Saturday, 3 October 2009

Misty water-coloured memories of the way we were...

It is all over. And this time I know it is for real. My love affair with Sheffield Wednesday - which was already strained at the start of this year, has come to an end.
I was wondering how I should break the news. I did consider taking Brian Laws out to dinner and explaining that it's not him, it's me.

Most people cannot understand why I am walking away from the team which I have followed so closely since 1992.

I dont want to get in to the murky details of why I cannot continue my romance with the Owls other than to say I feel very let down by someone very close to me who has done little to improve the situation (well... absolutely nothing, well... the situation is now worse).

As our one common interest is SWFC, I have now decided that I would rather watch Shepshed Dynamo from now on than suffer the indignity of standing in Hillsborough feeling uncomfortable. Incidently Shepshed won 3:2 today away at Osset Albion.
Several of my friends and colleagues have said I should not ditch the Wednesday over this, but they do not know the fine details and I am a man of principle. I ditched my interest in the club a few weeks ago and I am not missing them or looking out for their results.
I would, at this point like to express my sincerest thanks to John Sheridan, the Waddler, Thirsty Hirsty, Paulo Di Canio, Benito Carbone, Kevin Pressman, Chris Woods, Super Guy Whittingham, Alexandersson, Brighty, Pembo, Des, tricky Trev, Pervy Pleat, Big Ron, Paul Sturrock, Brian Laws and the Barmy Army for an amazing time. However, its time to move on.
My two boys are five months old next week, I will be happy to take them to see their home town club, Leicester City, when they are old enough.

When Sheffield Wednesday visit the Walkers Stadium on December 12, I wont be there. In fact I'm planning my trip to Market Drayton Town to watch Shepshed Dynamo away.

I will be continuing my support of Hertha Berlin, who are rooted at the bottom of the Bundeliga at the moment. Hopefully things will look better when I get to the Olympiastadion again after Christmas.
If I was a clever, witty writer I would need to end this with a cliche about romance like love is blind, Sheffield Wednesday was an eye-opener or something deep like: “Relationships are like glass. Sometimes it is better to leave them broken than try to hurt yourself putting it back together.”
However I like this one:
"It's better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." At Sheffield Wednesday I loved and lost most weeks.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Standing out in the Universe

Thought I had better return to the blogging scene after a six week absence which has seen many changes on Planet Statto.

Firstly, I have dropped the words Sheffield and Wednesday from my list of interests. I dont want a debate about it other than to conclude I do not miss them.

Secondly, my twins are sleeping for four hours or more at a time so I no longer resemble Lurch from the Addams Family and when you talk to me know I am awake enough to grasp what you are saying.

And finally, maybe less importantly, but interestingly, my last blog about Northern Soul was an internet success - boosting my total number of readers of this blog from about 100 to er... 11,900.

The news has not gone unnoticed at Mercury Towers and today the deputy features editor suggested the idea about writing about Northern Soul be expanded to become a series of articles for the Leicester Chronicle covering other music trends and cults which were adopted in Leicestershire (along with everywhere else of course) to include The Hell's Angels, Skinheads, Teddy Boys, Punks, Mods and New Romantics and any others we stumble across in the next six months.

Being a clean living Modernist I don't know how the rockers and bikers in the Hell's Angels will take to my probing questions but I am looking forward to talking to them.
We have decided to begin the series with a look back at Leicester's Hell's Angels in December, so I'm starting my research now. The only leads I have at the moment are: that there is a bikers' pub somewhere in Coalville and that a couple of Hell's Angels were interviewed by the Leicester Mercury in 1969.

In that particlular article, reporter Pete Barraclough spoke to Al Hitchcock, leader of The Ratae Hell's Angels and his second-in-command 'Randy' Rastus. I have just got to track these guys down and will be working hard to do so in the next few weeks.

Last time I posted I received a flood of help from the Northern Soul scene, so I am hoping for another positive response from the Hell's Angels for what I am sure will be a fascinating lookback at this biker cult. In fact, their motto could be used by journalists: "When we do right, no one remembers. When we do wrong, no one forgets".

If anyone has any Leicestershire memories of the groups and gangs I have mentioned please drop me a line, I would love to hear your stories...

Friday, 7 August 2009

Leicester, I know you got soul

It was the music scene which emerged from Mod and just refuses to die. Northern Soul -even its name is cool. And this week I have learned that I'm living in a city and county that took the music to its hearts. OK, Manchester had the Twisted Wheel, Wigan had the Casino and Stoke boasted The Torch. But Leicester, and Leicestershire also had a major scene going on.
Currently I am reading Paolo Hewitt's book: The Soul Stylists. The work details the early days of Mod, or Modernism as it was known, from the Soho jazz scene in 1950s and brings things right up to date, explaining how music has led fashion and vice-versa.
Northern Soul, bluntly, is black american soul music with a heavy beat and bassline and a fast tempo. Tamla Motown and Atlantic Records were famous labels linked to the scene.
The section of Hewitt's book about Northern Soul reveals some memories from Leicester people who were there when the whole scene took off. It revealed that Leicestershire was a hotbed of Northern Soul activity in the 60s and 70s. A club called the Lantern in Market Harborough was hugely popular, but there were other big clubs and events here too. There is a Youtube clip of a dance at the Nottingham Oddfellows working men's club in Leicester City Centre. The footage is grainy but the atmosphere and dancing shines through.

