Stamp Of Approval

I’ve never been particularly arty or creative, but i do get the occasional flash of inspiration.

I was needing some kind of small table to put next to my reading chair – something to stand my drink on, or somewhere to leave the book or magazine that i was halfway through. A bit of time on facebook market place produced this table-cum-magazine rack from nearby Catterick Garrison for a tenner.

I’m guessing that it dates from the 70’s, and as the picture shows it seems like the previous owner had already smarted it up with a coat of on trend charcoal paint. Seeing as it would be placed in the room where i keep all my music and football paraphernalia, i started to think about how i could personalise it on one of those themes.

In amongst all my football collectables i have a couple of hundred football themed postage stamps from around the world. I don’t particularly seek them out, but if i’m at an antique fair, car boot sale or wherever, and i see some at a reasonable price, i tend to pick them up. The majority of stamps – whatever their theme – don’t seem to be worth very much these days. I don’t suppose many people collect them now, which is a shame. You can pick up bags of several hundred stamps on ebay for just a few pounds.

Anyway, i bought an aerosol can of metallic silver paint from Boyes, and gave the table several coats. I then picked up a 99p tester pot of matt black emulsion and painted over the wood on the top. Then, using some decoupage combined glue and sealant, i made a collage of some of my more brightly coloured football themed stamps. Once stuck on i laid on around ten coats of sealant to make sure the table top was protected against dust, stains and so on.

I’m really pleased with the end result. Something that’s bright, useful and unique to me, with a total cost of under £20.

Bonny (Scotland) And Clyde

What’s that saying? “You never know what’s around the corner”? Well, when I went to see Clyde v Dumbarton on March the 7th I certainly had no idea at all that it would be my last game of the season, and quite possibly my last game of 2020.

Covid-19 was already making big news by then, and I remember the unusual site of blokes queuing up to wash their hands in the stadium toilets(!), but the idea that things would quickly become serious enough to suspend the season was laughable.

It was a good weekend in Glasgow. Although the weather could best be described as inclement, it was good to be back North of the border. The trains ran on time, and the hotel was good and reasonably priced. We found a couple of decent places to eat, and some great Whisky bars to refresh ourselves.

To get to Clyde’s ground, I took the train out to a place called Croy, about 10 mins out of central Glasgow. From there it was a ten minute wander up the hill, through a housing estate and then into the area around Broadwood Stadium. Clyde FC were formed in 1877 in industrial inner city Glasgow, close, as the name suggests, to the river. Always in the shadows of the bigger Glaswegian clubs they struggled both on and off the field before eventually losing their ground in the mid 1980’s. Ground shares with Partick and Hamilton Accies followed before a surprising offer came in from the new town of Cumbernauld, around 10 miles from Glasgow. Keen to put the town on the map, and with a 50,000+ population with no team to follow, The local council offered Clyde use of a brand new stadium if they would relocate. Clyde took the offer and have been at the 8000 capacity all seated Broadwood Stadium ever since.

© Licence purchase required for ALL uses ©

The walk to the ground was made easier thanks to a guy I met called Blair, who was one of the long standing fans from the days when the club was based in Glasgow itself, and now travelled out to Cumbernauld to see the games. Pleasingly, it turned out he had a soft spot for Boro, and was a big Bernie Slaven fan to boot, so meeting him was quite fortuitous. We had a good chat about Scots football and I planned to sit with him to watch the game but sadly couldn’t locate him after I’d been to the club shop and the pie stall. The £3 programme was a cut above most with some great historical content and quality feel to it.

Clyde

I don’t remember too much about the game, which Clyde won 2-0, but I do remember it being bitterly cold. I later found that the ground is nicknamed “Ice Station Broadwood” and I totally understand why, sitting as it does on an exposed hilltop. The turnout of just 767 suggest that those 50,000 residents of Cumbernauld new town remain an untapped source of support.

One interesting thing for me was that Dumbarton fielded a player with the surname Quitongo. This name was familiar, as I remember seeing a Jose Quitongo play for Darlington many years ago. According to Wikipedia, Jose only played once for The Quakers so he must have been pretty decent for me to remember him. After leaving Darlo he played for an amazing ten Scottish league clubs, and it is indeed his son who is now turning out for Dumbarton.

So, that was the last game for Clyde before the lockdown, and indeed the last game for me until who knows when. My total of Scottish grounds visited now stands at 12 of the 42 clubs that make up the professional leagues in Scotland, with Partick Thistle and Motherwell being my favorites so far.

