Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Finally! Three points!

Today's soundtrack:  Wailing Souls - Most Wanted: Classic Cuts 1978-1984

Back to football today, in celebration of an increasingly rare event - an Everton home win!  Yes, it was only Burnley, and a Burnley reduced to ten men with half an hour to go at that, but I'll take that at the moment!

At the start of the day, I wondered whether the game would go ahead, if the fog blanketing Cheshire was at all widespread.  I'd have been sat in the Main Stand unable to see the near goal, never mind the Park End.  Happily the fog seemed to lift somewhere under the Mersey, and the ground was clear - if a touch crisp.  Happily the long johns had been called into service and my nether regions were reasonably snug for the duration.

The Bank Holiday brought about a capacity crowd, which was nice to see, although inevitably when the ground is full, the proportion of fuckwits in the crowd increases significantly - those who go to one or two games a year, get their football knowledge from Sky and have an opinion - usually wrong - on everything.  I don't know why they go, if they hate the players, the manager and the style of play so much.  I on the other hand would never shout expletives at the players on the pitch (hem hem).

Admittedly, it wasn't a day for the purist.  Burnley are a well organised spoiling team, and without particularly threatening themselves, were adept at restricting us to a) pretty passing moves that stopped short on the edge of the penalty area or b) long ball humps that came straight back to us.  Stalemate, and a first half that finished goalless, with very few chances.

And a very real chance that the second half would pan out exactly the same way.

Luckily, it didn't.  The game turned on a couple of incidents, just enough for Everton to make the breakthrough they just about deserved.  Firstly, Burnley had a man sent off for a second bookable offence - a silly tug on Steven Pienaar's shirt right in front of the referee.  Initially, Everton failed to capitalise on the extra man, persevering with the Yak up front by himself, supported by Tim Cahill and then Marouane Fellaini.  However as the game move into its final phase, Moyes brought James Vaughan on for Bily, and within a minute or two the lad had scored, a tap-in after the Yak had failed to convert.  Despite Yakubu looking suspiciously offside when the ball went in, the goal stood and - finally! - we had our noses in front.

The points were wrapped up in the final minute, when Pienaar squeezed a neat shot in at the near post following good support work from the Yak.  Three points, a nice climb up the table and a few more players coming back from injury.  Despite some tough games coming up, the future's feeling a bit brighter than it was before the game.

Plus points - the return of Neville and Vaughan, some neat approach play and the continuing improvement of Fellaini in a deeper-lying midfield role.  However we need to find a bit of ruthlessness up front to start converting draws into wins.  In a very tight league, every point will be valuable this year.

Incongruously, I'm typing this in sub-zero temperatures with some hot reggae playing in the background.  The Wailing Souls have been around for decades, but their best period is covered by this album, a dubbed-up collection of 12" mixes from the late seventies and early eighties.

Here's 'War' for your delectation.  Ire Ridim!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

...and relax...

Today's soundtrack:  Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On

I think you all know that the last month or so has been absolutely manic - lots of stress, lots of driving, lots of everything.

Well today that stops - for a time, at least.  Boxing Day.  Christmas out of the way, nowhere to be, nowhere to go.  Time to nest, kick back and chill.  The house needs a scrub, as do the cars, and in a week's time the Staines Run starts again for a couple of weeks - but for now - the world can stop turning for a bit.  You know it makes sense.

Another lovely Christmas yesterday - lie in, Buck's Fizz with the presents, phone calls from the family and all's well in the Waring clan.  In the afternoon, across to our kid's house, for more presents, lots of food and some good family chat.  I'm blessed with a wonderful family, no tension or strife, just people happy and relaxed in each other's company.  Spent most of the day (when I wasn't eating - mushroom and chestnut soup, smoked salmon and crab salad, turkey with all the trimmings, christmas pudding, profiteroles, since you ask) helping my nephew and niece get their new iPod Touches set up on iTunes, downloading games and music.  Nice to be involved and - for once - looking like I knew what I was doing!

