It’s Hot Down Here

It’s time for this blog to back to it’s roots…commuting.

We all pray for sunshine – we are almost into June, but this year’s winter has lingered on. The warm sunny month of May hasn’t materialised – instead it has been replaced this year with a freezing, torrential winter extension….

…until today.

Finally the sun is up, the coats are off, and Londoners have pranced around all day, delighting in the start of summer. I’ve loved it, the sun has a unique ability to cheer even the toughest days.

But now I have been hit with the commute home and already I miss the wind, rain and cold.

In the 19th century The London Underground was a unique feat of engineering – groundbreaking – and testament to this country’s engineering brilliance. Victorian Britain was World beating – and leading the way and proving our greatness was London’s network of tunnels and trains, setting out the blueprint for an underground metro system that inspired and influenced similar projects across the globe.

But are we now victims of our ancestors success?

In 2012 the tube is awful. So far this evening I have stood for 15minutes waiting for a the straining District Line to catch up with the mass of bodies desperately trying to flee the city centre. When the train finally arrived it was heaving.

I forced my way on, but now I am faced with the harsh reality of the tube in Summer! It’s horrible down here. Unbearably hot – and the smell has already started to fester. Too many sweaty, suited men in one place dictates the ‘sweet smell’ of summer on the World famous London Underground. So now all those commuting Londoners, so happy to see the sun at Midday, are currently extremely hot, very angry and we all stink.

And there’s nothing we can do about it. Our antiquated tube system can never be replaced – it can only ever be slowly upgraded (much to the delay and annoyance of us long suffering 21st century Londoners). While cities like Singapore have new, high-tec, modern, air-conditioned, thoroughly pleasant metros – we are stuck with the pit that swelters beneath London’s dark Victorian streets!

No, don’t be fooled Londoners – we were too premature to celebrate the arrival of our English summer today. The London heat’s harsh reality has us all begging for winter to return again before the day’s end.

England’s New Dawn: Part 2

A few months back, reacting to Cappello’s departure, I triumphantly welcomed England’s new era. Under Harry, England could chop out the dead wood and take a new, young, exciting squad to the Euros – where they could play a new brand of stylish football, under light pressure and with limited expectation…

I could not have been more naive and wholeheartedly wrong.

In actuality we have hired a dull, average manager, who in turn has picked the tired, uninspiring ‘same old’ squad… same OLD squad.

‘The Ox’ apart, Roy has wheeled out the same faces.

Germany in 2006 (and 2010) drew out a blueprint that England should have followed – take a risk in youth. Experience is over-rated, and let’s be honest, we have absolutely no experience of how to succeed at a major tournament anyway. The only hope we had was to fill the squad with exciting young players, with nothing to prove and with the freedom to play – just like those young German sides.

So what would I have done?

I would have welcomed England’s new dawn. I would have hacked up the old squad and started with a blank piece of paper. Rooney, Ashley Cole and Gerrard would have made it – but around them I would have built a fresh new side.

I would have axed Downing, Terry, Defoe, Walcott, Lescott, Milner, Lampard and Glenn Johnson and given new, exciting “in form” players a chance. Jagielka should not only be in the squad, he should probably start. And Micah Richards is just the kind of strong, direct versatile player we need.

And where are Aaron Lennon and Adam Johnson? Their speed, skill and direct running have already proved effective at international level. Daniel Sturridge is dangerous from the bench, and even Matt Etherington and Danny Graham excite me more than the average Downings and Milners of this World. It’s a pity two of our most exciting prospects, Kyle Walker and Jack Wilshere, are injured, but even without them we could have tried something new.

We have some good strong players, and in Hart, Cole, Parker, Gerrard and Rooney (after 2 games) we would have a core around which in-form young players could have expressed themselves and excelled!

If Downing and Milner start the first game, I am switching off. I’m bored of Roy already, and although he has lots of (average) experience – as I said earlier, experience is overrated anyway…

“…You can’t win anything with kids!”

Where Were You When You Were S***?

You always remember your first day at university.

I wasn’t particularly nervous. I had been living away at boarding school for a few years, so was already reasonably independent…and extremely confident. So I strode into my new halls of residence with my chest out and head up.

I was scanning everyone and was happily stunned by the array of attractive ladies (my boarding school had been an “all-male” affair). But despite the hoards of eye-catching blondes, as I walked into the JCR two individuals stood out and grabbed the attention.

And they weren’t women, far from it, they were big lads – northerners – dressed in full Manchester City kit – shirts, shorts, socks and boots!

