Saturday, May 31, 2003

Inevitable posting

It’s that time of year again, ten weeks of utter drivel, pointless nobodies trying their very best to get a bit of fame. People scrambling for something to say to fill the tedious void. Yep, the Standard and the Mail are writing about Big Brother again.

The supposed highbrow tabloids coverage is exactly the same as it has been for the last four years. Last week the Standard once again ran a story about how BB was Orwellian in its concept. Which you have to admit is breathtakingly perceptive. The Mail believed it to be like Lord of the Flies and even Animal Farm. Presumably aiming to demonstrate their extraordinary depth of knowledge of A Level English Literature. Next week: why Big Brother is like Cider With Rosie, and Kes.

It is banality dressed up as intelligent commentary, which is basically how the world turns, but it’s at times like these that you turn to something altogether more honest.

The Sun and the Mirror are just in there swinging away with their own brand of pure banality. The Sun is the Official Big Brother paper, spending most of their time analysing the girls’ boobs – did you know that Sexy Sissy is a 32A but would like to be a cup size bigger?

The Mirror is unofficial and apparently Anti-BB despite, curiously, carrying the BB logo without any apparent infringement of copyright, hmmm. They basically run the same story but prefix each contestant’s name with something alliteratively derogatory - did you know Sad Sissy is a 32A but would like to be a cup size bigger?

What’s there not to like about Big Brother? It isn’t a social experiment, it is affected by editing, there is an element of cruelty, extroverts and show-offs tend to apply and there are long periods of nothingness. But is that not your life? Long periods of quiet moments, punctuated by periods of interest and excitement, your hard earned reputation and public façade eroded by other people’s misconceptions of you.

I find life is too busy to have to work my way up a moral totem pole. I spend my whole life bluffing about my ability, so I feel no need to pontificate about the flaws in the Big Brother concept. It’s far easier to kick back and enjoy it for what it is. So, in what I hope will be a regular feature, here is Ruffles’ BB current league table.

1. Nush – Can’t fault nice people, not nearly as precious as she looks.
2. Gos – Who cannot like the Hip Hop Asian, who responded to the first night nominations with “Man youse peoples are harsh”. Respect due.
3. Cameron – Dull, dependable, nice, apparently in complete awe at being there.
4. Steph – Kind of like Cameron
5. Anouska – Warmed to her, but she gone.
6. Sissy – Seems OK, did you know she’s a 32A but would like to be a cup size bigger?
7. Scott – Seems OK
8. Federico – Seems OK, although has the look of a arrogant turd
9. Jon – Spectacularly dull, always worth keeping him in just to gnaw away at the others’ goodwill.
10. Tania – Barely registering, bar tabloid scandals about her bedding Peter Andre
11. Justine – Much the same, without the Peter Andre bit.
12. Ray – Much the same without anything at all

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Punjabi Em C

Emma’s birthday has always been like a Hindu festival. It takes days to complete and has many sections and phases. 12 days after her birthday we entered phase four, the others being her actual birthday day, the ex-work colleagues dinner, and the dinner for people who couldn’t make Brighton. This was the trip to Brighton for the people who could make Brighton.

Vicki picked out the groovy boutique hotel the Alias Seattle in the Brighton Marina for us to enjoy a day or so with Simon, the Dobscrubs, and Russ and Sam just kicking back drinking with beautiful people in the cocktail bar, eating with beautiful people in a local restaurant, and watching fireworks with beautiful people from our seafront balcony. (To the beautiful people, we were the ugly people pointing at you).

We breakfasted in the Café Paradiso as the morning sun kissed our cheeks (the ones on our faces). We played on the decaying Air Hockey tables, and rode the Crazy Mouse rollercoaster at the end of the pier (terrifying), meandered through the meandering Lanes, ate Funky Tuna Bagels, and decided that once we got home, our lives would be different, we wouldn’t get wrapped up in work, our houses would be fashionably minimalist and hotel spotless, we would go down the gym and get buff, and we would spend our lives sitting in coffee shops philosophising during the day and drink in cocktail bars at night.

Today - Crash, burn, flames, everywhere.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Oh the shame

I have a good brain for ‘tabloid geography’ – i.e. not real geography, but the geography of knowing the name of different capital cities. I know where Sofia is, and Bucharest and Tiblisi. This has come from years of watching European football on the telly. I also have a well developed understanding of underlying cultural politics, which I have developed from years of watching Eurovision.

