The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Football on St. Mary’s Rec

I love this picture of my old school’s football team appearing on St. Mary’s ‘Rec’ at Redhill. Memories of wearing that red shirt a good few times, Denis Law-style with the cuffs pulled down over my hands and giving the ‘Lawman’s’ single fist salute after scoring and dreaming that I was playing for Scotland. In the background is St. Mary’s Church which has stood on that spot for a mind-boggling thousand years. The church around which the town was built.

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I recall one particular sports session at school where we were due to play football and a few of us turned up without kit as there was a foot of snow on the field. The games master who was very much a 1970s stereotype with his nylon track suit and bullying nature threw a pair of gym shorts each at us and made us go out and play bare-chested with no shoes or socks in deep snow and sub-zero temperatures. We survived – thought it was a bit of a laugh actually (except when you caught the rock hard size 3 football on your bare flesh). I’m just imagining what the authorities would make of that now.

The rec was the scene of many. a multiple-hour game of football between me, my pals and basically anybody who passed by. We played in all weathers in much worse conditions even than pictured I remember being engrossed in many-a-side games on the evenings in the late sixties that both Celtic and Manchester won their European Cups, running home hell-for-leather for a place in front of the black and white TV at kick-off time to watch the games with dad. Probably with a bowl of mum’s Scotch broth in front of me. Those were the days.

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | 2 Comments

Arnold Local History Group

Looking to the future with one eye on the past.

For those interested in history, I’ve taken charge of an overhaul of my local history group’s website. The Arnold Local History Group is an established and growing organisation that offers education courses, events and exhibitions based on the town of Ernehale ‘The place of Eagles’, as it was formerly known.

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The Old North Road of ‘immemorial antiquity’. Mansfield Road, Redhill, Nottingham pictured in 1925

Mansfield Road (above) which travels through our borough and close to my home fulfilled the role of joining the North and the South of England together and is arguably one of the oldest roads, if not the most ancient, in the United Kingdom. Almost certainly, a Stone Age animal path wending its way through Sherwood Forest originally it rose to prominence and importance as the main road from London to York. There are records of a 9th Century Danish Viking invasion marching from York to the city of Nottingham four miles to the south along the predecessor of the byway and accounts of William the Conqueror travelling what later became known as ‘The Turnpike Road’.

The site has some unique and high quality content for anyone with an interest in or link to the town and thereabouts or for those with a liking for history in general. The Arnold Local History Group site is available at:

ARNOLD LOCAL HISTORY GROUP

Regular updates can also be found on the ALHG Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/ArnoldHistory

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Times Gone By | , , , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year 2015

A very Happy New Year to all my friends and family

and visitors to The Tears of a Clown

From Stuart

lang may

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Happy New Year, Mum and Dad

Happy New Year, Grace Marian and John

Thinking of you on this special day and every day, mum and dad. It feels like forever since we hugged and kissed at New Year. One day we will be together again.

Whatever I am, you made me and gave me the determination and strength to carry on. Thank you. Love you.

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December 31, 2014 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | Leave a comment

Hogmanay 2014

And I find myself in the ‘wrong’ place at the top of the year. In truth, I wrestled with the idea of going home to Edinburgh for the celebrations but didn’t feel quite up to things emotionally after a difficult time this year and so chose a quiet, sometimes solitary time in Nottingham. I knew I’d have some regrets about this but didn’t know what else to do really. I hope for better times, times when I can truly enjoy myself with my many faithful pals in Edinburgh, in better condition to give a bit back to the people in particular who I’ve become very close to over the years.

I’ll miss my buddy and his partner’s house, the chat, the banter and laughs, I’ll very much miss my ‘little sis’, the People’s Republic of Leith, roaming down the shore. I can only think about past times at Easter Road for the moment and my dear home place of Musselburgh. Portobello’s esplanade and a run into the sea breeze along there lies in my imagination at the moment. A brisk stroll down Princes Street and a meander up the old town will have to wait.

There’s an Edinburgh derby game going on with my beloved Hibs taking on ‘them’ from across the city. Friends will be there and win, lose or draw it will all result in a blurry, long post-match amongst a gang of old mates and new. We are all one.

Not for me this year the Edinburgh Street Party celebrations nor a stool at the bar of the beautiful Cafe Royal or negotiating the revolving doors of the Guildford Arms and warm welcome of many other hostelries I’ve inhabited for so many years. There will be no house parties.  It’s what I appeared to choose. All I could do.

People are not here now, things have changed and in their place just memories remain.

There’s no sorrow though in knowing that I will be back, hopefully in better fettle, not feeling weighed down by a ton of emotion laced with grief. Ready to move forwards again. I know those friends and that beautiful city will still be there.

As I write it’s too early for New Year’s wishes but my thoughts are with you all.

Here’s to a better 2015 and a hope that surviving will turn into flourishing and steady growth.

December 30, 2014 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , | Leave a comment

2014 in review

Goodbye and good riddance, 2014 – a year that almost broke me. I’m still standing – just.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 54,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Canada Memories

The recent cold snap providing Boxing Day’s significant snowfall an enduring life over the past few days reminds me of many winter snow days in Canada. Indeed, I think back wistfully to those times. That is in spite of the intensely cold temperatures one often has to cope with in that beautiful country.

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During my many visits I had the good fortune to ski, both downhill and cross-country, ice skate and snowshoe through incredible and out-of-this-world landscapes. I went on snowmobile trips, engaged with wildlife and generally lived the life. Hugely influential on me were trips to stay in a genuine 1930s Canadian log cabin by Wabamun Lake in Alberta. The cabin was an experience like no other as it had little in the way of home comforts or even basic utilities. Water was gained by walking on to the frozen lake and using an auger before dropping a bucket down into the icy water. There was wood to be chopped, fires to be maintained, coffee to hand-grind and so on. It felt grounding to be released from modern technology and to get back to life’s most basic things.

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There is nothing quite like ice skating – and even better, playing hockey – outdoors. It is an absolutely exhilarating experience. I remember one Canadian saying to me that skating was ‘the nearest thing to flying’. I particularly knew what he meant the first time I managed to achieve my own ambition of playing for fun outdoors on Wabamun Lake, thirty miles from Edmonton, Alberta.. What a memorable day that was. A small party of us set out, wrapped up well, carrying sticks and pucks. Being born in the UK I’d been used to scrambling and scrabbling across the odd frozen pond as a kid – with some trepidation as the surface heaved, threatened and cracked. All such historic fears and reservations of collapsing ice were allayed however when a large truck drove past us on the ice! We cleared snow from the ice to form our rink with the obviously quickly-frozen ice as smooth and clear as glass. Even the fish underneath the ice could be seen swimming around, what a beautiful experience!

I still remember well the ringing click-clack sound of sticks on puck and skating into the frigid air, the freshness – that feeling of just being alive.

I was since fortunate enough to mess around with a stick and puck and skate on quite a few ponds and lakes in Canada, also in such hitherto unlikely areas as school playgrounds with the snow piled up in surrounding banks to make a rink. There really is no feeling like it. How I miss it.

