1 August 2008

Great forgotten songs of the 1990s - #12

Inspired by Stuart Ian Burns, this one...

"You're not asking for the world; I'm not asking for perfection..."

30 July 2008

I hate the Premier League already

This is advanced hatred, by the way - the powers-that-be of English football's elite, into which Hull City were promoted on my 35th birthday in May (have I mentioned that anywhere before...?) may yet prove me wrong, but the likelihood is that they are all set to annoy quite a few fans within our city shortly.

Hull FC, one of our two rugby league sides, have reached the Challenge Cup final. It's at Wembley on Saturday August 30th. Even southerners who are only aware of rugby league because of its actual non-existence on their patch are aware of this showpiece event, if only because it's had national BBC coverage courtesy of Grandstand (RIP), Eddie Waring (RIP), Ray French (happy retirement) and now Dave Woods, for numerous decades.

The game is at Wembley - two visits for our city in the space of three months - and kicks off at 3pm.

At precisely the same time, Hull City play Wigan Athletic at home in the Premier League.

Many Hull FC fans are also fans of the Tigers and vice versa.

But the consensus is that the Premier League will not agree to move the kick off time of the Tigers' match to, say, midday so that City fans can watch the match at the KC, then beetle off to the pub or back home to be in time for the rugby on telly. Indeed, the Hull City chairman Paul Duffen has already said that essentially it's a fruitless exercise asking. And yet the identity of our opponents and their town's own rugby league heritage suggests that getting consent from them wouldn't pose a problem.

There can be a sticky relationship between Hull FC and Hull City, with almost as much rivalry between the two sports in Hull existing as there is within the oval ball game itself between Hull FC and our other rugby league side, Hull Kingston Rovers. Whenever there is violence at Hull FC games, and it does happen despite what the most extreme of rosily-tinted rugger apologists will tell you, it's blamed on "interloping" or "incognito" Hull City fans. Which is bollocks, frankly.

But the fact remains that a good chunk of people in a big sporting city which has had some unprecedented success in both sports will miss out on one of the two occasions. Hull City versus Wigan Athletic isn't a massive occasion in the grand scheme of the season ahead, but it is still only our second ever home game in the Premier League and those who also bleed black and white will want to watch it, especially if we happen to have made a half-decent start in our previous two matches against Fulham at home and Blackburn away.

My guess is that even many rugby-hating City fans will also fancy watching the Challenge Cup final too, if only out of idle curiosity or a rather cynical desire to watch men in black and white cry in defeat.

If Hull City don't make an application, then the onus isn't on the Premier League to switch the kick off time. But even if they do, I fear it will fall on very deaf ears. And sport in Hull is, consequentially, the loser.

29 July 2008

D - I - S - M - I - S - S - E - D

I like Carol Vorderman very much, but this story about her ill-treatment over leaving Countdown is a bit overblown, to say the least.

The brain-dead Daily Mirror (we get it in the office, I didn't buy it) had Rick Wakeman, Esther Rantzen and the unspeakable Sian "Churchill ads" Lloyd, a woman beyond hateful, all defending Carol as if she were some great heroine of truth and goodness whose departure from a light-hearted parlour game somehow represents idealogical heresy.

Those who say she should have learned to struggle by on a hundred grand a year are missing the point. Anyway, she'll have overheads to reflect a much bigger salary so the salary cut issue is actually relevant, even if the figures involved represent a mere dream to most of us.

Ultimately, she's lost her job, and that's sad. But it happens to far more people on lower salaries, with lower profiles and with no column inches full of sub-celeb "mates" saying how appalling it all is really.

She can return to First Plus if things get desperate (to advertise them, not get a loan, I should add). But it's not as if she won't be off our screens for long; she's a high-ranking television presenter who happens to tick most boxes - looks, intellect, experience and a mucky laugh. We need not weep for her.

Footnote: This think-piece on Ms Vorderperson's career contains two celebrity spelling mistakes, paid for by our licence fees. Can you spot them?

Dismay make you angry

Can I recommend this blog? It's new, he's angry and I like it.

28 July 2008

Missing, presumed annoyed, somewhere near Newark

Oh, Bright Ambassador, wherefore art thou?

Given that BA used this pic of Reggie as his profile shot, I'm considering taking a hunt for discarded socks on the beach. Problem is, Newark is so central that he could choose literally any beach in England. Curses.

Hurry back.

27 July 2008

Unnatural rabbitat

This is my 200th post. Hurray!

Right, now that deeply unfascinating milestone is done with, I'll move on.

Took the dogs round our playing field yesterday. Like seemingly everybody else, we've had temperatures hitting the late 20s in celsius of late, coinciding nicely with a plague of beetles landing all over your skin and clothing and a plague of schoolchildren emptying the playground litter bin in one of the goalmouths for, no doubt, a 'laugh'.

There's a nice retired couple who live in one of the smart bungalows which backs on to the far end of the field. As a consequence, they have a garden gate which just opens out on to the field itself. They own no dogs of their own, but are often daytime chaperones to the mutts of their offspring, including a podgy and rather gruff bulldog called Murphy.

They always leave water in a dog bowl outside their gate for passing pets to slurp from as they seek to cool and refresh themselves during their exercise. This is something for which the Bassets are always very grateful, and they know exactly where to find it if I've let them off the lead and we're heading in that general direction.

