After a two day rest, here we go! Does that make me sound like a football type person? I hope so! Today the Quarter Finals start. The end is in sight folks. Four matches, then two, then one, then that’s that! (Not forgetting the daft game in between for third place; a sad match that really no one cares about except me; I’ll do my best).

Two matches today. First up:

FRANCE (@Zoleipar)  v GERMANY (@DarrenK37)

5pm. BBC. Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janiero. So, Joachim Low, the German coach, says all of his team have the flu. Is this a tactic? I’d like to say Didier Deschamps, the French coach, has come back and said all of his team have runny bottoms. But he hasn’t. Yet.

How to call this one, the clash of the European heavyweights? It’s going to be klose. Out of 26 meetings France have won 11 times, Germany 8, and 6 draws. But, here’s the thing; @DarrenK37 has not only donated a fortune to Alzheimer’s Society, he has also drank the national drink of his team (Weissbier und Riesling) throughout the tournament (even on days when there were no matches). His dedication to the cause is exemplary.

As for @Zoleipar, my wife, well… she’s been drinking Sauvignon Blanc… from New Zealand! I don’t even think she has donated yet! But then she did do the John Barnes rap from World In motion. It’s a start.

Darren’s dedication deserves rewarding. My prediction:


France 1 Germany 2


BRAZIL (@Mojorainbw)  v COLOMBIA (@SpiderMonkey987)

9pm ITV. Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza. From a European battle to the battle of two of the biggest South American teams. I have no clue! I mean, Brazil are the host nation; who wants them out? And yet Colombia have Burt Bacharach managing them:

Jose Pekerman says a little prayer

I can’t predict it. Penalties, that’s all I’m saying. Penalties and the most dramatic shoot-out so far. God give them strength. Talking of which, let’s end on a song as Jose Pekerman joins his good friend Elvis Costello.

After a lull yesterday I am back listening to Everything But The Girl and learning from them to help raise money for Comic Relief. I am part of Team @tracey_thorn, aiming for a #twittermillion. I have set myself a target of £1986, in honour of EBTG’s 1986 album, Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. So far I am 17% there, with £350.

I have two EBTG albums to pick tracks from, and today’s choice, Ballad Of The Times, comes from 1985’s Love Not Money. (Struggling to reach my target I may have to lower my aim to £1985).

Frank, aka @eph_bee, picked this one. He also made a donation to Comic Relief, for which I say a big thank you. x

Ballad Of The Times is the first song choice to be solely written by Ben Watt (that’s the first thing I’ve learned).

It sounds jolly, and, like a lot of Love Not Money, it makes me think of the jangly guitar sounds of The Smiths (which I mean as a good thing). And, also like The Smiths, behind the joyful sounds there’s a sadness.

The times it ballads are, I guess, the early to mid 80’s; Thatcher at her best. It could be a song swinging between the end of The Falkands War and the beginning of the Miners’ Strike.

Then again, it could be a song about now.

Because Billy has gone off to war/ And God knows what he’s fighting for/ But wartime will make him a man/ Work that one out if you can

It’s also about hard times when promises were not enough to pay for shoes. And in hard times we can turn inwards too:

Narrow streets breed narrow minds/ And care for kin but not for kind

The 80’s? Or now, Mr Nigel Farage?

What am I learning? What am I on about? All I know is good songs can affect us way beyond the times in which they were written. Perhaps it’s a Ballad Of Times.

It reminds me of another 80’s song of war and hard times; Shipbuilding by Elvis Costello.

Is it worth it?/ a new winter coat and shoes for the wife

That’s Elvis. But it resonates with Ben’s line:

When did a promise ever pay for shoes?

And that makes me think of Comic Relief with its mission to “tackle the root causes of poverty and social injustice”.

If you can give to Comic Relief please do. You can sponsor me here.

At first I couldn’t find Ballad Of The Times on youtube and so I made my own video, looking out from our flat. Since then I’ve found a live version. Let’s have both.

