The Obscurer

Month: January, 2005

Let 'Em In!

Because I am essentially kind of heart, I wouldn’t go as far as accusing Michael Howard of playing the race card in announcing the Conservatives’ new policy on asylum and immigration the other day; however, unless he can expand on his comments that millions of foreigners want to get into the UK, I think it is fair to accuse him of playing the “ignorant, irrational fear of immigration” card, which is a very similar thing.

Nowadays, it does seem as if people can give vent to their xenophobia by dressing it up as a legitimate concern over immigration policy. This week, “The Politics Show” went out and did a (notoriously unscientific) vox pop regarding peoples’ views on immigration. The majority (including all the first generation Britons polled) came up with the usual “enough is enough”, “we’re full up”, “I’m not racist but…” arguments. I love the idea that the country is literally full up. Where do these people actually live? Do they spend their entire life queuing shoulder to shoulder for a drink in Wetherspoons? Seeing as the population of the world is supposed to be able to fit on the Isle of Wight, I think we can squeeze a few more people into these islands for a while yet. Perhaps this idea had some currency when we had high levels of unemployment; but today?

Now, let me be clear; I am not arguing against any immigration policy at all. I have no truck with economic migrants posing as asylum seekers, not least because it is unfair on genuine economic migrants who are going through the legitimate channels. As for other legal immigrants, I think is sensible to restrict entrance to people who we believe will benefit our society; it seems crazy to do otherwise. But with these points in mind, what on earth is wrong with people being economic migrants? Why shouldn’t we welcome people who want to live and work in this country? My Mother was an economic migrant from Scotland to England some years ago; if she were from Slovenia, say, would there really be any difference in essence? Some people seem to work from the starting point that economic migration is bad in itself, but may occasionally be a necessary evil to fill certain jobs; but why? Unless you are racist, what argument is there against immigration per se? Why not err on the side that there is nothing wrong with one person moving from one country to another in the understandable desire to improve their life, and that the onus should be on proving that the would be immigrant will not contribute to, or would have a negative effect on, their new nation?

Two arguments which people often use against immigration are that a) immigrants only come here to claim benefit and don’t want to work, and b) immigrants come over here and take our jobs. No wonder such people are scared of these inscrutable foreigners; if they can take our jobs and not work, then you can understand the concern (a similar comment was made last week in Laurence Rees’s latest, timely programme Auschwitz; The Nazis and ‘The Final Solution’. A Slovak recalled how, during the War, everyone knew that the Jews in Slovakia didn’t want to work; he then laughed as he remembered helping to ship out the Jews and take over their businesses. So they owned businesses but didn’t work? A clever trick indeed. No wonder so many anti-Semites believe in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy).

Why would people want to come to this country to claim benefits, when our social security system is one of the least generous in the EU? Any poor bogus asylum seeker who wants to emigrate here for this reason has spent too long in Sangatte reading yesterdays’ Daily Mail (if there is an immigration problem, then, perhaps they should shoulder part of the blame). As for taking our jobs, new immigrants often find work that many Britons are unqualified for, or are unwilling to do. Immigrants are often highly economically productive and successful, working hard at their second chance, their fresh start.

But still the bullshit lies persists, going unquestioned by people who are happy to believe and spout nonsensical rubbish because it sounds more plausible and reasonable than out and out racism. I remember once going on a course with an unpleasant character from another office. As we sat eating lunch, he went through the whole list of stereotypical nonsense; that we have an open door immigration policy, we just let anyone in; they don’t want to integrate, none of them; they take our jobs, et cetera. I was looking anxiously about the room, trying to spy an escape route, when he said “and they all drive better cars than I do”. I nearly choked to death on my sandwich, there and then. He may have been a nasty racist, but fortunately he was also a dab hand at the Heimlich Manoeuvre; if he hadn’t been I probably wouldn’t be here now, maligning him.

