Foie-Gras footballers …

Granted this is the Daily Mail, but strip away their usual level of sinister spin and crass veneer and you can still see the very real problem facing English football today.

Raheem Sterling on return from Euro 2016

And I don’t mean to single out Raheem Sterling. I’m sure he’s just one example of the elite clique that represent English football at international level, but this story neatly sums up the current problem we seem to be facing in the English game.

The mere fact that these players earn £180,000 a week says everything you need to know. No human being on earth needs that kind of money. I’m pleased Raheem spent some of it on a home for his mum, a fine gesture, but to video it, to upload onto snapchat (if that’s what he did), and to glory in it just a day or two after returning from the Euros, says to me that he is totally disconnected from the grass roots game of football in this country.

Whilst the rest of us English are still smarting from the disappointing, rather pathetic and lacklustre exit from the Euros, leaving us watching balefully (pun intended) at other teams like Wales and Iceland playing with a genuine passion, a demonstrable camaraderie and togetherness from shirts 1 to 11, Raheem’s making this little video vignette of vulgarity and uploading it to social media.

Such behaviour suggests to me the current crop don’t really give a shit. £180,000 a week, why should they care about anything?  The life of these Premier League rockstars is now so far removed from reality it almost feels like fiction. And the Premier League is the breeding ground, fuelled by Murdoch’s Sky it has become a Hollywood freak show, a grotesque distortion of the grass roots game of football.

Below that we still have the football league – the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2 – 72 teams, the majority of which still play the game the way the fans want it played. Money talks down here too, and it’s far from perfect, but money talks to a far lesser degree and the product is far more representative of what many of us think of as real football.

As a regular watcher of League 1 football this season, did I ever watch Match of the Day with envy and wish my club were in the top flight? Well, yes I did, but that’s because I want my team to beat other teams week in, week out. I am like every other football fan anywhere in that respect, what I am saying is I don’t want the Premier League in its current form, an institution so distorted by money that it’s ruining our national game.

As far as I am concerned the Sky funded Premier League should be cut free, pushed into the Atlantic and floated off to Hollywood where it belongs. Let me be clear, I don’t want us to lose, nor do I have anything at all against, the current Premier League clubs. There’s just as much tradition, fanaticism and passionate loyalty at Everton, Manchester United and Arsenal as there is at Notts County, Huddersfield and Exeter City. There is no difference in the make up of a Liverpool fan and a Barnsley fan. This isn’t a rant against any clubs, or fans, it’s a rant at the system, one created and fuelled by greed, one that solely exists to line the pockets of the few.

Our national team should be filled with our best players, and our best players should earn a fair wage, but not a grotesque one. Our best players should be as normal as possible but also hard working, hungry whilst hopefully also being delightfully talented. Look again at Wales, at Iceland, look at Leicester City, look at what a club like Barnsley can achieve. What happened in ALL these cases is that a team was built around passion, hard work, teamwork and certainly intelligent and skilled management. Teams that care, comprised of players that care, teams that believe, team that can defeat the odds, teams so passionate they almost burst with pride.

That’s what I want from my England team. The answer most certainly isn’t yet another corporate regime change at the management level. We don’t need a different manager who still conforms to the same FA template as the previous 10 managers, all who similarly failed to breathe life into a disparate collection of overpaid, Premier League celebrities.

What we need is a change in the top league if that’s possible. We need to stop force feeding ever more gold sovereigns down the gullets of our spoilt starlets in an attempt to create an even richer blend of grotesque, Foie Gras football. Or if we must do that, if we can’t stop that happening, round them up and put them in a circus tent and let people watch them on a pay-per-view channel.

I want my England team to be formed of players genuinely proud to wear the shirt, players desperate to win,players that bleed, players that hurt like us whenever they lose, simply because they care. Just like us.

 

 

 

The UK EU referendum debacle …

I don’t consider myself political. I don’t like clubs as I have  blogged before, and no clubs are more abhorrent to me than political parties.  I admire those that proudly wear their politics on their sleeve, but I personally struggle to understand how anyone could ever constrain all their thoughts and beliefs to the inside of a blue or red box of thinking and ideology.

I have beliefs. I believe passionately in the NHS and the welfare state, I want those unable to help themselves to be supported by a caring society, and I support controlled immigration. I also believe in incentivising companies to establish themselves in the UK to bolster our workforce, and I believe in meritocracy. However I know by saying all those things that doesn’t place me in either a blue, yellow or red box, for all parties will claim all these beliefs too.  Even UKIP will claim controlled immigration, whilst Labour will claim to be the party of business and finance and the Tories the protectors (and creators) of the NHS. In summary, everyone is in favour of everything nice and against everything nasty.

