Things That Rip My Knitting by Gill Hoffs

I’m going to try to avoid the usual suspects here of vaguebookers and homophobes, bigots and “I’m no (euphemism for arsehole), but…” spouters. Instead, here are some really quite specific annoyances.
*Please note, I did say ‘try’.*

Spitefully inaccurate headlines of the medical variety

You’ll have seen this kind of headline.
“Woman defies doctors to have miracle baby”
“Man defies doctors to survive terminal cancer”
“Boy defies doctors to walk again”
Headline writers and journalists casting doctors as nasty bastards who’re hoping, no, rooting for their patients to lead miserable lives then die, preferably horribly. It’s bollocks, of course. Doctors like that, the Harold Shipmans of the world, are few and far between. The people whose stories are highlighted in this kind of piece have usually been given advice on the usual course of their illness, the statistics relevant to their situation, and the common events other patients with a similar diagnosis have encountered. Do the women who have these miracle babies, the people who recover from supposedly terminal cancer or at least outlast their initially predicted death-date, or the kids who walk/talk/swim/sing unaided against the odds and their doctors’ reasonable expectations honestly think the healthcare professionals involved in their cases are trying to keep them down? That they’re spitting feathers at the news that their patient has had a baby or any kind of happy event, screwing the paper or primary-coloured-magazine into a ball and shouting obscenities at the poor sod who has had the fucking audacity to defy their order to remain barren or wheelchair-bound or die? Really?
If that’s what anyone thinks of their doctor, my advice would be to do one, pronto.

Double-decker prams

Or, as I think of them, dogbite buggies.
Not that I’ve ever seen a kid get bitten, in one of these awful buggies or anywhere else (thank goodness). But I reckon they’re an accident waiting to happen, one hungry puppy away from a newspaper campaign and tasteless jokes by shock jocks and scumedians.
I can see the attraction for parents and caregivers. A buggy that carries two kids, baby and toddler (or toddler and toddler), but with the width of just one grownup. Easier for public transport, doorways, and ramming your way through crowds, and – another huge annoyance – tipping the buggy onto an escalator so as to risk the kids’ wellbeing instead of waiting for the lift. Easier for parking in Starbucks between tiny tables while parents pretend things are almost the same as before, if not better (mm-hmm).
But the basic design of having one kid stacked above the other with the lower child just skimming over sweetcorn-speckled turds and glowing fag ends, its view of the world restricted by its sibling’s probably fragrant arse, makes me worry about it being at bite-height. Especially if it’s waggling toys or nibbling fistfuls of food.
I fully expect comments from people who have this kind of buggy and have never had a single problem, to which I say Good! I’m glad to hear it! But my loathing of this model remains.

The ‘only a joke’ ‘luv ya realy hun, u no dat, aw now i feel bad, soz’ fb posters

People who say THE most horrific or annoying or passive-aggressive things to people online BUT because they end with ‘xxxxx’ or the more individual ‘xoxoxo’ or my least favourite ‘lol’ (or for emphasis ‘LOL’) seem to think any anger or resentment will be cancelled out. My arse it is. Lol xx

Dolphins

Little-known fact: Jaws was originally going to be about dolphins. It would've been called "Snout."

Little-known fact: Jaws was originally going to be about dolphins. It would’ve been called “Snout.”

Dolphins give me the fucking creeps.
This confession may mean I’m forced to check my ovaries in at reception next time I go for any kind of woman-medicine, what with dolphins being some kind of totem animal for all bearers of wombs, but fuck it. They really, seriously, give me the fucking creeps.
Now, I should probably state for the record that I’m an animal lover who minces round ants on pavements and messes about with paper and woodlice in an effort to get the mini-armadillos out my house at night, and I’m in no way advocating the death of dolphins or the banning of them from TVs, films, and tattoo flash. But I do think instead of the assumption that I will love them because a) I have breasts, and B) they are smiley, friendly, shark-crushers with huge IQs and a decent line in acrobatics, people should catch a fucking grip.
These newly designated non-human persons can crush a fucking shark! How is that not creepy? Instead of rock-paper-scissors they play cartilage-bone-FUUUUUU! Don’t get me wrong – if I’m about to be eaten by a shark and a dolphin just happens to ram it with a bony snout then manoeuvre me to shore I’m not going to say “Hell no!” and swim off to a toothsome death. But equally, what is this odd love affair we as a species seem to have with something that smiles yet has no eyebrows and chitters like we’re the joke? Why not narwhals, the unicorns of the sea? (Not that I get the whole unicorn thing, either.) Or cuttlefish? Have you seen a baby cuttlefish? They’re fucking adorable!

I wouldn’t mind one of them for Christmas.

hoffsGill Hoffs lives with her family and Coraline Cat in a horribly messy house in Warrington. Find her on facebook or as @gillhoffs on twitter, email her a dirty joke at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk, or leave a clean comment at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ ‘Wild: a collection’, her word-mixture of sea creatures, regret, and murder, is out now from Pure Slush. Get it here.
Gill’s often-sad sometimes-grisly nonfiction book about the Victorian Titanic will be published in January 2014 by Pen & Sword. Feel free to send her chocolate.

Things To Avoid If You Don’t Want To Teach Your Child To Swear At TVs by Gill Hoffs

There’s something you need to prepare for, and by this I mean gird your loins, grit your teeth, write crib notes, and insert headphones if you want to survive with your sanity intact when spending time near a TV with your child.

Some programmes are brilliant, something to look forward to even if your sprog has wandered off to hide Lego on the carpet to feed the vacuum cleaner or pierce your feet with later. Worthy of recording to watch even if they’re in a bed and it’s their own.

Mr Bloom’s Nursery is one for straight mums and gay dads, with the fantastically sexy Ben Faulks as a keen gardener of Spitting Image-ish fruit and veg and a magical compostarium (don’t ask). With a broad regional English accent (he’s from Cornwall but studied in Leeds and frankly I can’t place what the accent is and don’t give a salad either way), he wouldn’t be out of place as a dashing young murderer or red herring in Midsomer Murders, but does a grand job of talking to kids like they’re proper people instead of annoying props on his show.

I think Mr Bloom looks like he should be in Ocean Colour Scene. Good to see Heather Small from M-People has found work these days as well.

I think Mr Bloom looks like he should be in Ocean Colour Scene. Good to see Heather Small from 90s favourites M-People has found work these days as well.

The Aquabats Super Show, an American import with a young Dave Grohl lookalike, catchy nerd-rock, and fantastical science fiction references for benefit of the parents, is truly glorious and worth youtubing even if you consider yourself above such things. With episodes including “The Floating Eye Of Death” it’s up there with SpongeBob Squarepants (you know it’s the bloke who played The Kurgan in Highlander and a murderous prison guard in The Shawshank Redemption who does the voice for Mr Krabs, right?) for adult-appropriate humour and sheer we-can-bear-to-watch-it-as-a-family-ness.

Abney and Teal is the closest thing my son’s generation is going to get to the brilliance of Bagpuss, and features a comparatively gritty title sequence, copious amounts of porridge, and the voice of the singer from the Noisettes (“Don’t Upset The Rhythm”) and an actor from Gavin & Stacey. It’s easy on the eye and the ear and just a little bit trippy, and quite soothing compared to a lot of the action-packed crap out there.

Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom is parent-friendly, genuinely funny, and full of scathing asides from the true stars of the piece, Nanny Plum and the Wise Old Elf. The incidental music is addictive, the plots interesting, and the animation acceptable to an ageing adult’s eyes (mine, to be really specific). My husband and I are hoping for a spinoff involving Nanny Plum and the WOE’s wild years which we are convinced involve illicit and inevitably disappointing romantic adventures and piercings of some description.

So far, so good. Nothing really to match the Golden Era of Dungeons & Dragons, Ulysses, Dangermouse, Bagpuss, Terrahawks, Lost Cities of Gold, Thundercats, or Rentaghost, but enough to keep your sprog or sproglette happy while you trawl youtube and Amazon in search of your lost childhood.

This is Zelda from Terrahawks, she eventually hit the big time playing the mother in The Osbournes.

This is Zelda from Terrahawks, she eventually hit the big time playing the mother in The Osbournes.

But that’s not all they’re going to see. There are also the programmes that prompt unparental language and a swift suggestion of DVDs/tickling/going out. Heaven help you if your child watches them at school and becomes A Fan – especially with the advent of catchup. Watch them by yourself, check them out, see what I mean.

Nina And The Neurons features a truly lovely scientist (Nina) and her CGI helpers (slightly creepy and wholly inaccurate depictions of neurons voiced by seriously good actors like Siobhan Redmond and Sharon Small) who help her answer common questions about the world around us, like, oh, I dunno, why is the sea salty AND THEN GETS THE ANSWER WRONG. Now it’s not always, or even most of the time, but once was enough – the trust has gone. My husband is a scientist and despite Nina’s niceness, perky bunches, and cool car, her show is now banned in our house. FYI, the sea is not salty just because of erosion of the land (though page after page of google searches would tell you otherwise); deep sea vents spewing minerals like a post-kebab drunk down a drain also play an enormous part.

64 Zoo Lane has a girl buggering off from her house every night to get a somewhat moralistic story from a bunch of zoo animals which are NOT drawn to scale and would probably eat/shag each other (and her) given half the chance. My son loves it and the books, too, but I suspect part of its appeal is the bit of the theme song that, when listing the different attributes of animals, goes “some are slimy” WITH A CARTOON OF SNAKES SLITHERING ON THE SCREEN. For. Fuck’s. Sake. They’re only going to be slimy if you sneeze on them, as I told my son, but he now delights in torturing me with the words “Snakes are slimy!” whenever he wants to get a rise out of me. He’s handled snakes. He knows the song is wrongwrongwrong and yet still, still he torments me.

A recent arrival on Channel 5’s Milkshake (why is their morning children’s programming called that? Why?) is Tickety Toc, a colourful computer animated series about two figures on a clock who have to appear in the real world when the hour chimes, but get into all sorts of problems in between which means there’s always a race to get there when they need to. It’s very cute and has a cheery theme tune (always a bonus), but is horribly stressful to watch, and I can’t help but think ‘FFS stop buggering about and just WAIT NEARBY’ as the tension ramps up and the nailbiting starts.

Spongebob and Patrick announce the loan signing of Gabriel Obertan for Bikini Bottom FC.

Spongebob and Patrick announce the loan signing of Gabriel Obertan for Bikini Bottom FC.

Luckily, my kid and his dad share a passion for SpongeBob, and he’s happy to watch TimeTeam and the super-sweet and totally barmy Canimals when he’s doing artwork with me, or trawl youtube for videos of animals having baths, toilets exploding, or things to dance to like the Beastie Boys’ Intergalactic and Prefab Sprout’s The King of Rock’n’Roll. One of these days he’ll work out how to use the TV guide himself, but until then these are the things that keep me sane. That and the ‘off’ button.

hoffsGill Hoffs lives with her family and Coraline Cat in a horribly messy house in Warrington. Find her on facebook or as @gillhoffs on twitter, email her a dirty joke at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk, or leave a clean comment at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ ‘Wild: a collection’, her word-mixture of sea creatures, regret, and murder, is out now from Pure Slush. Get it here.
Gill’s often-sad sometimes-grisly nonfiction book about the Victorian Titanic will be published in January 2014 by Pen & Sword. Feel free to send her chocolate.

Second Coming – The Case For The Defense by Martyn Taylor

The_Stone_Roses-Second_Coming-Frontal

I have been told by many people over the years that The Second Coming by The Stone Roses was a major anti-climax. After much time, hype and anticipation The Stone Roses released their second album in 1994. Fans had been made to wait five and a half years since the release of their eponymous debut masterpiece.

A lot had changed in five and a half years. Gone had the days of The Hacienda and The Happy Mondays, gone had the days of the hazy pop sounds that dominated their earlier release. In had come Parkers, Union Jacks and brash guitar-ladened bands (many of whom were influenced by The Stone Roses original sound).

The Second Coming was a cursed album from the very start, come on, how do you top an album like their debut? Most bands who release something so undeniably brilliant as The Stone Roses album do so three or four LPs into their careers. trying to top the debut was impossible and pointless, so they tried something new. The Psychedelia sounds were dropped to favour a sound of dirty blues-inspired guitar riffs, heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin.

This guitar led blues formula dominates the album, only one song in my opinion harps back to their debut style and that’s Love Spreads. Love Spreads could of slotted into The Stone Roses album seamlessly with out a fuss. Ten Story Love song hints at a psychedelic love revival but falls short where it matters.

John Squires over long guitar solos could be described as self indulgent, but as they say “you cant have enough of a good thing” and his sheer technical prowess shines through. The opening track Breaking Into Heaven shakes with a groove that is trademark Squire (even if the jungle drum intro is a little unnecessary) and is the stand out track of his blues style of playing.

Ian Brown’s trademarked ‘man about town’ likeability and hushed vocals had become more polished on this album. The man could not hold a note to save his life, but he spoke to so many through his lyrics. The opening lyrics and harmonica on Good Times are pure filth from Brown and are my personal highlight from him on the album.

If this album had been their debut, I believed it would of been hailed, (just like The Stone Roses album) as one of the albums of the decade. It had the unfortunate fate of been a follow up, so it’s legacy was tainted from the off.

Luckily, I didn’t have the bias of the reviewers of the time to guide me. I discovered The Stone Roses after their split in 1996 and heard both of their albums for the first time on the same day. I did not have the long overdrawn wait for their follow up which the original fans had to endure. My opinions were made purely from the music, I had no prejudice.

I have always held The Stone Roses debut album in higher esteem than The Second Coming, but don’t let that sway you. The Second Coming is still an amazing album which I still listen to as much as the original release.

“I have a dream, I’ve seen the light, don’t put it out, say she’s alright, yeah she’s my sister.”

mart questionsMartyn Taylor is a 31 year-old father of three and lives in Hull. His pastimes include watching 80s action films over and over again and and debating the all-time Premiership XI with Mr Miles. His knowledge of American sitcoms of the 90s stands second to none. He once walked into a men’s public lavatory absent-mindedly singing the theme tune from Two And A Half Men. You can find him on http://www.twitter.com/shirleysblower but he never tweets, so just follow him on here.

Playground Bully Tactics, Dressed Up As National Security by Paul Featherstone

On Sunday morning at Heathrow Airport, a man who until that day, virtually no-one in the world had heard, of was stopped and held under Schedule 7 of our terror laws. This particular piece of legislation, allows for terror suspects to be held for up to nine hours without charge by police and security services, before either an extension can be applied for or charges brought.

The man being held was David Miranda, who was heading back to Brazil. Now, that name shouldn’t ring any immediate bells, there are very few household names in the world of terrorism and most of them have the back of their head missing. The detention of this man though, has had me furious for days since.

