The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Nottingham City Pulse: Secret Affair and Neville Staples

Last weekend saw the new annual Nottingham music festival, City Pulse, return to various outdoor points around the city.  By the Nottinghams castle a marquee was erected for dancing whilst in the Forman Street, Trinity Square and Hockley areas, a bill of musicians was organised. The main arena however is in the Old Market Square which has a bill for all three days over the Ban Holiday. There has been some criticism of some of the performers laid on with perhaps, shall we be kind here and say their star has slightly faded. It’s all totally free though and brings a little vibrancy in Nottingham’s city centre for a few days. I eyed up the official programme to note that the Saturday night might be worth a visit with Secret Affair playing at 7p and the Neville Staples (of The Specials fame) Band appearing at 8.30pm.

23052009062 Secret Affair

Secret Affair being the old modsters that they are played a fair few Tamla tunes in their hour-long set. The seven-piece band had a couple of handy horn players plus singer Ian Page who is also a talented trumpet player. He seems to have mellowed from the slightly precious, angry and precocious young mod that he could be at times back in the seventies. Between 7pm and 8pm the square already had a good crowd gathered. It’s sort of strange, seeing guys like this all of thirty years later, but I really like the fact that these sort of people are still around.

After a pint at The Cape Bar we returned for Neville Staples and the boys. with darkness descending and the Old Market Square bathed in a light show, the band took the stage sans their guitarist who was ‘still on the motorway’ according to Nev – he didn’t want to keep us waiting though he mentioned.

23052009066 The Neville Staples Band

The band blasted into a blistering rendition of ‘Monkey Man’ and the square was rocking with guys in Fred Perry’s and a few pork pie hats jumping around. That’s a lie – everyone was jumping around! The guitarist arrived after a few minutes as the set flowed through one ska classic after another, Toot’s and The Maytals ‘Pressure Drop’, ‘Simmer Down’ and plenty of Specials hits including ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Gangsters’, ‘A Message to You Rudy’ and many more. Neville found the time to harangue one poor observer down front who steadfastly refused to dance whilst looking on disapprovingly. ‘This is not The Specials’ mate – if you want to see The Specials come along tomorrow, it’s fifty quid a ticket!’ shouted Neville! It was all in good nature though. Neville is still the big daft laddie that he ever was. A lad just out for a good time playing the music he loves.

Pauline Black came out to good applause and sang three Selector hits. She looked cute in her rude girl outfit and bounced around the stage with lots of enthusiasm and style. She sang well too, staying on to finish the set with Neville and the band.

The set ended fairly abruptly after one call back – Neville had another gig somewhere that night plus a Specials gig the day after! A good night’s entertainment all completely free. Well done Nottingham, I look forward to the next one.

May 30, 2009 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | 4 Comments

Mixu – It’s over

The Hibernian FC official site is now carrying the the news informing us that Mixu Paatelainen is no longer at the helm as Hibs’ manager. Mixu himself is quoted:

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as Manager of Hibernian Football Club. We have travelled a journey together and the Club will always hold a special place in my heart.

“However, there comes a time when a change of direction is best for both parties. I thank the Club and the players and coaching staff for their commitment and talent and I wish the supporters everything that they would wish themselves.”

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It’s been very sad to see the way some Hibs fans had turned on the man. Whilst Mixu displayed several frailties in his managerial skills I felt there was little need for some of the bile and vitriol shown towards him. Mixu served the club extremely well as a player during two spells with the club when his whole-hearted displays endeared him to the Easter Road fans. His finest hour was undoubtedly his classic hat-trick against Hearts in the famous 6-2 victory a few winters back now. For me it’s not the latter that I necessarily judge him on, I remember how his selfless attitude towards the team brought on the younger players around him, when he was happy to share the knowledge and know-how of a long career with younger professionals trying to make their way in the game.

There is no doubt that Mixu was a very fine centre-forward whilst so far his managerial abilities have failed to materialise in the same way. I firmly believe that, given time, he is the kind of man and professional who will learn from his experience at Hibs and move forward again elsewhere. I genuinely hope so. For now it’s goodbye and good luck to the big Finn.

Thanks for the memories, Mixu.

May 30, 2009 Posted by | Hibernian FC | , , | 2 Comments

Well…that didn’t last long

You have a city with a genuine bona fide football hero. A man that put a medium-sized provincial city on the world map of football and became the biggest thing since Robin Hood.

image After a protracted spell of hard work in fund raising, fully £70,000 is collected to commission an excellent tribute to the man in question – a permanent memorial for all to enjoy in a busy area of the city. Then some numb nut decides to vandalise it after only a few short months.

