June 6th 2010
Some Like It Hot. Not me, though. We've been having quite a lot of hot days round these parts of late (it is mandatory at this point to establish that such days would not be regarded as hot in sundry - and sun-dry - parts of the world, like the Sahara desert or anywhere Spanish), and I have routinely described them as 'glorious'. Or 'lovely'. I've made comments along the lines of it being a perfect day for any activity that springs to mind (washing the car, painting a house, having a picnic, standing near a tree), but this is downright hypocrisy. You see, a hot, sunny day is just not nice. It makes me sweat, for one thing, and sweating doesn't bring out the best in me. In fact, it tends to bring out the sweat in me. I also have to squint a lot, since I don't own sunglasses, and don't want to shell out for prescription shades anyhow. Plus there is the overriding fact that being hot is, in and of itself, an unpleasant experience. It's uncomfortable. Your reaction, almost certainly - unless you're Simon, who agrees with me but regards a sunny day wasted if he hasn't moaned "It's so hot!" about a thousand times - is to pfft a little, and regard me as a miserly Scrooge-like person. Scrooge, that is, before he became full of the joys of Spring [change 'Spring' to 'Winter' or to 'Summer' if you want to reflect A Christmas Carol or this rather weak analogy, respectively]. But I have to disagree with you, I'm afraid. Yes, it's true that on the dozen or so hot days we have each year, I am less happy that most of you - but, contrary-wise, I am in a much happier weather situation for most of the rest of the year than you sun-lovers will be. My favourite type of weather is a slightly warm day with a very light breeze - the kind of weather you barely notice, and which we get modally. A cold Winter's morning can be delightful, with the crackle of the frost and the bareness of the trees. I positively enjoy a misty Autumn morning with a bracing snap to the air (actually, this might be my favourite... I'm not sure). These are all more pleasant than a pounding Sun and not a cloud in the sky. We are blessed in this country by having weather that is very manageable, but quite varied, without any real extremes. I would hate to live in Australia, Africa or California, with the sun beating down on you all the time. I would hate to live in Alaska or Siberia, with overpowering snows. I would hate to live with incessant rain or incessant drought. Britain is, pretty much, ideal for me. So, there you go. Perhaps, by refusing to complain about our standard weather and instead objecting to the heat, I may have to return my British membership card - but for 350 days of the year, I'm in just the right place.
June 12th 2010
The World Cup is upon us - even now I am listening to Super Mick McCarthy commentating on Argentina vs Nigeria - and it would be churlish to ignore it. After all, there are no fewer than three Wolves players at the World Cup (which, for obvious reasons, I won't be abbreviating to WC), being Marcus Hahnemann of USA, Adlane Guedioura of Algeria and Nenad Milijas of Serbia - I'll admit that I had to check the spelling of all of those names. Whereas Hahnemann became the first choice 'keeper for Wolves quite early on last season, the other two haven't especially made their mark yet, despite early season promise from Milijas - so if even our lesser players make the World Cup, how good must we be? Anyways, as I say, this is a World Cup entry (Simon, you may want to switch off for a bit), and these are my Ten Fairly Rhetorical Questions That All Football Fans Are Asking:
1. Why do football players continue to take off their shirt when they score? The rules are fairly clear: it's a guaranteed booking. If you remove your shirt in celebration, you will get a yellow card. Surely this isn't some kind of primordial (is that the right word?) reflex that they can't control. I, myself, have at times received excellent news - certain exam results, for example - but have never accidentally removed my T-shirt in celebration.
2. Is it any coincidence that England's best World Cup performance since 1966 came in the only tournament that Steve Bull was in the squad? Almost certainly not.
3. Why do people make such a big deal about the ball? The run-up to this tournament has been filled with people claiming that the newly designed ball is unpredictable, going all over the place when struck. If this brings back memories for you, it's because every tournament in recent memory has had the same nonsense in the build-up, ending as soon as the first game kicks off. We have hundreds of football matches every year without anyone worrying about the ball in the slightest, but as soon as it's a World Cup, there's pandemonium.
