Artbitch

24 September 2014

I’m not a regular visitor to art galleries, if I go once a year that is unusual. Unless I go somewhere like Amsterdam when I go and see the  Van Goghs. 14127_425053509347_4360261_nThis year I have been to three different galleries. What changed?

I don’t know how long I have been a fan of the paintings of Mondrian. I fell for the simplicity of three primary colours, three non colours, blocks and lines. It was seeing one, in the flesh to speak, in the 1980’s that showed me that the real ones have so much more, the intention, vivacity and life, totally the opposite to the cold austere painting you would expect. I went specially to find a studio in west London to get the T-Shirt, using the design, I am pictured wearing in 1986. I have written in the past about Strasbourg’s modern art ‘Sistine Chapel’ and Springtime for Mondrian.

It just so happened that this year there were two Mondrian exhibitions. None for ages, remarks about buses etc.
mill-in-the-evening-1905The first was an exhibition of Mondrian and Colour at the Turner Gallery in Margate in early August. It went back way before the abstract works he’s best known for to the time when he was a landscape painter in Holland painting pictures of the river near to his house like the one on the right. Trees, farms windmills and other normal landscape subjects. Then, he was influenced by the-red-millcubism and pointillism after spending time in Paris and the impact of painters like Braque and Picasso on his style. Stuck in Holland by the outbreak of the First World War during a visit home his style developed to what we know today. It was fascinating to follow the development from standard Dutch landscape painter through to the painter of the abstract grid shaped blocks of colours he is known for.

The second exhibition was at the Tate Liverpool and was ‘Mondrian and his Studios’ complete with the recreation of one of his studios in Paris. The exhibition had photos from various of his studios showing that he tended to convert the places he lived in into his art, painting them the same colours and having his paintings on the walls. It was possible to walk around in the recreated studio to get an impression of what it would be like for him to be working, in amongst his art works and big blocks of colour. mondriansparisstudioI’ve taken the picture from the Tate website showing people looking around in the studio. What I learnt from this exhibition was that he worked on variations to the lines, the blocks of colour and edge of the painting so that the variation in different paintings is not just about the different arrangement of the blocks of colour. It’s interesting to speculate on the impact the place he lived had upon his broadway-boogie-woogiedevelopment with the cityscape of Paris, with the buildings giving the straight lines and block shapes. He was always a fan of music and in his last painting we can see the impact the move to New York had upon him, as the Mondrian sites says, “boogie-woogie obviously had a profound impact on him. Nevertheless, the most important factor in the origin of this painting, and of the “mutation” in his art, must have been the experience of the daily rhythm of New York itself, the pulsating movement that animates Broadway, especially at night, and, in thorough keeping with the old principles of De Stijl, creates a harmony out of the opposition of contraries.”

images-1Two Mondrian exhibitions but I thought you said you had been three times this year? Yes and the third was to a Tate gallery too but this time to the Tate Modern for the exhibition of Malevich. I didn’t really know anything about Kazimir Malevich before and it was not my intention to visit the exhibition before my 11 week visit to the UK. However the Margate exhibition had said that he was a big influence on Mondrian so after that I had to go. I went on my last day in the UK before returning to Strasbourg

He too started off painting landscapes but then influenced by what was happening in Paris with cubism and futurism in Italy his painting developed into a more abstract form like ‘the Scyther’ pictured. He developed further and in 1913 painted the imgresBlack Square which was what gained him fame. This time too there was a recreation (pictured) but this time it was of an exhibition from December 1915, ‘The Last exhibit of Futurist Painting 0.10′ of which only a photo remains. The original exhibit contained pictures from other members of the group Malevich was working with at the time although the recreation focused solely on his work. As in the original exhibit the Black Square is positioned in the corner high up. This is the position of an icon in Orthodox homes which has imagesbeen suggested emphasising the ‘spiritual qualities’ of the painting or that it might have been a ‘provocative blasphemy’. He went on to paint other Suprematist works but  returned to figurative painting although the influence of the abstraction and Suprematism were still obvious in them as can be seen in the painting.

images-2The title for this piece comes from a musical reference as so many do. It is from the Brazilian group CSS and is the title of one of their songs. I saw them play at the venue around the corner  and they were very good live. If you get the chance to see them then do.

Top of the pubs in Leeds

11 September 2014

I’ve spent the summer in Leeds teaching English for Academic Purposes to students from around the world. As well as seeing the Tour de France in it’s Yorkshire incarnation, as I wrote about earlier, I have had the opportunity to do a number of things. During this time I have been working though and this week we have been working particularly on a project related to supermarkets. Students have a question related to it, we give them information, they find information and then give a presentation on the matter with their take on the answer to the question. They then get assessed on their presentation which accounts for some percentage of their marks for the course.

