Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I have made the ultimate sacrifice to save my team

And believe me - I have only done this for them.

NOT that they deserve it. We lost again last night, when one measly little point would have secured our League 1 place for another season. Oh no though - why would they want to put their pathetic little supporters out of their misery before Saturday? We are now faced with a trip to Leeds - who have already sold 40,000 tickets to their own supporters - and we have no chance of getting anything from that whatsoever. Our only hopes prior to my own personal sacrifice were that either Stockport beat Brighton at Brighton (which they won't)or that Millwall get a point up at Carlisle (which contrary to what a very close acquaintance of mine says - they won't either).

It is clearly too late for half measures, and the time comes when a fan has to put herself on the line and do what ever it takes to positively ensure that the worst (relegation) does not happen.

And that is why earlier today I placed a FIFTEEN POUND bet that the Cobblers will in fact be relegated.

If that doesn't work nothing else will.

Editors note: 10 - 1 people! Believe me its the best odds for a cast iron certainty you will ever get.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A geology and a history lesson all in one blog!

The long over due account of what I actually did in Edinburgh.

Long long ago children, there was a volcano in the area that we now know as Edinburgh, and it erupted spewing molten lava all over the place, but particularly in two big piles. Over the years this cooled and was covered by other stuff until, during an ice-age, a big glacier rolled over the landscape, simultaneously stripping off the layers of other stuff from the piles of volcanic rock and creating the valley which runs east to west through what is now the city centre. The pile of rock on the west end of the city is the thing they built the castle on top of, the pile of the east is now Arthur's Seat (presumably King Arthur but no-one seems to know much about this) and the valley became a loch, which was drained and where now sit Waverley Station and the gardens south of Princes Street.

In the National Gallery of Scotland (where we saw the Titian which has just been saved for the nation), there is a picture painted in seventeen hundred and something which portrays the castle and it is, indeed, sitting on top of a hill, overlooking a loch. Looking at this picture you can't help but wonder who first had the bright idea of draining the damn thing and to build a city in it's place. Did some-one turn up at the parish council meeting one day and say "I've had a great idea !". Who took him seriously? How do you drain a loch?? Where does the water go? How do you know that there's not a water source below which will refill it as fast as you empty it?

Anyway, they did it and Edinburgh exists, a city dominated by the castle on top of the hill.

Except, really, to truly dominate something you do have to be, at the very least, visible. The day we arrived was grey and, from street level, the castle was shrouded in low cloud. As we walked around the west bank, it became no clearer. We decided to see how close we could get and still not be able to see it. As it turned out, we managed to go into car park of the castle itself (the bit where all the marching up and down goes on in the Tattoo) and still we couldn't see anything as illustrated in the photo I published early. Please keep up! .

This may be military brilliance of course. Obviously, if you are Scottish and you build a castle, it will only be a matter of time before we English attack it. But if you make it invisible, then you could lure a hapless English enemy into a trap - the opposing army wander around blindly peering up at the skyline, while you tip boiling hot oil down on their heads.

Unable to enjoy the full glory of the castle, we decided to come back the following day to have a better look, and set off down the Royal Mile, running through the old part of the city between the Castle at one end and Holyroodhouse at the other, which is a palace that sits beneath Arthur's Seat and was built mainly for Charles II because he didn't like staying at the castle (either because it was too cold - we can vouch that it is cold - or because he couldn't find it in the mist).

The following day was clearer and by the time we get back up the hill, there was blue sky. And F finally got to see the castle which is, indeed, impregnable looking. There's lots to see in the castle including St Margaret's chapel (it's a great thing to stand in a small room that some-one built in 1100), the very moving Scottish National War Memorial room (it made me cry), the Great Hall, the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James I, the Scottish crown jewels (re-discovered by Sir Walter Scott, a feat which more likely explains why a 200ft gothic spire has been erected in his honour in Princes Street, than the fact that he wrote "Rob Roy" a novel which no-one has ever read), the stone of destiny (formerly The Stone of Scone) and Mons Meg.

Mons Meg is a massive cannon made in 1455. It took 100 men to drag it into position and they could only move it two miles a day. It was capable of hurling a 5 cwt stone ball about a mile and a half. In it's day it was an awesome weapon...

