Archive for June, 2010

There will always be an England… tat merchant

Posted in Calcio, Pointless Nostalgia on June 30, 2010 by Johnnie

So there I was, working behind the counter in the Selfridges, Oxford Street branch of Our Price in the summer of 1990, filing away titles from our large selection of VHS tapes, when a well-to-do middle-aged lady gingerly approached the counter.

“I say,” she announced, by way of introduction.  “Do you have any Gezza videos?”

Being Scottish, and finding upper middle-class English accents repellent, I took a deliberate few seconds to process her question.  But I knew what she was after.  Gascoigne was everywhere.  Yes, he was a skillful (bordering on genius) footballer but his fame and infamy had spread into English pub and playground folklore because the chubby little Newcastle lad had burst out crying on the field during the 1990 World Cup semi-final in Italy after receiving a yellow card.

“Oh, you mean Paul Gascoigne?” I said.  “No, I’m afraid there’s nothing available at the moment.”

Ah, the golden age of VHS.  Even in the dark days before instant information, the public imagination about the possibilities and probabilities of video tape ran riot.  They automatically assumed that a video of any world event would be available in any shop, mere minutes after it had happened.  In fairness, a lot of very cheap and nasty football videos were produced around Italia 90.  I actually bought one: Italy – The World Cup Story.  Full to brimming with appalling voiceovers, a total lack of licenced footage and the final time I ever saw Roberto Baggio referred to as a Fiorentina player.  I watched it almost once.

I suggested to the upper-crust woman in Selfridges that, if it was cheap, pointless, quickly-produced tat in honour of England’s latest shit-for-brains hero she was after, she need only cross the road to the tacky souvenir stall, where she would discover a t-shirt bearing a photograph of “Gezza” (see above), under which was printed the tiresome old slogan “There Will Always Be An England”.  An attention-seeking, unintelligible footballer, bawling and blubbing into his shirt as an English icon?  What happened to the old traditional bulldog, I wondered?  The stiff upper lip?  Was this Geordie lad in mid tantrum really the fabled Best of British? Continue reading

Joachim Loew – Style God

Posted in Calcio, Star "Style" on June 29, 2010 by Johnnie

It’s been an odd World Cup.  I’ve wanted to write screeds about it but it’s outfoxed me at every level.  Through flowing, stinging tears, I typed furiously about the operatic tragedy that was Italy’s early exit but reading it back, I realised that I couldn’t separate my arias from my elbow.  I’ll leave that one for now.

There is, however, one aspect that has delighted me beyond words, and has become something I look forward to more and more as the rounds go on.  It is, of course, the excitement, the momentous, nail-biting anticipation, followed by the staggering, awe-inspiring revelation of what Germany manager Joachim Loew will be clad in.  Let me state for the record that this is not backhanded praise based on the fact that his skillful young squad humped and dumped The English* out of the tournament; let’s just look at the evidence:

So far, Loew has combined a beautiful, fitted black suit with a (shirtless) lightweight, blue v-neck jumper; next he looked resplendent in a tight black cardigan over a white, v-neck vest; then, in round 3 of the first phase, on a chilly night against Ghana, he warmed the bench with a glossy black greatcoat, worn over a crisp white shirt and finished with a grey, looped scarf.  The man truly is a style God.  It’s hard to believe that Italy coach Marcello Lippi remained stuck under layers of garish sports/leisurewear while a German rival was tanning his arse in the fashion stakes. Continue reading

Things can only get bitter…

Posted in Disasters, Music, Unwanted Comebacks on June 18, 2010 by Johnnie

The Tories are only back in power a wet minute and look who’s crawled back from the lair of the woodworm.  Only Phil Collins.  Back, back, back, he is.  Considering Britain’s now going back to Victorian values, back to basics, back to colonial, feudalistic, tally-ho, smash-the-oiks Conservatism, why not go the whole hog and bring back old Phil too?

I’m sure he’s been missed, not only by his legion of  middle-class, middle-age spread fans, but also by other right-wing musicians, ones who didn’t flee the country when Labour got in: people like Rick Wakeman, Gary Numan,  Eric Clapton, Tony Hadley, Gary Barlow and, er, Geri Halliwell.

