Monday, 17 December 2007

Back In The Day...

I recently bought Boys and Girls - A Ladybird book of childhood. It's a Christmas present for someone, but when I received it today in the post, I had trouble putting it down. I should wrap it up sharpish, otherwise before I know it, I'll have read it from cover to cover!

I was a bit of a bookworm (a.k.a. nerd) when I was a kid. When I was growing up, many of the books I read were Ladybird books, from the Peter and Jane series through to informational Learnabout books. Obviously I've moved onto more challenging titles since then -last week I managed to complete my first Janet & John book, ha-ha.

Ladybird Books was swallowed up by Penguin Group in 1999, but still publishes titles aimed at children. Not surprisingly there is a big collectors market for the original titles.

Boys and Girls A Ladybird book of childhood is absolutely dripping with nostalgia. Over the past ten or so years, there has been a massive interest in childhood & the old days, from the friendsreunited website through to the School Disco. One of last years most popular Christmas books was The Dangerous Book for Boys. Boys and Girls continues in the same vein. I'm sure that it will sell by the shed load, a great present for the children of the late 60's and early 70's. Kids today, busy with their PlayStations and Nintendo wii's....they don't know they've been born!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Keep Music Live

Just got back from a nice weekend away at my sister's family. One of the highlights of the trip, apart from seeing my splendid nephew, was to attend a concert by Derby Concert Orchestra at Derby Cathedral on Saturday evening.

It might surprise some people that a shaven headed football fan has a hidden interest in classical music, but I come from quite a musical family. I played the violin when I was younger, and for a year I was leader of the School Orchestra. I don't admit to being a brilliant violinist (I only completed Grade 6), but being in an orchestra gave me some great opportunities, including playing concerts at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank with the Hillingdon Schools Symphony Orchestra.

These days I no longer play, although my old violin is still knocking around somewhere. Fortunately my sister was far better than me, and attained Grade 8 status (Jen undoubtedly has more talent than me, and was more dedicated to practising than me when we were younger). She carried on her playing days and has been a member of the aforementioned DCO for over ten years now. I always try to catch one of their concerts when the chance arises.

The latest concert was a programme of 'dance music' with a strong Viennese theme to it. Music by Khachaturian, Ravel, Dvorak, Copland, and the highlight for me - The Blue Danube by Strauss. Ironically I was in Vienna last week to watch England play Austria in a pointless friendly! This piece of music takes me back to my childhood - I close my eyes and can see a Tom & Jerry cartoon, with Tom chasing Jerry around a frozen lake on ice skates!

It's always a thrill for me to watch live music, and I hope that watching live classical music in this country continues forever. It's difficult for some groups to keep going financially. The Derby Concert Orchestra players all have full time jobs - playing in the DCO is a labour of love for them and they have to rely on grants, subs & donations to keep going.

For me, the great classical composers are geniuses. Through music alone their compositions tell a story, paint a picture, evoke memories & feelings, inspire and delight. Tragically many of these composers died penniless (Mozart), went mad (Schumann) , or didn't live long enough to see the fruits of their labour (Bach). They left behind a massive legacy, and a lot of classical music is timeless. Compare this to wealthy mediocre artists of today!

So, the point of this post? If you get a chance, go along to support your local orchestra at least once in the next year. If they're like the DCO, then the standard will be high, the music will be fantastic, and it will be great value for money (a tenner for an evening's entertainment).

Saturday, 10 November 2007


I've got a confession to make. I take TV adverts far too seriously (for reference, see my earlier post on Vinny Jones).

Some TV ads are designed to make you laugh - e.g. the Peter Kay John Smiths Bitter 'No Nonsense' ones. Others are designed to get people talking - e.g. WTF does a gorilla drumming along to Phil Collins, have to do with a poxy bar of chocolate?! Some are spectacular and clever; for example I really like the Honda choir advert (although one guy I work with called it "a pile of pretentious wank").

On the other hand, some adverts are bloody awful, mainly because they don't fall into any of the above categories. Two ads immediately spring to of them deserves a post all of its own (Picture Loans), so I'll save that one for later.

The one ad I do dislike is for Optical Express. You know the one, it's for the laser eye surgery people, with 95 year old men skiing down mountains, a bloke helping his son learn to ride a bike, a happy elderly couple being able to see flowers & trees for the first time in their lives. On the face of it, it's a fairly inoffensive piece of advertising.

No. It's fluffy nonsense, and the part of the advert that annoys me every time I see it is the clip of that Chinese bird playing tennis and seemingly returning a winner across the court.