And so in an attempt to try and pin ones colours to any mast at election or referendum time, one has to dig deeper into the subtle, twisty-turny definitions and sub-texts, and more often than not you come out of that process more confused than ever before.

And all this is perfectly exemplified by the current EU Referendum here in the UK.

Let me lay out my beliefs. I am a passionate Europhile. My family and I have been immigrants in Germany (’95-’97) and although not the EU, we were also immigrants in USA (’98-’00), so I strongly support immigration too.  Those two family adventures where we lived overseas in other cultures are possibly the richest, fondest and most positive experiences of my life. My wife and I travel to continental Europe whenever time and money permits because we love to eat, drink and walk through the streets of our continental neighbours, absorbing their culture and history and always leaving feeling richer as a result.

Yet I am also deeply, deeply frustrated by the EU. It feels like a victim of its own success. In trying to serve 28 masters it serves none. It feels horrendously complex, probably because it has to be with 28 masters where compromise means no-one gets what they want. And it appears to be so overly bureaucratic as to be almost stagnant. I don’t understand who elects these people, I don’t know who these people are and I couldn’t name any of them either (shame on me). What I do see are largely facile rulings and decisions – who can call their cheese ‘Cheddar’, Cadbury’s chocolate can’t be called chocolate, bananas that are too curved, bread toasters to be banned, children under 8 not allowed to blow up balloons, etc. And then we have the Common Agricultural Policy subsidising farmers to produce goods nobody wants or needs.

And so here I am, I want to be in Europe, I want to be part of Europe, but I am deeply frustrated by the EU. Do we stay and fight for change from within? Haven’t we been trying to do that since the inception of the common market, and if anything things seem to be getting worse? Or do we Brexit and start afresh doing everything ourselves? At least we would then have accountability, we would have decisions made by people we can vote in or out. But what about rulings that don’t respect borders – what about terrorism? air pollution? environmental issues? These issues clearly don’t respect our nationalistic borders, and yet impact us significantly and surely benefit best from common purpose and cross European debate? And if we leave what model should we adopt? The Norwegian model? the Swiss model? Canadian model? No-one seems to know and the Brexit strategy does feel rather uncertain.

And the more one reads, the more confused one gets.  The hyperbole, misdirection and spurious lies from both sides is horrendous and completely unhelpful. Claims that holidays will cost £250 more if we Brexit are nonsense, as are claims from the Brexit side that we will sign trade deals with 28 countries in a matter of months. And everyday the claims and counter claims become ever more insidious and ridiculous. Surely they see this don’t they? So is that their intent? To aim to confuse, to obfuscate the truth through a smokescreen of lies and deception?

Once again I find myself struggling to join any club, staring balefully through the EU debating playground railings, seeing others joyously pinning their rosettes to their EU referendum jackets.

I feel slightly envious, yet the harder I try, the more I listen, the more I read, the more I search and research, the more confused I become.

Mindfulness & the importance of ‘now’

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All we ever have is what is in our mind at any given moment. Wherever we are, at whatever time of the day, on any and every day, our mind governs who, what and how we are. Every experience we have, every mood we possess, whether it be a happy one or a sad one, is shaped entirely by our mind.

And there is nothing else.

Most of us, me included, spend the majority of our time pursuing and seeking out happiness. We constantly and consistently want to be happy or satisfied ‘now’. Our actions are chosen for this one specific reason and our days are formed by a series of decisions aimed at maximising happiness and minimising sadness, and yet at every turn we seem to be denied, foiled  and hoisted by our own happiness seeking petards.

A typical moment in a typical day for many of us might play out like this:

I have a headache (pain), so I choose to go for a walk to get some much needed fresh air, yes that will make me feel better (happy). I walk (relaxed), but after a short while I feel too hot, the sun is stronger than I anticipated and I start to feel uncomfortable (sad). I remove my jacket and immediately I feel better (happy), but there’s a cool breeze and after a few moments I feel a chill (cold). I walk faster. This is good (energised), but soon I feel tired, my muscles ache, is that a blister I can feel? (pain). I head for home, this walk has taken longer than I had hoped, I must get back, there’s things to do (anxiety). I get home, I feel good for the walk (accomplishment), but the positive feeling I experience is soon wiped out by guilt of the chores I need to accomplish today (guilt). I chastise myself for wasting time on a walk when I have so much to do (critical). I berate my weakness for procrastination (sad). I crack on with some jobs (productive). I am hungry (empty), I eat a sandwich (fulfilled), but all that the full fat cheese (guilt). I drink black tea, no milk, that’s good (healthy), but what about staining my teeth? (ugly). I want chocolate to round off my lunch (greedy). I eat chocolate (happy), but the guilt reappears (sad). I have a thirst (unpleasant), so I drink water (sated). I need the loo (unpleasant), I go to the loo (relief). I must work!(stress)  I work (productive). I’m bored and I feel tired (fatigue). I take a break and watch some TV (relax), but such mindless garbage on TV! (guilt). There’s nothing in for dinner because I’m working so damned hard (frustrated). It’s Friday, sod it I’ll get a take away, yay! (elation). I work excitedly until I order my curry (excited). I eat my curry, woohoo! (deliriously happy). But wait, I’m so full I think I need surgery (uncomfortable). I’m so stuffed I can’t move (fat). I waddle to bed, I can’t sleep (indigestion). I hate myself for wasting money on the stupid takeaway and now I can’t sleep (very sad).

