Chocolate For Breakfast

Good evening dear readers.  Reader?  Lionel?  Anyway, with another year over and a spare few minutes I figured it was a perfect opportunity to return to my neglected blog.

2012 proved to be somewhat of a whirlwind for me and the second half has sped by with me scarcely noticing.  Last time we spoke I was 6, 000 miles away from home in South Korea, hot but happy.  Today I’m sat at home, hot and contemplative.    I think if I tried to detail all I’ve been up to this would need to be broken down into volumes so I’ll keep it fairly vague.  Where to start though?

I guess, as I’ve mentioned it already, “home” would be a good place to start.  Last year saw four places lay claim to this title and thus I’ve been left feeling a little like a nomad, although that may just be the terrible beard.  From Cheshire, to Korea, to the West Midlands and to the Netherlands, it’s fairly safe to say that I’ve been all over the ruddy gaff.  With the first two well documented and the third less than exciting let’s skip straight to the fourth.

After a year of what essentially amounted to getting my shit together I finally embarked upon my journey to become Vince Panther MA.  As if going back to university as an allegedly mature student wasn’t enough, I also chose to do so abroad.  No part of this endeavour has been easy but I’m determined to soldier on.  I came perilously close to letting this opportunity slip through my fingers and exist forever as a “maybe one day” idea.  However, I chose not to let it.  With the help of both the beautiful lady in my life and Public Enemy I somehow find myself the other side of my first semester at university since 2009 and half way towards achieving what, up until very recently, was unthinkable.  The days leading up to my departure were some of the hardest I’ve had in a long time.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I was terrified.  Whilst I would never claim to have the courage levels of a certain Little Toaster, I do usually cope quite well with stuff, so this knocked me sideways a little.  The day of my flight was a battle against my stomach, my eyes, my brain and my feet and when I lay my head down on my, quite frankly rubbish, pillow in my new home that night, I had a million thoughts racing through my head and I was scared.  Four months later, I’m not scared any more.  I’m surprised I managed it, even shocked, and I may even allow myself a slight sense of pride.

In a curious piece of ordering on my part, allow me to enlighten you with my biggest, most exciting news of the year, and indeed, my entire life.  The girl I have written about on numerous occasions, the one mentioned above, the one who has been there for me from the very moment I met her, my perfect woman agreed to become Mrs. Panther.  I could carry on for a mighty long time about how incredibly happy and lucky I am to have her and for this to be happening but, as I’m sure listening to me gushing isn’t top of your to-do-list for today, allow this little guy to demonstrate for me.

Ahh yeah.

 

By sheer coincidence I’ve just realised how much better that gif is when listening to ‘Push It To The Limit’ from Scarface.

Now I’m back home in merry old England, free from university work (if I pretend I don’t have to do it, then it doesn’t count), I find that I’ve come back to reality with a bump.  After a few months of feeling oh so intellectual and contemplating what makes a just society, the semiotics of cinema and Spinoza’s account of the state of nature I find myself now tackling the real questions in life such as “why does it matter if the curtains are closed or not?”, “how often can the woman over the road possibly wash the windows in order to less than subtly spy on the neighbours?” and “does putting spare cuttings of carpet underneath things really look better than the tiny dents they would leave?”  All massive queries, I’m sure you’ll agree.  I guess it can’t always be top-level prattery.

All this should give you some idea as to how excited I am about 2013.  It looks like things are finally falling into place and I may start to become a real person soon.  Maybe.

Long Time, No Speak

Good evening everybody.  How are we all today?  Yes, it’s me again, back from the dead.  Or holiday to be more accurate.

As those of you have visited before will be aware, I’ve been living in South Korea (with a short trip to Japan) since May.  I intended to write regularly about my experiences and adventures but I guess everything kind of got away from me a little and I realised that if I was sat writing about it then I wouldn’t be out experiencing things.  I know I could have done it when I got home but I didn’t go half hearted on the experiencing, I was a sleepy man.

So how would I describe my last few months?  I may well go into more detail at a later date given a bit more time but as a general statement, and in no way an exaggeration, they were the best 3 and a bit months of my entire life.  I saw, ate, visited and lived so many weird and wonderful things that I couldn’t begin to make a comprehensive list.  It all passed by in an amazing and bloody strange blur.  I think the thing that really hit me as strange was when everything became normal (that makes sense right?)  It wasn’t until I stopped to think about where I was that I remembered that actually, yeah, this isn’t very much like home at all.