But the line about the car, or similar, is surprisingly prevalent in the argument against immigration. I remember watching Newsnight a year or so back, when they featured a North Wales council estate that accommodated a number of refugees; refugees mind you, not illegal immigrants, or asylum seekers, but people whose request for asylum had been accepted. I can’t remember exactly where the report was set, but I recall the town looked even worse then Queensferry (my apologies to anyone from Queensferry; for criticising your home town, and for having to live there). The reporter spoke to a number of the local youths, and asked them what they thought of the refugees. Their comments were not altogether kind, but the main complaints were that a) they all had mobile phones, and b) they were prepared to work for minimum wage, or less, while the locals themselves wouldn’t work for so little. To be honest, these indigenous youths didn’t look like they really wanted to work at all, ever, but perhaps I am being unkind.

What I find strange – well I don’t really, but what I would like to find strange – is that when the BNP and their like criticise immigrants for just coming over here to claim benefit, they don’t seem to subject our own home-grown benefit claimants to the same scrutiny, as if social security abuse is solely the preserve of weird foreigners. I wonder why? Is it because in doing so they know they would be having a go at a potentially rich source of new recruits; that they think it is better for such people to have their fears and prejudices stoked up, rather than for them to face the same criticisms they aim at asylum seekers?

Imagine the refugees walking past the locals on that estate, on their way to another long day at work, hearing the verbal abuse and name calling; I have no problem with mobile phone wielding, hard working people, wherever they may originate from, and I would argue with anyone who would call for their repatriation. As for their indigenous accusers, idly watching the immigrants en route to work, shouting their intolerant venom, I wonder; could a case be made for their depatriation?

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Diplomadic Immunity

I don’t know if anyone bothers to look at my short list of Links (and I hope it will stay short; I don’t intend having one of those seemingly endless Blogrolls that list about 200 sites. I don’t see the point). Anyway, there have been a few changes to it recently, namely

  • It’s goodbye to Walking Like Giant Cranes. Jarod has called it a day, which is a great shame. Where else would you read about the etymology of the word “Quavers” (Peruvian for Cheese-flavoured, apparently), or the famous riots during the 80’s caused by the introduction of Ham flavour Quavers. He will be missed.
  • It’s hello to Boomablog. This is part politeness; for reasons best know to the author of Boomablog, The Obscurer is listed as one of only three sites on his Blogroll. I don’t know what I have done to deserve such an honour, but I am appropriately flattered. It is not just politeness, however; Boomablog is an amusing and well-written site that I will visit regularly; otherwise I would not place it in my list of links.
  • Also, a warm welcome to Our Word Is Our Weapon. The blog’s author, Jim, was very kind to me in his comments on my Tsunami post, so I would like to return the favour. His blog makes for fine and informative reading; and even if his level of statistical analysis is way in advance of my abilities in that area, I will try my best to keep up.

Jim’s world view seems quite similar to my own, which of course helps, but I will endeavour to keep an open mind when I read his blog, and not take what he says at face value just because I may agree with him; otherwise I may as well not read anything by anyone else, and just tell myself that I am right on every subject. For this reason, I will continue to read The Filter^, in particular for Anthony’s posts written from a libertarian perspective. I often don’t agree fully with what he has to say, but they are always interesting, positive and thought provoking posts, free from the negative sniping and point scoring that often passes for comment in other blogs.

When I first started writing this blog, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I hadn’t so much as read another blog, and it was just by investigating the “Blog This” button on my Google toolbar that I stumbled upon the Blogger website and decided to have a go. I didn’t know what was expected of the blogger, so I just decided to just get off my chest some things that I wanted airing, to publish them on the web, and allow my opinions to be opened up to ridicule (actually that’s not quite true; I never expected anyone to read my blog at all. I certainly didn’t think people would find their way here by trying to find methods for defrosting their cars via Google, just because I’d written this post. I can only apologise for wasting so many peoples’ time). I was surprised to discover just how many other blogs there were out there, and also that some people clearly seemed to have far too much time on their hands. I realised that I could probably just about muster one or two posts a week, but some people seemed to average around six a day, which I still find mind-boggling. But the most surprising thing I found when first taking a trip into the blogosphere (and shoot me if I ever use that term again; or if I ever use “hat tip” at all) was how many bloggers feel that blogging is an alternative to the mainstream media, rather than just being a place where people can speak their mind; that it is somehow more truthful and accurate than the rest of the media, that it is better at reporting how things are. On the Iraq War, for example, what united many bloggers, both anti-war and pro-war, was that they believed the media was biased against their viewpoint; but both sides couldn’t be right.