Except that, (and I speak as a military strategist myself obviously,) if you knew all that, then surely the smart move would be to position yourself one and nine sixteenths miles away from it, also moving two miles a day but with considerably more ease than the poor blighters who had to drag the blasted thing around. However, when I suggested this to the uniformed officer who happened to be standing next to me, I was met with what I can only describe as a stony silence. That will be the last time I try to be helpful to a Scotsman ;-)

Later we walked down to the Grassmarket where there is a small raised platform on the spot where they used to hang people. Next to this is a pub named after a woman who, having been hanged and placed in the body cart, woke up. This illustrates, we were told, an interesting distinction between English and Scottish law. In England, you would be taken and "hanged until you are dead". In Scotland, in contrast, you would be taken and "hanged". In our womans case, the fact that she was not dead did not mean that the sentence had not been carried out and she was therefore free to go and open a pub. Had all this happened in England she would have had to go around for another go.

One thing we did that I especially enjoyed was a trip below ground where there are still preserved medieval houses and streets. It is an amazing experience. You can get a rough idea of the size and shape of the accomodation (tiny) but it's impossible to imagine what life was really like. The street is very steep and narrow. With buildings ten plus stories high, there would have been little light. And this was one of the busiest trading streets in the old city - full of stalls, people, livestock etc, claustrophobic beyond imagining. And worse, there was no proper sanitation, which meant that sewage was tipped into the street (bad enough if you live at the top of the hill, but at the bottom......) and flowed down the hill, as it turns out, into the loch which some-one wanted to drain two hundred years later for reasons that we suddenly better understood.

Apart from no space, no sanitation, no daylight and no comfort, they also had the plague which killed a third of the population until, as in London, it was wiped out by fire. Rough times indeed. And can you think of a worse job in the 17th century than being the guy charged with disposing of the plague dead? It makes being a child protection social worker sound like a walk in the park in comparison. And speaking of walks in the park - or in this case the gardens - Princes Gardens have the most beautiful tulips....although I don't know about that wallflower...she could at least try to look as though she is having a good time! (Which she very definitely was.)

A title for this fiasco totally escapes me. Any suggestions?

This is not about football before I scare off my non-football fan friends. It is about me, but will of necessity include some references to the match I was at on Saturday.

First off – we had to win. We are in a battle to avoid relegation and were playing an already relegated side. On paper, an easy game, but in practice, they could relax and play, whilst we were really tense and nervous.

With some 12 minutes remaining the score at 2-1 to us, they attacked and to my absolute horror following some Keystone Cop type defending, the ball ended up in the back of our net, and the last thing I registered before texting Reidski with the dreadful news, was 10 Hereford United players running off to celebrate with their fans. I was so frustrated and anxious as that meant we simply had to get another goal in the short time remaining, that I made a mess of the text and had to start again. When I looked up they were bloody well attacking again.

When one is watching a game and one needs a goal, time of course flies by, but when one is in the lead of course it drags. I was simply willing us to score again, but we could hardly get the ball out of our own half, let alone look like getting a goal. It began to look like the best thing we could hope for was to avoid defeat, especially given the score lines we were hearing from other games that mattered to our survival. My friend who sits in front of me was moaning to me about our defender who was responsible for both of their goals. When the final whistle blew lots of people around us were cheering so I assumed Carlisle must have lost which would have meant we were safe (sorry Karen) but then I heard that actually they had drawn and we still weren’t safe. I was very despondent.

As I walked back to my car Reidski sent me a text which read ‘Sky say you won 2-1.’ ‘We didn’t’ I texted back, thinking how crap Sky Sports were. I got in the car and switched on the local radio, to be told the Cobblers had won 2-1. ‘Will someone please tell me what the fuck is going on?’ I ask, and my son obliged by asking me what the fuck I was on about?

The upshot of this bizarre episode is that I, who have been attending football matches for 40 years, and my friend who has been attending them for even longer than that both completely failed to notice that their second ‘goal’ had been disallowed. How on earth that could possibly have happened I have simply no answer. I looked at the clock every thirty seconds after their so called second goal, and the score is recorded directly above the clock – and still I never spotted that it did in fact read 2-1, which was indeed the score. I am a complete and utter idiot.

Today’s essay title is ‘Women should be banned from football’ – discuss.

I would like to say my friend is male....but she isn’t.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My nerves

are shot to threads.

