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Saboteur

29 November 2008

Charlton 0 Southampton 0

Belying the score, a really enjoyable game. The first half was entirely Charlton's, with Jose Semedo running things in midfield and the new loanee Deon Burton doing an excellent job as a holding forward. But Kelvin Davis in the Southampton pulled off four superb saves.

Second half saw Southampton much better and Charlton curiously subdued and this time it was Weaver who had to keep the goals out.

As the game and the rain went on, the surface became almost unplayable, but there still plenty of action at both ends.

It's still too early to say if the team will recover from the Pardew trauma months. Clearly Phil Parkinson is his own man, making lots of changes from Pardew's last team, and there was a commitment about the players, particularly in the first half, that we haven't seen for a long time. Mood: cautiously optimistic

26 November 2008

Corneille

Picture of Corneille
Time to start the Corneille thread. Pierre Corneille, 1606 - 1684, was a classical French dramatist, a very close contemporary of the better known Jean Racine. Both lived and wrote in an age when Cardinal Richelieu was promoting a strong centralised state, when all aspects of culture had to support the idea of royal power. This manifested itself in some ways that seem more akin to Soviet cultural life in the 20th century: questions of form took on an ideological significance, and deviation from the prescribed rules of narrative or dramatic form could be seen as political opposition, and could be dangerous for the writer.

I studied Corneille many years ago at school, and hated him. It seemed to me he was a blind stooge of the imperial drive to power. But as time's gone on, I've begun to wonder if that was true, if it can be true. A blind stooge does not write powerful plays that are remembered and performed 300 years later. So my quest, which I began a couple of months ago, is to revisit his plays and examine if there is any trace of subversiveness in them. My happy initial report is that I think there is.

Why bother, though? A fair question. Corneille is unbelievably unpopular in Britain and I'll never sell this idea as a book. It's ages since I've taken part in any critical procedure and the terms of discourse may well have changed. Don't care. I feel this is getting back to what I really like doing, and if all that results is a website of discussion that a few people read and if maybe that leads our theatres to reconsider Corneille's plays, I'll be happy.

25 November 2008

Re-entering the 20th century

Since yesterday, I've had a working toilet again, and today the whb is in place and usable and a bath is standing politely in line. Some of the plaster is still too wet to paint, and the floor is still bare concrete, but it's progress. Meanwhile in the living room, the walls are stripped and some undercoating has been done. There's a patch of replastering to be done, a bit smaller than I expected, and a rotten window bar that needs to be replaced. It all feels like it's getting better and after last week's depression I'm feeling much more cheerful.

But tired. Training, like yesterday, is always really knackering, because you're there for six hours leading a group of people, keeping up their interest levels or trying to calm them down. And it's physically demanding for a lazyguts like me to be on my feet for so long. So why did I wake up at 3am this morning only managing to send myself back into a hypnopompic state for half an hour before 7?

24 November 2008

Inappropriate

Was in Guildford today, training mainly social workers, so inevitably the word 'inappropriate' came up and I had to write it on the flipchart. Oh the shame, I spelt it wrong. Anyway, at lunchtime the sandwich delivery service turned up in the carpark, playing an icecreamvan-like tune. The tune these caterers had chosen? La cucaracha. Now that's inappropriate.

23 November 2008

Survivors

9:40 and there's still another 50 minutes of this to go. Ease up on the 'dramatic' music, ffs. Probably something else will be on at 10. Oh look, Julie Graham has the same tiles in her bathroom that I'll eventually have. This got me thinking, what would I be like if I were, or believed I was, the only surviving human? I think it would be a long time before I'd kill myself from loneliness; being a miserable git has advantages. There's the joke of how the last man left alive decides to kill himself and so climbs the stairs to the top floor of the Empire State Building/Canary Wharf/Millbank Tower and jumps off. Halfway down he hears a phone ringing. That would never happen to me. One: that phone is just a message saying how you can recover excess bank charges or can declare yourself insolvent using a little known piece of legislation. Two: climbing all those stairs? I'd maybe get to the second floor, sit down, have a bit of a rest and then decide to rummage in people's desks for some porn. Then, and only then, I'd consider tossing myself off.