In recent days, this belief in the superiority of the blog has been seen most sharply in the glowing praise The Diplomad has been receiving. Particularly on the subject of the UN and its response (or lack of response) to the Tsunami, all it seems to take is for The Diplomad to report something and it flies around the blogo… I mean it flies around the blogging fraternity and is reported as incontrovertible fact; a welcome voice battling through the lies and omissions of the media. And not just in the blogging world; even the dreaded mainstream media itself has got in on the act. Christopher Booker in the Telegraph writes that the main story of the week is the “startling contrast between the impotence of the international organisations, the UN and the EU, and the remarkable efficiency of the US and Australian military on the ground” when dealing with the Tsunami relief effort. In covering this story he says, “the BBC’s performance has become a national scandal”, that its coverage is biased because they think everything is “a case of ‘UN and EU good, US and military bad'”. Instead he thinks we should be listening to the “wonderfully outspoken Diplomad run undercover by members of the US State Department”.

Well, if you haven’t already, read a bit of The Diplomad and see what you think. It may indeed be the unvarnished truth. It may be a complete pack of lies. Either way, it is clearly a heavily subjective account by someone who seems to be a hugely disaffected malcontent. Nothing wrong with that, he/she is entitled to his/her opinion, but it is just that; the writers’ opinion. For Christopher Booker, or anyone else, to reject the BBC’s coverage in favour of the Diplomad’s is to reject the coverage of a broadcaster with a remit for impartiality (even if you feel they have not fulfilled this particularly well) in favour of the opinions of someone who makes no such claim. You may as well praise the wonderfully outspoken statements of a bloke you sat next to on the bus. Personally, I need a little more to go on before I treat the word of an anonymous source as fact.

But people will do just that, because to reverse what Booker thinks of the BBC (and presumably what he thinks of most of the rest of the media), some people are of the opinion that the UN/EU are all bad and the US/military all good. If the mainstream media do not reflect this view, they surmise that the media must be wrong, and a blog that tells a different story must be right. There is much about mainstream journalism that is ripe for criticism, but rather than replace it I would like to think that blogs can supplement and complement the rest of the media, that they can widen the debate, and overall I think that they can; but if they are just going to be read by people who trawl the internet looking for something which mirrors their own prejudices, then I may have to think again.

What Insight Meant

A rather remarkable event occurred during the Everton v Manchester City game at Goodison Park on Boxing Day; Robbie Fowler, once the most feared English striker in football (and who is still considered – by generous souls who haven’t watched him play for a while – to be the best natural finisher in the game) actually scored a goal. With his head. (Alas it was wasted; City lost the game due to 2 Everton goals scored with ease by players decked in Royal Blue, untroubled by the attentions of City’s defenders) What I want to talk about, however, is what happened immediately after Fowler’s goal.

As the ball hit the back of the Everton net, Fowler set off for the Gladwys Street end where the Everton faithful sit, then ran the full length of the pitch (so showing the sort of stamina which has been missing since his Liverpool days), slapping the top of his head as he did so, before celebrating in front of the travelling City fans. It was a bizarre sight, and what happened next came as no surprise.

Fowler was booked for inciting the crowd, and in this day and age, rightly or wrongly, it is something you have to accept; the referee had no option but to produce the yellow card. There was then a similarly predictable reaction; on Match of the Day the assumption was that Fowler was slapping his head to celebrate the fact he had scored a header, and across the media there was the usual line that his actions in trying to rile the Everton fans were typical of Robbie, and were regrettable. Merseyside Police got involved and asked City manager Kevin Keegan for his comments, which seems a bit of a overreaction but again is not surprising. 3 scenarios present themselves here; that an Everton fan complained to the Police; that the Police felt they had to be seen to take some action; or that a Senior Officer with no idea of what the Police’s priorities should be got involved. I suspect a combination of the three.