I have arrived at this point in musical education via my well-known Mod obsession, which all started by chance really. It was 1988, and it began when I saw Quadrophenia for the first time.

Initially, I wasn't that impressed by the music, but the film shook me to the core. The scooters, the clothes, the love interests and the behaviour of the youths in the story all had a profound effect on me. For a while I thought I was the lead character, after all, I thought I shared most his problems.
I was living in a student house at the time aged 18. The weekend after I saw the film I went home and nicked my dad's green parka, and spent flamin' ages trying to pick off cement from the sleeves to make it presentable (my dad is a builder). Mum lent me £19 for a Ben Sherman shirt (which I think I still owe her, sorry mum) and that was it. I had started my journey into Modernism.
Soon after I bought my first Small Faces tape - from Poundstretcher in Lincoln. I had never heard of them but the cassette had a target on it. On the strength of the symbol I had bought a life-changing piece of music - even if it was a greatest hits compilation. I think it was on sale in Poundstretcher because the track listing was incorrect. It said the complete collection but appeared to have a track missing!
I took a part time job in a perfume factory. The staff there rolled their eyes when I tried to ask them about The Small Faces and their songs.
I will never feel like a proper Mod because I was not born in the late 50s/early 60s nor spent my youth enjoying amphetamine-fuelled all-night dancing at Jazz clubs. However, the fashion and music has had a deep effect on my life, and following the mod ideal is a way of life. Since following the music I have discovered bands like the Who, Small Faces, Paul Weller, PP Arnold etc, etc
Now I am learning more and more about soul and the Northern Soul scene. I went to two allnighters last year - including one in a former Stasi boat house in East Berlin. The dancefloor had a river running through it (It is called kiki blofeld's in Kreuzberg - look it up!).
Northern Soul is an amazing sound that I could never get bored of hearing. Now I want to find out more about the scene on my doorstep, its history and its future. If you read this and have memories of the glory days of Northern Soul in Leicestershire please contact me - I'm hoping to write something about its history for the Leicester Mercury's Chronicle series in the near future.
Also I'd like to mention this. I know nothing about it but I'd like to let people know it is on:

Location:The Venue
Time:9:00PM Friday, September 4th

Monday, 29 June 2009

A bit of everything...

This week I have learned lots of things. Babies can wee powerfully, psychics cannot predict the deaths of their friends, and Bruce Springsteen is, apparently, a top bloke.

Currently I am changing nappies at a rate of a minimum of about 6 x 2 a day and I am starting to question my previous musings about disposable nappies and the environment. We are filling our new, larger city council wheelie bin at a faster rate than I ever imagined. Maybe when I get this parenting lark under control we will sit down at look at some greener options as currently, my carbon footprint is resembling that left by a man wearing clown's shoes climbing out of an aeroplane on his way to buy a burning oil field.

Being on paternity leave has made me watch news a little less as I try to concentrate on fatherhood. But the Jacko stuff was largely unavoidable. My boss twittered his blog of how the Leicester Mercury had changed up a front page which made me a little jealous that I was not at work. Also if anyone ever asks where I was when I heard MJ had died, I will be able to say with some confidence that I was elbow deep in dirty nappies as I tried to get G. and J. to sleep. I heard the news (unconfirmed reports) on Radio 5 Live. They managed to get hold of Uri Geller, who was "shocked" at his friend's death. Surprised he did not see it coming, but hey.

As I now never go out I watched most of Glastonbury on BBC3/BBC2. The clips in between the music of the other events taking place at the festival are very annoying. It means less live performances aired by musicians. I'm all for arts and theatre but some of the things I saw were ridiculous, largely organised by rich white kids sporting dreadlocks holding dogs on string.

Musically, I have always disliked Bruce Springsteen. His sound is too dirty/rocky/white American for my Mod ideals, however I thought his performance was fantastic. He did two and a half hours of engaging music, prancing around like a teenager, belying his 60 years and grinning like a bloke who had swallowed a coat hanger. Earlier he had joined newcomers and Bruce soundalikes The Gaslight Anthem on stage, playing with excitement and vigour. I twittered this as the moment of the festival so far (as a TV viewer at least) to #Glastonbury - which got quite a positive reaction.

