keresaspa: (Seagull)
It's ate bread now given that I've been home since Sunday and, as I suspected, the Dreamwidth exodus seems to have killed this journal stone dead but the tenth annual London extravaganza probably needs to be recorded anygate.

Ergo )
keresaspa: (Diggory)
The short version of this is that London was rather good apart from the going and the coming, which were hell on earth. On the off-chance that anybody is still reading this (and I note in my extended absence that I am now down to one person submitting regular updates on my friends list) I shall expand at some length about what took place.

The Austrian stork nurtures the kites )
keresaspa: (Cartman)
Every time I post to this now I seem to begin with a note to excuse my absence due to the paucity of updates. What can I say, less than auspicious days recently. In the meanwhile however a standing engagement in Edinburgh took me across the sea once more and, as ever, I shall betell the events.

Lay on, MacDuff )

Hello

Oct. 10th, 2015 10:14 pm
keresaspa: (Obelix)
Such is the regularity with which I visit dear Edinburgh these days that it hardly seems worth kicking this thing into life just to describe the latest visit. Still, it's a pattern I've established these last twelve years or so and as such it must continue. If there is a moral to this story let it be thus - don't walk backwards, it gets on everybody's tits.

Mulch )

Paris

Aug. 29th, 2015 11:07 pm
keresaspa: (Seagull)
Hello you *waves*. Yeah, just back from Paris and that, which, of course, means I have to go on at length about the last week. Apologies in advance if this gets a bit incoherent but you should all be used to that by now.

Lundi )

Mardi )

Mercredi )

Jeudi )

Vendredi )

Lon-done

Jul. 17th, 2015 09:43 pm
keresaspa: (Reiko Ike)
Is this thing still on? Only one way to find out I suppose:

London )
keresaspa: (Snowman)
If all else fails )
keresaspa: (Snowman)
I'm sure the cold didn't used to vex me like this. I'm not talking about those crazy days of youth when he ran around in our shorts oblivious to everything (actually, no such days ever existed as I have a large birth mark on my right leg that made me far too self-conscious to ever wear shorts), much more recently than that. Admittedly I have no reference point to last winter as I don't think it ever fell much below seven Celsius but the year before I'm sure I just ignored the biting cold. Not this year. We're in the grip of a rather cold spell right now (five in the day, two at night sort of thing) combined with heavy rain and whooshing winds and I swear I'm chilled to the bone more or less permanently. I've tended towards cold extremities these last few years (the price of being huge, I suppose) but now every bit of me is feeling the slightest chill and even with a heavy coat on I'm still freezing whilst walking. Heck, a few years ago the sweat would have been pouring off me after five steps with a light jacket on, even on the coldest day, but now even a sprint across the road doesn't shake the shivers. It's ageing, of course, but by golly I didn't expect it to jump up on me quite so venomously, without even having the decency to arrive gradually. What's next, apples not tasting of anything any more? Where's my walking stick?
keresaspa: (Cynthia of Witching Hour fame)
It was probably a little silly of me to attempt two matches in one day, what with Belfast being in the grip of roadblocks caused by bicycles and slack-jawed gawpers incorporating torrential rain, but I decided to make the effort nonetheless. Ordinarily I would have been satisfied, or at least satisficed, with attending Sport & Leisure Swifts' crunch relegation decider in the afternoon but other things forced my hand. Saturdays in Belfast allow unlimited bus travel for two quid so I was excused walking duty but I was aware that the chaos was due to ensue once afternoon descended and so I resolved to get my bones out west as early as possible.

Inevitably bus travel was already a bit banjaxed with the hordes descending early and roads already getting blocked but by and by I made it to the salubrious environs of Poleglass, a huge sprawling housing estate (although some residents will tell you it's actually four or five small housing estates) sandwiched in between west Belfast and Dunmurry in a sort of no-man's land that is neither one thing nor t'other. An 11AM kick-off was the order of the day as advertised but when I arrived there was a half an hour wait on account of the visitors getting delayed in the roads melee. Nevertheless, despite the driving rain and the saturated nature of the pitch, Colin Valley reserves kicked off their match with their Bryansburn Rangers counterparts and before long it was raining goals as well as - well - rain. Valley took the lead in the first minute before Rangers took charge. They were 4-1 up at half time and it ended 5-2 in their favour, a shame as I have a bit of a soft spot for Colin Valley. But it's always good to see some goals for your trouble, I suppose. As a Division 3D Northern Amateur League match it is the lowest level of match I have attended and it also represented my third time watching a Bryansburn Rangers side this season. Total goals from the three matches - 23. Must try to catch them again next season.