Many of us live our days like this, constantly leaping from a state of happiness to a state of unhappiness, over and over again, see-sawing from high to low and back again, trying to zero in on happiness and contentment but only ever briefly experiencing it before being boomeranged off to the next trauma or disappointment.

Whilst we can only ever physically live in the ‘now’, our minds seem to live anywhere but there. At every turn we are either regretting a past event or trying to second guess a future one. On a pleasant summer’s walk, instead of delighting in the majesty of nature, we are thinking of getting home (future), of jobs undone (future), conversations planned (future). Or perhaps we are replaying old conversations (past) or reliving failed arguments (past), oblivious to the deep blue sky above (now), the bird wistfully singing in the tree (now), the rabbit running freely in the field (now).

We are, by nature, material seekers. We search out pleasant sights, sounds, tastes, sensations, moods. We try and satisfy ourselves intellectually and surround ourselves with friends and loved ones. We seek out art, music, fine wine, delicious foods, and yet our pleasures are rarely anything more than fleeting. Like the video game Frogger, we jump from experience to experience in search of happiness, like a hummingbird we stop briefly before moving on to the next, constantly trying to keep boredom and unhappiness at bay.

Yet most of us seem to fail spectacularly. Happiness seems to be at best temporary, and at times elusive, which begs the question – is there actually a true form of happiness? One which doesn’t depend on having 24hr TV, fast food, alcohol, or having loved ones within arm’s reach? Is it actually possible to be happy before anything happens? Before material gratification and in spite of life’s difficulties such as ill health, old age, financial concerns, disease and ultimately death?

Many of us live as though the answer is a resounding ‘no’ – see above – and so we continue to chase and to seek, and yet constantly and consistently fall short.

‘Mindfulness’ shines an exciting light towards a potential path to true happiness that seems to be free of the chase, and thankfully also free of unfounded hype and hope, based firmly in neurology and science. Mindfulness teaches us to live in the now, always and in all ways. And this isn’t at all new. Buddhists and other Eastern religions have known this for thousands of years, yet many of us are only just catching on.

Contrary to popular belief, Mindfulness meditation isn’t at all about thinking, but rather about experience. Mindfulness simply teaches us to live in the ‘now’, teaching us to develop a vivid awareness of whatever is appearing in our minds and our physical body – thoughts, sensations, moods – without grasping at the pleasant or fleeing from the unpleasant. With mindfulness we stop the chase, we just ‘are’.

Mindfulness is easy to define but unfortunately very difficult to master. The principal enemy of mindfulness is thought distraction. The problem isn’t thoughts themselves, but rather the state of thinking without knowing that we are thinking. The pitfall is being lost in thought and thereby once again becoming a slave to the thought, suffering whatever emotion that thought conjures – happy one moment, sad the next.

Mindfulness teaches us to divorce our ‘self’ from our thoughts, placing a distance between us and them, rendering ‘them’ as different to ‘us’, and thereby freeing us from this slavery to emotional thinking.

Imagine that feeling where you’re so immersed in a horror film that you’re living it for real. You might scream with fear as the mad axeman chases the victim through the forest, your fists clenched, your throat dry, paralysed with fear as though you are the hunted, but then suddenly your phone rings and you realise you are sitting on the settee, merely watching a fictional play of plasma light on the wall. You feel immediate relief, suddenly the spell is broken, you are free.

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This is mindfulness. Many of us, me included, live most of our days lost in the movies of our own lives, slaves to our emotional thinking. Mindfulness provides us with an alternative, a path to what many refer to as true enlightenment. I’m not there yet, far from it in fact, but I see the way, I see the clearing ahead and I figure it’s worth a try.

 

 

 

A letter to my 17yr old self …

In response to A letter from my 17yr old self.

2016

Dear 17yr old Andy,

Thanks for your letter. Well, here we are. We survived, we are still alive and kicking! The good news is we generally did pretty well. I’m not going to tell you the details as it will spoil it for you, but we get through, so keep on keeping on young man.

