Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

About Me

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Ying versus yang

For the first time in my life Fulham are still in a cup at the same time the cricket season has got underway. It's a situation I doubt I'll ever have reason to get used to. And while thoughts of tonight's Europa semi final are almost all encompassing I recently took advantage of my Surrey membership, ECB pass and an irregular working week to take in a couple of days of county cricket.

Nearly as typical as an early Fulham cup exit is the media's annual treatment of the start of a new county season. If they can be bothered to cover it at all it will usually feature a photo of an elderly gent, possibly asleep, sitting alone in the expanse of an otherwise empty cricket stand. Just to keep the subeditors interested the scene will be mixed up a bit year on year. One season the old man will be holding an umbrella, the next he'll have a dog by his side, sometime he won't even be watching the cricket, choosing instead to complete a crossword.

Sadly as with most things in life the media may exaggerate somewhat but the truth is in their somewhere. And parallels between my experiences in the Ashes summer of 2009 with the opening salvos of the county season 2010 are difficult to conjure. But although my recent visits to Lord’s and The Oval where I last saw England set up, and then thrillingly finish off the Aussies, lacked the same exhilaration they did afford more than enough to keep my attention away from the Guardian crossword.

Taking my seat in the Upper Edrich stand at Lord’s to watch Middlesex play a side other than Surrey for the first time felt did make me feel slightly treacherous. But with the not so mighty Brown Caps resting and a whole afternoon free I was keen to check out Iain O’Brien, a Kiwi bowler who recently retired from international cricket. While his record at the highest level was modest the excellent blog he wrote while playing for New Zealand gave a unique insight into cricket life at the top. It also attracted a legion of fans he’d never have attracted otherwise. Myself included.

Iain was bowling as I got to the ground at just after lunch with Gloucestershire comfortably placed at 141 for 2. Several parts of the stadium were out of bounds as I peered out from under the Mound Stand as he raced in for my first ball of the day. It went for four. The second was a wicket as his fellow countryman Hamish Marshall mistimed a pull to long off. Who needs the IPL with action like this?

Taking my seat in the John Edrich Upper alongside roughly one hundred spectators I was immediately transported back to the grassy banks of Hamilton, Adelaide and Trinidad as the not altogether unpleasant aroma of suntan lotion floated on the breeze.
While the sight of ageing, sunburnt white men with tops off and pints at the ready added to the feeling that I had been in similar environments many times before.

I soon lapsed into a contended haze of cricket watching, sun bathing and eavesdropping the local cricket tragics. “They don’t listen to us,” remarked one Middlesex fan about the ECB before his group proceeded to disagree about every topic they raised. Shaun Udal’s captaincy, the reason for Middlesex’s poor start to the season, why Tim Murtagh wasn’t taking wickets, T20, Pro40 & 4 day cricket. “Corruption in India? I find that hard to believe,” said another sage about the current crisis affecting the IPL.

Meanwhile O’Brien was claiming wickets at regular intervals and ended the day with his second best first class figures of 7/48. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon for us both. Affording the kind of relaxation and reflection I can only achieve whilst watching cricket. And totally out of sorts with the kind of experience I’m expecting tonight at the Cottage. Fulham versus Hamburg with a place at a European Cup final awaiting the winner is as nerve wracking as it gets.

In some ways the last week has helped me solve a conundrum I’ve never been able to answer. Which sport do I like the most, cricket or football? Up to now I’ve not been able to split or even compare them. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of playing or watching. The only similarity is the pain and joy they both bring. And while one could exist without the other it isn't a case of which one I love the most. For if cricket is my ying then football is most certainly my yang.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Common people

Counting crying children isn’t most people’s idea of a fun way to spend a day off, but you shouldn’t knock it until you try it. Actually I will go further and suggest any of you whose interest has been piqued by one of Britain’s fastest growing spectator sports try it sooner rather than later. Because if you don’t take advantage prior to becoming a parent then you run the risk of joining the “you wouldn’t say that if you had kids” brigade (YWSTIYHKB for short) and this guilty pleasure will be taken away forever.

With the sun making a surprising, early and welcome return to our shores, I’ve found myself spending much of my free time on Clapham Common. I spent much of my teenage and twenty-something years playing football and getting drunk in Clapham. So it came as something of a surprise to find hidden away from the Windmill pub and plots perfect for footy a spacious cafeteria and bandstand area.