2014-09-05 11.34.27Friday, as last year, myself and another teacher took the students to the local Morrisons.(Pictured left) Not, as they had done so often, as consumers buying, but to analyse the way the shop worked. Afterwards for feedback we went to a local pub. Quite often, after shopping at the same supermarket, as it is my closest I too have gone to the same pub for a rest before heading back up the hill with my gatherings. It turned out that a number of the students had not been to a pub in England before, so it was useful for that. Whilst there one student  asked me what was my favourite pub in Leeds and, not having thought about it before, I answered the Whitelock’s Ale House. Now that I have had time to think  about it my answer would have been different, so here are my top three and a highly commended.

P11301721.  Brewery Tap. It’s not a traditional pub having only been open four years. Inside the decor is very wood, it sells a range of always good beers and the staff are always friendly and helpful without being invasive. It has an upstairs and roof-garden (Pictured right) and when there at the weekend to research this piece it was nice to go outside, in between the showers. P1130170There is a mixture of regular clientelle and, being close to the station, people newly arrived in Leeds or groups of friends meeting up after arriving in Leeds separately. I was able to drown my sorrows with a fellow blue after City’s defeat against Stoke. It is a comfortable place to go for a drink whether with friends or on your own.

P11301642. Whitelcok’s Ale House. I found this pub last year. There are a number of pubs like this where the street they were built upon no longer exists apart from the alley giving access to them from either the main shopping street, Briggate or another street. In this case it is almost hidden away by the back entrance to Marks and Spencer (Pictured left). P1130173When you go down the alley you turn left then right and you come out into Turk’s Head Yard and there it is , facing the back of shops. It means there is a nice area to sit outside in the summer and not raining. It too does good beer and food and well worth taking time out from shopping to visit.

P11301743. The Pack Horse. As one of two pubs that are close enough to be my local it’s not one I visit a lot. It was towards the end of my first contract in Leeds that I discovered this real old boozer. The beer is good and it has a great jukebox. As I am in Leeds outside term time I have not experienced it when the students are around I should imagine it is full with them as it is across the road from the University.

P1130163Honourable mention. The New Conservatory. Describes itself as a Cafe-bar which gives a clue that it is not really a boozer but a place where you can go for a coffee, something to drink or some food. In a basement on different levels including an area made out like a library and another with a pool table, it has a nice atmosphere as a place you can meet someone. I hadn’t visited it until I had a visit this summer from JTO, who found it and it seemed to quickly become a favourite of hers.

Le Tour diary II

7 July 2014

So, after being awoken by the caravan going past (previous here) Steve and I headed down into town.     At about the spot where we had seen the cyclists heading to the presentation on Thursday there were the tour buses and cars with bikes on them. We got a bit sidetracked looking around the outside of the ‘Village technique’ which was based upon Millennium Square so that when we got to the part of Leeds the Départ was leaving from they were not letting any more people into it as it was so full. We walked along the length of the Headrow and found a place at Eastgate, with the incongruent mix of being opposite the West Yorkshire Playhouse and underneath the imposing, Orwellian building on the hill that houses the Department for Work and Pensions. We were about three or four back from the barrier but them being on the road and us on the pavement meant we had a good view. That deteriorated as the tallest family in Leeds seemed to come and stand in front of us which meant we could see what was happening but didn’t get any decent pictures. So the tour came past and we got to see them but it had a phony war sense to it as the race didn’t start until it had been decided to by royalty. The excitement having passed we headed off back into town and I took photos of some of the interesting use of language including the photo above. The rest of the tour was watched on TV followed by the World Cup.

Sunday we got up early and headed into Leeds to the station. Tickets were bought and then we headed to the platform for the train. As the picture shows it was platform 2b, or not! (Thesp. joke there) P1120927 A train came into the platform,people got off and our train was announced and we got on it. After the time for the train to leave had passed people started getting off it and heading further down the platform. We went out and asked the guard what was happening and another train had come in and would be the earlier train we wanted and the one we had been sat on would now be a later train. So we got on the new train but still left almost quarter of an hour later than timetabled. P1120929 At every station the platforms were packed and it wasn’t long before the train was standing room only. There was a party atmosphere on it though with people were going out for the day, they were going to have fun and they were talking about where they were planning to see the cycling, people were seen to change their mind and go with others. We didn’t.

On arrival at Keighley we got off. We left national railways behind and queued up to get onto the Worth Valley Railway, a steam route run by volunteers. It too left late to allow the people who were in the train from Leeds behind us that had been the one we were sitting on. At least getting on the earlier train meant we got to sit by the window. So the train slowly left the station and we had to listen to the usual guff that these trains were so much better and the carriage was so much better when it was clearly so much slower than a modern train would have been over the track and the seating, whilst not as uncomfortable as boards would be, was certainly not as comfortable as modern trains. P1120935 An experience not helped any by the chap speaking all this guff allowed his kid to bounce up and down on the seat, making the ride more sea-ship like than one would want. Despite the slowness, and despite nearly choking when the engine went in a tunnel, I still felt a certain romance looking out the window and seeing the engine, full-steam-ahead heading over a bridge towards a tunnel on a bend as pictured above. After twenty to thirty minutes we arrived at our destination and got off the train and headed out of the station.

