Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Crying Game

On Friday our department had a Christmas meal. During the course of the meal, one of the topics that cropped up was a movie called P.S. I Love You. I've not seen it, but a girl I work with was explaining the synopsis. It stars Hilary Swank & Gerard Butler, and is about a young couple living happily together in New York until he gets cancer and dies. Before he dies, he arranges for several messages to be delivered to her after his death, not to tie her to the past, but more to fill her with encouragement for her future and help her to have closure & move on. I look forward to watching it at some point.

Not surprisingly, the movie is supposed to be a real tear-jerker, and the topic of conversation moved onto other films which get you a bit emotional. I was a bit surprised though, when my contribution to the conversation was met with laughter & ridicule. I cannot get through The Railway Children without reaching for the kleenex - specifically the part when Jenny Agutter's character is reunited on the station platform with her father. In fact I can think of some more films that I can't get through without reaching for the kleenex, but that's a different topic altogether....

Anyway, to my surprise, not one of my workmates agreed with me; "You're having a laugh" and "You're a Homo" were some of the more kinder comments, but each to their own.

There are a number of movies that move me in different ways. Off the top of my head there are scenes in The Pianist, Notting Hill, Life Is Beautiful, The Killing Fields, Four Weddings & A Funeral that leave me with a big lump in my throat. Even Forrest Gump - I went on a date to watch this at the old cinema by the Harefield Road in Uxbridge, and I remember being sat in the back row & having to pull the hairs on my arm to stop me welling up like a big girl.

So, what movie can't you get through without blubbing?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Jimmy Hill!

A few weeks ago I was watching Soccer Saturday, and they cut from the studio to Craven Cottage, where a statue of Fulham great Johnny Haynes was being unveiled. The irrepressible Chris Kamara was interviewing Jimmy Hill, who in turn gave a moving tribute to his former team mate.

Rather typically, Jimmy was involved in some controversy later that afternoon. Fulham were playing Sunderland that day, and Jimmy was spotted in the crowd by some Sunderland fans who hadn't forgotten Hill's role in Sunderland's relegation some 30 odd years ago.

At the end of the 1976-77 season, Jimmy, then managing director of Coventry City, ensured that their game against Bristol City, kicked off late so that they would know what relegation rivals Sunderland were doing in their game at Everton. When news of Sunderland's defeat filtered through to Highfield Road, Hill relayed the score over the tannoy the players proceeded to pass the ball around for the remainder of the game to achieve the draw that would mean Coventry & Bristol City stayed up.

Football fans have long memories - and on the day of the Haynes statue being unveiled, Hill was given some verbal abuse by Sunderland fans in the crowd. Hill's response in waving & blowing kisses, only served to inflame the situation, and Jimmy was led away from his seat by police for his own safety.

Anyway, the reason I posted this was because it reminded me Jimmy Hill's enormous chin, and the subsequent playground taunt to anyone telling a supposedly tall story. Not sure how it all came about, but the gist of it was that anyone telling an unlikely tale would be greeted with other children stroking their chins in response, saying "Jimmy Hill! Chinny reck-on!" As put-downs go, it was bizarre, but effective. As an example:

Child A: "Did you see that TV programme about Evil Knievel last night?"
Child B: "Yeah, he jumped all those buses on his motorbike"
Child C: "That's nothing - last night I was on my BMX and I went up the kerb and jumped over my Dad's Cortina"
Child A & B (stroking chins) "Yeah right! Chinny Reck-on! Jimmy Hill!"

So, I've decided to start a campaign to bring back this put down into the nation's vocabulary. My ultimate aim is for Jeremy Paxman to use it the next time he interviews Gordon Brown if Brown declares that the economy is in good hands - Brown would be finished. Next time you're in a meeting at work, and someone makes an exaggerated claim, look them firmly in the eye and start stroking your chin....

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Stan The Man

No, not Stan Bowles, although he's the undoubted original.

Just recently I've been catching a lot of Stan Collymore on various talkSPORT programmes. And it turns out that he's quite a decent broadcaster.

talkSPORT seem to have a penchant for the more controversial presenter. Off the top of my head I can name George Galloway, and to a lesser extent Terry Christian & Alan Brazil. You could add Collymore to that list.

Collymore made his name as an explosive striker, one of the most exciting players of his generation. He first came to my attention when he was at Nottingham Forest. I recall, randomly, one of my flatmates at Uni on the phone to Clubcall one night, trying to find out if Collymore would be fit to play for Forest against his team Wolves. They reported that he was still injured, so my flatmate gleefully went off to the game. Needless to say, Collymore played and scored.