So, home to settle down for the evening, to flop in front of a double Prison Break with some vintage port and a plate of cheese and biscuits, before retiring for the night.

And now it's early morning, Mrs W still in bed, cat fed and out playing, just Marvin and me getting it on.  But not in that way, of course.

When you are looking to chill out, who better to soundtrack that than Mister Lover Man himself.  Let's Get It On is quite possibly the raunchiest album made - smooth as silk and sweet as molasses.

Here's the man on Soul Train - Distant Lover.  Relax with Marvin, he'll cure your ills.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

...dressed in what they call "The Mode"...

Today's soundtrack - Depeche Mode - Songs of Faith and Devotion

(Especially for Kevin.)

A bitterly cold Manchester night.  Packed streets, last minute Christmas shopping for the masses, standing room only in the bars and restaurants of the city.

Met up with Kevin at the office, collected Ade and headed off to the Printworks for sustenance.  Hard Rock seemed appropriate, especially with the 'Mode on loop.  The staff obviously knew who tonight's headliners were!

A leisurely meal, waiting for Mark and Jane to arrive.  Then - eventually - off to the MEN.  Slightly nervous about missing the support band - after my unfortunate Joy Division incident I never miss support bands - but on this occasion I went with the flow (and luckily don't think we missed much.  Nitzer Ebb are the support on the next leg of the tour - now that would have upset me!)

Now I have to admit that I've never been the biggest DM fan.  Yep, I like the band, have a few albums, but have never seen them live and wouldn't necessarily turn to them first when putting the music on.  So to be going along with some really big fans was a bit unusual for me - it's normally me who knows all the songs and the trivia.  Not this time!

In our seats (seats!) in plenty of time for the main event, with a good view of the action.  After a build up of some thumping techno, the lights dimmed and on came the band.  Gore and Gahan out front, Fletch stood behind a keyboard, occasionally poking at a key or two, a drummer and a proper keyboardist.

Confidently (and bravely) the band started with three songs off the new album.  I guess you can do that when your fanbase is as loyal and devoted as theirs, but it did seem to get things off to a tentative start with the audience.  But with the fourth song - 'Walking in my Shoes' - things really got going.  One of my favourite DM songs, Gahan in good voice (as he was throughout) and the audience really woke up.

Other highlights - a thumping 'I Feel You', a delicate solo section from Martin Gore, and a rousing climax of ,Never Let Me Down Again', synchronised armwaving and all.  Back for a four song encore, inevitably climaxing with 'Personal Jesus'.

Enjoyed it immensely, even waving my arms around like a loon.  Dave Gahan is a perfect advert for a life of debauchery and substance abuse, Martin Gore is clearly more than a fey synth dilletante and Fletch is quite simply the luckiest man alive.  Kev asked me why they had stayed together so long - why indeed?  I suspect that being mates before they were a band is a large part of it - and also their ability to reinvent themselves, growing up as a band as they did as people, and finally I suspect their ability to release their personal pressures and concerns through their music.

Depeche Mode.  Grown up music for the masses.  Listen without prejudice.

Here's 'I Feel You' - filmed from the crowd on the night in question.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Travellin' Blues

Today's soundtrack:  Hindu Love Gods - Hindu Love Gods

Phew, what a week that was!  So much to talk about, we might have to split this blog over a couple of days.  I might even revert to daily postings over the Christmas break.  Or I might get a life instead - who can tell?

Firstly, the important stuff.

Matt was in hospital for six days in total, they let him out on Wednesday in the end.  After optimistic predictions of a Monday release were dashed (to his great disappointment) things moved on steadily until he was able to make good his escape.  I believe there is a half-dug tunnel behind one of the gent's toilets, if any current inmates are interested...

I got to see him on Sunday, when he was still in some discomfort and the drains from his neck were still draining steadily - and a lack of sleep was making him probably feel even worse than he was anyway.  But by Tuesday, when I got over for my final visit, the 'old' Matt back was again, one of the drains was out and the other was likely to follow imminently.