‘Keep your stick on the ice’ eh.

In loving memory of Margaret Weaver and to all my friends and family in Canada.

December 29, 2014 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | 2 Comments

Christmas Approaches

This time of year can provide a lot of difficulties. I read a Tweet with four simple helpful points yesterday and agreed with it. It was aimed at suicide survivors but I think it’s good general advice, especially for those with depression and other mental health issues:

Don’t take too much on.
Avoid being overwhelmed.
Limit your activities to those which you are interested in and able to do.
It is okay to say no.

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Personally, i couldn’t stomach the thought of Christmas and New Year this year. I’ve lost too much and my life has been stood on its head and I don’t care to celebrate. Maybe that will come back one day. It’s only when you’re practising avoidance of it that you realise the subtle and continual pressures to join in, especially commercial ones. For some reason one of the worst things for me was trying to do my weekly grocery shop in Sainsbury’s and having to listen to insistent piped Christmas songs. I really couldn’t wait to get out of the place to be honest as it was making me perfectly miserable and acutely reminding me of my loss. I finished my shopping yesterday and won’t be back until the New Year. It’s all a bit cynical when you think about how many people have a rough time in the festive season.

I’ve felt the need to decline a lot of what Christmas has to offer. I’ve absolutely no wish to upset anyone, quite the contrary and in some ways it’s a very hard thing to do but this is my reality and how I am to survive, that I understand. At a very testing time I’m going to do everything in my power to protect myself. I am going to suggest to others that they look after themselves as much as possible in the same way.

I guess I just wanted to come on here and add my support towards others because it’s important to know that other people are going through this stuff as well. I want to reiterate the message that ‘keeping up appearances’ for Christmas when you’re having a bad time is not a necessity nor obligatory. I keenly feel the real significance of Christmas being a Catholic with a deep faith but even having said that I want to maintain the message that it’s just another day on the calendar in some ways and it’s important to protect oneself from the difficult feelings that can envelop one at this time. Sometimes it a ‘learn as you go’ as it appears to be with me right now.

Keep surviving. When you’re on your knees, get up again and proceed slowly with care. We are charged with looking after ourselves. That is the important thing even at this special time of year.

God Bless, good luck and peace to all.

December 21, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , | 2 Comments

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:

https://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 | , | 2 Comments

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 | , | 4 Comments

‘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

Independence for Scotland: A Question

I’D LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION regarding Scottish independence – because I’m confused.

Every day I look at my Facebook page and Twitter feed, I read Scottish-based internet forums and online newspapers and come into contact many times daily with the views of a wide range of people in Scotland about all manner of things, obviously, especially the subject of independence for a good while now.

I see the polls and I look at the betting odds on the referendum. These consistently indicate a potential victory for the ‘No’ vote – not by much and certainly narrowing but consistent in their ratings of a few per cent in favour of staying together. They do not however, reflect what I am viewing and hearing from here – not even remotely so. I may have kindred views about many things with many of my friends in Scotland who I am in contact with regularly but by no means have my friends and acquaintances been chosen on the basis of their politics or opinion regarding the referendum. Indeed many of these people have been friends for a good number of years now and all we perhaps usually had in common outwardly originally was a liking for a certain football team in Edinburgh who play in green and white.

So here I am a few miles down the road in Nottingham, wondering exactly what is going on here? There is NOTHING about these forecasts that rings true to me from my personal experiences with the people I know who have a vote. To that end I have also observed every dirty trick in the book being played in the long run-up to this crucial vote that will decide the future of these islands and it leads me to believe that the above projection on the likely outcome on 18th September, 2014 is quite likely another piece of subterfuge – another grand lie intended to dupe the Scottish electorate into believing there is no hope of independence. Take the wind out of the sails of the ‘Yes’ vote. This and other Better Together strategies appears to have achieved little but galvanise the cause of independence, so insulting, threatening and condescending in tone have they generally been.

I’ve made my own views clear previously that I wish for independence for Scotland, I hope obviously then that the majority of Scottish people who read these words feel similar. Having said that this is still a democracy so respect to those that don’t share my view. In the meantime I’d genuinely love to hear an opinion or two on this conundrum? Am I inclined towards paranoia or is this the greatest lie of them all? After all, what part of the establishment can really be trusted now?

I’m not really looking for a debate on the whys and wherefores of Scottish independence here as others will debate that much better than me. The above is a question I’m curious as to other’s opinions about though.

August 9, 2014 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | 2 Comments

BYDAND – ‘Stand and Fight’

ON THIS DAY that we remember and hopefully learn from the declaration of World War One, exactly one hundred years ago today, my thoughts go to my grandfather, Henry (Harry) Frew of Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland. Grandad was a Gordon Highlander who served on the Western Front in ‘The war to end war’ – that most honourable and decorated of Highland regiments with their proud motto emblazoned on the Gordon badge, ‘Bydand’, which means ‘Bide and Fecht’ in Scots – literally ‘Stand and Fight’.

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In truth, it’s so very little of my father’s father I know and my memories of him are scant as he died when I was a young boy but those memories that have survived are incredibly vivid. A big man, one of the first images that set in my mind of him are when at his home one day he took out his old Gordon army kilt and showed me how he got into it in the old days. Laying down on the floor on what seemed to my young eyes like yards and yards of thick green plaid material, he belted it up and draped it over him just like he would have done in those former days.

It was an impressive sight indeed and one I have never forgotten.

Life was by no means easy for young Harry. His lost his wife Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Archibald who worked as Head Seamstress at the impressive and iconic North British Hotel on Princes Street in Edinburgh when they had a young family of two boys aged just four and six years old. Those young laddies were my dad, John and his older brother, Alexander ‘Sandy’. Eventually, Harry remarried and had no less than eight more additions to the family – all boys excepting one girl. The family spent some time near Bellshill in Lanarkshire with Harry, I understand, going about his old business as a coal miner.

Harry was an expert ballroom dancer and would give dancing tuition. My mother would often tell of the times he would take her to Barrowlands in Glasgow for the dancing.

In later life, to keep him our of mischief, he took a part-time job at the local cemetery near Bellshill. A man of very dry wit, I came across a beautifully hand-written letter to my mum and dad in England in later years. Asked how ‘business’ was at the cemetery he comically replied, ‘it’s alright son but we’d be a lot busier if they weren’t burning so many up the road at the crematorium’!

Living in Lanarkshire he didn’t get the opportunity so often to see his beloved Hibs and adopted nearby Motherwell FC as his ‘second team’. I guess for that reason I still don’t mind seeing the ‘Well experiencing a bit of success.

