Friday, 26 August 2011

a good friday

a nice little bit
numbs the face,
floods the brain,
swells the tumescence so
freakish friday follows
blurred thursday, getting
nothing done, hitting
refresh
refresh
refresh, waiting
for this stupid, articulate, inspirational, deluded, competitive,
charming man
to make it memorable
before you can eat,
then it's out and about on streaky streets,
all bubble underswell of jutty buttock
and unexpected item
in the bagging area

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

wally with a brolly


A widely known aphorism contends that insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Perhaps, then, this particular definition of  madness cannot be applied to me. After all, when I armed myself with a brolly and schlepped down to Loftus Road last night, I was fully alive to the possibility of a QPR defeat at the hands of an unglamorous visiting team (Rochdale this time), not least because of last season's debacle when Port "fucking" Vale of League Two rocked up in West London and came away victorious.

I didn't go to the Port Vale game but it was, by all accounts, a pretty dire evening for QPR supporters. I was however, among the collection of just 5,260 souls who witnessed the Rangers' home defeat to lowly Leyton Orient in August 2007. So I do have personal experience of an early rounds League Cup capitulation to unfancied opponents.

Even a win at the earliest stages of English football's least well-regarded 'major' competition can feel a bit flat. At the home of QPR, these games have been all about spending a late summer evening in the South Africa Road stand or the Loft, looking out at the swathes of empty seats over on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground. Four-figure 'crowds' are guaranteed, even with tickets being sold at a lower price than is charged for a league match. So the club elects only to open two sides of the stadium to home supporters. The travelling contingent, usually numbering a couple of hundred or so, spread themselves out in the School End. Players' shouts can be heard clearly. Individual supporters' voices carry eerily around the ground. So it was last night.

It had rained relentlessly for most of the day, so an umbrella was needed for the trip across town to Shepherds Bush. Thankfully, the precipitation had abated by the time I emerged from Wood Lane tube station.

Low attendance notwithstanding, with twenty minutes to go before the kickoff, the length of the queue for tickets for the main South Africa Road stand looked very long. I judged that I would still be lining up as the ref brought his whistle to his lips. So, despite the distinct possibility of another downpour, I plumped for a spot in the Paddocks. For the uninitiated, this is an area of uncovered seating at the base of the South Africa Road side. I reasoned that the umbrella could be deployed in the event of another downpour, but kept in mind that it would doubtless afford imperfect protection from the elements. London in August is about changeable weather, but mugginess tends to be a feature, so your correspondent was clad in a lightweight suit. Rain, rain, stay away, I thought. Piss on me another day (ideally a day when I'm all oilskin-and-sou'westered up). 

Well, I did not get pissed on. But I could have got pissed off, not only by the defeat which ensued, but also by the manner of that defeat. If I'd really cared about the match, that is. Which I didn't. I know that the main mission this season at QPR has to be avoiding relegation back to the division out of which the team worked so hard to climb. So I accept that continued progress in the League Cup is probably best avoided, given the added danger of picking up costly injuries and suspensions. 

I do not need the benefit of hindsight (in the form of reading manager Neil Warnock's post-match comments) to state without real fear of contradiction that QPR did not try to win the match. First team players such as recently signed striker Jay Bothroyd and talismanic playmaker Adel Taarabt ran around fairly listlessly, presumably just working on their match fitness and staying out of any situations likely to cause injury. The performances of others in the side simply added further further evidence for the contention that the Rangers have a woefully thin squad, with generally inadequate replacements waiting in the wings. So all this talk of 4-5 significant signings in the next few days is very welcome. I'm particularly keen to discover if midfield controversialist Joey Barton is really going to be sporting a hooped shirt soon.

A weird aspect of the game was the appearance on the pitch of two of yesterday's men. Martin Rowlands, once the club captain, turned in a very poor performance in the no. 38 shirt while the once much-loved wing wizard Lee Cook drifted all over the pitch with the number 37 on his back. Not registered as members of the Premier League squad, these two former QPR stalwarts must both be facing an uncertain future. It's dispiriting to see former fan favourites out of favour like this, and I'm not sure what point there was in picking them for this fixture. Although both would presumably be happier getting first team football at a lower level, neither did anything that would have won plaudits from any visiting scouts. If there was indeed no real intention to take this fixture seriously, I would personally have preferred to see more lads from the youth set up getting a game.

A couple of young hopefuls did make it onto the field of play last night - Harriman coming on at right back when first teamer Bradley Orr was withdrawn; the industrious but largely ineffective Bruno Andrade playing out wide. But neither truly shone and it still feels like a long, long time since QPR successfully brought a youngster up through the ranks and into a stranglehold on a place in the first team.

