That would be an ecumenical matter

15 11 2017

Once upon a time I took a binary view of certain sides. Negative experiences were the key, as soon as I witnessed the fans of a particular side doing something offensive or cringeworthy they were beyond the pale.

My time at university led to a real dislike of the England side. My preconceptions about academia unravelled as soon as I discovered that students preferred buying cheap posters to discussing higher matters over a few beers but the most dispiriting discovery was the atmosphere around football matches and the air that surrounded tournaments.

I like to think that my Celtic periphery chippiness had nothing to with it because I witnessed plenty of annoying incidents; groups of lads singing songs about the IRA or German bombers, university football team drunks using karaoke equipment to abuse Irish people, university football team drunks abusing French students for celebrating a goal, the very heated discussion between my Brazilian friend Carlos and someone that said “Yeah, but he’s saying WE cheated.” as if I’d naturally agree, two loud specimens using the composition of World War Two’s alliances to decide which side they should get behind in a particular match. I could go on, and on, and on.

I knew I could minimise opportunities for annoyance by avoiding certain places at certain times, hence I stayed in to watch the England v Germany match in Euro 2000, but I couldn’t hide from the cloying tournament atmosphere that transformed my fellow students into football supporter clichés.

The clichés were loud in 2002’s Leicester University. I may have felt differently if interest had been limited to the people I’d befriended that year; a group of us decent souls had congregated in The Ratcliffe Bar, or “Rat Bar”, to watch football.

We were from all over place; Greece, Jordan, London, Coventry, Manchester, Ireland, Belfast, Switzerland, Brazil, Scotland, Merseyside, even Wales. I liked this time a lot, it was communal and convivial and nobody was ever angry about a result, I remember striking up a friendship with an Arsenal fan from Islington. The crucial England v Greece qualifier may not have been popular but the joy locusts arrived for the world cup and occupied every square centimetre.

I despised the easily led for encroaching on our preserve. I despised their shrieking and shouting, their ersatz excitement and fake disappointment. I despised their fashionable emotional tension and spirit crushing breeziness “Well you had to go and support them didn’t you”. I despised their arch postmodern jingoism and irritating look at me behaviour. I despised the likes of Chris Evans for popularising that sort of thing.

On one hand I caused my own discomfort because I kept going to the Rat Bar. On the other I wanted to watch as much of the world cup as possible. My options were limited by simple facts; I didn’t have a television in my room, we were miles from the rest of the university and the Rat Bar was part of our halls of residence. The only choice was limited to the unwelcoming TV Lounge or the palatial Rat Bar. I didn’t see why I should miss out because of the irritating people, if I managed to see Japan v Russia on a wet Sunday I was going to watch England v Denmark, I mean who were these interlopers to deny my human rights?

I already disliked Chelsea because of the political affiliations I’d seen their fans display on documentaries but I had to wait until December 2003 to see Chelsea fans at close quarters. During the afterglow of Aston Villa’s League Cup Quarter Final victory over Chelsea one of the Chelsea fans adressed “You ain’t ever been to the San Siro mate……….What’s that?………… That weren’t even in English mate” to nobody in particular. A couple of others reminded us that Chelsea had recently been purchased by a rich person by singing “Shall we buy a team for you?”.

Chelsea may not have won the league for forty nine years and Villa may have been Champions of Europe but what did such “details” matter to missionaries from the centre of civilisation? And lo! They did they spread the gospel of plutocracy to the heathen areas what only did make the industrial revolution. And lo! They only gone and seen their team get beat guvnor! All hail the centre of civilisation and its ability to attract plutocrats!

I already disliked Rangers for the same reason I already disliked Chelsea. When I visited Ibrox I found tangibly hostile environs; scowls, scarves that demanded a disbelieving second look and less than subtle use of language on flags. For they are “THE PEE-PUL”, and some other people just aren’t “THE PEE-PUL”.

I disliked Halifax Town after their fans visited north Wales. On both occasions inflatable sheep were thought to be just the witticism for an area with a relatively low population density. They was much pride, pride in inflatable animals, pride in a joke that upwards of three hundred strangers will see, pride in a pub discussion, “EEEEEEEE that’s dead funny that is son. That’s A REAL Bobby Dazzler of an idea son. Let’s get t’ sheep from t’shop on’t way to north Wales………..Martin ‘ave yer heard about Colin’s idea? It’s a real Bobby Dazzler!!!!!!” Something told me that they “only say it like it is”.

In the ‘80s my Dad used to take me to Llandudno Rugby Club on Sunday afternoons.  I still fondly remember the details; the smell, the brickwork, the tables with dimpled copper effect tops, the Proustian sounds of the pool table; the coin mechanism’s metallic push, the release of the ball rack, the collision of balls as they rolled and the cue ball’s high pitched thud as it returned to the back of the table. They had an ever-changing selection of crisps and their glasses of coke tasted better than the usual.

It would have been utterly blissful apart from one small issue; an opinionated Leeds fan was often there. Years later another opinionated Leeds fan reminded of these rugby club Sundays when he held court in the pub I liked; “I’ll tell you why Emile Heskey is the worst ever striker to play for England mate”. Mate. Mate, maaaaaate, I do not want to know.

I disliked Rhyl and Caernarfon because of their fans’ Bangor hatred. When I arrived in Wolverhampton I took an almost instant dislike to Wolves because there was an irritating fan on my course. When I was in Leicester I wanted Spurs to lose every match because of some annoyingly loud people that watched football in the Rat Bar. I disliked Real Madrid as soon as I became aware of their history but it wasn’t until I watched 2000’s champions league final with a haughty fan in my friend Mikes’ house in Wolverhampton that the dislike became notable. I disliked Lazio for the same reasons I disliked Chelsea and Rangers.

That was all then baby. Hate is out. Dislike is yesterday’s news baby. Don’t hit me with them negative vibes!

I have returned to a more pleasant era, a less judgemental paradigm. I can say with some certainty that I never truly disliked anyone because of their football allegiance in the halcyon ‘80s.

By secondary school I looked and sounded like a football obsessed kid. I followed Liverpool’s fortunes on account of the sew-on patch I bought from a toy shop when I was about four. I talked about football, I had the kits, I went to matches, but I never really hated Everton or Manchester United. I remember hoping Liverpool would win rather than wish defeats on others. Other kids may have given the impression that they felt strongly but I’m not sure they actually did.

I wish I could have expressed myself better, or given a different impression, but adolescence is supposed to be an uncomfortable time as you find your feet. Some of us only felt confident speaking about football and even then we lacked the expressive skill to go much beyond (Insert Name Here) must be crap because he doesn’t play for us”. I may have taken some defeats personally and offered the odd barbed comment but the words were hollow and I didn’t mean anything by my tone of voice. I knew that the supporters of other clubs were my friends. Any badinage was probably as much about the social mores of adolescents as anything else.

I don’t remember vitriol or visceral loathing but then there was no pressure to get involved. We weren’t surrounded by football, there were no “Superficial Saturdays” or pull-out football sections in newspapers and you had to visit a bookies to place bets. You were lucky to find interesting football magazines.

I received a few comments when I wore a replica shirt so a sense of rivalry existed. In the summer of 1985 an Everton supporting family friend called the eight year old me “murderer”, in jest of course, because I was wearing a Liverpool shirt.

A more pleasant example occurred in 1989 when I went to work with my Dad on the Monday morning after Liverpool had lost 4-1 away at The Dell, I forget the reason why. I was wearing a Liverpool shirt so one of his workmates spent part of their lunch hour gleefully repeating the scoreline. I didn’t react and he noticed that I didn’t react. Thank god for shyness, as without that little mental distance afforded by low self-confidence my life may have taken a different path; if I had seen the attraction of responding to comments I could be driving the banter bus by now.

I’m sure there were irritating football fans, the rugby club Leeds fan for example, but they were less noticeable (at least to me). I can see how proximity to away fans enabled match going fans to develop an ill-feeling towards certain fans but there was no way that non-match going fans could develop intense hatreds. Social media didn’t exist and if you saw fans of other clubs in your home area they’d probably be just like you.

Everything seemed quieter. You couldn’t create an impression of fanaticism and the bluffers’ social media shorthand didn’t exist. There were no giant car window stickers or other look at me merchandise and you couldn’t share knowing jokes or memes within seconds of match incidents. Imagine not being able to visualise the banter bus.

The tabloids may have discovered the joys of lampooning England managers by the late ‘80s but the media’s general tone was more relaxed, for example television covered less football in a calmer manner. If you look back at old clips of Match of The Day or The Big Match you’re immediately struck by the sedate pace and calm delivery.

My Dad’s instinctive dislike of ITV must have clouded my view of Brian Moore’s turn of phrase because when I watch repeats of The Big Match he seems to be the antithesis of our continual cacophony of hyperbolic adjectives. “So United had a day to forget…Now it’s over to White Hart Lane for today’s second match, your commentator is Martin Tyler….”  Sometimes the highlights programmes didn’t even feature pundits. Football without opinions! I could live with that.

The coverage may only exude sepia-tinged goodness because there was less football on TV. If we were re-immersed in that time we may find the coverage more annoying, the more switched on fanzine writers certainly noticed things were rather staid. However we can’t deny that this old style of coverage transmits a quaint charm when compared to our time. The closest the late ‘80s-early ‘90s got to the hyperbolic path was Elton “Live and Exclusive” Welsby but that looks disarmingly warm on you tube. An untelevised football competitions is now an anomaly.

Aside from my unfortunate forays into binary territory football has always been more of an ecumenical matter for me and it feels good to have finally returned to that way of thought. Reality isn’t the same as the evidence that causes snap judgements so naturally my once steadfast views have changed.

