26 September 2009

Charlton 2 Exeter 1

The kind of game that makes fans say "A win's a win", and managers say"It's sometimes important to win even if you're not playing well". By which you'll understand it wasn't pretty.

Charlton were completely dominant in the first half, but didn't really look threatening. So much possession, so many well-placed crosses, but very few clear chances. The goal, about 4 minutes before the break, was messy but at least, you thought, it means the nerves will be calmed.

And so they should have been, but in the second half, for some reason, Charlton decided to sit deep, rather than build a convincing win. It handed the initiative over to Exeter and gradually they took control, while Charlton grew disjointed. But a goal about five minutes from time seemed to have settled it: a gift from Exeter's keeper to Izale Macleod. Very near the end, Exeter scored the consolation they deserved.

Charlton will play better and lose, I'm sure of that, but they did enough to get through. Two very tough games coming up: Colchester then Leeds away, and the result of those games may be crucial for the outcome of the season.

24 September 2009

London Liter

Poster at Charing CrossSince The London Paper closed down, it's noticeable that London Lite isn't distributed any more around Charing Cross station in the evenings, presumably to encourage people to buy the Standard instead. As there's more chance of me spending the homeward journey sticking pins in my eyes, I find I now have time to read, and at present I'm reading Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth and I've written some initial thoughts on the other blog.

Meanwhile, someone at Charing Cross has come over all passive-aggressive. It really is the kind of notice you'd expect to find in a shared student kitchen, and that use of the phrase 'high proportion of persons' entirely gives away the character of the designer of the poster. I've nothing against stopping smoking in the station, but this is ugly and mean.

21 September 2009

Thank you, colleagues. Can I go now?

Today saw the official speeches and presentation to mark my leaving (I still find it impossible to call it retirement). Never mind that I've got a week to go, it happened today because J, my fellow leaver, won't be back. I'm in denial about that because I really will miss her. She's one of the first people I met when I started this job, and she's been the ideal example of a good worker and a good colleague. She's the kind of person who ought to get a speech of thanks by management every year. I hope she wasn't surprised by the warmth and respect that was shown to her today. I can't think of anyone I've ever worked with who is so loved by her colleagues.

As for me, I've got a big card full of warm wishes and a new camera. It's tiny but lovely, a Canon Ixus 95. Well done, Tom, taking the hint that my Amazon wishlist might be a good place to look! According to the specification, this camera is cleverer than me. It can recognise faces. Good, maybe it can tell me who the person on the train tomorrow is, the one I will be sure I've met before. It can eliminate shake, detect blinking, and focus automatically. That's more than I can do most days.

17 September 2009


Training yesterday in the Ramada Hotel, near Maidstone. Effective complaint handling for a group of children's services managers from Kent County Council. It's not a course I've done very often, and the case study is still really unfamiliar to me, and horribly complicated. I always feel a bit inadequate, since the participants all know much more about the subject than I do. So I end up flattering them shamelessly. Which works. I had brilliant feedback, maybe the best ever, and a fantastic quote for our publicity: something like "Not over-theoretical but grounded in reality and experience". Which is exactly our USP.

I'll really miss the training sessions, probably more than any other part of the job. To my surprise, it turns out I really love being the centre of attention, having a room full of people looking at me, hanging on my every word, occasionally laughing when I want them to. It makes it easy to understand the addiction and madness of stand-up comics: the buzz of it is like a drug but it can disappear so quickly that there's always a huge vulnerability. It also makes me annoyed with people who think it's easy to engage an audience. It isn't - it takes practice and "reality and experience". I remember the destruction of Johnny Vaughan's comic talent on The Big Breakfast where he was furnished with an audience of runners and technicians who laughed at everything he said as if their jobs depended on it. It ruined a real talent. He never developed connection and timing. The comparison is stretched, but comedians can't improve if they never face a hostile audience. I've been training for about three years, and I'm still learning how to do it.

I've one more session booked, the first of the ones I'm intending to do as free-lance. It's on 5 October, and it's in Slough. How can I possibly get through that day without mentioning David Brent? I won't take my guitar.

16 September 2009

How to react?

Just talked to an elderly neighbour who I haven't seen for a few years. She used to talk incessantly about cats. But today this:
"My husband died on the first of the month ..."
"Oh I'm sorry ..."
"He wasn't ill. No. He had high blood pressure inside his heart and it crumbled his heart from inside and he had a cardiac arrest. I took him in his coffee on Tuesday and there he was. Funeral on Friday. Two and a half grand."
And she walked away.

12 September 2009

Charlton 1 Southampton 1

A hot day, and a hot reception for Alan Pardew on his first appearance at the Valley since that dreadful 5-2 defeat. It's still not clear exactly what the inside story of his reign was, and why it went so bad. The obvious explanation is that he simply used too many players, never allowing any coherence to develop, but you can't help wondering if there was some touch of madness about him, which prevented him developing good relationships with some of the players. Best chant of the day was "Alan Pardew, Alan Pardew, you're not super any more!".

And his team were so dirty! Lloyd Sam was announced this morning as the player of the month in league one. Which is justified, but it makes other teams pay more attention to him. Obviously Pardew knows Sam's style of play very well, and his tactic seemed to be to foul him whenever necessary. The match was badly controlled by the referee. He did nothing to stamp on this persistent foul play, and the game got quite nasty in the second half, with five bookings.

Charlton started nervily, perhaps picking up the crowd's sense of the importance of the game. In the first half they failed to impose their midfield control and it wasn't that surprising when Southampton took the lead shortly before halftime.

The second half was entirely different. Charlton drew level with a flukey goal soon after the restart, and the confidence to keep the ball down and pass it around came back. Should have won. Two goals were ruled offside. I think the first may well have been offside, but the second looked ok to me. Hope I'll be able to see it later. And there was a reasonable appeal for a penalty.

So the 100% record has gone. OK, it had to go sometime, but I wish it hadn't been against Pardew's shower of filth. We're still top of the league, and it was encouraging that the team recovered from the setback, and was able to find its shape.

09 September 2009

The ugliness of evil

Don't ask why, but this evening I've been looking at the website of the National Front. As a result, this post includes swearing.

I didn't think the NF still existed, but it does. Its main raison d'etre these days seems to be to criticise the BNP for being a bit namby-pamby bleeding-heart libby-wibby.

The racism, the sexism, the homophobia, etc aren't surprising. Depressing, yes, but what you'd expect. And they're honest:
the National Front would halt all non-white immigration into Britain and introduce a policy of phased and humane repatriation of all coloured people currently resident here
well, honest apart from that word 'humane'. And of course that unproblematic use of the word 'coloured'. And, unsurprisingly,
The NF would repeal the laws permitting homosexuality and its promotion.
There's a policy both inhumane and unrealistic. Any incidence of homosexuality will not be permitted. So half of Shakespeare's sonnets would have to be banned. But then, he fancied a 'dark lady', so what would you expect? Probably best to ban him entirely. And Oscar Wilde, obviously. Tennyson's suspect. And Dickens - have you ever pondered the subtext of David Copperfield's infatuation for Steerforth? Ban it!

What gives me most comfort, though, is not the sheer lunacy of the policies and the mindset behind them, but the total shit of the website design. Look at it! Just look at it! (Actually, don't look at it if you're at work!) Images squeezed into distorted boxes, text that you basically can't read because of the choice of colours and background, and animated images that take you back to the 1990s. Is the NF's membership so small that it can't even recruit a half-competent designer? Well, yes.

I remember the NF march through Lewisham in 1977. The NF site says:
[The march] was violently attacked by a large mob, possibly 10,000 strong, of Red rabble. Bricks, bottles, iron railings and other missiles were hurled at the patriots marching through Lewisham but the attempt to halt the Front failed - as it always does. Over 300 Marxists were arrested but not one NF member. Again the NF smashed its way into the national headlines!
You misunderstand, dear nazis. 10,000 people turned out to oppose you because you were evil and seen as a threat. The police arrested your opponents and protected you because that's what the police were like those days. These days you're no less evil, but no-one cares. You're history. And your website, like you, is really fucking ugly.

05 September 2009

Charlton 2 Brentford 0

A lovely sunny day again, with the early kick-off bathing the West Stand in unwonted sunshine, and although this was more of a challenge than the two previous home games, it still felt comfortable and Charlton sit at the top of the league with six wins out of six. Unless Leeds win by five or more, that's where they'll be this evening.

Brentford are the best team we've seen come to the Valley this season, with a number 7, Sam Saunders, who could probably do really well in a higher division, but at times Charlton played beautiful, unstoppable football, particularly in the build up to the second goal. It was thrilling to watch the ball being passed around so fluently in the midfield, and I was already on my feet when Lloyd Sam got the ball in space and made a cool job of finishing it. He got a well-deserved standing ovation when substituted. He's in the best form of his life.

The first goal had come from Deon Burton, it was less pretty but maybe more important as it may give him more of the striker's main need - confidence. He again played well throughout as a holding forward, but needed more help from someone running off him - I mean Jonjo Shelvey, who once again was disappointing. The buzz around him can't have helped his game, but he needs to forget about it and start making a nuisance of himself around opposition defences. Too often today he gave up too early. He was replaced by Izale Macleod with 15 minutes to go, who looked very lively, causing problems by running at the defence with the ball. It's the obvious thing to do, but too rarely happens.

Robert Elliot still doesn't look quite the finished product - his control of the area at dead balls sometimes looks uncertain - but he pulled off a wonderful save shortly before the end of the match.

So, on we go. The next game is Southampton at home, which we should win. So we'll have 21 points in mid-September, and kids will be asking where's their Easter egg.

02 September 2009

Dear David Howarth, MP for Cambridge

You will shortly be approached by a loud-voiced woman who dresses a lot like Hyacinth Bucket on a visit to the John Lewis soft furnishing department. Her name is Gillian and she probably comes from Beckenham or the Hayes area. She will doubtless mention her friendship with Bill Bryson, and ask if you can help find a car-park, possibly in Wolverhampton in two weeks time. She is likely to mention that she is a life member of the National Liberal Club. That's why she is counting on your help. Thought you should know this, because, thanks to a phone call and her loud voice, the rest of the bloody train carriage she was in this morning does. Thank you.

01 September 2009

Counting down

This is not an interesting post, tbh, just one of those people write to fill in the gaps.

The countdown really has begun now: in a month's time, I'll be retired. Retired! It hardly seems possible, I hear you gasp. At last, I've started running down the workload, but there's going to be lots left over. I've got yet another complaint about what qualifies a child to be a Catholic. I am becoming an expert. So I'll tell the story of why Pope John Paul II was not a Catholic.

There's a Catholic boys' school in London that is very popular. So it gives preference to Catholic boys, and defines catholicism quite stricly according to canon law. This says that a child should take First Communion as soon as possible after they reach the Age of Reason, and that the Age of Reason is 7. So for a boy to be Catholic, he has to take First Communion before he's 8. But in Poland, they do things differently. Children don't take Communion until they are 9 or 10. The school turned down an application from a Polish boy because of this. I found out that Pope John Paul II, educated in Poland of course, had not taken Communion until he was 9 or 10. At this, the school changed its mind.

But they were right. Canon Law seems really clear on this, and it's universal: local Churches really shouldn't change it. So the Pope was not a Catholic. Most of Poland - which you'd assume to be the most Catholic country in Europe - isn't.

Second reason for celebration is Charlton's successful passage through the transfer window. No important players going and a little bit of back-up coming in. Since my last post, the winning streak has gone up to five games - Charlton's best ever start to a season. (Last season, they didn't record their fifth win until January!) And the next two games (home to Brentford and Southampton) look entirely winnable. It's utterly bizarre and intoxicating.