The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Remembering Hucknall and Linby miners

I’ve always been happy and comfortable with the working class roots of both sides of my family from Scotland and England respectively. Not at all in a show of inverted snobbery but a genuine affection for the types of hard and honest communities my mother and father rose from either side of the border. Both came from families of ten children, there are so many aunts, uncles and cousins that I have to admit there are some I’ve never yet met.

Hucknall’s iconic statue commemorating the mining industry

I saw a nice story today on BBC East Midlands TV news and it reminded me of that family feeling, a feeling of my roots.

The story below is a report on the commemoration of 150 brave miners who lost their lives in the three pits of my mammy’s home, Hucknall Torkard and Linby village in Nottinghamshire. Good and honest working class communities were built around this industry and the hard, resilient men who travelled down underground to put food in the mouths of their families. My own father, a miner at one time, himself survived a serious fall underground having his ear viciously ripped off and needing it sewn back on again. Some were less fortunate.

I have nothing but deep respect for the men who did and still do this job.

We will remember them.

Memorial for Hucknall and Linby miners unveiled

December 20, 2014 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | Leave a comment

Five Songs for Five Days (5): My Girl – Otis Redding

Day Five of Five – My Girl – Otis Redding

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The final day then and many of my favourites omitted. No Dexys, no Rod and the Faces, The Who or Beach Boys. No Temptations, Brother Marvin or Peter Green. It’s not a ‘finest five ever’ though so I’ll grab one and pitch it in your direction. It’s a special delivery too. How can it be feasible to ‘improve’ (with the deepest respect) on something that the heavenly voice of Sam Cooke sung or that The Temps crooned and grooved to (as in here)? Ask Otis Redding to sing it, that’s how.

Anybody familiar with me even just a little knows that Otis is my top soul brother of them all. For me the Macon, Georgia boy’s voice defined how to sing with soul, until he was tragically cut down in his prime. Nobody did it like him. It’s a family thing too as my darling sister, Anita, introduced me to Otis’ music when I was barely old enough to understand what had happened to him when he perished. Thanks for that sis, what a gift.

Feel the soul. Dedicated to my love.

 

December 3, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , | Leave a comment

Five Songs for Five Days (4): In a Big Country – Big Country

Day Four of Five: In a Big Country – Big Country

I’ve always loved the strength, optimism and fighting spirit of this song and years ago when I first heard it, it summed up for me the spirit of the Scottish people who were displaced during the Highland Clearances and how they fought through atrocious and inhumane conditions to sail to the new world of Canada especially and from there forge a new life for themselves and their descendants.

Stuart Adamson

I was thinking about this song earlier in the year, not long after the greatest calamity and sadness of my life – trying to hook into that spirit – when I wrote the short blog below. I take much from the words of this song:

http://stuartfrew.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/big-country-in-a-big-country/

‘I’m not expecting to grow flowers in a desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime’

‘So take that look out of here, it doesn’t fit you
Because it’s happened doesn’t mean you’ve been discarded
Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted’

‘Stay alive’ is the song’s simple message, for that is what we must all do.
It’s sad to think about what happened to Stuart Adamson but he has left us with a fine legacy.

November 30, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , , | Leave a comment

Five Songs for Five Days (3): The Tracks of My Tears – Smokey Robinson and The Miracles

Day Three of Five: The Tracks of My Tears – Smokey Robinson and The Miracles

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Where to start with Smokey Robinson and The Miracles’ The Tracks of My Tears? One of the elite, classic tunes in popular music history and one that was regularly voted the best ever in older surveys way back when. This and that other classic by Smokey, The Tears of a Clown, which I named my blog site after, portray a very special theme for me. The story is of the funnyman, the joker but one with a hidden, sad and reflective side. I’ll leave you to guess why this concept is one that is close to my heart. Just listen to the words.

 

November 29, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , , | Leave a comment

Five Songs for Five Days (2): Just a Little Misunderstanding – The Contours

Continuing with the second choice of five songs for five days.

Day Two of Five. Just a Little Misunderstanding – The Contours

I first came across this song as an inclusion on a budget cassette compilation in the early seventies which I probably paid 50p for and it had a real effect on me. I’m not sure I’d heard the term ‘Northern Soul’ at that point but the track’s driving uptempo rhythms became very familiar to me shortly afterwards in that idiom. I’ve liked practically every song I’ve ever heard by The Contours since.

It didn’t achieve great success commercially, apparently only reaching a modest number 85 in the Billboard charts but it’s a number one hit in my book. This song still does something to me and I can play it over and over without tiring of listening to it. My favourite piece of Northern.