The statue of Brian Clough in Nottingham lasted intact from last November until this week. Sadly I think we all knew it would happen some time. Thankfully the wrong has now been put right.

There was a lot of consideration as to where to site the statue. One problem at the time was that Nottingham Forest were actually talking about moving grounds. It was decided that the statue should be in the centre of the city where everyone could enjoy it – not just visitors to the City Ground which is a short bus ride out of the city. On balance I’m glad they put it where they did. I walk past it frequently in the city and always have a peek at Brian and a wry smile to myself when thinking of him. The statue brings back many happy memories.

This Clough statue incident is one of sheer wanton and mindless vandalism. Quite likely attention-seeking behaviour too. i think this person will get his come-uppance though. It might have the useful side-effect of focusing local peoples’ thoughts on the problems of vandalism too.

I really wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of the perpetrator if his or her identity becomes public…

May 29, 2009 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , | 2 Comments

What does it take to win your love?

“What does it take to win your love for me?

And how can I make this dream come true for me?”

The words were made famous by Tamla Motown act, Junior Walker and The All-Stars but they’re worthy of consideration in the enduring, honey-glowed aftermath of the latest chapter of the Edinburgh derby story. In a game that few of a Hibernian persuasion expected anything but grief and derision from, out team came through for what was a famous and mighty victory against all odds. Hasn’t it ever been thus?

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It’s enough to be aware that the majority of a full first-team Hibs side were sidelined for Tynecastle but practically every factor seemed a negative prior to that Thursday evening. Or did it? Mixu has been struggling mightily to turn his own Easter Road fortunes around with little enduring success. The quality of our football has been poor; our opponents are at the right end of the SPL and so on. Of course we can all be a great judge in hindsight but how many really expected to gain ‘a result’ in modern parlance, from that scenario?

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May 23, 2009 Posted by | Hibernian FC | , , | Leave a comment

The Marathon Diaries: Wired for Sound?

With the demise of my latest set of headphones and a few runs listening to the sound of my own footsteps (no bad thing) it set me to thinking about the methods I’ve used in order to hear a little image‘live’ music on the run over the years.

When I began running long ago than I care to remember in my school days such a ‘miracle’ wasn’t really possible. The smallest sources of music were diminutive transistor radios and no one at that time had the forethought to invent something that was truly portable – in a running sense at least.

The seventies grew more mature and whilst in my first ‘proper’ job as an apprentice compositor in the print trade, I rustled up the money for a brand new piece of technology entitled the ‘Sony Walkman’ The pic shows something very similar to the small metallic box with the magic sound. What an innovation! This new concept in music on the move wasn’t even ruined by a cheesy Cliff Richard hit of the time by the same name of my title here.

“Walkin’ about with a head full of music
Cassette in my pocket and I’m gonna use it – stereo
-out on the street you know-woh oh woh…”

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May 22, 2009 Posted by | Archives: The Marathon Diaries | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wild Geese

An inspirational piece of verse for today. I find this poem by Mary Oliver very refreshing and comforting. It’s an important message that tells us to ‘live in the now’ and states clearly our place in the scheme of things in this big, wide world.

The world keeps on turning…

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Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

May 17, 2009 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , | Leave a comment

The Malt Cross, Nottingham

Sometimes we’ve all been guilty of ignoring a little gem from right under our noses and this was the case with me and The Malt Cross in Nottingham until the past year or two. I always knew imageof it’s existence just off the Old market Square in the city centre on the pedestrianised St. James Street, adjacent The Bell Inn, but never visited. I wasted some time because the converted music hall dating back to 1877 is a beautiful and interesting place to find oneself for a quiet pint and tasty snack early evening after work or to listen to the good quality live music that the venue sports.

Built on two floors, the upper area is an oval balcony that looks down on the throng below and also the small stage which is curiously situated at a height between the two floors at one end of the building. Presumably this would have been where the original music hall acts of the Victorian era would perform and heavily harks back to that age.

As well as an impressive and historic structure, The Old Malt Cross has pleasant, friendly and efficient staff which means those dreary and frustrating queues for drinks or usually absent, even at the peak of a busy Friday night in Nottingham’s city centre.

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May 16, 2009 Posted by | On The Road, Times Gone By | , , , | 6 Comments

The Nottingham Riveria

For those of us of a certain vintage the term ‘Nottingham-on-Sea’ applied not to the East Midlands city but to the Lincolnshire resort of Skegness a couple of hours drive east. ‘Skeggy’ as it has always been abbreviated has always been a traditional getaway destination from Nottingham – especially for a day trip by the sea. The fact that arriving in Skegness still leaves a healthy walk to the briny depths of the murky, chilly North Sea makes no difference to the resort’s popularity with Nottingham folk and also visitors from the likes of Leicester, Derby and Sheffield. image

Let’s make no bones about it, if you enjoy to be beside the seaside then Nottingham is hardly the place to base yourself. It’s not exactly the furthest destination from the coast in this small island of ours but it’s still heckuva land-locked in geography and travelling time.