 

One of my holiday snaps.

One thing I never quite got used to was the level of celebrity you acquire just by being obviously foreign.  As you may well imagine, Korea isn’t the obvious tourist destination for many (it totally should be though.  Quite honestly, it’s unspeakably awesome) and so non-Koreans are few and far between.  Add in some height, fair hair, blue eyes and some Englishness and you’ve got yourself some instant fame.  This hit me hard when I got home and I was back to not being special again.  Stupid reality.

Turning 24 whilst away provided me with one of my best “this is weird” moments, of which I’m not lacking.  My birthday was a lovely occasion with presents, delicious food and drinks with new, firm friends.  Things got even more awesome when the three of us remaining got chatting to some Korean chaps (remember what I said about fame?) after a challenge to a game of beer pong.  The game never materilised but what did was being dragged through the deserted streets of Seomyeon to a street cart where we were treated to BBQ, beer, soju and chocolate cakes.  Why?  Because it was my birthday and Koreans are bloody lovely.  We sat and watched the sun come up with our new friends, not paying a penny for the pleasure.  Best birthday ever?  Not half.

No brief summing up of a life enriching experience would be complete without an awesome highlight.  Something that truly changed the course of the rest of my life.  I’m not talking about being one of those clowns who gets back to the airport in a straw hat and baggy trousers insisting that that’s who they are now because they’ve experienced true culture.  You know who you are.  Clowns.  No instead something unspeakably wonderful happened to me on my travels.  One lovely evening I finally plucked up the courage to ask the girl of my dreams to marry me.  Even better, she agreed to become Mrs Panther.  The time we spent apart showed me that I absolutely cannot imagine ever being without her and that I want to be with her for the rest of our lives.  This is the only part of the last few months that has yet to fully sink in.  Wedding pretty much planned, talk of weddings commonplace, even seeing the ring on her hand still hasn’t quite hit home that the most perfect woman I could ever hope to meet wants to be with me forever.  I still question her decision to associate with me at all though so perhaps this is understandable.  On a side note, I am working on her actually becoming Mrs Panther but this doesn’t seem to be progressing as well as I’d liked.  Apparently my real surname is better.  A man came dream though.

I already grow nostalgic of my time away.  Even every day things seem so much more mundane.  It’s a country of endless charms, delights and horrors.  Every day is sure to provide you with at least one moment of “aww, bless ‘em”.  I would return to Korea in a second.  Not just because that’s where the future Mrs Panther is (maybe if I say it a lot, she’ll get used to the idea), it’s not one thing I could hope to put my finger on.  It’s everything.  One day I’ll definitely be back, just to check in and see if it’s still its adorable self.  One day, but until then Korea, thank you.

Food, Glorious Food

Going out for something to eat in Korea is very often a hit and miss affair.  When you walk into an establishment it’s not always clear whether you’re going to end up with a haircut or a live octopus.  However, needs must so perseverance is necessary, with varying results.

On the whole, food here is delicious.  The prevalence of barbecue restaurants never fail to excite the appetite and they quite often offer the ability to cook it yourself making me feel both full and manly in one tasty go.  Just the other day I ate myself stupid on beef and rice for about £3, something by no means out of the ordinary.  This also satiated my desire to eat a meal sat on the floor in the traditional style.  Less than five minutes in when realising I couldn’t fit under the table and my leg had gone to sleep I quickly fell out of love with tradition and began rolling around the floor like a child.  Fried chicken and beer gaffs are ten a penny and it’s not hard to see why.  They’re the best partnership since Cannon and Ball.  Quite why this insanely good mix is yet to make it home I have literally no idea.

Affordable meat and seafood restaurants are something this country does very well indeed but this is obviously not the full picture.  It’s not uncommon to see watermelons for sale for upwards of £20 and chocolate peanuts costing the best part of a tenner.  That’s of little real consequence though, when it costs so little to eat like a king who needs enormous melons?…..stop giggling.