I have developed a soft spot for Wolves and long realised that I don’t really care about Halifax or Spurs and  I don’t mind Rhyl FC these day. When I went to watch Chelsea their fans seemed to be just like every other club’s fans. I’ve been to watch England twice since university and noticed that the majority of England fans were the same sort of people that went to watch Wales. I was a Welsh fan in the home end for one of the matches and the Geordie that sat next to me twigged that I wasn’t supporting England, consequently we spent the match chatting. He could have been my dad.

I go to enough matches to get a feel for things and I’ve realised that I see the same sort of people everywhere. I hear the same patter, I see the same styles of clothing and footwear. The same things happen everywhere; people laughing, people sheltering, people rushing to the ground, people leaving early to catch trains, people queuing. The only changes are the colours of scarves and designs of replica shirts.

I see people chatting everywhere. They could be childhood friends or university friends, work colleagues or season ticket holders thrown together by fate, they could even be people that first met on a bus to an away match. Whatever the reason one thing is clear; there’s a tangible sense of humanity. There are obviously years of friendship in the conversations. When I went to watch QPR’s League Cup match in August I was surrounded by people that had actually missed each other since the end of the previous season.

Most football fans are the same, in the same way that most people are the same. Therefore it’s individuals, rather than clubs or the associations people have with clubs, that present a problem. No club is immune from attracting individuals you’d prefer to avoid. I do my best to avoid the following archetypes.

The obvious morons. Even with a padlocked twitter account their outpourings always find me. You name it I see it; inane drivel, sexist crap, racist rubbish, godawful political views, stupid tweets, casual crassness. Why do they advertise? Ignore, block, block, mute, block, ignore.

The loud people. They’re everywhere; Trains, pubs, buses, on the street, in the barbers, in the pub, in work. Loudness on the way to football is to be expected and you can walk on by or change carriages. You can’t ignore match based loudness as you’re stuck with the “Look at me!!!! I’m so passionate!!” person for two hours. We all care baby, that’s why we’re here. Thankfully you only see them every other Saturday.

The bluffers. Why do some people stand around in a Super Sunday pub pretending to laugh at an alpha male’s comedy stylings? Why do some people pretend that they understand football? Why do some people claim to have a better insight that mere mortals? There’s no shame in admitting that you’d rather be doing something else.

The attention-seekers. Somebody recently labelled Manchester City as “Shark Team”. Whether this was a little embroidery or a linguistic device from a non-British journalist the phrase should not have led to fans parading around in shark-shaped inflatable headwear. We can do better than a lot of fans thinking “I’m a joker me, I’ll play along with the media’s idea of what it is to be a football fan!!”. We can do better than creating demand for the next great marketing scam. We can do better than holding a homemade sign for the cameras. Twitter has a lot to answer for.

Those that get involved with “working class street movements”. Their assertion of moral leadership is completely false because they clearly don’t realise that everybody, even scruffy leftard snowflakes, abhors the end result of terrorism. If they were really bothered about “standing up for the working class” they’d be marching against austerity or helping to organise a general strike. Mate, mate, mate you’re not saying it like is at all.

The poppy people. “Look mate all I’m saying is, if he don’t mind earning his money in a country that’s overcome by a mania to be seen to commemorate something rather than actually think about the historical event itself and the historical conditions that caused it, then why don’t he go back to where he came from mate? Am I right? I’m only saying it like it is mate”. It’s hard to think of an autumnal football period without thinking of people booing James McClean for his democratic wish not to have a heat pressed symbol of cynically engineered social pressure that doesn’t inhibit athletic performance applied to his shirt. Luckily I’m old to remember the time when players could get away without wearing them, well I am older than eight years of age.

The judgemental premier league fans of north Wales. I remember one of them at a birthday party I went to. He had just got in from a Liverpool away game. I had his number, I could read his face, I could see that he was judging us; “You haven’t been to the match today therefore I am considerably better than you”. Mate, mate, mate anybody can buy football tickets.

I still dislike certain clubs, Rangers, Real Madrid, Lazio, anything with a connection to Swiss energy drinks or blue sky corporate thinking, anything that’s become a self-worshipping monolith. I still want them to lose instantly but I try not to generalise about their supporters.

Irritating people are not club specific, they are everywhere. It is pointless to hate a club because they have irritating fans because it’s highly probable that your club also has irritating fans. Imagine that irritating people are drawn to the same football club as you, embrace enlightenment.

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Opine, opine, opine

14 10 2017

Words, words, words, we’ve all got ‘em.

We’ve all got ‘em in our heads mate.

We must get our words out there mate!!!!!!!

We must get our football related words out there mate!!!!!!!!!!!!

Express them now mate!!!!!!!!!!!!

DON’T WAIT, DO IT NOW MATE!!!!!!!!!!!

QUICK!!!!!!!!

QUICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MATE MATE MATE QUICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you’re speaking about things on a football highlights programme, just relax mate.

All you have to do is get those footy words out there mate.

“He managed to shoot into Row Z…..”

It doesn’t matter that the ball actually bounced off the pole that holds the net up and actually ended up in front of Row A. You have to editorialise these days mate. You have to sound like you could do better than that mate. You have to make people feel that they could all do better than that mate. You have to become part of the knowing chorus mate.

See that footballer what done something wrong, we can all do better than that can’t we mate?

Yes mate, all of us are capable of doing better than that mate. ALL. OF. US.

Now tell all of your colleagues to keep riding that cliché horse mate.

(Insert team name here) can’t buy a goal at the moment!”

“Buy Goals” is it? If clubs could actually buy goals pointed questions would soon be asked. I’ll tell you what mate just keep editorialising with your clichéd opinions about the footy, that’s all consumerist slugs like us deserve mate. Just keep getting them footy words out there, we’re all part of the banter nexus mate.

Keep on with those banter based knowing attitudes as you introduce highlights of footballers doing stuff mate.  Nothing adds quality to football highlights like a banter based comment mate, apart from a banter based intro piece to camera, or a banter based chat with an ex-pro. The best thing is when someone makes light of an ex-pro analyst’s gambling problems with banter based commentage.

Banter, banter, banter, banter. We all love it.

WE LIVE FOR THE BANTER MATE, LIVE. FOR. IT. Absolutely live for it mate, love it mate. LOVE. IT.

Love the banter life. You. Can’t. Beat. It. Mate. Mate you can’t beat it.

Words, words, words.

Opinions, opinions, opinions.

Opinions, opinions, opinions, we’ve all got ‘em.

We’ve all got them in our heads. We must get them out there mate.

Don’t keep them opinions in mate, you’ll explode mate.

QUICK, QUICK, QUICK MATE, call a deejay type mate.

Get your opinion type words aired mate.

DO IT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

…….so I gets to thinking “Oooooh I’m a little bit angry. I’ll call up a phone-in deejay and let the nation know just what a character I am, my phone call will really change matters, just you wait and see.” then I phones him up…..“It’s a circus at the moment mate and he’s the biggest clown of the lot mate you build a team from the back mate I’ve been waiting 25 years for us to win the league mate he’s got a worse record than Brendan Rodgers mate if we’d have won the league I would have been the most proudest Liverpool fan in the world mate”.

The nation listens, the nation wonders, wonders why someone is that bothered about a football club that’s at the other end of the country from their hometown.

“You don’t have to be that interested mate!”

You’ve got to get your opinion on the telly. You’ve got to show them how your munificence is a wonderful antidote to all of the others. You still have to demand that some definitive action is taken because SOMETHING’S GOT TO BE DONE.

SOMETHING’S got to be done mate.

Just get your opinion words out there mate, they’ve created an unnecessary gap between the highlights that needs filling with unnecessary opinion based words. Go on mate speak thy brains!!!!!!!!!!

“Mate I’ve been really really supportive of our manager this season, but mate it’s time for a change. We drew today mate and we’ve had 8 games already mate. Time for a change I think mate.”

You have to get your opinion out there mate, you can’t just do nothing mate. We need something to take us to the next level mate. I know we need someone to take us to the next level mate. You know we need someone to take us to the next level mate. Everybody knows we need someone to take us to the next level mate. If we don’t get to the next level how are we gonna have a dream come true?

You’ve got to televise your opinion mate, it will help things to happen mate, honestly it will, honest mate, get your words out there mate.

Mate mate mate there’s a camera over there!

Get your words out mate!

Proper fans shout at cameras mate.

“COOMMMME OOOOONNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!”

They’re still shouting words at a camera? Why? Mate mate mate, I’d hate to think that you’re only doing it because everybody else does it. What’s wrong with a cheery wave or better yet, ignoring the camera?………… This country! tsk, tsk, tsk.

Are you “all about” those photos of away fans at a matches? You’ve got to get your opinion out there mate!

“Fantastic turn out for the Football Lads Alliance march in London this afternoon.”

The subject of your tweet doesn’t matter mate, the implication of your tweet doesn’t matter mate and the context in which your tweet exists doesn’t matter just comment and comment now mate.

Don’t question the Football Lads Alliance just get a tweet out there mate. I know you’ve “GOT THIS” mate.

Don’t wonder about them, don’t question them, just get you opinion out there. You’ve seen “Football” and you’ve seen “Lads” and that’s all you need to know.

Yeah they’re holding floral wreaths mate! They can’t be too bad can they?

Whatever you do don’t send the Football Lads Alliance a tweet that says “I see you’re interested in working class politics. When’s the march against Austerity? Are you helping to organise a general strike or what?” Don’t bother with that mate, they’re into “Football” and they’re “Lads”, WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED MATE?

Are you a SOLID GOLD FOOTY BANTER LEGEND? You’ve got to get the banter out there mate.

Is your team playing another team in a few Earth days?