A few days later I was chatting to a mate of mine, an Evertonian who had been to the match. I wondered what he had thought? First off, he told me that all the way through the game, Fowler was being targeted by the Everton fans, and taunted with the chant “Smackhead”; this put Fowler’s reaction to his goal in a different light, I thought, and I was quite impressed. To respond to “smackhead” taunts by scoring a header, then celebrating by smacking you head, seems quite inspired; although still bound to attract the attentions of the referee.

“So,” I asked, “ how did the Everton fans react? We’re they appropriately incited?”
“I should say so,” said my mate, Mike, “the crowd went absolutely ballistic; the atmosphere was incredible.”

And this is my point really; Fowler was booked for inciting the crowd; but for inciting them to do what? If they had invaded the pitch, or attacked the City fans, or thrown bricks into the dugout, then Fowler could be said to have instigated something nasty; but was that ever likely to happen? In fact, he wound up the Evertonians so the volume of their singing and chanting increased, inevitably spurring the City fans to do the same, and the atmosphere of the game improved immensely as a result. And isn’t it the atmosphere that we really pay for when we hand over our absurd amounts of money at the Ticket Office?

Sometimes you wonder if sports commentators have any inkling about what fans really feel (the exception to this is the excellent Adrian Chiles on Match of the Day 2). The classic disconnect is on the subject of punch-ups on the field; for the media nothing appals them more than such indiscipline, which sets a bad example to the children watching, brings the games reputation into disrepute, blah blah blah…For a fan, particularly one watching a dull 0-0 stalemate on a cold evening, there is nothing better than a fight, to get the crowds tails up and turn up the volume, to get you supporting your wronged players (even if, secretly, you saw your defender get in that tug which provoked the opposition, and you would have been appalled yourself if the situation had been reversed; only it wasn’t ).

My mate said that it was the most exciting City/Everton game he had seen for ages; and we have seen some pretty bad ones between us over the years. That this game was different was partly due to Robbie Fowler and his incitment of the crowd. For his troubles he received a yellow card; he should have received the Man of the Match award, and our thanks.

UPDATE 15/1/05: Fowler scores again! And has a very good game overall, actually.

After The Tsunami

I haven’t written about the Tsunami before, because I haven’t written about much at all recently; the Christmas period has found me ridiculously busy, and when it hasn’t found me busy it has found me poorly. Also, my young son is now walking a lot more and sleeping a lot less, which impacts upon my free time and may well ultimately challenge the whole viability of this blog; but for the time being I am still here.

However, specifically relating to the Tsunami, I somewhat agree for once with Mark Steyn when he says that, initially at least, “It didn’t seem the kind of thing to have an ‘opinion’ on, even for an opinion columnist – not like who should win the election or whether we should have toppled Saddam. It was obviously a catastrophe, and it was certain the death toll would keep rising, and other than that there didn’t seem a lot to opine about.”

But of course eventually Steyn has found something to comment on, as have I; and it is about the way people have reacted to the crisis, and the issues surrounding it, specifically the whole issue of aid and how it is administered. I have been amazed about the petty, trivial issues which have aroused comment in the wake of such a terrible event.

For one thing there has been the relentless criticisms of the Government. Now, I speak as someone who thinks of Blair as a sickening, self-obsessed individual, leading a party about which the best that can be said it that they are not the Tories; but the constant sniping about whether or not Blair should have cut short his holiday just leaves me baffled with the irrelevance of it. I have my own ideas, as I’m sure does everybody, about whether Blair has acted correctly, but in the grand scheme of things, when we are dealing with a matter which has left 150,000 dead, the whys and wherefores about Blair’s holiday rate for little; and yet this theme has been returned to again and again. Then there have been the continuous updates on how much money the British public have raised for the Tsunami appeal, which is all well and good; but this is then used as a stick to beat the Government with over its own contribution. Why? Who are the people criticising how much the Government (in reality, of course, the Taxpayer) is providing? They are not the charities themselves, or the Governments of the affected peoples, who you would imagine have some idea of what sums are required, but journalists, happy to sow some discord in order to fill column inches or air time. Then when Gordon Brown floats the idea of debt relief for the affected nations, before he has even closed his mouth we hear questions about “how can we ensure this debt relief will be spent wisely?”; a valid question perhaps, but one which surely can wait until the proposal is actually accepted. It seems more important to criticise and pick holes than actually report the facts. One valid point is the questioning of the 3 minutes silence for the victims of the tsunami; why 3 minutes, it has been asked, rather than 2 minutes, or 1. This is actually something I can understand – I would say a 2 minutes silence is sufficient – but it seemed totally unnecessary for there to be criticism of the 3 minutes on the day of the silence itself; for example, the Daily Mail interviewed a war veteran, asking him his opinions in the light of there only being a 2 minutes silence on Armistice Day. Was it not possible to do the decent thing, to just observe the silence, and to hold the post-mortem some other time?

