Monthly Archives: January 2012


Just when I’d really like to be blogging away about how Gnidrolog’s  album ‘In spite of Harry’s toenail’  is a touchstone of Western civilisation or words to that effect, I find myself beset by the need to clear my Dad’s house of a lifetime (two lifetimes, if you count my Mum) of stuff….

Now, I already have stuff problems of my own, notably with cd’s and to a lesser extent with books.  When I decided to go over to cd’s from vinyl, I rejoiced in the fact that I had managed to create a huge amount of space in the house and that these new shiny silver discs with their economical dimensions were surely never going to become as oppressive a problem as those big boxes of LP’s.    Jump forward 15 or so years and all the space once occupied by clunky crates of vinyl is now taken up with smaller crates of cd’s.  The economy of scale offered by cd’s has just encouraged me to acquire more of them, so in essence, I now have a larger quantity of music taking up the same space as before.  Hmmmm….

With books, it’s not quite so bad, but I can nonetheless boast an impressively tall  and increasingly unstable ziggurat of unread volumes next to my bed, which, should it ever collapse on me during the night, would probably result in a severe case of concussion.

All of which goes to show that for people like myself with a magpie disposition, you could probably rehouse us into a 25-room mansion and we would still – over a period of years – manage to fill the place up with stuff.

In some respects, I am fortunate to live with someone who is of a quite different viewpoint; the partner sees herself as some latter-day Gandhian ascetic who only needs a spare loin-cloth and a packet of B&H to keep her happy.  As in many things, she’s not totally consistent about this, having a weakness for jewellery, cosmetics and handbags to name but a few conspicuous items, but she is generally happier to be less burdened with stuff than I am.  I am always being encouraged by her to ‘sacredly cleanse’ the various cluttered areas of my life – my wardrobe, my cd collection, my books – and it’s sometimes hard to make her understand that the stuff I have accumulated over the years is somehow intrinsically bound up with my personality and forms an essential part of the way in which I see myself in relation to the rest of the world.  Well, that’s my excuse anyway – another view would be that all my stuff is like a big security blanket that helps me maintain the illusion that everything is under control and that I actually do know what I’m doing.  As if….

Of course, all of this comes from somewhere, and – unsurprisingly – I get it from my parents, both of whom were magpies up to a point.  However, with them there was definitely an extra dimension that I think is probably peculiar to people who lived through the wartime years.  This can probably best be summed up by the phrase – and it’s a phrase that I heard both of my parents use on numerous occasions – “I’ll hang on to that/those; it/they might come in handy.”

So now I am reaping the whirlwind of stuff that my folks accumulated in this house over the 28 years they lived here together and the final 7 years my Dad lived here as a widower.  Having an appreciation of things that ‘might come in handy’ perhaps suggests an almost prescient appreciation of potential future needs, but as I’m finding, it’s more like an obsession with being prepared for any and every eventuality, no matter how unlikely. 

I’ve already written here about how, after my Mum’s death, I was (partially) clearing out her kitchen and found several large tupperware boxes crammed full of those little sachets of sugar that are available in cafes and motorway service stations.  My Mum would undoubtedly have accumulated these on my parents’ many post-retirement caravanning holidays and I can see the way her magpie mind would have justified this consistent and systematic pilfering of sugar.  She knew perfectly well that neither she nor my Dad used sugar, except perhaps on breakfast cereal – something they ate only rarely, so there was little point in keeping any sugar in the restricted storage space within their caravan.  On the other hand, it was not unknown for them to entertain other caravanners for a cup of tea from time to time and those people might be users of sugar, so having a few sachets handy would be a good thing.  So far, so logical, but then the wartime hoarding mentality, not to mention the something-for-nothing mentality obviously kicked in and what started out as a piece of common sense rapidly became a full-scale obsession, eventually requiring tupperware boxes and cupboard space.