You’ve got to drop another of them SOLID GOLD FOOTY BANTER LEGEND type moves mate.

“Literally bale and 10 sheep.”

BIFF!

BLAMMO!

KAZAAAAAM!

Another banter target despatched by the DEEPLY AMAZING BANTERMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The funny thing is that on Monday evening Wales literally decided to literally pick 10 farm animals instead of human beings against Ireland. They literally did, they literally picked farm animals instead of human footballers. They literally did. Literally true story that mate.

Has your team just lost mate? You need someone to blame mate.

Let’s all play the blame game!

BLAME GAME!!!!!!!!!

BLAME GAME!!!!!!!!!

LET’S ALL BLAME THE BLAME GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Get on Twitter and tell that scapegoat what you think of them mate.

GET ON TWITTER NOW!!!!!!!!!!!

“Ashley Williams is an absolute disgrace, 20k disappointed Welshmen in that stadium and he goes straight down the tunnel. Disgusting.”

And here is another!

“Agreed. Understand that he would feel down but as a captain you step up. Seen him him for years and he’s sadly slipping away now imo.”

I’ll bet they made exactly the same comments about Ashley Williams 30 milliseconds after the Euro 2016 Quarter Final finished. But then you’re hurting after a football defeat, people have to know just how much YOU hurt.

It’s all about YOU and YOUR hurt feelings mate.

Aaaaaaaaaaaah Hurt Feelings.

Words, words, words everywhere

Nothing changes.

Results still happen, trophies are still presented, clubs are still relegated and clubs still narrowly miss out on glory.

Words, words, words.

Words ad nauseum.

Words infinitum.

Quo vadis? Quo vadis?

Caveat emptor mate, caveat emptor.

That’s good mate, I’m afraid I’m not really in the market for anything at the moment mate.

Angry football noise, the pointless end of silence.

Angry football words, the pointless filling of space.

Results are merely the end point of an event chain created by random coincidence mate.

Those sodding opinion merchants are never silent.

Football would be alright if it wasn’t for the bloody words.

A few defeats and it’s universal chuntering through the medium of cliché.

“Don’t get me wrong, he’s done a good job but he’s slowly losing the dressing room and we need fresh blood to take us to the next level”

As soon you fail to lead 2-0 within ten minutes it’s………..

Why’s he still playing? Oh My God mate I can’t believe it. See I told you the manager’s clueless mate……….. Yeah Oh My God Mate, he’s playing him out of position again!

These words are hackneyed even within football’s comatose thesaurus of superlatives mate.

Words, bloody words. Words that sound the same, words that are the same. Identical bloody words. You hear them a thousand times a Saturday, identical bloody words spoken, every channel covered.

The world’s full of bloody experts with “sack the manager” as a default reaction.

Welcome to the land of hubris, home to the delusions of experts without expertise.

A manager spends their entire working day pondering how to tackle problems but our passionate experts always wonder “Yeah but what do they actually know?”

Our experts without expertise can always do better.

“Yeah he don’t know he’s doing that one. He needs to play a different system he does. It’s obvious the defence is pushing up too high, you can’t do that these days, he’s obviously behind the times.”

While it’s possible to gain an understanding of tactics, individual roles and patterns of play through study a layman can’t join the dots like someone steeped in football’s work culture. Some coaches are abrasive and some use outdated methods but they will still have an understanding of the football’s work environment that fans won’t have.

Football management is a tough occupation.There’s an omnipresent pressure to deliver results from your board, the fans and the media. You have to devise tactics and training plans. You have to motivate fellow humans. Then the capricious fates thrust unforeseen mistakes, injuries and own goals into your plans. Could a fan cope adequately with this situation?

In fact would a fan be able to perform any of a manager’s complex roles satisfactorily? To function efficiently within a work environment you have to understand it. Managers implicitly understand football’s rhythms because they have gained highly specialised craft knowledge from working within a specialised employment sector for decades,. Rather obviously fans won’t have similar career paths.

Why would a time served pro listen to the tactical advice of a fan? A fan can’t adequately conceptualise the experience of being a professional footballer but managers generally can because they were often pro footballers. How could a fan motivate time served pros? You can’t just repeat platitudes about doing it for the shirt, putting your shoulders through the grindstone and getting your late tackles in early.

Most players wouldn’t dream of entering a fan’s workplace to offer a forceful critique, why is the reverse tolerated?  Possessing a loud voice and turning up at the ground every other week doesn’t bestow coaching expertise.

Sometimes adequate knowledge can only be gained through experience, sometimes bluffers are easily found out.

That’s life that is.

Experts without expertise opining without responsibility, that’s football that is.

Football, that’s your life’s passion that is, that’s the thing that used to make you happy that was.

Let’s keep looking at life’s rich tapestry.

Your team has lost.

You’re angry.

You’re upset.

Your hopes have been dashed and you won’t be getting involved in the excited rush to make travel arrangements.

So you’re angry, so you’re upset. Join the queue baby!

To comment or not to comment? That is the question.

How does one express themselves?

Well, you’re not exactly commenting from a calm perspective, the hurt and anger is still coursing through your mind.

How about a you tube rant? That’s the new fashion for look at me legend types.

A you tube rant may feel good as you destroy your enemies with a point by point dissection and you may entertain hipster for thirty nine seconds but then what? Your team still lost and you found internet infamy.

Is providing internet entertainment whilst looking slightly unhinged a decent aspiration for GENERATION B(anter)

“I’VE PAID THROUGH THE NOSE FOR THIS THOUGH.” isn’t an adequate reason. You chose to pay, you didn’t have to choose to watch players that don’t have “half your passion”.

You’re angry. you’re upset, boo hoo.

You’re a self-described SOLID GOLD FOOTY BANTER LEGEND.

Great, so you’re a funny guy, a funny funny funny funny funny guy. You’re THE MOST FUNNIEST GUY IN THE HISTORY OF COMEDY.

WHAT DO YOU THINK LIFE IS? A TEAM WRITTEN COMEDY PROGRAMME WHERE EVERY LINE IS A FINELY HONED ZINGER? Mate, mate, mate, it ain’t.

Funny, funny, funny? No. Bor-ring, bor-ring, bor-ring. Nobody cares.

The day before your heart-breaking defeat another team lost. You felt great with your jokes and twitter memes. There was no way you were going to lose was there mate?

Then you lost, how do you react?

You could carry on with the jokes about your rivals’ misfortune because they lost as well. At least they were knocked out before you were, and you had more points than them and the ref was awful and everything.

The jokes won’t feel the same now. Making memes about another team won’t change the result.

You could get angry but the referee’s still missed that incident and your captain still miskicked it. Getting angry won’t change the result.

You could insult everybody. Those words will soothe for a few seconds but then what? You have demeaned yourself and your target because your feelings have been slightly bruised. You know that you only feel hurt because you know that you’d feel exactly the same as your target if your team had won. Insulting people won’t change the result.

You could hold your breath until you’re sick and that will make historical events change. Holding your breath is as likely to change things as the above, it won’t change the result.

You could just accept matters, embrace your feelings and achieve full emotional development you absolute SOLID GOLD BANTER LOOK AT ME LEGEND OF THE HIGHEST ORDER.

In other words, just be quiet, then do that more often.

Your words change nothing. The event has happened. Embrace disappointment.





US and THEM

8 10 2017

US and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US……..

I’ve never been able to work out why people refer to their football club as “us” or “we”. I’ve always felt a bit silly whenever I’ve referred to Bangor City like that but I’m the sort of person that’s jarred by internal questions; “Why did I use such a word?…… Do other people forensically question the precision of their language?”

I tried my damnedest not to refer to Bangor as “us” or “we” when I’ve been Radio Bangor’s co-commentator (The fan-controlled broadcasting service) but the white hot excitement of the Welsh premier league causes some acute mental shuddering.

I feel part of a “we” when I watch Bangor with my friends because I feel emotionally involved. I was born in the city and I’ve been going to watch City for nearly a quarter of a century. I look at the transitory players and it feels absurd to use “we“. Most of them have different feelings, they celebrate but they don’t feel like we do, they value trophies but they don’t look at glory like we do. I prefer it that way, feeling separated saves missing them when they’re gone.

………US and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US……..

I’m amazed that people feel they can refer to clubs as if they’re personally part of them “We Won!…….We Lost!…….Who are you playing today?….. I see you lost again on Saturday”. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, people aren’t afraid to self-confidently elbow their way into conversations.

“Oh aye, I used to go all the time………Blah blah’s great isn’t he!……. So do you think blah blah will make a difference as manager?……… Blah blah was great though wasn’t he, they don’t make them like him anymore do they! ……….. How much would he be worth today?”

If only this kind of thing was confined to the post-Chester Races trains that drunk people use to get home.

The matey shroud that surrounds the opening jousts of these conversations evaporates when the conversation’s nature becomes clear, one protagonist emits earnest football chatter while the other humours a child. Thoughts are visible; “We’ve got another one here, someone else that thinks they’re integral, someone else filling the air for the sake of it. Actually fella, I’d rather be left alone”.

I was on my way to the recent West Brom v West Ham match when I alighted in Wolverhampton. I yearned to ride the tram to The Hawthorns so I went to the terminus. When I got there it was clear that the tram wasn’t running because of long-term engineering works, I quickly realised why Wolverhampton hadn’t been listed as the last stop when I had checked the timetable the previous day.

I stood as an unmistakable visitor so naturally a bloke walked up to me. I listened to the typically hospitable local explain precisely which bus services I needed to reach the temporary terminus in Priestfield. His words transported me back to my academic salad days, the time when anything within reason felt possible. I thanked the bloke, realised everything sounded too complicated and trudged disconsolately back to the station.