Regarding the amounts of aid money which have been provided around the world, there is something unpleasant I think in so many reports giving space to tables showing who has given what, as if there is some sort of competition going on to prove who is the most generous. This meant that originally some accused the United States of being stingy due to their small initial aid pledge; this despite the the fact that US Armed forces were some of the first to deliver aid, and that the aid pledge itself was then massively increased, making the critics look rather silly. In turn, however, this initial raw data was then endlessly analysed by people who don’t like the conclusions drawn from some of these tables, and they sought to re-interpret the figures to prove their own point. It all seemed like an unseemly scrabble to justify your position to me, and for what? Do the people who write these thing poll their friends on how much they have given to charity, then adjust the figures based on each persons income, then expenditure, then saving, and keep playing around with statistics until there is a table of generosity with themselves sat at the top?

Others have used the Tsunami to defend and support their own world view, however inappriaoriate it may all seem; so we have my dear friends at Biased BBC hitting out at what they perceive as the corporation’s anti-American bias in their coverage (presumably this is a different BBC to the one I have heard referring to the US as leading the aid effort). One way to support your world view is to talk about who is best (and as a consequence, who is worst) at administering the aid; so, Tim Worstall decides the situation is useful ammunition to criticise what he sees as failings in the UN, the EU, the State in general…basically everything he argues against anyway; Clare Short uses the tragedy to attack the US, Blair and the Iraq War; and Mark Steyn, apparently stung by what he sees as criticism of the US response, answers with some of his own, well worn anti-UN rhetoric.

Now I don’t know exactly what is going on in the relief effort in South East Asia – I’m not there – but I don’t feel I am gaining much from such reporting which generally seem light on fact and heavy on bias, is largely anecdotal, and is more comment than commentary. Of course the media do have an important role in highlighting genuine problems in administering aid, but much of what has been written seems vague and one sided. I understand that Steyn’s article, for example, was written in response to what he felt were unfair comments by Jan Egeland of the UN, but in all it begins looking like a tit-for-tat exercise, “my aid is bigger and better than your aid” and I just don’t see the point. And even if some of the criticisms are valid – and I dare say all parties could be criticised to some degree if you want to look hard enough – is this really the time to climb aboard your favourite hobby-horse? Jim of “Our word is our weapon” is surely right when he says “Why should it be so hard to say that everyone who is helping those affected by the tsunami – be they local people, Australian marines, American helicopter pilots, and yes, even United Nations staff – deserve our thanks and admiration?”. An obvious point you would have though, but one which looks like it has to be made.

It used to be said that crises brought everyone together, however diverse our opinions. Whether this was ever true I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case judging by some individuals’ take on the terrible events of Boxing Day. You would think that the silly things that divide us would count for little in the face of such a monumental tragedy. But it seems not.

The Obscurer Awards 2005

It is time now for the inaugural “Obscurer” awards, which already no-one is referring to as “The Obbies”. So, let’s kick it all off with…