The weirdest thing I think I’ve eaten so far on my trip were the silk worm larvae.  They smell utterly repellant and taste average at best.  Somewhat similar to beans in texture except beans don’t explode, spraying their innards everywhere when you bite into them.  All in all, not really worth it.

The market…ahhh the market.  Home of all sorts of wonders at rock bottom prices.  Mounds of garlic, delicious fresh doughnuts, more kimbap than you can shake a 3 foot long dried tentacle at, the possibilities are endless.  Living in Busan there are a plethora of seafood stalls offering all manner of marine life I’ve never seen before and plenty I wish that was still the case with.  Looking at you penis worms.

You sicken me.

Of course, fish sale=fish death and this is something that you get forced into coming to terms with pretty quickly.  I can’t tell whether it’s a good thing or not that seeing the poor little guys meet their grisly end doesn’t bother me any more or not.  In a way it’s kind of good for them.  There seems to be a weird divide here between the treatment of animals as pets and animals for eating.  Obviously I’m not suggesting it’s odd that they don’t fry up their hamster when a bit peckish but rather a pet is pampered beyond belief, shaved into all sorts of weird shapes and died all the colours of the rainbow.  Animals as food stuffs though have next to no consideration.  Seeing literally hundreds of crabs packed into a tank, or turtles in a bucket, or fish swimming amongst dead friends is quite shocking so perhaps if they find themselves in this situation in may be best to get it over with.

The dispatching of said animals can also be quite brutal.  In a short space of time I saw a woman snap the head off a live fish which made a not inconsiderable noise.  I saw an eel have its head impaled by a screwdriver mere seconds before being skinned alive and perhaps worse was the fate that befell a pair of octopuses at the weekend.  Plucked from their tiny plastic prison cell to the screams of the child of the woman purchasing them, the seller proceeded to turn their heads inside out and detach something from something else that it seemed it very much needed to be attached to.  All well and good, not to mention horrifying, for the first one, but for the second this didn’t quite do the trick, it didn’t want to go into the bag but that’s sure where it was headed.  Peeling the thing off her arm the fish monger shoved the flailing creature in with the other.  At least she triple bagged it.  Better safe than sorry I guess.

Despite witnessing the scenes above I’m still rather fond of the odd dried sea creature (it’s very hard to tell what they are at that stage).  That is until whilst I was munching my way through one whilst innocently watching the football.  Whilst attempting to liberate a few tentacles I noticed a small bundle, I was intrigued.  What could it be?  My mind was racing.  Upon closer inspection I saw what the free gift was….a fucking beak!

The Gateway to Hell

Of course it can’t all be delicious but it is nearly always an experience so, horrifying secret discoveries aside, it’s always entertaining.  You have to take the rough with the smooth and so for every mentalist throwing dogfish at you, you’ll find any number of wonderful restaurants ready to serve up…something.

Culture Shock

My arrival in South Korea in mid-week gave me scarcely enough time to even begin to tackle my jet lag and prepare for a long weekend of cultural experiences but I did my best and slept away Wednesday and Thursday like a trooper.  Friday…well, Friday was just about as awesome a “Welcome to Korea” as my sleepy little self could have wished for.

I sleepily ventured outside to meet my girlfriend when she had finished work with the impression that we were going for a little walk with her co-teacher and then for dinner somewhere.  No problem I think, sounds lovely.  The first step was to get to the park where it was we were going to be walking.  Transport arrived in the form of the aforementioned co-teacher’s non-English speaking husband to whisk us through the rush hour traffic.  The language barrier obviously prevented him talking to the three of us but he did make it known that he would like his wife to tell me that I’m very tall.  I’ve heard this a lot in the last few weeks.  Said wife later commented that I’m the tallest person she’s ever met.  Just to clarify, I’m not that tall, 6′ 2″ at most but I am the tallest person I’ve seen for about a fortnight.  Height in Korea appears to gain you instant celebrity and envy, average as you think your own stature may be.

We arrive at the park a short while later with it soon becoming apparent that it was up a mountain.  Maybe not mountain but hill seems inadequate for the steep climb we were faced with.  Also the cable car we got to the top seemed to suggest that it was at least a ruddy great hill.  I digress.  The views of the city from our little capsule were amazing, I could finally see where it was that I had decided to live for the following months.  The peak was decorated by serenely quiet twisting trails, streams and cats.  It was round about now that it was starting to sink in that I now live in Asia.

