Friday, November 25, 2005


This is based on a post I’ve just made on a message board so apologies if you ever come across something similar elsewhere.

Hard to believe that this time tomorrow, George Best probably won't be with us anymore. Try as I might, and despite the cavalier way he’s dealt with his problems, I just can't bring myself to dislike the man. He was probably the first individual personality I was ever aware of back in the mid 60s and as any kind of fan knows, it's difficult to demonise your heroes.

Thinking back, I was probably aware of the name before I knew what he did. I remember being given a table football game when I was about 6 in '67 and my uncles joking about which of the players was Georgie Best (it was always Georgie, never plain old George). He's probably the reason why there are so many Man Utd fans speckled about the planet - kids like me felt allegiance to George rather than the team, and his team was ours. Were we gutted when he tripped off to Marbella for the summer and his United career stuttered to a halt? You bet! It was like the end of world! Was I ever envious of Tommy Barratt who had a pair of Stylo Matchmakers and seemingly could drop corners on the centre forward's head with consummate ease? Of course! Along with many of my friends down in Kent, we never saw him play in the flesh but we shared every moment: breaking Tony Book's leg in the derby game; throwing mud at the referee and getting sent off; the six against Northampton in the cup; stealing the ball off Banksy in the home internationals as he took a drop kick and having the goal disallowed for dangerous play. I was too young to remember the Benfica games but I've seen the tapes of El Beatle. There has never been a more mesmerising genius with the ball and we'll never see his like again. Individuality has long been bred out of the English game and any flickering talent is quickly snuffed out and more prima donna foreigners are brought in to further stultify our domestic game.

George was never selfish, he did it because he knew he could but he did it mainly for the team. He knew he was capable of moments of spellbinding genius (legend has it that he once bet Alex Stepney that he could take the ball the length of the pitch without grounding it and score. He did.) that could instantly turn a game and that most of his team mates were effectively superfluous but he still knew his place in the team and played as a team man. Wayne Rooney is like a fat and talentless donkey in Redwings compared to George.

The greatest sadness is not the passing of a sublime talent - it's over 25 years since he last kicked a ball competitively - but the fact that he never got the chance to prove he really could beat his addiction and prove the doubters wrong. It’s the one thing his legions of fans around the world feel cheated of because, despite the evidence against it, we always felt he could do it. I’ll treasure that moment I bumped into him crossing Dover Street back in the late 80s and managed, despite being awed, to say “Hello George” and shake his hand. 5 seconds to satisfy a lifelong wish? 5 seconds that will last a lifetime.

RIP George

Thursday, November 24, 2005



Just got back from some Christmas shopping and was struck that for the first time card manufacturers seem to be addressing the problem of the broken family. I can’t say I’ve come across cards to “Mum/Dad and Her/His partner” before and it’s a welcome alternative to the “To Both of You” opt-out usually on offer.

Times change naturally so maybe we should start adjusting to the realities of our increasingly more open and tolerant society. How about “Merry Christmas half-sister/brother” for starters. “To Dad and His Girlfriend” might get a few takers but why stop there? “Happy Christmas Mum and whoever” sounds good for the commitment-phobic. “Seasons Greetings to My Mummies”, “Merry Christmas Dad and Daddy” for the seriously enlightened will I’m sure gain in popularity with our softening attitudes.

Cards that say it how you think it are definitely gaining in popularity so expect to see greetings totally lacking in subtext. “Seasons Greetings to Mum and the Bloke From Accounts. Hoping He Has No Regrets When He Sobers Up” or “To A Dear Daughter And Her Waster Dopehead Fiancé”. Spurned ex’s fave from the kids “Merry Christmas to Dad and the Evil Whore Who Broke Up a Happy Family” and of course, the one everyone really wants to send, “I’m sorry, I Know You Only Hear From Me At Christmas But That’s Because You’re The Saddest, Most Boring Person On Earth. Don’t Bother To Reply As It Means I’ll Only Have To Think Of Something To Say To You Next Year”.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jungle Bunnies

It’s that time of year again, kids. That two week period of the year when all right-thinking people guiltily indulge themselves with two weeks of what is the television equivalent of slowing down past a gory road traffic accident.

Yep, I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here is back. The programme where ten micro celebrities, at least four of whom most of the country have been blissfully unaware of until now, are permitted to publicly debase themselves in the name of entertainment.

To be honest, I don’t generally like so called “reality” shows but this one is different and I usually find myself watching it. Because it involves so-called celebrities, the satisfaction of seeing them having to act and think like the normal people they presumably once were, with the added complications of dealing with the clash of celebrity tuned egos, borders on shadenfreude. They’re not the victims of their own misfortune – they’re getting paid for it and we want our money’s worth. And they get to eat worms.