What I will say, is that those guilty pleasures of yours – singing in the band, making people laugh – they’re not just lusty and pointless, so don’t keep dismissing them. Those are beacons in the dark, sirens in the quiet still of night. Despite what you might think, they are your soul speaking to you.

I just realised that last sentence might freak you out. Sorry, let me rephrase. Those are the things that make you what you are. Reading your letter brought back many memories for me, how we believed and trusted unerringly in our elders, and by consequence, how we felt anything we experienced that didn’t align with them was somehow incongruous, somewhat deviant and unhealthy.

I remember now, thanks to your letter, how we lived our life by a set of rules devised purely by teachers, parents, lawmakers, guidelines always laid down in tablets of stone. Our success was measured not by happiness, but by how well we stayed on that path of righteousness as prescribed by ‘them’.

If I can offer one piece of advice, it’s to stop always looking to others for guidance – instead start to look inwardly at your self, at our self. You know that ‘gut feel’ you get, but always push back if it doesn’t conform to The Book? Well, stop doing that. Stop it now. Immediately. Listen to the voices inside – I bet that spooks you too? Don’t worry, I am sane of mind, I just see life differently, through a less filtered lens.

I don’t mean to suggest you ignore The Book altogether – there’s a lot of great and sound advice out there, advice that’s built on thousands of years of hard earned experience – but complement it with your own thoughts and beliefs. Believe it or not you (we) are unique, and we do have talents that would horrify you if I were to tell you them now.

And so I won’t tell you, for you must find them on your own, because the journey is the biggest part of any experience, not the destination. That obsession of getting somewhere, stop that too. Retune your beliefs, redefine your passions and act accordingly. Most importantly, stop obsessing with trying to define the end point all the time. Instead set the rules (your rules), and let your own moral compass navigate.

By the way – I still don’t get electricity, it just works, and the sooner you get comfortable with the fact that you don’t need to understand everything, the better it will be.

Forget destinations and just enjoy the journey, young man, just make sure it’s your journey and not anyone elses.

Love,

Me (2016)
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A letter from my 17yr old self …

1982

Dear 51 yr old Andy,

I’m sitting here in the common room at Sixth Form college. You remember this place? Defender video machine in the corner, table football, comfy chairs, coffee shop – we even have a radio, pretty cool.

I feel so much more grown here compared to Kendray Oaks Comp. I feel a hell of a lot safer too – there’s no bullying, everyone is here because they want to be (by and large), everyone wants to learn (by and large) – you know what I mean, you remember that don’t you?

Yeah, it’s cool here, I like it, but the work is so hard. A-levels are like ten times harder than O-levels. I’m struggling with Physics – I can’t grasp ‘electricity’ no matter how hard I try – electrons moving along a wire make a bulb light up – are you serious?? Economics is kind of interesting, it’s different, but some of the concepts seem a bit alien and I’m not sure what the point of it is? And maths is maths, just maths, although it’s much harder, much more abstracted than O-level.

That’s the thing about A-levels, it feels all rather ‘disconnected’. At school, working out the price of apples and oranges knowing that John bought 2 apples and 3 oranges for 19p whilst Jenny bought 1 apple and 3 oranges for  17p seems like a worthwhile thing to do. It has practical meaning. However, working out the value of ξ in a Fourier Transform that ranges from minus infinity to plus infinity seems somewhat unnecessary and unimportant to me:

\hat{f}(\xi) = \int_{-\infty}^\infty f(x)\ e^{- 2\pi i x \xi}\,dx,   

Quite frankly, as much as I like Sixth Form (I have a girlfriend!), I’m gutted about my subject choices. Anyway I’ll plod on because Dad said it’s the right thing for me and he’s always right. Besides, what else would I have chosen? The Arts subjects aren’t going to get anyone a job, jobs come from engineering and mathematics. That’s how the world works. People that study the Arts are a bit … well deluded, and silly. How hard can Arts be anyway? Drawing pictures and writing stories – these people will never get a job!

I plan on going to university. I have no idea what subject I will study, but I will go. It’s the thing to do, the teachers said so, and besides what else would I do?

Some friends of mine have formed a band, they play stuff I love and it’s cool, but what about their homework? They practice on school nights! Such a waste, they’ll regret that in later life. Although I am a bit jealous deep down – I’d love to be the singer in the band but I have to push that thought deep down inside, it doesn’t help anything.