After the appetiser (and a quick lunch that I just about had time to gobble down) it was time for the main course as I made my return to Glen Road Heights for the first time since November 2012. With my attentions firmly on DC, Sport & Leisure Swifts had fallen by the wayside but I still cocked the odd eye at their results and felt it was a shame how they were heading meekly out of the league. Then former DC manager Pat McAllister took over and, after a slow start, they dragged themselves up and going into the final match they needed a win to be guaranteed survival, having looked dead and buried about a month ago. A decent crowd by Swifts' standards had turned out to watch the crunch match against the mighty Chimney Corner (great name, pretty ropey club) and they were treated to a nervous, but wholly committed, display by the home team. Swifts' number 11 summed them up - a tiny man (5'4" if he was lucky) with little real skill but a bundle of energy who ran the feet of himself and was always after the ball. Their efforts were rewarded in the end as they took a narrow 2-1 to get the win they so needed. As it turned out it didn't really matter after all as their closest rivals, Killymoon Rangers, were roasted by Tobermore United and so will be relegated but the sense of relief in the home ground was palpable and I must admit I got caught up in it a bit myself, notwithstanding the presence of rather distracting nuisance children running wild. Not what you want when you're already a bath of nerves.

One more match awaits as I'll be up at Brantwood on Tuesday night cheering on yet another of the minor teams that I sympathise with as they attempt to beat Dollingstown and secure a long overdue return to the league in place of Killymoon. Still, barring a minor miracle, that's my lot for Saturday matches until the pre-season friendlies get going. Contemplating what I'm going to do with Saturday afternoons when my last blank weekend was in early July is giving me the cold sweats but for now I would prefer to look back on a grand year of 57 matches following DC and beyond. Ah, there's nothing like it. Roll on next season.
keresaspa: (Dora-Kai Lan-Kitty)
As night follows day so it is inevitable that the weekend brings rain and, whilst I for one avoided its brutal onslaught as it fell overnight, nevertheless it rent its path of destruction and brought about the inevitable postponement of the latest in a long line of Donegal Celtic home matches to fall at the altar of precipitation. Mind you, a light drizzle cancels matches up the Suffolk Road nowadays and my mind is boggling at just when they're actually going to finish their programme at this rate. Heck, if the club weren't poorer than a church mouse's bankrupt uncle I would suggest leaving the old place to its fate and seeking alternative accommodation but that's about as likely as Alka Yagnik deigning to become my good lady wife so the cycle of rain-postponement-rain-postponment will continue.

Still, I did have an alternative as my old friends Albert Foundry were at home and, given that they play on a high elevation grass pitch, weather causes little concern for them (in direct contrast to DC, whose pitch is grass and is located at a high elevation). I knew that today the challenge that awaited them was Dromara Village, a little club from the wilds of County Down, about twenty miles straight up the road from me. So far this season I had yet to have the pleasure of watching Dromara in action, despite my peregrinations, but I had heard the rumours and read some of the results - an 8-1 home defeat from Foundry, 12-0 away to Ards Rangers, 6-0 against an otherwise hapless Islandmagee. So as I approached Paisley Park in the dear old Highfield estate today I did so with two results in my mind: East Belfast 0-6 Derriaghy and Colin Valley 5-4 Bryansburn Rangers, the biggest win and highest aggregate scores I had ever seen. Could they be outstripped?

Well, stone the crows, for no sooner had the match kicked off than Dromara took the lead. As occurrences went it was right up there with the time Iain Duncan Smith experienced pity in the shock stakes but it galvanised Foundry into action and soon they swept. A goal was ruled out unfairly for offside before they genuinely equalised and then ran riot, racing into a 5-1 lead after 25 minutes and going in 6-1 up at half time. Frankly it was a painful watch at times. Dromara were even worse than I could have imagined, second to every ball, passing back to Foundry on the rare occasions when they did get the ball and unable to perform even the most basic of football stuff. That they appeared to be playing with five defenders instead of the more usual four made it even worse, as the Foundry players swarmed like skaven on a dwarven stronghold (were said stronghold made of bone china and straw and defended only by Jack Duckworth's pigeons). Had Foundry made three substitutions and brought on me, Professor Stephen Hawking and Misao Okawa Dromara still would have been ludicrously outclassed. I lost count of the number shots Foundry had but fifty would be a conservative estimate and the fact that they "only" managed an 8-1 win was as much due to their own profligacy as anything Dromara managed. In the end it became like the Christians and the lions and when the final whistle went it was a blessed relief that the lions finally swallowed the last bit of God-fearing gristle. Never in my life have I witnessed such a one-sided match and the sooner Dromara are relegated the better as this was a bit of a waste of time for both clubs. Mind you, the miser in me was satisfied as, having paid three quid to gain entry, I was paying only 33.33 recurring pence per goal and that's my idea of value.

So in all a fun diversion, even if a team of cardboard cutouts would have given Foundry about as much trouble as Dromara did. Derriaghy's record disappears as Foundry-Dromara is now the biggest kicking I've ever witnessed and the Colin Valley-Bryansburn goalfest is equalled. DC allegedly face Institute next week although there's every chance a passing roustabout may spit in the direction of DC Park, flooding the pitch beyond use in the process and thus forcing me to find more Amateur League thrills. If that's the case then more of the same please.

Buffoonery

Mar. 8th, 2014 08:33 pm
keresaspa: (Diggory)
Butter my arse, but what an absolute pisser of a day that turned out to be. Gnash and stamp.