It's bollocks. This is a woman who has never picked up a tennis racket before in her life. Clearly, she's only pretending to strike a ball - because there sure as hell isn't a ball in view. Then you see her give a smug, clenched fist "Yes!" when her shot supposedly beats her non existent opponent. All I am asking for is a little bit of realism in ads. Bearing in mind the slow-mo speed of the clip, there is no way that in the time between her hitting the ball, and her jubilant celebration, that the ball would have travelled further than the net. Perhaps she doesn't realise the rules... "Yes, I've scored a goal! Back of the net!!"

Who knows, one day I might consider laser eye corrective surgery, I've heard some positive things about it. But I'm more likely to spend my money with a company that doesn't waste their money on glib TV advertising, that treats it's potential customers like Muppets.

Give me the John Smiths style of advertising any day of the week. Peter Kay, throwing a pair of specs in the bin saying "Laser eye surgery - for 400 quid, helps you see better. Have it!" No nonsense!

Sunday, 4 November 2007


It's a big period of change at the moment for my football team Queens Park Rangers. From being London's top placed club in the Premiership in the early 90's, their fall from grace has been spectacular......two relegation's, administration, near liquidation, boardroom coups, an FA Cup defeat to Vauxhall Motors....the list goes on and on.

Last season, John Gregory performed a minor miracle by keeping up a team that had looked doomed earlier in the year. Sadly, the new season started off badly, both on and off the pitch. Teenage striker Ray Jones was tragically killed in a car accident, the team hit a vein of poor form, and rumours abounded that QPR were facing administration again, or worse.

Then along came a Flavio Briatore & Bernie Ecclestone. The F1 guys, both very successful businessmen, were persuaded by QPR Chairman Gianni Paladini to invest some money in the club. The takeover is pretty much signed sealed and delivered, with a crippling debt seemingly wiped out and a big wedge of £$£$£ to spend on some decent players.

John Gregory & Mick Harford have been the fall guys in this, the former for some bizarre team selections that threatened to undo all his good work from last year; the latter who was let go despite an impressive run whilst he was Caretaker Manager. Really, they never had a chance. As soon as the takeover went through, Flavio was always going to install his own people, with a new way of doing things.

And so the QPR revolution goes on, with Franco Ceravolo (formerly chief scout of Juventus) working in tandem with a new First Team Coach, Luigi de Canio & a team of mainly Italian coaches.

Naturally, a lot of QPR fans have viewed all these changes with an air of scepticism. We've been here before, when Chrysalis boss Chris Wright took over in the mid 1990's, ploughed £millions into getting QPR back into the top flight, failed, and left the club in a far worse state than when he arrived. I don't doubt his good intentions when he arrived; but he showed that throwing money at something without a sound business plan doesn't work. For me, I have a lot more faith in the new board - Briatore & Ecclestone have been a proven success in whatever venture they've undertaken. Until recently I was bricking it about QPR's chances of being able to exist - last season when we lost to Luton in an FA Cup 3rd round replay I felt like crying - not just because of losing the game, but of the significant TV revenue we had missed out on (BBC had selected the subsequent 4th round tie for live coverage). Now, even when we were bottom of the table a few weeks ago, I wasn't too concerned as I knew that better times are on the horizon.

Fast-forward to yesterday's home game vs Hull City. De Canio's first game, and a bit of a step into the unknown for Rangers. How would the players react? Would he be able to communicate effectively with players, with him just beginning to learn English? What style of football would we play? Would there be a culture clash of stylish Italian swagger vs gritty English championship football?

So far, so good. Out went functional central midfielder Adam Bolder (who to be fair was a rock last season) and in came the classy Hungarian Akos Buzsaky. After a tentative start, we went on to play a patient, probing, passing game, and in the second half it was as the fans sang "just like watching Brazil", or should that be Italy? QPR played some of the best football seen at Loftus Road for a while. It was so good that at one stage I felt like knocking one out at the side of the pitch, but the over zealous stewards stopped me from desecrating the pitch. Two classy goals, then at 2-0 we shut up shop, getting the job done in a professional way.

It's easy to get carried away as a football fan. I may look back at this post in a few months & wonder what the hell I was thinking. But every long journey starts with a single step, and I have encouraged with what I have seen so far. Right now the future is looking bright for QPR.

Buona fortuna, Luigi.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Jelly Babies

This post was originally going to be about a court case this week, whereby a guy punched a 96 year old war veteran on a bus (causing the pensioner to lose sight in one eye), and only received a suspended sentence for his troubles.

