Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Tag: England

RIP: The Banks of England

Tuesday, 12 February, 2019

The great Gordon Banks, a World Cup winner with England in 1966 whose plunging, swiveling save to deny Brazil’s Pelé in the 1970 World Cup is remembered as one of the greatest moments of goalkeeping, has died aged 81. RIP.

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” — William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


Brexit and backstop, Britain and Ireland

Tuesday, 15 January, 2019

“The misunderstandings are too many,” noted the Irish writer Frank O’Connor, and he was convinced of where the blame lay. “Ultimately, perhaps, all the misunderstandings can be traced to sixty miles of salt water which stretches between Britain and Ireland.”

O’Connor was writing in in Cork in 1940 and, one hundred years earlier, Mr and Mrs Samuel Hall embarked upon their three-volume opus Ireland, its Scenery, Character, etc. Their journey, as we say today, began with a purgatorial crossing to Cork, and their thoughts pre-echoed those of O’Connor:

“It was not alone the miserable paucity of accommodation and utter indifference to the comfort of the passengers that made the voyage an intolerable evil. It was once our lot to pass a month between the ports of Bristol and Cork; putting back, every now and then, to the wretched village of Pill, and not daring to leave it even for an hour, lest the wind should change and the packet weigh anchor.

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that comparatively little intercourse existed between the two countries or that England and Ireland were almost as much strangers to each other as if the channel that divided them had been actually impassable.”

The “wretched village of Pill” mentioned by the Halls there is actually Pillgwenlly, which is now a parish in the Welsh city of Newport. And Wales, as we know, voted for Brexit. The misunderstandings are too many.


Dier and football’s nominative determinism

Wednesday, 5 December, 2018

Following Arsenal’s spectacular 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, one expected Arseblog to react euphorically, and that’s exactly what happened on Monday. Intro snippet: “I think the fact that I’ve tried — and failed — with about six different opening lines to this blog is the best illustration of how I’m feeling this morning. As I said in yesterday’s preview, some games are more than just three points and yesterday’s 4-2 win over Sp*rs was 100% one of those. Yes, we won. Yes, we took three points. Yes, we went ahead of them in the table. But it felt like all of that and more, as a quite extraordinary afternoon played out at the Emirates.”

Apart from the euphoria, there’s vitriol and much of it is directed at the Spurs defender and England midfielder, Eric Dier. This is good:

“Dier, football’s greatest example of nominative determinism since Alf Crap, shushed the Arsenal fans, and you knew something was stirring within the Arsenal camp when the celebrations sparked a bit of handbags. Stephan Lichtsteiner was there (of course) and Matteo Guendouzi ran down the line to get hold of Dele Alli. Lovely stuff really, because it was different, it spoke to an attitude within this squad that hasn’t always been present — even in this particular fixture. Dier apparently told Aaron Ramsey, also involved, to ‘sit back down’, which he did … temporarily.

… We might have been punished after a Bellerin mistake, but Leno saved from Son who was probably thinking about how to dive before he shot and thus didn’t find the accuracy he needed, and then Ramsey won the ball in their half and fed Lacacazette. He still had a bit to do, but cut inside and his left-footed shot deflected off Dier and into the bottom corner off the post. Shhhhh that you balloon-headed wankpot. YOU sit down, eh?!”

Football. It’s all about passion. Innit?


The known unknown Plantagenet House of Saud

Friday, 19 October, 2018

What Do We Really Know about Saudi Arabia? That’s the question posed by Kevin D. Williamson over at National Review. Good line: “It’s one of the few extant monarchies that seem serious about keeping the mon in their archy.”

Good point: “Khashoggi wasn’t just a troublesome journalist; he was, as the New York Times puts it, a man who had had ‘a successful career as an adviser to and unofficial spokesman for the royal family of Saudi Arabia.’ A businessman who has spent many years working in the Middle East says: ‘I don’t think the Saudis would send 15 assassins to chop up a ‘mere’ journalist, but they would send 15 assassins to settle some internecine family feud.’ He also cautions that the Middle Eastern tendency to resort to conspiracy theories to explain complicated relationships is likely to muddy the water.”