I use the term “celebrity” lightly. With one or two exceptions these people aren’t your everyday household name. They are, by and large, those who once enjoyed some form of limited fame or tabloid notoriety seeking a much-needed boost to their income. They are invariably members of boy and girl bands in that “difficult” period between their second and third albums seeking a raft of curious new fans; ex-soap stars “between projects” and others whose celebrity is either genuine or second hand.

This year we have no less than 4 ex-soapies, two poppies, one Osmond, the most annoying woman ever to have been on TV (Jilly Goolden), a genuine celeb and almost definite winner of the student vote in David Dickinson and er…Carol Thatcher. Carol’s connection to glitz is that her mother was the most hated woman in the universe and her brother’s the biggest twat in it. Her very own mealticket is now assured after the night cameras caught her having a sly waz next to her bunk. Great to be known for something, eh? Mummy must be so proud. Nobody to rival John Lydon from two years ago but genuine legends tend to be busy most of the time.

Sadly I’ll miss most of it this year because we’re off to France for ten days on Friday. Mum? Put a tape in…

Sunday, November 20, 2005

No Drugs

My dalliance with anti-depressants is over. Friday was a lost day completely as every time I moved I felt I was going to throw up and instead of lasting a few hours, the side effects lasted all day. I was even starting to lose weight because I’d lost my appetite (which is no bad thing, to be honest). I felt unbelievably weak and all I wanted to do was sleep. I started to cough and even that was on the list of side effects. Of course, by now I was really pissing off Sharon, my partner. By her own admission she’s not good around sick people and I was letting her know I didn’t feel well in no uncertain terms. Good job she was managing to keep her sometimes ferocious PMT in check otherwise the headache I was whingeing about would have become rather more severe and “Indirectly provokes sudden outbursts of violence in other family members” added to Citalopram’s already extensive range of contra-indications. Back to will power and keeping my fingers crossed then.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

On Drugs

The most annoying thing about getting older is the amount of medication needed to keep your body a viable entity. Whereas in my 20s, visits to the GP’s surgery would be limited to the annual spring trip to get some hayfever tablets on prescription, now, at a mere 44, I seem to be visiting every other week.

I suffer a hiatus hernia (I’ve had the full set of hernias now - where’s my prize?); the heartburn I experienced after a cigarette for all those years being my stomach acids eating away at my oesophagus. There are nasty little gastric ulcerous complications exacerbated too by the years of fumic abuse. I gave up smoking over two years ago but I couldn’t give up the after-effects. So I plug myself daily with proton pump inhibitors to keep the acid down. It works but every few days I forget and am reminded of the 25 years of idiocy I spent torturing my body as my throat fills up with my evening meal every time I lay down to go to sleep.

Sleeping’s OK if I can manage it. Waking up’s a different matter as I’m now officially clinically depressed. That one came last Friday. Well, it’s been a difficult couple of years and we’re all entitled to feel a bit Radio Rental now and again. This time it was my turn. For a while I’d been waking up feeling as though I was shaking and my heart was beating so hard the vibrations were banging the headboard against the wall. Not to mention that everything around me was annoying me for no other reason other than that it existed. The doctor said this was caused by an adrenaline overload; I said I wasn't surprised as I felt I could run 100 yards in three seconds apart from being too damn tired to try. I’d been on beta-blockers to slow me down a bit but they only seemed to amplify my burgeoning depression. Snooker players used to take beta-blockers to slow their heart-rate down; I would probably have pinned the referee to the wall with my cue if I’d been one.

So now I’m on something called Citalopram. It’s a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and it’s meant to be an anti-depressant. The doctor told me it only had a few side effects and they would probably only last a few days at most. I hope he’s right on the second count. Read the Iist of contra-indications and it seems they’ve got their bases covered for every eventuality. No law-suits here, matey. So far I’ve taken 5 tablets and I’ve suffered tremors, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, sleepiness, racking convulsions coupled with frantic yawning, a strange feeling whereby my arms feel like they’ve got heartburn, a lack of appetite and cold sweats. Reading that lot andit looks like the metamorphosis scene from American Werewolf in London. Thankfully I’m not one of the few confused souls who may be suffering from both an increased sex-drive and impotence. Rather disturbingly, between 1 and 5% of my fellow Citalopram eaters are liable to attempt suicide. For an anti-depressant, this is a most alarming side-effect indeed. I’ll let you know.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Whose rights?