Later came a big money move to Liverpool (a British record transfer fee at the time), and his debut for England. I remember watching him warming up as sub at Wembley, against Brazil in one of those tin pot end-of-season mini tournaments (the Umbro Cup), and thinking that this was the start of a really promising international career. He reminded me a lot of Paul Gascoigne; a fans' player, undoubtedly talented, but with a maverick streak about him.

As it turned out, the parallels with Gazza were apt. Both players with unfulfilled potential, beset with on & off field problems - trying to conquer personal demons off the pitch, whilst never fully recovering from bad injuries on it.

At least Gazza played a fair few times for his country. Collymore picked up only 3 caps for England - yep that's right, just three times - a surprising statistic when you consider some of the donkeys who have worn the 3 lions over the years. Stan's international career (1995-1997) was eclipsed by Gascoigne's (1988-1998).

Stan was a great player, but ultimately flawed. For every positive memory I can think of (e.g. scoring the winner in that famous 4-3 Liverpool vs Newcastle game), there is a negative - remember him doing his Harry Enfield scousers impression "calm down, calm down!" to the travelling Liverpool fans after he was sent off at home for Aston Villa? His red card in this game was the result of 2 yellows - a bad tackle on Steve Harkness (who had clashed with Stan in a previous game) followed by an off the ball shove on Michael Owen (whose emergence at Liverpool had accelerated Stan's departure to Villa).

It was downhill after that for Collymore - ongoing battles with depression, short spells at several clubs, his volatile relationship with Ulrika Jonsson, including punching her in a Paris bar during the 1998 World Cup, early retirement, and the dogging stories.

Stan started off as a decent match summariser on 5 Live, but recently moved over to talkSPORT where his broadcasting career has flourished. I listened to him earlier tonight discussing the Carlos Tevez affair and he was intelligent & insightful - better than some of the bumbling buffoons presenting on other sport programmes.

With his strong opinions & history he won't be every body's cup of tea, but he's refreshingly honest, articulate & interesting to listen to - I've been impressed with his media career to date. Better that he's remembered like this rather than for a group of bystanders watching him in the back of a land rover in a car park....

Sunday, 14 September 2008

All You Need Is Love

Paul McCartney has been threatened with 'sacrifice operatives' if he performs in a concert in Israel as part of that country's 60th anniversary celebrations.

The threat was made by Omar Bakri Muhammad, an Islamist militant leader and activist:

This story reminded me of a poem I read for the first time recently, by W.H. Auden. Auden is better known for writing Funeral Blues, the poem later used in the movie Four Weddings & A Funeral ("Stop All The Clocks....").

Auden wrote this piece in August 1968 (actually the poem's title), and refers to the communist invasion of Czechoslovakia that month, but it could easily have been written about Bakri:

The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master speech.

About a subjugated plain,
Among it's desperate and slain,
The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
While drivel gushes from his lips.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Don't Mention It!

People who won't say "thanks" when you hold the door open for them.

Drivers who won't acknowledge you when you pull over to let them through.

I've encountered one each of these today. It's doubtful that either of these two ignoramuses are reading this rant, but if you are - I'm not your fecking servant, OK?


When I set up this blog it was not my intention to write about stuff like this. Most people, you would think, have been brought up with some basic manners. There's not usually any excuse for not nodding/smiling when someone holds open a door for you - unless of course you're on an aeroplane in mid flight & not wearing a parachute.

Likewise, although it's probably not mentioned in the Highway Code, most drivers know when to say thanks in some way when someone pulls up to let you out of a tight parking space. You have to be a bit careful though - some people leave it right until the last moment to hold their hand up when you've let their oncoming car in ahead of you at a tight spot in the road. Many a time I've been about to give someone the bird, when they've smiled & nodded their thanks virtually as our windscreens are parallel.

Some might say that there's more serious issues to be concerned about, but my argument would be, get the basics right at least.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The Good, The Bad, and.....

I feel sorry for Iain Dowie. No, not because of any aesthetic reason - I'll try to avoid making any childish jokes about his boat race during this posting.

See, Dowie's on a bit of hiding to nothing this season as manager of QPR. If he gets QPR promotion to the Premiership, he will probably be replaced by a more, shall we say, cultured manager/coach. If he doesn't, he'll get the sack anyway.

The bar has been raised at Rangers. With the takeover by wealthy investors, expectation levels have risen enormously. Add to this the inflation busting increase in season ticket prices at Loftus Road, and suddenly the tolerance of loyal fans has become a lot shorter. We're only 3 games into the new season, and already the "noisy minority" on various internet messageboards are calling for Dowie's head.