I also really love The Young Ones – its a new comedy series on TV and Rik Mayall is brilliant. I have all the episodes on VHS tape and I know every word, every joke, every line from every episode. Mum and dad think it’s a bit odd, older people don’t generally like it and so I feel bad about that as older people are almost always right. They call it Alternative Comedy. I watch it when they’ve gone to bed. I’d love to tell jokes like Rik but I have to push that thought deep down inside, it doesn’t help anything.

So how’s life at 51, older me? I feel a bit nervous writing that – how did we do? And do you understand electricity yet!?

Andy, 1982

 

 

 

The Zen of running …

I wasn’t going to go for a run today as it was tipping down with rain, or ‘pissing stair-rods’ as they say up north. I usually don’t need much of an excuse to avoid anything, I have a deep seated propensity to do bugger-all if the chance arises, but rather unusually today something inside nudged and cajoled me to get changed and head out.

This is what greeted me – this is the street outside my house, amusingly called Water Lane, and now we know why:

I do love running, and have been an on-off runner most of my life. I was fairly good at it at school, and particularly enjoyed cross-country which put me in a minority group of 1. I always enjoyed running ‘off-piste’, leaving the pavements and roads behind me as soon as I could, finding peace and solitude in whatever fields, footpaths and woodland areas I had access to.

I never consciously sought out the countryside, it just seemed to find me. It was like an instinct – birds fly south in winter, salmon swim upstream to lay their eggs, Andy turns off the road and into the fields as soon as he can. Running like this just feels right, it feels nice, I feel like I fit here. Running along a pavement, along a road, all those cars, all those people, it all feels stressful and that’s probably why I have never enjoyed cycling where you are consigned to the public roads. I can feel myself physically relax once I hop over the style, leaving the noise, pollution and people behind.

Today was muddy, seriously so, and at times it was difficult to stay upright, but it was hugely enjoyable. Within 5 minutes I was soaked through from head to toe and I had mud splattered everywhere and it felt bloody brilliant.

I ran for around an hour, tracing a loop across the fields, slipping and sliding through mud and puddles. I covered just over 5 miles so no records were in danger of being broken but that was fine, I wasn’t running for speed, I was running for running’s sake, running because I can, running because it feels good.

Running makes me feel happy, a pursuit, a hobby like no other in that respect. I love the solitude, the thinking time, the rhythm. It’s almost meditative, some call it ‘flow’, where you lose track of time and focus only on what you’re doing right now. The usual fears, anxieties, worries and concerns prevalent in everyday life are cast aside when you’re in ‘flow’. You hear nothing, you see nothing, you just are, you are 100% in the now, no regrets from the past, no fears for the future.

In flow, I just am.

The rain became heavier, the paths more sodden and boggy, but by now I no longer worried about finding dry spots, I just ran and even waded in parts. Fuck it.

I hadn’t a care in the world now I was in full flow. I didn’t want to stop and felt like I could run forever.

I do a lot of thinking whilst running, I process thoughts, often arriving back after a run with solutions to earlier, seemingly insurmountable problems of the day. They say sleep is the time most people process their thoughts, that’s why we dream, but I’m a poor sleeper, and perhaps running is my place to do the necessary care-taking of my mind’s thoughts? I certainly arrive back from a run feeling better, not just physically, but mentally and dare I say spiritually too.

I love running, running is my thing, my ‘flow’, my Zen. For you it may well be different – perhaps it’s reading, cooking, building model boats out of matchsticks. I don’t think it  matters what ‘it’ is, so long as you find your ‘it’.

For me my ‘it’ is definitely running, and if I’m fit enough to run I feel very lucky.

‘I might go for another run tomorrow, or perhaps the day after’, I think to myself, and so I turn for home before I’m really ready, because I want to do it all again very soon.

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My shoes

 

The Versatile Blogger – nominated x 2

versatile-blogger-award

I am flattered and honoured to have received two nominations for the Versatile Blogger Award so a big, big thanks x 2 goes out to mythinkout and also pointless & prosaic who were kind enough to nominate me. As an Englishman this delights me and makes me feel very awkward, in equal measure. I confess I contemplated ignoring the nominations, but that would have been very rude and impolite, so thank you once again from the bottom of my blogging inkwell you two!

So, in accordance with the VBA rules, here are 7 things about me:

  1. I look like the Before photo in every Before/After fitness transformation photograph that was ever photographed.
  2. I’m 51 years old, but I think I’m about 34.
  3. I was born, grew up and still live in England, but have also lived in Munich – Germany (’97-’99) and Virginia – USA (’00-’02)
  4. I have an INFJ personality type which means I’m in the smallest, most select group alongside Gandhi (good), Plato (smart), Wittgenstein (wow, cool), Dostoevsky (get me!), Hitler (awkward), Bin Laden (wtf …?)
  5. I hate mushrooms
  6. The last time I cried was when our family dog died. He was called George. He was ace.
  7. I’m listening to Joni Mitchell as I type this (Court & Spark album)

My nominations are all bloggers who have either 1) blogged about something that made me go “wow”, 2) made me laugh or 3) inspired me to carry on blogging.