I’m not sure where my family’s fondness for Eurovision comes from. As kids we’d get in loads of sweets, and watch all nine hours of it (well, what felt like nine hours). We’d score each song, sometimes using the Radio Times cut out and keep score card (does anyone keep those things) sometimes using dad’s very own computer scoreboard programmed on the Commodore 64 – which was often more hi-tech than the scoreboard being used at the show. My sisters would always score UK 10 out of 10, making the whole thing a sham but it was an important part of family bonding that has served us well as we’ve grown up.

That’s rubbed off on many people, My sister’s best friend has been known to engineer nights in with my parents to watch it, and whoever I watch it with becomes strangely obsessed. Last night, it was with Gareth and Sara. Gareth is an aggressively competitive 23-year-old boy’s boy who had just won his football team’s player of the year award. He had a notebook out collecting scores based on song, performance and look. When we’re in town, everyone goes Eurovision.

As a family we we’ve always been pro-Europe (the irony being, you can’t actually be anti-Europe), and Eurovision has always been the image of an idealised Europe. All countries smiling and dancing with each other, the UK in amongst them arrogantly confident that despite all evidence to suggest otherwise, we are still the greatest country in the world.

But it’s all changed, last night’s national disgrace Jemini (she’s called Gemma, so it’s like Gem ‘n’ I, but spelt with a J geddit?) failed to notch a single point for their woefully flat performance of Bye Bye Baby. In the past countries coming bottom have been relegated because of the influx of East Europeans wanting to enter, so like football in the eighties, politics in the, erm, well, now and business in the 70’s whilst we have smugly sat around thinking we were the best, things have moved on and we’ve slipped out of the elite into oblivion.

I for one will be thinking long and hard about how much more I can take.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Weird Wycombe

Wycombe is a town in a valley; it has grown up through its furniture making industry, presumably because of the abundance of raw materials available in the Chiltern Hills. Furniture making is not really a big business in the town anymore. Because of its valley location and subsequent poor access people only go there when they really have to. The local industry is a reflection of this, the town is full of dour but necessary industries. The interesting industries go some place else. It doesn’t make for a great town.

It’s a similar situation with the people, George talks of ‘valley people’ who live in Wycombe and tend to be a bit odd. It’s not surprising, if you were bright and intelligent, you would live in one of the local villages, or perhaps Oxford, or London. Wycombe is the last place you’d try.

Being a good natured chap, I wasn’t prepared to believe it until yesterday when I had to go and pay a bill in town. I waited in the queue and used the pen on a string to fill in my pay slip, then stared vacantly as I moved forward. Suddenly I felt and nudge and a rustle, I was being manoeuvred out of the way. I turned to see what was going on. A small Jamaican lady was edging her way past me. “Excuse me” she said reaching down the counter. I moved out of the way unsure of where she was trying to get to, she picked up the pen I’d just been writing with, gave it a yank to break the string, and put it in her bag. She then shuffled back to her spot in the queue.

A little disturbed by the desperation of someone so openly stealing a 20p pen, I went to WHSmiths. I was looking for a magazine when one of the staff came up to an old man reading an angling magazine. “Can I help” she said obviously trying to push him into making a purchase, or put the magazine down. He looked up.

“No thank you dear, I’ll just read the bits I’m interested in, then I’ll go.”

And then he carried on reading. It’s a town of fruitloops.

Monday, May 19, 2003

My name's Roy

In my minds eye, the cup final existed on another planet. You drove in the vague direction of London or now Cardiff, and eventually a causeway would open and you’d drive to FA Cup Final Island passing as you did Bert Trautmann rubbing his broken neck, Ricky Villa weaving his way through the Man City defence, and Stanley Matthews waving from his very own Cup Final Condominium (with a Stan Mortensen looking grumpy behind him).

At the gate Ossie Ardiles’d greet you, and with the magic password “Tottingham” you’d go in.

The reality is not so far from the truth; Saturday was everything I hoped it would be and feared it wouldn’t. The colour and the noise, the perfect conditions (helped by the stadium roof), and the magical other worldly quality that only comes from 24,000 grown men in yellow and blue tinselly wigs made it the spectacle I needed it to be for me to retain a bit of boyhood delusion.

It was the Southampton fans that really made it; they filled their end an hour before kick off, the entire place bedecked in yellow and blue. Arsenal fans on the other hand arrived ten minutes before kick off, displaying the arrogance of success that made the day their consolation prize, not their dream. An arrogance which makes them forget that it’s teams like Southampton that makes their superiority mean something.

