Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tension and trauma

This week we will have a baby; this will change our lives forever. Everything will tilt on its axis, and I will be responsible for keeping a little person alive.

Next weekend if Oxford win at home to Leyton Orient we stay up. If we don't we are no longer a football league team. An Oxford win would mean we'd have 52 points. Then the loser of the Notts County Vs Bury game will go down; if it's a draw then Notts County go down because of their inferior goal difference. That's if Stockport, Barnet, Torquay and Macclesfield don't go lose and Notts get at least a point. Then one of that quartet will go down, probably Stockport, unless they win in which any of the other three will have to look over their shoulders nervously. For Oxford its simple, we just have to win. They're at home, and they're playing Leyton Orient. If Orient win they will be promoted. This makes them a. good and b. determined. Expecting a win is a big assumption, but at least its simple.

It's not the thought of Oxford slipping into the black hole of the Conference that concerns me. Many teams come back to the football league rejuvenated, and Oxford have a good set up so I wouldn't expect the stay to be that long (that's not to say we'll walk it next season, though that may be the assumption). It may be an opportunity to refresh things. The Conference is mostly professional and not that different to League 2. Its the tour of ignominy and humiliation that we will undertake if we drop down; playing Canvey Island, competing in the FA Trophy and qualifying for the FA Cup. For now, the humiliation isn't a factor, we know we've been rubbish, we've been through defeat after defeat; other fans telling us this doesn't register. Now we've set up this cup final scenario its exciting and I'm looking forward to it.

Now, I know the two events aren't comparable, but I've never had a baby and I've watched Oxford since I was three. This makes them both significant. I know where my priorities lie, should the baby start to come on Friday or Saturday, I know I'll be at the hospital not on in my seat at the Kassam. I know there will be those out there who are not interested in babies or football and who will read this in bewilderment. All I can say is that the timing is terrible and its building up a lot of nervous tension.

Not much is happening at work, thank god, because it's going to be quite a week.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Getting more than you bargain for

Mining to the bottom of Emma's mum's daftness is a thankless and endless task, but it may be worth dedicating a whole website to it, if I wasn't dedicating a whole website to me that is. Aside from announcing that the cat has leukaemia and identifying my iPod as a baby monitor much of her time is spent letter writing. Usually this involves writing to Marks and Spencer to complain about how their pleated skirts are not navy but dark blue. She once wrote to the Times in response to an article about Eddie Stobart trucks to say she preferred Nobert Dentressangle. She even wrote to the head of a large charity to complain that the gold medals given to the best fundraisers was a misappropriation of charitable funds, the head of the charity being the Queen.

She reads This England; 'Britain's loveliest magazine' a fanzine 'celebrating' an England of yore; of teas, vicars and white people. The England they depict is based on a complete fantasy of harmony and nobility where the global empire was based on the exportation of scones and music hall. They don't like shopping centres, baseball caps and foreigners. Every day is sunny in This England; and slightly racist and jingoistic. Emma's mum doesn't see it, she just sees its loveliness.

Word reaches us that she's now decided to join The University of the Third Age, a community for the retired. Technically its for for those 'no longer in full time gainful employment'. Presumably the term 'economically useless' wasn't appropriate. A quick scan of their website reveals that the Lincoln chapter's programme of events is scrabble, history and bird watching. Go to Peterborough, however, for Shakespeare, patchwork, geological matters and swimming on Monday mornings alone. You actually have to apply to join the, *cough*, U3A; not everyone gets in. Emma's mum is applying because she 'never went to University', I think she knows that this isn't a real university, but she may be in for a shock if my suspicions about links to swinging and scientology are in any way founded.

* please note picture not Emma's mum

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Waiting 2

Still nothing. There was progress on Sunday when Emma experienced something inelegant that signalled something was happening. Ater that, nothing, nada, nowt. This movement eased the midwife’s mania for an internal prod, she was more interested in what Emma was wearing. The girls at yesterdays baby class coffee morning agreed that she shouldn’t be pushed into anything she wasn’t comfortable with, so the waiting game continues. This advice may change at today’s baby class coffee morning. Or next Wednesdays.

