Sunday, April 29, 2007


Ah, how better to spend these unseasonably sunshiney early-summer afternoons, than by snatching and stamping daffodils and dandelions, gurgle-sniggering Beavis-style,
and tearing apart the News Review section of the Sunday Times...?

No, not me (well, not mostly), but Harry. (Honest.)

And now, yet another nephew is about to stumble into the scene - long-lost l'il Kim, way out Far East since Boxing Day, but arriving home much-missed (and much more hairily-headed, it seems!) on Monday for what should be a week of much-needed family specialness.

Yep, get those happy feet on the pedals, pal...
Welcome back to dear old Blighty.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"They can see no reasons, 'cos there are no reasons - what reasons do you need...?"


"Sorry, pal. The law requires a five-day waiting period. We've got to do a background check."
- "Five days? But I'm mad now..."
There are doubtless factors warning against too-simplistically blaming the horrific college carnage in Virginia on American gun-nuttiness alone.
Deep-seated, disturbing psychological issues within the culprit, certainly.
A culture of thoughtless violence crossed by instant gratification, possibly.
A rather ragged mess of a response by police, apparently.
But for now, the expansive savagery of such lethal wherewithal does call to mind the old line suggesting the most sensible method of gun control.
Just the one question on the application forms:
"Do you want to own a gun?"
And if the answer's "Yes", then you're certainly not having one.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Seville disorder...


(Surprisingly, this wasn't the most troubling sight of the stay...)
So. This entry should, and still could really, have been mostly about the strange and beautiful bonding of English guests and Spanish hosts - for a start, in the makeshift, central "Fans' Zone" offering free paella and at least free-flowing beer, tucked respectfully away from the cramped alleyways down which Jesus and mother Mary models glided upon the shoulders of multi-coloured KKKesque outfits, and with which no perfectly-distracted-anyway-thank-you football fan had any idea of interfering.

Or else, elsewhere, when despite - or due to - the Chas and Dave CDs being on constant rotation, the cheery if beery Tottenham boys and girls and old men and young kids would drift into outlying districts. With maybe a word here or there from helpful, Betis-sympathetic taxi drivers - invariably veering towards those healthily, patiently bustling tasteful and tasty tapas cafes, where hale-and-hearty owners and dainty-figured, friendly-faced, wide-eyed and charcoal-eyelined serving-girls helped while away waiting-times for seats with handy towers of cheese platters and, well, wine, plenty and purple of it.

Or, perhaps, let's lurch into the alarming, disarmingly charming
Semana Santa parades striding through those identikit streets - if "streets" is not too generous a word for some of the cobbled backyards they somehow slunk within and around. Frighteningly intense, that fervor with which those sturdy-yet-fragile-looking figurines were hoisted, pursued by kids in their Maundy Thursday best: young and old, very old women wearing black lace mantillas hardly-complementing above-knee skirts, surprisingly-low-cut tops and more suitable, severely towering headpieces.

And those outfits... Sorry, even knowing they have a historic significance entirely unrelated to how such apparel has been hijacked by the Grand High Wizards and their weird brigades, these could have looked for all the world like Ku Klux Klan rallies, were not the all-whites just one representative of the spectrum: pale violet, pink, ecclesiastical green or crimson were also liable to abruptly arrive around another corner.

After about two hours' sleep in two days, even these bleary eyes couldn't be rubbed raw enough to fully appreciate today's pre-proper-sunrise, 6am sight of those all-in-black pointy heads cheered on by carnivalesque crowds swarming the dim streets, all accompanied by a pungent scent of incense and the almost-menacing soundtrack of thuddering drums.

Ah, all this and much more.


But, ah yes, the unfortunate, the inevitable subject that seems to have dominated the headlines back home (though seemed strangely absent, at all, from the Spanish Press coverage).

Yes, the sheer audacity of Spurs fans booing that laughable penalty decision and thus clearly provoking, indeed inviting, the bombarding charge of
baton-swinging riot police, brutally coshing most startled supporters into fleeing desperately higher along the already-steep and stifling stands...

The police raiders swiping out at all, whether wheelchair-bound or assisting, even thumping the Sevilla and Spurs stewards who had been coping with and calming the crowds perfectly well alone, thankyou. Note, no Sevilla supporters came under threat or in any contact with Tottenham fans. The only things exchanged between the two sets of fans all day were warm words, replica shirts and memorabilia.

Of course, there were Tottenham idiots in the mix too, tossing seats and fighting back whether under direct attack or not. But most were simply scared. Thankfully, being a little higher and out of harm's way, consensus among the many looking on in dismay and disappointment and frustration suggested such a hideous over-reaction with consequent effects.
Here, for example, a little unnecessary police brutality - out of proportion and out of the blue. What were these goons actually doing there, and just where might the closest far-distant Sevilla supporter actually be?

And coming just 24 hours after the ugly scenes at the Roma-Manchester United match, the telling "coincidence" seems not to be the involvement of English fans as the merely-guilty parties, but the inadequacies of a clobber-now-evade-questions-later police strategy you thankfully don't see being called upon at games in England. Hm, now there's an idea...

In fact, for all the valiant efforts of the stewards, there had been a little anxiety on entering the stadium at the blithe instructions to visiting fans, regardless of the seat and stand number on their tickets, to merely: "Sit anywhere, anywhere you like, doesn't matter."

Maybe that's what it was like in the good old days, but it does seem a strange and ominous approach for a high-profile, Uefa fixture, leading an imbalance between the crowding of upper tiers and lower tiers - and, of course, a recipe for at the very least unpleasantness when combined with the boys in black's rather more antagonistic approach.

Well, well, that's quite enough for now - other than to be grateful it didn't turn out significantly worse. As for the game itself, before the baton battalions got stuck in, and after they mysteriously disappeared at half-time, it was all very entertaining. Our players did appear at least partly affected by the simultaneous storm in the stands, that 25 minutes before half-time our most nervous and sloppy.

But the players rallied well after the break, looked the more likely than Seville to score and certainly posed enough problems for the home defence - the marauding, albeit diving, Daniel Alves on the right aside - to whet all appetites, especially Keane's and Berbatov's, for next Thursday night at White Hart Lane.

And the memory, the moment of celebrating that opening goal will linger a long time - even if the thrill was tempered a little by the abrupt realisation of just how stomach-lurchingly steep those terraces could feel beneath the bouncing feet...

All things considered, when personally revisiting these recollections, best to simply go back to the very beginning, a very good place to start.
And stay.
And simply celebrate those heroes among Sevillans.