Musings from a soggy Shire …Singing in the Ukraine…

16 06 2012

‘Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun.

If the sun don’t come, you get a tan

From standing in the English rain.

I am the egg man, they are the egg men.

I am the walrus, goo, goo, gjoob.’

 

(‘I am the Walrus’: Lennon & McCartney) 

 

Whatever happened to flaming June?

On the sixth day of the sixth month, in 1953, I was born, around ten o’clock on a sunny Saturday morning, or so I’m told. ‘Saturday’s child works hard for a living’ – well that certainly came to pass!         

It was Coronation week and my parents were gifted a commemorative teaspoon to mark the occasion. So, despite entering the world, in the upstairs bedroom of a humble terraced house (14 Wollaton St. Hucknall) I can, nevertheless, lay claim to having been born with a silver spoon in my mouth – well chrome plated, actually. 

It may well be a case of rose-tinted spectacles, but I always remember my childhood birthdays as sunny occasions.

During my teenage years, secondary school exams inevitably coincided with lengthy spells of fine weather. I distinctly recall sitting an A-Level Geography paper, in a steaming, sticky, school hall – scarily enough, forty years ago last week!     

50 words for rain…

The Egyptians are said to have 50 words for sand.

The Inuit (or Eskimo) language is said to have 50 words for snow, around which notion Kate Bush (now well past her half century) shaped a quirky, Christmas comeback, concept album – but failed to meet her former wuthering heights.

How many words do we Brits have for rain?

It regularly ‘rains cats and dogs’ over here, a phrase I’ve never really got my head around, whereas I fully understand the colourful French candour of, ‘Il pleut comme une vache qui pisse!’  

Drizzle Cake…  

St Clement’s drizzle cake, dripping with orange and lemon, was a very apt choice for my birthday. Delicious – thanks, Chris.

‘Cadbury’s Heroes’, in a London Olympics Bus, went down well too, ‘Nic’ – clearly a future collector’s item!

Kindle convert…  

With birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, I’ve finally succumbed, signing up to the e-reader revolution – entering the Kindle generation. Weighing in at just 170g, Wi-Fi enabled, with a 6 inch advanced E-ink display, and capable of holding up to 1400 books, it will be a convenient travelling companion. 

Up until now I’ve been, something of a Luddite, digging my heels in, fighting the dog-eared corner of the traditional paper-back. However, I’m sure there is room for both in my life. Although snuggling down between the sheets with a Kindle, for all its sleek good looks and 10% faster seamless reading, will never fully replace the tactile experience of a genuine page turner – not in my book anyway. 

Tino – Simply the Best…

The 3rd Investec Test at Birmingham, home of the ‘Brumbrella’, was decimated by the weather. Days 1 and 2 were completely washed away, without a ball being bowled – the first such occurrence for 48 years.

I had pre-booked a ticket for Day 4. A dull, but dry, Sunday was forecast, and although the game was heading nowhere, with so much play lost to the weather, I went along anyway.    

Settling into the Upper West Stand for the start of play, nursing a warming cup of coffee, I never anticipated any cricketing action that would prove vaguely memorable. Judging by the sparse crowd, many absent ticket holders clearly thought likewise, opting instead for a lie in and a Sunday roast, rather than a day in the Edgbaston gloom.

It just goes to show just how little can be taken for granted, in a game which is nothing if not unpredictable, and a statistician’s dream – with a propensity for record-breaking events, in the most unlikely of situations.

Tino Best, an ear-ringed, eccentric and erratic fast bowler, batting at number eleven in his Test comeback, after a couple of years in the wilderness, took it upon himself to spread a little Caribbean sunshine, illuminating proceedings with a bravura display of stroke-play that brought him a scintillating 95 runs in just 112 balls.

He finally fell agonizingly short of becoming the first number eleven, in 135 years of Test history, to make a century, having put on 143 runs with wicket keeper Danesh Ramdin – who did complete a, not out, century – creating the third highest 10th wicket partnership in all Tests, and the highest in England.                         

Singing in the Ukraine

Euro 2012, co-hosted by Poland and the Ukraine, is well under way. As far as Roy Hodgson’s England team are concerned, national expectation going into an international tournament has never been lower – perhaps not a bad thing.

In their opening game, well-drilled England stopped a more talented French side from playing, audaciously took the lead, through a Joleon Lescott header, at well worked set piece, and finally settled for a 1-1 draw.

In my opinion it was a thoroughly effective performance. The players appeared comfortable with the way the team was set up, understood and stuck to their roles, worked hard, restricted France to long-range efforts, and created a couple of decent chances on the occasional foray forward.

Hodgson had been brave enough to start with Arsenal’s eighteen year old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who made a good impression, as did Man U’s young striker Darren Welbeck. 

However post-match comments were harsh, critics tagging Hodgson’s tactics as dull and unambitious – not at all the sort of gung-ho approach we might have expected from media favourite, ‘Arry Redknapp, if he’d been appointed as national coach.

There was a great deal of doom, gloom and despondency ahead of last night’s ‘must-win’ game against Sweden – a national ‘bogey’ team that England had never previously beaten in a tournament.

But, ‘Woy’s boys’ proved the doubters wrong. The Swedes were finally mashed, in a ‘woller’ coaster of a game – that ended up, Turnips 3 Swedes 2!

England may be accused of lacking quality on the ball, compared with the best teams, but all three goals owed much to good technique. Pony-tailed striker Andy Carroll brought into the team to cause the Swedes problems in the air, did exactly what it says on his over-priced tin, towering above their defence to power home an old-fashioned centre forward’s header, from Steven Gerrard’s pin point cross, putting England into a first half lead.

And then later in the game, with time running out, inspirational substitute Theo Walcott revived a nation’s flagging hopes, cooly drilling a shot into the roof of the net, before surging into the penalty area and crossing for Darren Beckford, back to goal, to show an exquisite touch in hooking the ball into the corner of the net, for the winner.

In between, Carroll’s opener and Theo’s equaliser we saw the worst of England, as they conceded two howlers, from sloppy set-piece defending, to veteran Viking warrior, former Villa centre-back, the bearded Olof Mellberg.

England’s performance may have been a mixed bag but to their credit they bounced back strongly when they might so easily have folded. The coach deserves praise too, for his initial team selection, a positive and timely substitution, and the vastly improved team spirit which he has generated within the England camp.

England will enter their final group stage game, requiring just a point, against a distinctly average Ukraine side, to reach the quarter finals. But the ‘home side’ will be giving everything to remain in the competition, and with a huge crowd behind them, it will be a tough ask for England. 

On the plus side, Wayne Rooney will be available and keen to make an impression following his suspension. That could make all the difference. I think we will squeeze through.

It is hard to look beyond Germany or Spain for the eventual winners, of what is becoming a truly compelling tournament, but a number of less fancied teams are capable of causing upsets when it comes to the knock out stages. England must believe they are one of them.

The Kuwaiti is coming – or is he?

Mega-rich Kuwaiti businessman Fawaz Al-Hasawi is reportedly poised to take over the Tricky Trees, although there has been no official confirmation from the City Ground. Long-suffering Forest fans  are beside themselves, desperate to believe it’s true but fully expecting to be let down, yet again.    

Forest have  suggested that there are a number of interested parties and no deal is imminent. But this rumour of a multi-million pound deal has been simmering away on Twitter for over two weeks now. With next season’s Championship fixtures due to be announced on Monday, and the club having extended the deadline for season ticket renewals, I’m cautiously optimistic that there could be good news, sooner rather than later – inshallah!

Oh, here comes the rain again – perhaps I spoke too soon…

 

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