I've always had a theory in football, that whatever level of football you watch, regular punters will always crave a scapegoat to moan about. Like a pantomime villain, some people love to hate certain players. Sometimes the tarnishing is well deserved, other times not so - I could never understand, for example, why a section of R's fans regularly used to moan about Steve Palmer's inclusion in the team when we were crying out for an experienced, calming influence in the team.

This season's early contender for King Rat appears to be new goalie Radek Cerny. Signed on a free from Tottenham, Radek has replaced fan's favourite Lee Camp between the sticks, and about 20 minutes into his home debut was given some stick by some of the QPR fans for his nervous start to the game.

Dowie also is a very strong contender for the role of one of the Ugly Sisters (see what I did there?). Along with the massive expectations, fans were grumbling about his perceived style of football, and the fact that he replaced the popular Luigi di Canio, who had Rangers playing some stylish passing football last season - perhaps conveniently ignoring the fact that we needed better organisation & fitness levels as well.

I think people are judging Dowie a little too early. A new manager needs time to impose his style, personality & philosophy of play onto his team. I met Dowie a few years ago, at an end of season Player of The Year do. At the time he was assistant manager to Gerry Francis, so just starting out on his managerial career. He came across as an intelligent & likeable guy, and seemed to me to be really passionate about football. After Francis was sacked, Dowie was a strong contender to take over the reins, but Ian Holloway got the gig instead.

In the meantime, Dowie has taken Oldham to the playoffs, Palace to the playoff final & subsequent promotion to the Premiership, where he missed out by a whisker of keeping them there the following year, left Palace in acrimonious circumstances a year afterwards, left to join Charlton where he was sacked after only 12 Premiership games, and then had a storming start to last season in charge of an exciting Coventry team, before a slump & fallout with the Coventry board signalled his departure.

You might detect that I am sitting in his corner on this one. I think the jury is still out on him at the top level, but has proved to be a very capable manager at Championship level. He's a bright, young & hungry manager, and needs to be given time. I was, like many QPR fans, a little underwhelmed by his appointment, but I have since warmed to him - he's positivity shines through in interviews (and with a face like his you'd have to be positive - sorry, sorry).

I was at the first two games of the season, an uninspiring 2-1 home win vs Barnsley, and a 3-2 away win in the Carling Cup at Swindon, where some of our attacking play was a joy to watch. By all accounts, our 3-0 capitulation at Bramall Lane was awful, so the start of the season has been a mixed bag. All I am saying is give Dowie a chance.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

I Am Who I Am Because Of Everyone

I love the new TV Advert from Orange, where a guy talks about the people he has connected with during his life & who have helped define who he is. One of the best ads I've seen for a while, and it's definitely struck a chord with me. A little bit twee? Possibly, but I like it.

I'll shut up already and let the script tell the story..........

I am my Mum ... and my sister. I am my best friend Mike, who I have known since school. I am Kate, who is still somewhere in Thailand. I am all the girls I've ever kissed ... and the girls I will. I am the teacher that failed me, and the one that spurred me on. I am my bosses, and every one of my friends. I am a bloke I'll meet travelling, who'll teach me the guitar. I am the places I go to with mates, and the jokes I share with them. I am the people who put me down ... and the ones who pick me up. I am who I am, because of everyone.

It's based on a quote by George Matthew Adams, who once said:

There is no such thing as a 'self-made' man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Blame It On The Boogie Board

Ah, The Sea. It conjures up some great images.....The Guinness Surfer advert with the white horses...... the view from Brighton promenade...... the song La Mer...... that new Smirnoff TV ad..... scuba diving in the tropics...... Sydney Harbour...... the Isle Of Wight Ferry...... OK, maybe not the last one, but generally when you think of the sea, you get some pretty vivid pictures in your head.

Trouble is, there is a flip side to this. I found out last weekend, nearly to my cost, that The Sea is not to messed with.

About a year ago, I went down to North Cornwall with friends, one of whom has owned a holiday home down there since the 70's. Ostensibly it was a few days chilling out by the coast, but it turned into a kind of watery epiphany for me.

See, ever since I was young, I have had a fear of water. Now, by this I am not talking about bathing or showering; rather, I don't feel comfortable in (or on, or over) any body of water that is bigger than my bath tub. Consequently, I have never been a good swimmer. To be fair, I have tried swimming lessons, but not to any great degree of success. If I was ever to appear on Room 101, deep water would be my second item in (after wasps).