A Southampton goal would have made it, judging by they reception they got for coming out, the scenes if they had hit the back of the net would have been breathtaking. Arsenal demonstrated moments of guile, pace and creativity which is frightening to watch, let alone play against. At times they appear stuck, passing the ball around midfield, running crossfield, then all the cogs slip into place and they’re all moving, cutting their way through the Saints back four. It’s like each player splinters into five more and suddenly they’re a swarm. At Oxford, I know exactly what the players are doing; they just do it consistently better than me. Arsenal do things I can’t imagine trying to do, the faint, drag back, push and go, all in one fluid movement. Each section ending perfectly poised and balanced to move into the next. Southampton had no answer, their two dimensional attack nullified by Marsden’s poor crossing starved Beattie of service and failed to release the pace of Ormerod. They ran out of ideas and energy and Arsenal were the winners.

And then they lifted the cup and Seaman danced like your dad at a wedding. We clapped the dejected Saints players and made for the exit and back into the real world.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Final destination

The Cup Final actually meant something in our house. That day more than any other saw my family (excluding my philistine sisters) acting like the archetypal 1950’s nuclear family round the television watching the build up and the game.

Dad had the inordinate talent for naming every cup winner since 1872, usually annotating his answer with a neat bit of trivia; “Ah yes, 1939, the Monkey Glands Final”. Such a feat was made all the more staggering in that he usually fell asleep ten minutes before half time waking up ten minutes before the end to announce that “This is the worst cup final I’ve ever seen”.

What was special about the cup final was the build up. It always started early, perhaps with Cup Final Swap Shop. Then you’d see the players getting up (having their first fag, kicking the old tart out the bedroom etc.), you’d see them choosing their cup final suits (grey, shiny, white flecks), going on the coach to the game and finally disappearing into Wembley.

Intertwined was the showbiz element. Stan Boardman, Cup Final Question of Sport (Emlyn Hughes, Bill Beaumont), the celebrity fans. What’s more, it was BBC and ITV at the same time. One year we set up a portable black and white next to the normal telly so we could watch both sides at the same time. As technology progressed, we’d record ITV whilst BBC was on live. We’d often miss bits because there weren’t three strong men available to lift the new tape into the machine. This was when you hit record; the buttons would give off a satisfying “KERCHUNK” noise.

You were usually exhausted by kick-off. Traditionally it’s always hot, often you’d get some old pro announcing that it was 450 degrees at pitch level and that the players, dehydrated from the previous night’s booze up wouldn’t cope. Cramp was an occupational hazard and there are many stories of players having to go off after scoring because they exhausted themselves celebrating.

The games weren’t always classics, Alan Sunderland’s last minute goal in 1979 probably making that year the best cup final in a generation. His hairdo was probably the best perm in a generation too. Coventry in 1987 was a classic, Liverpool v Everton in 1989 set to the backdrop of the Hillsborough disaster was an amazing day. Not least seeing people scaling the walls of Wembley to get in.

Anyway, I shall be thinking about all this as I sit in my seat on Saturday.

Oh sorry, did I forget to mention I’m going to the Cup Final this year?

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Mrs Robinson

Emma was delighted when she got out of bed that her boobs didn’t hit the floor, she was less pleased to find out that all that was stopping them was her knock-knees. It seems despite the onset of time she’s holding up rather well, mind you suddenly she’s dressing very young for her age.

Happy birthday m’luv.

Monday, May 12, 2003


If it weren’t for Emma’s Irish dancing fund raiser at school I’d have probably never have gone to EMAYL on Friday. EMAYL is not some groovy boho urban eatery with brushed steel industrial fittings and seventies porn playing on plasma screens in the corner. EMAYL is our local Eat as Much As You Like Chinese.

EMAYL is much more Sara and Gareth than Justin and Emma, we like atmosphere in our dining establishments, they like volume and value for money. With Emma off the scene, I tagged along with them for my fill of Chinese and to watch the crock of shit that is X-Men 2.

I mention this only because it gives me an opportunity to articulate something that I am not usually able to during normal conversations – other things being “Men’s futile obsession with thongs” and “Paedophilia, it’s not all black and white” (‘Just a very dark grey’ according to the visibly disturbed Nobby). I once phoned EMAYL to find out whether they were open. The woman who answered was particularly terse when I asked if it was the Eat As Much As You Can restaurant, no, she said, it was the Eat as Much As You Like restaurant.