As yesterday was yet another in my catalogue of blood-lettings (getting mighty sick of that shite) I consoled myself with the thought that at least today I could return to the Suffolk Road and watch my first Donegal Celtic home game for the first time since last year. So off I set, nice and early by my own standards, full of the joys of spring on what proved a fine sunny day. I should have known something was going awry when I reached the town and saw yet another rumpus involving those fucking Nazi flag protest dickheads outside the City Hall who appeared to be in a tussle with a group looking to do something for International Women's Day (Socialist Party, hang your collective heads in shame for running like shite from a group of loyalists grannies and press-ganged children). Still it was all good and I headed off to the west, decamping at the bottom of the Suffolk Road as I fancied a bit of stroll. As I passed Falcarragh Drive (about five minutes from the ground) I thought "must have a look at the phone", as I generally ignore the blasted thing on a Saturday. What do I find therein - a collection of messages informing me about early morning shenanigans, culminating in a "match off" text. So there I stood in the middle of nowhere, twenty minutes off three o'clock, only to discover I had got my run for nothing. Bollocks! My own fault in a way obviously as I should have checked the phone before leaving but I'm still mystified as to how a pitch can be waterlogged when we've had hardly any rain. Honest to God, they couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery up there! It's getting to the point where I don't expect to see any more home matches this season because if the pitch is unplayable on a day like that then it'll never be usable again. Why are my anxieties about DC going out of business resurfacing, I wonder?

Reliant as I am on public transport it took me the guts of an hour to get across town to Seaview, more on the off-chance that there might be something going on there rather than with any foreknowledge. Still, Seaview being Seaview, of course there was a match on and, whilst I missed the first half hour due to the Metro bus service being a steaming pile of dogshite, I still was on time to see both goals as Crusaders reserves beat their Coleraine counterparts 2-0. It's strange to think that when [livejournal.com profile] burkesworks accompanied me there in the summer it was my first visit to Seaview as I am now getting sick looking at the place, given that it is one of the few venues in the city capable of resisting a bit of drizzle. Actually scrub that as I'm not getting sick looking at it at all and am very thankful that it is always there and always has a match available when, as happens so often, one's own team lets one down.

I was out in such good time that I was able to pay a visit to the recently opened Sick Records on my way back. Nice little shop, if a bit hipster for my taste and I generally don't buy much in the way of new vinyl, given how stupidly overpriced it invariably is. Nevertheless their second-hand section, though small, was not without its charms and I was able to touch for a Conflict album and a compilation of Japanese psychobilly. Indeed they had a decent selection of psychobilly at competitive prices which I may well revisit. Classy too that they let you keep the plastic sleeves for your purchases although, given the price of those bloody things, I don't expect that to last too long. Either way, nice addition to the local scene. For breadth of choice I prefer Head (although their recent move seems to have brought about a thinning out of range and a general rise in prices), for good punk stuff and a chance to moan about illnesses I prefer Dragon and for a good old rummage through all sorts of mess and a bit of banter I prefer Track Records in Ballymena but I imagine I'll drop in from time to time and the more choice there is amongst independent music shops the better I suppose.

So not a total loss altogether but nevertheless I am frightfully cross with DC right now. Bloody gits!
keresaspa: (Cow)
As a consequence of Donegal Celtic's continuing extended hiatus from all football, combined with the rainfall levels that suggest it really is Sodom and Gomorrah times again*, I was able to continue my tour of the backwaters of east Belfast on Saturday. My travels took me to Sydenham, deep in the arse of the east, to witness the spectacularly named East Belfast take on Derriaghy Cricket Club (who play football, despite their name). I'm not sure if the UVF's Jamie Bryson, an extreme right candidate in the upcoming elections now too, was playing for his club side or not but if he was it made sod all difference as Derriaghy wiped the floor with East Belfast, winning 6-0 despite having a perfectly good goal disallowed and a penalty saved.

Of course last year Sydenham was all over the news after a mural of George Best was replaced by one of the UVF, resulting in a lot of hand-wringing by those in the media and politics who still like to continue with the canard that the UVF ceasefire is genuine. It's not an area of Belfast I regularly visit so it was only Saturday that I finally saw it with my own eyes:



Disappointed to say the least. Given the fuss that had been kicked up I was expecting it to be a massive triumphalist epic covering several buildings but in the end it was a crappy little thing about ten feet high on the side of a tiny little outhouse.

Leaving aside the nonsense of the message (if loyalists are being oppressed it is by the government, which is part of the British state apparatus, so blind loyalty is frankly the daftest reaction going and with their savage beatings and drug dealing there are few oppressing loyalist communities more than the Uve) I think the fuss was all pretty nonsensical. Regardless of their message, I'm something of a fan of the paramilitary murals and am generally left rather cold by the "community mural" crap that goes up in their place. We all know the loyalist paramilitaries run their estates so for me it makes sense to have their stuff on the wall rather than covering it with some old crap about Ulster Scots (which nobody in the loyalist estates of Belfast speaks anyway) or CS Lewis (whom nobody in the loyalist estates of Belfast reads anyway). As spontaneous outpourings of dissent and examples of outsider art I love the bones of them and frankly one of the great shames of recent years has been the way Sinn Fein has taken control of the walls in the republican estates and are plastering in them in all that "cultural" crap that has become their obsession now that they're lurching increasingly to the right. Apart from anything, were there something really worth getting worked up about it would be the fact that the nearby Belfast City Council-owned park and sports facility is plastered in UVF insignia too but nothing was said about that.

