Monday, 19 August 2013

The Song Remains The Same

As we prepare to say hello to a new football season, it is time to say goodbye to this blog. The final post of this sprawling thing which has been a part of my life (as well as the lives of at least 3 other people) for some 5 or 6 years heralds another few months of footy related money, mayhem and madness across the land. Already, the almost indecent spectacle of Burnley taking on Blackpool, whilst at the same time the England cricket team watch the rain at Old Trafford, signals the 125th anniversary of the football league. Typically (in football as in everything else) we seem unable to learn even the most basic of lessons from the mistakes of the past. Doubtless, yet more clubs will suffer the fate of Coventry City, whose fans will have to make the trek to the Sixfields Stadium to watch their once mighty heroes slug it out in the dark web that is the bottom of League 2. At the same time, requiring an almost supernatural ability to deny empirical evidence, (Un)Real Madrid are reportedly offering to pay £100 million to sign Gareth Bale.

One hundred million pounds.

Take a second or two to think about that if you will. Madrid is the capital city of Spain, a country – we are told – with 50% plus youth unemployment and a debt crisis so massive it threatens to bring down the monetary system of the European Union, if not the entire world. Who can make sense of that? Where does the money come from? But then, it seems increasingly plain to me that making sense of anything in the world today is an impossibility. While those who tell us the real news are skulking in embassies or airport lounges, or are about to begin 130 year long prison sentences, we have ‘news’ items dedicated to telling us that Peter Capaldi is the next Doctor Who.

The real news must be: the disgraceful, shameful and worsening way in which asylum seekers are being treated. Truly desperate people, often escaping from situations created by the power-brokers in Washington, Moscow and Westminster, snubbed, abused and denigrated. As if laughing in the face of The Nazis – A Warning From History, the Home Office sends out ad vans telling people to ‘go home’ and then tweets pictures of those it has detained on suspicion of being ‘illegals’ by dint of the colour of their skin. We then find out that said Home Office has no idea of how many immigrants (illegal or otherwise) there are in the country, and it redacts an independent report into the situation, yet has been able to contribute £400,000 to the programme UK Border Force. I found this to be a quite astonishing piece of information.

The real news must be: that we as British citizens are not allowed to read the ‘black spider’ correspondence of HRH the Prince of Wales. We are not permitted to know the reasons why he has met with ministers on 36 occasions (including seven meetings with Herr Cameron himself) since the Coalition took office. The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve says this is because the spider correspondence might give the public the impression that Prince Charles is not scrupulously aloof from party politics. There is no reference to the huge tracts of land Charlie owns, the Civil List payment he receives, or his Duchy Originals fine food empire. Now, if anyone other than, say, Lewis Carroll can make any sense of that, I will eat my hat.

The real news must be: the value of wages in the UK has dropped by 5.5% (a sharper decline than in the virtually defunct state of Portugal) since 2010, which is coincidentally the same timeframe as Prince Charles’s 36 meetings mentioned above, and marks the beginning of the Coalition’s assumption of power. During this time, the pay of those (almost entirely male) business leaders who sit in boardrooms has risen thus: 2010 – a 55% increase; 2011 – a 49% increase; 2012 – a 10% increase; 2013 – a 14% increase. One news report I read said that boardroom pay is increasing seven times faster than average, but as the recent figures show a drop in the value of wages of 5 and a half per cent, this is hardly surprising. Despite all the current bluster about bankers’ bonuses, the median pay of a FTSE 100 business leader is still being reported as between £3.7 and £4.8 million pounds, with full remuneration for the top 10 bosses around the £9 million mark, right up to that old rogue Bob Diamond, who trousered £21 million not so long ago. And, with every Byron burger Gideon consumes, the chasm between these guys and the ordinary working man and woman yawns still bigger.

The real news must be: that the Trussell Trust (I don’t trust the Trussell Trust, but enough of that for now) has reported a huge increase in people using their food banks. They say that almost 350,000 people were given emergency food supplies in the twelve months up to May this year. Lord Freud, a suitably appointed millionaire to deal with the issue of poverty, stated that this increase is not related to cuts in benefit payments, but is down to the fact that folks just want free food, almost as if these places are victims of their own success. Iain Duncan Smith, another millionaire, then claimed that this rise in the use of food banks was down to ‘increased awareness’ among people, and could in no way be linked to the benefit cuts. He surpassed himself in this one, even managing to piss off the head of the Trussell Trust by saying that they agreed with him on this point, which they definitely do not.