We left the station and, after talking to a Tour guide, found that the caravan was due soon and the race itself in a couple of hours. We got across the road from the station and found a café and had a coffee to fortify ourselves for the day. The caravan came past and I saw again the things that had almost been part of my nightmares, or wakingmares the day before. I did fail in my challenge of taking a photo of the Yorkshire Tea floats as they came past. However, this time it wasn’t my morning befuddledness but chasing after the free pack of tea hurled my way. How did they know. I’m not a proper Englishman.  I don’t understand tea. If my childhood was deprived in any way (clue; it wasn’t) it was that I never leant how to make or appreciate proper tea. I have learnt something of the former from having to care for someone who does appreciate their tea, in fact needs it in the morning to be human. So I was pleased to get a pack of the special THÉ for the Tour. I then discovered that they were giving away a years supply of tea if you tweeted a picture of yourself with yourself and the pack, hence the picture above. I added a few hashtags relating to the fact it was in Haworth, home to the Brontés, etc etc.

After the caravan had passed we looked around and found a place round the corner with a view of the cyclists coming towards us and, whilst I saved it Steve scouted around Haworth to see if there was a better place to be. There wasn’t.  By the time he returned the sun had crossed the yardarm and, our new position just happening to be outside a pub, we sought help for our thirst inside. And, it just had to be Velo, a special brew from local Yorkshire Masham brewery to celebrate the Tour in France, Black Sheep, which Steve had visited the previous year.

After a couple the leaders raced through and people hardly noticed. They were there and gone. I managed to get a photo of them,(above). A few support vehicles came through and then the motorbikes and the peloton was upon us. People were cheering. banners were up, photos were being taken. The carnival mood reached a fever pitch as we witnessed what we had come to see.  Then they were gone.

There is more to come. You too can experience what it was like to be there. Come back in a day and see what it was like.

Well I promised it and here it is. The Tour de France in Yorkshire, in the Bronte village of Haworth to be exact. Experience the Tour de France in Yorkshire, in the Bronte village of Haworth to be exact, through the wonder of Stevecam. It’s almost like you were there:

 

 

Le tour diary 1.

7 July 2014

I’ve lived in France for seven years, more or less, now. During that time I’ve worked in the UK every summer. Initially at a summer school teaching teenagers from all over Europe or the world general English and last year and this at a university (pictured left) teaching students, about to start a Masters course at the university, how Academic English is different from the general English they learnt before, or what they did to earn their qualification to get to the university. I do that because people in France go away for July or August so you cannot organise classes in those months and now, increasingly working at the local university, courses finish mainly at Easter with a few lasting into or to the end of May and not starting until the middle of September.

Over time I’ve increasingly become interested in cycling. Initially, as a result of working on it for my job in the early part of this century, in track cycling – I saw races at the Manchester Commonwealth Games and at my local track when living in Reading. Over time this moved to interest in road racing, particularly the Tour de France. I even got to the last two and had an interview to manage the administration for Team Sky three or four years ago. In 2012, whilst working in the UK, I followed the race every day, when work had finished obsessively watching the races as the first Englishman and the first English based team went on to win the Tour de France. It wasn’t quite as obsessive, I had a new job in a new environment so hadn’t the time available, but I still followed the race last year and the second victory.

In seven years living in France I had never seen the race in the country that is my home. I had hardly seen the French TV coverage of the race. My knowledge of it came from the UK coverage on ITV4 and the previous coverage on a number of channels. You would think the tour coming to Leeds for this year would make me excited. I would be happy to be getting a chance to see it at last. Not, at all, it seemed wrong. So, it was with an ambivalence about this aspect that I returned to Leeds just over a week ago.

Thursday and work finished and preparation for Friday done so I went shopping to get a few things. Before leaving work I had talked with a few colleagues about the parade of teams which was taking place that evening through the streets of Leeds before they were presented at the Firstdirect arena.  Having finished shopping I noticed my route home was being closed off with barriers. I spied what would be a good spot to see the riders coming up from Millennium Square. So, I hung around in that spot and was joined by a flatmate and we saw the teams on their way from Millennium Square to the Arena. The one pictured are the Cofidis team. Whilst there I was given a ‘Spectator Guide‘ for stages 1 and 2 which led us to talk about the possibility of going to the ‘Grand Depart’ and possibly going out of Leeds to visit somewhere of interest and also take in stage 2.

On Friday further discussions took place and it was decided to go down to the centre of Leeds at 10ish on Saturday morning. Before that happened though I was wakened by a din from people playing popular beat combo music and talking French. But I’d left all that behind. was this some nightmare with my French living come to haunt me in Leeds? No. In seven years living in France I’d never seen the Tour De France and here theP1120919 caravan was going past my window. As well as the music there were vehicles advertising Haribo, ibis hotels, sugary fizzy drinks (pictured) and, best of all I thought, Yorkshire Tea. The last seemed so out of place with the rest but quite cool that it was present, like a very English intervention in the Tour de France.

 

Words of the Seventies

2 June 2014

Things are supposed to come in threes. That’s what they say. So, it must be true. It certainly has for me recently with books about the music industry in the 70’s.