Going back to a year ago in Cornwall - my friends were insistent that I donned a borrowed wetsuit, and tried out Body boarding (a watered-down version of surfing, excuse the pun) on Harlyn Beach. Surprisingly, I found it great fun, but didn't catch any waves. The following day we tried nearby Constantine Bay, which had choppier water, and I absolutely loved it, catching some great waves in the process. I could now enjoy the buzz of surfing without having to swim further out to sea. All in the relative safety of water shallow enough for me to touch the sea floor, under the watchful eye of the RNLI Lifeguards. I even learned stuff about swimming between the safety flags to avoid things like 'breaks'.

One year on, I returned to the Cornish coast for a Stag Do. This time, I meant business - armed with my own wetsuit & body board, I felt like a seasoned veteran as we returned to Constantine. On Friday & Saturday the stags pissed about in the sea on boogie boards, like (as my friend put it so well) kids in a sweet shop. We planned to return there early on Sunday morning.

You can probably tell at this stage, that I was getting a little bit over-confident. I should have spotted the warning signs: my mate (the stag) dislocating his shoulder in the same bay whilst canoe-surfing the previous year, the Warning: Dangerous Currents sign that greets you as you enter Constantine beach, and the fact that I had was still a crap swimmer, despite my improved confidence in water.

On the Sunday morning, the tide was a lot further out than usual, and as the whole stag party joined other body boarders a 100 yards into the water, some of us suddenly were pulled out over a shelf on the sea bed. At the time I wasn't immediately concerned, I just used my board as a float and kicked my legs to try to reach shallow water. It was only when I realised that the strong currents were actually dragging us further away from the beach, that I began to panic. What really freaked me out was how quiet the sea was. Of course, I have since learnt that the thing to do in such circumstances is to throw the board to one side (or use the cord to tie it to your leg), and swim to cut through the water. Being a non swimmer, this wasn't an option for me :-)

So, a big thank you is in order to people (you know who you are) who calmed me down and stayed with me/pulled me to safety. I do know that if I had been the only person in the water it might have been a tricky situation for me. I wasn't the only one to be caught out - the lifeguards fished out a couple of other members of the stag party, including the stag who dislocated his shoulder again trying to help out his brother in law. But all's well that end's well.

It's now my intention to learn how to swim properly before the next time I venture out on my board. I haven't been put off - I was back in the water on Sunday morning & later in the afternoon - but I'm determined not to get caught out like that again.

I will end this post by giving a big thumbs up to the RNLI lifeguards. Yes, a lot of them are tanned poseurs who sleep with more than their fair share of women, but they do a great job. It is scandalous the lack of Government funding that the RNLI gets - they rely almost entirely on voluntary donations & legacies. If you wish to support them, or find out more about them, please visit their website at

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Four Wheels Bad, Two Wheels Good

So I've taken the plunge and splashed out on a new bike.

I say new bike, but to be honest I've not really owned a bike since my schooldays - not wishing to sound like the Four Yorkshire men sketch from Monty Python, but I used to cycle, every day, 3 miles to school and 3 miles back, uphill BOTH ways, through wind, rain, hail and get the picture.

I thought that my cycling days were well behind me until recently, when I joined some work colleagues in a charidee bike ride from Worcester to Bridgwater. Sadly, my 10 gear Raleigh racing bike would not have been up to the job, so I borrowed my mate's GT hard tail mountain bike. Several months of training paid off as all nine of the team each completed the 100 miles, and raised lots of money in the process for disadvantaged kids. Nice work, people.

A few things I have discovered during my reborn interest in cycling:

  1. Bike technology has moved on leaps & bounds since I was a kid. Now they have suspension! Front AND back in some cases! And disc brakes - no more wearing down of brake blocks!
  2. It's not cars you really have to look out for - it's bloody pedestrians. I've lost count of the number of times some numpty has stepped out off the kerb in front of me - often whilst staring straight at (or maybe through?) me!
  3. Off-road cycling, as well as being incredibly dangerous, is an extremely exhilarating activity. Nothing quite beats cycling down a muddy hill in the woods at around 30 mph, with your braking capability severely reduced, with dirt splattering in your face, and nothing to protect your skinny legs from a barbed wire fence or a 30 foot drop into some stinging nettles. Great fun!
  4. I always thought that I'd look a tit in a cycle helmet. And I do. But one day I know I'm gonna be glad I wore one.
  5. Loads of people are into cycling - more than I thought, certainly. I've noticed increasing numbers at work now using bikes for their commute, not to mention the more hard core element who go mountain biking at weekends.
  6. It's actually quicker to cycle from my flat to work, than doing the journey by car. Partly because I can cut through the back of Stockley Park (cars are banned from this entrance) - I can shave a mile off my commuting distance. And secondly because I can avoid the inevitable traffic backlog leading up to West Drayton Road (saves about 10 minutes I reckon).
  7. Finally, I haven't mentioned the health benefits - needless to say, cycling is like WD-40 on my knees.