Here’s the live version, with some Morrissey-like dancing from Tracey and a big jacket from Ben:

And here’s my home made thing:

It’s been a crazy few days, and, what with Ugly Little Dreams and Little Hitler, we’ve been to some pretty dark places. But it’s a Saturday now and time to put on our dancing shoes.

Today’s choice for my Comic Relief Team @tracey_thorn Challenge comes from my wife, Zoe. She ummed and aahed between Don’t Leave Me Behind and A Country Mile, before settling on Don’t Leave Me behind.

I’ve learned something new already. Shockingly, Don’t Leave Me Behind only reached 72 in the charts. Sweetly, Zoe was born in ’72.

Sweetly, I was born in ’62, and so were Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt. Shockingly, that makes the three of us all 50.

Don’t Leave Me Behind has trumpets! It’s a mid-80’s trump-fest that makes me think of Elvis Costello when he went trumpet loopy. Before we enjoy Don’t Leave Me Behind let’s have a laugh with Mr Costello in what is one of the daftest videos of the 80’s (possibly of all time).

Did you spot any familiar faces in there?

You’ll also spot some familiar faces in the video for Don’t Leave Me Behind. Look! Annie Lennox on piano!

This video is less daft than Elvis’. It’s just Ben and Tracey and the band enjoying themselves.

And I have learned two new things from watching this video; sweetly, Ben likes stroking cats, and, shockingly, he likes sniffing pencils.

I like to think that Zoe picked it for these lines:

But you’ll always be a fool/ So I will catch you when the world is cruel

I hope you enjoy Don’t Leave Me Behind. Why not have a dance around the lounge. And, if you can, please help me reach my £1986 target for Comic Relief. You can sponsor me here.

Gail’s gay dad

July 17, 2009

BloodYesterday I had time to kill and so I used my pay monthly film pass to go and see the entertainingly awful Blood; the last Vampire. I knew nothing about it and I know nothing of the anime original, so anime boffins out there, don’t give me a hard time. This is very much a Roy Walker style review, if you get my drift.

Go and see it. You won’t be disappointed. It’s truly rubbish. And it’s only 80 minutes long. You’ll find nothing new here. It’s your standard half vampire/half human schoolgirl takes on the baddy vampires type of stuff. It’s Buffy meets Blade. It’s Bluffy.

Here’s why you should see it. The film obviously couldn’t afford any big stars, so they’ve gone and got characters from English soaps to try and pretend they’re Hollywood big-shots. Look! There’s Larry Lamb (dad of George) from Triangle and Eastenders doing his best to be Jon Voight. And he does a good job. But it’s still Larry Lamb, dad of George, rather than Jon Voight, dad of Angelina.

And who’s this sinister character who only gets one scene that doesn’t really make any sense? Why, it’s Gail’s gay dad from Coronation Street. You might also recognise Gail’s gay dad as the Nazi who wrestles with Harrison Ford atop a tank in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We need more actors like Michael Byrne (Gail’s gay dad) and Ian Mckellen, who popped up in Corrie as dodgy novelist Mel Hutchwright. More actors who can play Nazis and mutants and wizards… and then pop into The Rovers for a pint.

And my favourite; Liam Cunningham. A fine Irish actor with many great performances behind him no doubt. But not this one. It’s not his fault. I’m guessing the producers asked for a Harvey Keitel type. Grizzly bearded, wearing a fedora and shades, he goes for the Harvey look but in the end comes across more like an Elvis Costello tribute act.

Liam Cunningham

This film is an 18 certificate. What on earth were the BBFC thinking? Ok, so a samurai sword pierces someone’s eye, but come on, you get that in your average episode of High School Musical. This film should be a 15 at the very very most. Ideally a U. It’s bloody, yes. But only in a bubbly CGI kind of way. The last thing Blood; the Last Vampire is, is a film for adults.