For a long time I’ve been meaning to buy a copy of Danny Baker’s autobiography, ‘Going to Sea in a Sieve’ and didn’t get round to it then in April I did. I listen to his radio show on five live as a podcast and enjoy the warm and positive attitude he has, though he could do with listening to what the people who call in say a bit more often! I had already heard some of the anecdotes from the show but enjoyed reading a lot more about growing up in south-east London and then going to work in a record shop after leaving school and then to New Musical Express(NME) in the seventies and into television in the eighties. I enjoyed reading his take on a time and music that had a big impact upon my teenage self.

The next two books I read I had pre-ordered to get them on publication so the timing of their arrival was outside my control.

I first came across Mark Ellen on the music programme ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ though it might have been modernised to, ‘Whistle Test’ by the time he joined it. I loathed him. I thought he was a smug, self-satisfied public schoolboy and I just wanted to slap him. This opinion continued for some time. Together with his only slightly more acceptable sidekick, although it was probably the other way round and he was the sidekick to David Hepworth, he had been involved in running Smash Hits, the magazine for girls, that as a reader of NME, you looked down upon as been ephemeral and so not serious. Cause pop music isn’t supposed to be fun and ephemeral is it? As I grew older I stopped reading NME and stopped being interested in music for a while. Around the middle of the last decade I started buying different magazines, Q, Mojo, and the Word. As regular readers will know I fell heavily for the Word and was a subscriber for the last few years of its life. I came to look forward to a literate but not showy magazine about the latest releases and things which were happening in the music world but also had interesting coverage of writers, books and films. I even came round to a fondness for the podcast, it was the Word podcast which first hooked me onto what has now become a heavy podcast habit, and I would enjoy the conversations involving Mark Ellen and David Hepworth. I recognise from the book being bitten by the music bug as a teenager, it being the only thing that is important. Reading books because they’ve been referenced by the latest idol, seeing films because the idol has talked positively about them. Mark went on to work for the NME too and then went onto work and edit magazines like Smash Hits, Q etc before the Word. For me there was too much about interviewing Lady Gaga when she didn’t have a stitch on or what it was like touring as part of a massive press and fan entourage following Rhianna around five cities in five days and not enough about the Word. But then I can understand that might be a minority view. I saw Mark Ellen on ‘Later with Jools Holland’ last weekend and they showed a clip of him introducing the Smiths on Whistle Test. It says something of how he has grown that his response to seeing his 80’s self doing a poncey introduction was that he needed a slap.

The last book of the trilogy is ‘Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music,boys, boys, boys.’ by Viv Albertine. Viv also grew up in London, north, and was different from the previous two, as well as being a woman, because she made music rather than wrote about it. From being a music obsessed teenager via a job at a venue and the epiphany that Patti Smith showed that a girl like her, and from Johnny Rotten that someone from a council estate like her, could  play in a band. The first attempt, ‘Flowers of Romance’ with Sid Vicious failed but then she joined the Slits and wrote some of, recorded and released the seminal album, ‘Cut’. I remember the shock the subjects of the songs created when it was released, songs about a girls experience, that’s not music! Something added to by the cover of the album where they are topless covered in mud. Like the previous book this brings the story up to the present day, through a career as a fitness instructor in the 80’s and attempts at domestic bliss up to the album ‘The Vermilion Border‘ released in February last year and one of the albums of the year – different from ‘Cut’ but then she’s a different person – singing about being a woman in her 50’s, how many times do you hear about that? Here she is talking about the book:

It’s not only that the first two are written by men and the last by a woman and that they wrote about music whilst she played it that differentiates them. The first two are very heavy on anecdote and told in the boy way to create camaraderie with other boys sat around in a gang. The last is searingly honest, talks about experiences and emotions, talks about the failures as fully and in as much detail as the successes. The bad times as much as the good times. The first two are mostly failure free, unless it can be turned into a funny anecdote against themselves, even the failure of the Word is dealt with in a throw-away remark. I was entertained by the first two, I learnt something and was engaged emotionally and personally by the last one.

Here’s one of my favourite songs from ‘The Vermilion Border’, ‘Confessions of a MILF';

 

2013 in review

31 December 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Is there anything I can do to help?

13 October 2013

The principle I generally adopt with my writing on this blog is that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.(I don’t know why you’d want to be catching flies but I can see that if you did the saying makes sense.) P1120299 The launch of an enjoyable, more ranty blog by a friend I worked with in the UK and an event last weekend have resulted in a post that I intend will be more vinegar than honey.

To continue the football theme from last postings, but having now returned to France, I did not see the recent Manchester City games at their ground. Last Saturday I was in the town centre Irish pub with a friend and fellow  supporter to watch the game against Everton. 1381394_10152257576129348_297195993_nEverton had been something of a bogey team to us so, after the football lesson we’d received from Bayern Munich in the midweek I was apprehensive about how things would go. However Everton had changed their manager and it did seem to be him who inspired them to reach heights when they played City. When they went one down after fifteen minutes I feared for what was about to come but we equalised one minute later and ended up winning quite comprehensively. The pub was having a Oktoberfest promotion and the beer was being sold in litre glasses and, despite the early start of the match I got around to trying them in one of the glasses, The result of having such a large glass is that it is difficult to lift when full. That, together with the result, left me in quite a good mood.