In no particular order:

Antondotreks

Emma Fleming

Cars and cooking

fromroad2trail

3389 miles & further

dazz22

Greater than gravity

 

 

Film review – The Revenant

First off, I should say I’m not a film reviewer, nor am I aspiring to be one.  As my blog seems to be changing to become more of a place where I collect and deposit my thoughts, it seems sensible (and quite useful for me) to also park my thoughts about books, films, theatre, sporting events and other life events I experience. I’m notoriously bad at recalling things as I get older, so this might help refresh my memory and perhaps be useful to a few readers of this blog in the process.

I will try and categorise such reviews under film/movies, books, sport etc, so those that are interested can find them, and those that aren’t can ignore.

I should also mention up front that I’m very much a non-film buff. I’m the sort of person who usually has film conversations with friends that go like this:

Me: “Have you seen that film about that man who escapes from that prison on a motorbike? There’s mountains and green fields in it. You know, it’s got Clint Newman in it … no Paul McQueen, yes Paul McQueen that’s it.”
Friend: “Errr …”
Me: “He throws a baseball against the wall a lot, and eats boiled eggs, loads of them. No, hang on that’s Papillon, no, that’s about butterflies, this is a motorbike definitely. Anyway, have you seen it?”

At which point I’m usually confronted by my friend’s rather withered, horrified look. The conversation can go on for hours until we find out what film and what actor I’m talking about:

Friend: “Steve McQueen?”
Me: “Yes!”
Friend: “The Great Escape”
Me: “Yes!!”
Friend: “Yes I have, many years ago, why do you ask?”

At which point I’ve usually forgotten why I mentioned it in the first place:

Me: “Why do I ask what?”

It’s not always easy being my friend, so in an attempt to smarten myself up, become a better friend, and aid memory recall in future, making such conversations less painful for friends and acquaintances alike, here’s my first film review:

Date: 25th February 2016
Film: The Revenant

I’ve always been indifferent towards Leonardo DiCaprio, meaning I neither dislike him or think he’s mega talented, just a decent Hollywood A-list actor. He is, however, superb in this film, where he plays the part of a fur trapper in the wild-west(?) of 19th Century America. Not sure if it is the wild west as it’s covered in snow, in fact I googled it and it is in fact Nebraska. I don’t know where Nebraska is, more shame me, but it’s ever so cold.

The film is basically the story of Leonardo’s character (I forget his name) who spends the film trying to get home after being brutally mauled by a grizzly and left for dead by a nasty, vindictive Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) – I think I have my brackets the wrong way round there. Sounds basic as far as plotlines go, and some people (all my 3 kids in fact), thought it dragged and was too long. I however loved it, but then I love long novels like ‘World According to Garp’, which are about people and don’t have much plot. I like that, plots often confuse me, and I really identified with Leonardo’s character, so much so that I was gripped from beginning to end. I was with him as he dragged himself back to life, fighting against endless elements and losing his son in the process (Reggie Kray again). The film is gruesome, brutally so in parts, but it doesn’t feel misplaced. Leonardo is fantastic and indeed the supporting cast are brilliant too, including a few Brits who do rather good American accents, at least to my untrained ear.

I was exhausted at the end, but in a good way. I have a new found respect for Leonardo too, who has come on leaps and bounds from that film he did on that boat which capsizes, you know, it was the same year as Barnsley won the FA Cup … 1912 … ooh what’s it called .. also has that woman in it from Reading, Emma Winslet … that’s it.

The Revenant (****)* – 4 out of 5 stars according to Andy’s newly devised film ratings scale.

 

 

 

Barnsley 3 Manchester United 2

18 years ago today, Barnsley beat Manchester United in the FA Cup 5th round (replay) at Oakwell. It was a sell-out and I couldn’t get a ticket so had to settle for watching the match at home with my mate Radders.  Remember this was 1998 and the internet was in its infancy and it was us fans that ran the only Barnsley FC Bulletin Board (BBS) back then. Pasted in it’s entirety is my match report from that evening (I didn’t have a blog in those days).

Background:

  • The Outpost is our local boozer in Barnsley on match days where we all used to meet up.
  • HRH was Radders nickname, he founded the website so he was royalty to us. He also lived near me, we were both 120 miles south of Barnsley this particular evening.
  • Mr Tuffers was a larger than life regular on the BBS, prone to baring his arse I assume.
  • E.I Addio and London Tyke were two regulars who are still going strong today.
  • AIRTyke is me, Mrs AIRTyke is my wife.