By the way - in our last 3 home games we have scored 8 goals but have only 1 point out of a possible 9 to show for them.

Just possibly not unrelated to the fact that we have conceded 10 in those same 3 games?

Currently just out of a relegation spot on goal difference alone with three games remaining.

Monday, April 20, 2009

In which we English ladies blend seemlessly in with the locals

The friend I was with in Edinburgh has recently been mentioned in this blog as it was she whose parents were friends with T Dan Smith. F and I have been friends since we were both six years old, and this trip was in recognition of 44 years of knowing each other.

To reiterate that it was F’s first time in Edinburgh, and indeed her first time north of the border since a family holiday in the Highlands when she was 14.

F, although intellectually far ahead of me, left school with one poor A level owing to her having basically not attended sixth form due to lack of interest. Whilst I went on to university, she got a job and has been with the same employer ever since – by coincidence – the same employer as my current one. The difference is that she with the poor qualifications is earning five times more than I do, and running a significant proportion of the place. Partly as a result of that F has over the years developed a taste for fine wines and food. Her idea of a bar is one that sells a range of champagnes by the glass, thus she was somewhat thrown when I took her in The Half Way House. This pub may win awards for its real ale, but she was a bit iffy about the wine selection (although it did turn out to be very good). She ended up drinking a Pimms Winter Warmer, as suggested by the very friendly lady behind the bar.

F then started surveying the food selection. This was a little odd to me as we were already booked in at a very posh restaurant for the evening, and at this time it was 4.00. She quizzed the staff about what exactly were ‘stovies’, and she ended up deciding we had to try them, oh – and some haggis, neeps and tatties for good measure.

The stovies cost £3.50 and the haggis etc was a fiver.

As we sat down, and in full ear shot of the small but crowded pub she announced “I always enjoy some tapas with my drink.” TAPAS!!!! In totally basic beer drinkers pub in Edinburgh??? General hilarity ensued. I laughed too once my acute embarrassment had died down a little.

Turned out under cross examination that she genuinely thought that owing to the price of said items, that we would indeed be getting tapas size portions. However, as the menu made clear when quoting from the Good Pub Food Guide: ‘There are no half sized portions at the Half Way House’ and two enormous plates of food duly arrived.

We ate the lot and still managed to eat here later too.

This week I shall be mainly – dieting.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I spy

with my little eye something beginning with 'C'?

Luckily, there was this helpful little sign to give us a clue where the mist covered castle could be located.

I felt pretty bad for my friend as she had never been to Edinburgh before and I had gone on and on about how scenic it is. When we arrived on Wednesday we could see what I can only describe as Bugger All. I was talking to a guy in a kilt about the lack of view a few days later. "Aye" said he, "I had never seen it that bad ma sen." 'Oh my God!' thinks I - 'Just how unlucky were we?' "And how long have you been here?" I asked noting that he looked about 30. "Three weeks", he replied. Turned out he had only just moved to Edinburgh from Stirling.

Mind you - no complaints about the views when the weather did clear.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On my way

to Edinburgh for a few days with a girlfriend.

It's gonna be great.

Hopefully will actually have something worth writing about when I get back. One never knows!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's great to be appreciated!

I can't remember ever getting an above inflation pay rise since I have been in social work. Last year with inflation running at 4.5% and petrol and energy bills going up every day I was one of the Unison members who went on strike for two days as our pay offer of 2.45% seemed derisory. I'd like to say it was worth it, but the eventual extra 0.3% (which took 11 months to agree)tells its own story. It got me an additional £80 before tax. That's per year -not per week.

And so to the new pay negotiations.

The following is word for word of the message all staff received on Thursday.

Pay 0ffer for 2009/10

You may have already seen in the press information about the pay offer made to local government employees from 1st April 2009 – this message aims to share with you details of that pay offer and the Unions’ position.

There are two important parts of the offer:

The offer is for an increase of 0.50% on all pay points from 1st April 2009

The offer will remain on the table until 1st June. If a negotiated settlement has not been achieved by that date then the offer will be withdrawn and employees will not receive an increase in 2009/10.