The body is a marvellous thing - cut it up, take bits out - but give it a couple of days and it steadily makes itself better, re-routing fluids and joining ends of cut flesh back together again.  Let's hope the self-healing process continues - with a bit of a nudge from the radiation in the New Year!

At the time of writing, Matt is back home, Facebooking and chilling.  Half the staples are out with the rest to follow on Monday.

Oh, and everyone who's emailed or otherwise passed on their thoughts, prayers and best wishes for Matt - thank you all, it's much appreciated and good to know that people - even complete strangers in some cases - have such generosity of spirit and goodwill.  You look for positives where you can at times like this, and this is certainly one of the biggest for me.

The stresses of the week were not confined to me - the car has been complaining more and more about the miles I have been subjecting it to, what with the weekly Staines run now augmented with a diversion or three to Bath.  Finally it spat its dummy out big time on the Tuesday night run to Bath and back.  An intermittent misfire now became permanent, preventing me getting above 2000 rpm and more pertinently - above 60 mph on the motorway (50 mph on any sort of uphill slope).  With my plans of nursing the car through the Staines project and getting it sorted in the New Year dashed, I had to get it fixed - and quick, otherwise I wasn't coming home at the weekend!

So - Wednesday morning, and I'm trawling the internet for local Nissan garages.  The nearest was in Shepperton, about 15 minutes drive away (or half an hour, with the car limping along at its current pace).  My plan was to leave Staines the following lunchtime.  What were the chances of getting it booked in, diagnosed and fixed within 36 hours?  Slim to none, I assumed.

But no, thanks to the good people at West London Nissan (free plug, chaps) the car was booked in Thursday morning, checked and fixed by lunchtime and I was checked out of the hotel and on the road by two thirty.  The rapidly arriving snow, coupled with my nervousness that the 'fix' may prove to be temporary, caused me to change my plan to detour across and see Matt so I headed home.  And got back without incident, thankfully.

Stress levels still hovering around the 'about to blow' indicator, I got in to see that in my absence, two parcels had been delivered and left a) with the neighbour and b) behind the bin.  Went out to the bin.  Nothing.  Looked in the bin.  Nothing (well, a load of rubbish, but you know what I mean).  Mrs W arrives home, not to a lovely welcome, but a tirade about the potential loss of half my Christmas shopping.  Bless her, she could obviously see I was on the verge of complete and utter breakdown and resisted the temptation to punch my lights out.  Instead, she knocked on the neighbour's door to find that not only did he have the parcel delivered directly to him, but had also taken in the parcel lurking behind the bin.  Panic over.

Mrs W then - sensibly - went out to another Christmas do, leaving me to slump in front of the telly, with drink and curry, to watch the Everton Under-11s take on the mighty BATE and slump to a creditable (but wholly irrelevant) 1-0 defeat.  It was nice to see the kids getting a runout, hopefully the experience will spur them on to fight for a regular position in the men's team in due course.  Adam Forshaw, Shane Duffy and Jamie Bidwell caught the eye of the new starters, and the old man, Carlo Nash, looked comfortable in goal.  They might not - yet - have the stature of the Arsenal kids, but they did not disgrace themselves either.

Today's soundtrack comes courtesy of the Hindu Love Gods, a one-off 'supergroup' comprising REM without Michael Stipe, but with Warren Zevon.  A drunken session of blues standards and other covers led to the album, which sounds like what it is - a group of mates relaxing (suitably refreshed) and having fun.  No classics, but 'good time' stuff  that brings a tap to the foot and a smile to the face.

Tell you what, you search for 'Hindu Love Gods' on YouTube and you get some funny stuff coming up.  What you don't get is any drunken blues.  So let's try something else!

Click on the DivShare player that should have mysteriously appeared below, and you'll hear the HLG's take on Prince's 'Raspberry Beret', and very fine it is too!

Oh, Kev - I'll get to the Depeche stuff over the weekend - I promise!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feeling Supersonic (Give me Gin and Tonic)

Today's soundtrack:  Oasis (of course)

The Boy won't be pleased about this but I've got to get it out of my system.  Sorry Matt.