In and off itself this mural is hardly anything to write home about but I for one would rather see it than some fantasy of smiling children or, worse yet, yet another one about the bloody Titanic. And as for the argument that a paramilitary mural will dissuade tourists from visiting Sydenham, frankly any tourist that visits Sydenham is bloody mental anyway. Let's face, the UVF is as active as it ever was so why pretend otherwise? If the Fenians have a problem then resist Sinn Fein's dominance and put up murals in support of the New IRA but getting all precious about a statement of fact (that the UVF remains armed and active) is just silly.

* I appreciate that Sodom and Gomorrah were totally separate from Noah and his flood and were destroyed by fire and brimstone rather than rain but the New Creation didn't bother recording a song about Noah and their Jesus Freak craziness deserves a bigger audience.

From a purely aesthetic point of view my favourite loyalist murals are this one, this one and this one (subsequently removed), although I rather like this one too because I made money out of the picture.

Wet

Jan. 31st, 2014 08:38 pm
keresaspa: (Cartman)
It's the wettest January on record we are told. I can well believe it as I can't remember a day this month where it hasn't pished it down. The map on the link provided suggests that in Northern Ireland we have got off relatively lightly but they could have fooled me. The lack of a discernible winter, combined with the continuing deluge, has made things right bloody miserable and, as previously mentioned, played havoc with the local football. I have a few possibilities lined up for tomorrow but the inability of this place to come to grips with the internet means another run for nothing may be my reward. The ones I'm looking at are all on plastic pitches and thus should, in theory, be immune to rain-based cancellations but even Bangor had to call of a game recently due to rain so clearly in this dundering-in plastic is no protection. A Clarence Cup tie between St Patrick's Young Men and Ards Rangers out on the Boucher Road looks most likely (likely to be a glamorous affair), although a return to Iveagh United's hovel out in Twinbrook is another possibility. Colin Valley, who vie with Albert Foundry and Brantwood for the title of my second favourite local team, are supposed to be in action at home and would have been worth a visit but alas they play on that increasingly obsolete substance, grass, and so are about as likely to kick off tomorrow as I am to win this year's marathon.
keresaspa: (Huffy beardy weirdy)
Lousy "winter" weather (for which read non-stop torrential) combined with a woefully underfunded and poorly maintained stock of football pitches meant that the local game was decimated today. For my part I walked out to the Oval to watch Glentoran reserves face Queens in the Intermediate Cup, taking the mother of all soakings in Templemore Avenue, only to get there and find the place locked up. No custodian to announce "game's off, mate", no note on the gate, not even a local spide to tell me "there's no game the day, beardy-buck", nothing. Very shoddy way to treat people who make the effort to turn out for your lesser games, Glens.

A cross-town dash meant I made it in time for the second half of the West Belfast Brigade Derby at the Shankill's Hammer pitch, where the plastic surface is impervious to water and where I was able to watch Albert Foundry overwhelm their Shankill United hosts in front of a packed ground to take a 3-0 victory. It was only when I got home that I found out that Shankill had scored three in the first half that I missed and it had actually been a 3-3 draw but I suppose one half is better than nowt. Still, it really is a pain in the arse just how much simple rain buggers up the local game here, given how poorly maintained the pitches are. They really need to dig money up from somewhere to kit everybody out with the plastic because Cliftonville and Crusaders play no matter what and indeed Seaview seems to have a match every couple of days with no ill-effects (Crusaders and Newington play their home games there, as occasionally do Carrick Rangers for some reason, most non-league cup finals are held there as are various women's football matches). Because of all these postponements Donegal Celtic won't be playing again until 22 February with their last game having been on 4th January and the last home game on 28th December. Nigh on two months with no income will be a bitter blow; the club were lucky to survive the summer's financial meltdown but it would be a bloody shame if something as lame as the weather killed them off.

Now here's a blast from the past. When did we stop doing these and why?

Read more... )
keresaspa: (Trotsky)
Whilst there are those amongst us who crave above the new, the different and the strange, many of us are, to varying degrees, creatures of habit. For some of you out there a week in which egg and chips is not consumed on a Tuesday evening is a week you would rather not live, a frightening prospect that brings a shudder even at the very thought. Routine is for the most part an enemy but there are inevitably occurrences when I too feel the name to conform to a sort of pattern.

Saturday afternoon is, of course, one such time as that is the time I must be at a football match regardless of the teams in action. A spell of diluvian rain today ensured that Donegal Celtic's intended match against Ballyclare Comrades was ixnayed but, undaunted, I spent the day at Seaview watching a drab affair in which Newington YC lost by the single goal to Portstewart. A crowd of around twenty was all the match could garner, making Seaview an eerier experience than normal (and next time I bemoan the poor crowds at DC I'll remember this match), although I spent it in the company of a slightly bonkers old West Bromwich Albion fan who had got a boat over to Belfast on the off-chance of attending any live match. I doff my hat to such hardcore anorak-ism.

