30 April 2006

Tragedy

Once this was an art blog but now it's morphing into a football blog and today's topic is Wayne Rooney. He's an ugly, intellectually challenged, whore-mongering scouser but he possesses a special talent that is so bright you will only see it shining in the performances of a handful of players in any one generation. Ronaldhino has it, George Best and Maradona had it, Pele and Eusebio had it, Paul Gascoigne had it... So as we approached the World Cup in Germany - just six weeks away - I had a strong feeling that England could win it this time round because we had a secret weapon - Wayne Rooney - pumping away in the heart of our team, bringing others along with him - a player with unlimited energy, surging past defenders with natural foresight and self-belief, going for the jugular whenever the opportunity presented itself. It seemed the stage was set and Germany was to be his time in the sun - his chance to be a legend for all time.
Now his foot is broken. Even if the healing process goes well, Rooney will not be match fit, not raring to go like the colt he is, loving his football, pumping the gas. To me it felt as if our World Cup dream ended again just yesterday before a ball had even been kicked. I hope I'm wrong.
On the England manager front, it seems that Steve McLaren had a trial separation from his wife Kathryn and then bonked with one of his secretaries. Well, as I have said before, Steve comes from my home city of Hull where men are naturally oversexed. Perhaps it's the sea air or the fish and chips, maybe the Hull Brewery bitter but Hull lads have a natural instinct to bonk like rabbits and any Catholic priests or celibate monks who have come out of the city most likely had fathers from Lincolnshire! So good on ya Steve! This experience could help with team talks.
Besides, it seems that to be a national figure it's important to have skeletons in your cupboard. Leaders who live cleanly, faithful people with high moral standards, decency and taste don't seem too popular. Even the Deputy Primeminister (from Hull!) has been bonking with his secretary. Now that Rooney's injured we should perhaps get a team up for the World Bonking Championships - we'd probably win that. Last place would most likely go to Australia - well working with sheep is not the kind of training you need to do well in this happy pastime!

28 April 2006

Delight


Further evidence of the incompetence of the business lunch munching five star hotel crew known as the Football Association surfaces with the news that the Brazilian nut isn't going to take the job of England manager after all! What the hell is going on? The sweet F.A. tell us we are getting this oaf Scolari and then two days later Scolari snubs them. What a narrow escape we have had! It is as if my prayers and the prayers of thousands of other England supporters have been answered. Now I pray that the sweet F.A. do what they should have done in the first place and give the job to Steve McLaren. He's passionate but dignified and he will be a good diplomat for the success of the national team. I wonder if Scolari knows the Portugese word for "twat". If he looks it up, he will be staring at a description of himself. Come on England!

26 April 2006

Horror

The English Football Association must be occupied by a bunch of fools. We don't want bloody Luis Felippe Scolari to lead our national team. We want an Englishman (or woman!). Okay Scolari would be better than the turnip but he's simply not English. This is a country of over 45 million (hear that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland!) surely to God we can find one suitable candidate for the England job and that man was most definitely the Hull-born, over-sexed beach god - Mr Steve McClaren. I despair, I really do.
Like most Brazilians - a complete nut!
If England players have to be English then surely our manager should be English too. Scolari can't even speak our language properly so how could he fire up our lads? That Brian Barwick deserves a good pasting and if I see him in our local chippie he's going to get a right mouthful from me. Luis Felippe Scolari - sounds like a bloody ballet dancer!

25 April 2006

Dubya

In a wonderful country with such talent, such ingenuity, how the hell did America ever choose a dumbass like this boozy failed academic to be its President? I hope to God the CIA are not blog watching - that's my career down the pan if they are! Any captions anyone?

Picture A

Picture B

Picture C

23 April 2006

English

It's St George's Day and also the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and his death. St George, who allegedly slew the dragon, is the patron saint of England. So perhaps this is the best day of all on which to reflect about being English.

When I was a camp counsellor in Ohio during the seventies, I was at first gobsmacked to witness morning assemblies by the bandstand where children and counsellors sang patriotic songs before putting hands on hearts to swear the American oath of allegiance. The star spangled banner was hoisted and there it flew just as it flies outside thousands of patriotic American homes across the USA. This all seemed very alien to me. In England, patriotism is much more subtle and understated. Ironically, we celebrate St Patrick's Day more lustily than our own national day. St George's Day hardly ever raises a whimper of interest - no bunting, no oaths, no patriotic hymns.

