Sunday, 30 December 2012

losing brings out the worst in some people

QPR fans of a certain vintage will tell you about the horrors of the 1968-69 season, the very first time our little club from the back streets of Shepherds Bush had hosted league football in England's top tier. Having enjoyed back-to-back promotions and that famous League Cup final victory in the two previous seasons, many Rangers supporters must have looked forward to the prospect of top flight football with relish and some degree of optimism. How their hopes were dashed! Only four wins were notched up in that awful 68-69 campaign, all of them at Loftus Road.

Perhaps you're old enough to have endured that terrible season. Or perhaps you've only felt the pain of it  through the words of parents or grandparents. Either way, you probably believed that those depths of desperateness reached over forty years ago could never be eclipsed by failure of a yet more abject nature.

But here we are. Half way through this current season, our QPR have won just one match and you'd be forgiven for wondering where the next win is going to come from. The firing of one very expensive manager and the hiring of another seems to have had no very marked effect. Yes, it was enjoyable to get that first, longed-for victory over a faltering Fulham side. But before that came Harry Redknapp's first three games in charge, all of which were notable for the new boss taking the familiar conservative approach to substitutions that we had seen during his dour predecessor's reign. Worse, of course, has since followed, and any buzz of euphoria felt in the wake of the win over the Cottagers has long since ebbed away.

Today's performance was, by all accounts (didn't watch it myself, not even on telly; it just felt too much like an act of masochism) particularly woeful, especially in the first half of the match. So it's no surprise that on Twitter and the various QPR messageboards, lively disagreements are flaring up here and there between angry and disappointed Rangers fans. There's not much wrong with that. It's what people are like and it's entirely trite to suggest that adversity should always bring out the best in people. So arguments will occur. Some of them will get a bit heated and the odd person here or there may say something now that is regretted later when tempers have cooled. But another human trait, of course, is having the ability to forgive and forget and to kiss and make up. Hatchets will be buried and we'll all carry on as normal in due course.

By and large, then, even if a few insults are traded, no one will take this latest defeat so hard as to sink below the standards of common decency. Well, let's rephrase that. Frustrated, upset but essentially decent people (the overwhelming majority of QPR fans) will remain decent. But a small number of grim, malevolent pricks clearly feel emboldened by the  miasma of discontent among their fellow supporters. Now everyone's pissed off, the grimmest sort of people will be thinking, they will be more susceptible to the sort of poisonous bullshit that we usually keep to ourselves. Hence this comment over at that enlightened forum of civilised debate, We Are The Rangers Boys:



W12_Ranger kicks off the discussion and seem to find an ideological fellow traveller in WeAreQPR12, who agrees with the point about "too many French Africans" and observes, that "our blacks all seem to struggle carrying that chip around on their shoulder." W12_Ranger then feels he (she?) has the solution to QPR's troubles, arguing that we "need more white players in the team from Britain and Northern/Eastern Europe." Former Rangers stalwarts such as Les Ferdinand, Danny Maddix, Clive Wilson, Paul Parker, Paul Furlong, Bob Hazell and Danny Shittu would possibly be interested to know that they were the wrong sort of Britons to roll their sleeves up and fight for the QPR badge in the opinion of W12_Ranger. Not white enough, you see.

Happily, this stuff is rare. But it does crop up now and then, and WATRB does seem to be the place to avoid if you don't want to see too much of it.

Onwards and upwards, anyway.

U RRRRRRRRRRsssssssssss

Thursday, 27 December 2012

'ow's about that then?

That man Sadowitz is clearly not unaware of the zillions of hits that his ancient bit of Savile-exposing got back in October. Now he's using the buzz around it to promote his current run of shows at London's Leicester Square Theatre. Tonight's show is already under way but there seem to be a few tickets left for shows later this week and from 3rd to 5th of January. You need to see this, for fuck's sake.

this is my england will be getting a hit of "Britain's brightest foul mouthed, fully integrated immigrant" on the last of these dates so come along and say hello. I'll be the 7ft guy with the top hat, halitosis and large bag of sweets with very crinkly wrappers.

what kind of beer do you like?

this is the best bit of brand enhancement any drinks giant never paid for (unless this IS super-edgy product placement):

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

ACAB?