Saturday may be my day for football but for others routine on a Saturday means only one thing - standing outside the City Hall bleating about a flag no longer being a permanent fixture on the building. Yes, that's right after nearly a year and two months they are still gathering outside the City Hall griping about that bloody flag with the usual line-up of spides, the elderly, children and people not from Belfast (just what does it matter to "Loyalist Lisburn" is Belfast City Council doesn't fly a flag?).

With regards to all of this crap about flags and Orange marches Martin McGuinne$$ made a valid comment recently (well, there's a first time for everything) suggesting a grand coalition for bigotry between the Orange Order, the UVF and their PUP political arm being behind all this. Were I Curly I would have added the West Belfast Ulster Political Research Group and their associated UDA dissidents who have been prominent up at Twaddell Avenue, but otherwise the point is a valid one. The Regressive Unionists, and the increasingly Strasserite weltanschauung they have adopted under the führung of Billy Hutchinson, have their eyes on doing something at the council elections and, given that their previous flirtations with more normal social democracy got them nowhere, what better way to make the breakthrough than by marrying a message of being a persecuted underclass to one of ultra-nationalism, whilst seeking a direct alliance with the main organisation of right-wing middle-class backlash.

David McKittrick has characterised the work of the Loyalist Association of Workers and the Ulster Workers Council as a form of "sectarian socialism" and it was a policy followed to an extent by the UDA's lead spokesman in the '70s Sammy Smyth, a man who combined agitation on behalf of the Protestant working class with calls for ethnic cleansing and extreme anti-Catholic conspiracy theories and whose pronouncements became so extreme that in the end he was given a punishment beating and expelled from the UDA. It's along this path that the Regressives are now going, offering a vague version of socialism for one community whilst seeking to blame other working class people for their ills rather than capitalism. Socialism that purposefully seeks to divide the working classes and instead looks to class enemies as its natural allies? That's Strasserism in my book and no mistake. And I'm not even touching on their willingness to co-operate closely with dyed-in-the-wool right-extremists like Jim Dowson and Willie Frazer in their flag protests when I say that.

Their alliance with sections of the unionist establishment is inevitable and inevitably it will get them nowhere as they will be used by the Orange Order until they get tired of them, just as the LAW and UWC were by the Ian Paisley and William Craig. By continuing in their usual role as running dogs for the unionists, the Regressives have blown any hope of effecting change and indeed it leaves one with little conclusion to draw other than the fact the, far from wanting anything to change, Hutchinson just wants to get his and a few of his mates snouts in the trough alongside the rest of them. Given that he happily stands by whilst the UVF he represents peddles drugs and inflicts terror on the loyalist communities he claims to speak for then I can't see what else he has in mind. I'm sure plenty will be fooled and Hutchinson will get his wishes and this place will once again back bigotry and put a few more horse pedlars on the councils but let's not expect anything to improve by enshrining a divided proletariat. Same old Northern Ireland, forever and ever, Amen.

Edinburgh

Sep. 27th, 2013 09:52 pm
keresaspa: (Wil Cwac Cwac)
Given how rarely I update this now I suspect my occasional extended absences draw little attention but this one can be explained away by an impromptu post-birthday break to possibly my favourite city - Edinburgh.

I'll leave off details about the flights. Suffice to say both reasonable as flights go, but I still hate flying. My base for the trip was Motel One on the corner of Market Street and Cockburn Street. A very central location thankfully although it was a peculiar place to say the least, with rooms having no wardrobes, only two badly positioned electrical sockets and a television that only worked properly when it felt like it. Seemingly it was part of a German chain as all signs and handouts were primarily in German but the rooms were certainly well designed, if a touch minimalist for my taste. The inevitable problem of keeping milk cool also struck (as it does it nearly every hotel) and my twin solutions - filling the bin with cold water or thrusting the milk bottle into the toilet - both proved unsuccessful with the remains of one Poundland effort even ending up curdled. Still, I didn't come here to talk about milk, did I?

So after arriving at the hotel on Monday I set off on my travels, with the Gorgie area of the city my destination. I had no previous dealings with that side of town but had designed a route from Google Maps and was surprised to find that, for once, my plans proved fool-proof. I arrived at Tynecastle in good time and got my ticket for the forthcoming League Cup match between Heart of Midlothian and Queen of the South. The Hibernian-Stranraer game was also an option but I figured I had previously been to Easter Road and that match was on Tuesday, for which I had other plans. The rest of the day was spent arseing about the familiar old streets, battling with an unseasonable heatwave and struggling in vain to find any supermarkets. Is there a law in Scotland banning supermarkets within three miles of the city centre or something? A nice haddock supper made for a fine repast that evening although it left the room ponging somewhat. Such is life.