It was heartening, then, to notice that among the avalanche of good news coming out of the club this week, new club Chairman Tony Fernandes is emphasising the importance of  establishing a  proper, well-funded youth academy. Is QPR finally in the hands of someone with a principled, sensible vision for the long-term future of the club? Time will tell, but the early signs are encouraging, not least because of today's very welcome confirmation of a reduction in matchday ticket prices and refunds for season ticket holders. New CEO Phillip Beard, a key Fernandes appointee, I think, is making all the right noises about the club rebuilding the bond of trust it needs with loyal supporters. Under  Flavio 'boutique club' Briatore and Bernie 'I don't give a shit' Ecclestone, it felt that the club's owners saw its long-suffering fans as an inconvenience - peasants that they wanted to price out of the ground and replace with higher-spending types. Taken to its logical conclusion, that policy could have condemned QPR to a slow death.

The sudden optimism of this new Fernandes era is, I guess, the main reason that more people at last night's match did not voice disapproval of the poor performance. That said, a number of people in messageboardland have attested to feeling cheated by paying £15 to watch what amounted to a practice match. Me? I felt pretty relaxed about. It was better than watching telly or working late at the office. At half-time, I got to have a little nose around at the workings of those flashy new digital advertising hoardings that seem to be the norm in the Premier League. I got to hear an elderly steward reminiscing about the days of a single teaspoon being chained to the counter of a wooden tea hut at the ground. I also enjoyed some of the singing from the small but boisterous Rochdale contingent. Of their efforts, my favourite was their description of Bothroyd as "just a shit Emile Heskey." Simple pleasures. It got me out of the house.

That said, just to prove I'm not bonkers, that was definitely, definitely the last early-rounds League Cup fixture I'll ever attend. Unless it's free. Or unless I'm feeling a bit bored the next time one is played at the Bush.

    Sunday, 21 August 2011

    villiers street

    blow that thing

    REBOUNDING SUPERHOOPS

    Saturday afternoon was, in microcosm, like the seven day period of which it was a part: a discouraging start, a few twists and turns, then concluding with a very satisfying flourish.

    Rewind seven days. QPR supporters were trudging away from Loftus Road, their side's first Premier League fixture for fifteen years having ended in heavy defeat to a fit, well-organised Bolton Wanderers outfit. Booing boomed from some sections of Loftus Road, with chants aimed at board member Flavio Briatore.

    Within days, it had been confirmed that Briatore and the majority shareholder Bernie Ecclestone had finally relinquished their interest in the club after weeks of speculation. The new man with a controlling stake is Tony Fernandes, a Malaysian national whose business interests include low-cost airlines, hotels, financial services, prepaid mobile phone services, movie production, concert promotion, a Formula 1 team and his home country's professional basketball league. Having initially voiced a note of caution about Fernandes, I've been encouraged by the noises he's been making about possible player signings, about ticket prices and about openness towards supporters.

    So the week leading up to yesterday's fixture at Goodison Park had been going pretty well.

    Saturday afternoon also came to a satisfying conclusion after an inauspicious start. Having heard on the internet grapevine that the Everton match was to be shown at the British Queen on the Uxbridge Road, I fancied watching the game among fellow Rangers fans. This seemed preferable to  the other options that came to mind - watching on a tiny laptop screen or in an Old Street boozer decked out with Arsenal paraphernalia.  So I schlepped over to Shepherds Bush, emerging from the tube station during a squall of unseasonably cold, hard rain. I was soaked by the time I made it to the pub, getting there just as Luis Suarez was compounding the Arsenal's misery with Liverpool's second goal. An Irishman in Liverpool colours was perched on a bar stool and gleefully pumping a fist. I hoped this was not to be a bad omen: a London side losing to Merseyside opponents.

    For those who have never been there, a few words about the British Queen. This is a pub that has decidedly not succumbed to the rising tide of poncification that has washed over so many other Shepherds Bush hostelries. The Defector's Weld it ain't. The Goldhawk it is not. The Stinging Nettle (i.e. the sadly renamed former Bush Ranger)? No, the BQ is most assuredly dissimilar to any of these. No high-priced posh nosh in here. No ironic styling. No BBC types looking down their noses at noisy football supporters.

    I made my way to a good spot in front of the TV and got to work on the first pint. Before long, though, it began to look as though the trip might have been wasted. For reasons that remain a bit obscure, the satellite signal did not come online until nineteen painful minutes into the match, during which time the assembled drinkers had resorted to checking the score on their mobile phones. Well, you can do that while being dragged around Brent Cross, Bluewater or Westfield, right? Nice though a pint of lager is, you don't need to make the effort to get down to the Bush just to keep squinting anxiously at your Blackberry.