After excitedly shouting “kitty!” every time we saw a cute little feline friend, no doubt convincing our guide that her colleague had made some questionable life decisions, we arrived at a Buddhist temple.  “Would you like to look?” I was asked.  I gratefully accepted.  Upon entering the small courtyard the group of monks sat talking were instantly drawn to us and apparently very interested.  I was slightly stunned by this.  I mean, you’re a Buddhist monk sat in a temple halfway up a mountain in the Far East.  I’m a scruffy bugger from the Midlands who has recently left a job in a call centre.  I think I know who wins the interesting battle there.  After smiling, making a hash of bowing, distracting a chap from praying and trying desperately not to launch into a rousing rendition of ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ it was time to continue Vince’s Culture Tour.  I ignored the 4×4 parked just behind the temple, I didn’t want my fledgling sense of spirituality to be crushed just yet.  Anyway, even those who shun material possessions need a sweet set of wheels.

“Namaste, bitches”

After merrily winding our way back to the road we were informed that “going for dinner” in fact meant “you’re guests of honour at a barbecue at my sister’s house”, or so I like to think.  We were certainly made to feel very welcome visitors.  Even this lady’s daughter visited and brought a friend to eat with the foreigners.  Over the next few hours we ate, drank and ate some more.  I made solid friends with two middle-aged Korean men who barely spoke a word of English between them but knew enough to say how handsome and brave I was.  Quite where they got this from I’m not sure but they had sat drinking soju for at least three hours so maybe that had something to do with it.

Incredibly well fed and watered, a few new Korean friends and a big bag of soy bean sauce the richer, we were accompanied back to the train station.  A few jokes were shared about how I looked like a bodyguard for the women accompanying me.  I love Korea.

In one incredibly eventful evening I feel my cultural horizons were expanded far more than at any point in my life so far and way beyond what I would have imagined less than a week beforehand.  After my first week I could have travelled home safe in the knowledge I had seen, eaten and experienced more than many of my friends ever will.  Every day I feel 100% vindicated in my decision to quit the first proper job I’ve ever had and exchange life in the North West of England for the Far East.  Whether it’s the change of scenery, pace or even just temperature I couldn’t be happier to be as far away from home as I’ve ever been and cannot wait for the next time I find myself thinking “oh Korea, whatever next?”

Oh…the culture shock?  Nothing more than the amazement of how awesome this country is.

I Know You Got Seoul

So after what seemed like an eternity of waiting and travelling I finally arrived in South Korea.  It still seems a little weird to be here, the obvious differences between here and home seem to be preventing it sinking in to any great degree.  Consider this the start of a change of direction for my posts.  For a while at least we shall put the gripes on the back burner and focus on my awesome adventures in Asia.

Somehow I’d failed to appreciate how far 6, 500 miles is and how long 28 hours is.  Not sure how, but I did and so I wasn’t too fussed about the journey I was about to undertake until just after I checked in and realised that I had 3 hours left until my plane took off and I was already bored.  Having never flown by myself before I realised at this point that I had quite a challenge ahead to stay occupied.  I thought it might be a good opportunity to spend a bit of time inside my own head but when all I could think was “bored, bored, bored”, I wasn’t exactly the best company.

Still, two flights and a stopover in the phenomenally warm and busy Middle East, I arrived in one piece.  Now came the tricky bit, getting a train the entire length of a country whose language I have a command of sufficient enough to demand Frosties and squid.  Apparently once at the airport all I had to do was get someone’s attention and say “Seoul” until I was kindly pointed in the right direction.  I didn’t have total faith in this plan and couldn’t help but think that I would be wandering round yelling Seoul so much people would start to think that I was the caucasian second coming of James Brown.

“I gat get da traaaaaiiin….huh!”

Lo and behold I did eventually make it to the city I’d heard so much about but never imagined I would ever see content in the knowledge that I was a mere 3 hours away from my final destination.  A tad more awkward battles with language barriers and a bit of help from some lovely locals I got settled in on the most comfortable train I’ve ever been on.  Leg room and seats that leant back almost enough that they may be described as “pimp”.