In the spirit of c(C)onservatism, Collins’s album is called Going Back, a ‘Motown inspired’ collection of, er, Motown covers.   Continue reading

F**k right off France? F**k “right-on” Hot Press

Posted in Favourite Publications, Words on June 5, 2010 by Johnnie

It’s hard to fathom who Hot Press thought they’d impress with their “F**K RIGHT OFF FRANCE WORLD CUP PREVIEW”.  They try so hard to be seen as the elder, liberal mouthpiece of the nation’s overaged youth, with their regular, preachy articles and editorials on drugs, head shops, sexual liberation, mediocre Irish rock bands and men keeping their hair long until they’re well into their 80s. 

But trying to appeal to Sun readers?  I mean, did anyone question the validity, relevance and potential consequences of this headline?  This is the sort of rubbish Britain’s leading chav rag peddles on a daily basis.  Any second now, no doubt, someone will tell me that I have “no sense of humour” for not laughing at a blatantly xenophobic, inciteful “joke”.   But it simply isn’t funny, by any stretch of the definition. Continue reading

Who says Duke Special is no oil painting?

Posted in Art on June 5, 2010 by Johnnie

Belfast artist Colin Davidson clearly thinks he is.  Continue reading

No more excuses, guns are not sport

Posted in Disasters, Grave News on June 4, 2010 by Johnnie

Another gun massacre in the UK.  Hungerford, Dunblane, now Cumbria.  The gun lobbyists will argue that’s not a bad figure, and figures certainly back up claims that gun crime in the UK is rare.  But this is entirely missing the point.  There shouldn’t be any.  Michael Ryan, who killed 16 people in Hungerford in 1987, Thomas Hamilton, who killed 16 children and a teacher in Dunblane in 1996 and now Derrick Bird, who on Wednesday this week killed at least 12 people in Cumbria, all held legally-issued gun licences.  Year in, year out, there’s some part of the world suffering this sort of tragedy because of people who were considered by authorities to be responsible or stable enough to hold a gun licence.

The sheer viciousness of gun crime is something the public are almost becoming immune to.  We’re used to those film scenes where passers-by are gunned down without any on-screen consequence: very little blood, no grieving partners or relatives, perhaps just a hope that the villain will get their comeuppance at the end.  Make no mistake, a close range blast with a shotgun will blow a gigantic, gory hole in you.  If you are any distance away you will, at the very least, be peppered with shot, a painful and horrifying experience.  Wednesday’s innocent passers-by were real people, real people with families who are now cruelly bereaved and needing answers to that age-old question – what kind of “civilisation” are we that we need guns and ammunition made freely available to anyone who can obtain a licence to hold them?  A licence?  Well, there’s a prevention measure for a massacre if ever we saw one. Continue reading

The Sound of Paint Drying

Posted in Grave News, Star "Style", Unwanted Comebacks on June 3, 2010 by Johnnie

The other morning, after a night of torrential rain, my first, irritated waking thought was, “Well, if it’s going to piss down, and I have to go out in that, I just hope there are hundreds of fat, boring businessmen meeting on golf courses today.”   I’ve never been glad to see the back of summer but I welcome autumn and all its wind, rain and gloom because I cannot wait to see the back of golf. I hate golf.

I’m repeating myself: I hate golf.  We’re talking about a “sport” that fines people for wearing the wrong jumper, or rejects them from clubs for being the wrong gender.  Smack me around the head if I can think of a worse excuse for something to do.  As for repetition?  I’m no different to the insufferable, boring bastards who insist, year in, year out, that I should take up their pathetic, over-expensive hobby.   “Try it, go on, I bet you’ll love it,” in the same manner of those awful pricks who implore you to get dressed down in street-corner attire to go to The Rocky Horror Show: “You haven’t lived until you’ve done Rocky Horror,” they whine.  At least those part-time drag queens dress better than golfers.

Golf has gone through something of a purple (and pink /lilac /yellow check) patch in Ireland recently. Padraig Harrington won the British Open in 2007, then there’s been the emergence of Shane Lowry (and let’s face it, good press for fat blokes from Offaly is thin on the ground) and everyone’s favourite Cabbage Patch Kid, Rory McIlroy.  Far from being marginalised like the executive waste of money and time it is, golf is everywhere you look – and listen. Continue reading