Category Archives: Life in general

Conflict

Last week my mind was on conflict off the pitch.  I grew up listening to my parents talking about the second World War and the D-Day anniversary brought back memories of that.  On Saturday, I saw Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at the Rep, a story of what happened on a Greek island during that war.

On Sunday I went back to town, to look at the Knife Angel sculpture in Victoria Square. I’d passed it on my way to the Rep but didn’t have time to stop and wanted to see it again.  The sculpture was made from 100,000 knives retrieved from the streets of this county and took four years to make. It’s part of a campaign started by the British Ironwork Centre, to address the dangers of knife crime.

Also in Victoria Square on Sunday, there were a group of Sudanese people protesting about the people killed, injured, arrested and raped in their country.  Then I came home and watched news about the protests in Hong Kong. So, I was reminded of two of the many conflicts in this world.

Against this background, the contests on football pitches were a relief; it felt good to have conflicts in which nobody died. I listened to the penalty shootout as England’s men came third in the UEFA Nations League and then watched England’s women win their game against Scotland.

I think that’s what sport is meant to be – a relief from the more serious side of life. We can enjoy the excitement of a contest, without the violence of war or crime. Supporting local clubs can help hold communities together. When I go to Birmingham City matches, there are people there with opposite views to mine on just about everything apart from which team to support. Learning to accept them helps me to accept others who hold different views. Being a fan is not the most important aspect of my life but I believe it has value.

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Away day

I went to watch the game at Bristol City on Tuesday evening though I don’t normally go to evening away games. And I’m going to fewer away games because standing for 90 minutes feels like more of a chore as I get older. But one of my nephews lives in the Bristol area and I’d said I’d go to the game and also meet up with him.  It seemed rather wimpish to alter my plan just because the time was changed from a Saturday afternoon to a Tuesday evening.  

I spent about 15 minutes regretting my decision as the game concluded with Birmingham City only one goal ahead and Bristol attacking after their goal had restored their hope and awakened the home crowd. I was so afraid we wouldn’t be able to hold onto the lead. I was also wondering why on earth I chose to put myself through such agony; then the final whistle went, and I remembered why I support the Blues. It is always good to see them win.

It was also good to walk along the Avon Gorge on Wednesday morning, see the suspension bridge and the patterns in the mud sculptured by the tides. Then I met my nephew and enjoyed a meal and conversation with him.

Bristol used to be an important port in the triangular slave trade. Arms, alcohol and textiles were shipped to Africa and traded for slaves. The slaves were taken across the Atlantic and sold to the plantations.  Then the ships returned to Bristol with a cargo of sugar, molasses and tobacco. I saw traces of this dark past: a plaque commemorating the slaves and a large building called the Tobacco Factory, though it is no longer used for that.

I liked Bristol. The area around Ashton Gate has loads of street art and there’s also a statue of John Atyeo at the stadium. He made 645 appearances and scored 350 goals between 1951 and 1966.  I was impressed by that when I read it on the plaque on the statue and was even more impressed when I read his obituary and found he had never being cautioned by a referee in his senior matches, had played 6 times for England and was a part-time player, working as a quantity surveyor and then as a teacher. I can understand why they erected a statue of him.

I hope to go back there sometime, do a tour of the Banksy street art and maybe see Blues win again.

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Time’s wingèd chariot

Loftus Road is a small stadium, the third smallest stadium in the Sky Bet Championship this season. It’s not a comfortable place to visit. When I went there, I felt like a sardine crammed in a tin. Respect to the Blues fans who are going today, and I hope they see a good game. I’ll be listening on the radio.

There are things I like about going to away games. Birmingham City’s travelling fans are incredible and it feel’s great to be among a loud, supportive crowd. But standing for 90 minutes is tiring and by the end of a game I feel very old.

More and more things make me feel old these days.  I just read about Albert Finney dying and that brought back memories of watching him at the old Birmingham Repertory Theatre in the 1950’s.  I remember seeing him as Henry V and also saw him in less memorable roles.  Once when I was clearing out a pile of Rep programmes, I noticed his name listed in the actors playing the crowd. That was over 60 years ago.

And it’s nearly 70 years since my dad first took me to St Andrew’s. I don’t remember exactly when that was but do remember Gill Merrick, Jeff Hall and the roar of the crowd. I also remember the first time I heard ‘Keep right on’ sung, at the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough in 1956. My memories may be rose-tinted but I think the crowd back then was very supportive. That’s why I’m thrilled by the atmosphere at games this season, with our crowd supporting effort and commitment even when it doesn’t end with a win. It reminds me of the crowds I stood in when I was a child and it feels good.