22 November 2008

Charlton 2 Sheffield United 5

It took seven minutes this time for Charlton to give away the first goal and for a while Charlton got back on level terms, but it was 1-3 at half time. The second half began disastrously, with an own-goal by Kelly Youga, and got worse. With more than half an hour to go, the score was 1-5. Pardew put the newboy Waghorn on, presumably with simple instructions - just go out there and score four goals, son. He did play a part in Charlton's second goal, and for a while a very unlikely comeback looked possible. The team began to play with a nothing-more-to-lose freedom and invention, but couldn't convert the chances. All in all it was a very open game with chances at both ends throughout the game - the score could easily have been 10-10. But it's a bad bad result, and even the fact that only a four goal deficit could free the team of their inhibitions, shows how badly motivated they are. Once again, the finger has to point at Pardew. Surely his time is running out. At time of writing I haven't seen any post-match comments. They'll be interesting.

20 November 2008

Where's the catch?

Still slow progress in the bathroom, but tonight builder has left a message on my answerphone along these lines: your bathroom is going to look so good [when it's finished] that we really think your living room should be decorated too [because it's currently a filthy dingy tip] and so, get this, we'll do it for nothing, for nothing, materials and labour inc, before Christmas, all you have to do is clear the room and put up with a bit more disruption. I can see one catch - there's clearly going to be some plastering needed, maybe £500 worth - but apart from that I just don't get it. The living room is a filthy dingy tip, true, but how long has builder been a charity? I'm delaying phoning him back, while I try to figure this out.

19 November 2008

A great score at Scrabble but

Olav Bjortomt is a massive figure in the world of quiz. Only 30, he's already got a wikipedia entry for his achievements. But the last two times I've seen him he's come second. Recently he had a disastrous first round in Mastermind (on West Indian cricket) and a brilliant second round wasn't enough to make good the deficit. And today, thanks to my early homecoming I caught the end of Are You an Egghead, which he was on. And he lost again. He would surely have been one of the favourites to go all the way. So even the mighty are affected by luck, and even the unlucky may be lucky one day. (This has been entry number one in the world of quiz thread in this blog.)

On the train, I said I'm on the train

I'm writing this on the train, not because I've got anything to say, but simply because I can. This is thanks to the mobile internet connection, which seems to be working really well, here at Charing Cross. I'm on the way home from a file inspection in West London.

Today, like everyone, I've been enjoying the discomfiture of the BNP. The Guardian has produced a useful map showing where not to live in Britain. Last night I searched the list for SE6 postcodes - there were only 3, which isn't bad. It's one good thing about Catford, I think, that there aren't any seriously monocultural areas, everyone has neighbours of all kinds, which makes it hard to maintain ignorant prejudices. Probably the worst prejudice these days is against East Europeans - because like any first wave of immigration they tend to be young single men who stick together and don't speak much English. While I was in West London I toyed with the idea of finding a Polish builder but the Ravenscourt Park newsagent no longer has the small ads boards that used to attract a crowd of Polish workers. I guess it's the result of legal action, or might it reflect the fact that Poles don't want our devalued sterling anymore and are all going home?

18 November 2008

Close the door, they're coming through the window

So, the door was hung yesterday. It's a very nice door and I'm very happy with it. But today, my builder slammed the door and the bottom rail of the adjacent window fell off. So that will need replacing. But builder too is getting fed up with how long this is taking - it seems my bathroom is stopping him from dealing with other people's jobs, so he's just going to patch it up. Oh lord I don't want to use him again. For so many reasons. One, this bloody bathroom is taking forever. It's not entirely his fault, but days go by when nothing seems to have been done - like today. Two, he's such a bleeding drama queen. He loves it when difficulties arise, loves recounting them to me and showing how resourceful he is in overcoming them. Just fucking get on with it! Three, as time's gone on he and his crew have got increasingly untidy in their work. Today when I got home, apart from finding nothing had been done, I found he'd spread dust sheet over a stretch of living room carpet, but it was on top of a new stain. Did he think I wouldn't notice? But then again all of this is probably in the standard builder's job description.