Now that I am having to clear the entire bungalow, what I am finding is that my sugar sachet experience was just the tip of a candy-coated iceberg.  It’s becoming abundantly clear that my folks kept just about everything, treating the house as a repository for the accumulated stuff of their lives.  However, whilst their previously-mentioned prescience about the things that they kept because they might ‘come in handy’ perhaps hints at  an organised approach to their squirrelling, what I am now finding is that there was a total absence of such an approach. Obscure cupboards and unused shelves became spaces where stuff could be shoved in a fairly haphazard manner and it has become customary for me to find small and often broken ornaments filled with assorted detritus – for example, fuses, perished rubber bands, paper clips, foreign coins, keys (to unknown locks), 50-year old letters from obscure or unknown persons, old passport photos, yellowed newspaper cuttings featuring useful gardening or household tips, recipes clipped from old magazines and so on.

Larger receptacles such as cardboard boxes may feature tourist brochures for somewhere in Scotland or Switzerland, theatre programmes, football programmes, single gloves, plastic flowers, broken Christmas decorations, 30-year old credit card bills, postcards from friends or family, invitations to weddings of people I’ve forgotten or never heard of and desiccated chunks of that weird green foam that florists use (or once used) for flower arrangements.

A cupboard occupied principally by a well-lagged hot water tank was additionally filled with dozens and dozens of tea-towels and hand-towels, washcloths and threadbare old tablecloths, all of which had over the years been stuffed in there and had slowly forced themselves down and  around the tank like an extra layer of lagging and had been slowly compressed into almost sedimentary layers of exhausted cotton and towelling. 

Wardrobes were another horror show; odd slippers, dozens and dozens of ties, wildly kitsch sixties jackets, multiple old cagouls that had somehow become stuck together, so that they were like some bizarre gore-tex sculpture, weird hanging contraptions that dangled from the inside of wardrobe doors as receptacles for shoes and more stuff… if any extra space were needed.

And so it goes on.  A peculiarity of the house compared to the others in the vicinity – all built in the early ’70’s – is that my Dad’s place was built by the builder for himself; he lived there for 4 years before selling the place to my parents in 1976.  As such, it’s bigger, has more garden and – in particular – has a  small room (maybe 8 feet wide and 15 feet long) leading off the main living room which could, in another lifetime, have been a small bedroom or, more likely, a study.  Instead, my Dad slowly turned it into what I called (somewhat inappropriately) his ‘glory-hole’ .  It all began well enough, with large and capacious shelves for books, files and the like, but as the years rolled by and the  shelves filled, the floor-space eventually became covered with boxes, pieces of old (and frequently broken) furniture and, in the end, random piles of papers and junk.  By the time I started in on it about 3 weeks ago, it was barely possible to open the door and it took me the best part of a week just to clear a path to the shelves at the far end.

Thus far, I have found some real gems among an awful lot of shite.  On the plus side, there were some really old family photos that I’d never seen before of relatives (most of them long gone now) taken during the war years.  In amongst that were letters from LMS Railways in Leicester detailing aspects of my Dad’s glorious and brief  Casey Jones career before he got into teaching, love letters from my parents to one another before and just after their marriage, a letter from my maternal Grandmother to my Mum at her workplace a week after she’d stormed out with my Dad, begging her to come home and begging forgiveness for the terrible things that had been said (she never went back) and finally a letter written by my maternal Grandfather to my Dad’s parents, turning down their invitation to my parents’ wedding on the basis that there had been too much ‘lying and deceit and insulting behaviour’  from my Mum & Dad for them to accept.  Dramatic stuff and though I knew the stories I’d never seen the documentary evidence.

However, for every piece of genuinely interesting stuff I’ve had to wade my way through piles and piles of detritus – most of it prompting the question ‘Why on earth did they keep this?’  About 50 address books – most of them unused, zillions of tourist pamphlets from Salzburg to Saltash to Salt Lake City and a whole box of postcards going back to the 60’s – some of them used/received, others unused/blank.   In another pile were about 150 postcards of Inveraray Castle – all of them unused, all of them identical.  Shelf after shelf of VHS videotapes, boxes of audio cassettes, boxes of 35mm transparencies – the footsoldiers of obsolescent technologies.  I’d already disposed of my Dad’s classical cd’s and old vinyl and there were some favourite pieces like Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’  which he had on cd, LP and audio cassette.  Well you never know….

