29 November 2011

Charlton 2 Vincibles 0

All the Sky hype before the game had apparently been about "high-flying" Huddersfield. Flying so high they were five points behind the leaders in league one, whoever they were, and in third place. But this was always going to be a crucial game. Sure enough, Huddersfield turned out to be the best team that's come to the Valley this season. The key to their hitherto-unbeatenness is their midfield: it really was superb, controlling the game for long periods. You can see how they can shut down most opposition.

Their player who usually gets all the attention is Jordan Rhodes. He's scored 13 in the league this season, so he's almost asgoodasbetterthanShaun, and I was looking forward to seeing him. I still am. He was largely invisible, and not in a good way. The sense is growng that we have, at last, a defence we can trust. And we needed it: Huddersfield got 10 corners to Charlton's nil, but the number of times they genuinely looked like scoring was tiny.

Charlton's first goal was a precise header to the top corner by Kermorgant that left the Terriers' keeper completely flat footed, and the second, by Hogan Ephraim, was the result of some quick thinking and fumbly goal-keeping. As usual, the opposition had started stronger, but that doesn't worry me any more. It's good that Charlton take the measure of them before taking control.

In the second half Huddersfield were mostly on top, and I got the sense that some of the Charlton players were feeling the pressure of the situation. But without any real scares they saw the game through, and the buzz around the ground at the end of the game was more jubilant than I can remember for a long time. Maybe the boxing day defeat of Chelsea all that time ago?

Chris Powell had tried to play down the importance of this game. Wisely, he wanted to take pressure off the players, and he's right that it's just game 19 with 27 more to play. But it felt momentous, as if Charlton had absolutely claimed their right to be on top of the league. Now they really are the team to beat. (And my pre-season bet on Charlton to be champions at 11.5 is looking good. The latest price is around 2.6.)

Selected other views
Guardian report (Don't usually see them here. It's a good report with interesting reader feedback. The Independent's report is all about Huddersfield's broken record, so I'm not linking to that. If the Telegraph has a report, it's too well hidden for me.) match report
Huddersfield website report
Wyn Grant (magisterial, as always)

23 November 2011

Donate a coat

Here's one of the stupidest statistics you'll ever read:
Recent research shows that more than 1.2 million people over 60 in the UK agree that having a warm coat is a good thing during winter.
Let's think how they got that figure.There's around 12 million people over 60 in the UK. So either they asked 1.2 million people the same stupid question before they got bored with getting the same stupid answer, or they asked a sample, and scaled up the response. That would mean that 1 in 10 over sixties agreed with the value of a warm coat. And the rest didn't?

Anyway, the unreferenced and meaningless research is connected to ITV's "Donate a coat" campaign. The idea is that people with too many coats donate one of them, so that the Salvation Army can give it to someone who needs it. Sounds fair enough but hang on a minute ...

So far, they've collected around 2,500 coats. Presumably there's a target of, say, 50,000. That means they're estimating there are 50,000 people in the UK - a relatively rich and relatively cold country - who can't afford a warm coat. That's a national disgrace. If they really believe it, shouldn't they be doing something to change it? "But they're not allowed to be political." But they're being political: making a statement that 50,000 people are living below the most basic standard, but that's OK. Here, have a coat in exchange for a little dignity. You're old and/or poor: how do you expect to actually buy a coat of  your own?

As an illlustration of how charity can be demeaning and reactionary, it could hardly be bettered.

22 November 2011

Grey days and browning leaves

If not winter, it seems autumn is properly here. Not the nice autumn, where chilly sunshine illuminates the last red leaves, but nasty autumn, where permanent drizzle makes everything grey. Every day is a staying-in day, and so it's time to start getting a bit studious again.

Luckily, there's a booksale to help with that. I've written before about the Blackheath Amnesty booksale, held in June. I didn't know they also have one in autumn, but they do, and it was on Saturday, and here are the books I picked up.

First, two pretty volumes of Verlaine published by Editions de Cluny in 1947/48. I'm sure I've got some Verlaine already but couldn't resist these, and look at the generous, elegant and timeless typesetting:
Then two writers whose names end in -o. (That's really the only link I can find.)
Ionesco seems to have gone out of fashion these days. This is a 1960 edition, with many of the browning pages still uncut. The original reader didn't get past the first two plays. I've never (I think) read any Ionesco, but I've just read the opening of La Cantatrice Chauve, which has made me laugh out loud. Here's my translation.
Scene 1
English middle-class interior, with English armchairs. English evening. Mr Smith, Englishman, in his English armchair and his English slippers, smokes an English pipe and reads an English newspaper by the English fire. He has English spectacles, a small grey English moustache. By his side, in another English armchair, Mrs Smith, Englishwoman, is darning some English socks. A long English silence. The English clock strikes seventeen English times.
MRS SMITH: Oh! It's nine o'clock. We have eaten soup, fish, potatoes and English salad. The children have drunk English water. We have eaten well tonight. That's because we live in the outskirts of London and our name is Smith.  
Perhaps I'm just easily pleased.