You wander down your local high street to buy a few bits and pieces for your tea. You realise that you've been caught on CCTV about a thousand times while on this innocuous errand. You'd be forgiven for thinking that Britain is a uniquely oppressive police state with especially pervasive surveillance. Then you take a photo of an interesting-looking building and are ordered to delete the picture by a police officer. Only in the UK, you mutter. But maybe that's not fair.

Consider a case from the Netherlands in January last year. Three supporters of Amsterdam's famous Ajax football team were fined €330 each for the terrible offence of wearing t-shirts with the numbers 1312 printed across them. But how can that be? What's so awful about that sequence of numbers? Well, it's meant to stand for A.C.A.B. (All Coppers are Bastards), an acronymysed phrase, of course which was once very widely used by those antipathetic towards the police here in Britain. In the 1970s, it was often seen in graffiti form and it's doubtless the case that many sets of knuckles still bear ACAB tattoos.

But are all coppers bastards? Of course not. But are all of our police officers trustworthy and even-handed public servants who shun corruption and malpractice? No, that's not true either, unfortunately.

Interestingly, it is only very recently that Andrew Mitchell, Tory MP for Sutton Coldfield and former Government Chief Whip, has had cause to have his "lifelong support and confidence in the police" shaken. Why now, Mr Mitchell? Ah, it's because you appear to have been on the wrong end of a police officer's lies. Previous evidence of dubious police behaviour was not enough to shake that support and confidence you've held for so long.

So your confidence in our police was not shaken by any of the following:
  • The wrongful convictions of terrorist suspects on the basis of fabricated evidence and torture.
  • The shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.
  • The death of Ian Tomlinson.
  • The shamefully close and corrupt relationship between the Met and the tabloid press, as discussed by the Leveson Inquiry.
  • The strenuous attempts of South Yorkshire Police to deflect their part of the blame for the 96 deaths at Hillsborough in 1989, including the altering of 164 witness statements.

This is just a snapshot, of course. Perhaps some of you will have more personal examples for why your own faith in the fairness and decency of our police has been dented over the years. The this is my england list includes:

  • A certain charming female officer at Luton station: On the way back from seeing QPR play at Kenilworth Road a few years ago, we wanted to board a stopping train because we needed to disembark at St Albans. Said lady copper tried to force us (this includes my white-haired and bespectacled dad) onto a train that was going straight down to St. Pancras. "But we only have tickets to St Albans" "I don't care. Get on the train." "If we have to pay a fine, can we mention your name when explaining why we've travelled further than our tickets allow?" "Get on the fucking train before I nick you."
  • Many years ago, having witnessed a robbery in an off-licence where I was working, (during which another staff member was stabbed), I was invited to an identity parade at a west London police station. Over the phone, the investigating detective said plainly that he wanted me to pick out a certain person who would be pointed out to me and was probably not the perpetrator of the crimed I'd witnessed. "I don't want to do that. I'll pick him out if I think he's the guy that robbed our shop, but I'm not comfortable doing it if he's not." "Retailers who help us out in this way often find we're able to respond a bit quicker the next time they raise the alarm." "That's a protection racket!" Needless to say, the identity parade did not happen.
  • Also a good few years ago, a pal and I stumbled out of a club night somewhere in south London. My friend decided to buy a soft drink from a street vendor and got involved in an ill-advised altercation over the crazy price he was charged. The vendor went nuts and there was a bit of a tussle, during which my pal's clothes got a bit ripped. Walking away once the dust had settled, my friend decided to report the incident at a police station which we happened to pass. As luck would have it, a young policeman on duty there was a former schoolmate of my pal. He advised us not to attempt to press charges, pointing out that it can be very difficult to establish who is at fault when fights break out. "But give me the guy's description and I can get a few of the lads to go down in plain clothes to kick the shit out of him and turn his van over," offered the young officer. I am pleased to report that my mate declined this offer.