    When the signal finally came, the picture was patchily pixellated, freezing and bumping in a most distracting manner. Each time the action fuzzed back into view, this was greeted with a lusty cry of U RRRRRRRRRsssss. You would have thought the Rangers had scored. They hadn't. Not yet.
    Picture quality causing concern at the British Queen
    Soon, thankfully, the picture became clearer, with audible commentary in English, despite the coverage coming courtesy of a Norwegian channel. It was immediately striking that the travelling QPR supporters were in better voice than the home fans. So our lot were outsinging the Scousers. Could the team do their bit and really give the away fans something to shout about?

    The British Queen crowd were getting a first look at QPR's away strip, a reasonably inoffensive orange and black number. While some may talk in terms of it being 'embarrassing' that the Rangers are the lone Premier League side whose shirts do not carry a sponsor's logo, I think it looks pretty good, not least in the case of the hooped home strip.

    As the action unfolded, I was fearing another defeat. Everton's Leighton Baines was a useful choice for fantasy football managers everywhere last season, a fullback able to bag good goals from dead ball situations. So it was an early test for the Superhoops when Baines stepped up to take a free kick from a dangerous position. I feared the worst, briefly entertaining dark visions of a successful strike leading to an avalanche of unanswered scoring for the home side: the after effect of watching the previous weekend's capitulation at the hands of Bolton, no doubt.
    The men in orange prepare to defend a Baines free kick
    But it didn't go in, and there were signs that QPR were going to be better organised and harder to beat in their second Premier League outing of the season. 

    Around twelve minutes after we finally got a watchable picture on the TV, pandemonium broke out in the British Queen. Admittedly helped a bit by a static Everton defence, our magical Magyar was defying any critics who felt he might not make the adjustment to Premier League football. Buzsaky offered a useful pass to Tommy Smith, who duly delivered a nice finish well beyond the reach of Tim Howard, who had, inexplicably, turned up to play in some kind of crazy camouflage outfit.

    Oh joy unbounded. Grown men running the length of the barroom to enter beefy bear hugs. This is what goal celebrations might be like at Loftus Road if we had any legroom. Legroom? At QPR? Preposterous. Perhaps we might get some when uncle Tony and his pals buy us an 80,000-seat mega-dome on  the site of Television Centre.
    The t-shirt slogans say it all
    Smith's sweet strike was, according to the stats at the Sky Sports Centre, one of only two shots on goal from QPR, with Everton having six times as many attempts. The home team's attempts, however, all came to naught, with the Rangers prevailing to bag their first three Premier League points. Even the wearer of the rosiest-tinted specs, though, would have to admit that QPR had at least their fair share of good luck on the day. Messrs. Cahill and Beckford were wasteful in front of goal, making life easier than it might have been for the excellent QPR 'keeper Paddy Kenny.
    Come on U RRRRRRRRRRRRsssssssssss
    Man of the match, for me, was our grey-haired ball winner Shaun Derry, whose name was sung loudly at the British Queen and at Goodison Park. Although QPR did enjoy the rub of the green at times during this match, Derry's timely interventions were so often crucial. Another Rangers man making the adjustment to top flight football, it seems. Age shall not wither him.

    The afternoon, then, ended happily. The rain had passed, the sun was out, and the Rangers were on the up, with points on the board and the prospect of reinforcements joining before the transfer deadline. An upward turn in the always twisty-turny life of QPR and their supporters.

    U RRRRRRRRRRRRRRssssss
    The sun shines on the Uxbridge Road, on the British Queen and on QPR supporters everywhere

    Friday, 19 August 2011

    NeMO


    fat fatter

    Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March is a fat novel: over 500 intricate, dense pages; stuffed with rich, picaresque detail. My copy is even fatter, bloated by my son's drinking water, which leaked from its bottle and into the book when they shared the dark space of a Ben 10 backpack.

    Thursday, 18 August 2011

    TO LET


    sweet toof


    WHAT IF?


    success

    Every policy introduced by the Government will be a success. There is no question about that.

    A question one might meaningfully ask is around which particular policies will turn out to be the most successful ones. But to doubt the overall success of the Coalition's strategy is pointless. It is succeeding and will continue to succeed. This is true across all areas - health, education, law and order, finance. EVERYTHING.

    Of course, being able to gauge the success of any strategy depends wholly on understanding what that strategy is intended to achieve.

    So what is the Conservative-led Government of the UK trying to achieve?

    It is trying to protect and strengthen the hegemony of the ruling elite. It is trying to facilitate the transfer of wealth from the pockets of ordinary people to the balance sheets of corporations and high net worth individuals. Thus far, unimpeded by the token resistance of the weakling Liberal Democrats, the plan is well underway and showing good early signs of success.

    filthy desires

    a hot girl's t-shirt slogan is
    LIFE IS SHORT, SO IS YOUR PENIS,
    my porcelain pistols
    squishing your pudge around and you
    never miss what you
    never had
    in hole of world

    do not smile at strangers'
    diamante knob-plugs, just
    eat acid,
    see god,
    and look at pictures
    of abandoned swimming pools thick
    with grit, knotweed, loss,
    and of
    botched body arts

    Wednesday, 17 August 2011

    WE HAVE A PROBLEM

    Phone calls from abroad this week often begin with the caller asking me if I'm alright, if my family are OK, if everything's fine. The callers, of course, are referring to the disturbances and looting which broke out last week here in London and across a few other towns and cities in this England.

