Monday, 1 March 2010

Dear Mr Hicks...

An amusing and possibly sarcastic (see if you can detect it), letter to Mr Hicks, following Rafael Benitez comments about the Blackburn Rovers performance on Sunday.

Dear Mr Hicks,

Whilst I fully appreciate that the expectation of teams playing the so called Big Four and Liverpool FC is for them to turn up as a formality and get turned over, I was somewhat disheartened to hear the comments made by a certain Rafael Benitez following the recent close win over Blackburn.

A series of media comments were made by Mr Benitez appearing to mock the style of football played by Blackburn Rovers, which quite frankly I feel is unfounded.

The first point made by Mr Benitez appeared to mock the general style of the football played by Blackburn Rovers throughout the match. I don't know whether you had the pleasure (or lack thereof) of watching the reverse fixture at Ewood Park this season but quite frankly it was a shocking display from your so called football team. I have never agreed with the gentleman who sits next to me at Ewood Park, but on this occasion I feel that he hit the nail on the head with his comment "this is worse than watching Bolton". He was sadly not referring to the Blackburn performance, but the long ball into the box followed by a dive approach taken by the Liverpool FC players. This strikes me as being exactly the style of football that Allardyce has recieved criticism for in recent times. I appreciate that on this day Fernando Torres was injured but at the same time I fully accept that Liverpool FC are not a two man team and so the style of play we encountered is likely to be truly representative of the season which Liverpool FC are having. Maybe if Mr Benitez tried to model/mimic the Barcelona tactics he mentioned in his comments, Liverpool FC might actually be able to compete themselves with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchesters United and City.

A further comment by Mr Benitez appeared to suggest that Blackburn Rovers were playing intentionally dirty and trying to harm his players... Whilst I can fully accept that Stephen Nzonzi should have been shown a red card for his apparent shove, I again feel that on the whole this comment is unfounded. At the time of writing this letter, Liverpool lie 13th in the Fair Play League, with 43 yellow cards and 5 red cards. The 'dirty' Blackburn Rovers on the other hand lie in 9th, with 44 yellow cards and 2 red cards... It is also interesting to note that if Stephen Gerrard had been booked for the two blatant dives he has made against Blackburn Rovers this season, Liverpool FC would lie 16th in the table. I am not sure why referees have deemed fit to not notice or book Mr Gerrard for these fouls... although I imagine even if he was obviously guilty he would not be punished.

I am also bemused at how a team containing the likes of Javier Mascherano and Stephen Gerrard can complain about any other team being dirty or nasty. I would be intrigued to know Mr Benitez thoughts on some of the tackles/behaviour which these two afforementioned players have been accused of this season.

It would be my advice that Mr Benitez (this of all seasons) focusses his efforts into Liverpool FC and not the opponents who are currently regularly taking points off them. Maybe if he put all of his attention into this, the club would have a chance of finally winning the most sought after domestic trophy in this country, putting them into the same category as three out of the big four clubs, along with their significant lesser, dirtier rivals - Blackburn Rovers.

I apologise for the negative nature of my letter and I wish Liverpool FC every success in breaking the top four this season. Quite simply the Champions League would not be the same without you.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Pete xx

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

West London White Vs t'Rovers

22:30 Luckily my internet and phone both died after the second minute. luckily though after a shockng miss by Di Santo there was nthing of any quality or note to mention. Socking performance from a bunch of clueless gits.... Gklad i could not write mmy toughts during thhe match...

19:43 Capuccino resembles cat sick... finally found a ground with a worse paa syste than Rovers.... sorry for crap spelling.

19:39 Teams are out warming up. Bloody cold in South London tonight. Managed to convvince the steward that the laptop in my bag was for uni, not throwing at the pitch. Looks a similar Rovers team to the weekend, but Andrews and Jacobsen come in. Dioufff has a proper cool hat...

18:47 Just waiting for t'underground to take us to Putney Bridge and the ground... Saw old knob head turning into Downing Street while walking to Westminster and saw the traffic being stopped for Princess Anne...not sure why she needs a police escort everywhere and can't wait in traffic! Pretty ordinary tea at Garfunkels, was miffed at the waitress putting my change in the tips jar rather than giving it back - poor service and food does not warrant a tip! Bloody cheek of it. Oop train is here, a wise man was right in a song he wrote "what you see is what you get, burger king and piss and sweat" horrible!

16:25 Sat in Trafalggar Square having walked to Whitehall... Didn't see old Gordon at Downing Street thouh, most disappinting. Taalk of Garfunkels for dinner son whicch is most pleasing. Early tea then off t'game.

