Friday, 30 September 2011

Things I like.... a few in detail.

I did a blog post a while back saying things I love, to counter this utterly outrageous view others have of me that I’m some sort of permanently angry anti-social person with a severely limited emotional capacity and a penchant for making other people miserable.  Firstly I’m not permanently angry, I didn’t realise being angry 85% of the time counted as all these days, (no wonder GCSE Maths is a joke.) and secondly there is not one mention in that of my hilarious jokes, rapier sharp wit, charm and good looks. Disgraceful.

As with most of the introductions to my blog posts, I digress. What this blog post is about is to further expand on things I love and that make me happy when I see/eat/drink/do/play/whatever them, before someone in my life hacks me off. Again.
This is a bloody unpopular one. It is an activity many hate, as it involves physical effort. Yet a load of people seem happy enough to go to the gym and say “Yeah. I did about 10 miles and repped x kgs in the gym! RIPPED!” or “Ow, my legs hurt from the gym” (Which also annoys me, why go to the gym voluntarily and moan about it!? But anyway.) Yet one mention of hiking and it’s “Why would you want to do that!?” “You’re mad son” “Hiking’s gay” “Too much effort” “Teenagers hike!?” et cetera.
Nothing better than donning my recognisable mountain green Berghaus walking coat, my prized Berghaus Explorer GTX’s and my Bridgedale walking socks (I included the Bridgedales in case I was accused of plugging Berghaus. No way would I, they don’t pay enough.) and going on a bloody good ramble. Being alone is optional, but always good to have someone to talk to whilst walking, to consult maps with, and of course (in, I stress, extreme circumstances) to eat.

If it wasn’t for mildly dodgy ankle, I would probably do it every month. Sadly, the occasions don’t rise (wahey!) to the fore enough.

If you’re not a fan of hiking, or aren’t sure about it, man up and do it. No matter the physical pain you encounter, there are answers for that. Pain is temporary, glory is forever. Pain is weakness leaving the body. Hiking develops your body and soul. Embrace the pain. Go too slow and feed the crows. These are just a few of the slogans I would be shouting at you should you attempt hiking with me and you started to complain about it. If you love to hike, you I will probably like.

Another one people hate. Because of Marmite. Twiglets are generally demonised in the media, by the public and by tourists. You’d think they’d actually killed someone the amount people hate them. Personally I love them. I could eat nothing but them all day. In fact on a few days off work, I actually have. They’re delicious, and get nowhere near the level of love they deserve. A nickname at school I had that wasn’t Postman Twat (on account of blue trousers I wore in once) or Falcon (a version of my surname) was Twiglet, on account of my slim, tall physique and my love of the Marmite coated wheaty sticks I ate.

Now, I’m not a man who wears a hat a lot. In fact I seldom wear a hat. I don’t really suit most hats. I look even more of a moron than normal in hats. However there is an exception to most rules, and this exception is in the form of a rather nice suede leather South African bush hat I happen to own and indeed wear in the great outdoors. In my head I look like an intrepid South African gamekeeper wielding a Kalashnikov and smoking a pipe. In reality I look like a grinning idiot wearing a hat. But for once, I don’t care. And its an amazing hat. Everyone should have one.

Sounds a strange one, considering the hideous costs driving generally incurs. Fuel literally costs and arm and a leg, you sometimes even have to prostitute yourself to fill your tank. (So to speak.) Hell, MOT, road tax, insurance you could rob a few banks and struggle to pay! It’s an expensive way of life. However. When you’ve got an open road ahead of you, and a CD you love in the disk player, the windows rolled down and the system up, on the way to something you are looking forward to, there are few better feelings than that.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

We're Trying Without Wings

Ok, firstly apologies for the title/memories of appalling music - I had to find a snappy title. Secondly for the literary inaccuracy... we aren't literally ( (c) J. Redknapp) without wing(er)s, but sometimes it feels like we're playing with dead weights on the wing... anyway I digress.

Now, it’s not been an amazing start to the season… we could have done a lot better, but we could have done a lot worse. That discussion is not for this day. The key issue at the club right now, for me, is the lack of impact from the wing.