November 25, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , , | Leave a comment

Five Songs for Five Days: It’s Too Bad – The Jam

I unashamedly spend some regular time on Facebook, keeping in touch with friends, having a little fun and exchanging information. Amongst others, I was recently asked to post up five songs over five days that were particular favourites and decided to do this and add a few words along the way to accompany them.

Like others I’d find it a thankless, if not impossible task to name my definitive five songs of all time so quickly lost that notion in favour of five I’m rather fond of recently and would be likely to listen to on my iPod today.

Here we go with the first one:

Day One of Five: It’s Too Bad – The Jam

I’ll give this a go. I won’t try to pick my five favourites – that’s too hard – but rather one or two top picks and other’s I’d like to hear at this precise moment. I’ll try to say something about them too.

On side two of ‘All Mod Cons’ by The Jam this appeared in the shops in 1978 when I was at somewhere around my vinyl record buying ‘peak’. Straight down to Selectadisc or the seminal small Virgin store in Nottingham every Friday, wages in pocket after work and wading through the exciting New Wave and Punk 45s and prepare for the weekend which would be full of music.

There are so many great Jam tunes and on much of their output Paul Weller showed what an uncommonly mature writer he was for his fairly tender age. The harmonies of this song and the ringing Rickenbacker sounds provide the perfect backdrop for the pathos of Paul’s lyrics of the futility and yearning for a lost love. Haven’t we all done that?

 

November 24, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , | Leave a comment

Green and White Jerseys

Today: a little article salvaged from the beginning of the season…

Around about this time of year, one of the main events that football followers look forward to is the annual introduction of the new home and away kits of their team. Sometimes these occasions are met with approval by the fan base and at other times, derision. The design of the average football club kit being such a subjective matter, it’s quite hard to gain universal approval – especially when we consider the more hard-line traditionalist opinion of perhaps more ‘mature’ generations of diehards.

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The ‘Famous Five’

It already seems like months ago but back in the dog days of high summer last month, my club, Hibs, released their brand new strip for season 2014-15 to a truly cataclysmic fan reaction. One the like of I hadn’t witnessed before. In something of a departure for the club, the famous white sleeves which have traditionally accompanied the green jersey of Hibernian for the past seventy-something years were jettisoned in favour of a late return to the much older solid green styling, using a darker shade of green as had been employed by Hibs’ earlier ‘greatest men’ of a different age. It sounds small beer when stated that way but truly, perhaps especially as so many fans had felt disenfranchisement from the Easter Road club after the dark days of a recent relegation; it produced a hurricane of protest, revilement and anger. Not quite a cold fury on the Hibs internet forums but certainly not far from it. Along with this was a fair volume of negative comment about the size and design of Hibs’ new on-shirt sponsor’s logo. A few didn’t seem to accept the fact that the red lettering of their logo is somewhat at odds sartorially with the green of Hibs and imagined that the sponsoring company’s corporate colour should be ‘changed’. That’s not going the way it works by the way, boys and girls.

The club’s marketing campaign for the new kit on the official website was somewhat appealing. It featured attractive images of the grandchildren of Hibs’ indomitable forward line of the 1950s, the Famous Five, and focused on a small, dare I say not-very-well done inscription to Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond on the shirt. This however, appeared to fail to win people over.

It wasn’t all about the white sleeves. The early images of the jersey made it appear cheap and shoddy looking – a ‘training top’ appearance to some – made from poor materials and based on a budget standard Nike template shirt which was something that upset many. In this way, some went as far as to see it as a defilement of the memory of the Famous Five which of course is a complete no-no – those men being held in such exalted opinion by every Hibee, even those of us who were not around in person to see them bewitch defences and dazzle the huge 1950s crowds.

Something very strange then happened. A few days later the jersey actually appeared for sale in the club store on the rail and opinion began to swing to the like of ‘it’s better in the flesh than it first appeared’ type comments. Here, we can truly see the destructive power of social media and internet forums generally, in all their ferocity – and what felt like an almost complete U-turn in opinion overnight from that.

It’s clear that these days, when clubs need to maximise their potential income, the number of replica jerseys sold is a highly significant figure. In this way, we see that football shirts are often designed to as much as anything look good with a pair of jeans, on the beach or in the pub – a reason why they have in some cases began to morph into t-shirts (rather like Hibs’ latest effort). Many of the comments I read referred to fans not buying one – as opposed to what the team would actually look like playing in it. This is, of course, a modern phenomenon. The earliest Hibs or Scotland jerseys I was able to get my muddy hands on during school days to play on local recreation grounds were pretty generic looking items, unbadged and certainly sans ‘Frew 9’ on the back. Of course this was usually de rigueur for professionals too in those days.