15:05 In Hamleys getting fed up with tourists... always walking in front of me.

14:25 Ten minutes from London now...a dull journey consisting of a soggy egg sandwich and very little work. Just passing through Slough, a town where the peoople who reside pray for another Blitz.

13:13 On t'train on the way to London... going to try and do some work but that looks doubtful... no room to swing a cat in here.

Stay posted tomorrow afternoon and evening to watch regular updates on a trip to Landon town as well as updates from the Cottage as Fulham take on Rovers. I will try and post as regularly as I can throughout the day and match to keep you all posted. Assuming I don't get mugged and have my phone stolen though obviously.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Christmas at School...

With now only 4 weeks and 6 days till Christmas it is the time of year that mum’s love, dad’s hate and children loathe… The school Christmas play season. The time of the year when kid’s all around are expected to don crap costumes and act out a poorly written story with generally little or no resemblance to Christmas.

The Christmas play was probably my second most loathed thing about school - closely following sports day (see entry Sports at School…). Although having said that, it was still probably more fun than the carol concert. So that might make it my third most loathed thing?

Amazingly I only took part in one nativity play in my whole school life - although luckily I was saved the humiliation of looking like a tit with a tea towel on my head, and just had to sing as part of the choir - the rest were a variation on a theme. Crap stories with a vague resemblance to something Christmassy!

I only remember a couple, but in one I seem to remember being one of Santa’s elves and had to basically sit next to Santa, not saying anything, but occasionally skipping round in a circle! The second Christmas play I remember was at junior school and I was something called a Tomte - I just looked on Wikipedia and they do actually exist apparently. I was one of many of these “mythical Scandanavian creatures” who was asleep in a cave, which got attacked by trolls - which my brother was one of and basically consisted of older kids wearing rugby shirts and socks on their heads, whilst carrying a spade. I don’t remember much more than this other than my part seemed to consist of being asleep on the stage one minute and then being kidnapped by a troll… Once again a massive part for me to play. I still question what this has to do with Christmas though and Wikipedia doesn’t seem much help other than to suggest a Tomte is not happy and will cause mischief if he does not get his porridge on Christmas night! But I don’t recall anything like that happening…

I would love to know where some of these stories get thought up… I imagine somebody is sat in a room thinking “I know, lets get the older kids to wear socks on their heads and the younger ones to wear rubbish paper elf ears and miners costumes - that will be great”… Looking back the costumes are always the best bit about the Christmas play, or do I mean the worst bit… They are so pathetic and simple it is almost laughable:

Mary - blue dressing gown, white tea towel on head, pillow up front - although these days you probably just get one of the pregnant kids to do it, unless it is the year 2 play when that is probably not a possibility…
Joseph - white dressing gown, darker tea towel on head;
Angels - white dress, crappy £2 wings and multicoloured halo from Woolworths (see, where are kids going to buy their nativity outfits now…);
Shepherd - white blanket/dressing gown, Grandads walking stick, tea towel on head;
Wise men - stripey dressing gowns, tea towel on head;
Sheep - the small kids dressed in white with cotton wool ears and a pink nose!

You can see where I am going, the nativity costumes are all two basic components, a tea towel on the head and a dressing gown - is that really what they wore in those days?? I have a theory though, buy stocks in kitchen shops before December. They will boom massively around Christmas when parents are kitting their kids out in Biblical clothing… The other costumes were just as bad though. Next time you are at a Christmas play look at the costumes, it looks like the kids have been put on a cart and wheeled through Oxfam… Only if anything has actually fit when they have tried it on, it has gone straight back and swapped for something about ten sizes too big…

I say I hated the carol concerts, but this is a lie… I hated them every year except one. In year 6 I was deemed the second best student user of an overhead projector, which meant I was part of the projector team for the carol concert! My role was basically to pass the overheads at the right time to the guy who was better than me at operating the projector! But, it did mean I didn’t have to sing, which as far as I was concerned was a result. I have no idea whether the carol concerts still take place in our political correct world, but if they don’t the kids of today can thank their lucky stars… In your own time in the evenings having to sing in front of everybody’s parents is about as much fun as getting your scrote caught in a laundry mangle… I have no idea who thought it was a good idea, but it always sounds terrible and I certainly didn’t enjoy it!

