Yesterday I headed back to London on the National Express coach. The benefits, at £11 return, are obvious. The downside is that I could have run back quicker.

Not really. On Sunday I ran in the Great Manchester Run and, thanks to the immense generosity and support of over 100 of you, we collectively raised (at current standing) £2379.83 For the British Heart Foundation. Thank you all… and if you haven’t had a thank you from me; either through Facebook, Twitter, email, or the frighteningly impersonal templated email sent through the Just Giving page; then please accept my apologies. I have tried to keep track of you all, but who knew so many of you would so kindly support me!

I picked this charity in honour and memory of my dad, Alec Hickson, who died at the age of 54 in 1983 from a heart attack. You can read more on this, including our shared passion for snooker, here. I’ll be 54 this year and so it seemed appropriate to both remember him and also, through the process of running, try and care for my own heart a little.

 

I’d like to tell you the run was great fun. But running isn’t an enjoyment for me. I can only think of three benefits from it; it raises money for good causes, it possibly keeps me healthy, and it’s the acceptable face of self-harm. When I was at university we would play a game where we’d sit in a circle and take it in turns to drop a baseball bat onto our hands. Each player in turn would drop the baseball bat from a greater height. It was good fun, more fun than running, but you can see the connection. We also used to chew tobacco and spit into spittoons. I do hope student life is the same these days.

Then there would be the time Simon Bligh would teach me how to break roof tiles when we shared a house together in the mid 80s and would return home late after our respective gigs, a little drunk maybe. He taught me to think beyond the tiles, to hit through them, and I did. And smashed my hand to bits. Simon tried to push my finger back into place but I nearly passed out. I went to bed, slept a little, and then at 6am dragged myself off to the hospital where a completely redundant X-ray was taken. I don’t think my body is quite like Tom Mix’s, but I can claim two broken ribs, two broken fingers, a broken nose, and a broken pelvis.

tom mix

pelvis-x-ray

my broken pelvis

My ambition, beyond raising £1929 for The BHF, was to do the run in under an hour. I’ve only just started running again in the last six weeks, and the last time I ran a 10k was when I was in my 20s (I can’t remember the time but it was either 47 minutes or 53). Now, my first attempt at 10k took 70 minutes. I’ve slowly reduced that, but even so my last go was just over 63 minutes. To manage it in under an hour would take a bit of luck on the day.

I was in the Blue Wave of runners, with a start time of approx. 12.25.

sdr

The organisers encouraged us to take in the sites as we ran. I did my best, in the first two kms, to high-five as many kids as I could and to grimace a smile at those who applauded and cheered us on, but to take in the sites as well? The bloody sites! Old Trafford!? Is this a joke? To make matters worse, they contrived a route that took me past the damned place twice! Why not rub it in organisers, why not really take the piss! (If this has no meaning to you- Old Trafford is NOT the stadium of the team I support.)

I managed the first km in 5.01, my best speed yet; though this caused some panic. What if I’d started off too keen, too fast? What if, 3km in, I was done? The second came in at 5.18, so still ok. After the third (5.43) my £10 bluetooth headphones gave up the ghost. I was on my own; no voice telling me my speed, no playlist made up solely of songs from the 80s and the nowties (an odd combo playlist of Sparks, Lloyd Cole, Grimes, The Jam, Haim, Hot Chip, Morrissey, Alvvays, 10cc, Gemma Ray, Everything But the Girl, Paul Heaton, John Grant, La Roux, and Christie- how the hell did a 70s tune slip in there at the end? Yellow River, if you know it. And, should you wish, you can click on the above artists to hear the tunes I should have been running to).

It was hard work, running. And, even at 3km, some folk in the best of gear (lycrad and lithe and looking the part) had slowed to a walk. I tried to keep nimble, hopping and skipping on and off the pavement to avoid the slowcoaches. I tried, but I know, to an outsider, I would have looked like their grandpa, on day release, celebrating one last gasp at freedom.