Why was she so adamant about the difference? Well, Eat As Much As You Can means eating so much that your gut expands and begins to press on your spinal column causing you to lose feeling in your feet and your vision to narrow. East As Much As You Like, means eating until you don’t really fancy anymore watery noodles or Fried Anything covered in thin sweet and sour sauce (usually after about half a plate).

The difference is absolutely crucial to the success of their business. If everyone came in to eat as much as they could the business would be bankrupt within weeks. People wouldn’t leave until they you could see crispy chilli beef coming out of their nostrils and hoi sin sauce leaking out of their tear ducts.

Mind you, some of the people there on Friday were giving it a good go.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Music is my life

Listening to Miss Kittin’s Radio Caroline mix tape she announces in her ethereal non-specific European accent that this music represents a soundtrack to her life (a movie that is real, apparently). The mix is not what I expected being a CD of Warp Records style techno; Auterche, Mu-Ziq etc. it pootles along nicely and she chats over the fudged mixes.

The assertion that the music is a soundtrack to her life is hardly what you’d call groundbreaking. If I were to concoct a soundtrack of my life it would probably have to start with ‘Under the Moon of Love’ by Showaddywaddy and finish with Skattered Jazz by Dirty Sole getting from one to another will be tricky because so many points needed to be touched in between.

I’m surrounded by piles of music, I carried 25 CDs out of the boot of my car yesterday, and dumped them on 25 more CDs that came out of my car a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve got a drum and bass version of The Dad’s Army Theme, two copies of KLF’s 1987 (The bootlegged complete one, and the one where all the samples are taken out for copyright reasons and you’re given a book on how to recreate them (includes instructions like, record 1984 Christmas Top of The Pops and splice up the chart run down leaving out 17). I have a ludicrously early pressing of Aphex Twin’s Didgeridoo, I have It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back on all formats (tape when I was a teenager, CD when I got a CD player, and Vinyl when I found a copy for £3.99 in HMV). I have everything Justin Timberlake’s ever committed to vinyl and over forty Depeche Mode singles. Music leaks into my house – between me starting and finishing this post I got a new record I ordered it months ago and it’s just arrived. I don’t even have to leave my house anymore.

I’ve even changed my buying policy to purchase only records that I actually want – this will only mean something to people with a voracious appetite for buying music (sometimes you have to buy an album or two to know you don’t like someone). I still don’t have Just A Little Bit by Liberty X, Celebrity Skin by Hole, She-La-Na-Gig by PJ Harvey or Don’t Stop Movin’ by S Club but I really want them. And if anyone is willing to part with Tricks of the Shade by The Goats on CD, I have money.

Despite this, you’d hope that I have a record to satisfy every point on my multi-dimensional mood graph, but for some reason no. Listening to Ugly Duckling in the car yesterday and I wanted to listen to Elbow, it wasn’t quite rocky enough, so I moved onto Elephant by The White Stripes, it still didn’t hit the mark so I figured maybe something like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

But I don’t even have any Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, I’ve never even heard a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club record, why would I think that would suit my mood?

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Over paid over sexed over here

We were once asked by an American to point to Stonehenge on his map. This would have been fine if it weren’t for the fact he was looking at a map of Windsor and standing in front of the castle. Naturally we vaguely pointed to somewhere just out of view, indicated that he could follow the signs and legged it.

No doubt Madonna, when she reads this, will be laughing at the foreigner’s stupidity. No doubt she’ll be drinking her beloved pint of Tommy Taylor’s bitter down the Dock and Duck in Soho whilst she does it. This is just a…. hang on….

Oh, fuck off woman.

There was a time when we as a nation were accused of being little more than a big US aircraft carrier, now we’re a bloody rehab clinic. Going British is the latest US celebrity fad, fuck Tai Chi, and Macrobiotic diets, let’s have pie and mash and a night down the dogs. Madonna and Guy Ritchie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, Nicole Kidman and Ewan MaGregor, Dustin Hoffman and Johnny Vegas. Americans wanting to immerse themselves in some kind of ‘real’ British culture (“with all that history”, as though history is a commodity). They do their theatre, drive their Minis, see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in concert at the Monarch, joke about they’re terrible theatre wages on leftfield talk shows. It was a neat novelty at first; but the fad is gone, isn’t it about time they all went a bit eighties and moved to Berlin to be close to the burgeoning Nu Punk Synth Scene?