But then I had a look at my previous few posts and thought "hmmm it's getting a bit too Daily Mail on here at the moment". So I thought long and hard about writing something a bit more positive.

And there I was in Sainsbury's doing my shopping, and BANG, it hit me. On a gondola end, on offer at 50% off; Bassetts Jelly Babies. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

My immediate thought was to remain calm and rational. After all, I had broken the golden rule of food shopping, by going into the store already hungry. I also considered the dietary & financial implications. But then I thought "F*** it, let's live for today" and cleared the store of it's entire Jelly Babies stock.

Put simply, Jelly Babies are food utopia to me. The King of Sweets. The Daddy of Confectionery. Here are some facts for your curiosity....

  • Jelly Babies were launched 75 years ago by Bassetts, to celebrate the end of World War One. They were originally known as Peace Babies
  • Production was put on hold during World War Two due to a shortage of raw materials, but made a comeback in 1953 as Jelly Babies.
  • The most popular flavours are as follows: strawberry, lime, blackcurrant, lemon, raspberry & orange. Hard to believe, I know - orange wins hands down as far as I'm concerned!
  • 3 million Jelly babies are eaten every week in the UK.
  • My favourite incarnation of Doctor Who, Tom Baker, used to carry some around in that big coat of his.
  • Apparently they are not suitable for vegetarians. Harsh!

So there you have it. If it's high brow, intelligent debate you're after - this blog is most certainly the place to come!

Thursday, 18 October 2007


I felt deflated yesterday after England's defeat to Russia in the Euro 2008 Qualifier. Not as deflated as some friends of mine who travelled all the way to Russia only to be prevented by Robocop from collecting their tickets - they had to watch the game in a hotel bar - but still pretty pissed off.

We looked fairly comfortable for most of the game, but after Russia's equalising goal we fell apart - no organisation defensively. By the end our players' body language conveyed a lack of confidence / belief / desire.

Compare & contrast this with our Rugby team, who have turned around an appalling defeat in the group stages of the World Cup to South Africa, and within two weeks have dumped 2 of the favourites (one the host, the other our arch rivals) out of the tournament to set up a rematch vs the Springboks in the final.

Talk about inspiring! The rugby's not been pretty but even the staunchest critics of England's style have been in awe at our spirit & endeavour. These guys have given everything for the cause.

So what's the difference? We were having a debate about this in the office today at work. Our discussion centred around the singing of the national anthems before the game. Compare and contrast:

1. The Rugby team, arms around shoulders, all taped up heads & cauliflower ears, belting out every word, with passion & emotion pouring out of every pore.

2. Our overpaid, well-pampered footballers, some of them mumbling the words, others staring into space. I swear, some of them are listening to their i-pods.

Maybe this is a bit harsh. Some of players DO care, and some of them do know the words to God Save The Queen. Is it a rugby vs football thing? One of my colleagues pointed out that the rugby players probably had to sing the national anthem every day at school, so they should know it pretty well by now!! However, other football nations sing their anthems with more gusto than ours.

Perhaps GSTQ isn't as rousing as other national anthems. As an example, I really like the Italian one (Il Canto degli Italiani if you're interested), and surprisingly I like the French La Marseillaise. No, this shouldn't be an excuse. English by the Grace of God, and all that.

Maybe it's players' personal preferences. Some might feel the need to be professional, and focus on the game ahead. Others might be bursting with pride on the inside, but externally they appear calm. Gary Neville is patriotic, but I've read somewhere that he doesn't sing because he is anti Monarchy.

Whatever it is, I wish the English football team would take a leaf out of their rugby counterparts, and sing GSTQ with some pride and passion. I've seen rugby players bursting with so much patriotic pride that they're crying during their anthems - what sort of message would this send to the opposition, and to the fans who would give their right gonad to pull on the shirt? Wednesday night's performance was summed up for me by Rio Ferdinand's half hearted attempt to stop Russia's 2nd goal going in. Most of the fans watching would have thrown their bodies on the line - Rio was probably wondering about what to spend his £100k per week wages on.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Alan Green

Oooo. I really don't like Alan Green, the commentator on BBC Radio Five Live.

Whenever I tune in to listen to a football match commentary, you can guarantee that if Green is on the mic, within 5 seconds the dial on my radio will be turning in the direction of Talk Sport. His dulcet tones can wipe a smile off my face in an instant. It's not his Northern Irish accent that I object to - far from it. Rather, its the man behind the voice.