Back in the 1990s’ the local council struck up the idea that bringing the seaside to Nottingham might be an option. They did this during three summers in the Lace City during that decade. My fragile memory also tells me that this indeed happened in the 1970s’ on one occasion too as part of the sadly aborted ‘Nottingham Festival’ of the time. This is not to be seen reported anywhere in the media though I note. I know what I saw though, those donkeys for one thing…

Nottingham boasts a ‘new’ Old Market Square these days. It’s former design has been manipulated into an arguably inferior looking area but one that is infinitely more practical to use for events. This is due to the levelling of the former ‘Processional Way’ through the centre of the old market area that was. In recent times this has provided a home for ‘The Nottingham Eye’ ferris wheel, an outdoor ice rink with accompanying German Christmas Market, music stages and other sundry events.

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May 15, 2009 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , | 2 Comments

The Marathon Diaries: Two Fives and a Seven

Not an arithmetical sum but representing two back-to-back days of five mile runs of contrasting fortunes. The seven represents the seven-plus minutes quicker the second run measured.

It’s been nice running weather recently with the sunny intervals of the days only punctuated by blustery winds more reminiscent of the month of March. As a runner, it’s always nice to use a circuit that might give a little help with the wind at one’s back on the tiring way home.

12052009059 On the road: Woodborough

The first run was a very ordinary one with no particular expectations other than completing the distance and returning home to fight another day – a ‘bog-standard’, rank and file session. These are the ones that flesh out a runner’s diary often overshadowed by the quality and long distances that take pride of place.

The second run however, over the same out and back course from Woodborough through Epperstone and return was one characterised by a lot of hard effort. The previous day had a residual benchmark time to beat and that was the main target. This was achieved by a confidence-boosting seven and a half minutes less than the previous day. Sometimes a runner’s confidence can be at a low or at least fragile ebb, especially on the road back to true fitness. We need a stopwatch to prove our worth. It’s perhaps folly to fixate too much on the chronograph but used in the correct way it will always be part of the runner’s armoury of weapons.

Enchanting lyrics somehow enter my head on the run, in spite of the hardship.

“Oh the rhythm of my heart is beating like a drum
With the words, ‘I love you’, rolling off my tongue
No never will I roam, for I know my place is home
Where the ocean meets the sky I’ll be sailing

As always they offer inspiration and strength…

“Oh the Summer time is coming
And the trees are sweetly blooming
And the wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go lassie go…”

Today’s run was hard – it was meant to be. I didn’t enjoy it for once but the aftermath glows. It’s tempting to compare the time I ran those miles in today with my higher level of fitness in past years but truly this would be a churlish exercise. I can get back to where I was. It’s entirely up to me.

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Archives: The Marathon Diaries | Leave a comment

The Marathon Diaries: The Old Road

It’s three days after my initial run of thirteen miles as I write, the two intervening days containing a couple of single-mile runs which keep my ‘streak’ going and a seven mile walk around the Denton area of The Vale of Belvoir. This was partly due to sore lower stomach muscles from that last long run. Sometimes having the ability to run a long way without taking too much care about doing it can be a bad thing. I really should remember that it’s some five weeks since I ran such a distance.

So it’s back to the old disused road near where I live for a few laps to gauge my soreness. I know by doing this I can end at the appropriate time without being obliged to complete a circuit. The old road is a curious place. It’s a crumbly half-mile stretch of faded tarmac running parallel with its more modern successor of some forty or so years. It’s pleasant and fairly quiet though, often you won’t see a single soul around there. To one side is a small wood and to the other open farmland with a picturesque farm house perched on the red hills.

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I set off and immediately feel my stomach tugging though this soon eases. I consult the set of limestone rocks near the beginning that I count off my laps with. I could never remember how many half-mile stretches I’ve run after the first handful!

The old road itself is largely set on a hill and is a healthy workout for that reason. The road is useful for a very short and necessary run near to home but when encountering the thought of running several laps, music become essential to me. A Sony Walkman Mp3 player plays some summery music into my ears under the watery May sunshine, dappled by the freshly green trees lining the route.

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Today I ran twelve laps equalling six miles. The time was unimportant. I’m thinking of the long-term goal as usual. Now – what about that diet…

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Archives: The Marathon Diaries | , , , | 2 Comments

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