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

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An exciting day yesterday with some near shockers (and my predictions up the spout). First up:

ARGENTINA 1 IRAN 0

Of course Argentina (@joyfeed) were expected to beat Iran (@Freig). And they did. But only by one goal. And even then it took them until stoppage time. And Iran should have possibly had a penalty. And it took Messi to win it for Argentina. If there is a way of winning by losing then Iran did just that. Hard luck.

GERMANY 2 GHANA 2

Another surprise result (not that the above is a ‘surprise’ result, but you know what I mean). Germany (@DareenK73) were expected to win. Ghana (@fiona_bulter) came from behind to take the lead before Germany drew level. Klose moved closer to being the World Cup’s all-time record scorer (he’s joint all-timer at the mo; him and Ronaldo – the Brazil one not the Portugal one – on 15 goals each). Germany should go through, but all eyes will be on USA v Portugal late tonight; a USA win will put them top of the group! As this World Cup is showing us; anything can happen.

NIGERIA 1 BOSNIA-HERCEGOVINA 0

Sorry to say that Bosnia-Hercegovina (@jaq421) are going home. Having no points, even in they win their next and last match, they cannot pass Argentina on 6 and Nigeria (@redorbrownsauce) on 4. And they have a right to feel aggrieved, having a perfectly good goal from Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko disallowed.

Iran, on 1, are still in there (they just have to beat B-H in their last game, rely on Argentina beating Nigeria, and have a greater goal difference than Nigeria, who only have the 1 goal, so it’s perfectly do-able).

Top points go to @jaq421 and Sybil for their headtastic support of Bosnia-Hercegovina:

Jackie

@jaq421

Sybil

Sybil

This should have secured them the victory, but then @redordrownsauce (Nigeria) had a secret weapon. He went and fashioned his own magic headgear. And this, and this alone, secured Nigeria victory.

@redorbrownsauce's winning hat

@redorbrownsauce’s winning hat

And congratulations both of you on your lovely wall things.

The presence of Pjanic in the Bosnia-Hercegovina team led to me making a feeble late night Smiths song pun on Twitter. Just as I was heading off to sleep Twitter was bombarded with #worldcupsmithssongs. The unofficial winner is @jewkesyno4 with “The More You Ignore Me The Klose I Get” (technically Morrissey, but hey, I never even meant to set this all off. You could say I started something I couldn’t finish).

So, on to today’s matches:

BELGIUM  (@hbnm1985) v RUSSIA (@chislehurst)

5pm. BBC. Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro. It’s still early days for this group. Belgium have 3 points, Russia just 1. They remain the favourites to go through from Group H, the other two teams being South Korea and Algeria, who play their second game just after this one. I haven’t got a clue, and so I am going to follow Mark Lawrenson’s prediction of a draw, but I will up the goal numbers. My prediction:

Belgium 4 Russia 4

 

SOUTH KOREA (@anna_borowski) v ALGERIA (@lolers)

8pm. ITV. Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre. South Korea (having drawn with Russia) have a point, and so they will be desperate to win this game. But then, on no points, so will Algeria. It’s going to be the craziest game of football yet. Or the dullest. My prediction:

South Korea 14 Algeria 9 or South Korea 1 Algeria 0

 

USA (@Lindaannbown) v PORTUGAL (@ali_spencer)

11pm. BBC. Arena Amazonia in Manaus. This is the big game of the evening, annoyingly on in the bedtime zone. I’ve checked with Mark Lawrenson and he agrees with me; USA will win. Portugal are relying too much on Ronaldo and he is not in a good head-space, having had his toiletries stolen by a Avon rep). My prediction:

USA 2 Portugal 0

The charity bit. I’m writing all this (well, for fun) but also to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society. My ‘goal’ is £1966. So far you have donated an amazing £905, 46% of my target. And many of you have donated more than once. You’re all fantastic, and all of you in the Tweepstake will receive a prize. If you’re not in the Tweepstake you are still welcome to donate; I can’t guarantee a prize, but I can guarantee that you will be helping someone, somewhere (and their family) who is battling this awful illness. And, if I have any prizes spare, I promise you will get one, if you ask. You can donate at my Just Giving page here.