Ideal for those without a ball or a wish to spend their time sozzled during the daytime it’s a haven for Clapham’s well off mothers, dog walkers and fitness freaks. Admittedly throughout the night it’s used for far less salubrious reasons but in short when homosexual men aren’t cottaging in nearby shrubbery it’s a great place to spend an hour or two.

With a raised bank up one side of the bandstand (perfect for high speed skating), a concrete pathway (perfect for working up some speed on the scooter) all surrounded by gravel (perfect for high speed bicycle skids) it’s dreamtime for the scores of youngsters let off the leash while their parents do coffee and check their blackberries. And it wasn’t long until I started noticing, then counting the number of kid’s afternoons which featured a mandatory five-minute crying break.

On one afternoon in March I counted twenty crying children. At the start of April I managed thirteen, although on that occasion I wasn’t around for so long. Last Sunday I was joined by Sinan & Richard and although it took them a while to get comfortable with my idea of fun it wasn’t long before we were making scarily accurate guesses about which of the children would be in tears next.

It soon became apparent that the faster the child was careering around on their bike the greater the chance they would soon be lying prostrate on the gravel staring at their grazed hands in horror. That the small kids who spent half their time desperately trying to keep up with their older siblings would spend the other half wrapped round their parents in floods of tears in frustration at failing. And woe betide the foolish child who attempts to eat an ice cream and manoeuvre their scooter at the same time.

I’d like to say it’s the strangest sporting activity I’ve ever undertaken on Clapham Common. But memories of taking a dip in the duck pond with Nicky B are still as fresh in the mind. And I have yet to write about the joys & all round weirdness that I’m currently experiencing as part of my new BMF regime. But for those of you who like to keep a record of such thing, in the end we broke the record by three children. But the summer is still young.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Back in the day

In the four months since last my last post events have conspired to force me to live my life rather than write about it. So much has happened it’s difficult to know where to begin. Although on the rare chance that Fe actually bothers to read my blog I suppose it would be wise of me to start off with the news of my engagement.

Almost as heart warming and nearly as surprising is the news that Fulham are still in Europe. I’ve only just got back from a 3-day trip to Wolfsburg to watch us make it through to the quarterfinals. Living the bloody dream. And it was whilst in Germany that I decided it was long overdue to bring my blog back up to date.

The only attention I’ve given it of late was after it got infected by a virus that re-directed users to a strange Turkish porn site. No wonder my hit count had gone up so much.

The other unusual thing is that I appear to have attracted a small following in China. I’m not sure what the comments they are making mean - but welcome aboard, my friends!

It is scandalous I haven’t updated more often especially when you consider how much has happened since me and my bro travelled to Rome to get robbed by a referee. It reminds me when I kept a secret diary and the only time I ever used to write anything was when something bad had happened.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I once kept a diary. It’s logical that the type of person who keeps a blog that nobody reads should also be the type of person who would scribble away in a diary that nobody should have read. For many a candle lit evening was spent in my room, door locked, grunge crackling away on my dusty record player, pen in hand and life’s woes being brought to bear. It’s a tight call on what I’ve spent more time on. Trying to stop people reading my diary or trying to get them to read my blog. In neither have I been particularly successful.

From the ages of 13 to 30 I kept irregular updates on life and if they were to be delved into now not only would it be cringe worthy it would appear I had lived a pretty depressing life. For when the good times were occurring I was out and about enjoying them to the maximum. However when things were going against me I’d be back behind the locked door, putting the world to rights in old faithful.

For apart from being useful when compiling a hit list or trying to work out the top ten hottest girls in my class, keeping a diary, and a blog, has always been a therapeutic exercise. Getting problems down on a page has always made them seem more manageable. Sometimes making promises to myself on paper was the first step towards achieving them in real life.

No doubt the recurring promises throughout my diary writing years would become repetitive and involve similar aspects of life. Giving up cigarettes, cutting down on the drink, reducing my overdraft, getting a nice girlfriend and in general sorting my life out exclamation mark, exclamation mark.

And it would be a bit weird if I now used my blog in the same way. Though thankfully there’s no need, as finally I seem to have managed to give up cigarettes, cut down on my drink, reduce my overdraft, sort my life out and get a nice girlfriend, although Fe would probably disagree on the drinking part.

So my blog serves a different purpose, namely to keep a record of the things that I find and do that are interesting rather than a list of things that I find depressing.

What does link both a blog and a diary together is that neither is properly reflective of the life and times if left to itself. And ahead of what could be the defining twelve months of my life it’s time to bring my blog back up to date.