The World Tonight

BBC WT

Everyone is looking for a touchstone just now. So many things have changed in these virus ridden times that people seem to be looking for the familiar, the unchanged, the reliable. That comfort blanket that reassures you that everything is alright, and the world hasn’t really changed beyond recognition.

Although the virus situation is new, most people will have been in circumstances where they take comfort from the familiar when they find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. That’s why some people will take an old Teddy Bear with them on holiday, or put a framed photo of a loved one on a hotel bed side table.

As someone who has worked away from home a lot over the years, one of my touchstones has been BBC Radio 4, and in particular a news Programme called The World Tonight. I can’t really remember when I first heard it, but it must be the best part of 20 years ago. It’s on at 10pm every weekday night, lasts for 45 minutes, and is presented by a honey voiced lady called Ritula Shah. At least it is from Monday to Wednesday, though other presenters seem to rotate in and out later in the week. Maybe Ritula is busy doing something else on Thursdays and Fridays, who knows how the BBC works?

Anyway, the show, as you might gather from it’s name, is a look at news from around the globe as the day, at least in the UK, comes to it’s conclusion. After the initial headlines, the programme takes an in depth look at some of the days stories, and often has reports from overseas correspondents on topics that might not have otherwise made the news. I suppose the nearest TV equivalent, for those who don’t listen to much radio would be Channel 4 news.

While I enjoy the show for it’s content, a lot of the pleasure comes from it’s familiarity. For a start, it’s always there – weekday nights, 10pm without fail. So whether I’m in some scruffy bedsit in London, or a cheap shared house in Manchester, it’s something familiar. Close my eyes and I could be at home in my own soft, warm bed rather than on a lumpy guest house mattress in some town I don’t want to be in. Work can often be stressful enough, but doing it far from home in a strange town or city always adds to the anxiety, so a well know voice brings comfort.

And then there is the presenting style. Radio 4 doesn’t do loud. No Brash jingles or shouty voices, and the World tonight is in keeping with that tradition. Which means it’s perfect for going to bed to. It would obviously be something of an insult to most broadcasters to say that their output sends me to sleep, but there is something pacifying about Ritula’s voice floating through the dark night that gently lulls you to sleep. Whether it’s a baking hot July night in Surrey or a storm lashed winter night in Aberdeen, she’s there, gently, calmly, intimately rounding up the news.

The 10pm start time is something of a mixed blessing. When working away it disciplines me into getting into bed on time so that I can have the light out for the pips on the hour, meaning I’m properly rested for the following day. But when working from home, it can come a little too early, though I suppose modern internet radio means that I can listen to it whenever I like.

And so, it’s time to head up the wooden hill to bed……….

Eddie Cochran – 60 Years On

eddiecochranotd

It’s 60 years to the day since pioneering Rock ‘n’ Roll star Eddie Cochran died. I won’t go into a biography of Eddie here as there are plenty of places you can get that info, but it is worth running through the events that led to his sad end in a small Wiltshire town.

Cochran had been touring the UK, co-headlining a tour of theatres and ball rooms which had begun on the 21st of January with fellow American Star Gene Vincent. He’d been struggling throughout the tour with homesickness, and halfway through had flown his girlfriend Sharon Sheeley over to keep him company. For the California based star the British weather through January, February and March can’t have been much fun either. And that’s before we come to the food, Burgers and cokes at the drive through giving way to Spam fritters and a bottle of vimto from the Chip Shop. From the Golden state to what a state.

Still, he battled on through the tour stopping not just at Wembley and big city venues, but also provincial backwaters such as Dundee, Worcester and Taunton. Days without a show usually meant Radio performances and personal appearances to drive ticket sales. Finally, the tour rolled into the final stop; The Hippodrome, Bristol, a concert venue still in use today.

After that night’s gig, the plan was for Gene, Eddie & girlfriend Sharon to travel through the night to London Airport (now Heathrow), and fly straight back to the US on a dawn flight. They would be at home for three weeks – during which Eddie had some studio time booked – before coming back to the UK for the second leg of the tour. As it would be too late to take a train, a Bristol taxi was arranged to take them back to London.