To those who have given so generously, I don’t want to pester you anymore. You’ve done your bit way and above the call of duty of the World Cup Tweepstake. But, if you have a mo, please do spread the word. Should we get to 50% my wife, @Zoleipar, has promised to recreate the John Barnes World In Motion rap. What it will be like? Who knows! That’s the gamble.

Here’s someone else having a go (no relation of mine, by the way).

A quick recap and the results of yesterday’s games:

Colombia 3-0 Greece

Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica

England 1-2 Italy

Ivory Coast 2-1 Japan

So, spot the shock result from the above! That’s right; we only lost by one goal!

Oh, ignore me, that’s just a sad joke. We played well… (when I say ‘we’, I mean England… it’s a synechdoche, or something… I didn’t play well. I didn’t even play. Who do you think I am? One of Rooney’s Looneys?)

Incidentally, that last bit, the Rooney’s Looney’s bit, I hope no one is offended by it. Mainly because I have pitched it as a film idea to George Clooney’s company. Years back I pitched Clooney a film idea called Clooney’s Looneys, about a bunch of madcap robbers who plan the ‘Heist of the Hectosecond’. I never heard back from him, and then was a little shocked when Ocean’s 11 hit the screen. Yes it was a different title, but in ever other aspect it was completely different from my pitch too. And for that reason, and only that reason, I decided not to sue.

I digress. So… Clooney’s Looneys didn’t work out, but what of Rooney’s Looneys? Wayne Rooney (played by Daniel Craig) is imprisoned in Guantanamo. He gets together a ramshackle bunch of prisoners and forms a football team to take on the American guards (led by a cheeky and likeable torturer played by George Clooney). Rooney’s plan is to use the football match as a means of escape. All goes wrong when the Americans turn up ready to play ‘American’ Football. They are covered in padded gear, helmets etc. There then follows a 17 minute Tarantino-esque debate over the differences between ‘soccer’ and ‘football’. It looks like it is all going wrong. But no! Ha! It is you dear viewer who has got it wrong! This was Rooney’s plan all along! The rat-a-tat-tat Tarantino-talk is a cover for the escape. And the Americans, encumbered by their clumsy outfits and helmets, can’t keep up with the nimble-footed footie fools. The film ends with Rooneys looneys sitting in a bar in Havana called Smokie Mo’s smoking cheroots and laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing.

It’s a feelgood sports comedy set against a background of torture and wrongful imprisonment.

Back to the tweepstake. Quick summing up of last night: England down but not out, keep an eye on Costa Rica. (And I’d like England to do well for more than the obvious reason: @Christian_N-Orr, swept up by the power of the tweepstake, has promised an extra £5 to Alzheimer’s Society for every game England wins! He is a star! And, if you fancy helping out you can make a donation at my Just Giving page here. Just a pound or two will help me reach my goalllllll!!!)

Here are my previews and predictions for today’s games:

Switzerland (@realandrewgreen) v Ecuador (@wasaunders) ITV, 5pm kick-off. Estadio Nacional de Brasilia in Brasilia (capacity approx 68,000). Switzerland are ranked 6th in the world, Ecuador are ranked 26th, which says it all really.

SWITZERLAND 26 ECUADOR 6

France (@Zoleipar) v Honduras (@wristwatch42)BBC, 8pm Kick-off. Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre (cap. approx 48,000). I have a vested interest in this one; @Zoleipar is my wife. Sorry @wristwatch42. But still… here’s my informed opinion: France failed to win a single match in the 2010 World Cup. They are out for revenge. They will win this one to lay down a marker. Honduran cuisine makes extensive use of coconut.

FRANCE 2 HONDURAS 1

Argentina (@joyfeed) v Bosnia-Hercegovina (@jaq421)

BBC, 11pm Kick-off. Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro (cap. approx 75,000) The match of the night and one worth staying up for. Argentina have at last sorted out where Lionel Messi plays, and it is for Argentina. And for any Manchester City fan, this is the clash of Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko. Bosnia-Hercegovina used to be called Bosnia Herzegovina, a model famous for her catchphrase “Hello boys!”

ARGENTINA 4 BOSNIA-HERCEGOVINA 1

Have a good day, enjoy the football, and to all Fathers out there, happy day.