Neil Young, Tom Jones, Status Quo and Madness all did great performances too and there were some great new acts. Leicester's own Kasabian were great and Tom wore a jacket with strawberries on given to him by Steve Marriott's daughter. Presumably it used to belong to the Small Faces icon.

Finally, today there has been plenty of TV news coverage about the weather, it's hot. This country cannot cope with anything other than lukewarm. Snow = standstill. Rain = events cancelled. Heat = Armageddon or death to the elderly and melting roads. For a nation so obsessed with the weather, you would have thought that we would appreciate it more. Even the new roof being used for the first time at Wimbledon drew an Ooooh! from the crowd. Could rant further, but I've just been told that there is another nappy that needs changing...

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

First week of being a dad of twins

My wife gave birth to our twins on Tuesday at just after 2pm. It was a 31 hour effort to get them here which started with S. being induced. The purpose of this entry is hopefully to tell other people little things we never thought we would need to know. I'll update as often as I can, but its day four and things are already demanding!
G. and J. both weighed approximately 7lbs each. They were born at Leicester General Hospital at 38 weeks. They were a good weight - aided by the fact the pregnancy went full term. We chose Leicester General Hospital for the parking! However, I would like to state that the staff are incredible, from the cleaners to the consultants.
This is a diary of events that may help dads-to-be.

DAY ONE: S. was induced on Monday at 8am. An induction is a slow process. I did not know this. I was hoping to be home mid-afternoon to catch up on the 20/20 cricket. The day starts with blood and urine tests. If everything is OK then a hormone is placed in the woman's bits (well what else do you call it?) to stimulate contractions which will eventually lead to waters breaking, which would release a natural hormone from the brain and get the whole show on the road. A hormone drug was also to be administered through a tap in the wrist. You will have to forgive my lack of details - I'm just giving people a mental picture of the day. I do not know the Latin name for the hormones etc. By 3pm, contractions had started. They were not strong, nor frequent enough.
S was monitored throughout the day by midwives. By late afternoon the contractions had become quite painful for S. Painkillers were offered (and accepted). S. was keen to have an epidural - a painkiller inserted directly into the spine to anaesthetise the stomach (see I do know something...) This is only possible when the waters are broken. S.'s waters were broken manually at around 8pm, in a effort to increase the contractions and allowing an epidural to be inserted. Once in, the patient can administer her own drug, as long as there is a midwife in the room who gives permission. This is usually granted after a satisfactory blood pressure test.
At about 8.30pm, a decision was made to break the waters manually. This was a relatively simple (and somewhat crude) process whereby a midwife popped the seal of whatever was holding the waters (more science for you) with a plastic stick. It made a quiet 'pop' sound and then surprise, surprise...there was a lot of water on the bed where S. was sitting.
By 10pm. More contractions, not regular enough. More hormone drug inserted in to her wrist. Epidural keeping any pain at bay.
Midnight - new midwife shift the third so far. Handover each time was meticulous. All details noted and explained. Still nothing going on but contractions. The idea at this point is to get the cervix (the baby tunnel - more science) to have widened enough to get a baby through. For us, it wasn't happening. At that point we had four inches dilated (open). The doctors ideally want nine or more. We had a long way to go. It can happen quicker for others. Sometimes the epidural can slow the rate too. To counter act this more hormone drug is given.
We had a long and sleepless night due to monitoring and check-ups.
At 8am on Tuesday, we were told there had been progress in dilation and asked to remain as we were for four more hours. At 12pm we were close to starting a natural birth. However there was a 'cervical lip' preventing a safe passage out for the twins. The doctor recommended the maximum rate of hormone in the arm for a couple of hours.
At just after 1pm the doctor said not enough progress had been made on the removal of the lip. He recommended an emergency Cesarean section, as he was concerned that my wife's energy levels had dropped significantly (they can tell this in a urine test, somehow) and she may not have the strength to push, even if the opportunity came along.
Thirty minutes later we were in "theatre" surrounded by a huge team of people, two of everyone - to help each baby. S.'s epidural worked very well. During the operation I was placed behind a screen, where I could talk to S. On the other side, the surgeon got to work. S. felt pressure on her stomach but thankfully no pain. We spoke throughout the operation, just words of encouragement on my part. S. looked a little scared but coped remarkably well. We then heard the sound of crying, our first baby had been delivered.
They handed him to me in a blanket as the surgeon continued. I was choked but tried to keep a stiff upper lip for S, who was still undergoing major surgery. I could see nothing of what was going on in terms of the medical stuff. I was told not to look beyond the screen. Within what seemed like seconds another little boy arrived. The operation seemed to be over and done with swiftly.
I was taken in to an adjacent room for the boys to be weighed and checked out. Everything seemed to be fine. Of course, I felt blessed for that and I have never taken anything for granted. Soon after, S. was taken to a recovery room, where we were reunited. A pair of midwives brought the boys through and S. had her first chance to get acquainted.
By this point, S. was looking exhausted. There were lots of tests now being started on both mum and babies. By 7pm Tuesday, I had forgotten how long we had both been awake. The midwife said it was in everyone's interest that I go home. Mum could get some rest. After nearly 40 hours on the go, I was not going to argue.
I got home, had the obligatory stiff drink and slept solidly. I later discovered that S. had made her first attempt at a breast feed aided by midwives. At this stage, the babies do not receive breast milk, but colostrum, a yellowy substance which gets the babies off to a good start.