Two friends had come along to support me, and so I’d suggested to them the 6km mark where the BHF had a stall of sorts. At 5km I was struggling, so this became something to look forward to. I would say the 4-6km part is the hardest; you’ve barely got going and you feel leaden and dragging, and yet you know that this is only the half of it. Jackie and Mo had made Swing Your Pants banners. What can I say? Thank you. There is no doubt it helped spur me on.Mo and Jackie

And then you can feel like you are heading home. Around about 6-7km I knew I would finish it. But I needed to keep my pace up to do it within the hour. At 8km I tried to maintain a speed; not to go faster, but to make sure I didn’t start slowing down. The last km I trudged on, and picked up the pace at the 400m mark, and then the last 200m mark. I like to think I really ran that last 200m, fast; but the chances are I looked like the slow-motion bits from Chariots of Fire.

I only had my watch to go off. I thought I had done it in an hour. As I went through the finishing arch the time above, for the Blue Wave runners, was 1 hour 3 mins.

bty

As I sat in the BHF tent the rains came down. Miserable Manchester rain, nothing new.

sdr

And then this tweet came through from my friend Cheryl. I had run it in 57.44. This was the official time from the website (we all have chips placed behind our numbers that know our every step).

And it made me cry. Just a bit. No one noticed. It was raining.

cheryl

I’ve had another run today. 7.45km in 47.55. Slow. It’s amazing what you can do with a little support and a good cause.

Thank you to Sam H, Darren K, Su H, Dave K, PM anon, John S, Sarah F, Paul K, Rik KM, Andrea and Frank, Jonny C, Robert N, Jenny S, Jackie H, Hazel D, Phil M, Ted B, Cheryl and Eric, Stephen B and family, Simon B and family, Clare and Bruce and Charlotte and Issy, Hannah J, Matt and Jill, Lynne B, Sarah L, Stephen K, Lee S, the Williams family, Chris S, Keith R, Gail E, Jamie D, Helen S, Douglas S, Stephen B, Chris W, Lucy and David and family, Linda and Alexei, Sue W and her mum Rose H, Mick H, Simon B, Anne-Marie, Pixie45, Michelle F, Vince R, Margo M, Andrea M, Neil P, Toby W, Dana N, Caroline S, Pia A, Alwyn A, David and Deb and family, Johnathan O, Mo O, Janey E, Sean U, Lianne E, Sharon R, Paul H, Hannah V, Suzanne O, Scott R, Paul C, Jennifer S, Dave K, Ensign Deb, Colin D, Janine K, Paola N, Alexander T, Sarah B, Amanda D, Steve P, Craig H, Tony J, Lynsey S, Luke W, Robert R, Barnaby E, Helen R, Justin E, Julian B, Brian M, Peter E, Ben and Sarah and Eve Lola and Dylan, Emma R, Stephen B, Neil G, Dave F, a different Neil G, Chris W, David C, Paul and Alison D, Sharon and Andy and Kate and William, Charley and Simon and Pete and Georgie and Jack, Jamie A, Gerald P, Kirsty R, Mandy M, Alison J, Gill and Jake, Steven M, Lisa and Toby and Connie.

You all raised £2,379.83. Then there’s the Gift Aid of £517.78. That’s a fantastic total of… oh, I can be bothered adding it up. Nearly £2900! I only was aiming for £1929 (the year of my dad’s birth). And no! That doesn’t mean some of you can have your money back.

Indeed, if anyone reading this feel’s they’ve missed out, it’s still not too late. Just click on this link.

But thank you. From someone who doesn’t enjoy running, you’ve made me feel it all was incredibly worthwhile. xxx

sdr

In my last blog post I wrote about my dad, about snooker, and about why I am going to run the Great Manchester Run in his memory. Thank you all for your kind comments, and thank you so much for sponsoring me and donating to the British Heart Foundation.