Spent all day Friday at the hospital in Bath, waiting.

I'd arrived about half an hour after Matt went down to theatre.  A good thing, because I was having a bit of difficulty holding myself together and the last thing he needed was me fussing and fretting.  A bit of calmness from his Mum, a huge amount of maturity from him, and he was wheeled away, with me well out of it, battling the fog on the M4 and the mist in my eyes.

A nice touch on the way into the hospital, made me smile when I needed it.

"I'm looking for my son, he's having an operation today."
"Well, I can direct you to the childrens' ward sir?"
"Err, no, actually he's twenty."
"No, you don't look old enough sir..."

Well you get your positives where you can on a day like this, don't you?

I tracked down the day surgery and announced my presence to the girl on the front desk, and settled down to wait.  Could be 5-6 hours, they'd said.  Nothing was going to happen for at least that time, but where else was I going to be?  100 miles away in Staines?  200 miles away up north?

So I waited.  Drank coffee and ate doughnuts.
And waited.  Read my book.
And waited.

Matt's mum returned around four, and we sat and waited together.  Eventually some news began to filter through.

"First part of the operation finished, about two hours into the second part."
"Getting close, about 45 minutes to go.  All seems to have gone ok."

Then, finally, after eight hours of surgery, the news we'd been waiting and praying for.

"All finished, all fine, Matt's going into recovery now.  You'll be able to see him in an hour or so."

The second surgeon came to talk to us.  Yes, it took longer than anticipated, but no complications.  Just took a while to feel their way through the Waring Fat Neck and cut out all the Bad Things.  And all the indications are that they've got everything they need to get out - a big lump had to be removed, some other bits and pieces - but they managed to save some of the thyroid itself and it seems all major arteries, veins and nerves escaped untouched.

If there is any Bad Stuff left, the radiotherapy should sort all that out in a few weeks' time.

So finally, we got to see him.  He's going to have a cracking scar - no-one's going to mess with him round the pubs of Huddersfield, that's for sure!  Currently stapled together pretty much from ear to ear, tubes coming from orifices old and new, but - oh thank God - awake, breathing and talking.  With a raging thirst, of course.  Oh, and sadly lacking his collection of festival wristbands - they had to come off before the operation as well!

Spent about an hour and a half with him, then left him to sleep.  Lost it a bit again on the way out, but - finally! - pulled myself together before the long drive home.

Thank God Matt had the presence of mind to realise this was something he had to see the doctor about - and that they were quick to respond and get him in as soon as possible.  Thank God for the skill of the surgeons and the care on the ward.

Matt's still got a few hurdles to get over - not least the radiotherapy in the New Year - but this was the worst bit.  Let's hope the New Year brings good things - not the remorseless knocks and battles that 2009 subjected us all to.

You gotta walk, don't look back.

So today's soundtrack.  Nothing random today - for Matt, it has to be Oasis really.  But which song?  Well there can only be one.  A song of optimism, joy and defiance.

Maybe I just want to fly
I want to live I don't want to die
Maybe I just want to breathe
Maybe I just don't believe
Maybe you're the same as me
We see things they'll never see
You and I are gonna live forever

Take care, Matt.  Thinking of you always.  Gentle shoulder charge - Love you mate.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

As always, the Daily Mash is spot on...

RAFAEL Benitez last night said Liverpool have turned their 16th corner of the season and that this time everything was going to be grand.

The Champions League has introduced Benitez to some of Europe's most beautiful corners
As Liverpool went down to a final Champions League defeat by Fiorentina, Benitez said he was pleased with Alberto Aquilani's full debut and his ability to fit in to the team's style of play by running around looking confused and angry while achieving absolutely nothing.

The manager insisted: "We always start slowly in this competition, so being knocked out of it will really give us the motivation we need to go on and win it.

"We have turned many corners this season - some of the corners have led to more corners, while some of the corners have had little shops on them selling failure sandwiches.

"This latest corner seems to have led us into a dark alley that is filled with unstoppable zombies and their werewolf pals."