It's my goal to cycle in to work a couple of days a week from now on. I wish I'd started doing it long before now, but I was making excuses not to do it. My aim is to make the bike pay for itself, although I've calculated that to do this I'd need to do it commute by bike 200 times! We'll see my resolve fully tested on a cold & wet Tuesday morning this November.....

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Pull up to the bumper, baby

So I was driving home from work one day this week, and I got stuck behind a Muppet car driver. You know the one: drives far too slow & erratically; someone to avoid if at all possible; possibly doesn't even own a licence. After a while, I noticed that said driver had a bumper sticker bearing the legend 'I'm driving like this to PISS YOU OFF'. I didn't know whether this was supposed to be irony or honesty, but it got me thinking about why people have bumper stickers.

There's a White Van Man who lives a couple of blocks away from me who has a bumper sticker with the message 'Keep Honking....I'm Reloading!!!' which would be ever so slightly amusing but for the fact that the driver is a complete maniac. One morning, I had just started my journey to work when I pulled up before a row of parked cars to let an oncoming car through (see what a kind, considerate driver I am, ahem). A second later, the aforementioned White Van drove past me at breakneck speed, almost wiping out the car coming the other way. Whenever have I seen him on the road since, he always drives like the truck out of the movie Jeepers Creepers - which if you remember also has a bumper sticker (well, kind of...the registration plate reads BEATNGU).

Thing is, it's because of his bumper sticker that I know where he parks his van - it's right by an alley I cut through sometimes after a night out. Now, I know what you're thinking, and although the temptation is there after a few beers, I wouldn't condone weeing up the side of his van - mainly because I don't want a visit from the Karma Police. But other people might not be so tolerant.

So, I've come to the conclusion that anyone who has a car bumper sticker is either a bad driver, or a moron, or both. Yes, even people who just have the name of their football team on the bumper. It's just asking for trouble - it wouldn't be long before a fan of a rival club seeks retribution for that 4-1 defeat a few years back. I can vouch for this by the number of Chelsea fans' car aerials I've snapped off over the years (note to the Karma Police - I'm just joking here).

So the next time you see a car with a bumper sticker, steer well clear. It might be trying to convey a political or humorous message, but in reality it says 'How's My Driving? Rubbish!'

If, like me, you like ranting anonymously on the Internet about bad driving, then you might find the following blog of interest:

Sunday, 1 June 2008


You'd think that the older I get, the wiser I become. Not so. Just recently I seem to have been suckered in by a number of TV ads. My resistance levels seem to be at an all time low when dealing with the ruthless marketing techniques by the TV ad people.

First of all there was the Kellogg's Rice Krispies ad, where a group of kids try to count the number of snaps, crackles & pops. The next time I was in Sainsbury's, I was powerless to resist as I walked up the cereal aisle.

Then there was the i-tunes ad. Bang - straight onto the i-tunes store, buying loads of old songs that I hadn't listened to for ages as they were on cassette tape (and therefore not i-pod compatible).

And now the new Bulmers ad has hooked me & reeled me in. I think it was the 'Great British Summer' tag line which got me - the top shelf of my fridge is now full of cider & pear cider....well at least it was (gonna have to buy some more soon).

Cider used to be my drink of choice. In my first year at Uni I drank my own body weight x 100 in cider. However, my flatmates were hard drinking northerners, so binge drinking on cider proved a little volatile given the gaseous nature of the beverage. Following a particularly messy episode at the end of my first year, I graduated onto the smoother bitter at the start of my 2nd year, and never looked back after that.

Now I seemed to have got my thirst back. One of life's pleasures is filling a big glass with a whole tray of ice cubes & then pouring in a chilled bottle of Bulmers or Magners. A perfect accompaniment to watching the Euros....

Friday, 25 April 2008

Diamond Hoo Ha

Finally I got to see one of my favourite bands live this week.

Supergrass played the London Astoria on Tuesday (22ND) as part of a UK tour to promote their latest album Diamond Hoo Ha.