I’ve been watching with increasing disbelief the fallout surrounding the defeat of the Blair government’s proposal to detain for up to 90 days without trial persons suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. I say disbelief because I’m completely unsure of the rationale against such a proposal and I’m dismayed that once again, politicians preferred to play politics instead of using some much needed common sense. I’m also witnessing commentators of all political hues and sympathies completely losing the plot.

Just what is the problem with the police being given powers to detain for up to 90 days people suspected of being involved in terrorist activity? I’ve really been struggling with this one because I’m just an ordinary bloke living in an ordinary town in the north-west of the country, a tad scared of being blown to bits by someone with some suspect morals and a huge grudge. I don’t have any particular political allegiances and I’m not religious or racist; like most people, my politics are a pick ‘n’ mix of bits and pieces from the major dogmas. So, if an innocent member of the public gets banged up for a few weeks because he or she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time then that’s not a gross violation of their human rights, it's just a bit unfortunate. The alternative – that a terrorist is left to his own devices and takes out The National Gallery because the police were unable to collate enough evidence in time – is too horrendous to contemplate.

It’s a weary old cliché but terrorists don’t hold much to the concept of human rights. After all, it’s their denial that brings attention to their causes. They would claim to be acting, albeit misguidedly to the majority, in the greater good so in that case why can’t the security services? We’re not talking about swarms of armed police swooping down on road-tax evaders or a return to the “sus” laws that abounded in the 70s and 80s, we’re imagining the scenario whereby a meticulously planned operation to disrupt the normal life of the country using grotesque and obscene acts of unimaginable violence can be thwarted by intelligence gathering, infiltration and skilled detection. This takes time, it’s not like Spooks off the telly with a different story each week featuring the same people. Everybody knows the courts throw out cases because evidence hasn’t been compiled correctly or that there isn’t enough to convict, so the police are asking for the chance to get it right this time. Can somebody tell me where the problem with that is? Doing it this way they are seeking to preserve the rights of the vast majority of the country to go about their business unhindered. Seems logical to me. You see, I think the CPS will find it tricky trying to prosecute a suicide bomber under the new double-jeopardy legislation when the compelling new evidence is the DNA taken from the remains of the bomber's spleen scraped off the front of Harvey Nichols.

Now we’re getting complaints that senior police officers advising MPs to vote for the proposal were being used as political stooges. Something else I can’t understand: surely they’re just like any other self-interest group that lobbies parliament. Is it wrong to phone up an MP and tell him what you think they should do or is that just the prerogative of the whip’s office? They’re the ones asking for these powers of detention in the first place aren’t they? We won’t be living in a “police state” as the outgoing (read "failed") leader of HM Opposition would have it. The fact that the Conservative Party is in such turmoil at the moment and failed to vote for an amendment that would have been meat and grist to the Tory masses under normal service shows what a vapid bunch of losers they really have become. No, if I’m the Home Secretary wanting advice on detaining terror suspects, I’ll ask a policeman, not Gordon Ramsay.

Throughout his tenure Tony Blair has always struck me as a deeply moral man who tries to do right. He seems unswayed by politicking and that's as it should be. The reason he comes unstuck is because he’s surrounded by dodgy advisors and career politicians seeking the main chance. The greatest problem with this country is that the minority who hold the contrary viewpoints have the ability to shout loudest. If a suspect ever blows himself up 30 days after being arrested and released, I’ll blame The Guardian.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Going ethnic

I've been listening to Tuvan throat singing. I'd suggested a web friend listened to it because he was complaining his guitar soloing was getting stale and was wanting re-invigorating. Personally I think he rocks out quite neatly even if he is an American, a condition for which he's apologised. Maybe I got that bit wrong. You can hear him and his "buddies" here. Tuvan throat singing, on the other hand, sounds like that noise your Dad makes when he can't resist impersonating a sheep. OK, the noise my Dad, at 73, still makes when he sees a sheep. My parents live next door to a smallholding on which there are several dozen of the noisy ungulates, so this talent can sometimes seem a trifle overworked. This, incidentally, is Tuvan throat singing. Yes, I agree it does sound very much like Bob Dylan.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Day 1

So this is what blogging is all about, eh? Don't expect much just yet, got to find out where the road markings are.

Whoami? 44 year-old Englishman living in Crewe, Cheshire. For the benefit of those living abroad, that's in England. For those of you who have no concept of world geography whatsoever, England isn't near London, it surrounds it rather neatly. Crewe is some 190 miles north-west from the capital and that's a long way on this island. There will be more of me in time.

Why Goat Food? What do goats eat? Everything and anything and it's what you'll find here sooner or later.

Time for bed said Zebedee.