footy

Gigs, geeks and getting older..

I’ve had a fun-filled time of late – plenty of awesome gig action, the Levellers were amazing in Buxton.  First up we got to see the film A Curious Life, a semi-documentary type film that Dunstan Bruce of Chumbawamba fame has put together.  It was a charming insight into a band that has been a fairly constant feature of my life for the last twenty years or so (wow, twenty years!).  This was followed by a mesmerising acoustic gig.

Before that I finally did the giving blood deed – it wasn’t remotely traumatic so I shall certainly be signing up for a repeat performance.  I was convinced for some reason I had blood type B (probably because my Mum does), but it turns out I’ve inherited my Dad’s blood type of A+ – no matter really, but interesting nonetheless!  It certainly made the relatively small number of beers I had before the gig have a quicker impact than they normally would!

Where Levellers tread in my gig-going life then Ferocious Dog are sure to follow – I’ve been writing about them in some detail over at Ferocious Blog.  The tour started at the Bodega in Nottingham which was a magically awesome day, and I’ve been lucky enough to head to Nuneaton and Barnsley subsequently to see their next shows – they’re on rip-roaringly good form so looking forward to heading down to Harlow on 27th when the tour recommences!

Team Holly!  Had a lovely day working with Hattie Hayridge at EM-Con

Team Holly! Had a lovely day working with Hattie Hayridge at EM-Con

After these last two gigs it was time for EM-Con – a sci-fi convention organised by one of my good friends Lee Wallis.  I’d volunteered to help for the day and he bagged me the awesome job of being an assistant to Hattie Hayridge for the day.  As someone whose childhood was played out watching (and quoting from!) Red Dwarf it was a great opportunity – and mercifully it turns out Hattie is a lovely lady to spend the day with chatting nonsense and reminiscing about Red Dwarf!

I'm officially a joy to work with.

I’m officially a joy to work with.

It’s true being busy working with her all day dealing with fans wanting her to sign stuff meant I didn’t get to take in much of the other attractions at the convention, but that’s okay – having been in Barnsley the night before I wasn’t exactly full of energy so sitting down all day and chatting with someone who played a significant role in a lifelong favourite show was a perfectly good way to be spending the day!

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Arlo as a Ferocious Sprog

Then it was my birthday which I’d booked holiday from work for as is my habit – given the previous days gig-going and convention volunteering a quietish day was an appealing prospect, but I did get to go see my Granny, have a burger at Annie’s and have a lovely stroll around Colwick Park with the folks, Rich, Emma and Arlo – so it was all told a rather splendid way to spend the day followed by a resurgent interest in Red Dwarf on the media server!

Last things last Forest took on Rotherham last night and in a largely uneventful game two moments of absolute magic saw the Reds emerge 2-0 victors.  The unplayable Mikael Antonio set up a chance for Dexter Blackstock to delightfully lob the too-far-out ‘keeper who could only touch it into the goal, then the marauding winger picked up the ball in his own half and powered his way past three defenders before planting the ball in the bottom corner from 25 yards.  It was Collymore-esque.

The benefit of a couple of days holiday at the start of the week means that the weekend is already looming large on the horizon.  Tomorrow sees a more chilled gig to see the awesomely talented Paige Seabridge, a quiet Saturday will be followed by Sunday where there’s promise of seeing Ellie Keegan and Sam Jones’ open mic night at the Brown Cow in Mansfield.  Got to love music!

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Flowers don’t grow up as one, each finds its own way to the sun..

Infrequent updates on here make it quite easy to gloss over things that might have happened over a matter of months let alone days, such is the lot of the infrequent blogger.

However, 2014 has been a pretty seismic year for me so far – it kicked off (almost) in a clinic undergoing a bone marrow donation and leads to here – and it was picking up a letter from Anthony Nolan last week that prompted the prose really.  It was the best letter I’ve ever had, I think – it was short, it was quite impersonal and it was non-specific – but the gist of it was that the young boy who was recipient of my stem cells is still alive.

There’s no more detail than that to report – but it’s amazing news nonetheless and hopefully my chosen inference that he continues to battle and recover from either Leukaemia or Lymphoma is an accurate surmise on my part.  Whatever extra time that procedure has granted him is a blessing, but of course I dearly hope for a full recovery.  I’m looking forward to hopefully further positive updates which are likely to arrive over probably years rather than months.