The next train to Birmingham was full of loud men discussing Tottenham Hotspur’s prospects. I presumed they were going to the early evening match as “we” was used extensively. Judging by the accents, and the fact that it was an Arriva Train Wales train, the men were from Shropshire. I wondered how they felt a connection with Tottenham.

The other week a dead passionate Liverpool fan from daaaahn saaarrrf was on 6-0-6 and his call was so memorable they made a feature out of it on the BBC website. It was pure stream of angry consciousness;

“It’s a circus at the moment mate and he’s the biggest clown of the lot mate you build a team from the back mate I’ve been waiting 25 years for us to win the league mate he’s got a worse record than Brendan Rodgers mate if we’d have won the league I would have been the most proudest Liverpool fan in the world mate”.

There are better things to be angry about than a football club that plays two hundred miles away from the place you’ve always called home.

I’ve don’t understood why those that only watch televised matches become angry when their team loses, they’ve only bought a polyester shirt. I don’t understand how a passing interest can be maintained in a premier league club. It takes astronomical sums of money and military-style planning to gain access then you’re obliged and encouraged to feel personally hard done by. Surely it’s cheaper and easier to be interested in a club that’s physically closer, especially when they will probably need your help in some way.

………US and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US……..

It’s an obvious thing to say but there’s an essential link between a football club and the place in which it exists. Those that live nearby, those exiled by work relocation and those that adopt a club after moving to an area are able to view clubs as a “we” because they are being represented. I don’t understand how someone can feel truly part of an “we” by buying a piece of clothing that lots of other people have bought, anyone can buy a piece of clothing.

Take me and FC United. From the outside I may look part of it, I’m a co-owner, I go to as many matches as I can and I try to spend or donate as much as I can in the ground, but while I’m a part of it I’m apart from it. I’m separated from the “us” by a simple fact; I’m not from Greater Manchester.

I feel an affinity with the area because my Grandma used to live there and see Lowry painting on the streets of Salford but I’m not a local. I think I get FC United, I appreciate the club’s culture and I like the idea that it’s an expression of streetwise fortitude that’s part of Manchester’s rich historical tapestry of defiance but I’m not a local.

FCUM is an inclusive club but I feel like an interloper because I only became a member after I watched Looking For Eric. I can understand everything but I can’t truly feel it like a local does. I may be part of it but it’s an infinitesimally small part. I can’t kid myself along, I’m merely a fellow traveller.

I’ve developed an affinity with several clubs over the years for a variety of reasons, Port Talbot Town, Saint Etienne, Livorno, Hibs, Celtic. While I take an interest in each of them, and hope they do well, I’m a mere tourist. The only team I feel that I can manage a weak expression of “we” is the Welsh national team but even then I haven’t been to see them for years so I don’t really feel part of the “we” as much as I once did.

………US and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US……..

Imagine three imaginary places in the same BBC region; the large town of Milltown and the reasonably large cities of Hillingdon and Athenwell. They are all about an hour apart so they form a triangle on a map.

Milltown has Milltown United. Hillingdon has Hillingdon Rovers and Hillingdon Athletic and Athenwell has Athenwell FC and West End. There’s a noted football rivalry between Hillingdon and Athenwell. There’s no such ill feeling between the Milltown and the other places because their football paths have seldom crossed in the previous four decades.

Now imagine that two people from Milltown are having a football conversation on the phone. Anyone listening could assume three things; they are Milltown area denizens, they both support clubs from Hillingdon (one Rovers, the other Athletic) and they both detest Athenwell FC.

If you were to ask them they have nothing against the city of Athenwell itself, they like nights out there, the shopping and that. It’s Athenwell FC and their fans that they can’t stand. They’ve always been full of themselves that lot, even their Athenwell supporting friends from Milltown are like that, they’re all living in the past mate.

Naturally they hope that one hundred and twenty two year old Milltown United do well but their eyes are on starrier sights, that glamourous elite aren’t going to watch themselves. The antipathy towards Athenwell FC shows that they’re full of modern football’s annoying unspoken assumption; “I support Team X therefore I should automatically hate Team Y”, in short they have adopted the behaviours of the local followers of “their” clubs,

A keen rivalry is extremely palatable as it adds a frisson to matchday but the idea of hating somebody else purely on the basis that they follow a different football club is absurd. Other fans live in the same sort of houses, work in the same sort of places and use the same sort of shops. Disliking a group of people simply because you’ve chosen to become involved in big glamourous football club is beyond pointless, expressing this rubbish publicly is beyond tedious.

………US and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US……..

People make these choices in real life. The other week I was travelling home from Curzon Ashton v FC United by train. I had to go via to Crewe because of engineering work.

It was the same day that Manchester City beat Liverpool 5-0 so I was sat by a table full of understandably delighted City fans. It turns out they were from Crewe (we all alighted there). At some point between Stockport and Nantwich one of them related the phone conversation he’d just had with his Manchester United supporting friend;

“….So he says to me; ‘I’ll let you off that today ‘cause you beat the Scousers for us”.

They’re from Crewe but

“….So he says to me…..

….’I’ll let you off that today ’cause….

….YOU beat the SCOUSERS for US.”

Let that sink in, as the twitter cool cats say.

They like football and Crewe has its own football club.

Crewe Alex probably requires a little care and attention from the citizens of Crewe.

They choose to follow a rich club that doesn’t need their help/

They choose to self-identify as part of the “we”. 

When you view football like this there’s always a “them” to be judgemental about, Other people fall down the social order, players are always awful and everything’s crap or fantastic.

“Mate mate mate If you can’t be judgemental about things based on a purely arbitrary choice made when you’re younger mate, what’s the point in being a footy fan mate?”

It’s nonsensical to put so much store in an arbitrary choice made about incidental leisure time. I don’t know why it  happens? Is it the psychological need to belong? Is it the dislocation of a free market economy? Is it the alienation created by capitalism? Is it the premier league’s cultural imperialism?

………US and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US……..

I’ve noticed a different tone to the conversation when it involves someone that’s from the “we”. Let’s return to the day of West Brom v West Ham.

My phone had told me that I needed to catch the 16.52 train from The Hawthorns. I ended up missing it because they closed The Hawthorns’ station footbridge “It happens all the time when the football’s on mate, you’ll have to go around to the front of the station mate”. This meant a train towards Birmingham with the away fans rather than a train towards Crewe with the home fans.

As I left the stationside footpath I bumped into some West Ham fans that were going the wrong way. I told them that the footbridge was closed etcetera etcetera. They thanked me and naturally I became part of the conversation “They think they treat us like C**** just ‘coz we’re football fans don’t they”. I smiled in agreement. I continued to smile as they chatted about old away trips. They didn’t seem particularly bothered by the stultified match that we’d all just seen. There was an unspoken recognisance that witnessing a dull match was just one of those things that happens to a person that goes to football.

I ended up next to some different West Ham fans on the train. One of them was hectoring his bored looking friend, it was clear that he didn’t like the idea of paying good money to watch a scoreless draw; “I don’t rate him, or him, or him, to get to the next level you need defenders that can play and those three clearly can’t. How do we get to the next level?” I didn’t want to listen, I didn’t want to be aware of his opinion, but I had to listen.

Given the choice it’s more palatable to listen to someone with a story than someone trying to prove how much they care by airing a loud opinion that somebody else has already expressed.

Maybe it was only fate that had placed me near a moaner at the exact time he was getting a lament out of his system, maybe he stopped speaking about football the minute he left Snow Hill station. Maybe the moaner was an experienced away day veteran and maybe the first group were Johnny Come Latelys relating second hand stories. It doesn’t really matter they are illustrative examples about the way different groups relate to football. There are groups to avoid.

………US and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US……..

I know that I’m not vital to the world of football, I could stop taking an interest tomorrow and nobody would care. I know my place in the universe; I’m a speck of dust.

I wonder whether the people that worship premier league clubs from afar feel the same, or do they feel a sense of entitlement, do they feel vital to everything? Let’s consider a few stats about three “football hotbeds”;

Greater Manchester Inhabitants – 2.25 million,  combined capacity of the six biggest grounds – 223,000

Liverpool–Birkenhead Metropolitan Area  Inhabitants  – 2.25 million, combined capacity of the three biggest grounds – 112,000

Glasgow Metropolitan Area  Inhabitants – 1.4 million, combined capacity of the four biggest grounds – 170,000

The implication is clear, nobody outside of those metropolitan areas is required to take an interest in that area’s  football clubs. In fact only 5-10% of each area’s residents need to attend to ensure full houses. The idea that at least 10% of each area’s population would be interested in watching football is plausible.

On the other hand, what do my thoughts matter? Nobody’s committing a crime, people are only interacting with football in their own way. Some people may have no compunction about taking advantage of the prevailing conditions in football – Traditional fans may have been priced out, or lost heart, or may no longer feel welcome – but so what?

People are only interacting with happy shiny world of football while they watch look at me home made protest banners on a Splendiferous Saturday Lunchtime™. I don’t suppose it matters really, people are only doing something with their free time. I’m probably just jealous or something.

Sod all that.

Mate, mate, mate, take an interest by all means mate, buy the shirt if you have to mate, just don’t pretend you’re a massive fan and more importantly, don’t go on about it mate. Everyone’s got interests. I could bore you with Ken Loach Minutiae or Czech New Wave banter. Do you fancy that mate?”

There’s nothing wrong with being drawn to a particular club, people are drawn to a variety of clubs for a variety of reasons. We all have soft spots for this club or that club, one day I will go to watch Livorno, but a passing attraction is nothing more than a passing attraction.