What we always come down to after these unholy outbreaks of wrath is, of course, the bottom line. If Hibs start winning regularly in their new bottle-green ‘training top’ it will become a classic! As ever, we football fans remain the fickle ones.

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Iconic – Pat Stanton

My own thoughts are that I don’t really like it. It looks neat enough but for me, it’s not ‘Hibs’. I’m not worried though as I’m aware it will be eBay fodder in around twelve months’ time, such is the way of things. Whatever it looks like, I had no intention of buying one however, my concerns are only that my club is presented appropriately and traditionally on the field of play so maybe my opinion doesn’t count for much with the hierarchy. I recall one of the 1970s’ Turnbull’s Tornadoes, possibly the great Alex Cropley, stating that not only did he and his team believe they were a great side (they were) but that they knew they looked the classiest too (they did). That still has to mean something? To be proud to wear that beautiful green jersey with the crisp white sleeves and to know that you and your teammates look the business in it?

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Hibs 2014-15 Away kit

Since they launched the home kit, Hibs have partly redeemed themselves (in my eyes) by the release of the club’s new away kit of white jerseys and green shorts. This strip reminds me greatly of the old tradition of reverse strips to play away from home in and, being a traditionalist, I like that very much. It even panders to the more modernist way of thinking too in that the jersey will probably go well with a pair of jeans. However, as one observer so succinctly put it, ‘I’m not paying forty-four quid for a white polo shirt with a Hibs badge on it’.

It looks ‘nice on’ though as they say, well it did last night at Ibrox I thought. They certainly seemed more able than of late to find a teammate in the same colour all evening.

Suits you sir.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC | , | Leave a comment

‘What else am I gonna do. To keep this world from hurting you.’

‘What else am I gonna do. To keep this world from hurting you’ Stuart Adamson

YESTERDAY, I CAME HOME from my work at the usual time, a little weary, ‘another day, another dollar’ as they say, with its usual trials and tribulations. Collect the mail, what’s for tea – the usual mundane routines that many of us enact. On this day however, there was a large envelope with something substantial enclosed on my doormat. Now, I don’t get all that much mail and for that I’m often grateful!! It’s all brown envelopes isn’t it, never that much fun these days, pay this, respond to that, most of it goes straight to the bin without collecting two hundred pounds. I think we all know the script. But this was different.

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Ripping open the package, to my enormous surprise I find a pristine hardback copy of ‘Gordon Smith: Prince of Wingers’ the biography of the great and legendary Hibernian and Scotland right-winger and member of the Easter Road club’s Famous Five forward line. I instantly remembered that a little while ago a friend and one who I should add that I have yet to meet in person had promised to send me the story of Gordon Smith, written by his son, Tony Smith. Turning the front cover back I see a note and a host of autographs signed by Hibernian legends. Wonderful.

I find this so humbling. That someone a few hundred miles away in my home city had woken up one morning and taken the time to think of me, taken that book in hand, packaged it and sent it to my home in Nottingham. It is a very typical gesture of the kind that I have been the recipient of during the last few difficult and trying months of ‘starting again’. During those months too I have suffered in trying to concentrate for significant periods, something which has upset me and affected my ability to gain enjoyment from a great love of mine, reading but gradually that is slowly coming back, thankfully. So a gesture like this is a significant and important one for me. It is a motivation and part of the process of becoming well again.

I have had support close at hand for which I am very grateful, crucial support at times and yet this link, this huge warmth coming from Scotland has been immeasurable and enduring. It it an extraordinary comfort blanket that I have been able to resort to in times of great need. The constant messages, the hospitality, the gifts, the acknowledgments, the warm words thoughts and deeds, the love and friendship – truly extraordinary and yet should I, knowing what I know, expect any other? Perhaps not. When I was a young laddie I like to think that I was raised with many good Scots values. I was brought up to understand that to give to others is better than to receive. Without being a saint, I have always remembered these words and had a shot at living that way wherever possible. It seemed the right way to me. I now find myself the recipient.

I won’t embarrass the kind and thoughtful friend who has extended me this kindness but just to say, if you’re reading ‘K’ thank you for the gesture. Always here for you.

September 12, 2014 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | 2 Comments

Hibs drop deeper into the doldrums – strong action required

PERHAPS UNSURPRISINGLY, Hibs surrendered yet again this afternoon, this time at Easter Road to Falkirk by a goal. This sees the club in the invidious position of being placed third bottom of the Scottish Championship, albeit at a still early stage of the campaign.

It really isn’t looking good. The reality is that a couple of poor results with an already less than sparkling start to the season are most likely to see Hibs drop deeper into the doldrums and the gap between fans and club widening further. A dangerous factor that seems to remain unconsidered by the club.