My plan is to run the 10k in less than an hour. That should be easy; after all, I ran 10k in 47 minutes, 30 years ago. Oh, and I haven’t run 10k since then. And I only started running with any kid of idea of a plan a few weeks ago. Still. I WILL do it in less than an hour.

So far I have managed 10k in 70 minutes. Yesterday I ran just under 5 miles in 50 minutes (I swallowed a fly during my third mile, which led to at least a minute and a half of trying to sick it up). So, I have some kind of self-imposed battle on my hands.

I run to music, when the earphones aren’t falling out of my ears… adding precious seconds to mph. My music choices aren’t particularly conducive to good running speeds: Joy Division slow the pace, Sparks make me fly. But here’s one that came up unexpectedly the other day, and it helped me think about the long haul.

 I was thinking of doing a ‘Hearts’ song countdown for my blog posts in the lead up to the run on the 23rd. But (of course) as soon as you look into the world of ‘heart’ songs you realise they’re not really on the side of running and health and looking after the damned thing (even Young Hearts Run Free, the only song to combine the Great Manchester Run and the BHF, excludes someone old like me). Instead, they’re about hearts being broken, eclipsed, or (in the case of Phil Collins) “two hearts, believing in just one mind”. (Note to Phil: No one has any idea what that means).

Here’s a heart song that works. A healthy heart is, no doubt, a good heart. Here’s Feargal Sharkey, with his shockingly powerful hair. If you don’t like this, you’re an idiot.

Oh, and please, if you can, sponsor me. Just click on this highlighted link.

Snooker Legends

May 4, 2016

As I sat watching the 2016 Snooker World Championship Final (congratulations to Mark Selby – and Leicester City Football Club – what a time to be a Leicesterunian!), I thought back to my first visit to the World Championships with my dad, Alec Hickson, in 1973 (when I was 10 and my dad was 43 and the final was the best of 75 frames, played out over five days: Ray Reardon beat Eddie Charlton 38-32). In 1973 the tournament was sponsored by Park Drive, and it took place at the City Exhibition Hall in Manchester.IMAG2448

It was a crazy affair. No one was told to turn off their mobile phone (possibly because they hadn’t been invented) and only a few frames of the final were televised. My dad took me along in the early days of the tournament, Round 1, when there were loads of tables on the go, separated by partitions, and you could wander freely from table to table, just hanging around and watching before moving on to wherever the most shouts were coming from. And if you wanted a player’s autograph you just went up and asked; not at the end of the match, not even at the end of a frame as the referee re-racked, but as a player sat glumly sipping a pint and sucking a Park Drive, whilst his opponent did all the work at the table. Here’s the autographs I got in 1973.

IMAG2445

There’s Jackie Rea and Pat Houlihan (Pat won 9-2, but went on to lose 16-3  in the second round to Alex Higgins), Dennis Taylor and Cliff Thorburn (Thorburn won 9-8), John Dunning and David Taylor (Taylor – known as the Silver Fox many years before Phillip Schofield claimed the title – won 9-4), Jim Meadowcroft (who had a walkover since his opponent Kingsley Kennerley withdrew), Maurice Parkin and Warren Simpson (Simpson won 9-3), Bernard Bennett and David Greaves (Greaves won 9-8, before losing 16-1 to 59 year old Fred Davis), and Geoff Thompson and Graham Miles (Miles won 9-5). I collected autographs from 14 of the 16 players in the first round. The only ones I missed out on were Perrie Mans and Ron Gross. Maybe next year.

In 1974 the tournament was held at Belle Vue in Manchester. How lucky was I, at the ages of 10 and 11, to have the World Championship so close to home two years in a row! (In 1976 it went to Australia). More autograph pestering was in order.

IMAG2453

 And this time Perrie Mans was there. Also some of the big hitters; Fred Davis, Rex Williams, John Pulman, Eddie Charlton, John Spencer, Ray Reardon!