On the side though, it did mean it was nearly Christmas, which meant lessons consisted of making paper snowflakes and Christmas trees during lessons, which lets be fair is fun by anybodies books! I would much rather be doing that right now than trying to avoid writing about engine cooling systems! In fairness Christmas at school was good fun, from the Christmas dinner featuring wafer thin turkey microwaved, to the Christmas party on the last day, but dear me, the Christmas play and carol concert was and I imagine in most cases is, an embarrassment to the kids and a complete ball ache for everyone involved.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

T'is the season...

It’s official, the Coca Cola advert in the commercial break for Crap Factor last night means Christmas is upon us! Let the festivities commence! Just three or four weeks till we erect a plastic fir tree in the living room and decorate it no doubt hideously. Just five weeks and five days until we will be opening our masses of presents and divulging in a large stuffed bird of some variety – hopefully more than once.

So anyway, I thought I would start the festivities by musing about a few things Christmas related.

And this year we must make the most of it, if rumours are to believed we will only have two more! Those Mayans could have at least waited until December the 26th to end the world!

For the next forty days we have loads to look forward to, pikey chav carol singers, the whole world flocking to the Christmas Market, spending what little money we have on rubbish presents for other people and spending time with people who we spend the entire year trying to avoid, whilst putting on our big happy grins that it is “lovely to see them”... On the positive side of things though, we do get to feast like kings and the Christmas Market sells spicy cheese!!

However, we also have to look forward to, endless TV adverts telling us about the once failed pop artists who are releasing a new Greatest Hits CD in an attempt to make a little bit more money, as well as the many predictions of a white Christmas we won’t get... The closest thing I have ever had to a white Christmas was a bad bout of dandruff when I was 7 which made it look like a continuous snow storm. It never ever happens, it is always grey and rainy on Christmas.

For some reason I always seem to remember the Christingle service at church... Christmas loses its fun when you are too old to go to church and get an orange with a candle in, along with dolly mixtures and raisins on the end of cocktail sticks. When you can no longer do that, Christmas as a child is over! I have no recollection of the services, I just remember the orange, happy days.

I always remember been terrified at Christmas two consecutive years... The first I couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve but then suddenly my door opened... I had heard all the stories that if Santa knew you were awake you would not get any presents... I was terrified at the prospect that this would happen so I covered my head with the pillow and tried my hardest to pretend I was asleep. It worked though and I seem to recall getting a great haul of presents! The next year I was 19 and had realised that Santa might not be real, but then on Christmas Eve I heard the bathroom window opening... I must have just woken and heard this and gone back to sleep (I must have grown up in that year – sleeping on Christmas Eve, whatever next???) but ten minutes later I heard the window go again. This time I woke up again and my stocking was full of presents!! Santa had come in through the bathroom window. This was most confusing for a young 19 year old, why had he not used the chimney??

Another year and something I have never forgiven my parents/Santa for was when we were very young. I must have been about 4 or 5 and slept in the same room as my brother. Christmas morning he woke up and said “He has been”, but my stocking was still empty. Then my brother informed me that he had been given a new stocking, a sort of pillow case thing and his old stocking was hanging on the end of the bed. But I didn’t have a pillow case on my bed...We looked around for it, but still all we could find was my empty stocking on the end of the bed. In fact I think there was a Satsuma in the bottom of it – great. Needless to say I was deeply upset about this and when we got up in the morning I could do nothing but cry to my parents. Despite how young I was I seem to remember my dad saying “Oh, maybe you were a naughty boy this year?”... I was a bit of a git, but never that bad - apart from when I shaved my head and blamed the neighbour! After many tears and an almost ruined Christmas, a stocking did turn up, it was hidden behind the bedroom door. But still, how cruel can parents get – pretending that you have been so bad you have got no presents. I dread to think what the effects of this will be in the future. Watch out mum and dad...

Whatever anybody says, presents are the best part about Christmas. Now it’s not that I don’t like buying presents for people, I do enjoy it and I enjoy seeing the surprise. Some of you probably think a good Christmas is where you have fun, or where you do lots of different things but you are all wrong... A good Christmas is when the sum of the value of presents received exceeds the value of presents given! It’s a pretty basic principle and this year I plan to be positive :D !

So let me be the first and no doubt not the last to say, Merry Christmas! Stay tuned, I will try and post more often!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

To Bully, Or Not to Bully...

That is indeed, the question...

In a slight change of plan, I once again mused last night about school days, following on from my topic on sports, so for now – football hooliganism will have to wait. To call myself geeky would be an understatement which at school obviously resulted in a lot of bullying, but looking back I was not particularly guilt free myself and this set of musings will look at both sides of the story.