By the way, the title of this post is taken from Andrew Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress:

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near  
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Inequality

We live in a crazy world.  Lionel Messi, the highest paid footballer last season, received $111,000,000. Does he deserve that much? More and more people in this country are relying on food banks. If you think that they deserve that, try watching I, Daniel Blake on BBC iPlayer and see if you change your mind.

Yesterday evening, I went to a performance of Commonism, at the Rep.  It’s a conversation between two men, one British and one Norwegian, talking about the world today and imagining how the future could be better. At the end, they hand out copies of their manifesto. This suggests a maximum limit on the economic resources any one individual can possess and a universal basic income. I imagine that it would be a lot easier to get poor people to accept a basic income than to get rich people to limit what they own. The performance was thought provoking and I had much to think about as I walked back to my bus stop, past all the rough sleepers.

When I got back home, I saw the news about the latest Brexit squabble in Parliament. It seemed a far cry from the conversation I’d just listened to, about learning to disagree well. There was also news of Burton’s heavy defeat at Manchester City and the nightmare journey to get to Manchester experienced by some of their fans. The result was not that surprising when you consider the value of their squads. Sky reported that,

“Burton Albion’s squad value this season is around the £6m mark   … Manchester City’s current squad is valued at just over £1bn, with their most expensive acquisition, Riyad Mahrez, joining the club last summer for £60m.”

In other words, one of Manchester City’s players cost 10 times more than Burton’s squad. That enormous inequality just doesn’t seem right to me, with most of the TV money flooding into the Premier League. I can understand why owners of clubs lower down the pyramid pay out too much in the hope of getting promotion.  Birmingham City paid out too much; we are still waiting to find out what price we’ll have to pay for that. We are not the only club with financial problems. The situation feels more serious than just a few clubs breaking some rules; it feels as though the whole system is broken.

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More than eleven

Solihull Moors FC has a great slogan: Moor than eleven. Every successful football team has more than eleven involved in that success. Yesterday evening, the Moors earned a replay against a team from higher in the pyramid. That was achieved by players, coaches, other staff and fans too. It was also one of the more exciting no-score draws I’ve watched. Continue reading

Values

On Heritage Open Day, Bournville Junior School was one of the places that was open and I was able to visit the school I attended as a child. I saw my name written in a book recording when I had started and left the school and I walked around looking at displays and posters. The poster on values listed the values that I could remember being taught by that school and by my parents. Continue reading

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an amazing kaleidoscope of tall buildings, mass transit trains, trams, buses, cars, handcarts and people.  There are lots of people in a hurry, going places, but there are also small parks dotted around the city for those who want to pause and be refreshed. There’s food, glorious food including some I fancied, the papaya and red onion salad was a favourite, and food that I didn’t try such as seahorses. Continue reading

Snow, fog and not casting the first stone

The last edition of the Made in Brum fanzine had a good question on its cover: “Has Cotterill broken Blues or have Blues broken Cotterill?” For me the question is unanswerable because it isn’t either/or but both/and.  Blues handed Cotterill a near impossible job and he didn’t manage to do it. Continue reading

Millwall

Last year Millwall won the Family Club of the Year award but fans still chant, “No one likes us.” Some of them probably deserve their reputation as hooligans but the majority go to watch the football not to fight. Many feel that their reputation is not deserved and one fan, Bill May, blames the BBC. Continue reading

Friday thoughts

It was freezing cold on Tuesday night and we lost 1-4 but I didn’t regret going to the game. Birmingham City played well for the first 90 minutes though they ran out of steam in time added on. The attendance of 13,175 wasn’t brilliant but it was good to have Blues fans in the Tilton as well as the Kop. Continue reading

Cardiff game

Birmingham City is not playing as I type this blog, so I am still reasonably rational.  I know that football is a game and if we lose it won’t be the end of the world.  I also know that when I’m at St Andrew’s this evening I’ll be in my game-watching mode, which isn’t at all rational. Continue reading

Fans not numbers

Values are important in football. To quote from an earlier post that I wrote: “I believe that it’s good for managers, players and fans to be grounded in the world outside football, with family, friends and values that keep them from being crushed by what happens on the pitch.”  Continue reading