The word ‘Bydand’ is inextricably linked with his old regiment, the Gordon Highlanders, the regiment for whom he was highly decorated for bravery though you wouldn’t know it because he would never mention it, being a modest man. It holds great meaning for me as I see it as an honest approach to life itself – to stand and fight. We all of us have experienced our difficult and trying times – heaven knows I could write a small handbook on that of late – and the mark of us is what we do during those times and how we react. When the world and its workings appear against you, you must ‘stand and fight’ – face your problems with bravery, courage and honesty. Always stand and fight – never give in – face up and never run. Just like those Gordons.

That’s why my granpaw Harry, the motto ‘Bydand’ and the Gordon Highlanders mean so much to me.

 

In Loving Memory of Henry (Harry) Frew and his brave comrades. Lest we Forget.

August 4, 2014 Posted by | Times Gone By | , , | 4 Comments

Hibs in Berwick – Keeping it in ‘The Family’

Hibs played the second game of their pre-season programme at Berwick Rangers today – the ‘Wee Rangers’ and, as is often the case at this time of year, this was set up to be a slightly more taxing affair than the previous friendly fixture at Vale Of Leithen on Saturday of last week. I’m not sure what it is about these games but for me, apart from a very pleasant day out, they represent fresh beginnings and a renewed keenness to get back to the action after the summer break. Green shoots, indeed.

So it was today with a free and easy drive down the A1, music on, sunroof open, culminated by parking up curbside adjacent Hibs’ opposition today’s home, Shielfield Park. Spotting my friends as soon I walked over the grass into the park, we headed for a drink from Berwick’s comfortable social club, taking our drinks outside into the surprisingly warm sunshine. A healthy number of Hibees had evidently travelled to enjoy the day.

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You see, this is the kind of thing I really miss at times. It’s not just watching the team, which is obviously the main point but the friendship and camaraderie of being amongst your ‘own’, enjoying the conversation with people who care about the same thing that you do and that understand why this club means so much. Why it is so special. I spent my afternoon with special people too – new friends and old. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated that as much as I do now, after the trials and tribulations provided by the first half of year 2014. The doctor appeared to order it for me.

Hibs, with a good proportion of first team regulars fielded, began the game brightly in their new bottle green strip which has split opinion. It is not my choice and it looks a little unfamiliar but hey, it’s still Hibs, make no mistake. This time next year it will be consigned to the past, such is modern football, awaiting it’s day as a ‘mint condition’ item on Ebay. It is what’s in the jerseys that matters of course and the little matter of over 130 years of history won’t disappear into the ether.

It will be recorded that Hibs ran out winners by four goals to nil with markers by newly signed right-back, David Gray, club captain, Liam Craig, Tom Gardiner and Lewis Allan. It’s always good to win any game but a pleasing feature of the ninety minutes was the Easter Road’s side’s willingness to play the ball along the ground, avoiding the somewhat crude style employed by Hibs’ previous management team. They’ll certainly court favour from me and a majority of fans, dare I say, if that continues.

A fond farewell to friends for a few days then and a cruise back down by the rugged and spectacular coastline, back over the border into Scotland. Yes, I do let out a little cheer when I’m heading the ‘right’ way. Spotting the familiar signs for Musselburgh, my family’s home town, from the main road I decided on a short redirect through the dear old place and a stop off for a little Luca ice cream from the Olympia Cafe.

You know what? Driving into the ‘Honest Toun’ I couldn’t help thinking my old dad would definitely approve of this allegiance it has been my lifetime pleasure to uphold – to Hibernian FC and yes, to Musselburgh. I couldn’t help but contrast the tough times my family knew here a century ago and me driving down the Musselburgh High Street in comfort in a shiny sports car. We are all the same though. I’m of them.  He’d have been pleased to know where I was this afternoon, the people I was with and where I was afterwards. I know you’re watching, dad, I’m just keeping it in the family.

July 12, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC | , , , | Leave a comment

Vale of Leithen 0 – Hibs ‘Select’ 4

Saturday 5th July and as I was coincidentally travelling through the borders of Scotland, as my team played their first pre-season fixture of 2014-15 buta few miles away.

Just a point about the Hibs ‘Select XI’s victory by four goals yesterday at Vale of Leithen. Outwardly, the result doesn’t matter and on some levels that’s true. I recall sage words from Brian Clough however, who stated that maximum effort to win ALL games is the way to go. In his view, winning was habitual – it becomes a good habit – better off learnt and adhered to. In every single ‘tin pot’ game, Forest played in they were sent out to win and win well, with style.

I agree with Old big ‘ed. Well done to Hibs on a positive first day back and good to see the old, established, Vale Of Leithen FC in Scotland’s pretty borders swell their funds on the day. A pleasant afternoon out too for reportedly 1,300 Hibs supporters, getting back to some ‘proper’ football after all this World Cup business!

Onwards and upwards.

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC | , | Leave a comment

Bestwood – My Evening Paradise

It’s ‘Flaming June’ 2014 version and my local running spot at nearby Bestwood comes into its own on these beautiful, sunny and relaxed evenings. Nominated as a country park a good few moons ago, it will always be plain old ‘Bestwood’ to me. A patch of the old Sherwood Forest which lies but a few minutes from where I live that is satisfying accessible.

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In truth, I love the place at all times of year, the former royal hunting estate and retreat of many a notable over hundreds of years of history looks gorgeous when coated in a thick layer of snow for instance. Spring has its own translucent green freshness whilst some might say Autumn is the richest time of all. It’s the dog days of summer that most appeal to me though as I trot along the dry, dusty paths bordered by lush green fields and thick forestry of Oaks, Chestnuts and Birch to name but a few of the ancient trees.

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Within a few moments in this place, I forget the hardships of the day and wind down with copious amounts of fresh air, the sound of skylarks and lapwings and the sight of an odd walker or horse rider. The air at this time of year feels invigorating and highly scented with the delicate fragrances of the old hedgerows. It is the perfect tonic and antidote to the unfortunate stresses of the day that never seem to go away otherwise

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The sun finally sets over Bestwood, it is time to return home.

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June 21, 2014 Posted by | On The Road | , | 4 Comments

Hibernian – The Broken Harp

IN THE OLD IRISH TRADITION of Hibernian, a wreath of flowers in the shape of a broken harp would be presented at a funeral as a mark of respect. Yesterday’s events when, to quote the old ironic phrase, Hibs, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, was not a funeral but was nevertheless a sad and emotional culmination of several years of struggle for the club.

It’s difficult to write these word without showing anger at the catastrophic mismanagement of the team and the clharpub as a whole but in the twilight of this ignominious period in Hibernian history that anger is reverting to the familiar frustration by myself and, dare I say, a majority of the support.

After angry scenes of protest outside Easter Road last evening we awoke to news that there are staff meetings scheduled at the training centre at East Mains today. Already the media informs us that no less than fourteen players are invited or ordered to end their association with Hibs. There are many fans that wished for this after one abject display after another over a series of months and who can blame them? For me though, the problem is that the man with a great shared responsibility for the club’s demise is the individual serving the ‘don’t come Monday’ messages in Manager, Terry Butcher. It’s an indication, however accurate or otherwise that he is being relied on to rebuild the Hibs – a gargantuan order that I don’t think he is fit be tasked with.