Starting a new school with a crappy basin haircut and Jack Duckworth glasses is always asking for trouble when I think about it, but that is exactly what I did. When I first started at secondary school, loads of the older kids called me John… Being young and na├»ve I just assumed I was very popular because they all knew my older brother - as was the case at primary school, where I was given the delightful nickname Rubber Jonny Junior, my elder brother being Rubber Jonny… Excellent. However I very quickly discovered that they were calling me John due to the uncanny resemblance which I had to the most pleasing former Prime Minister – John Major (still it could have been worse, they could have called me Gordon…). This didn’t really feel like bullying though to be honest as it did not particularly bother me. The first instance of real bullying came when we were made to queue up outside in the cold for a design and technology lesson. Up strolled one of the years notorious thugs – every school year has them, the sort who are always in trouble and the sort whose pain and suffering in the future brings you an unbelievable amount of joy and comfort as you think of them loitering the streets before crawling back into their gutter (anyway I digress) and he comes out with what can only be described as one of the wittiest bits of bullying ever “Oi, why are your glasses so thick?” to which my reply of “why are you so thick?”, swiftly got me punched in the kidney’s and a pair of dead legs… It made me feel good though! Luckily I had a decent set of mates, including a couple of big guys so most the time I managed to avoid any significant bullying, all I really got was the odd crunching tackle during football or the odd puddle being kicked, but I like to think I gave as good as I got in most instances. I was also lucky in the fact that whilst I was prime bully material, there were a group who were even more pathetic than myself, which allowed me to avoid a lot of the attention.

Rather than bullying, our lunchtimes generally consisted of a lot of messing around… our school used to have a three storey science block and we were unfortunate enough to have one of the labs as our tutor room, which meant we were not allowed to sit in there at lunch time, although we were allowed in the corridor outside. Plenty of workarounds were in place though, we would hide in the cupboards until the teacher had left and then stay in the lab all dinner or when that got found out, one person would hide and unlock the door when the teacher had gone! In much the same way as yesterdays musings, we created a plan to allow us to stay in the lab at dinner time, we would tunnel through the wall into the lab. This started as one person who had steel toe capped shoes repeatedly punting the concrete and plaster to breakthrough, but eventually people were bringing hammers and crowbars to chip away at the plaster. Occasionally the caretaker would put a wooden board across the hole but they clearly had no idea about the expertise our team had, the wooden board merely covered the work we were doing… It was like something out of prison break. Only after a few inches (by which time half the year group were helping) did we come across the problem which stopped us in our tracks, steel mesh throughout the concrete, this had not been planned for and by the time we worked out a way to get through it, the year had ended and we were moved to a different block, which incidentally we also got banned from being in at lunch times. Two years later the science block was demolished so in a way I suppose we kind of helped with that aspect of the schools development. Whilst not tunnelling we would make the most of the three storey fire escape which the science block had, a series of stairs (outside) which led from the top floor, to the fire doors right outside our tutor room. There was always a table outside each teaching room and therefore right next to the fire escape and in a moment of genius, three guys decided that they must slide down the fire escape on said table… We turned it over and with a mighty push from everyone, the three of them were off, bouncing down the three storeys with a thud and a yelp of pain as they hit each level… one guy was complaining for days of the back pain he was suffering! I would still love to know why we thought this would be a good idea, just like why it would be a good idea to ride the fire escape on the plastic part of a school chair… It was amazing none of us ever got hurt. None of us however considered the damage that sliding down concrete might cause to the table… the surface was practically ruined and our plans to put the table back where we found it were scuppered for this reason, we had to get rid of it. Even a teacher would realise that something was wrong and it would not take them long to match the scrapings on both the fire escape and the table… By propping the table up against the wall we jumped into it to smash the wooden part off and break it into numerous pieces, this was an excellent way to practise our favourite wrestling moves we had learnt. By now we were brilliant hole diggers and so disposing of the wood was easy, we broke it up and hid it in the ground, in bins etc, but disposing of the metal subframe proved mightily difficult. The best solution that was found involved a couple of guys chucking it over the wall into the verge next to the dual carriageway… I am not sure how this was determined to be the best or safest solution, but it is the one which was followed! Similarly I would love to know what the dinner ladies were doing whilst we were doing all of this!