Ok, so my predictions have been a bit wide of the mark so far, but I did predict wins for Brazil, Mexico, and Chile. How could I miss out on Holland? 5-1 over Spain! Are Brazil and Argentina still the favourites? Will Van Gaal manage the same amount of success with Manchester United next season? Do I sound like someone who has had a quick look at the papers?

A quick recap of yesterday’s games from a #tweepstake2014 perspective:

Mexico (@bluebox99) beat Cameroon (@Arfablue) 1-0. The scoreline should have been higher for Mexico, one clear goal being ruled wrongly offside.

Holland (2010 World Cup runners up and represented in the tweepstake by @Braggovic) beat Spain (current world champions and represented by @NiicNok) by a staggering 5 goals to 1.

In the night shift, Chile (@dusted1969) beat a battling Australia (@zwanzig20) 3-1.

And so Holland and Chile top Group B, and Spain go to the bottom! Spain face Chile next Wednesday.

Brazil and Mexico top Group A. They will face each other on Tuesday night.

Blimey! That was like proper football stuff. What have I got myself into?

Before looking ahead to today’s matches here’s an update on prizes. More bigwigs have promised me some great goodies. All will be revealed in time.

And if you would like to sponsor my #tweepstake2014 effort please just donate a pound or two to Alzheimer’s Society here at my Just Giving page. My plan is to get to £1966. If I hit the 50% mark today my wife Zoe will do her rendition of the John Barnes rap from World In Motion by New Order. I may get involved too. It will be bizarre at the least.

And so to today’s games. FOUR!!! The last one kicks off at 2am!

First up Colombia (@SpiderMonkey987) take on Greece (@gingerdisco99). Kick off 5pm on the BBC). They will play at Estadio Mineirao (built in 1965, capacity 62,547) in Belo Horizonte. I think the Greeks are ordinary but, even without Radamel Falcao, I am looking forward to watching Colombia. I think they will win their opening game, although I doubt it will be a classic. Because it is the opening game, Greece will be even more defensive than usual but Colombia have got enough quality in their attack to break them down.

(Ha! Fooled you all! I just pinched all that from Mark Lawrenson on the BBC website! I don’t think that at all! I don’t think anything.)

Colombia 7 Greece 1

The second game is Uruguay (@BottyB) against Costa Rica (@jasonpettigrove). It kicks off at 8pm. It’s on ITV. It’s being played in Fortaleza in the 1973 constructed Estadio Castelao (capacity 64,846). This is a difficult one to call. Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949 but then Uruguayans “have access to more than 100 private daily and weekly newspapers, more than 100 radio stations, and some 20 terrestrial television channels”.

Costa Rica 1 Uruguay 2

And now the big one! 11pm, BBC1. England (@Christian_N_Orr) against Italy (@pettittsa). They will be playing in the stadium in the middle where the grass has been painted green. The humidity in Manaus will cause Italy to shrink. They will sweat and they will shrivel inside their tight blue tops and, by the end of the game, they will be no bigger than Subbuteo players. England don’t have to worry about this. Thanks to technology developed by Richard Dawkins (or Stephen Hawking… I can’t remember which… some big name scientist… maybe that one from D:Ream… or Magnus Pyke… Can’t remember. It’s not important. the technology’s there) they won’t shrink.

England 3 Italy 1

And, if you’re still with us, Ivory Coast (@jayscarblue) take on Japan (@Superblouse) at 2am! This match, for reasons unclear to all (even FIFA… especially FIFA) is being played in Brazil’s only unfloodlit stadium. It is the Estadio Esdarkio with a capacity of… Well, know one knows. Could be 10, could be 100,091: Until they play in daylight, or sort the lights out, we are all in the dark. Kick off 2am on The Adult Channel. This match will be won by Manchester City’s Yaya Toure.

Yaya Toure 3 Japan 0

Good luck, one and all. Here’s a song to end on.

This is my first blog post of 2012. I made a resolution (under duress from those kind of folks who insist on such things – you know the types; eager beavers, do-gooders, fatties and priests)… a resolution to pick up the blogging thing and get back into it.

I’ve neglected it because I’ve had nothing to say. Or do. I’ve just sat for a long time, like those guys who sit for a long time and end up in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, flaunting their emaciated buttocks and fingernails longer than cheese sticks.

Jumping around a bit, who knew Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! is used in the context of “would you credit it?” or “Who’d have thought?” rather than this could, or could not, be true; you choose.

