Thursday, September 10, 2009


It probably began with the quick glance to my right, which was rapidly followed by one of those, oh bollox moments. Don’t know about you but walking under ladders isn’t something I do. Whether I technically and actually… therefore physically… walked right under it is – immediately – open to debate…(but only) in my head.

Except, there it is, up-against scaffolding to my right – equals, I’ve (sort of, in a maddening head-fxxk manner) walked my walk… under it. Darn, that’s not good… ‘cos, I’m superstitious.

Reverse steps, cross street away from scaffolding and aforementioned ladder and take the long way around.

While superstitions are pretty bonkers in the main, I’d suggest most of us suffer (if that’s the right word) from them… so, consider these random selections; apparently, seeing an ambulance whizz by is terribly unlucky unless you either pinch your nose or hold your breath until… you spot a brown dog… Not good enough?

Ok, try these few then: If you say good-bye to a pal while standing on a bridge, you will never see one another again (scary monkeys); a knife received as a gift from a lover means that the relationship will shortly end (very scary monkeys – cue the Hitchcock directed Anthony Perkins shower scene); it’s bad luck to cut your fingernails on either a Friday or a Sunday damn, I’m pretty sure I clipped mine last Sunday morning); if you have mirrors in the house they should be covered during thunderstorms because – apparently – mirrors attract lightning… hmm, not sure I’ve ever believed that one.

The number thirteen, however, is a pretty good one… on streets in Florence, for instance, the Italians won’t use the obvious digit but employ… twelve and a half instead. Pretty cool, the Florentines.

On the other hand, combine the number and Friday and you’re in superstition heaven (or hell, dependant on your point of view). In days of long ago, Friday 13th was usually associated with the day set aside for public hangings – and, needless to say, there were (reputedly) thirteen steps leading to the scaffold up which the heavily manacled condemned trudged. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit, son… clunk, swish, snap… gonner.

Anyhow… my favourites are: it's bad luck to put a hat on a bed (actually, that I never do – the trilby and similar others reside elsewhere of a night); it is bad luck to light three gaspers with the same match (I always use a lighter and only smoke one at a time – yeah, ok, I know… I’m a walking health-hazard); if one’s right ear itches, according to myth, someone is speaking well of you (ok, but my right ear rarely itches, the last time was probably in the 20th century) and should you plant Rosemary (the herb that is) by your doorstep, it’ll keep witches out. Ahh… that’s good… but what if the witch is already in residence?

Be all of that as it may, I arrive at my destination having circum-navigated said ladder and join a short queue before the reception desk that is protected from wrong-doers, terrorists and sundry others of criminal-bent by a large sheet of plate glass.

The line moves forward slowly and… just as I am about state my name and the reason for my being there to the elderly, uniformed, gentleman manning said reception desk… when…

Now, I don’t know about you, but this little Voltaire on its grassy knoll, believes that should one be at the forefront of the (any) queue then its somewhat impolite to feel onself barged completely out of the way and to one side by an entire family – from Granny down to screeching babe-in-arms – who, patently, believe that – due to their skin colour – it is actually their right to be seen first.

Maybe I’m just a bit old-fashioned – but, here’s what I believe in:

Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; that until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes… everywhere is war… And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.

Words that began with H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I (from his 1963 speech to the United Nations) but which really came to global prominence via Bob Marley’s song War.

Makes you think… eh?

In any event, the lady clasping the squalling child to her stomach – itself the circumference of the New Delhi ring-road – led the charge past; husband (surgically attached to his BlackBerry) and three other children (each screeching into their own cell-phone) bumped and bored their way by in similar fashion while Granny rode shotgun.

The uniformed elderly gent shrugged an apology.

Ultimately, I’m shown to the lift… head upwards… find next reception desk… state business… fill in a few forms… ask for help on a couple of questions… complete forms… all is proceeding in the swimmiest of fashions until… in order to complete X and Y, they require photographs of self..

Ahh… I have come unprepared, I didn’t know this – though, if I’d thought about it a bit – given that pretty much everything nowadays needs to have mug-shots attached – I’d have done the deed at some accommodating chemist’s emporium along the way.

Clearly I’m not the first who hasn’t brought pictures so I’m directed in the general direction of where I can get this done… stride manfully up to the cabin… enter… close curtains… adjust glasses to read the instructions… read them twice so that I know what I’m doing… place loot in the slot which says insert money… press the green button… and…what the fxxk was… that..?

The photo-booth is bellowing at me.

It is shouting its instructions out… I cannot stop it, nor can I find the volume control that is set to eleven. Worse still, the process (which I’ve paid for) is ongoing… and this is a very talkative photo-booth… every few moments, fresh instructions are bawled at me at ear-piercing volume.

Humiliation trapped by the arms of technology… just a bit.

The sound of giggles and muffled guffaws can be plainly heard from outside the booth – the emporium into which I’ve entered is full… and clearly, the customers are relishing this unanticipated comedy act.

After what feels like an eternity, the photographs have been taken and the countdown in seconds from ten to nought (since the count-down is shouted out by the talking photo-booth) become the longest ten seconds I can remember.

Throughout, I’ve cowered behind the curtain and only emerge when I feel the photo-booth has (finally) shut up.