As you will see from the photo, despite Strasbourg being a brewery town – an area of the town is called canonCronenbourg and that is where Kronenbourg was brewed until they moved out of the city about forty years ago – I was drinking Paulaner. I drink German beer because I do not like French beer, It is strange but I find the French beer I’ve tried too bitter to like it yet I can drink 1664 in the UK because it is brewed to British taste for Lager but not in France. Incidentally it is called 1664 because on 1 June that year Jérôme Hatt started brewing beer in Strasbourg at what is now the restaurant Au Canon pictured on the left.

JimmysI had agreed to meet a friend for a drink the following weekend at the new version of Académie de la Bière at 29 Rue des Juifs, in what had been Jimmy’s Pub (pictured right) but then did not know whereabouts it was on the street so on leaving the Irish bar I headed  down Rue des Juifs to find where it was. As luck would have it near the end of the street was where it was located.

I was told when growing up that my handwriting is not the best in the world. I didn’t really agree as I think it is quite easy to read but as a result I have used a fountain pen since the 90’s as I think it makes my handwriting even easier to read. Papetrie du CentreEarlier this year I lost my pen. I had decided to replace it as a reward to myself for my work in the UK over the summer but had not yet got round to it. Rue des Juifs is the kind of street that has two shops selling fountain pens on it, one opposite Académie de la Bière.

By now you are probably thinking I have sold you short, I promised a ranty post and have not delivered on it, even when I said I do not like French Lager I did so quite levelheadedly, it couldn’t be further from as rant if it tried. OK so here goes.

20131013_144258What is it about customer service that shops in France do not get? Apart from all of it that is. I am going back to the UK for work in a weeks time and I’m looking forward to getting a cheery greeting and a smile from the people in the shops I go into. So I go into the shop I try and look at a number of pens and decide to buy the one pictured. I also buy the case to protect it and a bottle of ink, learning the French for a bottle of ink whilst doing so. I refuse the offer of cartridges, as I’m buying ink! 20131013_144447So I get the pen home and take it out of it’s box and all I have is as pictured on the right.Where does the ink go? It doesn’t as they had not thought that I might need an ink reservoir with my pen. I, clearly stupidly as it turns out, had assumed it was in the pen. I had delayed the moment of gratification of filling up and using my new pen until after the time when the shop was closed. As everything is shut here on Sunday I therefore have to spend an hour of my life on Monday going back to the shop to buy the ‘pump’ as I discover it is called here. How can anyone think someone will spend money on a pen, something to carry it around in and a bottle of ink and it is OK to sell it without a pump? The answer is, if they are French and working in a pen shop.

Blue Moon II

21 August 2013

No posts about football for ages then three come along at once. Ah the oldies are the best.

According to reports, like this one, yesterday was a ‘Blue Moon’. it doesn’t mean that the moon is actually blue, just that Blue Moonthere is an extra one in a season, four this summer rather than three. The football link? ‘Blue Moon’ is the song that Manchester City supporters sing, as I witnessed when watching them at their home ground for the first time earlier this week. Why ‘Blue Moon’ what has it got to do with Manchester City? I do not know, however I will bow down to Manchester City historian, Gary James, who was quoted on the Manchester City FC website this morning as saying,

“The first time I can ever recall it being sung was at the opening game of the 1989-90 season at Liverpool,” he said. “It had never been sung by fans during the seasons before that.

“At Anfield, City fans were kept behind for a while after the match and a few lads started singing it as we started to make our way out. They sang a sort of melancholic version, but it caught on.”MoonBlue

The words were written by Lorenz Hart and the music composed by Richard Rodgers. It has been recorded over 60 times including by; Django Reinhardt, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Julie London, Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Supremes, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart. At the ground different versions are played including those by Doves, Supra, The Marcels, Sha Na Na Na, and Beady Eye.

The most important thing, the words;

  • Blue moon,
  • You saw me standing alone
  • Without a dream in my heart
  • Without a love of my own.
  • Blue moon
  • You knew just what I was there for
  • You heard me saying a prayer for
  • Someone I really could care for
  • And then there suddenly appeared before me
  • The only one my arms will hold
  • I heard somebody whisper please adore me
  • And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold.
  • Blue moon
  • Now I’m no longer alone
  • Without a dream in my heart
  • Without a love of my own.

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, 1934 ©

Blue Moon

20 August 2013

I do not know when I became interested in football. In particular I do not know when I became a fan of Manchester City. Untitled I assume that, like most boys, it happened around the age of 6 or 7. Seeing as the club were in one of their all too few golden spells at the time it might explain how this lifelong affair attached itself to them. Another possibility is that my parents and grandparents are all followers of the red side of Manchester and that I’m just plain contrary, and the fact City had a great team was an added bonus, helping my contrary choice be made much more easily.