The real news must be: that the Israeli government has just authorised over 1,000 new settlements on land which even it agrees belongs to the Palestinians. They have done this in total defiance of international law and overwhelming public opinion, but worse than that, they have done this while sitting at the table with the Palestinian Authority (although of course, this is not the elected government of the Palestinians) and Senator John Kerry, purporting to be conceiving a new nine month plan for peace. If the life of any baby were to be given a smaller chance of success, it would surely have to be one begun in sub-Saharan Africa. Barack Obama – funny guy – sits with his kill lists and his drone fleets, his intelligence on literally everything that we do, increasingly irrelevant as the next round of electioneering fundraising begins to kick off.

Goodnight. And may your god go with you.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Off We Go

Well, a quickie for you. My summary of how I see City’s season ahead, which will deliberately ignore any of the more complex issues and focus purely on the football.

Strange, (to start at the opposite end of the spectrum) seeing Moyes on the telly the other night, punditting for all his worth on the England match. An icon in the shape of Sir Alex has gone forever, and one can’t help feeling that United will not be the same again for some time. Last season they weren’t exactly superb, but managed to doggedly float to the top of a steaming pile of kak. This year, my feeling is that they will bob around 2nd or 3rd place, especially looking at the limited pool of talent they have assembled.

Chelsea I believe are by far the biggest threat to City retaking the title, and it will be a close thing. Mourinho’s return will have a significant impact, and they still have a good squad. So it’s Chelsea 2nd or 1st for me. Laughably, Mark – the dickhead Gooner at work – tips Arsenal for the top (based on their besting of us in the pre-season match in Scandawegia) and I can only treat that pathetic claim with the contempt it deserves. Arsenal, I would say 4th or 5th with their fortunes perhaps tied to the ludicrous Suarez nonsense.

That takes me neatly on to the Scousers, who have shown promise under Brendan Rodgers but are nonetheless looking a bit short. The Mad Biter can make a difference to any team, but even he can’t win the title on his own. Lucky to get 5th I would say. Then on to Spurs. You will see my views on the Gareth Bale situation in the final ever post to be published just before kick-off on Monday night, and again he is a player who can make a huge difference. A defender who scores loads of goals; a terror to any opposing team; should he stay, along with some other talented yet inconsistent team-mates, he could push Spurs up to 3rd or 4th if he’s up for it.

City? Good – even great – signings to the value of £90 million, and some exceptional talent in those I have actually seen play. Navas in particular looks incredibly quick, and promises to form an unstoppable partnership with Merlin, while Jovetic should have the power to brush aside the likes of Stoke City et al. Yet, some of our pre-season form was a little worrying, and that loss to Arsenal (dickhead Mark aside) in particular. Of course, none of it matters till the matches start in earnest, and... Brother, here we go again.

So, to take it all in the round, here’s my predictions:

1. City
2. Chelsea
3. Rags
4. Spurs
5. Arsenal
6. Liverpool
7. Everton
8. All the rest

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Death and destruction

My friend Don Cake speaks of violence as the ultimate breakdown of communication, but my argument with him is that I feel physical violence to be perhaps the most eloquent form of communication available to us. Experts vary on the subject of how much of human communication is non-verbal, with some saying it comprises 66%, and others nearer 80%. One could argue that the subjugation of women worldwide ultimately rests on the fact of their physical weakness compared to men. Like a wife beating husband, the state demonstrates its power over us in the most graphic way. It cows us and stamps out the futility of resistance. Psychological control follows physical domination, and is a much more effective means of control.

For the pen-penultimate post on here, I have a question.

On another dark day for the ordinary person in Egypt, why does the state always default to the violent repression of its people? I cannot pretend to know anywhere near enough about the complex web that comprises politics in that part of the world, but (so we are told) the current terrible death toll is among pro Morsi supporters. Presumably, when Morsi was still in power just a few weeks ago, the same soldiers then as now were pulling the triggers, letting off the tear gas, and swinging the batons with gay abandon as they laid into a different set of people. Surely, these soldiers are all mothers’ sons; perhaps fathers, brothers, nephews, cousins, maybe even friends to some? And surely the chances of having to exercise extreme restraint on someone you know and love increase as your actions take in wider and more diverse groups?