Williams says this GUBU (Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre, Unprecedented) Saudi spectacle is “a platinum-plated Shakespearean succession drama in the desert, with schisms within the royal family and between the royal family proper and other centers of power.” Sadly, the Saudi’s don’t have a Shakespeare, but neither does the rest of the world right now. Still, the template is there because the 14 Plantagenet monarchs who ruled England from 1154 to 1485 inspired Shakespeare to write eight “Plantagenet plays,” from Richard II to Richard III via the two parts of Henry IV, Henry V, and the three parts of Henry VI. In Plantagenet England, murder was the order of the day, and it’s no different today in the land ruled by the House of Saud.


And then there were six

Saturday, 7 July, 2018

The tournament that began on 14 June with 32 teams is nearing its end on 15 July, but before we reach to the World Cup Final the quarter finals have to be sorted and they began yesterday and finish today. First, a recap.

True to our prediction, France defeated Uruguay in what was an uninspiring affair marked by the absence of the South American’s talismanic striker Cavani and a terrible error by their keeper, Muslera. Adios, Uruguay! What we didn’t predict, however, was Belgium beating Brazil. Big shock, that. The story, here, too, was very much one of striker and keeper, with the Brazilian star Neymar being denied decisively by the Belgian goaltender Courtois. Adeus, Seleção!

And, now, to today’s quarter finals. Candidates: England, Sweden, Croatia and Russia.

England vs. Sweden, Samara. Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (The Netherlands). It’s Captain Kane against the Nordic Giants. The big backs of Sweden are specialists in ensuring that goals are not given away and Harry Kane is all about bagging goals. So, can England figure out a way past the obstacle course, or are they doomed to run and run against the yellow-blue wall until exhausted? On the way to this appointment in Samara, England survived Colombia, while Sweden subdued Switzerland. Both games gave pundits plenty to chew on and our conclusion is that it will be tactical and it will be tough, but football will out. Verdict: England by a foot.

Croatia vs. Russia, Sochi. Referee: Sandro Ricci (Brazil). Croatia have the talent but Russia have the drugs, as one wag put it. The Croats beat Nigeria 2-0, thrashed Argentina 3-0, and crafted a 2-1 win over Iceland to clinch first place in Group D. But they looked ragged grinding out a 1-1 draw with Denmark, to force the game to extra-time and penalties. Despite some wonderful saves by Kasper Schmeichel, Croatia pulled off the win and now face the home side. Anything could happen in the heat and humidity of Sochi. Verdict: Croatia by an inch.

World Cup England


George Ezra: No. 1 with a Shotgun

Tuesday, 3 July, 2018

Can the chart success of George Ezra be regarded as a good omen for England tonight in their World Cup contest with Columbia at the Sparktak Stadium in Moscow? Shotgun has become Ezra’s first number one single in the UK right in time for summer soccer celebrations. Hat tip to Ian, who expects, tonight.


Kane is able and quotable

Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

Although he’s a mere 24, the England captain Harry Kane has already a Brainy Quote page devoted to his wise sayings. Example: “Obviously, everyone’s different, but I love just settling down and having a barbecue with my friends at the house.”


Swift joke: Bankers and lawyers in hell

Monday, 27 November, 2017 0 Comments

On Thursday here, we celebrate the 350th anniversary of the birth of the satirist Jonathan Swift and on the same day we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the poet Patrick Kavanagh. Therefore, the daily posts this week will commemorate these two significant figures in global and Anglo-Irish letters. First up is Swift, the most influential political commentator of his time, in both England and Ireland. His writings include some of the greatest works of satire in the English language and his poems and pamphlets display an extraordinary versatility in a range of genres. But before we examine his legacy, let’s have one of his jokes.

Swift told the one about a friend of a friend, a struggling writer, who had six brothers — three of them bankers and three of them lawyers. They prospered, but the writer didn’t and he died young and in reduced circumstances. Still, he was a decent man and had never harmed a fly so the expectation was that he’d go straight to Heaven. Imagine, then, his shock upon arriving in Hell. It was, however, a clerical error and once the Satanists discovered the mistake, they transferred him right up to Heaven.

“What was it like in Hell?” asked the curious Saint Peter.

“Oh, it was just like being at home,” answered the writer. “You couldn’t get near the fire for bankers and lawyers.”