These are very difficult times for everybody - local authorities, local government workers and council tax payers. The offer is being made in circumstances where:

• RPI is 0% and likely to be a minus figure in the months ahead

• Companies across the country are going out of business and people are losing their jobs

• Many employees in the private sector are having their pay frozen this year and some have agreed pay cuts to protect jobs

• Local authority finances are stretched to the limit. The recession is increasing demand on our services and reducing our income.

Because of these difficult circumstances the employers had to weigh up very carefully whether any offer at all should be made. But in the end they have decided that an offer of 0.50% is fair recognition of the important work being done by our employees.

Nobody wants a repetition of the long pay negotiations of the last few years so the employers have told the trade unions that the offer will remain on the table until 1 June. If a negotiated agreement has not been achieved by that date then the offer will be withdrawn. If the offer is withdrawn then there would be no pay increase for 2009/10.

0.5% is a fair recognition of the important work being done by us!!! A lesson in how to motivate one's work force don't you think?!?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tally ho chaps

It was only a matter of time before the Tories came out with this. Surprise, surprise - they want to repeal the hunting ban.

Support is growing for the ban on hunting with dogs to be scrapped, shadow justice minister Edward Garnier has told the BBC. And what do you know? Mr Garnier is a member of The Countryside Alliance.

According to their website which I can't be arsed to link to, The Countryside Alliance 'works for everyone who loves the countryside and the rural way of live.' Well I love the countryside and the rural way of life but they sure as hell don't work for me.

Does anyone else remember them claiming the hunting ban would cost 16,000 jobs? I read recently how many jobs it actually cost. Nil. Narda. Not a single one. Trustworthy, honest bunch aren't they?

And does anyone else remember their marches? I do because the landowners round our way ordered their staff to attend them, whether they wanted to or not.

I heard Mr Garnier bring in the old line about how we anti hunters suffer from class envy. Well no, although we may note that Mr Cameron was at Eton and has many chums who are likely to enjoy a morning out with the hounds. What we do suffer from though is a rather strong anti cruelty streak.

But no matter whether people do or do not care about the issue of hunting per se, does it not seem somewhat antiquated to even be considered bringing such a 'pastime' back? This is the 21st Century after all. They will be letting people smoke again in public places next - and doesn't it seem incredible that that was still allowed less than two years ago here?

Monday, April 06, 2009

I am not from Nottingham

I wouldn't particularly mind if I was from Nottingham as I like the place, although I might worry over much about gun crime of which it is alleged to be the UK capital. I probably wouldn't support The Cobblers if I came from Nottingham, but that would surely have added to the quality of my life. It has good shops, good pubs, good bands play there on a regular basis, it has 2 reasonable football teams, and it isn't too far to get to good walking country. Plus it's not too far from Northampton - though granted if I wasn't in fact from Northampton, the proximity of Nottingham to Northampton probably wouldn't cross my radar.

Anyway, as I was saying, I am not from Nottingham. So why is it that when ever I visit a blog that has one of those Live Traffic feeds it always says I have just arrived from Nottingham?

For example:
Live Traffic Feed
Top Nottingham Blogs
Nottingham arrived from on "Demob happy teacher"

No! Wrong! It's all lies! People will be thinking I never visit them - but I do! Just not via Nottingham.

Reading the above, one might conclude that yours truly has nothing much worth writing about. One would pretty much conclude correctly -apart from a stupendous Friday night out seeing the Mekons and meeting up with this handsome pair.

It was great seeing you both!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Reidski and I were watching The Damned United my so called football team were taking a further step towards becoming The Doomed United. By losing at Yeovil (who the fuck loses at bloody Yeovil these days apart from us?)we managed to drop into a relegation position from which I do not see us escaping. Therefore there will be no mention of football here. Oh no. Not from me. Not so much as a mention of .Newcastle United's latest saviour - funny as that obviously is. (A whole hour's phone in on Radio 5 about that this morning who seem to assume we are all Geordies now.)(See here for picture of real life Geordie lass showing us how to have a good night out, Bigg Market style.

Instead, a little anecdote from my friend who works as a doctor's receptionist. She took a call on Monday from an old guy who said to her that he was Mr So and So, and that he had an appointment with the doctor booked for 11.00. "Yes, that's right", confirmed my friend. "Well" he said, "The thing is my duck, I am not feeling too clever in me self today so I reckon as how I'll have to cancel my appointment until such time as I am feeling a bit better. Thank you anyway." And with that he rang off