During sixth form, me and a group of friends took Chemistry AS Level. On a side note, the teacher maintained throughout the year that we did not do the work and that is why the highest grade any of us got was a D, but at the end of the day there were a group of girls who also got high marks the previous year who were at a similar level during the AS Level, so I firmly maintain it was the teachers fault and I would suggest that the fact he was booted off the course the year after, would suggest likewise. Anywho, I again digress. During these lessons we came up with the ingenious idea that it would be fun to hide things in one of our friends bag… This started off as relatively small things during the chemistry lessons, such as test tubes, test tube racks and tripods but on seeing the most amusing reaction we got every time we did something, the paraphernalia we hid soon began to grow out of control. During chemistry experiments we would hide test tubes of petrochemicals in his pencil case along with bricks we had found around the school and during one physics lesson we are certain that one of our friends wrapped a pigs eye up and put it in the guys pencil case, but for some reason it never turned up… to this date it has not been accounted for. For some reason the guy whose bag it was would always shout out during the lesson “oh for God’s sake” when he realised, drawing attention from everybody in the room, and then he would proceed to pull whatever the object was from his bag… this would generally draw a lot of laughter from the rest of the group as they discovered what we had managed to smuggle into the lab and into the rucksack. For some reason no teachers ever realised it might have been the three students who were sat there in stitches! My personal favourite however was the day when he was sat at a computer during a lesson. I had noticed that in the ‘boys’ toilet a hand dryer had fallen off the wall (one of the big white things you put your hands under and then a hair dryer turns on to dry you/blow the water off) so we set ourselves the challenge of putting it in his bag. Whilst one of us distracted the soon to be victim, the others forced the hand dryer into the rucksack before leaving it as we found it. The hand dryer was obviously ridiculously heavy so as soon as the bag was lifted from the table, it crashed to the ground making a loud dunk, drawing attention from everybody in the lesson, to said bag… Needless to say the reaction on opening the bag and removing a hand dryer in front of numerous staff and pupils was fantastic… At one point when we were doing the Ten Tors expedition, one of my mates carried an old skull of a sheep he had found, 40 miles across Dartmoor, just to hide it in the rucksack… Some would call it desperate, but some would call it genius – the reaction of somebody as they realise there is a festering skull inside their bag is quite something! The skull popped up at numerous times in our bags and over the course of the years decomposed significantly!

The bag often seemed to be at the centre of attention and on one occasion a plan was hatched whereby it would be thrown onto the link bus, which ran between the three schools in the area, and we would film the doors closing and the bus driving off, before showing the video to our mate. I can’t remember if this ever happened or not, hopefully one of the other plan hatchers will be able to remember and will comment!

Whilst hiding things in the bag was fun, the most amusing game involved a tub of Vicks VapoRub. For some reason I carried a pot around in my bag – it must have been because I had a cold at some point… but one of my friends discovered that if you put the stuff on say a pen, unless you are looking hard you cannot notice it until you pick it up and get a stream of grease running down your hand… We took to putting the stuff on anything that people left around, pens, rulers, bag straps, folders etc and thoroughly enjoying the reaction when they came back and could instantly smell the menthol flavourings, but had no idea where we had put it… The smell of Vicks soon became associated with fear and anger, rather than the more common one of clear sinuses and unblocked passages. Similarly, if you had a cold, our chemistry and physics lessons were the place to be as you could guarantee the room would be rather menthol!

Some might see these games as evil, but we did realise and at the end of our school lives, we did hatch a number of plans for a big trick… However this was intended to have a nice outcome. The options considered included starting a fire and stealing the rucksack which we had used to hide things in so well and then running to the fire to chuck it on, but just as the owner realised what we had done, we would present him with a brand new bag to replace the one we had ruined over the course of two years… the idea of starting a fire was not particularly popular so we settled that we would have to hide something in the bag… During the last lesson of the year we nipped into town and purchased a four pack of beer and card saying good luck etc and sorry for destroying your possessions over the past year, before hiding them in the rucksack. The reaction on realising the weight of the bag was as funny and amusing as always, “for God’s sake… grumble grumble”, but on realising we had put something he would actually want in the bag, he was made up. Some might call it bullying, but it really was just fun and the following years since leaving school, we have made up for it I think.

As an end note, I started by saying how we all got bad grades during chemistry and the teacher actually said to my parents that I did not goto the lessons so would not get the work done, but I think my musings here show sufficiently that I DID goto the lessons. So I hear you say I did not do the work as I was messing around, well I did. We messed around just as much in the physics lessons, yet we all achieved very high grades in that. I to this day firmly maintain it was the teachers fault and the appalling quality of teaching that resulted in our bad grades. That brings me to the end of the current section of musings, I hope they have been entertaining and please keep checking back for my next updates which will include Part Deux of the North v South battle as well as some interesting scripture on hooliganism.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Sports at School...