As soon as they came off the Hippodrome stage that night, they took their first steps on the long transatlantic journey home to their loved ones by jumping into the waiting Ford Consul taxi. After a stop at the Royal Hotel to collect their cases, they embarked on the 100 mile dash to the airport, which in those pre motorway days was expected to take them around three hours along the A4. In the back sat Eddie, Gene and Sharon. Tour manager Pat Tomkins sat in the front, next to 19 year old taxi driver George Martin.

Around 30 miles into their journey, as the clock approached midnight, the car was passing through Chippenham in Wiltshire. It passed beneath a railway bridge, from where it should have followed the curve of the road, and travelled up Rowley Hill. For reasons never conclusively established – though excess speed was an undoubted factor – the driver lost control of the car as it rounded the left hand bend. The rear tyres lost traction and the car, at speed, slewed around to face the way it had just come, before going backwards into an iron lamppost. At the point of impact, Cochran was thrown up into the roof of the car, before being catapulted out onto the road through a door that had burst open.

Eddie Crash

On hearing a loud bang, local residents came out of their houses to find the wrecked car, the five occupants laid in the road with varying injuries, and guitars, clothing and publicity photos scattered around the scene. The driver & tour manager were not seriously injured. Sharon Sheeley suffered shock and bruising, whilst Gene Vincent had broken his collarbone. Eddie was unconscious with serious head injuries. An ambulance was summoned, and he was taken to hospital in nearby Bath.

Eddie Cochran never regained consciousness and was declared dead at 16.10 the following day, the 17th of April 1960. He was 21 years old.

Back in 2016 I landed a job which involved me going to my new employers head office in Chippenham for a couple of days training. This gave me a great opportunity to visit the site of Eddie’s accident and see the small memorial stone (Since replaced with something a bit grander). The pic below was taken by a bemused passer by at 07.50am on a freezing late November morning, 10 minutes before I was due to start my new job just down the road. It’s always important to get your priorities right.

Eddie Cochran. 1938 to 1960. R.I.P.

Simon Eddie

The Essence Of Yorkshire

Legion have been the writers who have tried and failed to capture the true spirit of Yorkshire. From the Anglo Saxon Chroniclers to the current Poet Laureate, via scribes ranging from Caedmon to Michael Parkinson. Thousands have tried, none have succeeded. Not one has been able to distill the quintessence of Yorkshire into a succinct vignette on life in the broad acres.

Until now.

However, it is not in the form of literature that the fundamentals of Yorkshire have been captured, but rather a three and a half minute video clip, filmed in a Shipley Bus Stop.

Take this clip the world over, and whenever they look in askance of Gods Own Country, simply show them this film and no further explanation will be required.

 

 

 

The Ap-Peel Of a Good Book

Peel

 

One of the few benefits of the current COVID-19 lock down is the opportunity to try to make a dent in the “To be read” pile of books that is forever mushrooming in the corner of my room. I usually get through a book a week, yet still buy far more books than I’ll ever get around to reading. It’s not hard to unwittingly acquire huge amounts of cheap second-hand books – the UK is awash with them. Every high street has multiple charity shops selling them. Some charities like Oxfam or Amnesty even have dedicated book shops full of donations. Then there are car boot sales, church hall book sales, ebay……. And let’s not forget those few remaining valiant second hand book shops that have defied the trend and continue to trade in what have been awful times for small independent retailers.

A village near where I live has even begun offering books in the village bus stop – or “book stop” as it’s now called. Locals add unwanted books to shelves – sometimes there are plants or free-range eggs too – and people can help themselves, provided they make a donation in the “Honesty Box” on the wall. So far the money has been used to provide a new roof and windows for the bus stop. Good idea eh?

Bus Top

 

The book I’m reading at the moment is “Goodnight & Good Riddance – How 35 Years of John Peel Helped To Shape Modern Life” by David Cavanagh, published in 2015. The name of John Peel will be known by anyone in the UK remotely interested in music, particularly if they are beyond their mid 30’s. Peel was a DJ on BBC radio 1 pretty much continuously from it’s inception in 1968 until his death in 2004. Unlike almost every other presenter on the station his shows focused not on the Top 40 hits of the day, but any music that couldn’t be described as mainstream. There was an emphasis on new, emerging singers and bands (He was the first on UK Radio to give airtime to everyone from David Bowie to The White Stripes), but there would often be blues, jazz, folk, reggae, rock n roll and all things in between. The Peel show had high credibility amongst musicians as well as listeners. When John and Yoko wanted to go on air to talk about their first album there was only one show they would choose. Peel built up an incredibly loyal fanbase who continue his legacy to this day via fan sites and old shows, once recorded on C90 cassettes and now uploaded to youtube.