So, here I am. Idealess.

I asked Twitter to give me something to write about, and Tim Wedlake (aka @timwed) came up trumps with football. Oh, I know he was teasing me, being cruel, because earlier today City were robbed of a win in the FA Cup Third Round by their close rivals (the lesser Manchester United). But I’m over that now.

So,football it is. And here, for those who missed it, is my review of today’s match.

Manchester City v Manchester United – Sunday 8th January 2012 – FA Cup Third Round.

The match took place at City’s ground, Maine Road. Roberto Mancini, in a pre-match interview, declared that if City were to go on and win the FA Cup and the Premiership he would officially change his name by deed poll to Roberto ManCiti.

Sadly, within minutes, City were reduced to ten men when Asa Hartford was shown a red card. By half time United were 3-0 up thanks to a hat trick from Denis Law and two goals from Nobby Stiles.

City fought back in the second half, with Dennis Tueart and Francis Lee both scoring goals by kicking a ball into a net. But it was too little too late, with the 2-3 final score representing two goals for City and three goals for United. In view of the final statistics United were declared the winners.

I don’t know much about football. My dad was a fan and I guess he hoped I’d follow suit. But I was useless at playing it, and anyone who is useless at football at school is routinely spat at, kicked, pushed and abused. My favourite team sport is snooker.

When I was young I was given a load of football posters by a relative who worked in an Esso garage. I put them up in my bedroom. Manchester United took pride of place, above my bed. My father, rightly, made me take it down. I cried. The truth is, I only put it up because I liked the colours.

Come on City!

Shark attack

January 8, 2010

Last night I went to see the Sharks v the Blues. A week ago that would have meant nothing to me, but now… Let’s go Sha-arks!

I’m not a sporty type. I need a leg massage after a game of pool, but I’ll do my best for you.

This is NHL Ice Hockey, and I went along with my brother-in-law, niece and nephew to the HP Pavilion (sadly not named after the sauce) to see their local team, the San Jose Sharks, take on the St Louis Blues (I kept saying St. Louie, French style… and then getting told off. It’s wrong. You say the S at the end, St. Lewis stylee.)

The HP (not sauce sadly) Pavilion

The Sharks are doing well. They lost their last game after a long winning streak. So the pressure was on to beat the far less successful Blues. The Sharks are the Arsenal/Chelsea/Man Utd/Man City (Hurray! Who’d’ve ever thought I’d be typing that name up top) to the Blues Portsmouth if that helps. I tell you again, I’m not a sporty type. Though I did once sleep with Tiger Woods.

I liked the pavilion though. I felt like an extra in Sudden Death.

Once in the Pavilion we had our tea. I haven’t been to a football match in England for at least 35 years, so I don’t know what the stadiums are like these days. Do they do teriyaki chicken? Can you buy beer in glass bottles that you can then take in to your seats?

The overhead thing with the big screens* showed a clock counting us down to the start of the game. I say thing because I don’t know what you call those things. Just like I don’t know what you call the things that do that thing to the ice before the game and in the gaps between the halves… though there are three hlaves, and, oh, more of that later. Here’s a pic of one of the things, made to look like a shark. Everything at the Sharks’ stadium is sharky.

Shark ice thing

I’m shouting Kate. Kate! Kate! Oh, and William. William! William! What are those things called that they drive across the ice? Zamboni’s, shouts Kate.

Ok, it’s a Zamboni. I’ve just looked Zamboni up. Named after Frank Zamboni. But what is a Zamboni? Well, it’s an ice resurfacer.

As we get nearer the start a black clothed monster descends from above. It’s the shark the Sharks run through to get from the tunnel to the ice. The shark’s eyes glow red, it breathes smoke. Once the players are on the ice it gets winched up again, and if you look carefully, you can see a man up in the rigging gathering the black cloth. (I don’t mean you look. You can’t see him in my pictures, though you can see the unclothed shark hovering high in the left hand corner of the picture below).

Then it’s time for the National Anthem.

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Of course I have no clue what it’s about, but those opening lines beat the hell out of God Save Our Gracious Queen, Long Live our Noble Queen… and you can’t do this with our National Anthem-

I stood, a young man sang it beautifully, I almost had a tear in my eye and I felt oddly patriotic for a country I don’t belong too. Can that be possible? What a start to the game.