Listening to the radio on holiday there was a discussion about why we are so poor at producing top quality athletes and the point that was brought up was that in the early school stages, the teachers are not specialist sports teachers and the games we play are not related to anything. Young kids are not playing sports like tennis until they get to secondary schools often – 11, 12 years old, where as the best players in world sport are being picked up significantly earlier than this. It got me thinking about the sport we used to play at school and made me wonder if I had been given the opportunity to do more than just doing roly-poly’s on a thin rubber mat, could I be one of the best sports stars in the world?

In reality the answer is obviously no. So on with the musings.

My first memories of sports at school revolve around every child’s nightmare, sports day. For the elite few, this is their chance to impress relatives of every kid in school, whilst for the majority of pupils – myself included – it is the chance to make a complete jockey out of yourself on a monumental scale. That said, I have a few fond memories of sports day, not least that in year four. Back in those days we had to elect our two favourite events from a list derived straight from Athens including: the egg and spoon race, the bean bag race, the sack race and the tennis ball throw – all designed perfectly to make you look an idiot.

The events of choice for myself this year were the sack race which obviously involved climbing into a stinking wicker sack and proceeding to jump 100m, trying to avoid the inevitable fall over and the bean bag race – this involved something like running to a bean bag, bringing it back to a bucket, running to another bean bag, putting it in the bucket and then the same again, before running to the finishing line with the bucket, whilst balancing a bean bag on your head… Whoever thought this event up was a complete genius to put it bluntly, lessons learnt here have proved invaluable in future life – i.e. don’t put the bean bag too far forward as it will cover your eyes…

I first realised that I may have a chance of winning the coveted 1st place sticker when we had the first practise for the sack race. I for some reason had the brilliant idea that if I put a foot in either corner and ran in the sack, rather than jumped that I may move slightly quicker than most… The starting pistol (teachers whistle) rang out and we sprinted the first 10 yards to the sack location where the struggle into sack lost valuable seconds (I made a mental note that I would have to improve my method of entry to the sack if I wanted to score a competitive time) but I managed to get my feet into the corners… I proceeded to run the 70 yards to the finish line without looking back – only when I crossed the finish line and fell out of the sack did I realise that everyone else taking up the traditional jumping motion was a good 50 yards behind still (I say everyone, the token kid was still trying to get into the sack at the start) – I had discovered the winning tactic. Sports day quickly came around and the pre-race atmosphere as we lined up at the start was electric. We were following the days big events, the mum’s and dad’s races. Focussing purely on the sack and then the finish line I got ready to go, the whistle went and I screamed out of the blocks to the sack. Endless practising had let me get the perfect entry to the sack and my feet were quickly in position and I was off… After about 30 yards though I realised something was wrong, somebody else was at the same level as me, in fact no, they were in front of me – using my tactic… try as I might I could not catch them and I had to settle for second best. Pipped to the line by somebody who had stolen my tactic. To say the beanbag race was a disaster would be an understatement, numerous fumbles and drops saw me finish near the back of the pack and so second in the sack race was to remain my best ever sports day finish… Looking back it is not a bad achievement, second best at the sack race in that year, in that school is pretty big news to put it bluntly.

The one thing that everyone seems to dread is the day when you get your days mixed up at school and forget your PE kit. You would think this would be a decent excuse not to do PE, but oh no… every school has one, the box of spares. Tucked away in this festering box are a ready supply of used rugby shirts and shorts which have barely seen the light of day in the past 10 years, let alone a box of Persil. The days of primary school PE where if you forgot your kit you could do the lesson in your underpants suddenly seem highly attractive – talking of which, does nobody else find it slightly odd that at primary school we were made to do PE in just our pants and that everybody got changed in front of the teacher, in the same class room??? Suddenly once in this borrowed kit you find yourself looking forward to doing cross country as you know the smell of your own body odour and scrote can only improve upon the original.