You would think you can guess quite easily when the Ariosto was published: it's such a 70s design. But the print was 1994, which surprises me.

Next, just because I feel I ought to have read more Pushkin:
And finally, because any help is welcome:
"New"? It was published in 1969 (when Ez was still alive), spent its life in a Greenwich library, and judging by its condition, didn't get out much. Unsurprising, given the terrible, terrible cover design.

So plenty of improving literature to read during these dark damp months. Only time will tell if I actually do.

12 November 2011

The handwritten Bible

I'm not sure what to make of this latest flowering of celebrity culture. It's a project to complete a hand-written Bible. The obvious question is why, and allegedly it's to reconnect the British public with the Bible. And of course these days that means there has to be a celeb element. As the Guardian puts it, there is a "celebrity verses" section, with remaining verses written out by the public. And that may be the real purpose: to give celebs the chance to project a nice image of themselves, while the proles get landed with the lists of dietary laws and all the smiting and begetting.

David Cameron has chosen some of Paul's less contentious advice:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
Even I can't find anything to complain about in that. Apart from the mention of God, of course. Prince Charles has gone for Genesis Chapter 1 verses 1 and 2. The Guardian links this to his environmental concerns. Balls. It's our future king's way of saying "By hook or by crook, I'm first in this book."

So, readers, Christian or otherwise, which verses of the Bible would you choose to contribute?

07 November 2011

FIFA gets something right

More poppy madness, I'm afraid, and some people might like to look away now. I've just read a tweet that says "The world has gone mad" because FIFA won't let the England football teams have a poppy design on their shirts for their game against Spain on Saturday. (Guardian story here.)

Here's the first provocation, which I feel I should whisper. The world's gone mad when people think footballers should wear a poppy design on their shirt. To amplify on my earlier view, it seems that remembrance these days is all about putting your feelings on display, with the implication that you can't be sincere unless you're wearing a poppy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for about 3 weeks. It's like a few years ago, when everyone was encouraged to wear a pink ribbon to show their opposition to breast cancer. As if anyone is in favour of it... England's footballers can express their views perfectly well without wearing a poppy symbol on their shirts. They could be silent on the morning of 11 November. They could go to a remembrance service next Sunday. They could donate their match fee to the appeal. And there will in any case be a minute's silence before the game.

And here's the even more shocking view: I think FIFA is right. Their rules say that a national team can't change its kit without approval, and that in particular the kit shouldn't carry any "political, religious or commercial messages". It's debatable whether the poppy symbol is a political message. Lots of people would say it is, in that it implicitly condones militarism. I'm not sure. But I think it's right to be careful about these things, and it's better that FIFA should ban anything that looks remotely like a political symbol, rather than get into a discussion of what is and what isn't. I really don't want Sepp Blatter making that kind of decision (or any decision at all, in an ideal world).

Funnily enough, it seems the organisers of the poppy appeal agree with me. A British Legion spokesman says: "We appreciate that showing support is not always possible under some regulations and we would never seek to impose ourselves in these situations."

So, in one morning I've found myself agreeing with FIFA and the British Legion, and disagreeing with (apparently) the vast majority of football supporters. I need to go and lie down. 

05 November 2011

Charlton 5 Preston 2

Looking at the Charlton team at the end of the match, you wouldn't have thought they'd just won 5-2 and gone five points clear at the top of the table, the first team in the league to reach 40 points. They looked vaguely disappointed, presumably at giving away the two late goals. Possibly they were also fearing Chris Powell's post-match comments.

What does that tell you about the spirit in the team this season? They aren't satisfied with anything but the best, and are driving each other onwards. It's easy to believe this is stemming from Powell, who's built the team around his vision, with players who can sign up to it. Like the defeat at Stevenage, you feel he'll use those two goals to draw even better performances out of the team.

Once again, the game was over by half-time after an immaculate performance. It's all about patience and sudden bursts of creative play, and Preston were nowhere near good enough to withstand it. In the second half they played with a bit more freedom - the result of having nothing more to lose - but it was Charlton's switching off that gave them the chances to score.

The fans didn't care about Preston's two goals, to be honest.  We'll be happy if we get a three goal advantage in every game.

It'll be interesting to see how the Football League Show manages to fit the seven goals into the usual 20 seconds. Sooner or later they're going to have to use a split screen so they can show two goals at the same time.

Other views (the pun du jour is "fireworks")
Charlton web site review
Charlton Casual