  • Best Single – The Strokes/Reptilia. When I initially heard The Strokes, and the first few singles from their debut LP “Is this it” I thought they sounded quite good, but I didn’t fancy the idea of listening to a whole album. All the songs sounded a bit samey, like a band doing an “Iggy Pop and The Stooges” tribute. But then they released “12:51“, a cracking song which was markedly different to their previous tracks, very reminiscent of “Pavement”, which for me is high praise indeed. They then followed this up with “Reptilia” which was just superb, a poppy, choppy guitarfest which briefly seemed to be heard just about everywhere. It was a song I couldn’t get out of my head, and that is surely what being single of the year is all about. The Strokes had apparently graduated from tribute band to great band; or so it seemed. I got the album; it consisted of 12:51, Reptilia and 9 other songs which sounded like Iggy and The Stooges. Oh well; better luck next time.
  • Best Album(s) – Badly Drawn Boy/One Plus One Is One, Elliot Smith/From a Basement on the Hill.These two records are in fact linked. I first heard Elliot Smith when his song “Waltz #2” became my single of the year in 1997. Unlike my experience with Reptilia , the LP from which it was drawn, “XO” was equally fantastic and I became a fan. A few years later when I heard “Once around the Block” by Badly Drawn Boy I loved it, and part of the reason was because it reminded me so much of Elliot Smith’s work. When earlier this year Badly Drawn Boy released “One Plus One Is One” it instantly became a fixture on my stereo; a real return to form after the lacklustre and uninspired “Have You Fed The Fish?“. Taking its inspiration from such diverse subjects as his family, the First World War, the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” and The Blossoms Pub in Stockport it felt more like a follow-up to “Hour of Bewilderbeast” and “About a Boy“, a beautiful example of the singer-songwriters’ art with intelligent lyrics and some great melodies. However, buried at the bottom of the CD sleevenotes I read the words “This record is dedicated to…Elliot Smith…”. A quick check on the internet revealed the worst; that Elliot had died the previous October from an apparent suicide. On the anniversary of his death this year his final, unfinished LP was released, and it acts as a fitting memorial. Like Jeff Buckley’s “My Sweetheart the Drunk” it is perhaps impossible not to read more tragic meaning into the lyrics than you should, and one is also left to wonder whether the sparse arrangement of the songs was intended by the artist or is a consequence of them being remixed and completed after his death. In Smith’s case it all works works beautifully; his songs always wore the influence of The Beatles on their sleeves, but this time round they also capture some of the haunting, fragile beauty of the White Album. It doesn’t come much better than sounding like the the best album by the best band of all time; at some times the guitar scatters and shimmers like George Harrison, at others the bass fair bounces along like Macca in his prime (ie. before 1970). All in all a wonderful yet tragic recording.
  • Best Novel – William Sutcliffe/Bad Influence. Sutcliffe fans have had quite a wait since 2000’s “The Love Hexagon“, and when I bought “Bad Influence” and saw it weighed in at a mere 163 slight pages I feared a case of writers’ block. Furthermore, although the reviews I read were encouraging, the book’s subject matter concerning the tale of 3 ten year old boys was a move away from the sort of thing I so loved about “Are You Experienced?”, his hilarious tale of backpackers in India. I needn’t have worried. This new novel still features the author’s characteristic sense of humour, but from the off there is also an atmosphere of impending menace, as the narrator Ben meets the new lad in town, Carl, a disturbed and disturbing individual, who gradually exerts a worrying influence on Ben’s best mate, the classically easily led Olly. Sutcliffe is brilliant at recapturing the feelings of being ten years old, when losing you best friend can seem the most terrible thing in the world, and where being accepted as part of the gang can lead you down the wrong path. In the end you see where the novel is going, and that it is going to turn out even darker than you imagined; you feel yourself pulling away, back peddling, refusing to accept the inevitable, appalling conclusion. Sutcliffe stops short of describing the final details, but he has already fully hinted at how it will end; these hints and the power of your imagination mean you are not spared the full horror. Brilliant.
  • Best Film – Fahrenheit 9/11. When you have a child, going to the pictures becomes a major event. You either have to really want to go to the cinema to see a specific film, in which case you get a babysitter in, or if your wife isn’t too fussed about a film but you would like to see it, then you just nip out to the UGC in Parrs Wood one Saturday Morning when neither of you are working. This year, I only saw one film, which I nipped out to see one Saturday morning, and so it wins this award by default. It is quite a good film though, as I have already discussed.