Gunn and Vuillard: Coffee people

Tuesday, 29 August, 2017 0 Comments

In a poem from his 1982 collection The Passages Of Joy, Thom Gunn declared: “I like loud music, bars, and boisterous men.” Gunn was born on this day in 1929 in Gravesend in Kent and died on 25 April 2004 in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. He moved from England to California in 1954 to live with his male lover and to immerse himself in San Francisco’s bath-house culture. Gay life, however, was not his sole poetic focus. Celebration, endurance, mortality and reading, in their broadest senses, were his themes. “Deep feeling doesn’t make for good poetry,” he said once. “A way with language would be a bit of help.”

Thom Gunn’s meditation on Deux femmes buvant leur café, a remarkable painting by Édouard Vuillard now housed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, is filled with the poet’s love of people and places and art and coffee.

Painting by Vuillard

Two dumpy women with buns were drinking coffee
In a narrow kitchen — at least I think a kitchen
And I think it was whitewashed, in spite of all the shade.
They were flat brown, they were as brown as coffee.
Wearing brown muslin? I really could not tell.
How I loved this painting, they had grown so old
That everything had got less complicated,
Brown clothes and shade in a sunken whitewashed kitchen.

But it’s not like that for me: age is not simpler
Or less enjoyable, not dark, not whitewashed.
The people sitting on the marble steps
Of the national gallery, people in the sunlight,
A party of handsome children eating lunch
And drinking chocolate milk, and a young woman
Whose t-shirt bears the defiant word WHATEVER,
And wrinkled folk with visored hats and cameras
Are vivid, they are not browned, not in the least,
But if they do not look like coffee they look
As pungent and startling as good strong coffee tastes,
Possibly mixed with chicory. And no cream.

Thom Gunn (1929 – 2004)

Vuillard


The dreary quarrels of Northern Ireland re-emerge

Wednesday, 11 January, 2017 0 Comments

In a time of global turbulence, when we should be focused on issues that will affect stability and prosperity, Northern Ireland threatens to divert attention with a crisis fueled by, well, fuel, and headlined “Cash for Ash”. The bizarre Renewable Heat Incentive scandal is exposing the old tribal antagonisms and the brittle peace is endangered. Nothing new, however. Let us pause for a moment and go back a century to Winston Churchill describing the aftermath of World War I:

“The position of countries has been violently altered. The modes of thought of men, the whole outlook on affairs, the grouping of parties, all have encountered violent and tremendous change in the deluge of the world. But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that have been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world.”

High Dive The integrity of that quarrel is central to the latest novel by Jonathan Lee. High Dive centres on an event that took place at the Grand Hotel in Brighton on 12 October 1984. Then, the Provisional IRA terrorists group attempted to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, who were staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party conference. Although Mrs Thatcher narrowly escaped injury, five people were killed including a Conservative MP, and 31 were injured, by the long-delay time bomb planted in the hotel by the IRA.

Jonathan Lee’s book doesn’t offer an analysis of violent Irish republicanism or Tory party politics, but it excels in describing the particulars of the English hospitality trade. Lee, like so many members of the writing class, harbours some sympathy for the “rebels”, but the reader should be aware that the characters in his novel are no idealists. More than three decades after the Brighton bombing, the antagonists of Northern Ireland have turned their dreary, squalid feud into an industry that supplies their claques with cash from ash and other combustibles. The integrity of their quarrel is endless.


Hodgson’s choices (end)

Tuesday, 28 June, 2016 0 Comments

This is the third and final post in a series about the choices made by the England manager Roy Hodgson during the course of his team’s erratic odyssey through the Euro 2016 tournament, from the opening shambles against Russia to last night’s humiliation at the hands of gallant Iceland. The post dated 12 June was scathing, while that of 17 June was positive, mainly. “Later, he brought on the gifted young Marcus Rashford,” we noted on 17 June and last night Hodgson waited until the 86th minute to take off a fatigued Wayne Rooney and replace him with the dynamic Rashford. Too late.

It wasn’t all the manager’s fault, of course. Many of his players served up truly shabby performances. Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Joe Hart, were especially awful throughout.

Roy Hodgson made baffling, damaging, wrong choices from the start to the finish of England’s tournament and must now make the right one. He’s yesterday’s man.

UPDATE: Roy Hodgson resigns after England lose to Iceland