So, the game. Firstly, the rules:

Each team has about 20 players, with only 6 on the ice at a time. They chop and change like crazy, jumping in and out of the rink (rink? I don’t know. Ice pitch?) They whack a puck about with big curvy sticks. They try to score goals. You have to be over a blue line before taking a shot, otherwise it’s a kind of offside type thing and then you have a powerplay when all the action moves to the other end and one of the three refs drops the puck between two rival players, rugby style. If you do a foul, like whacking another player with your stick, you get put in a little prison for 2 minutes, leaving your side a man down. Fighting is allowed, sort of. The game is split into three parts, called periods, each one 20 minutes long. The 2o minutes lasts about 40 minutes, since the clock constantly stops and starts so people and things can come and go and adverts can be shown and Make Some Noise interstitials can encourage us to make some noise.  Got it? Let’s go Shaaaa-arks!

The Sharks were meant to win this game. It’s not fair on my niece and nephew, at their first game, if things don’t go according to plan. Especially since I’ve bought them crappy flags to wave (heck, it’s the least I could do; my brother-in-law Andy had, after all, forked out something daft like $15000 for the tickets).

So, jump to the third period and the Sharks are 1-0 down. Now wonder Jody Shelley went and picked a fight with some poor Blues guy. And this was a proper fight. Sure, they’re shoving into each other all the time, but these two had a stand-off and then Shelley whacked the sucker with a right hook and then he got hit back, and for at least two minutes the game stopped and 17,500 people cheered the fight. Eventually, after Shelley had taken his hat off to use as a boxing glove, a ref stepped in and the two guys backed down. I’d have taken a photograph but I was too engrossed. And the penalty? Five minutes each in the prison place.

Later, watching the game back on TV, the commentators turned from hockey commentators to boxing commentators, neatly describing each move, blow and block. You might think this was all staged. I was there and I think these bozos were trying to hurt each other. William, 7, thought the fight was cool. me too.

Maybe the fight fired the Sharks up. With seven minutes to go Patrick Marleau equalised for the Sharks with a 54 foot slap shot (I’ve been reading the paper today). And at the end of time the score was 1-1.

But you can’t have a draw in NHL ice hockey. When the three 20 minute periods have been played and the score is level you go into overtime. 5 minutes of it. If it’s still a draw after that; penalties.

With 53 seconds of overtime remaining Dany Heatley got off a 14 foot wrist shot (please, no jokes, that’s what the papers say) and the Sharks won 2-1.

Well done Sharks for giving us a great night out. Keep on winning. Let’s Go Shaaa-aaarks!!! (Does funny Sharks shark dance holding both arms out, making fingers into jaws, and swinging open and shut like a big shark mouth… we all did it. You have to. And you have to too.)

Sharks 2, Blues 1 (OT)

* Andy has just told me the screen is called a Jumbotron. Oh, and he also saw a TV slot where a sports commentator said Shelley knew what he was doing; the fight was started to fire up the team and get them going. It worked.

Little and Large

August 7, 2009

Little-and-Large

When I was a kid my mum and dad would get free tickets to go to the The Talk of the North in Eccles. Free because my mum worked for Salford City Council and a friend of hers new someone who knew Joe Pullen, the owner of the club. And off they’d go, with the rector and his wife and they’d see Little and Large, Cannon and Ball, Matt Monro, Bob Monkhouse. Bob Monkhouse was apparently “a bit blue” but that wouldn’t stop the rector from laughing. Once my dad went with my Uncle Jack, and there was a belly dancer on. My Uncle Jack tells me my dad was quite intrigued by such exotica. He whispered to Jack “what will you do if she comes over here?” Uncle Jack said, “she’s coming”. And with that my dad ran off to the toilets. It’s an inherited trait that to this day, with regret, I follow.

As a result of these trips I ended up with a fine collection of signed photos. I have one that was signed to my mum by Matt Monro. It says “To Pat, thanks, Matt Monro.” Thanks? I’ve never dared ask.