If you are unlike me and don’t have time to kill; if your time is precious; then avoid it. But if you like a laugh, go.

And if you like vampire films, but good ones, why not try these? Near Dark, 30 Days of Night and Let the Right One In.

Watch the trailer for Blood; the Last Vampire here. My favourite bit? The caption “from a producer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.

Say what you see.


Here’s Tony Christie in a launderette. I used to work in a Dry Cleaners, which is like a launderette without water. You can see me at work here.

Last night Tony wasn’t in the launderette, or the Alleyways. Last night was definitely the Avenues as he played the swanky Cadogan Hall near Sloane Square. Sloane Square, where the Christmas lights are made from diamonds and the only transport that circles the square is like a tongue twister gone wrong; Red Bus, Rolls Royce, Red Bus, Rolls Royce, Red Bus, Rolls Royce, Red Bus, Bentley…

And so I wandered into an area of London that I feel, as a lad from Salford and now a poor Londoner, I should have a passport for. My passport to Sloane Square acceptance was a shiny suit and the accompanionship (I think I might just have made up a new word) of the gorgeous Andrea Mann. I took Andrea along as a way of saying thank you for… well, teaching me how to blog. (So, if you’re reading this and thinking “Oh shut up!”, firstly, stop reading. Secondly, blame Andrea.) Oh, and as I say, I took her along so they’d let me into the Avenues and out of the Alleyways.

There’s more to Tony Christie than Pudsey Bear and Peter Kay. And to let us know that he knows this, and to let you know that I know this, the one song absent from his set last night is also absent from this review. Is that a bit pompous? Sorry if that’s how it comes across.

Tony and his fellow Sheffieldiers like to give their emotions a sense of place; to wrap up the ins and outs and ups and downs of love in the physical landscape; to map the terrains of the heart in the A to Z of the city. Journeys, destinations, meeting places where only one turns up. They’re all there; in the avenues, in the alleyways, in the launderettes, the chip shops, Coles Corner, and Paradise Square.

Coles Corner and Paradise Square both feature on Tony’s new album, Made in Sheffield, produced by fellow Sheffielder, Richard Hawley. Made in Sheffield because it was. In many senses. Some of the contributors were made in Sheffield, by their parents. Songs are written by Sheffielders, known and not so known. There’s Louise by the Human League, and the epic and sublime Born to Cry, by Hawley, Banks, Doyle, Mackey, Webber and Cocker (Jarvis, not Joe). Just how many successful Cockers can one city produce?

The gig was great. And Richard Hawley’s band, accompanying Tony, were glorious. But I’m no music critic, what do I know?

In fact, I need help, I need tips to appreciate things. There are songs that I know and love, and then I realise a long way down the line, I actually love but don’t know. It’s taken me over twenty years to understand some of the songs of Elvis Costello, and the rest I’m still working on. But I think you can love without understanding. And sometimes you may be the better for it.

Last night Tony helped map out the geography of a rocky heart. Coles Corner and Paradise Square are both songs dedicated to Sheffield landmarks. Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner was a meeting place for lovers; Coles Corner is no longer what it once was, and the corner of this song has now become a place of loneliness for its unloved singer.

Paradise Square is a beautiful song, but with the darkest of hearts. Why don’t you meet me there? There where we can dedicate some time to this affair, that’s if you have the time to spare, why don’t you meet me there? It sounds like a love song. It’s a fragile piece, sung delicately, as if the slightest wrong move might shatter it into a million pieces. Why don’t you meet me there? There on the cobbled stones of Paradise Square. But a clue comes along later in the song; There where lovers meet to make the most of memories, only to discover they have now become sworn enemies.

Paradise Square. Paradise. Where the good go after death.

Moments before singing,Tony tells us that Paradise Square in Sheffield is where all the lawyers are. And then he drops his microphone to talk to the band, realising, as if for the first time, it’s a song about the end of love, about divorce.