I've been a fan of them since their debut album I Should Coco. There was something totally refreshing about their sound, and I look back at this album as part of the soundtrack to my life at the time. It also contains what I consider to be a perfect pop moment - Caught By The Fuzz. This track was championed by the late, great, John Peel, and must have reminded him a lot of his favourite track Teenage Kicks. CBTF also contains one of my favourite lyric lines of all time: "here comes my Mum, well she, she knows what I've done" - I cannot explain why but I think it's a moment of genius and it still makes me smile when I hear it.

Rather unfairly, Supergrass are considered by some music fans to be a bit of a novelty act, mainly because of their song Alright & their wacky videos like Pumping On Your Stereo. I see them as one of the most underrated bands around. Since their debut they've released one quality album after another - they're also great songwriters; craftsmen of their trade; what I consider to be A Proper Band.

OK, I'm sitting on the fence a bit here, so onto this week's gig. It was my first & possibly last visit to the intimate Astoria (due to close soon) - a nice unpretentious, dark grubby venue.

Supergrass didn't live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. I felt that they played too much of their new album (about 7 tracks). Now, you may argue that part of the purpose of bands playing live is to showcase new material. This is fair comment, and actually their new album is very good. The track Diamond Hoo Ha Man blows my socks off - easily up there with their best songs (although it does remind me a lot of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes). But I digress. A lot of people watching would have not been familiar with their new album; in fact thanks to CD WOW's incompetance, I only got hold of my copy a week prior to seeing them live.

Having not seen them live before I suppose I was hoping to hear a play list that resembled their Greatest Hits album. This is unrealistic, but I would have certainly preferred more of their back catalogue, and maybe 4/5 of the new tracks.

It was still a good gig though. It seems weird seeing them as a 5 piece band now, having started off as a 3 piece all those years ago. They're great showmen and play with a lot of energy. Songs like Moving, Pumping On Your Stereo, & Sun Hits The Sky all sounded great live, and they didn't disappoint by ending the encore with Caught By The Fuzz. Nice work fellas!

Thursday, 10 April 2008


I used to love Countdown when I was kid. It was the very first programme on Channel 4 when it launched it 1982. I remember it quite well, because up to that point there had only been 3 terrestrial TV channels (you kids today have got it made with your #zillion satellite channels), so to suddenly have more TV programmes available to choose from - well, it was exciting times.

As a geeky schoolkid I instantly grew to love Countdown, as it tested out my blossoming Maths & English skills. The format was great, it was good clean family entertainment, and I particularly liked the laid back style of the show. No jazzed up nonsense or over the top presenters like on The Price Is Right. It was 30 minutes of TV Perfection.

Another great feature of the show was the clock music, composed by Alan Hawkshaw (who incidentally also composed the theme music to Grange Hill). Even now it's difficult not to join in with a chorus of ", de-de, de-de-de-de - booooooooooooop!"

As the 1980's drew to a close, there increasingly was another reason for watching - the delightful Carol Vorderman. Some people might view this as a 'Guilty Pleasure', but even to this day I still think she's my ideal woman. Carol, if you're reading this, please get in touch via the comments section, and we'll arrange a date sometime.

A large proportion of Countdown's audience are Students - not surprising given the slot it occupies in the TV schedules. When I was at Uni, me and my flatmates were regular viewers, probably avoiding another dull Econometrics lecture in the process.

And then there was tragically early death of presenter Richard Whiteley, in 2005. I was gutted when he died - along with Carol he made the programme. I still can't fathom out why - he was extremely cheesy and his banter with the contestants/audience could be cringe worthy at times. Despite (or perhaps because of?) his northern quirkiness he was the ideal front man for the show - I couldn't help but warm to his presenting style. There was something quintessentially British about him.

Since his passing Countdown has just not been the same. Des Lynam faced the unenviable task of trying to fill Whiteley's shoes. I've always been a fan of Des's presenting style, but he was a poor substitute for Richard. I must confess I've not tuned into the show since Des O'Conner took over as the main presenter.

Due to work I don't get the chance to watch Countdown any more. I'd love to be like Hugh Grant's character in About A Boy and watch it every day. Another consonant please, Carol......

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Saturday, 29 March 2008


One of the reasons that I started this blog was to get my thoughts out into the open. More often than not these thoughts are of a trivial nature, but sometimes I need to post so as not to let things bottle up inside. Better out than in, as they say.

Yesterday, I was driving to work as normal. Well, I say work, but I was actually playing in a 7 a side football tournament organised by my work - so technically work.