Tuesday, as stated, was already earmarked for a specific purpose and that was a day's excursion to Glasgow. I am by no means a strong road traveller but the relatively short coach journey between the two cities played severe havoc with my stomach and a boak was avoided by the skin of my teeth. Glasgow is a city I have criticised on here before and I stand by those criticisms - it is horrendously ugly, having obviously been smacked about by town planners in a similar fashion to Belfast (if you must put new buildings beside old, at least try to match the architecture styles a bit) and the frankly ridiculous levels of drunks and junkies wandering about, regardless of the time of day, is very tedious and makes the whole place seem rather unsafe. However I still enjoyed my time there as it has greatly improved as a shopping venue and I could happily have killed a couple more hours there, even if the habit of checkout people saying "first, please" instead of "next, please" struck me as rather odd. One big gripe though - my God, have the accents ever been diluted! I'm a big fan of the Scottish accent in general, it being one of only two British isles accents I like, but a lot of the Glasgow kids sound like they're from the East End of London these days. Such a shame; you have a lot to answer for Eastenders!

My old stamping ground from 2011, Leith, was my first port of call on Wednesday and I meandered down that seedy old road nostalgically, notwithstanding the incessant pishing rain. Keeping on the two years ago riff, I spent the afternoon knocking about what I believe is called Newington (an altogether more refined area than the run-down republican interface area of the same name in Belfast) before heading back to the hotel. My plans to get a self-made salad for lunch were again thwarted as, just like two years ago, self-service salad bars are still absent from supermarkets despite being as common in Ireland as drunk people. Still, to each his own I suppose. That evening was the match and thankfully the rain had finally done one as I didn't fancy taking the relatively long trot out to Tynecastle in the middle of a downpour. As I took my seat in the Main Stand near the halfway line (always the best spot) I drank in the scene. Tynecastle is more dilapidated than Easter Road, although to be fair Hearts are in dire straits financially so it's only to be expected. Still it's a grand old ground nevertheless and credit to the Queen of the South supporters, who made an ungodly row throughout despite being only a small section of the 8,000 strong crowd. As to the match itself it was, quite frankly, bloody brilliant. Hearts played below their capabilities and the Doonhamers inevitably raised their game making it a blood and guts affair in which Hearts lost the lead three times before going through on a penalty shootout. They both went above and beyond in the entertainment stakes and I left the stadium exhilarated, having watched what was probably the best match as a spectacle that I had ever attended. It was well after eleven before I got back to Princes Street but, as always seems to happen at Edinburgh matches, an unofficial walking bus of supporters ensured total safety in numbers.

Thursday brought a welcome return to fine weather and I decided to get a bus day ticket and explore a few places I didn't know. My first port of call was Corstorphine, a suburb near the airport, and a pretty place the former village was. I killed a while there before returning to the main drag and boarding a bus for Musselburgh. I fancied a spell by the seaside and it seemed as good a place as any, although after nearly three quarters of an hour on the bus and still nowhere near the place I gave up and decamped at an out of town retail park by the name of Fort Kinnaird. As a monument to capitalist consumption it was slightly unnerving and its complete lack of facilities played havoc with my suddenly weak bladder but still, it was somewhere different and I had been mixing Musselburgh up with Helensburgh anyway. My third port of call was Ocean Terminal, which I felt compelled to investigate as it seemingly had a bus running to it every thirty seconds. When I got there it was yet another shopping centre, although this time a vast one nestled in a gentrified area reminiscent of the horrific Titanic Quarter in Belfast. My only thought was that a lot of fine historic dockland must have died to make way for such a monstrosity. To finish the day I partook of the local delicacies by devouring a haggis supper, which I was amazed to find consisted of a long sausage shaped slab of haggis bunged in batter and deep fried. Like haggis isn't fatty enough on its own! Probably not a good idea to eat offal with my blood problems but what the hell, I'm getting needle-stabbed next Friday so they can worry about it then (expect ferritin levels in the mid hundreds).

Home today, albeit with a little time for wandering around in Greyfriars and the surrounding area. All in all though it was a wonderful little break. I don't visit Edinburgh that often but whenever I do I'm always reminded why I'm so fond of the place. A wonderful city and the perfect place to dawdle a few days away.
keresaspa: (Lester and Eliza)
That period of extended silence that nobody noticed round these parts was caused by my being in Leeds at chez [livejournal.com profile] queenmartina. I travelled over on Friday by my least favourite method (flying obviously) on what proved to be a total bloody nuisance of a journey. I suppose the flight itself was reasonable enough but the whole rigmarole associated with flying, be it the travelling to and from vast, soulless warehouses in the middle of nowhere, all the security wank, the inevitable stabbing pains in the back of the head and the interminable hanging around really gets on my tit-end and I'm always very glad when it's over. I'm also not sure whether or not an author as intense and, frankly, bonkers as the great Gérard de Nerval was a good idea for in-flight reading as the surreal, existentialist insanity of Aurélia did rather unnerve me whilst travelling in a giant, floating sardine tin but live and learn. By the time I arrived we had already passed the eye of the day so a bit of arseing around the town was all we could manage.

On Saturday [livejournal.com profile] burkesworks and myself took off to nearby Halifax in order to slake my inevitable desire for watching 22 idiots chasing a bit of a balloon. The town of Halifax was a new one on me but I have to say it was a remarkably presentable place, teeming with grand old buildings of the type that the planners in Belfast would have "accidentally" burnt down years ago in order to replace them with glass and chrome horrors on which no sod could afford the rent. That and slightly ropey ex-England and Leeds midfield spoilers see it as a good place to set up fish-flogging emporia. Or something like that. The match itself was eventful both on the pitch and off. On the pitch Halifax Town will have been chastened by the comparative hiding they took from Stockport County, a club one level below them. Mind you given that Halifax went bust recently but have now returned to the top level of non-league whereas Stockport have gone from the second tier of league football to the sixth tier overall in just over a decade in the grand scheme of things they should feel better.