English people have a contemptible habit of running down their own country instead of lifting their heads to recognise all the positives about our wonderful kingdom with its rich history, its beauty, its inventiveness, its musical, literary and artistic traditions. They should also be proud of our wonderful language which we have gift-wrapped for the rest of the world. Above all they should be proud of the essential decency and quiet goodness of English people who bore the very idea of democracy and gave this to the world too. It's too easy, too facile to deride Empire builders. There may have been some pillaging, some mistakes but England left a legacy of fair-dealing across the planet.

Sometimes I find myself hating the pomposity of the English upper classes with their snobbish tones, horses in the paddock, kids at private schools, Jag on the gravel but they are not really representative of the English race. The mass of us are closer to the base of the economic pyramid - working hard for a living, cherishing family and friends - getting by. We give generously to charities, we laugh at ourselves, we meet in pubs and chatter like monkeys in a troop, we tend our gardens and shake our heads at crime and injustice. That's the England I love and of which I am very proud. This is the mythical land of King Arthur.

So here on St George's Day, in this the green land of my ancestors, surrounded by the foaming ocean, I say stand up for England for all that we are and have been and will be. We are blessed to live here and we should sing out loud in the words of William Blake:-
I shall not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green & pleasant land.

21 April 2006

Seven

They keep cropping up in the blogosphere - these damned lists that are meant to somehow reveal your hidden truths. Well this is another idea that has been doing the rounds and I apologise to visitors who are already yawning. Perhaps some of you would like to take the baton and reflect on your own seven item lists:-
Seven Things To Do Before I Die:
1 - Visit India
2 – Hand carve a wooden bowl
3 - Grow up
4 - Learn how to wolf whistle with two fingers under my tongue
5 - Hear one of my own songs on the radio
6 – Build a Portugese style barbecue in our garden
7 - Get to know my grandchildren.
Seven Things I Cannot Do:
1 – Wolf whistle.
2 - Change the spark plugs on a car.
3 – Watch hospital operations on TV.
4 – Pass a beggar without feeling guilty
5 - Physically hurt anyone
6 - Intentionally kill an insect.
7 – Believe in God
Seven Things That Attract Me To...Blogging:
1 - Seeing my own words published.
2 – The randomness of it all.
3 – Contacting other people from around the world.
4 – The design element – how a blog looks.
5 - Freedom of choice – what I put.
6 – Regular contacts with favourite bloggers.
7 - It' beats watching TV.
Seven Things I Say Most Often:
1 – Chairs under everybody!
2 – What’s for tea?
3 – Good morning!
4 – Thank you
5 – Oo! That's better.
6 – Fucking hell
7 - Pint of bitter please.
Seven Books That I Love:
1 – Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
2 – Nostromo – Joseph Conrad
3 - Kes – Barry Hines
4 – Angela’s Ashes - Frank McCourt
5 - The Magus - John Fowles
6 - Jude The Obscure - Hardy
7 – Animal Farm - Orwell
Seven Movies That I Could Watch Again:
1 – Schindler’s List
2 - Titanic
3 – Once Upon a Time in America
4 - Midnight Express
5 - One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
6 - The Last Picture Show
7 - Mutiny on The Bounty