Mate mate mate if you’re going to treat football like a delicacy from the great leisure time smorgasbord at least use some imagination. My friend Gerry knows somebody that has season tickets for Inter Milan and Blackburn. This kind of situation is an ideal 21st Century situation. Why not access top quality European football on a monthly basis via a relatively cheap season ticket and cheap flights?

Then again why not simply go and watch your local club, they could probably do with your help.

I like to think that we don’t need to submerge ourselves in the bravado of a group, or submit to football’s PR industry. Call me a dreamer.

………US and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and USUS and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US, US and THEM, THEM and US





Ignore, ignore, ignore

23 09 2017

Whenever I was annoyed my mum would always said “Ignore them and they’ll go away”. Whenever annoying twitter users tweet other people tweet “Ignore them, they’re only looking for attention”. The theory is sound but the practice is not easy.

The waves of retweets you can’t help but see continually cause small breaches in the dike I’ve erected around the polder of my calmness. I may have a padlocked twitter account and an air of quiet satisfaction that I’m not “like that” but it’s often not enough. I don’t want to know that there’s a “North Wales Loyal” Rangers Supporters’ Club or that they meet up in a pub down the round from where I’ve typed this but I’m aware of both of these facts.

There are also self-inflicted breaches. I often read things just to see if they are as bad as they seem, like the time I decided to read a deejay’s book. Suffice to say the book is joint top of “The worst books I’ve ever held” list with Lovejoy On Football (another case of academic research) and The Da Vinci Code. On this occasion I could offer the mitigation of giving three quid to a charity shop and then re-donating it so someone else could do likewise but I should have followed my Mum’s direction. I may have read the deejay’s words and felt superior but what does that matter now?

The trouble is that circumstance allows temptation to goad my strong will. For example I was walking through a branch of Smiths last Saturday and the New Statesman’s cover piqued my interest. There was a German theme and I have a deep love of Deutschland so I flicked through the pages. The German article certainly looked interesting, then I noticed that there was an exquisite article about “the fractured left”. I knew that it that would just the sort of annoying research that propels my joy “to the next level”.

Then I noticed the price was £4.50.

HOLD ON, FOUR POUNDS FIFTY PENCE TO READ THE WORDS OF THATCHERISM APPEASERS? FOUR POUNDS FIFTY PENCE TO READ HOW WE’RE DOING IT ALL WRONG? FOUR POUNDS FIFTY PENCE TO READ A WEEKLY PAEAN TO RESPECTABLE ACCOMMODATION WITH THE FORCES OF MARKET CAPITALISM? YOU CAN BUY A COUPLE OF IRVINE WELSH NOVELS FOR FIVE QUID IN FOPP AND THEY’RE MORE RELEVANT.

I don’t know how many of the working classes will stump up £4.50 a week for cultural re-education but it’s actually great that The New Statesman costs that much, and The Times and Telegraph hide behind pay walls, otherwise I’d be on a constant quest to be wound up by other peoples’ words.

Being priced out has become a most familiar feeling. The cost of attending football matches is extortionate, televised football is virtually controlled by Murdoch, the TV programmes that everyone raves about are found on subscription services and cinema tickets cost nearly as much a DVDs.

This could be a problem but my exclusion from the version of popular culture where everything seems to be fantastic or “must-see” is liberating, fate’s way of telling me to relax more. I’ve managed without the likes of Game Of Thrones and Murdoch’s premier league on my TV for years I doubt gaining access to stuff like this will enhance my life greatly now. I’m sure that looking at things in this way has helped me to deal with life’s little annoyances.

Take an example from a couple of weeks ago, the book writing deejay was annoyed about Wales’ ambition to win football matches by choosing the most skillful players at its disposal. I could have commented but I let it go. I didn’t send him a tweet.

I may have passively aggressively quoted his retweet with a snarky rejoinder, but I let it go like it was nothing. I let it go and moved on, yes I moved on straightaway. Twitter told me to look down on the deejay says but I wasn’t going to do that. Why would I do that? I had let it go. He’s had an opinion but don’t we all. I HAD LET IT GO, ALRIGHT!

Look down on the likes of these phone-in deejay types? Don’t be silly! I’d love to share a train journey with a phone in deejay type.

I see a journey from Warrington to Glasgow. I sit down opposite the phone in deejay type. I recognise him immediately thanks to twitter. I remove the reading material and bottle of water from my bag. I pick up the book, remove the old train ticket cum bookmark and begin to read.

The phone in deejay type scans me discreetly. He clocks my Denmark 1986 retro shirt, sees that I’m reading McIlvanney on Football and notices that I’ve placed this month’s copy of When Saturday Comes next to the bottle of water (I’ve only got thirty pages of the book left).

He listens when my friend phones me, he listens as I remind my friend that we have to pick up the tickets from Celtic Park, he listens as I tell my friend that we’re bound to have a good day and we’ll meet Jimmy and his mates again in that decent pub near Celtic. He hears my laughter, he can see the excitement in my eyes.

He looks at me and can clearly see what I’m all about. He’s waiting for me to finish my phone conversation, he’ll knows what to say, I’m part of his flock, his people. He can feel the milliseconds pass.

When the opportunity finally arises he looks into my eyes and says;

“Which match are you going to?

Then I’ll reply with;

“I don’t really like football I’m afraid”.

Radiating waves of bewilderment, the best response he can manage will be;

“Eh?……I thought you liked football. Weren’t you on the phone about tickets?”

I’ll add;

“No!”

This conversation won’t go any further.

We sit in silent proximity for the rest of the journey, a mute acknowledgement of a metaphorical chasm.

I don’t react, I don’t justify.

I silently consuming the remaining twenty five pages of my book.

I silently consuming my magazine.

There’s not a glance in his direction.

Words seem infinitely more interesting than a banter-fuelled loudmouth.

Needless to say I’ll have had the last laugh!

I’m sure that I’d become a subject on his show.

“I was on train yesterday and I was sat across from this fella, and he was wearing a old football kit, and he was reading a book about football, and had a football magazine in front of him, and he spoke to one of his mates about making sure he had tickets to a match.

So I said to him “Which match are you going to mate?” and I was expecting a bit of banter. But he says to me “I don’t really like football I’m afraid” and that was that, I mean what’s that all about?

I couldn’t get my head around it.

I mean how can someone not like footy in the first place but this guy said he didn’t like football and he was wearing one of those retro shirts, Denmark I think, he was reading a football book and had a football magazine, he had tickets to a match. How could he not be a football fan? It doesn’t make sense.

So he’s got a ticket for a match but doesn’t like football, it’ll be people like him that stop ordinary decent fans getting tickets. He’ll be the sort of person that eats Prawn Sandwiches and quaffs chardonnay while the likes of you eat luke warm pies and lumpy tea. These people are everything that wrong with football if you ask me.”

I reckon that I would probably call the next show he presents.

“Hi, first time caller, sometime listener when I’m stuck in the wrong taxi at the wrong time. I’m the guy from the train.

First of all I like to thank you for your grandiloquent character assassination, it made my day, week, month, year, and indeed, decade.

Your masterly emissions have echoed in my fuddled brain so violently I have been unable to sleep coherently since your eloquence. Kind sir, it is difficult to wonder where one starts your latest teatime oeuvre. One doesn’t know how to respond, one hopes the pedestrian cliché of “Bravo kind sir, bravo!” will suffice.

Picasso had paint, Mozart had notes, you embroider the ether with forthright opinions, your words are quite literally art.

We can try to pay tribute to the quality of your verbal art but its multi-faceted qualities present the most profound of problems. You are the very much the spoken word’s onion of genius football opinion, the confines of space and time do not allow us to lionise your multifarious layers of strength.

If we celebrate your perfumed words we may omit the profundity of your masterly soliloquy, if we laud the perspicacity of your intellectual ardour we may overlook your majestic turn of phrase. Suffice to say it was the most profound honour to be so ritually abused by sheer poetry.

Essentially what I am desperately groping to express is the idea that it’s nice to be recognised as an easy target for an attention seeking loudmouths lacking in grace and calmness.

I enjoy my use as fodder for another tirade that keeps the wheels of the banter fuelled horrorshow that’s now known as “football”.

Needless to say I have had the last laugh again, and I rest my case. Cheery bye the now.”

Football talk used to be fine in the right place at the right time with the right people but it’s irritating ubiquity has turned it into the mere rearrangement of words.

Pre-match analysis, pre-match interviews, half-time analysis, post-match interviews, post-match analysis. Endless words about nothing.

Opinions, opinions, opinions. Only the nouns change.

“My team lost…….He’s not trying……..It’s not fair”.

Football’s not fair, it’s not a moral investigation into the existential state of humanity. It’s two groups of eleven people trying to score more goals than the other.

Some teams win, some teams lose and there are some draws.

Shut up, you’re boring us all.

 





Some Summer Photos

5 09 2017

I’ve been to some matches this summer.





The annual appraisal

2 09 2017

Saturday Evening

Mark was two minutes from home. Bloody football, you make the effort to care and what do you get? Nothing, nothing but sodding disappointment.

One corner to go. 2006 was an absolute age ago. What he’d give to be fourteen again.

He turned his key in the lock. Being fourteen on the day of the Champions League Final, that was life! Everything was possible, nothing was impossible!

He pushed the handle, opened the front door and went in. He was finally home after the usual tube scrum. He’d arrived at his sanctuary from the madding crowd, from the disappointment. Another Saturday, another pain in the arse.

– “Hello Mark, was it a good game?”

“No Mum, it was awful again.”

– “Never mind love. Your tea will be ready in a minute, I’ll give you a call!”

“Great Mum, I’m going out with the boys later.”

– “Ok Love, see you in a minute.”

Mark shot up to his room, he couldn’t wait to log in to “Gooner Heaven” and lay down eternal damnation upon his pitiful team.