4. Why do the BBC team love tight, shiny black shirts? If it's not Gary Lineker, it's Alan Hansen or Alan Shearer. For some reason, one or more of the MotD team is almost always wearing a black shirt, as tight and shiny as they can find. Look out for it.
5. Why is the offside rule always used as the cliche for things women don't understand about sport? The offside rule is fairly simple - it's not Duckworth-Lewis, is it? Actually, for all I know, D-L might be really simple too. But I digress. A player is offside if he doesn't have two opposition players between him and the touchline when the ball is passed. So long as he's interfering with play. And in the opposition half. And he was in front of the ball. And it wasn't a throw-in. Or a corner. And it didn't come off an opposition player. And it doesn't count if only his arms are in an offside position. OK, maybe it is a little bit complicated.
6. Is Lionel Messi the best player ever who shares his name with a Mr. Man? It's cheating a little, since he spells his name differently to Mr. Messy... the main contender I can come up with (having brainstormed with Martin, who was slightly hamstrung by not knowing any Mr. Men, but had a few guesses) is Ian Rush. Greg Strong, currently player-manager of Rhyl, isn't really in the same league.
7. Isn't it about time England fans got over the whole 'Hand of God' incident? Go anywhere in the world and mention Maradona, and he will be hailed as one of the best, if not the best, player who ever lived. Except in England, where people will mention the fact that he once hand-balled. We football fans are not good at perspective, but maybe it's time we got some here?
8. Whatever happened to the official football club song? Some people made a fuss about the fact that there's no official England song for this World Cup, but this is just part of a wider malaise. Whatever happened to the team song, in which all the players participated fairly tunelessly, to commemorate an FA Cup final or a league championship? The 1970 World Cup squad singing 'Back Home', the Spurs boys singing 'Ossie's Going to Wembley', the Man United classic 'C'mon You Reds' and, immortally, the Anfield Rap - when did they stop? It's a shame, is what it is.
9. Who will be the ridiculously over-priced player bought just after the World Cup, just because he had half a dozen good games? Karel Poborsky springs immediately to mind here, though that was just after Euro 96 rather than a World Cup. Often the players who are bought are genuinely very good, but cost twice as much as they would have done a few weeks earlier (Alan Shearer after Euro 96; David Trezuguet after scoring the winning goal of Euro 2000; Andrei Arshavin after Euro 2008 to name but a few). Maybe it will be Marcus Hahnemann this time.
10. What does Emile Heskey have to do to get dropped from the England squad? He doesn't score any goals. You'd have thought that was enough, but he's been doing it for years without losing his place. He tried signing for Birmingham and Wigan, which worked for a while, but then he was soon back in the team. He consistently misses sitters when in an England shirt, and has been so poor at Villa that he's nowhere near getting in their first team. He hasn't scored a goal since February. It's not as if there aren't actual goalscorers around - Darren Bent and Jermaine Defoe scored hatfuls last season, but he still makes the team ahead of them. Now, bored with contributing nothing to England's cause, he's decided to go even further and provide a negative contribution, by injuring Rio Ferdinand. Perhaps he'll get left out of the squad when he gets to age 40 or so...
June 21st 2010
Some interesting thoughts on Emile Heskey from you loyal commenter-people, so thanks for that. We shall see on Wednesday how the next installment goes. Speaking of the comment box, I will (if I remember this time) start a new one for each new month, so you don't have to sift through the same old stuff each time, torturing yourself with the question of who 'Me...ateater' is (clue: not me). I shall soon go to bed, because I'm up early to study tomorrow morning, which means that I won't have time to fill you in on my weekend of wonder with Rob and Ant. The picture below, though, will give you a sneak preview of Rob eating the UK's biggest burger.
