19 September 2008


The Ryder Cup is underway. This competition is odd to me as I find myself strangely drawn to it, despite being totally devoid of any interest in golf.

Golf, along with rugby union, is a sporting blind spot for me. It seems to be one of those sports which should be simple, but is made far more complicated by its rules and scoring system. Essentially, getting 18 balls into 18 holes in fewer shots than your opponent shouldn't be hard to comprehend. But then bring up birdies, bogies, albatrosses, handicaps, pars - not to mention the rules on which clubs you can carry and what these implements are called - and it becomes much more complex.

Then you have, in the Ryder Cup, the concepts of foursomes and matchplay and holes being "halved" (educated guess: a tie), which seem to further confuse those as stupid as I. I'm not going to knock golf - I don't knock anybody's sport as it's as much someone's true love as the next person's pet hate, and I know how cross I get when somebody criticises football or devalues British sporting achievement. Indeed, there are bits about golf which almost make me think about taking it up - the fresh air, the gentler end of good exercise, the element of decorum, even pettier things like the smart attire. I may take it up when I retire - by then I might understand it more.

Meanwhile, I'll watch the Ryder Cup. I think I do this because it's a team event, rather than individuals going for one solitary prize. And any sporting success over the USA has to be good. I think I also have some attraction to it because the few golf moments I have in my mind's eye involve the Ryder Cup - Tony Jacklin's tears of joy, Bernhard Langer's agonising miss, the Americans celebrating too early, that Spanish bloke who wasn't Severiano Ballesteros doing a strange celebratory dance akin to that of a 50km walker about to topple.

So anyway, after all your foursomes and singles and, erm, birdies and bunkers, I hope Europe win. Not that if I watched the Ryder Cup with the sound turned down, I'd necessarily know.

17 September 2008

"Uniform's a drag, so says the SAG!"

Look at them. The most unruly bunch of children ever to empty an inkwell down a teacher's back, and yet most of them are wearing their school tie.

I was driving past my old school at chucking out time lately and noticed that the students were wearing a rather different school uniform to the one I was forced into 24 years ago.

The contrast is amazing. In 1984, I arrived for my first day in a shirt, school tie, school jumper and Farah slacks (though the all-important 'F' label on the back pocket was quickly cut off by Andrew Headley during the first textiles lesson).

We were allowed to wear either a blue shirt or a white shirt. The tie was compulsory. The jumper wasn't, but most kids had one of a sort, even if it wasn't the official one bearing the badge. Trousers had to be grey or navy blue, but not black. Skirts were (I assume, judging by my old photos) subjected to an identical colour restriction. The only mild concession was in footwear, with many kids choosing without fear of admonishment to wear trainers rather than something black, shiny and not covered in stripes. Girls could wear basic make-up and rings on their fingers but nothing more than studs in their ears.

Nowadays, there's a marked difference. For a start, the kids don't wear ties. The old school tie (light blue with thin, white diagonal stripes) is long gone. More bizarrely, they don't even wear shirts. A black polo shirt - ie, a T-shirt with a small collar and three buttons - is the standard piece of clothing, complete with the school logo. There is a sweatshirt version too - and if kids wear the sweatshire, they can't wear anything other than the polo shirt (and presumably, a vest if it's a bit parky) underneath.

When I was at the same school, polo shirts (always lacoste or Le Shark) were strictly forbidden. They were regarded as untidy by the authorities, even though the collar was more than adequate to hold up the tie. I recall one of my mates wearing such a polo shirt to school, with tie, and he received the bollocking of his life from Mr Cook, in front of the whole class (and numerous passing others) in a corridor outside one of the science labs. It was one of those classic bits of school overreaction - like those you got if you hadn't covered your exercise book in wallpaper properly, or had been spotted running down the corridor, or - the most heinous crime of them all - was carrying your sports bag over your shoulder. Oh, the trouble we'd get into. The lad who called one of our deputy headmasters a "SILLY ****" via very large white graffiti on the front of the school was barely punished more.

But now, the polo shirt is requisite. And it's black - the one colour which was resolutely banned when I was there. No black shirt, no black jumper, not even black trousers (or skirts) were permitted. The kids who went all Craig 'n' Rosie gothic at 15 were forever being sent home to change. There has been a change of headteacher since I left the sixth form in 1991, but nonetheless it was still the same head who imposed these sweeping changes to the school dress (as it was called) as the one who made sure teachers vehemently enforced the rules on shirts, ties and lack of black outfits.

I suspect they've done it because uniform is more and more expensive and the polo shirts represent a cheaper and simpler option while still maintaining the main purpose of uniforms - to make sure kids all look the same, irrespective of their background.

And I suppose even back in 1984 I was lucky with the uniform - when my brother pitched up three years earlier, he had to wear a blazer. I wouldn't wish a blazer on my worst enemy.

15 September 2008

Jolly good time had by all

Parked in Heworth.

Bought a cheap Metro return ticket into Newcastle.

Met like-minded individuals at Sports Bar, where cheap lager, wall-to-wall televisions and daytime strippers (of both genders) provided the pre-match entertainment.

Climbed 14 flights of stairs into the away section of St James Park.

Watched Hull City totally outplay "club in crisis" Newcastle United.


Got return Metro back to Heworth.

Was in Stockport to get ready for the club night by 8.30pm, grinning.

Had a top night at the wheels.

Slept most of Sunday before watching the extended highlights on Football First.

Good weekend, that.