“Henry The Eighth” was back in the chair!

Let us begin with the righteous fury!

Henry the Eighth – Down the Arsenal again, we were awful again, bloody awful. Wenger has lost everything, our respect, the plot, the dressing room.

It’s the players as well, don’t get me started. They don’t care, it’s scandalous, they don’t care. None of them. spineless performance from them. None of them care, we spend our hard earned money and what do we get? Nothing, bloody nothing.

That bloody Ramsey, what good is he? He’s literally the worst player I’ve ever seen in an Arsenal shirt. He should retire now, seriously. The fucking fraud. I’d have Wilshere over him any day you, he’s utter toss.

I’m utterly shocked, truly, that he can’t seem to play in midfield, he’s a bloody professional. My nan could do better than him! He never sticks to where he should be.

He’s a headless chicken, he should stick to rugby with the other Welsh. He’s a disgrace to the shirt. An utter fucking disgrace. I don’t know why we put up with his shit. I don’t know how he can look us in the eye. 

We’ll never win anything with a fraud like in the middle of the park. We need a leader, a taclker, a battler. We don’t need frauds. He’s living off past glories, he’s literally living off past glories. We should get rid straight away.

Clock End Preacher – Give it a rest will you, we’ve only had three games so far, we haven’t even finished August yet! You and your lot wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in the 1980s.

Henry the Eighth – It’s always the same. It just shows what I always say. You give your opinion and get slated for it. I pay my money and I’m entitled to an opinion.

With fans like you it’s no wonder that the club is in the mess it’s in. People like you are literally holding this club back.

Clock End Preacher – All I’m trying to say is calm down, things could be worse.

Henry the Eighth – Nice one grandad, that’s literally no help, it literally changes nothing.

Gooner Gerald – I’m with Henry on this, he speaks sense. You’ll never get to football heaven Preacher. Wenger and Ramsey are literally taking us to football hell.

Henry the Eighth – You know it GG! The preacher should stick to going to Church on Sundays.

Rocky Rocastle – It’s always the same, a couple of defeats and you lot want everyone gone. Can’t you just chill out, you won’t last the season with this kind of stress. You never know what might happen. We could win the Europa League.

Gerald Gerald – Looks like we got another one here Henry.

Henry the Eighth – These people are embarrassing, living in the past. We’ve literally got the most embarrassing fans in the world. They’re willing to put up with mediocrity and pay through the nose for it.

Mark was basking in the decisive last word when he heard footsteps on the stairs, it had to be Mum. It was.

“You’re Pizza’s ready love.”

“Thanks mum, I’m coming down.”

Mark sprang to his feet, he loved the tomato base that Tesco use in their freshly made pizzas, he bounded down the stairs.

– “Did you remember to get those pens? You said you were going to work on your appraisal tomorrow?”

“Yeah that’s sorted thanks. Thanks for cooking the pizza mum…”

Sunday

Mark was calm and the hangover barely registered, but then he had had less to drink than normal. There was no point in tempting fate with Monday on the horizon. He could have a proper night out next week.

“Mum, have you seen the ruler?”

– “How’s it going love?”

“It’s alright, I just need to get this right. It’s my homework. I want to tie up the loose ends, you know look good for tomorrow.”

– “You’re not worried about tomorrow, are you?”

“Not really, they already know I’ve met my goals and performance targets. It’s easy Mum.

Now where’s that ruler?”

Monday Morning

Mark felt a bit jittery today, it was his first annual appraisal under the new system.

Everyone said the new system seemed fairer, mainly because line managers no longer had licence to get revenge for perceived sleights and misdemeanours. Everyone remembered the flak from the infamous case of Tom, he took the company to court last year and won.

Now you were assessed by an independent person from outside the company, there were no face to face interviews any more either, it was more based around the data from the continual monitoring process.

Mark lived under the presumption that everything must be going alright if Steve hadn’t asked him to “pop in here for a quick chat“. The data doesn’t lie, it’s cold hard fact.

– “Morning Mark”

“Morning Steve, you alright?”

– Not bad thanks.

Ahem, you know we have a new method of performing our annual appraisals. So we’re using outside people to make the appraisals now. I’d like to introduce to you to your assessor, Aaron, He’ll be shadowing you today.”

“Hi, nice to meet you, I’m Aaron, It’s Mark isn’t it?”

Mark looked up and was stunned, it was Aaron Ramsey. Aaron Ramsey was standing in front of him.

“Wait a minute, you’re Aaron Ramsey, I can’t believe it’s you! And you’re assessing me. I can’t believe it! I’m an Arsenal fan.”

“I know, that’s why they picked me! ………..Only joking!

Don’t worry about any of this, you know what’s involved don’t you?”

Mark nodded.

“Just work normally, I’ll be in the background observing. You won’t even notice I’m there.”

“Right, I’ll just get on with it, I can’t believe it, honestly I can’t!”

Mark was utterly dumbfounded, of all people I could have as an assessor it’s an Arsenal player. He couldn’t wait to text everyone, or tweet it. Then he remembered the “Phone-Free Work Environment” posters they’d put up last year.

Using a phone wouldn’t look good, especially on the day of his annual appraisal. He’d just have to wait. The Green account was the pressing business.

The shock of being in the same room as an Arsenal player gradually wore off and he relaxed into his work. He tried to remember the textbook methods of dealing with phone calls and office etiquette. He thought better of his usual routine, flirting with the ladies and bantering with the lads.

A thought entered his head; “If I tone it down will I look unnatural, will it look like I’m trying too hard? Management don’t like that sort of thing do they.” Mark felt like he was flying through the account pages, Mr. Green would be well happy!

“Aaron would know that he had a reputation as a bit of geezer.” thought Mark. In today’s modern business culture they value personality and informality, Mark remembered the maxim of his old team leader Geoff’;”As long as the work gets done lad”. Well the work was getting done, Aaron could see that. Mark started to think about letting his guard down slightly.

“Aaron will have seen that I’ve worked well” thought Mark, Of course he will, he couldn’t think anything else could he? Mark looked at Aaron, Aaron smiled and then looked at his clipboard.

Mark thought things were going well, the guard was dropped. Mark saw Chris go to the photocopying room, so he decided to go as well. Mark smiled at Aaron as he left, Aaron smiled back.

“Mate, mate, mate I can’t believe that Aaron Ramsey is doing your appraisal.” 

“I know”

“I thought you hated him!”

WellllllHe’s a nice guy in person. He’ll never know what I think of him. I think the appraisal’s going well.” 

“I’m glad to hear that you’re smashing it.”

They bantered for about five minutes with a steadily increasing volume. Iwan the busybody came to check if there was a problem. Chris just looked at Mark and laughed.

Mark didn’t worry, Aaron didn’t seem to mind about the little comfort break. Mark guessed that things were going ok if the assessor hadn’t ask to see you, Aaron hadn’t asked to see him. Aaron just sat there.

So it was back to the Mr. Green and his spreadsheet.

About three quarters of an hour later Mark went to say hello to the girls. He had been working solidly, and Aaron will have seen that. He tried to catch Aaron’s eye again, Aaron was looking at his clipboard. Mark didn’t worry, there was flirting to be done. Mark knew girls loved a confident guy.

Clare was off today but Lauren was there, lovely Lauren. Mark could tell that they both liked him, he always remembered the GQ article about the body language of flirting. Touching your nose was one of the good signs.

They indulged in some harmless flirty wordplay until Mark put his foot down; “I can’t stay around here, I’m being appraised. Laters!!!”And with that he was gone!!  Lauren was inwardly relieved, she didn’t really like blokes that were obviously trying too hard to impress.

Just before Mark reached his desk he noticed that Aaron was no longer there. Mark wasn’t alarmed, Trevor had told him theat the assessor might only stay for the morning.

It was nearly lunchtime anyway so Mark didn’t worry. He was going to have a Southern Fried Chicken Baguette today.

He couldn’t wait to tell people about the identity of his assessor, Arsenal midfielder and fraud Aaron Ramsey. “I must remember to say that he’s alright” thought Mark. “People are going to love it when I tell them!”

Tuesday

Mark arrived at work in a relaxed mood, all he had to do was kill time before his debrief at 9:30 and he still had the Green account to finish.

He casually flicked through the pages, he felt safe in the knowledge that there was only a few pages left to do, crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s, that was all. He thought better of finishing it now as he wanted to leave something for later.

Steve asked Mark to come to his office. Mark noticed that the time was 9:31am on his computer taskbar’s clock.

“Sit Down please Mark, it’s probably easier for me to read through this report.”

Mark wasn’t worried.

“As you know the report is split into different sections, let’s go through them one at a time.”

Mark wasn’t worried.

“As you know, first up it’s “Productivity slash Output slash Dependability” Your continual assessment forms say that you’re usually on time with paperwork, although half of your return could do with more depth. In short you could spend a little more time on your paperwork more of the time. However don;t worry about this, these are standard comments for everybody.

To refer to the harder data. Your customer satisfaction ratings for the year were as follows: Q1 – 73%, Q2 – 85%, Q3 – 74%, Q4 – 87%, overall – 82.5%. 72% of my customers received order confirmation emails with 12 hours, all within 24 hours. Those figures aren’t too bad. Dependability?  Ah yes, you seem to get the work done and you’ve only had 2 days off this year. I’d say that’s ok by anyone’s standards.”

Mark wasn’t worried.

“Aaron’s verdict is slightly more damning, and when I mean slightly more damning I mean the most damning report you could possibly here.”

Mark was suddenly surrounded by bleakness.

“I’ll begin; “Dependability? For what? Mark seems more intent to strut around the office like a banter obsessed peacock instead of a colleague. He floats all over the place chatting and flirting. His continual assessment forms show that he’s a a very subtle operator, he gives off the impression of getting work done but during the appraisal he spent barely ten minutes doing work-related tasks in every hour.