Trudge back to the counter and offer up the (red-faced and embarrassed) images; they need two not four – bollox, I pressed the wrong button. Enquire as to whether they know of another (perhaps quieter) photo-booth and am directed elsewhere.

Four hours later, I’m back to collect the documents and just as they’re dangled before me, the (unanticipated) price is proposed… shit, I could’ve flown most of the way to Jamaica for… that… amount.

Emerge into sunlight to be met by Camp Freddy… gay activists I have no problem with; straight, lesbian, sideways, gay, up & under, bi, lengthways, try-anything… whatever your sexual-calling… that’s all fine with me…

However, Camp Freddy and a lot of his equally mincing cohorts are brandishing clipboards, right under my nose and right outside where the shouting-photo-booth is… plus I’m hardly out the door and barely got a fag (sic) out of the packet before he, too, is yelling at me…

Down into the bowels of the earth to catch a train and… confronted by a bloke who’s playing Auld Lang Syne on a weird, two-stringed Chinese half-fiddle, with pre-recorded but louder than he is accompanying back-beats.

Oh no… this is drivel… time to consider other things…

The first six combatants for the SKY (cycling) team roster have been announced today; yet, sadly that’s been another own-goal by the field-marshall's of team SKY… its an International team so… why on earth just name the first of six British blokes who… when all is said and done… and, no matter their career history and how individually good they are… make an announcement which hardly sets the world alight?

We live on a global stage… equals… this is absolute crap.

Its public knowledge (rumour / conjecture with no public rebuttal) that a good deal of serious, international, stars have been signed so… why this tack / route?

Harsh words...?

Ok... check the web-sites for the daily nationals and those who’ll pick this up internationally… Guardian – tick, Torygraph – tick, Daily Stale – tick… BBC on-line sport - tick... and – sadly – that’s it. None of the other broadsheets (even) in the UK have picked this up.

On the one hand, SKY are finally (yet belatedly) entering the mainstream… (plus points)…on the other… they seem to be intent on shooting themselves in the foot by, initially… announcing – in the globally greater scheme of things – names that won't make editors sit up and take notice… (minus points).

In time to come, SKY will (I have no doubts) be a great team… they have fantastic resources… a superlative and proven director sportif in Scott Sunderland plus… great riders. So, once out on the road in 2010 and in competition, I’m convinced the results followed by the awareness will come.

Within the next twenty-four hours, news feeds say that another ten riders (most of whom have been rumoured without public rejection) will be announced… terrific… in the next however long, the remainder of the squad will be (apparently) announced. Again, terrific news…

However, unless there is a seriously big-hitter in there, an international name, then SKY… once again… will have self-imploded.

So much is expected… so much – so far – has yet to be delivered… And, without a shadow of a doubt, there are – currently and on the international stage – big question marks against the formation that carries so much hope for the ongoing globalisation and cleanliness of the sport.

This all… to this little Voltaire on its grassy knoll, looks like its being manipulated (not terribly well) by the senior-management above who, unhappily, believe in an attitude gained from recent past (we’re super successful – look at our Olympic results – so… fxxk you).


In any event, its also the day after the bizarre evening that was this years’ Mercury Prize. Sponsored… ‘cos that’s the name of the game… by BarclayCard.

And the winner is (was)… Speech Debelle…

20 thousand quid in her pocket and now lapping up the attention of GMTV, BBC and… eeek, C4 too.

And, provoking a fair old bit of debate in the process too.

The Mercury is… with no questions… the most prestigious of all the UK music prizes… after all, its for ‘album of the year’.

That’s nothing to do with album sales… the marketing campaign… the actual sales (download or otherwise)… the sleeve… the singles… the videos… Nope, just the music.

She’s won… yet… the question remains… was it really the ‘album of the year… the best music you’ll listen to that was released in GB and Ireland (the MMP's remit) in the last 12 months?

Do the judges – the twelve angry men and women festooned with canapés – believe that… ?

Was Speech Debelle’s record the best on offer..? Or was it an album that hit all the right notes with the judges and reflected all the current trends..?

Can’t imagine I’ll be listening to it in five years time… but hey… who am I to become exasperated at bickering-in-a-back-room – so-called – experts?

The enjoying of music is, after all, subjective and nothing other than an opinion.


Anonymous said...

Glorious stuff - your last four posts have seen a magnificent return; I've said it before and here it is again, when are you going to turn this all into a book?

Also, should add that, although a baseball man myself, the cycling references were surprisingly interesting.

Oh and the shouting photo-booth - I have to admit I burst out laughing when I got to that bit!

JD, Baltimore

Anonymous said...

Two exceedingly inciteful pieces on the new Sky team and, as a cycling fan, I'd say you've hit the nail pretty much on the head.

The manner in which the PR people at Sky have handled this has been woeful.

And, your suggestion that they're way behind in the PR wars with regard to Radio Shack et al is absolutely spot-on; they could certainly learn a thing or two from that camp.

Mind you, if ever you were on David Brailsford's Christmas card list - don't imagine you are now! From what I have heard of the man, he's not too keen on criticism.

I'm excited by the formation of the team and, it is looking good as it currently stands; I wonder who else will come on board... Cancelarra and Hammond do you think?

Pete Johnson, London.