Last season was very promising for Albrighton, and with the departures of the entire (bar him) wing contingent, now was the season for him to really come to the fore and establish his place in the team – and unfortunately for him, and for us, he hasn’t.

 In fact whilst it looked last season like Barry Bannan’s Villa career may be slipping away and Albrighton’s taking off, there has been a dramatic reversal. All of a sudden, Barry is the magic man, and Albrighton’s introductions (as heard by myself against Newcastle and QPR, as well as 20 minutes into the game v Bolton) are being greeted with groans. And their respective performances on the pitch this season reflect this, with QPR for example, Albrighton’s contributions were giving away a silly free-kick, not squaring a ball across to the advancing Weimann for a good attempt on goal (Instead going for personal glory, failing spectacularly at that), and getting Armand Traore sent off.  Although to be fair he ddn’t have that many minutes on the pitch. Bannan’s was a sprightly performance with delightful passing, the touch of a magician at times, confidence on the ball, testing the keeper, and naturally, netting the penalty which gave Villa the lead.
Albrighton needs to snap out of the slump he’s in – it’s counter-productive for the club and for him. This is a task for Albrighton, McLeish, the staff and his teammates. Albrighton must be flowing with confidence again, like he was when he burst in last season. It is the worst possible timing for both wingers to be so short of form and confidence when Villa desperately need them to replace Young and Downing. This has also reflected on Bent, who  although has had a groin strain and not been 100%, he has had limited supply from said wingers, as well as not being up to standard this season. So Charles, Marc, please snap out of it. Get into training early every week and just practice practice practice. Get yourselves into the right frame of mind, get smiles on faces, and for McGrath’s sake repay some of the fans who placed their faith in you with some very good, positive play (and maybe a few goals/assists) vs. Wigan. Should you both play.
On that note, Barry Bannan has been declared Villa’s Player of the Month, and richly deserved. Gabby Agbonlahor and Shay Given are the only two players for me who have been better than Bannan this season. Maybe Dunne as well.

Certainly things are not doom and gloom, but three points really really really is necessary this weekend, so PLEASE you Villa boys – go out there, put in a tremendous performance, win by a comfortable margin, and above all, give yourselves confidence before we head off to the Etihad Stadium/Eastlands/City of Manchester Stadium/whatever the hell it’s called, because we’re going to need to show our teeth when we play Man City. I want passion in that game. I want no fear from us whatsoever. I want the Man City players glancing uncomfortably at our players. I want Sergio AgΓΌero saying “Richard Dunne!? FUCK THAT! I’m not going on the pitch! You can’t make me Roberto! What!? No! Look at him! I’m not going! Raarrgh!”. Above all, I don’t want a repeat of the shambles last year up there.
Anyway, Wigan first. Let’s break the habit of a lifetime and actually beat the mothers at home. Come on you lions! UTV.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Bella Italia

Well, it’s certainly been a while since I posted on here. I’m sure you’ve all missed the cutting edge insight on the aspects of my utterly thrilling life, including such highlights as “Why I hate shoes” “”Why Chinese food is vile” and who can forget the smash hit “My mother thinks I’ll be the subject of a court appearance”.

Still, beggars can’t be choosers, however choosers can be beggars, as no doubt you’ll be begging for some sane ramblings after you’ve chosen to read this.

But I digress. Onto the subject. I visited Italy on holiday. Surprisingly this was my first visit to the beautiful country, but I assure you, I endeavour with all my heart and soul not to make it my last also. That’s “It was well good and I wanna go back” for those not reading in hyperbole.

We set off from Heston Travelodge (recommended, I might add, not a bad place for a Travelodge)  at a reasonable hour…. If you’re a miner. On the night shift. It was 4 bloody AM and I’d had about 3 hours sleep tops. I was grumpy even by my standards, tired, hungry, and ready to explode at any moment. But we got to Terminal 5, they didn’t lose our bags, I hobbled through the scanners holding up the jeans I was wearing (in my haste to pack the night before last I had put my father’s second pair of jeans in my night bag instead of my own, meaning I needed a belt to stop them collapsing. (My waist is 8 inches less than that of my father.) Luckily I managed to get the belt back on pronto so a disturbance was prevented and the tiny shreds of dignity I do have were preserved.