Yesterday we had a casting for something we won’t get, but that’s that. Also there, was Syd Little. We’d met Syd and Eddie years ago on a comedy panel show on ITV2 (it was in the early days, 1998-ish and I can’t remember its title). The rough idea was that it pitched older style comedians against the upstart young ones. We met a fair few, including Syd and Eddie, Stan Boardman, Tim Brooke-Taylor. I loved it. Standing at the bar afterwards, listening to their tales; sometimes tolerating their rants and their bitterness; other times openly disagreeing (oh, we were such upstarts of the alternative circuit!); and I got to meet one of The Goodies!

But here’s the thing. A lot of the old school comedians were despised by the young upstarts. And whilst some of them were openly spewing forth bile and hatred (yes, you Manning) most were just trying to make a living by making people laugh. There are worse things you can do.

It’s easy to forget now, but Little and Large were on BBC1 for 13 years in a row. I can’t remember much of their comedy, and I was at an age where I was starting to develop my own ideas about what was funny and what wasn’t, so I most likely didn’t watch them that much. But when I met them, they were lovely. They weren’t bitter and twisted, they weren’t ranting and raving about not being on TV anymore. They’d had a good run and I think they could understand that the comedy times they were a-changing.

They’re both in their sixties now and speaking to Syd yesterday we heard that Eddie had a heart transplant a few years ago. All the best, Eddie. I imagine he is quite looking forward to Manchester City’s forthcoming season, being a celebrity fan of the club from a time before Liam and Noel were even eyebrow-less babies.

Syd’s still working. Mainly on his own. He’s done a few years on cruise ships. I was moved by how he talked of going solo. He clearly had been nervous about such a venture; and then relieved and possibly surprised when he found he could do it.

I like meeting comedians. I like meeting the older comedians. I like realising that people who have been defined by their act, for good or bad, aren’t actually their act.

Cyril Mead is 67 years old and lives in Fleetwood.

(Come on! You didn’t really think he was called Syd Little?)

Sydenham Sunday

May 11, 2009

sydenham may 2009 028 (2)

I’ve been catsitting this weekend. In Sydenham. looking after a little cat fellow called Chomsky. As I type he has just eaten a wasp. I hope that’s alright. For Chomsky. Not the wasp. Too late for the wasp. Wasps get a raw deal. We might not like bees, but we put up with them. They make us honey and if they sting us they then do the decent thing and go and die. Wasps make nothing and sting and sting again. So well done Chomsky, I hope you are ok and unstung. (Just checked on him in the garden and he seems fine).

Sunday in Sydenham was a lovely day. And so I did the obvious thing. I went and sat in two glums pubs and watched Manchester United play Manchester City. I’d have been better off eating wasps.

I had a pint in the first pub, for the first half of the game. I don’t think I was very welcome there. Everyone seemed to be on United’s side. And they were all very serious hairless tattooed men. I sat while they all stood and watched the game, arching backwards like ballet dancers. And old man wandered from table to table with two full carrier bags. He was selling meat. One of the hairless tattooese kept chanting “Been shoppin’ ‘ave ya? Been shoppin’ ‘ave ya?” Although I understood the question I didn’t understand what it meant. I wasn’t offered any meat.

At half time I went to the bar for a second pint and some of the lovely food on display. Everyone at the bar had a plate with some bread on it, and ham, and pickles. That’d do me. I wasn’t sure what I was asking for as there was no menu, so, trying to be polite I said “do you do any food?” The tattooed barman said “no.”

In my second pub, for the second half, I had a roast lamb dinner. It wasn’t too good, but when asked I said it was excellent. I was just glad to be somewhere where people were friendly. My roast dinner was served on a black square plate. Have you ever had a roast potato that’s kind of like a stress ball? I have now.

Manchester United v Manchester City, in a pub in Sydenham, watching it on a Greek sports channel. A caption kept scrolling across the screen; this channel is only licensed to be viewed in Greece. The Greek commentary was turned down and old classics played in the distance; Nat King Cole singing Mona Lisa. I felt like I was on holiday.

And I was sitting by another Manchester City fan. He said hello. This was a friendly pub. We talked about the match and I pretended I knew about football. I just about got by. we talked of Colin Bell and Franny Lee. Then we jumped 30 odd years to talk of Robinho and Richard Dunne. Thank Dennis Tueart’s overhead kick in the 1976 League Cup Final that he didn’t ask me about all the years inbetween. By the end of the match he’d bought me a pint. Cheers sir!

