sort of rules, the kind of guiding principles which allow you to steer your ship of life between the shifting sands of the Bay of Uncertainty and the hard, jagged rocks of  the inlet of Oh Fuck it’s Really Happening. It’s now 47 years since people started telling me stuff. I stopped listening to most of them some years ago. Like Homer, there’s only so much I can fit into my brain before something else gets pushed out. The ravages of age, a stroke, and a life of heavy drinking, along with the distraction of the oncoming steam train of certain Alzheimer’s  severely limits the amount of new information I can take on board. Or as Terry Pratchett might put it, I’m fucked in the ‘ead.

So imagine the confusion it causes one so fragile as me, when stuff you just know is fact turns out to be untrue, at least for the sake of selling a few books at Christmas time.

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun didn’t take their own lives, shortly after making a few dodgy videos for YouTube. Not according to the  new book Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler they didn’t. No, they fled to Argentina, aided and abetted by the Yanks in exchange for Nazi rocket scientists and the information within. According to a report in this week’s The Daily Mail (and who among us could argue with them ?) Mr& Mrs Hitler legged it through Europe and escaped across the sea to South America, presumably free to go on the piss with their chums Josef Mengele, Adolf Eichmann and countless other Nazis we let get away after 1945. The couple brought up their two kids, at some stage divorced, and Mr Hilter (as he then was) finally threw a seven in 1962 at the grand old age of 73.

The Russians claim they captured what was left of the Hitlers from a bunker in Berlin in 1945. What they apparently have are the charred remains of a early version of a McDonalds Breakfast Wrap (Another Fact: These are horrible. Keep away from them and go for the Double Sausage McMuffin.)

It’s a good job Vincent Van Gogh isn’t alive today. He’d be forced to go to Gateshead (up in the frozen North somewhere) where this year’s The Emperor’s New Clothes Prize has been moved to. Presumably Londoners have finally given up pretending that “Pile of Shite in Aspic” is art, and the organisers have decided to move to the Third World in search of new mugs to jump on the “oh-but-you-dont-understand-what-art-is” bandwagon. Howay.

The aforementioned Vincent is no longer with us, of course, having topped himself in a wheat field in 1890 in northern France.

Wrong again.

The Kirk Douglas look-a-like was shot by a couple of brothers in a dispute over a stolen pistol. We know this from the new book imaginatively entitled Van Gogh: The Life (available at all good bookshops, makes the perfect gift). In their book the two American authors trash the widely-held belief that the absinthe-riddled, ginger paintist, having reached the end of his tether with a lack of sales and Anthony Quinn’s acting, took himself off and fell on his own pallet knife. (Sadly for me they make no mention of the time Gauguin asked Vincent if he’d like another canvas. “No thanks, I’ve got one ear”  Van Gogh replied. As the book doesn’t mention this, I now know it to be true.)

The fact that he was shot by a young boy, and didn’t just succumb to the inner-demons of the mad genius that he was has not only rocked the art world, with the sky-high prices of Van Gogh’s work potentially under threat (nutcases sell for more) but worse, Don McLean is having to rewrite one of his songs.

This morning the descendents of Robert Falcon Scott‘s fateful expedition to the South Pole have joined in the campaign to diss everything I thought I knew about everything. There’s a new exhibition in town showing many images, some not seen before, by the trip’s snapper Herbert Ponting (not to be confused with the Ricky Ponting, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes) which for a century have graphically shown the anguish and despair the Brits felt by narrowingly losing out to the Norwegian group led by Roald Amundsen (who’d already seen off the plucky West Germans in the semi-final). The downhearted and disheartened Limeys finally gave up their attempt to return home and were swallowed up by the icy wilderness. Amundsen and his Scandinavians went home to a heroes welcome and a recording contract.

But wait a minute, according to the British ancestors, Scott’s men were not the least bit disappointed to lose. There was, in fact, no race to the pole. There’s was a purely scientific expedition to gain knowledge of the surrounding area for King and Country, with no-one giving a toss whether Amundsen won or not. Ponting set up the most southerly branch of Pront-a-Print, charging a farthing for a photo of the pole and pony on a tee-shirt; Captain Oates left the tent and was never seen again. He is oft quoted as saying “I am just going outside and may be some time”. The end of his sentence was lost in the chill wind. What he really said was “I am just going outside and may be some time. I’ve got all this bunting and balloons to erect for when we see the Norwegians again”. In truth, Scott should not have been played on screen by John Mills but by Norman Wisdom.

So there you have it. Hitler died in 1962, just missing out missing Ronnie Biggs. Van Gogh covered up his own murder and his relationship with young boys and, just like the retreating soldiers at Dunkirk, Scott of Antarctic had nothing to be sad about. It’s a pity they didn’t make it back because The Titanic was waiting for them just off Antarctica to take them home on her second voyage.

99 years later,  a ship was moored off the coast of Libya, waiting for President Muammar Gaddafi who was due to escape on her . However, the ever-popular Dictator would not make it on board nor never get to feel the warm embrace of his old mate Tony Blair again as he died of the multiple bullet wounds he received to the back of the head while resisting arrest.

Honestly. It’s a fact !!!