Visiting hours started at 11am, although when I got there I discovered S. was still in the recovery room in the delivery ward. She had problem with a blood test and was being monitored. As she waited, S. was again given help on breast-feeding and tried a successful double-feed. She felt hugely encouraged by this. Tip: It is worth asking for the help of the midwives while your wife is in hospital. They are very happy to share their experience and knowledge.
About 2pm S. was allowed on to the main ward. There were mostly double rooms of two mums and babies together. However, S. was fortunate enough to be placed in a single room, presumably because of the twins. The service of the health professionals in the maternity ward remained extremely high. S. at this point could barely walk, due to the op. Midwives encouraged her to try and stand and walk two or three yards if she could.
S.'s parents arrived later in the afternoon, along with her sister Rachel. It lifted a sore and tired S to see her family. Because of S.'s condition I changed the nappies of both the boys several times. Their poo was the colour and texture of marmite. A nurse told me that after a couple of days it would change to become like wholegrain mustard - I discovered on day 5 that this was a very accurate description.
I left the hospital at 8.30pm, feeling incredibly drained - felt it important not to mention this to anyone!


Got up and got in for 11am, but despite getting up early, I almost ran out of time - little jobs were mounting up. Went on to the ward feeling happy with the way things were going. The babies were great, S was showing signs of being on the mend. My mum and dad were due to visit and the boy's seemed to have grasped breast-feeding. Mum and dad were arriving for the last hour of visiting so we had plenty of time to prepare ourselves for more visitors.
It is worth mentioning that at this point, S. managed to walk from her room to the shower in the main ward - 15 yards. To her is was a massive achievement. I have no idea how sore the wound from her op was, however, whenever I knocked the bed she was in she noticed pain.
Also S. had not slept. The boys had been demanding feeds and crying all night. She estimated she slept for one hour. Yet she seemed remarkably positive and undaunted.
My mum and dad came and they seemed really delighted and once again I had to leave when visiting time ended, but not before I changed both nappies.


Arrived at hospital around 11 am and there was a dirty nappy to change. The midwives recommend using cotton wool and water to clean their dirty bottoms up. However, since I have been home I have used a form of baby wipe. It seems far more practical and quicker, with less mess. There maybe be drawbacks but as long as the boys are not at risk, I am happier using the wipes. We are also using disposable nappies. I know there is a massive debate about this.
These are my views in a nutshell:
I am into doing green things. I recycle everything, voted green in the Euro-elections and walk everywhere where I can...
The right thing to do (I'm told) is to have reusable (towel) nappies. However, we are using disposables. This is because meeting the demands of twins is a massive commitment. The washing machine has been on everyday since we left hospital. A dirty nappies wash is another job to add to the long list of things to do. Anything to shorten the list is, in my opinion, recommended.
If I have upset the extreme green supporters, this might only add leaded petrol to the fire but:
Consider the environmental damage of all those extra washing machines going as they wash dirty nappies, all the electricity, all the powder, the powder's packaging, the conditioner and the soapy/dirty liquid that flows away back into the water system. Reusable nappies are not that Eco-friendly.
Anyway, back to events of day four:
From the minute I got to the hospital, the boys were grisly. Mum tried to breast feed. They settled for ten minutes maximum. Still grisly. Nappies checked, nothing to worry about. After half an hour, both screaming. Back on the breast. Settled for five minutes. Grisly again. A few minutes later, screaming again. This continued pretty all day. I was stressed out, S. was stressed, tired and getting upset. Eventually we asked for the midwife (something we should have done hours before really).
The midwife explained - and this is important to be aware of - that the colostrum had finished, but the breast milk was yet to arrive. The breast feeds which S. had done that day were of little benefit to the boys, only they were getting more used to attaching themselves to the nipple. The attempts to breast feed also helped to 'draw' the milk through, which we were told could take up to three to ten days to come through. (Sometimes a Cesarean can distort the creation of the milk).
The boys were angry all day because they were hungry. The solution was to attempt the breast-feed first to continue to draw the milk through and then top up with formula milk (which comes in a carton, or in powdered form to add water to).
S. felt guilty at first for being unable to offer solely breast milk. But you have to be practical. After hours of stress and concern, crying and screaming, the boys were soundly asleep after just half a bottle of formula. It felt like heaven. Mum wanted sleep, I left them sleeping to prepare for them to come home the following day.