Firstly, I know that stating something made me angry is kind of like saying “the smell of bacon makes me a bit peckish” but this got me so fantastically furious, I could be a member of Grandmaster Flash’s backing group.

If you haven’t read or heard already, David Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald works for the Guardian newspaper. In this role, Greenwald has been publishing the revelations of the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Yeah, to call this one a little murky is to say it’s quite hard to see a pin in a puddle.

So, by virtue of being vaguely linked to Edward Snowden, the very height of the terror laws drafted in to protect you and I, have been used against this man to send out a not-so-subtle message to those publishing his revelations. Now, the urban myth goes that I’m vaguely linked to Kevin Bacon, who once played a paedophile and so, after this legal precedent, I’m expecting Operation Yewtree to come calling at any time.

In all seriousness though, this has been a staggering abuse of power by those entrusted to keep us safe from genuine danger. Miranda, for no obvious national security reason, had items such as dongles and hard drives seized. As he was in a departure lounge, all of this was perfectly legal.

Before this, a senior civil servant was sent to the offices of The Guardian to ensure that the hard drives containing the information from Snowden were either destroyed or could be seized. Upon hearing they had been destroyed, he sifted through the pieces. Allegedly, he was sent there with the blessing of David Cameron himself.

We live in a nation that constantly takes the moral high ground against the likes of Russia and China, for this very kind of thing. What are we doing here? Maybe it’s been a long time coming, in an era of Guantanamo Bay’s and the smearing of those who choose to fight the establishment? Maybe, we were all just too content with our iPhones and Candy-FUCKING-Crush to care as our liberties were eroded? Ask yourself – where does this end?

Now, I always try to be even-handed, so let’s get a couple of things out the way. I don’t think that exposing matters of high security should be totally without consequence. Somewhere way back, laws were passed, to stop those who risk their lives to protect their citizens being exposed. You can argue all you like for a completely open government, but somewhere down the line someone ends up getting beheaded on the Internet when their real name is divulged.

Secondly, if we are honest, we all know these dark arts occur in the background of the western world. We turn a blind eye to it, because we know it’s often what keeps us where we are on the world stage and other nations…. well, down there. For fucks sake, our biggest movie hero is Bond, we are more than peckish for espionage.

In turning that blind eye, you somewhat foolishly, almost romantically hope that those dark arts are to keep us safe from the really bad bastards in the world. A bit like that mate who would bite someone’s nose off down the pub if they tried to glass you.

Instead, we are in a position where our security agencies are spying on our calls, with the full help and knowledge of the service providers. Quite rightly, Edward Snowden felt the need to expose this. The US and British governments have reacted in much the same manner of when you or I are caught doing something we shouldn’t. Sometimes you say sorry and try to make amends. Other times, you get mad at the person who pointed the finger at you and vow to take vengeance. Let’s be frank, in any other circles we wouldn’t be calling Snowden a “whistleblower”, he would be a “grass”.

If you think about it, it genuinely stings when someone calls you that. We have a strange in-built code that says you keep “schtum”, but sometimes you’ve got to be brave enough to speak about the real wrongs in this world. This wasn’t nicking a stapler from work, this was a massive abuse of civil liberties. Snowden has exposed his former employers for what they are- ultimately weak sorts who scurry around like rats, to protect their own interests and maintain their standing in this world.

In their minds, these people justify this as “survival of the fittest.” That is the code of these people because, more often than not, they have trampled on more than enough people without any great conscience to succeed in life. The people we see in power are so befitting of our disdain because they are the ones we see day in, day out – the ones in our offices, factories and workplaces that everyone hisses as their name trips from their tongue. The ones who aren’t the most skilled, the most deserving, the most suitable for their role, but they sure can shine a shoe with their tongue.

When you live on that precipice of being exposed for being a fraud, you do unethical things to climb further, so that it’s hard to fall to the bottom. If you do that, and a “grass” exposes you, you use that considerable power to show them who they messed with.

This is what is happening here. The nations we live in are doing unethical things to keep their standing in the world. They don’t want to be exposed as weak or undeserving, and they have their big, tough mates along to back them up. Those who run these nations are in a position that is far less tenable. Like Nixon and many before them, they can fall easily if the public mood sways in such a manner, and so begins this blind panic we now see against those who can expose their weak, unethical fingernails dug deep into the ladder rungs – journalists.

They’ve almost won the war. Pick up a paper, and 80% of them contain no real news, especially as they employee fat, lazy “journos” who disgrace their profession. These people long gave up any attempt at true journalism and instead resorted to hacking into phones (oh, the irony) to get their “scoops”. Now they can no longer do this, they are too fat and lazy to print anything else but the inner workings of Kerry Katona’s mind.

Every now and again though, someone does a true piece of journalistic work that shatters their attempts to control the flow of information that may bring their untimely downfall. Real Redford and Hoffman in “All The Presidents Men” work, that can bring down leaders.

That is what is happening here with The Guardian, and make no mistake, considerable weight is being thrown around to limit the damage. Arresting a man and holding him for nine hours to make a point to his partner is a cowardly, shameful act that spits in the face of the idea that those who threaten our nation, do so because they fear our open, free and democratic society.

If they care, all of those fat, lazy sorts in Fleet Street will get up out of their Lazy-Boys and stand up for the freedom of the press, before it is too late.

My Dad always told me if someone is trying to bully you, just punch them hard before they know they can intimidate you. They won’t be expecting it because no-one ever stands up to them. These people are bullies, plain and simple. It is time for someone to start clenching a fist, and fast.

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

Give Me Fucking Strength by Paul Featherstone

hull city tigers

Okay, so hastily composed this one, but as the title suggests- “Hull City Tigers”? Give me strength man.

Is this where football has come to now? That a team can be re-branded? Is it now the policy of the board to actually polish turds?

Before I plough on, if you weren’t aware, Hull City AFC have been re-branded as “Hull City Tigers” for their second stint in the Premier League by their owners, the Allam family. Now, the Allams have done many good things for the club, and we will come to that soon, but this is not one of them.

Very shortly after the announcement, the name started to trend on Twitter. It was not in a positive manner. There may have been quickly knocked up photos of Tony The Tiger. For a team that many will feel are out of place in the top flight, naming yourself in such a manner makes you look like someone at a party wearing an ill-fitting, cool jumper your wife made you put on, even though you’re 54.

The initials HCT sound like something that a woman hitting the menopause takes too. I’m sure in the minds of the Allams, it sounds like Elvis’ TCB, but rather than “Taking Care Of Business”, it’s “Total Complete Bollocks”.

I could go on for hours, but my main point here is how this reflects on owners that swoop in to help a team to success and how football fans are just rolling over and getting fist fucked by a rich businessman in a hotel room near Terminal 5.

The Allams saved the club from the brink of extinction, took them back to the Premier League for the second time and have strong links with the city. Even the controversial sacking of Nick Barmby bore fruit, as Steve Bruce took just one season to gain promotion.

All of the above, though, does not give a divine right to do as you please with the club, because you helped it out when it was in dire straights. Men help vulnerable women get into countries to improve their lives, then take their passport and sell them into the sex trade. That is not a viable blueprint to bring across into running a football team.

In fact, Allam has said he hates the word “City”. If he knew anything of the club and it’s fans, he would know that almost everyone says “Are you off to see City this weekend?”. Not “The Tigers”, not “the mighty HCT”.