Much more of this and we’ll have Americans shopping at Tesco and visiting Bracknell. Nothing is safe, soon sniggering landladies won’t be able charge treble their normal price because the bed they bought from Argos was “The one King Henry the Eighth first bedded JK Rowling in”. It’s a bloody disaster.

I’ve been trying to find a term for these people I’ve toyed with Van Dykes, and Brankies but have come up with an acronym:

Migrating Yank Celebrities Hope to Initiate Pitiful Pursuit of Ill-conceived English Traditions to Help Evolve Image, and ValiditY

OK, it’s not great, but it does kind of spell out….


Sunday, May 04, 2003


Anyone who saw Manchester United v Real Madrid had to be impressed by the fluidity and skill on show. Two of the world’s best sides playing it like a Playstation game, all immaculate passing, flawless tackling and perfectly executed goals.

If football is theatre, this was pure Andrew Lloyd Webber; glossy, skilful, entertaining, and totally anodyne. A minute after Ronaldo equalised you could see United fans smiling broadly enjoying their evening with the family, sharing their drinks and reading the programme. When Ronaldo went off having embarrassed United’s ‘world class defence’ Old Trafford applauded politely. All very lovely.

This is fine, and it’s just the kind of harmless light entertainment that ITV wants for Tuesday night viewing. But if you think that’s what makes football the biggest sport in the world, you’re wrong.

Football is mostly gut poppingly frustrating, a total waste of time, and often a complete waste of money. As a form of entertainment it registers just below heart surgery. But the elevation from these regular frustrations to the preciously rare joy that comes from a success is what makes it the greatest sport on the planet. In a fortnight Southampton will be in the FA Cup final for the first time since they won it in 1976. Their fans have watched their team for the intervening 27 years with little reward, but they still go every week in the hope that they’ll do it again. If they lose to Arsenal, which they probably will, they may have to wait another 27 years for another go. On that basis you’re looking at perhaps three moments of tangible joy in a football supporters lifetime. And Southampton are one of the more successful teams in the country.

Yesterday Oxford were on the verge of a rare moment of joy, if Lincoln lost to Torquay and we won, Oxford would be in the play-offs. From the play-offs we could be promoted from the cloggers and animals in Division 3, to the cloggers and animals in Division 2.

Oxford scored after two minutes and never looked like losing, near half time the place erupted even though the ball wasn’t on the pitch. Lincoln were losing. We were winning. We were in the play-offs and chasing promotion.

The second half came, somebody leapt up shouting “Torquay have got a penalty!” There was a pregnant pause, if you can imagine the pregnant pause of six thousand Oxford fans waiting to hear the news of a Torquay player taking a penalty in Lincoln. A moment later stadium was jumping, Torquay were 2-0 up. As the concrete stands cracked under the cacophony the bloke in front of me tuned into his radio, he turned to me perplexed; “They had a penalty, but they missed it”. It was the biggest game of Chinese whispers Oxford had ever seen. Somebody shouts they’ve got a penalty, somebody else translates that as they’ve scored a penalty. Somewhere in Lincoln, a Torquay striker holds his head in his hands as the ball nestles comfortably in the arms of the grateful Lincoln keeper.

Lincoln were still losing though, we were winning, that was enough. The tension rose, which made reading the quietening crowd more difficult, each text message beep that went off, each ripple of the crowd, the occasional bloke who jumped up shouting “It’s 2-0!” which caused another surge of delight, but turned out to be another reference to the penalty they scored but missed. What would it sound like if Lincoln scored and doomed us to another year of Division 3 football? With four minutes left we found out, yelping, swearing but overall a ghostly silence drifted across the stadium.

And that is what football is about. In a season you watch 69 hours of frustrating, largely un-entertaining football, and despite this investment you may miss out with four minutes of those 69 hours left. Your next opportunity will only come after 69 hours more of football. It’s like reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, only to find out that when Frodo gets to the Mount Doom he left the ring on the mantelpiece back in the Shire, and the Mount Doom have been turned into a Hungry Horse restaurant with child’s ball pool and play area.

If you don’t follow football but see David Beckham on Pepsi adverts and think that’s what it’s about. It’s not, it’s all the kicking and screaming under the media sheen that makes football what it is. Football isn’t really about the top teams and players; it’s about Vietnamese second division promotion race, the Mongolia Vs Greenland international friendly, the Peruvian cup quarter-final second replay. People forget that.

Newer Posts Older Posts Home

Blogger Template by Blogcrowds