The showers after PE seemed to be the main cause for people forgetting their kit and for the unlucky few who didn’t manage to get away with it, this usually spelled disaster. In our school the shower system never worked, we all just ran through with our PE shorts on and that was classed as washing… For those who forgot their kit and were given the dreaded loan kit though, it was demanded that they return the kit before the showers (forgive us for thinking that the kit might be glad of clean… I swear some of it could almost have got up and played football itself…) resulting in low and behold, having to shower naked. This would lead to endless teasing and taunting from the other 60 clothed boys, particularly when it happened to the same people generally… I won’t name names (I have starred them out), but this resulted in numerous nicknames including Small C***g etc, a nickname obtained in year seven and no doubt lasting a good few years! Realising we never actually showered or for that matter washed, the showers were mostly scrapped the year after we joined the school and suddenly the amount of people forgetting their kits deliberately rose. It often seemed to me that the ones who forgot their kit, were those who were good at sport outside of school, which I think speaks volumes in itself.

Some aspects of the physical education taught at schools still baffle the hell out of me. I am sure up until about year 11 we were made to do gymnastics for example… This was fine for the 5% of students who took it seriously as a hobby and could actually do it, but for the 95% of us who didn’t it was a nightmare… we were to be assessed on our ability to do gymnastics. In a sport like football or rugby this is not a problem as if you put the effort in, it will show and you will get some marks, but try and do a handstand when you are not physically capable and you end up looking a complete berk in a pile of arms and legs… the assessment for 95% of us therefore consisted of the odd forward roll followed by a star jump over a vault... I would love to know what this provided me with, other than a crap mark on my report.

The best part of physical education for those of us who couldn’t really give a toss about school sport was when we got to use the weights room, a small room situated next to the gym full of antique fitness equipment including weights, cycling and rowing machines. This room was rarely monitored by teachers during the latter stages of school so we generally had the free run of the room. This resulted in groups of students seeing if they could lift the full load on the weight machines, but my personal favourite was the attempt by some students to carve a hole through the wall of the room, into the shower block on the other side of the wall - it was a walk in shower so you could actually walk into it, but at the time it seemed a great idea. Initially this started with some people battering the wall with the handles of the dumbbells, but then a genius noticed that one of the cycle machines was broken. The strap on the front had snapped, so when you cycled, the razor sharp wheel spun ridiculously fast making the perfect angle grinder… This chopped through the tiles and concrete ridiculously fast and progress was made in no time through the shower wall. Within days a plan had been hatched to carve a new tunnel into the car park. Any plans were quickly ruined however when the cycling machine was removed…We had found a new game that if you spun the wheel in the cycling machine and tilted it forward, the whole bike would skid across the floor at break neck speed. We set the bike up to do this and just as it flew across the floor into the rowing machine a teacher walked through the door. Sufficed to say we did our best to cover it up, making excuses such as “so and so fell off and it just happened”, but along with the bike wheel shaped scars in the walls, we didn’t stand much chance…

The other aspect of PE that I loved was when we were given free reign of the gym, the ropes, the climbing frame, the crash mats… for a thirteen/fourteen year old this spells one thing, FUN. For some reason the teachers did not seem to have a problem with people climbing up the walls to about 10m and then swinging off on a rope… Whilst the horrific floor and wood burns were ridiculously painful, I struggle to think of something more boystrous which we could have got up to…

Whether it is the case for everyone I don’t know, but my experiences it is safe to say probably didn’t help me become the world beating athlete I could (or not)… I think one can assume that at the age of fourteen, Roger Federer was probably not carving holes through the walls of the school gym, just as David Beckham was probably not fannying around on a small mat, attempting to complete just one backward role. So does something need to be done about the sports teachings in school or is it the pupils? I think it is safe to say in my instances at least it is a mixture of both – when we were doing something I and others were interested in it was great, but other times it was dire and we had to make our own fun… On this note, my next musings will discuss football hooliganism, stay tuned.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

The North/South Divide, Part Une

As an honouree northerner myself – my parents only moved to the southern counties whilst expecting me (I am not sure behind the reasonings, but I have heard a rumour/made up that it was because they were not keen on losing my brother or me to the pits) - and having spent large portions of the past three years in the Lancashire and Yorkshire counties, I decided that I was in an excellent position to compare the northern and southern lifestyles in order to determine is there still the north/south divide that everyone talks about.

This section of my blog is part one of at least a two part thriller about the differences I have found in the lifestyles.

There are many common conceptions of a typical northern person from those of us who reside in the southern counties, most of which generally involve reading by candlelight and lashings of gravy. Having followed my favourite northern football (soccer, just in case this poor excuse for a blog drums up some miraculous foreign following) around the country for the past five years and having been cohabiting with a northern girl/lass for the past three years, it quickly becomes apparent that these conceptions we have are not all true. Whilst gravy is a staple part of the diet and generally accompanies every foodstuff with the exception of curry, the views about things such as the candlelight are in fact not correct. Some might find it a shock to the system, I certainly did the first time I stayed ‘oop north’ but electricity does exist in this part of the world.