Unfortunately, they are also prone to leaving food out there. However well intentioned that is, it causes a problem for dog owners like me. Stale brown bread for the birds never gets anywhere near a beak, because a gluttonous pooch will vacuum clean that section of field very swiftly. This lady has also thrown left over cooked chicken on to the field and dogs, including mine, have got to it first.

I understand that any meat left out there is intended for the small band of foxes we apparently have in our village (though on my frequent late night walks, sometimes post-midnight, with the Bassets, I've never seen a fox, only its excrement). Foxes may get the meat, dogs may get it too. Fine. If it's cooked, then I can't complain too much - dogs by definition are eating machines and it's not like grandma giving a child a Curly Wurly just an hour before mum is due to put their tea on the table.

My problem is that it also attracts rats. Unlike the enigmatic fox, I have seen the evidence of our large rat population in our village. Being just outside Hull, the village was one of the worst hit by those dreadful floods - you know, the ones last summer that were worse than those down south a fortnight later but got half the coverage and sympathy - and one of the many stark consequences were the number of very, very drowned rats which were washed out of the sewers and into the view of us all. Penny, on one walk through the puddles, picked one up - it was the most disgusting thing she's ever done and, as a dog with a 'finders keepers' attitude and a rather slipshod approach to hygiene, that's saying something. Fortunately, even she realised after holding this saturated rodent for a few moments that it was a rather vile thing to undertake and she quickly dropped it. Me shouting at her from the other end of the field may have helped too, though it often doesn't.

So, the birds don't get the bread and the foxes don't get the meat. Passing dogs may get some of it, but rats will certainly get anything left overnight. And yesterday, in the baking sunshine, I walked past this retired couple's house and suddenly, Penny and Bentley were having a tug o' war with something.

"What have you two got?" I said, mock-playfully and resignedly. Then I looked closer.

It was a rabbit.

Now, we have loads of rabbits round the fields. The dogs can smell them out - their tracing heritage thanks to those wonderful, idiosyncratic large ears remains intact, even though they haven't the pace to actually catch one of the things (they've barely got the pace to catch me) - and they do often trail the scent of bunny across our open fields when I let them loose, even though they've never actually seen one.

But this was a rabbit that had already been killed, skinned, displayed, purchased, refrigerated and possibly frozen and thawed. And then thrown out on to the playing field.

A raw, possibly half frozen, rabbit.

Well, I went berserk.

What didn't help was that Penny and Bentley were on an adjoining lead. This means I only hold three leads instead of four, making tangling a little easier to remedy. Their lead has two chokers from its hook and then each end attaches to their collars.

So I had two Bassets, rendered almost inseparable by their lead, playing tug o' war with an uncooked rabbit.

The retired couple were in, and their two grown-up daughters were visiting. They heard a mild commotion, came to the gate to investigate and found me trying to separate two dogs who had simultaneously discovered a dead, skinned, meaty rabbit.

I attached Ruby and Boris - the latter of whom was deeply upset that he hadn't discovered this dodgy treat for himself - to the gate via their leads and then set to work on the other two. The only way I could get them off each other was to put my foot between their noses and right through the rabbit, so it split in two and they got their half each.

Yuk. Not altogether pleasant.

Then I released Penny from her collar so I could work on one dog at a time. With Bentley, a passive, gentle dog when it comes to persuading that he should let go of interesting things (by comparison to Penny, anyway), I put my hand in one of my spare poobags, in order to have a better grip on this slimy, slippery, bloody and deeply unappetising piece of rabbit, and then took hold of the large lump of carcass jutting from the side of his mouth. I then pulled and pulled and he let go quite quickly. He seemed content, and trotted over to the gate to join Ruby for a cooling drink.

By now, the daughters had realised I wasn't happy and also that I needed some assistance, so they had found a large kitchen roll. I emptied Bentley's catch into the roll and then, still with the bag over my hand, went after Penny.

Naturally, she'd buggered off 50 yards or so to chomp on her illicit catch undisturbed.

What followed was a good ten minutes of cajoling, warning, pulling and growling (from both of us, in a way) until I could stand her stubbornness and dental power no more and gave the rabbit leftover a full yank, via the strength of an averagely-muscled 6ft-plus, 14-stone human male.

She let go. She was not happy. But she didn't have a pop, which she is prone to do in her charmingly obstinate Basset ways when you try to remove something inappropriate from her clutches, prior to getting down on her haunches as if to say "sorry" really quickly and meaningfully. I emptied the last bit of rabbit into the kitchen roll.

Then the inquest began. I like this retired couple, and I held back because they are so welcoming whenever we walk past their back gate, but I had to make it clear that throwing food, of any type, on to a playing field (which was not theirs to throw stuff on to anyway) was Not A Good Idea. I explained the rats. I explained that hounds are particularly prone to bloat and other fatal ailments caused by unfamiliar or unprepared food. I explained that a full, skinned, raw rabbit, chucked on to a field populated by children, on a Saturday, in the middle of the summer holidays and in temperatures pushing 30 celsius, was not a sound thing to do. I asked them to stop.

The lady and her daughters were a little argumentative, but apologetic too. They did what all women would do in this situation.

They blamed the man of the house.

He was sitting in a deckchair, grinning and waving, utterly oblivious.

The dogs were given rabbit-flavoured Pedigree Chum that evening.