18 April 2006

Nothing

Well I sat at this keyboard with around a hundred blog posts behind me, felt like writing something but found there was nothing much I wanted to say tonight. "Nothing will come of nothing..." said King Lear in my favourite play by Shakespeare.
I thought I might have a rant about something I particularly detest and that's tattoos - especially tattoos on women - but I'll save that for some other time. Then I thought I might explore a topic to which I have given so much mental energy (and some physical energy too!) since I was a boy of eleven and that's sex - the activity that brought each one of us to this life - but I'm always aware that blogs are live and worldwide and you never know who might drop in and check out what you're saying so I've vetoed this personal reservoir of fantasy and memory, lust, soul-searching and beautiful connectivity. And I thought I might write about something else that's very dear to my heart and that's food - meals consumed, meals cooked, remembered meals that make your mouth water, awful meals, the politics of food, supermarket empires - but I haven't got the energy tonight.
My daughter was hogging the computer again with her frantic "MySpace" adventures, MSN and music downloads. Shirley and I met up in the pub for the Tuesday quiz and I got the highest score 22/25 - entitling me to try to crack the safe and win £270 but my guessed code - 108 was wrong so the pot will grow on Sunday when I join my mates - Roy and Mike for another stab at this monster prize.
I was back to work today after the Easter holidays. Adolescents and A4 paper. The Year 10 had been on work experience before Easter. They now have to prepare speeches about these work placements. I gave them guidelines and a bunch of questions and asked them to bullet point their speeches. After twenty minutes, most had done well - lots of points to make but there were the usual suspects who'd written absolutely zilch - the same kids who never have pens to write with, the ones who arrive late and want to leave early with smug know-all facial expressions that cannot hide the fact that they have done so little in their lives and know almost nothing. I await their pathetic and ill-considered work experience accounts with minimal interest.
I should be mounting the stairs for bed but I have always been an owl - never a lark. This morning I was the grumpiest old sod alive as I turned the key in my ignition, pissed off that I hadn't been able to find the CD/Radio security front panel so I wouldn't be able to listen to the morning news on my way past Sheffield Wednesday's ground to the concrete architectural monstrosity that is both my place of work and my place of torment.

14 April 2006

Jersey

New Jersey is where Bruce Springsteen comes from but Old Jersey is where new potatoes, Jersey cream and tomatoes come from. This sweet little island sits fourteen miles off the French coast. It is nine miles wide and five miles north to south and yet, like many islands, it feels like a world in itself. There's so much variety there. The north coast is rugged with beautiful little coves like the one at Rozel Bay. The south coast is more languid - St Brelade's sandy bay reaches for miles when the tide is out. My photograph shows the south west headland - Corbiere with its lighthouse and that damned gull sitting on the rock refusing to co-operate with my artistic directions.
Jersey's road names seem to be all in French - for example our country hotel was on the Rue d'Ebenezer in the "state" or parish of Trinity. Nevertheless, Jersey's historical bond with England remains strong. This is where UK millionaires bank their dosh to avoid taxation and the island boasts many luxurious homes that would not look out of place in Beverly Hills.
Recently, immigrant workers have flooded in. We saw Poles and Latvians picking new potatoes on precarious slopes - amazing really when up here in the north of England we are only just planting our tubers ready for harvesting in July or August.
We visited the Jersey War Tunnels that Hitler "commissioned" during World War II when the island was occupied. This was meant to become an underground hospital - safe from attack but the war ended before the place was finished. Of course they used prisoners of war as excavators . We also visited Jersey Zoo with its gorillas, orang-utans, fruit bats, meerkats, lemurs, poisonous frogs and flamingoes.
I bought Stephen King's "Cell" at the airport. I'm halfway through it now. Cellphone (mobile phone) users are turned into "phone crazies" by subliminal phone messages and the veneer of civilisation is quickly stripped away. It's great to rest and to bury your head in a book without the usual distractions and tiredness that work seems to generate.

8 April 2006

Wedding

To be sure, to be sure twas a foine wedding begorrah - bejabbers - out there on the western edge of Europe - just a few miles inland from where the Atlantic crashes on the giant Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. Flute and whistle playing Katie, her of the foine voice, my beloved niece was finally tying the ould knot with Seamus the electrician from the Aran Islands.
It was to be a civil ceremony. Unfortunately, there's no registry office in Clare so we had to drive curvaceous miles over the wild limestone landscape of The Burren to reach Clarinbridge in County Galway. There the official ceremony was held in The Clarinbridge Court Hotel. The weather was kind as clouds scudded in over Galway Bay, leaving vast pools of bright April sunshine in between, making the emerald green more verdant and the turlough lakes more silvery. As part of the ceremony, I had to read an Indian blessing selected by Katie - a little shakily - having only been handed it ten minutes beforehand - but folks were complimentary. It was all about how, in marriage, we have to hang on to the sunshine that sometimes hides behind the clouds.
After the ceremony, there were a few drinks in the bar - you can see the scene below - my brother Paul on the fiddle and Katie on the whistle - then back over The Burren to Vaughans' Pub in Kilfenora. The wedding breakfast was for around two hundred. We guzzled Guinness and wine and danced like dervishes. The best man, Noel, who now lives in Arizona was as drunk as a skunk, cavorting and tumbling and communicating in a language that only Aran islanders with alcohol problems could possibly understand. It was a long day and we finally hit the sack after two a.m..
I do hope Katie will be happy with Seamus. She deserves some happiness. It was a great send off, a wedding to remember with fond smiles in the years ahead. I wrote something like this in the wedding book that was passed from table to table:-
"Seamus and Katie went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat..." A wedding is like the launching of a ship. I hope your voyage is long and happy, with few storms to ride and many lovely ports to visit. God speed!"
Shirley with our son Ian, Kilfenora April 7th 2006