It takes a little while to be granted the chance to leave the maternity ward. There is a little bit of administration to do. During that time, it is useful to think of all the questions you can ask a midwife about your babies and your wife's condition (which, by day five after Cesarean is dramatically better than Day two).
Make sure your baby car seats are fitted properly and that you have got the hang of taking them out and putting them in.
Start taking all the bags/presents your wife has used/been given to the car and get them out of the way. Carrying twins to the car in their car seats takes its toll, so you don't want extra baggage to worry about. You will need to carry both twins too, as your wife will be too sore and tired.
We got home, fed the boys, put them in their Moses baskets, wrapped in two blankets, and they did what they do best - sleep. We ordered a massive takeaway curry to celebrate being home. Warning to dads, do not have a load of beer. You will not be able to sleep it off!
The twins are awake for feeding every hour and a half to three hours absolute maximum. Mum will need your help, with everything that you have been doing on the hospital ward, but now at home. This includes cooking - hence the takeaway!
A midwife gave me a tip - mum should do nothing other than give feeds and you do the rest. It sounds like a big commitment but it has worked very well for us so far. Also your wife appreciates living with a changed man!


Did not get much sleep. Had no idea how often S. was getting up to feed in the night - at least three times and its a long process feeding two - one wants more than the other, one wont get back to sleep. S. was doing all this in hospital when I was at home, hence I was a bit ignorant. I was there each time throughout the night, helping with bottles and nappies.
I was shattered the following day but surviving! The community midwife paid a visit (even though it was Sunday). This was prearranged at the hospital. She checked that everything was OK, and answered a couple of questions.
S.'s mum bought her a post-Cesarean belt from Boots. It is simply a comfortable strap to offer support near the surgery wound. The midwives were a little dismissive of the idea, but S.'s mum bought it anyway and I have to say it has been a comfort to her and offered her some protection when moving, lifting and feeding the boys.
After S. fed the boys at 10pm she went up to sleep. She was in the main bed and the boys in their baskets on the floor, tilted at a slight angle so she could see their faces from where she lay.
She had a couple of solid hours before the boys were wanting to be fed again. There is no concept of day and night for tiny babies!
At 3am, S. booted me out of the room so she could get some more sleep. I went to the spare room, where she would call me if necessary. S. did not want to be woken if I moved, snored etc... Sleep is now a precious commodity!

Day Seven:

We are starting to settle into a pattern of feeding and sleeping now, we had another check from a community midwife and things seem to be going well. I'm still doing the cooking and cleaning, changing nappies and helping with bottle-feeds. S.'s breast milk is also coming through. Things, for now, seem to be under control!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Never meet your heroes

I recently had the chance to speak to one of my musical heroes Pete Townshend and I bottled it. We were both stood outside a restaurant in Richmond. I had spotted him from a way off, but as we got close, my wife urged me not to speak to him as she thought it would be rude. Usually I would have said hello. But on this occasion I thought better of it. I have heard he is a bit moody, although I have no factual evidence to back this up. Anyway he is one of the biggest names in my little world of music. He was the figurehead of a musical movement in this country and to people like me, who follow the Mod scene, he is an icon.
However his many interviews on behalf of The Who and as a 60s survivor suggest that he can be a bit grumpy, so I thought better of saying a polite hello.
Later my wife changed her stance to say 'I bet he would have loved a chat with you really'. Then I thought if I had said hello and he had told me to "F*ck Off", that would have been a story to dine out on for a while. So next time if I see one of my heroes I'm just going to say hello. Have you ever met your hero?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Falling out of love...

I have had enough of Sheffield Wednesday and want a transfer. Why do fans have to be loyal to one club? Players certainly aren't. In fact when we got relegated from the Premiership in 2000 none of the existing players are there, they couldn't wait to leave and all got a transfer. Now I want one.

In the past six seasons I have seen my new adopted club Hertha Berlin more times than the Owls. It is a bit worrying that I can manage to see a team in a foreign country more times than a team about an hour up the M1 from Leicester. The reason is that I fell out with a good friend who was a co-Wednesdayite.

Although there are still 26,000 likeminded individuals still turning up at Hillsborough, its not the same, so I dont go. I made that decision about two years ago. Since then I have followed Hertha BSC, hooking up with my friends in Berlin for the games - four to six times a season. At the moment that is totally unsustainable, aside from the cost of going to Berlin (its worth every penny by the way and worth saving for...) I'm missing English football.

Until I landed a job which required me to work Saturdays, I travelled home and away to watch the Wednesday (pictured above in 1878) for (almost) every game for eight years. Now I am sort of lost. The recent changes in my work rota will mean more free Saturday afternoons than I have enjoyed for a long time.I want to be a fan again, but cant face Wednesday due to my personal fall out. I live in Leicester, which has a team which looks like its going places.