JG Ballard says that police violence against protesters is directly correlated with their boredom levels. In that case, we must assume that the psychopathic officer who smashed Iain Tomlinson to death must have been in the grip of an intense ennui. I have pondered the conundrum of the thug on the ground before, trying to understand the mentality of someone who is capable of meting out the terrible ‘punishments’ (at the behest of their paymasters) that comprise torture and crowd control. Those who served in the death camps, lined up in firing squads, or herding terrified men, women and children (CHILDREN!) into the Zyklon B showers; the IDF soldier who puts a young boy in his cross hairs and fires; the American marines who patrol Guantanamo Bay. How far from humanity is it possible to stray whilst still being a human? Yet, the fact that these goons are capable of such atrocities is key to the control that the state exerts.

One other consideration is the question why the powerful machinery of the nation, with its trained hoodlums and mechanised death-dealing equipment, should be so frightened of a few people standing in the street? The handbook of crowd control, though perhaps moderated to suit the level of violence (I believe that scenes such as those we have recently seen in Egypt would not happen in the UK, at least not yet, for example – just as the almost routine use of water cannon in many European countries is a matter of great debate everywhere here except Northern Ireland) to which a populace are used, seems to say: ‘Go in hard, go in early, and break their spirit.’ At its root we assume government fear of the terrifying power of the mob, able through sheer weight of numbers to topple the structures which hold our society together. Then, how do we fight? What equivalent to a women’s refuge is there for the downtrodden of the world? I suppose we can only win with ideas, with knowledge, and with communication.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Out Out Out

A fitting way to watch the FA Cup final which - somewhat sadly - I really wasn't looking forward to all that much anyway. I was struck down early on Wednesday morning by some kind of gastric bug. I will spare you the gruesome details, but suffice it to say that I am still at the tail-end of the hideous fallout from it. On top of the rear end action, I was also feeling a little flu-ey: aching joints and head; slightly spaced out physicality, etc. No doubt compounded by the lack of sleep as I sat and stared at the tiled toilet floor in the middle of the night. So it was in this frame of mind that I crawled onto the sofa at 5 fucking 15 on Saturday, a can of beer unopened in front of me for nearly 45 minutes, listlessly watching the match unfold.

What can I say? I never expected - as so many fuckwits seemed to - that we would turn Wigan over. Just recently, we were extremely lucky to get away with a 1-0 win over them, and, unluckily mired as they are in the bottom three, they are still more than capable of playing some good football. I'm not calling him a fuckwit, but my cousin Steve predicted 4-1 City. I always (honestly - I'm not trying to big myself up) believed that it would be a low scoring affair. From the off, the Latics looked seemingly impenetrable in defence, though perhaps lacking in the final ball finesse to score, while we were lethargic and utterly bereft of ideas. A packed line of central defenders repeatedly stifled the darting runs of Kun and Tevez. Silva, on the rare occasions he did pick up the ball, was not playing at all well, and Yaya looked as if he was still suffering the muscle fatigue reported against Swansea earlier in the week. There was some hope rather than anticipation that we might click in the second half, but it was very short-lived and - truth be told - they (and particularly McManaman) came on much more strongly as the game progressed - cocking a snook at 'bloody' Roy Keane and his pearls of wisdom. I was too weak to shout, but that didn't matter as there was hardly anything worth shouting about. More and more often, Clichy was made to look an idiot down our left side, until their scoring seemed an inevitability, and then Zab got his marching orders, putting paid to any chance we might have had of (unjustly) nicking one to win it.

I'm no fan of Dave Whelan - in fact I think he's a Tory cunt - but I suppose I've got nothing in particular against their fans, even if they do like egg chasing more than the beautiful game. In any case, it's important to be magnanimous in defeat, so fair play to them, congratulations and all that.

We hear that Bobby is being treated in the now familiar shabby fashion that is modern football management, although swinging the axe on the very day that was the anniversary of our tremendous title win was classless in the extreme. The loss though, and the end to a potless and disappointing campaign, fits the mood of the moment - even as Sralex stands and cries in the middle of the Sty, sticking the knife in as the tears roll down his face. Wigan then, as much as City, deserved what they got, so it's time to look to the future and our exciting trips to South Africa and the USA. Time to consider life under a Chilean rather than an Italian.