None of this is to suggest that I can't also reach for examples of polite, helpful and prompt attention from police officers when I've asked for directions and the like. I've also been pleased to witness professional and good-humoured policing of countless football matches and a good number of marches and demonstrations. But I've always kept in mind that without having to seek them out, I have personally encountered rather darker examples of police behaviour, worth considering along with the more famous incidents that we can all easily recall.

Before the now hotly disputed plebgate incident, Andrew Mitchell was presumably lucky enough to go through life without once personally experiencing anything which cast doubt on his faith in the police. Very many people can probably say the same. But can it really be the case that nothing in the public domain ever gave him pause for thought?

Oh well, Mitchell must be one of those very selfish people who needs to feel very personally affected by injustice before he considers that injustices in general are something with which he ought to be concerned.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

One-nil to the sharper wits?

Last season, this blog pretty nearly followed every twist and turn of QPR's ultimately successful efforts to remain in the Premier League. This season, however, it has been far harder to work up the enthusiasm to take that approach. Hence the long silences. Hence the decision not to write reports of each and every failure to rack up three points. Today's London derby, though, seems to have provided just about enough inspiration for a few words.

Jolly boating weather, what what?
The last time our well-to-do neighbours from SW6 made the short journey to Shepherds Bush, the game was an unedifying spectacle for the home supporters: a one-nil reverse, with the visiting fans having decided it would be hilarious to print and distribute little paper signs reminding us of the far worse result we'd endured months before at Craven Cottage. Those muggy signs, smacking as they did of a tediously organised approach to terrace humour, were a neat compliment to the south-west London hooray look favoured by today's nouveau Cottager. Indeed, cold weather notwithstanding, expect the School End to present that unique Fulham F.C. appearance again today - loads of Jack Wills and Abecrombie & Fitch; drastic side partings; faces redolent of the supreme confidence one gets from attending a prep school in Barnes, followed by Eton, a gap year, three amaaaaazing years at a Russell Group university and a swift leg up into doing something in the City. We should feel fortunate that they're deigning to grace us with their presence, of course. If the rugger was on at Twickers today then the doubtless huge throng in the away end would be rather more sparse.

So come on, you dreadful chavs and plebs. We must be in good voice if we mean to drown out those plummy cries of "Rah, Rah, Rah, We're going to smash the oiks". Perhaps, moreover, we should turn our humble roots to our advantage, drawing on a very English sense of class politics in response. The tougher lives make for the sharper wits, right? By way of inspiration, let's consider a tie played in the last few years between Hayes & Yeading F.C. and their visiting local rivals Hampton & Richmond Borough. Having already belted out "Does your butler know you're here?", the Mushrooms faithful celebrated the game's first goal with a lovely song. "One-nil to the working class," they sang. For Hayes & Yeading read QPR. For Hampton & Richmond read Fulham. Obvious parallels.

The Redknapp revolution?
Of course, the opportunity to try out the latter of those two humorous songs depends on the ability of the Rangers to score first against a pretty decent Fulham side. Even if that happens, you'd be forgiven for feeling nervous, especially in the case of an early goal. After all, consider the very few minutes during which QPR were able to hold a precious lead against Wigan last week.

That result and the home draw against a fairly unimpressive Aston Villa both beg an uncomfortable question: How far has Harry Redknapp really delivered an improvement that is both instant and significant? Sure, the new manager has thus far avoided presiding over a loss (sitting in the stands at Old Trafford doesn't count). But is he actually doing anything massively different from the things for which his unhappy predecessor was routinely lambasted by Rangers fans?