He seems to believe that sending 3 short e-mails an hour constitutes work. If we were to generalise this behaviour over an entire work year he will work for 7.6 weeks out of his contracted 46 weeks. It would be hard to generalise from three hours but this is simply not good enough, He appears to be taking the piss.”

Mark was too bamboozled to think properly.

“Excuse me Steve, he didn’t actually say that I was “taking the piss” did he?” 

“I’m afraid he did, shall we move on?

The second area is “Mistakes slash Waste” Your continual assessment forms indicate that you’re a conscientious and tidy worker, you don’t waste paper by printing off an unnecessary amount of sheets. Your computer log record tells us that you make few mistakes as you type and we’ve never had cause to ask for redrafts of your reports. From this point of view there’s no problem. The figures tell us that your order error rate was only 5.3%.

Again Aaron’s verdict isn’t quite as glowing……..”

Mark felt another uncomfortable lurch.

“……As already stated Mark chooses to spend most of his time in work doing things other than what he’s paid to do, so it would be obvious to say that his mistake slash waste to productivity ratio could be improved. In short his main mistake is to waste everyone’s time. Again it would seem that he’s created a shiny positive image to mask the reality. He needs to improve his productivity rate. Judging by the quality of the error-strewn work I saw, or rather lack of quality, we can only assume that mistakes are commonplace within his work, we assume this stems from his obvious lack of an attention to detail.”

Mark was perplexed.

“So I wear a mask do I”  he asked incredulously.

“Let’s press on shall we.

Now it’s “Teamwork” your continual assessment profile states that you are an effective team player who adds complementary skills and contributes valuable ideas, opinions and feedback, and that you communicate in an open and candid manner. You can be counted upon to fulfill any commitments made to others on the team.”

Steve paused again, it was unmistakably ominous. There was another lurch.

“Aaron said that after he gained feedback from Mark’s colleagues he was able to see that Mark is often fine within a team but there are occasions when he appears to coast within the anonymity of a team. They say that he often needs to be pushed to make the required effort, and that sadly these occasions are becoming more frequent.”

Mark felt the need to finally respond to this character assassination;

“I’d disagree with that Steve. You know that’s not the real me is it? I’ve served on three key teams this year: corporate social responsibility, customer service process improvement and the one that deals with special orders.”

Steve continued.

“Yes I’m aware of that, don’t worry we all know about your extra responsibilities.

The next issue we need to deal with is “Fulfillment of Individual Goals”. Well we know from your continual assessment forms that you have completed all of the goals that were set in last year’s annual appraisal. You have attended a first aid course, you have attended an I.T. course and you have mentored Chris. That’s all good. You show some initiative, I’ve seen it, you’re a bit of a go-getter or the quiet aren’t you?” 

The familiar lurch.

“Aaron’s appraisal continues to be less positive. While the first aid and I.T. courses are useful the mentoring process provides numerous concerns. It would appear that mentoring process has merely provided the conditions for the growth of a work relationship based on a mixture of puerile humour, loud football banter and exaggerated male bonding. In the very short time I was in the office I was able to see that Mark’s fellow workers viewed this relationship as a burden to be tolerated.”

Mark was stunned.

“What’s wrong with banter” he almost stammered.

“Let’s carry on to the final part of the appraisal; “Your future development”. This is obviously linked to the last part of your appraisal. I see you’ve gone for the logical step, you’ve decided to focus on the same areas; Further development of I.T. skills, fostering more a team attitude within the department and continuing the development of mentoring role. That sounds alright.

Aaron’s comments were again rather negative.,,,”

Mark couldn’t deal with much more, yet it continued,

“I suggest that until Mark decides to concentrate more on the fundamentals of doing his work correctly there is little point in thinking about developing the finer points of his role. After speaking with his colleagues I would suggest that Mark decides to devote less time to being the irritating centre of attention and more time to doing his work efficiently and quietly.”

It was almost washing over Mark by now.

“I’m sorry, what was that “Irritating centre of attention”?

“Look Mark, don’t take Aaron’s view too seriously, at the end of the day it’s only one person’s view.

All it does is give us something to think about, for you to think about. We still value you, your figures speak for themselves. We’ve all got something to think about now. Don’t worry about anything. We still value you.”

Mark was quiet for the rest of the day.

All he could do was ask how this could happen to him. He did his best, he worked his hours, he hardly took any time off.

“AND YET IT WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH!

WHY AM I BEING JUDGED ON THE BASIS OF A FEW HOURS?

WHAT ABOUT ALL THE THINGS I DO RIGHT?

Mark’s co-workers were worried about him, he looked slightly broken. Steve asked him if he wanted to have the next day off. Mark thought that this sounded like a good idea.

Wednesday

At 11am Mark heard the inner letterbox flap move.  Something landed softly on the hall’s mat. He surmised it was a latter.

He was both fascinated and worried, could it be for him? He arose from the sofa and made for the front door tout suite. The envelope was for him. “Mark”  was written on the front in black ink.

He wondered who could have sent it. His friends didn’t send notes, his Mum wouldn’t leave a note, and she certainly wouldn’t post one through the letterbox.

He opened the envelope in an intrigued and fearful state. There was a single piece of paper inside.

He carefully unfolded what he took to be a blank piece of paper for a few milliseconds. He finally noticed that there were some lines written on one side. He read the words.

 

I’ve seen you in the Clock End. You probably think that we can’t pick out individuals in the middle of the crowd, or hear their comments, well we can.

How does it feel to be judged in your workplace?

It’s not a very nice feeling is it?

Aaron “The Fraud” Ramsey

 

A few hours later the penny finally dropped, football wasn’t really that important.

The weight of caring was finally off Mark’s shoulders, he could breathe, for the first time he could truly breathe!!!!

He logged into “Gooner Heaven” to leave a final message.

 

Henry the Eighth – I was wrong

 

With that he deleted his profile and logged off for the last time.





Tories are humans, don’t you know

31 08 2017

Last week a Labour MP made the grave mistake of saying that the Tories were enemies.

“You can’t say that!” they said. “That’s not the way to do it!” they said. “Tories are humans too!” they said. “We need to work with them.” they said. “By using “Enemies” and “Evil” you’re using the language of dictatorships” they said.

Thatcher may have once labelled the Miners as “The Enemy Within”  but “That’s by the by” they say. “That’s totally different from the point I’m trying to make, that’s not the point OK!” they say.

“You’re deliberately misunderstanding the point that I’m trying to make” they say. “Communism is worse than the other thing” they say. “When you’re left-wing you’re naturally against freedom.” they say. “Come now you must realise that the freedom to employ someone for no pay is very important in our society.” they hint.

Yesterday there was this article from The Times with a really lovely twitter headline; “Leftwingers boasting that they’d never kiss a Tory are blind to the intolerance of their own ideology.” said the headline. The pithy putdown within the tweet’s screenshot really sold it to me; “The Misunderstanding, that Tories are like Mr. Burns out of the Simpsons, is quite frustrating” I looked forward to many more philosophical highlights. This is just the job to that save my soul thought I.

Alas, alas, alas, the paywall prevented self-re-education. There was me ready to let the article to educate myself out being critical of the Tory point of view when the paywall prevented me. Capitalism ruining education, oh dear, how sad. Mr. Burns would never act like that! I’m sure there’s an ironic quality to my situation but I can’t be arsed to search for it.

I suspect the subtext is “I KNOW WE LOOK INTOLERANT, BUT YOU’RE JUST AS INTOLERANT SO THERE.” It would seem that Leftwingers are too busy protesting about governments making deals with the governments that allow dictators and concentration camps to notice that they actually really like dictators and concentration camps after all, and that’s just the ones I know!

The strangest thing is that both Labour people and Conservative people seem to value a decent health service, secure employment opportunities and good quality roads, and that’s just the one I know!

Anyway to return to the main thrust of this post, when it comes down to it, in the final analysis, at the end of the day, not to put too fine a point on it, how can you not look down on the Tories? They have chosen to plump for a heartless outlook on life, the one that puts their own interests ahead of everyone else’s.

I’ve found that there are only two possible responses when you’re confronted with a Tory; pity them and wonder how life has made someone so bitter or pity them and wonder how life has made someone so heartless.

No offence, I’m just saying it like it is. That’s what gets you a media profile these days. It’s just banter, or something. I’m just a bitter banter bandit.

Here are some reasons why we should look down on Tories.

1. Their Outlook

Let’s call it”Selfish Misanthropic Pettiness”. They’re always moaning about something as if they’re personally inconvenienced.

“You can’t build that here!”

“Who’s paying for these so-called refugees to use MY municipal sports facilities?”

“When are we getting rid of the NHS? I’m sick of paying for Communism.”

“How can you trust a pacifist with his hands on the Nuclear trigger?”

“You’re objecting to Zero Hours contracts? What about students, single mums and fraudulent benefit claimants?”

“You can’t tell me there aren’t Fraudulent Benefit Claimants. I know hundreds. You see them all with their yellow three wheeled vans, solid gold cuff links and investment portfolios on the Future Market.”

Mention “solidarity” to them and you’ll hear contempt, rephrase the idea as “people sticking up for themselves and their fellow workers” and you’ll hear disdain. Mention “Labour” and you’ll here the word tax. Mention “tax” and you’ll hear about asylum seekers. Mention “unions” and you’d hear the fevered imaginings of Reggie Perrin’s brother in law verbatim. Mention “the environment” and you’ll hear about hoaxes. There’s a pat answer for everything.