Since arriving at Easter Road I cannot think of one single positive that Butcher or his cohorts Malpas and Marsella have brought to the team. There is simply nothing. They have however brought disarray, discord, indecision and a brand of football that I can only describe as ‘prehistoric’. A (the) main tactic appears to be to dumping the ball into the opposite team’s corners in an attempt to create ‘pressure’. Former Hibs and Hearts midfielder, Mikey Stewart correctly identified this mediocre thinking on Sportscene last evening and added the sentiment that it’s the type of football that ‘deserves nothing’. I am much in agreement with Stewart.

The game itself against Hamilton featured a litany of managerial errors that cost Hibs dearly. cost the team it’s SPFL status in fact, and I remain amazed that this fact isn’t recognised by Rod Petrie and his fellow board members. Those questionable decisions included not selecting the old head and steady experience of Kevin Thomson for such a fraught affair – a man who might well have brought the ball down a little and protected his teammates. Butcher also mystifyingly returned Danny Haynes to the team from nowhere to replace out of confidence youngster, Alex Harris – a strange move indeed and surely either Cairney, who can play a similar position or the aforementioned Thomson would have been superior choices. Within minutes Haynes was being helped from the pitch injured so what did Butcher do? Yes, pitch Harris back into a white-hot relegation battle. For a man who proposes to understand a little psychology and use it with his players I found this, again, mystifying. Embarrassingly, he had to substitute his substitute later in the game. One hopes that Alex hasn’t been set back too far by his treatment by Butcher in general this season. How to ruin a young player’s development.

In the first leg, another youngster, Jason Cummings, happily broke his duck for the first team with a fine brace of goals. What did Butcher then do for this game? Play him further back in front of his own left-back in order that he could keep his treasured 5-4-1 formation, therefore rendering the keen young forward impotent as an offensive threat. Later in the game with Hibs having formerly clearly played for a draw and now desperately playing for a 0-1 defeat, the manager pulled the experienced and intelligent play of Heffernan from the action to be replaced by his favoured defensive midfielder Tudur Jones, leaving Hibs vulnerable with little goal threat should extra time have been necessary, which it proved to be.

Full marks should be given to Hamilton who played good, attractive, neat football at all times and passed it around and through their Hibs counterparts. It looked a sophisticated style when compared to Hibs’ leaden lumping of the ball forward, rendering possession to the opposition time after time.

After an excruciating two periods of extra time we finally came down to the almost inevitable penalty shoot-out and here again, Butcher showed his incredible lack of know-how for a man of his experience in the game. The club’s regular and arguably best penalty taker, Craig was not chosen to take the first penalty with Thomson gamely stepping up to take responsibility for getting the team on its way. The inevitable happened, with Thomson not being a regular penalty taker. Sadly, it came down to young Cummings again to take the do or die fifth spot kick and I felt this was a huge strain on an 18-year-old youngster – unforgivable really. He missed his kick, hid his face in floods of tears and Hibs were relegated. What a way to hang the young man out to dry.

So, the future and who knows, this piece may be out of date very quickly but it appears that at the time of writing the Butcher-Petrie axis remains with us. I have the strong feeling that the former Rangers man employs a somewhat ‘bullying’ style of management and this concerns me if so. There will always be players that can cope with that but others that cannot. That’s the way it is. I recall dear old Brian Clough at Forest terrifying some of his players at times – even to the point of the like of England international, Viv Anderson hiding under a desk when he heard Clough approaching but the big difference was that those same players had respect for their manager. I don’t think that exists with Butcher and the Hibs players. They appear to hate him and he them. The same feelings appear to surround coach, Malpas who has specialised in having run-ins with fans in the seats around the dug-out. Classy indeed.

I’ve said enough regarding this sad and disturbing part of Hibs history but of course there is one man culpable more than any other who I’ve barely mentioned – Rod Petrie. I have plenty to say about him for another time as it seems we are stuck with him still – even though he has brought in the interesting character of Leeann Dempster in order to deflect flak from himself. From the club’s owner, to him and his board, the management staff and the players, all have critically underperformed. In fact the only people who haven’t are the fans. I salute them – especially the ones who can find it in themselves to continue supporting this club after one abject humiliation heaped upon another.

God bless the Hibs.

May 26, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC, Sporting Tales | , , , | 10 Comments

Hibs: One Last Effort

THE ONLY THING that’s predictable about Hibernian is perhaps the team’s unpredictability and this was again shown (at long last) when taking on Hamilton Academical in the first leg of a crucial play-off decider between the Championship side and a Hibs outfit woefully short of belief and form over the past few tortuous months.  Let it not be understated, the ‘Holy Grail’ of the Scottish Cup notwithstanding, this fixture and it’s second episode on Sunday are gigantic in their importance with defeat over two legs almost unthinkable. Clearly, such an outcome could set the Leith club back years – if not decades in terms of achievement and finance. ‘Absolutely crucial’ is the term dancing on my lips when considering the pivotal nature of the result.

Hibs’ Paul Heffernan

It’s recorded now, of course, that the Easter Road men finally remembered how to win again in the first leg. Heck, they recalled how to put the ball in the back of the net even. On this occasion, 18-year old Jason Cummings providing the firepower with a very welcome initial brace for the first team – something he’s promised for some little time. Well done him forgiving the whole club and it’s supporters a huge and timely lift.

Personally, I was stuck at home in Nottingham whilst the drama was unfolding at New Douglas Park. I did however have the very best and most reliable internet live stream I’ve ever had in a month of Wednesdays so obviously God was looking down favourably on my oasis amidst a Hibee desert. It’s been said by many that the performance was unimportant on the night and of course this has, for once, to be agreed with. Survival in the top flight is all and playing pretty and intricate football can wait for another time. Although many of the usual failings were present and let’s be serious, those shortcomings weren’t going to dematerialise overnight, there were some positive signs visible. I thought Paul Heffernan played an excellent, intelligent striker’s role, working the channels and giving the team different offensive options than the very basic lump-it-forward stuff that we have suffered for what seems an eternity. Alongside him, Cummings, apart from his two goals gave a lively, spirited performance and made himself a constant nuisance to the Hamilton rear-guard. Generally, there was a greater tempo about Hibs than in recent games, commensurate with the type of performance required on the night.

As I write, the Hibernian faithful are buying up tickets fast for the second leg at dear old Easter Road. They will be our twelfth man and no  disrespect to Hamilton who play some neat football, I believe they will make the difference that see Hibernian over the finish line safely and looking forward with some expectancy towards next season’s campaign and a (hopefully) new broom with fresh ideas in the shape of Leeann Dempster overseeing operations at Hibs.

One last big effort lads.

God bless the Hibs.

May 23, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC, Sporting Tales | , , | Leave a comment

The Twenty Truths of Losing Your Partner to Suicide

1. You find that you talk to yourself in the absence of your partner. You wander around the house asking her questions. There are no answers.

