Friday, October 31, 2014

Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis (Michael Joseph Books 1970)


The rain rained.

It hadn't stopped since King's Cross. Inside the train it was close, the kind of closeness that makes your fingernails dirty even when all you're doing is sitting there looking out of the blurring windows. Watching the dirty backs of houses scudding along under the half-light clouds. Just sitting and looking and not even fidgeting.

I was the only one in the compartment. My slip-ons were off. My feet were up. Penthouse was dead. I'd killed the Standard twice. I had three nails left. Doncaster was forty minutes off.

“I looked along the black mohair to my socks. I flexed a toe. The toenail made a sharp ridge in the wool. I'd have to cut them when I got in. I might be doing a lot of footwork over the weekend.

I wondered if I'd have time to get some fags from the buffet at Doncaster before my connexion left.

If it was open at five to five on a Thursday after“noon in mid-October.

I lit up anyway.

It was funny that Frank never smoked. Most barmen do. In between doing things. Even one drag to make it seem as if they're having a break. But Frank never touched them. Not even a Woody just to see what it was like when we were kids down Jackson Street. He'd never wanted to know.

He didn't drink scotch either.

I picked up the flask from off the Standard and unscrewed the cap and took a pull. The train rocked and a bit of scotch went on my shirt, a biggish spot, just below the collar.

But not as much as had been down the front of the shirt Frank had been wearing when they'd found him. Not nearly so much.

They hadn't even bothered to be careful; they hadn't even bothered to be clever.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Time to say goodbye . . . .

. . .  to my email signature.

I guess eleven plus years is long enough:

Peter Saville (Enzo Cilenti): "The posters." 
Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan): "You've got the posters? It's the fucking gig!" 
Peter Saville: "Yeah, I know - it just took ages to get the right yellow." 
Tony Wilson: "The gig's over." 
Peter Saville: "I know." 
Tony Wilson: "It looks fucking great actually - yeah, really nice. It's beautiful - but useless. And as William Morris once said: "Nothing useless can be truly beautiful."' 
From Michael Winterbottom's '24 Hour Party People'

 I always enjoyed it more than other people.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Taking Le Tiss by Matt Le Tissier (HarperSport 2009)

That wasn’t the only time on that tour that there were a few problems after Bally had had a few to drink. I’ve said that he had something of a love-hate relationship with Lawrie McMenemy, who was Director of Football. Bally was passionate, impulsive and wore his heart on his sleeve while Lawrie was the restraining voice of reason. They needed each other and worked well together but there was some rivalry and jostling for position, and that meant they did have some blazing rows—including one over dinner on that tour.

The wine was flowing and Alan launched into a lengthy rant. The gist of it was, ‘You’ve had your effing chance, I’m in effing charge now. Why don’t you eff off back to England and let me effing get on with it?’ So Lawrie did just that and jumped on the first plane home while Bally went and slept it off, again. When he woke up and discovered Lawrie had gone, he picked up the phone and said, ‘What the effing hell do you think you are doing? Why are you back in England? I need you here.’

They were like an old married couple in many ways, often arguing but with a deep mutual affection and respect. Lawrie also curbed Bally’s impulsive excesses in the transfer market—apart from the time he made the mistake of taking a couple of days off. He got back to find Bally had signed a centre-back from Exeter by the name of Peter Whiston, a nice lad but never Premier League quality. I never quite figured out the reason for signing him, but it can’t have been a footballing one.

That 1994-95 season was probably the most enjoyable of my career. I played great football and scored a lot of goals, largely without the fear of relegation. I also won the BBC’s Goal of the Season for what was my favourite ever goal—largely because it was against my old mate Tim Flowers. We were at Ewood Park and I picked up the ball just outside the centre circle, beat a couple of players and spotted Tim just off his line. I hit the ball from 35 yards and it went exactly where I wanted it to go, straight to the top left corner. It was a wonderful moment, not least because Tim got nowhere near it and ended up floundering in the net. It was my second goal of the match but, even then, Tim had the last word because Blackburn won 3-2.

My form in the early part of the season was helped by the fact we’d signed a terrific player who was completely on my wavelength, both on and off the field. It was great piece of business, and it came about in the most bizarre way. After another 1994 pre-season tour, this time in Holland, we’d checked into a hotel with its own football pitches in the middle of nowhere. It was a popular venue with a lot of clubs, including Barcelona who were staying there when we arrived. They were managed by Johan Cruyff who knew Alan Ball well. They were both big stars in world football and had a strong mutual respect and friendship. Cruyff was a legend and we were in awe of him. I was the only one of our squad brave enough to ask him for his autograph.

That night Bally had dinner with Cruyff and half-jokingly asked if he had any players he could spare. Next morning Alan got up to find Barcelona had checked out but had left behind a young Danish lad by the name of Ronnie Ekelund with the message, ‘Take a look at him and if you like him, he’s yours.’ He trained with us that morning and it was immediately obvious he was a top-quality player. He had great vision and technique, and could pick out a pass. We clicked straight away and Bally immediately set the wheels in motion for us to take him on loan, pending a permanent deal. I detected some reluctance from Lawrie McMenemy, either because the deal had nothing to do with him or because he didn’t want another Peter Whiston. Lawrie was back in Southampton completing the transfer of Bruce Grobbelaar who flew out to Holland to join us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Fuck-Up by Arthur Nersesian (MTV Pocket Books 1997)

Perhaps the price of comfort is that life passes more rapidly. But for anyone who has lived in uneasiness, even for a short, memorable duration, it’s a trade-off that will gladly be made. When I was in my teens, I made an appraisal of how comfortable my life could turn out when I became the age I am now. Because of a mechanical failure, the prediction was inexact. Things reversed. I ended up living somewhere I once avoided, with a woman whom I genuinely once disliked.