It was a Sunday and these two second years had already settled into their seat to watch City’s first match of the season. I couldn’t resist, I grabbed a can of super-strength lager and sat down with them.

For the following two hours I was regaled with stories of City’s few highs and many lows. They were ‘proper’ fans, and they actually took pride in their teams heartache, failure and persecution. They weren’t envious of their neighbours ongoing success – quite the opposite – their teams struggles and failures drove their passion.

Looking back, I probably should have joined the elite set and charmed some of the gorgeous girls in the hall bar. Others judging me on that first afternoon would have formed an obvious first impression – beer swilling football thug (which wasn’t true, I was just too timid to step out of my comfort zone).

But until about 3 years ago, Steve and Tony were the only passionate Manchester City fans I have ever met. However, especially over the past three weeks, I have noticed something very strange happen. Facebook and Twitter seems to be awash with photos of people I have known for years proudly sporting their 2012 City shirts. They are even photos of babies decked out in mini strips and wrapped in scarfs.

In fact at least one of these ‘passionate fans’ was there that September afternoon in 1999… Sitting in the bar charming some of the aforementioned blondes!

On Sunday I wanted City to win the league, largely because I am getting bored of United’s dominance (& because you can’t help but enjoy a smug Ferguson squirm). But their hard earned title shouldn’t be for the old flirters, with their brand new City baby grows – it should be for fans like Stevey Hough (who 13 years later I did email to congratulate).

I really hope he got a ticket, or at least sat their last Sunday afternoon in his 1999 shirt, shorts, socks and boots…

Celebrities – Credit Where it’s Due

We all enjoy bemoaning celebrities.

The sordid world of super injunctions, loose morals and media manipulation fuels our anger towards these money-grabbing dark icons. Giant cars, flash parties, MTV cribs, rich lifestyles… Let’s be honest, we are all a little envious too!

Well last night I got a tiny taste of it all through an invite to the Stoke Park Classic Party.

If you’re unfamiliar with it, Stoke Park is a spectacular estate just outside the M25 – home to a beautiful golf course and a magnificent 19th Century hotel and spa. And yesterday it played host to the Stoke Park Classic Golf tournament, an invite only exclusive event. Although my invite didn’t extend to the tournament (which is a good thing considering my lack of golfing ability) I did manage to wangle a call up to the after party (thanks to the kind people at Jaguar – one of the major sponsors).

So suited up I found myself sipping cocktails, sharking canapés and rubbing shoulders with a host of celebrities from the world of sport and tv.

This story has a sub-plot and a very upsetting one. I work with a girl, an amazing girl, who has been locked in a battle against a very rare form of heart cancer – Jo is a determined fighter who will never give up. Although I don’t know her well (barely at all) her blog updates give everyone an insight into her unbelievable strength and personality. I’ll insert a link to her blog at the end of this update – it is inspirational.

A number of  her friends and my colleagues have been working hard to drive attention to her fight – and have managed to get a host of celebrities and public figures to show their support for Jo by simply agreeing to a picture holding a “Go JB” message. Through the power of blogging, twitter and facebook they then publicly showcase her incredibly brave battle.

I was with one of her close friends last night and had an opportunity to offer something to this. Together we roamed the room and meekly approached a few of the big names. Without fail they all quickly agreed and offered up a part of their appeal and popularity to help a girl they have never met. So DJ Spoony, Will Greenwood, Tim Lovejoy, John Regis, Dougray Scott, Ieuan Evans, Jamie & Louise Redknapp all posed with their “Go JB” placard.

What’s more they were all so approachable, amenable and much more normal than I could have ever imagined. They weren’t self-absorbed, prickly and ignorant – they were all warm and helpful. And Will has already retweeted his photo, pushing Jo’s message out to his 73,000 followers.

So let’s stop with the celeb bashing – yes there are some nasty feral celebrities, but then there are also plenty of rough immoral “regulars” too…

…and then there are some amazing people who we should all value and support! http://myacheybreakyheart.tumblr.com/

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Why worry

It’s been a long time since I have written a blog update.

But I think I have got this all wrong. I care far too much about what other people think. I need to redefine this blog, speak from the sleeve and be honest. Care less about what other people think and more about what I believe.

As you have probably guessed I have had a few drinks (not many – only four – I am a lightweight), but I have changed my blogging philosophy. I will now write what I want when I want to – honesty from here on in.

And I need to start with a relevant current topic. So what has affected me during the past 7 days… Strikes.