Saturday, 13 April 2013


Perhaps it was because there was nothing to fight for but pride; maybe it helped that Van Persil left his shooting boots at home and Roo (ha!) had a mare. It could have been any of those things, but in the end we easily deserved the glorious win that marked two consecutive away beatings of the old enemy. Another incredible goal from Kun to seal it, and an overall performance which showed few of the cracks and failings we have displayed in some of our worst matches this season. Nastasic looking solid, Clichy full of running, Vinnie back to his self-assured best, Yaya strong and powerful - playing a captain's role on the occasions when football was secondary to handbags - and Milner getting MOTM as he deservedly should have. Merlin not quite clicking as we know he can, but still more than bloody decent, and Nasri playing... well... OK, I suppose. Then it was all nicely capped off with the #tweetyourphiljonesface hilarity the next morning, once again confirming City fans as the wittiest in the country.

On to Chelsea then, and in the purest sense, the football gods you might say would demand a sacrifice, but the victory at the Sty was purely on merit, and I can say with my hand on my heart that we bossed the fuckers for pretty much the whole 96 or 97 minutes. Even their goal was ridiculous, down to a crazy Joe Hart lunge and a bounce off Jones' beaker mug onto the back of Vinnie's shirt before somehow going in. We all know that Bobby and Platty are right when they say that the title race is over, but we can dream. A small glimmer of hope to brighten this interminable winter with its persistent easterly wind gnawing at our bones.

Though they do say spring is on its way, with a possible 21 degrees at Wembley to look forward to tomorrow, and what promises to be a testing game against the Smilers. Could go either way that one (I'm not ashamed of the cliche, thank you) but it does look likely to have its moments. Mata, Hazard and Oscar are all deadly on their day, while Ba can bang them in, and even old Frankie Lamps is still a man to cause any team problems. But they are, if not a curate's egg (which is becoming one of my favourite phrases - typically slippery English) then certainly a curious bunch this season, Benitez's boys: full of flair and brio one minute and clod-hopping losers the next. On top of that, it is the FA Cup of course, and the accepted wisdom is that accepted wisdom goes flying out of the window. All I can say is that I'm looking forward to it. Sunday 4 o'clock kick-off is an ideal match time for me.

Current reading: Stephen King's It. Not up to the standard of Gerald's Game or The Shining, but entertaining nevertheless. King can write about childhood like nobody else, but It seems a little too unfocussed to hold the terror of - for example - the Overlook Hotel. I've had quite an exclusive diet of the Maine man lately, but I'll stick with It for the time being. I feel I can't flush Stephen out of my system till I get hold of a copy of Pet Sematary. Then I will move on to someone or something else.

Current listening: I've Been Everywhere, Man by Johnny Cash. What a tune! I'm trying to:

a) learn the words and

b) come up with an Oswestry version (having found that there's a Kiwi one, FFS!) even though Maesbury doesn't have quite the same ring as Sioux City.

Current work situation: being called a fucking wanker by some weirdo who spends his time ringing us up and complaining about... what? I don't know. I was rattled the first time it happened, but now everyone is surprised at how clamly I deal with him.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


Following the great day of reckoning (appropriate that it should have been April Fools' Day) yesterday, we have - yet again - the patronising gimmick of asking a minister to live the life of a person in need. We've seen this before, seen it with homelessness, seen it as a TV show conceit, seen it to death, and it has done nothing to inform or enlighten the debate. These days, with the continued depressing debasement of any and all serious discussion, we are as far away from enlightenment as it is possible to be.

Regardless of facts, the crusade continues; savings or cuts, debt or deficit, tax or penalty. I have written about the Quiet Man before, and the facts of his life are there for all to see, but once again he is - incredibly - central to the way that this country operates. He talks in high-minded fashion about benefit dependency, and alludes to the moral duty of providing opportunities for people to escape from this trap. Iain Duncan Smith, personal wealth (mostly from public speaking engagements) estimated at £1,000,000, with an annual salary of £134,565, married to the daughter of 'The Commander' - Baron Cottesloe - moralises to the nation about a culture of entitlement and this vile hypocrisy is reduced to a stupid, pointless challenge to him to live for one week only on £53. What will this achieve? Sweet Fanny Adams. IDS is lucky to be where he is - in his rented cottage on the father-in-law's country estate, is lucky that his connections and a few cleverly crafted bits of misinformation on his CV allowed him to enter the echelons of privilege which make our scepter'd isle what it is. Just as the proverbial and apocryphal dole scrounger is unlucky to be wherever (s)he is, trying to make the best life they can while everything conspires to push their faces deeper into the mud.