And, down at the bottom, another Charlton (not Eddie) was there as a spectator: Bobby Charlton!

But here, in close-up, is the star autograph:

IMAG2454

“Best wishes & good luck, to Simon Hickson from Alex Higgins”.

Well!

I was only 11. I blew it really, my once in a lifetime meeting with The Hurricane. He took time to talk to me. I remember him asking my name, and then I remember him saying “Hickson, it’s a bit like Higgins isn’t it”. And all I said back was “No”.

Things changed once it moved to Sheffield. We’d still go, me and my dad. I’d race home from school, he’d race home from Trafford Park where he worked at GEC, and we’d do the drive over Snake Pass to The Crucible. But you couldn’t get to the players anymore. The Crucible wasn’t some vast exhibition centre where you could come and go. The Crucible was a Theatre! But still, in the earlier sessions, there was a partition, and two tables in action. My dad (phoning to book tickets? Or applying by post? or Pigeon? This is a long time before computers) would always try and get us seats that straddled the partition, giving us the chance to watch two matches at once.

A little aside on the business of getting tickets: My dad once went to see a round robin match; six players taking it in turn to play each other. He got tickets for a match featuring John Spencer (three times World Champion; 69,71, and the first to win at The Crucible in 1977). He phoned up for the tickets and was told to pick them up at an address in Radcliffe. He drove out to the address and found himself at John Spencer’s house.

As I got older I started to play snooker more, and by the time I was at university, between 1980 and 1983, I was on a snooker team captained by my dad; Potters ‘B’, named after Potters Snooker Club above the Rialto in Salford, and ‘B’ for not being the ‘A’ team. I was away at Manchester University, but I’d see my dad once a week for our match. My dad was a strict but fair captain; three losses in a row and you’d lose your place, until the next team member lost three in a row. I spent a lot of time on the bench.

potters-001

Along with the Salford District Snooker League weekly games were the individual handicap tournaments and the doubles tournaments (in which I’d team up with my dad). In the 1982/83 season my dad made it to the semi-finals of the Individuals tournament, and for this he got a trophy. The trophies were presented at an end of season bash, where there’d be a bit of entertainment hosted by the unusually haired Mick Miller.

Mick Miller The Comedians

And the trophies would be presented by… well, this was a special year. A young lad turned up to present the trophies, same age as me. 21 years old, a year on from losing 15-16 to Alex Higgins in the 1982 World Championship semi-final.

IMAG2550-001

Yes. Jimmy White.IMAG2547

Jimmy White with my dad.

This was May 1983. Three months later, in early August 1983, at the age of 54, my dad died of a heart attack.

I’ll be 54 this August and, in memory of my dad, I’m going to run the 10k Great Manchester Run, raising money for the British Heart Foundation.

If you can, please sponsor me. In memory of a snooker legend.

Just walking

September 30, 2014

On Sunday I did some walking. And I was sort of paid for it. Crazy. You know that sponsoring thing, where people give money to a charity in return for you doing something arduous or stupid (like sitting in a bath full of lobsters or skipping up Ben Nevis)… well, I got away with raising a load of money for Alzheimer’s Society just by walking. Walking. Something I have to do anyway.

If it’s any consolation, I am a reluctant walker; I’m no fan. I look forward to the future when we all wear hover shoes, or have ball bearings for feet. Walking is overrated. Unless there’s a pub at the end of the walk.

So, me walking 10km, around a park! (I think parks are overrated too… well, not all parks. There’s some nice car parks around. Like this one:

Poor old Alf Roberts).

Back to the business. The walk I did was the Memory Walk. 10km around Victoria Park – I give in – it’s a lovely park. It’s about a mile from (appropriately) Mile End Road tube. So that’s another 2 miles I had to walk! Unsponsored too!