Recently we celebrated our seventh anniversary together with a decent dinner and a not dreadful film. I got out of work early that evening and took the F train to Forty-second Street. I crossed Fifth Avenue toward the Main Branch of the Public Library, but paused in the middle of the crosswalk. It was filling up with the evening rush hour crowd: men in trench coats, secretaries in tennis shoes, cabs in the crosswalk, cars honking, leviathan buses zooming inches, braking, zooming again, and bike messengers slicing through it all. The last time I was in that spot, seven years ago, there wasn’t a person in sight.

Seven years ago that day, as dawn rose, I remember standing in roughly the same spot watching as the traffic signals hanging over each intersection slowly turned yellow then red. Cars zoomed forward, headlights still on, staying ahead of the changing lights; at dusk they could make it all the way down without a single red light.

At rush hour, the entire avenue was gridlocked. But I could still faintly make out the small white crown of the Washington Square Arch at the very end. The anniversary of my relationship coincided with that dawning, and although that morning marked something that eluded celebration, it couldn’t be forgotten either.

Something honked at me, so I crossed the street, reboarded the packed F train, and returned to Brooklyn for the anniversary dinner.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Second Half by Roy Keane (with Roddy Doyle) (Wiedenfeld & Nicolson 2014)

We brought in some players in January. Carlos Edwards, from Luton; Anthony Stokes, from Arsenal; and Jonny Evans – we got Jonny on loan from Manchester United. They were all good signings, brilliant, and just what we needed. One of the reasons they worked, I think, is because I knew a bit about them, beyond the stats – something about their personalities.

Carlos had played against us when we beat Luton earlier in the season, and I’d seen what a good player he was. He gave us a right-sided midfielder. He had pace, and he could get us up the pitch; we could counter-attack away from home.

Jonny was a centre-half. He had the qualities of a Manchester United player, and he was bringing them to Sunderland. For such a young man – he was nineteen – he was very mature, and a born leader. Jonny was unbelievable for us. He lived with his mam and dad in Sale, near my home, so I picked him up there and brought him up to see the set-up at Sunderland. I knew I was on a winner; I knew him, and I knew what he was about. I remembered an incident when I was still at United; there’d been a fight in the canteen and Jonny had looked after himself well – I think he knocked the other lad out. I knew Jonny was tough.

Stokesy got us vital goals towards the end of the season. He was a good signing for us, because there’d been a lot of competition for him. Celtic and Charlton, who were still in the Premiership then, were after him. So signing Stokesy sent out another message: we could compete with other clubs. I spoke to Stokesy’s dad and, for some reason, he thought I’d be able to keep his son on the straight and narrow – because Stokesy was a bit of a boy.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Class Act

I am a lazy bastard when it comes to updating the blog - especially the 'booksiveread' section - which is shame because my two remaining readers miss out on such gems as this from Sue Townsend.

She was writing about this stuff in 1989. The intellectuals on the 'left' are only getting their head around this sort of stuff now twenty plus years later.

She really was my favourite sort of Labourite.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Masculine Ending by Joan Smith (Fawcett Crest Mystery 1987)

Loretta had decided to forgo a starter to give herself plenty of time to recount what had happened in Paris, as Tracey tucked into broad beans and artichoke hearts she gave him a bald account of everything she remembered about the weekend. Apart from a rather feeble joke about the Fem Sap conference—Tracey found any manifestation of organized feminism positively terrifying—he heard her out in silence. When she finished, he pushed away his empty plate and thought for a moment. Above their heads, the rain still drummed on the canvas of the canopy and splashed off on to the pavement.

"There really was a lot of blood?" he enquired at last. "Too much for the sheets to have been used to clean up after an accident? More than if someone had been having, er, a period?" He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

Loretta suppressed an urge to smile. "Much more," she said.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014


That moment you find a copy of a book for $2 in a bookshop when the cheapest copy available on the internet is $63. That.

Let me correct that. The only copy available on the internet is $63 . . . and, for all I know, it's in worse condition than the copy that I just picked up.

The copy I just picked up is falling to bits as I write and won't survive a second reading - like I ever read a book a second time - but I never thought I'd see a copy of the this most wanted book this side of winning the lottery. (And, trust me, I looked for it.)

Tom Mann by Joseph White (Manchester University Press 1991)

" . . . Perhaps the first thing to be noted is its resemblance to a main theme in Paul Lafargue's unjustifiably neglected pamphlet 'The Right to Be Lazy', which was written at about the same time. (Lafargue was, among other things, Karl Marx's son-in-law. There is also something to be said for the contention that he knew only too well whereof he wrote.) If anything, 'What is Ca' canny?' is far blunter than anything Lafargue wrote in 'The Right to Be Lazy', which is in the main a discussion of popular culture and the need for more leisure time. Secondly, whether or not Mann knew anything of Lafargue's literary efforts (and there is no evidence that he did), was he perhaps 'theorising' his own lessons and experiences of 1890, when, as we have seen, the dockers of London indeed engaged in a fair amount of 'ca' canny' of their own? I think it is quite plausible. Finally, one can ask whether the leaflet prefigured syndicalism and was possibly influenced by anarchist thought? Again, there is a strong case to be made that it was. The syndicalists, particularly the IWW, indeed advocated 'ca' canny'. In Dynamite, Louis Adamic tells the story of the construction labourers in Bedford, Indiana, who in 1908 took their shovels round to the machine shop to have them shortened. 'Short pay, short shovel', they said.