Yet, the most shocking part of the whole situation has been to hear some fans seem happy to just sit there and take it, because of all that Allam has done for the club. They don’t agree, but feel he has earned the right to do it. That equates to letting a rich, old man grope your tit because he bought you a new rear indicator light.

Football fans usually have a lot more sense than this, and if they passionately disagree with something, they stand against it. It will be interesting to see how this one continues to develop. It may have been smart to announce it now, so that British politeness creeps in and no-one wants to “make a fuss” to ruin the first game of the season.

Something should be done though, as more football teams are going to need rich benefactors to save them, and the more they are used as play-things and brands, the further disenfranchised the normal fan will become.

The national game is becoming privatised, grrrrreeeeeaaaattttt.

 

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

A Certain Kind Of Romance by Paul Featherstone

This weekend past, Hull hosted the 3rd annual Humber Street Sesh, the brainchild of local promoter Mark Page. Featuring everything from live music to silent discos to graffiti artists, it was the coming together of not only the creative people of Hull, but also those who enjoy the local scene and those who may be strangers to it.

I didn’t make it as I was working, which also explains my absence from this site recently, but a man gotta get paid, you feel me? No? Anyway, my news stream on Facebook has been filled with it enough, to know that is was a roaring success that people want back next year.

A quick glance at the numbers (40,920 at midnight) showed the talk around it wasn’t just hype and that in “dreary, old” Hull there is an appetite for events just like this, if they are done in the right way. Now firstly, I’m not here to be sycophantic about anything or anyone. Lord knows, there are enough writers in this city doing that and if you’re reading this, you know who you are and you’re more of a hindrance than a help as to how people view the cultural scene in Hull, so just lay off the scripture reach-arounds okay? Credit where credit is due though, and the event did set my mind whirling about whether Hull is starting to turn a corner in not only how people view it, but also how the people who inhabit it also view their surroundings and embrace events put on for them?

Make no mistake, the event is one put on off-the-backs of ordinary people with a passion for the city and raising it’s spotlight. David Cameron would love to grasp it as his Big Society, but really, as with anything in Britain, it’s just about the normal citizen fighting back against the daily tedium enforced by a Government all too dismissive of the positive impact that arts and culture can have, not only on the country’s mood, but (and listen up here geniuses) also the economy.

Now, the event of course benefited from warm weather and cold beer, but doesn’t everything in Britain? Imagine London 2012 or Euro 96 or Glastonbury, without balmy summer evenings, and a dripping bottle clutched firmly in hand (if that doesn’t sound too phallic). Yet, an event largely consisting of bands with guitars, when people are so indifferent to said bands with guitars, that still goes on to attract huge numbers should make someone sit up and take notice.

Those who may just sit up and take notice are those keeping an eye on Hull’s City Of Culture bid. Lots of people on the outside (and inside) of Hull laugh at the idea, but it’s not that preposterous. Sure, Hull has it’s problems but the majority of those are dwelled upon by the media etc due to poor PR and to say that Hull is the only city in Britain that is let down by a small minority of idiots or a lack of funding, is downright unfair- that is an epidemic that flows through the whole of the country in 2013.

In many ways, Hull is just unlucky it hasn’t had that huge, great breakthrough artist who defines a musical era to stamp it as a “cool” city that can marketed as such. Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool all have those in the form of the various bands that have imposed themselves on the national consciousness, Hull just got unfortunate that theirs was the housewives favourites- The Beautiful South. Mmmm, music to hoover to…..nice. There have of course, been plenty of fine bands linked to Hull, but people do not flock there as they do as a result of The Stone Roses/Oasis, Arctic Monkeys/Pulp and The Beatles elsewhere.

All of the above cities have nice areas to visit and shop in, and ultimately settle down, but there are large parts of them that you sure as fuck wouldn’t like to walk around late at night, and Hull is no different than that. I live in the Avenues area of Hull, and would happily stay there for the rest of my life. It’s quiet, the neighbours say “hello” and I feel like Richard Briers from The Good Life. Two minutes away is the house I used to rent, where kids smashed footballs against my wall every night, my Sky dish was snapped and someone tried to pull my Sky box through the wall via the aerial at 3am (don’t fuck with my Sky man!). Hull has great bars such as down Princes Avenue and Newland Avenue, that you’d recommend to anyone visiting, that unfortunately can have drunken idiots in them that hospitalise people for no reason in the toilets. These things come with living in a city, and it’s one for society as a whole to try and fix.

Events such as the Humber Street Sesh will change people’s views of Hull and hopefully, there were lots of students at it that hadn’t gone home, so they could spread the good word to those who live outside the city.

These events also suggest that there is siege mentality in Hull by the people who live there, that they are sick of being trodden upon by those outside its borders. Siege mentalities are good, they often breed success. They occasionally breed events like Waco, but mostly success.

As people in Hull finally decide that they are going to prove the doubters wrong, and show them just what can be done here, they are doing what the good people of Britain have had to do for every major event we have ever put on, with the disapproving eyes of the world upon it. As you may have noticed, failure rarely comes. It looks like Hull may have just come out in fine fighting form, you can almost hear the Joe Esposito song from Karate Kid building in the background. I will be booking the weekend off next year to join all my friends at Humber Street Sesh and I’m sure many more will visit as the success grows.

There was a time when there really was nothing to do in Hull, but the bands are coming back and there are more than two options for a night out. Bars are closing sometimes and not every venture is a success, but that shouldn’t dishearten anyone from their path, the booming nineties this is not.

Look, Hull isn’t perfect, I get tired of living here far too often, but to turn my shoulder on it, would be to turn my back on all that is northern, working class and vaguely bittersweet about it, and I’m not about to do that.

To paraphrase Morgan Freeman quoting Ernest Hemingway, at the end of Se7en, “Hull is fine place and worth fighting for”, I agree with the second part…..and who knows, maybe I’m leaning towards the first part too as time goes on?

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

Why Everything Was Better Before (Part 3) by Allen Miles

I used to be an absolute slave to nostalgia. In my early-to-mid-twenties it had genuinely taken over my way of thinking because I got it into my head that my life could never be as good as it had been at certain points before. I would spend huge amounts of time by myself with a bottle of wine just harking back to times that I rated as the best of my life and I would never look to the future. It was an idiotic and petulant way to behave, but as the hangover count started to slide from two hundred a year to two dozen, it became clear that I was still a young man, and life was there to be lived. So for a while, the nostalgia was gone.

Yet recently, regular reminiscences have taken place while I’m up late alone on my sofa with another bottle of wine, battering at my keyboard. It all started when I became re-united with my best childhood friend, and co-founder of this site, Martyn. After we left high school, Martyn and I lost touch as he took an apprenticeship and I went to Sixth Form; it sounds like quite a flimsy reason to go our separate ways but it seemed like a huge divide at the time. Over the next ten years Mr Taylor would do lots of very worthy and important things like buying a house, getting married and raising a family, whereas I would spend the decade drinking and behaving like a piece of scum. I did however, end up working with Martyn’s mother-in-law, Dot, and at her fiftieth birthday party four years ago, we got talking again and it was like we’d never been away. Since then, a section of every conversation we’ve had, in the pubs around the area in which we grew up, has been dedicated to stuff we did as kids. Having read Martyn’s Sitting Room diatribe in which he ranted about things not being as good as he once remembered them,  I began to analyze my own recollections of childhood.

The dodgiest character in a TV show since Dirt Barry from Only Fools and Horses.

The dodgiest character in a TV show since Dirty Barry from Only Fools and Horses.