Halifax's ground, the Shay, was once proverbially ramshackle but it's had a right good overhaul in recent years and we took our seat in a well-appointed main stand, not far ahead of an odd looking individual, who appeared a cross between Necro Butcher and a scarecrow. Had we known then that we know I suspect we would have sat elsewhere but Necrocrow, clearly a local maniac, proceeded to spend the entire match talking to no-one in particular about all sorts of weirdness. It's fairly standard practice at these sort of levels that if a player has recently arrived at a club from the other end of the country and/or has been signed on a short-term deal that he is put up in a hotel locally at the club's expense. Such an arrangement can annoy supporters if the player in question doesn't perform on the pitch but for Necrocrow it went further - the player in question was, by virtue of living in a hotel, a Nazi who provided nothing but death. He was detested for the fact that his only profession was football but another player who was part-time and also worked as a barber was roundly condemned as "namby-pamby" and needing to be hit with a medicine ball as Necrocrow respected no profession other than hod carrying (although his insane ramblings, combined with his scrawny physique, rather suggest that his own money is derived solely from mental disability payments rather than carrying shovels of bricks up ladders). Other gems he told us included the fact that the world would run out of water in five years (something else that I think was somehow hotel boy's fault) and that Chelsea and England full-back Ashley Cole is afraid of grass (so what's that stuff he's been making his living on for the past fifteen years?). A chap behind us eventually tired of Necrocrow's warped stream of consciousness and, after advising him in the vernacular to "stop away, then", began throwing in expletives and threats of violence to the hotel hater. Only I doubt Necrocrow will ever stop away, being one of those bizarre supporters who goes to every match home and away, not to mention reserve and youth team games, despite publicly claiming to hate the club and everything associated with it and despite his attendance appearing to fill him with so much anger. Nutter, but he'll be at the Shay until he dies and then his ghost will come back to spend the entire match complaining about how cold Hell is and how bad Asmodeus' arse stinks.

In common with the rest of the British isles, Sunday in Leeds is a very truncated day on which things open for only a few hours so we managed only a bit of mooching before the shutters went up. It wasn't helped by the fact that the Gay Pride march was taking place that day. Put it down to a lifetime of living in Belfast and having to endure the Orange Order but all parades, regardless of their purpose, get royally on my wick and the annual rainbow flag procession is no exception. Rain worthy of the Book of Genesis arrived later on so I beat a retreat and left them to it. The rain continued through the night and into Monday although by the time we ventured out it had more or less dried up and we were able to pay a visit to Leeds Royal Armoury. I had been troubled a series of vivid nightmares the night before, the sort I only ever get when running a bad temperature (and sure enough I feel a tad on the flu side today), and as such I wasn't at my most chipper but we still managed to see the sights on offer, some of which were captured here. Some more Medieval hunting tapestries would have been a good addition as the wonky rabbit head in this one raised some ribaldry but in general it was a nice place which I must revisit at some stage when in better fettle. With the day done I took my leave for an evening flight home, a surprisingly bearable effort which, uniquely in my experience, actually left and arrived early. Wonders never cease. And at least I wasn't detained for questioning by the PSNI this time, as I was when I arrived back from London last month.

As I said earlier I'm feeling somewhat ropey now (although I put that down to a soaking I took in Ballymena in the middle of last week) but it's good to catch up with the kith and kin once again and to add another ground to my expanding list. Good show.

Rufus

May. 14th, 2013 09:30 pm
keresaspa: (Lolita No. 18)
Sun, wind and horrendously fair skin caused by being Irish infused with tainted Viking blood make a less than heady combination. The weather has been practically diluvian recently but in between the sort of hailstone deluge that leaves your trousers about a stone heavier we are being blessed (?) with interludes of baking sunshine. Sitting directly in its gaze on Friday night as I watched DC limply surrender their top flight status I managed to get a sunburnt eyelid and today in the baking heat of Bangor I have completed the set with face and bald pate now shiny red. The black clouds and lashing rain fooled me into thinking that sun block would only be good for giving myself long white streaks as it ran down my face mixed with rain water but instead I am facing my second sunburn of the year already. Were I a worrier that little hard pimple that has risen up on my forehead would be giving me sleepless nights but fortunately the usual combination of insomnia and bloody unreasonable arseholes on ebay have taken care of that already.

Sod it, let's have a change of pace.

Question: Is what follows the single greatest thing in the history of the universe and everything?