Once there, around the park we went. And it was a moving sight, to see all the folk with memory cards pinned to their backs; all the nans and grans and grandpas and mums and dads and friends who had been affected by this awful illness. I walked in memory of my wife’s Nan, May, and my friend Trev’s dad, Tudor.

And a huge thank you to all who supported me and so kindly and generously donated to Alzheimer’s Society. The final total raised, including the donations to the World Cup Tweepstake this July, is an incredible £2016.90. I hope I’ve managed to thank the Tweepstakers throughout the Tweepstake blog posts. And some of you Tweepstakers have been incredibly generous, donating again and again. To those who donated for the Memory Walk thank you thank you thank you. Thank you to:

Andy and Sarah, Beccy, Mel, Kevin, Allison, Louise, Debbie, Ivan, Gillian, Tim, Jason, Mary, Jane, Jenny, Jason, Andrea and Frank, Dave, Stuart, Elspeth, Jaq, Tom, Richard, Paul and Charlotte, Samantha, Tiggy, Rebecca, Angela, Mike, John, Sarah, Pete, Beth, Rachel, Jenny, Cecilia, Darren, Christian, Mo, Sam, Mark, Peter, Glenn, Lisa, James, Sarah, Trev, Dave, Richard, Sophie, and Paul.

A huge thank you. I take back all the cheap ‘jokes’ at the start of this post. x

Before the walk started I met Carrie Dunn, who walked on behalf of her Grandma. You can read her blog post about the event here.

And now, because I have finally found a way of getting the photos from my phone onto my computer, here’s a few snaps from the day.

IMAG0843

The Midwich Cuckoos

dog

the peleton

not sure if I'm at the front or back now

not the peleton

lost

lost

other charities are available

other charities are available

proof

proof

reward

reward

Let’s not beat about the bush. Germany won. @DarrenK73 won for Germany after downing a monstrous amount of German wine and beer and donating a small fortune to Alzheimer’s Society. In second place came a strong and unlucky Argentina and @joyfeed. Argentina had their chances but, as the game went into extra time, Germany brought on a small boy and he scored a wonder goal.

The small boy was fifteen year old Mario Gotze.

Super Mario

Super Mario

GERMANY 1 ARGENTINA 0

Everyone who took part in the Tweepstake will get something but do please bear with me. I am still waiting on some items and I also need to collect all your addresses. Everyone will get: a letter, a certificate, a gift. And, for that reason, I am not going to tell you where you came in the Tweepstake; it can be a nice (or not) surprise. (Of course you could look up your placing on the internet, but I bet half of you can’t be bothered… and the top four all know where they came. But, for example, without looking up, would you @Arfablue know that you had come last? Sorry to include plot spoilers. And if you are wondering what team that is, well, it’s Cameroon).

Along the way you all gave very generously to Alzheimer’s Society, some of you giving over and over. And can you believe that you lot have donated over £1300? A huge huge thank you.

And now please raise your glasses to toast Germany and Darren. And why not singalong to a hit-filled medley from Germany’s greatest Schlager singer (and, as I’ve just discovered, an influence on Klowz und Betty). Here’s Heino!

See you all next time! x

 

The last day. 32 days. 32 teams. 32 Tweepstakers.

Before we look ahead to the final let’s (if we dare) take a look at last night.

The host nation, Brazil, effectively won their match against Holland by only being beaten by a three goal margin. But, having said that, they did lose. It’s the first time since 1940 that Brazil has lost two matches back to back on home soil.

Three minutes in and they were a goal down. 16 minutes in and they were two-nil down. The third goal from Holland came in injury time. What kind of sick-minded ref chose to add five minutes of injury time onto this game? Like Brazil could come back? Well, enough is enough; it’s a sad end for the host nation and a fitting end for a fantastic Dutch team. Now Louis Van Gaal, the Holland coach, is off to Manchester to take care of United. Watch out Premiership!