Nothing takes you back to your own childhood like having a child of your own, and when Gabbers is old enough to look back on her infant years, I’d like to hope that she does it with fondness, rather than suspicion. She won’t know until she’s much older that Mr Fox from Peppa Pig is a dodgy, Mickey Pearce-type spiv, or that Madame Gazelle has a picture of the first Velvet Underground album, which features a song called “Heroin”, on her wall, nor will she know that, as myself and my friend Gemma regularly discuss, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom is full of innuendo and politics. She just wants to jump up and down in muddy puddles. So that made me think, which of my childhood phases seem sinister or subversive through the benefit of adult hindsight?

I don’t remember the summers. Not a single memory I have is illuminated with the June-to-August  HU5 sunshine until the age of about thirteen. My childhood memories are of streetlights reflecting in October puddles with the stench of Hull Fair hotdogs wafting in on the autumn mist; they are of sitting on walls in the February half term beneath a endlessly grey skies with a couple of mates and just being utterly bored. My very first memory is of watching live footage of Valley Parade burning down in 1985 from my late grandparents’ living room while playing with my “numbers and letters.” My next-earliest memory is being driven in my dad’s tiny red work van to buy He-Man figures from Beal’s down Endike Lane. And there we have the first phase. He-Man figures.

He-Man figures in the mid eighties cost about £3.50 each and were made by Mattel. It is probably the most famous action figure line of all time and obviously tied in with the American cartoon, He-Man and The Masters Of The Universe. As a six year-old, I loved it. So much, in fact, that between the years 2002-2006 I actually modelled my haircut on his. I remember, how, as a callow child, I would get a rush of euphoria at the moment in each episode when Prince Adam would metamorphosize into massive, muscle bound He-Man with the triumphant Top Gun-style music in the background. It was all very wholesome, good vs evil stuff, and no-one was ever killed. So surely there was no adult-only undercurrent here?

EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!!!

EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!!!

Hmmm… ok. Look at He-Man, with his golden bob, sculpted torso, hairless chest and furry little pants. And look at his arch enemy, Skeletor, in his black leather studded basque-type thing and his S&M style-hood. And look at the names of some of the other characters in the show; Beast Man, Tung Lashor, Ram-Man, Whip-Lash, Rokk-On, Extendar and, of course, Fisto. Yep, He-Man is the gayest thing in the history of the universe. No wonder no-one ever killed each other, after that week’s particular battle was won or lost they probably all jumped in a hot tub together and got Teela to serve them Babycham whilst listening to a Judy Garland LP.

Fisto and He-Man. I'm not going to caption this.

Fisto and He-Man. I’m not going to caption this.

In hindsight, it’s actually quite an achievement to get such an obvious homosexual message into a mainstream TV show, especially in Republican 80s America, right under the noses of Jerry Falwell and his horrible friends, but I can’t shake the feeling that the writers and producers of this show were all sniggering behind their hands as I handed my hard earned pocket money over for my brand new King Randor figure, there with his meticulous George Michael-style beard, wielding his magic staff.

After the He-Man figures, and brief dalliances with Transformers and Lego, neither of which I regret, came Christmas 1989 when my kid brother Andy and I received our first video game console, the Sega Master System. We spent pretty much every penny of birthday and Christmas money over the next two or three years on Sega games, which were about thirty quid each at the time, meaning we got about five a year. It was an event when we got a new one, we would take weeks deciding which one to buy after reading the reviews in S Magazine over and over again. All the characters and graphics and artwork were really Japanese-y because there were no British software designers back then, and the manuals made about as much sense as professional imbecile Stacy Solomon trying to explain the theory of relativity.

The tiger has just tried to read the instructions.

The tiger has just tried to read the instructions.

The first game we got, for some reason, (possibly due to my dad being pissed) was Great Baseball, in which featureless players in red or blue would scuttle across the field as if they had severe bowel difficulties and when you actually managed to make contact with the (squarish) ball the TV would make a “crowd noise,” which I’ve only heard replicated since when I tried to make my hoover suck up some cat sick. We would get others over the coming months and years, my favourite one was called Psycho Fox, a Mario-clone in which you guided a P.E. kit-wearing fox over various landscapes with a little black bird sat on your shoulder that you could throw at your enemies. Again, it was incredibly Japanese, again it made no sense and it had bizarre characters in it. But we loved it. The whole shebang of video games in the late eighties/early nineties was a completely alien world, all of it was steeped in oriental culture and myths and what not but looking back now all the artwork seemed so beautiful and the bleepy-bloppy sounds that came from the TV sounded so weird. A year or so ago, I downloaded the SMS emulator for my laptop, which allows you to play these games on your PC, and I bought an HDMI cable, which allows you to plug your PC into your telly, and I bought a joypad off ebay which would enable me to have a go on the games without having to use the laptop keyboard, so there I was, ready for my nostalgia trip, about to play the games I’d enjoyed so much as a nine year old, on the telly with a joypad as they were meant to be played. And…

They weren’t very good.

What an absolute pisser, eh? They were really simplistic, they were unbelievably slow and the sounds were absolutely terrible. One of the worst things about them is that you couldn’t save your progress. If you wanted to finish the majority of the games you’d have to do it in one sitting, which would probably take four or five hours. A nine or ten year-old shouldn’t be spending that much time in front of a tv screen moving garishly-coloured blobs across an equally garish background to a soundtrack that was scraped from the Aphex Twin’s waste paper basket. Why weren’t we outside playing football? I haven’t bought a videogame since 1997, it is an area I don’t have a great deal of interest in, and this, along with the Super Nintendo a couple of years later, is how I think of them. I wish I hadn’t re-visited Sega games. I’ve ruined yet another of my memories. But not as much as the next one.

In early 1992, the advent of Sky television, along with one of the all-time classic Panini sticker albums (obviously Italia 90 was the best ever), meant the latest craze in the playground of Appleton Primary School, HU5, was WWF wrestling. How we loved watching those muscle-bound cartoon characters prancing round in their tights and punching each other in the mullet. I remember the first major event that we all took notice of, The Royal Rumble 1992, which was 30 wrestlers coming out at set intervals and being eliminated by being hoiked out over the top ropes. It was won by the legendary Ric Flair, who basically looked like Lieutenant Drebin from Naked Gun in a pair of black pants, and we all looked forward to his title defence against “Macho Man” Randy Savage at Wrestlemania 8. Even though, at the age of ten/eleven, we knew it was fake, we still wondered who would win the matches, we still thought that somehow there was some sport involved. Looking back now, you can’t deny the dazzling showmanship of Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, The Rock and so on, and no-one can argue that it’s very easy to fake what happens at 1:45 here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=569DaOPtHd4 but it’s not a sport, it’s never been a sport. It’s a performance, yet at the age of eleven we honestly thought that it was a honest and clean enterprise, involving athletes who adhered to sporting regulations.

Davey-Boy claimed to have got his ridiculous physique from eating lots of Shredded Wheat.

Davey-Boy claimed to have got his ridiculous physique from eating lots of Shredded Wheat.