Apologies for the language, I was young and uncouth back then, not cultured like what I am now.

At 4pm I pressed the refresh button to see the Bulletin Board for the last
time. I must have pressed it 100 times, every time thinking there would be
someone, somewhere, offering tickets – someone must have to work or would be
ill, but there was nothing and I resigned myself to watching the match on SKY.

I called Radders and invited him round to ours for the evening. I called in at
Tesco’s on the way home to pick up a few beers and some nibbles, after all it’s not
every night that HRH comes round! At 19:16pm Radders arrived with a bagful of
Taiwanese beers and we settled down in front of the telly.

Our thoughts were with the crew in the Outpost, we both wanted to be there but we were determined to enjoy the evening. Sky coverage was excellent and we saw the boys lining up alongside the Man Utd team in the dressing room (now you don’t see that very often from Oakwell!).

The cameras scanned the stadium and as we saw the nutters in the Ora Stand and we both laughed out loud, as we imagined the camera panning across to Mr Tuffers who
would be baring his arse with ‘Ar luv mi tarn’ written across his bum cheeks … hehehe!

However, when the fanfare began and Neil Redfearn led the team out onto the pitch, the smile suddenly fell from Radders face, and I thought he was going to cry.

AIRTyke : ‘What’s up mate?

Radders (bottom lip all a quiver) : ‘Don’t take this the wrong way but I wish I was there and not here with you!

It was at this point, feeling slightly paranoid (you know how sensitive I am), I fetched the Tortilla Chips and a large jar of Salsa dip from the kitchen to cheer him up. It did the trick, we cranked open our second can of Taiwanese beer and sat back to watch the match.

As expected, end-to-end stuff – not the best Barnsley line-up in the world, methinks. Appleby at right wing-back and Scott ‘midget’ Jones at centre back were probably the two dodgiest selections in my opinion, but given the injuries, Danny could do little else. The Man Utd team wasn’t full strength but it certainly was not the team of youths everyone was predicting – was it 8 internationals?

Anyway, nine minutes into the game and Hendrie picks up a through ball and skillfully beats Schmeichel to give Barnsley the lead. Hendrie didn’t believe it was a goal, I thought it was offside but Radders didn’t and everything seemed to stop for a few seconds – surely the ref would blow, Barnsley had scored against the mighty Man U for heaven’s sake!! But no, the goal stood, I shook Mr Radders firmly by the hand and finished off my Taiwanese beer. It was now time to move up to the heavy duty German Weiss beer, a throw back to my teutonic past-life in Munich. Radders, who was driving, decided to make it his mission to finish off the jar of salsa dip – he was smiling again, maybe my house isn’t that bad, methinks… hehehe!

We all knew Man U would level before half-time and I was just saying to Radders how great it would be if we kept the lead, when Hendrie earned a free-kick. The kick cleared Pallister and May and lo and behold up popped Scott Jones to tap the ball with the bottom of his foot past an amazed Schmeichel. No more hand shakes, this was cuddles time, although we swiftly returned to our respective settees before wifey saw us!!

I was just thinking of phoning Mr Addio when, spookily, he phoned me! I could hear the singing and wished I was there, but it was great to hear Mr Addio’s croaky voice saying

We are f*cking tonking ’em! Wot woz Hendrie’s goal like? It looked f*cking stonking from here!

Moments later the phone rang again and this time it was Mr London Tyke:

Eyup AIRTyke, we’re missing you, I thought of you when the 2nd goal went in“.

It brought a lump to my throat to think of you lot at the game and taking time out to call l’il ole me and Radders at half-time.

Second half, the TV was now playing through the hi-fi speakers, I opened another wheat beer and filled Radders now empty bowl of Tortilla chips.

What a 2nd half! Wave after wave of United attacks and 11 minutes into the half, Sheringham scored with a deflection off Adie Moses (who could not be blamed and had another blinder of a game).

Now what odds would you have got on Hendrie and then Sheringham scoring first in both games? It was all gut wrenching stuff, Hendrie was off, Liddell was on, Markstedt went off, Sheridan came on (What!!! Why does Danny do that?). Barnsley earned a corner:

AIRTyke: ‘Don’t let Redfearn take it, he’s crap at corners, give it to Bullock!!

Redfearn crossed a perfectly weighted ball, midget Jones ran from Monk Bretton into the box and headed the ball into the roof of the net.

AIRTyke: ‘Aaaaaaaagh!! Aaaaaaagh!!!!! 3-1!!! Against Man U!!! Aaaaaagh!!! Redfearn corner!!!