Brazil (@Mojorainbw) 0 Holland (@Braggovic) 3

And so on to the big one. The final:

GERMANY (@DarrenK73)  v ARGENTINA (@joyfeed)

8pm. BBC. ITV. Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. Now here’s the interesting thing; this is the third time these two have played in a World Cup final, and so far it’s 1-1 (Argentina won 3-2 in 1986 and Germany won 1-0 in 1990). Argentina will be looking for revenge for the last World Cup in 2010 when Germany knocked them out in the Quarter Finals 4-0!

Other boffiny facts: This will be Germany’s eighth final (so far they have won 3, lost 4); the four they have lost make them the champion losers, no other team having lost as many finals; however, should they go ahead and win tonight they will equal Italy (also with four wins); the only team with more – five World Cup titles – is Brazil!

Argentina need revenge for the last two World Cups. In 2006 and 2010 they were knocked out by the Germans! A hat-trick is unthinkable. Lionel Messi has failed to score in his last three games. A hat-trick is thinkable.

I can’t predict this one. it’s the final. It’s too important. And I will remain impartial. Darren and peter (@joyfeed) can battle it out between them. I will end, instead, on some fun tunes.

Here, for Germany, is one of the country’s top groups, Guano Apes, with Oh What a Night!

And here, for Argentina, with no attempt to tie it into the World Cup, is Argentinian pop group Babasonicus with Aduana de Palabras. I don’t know what it means. There is a man-cat in it.

Enjoy the game. Thank you all for taking part and helping raise in excess of £1100 for Alzheimer’s Society. I will be back tomorrow to sum it all up! (Oh, and if you remember, please DM your address if you were in the Tweepstake).

The football starts up again with the third place play-off, but is this a match anyone can get too excited about? Oh go on then, let’s do our best. Here we reluctantly go:

BRAZIL (@Mojorainbw)  v HOLLAND (@Braggovic)

9pm. ITV. Estadio Nacional de Brasilia in Brasilia. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is expected to make some changes for this match… ideally he’d be best off changing himself, and that may well come about within the next few days. Brazil’s captain, Thiago Silva, is back after his one match suspension, but will that be enough to help the team recover after their devastating 29-1 defeat at the hands of Germany. (Ok, I exaggerate, but not that much).

The Dutch coach, Louis van Gaal, sees the match as an irrelevance. He said: “There is only one award that counts and that is becoming world champions.” However, he also said: “The worst thing is that there is a chance you are going to lose twice in a row… And in a tournament in which you have played so marvellously well you go home as a loser.”

So, despite the irrelevance, both teams will no doubt find the idea of defeat unbearable. There’s only one option for this game and it won’t be pretty. It will be a 0-0 draw. And the same after extra time. And the same after penalties. The two teams, heartbroken in many different ways, will just keep on missing and missing and missing. There will be no goals. No celebrations. They will still be taking failed penalties when the next World Cup starts in 2018.

Still, chin up, and good game everyone.

Let’s end on a bit of fun. Who doesn’t love Lawineboys? Hell, they’re the Netherlands answer to Trev and Simon! Here they are eating raw fish and enjoying a drink or two as they sing Glass Omhoog (Voor Nederland):

To balance things out, here’s one for Brazil. It’s from Agridoce, a Brazilian folk duo also known as Pitty and Martin. Here they are singing, appropriately, The Smiths’ Please, Please, Please, Let me Get What I want. Though if they do, it won’t be the first time.

What’s the best way to follow a semi-final where 8 goals are scored in 90 minutes, the first 5 coming within the first half hour? How about a 2 hour goalless draw? In the end, the second semi-final between Holland and Argentina went down to penalties. And the score was:

HOLLAND 2 (P) ARGENTINA 4 (P)

I’m no expert, (Have I told you that over the last 29 days?) but I think Argentina had the edge over most of the game. Not that Louis Van Gaal, the Holland coach, would agree. He said: “At the very least we were equal with them, if not the better team.” Ok, but you still lose.