June 25th 2010
If you've been studying the business pages, you may have noticed that AXA is selling off large chunks of its Life company (i.e. the bit I work in at the moment) to some folk called Resolution, who will merge it with Friends Provident to make a brand new Friends Life. So, as of September-ish I will fulfil a lifelong dream of working for a company named after everyone's favourite New York based sitcom. Don't believe Wikipedia if it tells you they're - we're - named after Quakers. In other news, I promised some days ago to tell you more about last weekend, and so I shall keep my promise. Ant and Rob came over ostensibly to see me, but at least partially because Rob had never been to Bristol before and wanted to have a tourist's view of this fine city. Since my tour guides tend to revolve heavily around various Banksies, I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to comply, but I decided to give it a whirl anyhow. First up was a trip to Clifton Suspension Bridge (not least because I was confident of how to get there, though we were momentarily thrown off course when Rob requested to visit a small bit of grass that he hoped would be 'better than Hyde Park'). I was not keen to take the 45 minute tour, since the bridge is about 50m long, so instead I did the tour myself. "It's a bridge," I said, adding that "it goes from one side to the other." Luckily, we found a plaque that contained rather more information, so all was well. After the bridge we went to the Giants Cave, through an exciting tunnel of rock. I had no idea such a thing was there, and it is well worth £1.50 of anyone's money to go all the way down to the cliff face (er... slight exaggeration. Forgive me), where Catholics, apparently, used to gather. The Bristol tour also contained (in no particular order) a clandestine visit to the underside (er... keel?) of SS Great Britain, a short ferry ride, some Banksy graffiti (of course), a swinging bridge, some chips, a plaque about WG Grace, a door that looked - suspiciously - like 10 Downing Street, a kickabout on the downs, the UK's largest burger, the gift shop of [email protected] and much, much more. Well, that was about it, actually, but we also watched a dire England match, admired Ant's parking, played Fifa and visited two ice cream vans. Rather than detail every minor event of the weekend, I shall direct you to a rather good video from Ant which will give you the highlights, including a rock slide that I forget to mention above. I shall leave the topic by presenting you with some more pics of Rob's mammoth burger-eating success:
June 28th 2010
This is going to sound like sour grapes, I know, but I don't know why more wasn't made of the fact that Germany's first goal was offside. To explain myself to those of you who haven't been paying attention to the World Cup (or who have arrived here in the archives many centuries in the future, and don't know what this 'Germany' thing is that I speak of, let alone 'offside' or 'grapes'), England yesterday lost 4-1 to Germany. We played awfully. But while a lot has been said about the wrongly disallowed equaliser, the offside-ness of the first goal has been almost completely ignored. The TV footage (which is not the BBC's own; it's just distributed to them) offered a single highlight pointing it out, which was not picked up on by either the commentators or the pundits, and has not been mentioned in any of the newspaper or radio coverage I've heard. Basically, had the officials got their decisions correct, we'd have been 2-1 up at half time rather than 2-1 down, and however poorly we were playing, that could have made a great difference (yes, I know that Chaos Theory means that you can't go around making statements like that, but the general idea remains. Plus, Chaos Theory from now on must surely refer only to England's defence). Anyways, since no one else seems to be mentioning it, here's a picture to prove it for you (and apologies for the poor quality - I nabbed it from the BBC website), with the goalscorer circled:
June 29th 2010
Er... hmm. This is a tad embarrassing. Thanks to Jay and to Dad for pointing out that I don't understand the offside rule, and that you cannot, in fact, be offside from a goal kick. So all that stuff I was saying yesterday... it's probably best that you ignore it. Pretend it didn't happen. Much like the rest of the match, in fact. And I won't ever again claim that the offside rule is simple. My only consolation is that Wayne Rooney didn't seem to understand it in a previous match (something to do with a deflection off your opponent not being the same as a pass by him), and the BBC clearly doesn't know what it's talking about, either. The screenshot below shows them claiming that the last defender is where the onside/offside cut-off is, whereas in fact it should be the next defender up:
I have nothing more to say on this offside/onside debacle, except a hearty apology for stirring up misplaced feelings of badly-done-by-ness, and the interesting fact that you can't spell 'consider' without 'onside'. Deep, man. Deep.
what was I listening to?
The Spaghetti Incident? - Guns N Roses
what was I reading?
Jeeves in the Offing - PG Wodehouse