This advice could be from The Maker himself in comparison to Emma’s mum’s imparted wisdom this week. On Friday, 24 hours before the due date, she scared Emma silly by declaring with some vigour that the cat had Feline Leukaemia (prompting me to ask, with more vigour, ‘exactly how many years of veterinary training have you done?’). This was followed up yesterday with her saying that our new baby monitor was very neat… a baby monitor that is, in fact, my iPod.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


A extract from Chris Waddle's expert analysis of the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Chelsea on the radio on Saturday...

Commentator: "Free kick to Liverpool just outside the box, Riise, Alonso and Gerrard are over the ball"

Waddle: "This isn't for Riise, its more a free kick for a right footer for me."

Commentator: "There's a lot of jostling in the wall, Makele has broken off ready to charge the ball down."

Waddle: "I hope they're not going to tap it, Makele will be two feet from it by the time they hit it, it'll be a massive waste."

Commentator: "Riise taps it to Gerrard who tees is up for Riise who curls it round Makele... GOOOOAAAAALLLLL!"

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Today is supposed to be The Day, although all is quiet so far. Admittedly I'm sitting blogging this with headphones on listening to my first mix created on Ableton Live; which may be available as a download in enormous file-o-vision soon. I s'pose Emma could be upstairs rolling around in agony; but I doubt it. I'll go check in a bit, if I've got the time.

The midwife seems very keen to get the baby out before the bank holiday; maybe she has plans. She seemed a little disappointed that Emma's bump is not yet hard (and therefore ripe). Her solution, it seems, is to threaten bigger, more intrusive and rustier implements, all in the hope that Emma will be able to reach a pact with the baby and get pushin'

The baby is relatively (though not unhealthily) small which means it won't grow to the size of a small teenager as the days tick by, its also perfectly positioned for exit so there's nothing to worry about. it's not usual to go 10 days over.

The baby group had seven bumps, we have news that two have popped. The first to arrive was the last due; four and a half weeks early. At some point I will get onto the baby group's obsession with coffee mornings, but in the meantime, I go to the football, we wait.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

It was twenty years ago today

I can't let the day pass without marking the 20th anniversary of Oxford United's greatest ever day. Oxford beat QPR 3-0 to win the Milk Cup at Wembley in front of 100,000 people. I was 13, it was my first visit to Wembley and it was vast.

Oxford fans still sing "When Shots* went up to win the Milk Cup we were there, we were there" when you know most weren't. I was though, with my flag, Oxford shirt and my silky blue and yellow flatcap. I looked like a teenage football casual. Well, it was the 80's.

I still remember driving down the M40 with 35,000 Oxford fans, watching the Oxford team bus steam past with a police escort, seeing Trevor Hebberd take about twenty minutes to line up his shot and put away the first goal and being worried about losing despite being 3-0 up with 5 minutes to go.

Great days. Dad had watched Oxford since their non-league days so the transformation was even more startling. We're now 3 points off the bottom of League 2 with three games to go, it's not inconceivable that I too will be able to boast that I've seen the mighty U's at Wembley and Woking.

* Shots was Malcolm Shotton, the Oxford captain.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ready for blast off

The house has never been more sorted out. You can walk in straight lines from a to b. There are no piles of washing, extraneous cables, cobwebs or rogue pasta swirls crunching under foot on the kitchen floor. We are ready to receive a baby.

The last remaining room to be sorted out was the cupboard under the stairs. We got everything out, had arguments about the difference between what things are worth and what they cost (old dresses are not worth £300, they cost £300, they are only worth £300 if someone is prepared to pay £300 for them) and threw away 38 bottles of booze (mostly free wine they give away with at the Chinese takeaway). The kitchen was a mess of ironing boards, laptop bags, paint pots and videos which had things like “Dirty Dancing – do not erase” written on the side.

At this point Emma announced that she was having an ‘unusual twinge’. I pleaded for her to not go into labour because a) there was junk everywhere and b) giving birth in the cupboard under the stairs would present a raft of unique problems not considered at the ante natal class.

“It’ll be fine”, she said, “Jesus was born in a stable”.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Normal service will be resumed shortly...