The flight was uneventful and even more boring than my normal life, although to my credit I did manage to get one of my sisters and my brother humming “Ride of the Valkyries” whenever we banked.

We landed at Fiumicino (Leonardo Da Vinci) Airport and I decided to try out my Italian phrases to the passport control. However “I tuoi occhi sono bellissimi” (You have such beautiful eyes) was met with a balefully icy glare and a very impatient “get out of the way Englishman and let me do my job” wave. We then waited by the baggage carousel for exactly 50 minutes as the Italians spectacularly failed to do their job competently. We made it out of the airport eventually, and got a taxi to our residence. As soon as we stepped into the Roman air I immediately felt my skin burning, it was 36 degrees Celsius. Up where we were staying, by Lake Albano, it was less hot, a mere 34 degrees. I got some stunning pics of the Lake, truly a jewel in the Italian countryside. We ate. Later we ate again. We enjoyed the sunshine and generally dossed about.


The adventures of the week.

Me and my middle sister decided to go against the usual grain of “laze around near the pool” and actually go on a nice walk, all the way around the lake to Castel Gandolfo (better known as the Pope’s summer residence. The big man wasn’t in, but we had a poke around the town and generally just ate ice cream (gelati)  whilst a few locals pointed and jabbered at us. To my sister’s surprise I replied in a flawless Italian accent. Reading phrasebooks does do you some good, even if they are useful mainly for compliments and chat-up lines. We had a death stare from a Swiss guard, a sub-machine gun waved menacingly at us by the carabinieri, and a fist shaken at us by an irate cyclist in horribly tight lycra. Apart from that, it was pretty dull. And very pretty. My father and eldest sister attempted this walk, but got lost on the way there, and had to get a taxi back, but they weren’t threatened with being shot.

We decided to visit the big city, Roma, the Eternal City, the former crux of the known world, all roads lead to Rome and what. We sadly didn’t get to see as much as we liked, but we saw some cracking views, from the Cupola in the Vatican City, the Fontana di Trevi, and the Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti though. That’s the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps to you. Beautiful, beautiful landmarks, one of the best pieces of architecture my limited experience has yielded. I threw a coin in the fountain (naturally) and then dived back in to retrieve it to buy an ice cream. I’m kidding of course, I wouldn’t do that. I mugged a tourist and used his money instead.

Two highlights to the day, both provided by my father. Trying to get a picture of me and my eldest sister, he ran forward, stumbled on the steps, pheasant-ran up 3 before losing his balance, but not before a spectacular barrel roll onto his back before he hit the floor (to protect his camera). The second one was on the Metro, my youngest sister, thick as she is, managed to get on the wrong train. The doors were almost closed before my dad sprinted to the train and slowly ripped the doors open (hulk-style-esque) grabbed my sister, leapt off the train and sprinted off to get the right train, with us ahead and laughing our socks off. To a passenger on the train, they had appeared to see a crazy Scottish man wrench open the doors of an underground train, and steal a child before making off. It was quite a sight. We had to go back to the house anyway, it worked out great. Luckily my dad wasn’t pinned to the pavement facefirst by the jackboot of an angry Italian policeman, as there were none around. We got the train and left. 38C out there as well, in the shade, madness!

Then eventually a couple of days later we had to leave. (Not before I got horribly drunk in an Italian bar/lounge type thingy…. I drank a lot of Baffa D’Oro and somehow got home, and made sure my sisters were okay as well.

Then, sadly, we had to leave. And leave we did (via a 90 minute delay) but we left meaning to come back and see more of Roma, and to hopefully see my father arrested at some point for a perfectly innocent act of parenthood. Well, for me anyway, because I find stuff like that funny. He doesn’t.
Anyway, that was my holiday. Boring? To you maybe, but for me it was a valuable cultural experience and a real eye-opener to the Italian culture. And I got pissed a few times.
Arriverderci Italia. In a bit.