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Seemingly, they refuse to act. It’s clear that the only way sensible route forward for the club is to buy better quality players. This is not optional, money has to be found, but instead of that the supporters are fed excuses – while still paying Premiership prices for the privilege of owning season tickets to watch a low-grade of football. If the quality players out there exist – and better quality players certainly do – then why are they not signed up at Easter Road already? Quite honestly I don’t believe poverty pleas in spite of a lowering of status, what I see here is the old Hibs/Petrie biscuit tin mentality.

Undoubtedly, there have been good, healthy changes at the club since last season. It’s a pleasure to hear that Hibs are reaching out to the community and making forward-looking backroom changes, unfortunately though, this is a football club with the main aim of actually winning football matches. This appears to be considered a side issue at Easter Road – meanwhile the team has staggered from one disaster to another and now slumps alarmingly towards mid-table Championship obscurity.

I’m afraid that I now don’t want to hear or read about this or that off-the-field ‘initiative’. Nor do I want to hear about anything else other than firstly, how this team is going to be strengthened significantly and secondly, when an agreement, hopefully one based on a fan-ownership model, is going to be put into place to relieve this club of its current ownership.

Do something soon Hibs or just turn out the lights…

August 23, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC | , , , | 3 Comments

Notts County: ‘Digging tunnels’ again come the Springtime?

I had a seat in the Main Stand at Meadow Lane yesterday, as I’ve got into the habit of late, for the Notts County v Fleetwood game. With yet another fresh season upon us, those with an interest will recognise the sterling efforts of the boys of 2013-14 to keep the old club afloat in League Division One before what seemed like an impossible task at regular intervals came to pass, with the team and manager eventually doing themselves proud – with the club seemingly readying itself for what appeared inevitable relegation.

So it was with some optimism, notwithstanding the huge turnover of players at Meadow, that I alighted the Nottingham tram at Station Street and walked alongside the canal by a busy London Road on a pleasant, part-sunny August afternoon. Meeting my friends at the busy Trent Navigation pub on Meadow Lane, adjacent the ground, it was good to catch up after what seemed a very brief close season.

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Pensive – Notts manager, Shaun Derry

It wasn’t an auspicious start for the Magpies however, the first home league game of the season ending in an insipid and dull 0-1 defeat. Notts, in my humble opinion, lost some very decent players over the course of the close season and whilst it was always going to be difficult to adequately replace one or two of them, I expected a little more fight, urgency and determination from a side put out there by Shaun Derry, a man who’s attitude and integrity I’ve come to respect.

For the opening home game and considering Notts’ terrific and successful fight against relegation last term, I was a tad surprised at many supporters’ criticism of Derry at this early point, both in the ground and online afterwards. For me, he’s done a very decent job so far with few resources. Shaun, being a former Notts player and brought up a gritty local lad appears to ‘get’ Notts and the club’s fans better than most I’ve observed. Probably in common with many others, I’d originally viewed him as another, slightly strange, left-field choice – or more likely a cheap option – but I’ve enjoyed the way he talks about Notts and more importantly, what he seems to instil into the players in black and white stripes.

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‘The Great Escape’ of 2013-14

For the event itself, there is little I can impart that would make it sound like an exciting affair. Notts, though reasonably secure in defence, manifested a great lack of creativity in the middle of the field in particular and were fairly toothless up front too with Jimmy Spencer-replacement, Jake Cassidy having a somewhat lean afternoon. In truth it was extremely poor fare, particularly in the opening half with Notts seemingly unable to string more than a couple of passes together. The Magpies’ engine room huffed and puffed but showed a lack of energy, drive and in particular, subtlety which does not bode well for the coming winter. Notts missed their wide outlets of last season, appearing for a good deal of the game to play a more compressed style. It must be said that there were few, if any, highlights or eye-catching individual performances.

The typically bold, Derry substitutions of bringing on Balmy and Ismail in the second half brought about a short-lived improvement in the side and a little more life to the proceedings but ultimately, Fleetwood ran out with a deserved single goal victory which could hardly have been denied them. It’s early days with the season but an infant currently, first signs however, appear that the level of player brought in will see the Magpies endure another uncomfortable season. One hopes for better.

Without major improvements, sad to say, Notts County will be ‘digging tunnels’ once more when the season moves towards the sharp end…

 

As a footnote. I’d like to pay tribute to club stalwart of so many years, John Mounteney who passed away last week. His stewardship of the club will be remembered and appreciated by all. John was that most rare of individuals in the modern game, a gentleman and one-club man for many, many decades. Sincere condolences go to his family and friends, Rest in Peace, John.

August 17, 2014 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , | Leave a comment

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