    Other than sharing a clumsily-crafted 'I told you so' that numerous Twitterati have aimed at our Deputy Prime Minister of late, this is my england has thus far refrained from making any comment on last week's big news story. This has been noted by a friend of the site, Mr. stu bags, who has, in contrast, been out and about offering a personal reaction to what happened on the streets of our capital.

    stu, as discussed here earlier this month, is the person responsible for the stencils-stickers-and-more activity on a whitewashed patch of an outer wall of the Camden Housing Office on the corner of Eversholt Street and Crowndale Road. stu's response to the recent upsets was to paste up six pictures of the trouble, each bearing the stencilled slogan 'WE HAVE A PROBLEM'. He then walked up the street to buy his dinner. In the twenty minutes he was away from the scene, his pictures were removed. So no photo, I'm afraid. "I wanted to make a statement for ALL to see....PICTURES and PUNCHLINE," he writes. "Obviously someone didn't agree....SO it's PUNCHLINE only":

    prada

    taut, tan body bursting with health
    like bangers in the pan,

    spiky nails/heels/mind/voice
    screeching up the wooden rails
    to bedfordshire:

    wide awake
    on the late train,
    clutching at the throat
    of your night out
    and your bag
    marked prada:

    (basic bitches wear that shit
    so I don't even bother)

    clicking

    clicking the shutter at a broken mirror,
    I see death's head in a bowler hat,
    a lady in a skirt made of raincoats,
    the rubber umbro diamond,
    and a crystal chandelier
    in a council flat

    clicking the heels in the stainless steel passage,
    I meet little and large
    in overalls and name tags:
    you're a lickle smurf, large tells little,
    you're a batty boy, little tells large

    clicking the keys at a cashpoint
    that wants money for africa,
    I remember a mouth that reminds me of crumb saying
    turbo tango makes me foam myself,
    and I ride the escalator behind and below
    big legs,
    proper calves,
    wooden heels,
    muscular butt,
    and three souvenir bears
    for just thirty quid

    clicking tongues are all
    annie, that's my only lighter,
    seriously,
    and
    who's watching the store,
    and
    who's mopping
    the betting shop floor

    Tuesday, 16 August 2011

    homies and homos: the difference

    Since noticing and writing about June's YouTube phenomenon Tonje "Crappy Housewife" Langeteig, this is my england has tentatively established online links with both the Norwegian chanteuse and with some of the supporting cast in her memorable spoof Europop video.

    The lads seen throwing improbable dancefloor shapes in the lovely Tonje's promo clip rejoice in the stage names Big J and Little T. The former seems to be Jitse Jonathan Buitnik (the apparent supremo of the blonde songstress's management firm, Stalker Management Norway). The latter would appear to be a certain Trond Kanstad Kvalvik. Now, in what Buitnik described to me in a recent chat as "a pause gig", put together while "far bigger projects" are incubated, the two rapper-dancer characters have emerged from Tonje's shadow with a musical offering of their very own. This rejoices in a title that may court the disapproval of what so many people love to call 'the PC brigade'. The number (What's The Difference Between a Homie And a Homo?) is brought vividly to life in another Stalker Management lo-fi video special, featuring crazy antics on the golf course and the same bad-boy costumes we came to know and love in Tonje's promo. Also present is a burqa-clad female. To my eye, it doesn't seem to be young Tonje under those robes. Mr. Buitnik, who seems to enjoy mysteries, would not confirm the identity of the woman in purdah. Nor, frustratingly, would he reveal whether the delectable Ms. Langeteig is planning to dazzle the world anew with her unique blend of snarly delivery and catchily bonkers lyrics.

    So, while Tonje fans wait for news, and while speculation grows about the next Stalker Management project, let us, in the meantime, enjoy the work of Big J and Little T:


    I CAN'T CONCENTRATE




    Monday, 15 August 2011

    no brown in town

    predict a riot

    "Imagine the Conservatives go home and get an absolute majority, on 25% of the eligible votes. They then turn around in the next week or two and say we're going to chuck up VAT to 20%, we're going to start cutting teachers, cutting police and the wage bill in the public sector. I think if you're not careful in that situation… you'd get Greek-style unrest."
    Nick Clegg, April 2010
    How wrong he was. The Conservatives only got 23% of the eligible vote and did not win an absolute majority. But it's (kind of) happened anyway. I wonder who let them do all those terrible things around VAT and cuts?

    Sunday, 14 August 2011

    the end of the beginning of the end?