Take substitutions, for example. Mark Hughes was rightly criticised for an often overly cautious approach, failing to make game-changing tactical substitutions designed to get goals and win games. Hughes preferred like-for-like replacements such as bringing on a fullback for a fullback or a defensive midfielder for a defensive midfielder. Surely, many must have believed, Redknapp (famous for attacking football and for giving free reign to creative players) would be more audacious. But is he? At Sunderland, Ji-Sung park came on for Esteban Granero; at home to Villa, Shaun Derry was replaced by Stéphane Mbia and Park once again replaced Granero; at the DW Stadium last week we saw Granero come on for Samba Diakité and Djibril Cissé replace Adel Taarabt. Massively different from substitutions under the Hughes regime? You decide....

Expressing doubts: entirely consistent with fervent support
These three draws, all against sides in the lower half of the table, don't really suggest that relegation can be avoided, the supposedly transformational effect of employing Redknapp  notwithstanding. But take care when articulating such doubts on the various QPR messageboards or via Twitter. Because if you do, a number of your fellow supporters will give voice to the idea that by expressing what you may see as simple realism, you are somehow giving up and, some even seem to contend, that you will somehow be culpable should relegation indeed occur. 

Surely this is nonsense. For one thing, it's entirely possible to express realism about the chances of your team being relegated on an internet messageboard and offer that team your lustily shouted support when actually at Loftus Road. That's certainly the this is my england approach, as those sitting (standing) around me will observe this afternoon. Certainly, then, it is not appreciated when lectures about giving up are received online from people living overseas who, while they might only express an overly bullish view of the Rangers' survival hopes online, are actually in no position meaningfully to get behind the team on a match day.

What if we do go down?
If relegation does prove to be the outcome of this dispiriting season, it will be interesting to see whether Redknapp sticks around to attempt to guide QPR back out of the Championship. Given the parlous points total accrued at the time he was signed as manager, the contract discussions must surely have covered this very real possibility. Or does he have some sort of relegation escape clause in his contract? Let's see.

Perhaps a more interesting question is around the effect relegation would have on the resolve of the club's various shareholders. Rumours are already rife about a supposedly waning appetite for QPR on the part of the Amit Bhatia-fronted Mittal family interest in our club. But what of Tony Fernandes and his Malaysian colleagues? He continues to make reassuring noises via Twitter and many fans choose to take him at his word. But perhaps it's legitimate to wonder about the depth of the man's pockets and the robustness of his business empire. Time will tell.

Anyway, let's put those longer-term questions to one side for now and simply look forward to this afternoon's tie with the fervent hoping of bagging that vital first win and of getting one over our posh neighbours. It's one thing to be on the end of the jibes of proper supporters of a proper club. But, for some of us at least, it's rather more aggravating to be the butt of weak jokes cracked by chinless wonders in Barbour jackets and college scarves. That said, the chances of us being mocked face-to-face at work by an actual Fulham supporter are pretty slim. You never see them around, do you? You're more likely to bump into a Brentford fan. Or even one of the terrace wits of Hayes & Yeading. 

U RRRRRRRRRRssssssssssss

Thursday, 13 December 2012

FUCK THE X-FACTOR: BUY THIS

MONTHS of MANUFACTURED SHIT, pumped, colonic irrigation-style, into the earSEholes of the great, drugged, indifferent, sleep-walking, bollocks-talking BRITISH PUBLIC. your duty now, Mr. and Mrs. Lemming, is to make another dollar for that high-waisted, plastic-mouthed svencreepy COWELL. the spewings of his latest instant nobody is gonna be "your" Christmas NUMBER ONE, right?? right??? 'cos it's TRADITIONAL. traditional like a chocolate log (I made one of those earlier) from ICELAND; traditional like wanting to strangle your mother-in-law with whatever she bought you in MARKS (but don't get any MARKS on it 'cos you can join a long line, snaking round the RETAIL PARK on BOXING DAY, all queued up to return the unwanted goods).