There have been plenty of books on Peel since his demise, but Cavanagh’s book takes a different slant. Not a biography but a chronology of 265 selected shows from Peel’s broadcasting history. Each section is prefaced with a news story from the time putting the era into context, a list of some of the artists featured on that show, followed by some sparkling prose on what was going on in Peel’s life and the alternative music scene at the time the show was broadcast. I often feel that a lot of books are over-long, and at 600 pages I had my suspicions that this book would begin to drag after a while, but it’s turning out to be fantastically readable with some memorable lines. How about this from the author?

“Wherever rock has prodigally roamed, the blues has always been the understanding mother in the threadbare armchair waiting patiently to welcome it back home”.

Perhaps the main strength of the book is, like Peel’s shows, the variety. As it spans five different decades it covers a vast amount of ground and musical genres and shows the depth and breadth of music that Peel Championed. It’s a fair bet that without his show, you may never have heard of some of your favourite bands. This highly entertaining and absorbing book will have you reaching for youtube to revisit some of your favourites, and perhaps discover your new favourite band.

Twilight Over England

I’ve always liked the word Twilight. You don’t hear it spoken much though, other than when referring to some American TV/Film series. We seem to go straight from evening to night these days, but i’ve always enjoyed the twilight.

“Twilight Over England” was the title of the autobiography of one William Joyce, better know by his nickname of Lord Haw Haw. Joyce was a British fascist who took refuge in Germany during WW2 and spent his evenings broadcasting German propaganda back to the UK. After the war he was brought back to London, tried for treason, and met his end at HMP Wandsworth, courtesy of the hangman.

Joyce’s musings have nothing to do with this blog posting, however it does feel as though there is a Twilight Over England at the moment. The country is slowly darkening. A darkening of mood, of health, of economic prospects………it’s like the whole country is slowly slipping into a deep dark blackness. It won’t be temporary either. Even when the lockdown is lifted it will take years, maybe even a generation or two before the country can repay the money we’ve had to borrow to keep us all afloat.

Making a much needed trip to Darlington Aldi a couple of nights ago felt like being on a film set. Deserted roads, empty parks, shuttered shops, closed pubs, a darkened theatre. The only time i’ve ever seen the streets as quiet as that has been on Christmas day. But at Christmas, we know things will be back to their normal bustling self within a few hours, but now it’s different. We are in this for the foreseeable future.

I spent today working in the garden, digging over the weed strewn vegetable patch. Yet even in that slice of rural North Yorkshire i was aware things were different. It was the silence. It’s normally pretty quiet in the garden, but you do hear the odd thing. A loud car in the distance (Maybe even racing cars at far off Croft Circuit if the wind is in the right direction). Kids in the school playground. People visiting the cemetery next door. A lawn mower. A police siren from the A1M half a mile away. Today there was nothing. It was so quiet. Just the birds singing. Just me & the birds.

An evening out with 22 women

Tonight sees me in Kingston-Upon-Thames, one of those towns that can’t quite make up it’s mind if it’s in South London or Surrey, though the presence of a three day old floral shrine to a stabbing victim 500 yards from the ground does tend to suggest the former. I’m here to see Chelsea Women take on the Women of Juventus in a pre season friendly.

Anyone remotely interested in football won’t need me to tell them of the inexorable rise of Women’s football over the last few years. From an obscure, often ridiculed Sunday morning pastime to a booming sport that seems to be ever growing it’s rise has been unstoppable

That said, there are suspicions about the long term sustainability of the game. Most Pro women’s clubs are bankrolled by the Male parent club, and simply wouldn’t survive financially on their own.

Tonight’s game provides a case in point. Tickets are a ridiculously cheap £3 for adults. You will struggle to get a half pint for that in this part of the world. Kids are a quid. Once the season proper kicks in, it’s £6 for an adult, £3 for a kid. Last season attendances hovered between 1,500 and 2000. While nobody would argue that football is too cheap, the prospect of running a full time professional club on that kind of money is surely one to turn an accountant grey. But the cheap prices bring a whole new demographic to live football. Around half the crowd is Female, and there is an abundance of families enjoying a collective evening out. There is also, sadly, those who are now simply priced out of the mens game altogether. A season ticket for an adult in the Stamford bridge shed end is £750. At Chelsea women it’s £44.

TBC……….