Four pints later I strolled into the Sydenham sun. City lost.

English pub

January 5, 2009

duke-of-edinburgh

There’s an English pub in Cupertino, California. And every year around this time we (me and my brother-in-law) head off to meet Morris and Morten. This year Don joined us too. And then we drink English beers, on draft. Beers like Fuller’s and Boddington’s and Newcastle Brown Ale. And we talk about football (Oh, if you must, soccer).

Ok, I lied. Not about the soccer, where I bluff my way through the Premiership, but about the beer. I lay off the English beers. I can get enough of them at home. I drink Fat Tire… helping me maintain my New Year’s Resolution to get fat.

The English pub is The Duke of Edinburgh. A “pub designer from England”, according to their blurb, came over, designed the pub, returned to England, had it built, shipped it back over to the US in bits, rebuilt it in Cupertino. And it looks just like an English pub. Well done, “pub designer from England”! What was the last pub you designed? One found in the middle of a concrete estate from the sixties, where the outside is like a wood panelled box and the inside is all nicotine-stained gloss paint, deep red velvet bench chairs, shiny brass lamps and swirly carpets to hide the spilt beer, blood and vomit?

Oh, and there’s darts and a jukebox too. Last night it played “Ghost Town” by The Specials.

Within minutes of us arriving a man fell off his bar stool. A high one he was sitting at, on the verge of enjoying his bar meal (Yes, they do food at the English pub). He wasn’t punched, nor was he drunk. He fainted. He was flat out. To quote Clint Black, “the lights are on, nobody’s home.” Morris jumped in, placing a comb between the man’s teeth in case he was having a fit. And the Emergency services were called.

Yes, services, not just the one. First on the scene was the Fire Service. Then the ambulance arrived. Then the sheriff arrived. And then the bill arrived. Not the Old Bill. The bill for his meal. Once the man came around and found that he hadn’t broken his neck, the English pub billed him for food he was destined never to eat. He left on a gurney. Gurney! Sidewalk I get. Elevator I get. But gurney for stretcher I don’t get.

With the fainting drama out of the way we could get on with talking about things like, oh, Mark Hughes’ chances of survival after City’s shocking defeat in the FA Cup. That kind of thing. And why Morten now supports Aston Villa… something to do with them having a Norwegian in the team.

Oh, and we had to order our beers. Despite the bar seen below, complete with barman, you do not order your drinks at the bar. A waiter or waitress comes and serves you. Now this is like no English pub I know, other than The Rovers Return. And that’s a fictional pub in Coronation Street. And in that pub, the drinks are only brought to your table when it serves some dramatic purpose (eg. Betty brings Emily a sherry and a hotpot and overhears Norris say that Ken’s been seen buying crack cocaine). It’s all just a little bit Twilight Zone-y.

But we drink and we drink and we drink. At least five times but I’m not going to keep typing “we drink”, even though that’s the fourth time and it would only have taken one more go to make this sentence much much shorter than it’s turned out to be. And then we stagger home. It’s a long walk, through the dangerous streets of Sunnyvale… yes, as dangerous as they sound. We get back after 1am. Not bad for a bunch of oldies.

english-pub

dog-and-ballThis isn’t Manchester City’s most expensive player, Robinho, but I don’t want to be charged £6000 for not knowing my copyright infringement laws, so best play it safe and use a pic of a dog with a ball.

Robinho, swiftly becoming my hero because he catches the bus and watches Coronation Street, doesn’t catch the bus and doesn’t watch Coronation Street. How could the News of the World get it so wrong? Now I’ll have to worship him for his football skills alone. Which isn’t a bad deal, other than my knowledge of football skills is confined to he shoots, he scores, he occasionally nutmegs. Oh, and yes, I know, we were properly beaten by United yesterday but what a great run, the length of the field, from Joe Hart in the dying minutes to at least stop it becoming 2-0. And again, my football knowledge is limited, but Ronaldo, I know a hand ball when I see one… sorry, both hands ball.

But why no bus trips to the Trafford Centre? Robinho told The Guardian; “I used the bus when I was growing up in Brazil. I don’t want to diminish anyone who travels on the bus but I haven’t done that for a long time.” And his response to the story that he is watching Coronation Street to improve his English? “Very funny. Hahahahaha.” Shame. You can read the full interview here.