I’m a conservative. I vote for David, Boris and Zach. I am a strong believer in hard work, strength in success and austerity (if necessary, which it currently is).

But despite being well set against any strikes, the recent police effort has affected me. I respect the police – I think they represent a more whole picture of responsibility and national presence. Yesterday 30,000 of them pronounced that they can’t be ignored, presumed or exploited.

If rampant, aggressive, almost deluded unions strike… I dismiss it – I believe they are wrong. This country (Europe, and the Wider World) is in trouble. We have spent and lived beyond our means.
The only real solution is to accept our position and spend what we have.

Too many strikes have demanded what we don’t have.

In the private sector we must accept that jobs, salaries, pensions and security depend on our performance – the public sector have to accept that too. If they aren’t succeeding, their jobs and security are at risk. Welcome to the real world.

But

The government cannot go too far. It’s about realising achievement; grading contribution accurately and rewarding/dismissing the right contributors.

I don’t have the answers – but the UK’s workforce cannot just fight for the sake of it. If we all realise (me included) who & how we deliver growth, this country can emerge from this mess as a great power.

So stop striking, start working, and start proving why this country can be great…again.

Not Enough Snow

This morning there is the wrong amount of snow…

There is enough to make my morning commute long, slow, frustrating and treacherous – but there is not enough to justify that always anticipated and wildly celebrated “snow day”.

Let’s be honest, however old we are, our inner schoolboy always desperately hopes for mountains of the white stuff. Every worker, from the shop floor operative to the CEO secretly dreams of being wedged in, unable to make that long commute, so instead being forced to hold an impromptu day of festivities in a winter wonderland.

I remember those heady days, quietly listening to Radio Leicester, waiting patiently for that brilliant announcement that my school just couldn’t open. But not today kids, the dusting we got last night promised much at about 10pm…but it hasn’t delivered. Now any snowmen will be malnourished weak attempts and snowball fights will be more of a slight scuffle than an all out war.

Although a ‘snow day’ today would probably have been a disappointment. As my little boy is ill with a nasty cold and fever – he would have been confined indoors; and the days of long warm mornings under the duvet are far behind me. I would have been up and active at 6.30am regardless of what weather awaited in the outside world… but I suppose a day full of Cbeebies and hot chocolate would still have been a fun novel event in my working week.

But it wasn’t to be – I am faced instead with a slippery skate to the station, a slow, plodding commute and a miserable sniffly office.

Although I guarantee a handful of young singletons in my office will still find it ‘completely impossible’ to get in, despite living far closer to Central London than us dull, middle-aged parents! Lucky gits – maybe next week we will get a proper dumping *fingers crossed*.

Content with Popoularity

This afternoon I received an interesting comment on my last blog entry (see England’s New Dawn & the comment by descartes1).

Today in England Fabio and Harry have dominated every headline. But have the broadsheets, tabloids, broadcasters, tweeters and bloggers (myself included) been guilty of pedalling popularity over genuine news?

I’m a big fan of the BBC’s broad coverage of news and current affairs, but today they are certainly as guilty as anyone of promoting England’s search for a new national team coach at the expense of all other items. The dreadful footage of shelling in Syria has been bumped further and further down the agenda to make way for the inane opinions of average ex-footballers on England’s current management dilemma.

Don’t get me wrong, many people care passionately about Fabio’s successor, but at the same time most have absolutely no interest. This morning millions of people will have tuned in for their daily digest of relevant British and World events, but have been met with a gurning Garth Crooks lamenting our chances at Euro 2012. As a football fan myself even I am bored of this blanket coverage. I’m also genuinely interested in the Levenson Inquiry, The Bank of England’s interest rate announcement and the plight of innocent Syrian civilians, but they have been blacked out to make way for more football. So is this irresponsible journalism, celebrating uneducated popular culture?

This blog has helped me understand the reasoning behind the universal media’s decision. I try hard to be relevant, to vary my content and to at least push out a few credible posts each week – but when I do nobody reads them! They’re dull, pointless and void of controversy. However whenever I try and analyse the Six Nations, Redknapp’s accounts, or another woeful cricket performance people log on – they read, like and comment on every post in their hundreds. I can’t win – I have to either bow to popularity and keep writing about sport or persist with responsible blogging and write solely for myself…

And I only write a simple blog, I’m not trying to increase viewing figures, circulation or ad revenues!

So sorry, I will continue to analyse the popular headlines is a vain attempt to drive up my hits, and only occasionally slip in a relevant yet very boring update (just like this one).