If you press Tories they never seem able to fully explain why it’s fine that we should live in a society that seems not to care about its citizens. “That’s the way things are, what can I do?” they’ll say. You can almost hear the moral justification “It’s not me, I’m nice. I don’t hate other people. I only vote Tory for blah blah blah.” The moral triumph of selfishness has absolutely nothing to do with them and their decision to vote for a party with selfishness at its core. Who can argue with that?

2. Their Smugness

This tends to afflict the politicians rather than the supporters.

We’ve all seen the Tories on TV with their Tory faces. If you’re not sure who I mean they’ll be the ones refusing to answer questions with a Tory face. They’ll be the ones diverting attention to opponents with a Tory Face. They’ll be the ones with smiling lips on a Tory face, a smile with all the self-assurance that a human can humanly display.

Even when they’re delivering a policy that’s patently bad or inhumane they’ll be smiling that Tory smile from a Tory face. Forget the words, forget the clear implication of the policy you have just heard just look at that self-assured Tory smile from a self-assured Tory face, dig those soothing  waves of self-belief! They simply couldn’t be wrong.

The Brexit shambles is the ultimate example of self-assuredness. A vote meant to heal a rift in the Tory party, one side saying “It’ll be fine, we’ll just save money for the NHS”. the other not really caring because they had other jobs on the horizon. Now “everything is fine” they say.”We’ll get what we want” they say. “There’s absolutely nothing complicated in the process whatever” they say.

You don’t need to be Jeff Stelling to see that this process will be the biggest self-inflicted political mess in modern British history. “It’ll be worth when we have those blue passports” they say with self-assurance, even if you and I won’t be able to afford to use one in the future.

Tories continually find new ways justifications for their noxious outpourings, Labour have a Momentum so the Tories have decided to get themselves an Activate. Imagine those cool cats at Tory HQ; “Let’s make selfishness hip for squares daddio!!! Let’s start with cultural re-education camps for council tenants.”

If you manage to press these people they never seem able to fully explain why it’s fine that we should live in a society that seems not to care about its citizens. “That’s the way things are, what can I do?” they’ll say. You can almost hear the moral justification “It’s not me, I’m nice. I don’t hate other people. I’m only a Tory politician because blah blah blah.” The moral triumph of selfishness has absolutely nothing to do with them and their decision to stand for a party with selfishness at its core. Who can argue with that?

3. They imposed the market economy upon us.

Forty years ago Tories decided that Hayek had all the answers because the Unions had ALL the power in Britain. Pinochet had shown the way. “Such a lovely chap, doing a first rate job with his economy dear boy.” they said.

Twenty five years ago Francis Fukuyama pronounced The End of History. There’s no debate. “The Market Economy Is King!” they said.

Today we have Austerity.

The thread linking all three periods is Gordon Gekko’s bastardised ideology; “Greed Is Good, Who cares if people have to re-apply for their jobs.” 

“We simply cannot challenge this state of affairs.” they say.

“There’s the trickle down goodness.” they say.

I felt my first splashes on a summer job about 17 years ago, when our boss came splashing around one clear morning. The factory had been taken over since my previous summer of service, the family owned business was now part of a corporate family.

The upbeat chap was a head honcho type that had deigned to pop down and speak to us;

“We’re all in this together” he said.

Needless to say we were still waiting for the pay rise to management levels by the time I left in the September. I’m quite sure the noble thought was definitely there however.

It might be obvious that unfettered capitalism is not useful for societal happiness because it’s only useful for helping one sector of society screw the rest over, but what does that matter? Some Tories may concede that universal happiness under capitalism is impossible because it’s not designed for everybody to “strike it rich” but what does that matter?

“Market Capitalism is the bestest system for us.” they say.”Don’t worry Market Capitalism is still the bestest system for developing an equal society” they say. “Market Capitalism is simply amazing” they say. “Marx has nothing to say” they say.

Marx should be silenced even though his 170 year old criticisms of capitalism still hold water. Market capitalism still hasn’t solved the issues linked to the disparity of wealth. But then what does that matter?

In the 1980s we were told to take up cycling to help the economy. There were problems but they were all our fault, and riding a bike would help profoundly. “It’s your fault that businesses are laying people off” they said. “It’s all due to YOUR lack of competitiveness” they said. “It’s all due to YOUR lack of productivity” they said. “It’s all due to YOUR Union Barons” they said. “Go and ride a bike, it’s the best, most helpful thing you can do, to help yourself out of the hole your fecklessness has made” they said.

It wasn’t the bosses, the rich, the Bourgeoisie at all. There wasn’t anyone trying to take advantage of the situation to earn a profit. It was our fault, all our fault. We just had to get to take up cycling and sort it out.

I remember that they didn’t like people fighting for their jobs, “That’s evil militancy” they said. “There’s nothing worse than fighting for your right to work in a job that you want to work in” they said. “It’s much better to ride a bike to another unspecified job.” they said. It was easier to make people redundant and moan about feckless shirkers being unemployed than try and do something different, they hinted.

They privatised the inefficient nationalised industries, which were then streamlined because they were overmanned. This was the code that made people like my Dad redundant.

I fear that I may have given the wrong impression about the decade. It wasn’t bad for everyone. The bike riding advice didn’t apply to government ministers. Years after he demanded that people take up cycling Norman “Cycling Proficiency For Unemployed Scumbags” Tebbitt was offered a directorship of the privatised industry that made my Dad redundant.

There was nothing fishy in the fact he became a director of the privatised industry that had been created by his government, nothing fishy at all. “It’s just the time we live in.” they said, “Yes but this is all ancient history now, it’s not relevant now!” they say.

They have a point, the attitudes of the 1980s are no longer relevant, the attitudes have massively changed, they’re hugely different, so bigly different you can’t believe. Recently Norman “Cycling Proficiency For Unemployed Scumbags” Tebbitt said  Make young unemployed pull up ragwort for benefits”.

The unemployed are already forced into using every spare nanosecond looking for work, visiting potential employers and distributing CVs, Yes without the threat of benefit sanctions the feckless wasters would never try and end the dispiriting situation they detest under their own steam, they hint. Never mind, let’s make them do unpaid labour on top. That’s the only way to encourage a sense of dignity, that is.

Today the Tories label their awful ideology with the softness of the word austerity. Needless to stay, it’s the same old rubbish. It would be bad enough if it was more of the same but they appear to be going further. There are so many examples that we could use to condemn Austerity but let us limit criticism to two facts; it’s forced hundreds of thousands into penury and it’s been used as an excuse to hollow out the remaining vestiges of our Post-WW2 settlement.

“I, Daniel Blake is just Marxist propaganda that Pravda would be ashamed to use!” they said. “I, Daniel Blake doesn’t ring true.” they said. Anyone would think that people didn’t like having a spotlight thrown on the logical outcome of our government’s dehumanising policies.

I suppose if you were being charitable you could say that the government is only motivating people, and who doesn’t need that little bit of extra motivation to accept precious zero hours jobs. “What’s wrong with Zero Hours Jobs? You’re just anti-working class you are.” they’ll say. “See you, yes you, the working classes, zero hours jobs are all you lot deserve, and what’s wrong with that, it’s called progress.” they’ll say.

The creators of austerity never seem able to fully explain why it’s fine that we should live in a society that seems not to care about its citizens. “That’s the way things are, what can I do?” they’ll say. You can almost hear the moral justification “It’s not me, I’m nice. I don’t hate other people. I only formulate Tory policy for blah blah blah.” The moral triumph of selfishness has absolutely nothing to do with them and their decision to formulate policy for a party with selfishness at its core. Who can argue with that?

The “Centrists” eh! “You can’t look down on a Tory you’ve got to help them to help us.” they say. “You can’t nationalise the railways!” they say. It’s fine to be a centrist when there’s a left-oriented consensus, as in 1945-’79, but we’ve had a right-oriented consensus for the last 40 years. How do they suggest that we meet Austerity halfway? Capitulation to the market economy isn’t a noble position.

“Centrists” don’t mind stuff, except when people say “nasty wasty fings” about the effect of Conservative policy, or the Conservatives that enacted such disgusting policies. Mind you they never seem able to fully explain why it’s fine that we should live in a society that seems not to care about its citizens. “That’s the way things are, what can I do?” they’ll say. You can almost hear the moral justification “It’s not me, I’m nice. I don’t hate other people. I only tolerate the Tories for blah blah blah.” The continuing moral triumph of selfishness has absolutely nothing to do with them and their decision to tolerate a party with selfishness at its core. Who can argue with that?

We cannot meet market capitalism halfway and hope for a better outcome, it will always win. The market is not an abstraction, it is a living breathing collection of individuals making calculated decisions based on self-interest. Those decisions could be focused towards people but they’re not, their focused towards the pursuit of profit.

The best way to improve matters would be to change the economic system for something more humane. We can control the economy, the economy doesn’t have to control us. The last move from a less humane economic system (laissez-faire) to a more humane economic system (Keynesianism) required the trigger factor of the Second World War’s death and destruction. What will it take to achieve change this time?

Change is not impossible, we only need humans to think of the greater good and make some decisions. That’s not as fanciful, or wishy washy, as it seems. People continually make decisions throughout a day. If people decided to change our society’s priorities after World War Two we can make a similar choice today.

Please don’t ask me to sweep what Tories think, and their abhorrent policy outcomes, under my emotional carpet. It’s amoral to reduce humans to the level of consumerist slugs. Surely our society can do better than their putrid outlook.

PS, I’ve spent a life weighing things up politically. I choose to be left wing. I know that being left wing has its drawbacks, and there are inconsistencies, and there are irritating fellow-travellers but I’d still rather perceive the world as I do. No amount of point scoring whataboutery will change my view. If I didn’t want to think it, I wouldn’t think it.








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