The shortest of all of my journeys of the previous two days brought more cultural differences to the fore.  Every time one of the train staff entered or left the carriage they would face all the passengers and bow.  The first time I saw the ticket inspector do it I honestly thought he was just rearranging himself but as he did it more and more I realised that this was just normal polite practice.  That or I really didn’t want to get too close to him.

As the countryside flew by in the night and I counted down the stations I knew it wouldn’t be long till I could get some food, rest and a hug.  I thought every station had to be mine, not least because I didn’t understand the announcements, but eventually it was and my mammoth journey came to an end with a delicious bowl of beef stew.  I’ve already had some amazing experiences in the two short weeks I’ve been here and I cannot wait to have many more over the next few months.

Anticipation, Aching Joints and Eighties Pop Classics

This weekend myself and my friends will all descend on Leeds for a weekend of sleeping on the floor, beer and a bit of sport and I cannot bloody wait.  Every year we do a football match between our old uni 5-a-side team and the team of the pub I used to work for.  No split loyalties, uni team all the way.  As such I decided to make sure that I’m in absolute peak condition for the day (my job finished a bit earlier than I was expecting so going to the gym twice a day seems like a good time killer).

With such a gruelling (self-imposed) schedule to adhere to over the last few weeks I’ve obviously needed some inspiration to keep going, keep my head down and pump my crazy legs.  I appear to have found my secret weapon although walking round the gym in small shorts listening to ‘Two Tribes’ does nothing to help the old gym stereotypes.  Does the trick though.  I just make sure the volume is turned down just in case anyone hears it.  Not as bad as the Sugababes remix I have admittedly.

For those of you not overly familiar with gyms who think that they’re full of enormous oiled men and tiny tanned women, you’re wrong.  Very wrong.  They’re full of weirdos.  Not just weirdos who spend most of their time there with a questionable taste in music and a dreadful moustache they’re growing…just…because.  In an entirely different way I’ve spent most of my time there recently so have encountered a lot of the oddballs it has the pleasure of listing amongst the membership.  Sure there’s the guy who wears a sweater vest and talks to himself, the very tall Scandinavian looking fellow who talks to himself, the Scottish guy with a perm who talks to himself and the parade of idiots in hats who talk to everyone but they’re small fry.

Yesterday I had to spend time with the meathead, tattooed wasak who, yep, you guessed it, talks to himself.  I decided to have a nice relaxing swim to break the routine and all was well.  Swim complete I treat myself to a steam and it was lovely, well, as lovely as awkwardly sitting in a room full of overweight, scantily clad, middle-aged men can be but it was quite steamy (literally) so you don’t have to worry about where to look.  Lovely, that is, until said wasak came in.  I’ve had to be around this clown before and it’s been uncomfortable.  Mutual nudity and vocal personality issues are an unsettling combination but with a few other people there I thought it might be alright.  Still wearing his cheap rosary beads over his tattoo of rosary beads (yep, double religion) he plonks himself down breathing so heavily he sounded in trouble.  My friend who needed medical attention after a half marathon wasn’t this tired so christ knows what he’d been doing.  When he began to undo his shorts I feared the worst.  This is a man who struts round the changing rooms naked flexing so I wouldn’t have put it past him to have ramped up the weird levels.  Indecent exposure avoided he then began to spit on his hands and then rub himself all over, repeatedly.  He did this to the extent that everyone got up and left.  I thought he’d twigged when he stopped so I thought I’d stick it out.  I like the steam room, why should I let Spitty McTosspot ruin it for me?  Well, then he decided that this was both the time and indeed the place to start working his abs and so I called time on my relaxation and replaced it with confusion, frustration and a long shower.  When I get out of the shower he’s there again, already in the changing rooms meaning he decided to forego an actual wash and stick to the hygiene ritual of a cat.

My bewilderment was relieved somewhat by the man who decided to brave the pool whilst wearing his wig.  I admire his dedication to swimming but you leave the hairpiece at home surely?  His steadfast refusal to go beneath the water and the incredible repellant powers of his oh so natural looking head of hair were a bit of a giveaway.  I was severely worried about bumping into it floating around the pool like the dead koala it was oh so brilliantly imitating.  I also couldn’t help but reword the Curtis Stigers song to become ‘Swimming With A Wig On’ and sing it for the rest of the day.  I still am in fact.

sometimes I wonder why I bother dragging myself to that dreadful place.  As excited as I am about the weekend, my knees ache and I’m not sure I can bear to look at another set of male genitalia.  Only a few days left though I guess.