  • Sporting Moment – Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City FA Cup 4th Round.Sport is a very partisan affair. This is the reason that, despite the many great moments from the Olympics, and the fact that this has been a magnificent year the England Cricket team, and that this year saw a remarkable victory for Greece in Euro 2004, this for me was my sporting highlight; an absurd and ridiculous match that for the football fan repays the investment shelled out watching an abject 0-0 draw on a rainy Tuesday evening against, say, Lincoln. On the day of this match I was at work, due to finish at 20:45, and so I had already planned to go straight to the pub after work to watch the second half. Whilst at work the news began to filter through; we were 1-0 down, then 2-0 down. When I left work, I spoke to another City fan who had just come on for the night shift; he told me we were now 3-0 down. “Oh well,” I said, “let’s concentrate on the league”. When I got to my car and turned on my radio I found it was even worse. Nicolas Anelka, our best player, was injured, and Joey Barton had lived up to my nickname of him as the new Michael Brown by being pointlessly sent off. So, 3-0 down, our best player in the stands and down to 10 men; could I be bothered to go to the pub? Well, fortunately I am an alcoholic, so off I went. I listened to the opening few minutes of the second half in the car, and from kick off it sounded like we were having a good go at Spurs; already the commentators were mentioning what an incredible comeback it would be if we could manage it. I parked up just as Sylvain Distan scored with a header, and I raced into “The Weavers” to see if the impossible could happen. The comeback could have ended dead in its tracks had reserve ‘keeper Arne Arison not made a physically impossible double save soon after; on replay Arison is way out of camera shot from his first save as Spurs try again, and he is still out of shot as the ball reaches the 6 yard box; then he suddenly appears from nowhere and just manages to tip the ball to safety. Shortly after, a deflected shot from Paul Bosvelt makes it 3-2, but surely we can’t keep this pace up can we? With about 10 minutes to go Shaun Wright-Phillips breaks free and scores his trademark goal; wide on the right, ridiculing a mere mortal left-back with pace and skill, then whipping the ball across the goalkeeper and into the net before he knows what has happened. 3-3! I phone my wife and explain that I will be back late; it looks like were are going into extra time. Then, in the final minute John “First-division player” Macken receives a cross on his head and loops it over the Spurs’ defence and into the net! 3-4! I explode, as does the rest of the pub; full of City fans who are used to the unexpected, but nothing quite this weird. I phone my wife again; “4-3. We’ve won! I’m coming home!”. I walk home, chuckling to myself and shaking my head, leaving a pub full of people doing exactly the same thing.
  • TV Moment – Alistair Campbell on Fantasy Football Euro 2004.I stopped watching “Fantasy Football” long ago, not least because it has been off our screens for years. However, while on my break at work, and with nothing else on TV, I watched Skinner and Baddiel do their stuff in a mildly amusing fashion. If you are aware of the format then you know that just before the half time break there is a ring of the doorbell, and in comes the guest for the day. Well, the bell rang on cue, Frank (or David) answered it, and in came Alistair Campbell. The reaction of the TV audience was bizarre; my impression of the “Fantasy Football” audience is that, faced with Campbell, half would say “who’s he”, while the other half would clap like seals regardless. But they didn’t; they booed him, and I just loved it. You could just tell from his expression that he wasn’t expecting it and was somewhat surprised that he was the cause of such antagonism. I was also surprised, and delighted. I think Campbell is a bit like Max Clifford, in that they think of themselves as popular heroes, only disliked by some media types, but they are wrong, very wrong, or at least I hope they are. Perhaps Campbell’s appearance on “Fantasy Football” went some way to curing him of this notion.
  • Radio Moment – Mark and Lard’s Final Show. After nearly seven years in the afternoon slot, Mark and Lard went their separate ways, Mark Radcliffe to Radio 2 and Marc Riley to BBC 6 Music. I’ve not heard Lard’s show yet, but Mark Radcliffe has just picked up where his old Radio 1 evening show left of a few years ago, with the same guests (Ian McMillan, Simon Armitage) and many of the same records. It is a treat. If you never heard the afternoon show then it is a bit late now really, but the website includes an archive of many fine moments, including their final show together; worth listening to for the hilarious introduction from David Bowie, and their version of Mull of ‘kintyre from Lard’s Vinyl Vault. Priceless.