Thinking back to January is a bit strange – I was living in a home I part-owned (admittedly Leeds Building Society owned most of it, but still), in a long-term relationship and worked at the same company for getting on for a dozen years.  What a difference a few months makes as I now find myself temporarily ensconced with my ever-dependable parents on the verge of selling the house, no longer in a relationship at all and a week and a bit into working for a new company.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself a bit to make me realise quite what a shift in circumstance I’ve undergone – and whilst of course such decisions aren’t made lightly, with particular pleasure or indeed easily I do think the big picture is positive albeit deeply unsettling for someone who generally takes comfort in stability and predictability.  Oh, I became tattooed as well, which was also a special moment as I had the honour of being inked by the lead singer of one of my favourite bands (a band who continue to go from strength to strength, having just smashed the twelfth Beautiful Days festival!)

IMG_8390Most seismic of all was that I became an Uncle!  Emma gave birth to Arlo who has already packed more into his first few months than many children will in years – including a trip to Ibiza!  He’s naturally been to the Parrot Zoo already as well!  I’ve never really paid much attention to babies before but it’s definitely different when the baby in question is such a close relative – I’m really looking forward to seeing him grow up – he’s already got a Forest season ticket despite being too young to take advantage of it (or should that be be punished by it?!).

IMG_8254There was profoundly sad news in that time too – in June my (our, really) three birds became two as Phoebe succumbed to suspected kidney failure – despite picking this up quite early unfortunately the vet wasn’t able to do anything for her and she passed away having spent the night with the vet ready for further examination in the morning.  I won’t lie, it was pretty devastating not least for Cat who was estranged from her (but mercifully did get to see her shortly before the end) and Frankie who was very much her partner in crime.

So, once the house is sold and sorted and I’ve settled into my new professional life which involves trekking out to the West Midlands (and indeed, oop North quite a bit) I’ll be in a position to make a better call about what to do more permanently about my living situation.  I’m reticent to move my personal life away from the comfort of Nottingham but I’m also mindful that I’m already looking at an hour commute (with a fair wind – and the schools are off) here in Hathern, Nottingham would add half an hour or more to that potentially.

Decisions, decisions!  But in the meantime I need to get to grips with a new industry – I’ve inherited a great team which I’m really thankful for so the ‘new kid at school’ feeling has been minimised as much as possible, but obviously I need to get up to speed and settled before deciding how to settle other matters – so that’s the plan, get the house sale finished, then take the opportunity to save like buggery to try to make whatever next move I make as easy as possible and preferably with as small a mortgage as possible.

Coupled with that of course there’s a new wave of football optimism with Stuart Pearce taking the helm at Forest.  Not unplaced “we’re going to win the league” type optimism (although we might!), more a relief that the club seems to be on more of an even keel on the professionalism stakes – I find myself daring to hope we might enjoy a bit of stability and long-term planning rather than the series of knee-jerk tactical misjudgements we’ve been subjected to over recent years.

Having the chance to witness Psycho’s return to the City Ground against Blackpool was a special moment that I’m sure all Forest fans relished, especially those of us of a certain age who idolised the man as a player for both Forest and England.  He’d have to do a lot wrong to lose the backing of the fans, so let’s hope that Fawaz takes our lead and gives him time to build a sustainable and hopefully successful future for the club.

So all in all, a pretty eventful few months in most areas of my life that are important – but apparently change can be good, and I’ve been surprised at how well I’ve been able to adapt to some quite significant differences.  If you’d asked the Alan of a year ago of the likelihood of all this happening then he’d have probably laughed a bit then run away to hide in terror – but in truth as with most things I guess the thought of change can be a lot more scary than the act.

I have absolutely no idea why I’ve decided to chronicle all this beyond perhaps hammering home quite how much has happened recently for my own indulgence.  So if you’ve read this far, yes, this is a very self-centred post!

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Tick tock, tick tock..

Bloody hell, July has gone completely!  Of course, quite difficult to follow a blog post as interesting (to me at least) as our Polish adventure – but that’s not to say there’s been reasonably exciting things occurring since then.