Francis LeeThe early memories I have of football involve two things which both happened in 1970. The first was I remember being very interested in the World Cup in Mexico. I collected the coins given away by a petrol retailer (like that pictured left – as something of a hoarder I still have some of them), I had a sticker book (which has now gone), and I had a programme size book that I remember poring over. I am confident about the items as they have a physical existence in the way memories are not so my memories of some of the matches comes from later as my memories are in colour and we did not get a colour TV until a couple of years later.

The other football memory relates to the 1970 FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Leeds. I went to school in a village outside Reading. Most everyone supported a London club. When big football matches came up it was the habit to link arms and go round the playground chanting and singing songs we had made up for one or other of the teams involved. I remember the large number of pupils at the school went round chanting for Chelsea. Most everyone did. My brother was not long at the school and, through the same lottery, was a Leeds fan. I remember being one of a handful who linked arms over shoulders and went round the playground for Leeds. I remember there being times when being in the minority felt intimidating. I also do not remember doing the same for City despite the fact they were in the FA Cup Final the year before, perhaps it wasn’t as intimidating? Who knows.

MCFCSo, all my life I’ve followed Manchester City. As it is held that proper fans should do I have followed them through thick and thin. The great times in the early seventies through the decline in the 80’s and 90’s; till they sunk to the third tier of English football and the famed Manchester derby in City’s case featured the game against Macclesfield Town.(Friends repeated on a regular basis, for it to be annoying, that City stood for Conference [The fifth level of English football] In Two Years.) And then the time of revival and now wealth.

colin_bell_classicIn all the time I’ve followed the club I’ve not seen them often. Growing up in the south I got to an occasional match – I remember seeing the game at Arsenal in the late 70’s when Colin Bell attempted to return from his injury as a treat for my birthday and joining a school friend to see them play QPR in the early 80’s. Not even going to university in the north led me to see them and then returning to the south just seemed to result in me putting it out of my mind. I did see them a couple of times at Reading when their orbits coincided. I got to see a match at Maine Road whilst it was still their home when in Manchester for work. Subsequently, after moving  to France I’ve made do with seeing the matches at a local pub with a friend and fellow supporter.

Most summers I’ve been working in the UK but have finished before the football season starts. This season I’m working in the UK for longer so I was present for the start of the football season. Working in the north of England and not the south also means I am in easy reach of Manchester.

I wrote before about my bucketlist. One item I had put upon it was to see Manchester City play a match at their home ground. the Etihad Stadium. The Premier League fixture arranger organised that the first match of the season was to be at home, against Newcastle United. Stories about the stadium selling out its 48,000 seats lead me to be concerned about the possibility of making this dream become a reality. However on the day the tickets went on sale, despite spending half an hour discovering that a device was not working then having to register on the website, I managed to get a seat for the match on Monday 19th August.

I finished work on 19th August at 15:30, went home and changed then walked to the station and collected my tickets to Manchester and back. A pleasant train journey through the Pennines calling at towns in wooded valleys such as Huddersfield and Dewsbury, before sighting the Etihad Stadium from the train in advance of arriving as Manchester Piccadilly. I had received an email from Manchester City setting out a route from the station but I had not brough it with me so I walked around the station but did not find it so headed in what I thought was the right direction. 20130819_180705[1] Between the occasional sign for Manchester SportsCity, asking locals and my inbuilt sense of direction I had my first sight of the stadium (pictured right) no more than 30 minutes after leaving the station – not a lot more than the 20 minutes the official route had promised. 

20130819_182523[1] On arrival, as planned I headed to the shop (pictured left) and resisted every other form of merchandise offering to entice me so I resolutely managed to get away with a replica shirt for £55. I was given a free copy of the autobiography of Mike Summerbee, which everyone buying something, whether just shirts or just anything, was getting. Near the store was City Square where there was entertainment, drinks and food outlets giving something of a party or celebration atmosphere in the evening sun. After getting some pulled pork in a bun, food at a football match has come on some since I first went, I waited near the entrance for the arrival of the City team. Untitled After seeing them safely arrive and trying to insert the wrong part of my ticket into the barcode reader (pictured right) I went through and had my first look at the inside of the stadium then a couple of pints before the match.

I discovered that I had a seat near to the Newcastle United team dug-out with a group of season-ticket holders who had become very friendly with each other. One of them had given up the season-ticket for my seat so they were interested to learn if I was going to be a replacement season-ticket holder for the seat, I was asked also by a couple of people who were interested in getting a season-ticket for the seat. When I sat down the teams were already out warming up on the pitch. City had decided to dedicate the match to the memory of their famous goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann, who had died in the close season so all the players were warming up wearing green goalkeepers shirts with Bert’s number 1 on the back and when they came out for the match Untitled (pictured left) the players had black armbands on  and there was a minutes clapping before the game started.