17 November 2008

About redundancy

I haven't discussed this much - the strand of this blog that covers my possible early retirement. The background is that evil govt has slashed my employer's budget for the year beginning in April 2009, so there have to be redundancies. When this was first mentioned, I got the figures for what I could expect. As I'm over 50 if I took VR I'd be entitled to collect my pension. It's not a huge amount but it's probably surviveable. At least it would provide a nice background income, enabling me to work from time to time. I'd also of course get a fairly large lump sum of redundancy money and pension. In those days, I imagined this would earn me some interest, but that seems less significant now. I can't believe they're seriously talking about 0% - is the whole world forsaking usura?

Anyway, I formally applied and today we were due to hear the outcome. It seems that so many people have applied for VR that whatever happens there will be no need for compulsory redundancies. This probably means that some of those who've applied for VR won't get it. There's a complicated points scheme to select them. We won't know anything more until probably January, when the final budget figure is given to us by evil govt. So there's a chance I will have to keep working after all.

In other news, my Brain of Britain was broadcast today. It still seemed to me that the other people got easier questions! But I was amazed that I got one question (what's the name of the biggest satellite of some planet?) right - where did that answer (Ganymede) come from? I can't even remember the name of the planet now. And I am glad that three of my correct answers were the following: Fidelio, Leporello, Elgar's 1st Symphony. Come on, Counterpoint, I'm ready for yuh.

14 November 2008

Let there be a light fitting

My word, the bathroom seems to be taking forever. Every day is so exciting. Will there be any detectable change when I get home?

One problem is that the extensive replastering is taking a long time to dry out, as it's not been that warm and I can't leave windows open much, so that's holding up everything else. On Tuesday night at about 7 my builder arrived with a lot of bustle and cleared out all the plastering equipment to make way for the rest of the team and went to Wickes and came back with the new door. On Wednesday, nothing much seems to have happened. Yesterday, the door was still in its wrapping, propped up against my desk but the light fitting had been installed and a new door frame was in place.

Sad thing is, I'm getting used to life without a bathroom or living room. I've gone beyond turning into my mum and am now her grandmother.

09 November 2008

The boy's doing well

When some players leave the club, they leave a bitter taste. Worst recent example being Danny Murphy, I suppose, who always acted as if he was too good for little old Charlton, even though he only put in a decent performance once in every three games. How we laughed when, even when most of the Spurs squad was struck by a mystery bug, he still didn't get into the team.

But Darren Bent was different. Always a perfect gentleman on and off the pitch, we were really sorry to see him go (but glad of the money). At times it's looked as if we pulled off the heist of the century in getting £16m for him, and at times it's been good to laugh at Spurs (it's always good to laugh at Spurs). But now with 5 goals in the last two games it looks as if he's finally making a mark - probably thanks to an infusion of confidence from Appy Arry. I couldn't be happier for him, and hope he keeps it up and gets back in the reckoning for an England place.

Meanwhile, my boys seem to have had a bit more pep and moxie about them, coming back from behind to almost win at Plymouth. Two weeks before the next home game, and by then I may even have a working bathroom!

08 November 2008

Grey

A grey saturday, brightened only by the drying shades of plaster on the bathroom wall and the hilarious jigsaw of plasterboard pieces on the ceiling. My once-beloved Charlton are in faroff Plymouth this afternoon. I had considered the trip, not so much for the football but for a weekend away, but they'll have to lose without me.