As I approached Harlington Road I noticed that the traffic build up seemed more severe than usual. As I joined a long queue of traffic, I pondered what time I would get into work, and what the cause of the delay was. Broken down car? Had that idiot who owns the mini moto place double parked his big car on the busy junction again? Or maybe some other piece of driving lacking common sense?

The answer came in the shape of an ambulance, parting the lanes of traffic like Moses with the Red Sea. Obviously a Road Traffic Collision - don't ask me why but I had a gut feeling that this was a bad one.

There has been some fairly major road / construction works down Harlington Road recently which meant that the pedestrian crossing was temporarily out of action. As I approached this point in the road the scene was unfolding in front of me. On the left was a stationary car parked up; on the right a moped, then a bit further on some debris in the road from the car or moped. Then a bit further down I could see someone lying down on the pavement with a blanket placed over them, and a crowd of bystanders about 15 yards away. There were a number of workmen beyond that frantically crossing from one side of the road to the other.

The traffic was moving very slowly at this point. I could hear two more ambulances approaching in the distance. As I passed the prone figure I glanced across. I hate the expression "rubber necking", but it's just human nature isn't it? I wished that I hadn't, but it confirmed my worst fears. A young schoolkid lying motionless with a severe head injury. I was numb with shock as I continued my journey to work.

This story doesn't have a happy ending - I went online last night and the BBC website reported that the young lad had been hit by a car and had subsequently died from his injuries at Hillingdon Hospital; he was only 11. The driver stopped at the scene, and police are appealing for witnesses.

Thing is, it's all too easy to get down in life about stuff like money, work, how shit your football team is doing & bad traffic in the mornings. Sometimes it takes something major to remind you that life is just too short, too precious, to worry too much about the small things.

RIP to the young kid who died, and my thoughts to his family.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Missing A Goal

On Tuesday, my team QPR squandered a 2 goal lead and ended up losing 4-2 to Andy Cole & his Burnley team mates.

To make matters worse, I missed Ranger's opening goal. The Central Line was buggered up thanks to a passenger illness at Tottenham Court Road (I mean, really!) so I entered the ground after 14 minutes of play.

As I went through the turnstiles, I asked the girl checking tickets if I had missed any goals. She mumbled "Er, I'm not sure.." to which I sarcastically replied "Well have you heard any loud cheers?!" I got to the bottom of the stairs leading up to the Lower Loft, I thought about running but thought, hey what's the hurry.

Big mistake. What happened next seemed to occur in slow motion. Firstly, people in the back row of seats all stood up together. Then some really strange acoustics. A short sharp "Ah........" followed by an eruption "YYYYYYYEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS!!!" and all the QPR fans jumping up & down and hugging each other.

As I ran to my seat I felt elation & disappointment simultaneously. The people who sit around me obviously thought it was very funny. No big screen at QPR, so I had to wait to see Sky Sports News for the excellent team move leading up to Gavin Mahon's headed first goal for the club.

Fortunately this has only happened on two prior occasions in all the games I've watched. One was at home to Tranmere on a bitterly cold day a few years ago. QPR were trailing 1-0 and I left the ground 5 minutes early so I could pick up a shirt in the club shop & avoid the rush. As I walked around into South Africa Road I heard the primeval roar that accompanied QPR's equaliser. Really pissed off with this, I made it round into the club shop just as another loud cheer went up from within Loftus Road. Looking gleefully up at the TV monitors showing the game, I was disappointed to see Jason Koumas celebrating Tranmere's winner.

More recently at home to Ipswich, I'd brought two guests along. Towards the end of the first half I felt the effects of the pre match pints going through my system. As I was stood at the urinal, Paul Furlong decided to belt one in from 25 yards. Cheers, Furs! Only one other punter in the toilets, no words were needed, we both shook our heads in disgust.

Nothing really tops missing one of the most famous goals of all time. The Champions League Final of 1999. A crowd of us watching the game on TV at my friend's flat. Upon Sheringham scoring United's equaliser, I made another toilet visit, in anticipation of Extra Time. A big gasp & shouting from the lounge......"yeah, good wind up guys"......."no really, Solskjaer has scored the winner!" I wasn't the only one. Lennart Johannson, UEFA President, had left his seat inside the Nou Camp, Barcelona, and got in the lift to go up to present the trophy to the expected winners Bayern Munich (who were winning 1-0 at the time). As he got to the top, he was told that United had levelled - so he returned down the elevator to watch Extra Time........

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

This man, (Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore) is the most odious man in football. Yes, you heard me right. Even more so than Robbie Savage.

