Friday, January 30, 2009

Remind me what 'FA' stands for again?

Today Barnsley's manager, Simon Davey, was fined £500 and warned about his conduct for remarks he made to the fourth official during Barnsley's 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United in November.

In the same game, Utd's Chris Morgan inflicted a tackle on Barnsley's Chris Hume that was so severe it fractured Hume's skull.  Hume almost died, and for a while it looked like he may never play football again.  Morgan was given a yellow card in the game.  He hasn't apologised to Barnsley or Hume for the horrific tackle - which is really unpleasant to watch - and neither has his club. The FA quickly confirmed that no further action would be taken against Morgan or Sheff Utd. 

So as far as the FA is concerned, it's a more serious offence to have harsh words with an official than it is to almost murder an opposing player.

The Fucking Arseholes.

Mediterranean flair comes to the Tuscany of the North

Things are looking up at Barnsley.  The other week we failed to sign Chesterfield's best striker because we couldn't afford his wage demands, and he went to the press and effectively said he didn't want to play for a bunch of failures - and that's why he signed to Sheff United instead.

But this week, Barnsley triumphed where Man City failed, bringing an international striker, the star of his national team, from Italy to the north of England.  All hail Daniel Bogdanovich, the star player of... Malta. 

January is panto month...

... and the thing about pantomime is the comfort of repetition, the safety of a story we already know inside out, having fun with storytelling cliches.  It's perfect recession fodder - it takes us back to childhood, makes us feel wrapped up and warm in the bleak mid-winter, puts us in a place where the world makes sense.

So combine panto with something as heartwarming and life-affirming as a good meal, and you're really onto a winner.

Image: Gregg and John
Which must be why the BBC has decided to schedule Masterchef four nights a week through January and February.  Every night you can get in from work, close the curtains, have your tea and snuggle on the sofa to watch the same story being played out again and again with minor variations, the same lines in a slightly different order.  There are even bits where you can join in and shout along with the shouty, larger than life, panto-perfect characters.  "COOKING DOESN'T GET ANY TOUGHER THAN THIS!!!" we yell along with Panto Greg, the tragi-comic Widow Twanky of the piece.  We stage whisper "It's good, simple food, but is it good enough to win a place in the quarter-final?  Everything on that plate has to be perfect," with John 'Prince Charming' Torode each time someone cooks something you think you might be able to do at home.  We hoot with derision every time lazy-voiced India Knight tells us in the drawling voiceover that's now compulsory in everything from documentaries to hair conditioner ads that someone is an 'experimental cook', wondering how we can work this phrase into conversation as a euphemistic insult, or maybe even sneak it into the Viz Profanisaurus.

My only regret about finally finishing my new book over the last few weeks is that I've only been able to watch about half the episodes, but with the book now done I'm delighted that we've got two weeks of heats left.  I've had to rely on my mate BLTP for a daily update - it's the first thing I read each morning.  Through his eyes, there's not just panto here, but a microcosm of social and class relationships within British society.  His blog only makes the programme itself more compulsive, if that's even possible.

I don't want the winter to end - I'll be heartbroken when this series finishes - but in the meantime, the flavours are good, the meat's cooked wonderfully.  Yeah, I like it.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Turning Ploughshares into Swords

The extraordinary TV ad for careers in the RAF is back on TV.  Can't remember when it was first out, but they clearly think it's successful as they're rerunning it.  

In the ad, the ghost of a fighter jet flies across an urban landscape.  As it passes factories and offices, it attracts various metallic objects from them as if by powerful magnetism, and these objects all fly up to join the plane and form its body.

It's meant to be a visual metaphor for the number of different skills and disciplines within the air force, and the voiceover talks about there being fifty different skills to choose from.  But watched without the voiceover, it's actually a straightforward dramatisation of how the armed forces takes resources that would otherwise be more useful elsewhere.  I'm not just being right-on about this - one scene actually shows surgical implements being stolen from a hospital in the middle of an operation, to form part of  machine that's built for blowing stuff up and killing people!

To my mind, this makes the ad a catastrophic case of 'friendly fire' as far as the image of the RAF is concerned.

National Anthems

Billy Connolly once did a sketch about how crap our national anthem is.  He pointed out that new countries in  Africa have fast, jaunty national anthems that get people going, while ours has the slow trudge of a funeral march.

I remembered this over Christmas when, by chance, I caught the start of an episode of Thunderbirds.  

The Thunderbirds theme tune almost makes me cry.  It makes me want to stand to attention and salute.  If the Thunderbirds theme tune was our national anthem, which it should be, Britain would be a proud nation. It would still have an empire on which the sun never sets.  I'm not saying that's a good thing.  I'm just saying.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

On being the fan of a shit football team

Went yesterday to Upton Park, to watch Barnsley being thrashed 3-0 by a mediocre West Ham in the third round of the FA Cup.  

Last year saw a brief spell of glory for Barnsley - every year, the cup provides the spectacle of a lowly club doing a David and Goliath on one of the game's giants.  Someone from League One might scrap for a reply against Man United, or even beat them.  But lightning never strikes twice - except last year it did.  In last season's FA Cup, Barnsley knocked out two of the big four on the bounce: beating Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield, then going on to dominate Chelsea at home and win 1-0.  Then, we went to Wembley for the semi-final, looked utterly incapable of scoring, and lost 1-0 to bloody Cardiff.

Yesterday too we never looked like scoring.  Kayo Odejayi, a striker who scored a total of five goals last season and has managed one - ONE - so far this season after seven starts and fifteen appearances as a sub, missed a header that my 61 year-old mum would have been able to score, proving that his ability in the air matches the excellent footwork that saw him roll a chance wide in the Cardiff semi-final when he had only the keeper to beat.  The ball rolled so perfectly he may be useless as a football player, but he has a great future in crown green bowling.

My wife laughs at the plight of supporting a football team that can't score goals.  It's a strange relationship - you can't change your team the same way you can't change your family.  In fact it's very like a family - you can slag off your siblings and parents on a daily basis, but as soon as anyone else offers uninvited criticism of them, the atmosphere can become very chilly indeed.

But there are consolations.  

I had to take a client to a Chelsea game once - the agency I was working for had seats there - and it was a dispiriting experience.  After fifteen minutes of football I felt privileged to see after a lifetime watching Barnsley toil, the home crowd started booing their own team because they hadn't yet scored a goal.  Chelsea went on to win 2-1, but the home crowd was still unhappy: it was only Coventry.  It should have been more.  Imagine being so bloated on success that anything less than perfection simply isn't good enough, when you expect to win by right.  Imagine how rare the opportunities for genuine delight.  Many Chelsea fans are no happier with a 1-0 that sees them secure a place in Europe than Barnsley fans are with a 0-0 draw against Blackpool.  Whereas we lowly intimates of failure - we'll remember the look on John Terry's face when the final whistle went at Oakwell last season until the day we die.   


Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Blog

Is anyone interested in reading my thoughts on stuff other than beer? I don't really care.  But occasionally I want to write about something else.  

The thing about my beer blog is it's there for professional reasons - to promote my career as an author and beer pundit.  

But every now and then there are other things I want to write about - things I feel strongly about, ideas I maybe want to work up a bit, or stuff to just get off my chest.  Just an ordinary blog then, like millions of others.  But having it as a blog rather than just a diary provides a bit of motivation to write it, craft it, think about it rather than just forgetting it.  If anyone else wants to read it, I'm flattered.

But if you fancy a chat about Barnsley FC, music, cool books, life in London, love-hate (mostly hate) relationships with advertising and marketing, then please drop by!