BUT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. not this year. if you're young enough or dull enough to give two shakes of a labradoodle's dick about the sHIT PARADE but wise enough and fine enough to want to deny the march of the XXXXXXXXXXX-factor's-got-talent-out-of-here then there is a more GRASSROOTS option this time. You may remember this dude who has a stall in an East End market, getting squillions of YouTube videos of the stuff he belts out to reel in cost-conscious fish buyers: 



APPARENTLY, he auditioned at the X-Factor but the panel of fuckwits were NOT FUSSED. BUT giant MUSIK CORP. WARNER see the potential of shifting a few units here. akin to that KOREAN loon probably? So they have done this thing here and A GOOD MANY PEOPLE are urging us all to boost it up to CHRISTMAS NUMBER ONE. it's a MISSION. and more fun than speaking up about George Osborne's mates INJECTING CLEANING FLUID into the EYES OF YOUR DISABLED GRANDMOTHER as a way of DEALING WITH THE LEGACY OF LABOUR'S DISASTROUS MISMANAGEMENT and doing something for BRITAIN'S HARD-WORKING STRIVERS.

Monday, 10 December 2012

ANGER ON THE STREETS


GREATNESS TO GRAFFNESS

"I sometimes feel as if the Channel Tunnel is a thread running through my whole life."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I'll never forget the day that Thatcher and Mitterand signed the treaty that gave the green light to the thing being built."
"When was that?"
"Nineteen eighty-six. I always remember it because of what happened that day."
"What happened?"
"The treaty was signed in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral. We were living in Canterbury at the time."
"Oh yeah?"
"Yes, and there was a lot of security in the town. Police everywhere. Snipers on roofs. All that stuff."
"Right."
"Our phone was cut off for the day and a policeman loitered very obviously just across from our front door."
"What? Why?"
"No real reason. Well, apart from my dad being a full-time union official."
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"Exactly. He was clearly on some police list of trouble makers. Hence the intimidation when Mrs. T was in town."
"You're making it up. Thing like that don't happen in Britain."
"Believe me. Don't believe me. Whatever."
"What made you bring up the Channel Tunnel anyway?"
"I saw a train in the station today when I was on the way down to work. It caught my eye because I could see a big graffiti piece had recently been scrubbed off one carriage."
"Oh yes?"
"Yes. There were tons of big runners on the trains earlier in the year. It looked like First Capital Connect were losing their supposed war on the graffiti boys. But I haven't seen anything lately, other than the odd remnant here and there, such as what I noticed today. Anyway, as I was peering at this carriage, I noticed it had a name plate. Someone had decided to name this carriage Coquelles at some point."
"Coquelles? What's that?"
"I'm not sure. Clearly a French word and I'm guessing it's something to do with the Tunnel because under the plaque there was another little sign saying that the carriage had carried the first British passengers through the Channel Tunnel on December 10th 1993."
"December 10th? That's today."
"Right. Quite a coincidence to spot the plaque on the anniversary of the event."
"What a come down for that carriage. Making history nineteen years ago..."
"... and now just shuttling up and down between Brighton and Bedford, occasionally getting graffitied up."
"From greatness to graffness."
"Yep."


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Time for Martin Samuel to come out as gay

That fat, loathsome prick Martin Samuel has written a particularly unpleasant piece in the Mail today. The bulky hack with the beard-and-hair combo of a Radio 1 DJ of the seventies (is that a good look these days?) sneers at the tiny handful of openly gay sportsmen from the rugby and cricket worlds and attempts some sort of clumsy comedy routine about football needing a similar "gay hero". It's utter drivel. Casual, blokey bigotry presumably written after a boozy lunch, made stranger still by Samuel's bizarre decision to suggest that QPR and Marseille's own Joey Barton should  "come out as gay".

I have a better suggestion. Forget Joey Barton. It's Martin Samuel who should come out of the closet. Because if you consider the tough-tackling midfielder and the overweight tabloid muck-raker, it's much more likely that the latter is gay.