He is a bit of controversial figure in Sports broadcasting. Over the years he has fallen foul of several famous football managers, including Sir Alex Ferguson & Sam Allardyce. You could argue on this basis that he's not a bad bloke! No, my opinion of him is purely subjective - I think that the guy is an over-opinionated & pompous git.

He's bad enough as a commentator. When I tune in to a football match on the radio, I want an informed analysis & a mildly entertaining account of the game. Sadly I'm too tight to splash out on a Sky Sports contract, so I often listen to the radio. There are some excellent match broadcasters on the radio - a task which is arguably more difficult than being a TV commentator. Alan Green, on the other hand, bombards his listeners with his own turgid opinions & suffocates his audience. Middlesborough vs Chelsea turns into The Alan Green Show.

He really plumbs the depths of sports journalism on 606. This phone-in show is usually transmitted on 5 Live directly after the football matches have finished on a Saturday afternoon. It allows frustrated/happy football fans to spout off to the nation about how badly/well their team has done that day. Not when Alan Green is on though. He hardly allows members of the public a word in edge ways. Now this is isn't necessarily a bad thing, bearing in mind of some of the dribbling tools that phone in. But again - it's not supposed to be The Alan Green Show. God help you if you are a fan of one of the teams further down the football pyramid. If you're lucky he might know a couple of minor facts about your club, and he'll interrupt you to tell you this, before patronising you & then going off to wank on about how wonderful Man Utd/Chelsea/Liverpool are.

Last Sunday, Ray Stubbs was in charge of the 606 phone in - and he is like a breath of fresh air in comparison. He certainly know his football - the guy is a Tranmere Rovers fan & actually played for them in his teens. He's knowledgeable about football clubs from every level, is humble when airing his opinions, and most importantly, allows the people phoning in have their say. Alan Green could pick up a few tips.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Jean Charles de Menezes

This isn't specifically about Jean Charles de Menezes, although it's tragic that an innocent man was shot & killed whilst getting onto a tube train. He was only 27 years old when he died; that's no age at all.

Neither is this post a criticism of the armed police that pulled the trigger. Clearly, something went badly wrong that day at Stockwell Tube station. Whether it was human error, a failure of police procedure, incompetence or merely an unfortunate sequence of events, I doubt that the truth will ever be known. However, it has to be recognised that the Metropolitan Police were operating in unprecedented circumstances. Just two weeks prior to the fatal shooting, dozens of people had been murdered on London's transport network by religious fanatics, & the previous day a similar attempt at mass murder had failed.

This post is really about the media's balance of reporting. The de Menezes shooting was an indirect consequence of 52 commuters being killed on 7th July, 2005. I couldn't name one of those 52 off the top of my head. Could you? The de Menezes case has generated a lot of headlines, as his bereaved family & friends seek justice. The same cannot be said for the 52 who died, and the many hundreds who were injured...their struggle goes on quietly in the background.

RIP all those who died on 7th July........Mrs Susan Levy, Mr Jamie Gordon, Mr Philip Stuart Russell, Miss Shyanuja Parathasangary, Miss Miriam Hyman, Mr William Wise, Miss Shahara Islam, Mr Ciaran Cassidy, Miss Jennifer Nicholson, Ms Miheala Otto, Mr Anthony Fatayi-Williams, Mrs Gladys Wundowa, Mr Arthur Edlin Frederick, Mr Adrian Johnson, Ms Anat Rosenburg, Mr Jonathan Downey, Mr Philip (Phil) Beer, Miss Ganze Gunoral, Mr Colin Morley, Mr David Foulkes, Miss Neetu Jain, Mr Lee Baisden, Ms Laura Webb, Mr Giles Hart, Ms Anne Moffat, Mr Michael Minh Matsushita, Mrs Marie Joanne Hartley, Mr James Stuart Mayes, Mr Richard James Ellery, Mr Michael Stanley Brewster, Mrs Behnaz Mozakka, Ms Fiona Stevenson, Ms Helen Jones, Mr Christian "Njoya" Small, Ms Karolina Gluck, Ms Rachelle Chung For Yuen, Ms Monika Suchocka, Mr James Adams, Ms Elizabeth Daplyn, Mr Ihab Slimane, Mr Richard Gray, Ms Samantha Badham, Mr Lee Harris, Miss Emily Rose Jenkins, Mrs Mala Trivedi, Ms Ojara Ikeagwu, Ms Benedetta Ciaccia, Miss Shelley Marie Mather, Miss Carrie Taylor, Mr Sam Ly, Ms Anna Brandt, Mr Atique Sharifi.