I cant say I am excited at the prospect of watching them every week. However, I have twins on the way who will be born in Leicester. My wife says our children should support their home town club. By that logic I should support Lincoln City. I spent my childhood on the terraces, standing in the Stacey West at Sincil Bank. So maybe that's what I'll do. Unless the Foxes fans or supporters of any other clubs want to convince me otherwise...

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm

The appeal of Curb Your Enthusiasm is largely down to the viewer's empathy with the central character Larry David. Sometimes he is perceived to be something he is not.
On the way home today, I was moaning to my wife in the car that Dj's on radio stations with Australian accents are nothing other than people with Australian accents. Simply having an accent does not make you cool. However, being the decendant of a Victorian criminal does make you cool - but they never like talking about that. We sent them our thieves, rapists and murderers, we get their radio presenters. A fair swap I guess...
Anyway I went on to add that everyone at the BBC is in someway related to someone else who also works at the BBC, hence they all have the same surname, i.e Dimbleby or Snow. At this point two people were crossing the road (in Vaughan Way) and talking an age to do so. Dressed like a chavs, one go across slightly before the other. We had to slow down for the second crosser, which was annoying. As I was mid-rant to my wife after a hard day at the office, and not paying attention, the red mist came down. I hit the horn of the car and wound down the window to shout "get out of the way you "F*****g P***k" (I am very brave in a moving vehicle). He looked at me, clearly hurt by what I had said, and then pointed at his legs. He was disabled and could not walk properly. His friend also started shouting abuse at me, words to the effect that I was an "Ignorant W****r", fair enough. However they should have waited for the traffic lights and crossed with the "green man". It was not my fault, yet I feel really bad. If he ever reads this blog, I hope he gets the message: "its your own stupid fault, you should have waited for the lights, especially if you cannot walk fast. But I am sorry for calling you a F*****g P***k." Larry David, sometimes I know exactly how you feel.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

What's going on?

Two things:

1) I cannot believe there is now a singer called Jade, just weeks after the other famous Jade, not a singer, died. I am now going to take up acting and call myself Christopher Reeve - Superman II! What other dead people's names could we recycle??


2) A TV show about the death of Marvin Gaye last night reminded me of a weird conversation I had with my mum when I was about 10 years old. On the way to a swimming lesson, the song, Sexual Healing, was on the radio. Clearly feeling uncomfortable about the song's content, and in order to distract me from the lyrics, my mum told me her theory of how Marvin died after being shot by his dad in a row about who loved Diana Ross the most. I later found out at school he was actually shot by his dad in a row over misplaced documents. Just to be sure, I have never lost any documents since, nor asked my dad if he fancies the Queen of Motown.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


The most amazing thing to happen to me lately is finding out that I am going to be the dad of twins.
Currently I find myself in the “code red” area of my wife’s pregnancy, in that the births could happen any minute, or we could be waiting up to five weeks for the arrival.
It has been a bit difficult to explain this to people. With most pregnancies, the due day is set and the parents patiently wait.
With twins, a due date is also set, but you are simply told that it will not go that far.
Our official due date is June 30, but we have been told that doctors will induce the labour by mid-June at the latest, if it goes that far. This is presumably to protect the babies as they become short of space in the mother’s tummy.

My wife (pictured here this week, at 34 weeks) has had a difficult pregnancy to date. She has vomited every day with morning sickness, on the worst days up to ten times throughout the whole day, and suffered horrendous heartburn. She has actually lost weight. We are aware that this is not the normal experience of mums-to-be, who have cravings or enjoy the excuse for a few extra calories. It has been a long grind for her and I have felt a bit helpless, standing by and watching as she suffers her daily round of sickness on top of the usual aches and pains associated with pregnancy. All I can say is that I have done my best to be sympathetic to something that is pretty hard to imagine someone suffering day after day. So far I have made only few sacrifices, the notable ones being knocking my frequent trips to watch football on the head, and drinking less at weekends, if I go out, just in case its action stations.

To learn more about the birthing process I recently attended a special ante-natal class for twins at Leicester Royal Infirmary. One of the midwives talked us through all the likely outcomes, a glossary of terms and a blow-by-blow explanation of what is available to you and how the big day will unfold.
It included the pros and cons of natural birth versus a Caesarean section. The main thing I learned is that there is no easy way of getting them out. Men just need a bit of patience and calm. The women need an epidural.
After the class I felt fairly uneasy about what I had heard. I felt a bit uncomfortable with the idea of just standing there as my wife went through the agony of childbirth. My male friends say as a man you do feel incredibly vulnerable, but let’s not forget all we have to do is stand there and be supportive.