    For the fans of most clubs whose new season opens with a home fixture, excitement must  surely be among the feelings felt when making the familiar journey to the ground. That excitement, of course, should be all the greater when the new season comes in the wake of a successful promotion campaign. In the case of promotion to English football's top flight, though, these feelings are likely to be mixed with some degree of nervousness about the months ahead because the difference in quality between the top division and the Championship is famously perceived to be a huge one. It does seem, too, that supporters of newly promoted sides have solid grounds for fearing a swift exit back from whence they came.

    Matthew Wood is a regular contributor to the Montreal Gazette, Seattle's Real Change and to various soccer football and cricket blogs and sites. Perhaps a Brit living somewhere in the Pacific Northwest? On Friday, his own blog, Balanced Sports, carried an interesting analysis of the survival rates of teams promoted to Premier League since the 2000-01 season. This analysis, Wood asserts, "tells a stark tale". Put simply, it seems to be getting harder and harder for promoted clubs to establish a long term presence in the top division - and, as Wood points out, some clubs that have managed to remain at the top table for several years have done so only with the support of benefactors seemingly unfazed by incurring significant and ever-growing financial losses.

    Even in the context of encouraging off-season transfer activity on the part of QPR, then, it would have been understandable if some of the fifteen thousand faces in yesterday's Loftus Road crowd had been wearing expressions reflecting nervousness as well as excitement about the prospect of top flight football for the first time in a one-and-a-half decades.

    The summer break, though, has not brought QPR supporters many reasons to feel wildly optimistic about their team making a smooth transition to football played at a higher level. The transfer activity has not been terribly encouraging. Of the new additions to the squad, only one required a transfer fee - and a modest one at that. Of the others, two come to the club with poor injury records, notably  the talented Kieron Dyer who, true to form, was stretchered off the pitch under seven minutes into yesterday's tie with a fit, well-organised Bolton Wanderers side.

    Once heavy defeat was assured for the home team, sections of the crowd turned their anger towards the padded seats of the directors' box. Those around me in the X Block focused this ire on the perma-tanned owner of (I believe) a 1% stake in the club, Flavio Briatore - he of the conviction for fraud, he of the indefinite ban from the 'sport' of Formula 1, he of the arrogantly dismissive attitude towards the lifelong supporters who follow QPR through thick and, more often, thin. As the angry chants were getting underway, Briatore scampered away from his seat and into the fabled luxury of the tarted up VIP spaces inside the South Africa Road stand. These chants made reference both to the chanters' low opinion of the Italian tycoon and to the fact that so little has been invested in upgrading the squad. Reference was also made to the greatly increased price of match tickets at the ageing west London ground.

    Personally, I am more affronted by the latter than by the very restrained spending on players. I would  be happy enough to watch a side only modestly improved were I watching from  a more sensibly priced seat.

    When I hear about the supporters of more prominent clubs 'demanding' success or feeling  that they 'deserve' it, the emotions described are quite unfamiliar to me. As I've previously explained at some length here at this is my england, my love of QPR is much more to do with roots and identity than it is about the outcomes of particular matches or seasons. When especially good games pop up, the pleasure is all the sweeter for its rarity. When a whole season unfolds as satisfyingly as 2010-11 campaign, then that pleasure is sweeter still for being more sustained and for its building towards a really memorable climax. It's sometimes been very clear to me, though, that supporters of some of the bigger clubs just don't get to enjoy themselves in quite that way.

    For example, towards the end of the 1992-93 season, I found myself watching QPR in one of the home areas of Highbury. It was a culture shock. The Arsenal fans around us were grumbling and groaning about the way the season had turned out. Their team had already beaten Sheffield Wednesday to win the League Cup and was scheduled to face the same opponents in the FA Cup Final. My heart bled. What a shitty time of it they must have been having. While Arsenal's league form had indeed been patchy, one cup was in the bag and they were looking good to win another. I found their supporters' response to this to be peevish and joyless. It struck me then that silverware must have similar addictive qualities to a stimulant like cocaine - a fucking blast at first, but with an ever-diminishing reward for the pleasure centres of the brain. In more recent times, Chelsea's sugar daddy Roman Abramovich seems to have been suffering from this syndrome, obsessively craving the ultimate high of winning the Champions League. In fact, I have a hunch about what could happen should our friends from SW6 finally prevail in Europe's top club competition. I can imagine Abramovich turning his back on the boys in blue and seeking the next level in billionaire's thrill-seeking. Perhaps that would be throwing endless money at the infrastructure of the game in his native country, doing anything it takes to see the World Cup paraded around Red Square.

    Back to QPR. Last season, the usually intense enjoyment of a promotion season seemed for quite a while to be in doubt, despite the team's commanding form. Paperwork fuck-ups (and clumsy attempts to cover them up) on the part of Gianni Paladini, our club's clownish Chairman, could have led to a promotion-denying points deduction. So far, we have heard nothing to suggest that Paladini was asked to pay the resulting £875,000 fine (seen by some as a mere 'slap on the wrist') out of his own pocket.