However, if I needed a metaphor for this whole process, it would be a plain terracotta flowerpot that I found tucked behind a curtain on a windowsill in this overstuffed room.  In it were some pieces of World War 1 shrapnel that my Dad picked up on a trip round the Somme battlefields about 20 years ago.  Apparently, farmers in north-east France still plough up thousands of tons of this stuff every year – they call it the ‘Iron Harvest’ – and they tend to leave it lying by the side of the fields for Bomb Disposal (in the case of munitions) or for the tourists (in the case of less lethal artefacts) to pick up – which is exactly what my Dad did.  He’d picked up several random pieces of very heavy metal, including what was recognisably the remnants of a horseshoe,  and was clearly transfixed by these souvenirs of a war that fascinated him even though it had ended fully 6 years before he was born.  Kept around as a conversation piece for a few weeks after their return from France, the shrapnel had finally been lodged in a random flowerpot, dumped on the windowsill of this room and forgotten.  Twenty years of sun and oxygen and condensation have done their work and most of the shrapnel has by now disintegrated into powdery red dust, which poured out of the hole in the base of the flowerpot the minute I picked it up.  So much for history.

Still, you never know when you might need a few handfuls of rust…might come in handy.

Goofy and Worzel’s Big Adventure

So, ‘Goofy’ Suarez has copped an 8-match ban and a fine of about half a week’s wages for making racist remarks to Patrice Evra during the October fixture at the Dipperdrome.  I actually took the trouble to read large chunks of the 115-page FA Commission report on this whole affair and what struck me most was the level of detail they had gone into over Goofy’s remarks to Evra and his responses.  Apparently this was in order to make it ‘appeal-proof’ and the exhaustive investigations into what was said, by whom and what the cultural or linguistic nuances of that might be would appear to leave Liverpool with very little room for manoeuvre.

In any case, it was clear whilst watching the game that Pat was extremely upset about something that Goofy had said to him.  He kept looking across to the United bench, as if for guidance.  It was abundantly clear that Suarez was trying to wind him up.

All in all, having read large chunks of the Report, there seems little doubt that the case is proven.  Suarez probably isn’t any more of a racist than any other footballer, but he did seemingly use racist remarks  to Evra on this occasion in an attempt to get him booked (he succeeded) or sent off (he didn’t).

Mr Suarez

Who knows how many more ‘undocumented’ cases like this happen at all levels of football during any given season?  Goofy’s mistake was that he picked on the wrong guy.  Gaining an advantage in key games like Liverpool vs United is par for the course and winding up opponents is axiomatic if you think you can needle or unsettle your opponent and provoke them into a rash challenge or injudicious foul.  Through the years, there have been a number of high-profile players with ‘short fuses’ – Denis Law, Roy Keane, Joey Barton, to name but three – who have doubtless been on the receiving end of barbed comments from opponents that were similarly calculated to unsettle and enrage.  It will be interesting to see if there is an increase in this kind of complaint from now on.

What has been far more interesting throughout this whole affair has been the relative responses of the two clubs and their managers.  Fergie and the United camp have been at pains to stay out of it, by and large.  This is fair enough; after all the case was being brought by the F.A., not by Manchester United F.C..  Fergie’s only comment on it was that they were supportive of Evra’s standpoint.

Predictably, Liverpool’s response – and that of  their manager in particular – has been far more of a comedy turn.  The ghosts of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley must have been spinning in their graves at some of ‘Worzel’ Dalglish’s comments. 

Apart from trying to discredit  Patrice Evra’s testimony due to the totally unrelated incidents that took place at Stamford Bridge in 2008 – whilst conveniently neglecting to mention Goofy’s ban for biting a (black) opponent whilst playing for Ajax in 2010 – Worzel has lost considerable respect among the wider footballing community due to the one-eyed parochialism of his responses.  His attempts to plug into Liverpool’s well-documented ‘victim culture’ via Twitter  to ensure that Goofy ‘never walks alone’ (yawn…) have recently been in full flow after L.F.C.’s recent defeat at Fulham – in particular his response to the chants of the Fulham fans about Goofy’s behaviour.  Suck it up, Kenny, because, thanks in no small part to your public utterances,  the terrace wags around the country will be reminding Suarez of his misdemeanours for as long as he remains a Liverpool player, no matter your affronted outrage.  The only surprise is that Dalglish hasn’t yet taken issue with the fact that both of the F.A.’s ‘linguistic experts’ who advised on Goofy’s use of ‘Rioplatense’ Spanish were attached to the University of… guessed it…Manchester.