Any of you who uses my feed to keep up with this site, and you should, it's terribly clever, you'll be impressed by my prolific morning of updates. Hundreds of them. You may also be disappointed to see the net result of all this work being this measily post. Sorry, I've been doing a bit of maintenence on my archives and hitting update blog too much. You won't see any differences unless you look really hard, but it makes me feel better.

And for anyone who thought I had a car crash on Monday (see post below). I didn't, IT WAS A METAPHOR.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Car crash Mondays

There are few greater experiences than a car crash Monday. Its what happens when you exit Sunday too quickly, usually having been propelled by a fantastic Saturday, or in this case, Friday. This weekend spat me out at a such a velocity I don't think I landed until Monday lunchtime.

Friday was Katie and James' superb wedding, surrounded by my favourite people in the whole world. Saturday was our baby class, which despite all expectations to the contrary, has been excellent. We are now fully licenced to turn our lives inside out. Then I had a sleep deprived out of body experience at the football, which was absolute garbage, but I no don't care. Saturday night was more time with my favourite people (sadly not all of them, this time). Sunday, I had to endure some extreme nesting from Emma (which basically involves smashing the house to pieces), then over to mum and dad's for dinner, then...

Petoowee! car crash Monday. Ace. Again! Again!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Not many men can wear cuban heels

Ah bless, one cherubic poster on the Depeche Mode message board was ruing the fact so few people turned up to Friday's NEC gig in iconic Violator era Dave Gahan leather jacket, Aviator sunglasses and white jeans. Apparently this was his garb du jour. Some years ago it wasn't unusual to see Depeche fans dressed like this, but now they're defined by their girth, not their dress. Many still wear tour merchandise of various vintages (generally speaking Devotional t-shirts have survived years of wash and wear best) but most freakish obsessives limit themselves to comedy Gestapo leather coats because they're more slimming than white vests.

Despite the tired, lazy, media coverage about their doom laden Essex boy electro pop, The Mode still give great show. It's a little grungier than the polished electronica from the first time we saw them sixteen years ago, but sometimes its good to indulge in proper portentous stadium rock. Gahan makes no excuses for his well rehearsed rock god performance; happy to lead an arms in the air clap-a-thon or screech "C'MOWN!" in an odd LA drawl. He appears to have added a subtle Spanish theme to his stage show for this tour, and a 'bolted horsey' foxtrot. Ah well, he's 44, even he has to be embarrassing dad once in a while.

Of course he's supported by the awkward, but brilliant, Martin Gore who now seems permanently attached to his lead guitar. Conversely, the band's other stalwart, Andy Fletcher, sticks with what he knows; bouncing behind his space aged console on lead, em, Excel. His presence on stage disguising the fact his principle role is actually as the band's accountant.

The beauty of stadium rock is its slickness; video, song and sensible health and safety regulations meld as one. Films of demure, usually half naked, models bathed in brooding coloured light are interlaced with live action band close ups that reveal years of drug abuse and peculiar sex are not without consequence. Like the venue, the show is convenient, safe and well thought through. The live drums and guitar mean they're a bit more ragged than usual; they have to restart Personal Jesus after attempting to play the whole song in the intro, but even this cock up is suspiciously slick. In the end the set is predictable; a song from the new album, an couple of classics, a couple more songs from the new album, then classics right through to the encore; pop gems Just Can't Get Enough and Everything Counts are rounded off by the ever tumultuous Never Let Me Down Again. At the end Gore and Gahan stroll out to a small stage in the middle of the arena to do the ballad Goodnight Lovers. Its an unusual choice to end a show, but it reveals that, perhaps for the first time in years, they seem to enjoy playing together. Art, its not. A stupendous night out? Well, yes.

The baby enjoyed the show, dancing most to Enjoy The Silence. Emma, just three weeks from the pop, hobbled valiantly from the car park to the arena over a walkway. On the way back one of the stewards stopped us from going back the same way; "You're not walking over there again, I saw you coming down. There's a shortcut down there, ask my mate (another steward) to show you". The pain and suffering seemed to capture the mood perfectly.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Some lies I tell about my friends

Penny was a 16 stone teenager
Jo was a teenage goth
Katie is the member of a mafia family running a small Buckinghamshire village
Willy rents her husband from an agency

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