    Promotion notwithstanding, any QPR fan inclined to have a moan can pick from a list of personalities and problems to have that moan about. My own pet peeve happens to be Paladini. Hence my recently created item of leisure wear:
    When Briatore left his seat and bolted out of sight, one man who apparently remained in the directors' box was a certain Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian principal of Formula 1's Team Lotus and the man responsible for reviving the fortunes of the previously ailing Air Asia.

    According to yesterday's Guardian, Fernandes "could be announced as the new owner of Queens Park Rangers on Monday in a deal that would mean the Asian businessman taking control of the club from Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, in partnership with Lakshmi Mittal, who already owns 33%."

    If the numerous QPR internet messageboards provide an accurate reading of supporters' sentiments, it seems that many would welcome the club being taken from the hands of Ecclestone and his orange-skinned sidekick. Rumours are flying around to the effect that Mr. Fernandes will hand QPR's excellent manager Neil Warnock the funds needed to strengthen the team more significantly. Where this stuff comes from, I don't know. 'Sources', I guess. Perhaps even 'sources' a little more reliable than the ones who had convinced seedy tabloid hacks (such as the Sun's Shaun Custis) that the Rangers were definitely going to docked points for Paladini's fuck-ups last season.

    But something worries me about the prospect of a Fernandes 'takeover' - his links to Formula 1. How are we to know that this would really be new money? How would we be sure that this is not some complicated way of the current owners keeping a stake in our club while a pal of theirs takes flak from pesky supporters? Also, consider some numbers being bandied around: the £100 million valuation that Ecclestone has apparently put on the club; the £300 million that's supposed to be the net worth of Tony Fernandes. If these numbers are accurate, wouldn't the purchase of the of a controlling stake in a football club of that value tie up a lot of his money? Something doesn't feel right. I hope I'm wrong. Let's see.

    Well, maybe this imminent supposed takeover is beginning of the end of the brash, vulgarian Ecclestone-Briatore era at Loftus Road. Or just the end of the beginning of the end. Or maybe not. Either way, I just hope they SACK PALADINI NOW. Does anyone want a t-shirt?

    Friday, 12 August 2011

    I WISH I'D HAD MY CAMERA

    Driving back from a softplay warehouse, we passed the the household waste and recycling centre. Riding into it on an all-chrome, super-low chopper-shaped bicycle was a man aged at least forty-five.  He wore a quasi-U.S. cop hat (very Village People), sheenyshiny leather jacket, wraparound shades and a vacant slice of real estate where a facial expression should have been.

    This is why it's worth being out and about in the commuter belt in the daytime. This is what you get when you take a day's annual leave. But I WISH I'D HAD MY CAMERA.

    not supposed to go and see them

    with a pocketful of change
    GET steak and black onions,
    twinkies, ho-hos, ding-dongs
    and
    enough dutch courage
    to BEAT up beat,
    MAKE a mission of coition and,
    with trouser minnow,
    IGNITE the superpussy
    in kim's panties.

    LAUGH at budd's hat,
    FLEX your single eyebrow for
    three minutes and
    forty-five seconds,
    HATE that chinaman (not a man by law) and
    DETECT by radio:
    love lizards,
    callithrix,
    cebuella,
    callibella
    and mico.

    Wednesday, 10 August 2011

    with mushy peas

    get lost in twisty lanes,
    play eighteen holes of crazy golf,
    stumble to the chunky pub
    and inhale
    the chunky chips,
    the ozone,
    the rock;

    tip the pretty waitress, snap
    the lean limbs, the
    snarly glance, the
    daubed walls, the
    wheeling gulls;

    dodge
    their terrible excrement, step
    over the comatose,
    the well-worn baldies, and the
    tender flesh in lo-rise board shorts,
    wasted alike on unalike poisons,
    getting twisted
    at the groynes;

    lost minds touch
    azure sky:
    every day the same
    since that fire thing
    happened.

    Sunday, 7 August 2011

    £4.50

    street art tour

    walking to the pier





    boot fair

    back to the future?

    On Saturday 13th August 2011, Queens Park Rangers will step onto English football's big stage for the first time in fifteen years. Rangers supporters will be hoping that a very conservative transfer policy and the eccentric way the club is run will not cause its return to the Premier League to be short-lived. The hope must be that the door is now firmly closed on the past - a past filled with dour struggles against unglamorous opposition up and down the back roads of the game.

    But Friday's preseason friendly was very much in tune with the spirit of those fifteen long years in the wilderness. The opponents and the surroundings certainly did lack glamour; the struggle, a fruitless one in the end, was certainly a dire spectacle for the few hundred QPR fans who made the journey up to Bedfordshire.