But what of the facts? They are notoriously difficult to track down, because everyone puts their own gloss on the screeds of numbers pumped out each day, every vested interest finds one or other statistic to reinforce their agenda. What we do know is that the welfare bill is largely made up of payments to those of pension age, and that it is a huge number, growing all the time as we live longer and accrue more illnesses thanks to this ageing process and the lives we lead, the poisons we are fed (voluntarily and involuntarily) in the modern world, and the mountains of shit we belch and vomit into the environment every day. None of these inconvenient truths are mentioned by Mr Duncan Smith or his cohorts because many of the above-mentioned group are perceived to hold the power of election over them.

We also know that many of those in receipt of housing benefit are working, and that most of these people are also in receipt of tax credits to make up for the fact that the wages they are paid are not adequate to provide a living. Thus large companies are effectively supported by government money so that they can continue to pay wages below decent levels. Already we have a strong rebuttal to the general meaningless noise emitted by those in Whitehall: that there is some huge money sucking monstrosity of The Unemployed draining valuable resources in a time of general penury. This is clearly not true. However, IDS and others continue to peddle their egregious guff, ploughing on with no heed for the voices raised against them. Even more galling, the gulf between scum like him and the increasing numbers of poor people grows wider by the day, yet he has the nerve to preach about how everyone has a duty to work harder.

People in receipt of Income Support (how insidious is the use of language?) are now expected to pay towards their council tax, and in some cases this amounts to just over £1 a week. Not facts necessarily this time, but an educated guess: the cost of collecting these monies will easily outweigh the value of the sums collected - even in cases where people have both the ability and the will to pay. How much does it cost to calculate the required payment, how much to input the data on to a computer, and how much to print the sheets out before posting them to each claimant? If we factor in the guaranteed prosecutions for non-payment (remembering that such non-payment is a criminal, not civil offence) then the cost of administration will soar, making the whole process unworkable, meaningless and self-defeating. But who cares about shit like that?

Wednesday, 27 March 2013



The anniversary of Ruth's death is 27th March, and I wanted to repost this, originally written in June 2012, in her memory. May her words and thoughts and deeds live forever in our hearts.

Ruth died on Tuesday 27th March 2012 at seventeen minutes past 10 in the evening. She had been suffering for just under a year with pancreatic cancer, and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease some years prior to the cancer being identified. It isn't my place to go into too much detail about her life, but I feel the need to write a tribute to her.

She was a remarkable woman, who played a major part in my life from around the age of 17 or 18, when I swam into the orbit of her family. Just like anyone who ever met her, I'm sure, I will never forget her for her ready laugh and sometimes outrageous sense of humour; her strong but (generally) kind personality, and her immense but largely unrecognised writing talents. Her poetry had a light touch, and could be extremely funny, but poignant too. Some samples of her work are here and a book was produced in 2011. Her literary love was Dylan Thomas.

A great player of parlour games, she had a fondness for Trivial Pursuit when it was at the height of its popularity, and there was always a Braille Scrabble set around, as well as the letter cards from Lexicon that she could use for anagram games - beng able to make out the letter shapes in their large format.

In a world of timidity, there were few things she was scared of, and few things she wouldn't face by tackling them head on, before brewing up another pot of tea and blasting Tosca out of the stereo in the kitchen at full volume. There aren't many people I can remember having such laughs with, and even when I saw her last, with the Alzheimer's in full swing, we still spent a good part of the day roaring hysterically.

"I like him," she said, "He makes me laugh!" And how good did that make me feel?

Her eyesight began to deteriorate at the onset of adulthood, and continued to worsen throughout her life, so she would always be seen out with a white stick and (in later years) a guide dog. I remember that she loved Eastenders, and would sit virtually on top of the TV set following the plot. When making tea, she would put the tip of her finger over the rim of the cup to ensure that it was poured to the right level. This absence of vision did not however prevent her from living a full life, nor from bringing up a large family, each in their own way as remarkable as she was. As well as working for talking newspapers, she also advised special access groups on provision for those with sight disabilities, read her poetry from memory at various venues, and was a source of help and inspiration for almost anyone (and believe me, there were all sorts) who came to her door.

"And death shall have no dominion
Under the windings of the sea"