Answer: Yes.
keresaspa: (Cookie Kwan)
I believe, gentle reader (whomever you are), that I have mentioned the Highfield estate before. But for those who weren't present or who share my strange obsession with the sectarian geography of Belfast I shall briefly run through it again. Highfield is a loyalist housing estate lying beyond the Shankill Road near the foot of Black Mountain, bordered on the north by the Ballygomartin Road, the south by the Springfield Road, the east by the West Circular Road and the west by the Springmartin Road. Generally a UDA stronghold, it is one of the most deprived areas of Belfast with some of the worst housing stock in the city. Its entire west side is crushed up against equally low grade republican areas such as New Barnsley and Ballymurphy and the area was the site of some notorious inter-paramilitary gun battles in the early 1970's. Even now it gives off something of an unwelcoming vibe with strangers regarded suspiciously and for a Fenian like myself passing through the Highfield estate always gives one a slight nervous thrill.

But a lack of options forced my hand. Well, I could have taken a quick stroll over to Daddy Winkers Lane and watched the mighty Orangefield Old Boys in action and I did toy briefly with a run out to Bangor to watch the match there. There was also the Irish Cup semi-final between Cliftonville and Crusaders at the Oval but I suspected (wrongly as it proved) that in the Ulster People's Forum stronghold that is the lower Newtownards Road a repeat performances of the protests that forced the abandonment of the same fixture at Seaview might be in the offing. So with those options shitcanned all that was left was Paisley Park Highfield estate to watch the erstwhile West Belfast Rangers (Albert Foundry as they are now called) in action against the famous Ardglass.

Paisley Park (which may or not be named after Ian Paisley, I really don't know) is better known as a bowling club but includes a few football pitches. Although the mercury touched ten degrees Celsius today the high, open, windswept location meant that as my made my way to Paisley the following sight greeted me:



I did take the thicko option of Single Award Science at GCSE so I claim no expertise in these matters but I was taught that water freezes at oh degrees so how the hell can snow exist at ten above nowt? Mind-boggling.

But I digress. I arrived at Paisley Park at ten minutes to two (two o'clock kick-off) and was surprised to be charged three quid for entry. Games at this level tend to be gratis but so be it. I was even more surprised to find that with a mere ten minutes to go I was the only paying customer there. Yup, just me. Given how full of their own self-importance Shankill roaders are (a trait they share with Falls roaders) and the fact that local favourites Linfield had no match today I expected a decent crowd to turn out but not a bit of it. I counted nine paying customers in total, augmented by about another twelve or so comps who came in late for a bumper crowd that was lucky to break twenty people.

As to the match itself it was frankly a bit of a mismatch. Although other clubs have games in hand Albert Foundry currently sit on top of the Northern Amateur League Premier Division (fourth tier overall) with Ardglass anonymous in mid-table. I don't claim to know much about this league but if this game is anything to go by there must be quite a gap between the top sides and the rest as Foundry were grinding Ardglass like so much horse meat from the word go. That they went in at half-time only 1-0 up was due to Foundry's inability to score rather than anything on the part of Ardglass. It would have seemed a really long journey home for their travelling support had it not been for the fact that they appeared to have no supporters. Fourth tier don't forget. The attitudes to health and diet are a little different at this level though. Every member of the Foundry coaching staff had a feg on at one point, including one old stager who was eating them, and when an Ardglass player was substituted off injured he sparked a tab on the touchline a few minutes after coming off.

During the second half there appeared to be a rather large fire raging behind the ground with smoke billowing but in fact it may just have been Foundry on fire as they turned the screws on a woeful Ardglass side. Four goals were scored to add to the one they already had, including two near the end that appeared to be scored within a minute of each other. To be honest they probably could have had a three or four more as this was an absolute hiding from start to finish.

It's difficult to assess Albert Foundry. On the pitch they are every inch a Championship 2 club in waiting and they would more than hold in their own in that division playing to the standards they did today. Their ground wasn't the ritz, although if Brantwood maintained senior status with their pit and Sport & Leisure Swifts do with their shoebox then this might just be good enough. The views are quite something as well as there are few places in the city where you can see the Holy Cross church on Crumlin Road, the shipyard and the City Hospital with just a slight turn of the head. Their only stand could probably stand to be a little larger and they would need to rip off the crumbling wooden slats and replace them with proper plastic seats but I could see Paisley Park as a third level ground without too much effort being needed. The big problem however would be the crowds, which are clearly woeful. This was a fine day for football and there is a big slice of population, all high on their own identity, for them to draw on but with Linfield not playing they still failed to break double figures on the gate as far as I could see. A lot of clubs in Northern Ireland fail to engage properly with their local communities in order to attract support (not least Donegal Celtic, whose PR is non-existent, a fact reflected in their own terrible crowds) but Albert Foundry are missing out badly as they could be drawing in decent crowds if they got their arses in gear. It remains to be seen if they will win the league and even if they do the system for promotion to the Irish League is arcane in its complexity but the raw materials are there. Cliftonville and Crusaders have shown what community engagement can do as they both attract bumper crowds now and whilst Albert Foundry aren't near that level yet they could do worse than looking to their northern neighbours for pointers in attracting those from the Greater Shankill who have an interest in the game but don't care for Linfield, can't afford the prices at Windsor Park, can't find transport to Blues games or just can't be arsed going. If they manage that they could thrive a couple of levels above their current position but if not they'll continue busting a gut in front of the sort of "crowds" that most of us could comfortably squeeze into our parlours.

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