Jaysus. How wrong we were. With the blessing/curse of the internet, it is very easy to find out what was going on behind the scenes back then. And how terribly dark it all was. To give you the most upsetting example, the WWF came to Wembley Stadium a few months later, at Summerslam 92, which was such a big deal at the time that even the UK tabloids were covering it, there were guest spots on the likes of GMTV, Going Live and (90s classic here) Gamesmaster. The main event centred around the English wrestler, Wigan’s own Davey-Boy Smith, attempting to win the belt from the Canadian Bret “Hitman” Hart. And obviously he did in front of his own crowd in his own national stadium, as it was scripted and it was all very triumphant and inspiring and all the rest of it, but what we didn’t know at the time is that Smith didn’t know what planet he was on during the match, as he’d spent the previous two weeks monged off his nut on a massive crack bender, and Hart, who was his real life brother-in-law, had to drag him, step-by-step, through every routine they were meant to be doing in the ring. Smith would be dead at the age of forty, having been pumped full of steroids for fifteen years of his life, and looking like someone had plugged a bouncy castle pump into one of his orifices and forgotten to switch it off. You look back as an adult on the promo interviews that they all did and realise that an estimated 75% of the world’s cocaine in the late 80s/early nineties was being consumed by these people (the rest was making its way through Paul Merson) and its completely unsurprising to see how many of them are dead today. Many died through drugs/steroids, there were quite a few suicides, and the less said about what Chris Benoit did the better. What a horrible business.

So there you go. Three of my most fondly remembered childhood phases ruined by the benefit/hinderance of hindsight. Here are a few more brief annihilations of my memories:

If you were born between 1979 and 1983, chances are your favourite film when you were a kid was the one that starred this bloke. State of him.

"I wouldn't let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my ass." People say that to him in real life now.

“I wouldn’t let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my ass.” People say that to him in real life now.

Hero Quest: didn’t understand it then. Don’t understand it now.

When I was seven this was my favourite song. It’s absolutely terrible. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAJIAO_NA3E

Rosie and Jim: a few months ago, myself, Mr Alderson and Mr Woodmansey watched an episode of this at my house on a Classic CITV weekend on Sky. It is the most boring programme I think I’ve ever seen.

Fun House: Great show and all, but Pat Sharp’s haircut is the showbiz equivalent of Stonehenge. No-one has quite worked it out.

In closing, there’s a reason why you grow out of things, and it’s because they only appeal to you when you’re of a certain age. So very few things retain that magic that they had when we were young. A period of nostalgia can be like a hangover in many ways: a mild one is a bittersweet reminder of what happened yesterday, and an intense one makes you wonder what the hell you were thinking while you sit feeling sorry for yourself. Some things from childhood are still brilliant; Roald Dahl books, Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, classic Match Of The Day DVDs and Dangermouse are all regularly enjoyed by myself in my thirty-second year, but the rest of it was of a time and a place and can’t be re-visited. To paraphrase Dr Samuel Johnson: “nostalgia is the last refuge of the moron.”

And they don’t make writers like him anymore.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Nice To Meat You (Not) by Gill Hoffs

This rant has been building inside me for the last twenty-odd years. Perhaps venting on here will free me of this entirely rational and justifiable anger and allow me to be the bunny-cuddling happy smiley fluffball people who don’t know me clearly expect a vegetarian to be (well, except for the dickheads Number 10 refers to). Perhaps … no, I doubt it.

meat in freezer

Ten things that sometimes make me want to eat meat – human meat.

1. Finding out I’m vegetarian then insisting on telling me why you’re not e.g. “I just couldn’t give up meat, I couldn’t.” Or “It’s just not natural, is it?” (especially fun when the person saying it is tucking into something containing more E-numbers and un-gredients than fucking astronaut rations). I’m not your conjoined twin nor your confessor. If you’re not, you’re not – as for your reasons, I just don’t fucking care.

2. Finding out I’m vegetarian then insisting on telling me how much you love animals as you chow down on oh, I dunno, a bit of one.

3. Finding out I’m vegetarian then insisting on quizzing me on why? How long for? Is it the ethics-thing then? Is it your whole family (because obviously then it wouldn’t be my fault as despite being 34 I clearly can’t make up my own mind about what I stick in my gob, eh?)?

4. Finding out I’m vegetarian and insisting that means I eat fish, chicken, turkey, and pork and serving me it in a restaurant because “my sister/cousin/friend/neighbour/colleague does and they’re vegetarian” – no, they fucking well aren’t.

5. Finding out I’m vegetarian and waving a forkful of rare steak under my nose in an attempt to gross me out because you’re “only having a laugh”. Your twattishness grosses me out far more than your dinner.

6. Finding out I’m vegetarian and assuming I’m a pale malnourished weakling who isn’t able to kick your arse – hey, I’ve watched Buffy and Angel AND Dollhouse. I know some moves and I’m frankly gagging to try them.

7. Finding out I’m vegetarian and attempting to corral me into your cloud of stupidity by asking me if I were trapped on an island/in a lift/on a ship with only a chicken or my child to choose between to keep me alive, which would I eat? Well, duh … but if it were between an obnoxious arsehole like you and a cow, guess what? I’m eating longpig tonight, fuckface.

8. Finding out I’m vegetarian and assuming, wrongly, that my child isn’t, then when you find out he is, asking me with a hesitant tone and concerned look on your face if I don’t think that’s “a bit cruel to him”? Eh, no. Fuck. Right. The. Fuck. Off.

9. Finding out I’m vegetarian then gloating over the fact that I’ve probably unwittingly eaten meat at some point or other. Yes, fuck face. I also try not to eat shit and maggots, and I presume you do the same (though if you are what you eat, you’ve not tried hard enough). You might want to read up on the thresholds for acceptable levels of faeces and insects in the food industry’s literature. Keep a bucket handy when you do.

10. Finding out I’m vegetarian then smugly comparing me to Hitler. Well, so was Ghandi. They both had moustaches. Big fucking deal. Hitler also liked soup and potatoes and I somehow doubt you’re boycotting them just in case you become an evil bastard because of your DIET.

Photo courtesy of Anna – “Cambridge Cat.”

hoffsGill Hoffs lives with her family and Coraline Cat in a horribly messy house in Warrington. Find her on facebook or as @gillhoffs on twitter, email her a dirty joke at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk, or leave a clean comment at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ ‘Wild: a collection’, her word-mixture of sea creatures, regret, and murder, is out now from Pure Slush. Get it here.
Gill’s often-sad sometimes-grisly nonfiction book about the Victorian Titanic will be published in January 2014 by Pen & Sword. Feel free to send her chocolate.

Paul Gascoigne: A Pre-Emptive Requiem by Allen Miles

I have always been absolutely baffled when public figures die and people I know get really upset. I cannot understand why the death of someone you have never met would ever affect you personally. I remember being utterly bewildered as a fifteen year-old when the tidal wave of public tears and chest-beating greeted the death of Princess Diana. The thousands that lined the streets for her funeral, with their bloodshot eyes and quivering hands, none of them had ever met her, let alone formed any sort of personal relationship with her, so why did they get overtaken by these emotions? I remember being out one Saturday night and news got round the club that Layne Staley of Alice In Chains had been found dead after a massive heroin overdose. People were actually crying in the club. The man lived 4700 miles away in Seattle, and had probably never heard of Hull, yet people in Hull felt compelled to grieve openly about his demise. I didn’t understand.