So far, the most frustrating thing about my wife being pregnant with twins is that people do not know what to say when they hear the news. Well, they do know what to say, but it is usually positively negative. By this I mean stuff like: “That’s wonderful, get your sleep while you can” or “That’s fantastic news, you are going to have your hands full” or “Congratulations, your life is over.” Why can’t people simply say “that is great news”. That would do. I know my life will change beyond recognition, I know there will be two babies in a few weeks.
Frankly I am looking forward to it so much that I now find the idea of having a single baby a bit boring!

Thursday, 14 May 2009


The Old Romantics

Next week I mark 5 years as one of the Old Romantics, which is a newspaper column written by myself and comedian Stu Wilde for the Lincolnshire Echo.
We get to talk about the nostaligia of the 1980s. Frankly I'm amazed we have lasted so long. It was a bold move by the newspaper to publish us in the first place, because for some reason there is not much humour in local newspapers, in my opinion, and the readership tends to have a demographic of 50+.
Even so, the paper stuck with us through thin and thinner, the readers have loved or hated our brand of weekly nonsense in equal measure, and now we are five. When we started out I hated the whole idea of it and found it hugely frustrating that we could only talk about the 1980s. The style of the column is a conversation ( )and reads like I script, which I also hated. Now we are still doing it after more than 250 columns I think the idea is quite innovative!

I was six when the 80s started and 16 when they ended so half the time I didn't know what Stu, who is a couple of years older than me, was on about. I just wanted to talk about Oasis and Blur but readers soon corrected me if I/we did step into the wrong decade. Come to think of it readers have corrected me/us on a lot of things, including my knowledge of Star Wars, the release date of certain records and the standards of our humour.

We both got the gig writing the Old Romantics because we were both stand-up comics working in journalism. I gave up doing live stand-up soon after the column started, Stu still gigs three or four times a week. Our humour his quite different. When we started out I was always obsessed with Seinfeld and Larry David and just wanted to create clever storylines for our conversations. Eventually I/we realised there are enough stupid things going on in our lives in any given week to have to make stuff up, although we do exaggerate a fair bit...

Stu has a more scattergun approach to humour and if its funny he will just say it. He is a real gagmeister. Do not get stuck in a lift with him, or a car for that matter. He is very funny and never shuts up.
Last year we recorded our favourite columns to broadcast via podcasts ( on the Lincolnshire Echo's website. They sounded and went down far better than I imagined. We booked a studio at the University of Lincoln to create the sound files. Of course Stu sounded like a polished luvvie who had rehearsed his lines over and over and I sounded like a bloke reading from the back of a fag packet in a pub. In fact I sounded a bit nasal, like Melvyn Bragg. Anyway it was a great experience and hopefully we can do some more soon.

I guess I'm writing this because I am pleased that we have come this far. At the start I wished they would scrap the whole thing and let us do something else, now I am hugely proud of what Stu and I have achieved. Here's to another five years!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Where have all the English managers gone?

The article below was written before England played Germany in November 2008 for Hertha Unser. It questions why England cannot find a decent manager from er...England. The fact it was written in German makes it more ironic, I hope, as well as giving me an international feel to my blog.
We did beat Germany that night and I was there! I guess Capello (pictured here with his cat Jess) is alright for now!

Könnte die Deutsche Fußballnationalmannschaft einen fremden Trainer überhaupt beschäftigen?

England hat bereits einen schwedischen Mann beschäftigt – Sven Goran Eriksson. Und jetzt haben wir einen Italiener – Fabio Capello. Aber Deutschland hat immer sein eigenes Talent gefunden. Eine Tatsache, die Englands Fußballfans eifersüchtig werden lässt.

Unser letzter englischer Trainer war Steve McClaren – der Rest ist bekannt!

Nach dem Spiel gegen Kroatien konnten wir die EM abhaken. Sogar mit Beckham, Lampard und Gerrard hatte er keinen Erfolg. Also gingen unsere Verbandschefs nach Italien, Fabio Capello einzustellen.

Könnte ein englischer Mann diese Arbeit nicht erledigen? Wir bewunderten Jurgen Klinsmann während der WC2006 und Joachim Löw in Euro 2008, weil sie als Deutsche Trainer von Deutschland waren.> In England fragt man sich: warum bringen wir keine fähigen Trainer hervor?> Unser Premier League wird von Trainern aus anderen Ländern> beherrscht: Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd) aus Schottland, Phil Scolari (Chelsea) aus Brasilien, Benitez von (Liverpool) aus Spanien und Wenger (Arsenal) aus Frankreich. Die Frage ist: Wenn England gegen Deutschland im Olympiastadion in Berlin nächste Woche spielt, weiß Fabio Capello, was das Spiel für englische Fußballfans bedeutet? Wir möchten unsere alten Fußballrivalen schlagen. Wenn Capello verliert, heißt es "arrivederci" , wenn England gewinnt, wird er zum Ehrenengländer ernannt! In Berlin wird es entschieden.