Inevitability

Yep, another football post.  I’m not going to focus too much on the actual football side of things though, I’ve waffled on about these long enough in previous posts but don’t relax, there will be some.

Today Coventry City sealed their relegation from the Championship, drawing to a close months of speculation, suffering and expectation.  Next season will see the Sky Blues start life in the third tier of English football for the first time since 1964.  This is our second relegation in 11 years and we show no sign of turning it round.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though.  We’ll be forced to sell anybody with any hint of talent which might mean we have a few pennies to spend and it’s sure a lot easier to build a decent League One side than it is to make a team capable of staying the in the Championship, as we have oh so skillfully demonstrated.  So who knows, maybe next year we might manage something.  Not sure what yet but it has to be better than this year.  We even get another crack at silverware with the prestigious JPT.  I know, excited isn’t the word.

I said way back in August that this is where we would be at the end of the season and with the gusto we put into proving me right I’m surprised it took until the penultimate game to get there.  I’d been expecting this day for 9 months.  I came to terms with it way back on those sunny days last year, discussing our fortunes over the bar as I eked out my last days as a barman.  I knew what was coming and so the confirmation of my suspicions were by no means a surprise to me.  What was a surprise is that I wasn’t ready for it at all.

I’d checked the scores before I headed out to the gym.  I couldn’t follow the game any more than checking on my phone every few minutes so I saw no point hanging round waiting for the inevitable.  I arrived at the gym just as Final Score was starting, I knew that at that point we were down but I stood leaning against reception looking blankly on at the telly anyway, part of me still thinking we could do it.  I chatted with the guy behind the desk, even laughed about our situation and calamitous season.  I just let the minutes tick by and goal after goal be reported then I spotted that we had conceded.  Despite the fact that it didn’t matter my heart still sank.  It was then that it hit me that even though I had readied myself for it over the entire season, I still had some hope.

The minutes passed by and then the phrase I knew was going to be uttered floated out of the speakers and slapped me round the face; “it’s all over for the Sky Blues”.  This is what I hadn’t expected.  I felt a few tears form in my eyes and I had to walk away.  A gym is no place to show any emotion other than aggression, especially not kicking my heels Charlie Brown style.  I sloped off to the changing rooms and just sat there with a curious energy drink I got given as a weird leaving present from work.  If anyone would have said “it’s only a game” it would have been the last thing they ever said.  Well, rather the last thing they said to me that day as I probably would have just sworn at them under my breath and traipsed home in one heck of a grump.  Something you invest so much time, effort and loyalty into is never just a game.  It represents hope, escape and joy for billions of people.  Of course there’s a flip side and today I felt that awful reverse.  It seems so silly to the uninitiated and I totally understand that viewpoint but if you let it mean something it grabs you and never lets you go.

Yet again my emotions have proved unpredictable.  Whilst you can come to terms with the reality of things you can never plan your reactions and you may find yourself moping about a gym, slinking past stedheads and orange harlots.  I saw it all coming but still….it’s poop.  Bloody football.

Squeaky Bum Time

Today I attended my first Coventry game since the Boxing Day victory over Bristol City.  I was incredibly excited about the prospect.  Regardless of any wider implications I haven’t been to see my beloved Sky Blues for over three months so the game in itself was cause for anticipation, our perilous situation didn’t really hit me til we arrived at the ground far too early as usual.  I had taken a break from indulging my weird obsession with organised crime to check the league table and was bestowed with an odd sense of confidence, always a sign of impending disaster.  It revealed us to be sat just above the relegation zone, far from comfortable but clearly high enough to warrant a sense of “we should win this” (a mindset I have warned against in previous posts).