And so sadly we say goodbye to @Braggovic. Well, not quite. Holland must now face Brazil and @Mojorainbw in the third place play-off. What’s the point of that? At the risk of sounding like a mardy teenager from some weak teen comedy set a few years back “get over yourselves, losers!” Here’s something me and Louis agree on, Louis stating: “In a tournament you shouldn’t have players play a match for third or fourth place.There’s only one award that counts, and that’s being world champion.” But, for the sake of the Tweepstake, I am going to quickly change my mind. All the best @Braggovic and @Mojorainbw (and, for the sake of world peace Holland, let Brazil win).

But back to last night. What was Van Gaal thinking? He took Van Persie off shortly before the end, missing out on one of his best hopes of a penalty scorer; he used up all of his subs so he couldn’t put freakishly long-armed goalkeeper Krul on (who did such a good last minute job saving two penalties in the penalty shoot-out with Costa Rica in the quarter-final); he left  regular goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen to stay in goal for the penalty shoot-out (a goalkeeper who has never saved a penalty in his entire professional career!); and, when two of his strikers refused to take the first penalty, he said ok to that. Some of his decisions leave me feeling he was trying to win the match in the two hours of play!

Oddly, all the press attention over the two semi-finals seems to have focused on the losers. Let’s not forget that Argentina won last night. Argentina; a team managed by a former Sheffield United and Leeds United midfielder: Alejandro Sabella played for the two teams for a short period in the late 70’s and early 80’s before returning to his home country of Argentina. And that’s about as boffiny as I’m going to get on that one, choosing instead to return to some manager lookalikes.

Here’s Holland’s manager Louis Van Gaal:

Louis Van Gaal in Going Home?

Louis Van Gaal in Going Home?

And here’s flat-nosed Hollywood actor Jon Voight:

Jon Voight - The Champ or The Chump?

Jon Voight – The Champ or The Chump?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “this is rubbish, he just picks any old men that are about the same age”. Well how about this one? Here’s Hollywood actor Jack Nicholson handling the truth:

"I can handle the truth!"

“I can handle the truth!”

And here’s Argentina’s coach, Alejandro Sabello at a press conference:

"No! I never met Brian Clough at Leeds United!"

“No! I never met Brian Clough at Leeds United!”

And that’s it for today. A few days off even. If you’ve just read this and have no idea what’s been going on for the last 29 days please sponsor me just for the hell of it here. The plan is to raise £1966 for Alzheimer’s Society. It’s like a sponsored thing, but without me doing anything too strenuous; just writing and looking for funny photos. Bye for now.

 

Unbelievable! Shocking! Have you all recovered? Everyone is asking the same question; How can Alan Hansen have such a good tan and such a white neck?

And how could the host nation, Brazil, be beaten by a bunch of Dennis the Menace lookalikes?

where's Gnasher?

where’s Gnasher?

Of course, we must be careful with our jokes here. It’s not out of the question that the Brazilian team will all be sentenced to a free week at the David Beckham Football Academy. But will it come in time for the third place play-off? And will Brazil even bother turning up?

If you didn’t see the game, or if you have missed the news, prepare yourself.

BRAZIL 1 GERMANY 7

The Brazil coach, Felipe Scolari, has described it as the “worst day” of his life, and that’s including the day he came third in a Gene Hackman lookalike contest and the day he caught Neymar drawing glasses and a moustache on his treasured 1964 Panini Pele card.

Some fools, and I’m one of them, will say it’s only a game. But let’s look at the bad statistics first: it’s Brazil’s biggest ever World Cup defeat; it’s their first competitive home defeat in 39 years; the last time there was a goal margin this big was in 1920 when they lost 6-0 to Uruguay, 94 years ago!; it took Brazil 51 minutes to even get a shot on target; it made children cry.