He added: "But I believe we have the quality to turn any corner that is thrown our way by the football-corner-throwing gods. Corners. Corrrrnerrrs. Thank you and good corners.”

Assistant manager Sammy Lee clarified Benitez's post-match comments, adding: "He has his lucid days and the kind of days where he buys Dossena. We're trying to work out a combination of medication that will stop him from mistaking Voronin for a footballer.

"In the meantime we just humour him by setting some training cones out on the pitch and telling him it's all the trophies he's won. It seems to calm him."

Club captain Steven Gerrard said: "The gaffer pointed out that if you turn a corner 16 times, you'll be facing the way you're meant to in the first place. To be honest, I just switch off these days and brush up on my Spanish. No, no reason."

Link here:  http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/sport/sport-headlines/liverpool-turn-corner-into-terrifying-alley-full-of-zombies-200912102300/

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Black Tie, White Noise

Today's soundtrack: The Who - Odds and Sods

Another early return home for the itinerant accountant this week, as Friday night was the big gala night out for the sales and marketing team from Mrs W's employers - a night out for which she'd somehow wangled an invite!

So - for the first time in a looong time - it was on with the monkey suit, the cufflinks and the dicky bow.  That's me, not Mrs W, by the way.  She had her new party frock on - it was red and long, fashion fans, with a pleaty bit on the front.  And very nice she looked, too.  By contrast, I could probably have done without sporting the extra chin which was rather obvious on the official photo...

I have to say that, despite these uncertain times, Mr W's company know how to put on a party.  Minor quibbles - the 'Liverpool Theme' involved all the table numbers being marked by a RED football shirt and the prominent Liverpudlians used to name the individual tables included only one with an Everton connection - and who now plys his trade in the Manchester area.

But we're not bitter.

Everything else was absolutely perfect - from the hamper and flowers in the room, the free drinks, carols, and the 'turns', to the full English breakfast the following morning.  The hangover was remarkably light, as well - all things considered...

Because we're not as young as we used to be, the rest of the weekend became an exercise in studied laziness, although there is the small matter of a football match to get myself along to this afternoon.  Not a good time to be playing Spurs, I fear.  But we'll see.

Short week in Staines was leavened by a final visit from Simon, his last week before his return to the daily grind - good luck for Monday, young man!  Not that you need it, of course.  We did the Jimmy Spice buffet thing again, which is highly recommended if you fancy a Chinese meal.  Followed immediately by an Indian meal.  With all the trimmings.


Watched 'The Damned United' this week in the hotel.  Bit of a strange one, really.  I enjoyed it while I was watching it, but at the end felt strangely dissatisfied.  I think it's a combination of things.  As a portrayal of the football world of the late '60s and early '70s, it is superb.  The impersonation of Brian Clough is, on occasion, spot on although occasionally veers off into camper territory than I remember from Cloughie.  But it's all a bit 'Mike Yarwood' on occasion as well.

I think I'd have enjoyed it a lot more if I'd not read the book first.  The book is a masterful portrayal of what *might* have been going on in Cloughie's head during those few days as manager of Leeds, pulls no punches when it comes to his developing alcoholism and is just a far more rounded portrayal of a very, very complex man than the film allows.  The story is about much, much more than Clough's enduring bitterness following a perceived snub from Don Revie back in the '60s when manager of Derby.  It is, however, better on the relationship between Clough and Peter Taylor, the ultimate breakdown of which is the real tragedy of Clough's life.

So.  See the film, then read the book.  Not the usual order, I grant you, but trust me on this one.

Today's 'white noise' comes from The Who - not one of their established albums, but 'Odds and Sods', a collection of - yes - odds and sods from their career, including their first single, 'I'm the Face', from their days as The High Numbers.

As always with these things, it's a bit hit and miss, but there are a few gems lurking amongst the, quite frankly, lightweight early b sides and covers.  Gems like this one - Water - which was only ever a 'b' side (to 5:15, I think) but was a feature of their live shows for many years.