The visit of Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough (see what I did with the title?  Clever ay?) didn’t instill me with an overwhelming sense of dread and after our recent resurgence why would it?  Far from being the best team in the world I realise that form is a formidable ally and we inexplicably have it to spare.  Our Manchester based loanees have injected a new drive into our play and their, quite frankly, superior skill appears to have kick started a long overdue survival fight to the extent that we are, despite our lowly position, somewhat of a team to beat at the minute.

After donning my new retro jacket (genuine early nineties chic, thanks Bumface!) I headed into the stands to soak up the pre game atmosphere.  I have to admit I was swept along with the sound of Kashmir blasting over the sound system, despite the pretense this was actually an occasion, ninety minutes that may decide our season.  I don’t think it was until I took my seat that I realised what I may or may not be about to witness.  I’m not mental, I realise it was an insignificant clash at the bottom of the Championship that very few people care about and with, before kick off, six games to go nothing was going to be decided today but it was going to have an impact upon our fate in a few weeks.

The game started excellently.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable few minutes of concerted City pressure until Peterborough plucked an exquisite opener out of nowhere to dampen home spirits after only two minutes.  As I have done so many times before I settled into “here we go again” mode.  Pessimistic you may say, well, yes, yes it is.  I’ve supported my team for almost longer than I can remember and as eternal as my hope may spring, realism is never far behind.  Admirably however we put this wonder goal behind us and set to work saving our arses.  We made a jolly good show of it too.  At some point between December and now we have apparently learned how to pass the ball but also how to get into space.  I couldn’t believe I was watching the same team as I have been all these years.  We passed, to our own team, we moved, in a constructive manner, fabulous stuff and eventually, albeit thanks to a penalty that was never a penalty we were ahead.  It was at this point that, curiously we decided to sit back and play defensively, completely disregarding that previous half and hour of concerted pressure.  Not to worry, we got to half time with the advantage and I’d have taken that before kick off, or even two minutes after it.

The second half was clearly going to be more of the same, end to end stuff, top quality passing and totally worth the trip.  It got off to a good start with the chap in front of us being so keen to tip the remainder of his crisps into his mouth that he smacked his head against the railings, how could it go wrong from there?  Well, it didn’t.  Both sides kept up the great passing football and put on a thoroughly good show.  If anything Peterborough stepped it up a notch and made it more of a contest in the second forty-five.  It was, however, somewhat inevitable that this would lead to a goal at one end or the other and unfortunately it was the other.  Truthfully I would have taken a point before the game but having battled like we had it was a tad disappointing, although entirely deserved on their part.  When the ball hit the back of the net my heart sank.  Two months ago I’d convinced myself the game was up, that was it, we were gone.  If it was going to happen then just let it happen as fast as it could, I can’t handle another dog fight.  With the last few months this all went out the window.  Just last week we were ready to break out the cigars just because we got out of the bottom three.  It was this attitude I took into today’s match and that cigar was liberally pissed on with mere minutes left.

Having been to the pub all evening (blame that if this post makes no sense) I only just learned the Bristol City result and I must say, that’s where most of the squeaking came from.  We all agreed before the game that the next two matches for each of the clubs could decide our season and they still will, I just rather hoped that it would be far more comfortable on our part.  We head to Ashton Gate on Monday and things are rather tense on both sides.  I still believe that the winner of that game will be the ones to boast Championship status next season but I didn’t think that it would be as close as it is at this point.  If we would have held on for ten minutes more the complexion of the next bout would be entirely different but we didn’t and it isn’t.  We fight our entire season on Monday afternoon.  All forty games to that point may count for nought if we can’t beat the Robins.  Alternatively, all forty games may be worth all the heartache if we do.  The rollercoaster that has been this season makes it almost pointless to speculate on the outcome of the game but at the same that’s what makes it so tantalising.  Six pointer is an all too familiar phrase but what else would you use to apply to this?  That’s exactly what it is.  Someone will get hurt after Monday, not on Monday but as a direct result.  As much as I hope it isn’t us I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody.  This really is crunch time.  This is squeaky bum time.

Pasties, Politics and Publicity Stunts

Like many people I watched the recent unfolding of Pastygate with great intrigue.  The news that the government are considering putting up tax on hot food that would hit pasty lovers hard.  On a not very interesting side note, I had a pasty today and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was feeling a little delicate.