2. You have upsetting images that flashback into your mind of when you had to identify your partner at the hospital. The images destroy you. You wonder if the sight of your breathless partner will ever leave you, to be replaced by the smiling image you remember.

3. You find yourself constantly asking yourself the questions ‘What if I could have done something?’ and ‘Why did you do this to yourself/me/your children?’

4. You feel so low at first that simple everyday things like keeping yourself clean seem like a huge task.

5. There are many times when you feel like taking your own life, so impossible do things seem. You consider different methods of doing this.

6. Eating becomes something to just survive. You don’t want to spend any time preparing proper food and you take solace in junk food. The microwave is your salvation.

7. Many of your long time neighbours avoid you. They push their children into the house when they see you walking up the road so that they can avoid talking to you because it’s ‘awkward’.

8. You wonder how you are going to be able to manage at work, ever, any more.

9. You cry when you least expect it, frequently. Even after a period of time when you think you’re ‘getting over it’ the tears squeeze out of your eyes unexpectedly when you have certain thoughts or are reminded of her in some unexpected way. You even cry at the nice things people say to you.

10. You find it difficult to listen to music because you associate the lyrics with you and your lost partner. The chords feel like a soundtrack to your broken life.

11. Even though you have friends and family you often feel so lonely, especially when you’re going back to that empty house once more. You can go a whole weekend barely speaking to anybody. You feel slightly powerless to do anything about this.

12. Anxiety is your normal state, you find yourself panicking about most things, often without specific reason.

13. Your life becomes narrow. Those country walks are no more, the meals out, the cinema. Holidays appear to be a thing that you used to do.

14. You become fatalistic about life and wonder if this is now all there is for you? That the game is over? You’re on your own until the lights finally go out.

15. You keep trying. You go to work on time, do your chores at home wherever possible, shop for food, tackle that garden as best you can. It all feels rather pointless. It isn’t for anybody else’s sake and you don’t care about yourself.

16. Your finances are in shock mode as you gain unexpected expenses whilst at the same time losing a household income.

17. You believe that you are not going to get through this ordeal. This feeling is revisited every day. Day after day.

18. Her clothing and possessions have to be sorted. This task feels heartless – like you are throwing your memories of being together away. Like you don’t care, but you do.

19. You begin to look at the people you know differently. Almost subconsciously you practise zero tolerance with people you feel have wronged you or ignored you at your time of need. Good people come to the fore, the genuine friends prove themselves time over. One or two new people enter your life, show caring and give you some hope.

20. You write a piece  like this but don’t know exactly why. You’re almost beyond caring if anybody reads it. You could write twenty more.

May 18, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 8 Comments

Three From Victoria

IT’S NOT TOO OFTEN THAT you can experience a bit of pleasure from the simple task of waiting for a bus but that interminable wait has recently been made a little easier at Nottingham’s Victoria Bus Station. Not particularly unusual in any way, the building has just received a half-million pound facelift with visible improvements for commuters such as updated electronic screens etc. One nice little addition is the inclusion of some piped music through the place and here they seem to really have it right! I really need to shake the hand of the person who chooses what we listen to!

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I’m not going to say that waiting patiently for buses is my favourite pastime but I guess it just got a little bit more pleasant. Here’s the selection of sweet soul music regaling my ears this evening before the journey home.

1. THE TRACKS OF MY TEARS – SMOKEY ROBINSON AND THE MIRACLES

First released in 1965, when I first began reading the music press in the mid-seventies this thing of beauty was regularly placed at number one in polls to determine the best-ever pop song. This song represents the absolute epitome of Smokey’s long career and it’s a song that still moves me personally. As an aside, Big Country did a fabulous version of it that’s well worth consideration.

2. REFLECTIONS – THE SUPREMES

Just two years later in 1967, Hitsville USA produced this glitzy, glamorous waxing by The Supremes, surely the stereotypical and best Tamla girl group of them al headed by soul queen Diana Ross. It still serves to send a shiver through the listener.

3. LET’S GET IT ON – MARVIN GAYE

For sweet sophisticated soul and (ahem) late night listening, it really doesn’t get any better than Brother Marvin’s Let’s Get It On, taken from the album of the same name. Marvin Gaye was of Tamla Motown’s royal family if there every could be such a thing. His troubled life ended too early but not before leaving us with a wealth of wonderful songs.

May 14, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , , , | 4 Comments

Hibs and Kenny Miller

READING AROUND THE MESSAGE BOARDS at the moment there is much conjecture regarding the future of erstwhile Hibs striker and former Scotland internationalist, Kenny Miller. The 34-year-old former Rangers and Celtic hit man has of late been plying his trade in that most lovely of cities, Vancouver, with the Whitecaps who compete in the North American, Major League Soccer.

Kenny began his professional career at Easter Road of course before a big money move to Ibrox as a young player and left the Leith faithful with a raft of good memories of his early days. He has managed to have an excellent first class career resulting in an impressive 69 full caps for Scotland, scoring 18 goals in the dark blue jersey. Not necessarily the most potent scorer his game has been exemplified by craft and good honest hard work with no little skill. He has consistently shown his ability to play in an up-front pairing or alternatively on his own as a target man. Looking as fit and effective as ever, he scored a perfect striker’s goal against England in the last encounter in August 2013 between Scotland and the ‘auld enemy’ showing that his fitness levels, know-how and guile leading the line are by no means diminished.

Sources close to him suggest that he is keen to re-join the club he began his career with and end his playing career at Easter Road. Those same sources also state that he has already offered his services on a previous occasion to the club but that these were rejected by former manager, Pat Fenlon, being supposedly well furnished with an on-fire Leigh Griffiths at the time. Media reports state that the Rangers are seeking to bring him back this side of the pond also whilst a predictable silence stagnates around any proposed move from Hibs.

At a fit thirty-four years Kenny still has much to offer a club like Hibs, despite his age he is far in excess of the quality the club presently has on the books in that position and has tip-top fitness levels with at a minimum two good seasons left in him. Perhaps it could be suggested that Hibernian FC has a great deal of other issues to deal with at this current time also with the club facing a crucial two-leg play-off to retain its status in the top flight. For me however, if the club were to show a little dynamism and quick and decisive thinking in bringing Kenny back on board it would be a minor master stroke. The lift to the club and fillip to the support would be immeasurable, even without him being able to hurriedly take part in the play-offs. The fans could view a little intent to progress whilst on the pitch Kenny’s experience would also be invaluable for young players to learn from. We witness the club miss out on opportunities such as this so often due to staid and apparently over-considered thinking. I do believe it is a major reason why we find the famous old club in the dire straits it languishes in.

Over to you Hibs.

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC, Sporting Tales | , , , | Leave a comment

Hibs On The Brink

Well, as planned, I got along to Easter Road last Saturday for one of my all-too-irregular visits. The game against fellow strugglers, Kilmarnock had built up into something of a crescendo in terms of importance, since the time I booked my modest trip to the Capital, with the loser being consigned to the indignity and frayed nerves of a play-off position for relegation to the Championship. Privately, and in spite of the odds and all indicators, I’d felt that Hibs might well come through this test but sadly it was not to be.