The only time I’ve been slightly melancholy about the death of someone whom I’d never met came in 2009, with the death of former England manager Sir Bobby Robson. Robson had a reputation as the nicest man in football, commanded enormous respect on the world stage for his tactical knowledge and success all over Europe, and had been heavily involved in the development of some of the greatest talents of all time, figures such as Romario, Jose Mourinho and Ronaldo. He also gave me the definitive memory of my childhood, England’s barnstorming performance at Italia 90, and Italia 90 is my favourite thing of all time. He was a relentlessly positive man, and upon learning that he was suffering terminal cancer in 2008, having beaten the disease on three previous occasions, he said: “My condition is described as static and has not altered since my last bout of chemotherapy… I am going to die sooner rather than later. But then everyone has to go sometime and I have enjoyed every minute.” On the 26th Of July, 2009, a mere five days before his death, he made his last public appearance at a recreation of the Italia 90 semi-final against Germany, and almost all of the original players turned out in the name of The Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trust. Robson was scheduled to make an appearance in the director’s box but true to his persona, he insisted on being wheeled out onto the pitch to thank each player individually with a handshake. As he went down the line it was titilating to see the 1990 squad nearly twenty years later, broader of waistline (John Barnes,) higher of hairline (Mark Wright,) or both (David Platt,) but they were all instantly recognisable, apart from this one figure, a wiry, wizened man with a stringy neck and anaemic looking arms, who greeted Robson with an almost desperate enthusiasm, and as the Knight of the Realm released this man’s hand he looked on after him with hollow cheeks and the eyes of a puppy whose master had just abandoned him in the woods. This man had been the star of the show at Italia 90, and changed English football, and arguably world football,  forever at that tournament. He was unrecognizable from the old pictures. It was Paul Gascoigne, England’s greatest ever professional footballer. And Paul Gascoigne is going to die soon.

paul-gascoigne-with-sir-bobby-robson-2930519-1389990

This week we have seen him in the press yet again following another relapse into his alcohol addiction, which led to an arrest for affray. The desperation of the story was that he was not arrested at some trendy Soho nightclub or Mayfair hotel, places where the current breed of football superstars conduct their misdemeanours these days, but at Stevenage Railway Station on the platform. This followed an incident this February where he was taken into intensive care in a rehab clinic in Arizona, paid for by his great buddy, 1996’s Chris Evans. Gascoigne suffered such intense alcohol withdrawal that he had to be strapped to a bed, where he had to be revived three times after his heart stopped, and repeatedly injected with librium. A few months later he had made a public appearance at a sports event where he was due to give an after dinner speech during which, according to witnesses, he began rambling incoherently and frequently broke down into tears.

For those of you who are too young to have seen Gazza play, ignore the general comparison to Wayne Rooney that seems to get wheeled out by the press these days. It is unhelpful for many reasons; for a start Gascoigne was a far superior player, but the major difference is that Wayne Rooney is a brilliant player who can occasionally behave like an overgrown seven year-old. Gascoigne was an overgrown seven year old who occasionally behaved like a brilliant player. In many ways it is unhelpful to talk about his playing career at all as what we are dealing with here is a man who suffers from savage bi-polar disorder and OCD, and is also completely helpless in his battle against alcoholism, but his playing career is what defined him, made him, and will ultimately kill him.

 

Gascoigne was that rare breed of English player: The Entertainer. Driven by a child-like need to please people and be seen, there was an almost desperate air right from the start of his career, when put-downs from his Newcastle team-mates about his weight led to him behaving in increasingly bizarre ways, on one occasion stealing the groundsman’s tractor and driving it through the wall of the team’s changing room. In the build-up to the match that cemented his place in the Italia 90 squad, a friendly against Czechoslovakia, he was seen in the tunnel before the kick-off, wild-eyed and unapproachable, ferociously thrashing a ball against a wall, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings. The night before the 1991 FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, he had to have sedative injections to get to sleep, and in one very revealing incident from just after his career-changing turn in Turin, got leglessly drunk and marched into his old primary school to berate his old teacher who had, many years ago, told him he’d never make it as a footballer. He was the most famous person in the country at this point, and had cemented his reputation as one of the greatest players in the world on the biggest stage of all, yet his fragile self-esteem still prompted the need to go and say “I told you so.”

gazza dribbling

Gazza played his last professional game in 2004 for Boston United, yet it is the critical opinion that his career effectively ended in 1991 when he went rampaging around the Wembley turf like a pitbull with a needle full of amphetamines up its arse, nearly decapitating Gary Parker and then mangling his cruciate ligaments in an idiotic lunge at Gary Charles. He was out for nearly two years after that match, having behaved like a wild animal for the fifteen minutes he was on the field, and his decline, both on a professional and personal level, began here. He wouldn’t be picked regularly for England again as Taylor and later on, Hoddle, both had misgivings about his “re-fuelling habits.” Only Terry Venables put his trust in him, and he was rewarded with Gazza’s last three decent performances at the highest level, against Scotland and Germany at Euro 96, and, at the same tournament, as the ringmaster in the 4-1 evisceration of a very decent Holland side, his greatest match in an England shirt. Two years after that, Glenn Hoddle dropped him from the France 98 squad, he was both overweight and out of form, and stood and watched as Gascoigne trashed his office in a fit of temper.

You see, what wasn’t realised at the time, before the era of sports psychologists and the like, was that in order for Gascoigne to perform with such intensity on the pitch, his adrenalin levels had to be through the roof, and when you’re reaching those self-inflicted chemical highs 50 times a season, the volatility of mood swings would be utterly uncontrollable. Imagine the most wound-up you’ve ever been in your whole life, the biggest pressure situation you’ve ever endured, be it your wedding day, the birth of a child, a really important job interview, a medical emergency you’ve been involved in, whatever, now imagine being at that level of mental and physical intensity, twice a week, having 30,000 people staring and cheering at you in rapt adoration, and the press are camped on your front doorstep every day looking to see how you react to it. How can you possibly deal with those highs and lows, particularly if you’re a less-intelligent-than-average bloke who already has embryonic mental health issues and an addictive personality? You escape. You escape into whatever brings it down for you. And in this case, Paul Gascoigne escaped into alcohol.

For the people who are reading this that have no interest in football, I have tried to think of a public figure to compare Gazza to, so you can appreciate the tragedy of this situation. Initially I thought of someone like Kerry Katona, a relatively normal person who is just not bright enough to be famous and needs someone to look after her. Kerry Katona, however, has no discernible talent and is on the telly simply because the general public enjoy watching human car-crashes. Then I thought of Ozzy Osbourne, a man who has a talent, but is out-of-control and in thrall to his vices. But again no, because Osbourne is a very wealthy man who lives in a huge mansion in LA and is taken care of by his wife, who keeps him off the booze and makes him lots of money.

No, I had to think of someone who, like Gascoigne, was an absolute master of his stage, had millions of adoring, hysterical fans, and when he wasn’t on his stage, simply didn’t know how to make his way through life, and would pick up all manner of grotesque hangers-on who just wanted to fleece him of his money. He would develop an addiction to mind-numbing substances and would blow all of his wealth, another deeply-disturbed man-child who on some level, possessed that rare trait that we know as “genius.”

MichaelJackson_Wide_620x350

And as we choose to remember Michael Jackson for the video to Billie Jean rather than his squalid court cases and the horrific self-inflicted facial disfigurements, let us hark back to the 2nd most famous photograph in English football history, the photograph that documented how one brilliant player’s inability to control his emotions one night in Italy led to an irreversible change in the English game, how it was dragged out of the doldrums of hooliganism and right wing politics to be the billion-pound entertainment industry, that, for better or worse, we all subscribe to today. Look at the carved stomach muscles and tree-trunk thighs of a player who, for much of his career was derided for being fat; a player who, for much of his career, was the best on the planet.

gazza turin

 

It is difficult and heart-breaking to equate the gaunt and frail looking figure that is the Paul Gascoigne of today to that photo. And it is deeply upsetting to watch the perpetual chain of humiliations that his life has become, whether it be turning up at a police barrier to give a lunatic who’d gone beserk with a shotgun some fried chicken and a fishing rod, or cashing in by giving “confessional interviews” to parasitic vermin like Piers Morgan. His friend and former team-mate, Gary Lineker, recently spouted up on twitter with the following:

“Lots of you asking for my thoughts on Gazza’s plight. I can only hope he finds peace somehow, but fear those hopes maybe forlorn.”