Monday, 1 October 2007


Every so often a song comes along that absolutely blows me away. Peter Bjorn and John's Young Folks has been knocking around for a while now... I think it was re-released recently. It's certainly getting plenty of exposure now - but this is one song I don't think I'll get tired of listening to. Watch/listen to it here:

One thing bothers me slightly though - the opening drums riff reminds me of the ending credits of Only Fools & Horses. If you don't believe me, try singing along:

We've got some half price cracked ice and miles and miles of carpet tiles,
T.V.s, deep freeze and David Bowie L.P.s,
Ball games, gold chains, whassa-names, and at a push,
Some Trevor Francis track suits from a mush in Shepherds Bush...

Expect to see the two fused together soon on Mashed Hits.....

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Vinnie Jones

I must confess, I'm not a fan of Vinnie Jones. The man has made a career out of being a thug. He made his name as a very average footballer where his main asset appeared to be intimidation (see pic).

He made a short foray into the world of football management at QPR as assistant to then manager Ray Harford. I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when I was queueing for tickets at Loftus Road. The two guys behind me in the queue were discussing buying tickets for a particular game in the Paddock, an open terrace just behind the dugouts at Rangers. Years ago, they had season tickets there but decided to move when VJ became assistant manager - they explained, half jokingly, that they were scared that he might eat them during the game!

When Harford was dismissed, Vinnie received a tidy pay off from QPR, at a time when the club was beginning to slip into financial difficulties. It was around this time that his Movie career began to take off.

You may argue that he wasn't bad in his first major role as Big Chris in Guy Ritchie's Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. I would counter that he wasn't really acting; he was merely being himself. On the morning of filming that infamous scene where his character batters 7 bells out of another gangster using a car door, Vinnie was in police custody after attacking one of his neighbours - an incident for which he received a community service sentence. Nice guy! Since then he's become a bit of a Hollywood star, albeit playing 'Hard Men' roles.

I see that Vinnie is up to his old tricks in a series of TV ads for RAC. In one of them, he is taking his daughter to a fancy dress party, and keeps getting delayed on the car journey, until finally his car breaks down. He gets on the phone to RAC Breakdown, but is too worried about living up to his hard man image to say the name of the town he has broken down near - 'Crapstone'. WTF?! So he puts that above getting his daughter to her party - what a crap parent! In another ad he fails to stop in time to hit a reversing car in an underground car park. "Look what you've done to my motor!" he exclaims - erm, I think you'll find that you are the blameworthy party, Vincent. He then bullies the other fawning driver, who is clearly bricking it, into giving back one of his sweets "Not the orange ones.....they're my favourites".

I can hear Michael Winner's voice in my head right now, screaming "CALM DOWN DEAR, IT'S ONLY A COMMERCIAL!!" Yep, I must admit that I have had a sense of humour failure here. It's all down to jealousy - Mr. Jones has clearly made a small fortune from limited talent, and in a way, fair play to him. I can kind of see where the phrase "Money for old rope" comes from. And I'd say that to his face. Honest.

Saturday, 29 September 2007


So...I've finally set up a blog.

I just wanted to give credit to the guys who inspired me to do this. Firstly my long standing friend Simon, whose acerbic observations about life are always worth a read. His excellent blog can be found at Secondly my fellow QPR fan Tony, whose match reports & opinions about QPR, football & beyond are an integral part of my daily Internet trawl. His blog is at Finally, the mutterings of Benjie Goodhart, whose GQ Magazine blog is now sadly defunct, but can still be read at

What can you expect from my blog? Well, it will be an eclectic mix of QPR, football, and my everyday rants & raves about life, the world & the universe. You may notice here that I'm being deliberately vague. There is a good reason for this - I haven't a bloody clue how this blog will evolve. To give you a clue of what I have in mind; my original plan was to call this blog but someone else has already bagged that domain name (and, annoyingly, hasn't updated it since 2004! I don't believe it...).

I imagine that this blog will eventually be read by a world wide audience of millions, win awards, be mentioned favourably on high brow TV programmes by intellectual heavyweights, and discussed at dinner parties the length & breadth of the country.

In reality it will probably only be read by a couple of my friends (for a couple of weeks at least) & some random bloke in his underpants who keyed "sausages & sex" into Google and came across my site instead (no pun intended).

Ah well, if the latter is true, I don't care - I'm in this for the long haul - hopefully it will be a form of therapy for me.

Thursday, 27 September 2007


Welcome to my blog. I hope that you like it.