The good statistics (particularly if you are German): 3 goals in 179 seconds!; Miroslav Klose broke the World Cup scoring record; it’s the first time a team has scored 7 goals in a World Cup semi-final; 5 goals came in the first 29 minutes; it made children cry.

And it’s tears of happiness for @DarrenK73 (Germany) in the Tweepstake and just tears for @Mojorainbw (Brazil). Mo was picked at number 12 when I did the draw. Before knowing which team she would get she pledged £12 to Alzheimer’s Society for every round her team would get through. And, even though going out last night, she still donated £12! Darren has also continued to donate at every stage throughout the tournament, as well as other of you who didn’t make it quite this far. You have all helped make this a truly fantastic World Cup and World Cup Tweepstake.

So far you have all donated £1179.29 to Alzheimer’s Society. When I started this my plan, at first, was for it to be like an ordinary sweepstake where everyone gave, say, a tenner to be in it. That would have raised £320. I then realised I was in danger of falling foul of some gambling laws (and I don’t really want to encourage you all to gamble either) so instead I just asked for donations in return for some prizes and, hopefully, some fun. And look where we are now! Thank you.

And the prizes are coming in now, ready for distribution once the tournament has ended. How I will give what to whom I have no idea, but I hope you will all be happy with what you receive. Just this morning the postwoman delivered a tube with two fantastic prints by the funny people at Modern Toss. A big thank you to you. And, whoever gets this in the Tweepstake, be prepared to have big funny swear words on your living room wall.

And so to tonight’s game:

HOLLAND (@Braggovic)  v ARGENTINA (@joyfeed)

9pm. ITV. Arena de Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo. From a Tweepstake perspective this is one of those rare matches where both tweepstakers are men! Don’t be fooled by the ‘joy’ part, they’re the two Peters! But which Peter will prevail before going on to be beaten by Germany (only joking!)?

Van Persie has an upset tummy so he might be out, but Argentina have super striker Sergio Aguero back! This is Argentina’s first semi-final since 1990 (they won that one only to be beaten in the final by … Germany!) This is Holland’s third semi-final in the last four World Cups!

It’s a difficult one to call but I am going to predict:

Holland 7 Argentina 1 (or Holland 1 Argentina 7)

Here’s Sinead O’Connor singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina on Dutch TV.

 

 

After a couple of days off we’re up and running again with the Semi-Finals, and first up:

BRAZIL (@Mojorainbw)  v GERMANY (@DarrenK73)

9pm. BBC. Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. So, here’s the boffiny stuff:

Brazil and Germany have played more World Cup matches than any other side (102 and 104 respectively) and yet they have only ever met once; the 2002 Final. The score? Brazil 2 Germany 0.

Brazil’s star player, Neymar, is out with  a back injury. Their captain, Thiago Siva, is suspended. Germany are pretty fit.

2006- Germany go out at the Semi-Final stage. 2010- Germany go out at the Semi-Final stage. 2014- Has Germany’s time come or will they go for the hat-trick?

Heck, I haven’t got a clue, but something tells me it is Germany’s time. Having said that, Darren and Mo’s donations to Alzheimer’s Society have been so ongoingly generous I can only predict:

Brazil 4 Germany 4 (after ET 5-5, then 5-5 in penalties and both go through)

To get you in the mood here’s Andreas Bourani with Auf Uns. As far as I can tell it’s the theme music from German TV’s World Cup coverage; a kind of unofficial anthem for the German team.

But what about Brazil? I can’t bring myself to put up the official Pitbull thing, so here’s something a little more off the wall. This creepy tribute to Neymar should surely be Brazil’s official song.

Thank you all for your contributions to Alzheimer’s Society. The amount donated now stands at a fantastic £1139.29. If you know of anyone who would like to donate do please point them to my Just Giving page here.

At the end of the tournament I will be pestering all 32 of you for your addresses. if you want to get in there before I pester please DM me on Twitter.

Enjoy the match! x