 United fans, of course, have predictably already developed a parody of Liverpool’s ‘Just can’t get enough’  Suarez song that makes their views on his behaviour perfectly clear.  Should he play at Old Trafford in February, we will undoubtedly be treated to lengthy renditions of this.

Then there was the whole business of the Liverpool squad (and manager) wearing cheap-looking Suarez t-shirts before the recent Wigan game.  Showing solidarity with a team-mate is one thing, but to do so in such an ostentatiously public display is quite another.  Contrast that with the way in which United dealt with Eric Cantona’s ban for assaulting a mouthy idiot in the crowd at Selhurst Park back in 1995.  We all knew – and the club publicly acknowledged – that Eric shouldn’t have done it, but we all supported him anyway – if only because it swiftly became clear that Eric’s target was the worst kind of Sarf London moron.   However, once the seagulls had abandoned the trawler to his fate, the whole thing was quietly taken in-house and he was supported behind closed doors – a concept that Worzel doesn’t seem to have grasped.    

Mr Dalglish

Consider the scale of the screw-ups and the enthusiasm with which everyone connected to  The Dippers has managed to paint themselves into a corner over this issue: first, there have been frequent testimonials from Goofy’s team-mates to the effect that he isn’t a racist, but that is something that he was never charged with.  Add to this Worzel’s attempts to discredit Evra and engage with all those miserable, self-deluding Scousers who have chips the size of Pier Head on their shoulders and think that everything is an anti-Liverpool conspiracy,  plus the sheer embarassment now being felt by Goofy’s advisors who set him up with all kinds of do-gooding anti-racism initiatives in South Africa and elsewhere.  It’s almost beyond belief that a major football club could miscalculate so badly over an issue of such seriousness.

Liverpool’s players and staff have publicly gone out on a limb for Luis Suarez, but now the rest of us get to watch them squirm as the penny finally drops and they realise that they are going to have to back down and eat humble pie over this.  Their aggressive stance and their belated understanding that they were just making things worse with each successive public statement will make the inevitable, eventual climbdown even more hilarious.  If I were Evra, I would insist that Suarez is made to apologise publicly in the middle of Moss Side at 10:30 pm on a Saturday night.  I’m sure then that we would see some of the speed and movement for which he is so famous.

Postscript 04 Jan 2012

Well, well, looks like I over-estimated the capacity of Liverpool F.C. to see beyond their own parochial interests and regain a little dignity from a situation that has left their reputation – and that of Dalglish and Suarez in particular – in tatters.

But no; the wagons have been pulled into an even tighter circle and they have decided to move on without any  apology to the affronted party, without any acceptance that Suarez was guilty or that their response to this problem has often been crass and inappropriate in the extreme. It’s not often that I am guilty of over-estimating Liverpool F.C., but here is one such occasion.  Mea culpa.

Had the situations been reversed, I would like to think that my club would have had the wisdom and humility to see that more was at stake here than just their own narrow interests and over-developed persecution complex.  As mentioned previously, they did so back in 1995 over the Cantona Affair and managed to handle it just about right.  When Cantona returned after a much longer ban, it was with a sense that justice had been served and that he could resume his career with a clean slate.  He did so and although his absence probably cost us the Premiership Title that year, the following year we did the Double with Cantona scoring a brilliant winning goal in an otherwise drab FA Cup Final against Liverpool.  Eric won numerous Player of the Year awards and both player and  club were feted for their phoenix-like revival.  Football moved on.

Can’t see that happening with Goofy, no matter how good a player he is.  Liverpool’s aggressive and unrepentant stance over this sorry affair will ensure that upon his return, Suarez will no doubt be treated as a Martyr and another member of the pantheon of Merseyside Victims  at the Dipperdrome, whilst everywhere else he will be treated as a racist, even though he probably isn’t.  Last night, the City fans were singing ‘Where’s your racist gone?’  to their Scouse counterparts and this will no doubt continue for the rest of this season and probably beyond.  Serves ’em right, frankly. 