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From observing recent televised games and listening to fellow supporters, there appeared to be something of a pattern forming with the Hibs huffing and puffing to no great end before being scored on and becoming totally deflated. It didn’t take a football genius to spot the same blueprint from my lofty position in the East Stand on Saturday. It’s sad, it really is. One can see that in spite of all the team’s many shortcomings it may only take a casual slice of luck to change fortunes, a coat of paint on a goalpost, a fortunate bounce but any good fortune does indeed appear to be hiding.

It was heartening to see the manager going with a little more experience in this game. I’m a great fan of youth being introduced early, but a relegation dogfight is not a good arena for a young player to learn his craft. One might opine that the more experienced members of the squad should also be charged with getting the club out of the abject mess it they placed it in.

It’s probably predictable to praise or slate players but there were glaring moments when Hibs’ rearguard completely forgot their remit and stood static allowing the likes of Kris Boyd an opening for his well-taken goal. Whatever Boyd might or might not be these days I’m afraid you don’t allow him cart blanche to use his craft to find space around the box, not even for a moment.

After the break it became increasingly poorer from a Hibs point of view with Kilmarnock taking control of decently long passages of the game. Craig, who showed some quality at times, rattled a heavy shot off the bar but an avalanche of fortunes never really looked on. A significant moment for me was the introduction of defensive midfielder Tudur-Jones when Hibs were haplessly chasing the game. I’ve seen reasoning that he’s good around set-pieces and that it appeared unlikely that Hibs would score from open play but I’m afraid that just won’t do for me. There was a little period a few months ago when Hibs scored from attacking a corner or two and gained a little success. Is this tactic as good as it gets though? If that’s how we are going to concentrate our offensive efforts then me might as well all go home now. Indeed, it was clear to me that Hibs had little or no method or craft in attempting to creatively carve out an opening or two. The main focus appeared to be the vain hope of getting on the end of a ball bumping and bouncing around the area. Even here Hibs are found lacking with apparently nobody seeming to relish going in where it might hurt to ram that ball in the back of the net.

There has been much criticism of the team of course in the past few months and whilst accepting it wholesale my personal viewpoint is that this group of players are not as inadequate or devoid of ability as they are being decried. There is a clear lack of quality in one or two areas and the squad certainly appears dangerously unbalanced too but for me this is a mid-table quality group. They are however, completely shorn of confidence and, it has to be said, not being well marshalled by the manager. There is no method about Hibs’ play and the players at times do not appear to understand what their jobs are. They look lost and the man directing them on the bench equally, if not more so. If I were to hazard a guess – and that’s all it is – I’d say that Terry Butcher has completely run out of ideas quite some time ago. He appears dumbstruck as to what to do next with everything he knows, which sadly appears to be a little limited rather than expansive, having failed miserably.

The full-time whistle blew and I honestly rarely recall feeling so absolutely gutted after ninety minutes of a football match. It was a special visit home for me this time but that wasn’t really the source of upset. It was much more to do with what this proud football club has now descended to. Hibs have no god-given right to success, heaven knows we understand that after all these years but the position the club is now in is just plain wrong. Mismanagement, neglect, lack of interest from above, all of these things but don’t now blame a heavily disgruntled set of supporters – even though I have recently stated my two-pen’orth on the need for us all to get behind this club in the remaining games.

So, on to two legs against either Hamilton or Falkirk it is then. Characteristically, many fans have us already in the Championship before a ball is kicked. I can’t blame them, only so many beatings, disappointments and having hopes dashed can one take. Common sense and a little study of the state of play shows us that Hibs simply cannot score goals yet equally will always let goals in. They can’t do the serious business at either end of the pitch where it really counts. For me the best chance would be for Hibs to go away from home in the first leg and attack their Championship opposition, with the chance of leaving a reasonable target to achieve back at Easter Road. With the important and influential Kevin Thomson back in the side, pulling the strings, providing the ‘glue’ and fighting for the jersey I happen to believe it can still be done. Hibs need to rely on experience though and this means the inclusion of the likes of Craig, the creative threat of Cairney and the craft of Heffernan at the sharp end. If Hibs are to save their status and for this to act as a conduit to a new, brighter future for the club the seasoned professionals are going to have to stand up here and be willingly counted.

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC, Sporting Tales | , | 2 Comments

Edinburgh – Time for Home

FRIDAY THE NINTH OF MAY, 2014 rolls inexorably closer and it’s almost at long last time to go back to Edinburgh. It is always time to go back to Edinburgh but this occasion feels especially significant.

The past few weeks since the calamitous and tragic loss of my dear partner, Sue have at times been shocking, harrowing, lonely and at times isolating. There have been ‘good’ things of course and at the forefront of that is the support I have received from my family and true friends, almost universally. I have learned much about myself, about life and about people. I take these lessons forwards as I plan a rebuild of my life alone. It is a rehabilitation process and not at times without it’s difficulties. I keep trying, I Persevere and (unbelievably to me at one point) I am still standing

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Those early dark days of February saw a call to that dear group of volunteers, The Samaritans, when at first it all felt just a little too much and I didn’t wish to go on. There was another long talk with a suicide bereavement counsellor who spoke to me in a straight and forthright manner. How could I ever live the rest of my life after this horrendous experience? What meaning did it have? Survival mode kicked into place and I decided to play this game of life with a straight bat, without the ‘assistance’ of medication or by misusing alcohol.

I also knew instinctively that my friends could help too, by talking, by me asking for and accepting their support. None more so than a close friend here in Nottingham, my dear friends in Edinburgh of so many years and by a new friend from that city brought to me like an angel. I won’t embarrass those people but if you’re reading, you know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for me.

So on to tomorrow. I catch that familiar train and will walk upon Edinburgh ground by lunchtime tomorrow. I have awaited this time and upon feeling ‘up to’ doing it. Being in and around Edinburgh, with all it’s memories can have a powerfully emotional feeling for me and I needed to be ready to use that constructively. I’m now ready and it’s part of the pathway ‘back’ for me.

I have a Hibs-related surprise awaiting me tomorrow! A sweet gesture by my aforementioned new friend which I in turns feel intrigued and happy about. The fates have conspired to offer up a hugely important game for my beloved Hibs at Easter Road on Saturday which I will attend. Excellent sense of theatre lads but I nevertheless wish you had sorted out the relegation worries ahead of my visit to Leith! God bless the Hibs.

Anyway, I’ll try to fight the impulse to get down on the floor and kiss good old Edinburgh ground when I alight at Waverley tomorrow. After all, I’ve things to do and good people to meet. The very best. Wha’s like you?