And Lineker is right, Paul Gascoigne is going to die soon. Whether he commits suicide, poisons his liver beyond repair or drunkenly toddles out in front of a bus, unless he finds someone who can nail the thought into his brain that he has to stop drinking, he will end up dead. And when he dies, a big chunk of my childhood will die as well. This is the saddest story professional sport has to offer. If you don’t want to shed a tear, don’t look at the following video.

 

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

Why Everything Was Better Before (Part 2) by Allen Miles

A few days ago, I took refreshments with Messrs Salmond, Ware, and Davis, three good friends of mine. Jon casually mentioned that a few hours earlier, he had received his new mobile phone. One of our party, possibly me, asked him which model it was and what features it had. We all sat there and incredulously shook our heads as Jon reeled off the preposterous list of actions his new phone could perform, one of which is if you’re watching a video and look away from the screen, the eye sensor pauses the video for you, then he finished with a knowingly ironic smile and the line “…oh yeah, and it can make calls and send texts too.”

For those of you not from the North of England, these packets are about two inches long.

For those of you not from the North of England, these packets are about two inches long.

I am terrified of modern technology. I instinctively mistrust anything that was invented after 1999. When I got my first mobile, it had a screen the size of half a packet of TABS (remember them?) and looked like it was made from Duplo (remember that?) I mainly used it to text Andrew while we were both drunk in the small hours of a Sunday morning. We texted each other punk slogans and thought we were clever. Over the course of the next five or six years, mobiles got smaller and smaller until you were effectively talking into the afore-mentioned packet of TABS. Then, as manufacturers realised that the screen could be the selling point, they got bigger and bigger again. My own mobile has a surface area roughly the size of a small breadboard. I don’t want it. It has brought nothing but distraction to my life, it seems to have given me carpel tunnel syndrome and I can’t wear my favourite mod-cut brown Farah’s anymore because it doesn’t fit in the pockets. I hate it. I fucking loathe it, but I am well aware that if it was taken away from me for just one day, my loved ones would have to manacle me to my bed while I screamed my tonsils out and Kelly McDonald sang Temptation by New Order in the corner of the room, dressed in a school uniform. Even when the battery goes dead I have to sit down and take a valium.

...and I've never met anyone quite like you before...

…and I’ve never met anyone quite like you before…

The main gripe I have with the modern mobile phone is that if you make a dick of yourself somehow, within seconds everyone knows. This mainly happens on nights out when you’ve had lots to drink. Many moons ago, it was an event when someone took a crappy little wind-and-click disposable camera to a pub or club. You’d keep one eye on your alcohol level because you wouldn’t want the one copy of the photo that was taken to get passed round all your mates over a period of weeks showing you to be dribbling sick out of the corner of your mouth whilst trying to dislodge your shirt flap from your fly. I remember when I was about twenty one I threw a tantrum for days because someone had taken a photo of me in Room one night and I decided that my shirt didn’t go with my jeans. If only that was all we had to worry about now! Now, because Facebook and Twitter are all integrated into practically every mobile you buy, if you do end up laying on a park bench belly-up like a dead goldfish with WANKER written across your forehead in eyebrow pencil, everybody you know will instantly be able to see it and have a good old giggle at your self-inflicted humiliation. My friend Emma, whose sole-purpose on this planet is apparently to laugh at my misery, took a picture of me a wee bit worse for wear in an old town pub a few months ago, with my eight chest hairs on show, mugging camply at the camera. Within seconds of this instantly regrettable photo-shoot, my old school-mate Kate Rylatt, who lives in New Zealand and whom I haven’t seen in person for nineteen years, would have been able to see this depiction of complete embarrassment . The next few hours of my life were absolute hell as I desperately invented potential rumours about sexual depravity with enormous vegetables in order to force Emma to remove the photo from her Facebook wall. Which she eventually did, but not before leaving me hanging in abject torture well into the middle of the next day. Had that have been an actual photo that was taken with a disposable camera back in the day, scurrilous rumours would have abounded between my mates of a ridiculous picture of me posing like a cadaverous cross between Mick Jagger and Disco Stu, but they wouldn’t see it for another three weeks, by which time they wouldn’t care anymore, and I could seize the negative.

Another thing I hate about my new fangled mobile is the e-bay application (I’m not going to say “app,” call me pretentious if you want, I don’t give a fuck) that I have for it. An innocent enough piece of software, you may think, handy if you’ve bid on something and you’re away from your computer when the end of the auction is near; you can check how it’s going and continue to bid. Yes, in theory its brilliant, but as I’ve already alluded to, I spend a great deal of time drunk, and when you’ve had a few, you suddenly become absolutely determined not to be outbid on the highly collectable resin statue of Stiletto from Dangermouse that you saw a few days ago, and in the sober light of day bid a speculative £2.00 on. All of a sudden, you’re in a bidding war thats going down to the wire, and as you finish your ninth pint, you get the special gong sound on your phone, informing you that the 80s cartoon figure that will go straight in your loft is yours for a winning bid of £17.50. Shit. This is why I haven’t downloaded any gambling applications onto it. If I did, I would be bankrupt, divorced and childless before I managed to plug my charger in.

I also have video games on my phone. No, before you ask, not that one, but ones such as Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and absurdly, every Sega Master System game ever made. Back in the very early nineties, my kid brother Andy and I would spend every penny of birthday money we got on Sega games, we asked for them for every Christmas and if we ever came into a few quid for whatever reason a nine year old and seven year old did, we would always put it towards a Sega game. The dearest ones cost about £30, and the budget range varied from £10 to £20. It was a proper occasion when we got a new game, you had to go down a special aisle in Toys R Us with your ticket and everything. We managed to accumulate about twenty games between us over the course of two or three years, and they took up two rows of the bookshelf we had in our shared bedroom down Bricknell Ave. Now, in 2013, I’ve got two hundred and odd of them on my phone, which fits in my pocket. The emulator thing cost 79p, the games were all free off the internet. The dream is over. My childhood is dead and buried and being pimped over a file-sharing network for people to play on their mobiles while they’re sat on the bus/train/toilet. Bollocks.

In 2013, all this that you see here is the size of

In 2013, all this that you see here, along with a big wooden-cased television, has been condensed to the size of a Ryvita.

113 Applications, 902 photographs, 89 text message alerts, 121 ringtones, The Complete Works of George Orwell, Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemmingway and Cormac McCarthy, along with a further 188 e-books. I can control this website from it, I can record programmes on my Sky+ with it. I can use it to tune my guitar, or to find out whether a certain type of toaster is in stock at my local Argos. I have dozens of episodes of Peppa Pig on it to entertain my two-year-old daughter, and I can get world news, football scores and directions to anywhere in the country within seconds. Oh yeah, and it can make calls and send texts as well…

Thank you Samsung. You ruined my life.

Do you remember Snake on the old Nokias? I liked that.

I’m off to decide which 3D live wallpaper defines my personality…

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx