28 September 2010

Charlton 1 Pseudoclub Fakeplastics 0

I've been to Milton Keynes. It's not as bad as you think. But the best thing about MK is that it's really easy to get from there to London. A fast train service to Euston and you can rejoin civilisation. There's a decent motorway, and probably cheap coaches. So you'd expect a few more than 150 away fans to make the trip. MK Dons really are the anti-Charlton, a club with no history, no loyalty and apparently no fans. I'm really glad we beat them.

It was a rubbish match, to be honest, rescued by the first Charlton goal for Paul Benson, made by a superb cross from Kyel Reid. The team still locked shell-shocked after Saturday's debacle, but after the goal seemed more settled.

Meanwhile, in the programme, young player Yado Mambo was asked about his car. He said "I've seen a car I like, a Volvo C30, which I'd like to get some day." You can get one for about £16,000. The days of Baby Bentleys are long gone.

26 September 2010

Charlton 2 Dagenham & Redbridge 2

I don't want to go into the question of whether it was a penalty (it wasn't), but it turned the game around and it shouldn't have. D'n'R were absolutely hopeless in the first half, the worst team I've seen in ages. Charlton were playing some lovely football, although it might be symptomatic that the goal came from Llera at a set-piece.

But then that penalty - which was, to be fair, brilliantly taken - and you had to wonder what Parkinson would make of that at half time. The clear message he needed to give was that the team just needed to continue playing the way they were and goals would come. Or he could have used the obvious sense of injustice to stoke up the team. Don't know what he said, but in the second half the team looked defeatist from the start. The movement and interplay was gone. DnR began to play, when they weren't wasting time, and always looked the more likely team to score, especially with Llera having a really bad day in defence. Charlton managed to get a goal with their only real chance right at the end, then dozed off to let DnR get the equaliser that their pathetically small band of travelling fans treated like the greatest victory since General Wolfe at Quebec*.

It raises questions about Parkinson's management. How could he not prevent that total collapse in confidence? The first half showed that the players are good enough; on the whole he's assembled a good squad with negligible resources. But the failure to get them to give a consistent performance is more and more worrying.

*I visited Quebec House in Westerham this summer. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham lasted about as long as a football match, and changed North America for ever. Next time an American says "If it wasn't for us, you'd be speaking German", say "If it wasn't for us, you'd be speaking French. With an atrocious accent."

25 September 2010

All those years of education

I've got a lot of time for the Church of England. It's often attacked for wishywashyness, but isn't that preferable to hateful certainty? But, oh dear, here's what the Archbishop of Canterbury has apparently just said:
I think if I were to say my job was not to be true to myself that might suggest that my job required me to be dishonest and if that were the case then I'd be really worried. I'm not elected on a manifesto to further this agenda or that. I have to be someone who holds the reins for the whole debate. To put it very simply, there's no problem about a gay person who's a bishop. It's about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe. So there's always a question about the personal life of the clergy.
Obviously, obviously, he's a good man trapped.

21 September 2010

Spot the difference

I don't claim to be particularly clever, but my prediction about the Kill the Pope bomb plot came true. And papers like the Express have clearly admitted they got it wrong. Another possible attack on the Pope has been uncovered as the BBC reports.

But while last time around, we almost immediately knew that the alleged plotters were Algerian, and Muslim (and let's face it, that was all we needed to know), this time there's no word on what Ms Lunney's nationality or religion might be. So far, the Mail and Express don't seem to be covering this story at all. Obviously, they're waiting to get the facts straight before they splash it on the front page. Obviously.

(Today's heavy sarcasm is brought to you by the colour red.)

18 September 2010

A prediction

Flipping through the channels last night, trying to avoid popovision, I saw both the BBC's and the ITV's reporters talking about the arrest of six street cleaners on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack against the Pope. Both of them quite carefully explored the possibility that the six might be innocent* but that the Police had to take the suspicion seriously and investigate fully.

This is somehow different from what usually happens, when the reporters talk about a sense that a major attack has been averted, a huge conspiracy revealed. It's clear what happens then: an unattributable police source leaks or briefs the reporters, so although no-one actually says these people are guilty, police and press are happy to let that impression be given.

Something of this is visible in The Sun today, which quotes a "security source" as saying "Information was given on Thursday night of alleged conversations in which the assassination of the Pope were discussed in detail." That's weak, compared to what we've seen before. (And ungrammatical - but when you combine a security source and a Sun reporter, that's the least you expect.)

I can't help thinking the "sources" are preparing the media for the news that nothing was found. Maybe some of the men will be prosecuted for immigration offences, but, I predict, that'll be it. We'll never find out what the information was, or whether the response was proportionate. Those sources will hint at what might have been, and the media will happily repeat it. What a lovely democracy we live in.

*Of course, they are innocent, you know, legally.

17 September 2010

Fighting the deficit with the aid of astrology

Astonishingly, government has ignored my earlier proposal to raise revenue through personalised NINOs and postcodes. Nevertheless, here's a new idea: get sponsorship for the signs of the Zodiac, and sell the right for companies to rename them.

Imagine how much major companies would pay to get their product names in every paper every day for a single (but huge) annual payment. The obvious buyer would be Ford - they've already got cars called Taurus and Scorpio - and they could rename each of the other signs with the names of one of their other models. For example, Capricorn could be renamed Cortina Mk II (your lucky colour is Andalusian Tan, you are sluggish in the mornings and reluctant to be turned away from your chosen path). And no-one would have to face the tired jokes that inevitably now follow the words "I'm a Virgo". To be able to say "I'm a 6-wheeled Box Transit" instead would be much easier. I feel this is a chance to bring the ancient science of astrology into the 20th century. Admittedly, it's not clear if this country owns the rights to the Zodiac, but that's a legal quibble others can settle.

If the legal difficulties prove impossible, let's just auction off the names of the months. I can see Kelloggs being interested here. February is obviously Rice Krispies month, while September, the harvest month, has to be All Bran. What do you think? Would you like your birthsign to be renamed, and if so, to what?

12 September 2010

Charlton 1 Notts County 0

This was a pretty terrible game, but maybe payback for all those games when Charlton have wasted chances and given away a late goal. Because that's exactly what County did. They had two of the worst misses you'll ever see, and a penalty saved. And the really good thing is that Lee Hughes was to blame. I hadn't picked up his back story before. He was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and served three years in prison. While I suppose you must allow that people, even ex-convict, murdering footballers, must be allowed to work again after they've completed their sentence, you don't have to like them. And his actions in leaving the scene of the accident seem all too familiar of footballers' arrogance.

More reason to dislike him: right in front of me, early in the second half, he got a slight touch to the face from Racon, I think, and went down (a few seconds later) as if he'd been hit by Mike Tyson. It was a clear attempt to get Racon sent off. In the event, he didn't even get a yellow card. Either he had been hit, in which case Racon should have been off, or Hughes was faking it, in which case he should have been booked. But another in the stream of useless third division refs did neither.

An 85th minute goal from Anyinsah, in his first match for Charlton, and in Charlton's first real chance of the afternoon, nicked the points. County will feel robbed, but as we know all too well, when you get chances you have to take them (acknowledgment due to Motty's Big Book of Football Clichés).

08 September 2010

Two wheels good ...

A couple of weeks ago, I took my first ride on one of the hire bikes in London. (They're often called "Boris Bikes" but can't we anticipate the next mayoral election and call them "Oona Cycles" instead?) It was just a short ride, from Waterloo to Pimlico, on a heavy bike, but in that half hour I rediscovered the joy of cycling. Which is simply this: every so often, you get to freewheel down a hill with the wind blowing through your scalp. And there's that sense of freedom, much more than you get in a car: the ability to venture down any sidestreet and discover something you've never seen before.

It was obvious I was going to get a bike of my own before too long, and today was that day. Just around the corner from me, there's a long-established bike shop astonishingly still thriving, it seems, as a family business, with a website you could consider as charming or amateurish according to your taste.

But you just know it's the kind of place you can go to and say Tell me what kind of bike should I buy? and they'll sort it out.

I knew I wanted a folding bike. Actually, that had been a hard decision. Folding bikes are always compromises. But when I last had a bike, it got to be quite a nuisance, dragging it though the house to the backyard. And obviously the key advantage of a foldie is that you can easily take it on a train or put it in the car. When I last had a bike, I didn't seem to mind cycling through miles of suburb to reach country lanes. I don't think I want to do that now. I also wanted a rack: this bike has to get me to shops and back, cutting out unnecessary car trips.

I had looked at the charming/amateurish website and seen that Dahon seemed a decent brand. This morning, I got a letter confirming that my mortgage endowment, which will mature next month, will give me a tasty cashback, so I felt rich and went to the shop.

The brilliant assistant listened to my requirements, and then said that a Ridgeback Envoy was essentially a Dahon machine assembled by Ridgeback, and was £40 cheaper. And although I guess Dahon is a cooler name than Ridgeback (which I associate with dodgy mountain bikes and hybrids) I couldn't see any reason to go for the more expensive option.

Final good omen: while I was in the shop my neighbour Steve, with whom I forged a bond when he was painting my kitchen and I discovered he's an addick, came in; turns out he's working there three days a week. 

I had expected to have to order a bike, but they had it in stock. I had expected to have to wait a day for it to be assembled and checked out, but they did it while I waited. Within an hour, I left the shop £500 lighter but with a bike, lights, helmet and lock - all I need to get started.

I was shaking with excitement when I got home! (I had wheeled the bike back, so trembly was I.) I had to calm myself down by eating (well, it was lunchtime). At 3pm I went for my first ride on a bike of my own for maybe, at least, 15 years.

Catford is a flat area, which is fortunate. The few small hills I climbed were a real challenge to my unaccustomed muscles. So I did little more than cycle down to the local Sainsbury's and back. Yes, it was fun, but harder than I'd expected. I'd never have got so sweaty 15 or was it more years ago. But I know it'll get easier.

It's a mad time of year to buy a bike. Just after I got in, the sky darkened and it poured down for an hour. But it's a good time of life to buy a bike. I don't need to cycle at all, so I can choose my times. In half an hour on a train I can be in the North Downs, or better still beyond them, in the cyclist-friendlier Weald.

Everything's great, then? Not quite. In my time in the bike shop I fell in love again with bicycle parts. This is a strange perversion, but it hits lots of people. Once you've got a bike, there's always modifications you can make, something you can change. Slippier tyres, a sexier saddle. I can see myself being drawn into that, and by next spring, if I haven't bought a lighter, whippier bike, I'll be quite surprised.

But yeah, right now, everything's great.