Food is certainly an area where the north and south differ in terms of what is considered ‘nice’. Like I say, on the whole up north, if you can have it with gravy, it is ‘nice’, if not it is a foreign import that should not grace the dining table. I am not sure where Bisto is manufactured, but I would not be surprised if every reasonably sized northern hamlet did not have a storage factory for this product in particular. Chips and gravy, pie and gravy, stew and gravy, the list is endless and something which I find amazing as a southern resident is the fact that all of these are readily available from the local chip shop and will be regularly eaten at Friday tea time – fish and chip night.

Whilst gravy and its accompaniments provide at least 50% of the diet in my experiences up north, a large portion of the remaining nutrient requirement is provided by curry. Each and every town has an excellent Indian takeaway supplying a variation on the nation’s favourite – Tikka Massala. Within weeks a favourite will have been found and when you can’t be bother to mix t’Bisto, will supply you with the calorific requirements you desire.

One delicacy which I had never had the pleasure of sampling until I ventured north was the vinegar sandwich. I am not sure how it is classed as a sandwich as it generally appears to be a slice of bread soaked in vinegar which is offensive to each and every sense that a human possesses.

On my travels one thing I have noticed about the north of the country is the friendliness of the people from the north, even if you have no idea who they actually are. With the exception of my travels to Liverpool I don’t think I have ever met a northern person who I did not like. Wherever you go in the north, you walk into a shop and it is “alright love”, “hello lad”, where as down south you will be lucky to get a grunt out of a typical service provider.

With regards to Liverpool, my only experiences are on match days at either Goodison Park or Anfield so there is a chance that my views are slightly blown out of proportion by the atmosphere. The first time I went to Liverpool I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I stopped a random woman on the street and asked for directions “I wouldn’t park around here, there are some secure car parks which are guarded just up this hill” – my views of Liverpool had changed immediately, I had been told where I could park and not expect my car to be stolen… although obviously there was still a nagging doubt that I was being setup. I parked a good ten minutes away from Anfield and walked to the pub which our fans were cooped up in (potentially the Arkles but I am not sure – it was quite close to the ground though), which is when I saw what Harry Enfield had been predicting for me to see on my visit to the City of Culture. As I rounded a corner by a petrol station I had the pleasure of witnessing a brick being put through the windscreen of a car… I have no idea on what was behind this but the driver was definitely wearing blue and white, whilst the attacker was certainly a Scouser. Following this scene I swiftly went into the ground to watch us suffer a poor defeat at the hands of the referee and then swiftly made my way back to the car after the match.

The second visit I made to Liverpool was the same year when we played Everton at Goodison Park on a Saturday afternoon. The match was pretty dull from our point of view, we managed to lose despite Everton having their third choice keeper sent off… Following the difficulty in parking and getting away from Liverpool earlier in the season I decided to use the train to get to this match and having got a taxi to the away pub with a few mates before the match, I decided I would walk it back to Lime Street Station as I didn’t have too long before my train. Obviously as an outsider to the city I did not know the way, but my hopes were raised when I spotted a couple of policemen at the side of the street. I strolled up and said to them “hi could you tell me how to get to the station please”, to which the ever important police man replied in his lovely Scouse accent “Ayyyy I believe you mean, excuse me officer, I am sorry to interrupt your conversation with your colleague, could you please tell me how to get to the station?”. My reply to this of “Sorry I thought you were working”, looking back could have quite easily got me into trouble, but luckily I managed to get directions and once again, very swiftly leaft the city (for the second time in a year), which seemed to have a problem with anybody not sporting a red or blue football jersey.

This appears to be similar in the south… we are more inclined to tell a complete stranger to knob off, or even better ignore them completely. If anybody has ever got a train from say Manchester to London they will no doubt have experienced this… When the train leaves Manchester everyone will be chatting about where they are going, what they have been doing etc, yet as soon as the train gets south of Birmingham and starts filling up, there will be complete silence. People will no longer speak to one another and the journey will be dull and monotonous until the London skyline appears at which point almost every southerner will get on the phone and have a grumble about how dull and painful the journey has been…

Part two of this section of my blog will continue my musings on the difference between the north and south of the country, with particular focus on the differences in the way we speak and the different names which we give to everyday products – something which causes much confusion in a relationship between a southern and northern pairing. As you can imagine, I have plenty to say on the subject and I apologise for the roundabout way in which this section has been written.