Since the disastrous budget, the Tories seem to have made gaffe after gaffe and so they are in some desperate need of trying to shake the age-old image of being out of touch toffs.  Where do politicians turn to leech popularity?  Celebrities of course.  This time, curiously, someone suggested Shaun Ryder.

I love Shaun Ryder, his infamous antics would probably make for an interesting listening and I enjoy his music.  If tickets to the Mondays weren’t so steep I’d go and see them in a few months time but with saving up for travelling and what have you, that idea had to be put to bed.

You can see the logic of this move, get a man who embodies the rock n roll lifestyle who won’t scare the kids like Keith Richards and get him to plug your cause.  We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again so it’s no major surprise I guess.

Ryder isn’t the only one involved though.  Other celebrities such as Claudia Winkleman, David Tennant and the painfully unfunny David Walliams have been roped in to peddle the big lie.

Ryder’s first move was to promote a tshirt with Dave’s smug face tucking into a pasty accompanied by the words “We’re All Eating This Together”.  A clever play on George Osbourne’s recent quote but rather than talking about pasties, it seems more apt to assume that “this” is a load of bullshit and I, for one, don’t fancy eating it.

We’re not all in anything together.  More and more of us are becoming left to deal with “it” but with the help of this Tory government rolling back the years of social progress, the toffs are being spared the cold grip of reality.  They are systematically destroying education, health and any other public right we’ve enjoyed for so many years.  This business over the pasty affair is tedious and clearly isn’t a class issue.  However, what it has done is got people talking about class again and to realise that it is still very much a real divisive force in this country.  I was discussing the other day with my Cool Aunt Judi this matter and we agreed that now, more than any time in recent memory, the gap between those at the top and everyone else is widening with alarming speed.  Despite being an educated man (officially, I still let myself down every now and again.  I somehow hit myself in the unmentionables earlier, I didn’t really need that) I find myself in the new working class, a recent development where those who slipped through the net find themselves performing menial tasks, left behind because I don’t have the right tie.

It’s easy to think that class isn’t an issue any more, that we rid ourselves of that problem and that we live in a wonderful, level society but it simply isn’t true.  Stories like this make class at the forefront of politics and it’s a battle the Tories are doomed to lose time and time again.  They are out of touch, elitist toffs and everyone can see it.  They’re now encasing this bitter truth in pastry and cramming it right down our throats.  It’s been obvious since the outset but people just seemed to sleep walk through it with bewildering levels of apathy.  It’s a shame that it took such a ludicrous story to wake people up but at least it has and now maybe people won’t eat this anymore.

The celebrity shimmer only further enhances the toffee nosed reputation of the government.  It doesn’t fool anyone.  Paying shed loads of money to get celebrities to sing your praises doesn’t exactly scream in touch.  Much like all other attempts at looking down with the kids,  this one will fizzle out in no time when people get sick of convulsing in sheer embarrassment at watching over weight, middle-aged men in suits listening to some phat beats.  As a lad I spoke to the other day said, you can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter but we all know what lies underneath.

70 days…

It’s times like this that it isn’t so easy.  Sitting alone, staring hopelessly at another week of tedious employment and trying desperately to remember where you put your slippers.  Routine is your best friend, spare time your mortal enemy.  Still, stiff upper lip and all that.

Every afternoon I shuffle into the all too predictable melancholy of early evening, I’m a creature with some rubbish habits.  For now, any distance may as well be a million miles, any time a million years.

A picture can say a lot, maybe a thousand words, maybe more, maybe it’s all just implied but at least a handful appear to be making their way here.  There’s one particular picture that speaks volumes to me.  It sits on my bedside table nestled between all manner of items I appear to collect throughout the day.  In it I see two faces, both very familiar to me.  One belongs to the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, the other to the luckiest man there ever was.  Every night I turn to my side and stare into her enchanting eyes and all of a sudden nothing matters any more.  All of my worries disappear, my mood lifts immeasurably and I lose all track of time.  Every night I fall in love all over again.

It’s times like this that all I can do is smile and sigh contentedly.  Every night means I can cross off another day and there’s thankfully fewer and fewer to go.

Every night I wish the beautiful woman good night and return her mesmerising smile, convinced that I am the luckiest man there ever was.

Good night, baby.  I promise to dream about you.