Radders: ‘This salsa is really very tasty, my arse is gonna be on fire tomorrow!!

Big cuddles ensued, this time from the floor in front of the TV from where we watched the rest of the game (Radders had a little table for his dips!).  More beers, a tactical wee, a few more dips, Cole scores (10 goals, 6 games against Barnsley) – oh shit, this was surely going to extra time:

10 IF 90 minutes AND Man U losing THEN continue playing.
20 IF no goal after 5 minutes GOTO 100
:
100 Continue playing all night if necessary until the rich club score (I never was very good at programming, but you get my drift!).

My fears were unfounded, Barnsley had done it.  Even wifey joined the post match celebrations, more phone calls followed but not until Radders and I had a final big cuddle – HRH now smelling like a flame grilled Fajita, but I wasn’t gonna say anything.

In depth post-match analysis ensued :

AIRTyke : ‘We were f*cking brilliant!!’
Mrs AIRTyke : ‘Andy, stop being so vulgar, you don’t normally swear and we have guests!’

Radders : ‘Magic….. best Salsa I have ever tasted, any more Tortilla chips AIRY?!!’

Mrs AIRTyke : ‘.. and what’s all this AIRy stuff?’

AIRTyke: ‘ Nothing, he said Andy, – is that the baby crying?’

Sometime later I called Mr London Tyke who was now in the EI ADDIO passion wagon winging it’s way South, they were at Leicester and still had a long journey ahead. At 22:15, the Salsa jar was empty and Radders left to get home in time to watch the match highlights on ITV.

I opened another beer, watched the match again myself and just smiled, all night long. Scott Jones was  interviewed, his eyes are very close together, he looks like Beavis but he’s cool!

I awoke with a hangover the size of a small African country but it was all worth it. Newcastle next, now how do I get a ticket……?

This is what Phil Neville (Man Utd) and Dave Watson (Barnsley) said 18 years later:

Neville v Watson ’98 FA Cup clash: who came out on top? | Flashback

 

If I could turn back time …

Slide2

I suspect this is a question which has piqued us all at some point:

If you had one turn in a time machine, where would you set the dial?

What a wonderfully indulgent thought, to be given the opportunity to set the record straight, to right that wrong, to write that book. Would you go back to last week to relive that argument with your best friend? Would you go back to your last job? Your first marriage? Back to school? Even back to the crib? Or as far back as the womb?

I’m tempted to say I would go back to being a baby and do everything again. I’d grow up eating healthy food, I’d pass on the deep fried spam fritters and 1/4 pound bags of kali (northern English word for sherbert) that undoubtedly rotted my teeth beyond redemption. I would have continued running, cross country running was my thing, I was good at it as a kid, as a teenager. I found running easier than walking, and I should have exploited that, not neglected it.

I would have been more confident, less shy. I would have asked girls out at school and I wouldn’t have turned down that kind offer from Jane T. in 1981. I was bright and fairly academic, but I wasted my education. Had I applied myself I would have certainly attained better grades and that in turn would have led to better career choices and more money and … and …

So many choices, how far back do I turn the dial? So many choices! However, university was probably my greatest tragedy – 3 years of drinking beer and very little else, probably the single, greatest downturn in my life, certainly the period I look back on with the most regret, and so that seems to be a good place to return to in my time machine.

But wait, I met my wife at University. The Butterfly Effect, borne out of chaos theory, tells us that infinitesimally small changes can have huge longer term effects. Had I not been a beer monster, I may have turned left into the library rather than turn right into the top bar at Essex University. Had I done that I wouldn’t have seen her, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the girl that rocked my world. We would never have married, and in turn, our children would have never existed, and that’s unthinkable.

If I step into that time machine, whichever point I choose to return to, I risk losing everything I now hold dear. The butterfly effect tells us that anything we do differently during our trip back in time, risks changing everything from thereon in. If I stop eating kali, perhaps I replace it with something else more sinister – I may have nicer teeth on my 2nd attempt, but perhaps I have a more addled brain. If I start running more in my second life, perhaps I end up at a different university, studying a different subject, and most certainly never get to the top bar at Essex University in the spring of ’82, and never actually meet that girl in the green combat trousers.

To imagine, or to wish for a different outcome from our past, is to risk changing everything going forward, including all that one holds dear. I don’t think we can pick and choose, we just act spontaneously and we must therefore live with the consequences of our actions. You pays your money, you takes your choice, and you have to accept all that comes with it.  I might wish I had better teeth and a flatter stomach but would I risk everything for that? To change anything about us is to change ourselves forever, and that has unintended consequences.

On reflection I think I’m OK after all, so I think I’ll pass on the offer of a spin in the time machine, thanks.