    That journey to the ground, for those who let the train take the strain, was a strange one, and did in some ways feel like a trip back in time.

    Boarding the train in St. Pancras involved  running the gauntlet of a large contingent of the British Transport Police. Commuters, heading back to their suburban homes, looked bewildered at the sight of so many officers. One man wondered aloud if perhaps the police had received a tip off about a planned act of terrorism. I was pleased to allay his fears by letting him know that the heavy presence of the constabulary was almost certainly to do with the Luton Town-QPR preseason friendly match scheduled for Kenilworth Road that evening.

    All along the Thameslink line, the boys and girls of the BTP were mob-handed, doubtless sweltering uncomfortably in their uniforms on what was an oppressively muggy afternoon. At West Hampstead, Elstree and St Albans the police were present in particularly large numbers. At the latter station, this is my england jumped off the train to meet a travelling companion. A mobile CCTV unit was parked on the station forecourt. There had, as yet, been no sign of other travelling QPR supporters. We were witnessing, then, a very expensive overreaction to the evening's fixture on the part of the defenders of law and order.

    But perhaps someone working in a police intelligence role had paid too much attention to internet messageboards in the week before the match. We Are The Rangers Boys, for example, was the scene of dark mutterings about the wisdom of scheduling a preseason match between the two sides and about the likelihood of trouble. Over at the charmingly-named Luton Town forum, Avenue of Evil, meanwhile, I had personally been asked to describe what I'd be wearing so that a pwopa nawty encounter could be arranged. All in good fun, of course. My response was flippant. I mentioned Gucci loafers, tailored chinos, a Prada polo shirt and a pastel sweater knotted across the shoulders in case it might get chilly. I also asked about the availability of valet parking. I was astounded when everyone who responded took these remarks at face value. WHOOOOSH: That's the sound of Easyjet planes rising from left to right behind Luton Town's home end - and the sound of fairly obvious jokes passing over the heads of the residents of the Avenue of Evil.

    Of course, there was no trouble on the night. Much as keyboard warriors might have wanted to make something out of long-ago incidents in Hammersmith and at St. Pancras Station, real warriors were not in evidence. All that nonsense, thankfully, seems to be in the past. Long may it remain so.

    By the time we arrived in Luton itself, the police in attendance seemed to be realising that the match was to be a low-key affair with a small crowd. On previous visits, we had been photographed and frisked by Bedfordshire's finest. This time, a very friendly officer simply provided directions to Kenilworth Road and advice about which pubs we might select should we be looking to pass the time before kickoff with a pint or two.

    The nearest of the hostelries thus recommended was Guildford Street's Wheelwright Arms, a tiny place that has resisted the relentless gentrification (poncing up) of pubs elsewhere. The copper's suggestion that we might want to choose this pub had led me to expect to find at least a few QPR fans inside. Not so. In fact, we still hadn't seen another Rangers follower and the kickoff was only just over an hour away. So that heavy police presence was seeming more and more wasteful.

    Instead of away supporters, the Wheelwright Arms was lightly populated with what we took to be a locally-based clientele. Again, our journey seemed to have taken us from the present day and back into times gone by. Those using the jukebox, for example, eschewed any music recorded later than the mid-1970s. At one point, several lads of generous girth all broke lustily into song. They all knew the words of Out of Time and joined in as the Chris Farlowe version, a number one hit in 1966, boomed across the bar room. We were also treated to Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. Younger readers would doubtless also consider this to be ancient stuff, although it is of a somewhat later vintage than Chris Farlowe's heydey. One drinker did an interesting dance to the Steve Harley number, evidence, perhaps, that the libations had already been flowing freely for some time. We approved of the jukebox. For middle-aged folk and OAPs, it's refreshing not to have a pint spoiled by the shrill, auto-tuned banalities of the whiny stuff the kids seem to enjoy these days. I can do without Rihanna plaintively and repeatedly asking "What's My Name?" (It's 'Rihanna', dear. Have you had a bump on the head?)

    Looking around the room, we were minded to think that some of the local characters might possibly mix their drinks with something a little stronger. At one table, two gents sported facial tattoos of varying sizes. One of these lads was in a fairly poor state, slipping in and out of consciousness and, when conscious, nodding his head down at the tabletop in a way that suggested he might be  no stranger to the use of opiates.

    At the match, there was an amusingly constant exchange of spicy barbs between the two sets of supporters. The contingent of Luton lads closest to the away end certainly seemed to be determined to try to articulate their antipathy towards their visitors from the Capital. In return, the best terrace wits that QPR could offer on the night went down the tried-and-tested route of singling out individual home fans for special treatment. One Lutonian of hefty build, accompanied to the match by his lady friend, was advised quite regularly that he was "fat" and that his "bird's a slag". He was also asked, in rather indelicate terms I thought, whether his female companion is someone who consents to anal sex. He was additionally serenaded with yet another rewording of the Duke of Mantua's canzone from Verdi's Rigoletto. "That top's too tight for you," he was told. Fashion advice from QPR's travelling supporters. Yes, really.