Jack the Ripper

I have a bit of an obsession with the Jack the Ripper murders and will watch and read anything which throws up a theory. Recently the Leicester Mercury did a brilliant job laying claim that the killer was an aristocrat from Ashby called Frederick Bailey Deeming.

Recently I really enjoyed watching famous Mark Charlton lookalike Vic Reeves present a show investigating the Ripper murders on a dodgy Sky Channel (not Babecast).
He started out with six suspects (I once read somewhere there were eight, although I have just double checked that figure and found a list of 25 possibilities). He worked his way them through using former detectives and crime profilers and the like. I had forgotten that there were actually only actually five confirmed ripper murders, although he is linked to others. All the killings took place in Whitechapel, London.
Two of the killings were on the same evening, the theory being that Jack's first attack that night did not satisfy his blood lust and he struck again. After that night, it is said he never killed again. What I find interesting about this subject is not the gore and human tragedy, but people's obsession with it, including my own.
I think its the mystery of the whole thing and the lack of any evidence just adds to it. I found it fascinating that Victorian policing methods were such that when a murder occured, it was simply a major clean up operation so people did not have to see the mess.
Anything which could have helped modern day detectives or ripperologists via forensics and DNA, as they are known, were binned within hours of the murders.
Anyway, here is a list of Ripper suspects I ripped off Wikipedia.
My favourite suspect is Carl Feigenbaum (pictured above and taken from who later struck in New York, but was said to live in Whitechapel at the time of the ripper murders.
This is the Wikipedia list of suspects:
Suspects investigated by police:
· 1.1 Montague John Druitt
· 1.2 George Chapman
· 1.3 Aaron Kosminski
· 1.4 Michael Ostrog
· 1.5 John Pizer
· 1.6 Francis Tumblety
· 2 Other contemporary suspects
· 2.1 William Henry Bury
· 2.2 Thomas Neill Cream
· 2.3 Frederick Bailey Deeming
· 2.4 Carl Feigenbaum
· 2.5 Robert Donston Stephenson
· 3 Suspects named by later authors
· 3.1 Joseph Barnett
· 3.2 Lewis Carroll
· 3.3 David Cohen
· 3.4 William Withey Gull
· 3.5 George Hutchinson
· 3.6 James Kelly
· 3.7 James Maybrick
· 3.8 Alexander Pedachenko
· 3.9 Walter Sickert
· 3.10 Joseph Silver
· 3.11 Francis Thompson
· 3.12 James Kenneth Stephen
· 3.13 Prince Albert Victor
· 3.14 Sir John Williams

Let me know your Ripper theories!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

National Beatles Day

Last week the Leicester Mercury carried a story about a man who was angry that 10 Downing Street refused to post an online petition calling for double killer Colin Pitchfork to be kept in prison for life, as it was "inappropriate".
I too have had an "inappropriate" petition rejected by Gordon Brown. Earlier this year I asked Number 10 if I could stick a petition on their website calling for a National Beatles Day, to recognise the contribution the Fab Four had made to the country and our place in the world. I added it would be a chance to dress as pop stars for the day and celebrate British music. Obviously I wanted everyone to have a day off in the form of a bank holiday. But Gordon Brown was having none of it.
This is probably because:

1) He is bitter that there are no decent bands from Scotland
2) And he has proper work to do, like learning to smile better when he is talking
3) He simply hates the Beatles

Listening to the Beatles makes us happy Gordon. Even my unborn twins like them.

On a slighty different note, I know talking about dreams is rubbish but I have to mention this. Last night I dreamt that I broke into a farm house on a hill after ditching my car, stole two cans of Fosters (which I never drink) and a can of Guinness (which I never drink) and put them in a bag to drink as I walked home, approxiately six dream miles.
What is that about then? I have googled it but the experts only deal in the ones where you go to work naked (fear of failure... to wear clothes) or the ones where you are falling (archaic memories from the time when we were tree-dwelling monkeys, apparently).

Finally, in a more lucid state, I told my wife that Lorriane Kelly of GMTV fame is less than four feet tall, which I know is a lie but I think is entirely believable, so tell everyone you know. I also wonder if there are any other decent lies we could put around?

Duck Hunting part II

Sepp Maier did go duck hunting, but at the Olympiastadion Munich. Hertha Berlin were not thought to be involved either. It makes my previous blog post somewhat redundant. I will post a meaningful blog at some point.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Duck hunting

I am planning on writing an article for the Hertha Unser website about Sepp Maier and his duck hunting incident. The story goes that in a Bayern Munich game in the late 70s against Hertha BSC at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, the goalkeeping legend became distracted by a duck he saw in the crowd. As the play was at the opposite end of the pitch he thought he would leave his goal and catch the duck. Apparently he disappeared for several minutes, but Hertha were typically poor in cashing in on his absence and never got the ball out of their half.