And you'll notice I'm now carrying advertising. I am strictly instructed not to solicit clickage, so please don't! After the last pension-based post, you can bet they'll be very dull. I'm not expecting to make a fortune, although you might occasionally CAROL VORDERMAN NAKED find a slight change in my editorial policy. When I first set up my toolkit website (brianhaines.co.uk/toolkit) I put an Ask Jeeves box on it, and forgot about it. Sometime last ARE THESE REALLY BRITNEY'S NIPPLES? year they closed my account and sent me a cheque for £3.54, which is so far my total earnings from tinternet.

04 November 2008

A rite of passage

This evening I am officially a grown-up. I had a meeting with a man from the Pensions Fund and as a result have acted swiftly to maximise my tax advantages in the time before I expect to early-retire. Basically it's this: I've requested that half my salary from now on goes into an AVC - additional voluntary contribution. It means the pay is tax-exempt, but I can't get at it until I retire - ie, if the plan works, in April. Then I claim it as a taxfree lump sum payment, which will mean I will have lawfully avoided paying nearly £2000 in income tax. It's also a fairly extreme way of forcing myself to save some money, and should give some idea of what life after work will be like.

And it's with the Prudential. I love the Pru ever since the surprise they gave us after Mum died. She had an old, penny-a-week, life policy with them, that had long been considered paid up. I remember the charming young man from the Pru who used to call every fortnight to collect the premiums. Mum's policy had been sitting in a cupboard with a face value of about £50. I sent in the claim and somewhere in the Pru's cupboards was their fading copy, which in the meantime had increased in value to about £2000. Mum would have loved that!

02 November 2008

Oh no, flashbacks

Like a bad trauma, yesterday's horrors have been replaying in my mind throughout the day, but I'm trying to put it behind me. Just wish to add this thought: if two or three players are underperforming, it's their fault; if the whole team is, it's the manager.

But a beautiful day today! I drove to the coast (Ramsgate) for lunch, through patchy sometimes thick fog on the M2, into a clear fresh seasidey day. Fishnchips from Pete's Fish Factory and a stroll through the town looking for personal landmarks: a particular restaurant and a particular bookshop, both closed, both looking slightly mad. Ramsgate is actually quite lovely to look at if you ignore the obvious deprivation, which you can't, and the evidence that a substantial number of the inhabitants are halfbarking, which is less obvious.

And even better was the drive back through the northdowns at their sunny autumnal best. Oh I love and hate Kent.

01 November 2008

Charlton 1 Barnsley 3

Does a Saturday afternoon get any worse? Torrential rain and - something I think I might be saying a few more times this season - the worst performance I've seen from Charlton since relegation. At least they wasted no time, going one nil down after just two minutes to a poorly defended freekick. After 17 minutes Barnsley took one of the worst corners you'll ever see. It ran tamely to one of our boys (Ambrose, I'm sorry to say), who calmly (and very sportingly) gave it back. Nicky Weaver fumbled his save from da Silva's shot and Macken put it away. It was all over by half time as once again a poorly defended free kick caught Weaver hopelessly out of position as a header from Moore looped over him.

Second half saw no improvement. A spell of maybe 15 minutes when the players looked interested but otherwise it was rubbish. Even though most of the crowd had left by the end, the booing was long and loud.

I think it has to be Pardew's fault. At times, rare times, admittedly, all of these players have shown quality, but as a team they are clueless. No doubt he'll be saying we need a few more players. He's wrong, and it only makes the players we've got feel even worse about themselves.

We're now in a relegation position and playing like this, that's where we'll stay.

PS (after previewing) It seems I've forgotten to mention Charlton's goal. Apparently there was one.

Progress?

Well, the guts are better, following the unusual remedy of a night in the pub. As for the bathroom, Thursday night was encouraging to find the basecoat on the walls complete, but basically sod all seems to have been done yesterday. At least another week of this then. Football this afternoon - probably a report here later.