Dalglish and Co may reject the views of the F.A. Commission, but the ‘Court of Public Opinion’ has already made its mind up and though Patrice Evra isn’t exactly a popular figure outside of Red Manchester, most people – except for Dipper fans – understand that he had a genuine grievance here; one worthy of some contrition and some kind of apology from Suarez and LFC, neither of which it seems will now be forthcoming.  This was a moment for Liverpool as a club and for Suarez as a human being to show a little class and even I am surprised at how far short of the mark they have fallen with their intransigence and their arrogant, delusional self-interest.

It will be interesting to see how the F.A. respond to the scorn poured on their Commission by Worzel in particular; if managers can be charged with Disrepute raps for abusing referees, surely Dalglish has a case to answer for his arrogance and contempt towards the governing body?  On the other hand, the F.A. may just want to let the whole thing quietly subside.

Another curious aspect of this concerns the total silence of  LFC’s American owners over this issue.  NES probably have a greater appreciation of ‘race’ issues through their involvement with Baseball in the USA and you would have thought that a little of their accumulated wisdom might have trickled down from on high and into the ears of Dalglish and the players.  John Henry will know that this affair has left a severe dent in Liverpool’s reputation, and further damged their relationships with both the F.A. and with Manchester United.

The latter is a real concern as what used to be a healthy local rivalry becomes increasingly toxic by the year.  Suarez is due to be back for the Old Trafford game next month and I would imagine that police forces in Greater Manchester and on Merseyside are already gearing up for what is likely to be a powder-keg of a day.

Post-Postscript 14 Jan 2012

To use an over-used cliché, you couldn’t make it up…

Just when the F.A. thought that things couldn’t get any worse, we get what must seem to them to be the F.A. Cup Fourth Round Draw from Hell…..QPR v Chelsea and Liverpool v United.    Just when they were hoping that the whole ‘racism in football’ issue would dry up and blow away.  No chance of that now.  Suarez, Evra, Terry & Anton Ferdinand  are back under the microscope.

  To be honest, I have been in a state of shock about this for the last 10 days.  At the very least, these fixtures – especially the Liverpool/United tie – raise a whole raft of issues that will no doubt mean that any and every public utterance from either side ahead of the Cup game will be subject to intense media scrutiny.  From here, with a favourable wind, I can almost hear the sound of sacrificial knives being sharpened in the Street of Shame.

Suarez has issued a half-arsed and general ‘apology’ that satisfied nobody and merely highlights his and his club’s contempt for  Evra, the F.A. and Manchester United – and probably in that order.  Fergie has commented sarcastically about Liverpool’s predilection for making large and empty public statements.  Clearly, his view is that ‘peace talks’ at board level will not alleviate the tribal toxicity that Dalglish et al have let loose – and he’s probably right. 

Things are coming to the boil and by the end of this, the result of a couple of football matches (the Cup game and subsequent Premiership game at Old Trafford in early February) may be the least of our worries……

The safest bet – being as ITV will almost certainly broadcast the Cup game live on free-to-air TV  – would be to play it ‘behind closed doors’, but that would undoubtedly be seen as an acknowledgement by the football authorities that the fans are out of control and the police and stewards will be able to do little or nothing to control them if there are any flashpoints.  No doubt if that should prove to be the case, Kenny Dalglish will be as disinclined to accept any responsibility as he has been throughout this whole sorry mess.  Pretty classy for someone who witnessed at first hand what happened at both Heysel and Hillsborough.  

If the abuse one (black)  Oldham player got from the Kop during a recent cup tie is anything to go by, what kind of reception can Patrice Evra expect to get – assuming he is picked to play?  And if he doesn’t play, what does that say about the levels of snarling vitriol that Liverpool FC have effectively sponsored and encouraged throughout this affair?

You would like to think that Liverpool and United fans alike will be aware of the fact that – more than ever – the world will be looking on and  that they will consequently show some restraint and some maturity.  However, Dalglish and Liverpool have already set the tone ahead of this match and in an atmosphere of resentment, loathing and parochial prejudice, does anyone seriously believe that an outbreak of peace is likely?