    The spectre of possible violence, though clearly much exaggerated, was redolent of  past times, and was just one contributory factor to this match having something of a nostalgic feel. Kenilworth Road itself, of course, also added to that mood. I feel sure that during the coming season, Premier League sophisticates visiting QPR's Loftus Road will mock the place for its antiquated facilities and lack of modern comforts. Luton's ground is even more down-at-heel - crumbling, rusty and with odd higgledy-piggledy architecture. Access is gained to the away end through gates that squat under a pair of first floor apartments. As visiting fans mount the stairs into the stand, they can see right into people's bathrooms. We collected our tickets from a tressle table in what resembled a boarded up corner shop. Having taken a wrong turn and gone the long way around the ground, we reached Oak Road via a long alleyway. At one stage, our progress was blocked by a collection of discarded beds and mattresses. This all felt a million miles from the shiny arenas at which QPR will be fulfilling their away fixtures this coming season. The Emirates Stadium? Old Trafford? Kenilworth Road could not be more different.

    Kenilworth Road: reached via a stack of discarded beds and mattresses
    Climbing into the Oak Road stand

    Another thing giving the match a nice air of past times was the pricing - at a tenner to get in, this cost only two quid more than the recent QPR Reserves friendly down in St Albans and Friday's tickets were priced at exactly the same level as at another reserves' warm up match at Boreham Wood F.C. A key difference of course, was that we were set to see QPR's first team this time. So, following  a summer of speculation about his departure, we enjoyed the reassurance of seeing star man Adel Taarabt in our colours. We also got a first look at new signings Kieron Dyer, who slotted in at right-back, Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell. The latter bagged a poacher's goal just seconds into the tie and Bothroyd looked as though he might be a handful for defenders in the season ahead. Dyer, thankfully, given his famously poor injury record, played for much of the match and escaped seemingly unscathed.

    The match itself was forgettable - for QPR supporters at least. Lutonians would be forgiven for gaining protracted enjoyment from their side's 3-1 victory, which Sky Sports News was describing the following day, with predictably hyperbolic journalese, as a "shock win". We were decidedly not shocked. First choice players had passed the ball around well enough in the first half of the match, seemingly enjoying an undemanding run-out and doing nothing that might get anyone injured. Then, when nine substitutions were made, with only Dyer and Clint Hill remaining from the original team, we simply saw confirmation of something that most QPR fans must surely understand very well - that the squad lacks depth and that there is a gulf in class between the top men and their understudies. We've seen one messageboard post suggesting that the defeat in this warm up match at Luton was "embarrassing". We felt, though, that there was not much cause for embarrassment here. But perhaps one man who will feel embarrassed as the season unfolds is the big striker Patrick Agyemang. If he makes it onto the pitch in a Premier League fixture, it will surely only be because of injuries or suspensions across the squad. Should that happen, the glare of top flight coverage will expose a player whose lack of some basic footballing qualities is very striking. If he can control a ball, strike a ball cleanly or get in a good position on a consistent basis, none of this was in evidence on Friday night - and this can't be the first time such criticisms have been made.

    Goal-mouth action at Kenilworth Road
     We trudged back to the station, glad that the small crowd and low-key atmosphere seemed to have obviated the need for the usual police ploy of boxing visiting supporters into Oak Road for 15-20 minutes after the final whistle. We headed past brighly lit shops selling a colourful wealth of Indian sweets.

    Goodbye, Luton. Given your club's unfortunate (and, we think, undeserved) descent beyond the lowest reaches of the Football League, it does seem unlikely, as some Rangers fans were singing, that we will ever play you again. A shame, we feel. Overblown predictions of violent disorder notwithstanding, this particular awayday does not have to be an unpleasant one: easy access from London and a nicely unpretentious and old-school feel to the surroundings and the club. Like something from the past.

    A bit of good-natured bantering aside, QPR fans would do well not to scorn Luton Town for its current plight and uncertain future. There, but for the grace of God, our own little club could have very well been. We were 'rescued', of course, from any such fate by our billionaire benefactors. But their vulgarity and insensitivity towards loyal fans, particularly around the matter of ticket prices, is well known and speaks of a future which, while brighter than the one faced by the Hatters, will not come without problems of its own.

    Nothing in life is to be taken for granted. If our club's future success depends on the whims of wealthy but unpredictable men, perhaps it's not safe to assume that their interest in QPR will last forever. Who knows? Perhaps a withdrawal of their support followed by a few wrong turns could set our club into the kind of downward spiral suffered by Luton Town. We'll never play you again? Let's see.

    Come on U RRRRRRRRssss