I will not write a report of the match, the journalists present can do that better than me, here’s the Manchester City website report, the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, and Daily Mirror. Obviously with City scoring after little more than five minutes, having already having had a couple of chances, gave hope that we would win the match well. I did not relax though until Newcastle had a player sent off when we were already 2-0 up, just before half time. At that point Newcastle had to take a player off to allow them to replace the defender who was sent off and the people around me commiserated with him for being taken off, especially when he was playing so well. I’m not sure the commiserations were totally generous and that they weren’t winding up the player. Not long after the people around me started a conversation with the fourth official about how many extra minutes he would give the two teams, starting with a couple of minutes and bidding it up to five. He gave three extra minutes. There had been a jokey discussion with him about his svelte figure so at half-time he was asked if he wanted a burger to which the response was to just have the lettuce.

I didn’t think there was the time at half-time to do anything other than visit the toilet, Untitled further drinks would not be consumed in fifteen minutes without needing a further toilet break during the second half. (people in the concourse pictured right.) The number of people arriving back late from the first-half and having to leave during it showed to me the correctness of this view. Two more goals and an incorrectly, in my view, disallowed goal, completed the match. I clapped the players off (pictured left) Untitled and made my way though the crowd to walk back to the station. Leaving the stadium and the floodlights I noticed for the first time how dark it had got. I started on the route I should have taken to get to the ground and, although I’m not sure I had still taken the right route I arrived back at the station in less time it had taken me to do the outward journey. The train stopped in more places on the journey back and had on it some Newcastle supporters drowning their sorrows whilst making their long way home via York, and not expecting to get home before 2 the next morning. For me, I was home before midnight but not much before.

Altogether a fantastic evening in a fantastic atmosphere. A great way to see my first match at the Etihad. Not just the score but the fellow supporters, the atmosphere, everything made up a great evening.

Red or Dead

13 August 2013

I have not read any of the writing by David Peace, yet, although it isn’t for a want of trying. I did see ‘The Damned United‘ the TV film of his story about the time Brian Untitled Clough became and then was the manager of Leeds United. I have bought another of his books from the Red Riding Trilogy, Nineteen Seventy-Seven, as a paperback but thought I would wait to read it until I had read the precursor which I bought on my old Sony Reader but, unfortunately, it died before I was able to read anything.

Last week he was in Leeds at Waterstones bookshop for a reading and signing for his new book. The picture below shows the book lined up waiting to be bought. I had read a less than complimentary review of the book in When Saturday Comes and an interesting excerpt from it in the magazine in the Times last Saturday so I was interested to hear the author read it and to hear the questions.

I arrived and got a complimentary glass Red or Deadof wine and bought my copy of the book. The room started to fill up (as seen a couple of pictures below) and there must have been over a hundred people present when David Peace, Anthony Clavane and someone else called, I think Bob, who was the MC, entered.

David Peace (pictured below) read first from a piece in his book about Bill Shankly ringing Don Revie up the night before the Liverpool – Leeds match in 1965 and then about the match.

Then Anthony Clavane started asking questions and the first one became a discussion of the pronunciation of the surname of the former Leeds manager Don Revie. Was it Reeeeeevie or Don Revie, with a very short e. A straw poll of the Leeds audience had it as the short e. He picked up on the fact there was a friendship between the managers in the sixties and seventies, that they would call each other up, sometimes not to the best Red or Dead interest of the players when the managers agreed to keep down the wages of players.

Anthony Clavane then asked David Peace why, as two of the managers of the greater teams of the time, he thought there now was a positive view of Shankly’s time but a negative one of Revie.  The answer given was that Don Revie was uncomfortable with the media whereas Bill Shankly would practise one-liners in front of the mirror until he had got the quote well-formed.

Anthony Cleavane then read from his book, Red or Dead ‘Does Your Rabi know you’re here?’. His excerpt was about trying to play football with his schoolmates  when the headteacher would confiscate whatever they were using for a ball and tell them that  their playing football would end up with them being secular. David Peace asked if he had ever considered writing this, or his previous book ‘Promised Land: The reinvention of Leeds United’ as novels. He replied (pictured above) that the earlier one had become a play and there then was a discussion about the line between fiction and non-fiction and how people seem more comfortable with this in America and Norman Mailer, with his fictionalised accounts of Marilyn Monroe and Gary Gilmore were given as examples.

David Red or Dead Peace then said that he had sent the draft of this book to people from LFC websites and one of the people came back and said, ‘would it be OK to send some suggested corrections?’ He said OK and received back 6 foolscap pages of corrections!

Anthony Clavane then asked about both the subject of David Peaces’ books, Brian Clough and Bill Shankly were socialists to which David Peace says that it brought him onto his second reading. The first half of the book is about Bill Shankly’s time at Liverpool and the second half is his life after he retired. This one, chapter 82 of 90, was about him listening to the 1979 Charity Shield at home on the radio then being interviewed by the local radio in Liverpool on the result, Liverpool won 3 – 1, and then talking with some youngsters who knock on his door for a game of football.