Today plans were mooted for English Premier League clubs to play some of the games in their league season abroad.

No good will come of this. Money is ruining football, our national game. Small clubs, with over a century of history & tradition, are going to the wall left, right & centre. Massive TV deals benefit only those elite clubs at the very top of English football's pyramid. Grass roots football is massively underfunded. Football is being taken away from its traditional roots, and being replaced by a soulless vacuum.

You could argue, as Scudamore does, that:

"it's an idea who's time has come." Decided by who exactly? The Money Men.

"it's not taking anybody's game away...." Only the ordinary man in the street.

"All 20 clubs will benefit" All pigs are equal....but some are more equal than others....

"When the league does well, other people in the football family do well in terms of redistribution. " Not seen much evidence of that so far, Richard. Only an insignificant % of Premier League money trickles down to lower leagues.

"Globalisation is a challenge for all sports because the whole world seems to be interested in the very best of sport wherever it comes from" It will certainly be challenge for those domestic leagues in the countries where these games will be held.

"...making sure we turn that into positive benefits for the game at all levels in this country" I've no doubt that this will result in a shedload of cash pouring in from new TV and other media deals, but most of this dosh will end up in the pockets of agents & players. Just look at how players' wages have sky-rocketed since Sky have started.

I remember during the Carlos Tevez saga last year, when Sheffield United understandably tried to challenge a Premier League ruling that West Ham Utd wouldn't face a points deduction for fielding ineligable players. The Premier League board had convened for a meeting and made a decision on Sheff Utd's appeal. Upon leaving the meeting, Scudamore was pursued by news crews & journalists, asking him what him what the final verdict was. He turned and looked incredulously at the reporter asking the question, treating him with utter contempt.

He's doing it again with this new proposal. He will ride roughshod over any opposition to this idea. Make no mistake, this new plan will carry through sooner or later. I can imagine Scudamore's smug face as he announces it - I just hope that someone is on hand to slap him with a wet fish.

Saturday, 2 February 2008


Yesterday I donated blood for the 21st time in my life.

I've been a blood donor ever since I was at Uni. I've never thought too much about the altruistic element of giving blood. Don't get me wrong, I know that it's a Good Thing to do, but I've never paused to think about where my donated blood has ended up, or rather who it's ended up in. For some weird reason my main thought is how many times I will give blood before I die; I am fascinated about what my 'final score' will be. A bit egotistical? Maybe. I do think it is something that more people should be encouraged to do though, it's a form of national service in a way.

I find that giving blood is a clinical, quick procedure. Go to the donation centre, fill out the questionaire, do the tests, then lie down for ten minutes while a pint pumps out into a bag (I bleed quite quickly). 5 more minutes lie down to recover (don't want to get up too quickly and faint like a girly girl), a bit of a natter with the nurses, and then f*** off home. Easy peasy.

Some people ask me if it's painful when the needle goes into my arm. In all honesty the finger prick & actual insertion of needle only causes only a nanosecond of discomfort. What causes most grief for me is a day later when you have to tear off the protective gauze plaster, it's a bit like waxing!!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

wii is not poo

Recently had a 'beer & wii' night with some friends. What fun! And what a great gadget....

Things have moved on considerably since my early gaming days. My first 'console' was a Commodore VIC-20. For those people too young to remember such cutting-edge technology, it was one of the first mass production home computers. The games came on cartridges, or cassettes, which you put in the cassette drive, pressed play to load, and you went off for 10 minutes to make a cup of tea (a bit like my dial up modem, ahem). After ten minutes of horrible screeching noises, you came back to find either the game had crashed, or you had a basic game like Arcadia to play with.

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be though. The Nintendo wii is the dogs bollocks. I've only played a few games, but it's a real giggle - what I would describe as a social console. Even the basic games are real fun, like tennis, golf and bowling. My initial wii experience was quite dangerous for anyone else who happened to be in the same room - particularly on wii tennis where I nearly took out onlookers with my violent back swing. I've since seen realised that it's all about technique rather than power. I even managed to win a game of bowling against 2 of my friends (who are generally better at gaming than me) - but was swiftly put in my place during a 9 hole game of golf, where I was severely battered.

At my old United Biscuits job, one of my workmates was really into gaming, and we used to discuss just how far technology could go in pursuit of the perfect gaming experience. His gaming utopia was basically a simulation where you could actually play in any football game from any era, with players from any generation. I wonder just how far away this is now - surely it won't be long before you can slip on a pair of wii-control football boots, and be having a kick about with Puskas, Pele, Gascoigne & Stan Bowles......