Why would I say that? Because in my experience, supposedly straight people who take an unusual interest in who may or may not be gay can be repressed homosexuals themselves. In that scenario, the gay jokes (the last line of Samuel's article certainly qualifies as a weak attempt at a gay joke), the piss-taking and whatnot all add up to a none-too-convincing smokescreen for someone keen to hide from his own true sexual orientation.

Whenever I hear people complaining about "political correctness" having "gone mad", I think of Stewart Lee's amusing and articulate response to that charge. Along the way, Lee tells us of a Tory election candidate in the 1970s using the slogan "if you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour". For my own part, I am reminded of what passed for banter in my school during the eighties. As the boys trudged from one cold, leaking mobile classroom to another, the handful of Asian lads in the school (Ugandan-Gujarati Hindus, I believe) were called "pakis" to their faces. Anyone who hesitated to cough up a small loan was immediately labelled a "fucking Jew". I'd moved to the area (the sticks!) from a part of London that was (and still is) pretty cosmopolitan, not least in the sense of having a good-sized Jewish population whose roots extend to many different parts of Europe. So that last bit of nastiness was a bit of a shock at first. 

This sort of thing was not limited to the pupils. How fondly I will always remember the games teacher who railed against the less able sportsmen, usually reaching for "you fucking spastic" from his limited vocabulary. Boys and teachers alike were also united in using the term "poof" to describe anyone one might describe as even vaguely effeminate. For vaguely effeminate, read not routinely posturing in an exaggeratedly masculine manner out of a fear of not fitting in and being bullied as a result. Thinking back, of course, I don't suppose many of the boys labelled as poofs were actually gay. Indeed, of the ones about whose circumstances I remain aware, most have got married (to women) and have had children. In fact, I can only think of one schoolmate from that period who did turn out to be gay. He was a curious fellow.

Dave (not his real name) was one of the more aggressive banterers. A bully, in fact. Moreover, he was certainly among those who used the term poof pretty freely. Indeed, he used it much more regularly than anyone else. He must have called someone else a poof at least once an hour on each of the hundreds and hundreds of days on which I saw him at school, in town, at teenage parties or down the pub. It was at the one pub at which most of us could get served, I remember, that several of us stumbled upon a very effective way of winding him up.

The pub was small and the crowd that flocked there from our school was large. So the seating arrangements were pretty tight. "Don't sit on my lap, you fucking poof," Dave would snap. "Which fucking poof is touching my leg? Get off, you fucking arse bandit!" It started with accidental and innocent contact, but we all soon latched onto the obvious comedy value and deliberate thigh fondling became a constant irritation for young Dave. As he squirmed and snarled, those of us who'd been paying attention to Hamlet in our English lessons were reminded of Queen Gertrude's famous line about the lady protesting too much.

So we were mindful of this when observing Dave's relationships with girls. His usual pattern was to lust very openly after a particular female for a while. His pursuit would play out over a number of weeks, sometimes arriving at a successful conclusion and sometimes not. But when he did achieve an effective seduction, there emerged a predictable pattern to what would happen next. In every case, having won the heart (i.e. removed the bra) of some girl, he would almost immediately lose interest in her, driving her away by avoiding her or even becoming quite hostile. He seemed to enjoy the company of girls as much as any of us did. But when his fledgling relationships become more physical, he seemed to become repulsed. Even in the case of really very attractive girls.

So it was with very little surprise in later years that I heard stories to the effect that Dave had finally faced up to his homosexuality. He seemed like such a hostile twat at the time. But all the hostility was clearly just his way of dealing with a lot of confusion and with the fear of what would have been, I'm sure, merciless bullying from his school chums. Now, in a more enlightened age and away from the cruel pressures of school, Dave is free to be himself.

So, come on, Martin Samuel. Do the decent thing. Can't one lardy shit-for-brains writing for a grubby gutter press scandal sheet come out and be gay, so everybody can be really cool about it and the sports press can get on with its life? It's not too much to ask, surely? Come on, (very) big boy. You know you want to.