Afterwards David Peace(DP) got a question asking if he had a view about the premature retirement of Bill Shankly and it was something he said he had been intrigued by Shankly’s resignation and  his own autobiography is ambiguous on the matter. We’ll never really know. David Peace suggested that it could have been sheer exhaustion as Shankly had carried the club for more than a decade and his wife was not well.  Anthony Clavane said he was fascinated that he did it at 60 when you consider Alex Ferguson has only just done it at 72 and went on to say that Liverpool treated Shankly shabbily. He then contrasted the way Don Revie had not built a succession at Leeds whereas Bill Shankly had managed the transition of his first team into their successors whilst maintaining their success. DP said this was too simplistic a view of what happened and that Shankly was offered money and directorships and that he had wanted Jack Charlton to succeed him and not Bob Paisley yet there is a picture of the celebrations after Liverpool won the 1981 European Cup and Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley are at the bar chatting. He was offered lots of other jobs, including managerial jobs, but didn’t take them, he probably didn’t want to do anything other than manage Liverpool. Red or Dead

The next question was about the amount of repetition in the writing, the person asking had difficulty with it before. DP said it was just as well his publishers were not there as he could say to look at the book before you buy it. When he started he wanted to write about the resignation and retirement of Bill Shankly but come to the view that he couldn’t do so without talking about his achievement, this was the man’s life. DP wanted it to be a lived experience, that by the time you get to his retirement  you have experienced the sacrifice managers at thins time made for these clubs. Bill Shankly trained every day for 15 years, just writing that doesn’t give the impression of what was involved.

Why are there no photos in a book over 700 pages long. DP said there had been an intention but it didn’t happen for various reasons but he did use photos as a reference when writing the book.

There was then a question about socialism in football and whether, with the retirement of Sir Alex, there is an openning for someone. AC said that he also taught in Barnsley  and has worked with pupils and the local school and that it is to be found in places like that where the football club is at the heart of the local community. DP said that Shankley’s socialism had come from the Kop, from the people.  He also talked about how inspiring he found what Bill Shankly had done, that he hoped the book was not just a lament but would serve as an inspiration.

There was then a question to Anthony Clavane about the role of football in secularising the Jewish community to which he talked about the integration of people into the city and country, people came to Leeds and became part of it. This led into a discussion of the incident in Leeds where their then two players  were involved in a situation with racist overtones outside a nightclub. From the floor it was suggested that lee Bowyer, one of those involved in the nightclub incident, and a current Liverpool player (Well when this is being written) Luis Suarez both show sociopathic tendencies.

DP then talked about being in Liverpool to film a piece for the book and the recording took place at the Albert Dock and there were a group of 14 year olds hanging around, asking questions about what was happening and then trying to get into the 20130812_233546[1] picture once they knew what it was. After filming he had talked to them and a few said their father or grandfather had talked about Bill Shankly. Then one kid said he had been to see Liverpool  Anfield and the others said it was true he had.  It was posed what this said about the current state of football if only one of a group of Liverpool teenagers has got to see the team?

It was suggested that Geoff Boycott might be suitable as a subject for a future work by David Peace to which he joked about his style being perfect, “ball comes down wicket, ball comes down wicket….” So what comes next them he was asked. The reply was that he wanted to finish the third of the Tokyo trilogy then that in writing this book, and other work he had touched upon Harold Wilson and he seemed to say that he would be interested in doing something on it.

Anthony Clavane was asked about whether he had experience anti-Semitism to which he replied that he was punched once on the kop at Elland Road but not really. When Leeds were doing badly when Billy Bremner was the manager the chairman was Jewish and there was some then but it disappeared as soon as they became successful. In Yorkshire when there is any anti-Semitism it tend to be directed at Leeds but the situation with racism and anti-Semitism now is totally different and it is just not acceptable.

There was a question about whether the panel had optimism for socialism to which DP talked about how a biography of Burns was a bible to Bill Shankly and that was where he had got it from and he saw it in the kop, in the Liverpool team. There was nothing similar there now and it was part of the motivation for DP to write the book.

20130812_233534[1] Someone from the floor asked about whether there would be any inaccuracies in the book, that Peter Lorimer had definitely scored the goal in 1965.(Presumed to be a reference to the Damned United) AC said that the film of that book had more inaccuracies. DP said that people had picked him for having Brian Clough refer to Hartlepools whereas he grew up there and it was how people talked about it at the time. He also had not seen the film properly.

The final question asked DP whether all the books were imagined out of his head or did they come another way? He went back to the piece he had read. The all from the journalist about the Charity Shield really did happen and was printed in the paper the following day but the conversation between Bill Shankly and the children after came from his imagination, helping him to fill out the scene and paint a picture of what was being said.

I joined a long Red or Dead queue to get my copy of the book, purchased that night, signed. When I got to David Peace and was chatting with him as he did it I asked him about something I had read that weekend. Like me he was a teacher of English as a Foreign language, for him it was in Istanbul and  Japan. I asked what he liked about the work and he said that it was the people and then talked some more about it. I left thinking what a nice genuine human being he was, no rush through and get your autograph but he wrote something more and took time to talk to me. I have posted a copy of the monograph above.

UPDATE: This was edited on 20th August to correct a mispelling of Bill Shankly’s name.


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