May 8, 2014 Posted by | On The Road | , , | 2 Comments

Notts County: The Great Escape

DURING THE PAST FEW WEEKS I’ve been visiting Meadow Lane, home of Notts County with a couple of friends for a diversion of a bit of Saturday afternoon football, old habits die hard, and taken a big interest in the Magpies’ fight for survival in League One. Chairman Ray Trew has publicly acknowledged that he was preparing the club for the bottom flight of teams. With Notts fully seven points adrift at the bottom of the table in March, this could only have been viewed as prudent. Over three home games though I watched the team, never shorn of fight, grow in confidence, winning each one of those games – one from being two goals down.

Jack Grealish

It’s been an interesting experience watching the players’ performance grow along with their confidence and there have been some outstanding displays from the likes of Spencer, Grealish, Sheehan, Campbell-Ryce and Liddle. It almost seems churlish to single out individuals though as it has truly been a team effort.

The Notts I viewed in the first game played some pretty awful football if truth be told. A lot of head-tennis in the middle of the park and desperate no-look hoofs up the field to nobody in particular. Some of the defending was very shaky too. Over the weeks though they have come to play a good deal of decent football, passing the ball and using the wings, especially the clever ball play of on-loan youngster, Jack Grealish.

I have to confess, I had no particular thoughts about manager Shaun Derry, a man who appeared to be something of a cheap option with no managerial experience at all. Seeing the local man’s belief, determination and shrewdness has however convinced me that he has done a great job in the short time he has been back in his native city of Nottingham. In addition to that, his open letter to the Notts fans and the people of Nottingham a few days before the game was top-class – as were his interviews pre and post game around the final fixture of the season. Let nobody say that this man doesn’t have great determination and is very sincere too. Well done, Shaun.

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Shaun Derry

I read a small article about team captain, Irishman, Alan Sheehan recently too who touchingly explained how his faith kept him going through the tough times with a weekly visit to his local Roman Catholic church in West Bridgford, nice stuff for someone to say in these cynical times.

The final Saturday against Oldham in Lancashire saw Notts needing at least a point for safety after all their courage and fortitude over the past few weeks. Well into the second half it appeared that things were going terribly wrong when Oldham went ahead and Notts were looking down the relegation barrel with just fifteen minutes to go. A handling offence in the area however and a penalty to Notts with that man Sheehan stepping up to the spot saw Notts home, to great relief. Results elsewhere additionally going the Magpies’ way to ensure safety also. You can view Sheehan’s coolly taken spot kick here and feel the palpable relief from the black and white part of the stadium.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH8yaDMhZ5s

So, on to the close season and a job well done. The club have only three members contracted for the next campaign so there will be changes. For my money it world be an excellent idea if Notts were able to keep this nucleus of players together as much as possible. With a modest fan base that may proved economically difficult but with the end of season spirit and fight shown by this group of players they could do very well indeed next year. They’ve fought as one – a true team. Well done to all involved, you’ve made your fans proud and been truly worthy of the black and white striped jersey.

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , , | Leave a comment

Hibernian: Keep The Faith

ON SATURDAY 1st MARCH 2014 Notts County suffered a horrendous pounding at nearby Rotherham to the tune of six goals to nil. Dispirited and bottom of the table they have since that time shook themselves down, gathered themselves and fought together with bravery and spirit to gain six wins and a draw from their last eleven games. On this penultimate weekend before the season’s end they have pulled themselves out of the bottom four relegation places and have battled, scraped and dug deep to give themselves an excellent chance of survival with just one game to play.

I have had the pleasure of witnessing a few of these games. I have also noted how Notts’ fans have fought along with them – never giving up – constantly urging them onwards, from the first till the last minute.

From behind my computer in Nottingham, following the Edinburgh derby game I ‘see’ a lot of defeatism. I understand where it comes from – ‘let down’ once more – but negativity will unfortunately not help, as much as we feel it justified (and it is). There is a huge and desperate need for fans to show some unity with the club – to keep cheering the team on in the club’s hour of need.

Forget for now the issues that many of us have with the people who run the club and the team (none more than me) and work together at the eleventh hour in helping this grand old football club out of this terrible mess it now finds itself in. Just like those faithful Magpies supporters have been doing.

You can make a difference.

April 27, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC, Sporting Tales | , , | Leave a comment

Who Do You Think You Are?

I was interested recently in an internet discussion regarding famous or well-know personalities that people had met. Considering that I’d never really met anyone of that ilk I began to think about the subject. I should add as an aside that I’m really poor at recognising well-known people – celebrity spotting is just a concept that doesn’t occur to me.

My first job on leaving school was working at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground in Nottingham. Being a Test Match venue you’d get to meet some legendary players and I spoke to the likes of Garry Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Geoff Boycott, Ian Botham, Viv Richards, Colin Cowdrey and so on, too many to mention.

Garfield Sobers

During the Tests in particular there’s be a fair smattering of celebrities taking in the occasion. One of the best known I met was John Le Mesurier of Dads Army, Sgt Wilson fame. He was pretty much Sgt Wilson too, cravat, blazer and all – a true gent who was kind enough to have a good chat with this 16 year-old whippersnapper. I almost expected him to come out with ‘I say, do you think that’s wise?’

John Le Mesurier

Back on sporting types, I met former Scotland international, John Robertson one time. (The great one that played for Nottingham Forest under Brian Clough). Visiting my brother-in-law’s garage he stated that there was someone out the back I might like to meet. Robbo was filling in time delivering cars whilst in between jobs so I was pretty staggered when I saw him standing there. You have to understand that he has pretty well legendary status in Nottingham and is part of local football folklore here being a double European Cup winner. I had quite a few questions for him and we had a really good chat. A great and yet very ordinary guy. The first one question that came to mind was ‘What was it like scoring the winning goal against England at Wembley?’! He told me too!

Wing Wizard – John Robertson

I used to see another former Scotland international, Dave Mackay, in one of the local village pubs here and he was always a friendly character. In the same pub I’d occasionally bump into former Celtic player and Notts County manager, Jimmy Sirrel. Jimmy wasn’t perhaps well-known out of football circles but again, was a legend in Nottingham and in the game. He was also great pals with one Alex Ferguson too. I was lucky enough to have a few drinks and a couple of hours of his time one summer afternoon and he related some great stories about football characters such as Gordon Strachan, Alex Ferguson, Herbert Chapman etc., some of which are detailed in the blog below

An Afternoon with Jimmy Sirrel

April 25, 2014 Posted by | Ripping Yarns, Sporting Tales | , , | Leave a comment

Big Country – In a Big Country

To quote the classic Mass Hibsteria words, This is How it Feels.

I have always loved this song since it first emerged on The Crossing in 1983 – the words speak to me personally, every single one of them – especially now, as I attempt to emerge from some of my darkest hours.

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

‘Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming.
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted.’

Stay Alive

April 24, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , | 1 Comment

Derek Returns…

I WAS EXTREMELY pleased to see that the second series of ‘Derek’ has finally come around. If the first series passed you by allow me to give you a tip to catch this one. It is as good a comedy series as you are ever likely to see in my humble opinion. Derek works on so many levels, it has great pathos, is irreverent, yet complex and is of course genuinely funny. The cast have a great cohesion whilst one might say the ladies and gentlemen playing the residents of the care home are the true stars.