4 April 2006

Turner

" Holy Island" (1820)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)
I'm posting this picture in honour of Cliff, author of a fairly new Yorkshire blog called "Cliff's Column" which I can assure you, in spite of the title, is not the homepage of some superstud lothario! Cliff applauded arguably the greatest English painter of all time - J.W.B.Turner.
Turner was born in London in rather humble circumstances. At the age of twenty seven he became a member of the exclusive Royal Academy of Artists. In pursuit of his art, he travelled widely - first through Great Britain and then through Europe. His focus became wild nature, swirling mistily and mysteriously, leaving man dwarfed and overwhelmed.
In the selected painting above there has been some sort of shipwreck. People gather on the shore. The stormy sky merges with the stormy sea. Light above appears to promise a better world beyond this one. The setting is Lindisfarne or Holy Island off the Northumberland coast, the spiritual launchpad for Christianity in England - a wild, exposed place with its defiant castle and cathedral ruins, still reached by a tidal causeway, a place where monks continue to manufacture honeyed wine or mead. The other great English landscape artist, John Constable, referred to Turner's "airy visions". He was a watercolour pioneer - discovering that this medium enabled freer expression of his then rather unique perception of the elements.
By the way, Yorkshire Pudding with Mrs Pudding and the little puddings is away to Ireland on Thursday for his niece's wedding. If he survives the ceremony, the wedding feast, arguments with Aran islanders, the reading he's been asked to deliver and the gallons of Guinness that will undoubtedly flow into the early hours, he will be back to post again at the weekend. Please don't burgle Pudding Towers while he's away!

3 April 2006

Pollock

My blog is morphing into an art appreciation blog! I'm going to have to cut off my ear and live in a garret. I post this painting in honour of Dirk from Queensland, Australia. It is of course, Jackson Pollock's "Blue Poles" painted in 1952. I don't recall the year that it was purchased at massive expense by the National Gallery of Australia but this canvas caused a huge debate about Australia's priorities and its cultural identity.
Pollock was born in Wyoming cowboy country in 1912, passing away in 1956. To be truthful, I have never given his painting much thought. I hate to deride any modern art because I always think that maybe I'm missing something but until somebody convinces me otherwise I think Pollock's work is over-rated. It's paint, lots of paint, dribbled, splashed, dropped, teased - but what does it all mean? And why are those Australians below studying the canvas so intently? What is it that they see that I don't? The confusion of the twentieth century? The quest for another non-naturalistic form of expression that might better suit the modern world? Pollock's troubled soul? Frankly, I'd gain far more from looking at Australian aboriginal art - cave drawings and suchlike... Amusingly, Dirk says he's usually a "Palestinian" when it comes to art, so what was it about this canvas that blew him away thirty years back? Help!

1 April 2006

Leeds

Hull City 1 Leeds United 0
As a Yorkshire city, Leeds has always thought of itself as somewhere special but other Yorkshire cities scorn it. As the football chant goes - "We all hate Leeds! We all hate Leeds! Scum! We all hate Leeds! We all hate Leeds!" In all of the years I have supported Hull City, Leeds United have been top dogs. In their famous white strips, great players have nobbled or headed, blasted or dribbled their way to fame and success while Hull City have floundered in lower divisions. Today, April Fools Day 2006, it was our turn to gloat. Not only did we beat Leeds, we comprehensively outplayed them. Any neutral onlooker would have thought that we were the ones pushing for the Premiership and not lillywhite Leeds. They looked so very ordinary. So it's a big Yabadabadoo for the black and amber boys!
Right: The superb Leon Cort and Leeds's David Healy battle for the ball at the KC Stadium, Hull.