Thursday, 18 December 2008

NUFC: Cup Winners, in black and white... has been running its customary top-notch advent calendar since December 1, and this year it's been devoted to classic team photos (the 'classic' not always reflecting the actual playing quality of the ensemble, you understand...)
But it's hard not to get a bit misty about the 1951 line-up pictured here: them 'uns who brought home the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Blackpool.
Front and centre in this picture, of course, the scorer of a brace at Wembley: Jackie Milburn. At the start of his Toon career Jackie was also a part-time employee of Hazelrigg Colliery, who generally took the bus to games from Ashington having done his pit shift on Saturday morning. Eventually, I think, he got himself a motorbike; then trouble in one ear led him to quit the pit and throw in his lot with the Toon for £12 a week.
To Milburn's left is another canny goalscorer, George Robledo; the 'gangling' Tommy Walker on the far right had goals in him too. In general you look at these 11 lads and you just wouldn't mess with them, would you? Of course one could say the same of Joey Barton today; and yet the sentiment would be -how can I say it? - different.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

'The Double Life of Tony Blair'

It sounds like a high-concept literary novel, doesn't it? In fact it's just the title Newsweek have stuck on this interesting interview-based report by Lisa Miller on the course in 'Faith and Globalisation' that Blair has now begun to teach at Yale. Therein Miller neatly rehearses all the contortions of Blair's public and private positions on what he believed while PM. Her best moment is the assertion that 'in a way, Blair's foundation is the culmination of his life as a double agent' - so making him sound rather like a character out of Kipling or Conrad.
Blair is certainly a character in my Crusaders, for which he also furnishes an epigraph, and he also has a 'double' in the figure of the book's young Anglican priest John Gore - though Gore resists the imputation, as in the following edgy exchanges with Labour MP Martin Pallister:

‘One thing you should know, John – he’s sincere is Tony. His faith is solid, really, it’s what he’s all about.’
Gore was pondering. ‘His wife, she’s Catholic, right?’
‘Cherie? Aye, I think so. What of it?’
‘Just, I don’t know if I recognise his particular brand. Of the faith. And I should say, I don’t know that the public care for politicians who wear that stuff on their
‘Oh no, not a bit. That’s your job. And that’s what Tony says and all.’ Pallister wore his own thoughtful look. ‘You know what, you’d put me in mind of him a bit. Tony.’
‘I’m sorry?’
‘Don’t blow a gasket there. No, I think you’d get on, the two of you. What with the faith in common. And you’re both Durham lads, right...?

Anyhow... back to Lisa Miller's interview, Blair's main quotes are humdrum, indeed they might make jaundiced students of Labour history groan and try to amuse themselves by substituting 'The Labour Party' for the 'spiritual faith'/'faith area' bits in the following:
"We have an obligation to present spiritual faith as something that is positive and progressive and solves problems and does good, rather than something that people only read about because people are killing in the name of it."
"To me what is important is that the whole faith area gets some what I would call muscularity, and certainly strategy."
Dullsville, eh? But as usual with Blair the interesting part is trying to figure out what he actually thinks and means, (and intends to do), under the polished patter.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Portsmouth 0 Newcastle 3: We're watching MoTD II then...

'All it takes is a couple of wins', remarked Duane Hopkins, rather too nonchalantly I felt, when he and I and Samm Haillay were picking over the grim 2-2 capitulation at home to Stoke last Saturday. An inspired time, then, for The Lads to lodge the first away win of the season; and at Pompey, where the epic journey for travelling fans is usually worsened by on-the-pitch cruelties to boot.
An open game, by most accounts, and their lively strike duo could have put them clean away in the first half. Instead it was Owen and Martins who registered again, plus a late strike from young Guthrie. I slightly wish the mighty Oba's had been the one from 30 yards that thumped back off the post, rather than a tap past a floundering David James, as Oba is by nature a born scorer of smacking great goals. And Owen is clearly doing his best for us in advance of the long goodbye...
But it's all still so sticky in that league, what with the Irons getting a point at Chelsea and Sun'lun's flabbergasting result yesterday. No-one is acting like the drop is their designated lot, though as of tonight, for the first time this season, there's a couple of sides falling slightly adrift; one of them, inevitably, already came away from SJP with 3 points...

Hey! 10 Bad Dates fan spotted.

The film lists book finds itself amid some intriguing company on this reader's list. But then it was always my intention to try to tap the Jane Austen-admiring/Zoe Heller-querying demographic.
In fact I bumped into another 10 Bad Dates fan, a filmmaker, at the bar of the Vermont Hotel in Newcastle last weekend. It was 2am at the time so I may be remembering this over-fondly, but I think this chap keeps the book in his bathroom and finds it a great laugh - the book, that is - but as I say, the ales may have meant I got this wrong...