Ricky Gervais as Derek

When at first I watched the early episodes of the first series of Derek it took me a little while to understand my feelings about it. It’s not straight-ahead comedy but more challenging than that. By midway through the series I was watching repeat viewings of them.

Even if you’re not a Ricky Gervais fan, and I understand some people’s reservations towards him, try to suspend those feelings and watch this anyway.

It is a masterpiece.

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , | Leave a comment

Notts County: Jimmy Spencer

I’ve been spending a little time going to visit one of the local football teams recently with three visits to Meadow Lane in Nottingham to see Notts County. The Magpies have unfortunately been bottom dwellers in League One pretty well all season long and as I write are in the midst of a desperate fight against relegation with just two games to play.

In the intervening weeks since my initial visit down the ‘Lane’ Notts have appeared to grow in confidence a little and have picked up a series of hard-fought victories. I’m out of touch with the playing staff at Notts but one or two individuals have stood out with the likes of young ball-playing winger, Jack Grealish coming to mind. Most impressive for me however has been the 22 year-old striker, Jimmy Spencer who has been reasonably prolific of late and put in some fine and mature performances.

Jimmy Spencer

It’s clear to me that Spencer is playing significantly below his level in League One. He is strong, holds the ball up well and has an almost uncanny ability to lay the ball off to a teammate, even under extreme pressure. Not least, the tall striker has superior ball control with the ball at times appearing glued to his foot before another subtle layoff to a teammate. He is quite remarkable in this ability at times and manages to keep possession in some quite impossible-looking situations. As one might expect of a spearhead, his heading is top-class, accurate and when need be, powerful as well as being well-directed.

Jimmy spencer is probably one of the best target men I’ve seen operating outside the top flight of football in this country in many a year. Perhaps the only trait that lets him down a touch is a tendency for constantly complaining to the match officials, which in spite of the rough treatment he receives from defenders he would do well to eradicate or at least temper.

The next couple of weeks are pivotal for Notts County and whether Jimmy Spencer continues his career at in a black and white jersey. I do hope the Meadow Lane club can manage to hang on to his talents. They couldn’t do better in the circumstances.

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , | Leave a comment

When Pat Stanton speaks we should all listen…

Interesting views in the news from Sir Pat Stanton as always. Gentleman Pat is always worth listening to. If only Hibernian Football Club had a few with his attitude now, let alone a modicum of his sublime, God-given ability.

Playing on over six-hundred occasions for Hibs, one might state that Pat is allowed to say exactly what he likes about his beloved Hibs. Unfailingly however, he appraises the situation at Easter Road in a polite but assertive way, full of wisdom and know-how.

No wonder we call him ‘Saint Patrick’.

In the following article in The Scotsman, the subject matter is outwardly regarding Hibs’ impressive training facility at East Mains, a complex I’ve had the pleasure of looking around. Read on though to gather some illuminating general views from The Quiet Man, former captain and leader of the famous old Leith club.

Hibs should savour training facilities – Stanton

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Hibernian FC, Sporting Tales | , , | Leave a comment

‘Microblogging’

People who know me will be aware that I’ve experienced some great sadness and a very traumatic event in my life recently. More of that another time perhaps when I feel ready to talk about it but in the meantime it has meant that an already slightly neglected The Tears of a Clown has suffered a complete lack of new additions recently.

This site has been a part of my life since August 2007 when I first decided to gather some of my previous scribblings and collate them together in one place and further, to add new material at regular intervals. It has always been my attention to continue it for the longest time, particularly as so many people tell me they read it. The diagnostics page happily backs up those anecdotal views too.

So, what to do?

I have little doubt in my mind that I will return to subjecting the online world to regular postings (whether it likes it or not!) but I’d like to ‘warm-up’ again with a few shorter blogs. Sort of like stretching the (cyber) legs once more.

‘Persevere’ – the ancient motto of Leith

Wikipedia defines microblogging as a medium that ‘allow users to exchange small elements of content such as short sentences, individual images, or video links’. Perhaps it’s most well-known example is Twitter. I’ll try in these early days returning to the keyboard to do just a little better than one hundred and forty characters. I realise that I do my share of attempting to add a pithy, interesting or amusing comment here or there on Facebook or Twitter itself, so why not here indeed?

Please bear with me and I hope, in time, to add some worthy articles on my favourite hobby horses of sport (Hibs in particular), history, music, travel and general interest and tomfoolery which I hope you’ll enjoy perusing.

As always, thank you for reading…and your patience.

Stuart

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The former Children’s Hospital, Nottingham

I came across a reference to the old Children’s Hospital at Forest House recently and it brought quite a few childhood memories rushing back. I managed somehow to get myself knocked down (well up in the air actually) by a beefy Ford Consul when I was a kid and ended up a guest in said institution. When I eventually landed it was with two broken legs, one in three places, and concussion plus a few sundry cuts and bruises for good measure. I recall being upside down in the air and seeing my shoe flying up the street. I also remember then doggedly trying to drag myself to my feet using a bus stop to hold on to and looking down to see my leg bend in the wrong place. They carted me off to ‘The Children’s’ in an ambulance where I remained for a week. With physiotherapy (learning to walk again basically) my young association with that hospital lasted a year though.

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I was terrified of the place but they looked after me very well (I’ve gone on to run a few marathons as an adult so they did pretty well I guess!) but I was scared stiff of the building and the unknown in there as I thought they were going to take my legs away for good. I remember this below above so well, being taken for physiotherapy there  by my mum.

The kindest, kindest man, a jolly West Indian doctor, looked after me and made me smile – even though he was tasked with re-breaking my legs twice in operations as they had knitted crookedly. On another failed occasion they sawed the long plaster casts half through at the shins and banged wooden pegs in the gaps to straighten my legs. Looking back it was like something out of a Hammer horror movie. I wish I could thank that kindly doctor today though.

March 10, 2014 Posted by | On The Road, Times Gone By | , | Leave a comment

The Skylark – Sunshine turned into Song

IN THE DEPTHS OF WINTER it is good to remind ourselves of long, hot summer days. Some of the nicest of those days for me are when I am out walking in the countryside, with all the sights, sounds and sensations of the hills, fields and woodlands. One of my favourite sounds is the inimitable song of the Skylark, usually followed by a long peer up into the atmosphere for a welcome sighting of this beautiful creature that gives so much joy.

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There are many different kinds of lark but perhaps the one that comes to mind most memorably for people is the Skylark. Without daring to find out I am sure that Vaughan Williams had this little bird in mind when he wrote his uplifting The Lark Ascending, particularly in the way it flies very high, almost out of sight, together with its attractive signature song. It’s song has been described as ‘sunshine turned into song’, quite rightly.

You can listen to a little sunshine here:

Skylark song

January 3, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC, Ripping Yarns | , , | Leave a comment

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