Not least  – and top of mind – the return to the football pitch for me after the dreaded drop-foot.  On a fitness level, this has been monumentally horrible – half a year of not playing, and not exactly doing a great job of finding alternative ways of maintaining my fitness, has really taken its’ toll. Fortunately my technique – such as it is – doesn’t seem to have suffered too much after my first couple of ‘bedding in’ games.

I’ve been getting a bit of jip in one of my thigh muscles from kicking the ball hard, but I’ve had that before – a combination of not stretching/warming up properly and my spell out of action have been causing this – but a combination of anti-inflammatories and treatment with heat is seeing this recover faster after each game, which is reassuring.  Tonight is my first outing for Thursday football so far this year, probably my more challenging group.  So fingers crossed!

I’m really hoping Henri Lansbury has kept this summer addition to his head. It’ll almost be like a Ferocious Dog gig at the City Ground!

As well as playing football of course we also have watching it to look forward to.  Forest kick off the season at home against Huddersfield on Saturday and now Forest have deigned not to evict us from our seats I’m looking forward greatly to seeing how Billy Davies starts the season.  We’ve made some shrewd acquisitions and seem likely to add some more – if you read the rumour mills then there are very few players out there who haven’t had some kind of medical or offer from Forest.

Following Forest online lost a lot of lustre for me last season when I literally ‘lost that loving feeling’ and opted to shut down my semi-anonymously written Forest blog, which now sits in mothballs like an old abandoned place.  I must say I haven’t missed what had become a bit of a drudgery, whilst the goings on at Forest are rarely dull – sometimes I wish they just were a bit.  The forums are increasingly like warzones and I barely follow any Reds related users on Twitter aside from folk I actually know.  It’s sad that by and large football fans are so incapable civil communication – even when they support the same team.

On the music front a last minute decision to snag a day ticket for Deerstock in nearby East Bridgford proved a masterstroke – an excellent little event organised by Jed Southgate at the rear of the Reindeer Pub took place, even a fair amount of rain on the Saturday night couldn’t spoil a top day – it was headlined by Ferocious Dog which is always going to float my boat of course, but a nice mix of other talented acts throughout the day kept us very well entertained.  I shall look into probably going to the whole festival next year, as the Friday and Sunday were awesome too from what I’ve read.

Related to Ferocious Dog was the recent Panorama show relating to post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by people coming away from active service in the forces.  Lee Bonsall, son of Ken and brother of Dan in the band, was featured in the show – he tragically took his own life having not received the support he needed from the army.  Alarmingly the programme revealed that this tale is disturbingly common – I would recommend taking a look at the programme, and most definitely signing this petition calling for support for our service personnel.

Ken and the band continue to do sterling work in raising both awareness and money to directly help folk in the same boat that Lee found himself through the Lee Bonsall Memorial Fund.  Families of others who suffered the same fate are similarly taking real positive action to help others – it’s a real inspiration and I’m in awe of how brilliant these people are considering how badly let down their loved ones have been.  They fight on, and I’m proud to support them in whatever small ways that I can – which will definitely include hammering out any fundraising activities via Facebook and Twitter for those of you that have the undoubted joy of me on your social networks.

To finish on a lighter note I’ve become strangely addicted to Rooibos tea.  As part of last year’s ‘Project Fatty’ I basically knocked caffeinated tea on the head at work, opting instead for herbal variants (ostensibly to cut down my dairy intake).  Having run out of such tea a couple of weeks back I started back on my old stash of tea which had an impact on both sleep and digestion patterns (I’ll leave that there!).  I picked up some Rooibos on the recommendation of a workmate and it does the refreshment job without any of the caffeine nasties.

Speaking of ‘Project Fatty’, that half year of inactivity has rendered a sequel to probably be in the offing, I really need to eat a bit more sensibly and get a bit of weight off again…. at least being back on the football pitch 2-3 times a week will help at least arrest the weight gain!  I also need to face up to the elephant-in-the-room that my guitars seem to have become since recovering from ‘Susan’..

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My desire, is always to be here, oh City Ground..

Our awesome seats are safe for another season before further potential meddling will ensue!

Our awesome seats are safe for another season before further potential meddling will ensue!

Forest have seen sense and reversed their plans to relocate season ticket holders in the Bridgford Upper after apparently overestimating the popularity of housing home fans in the Bridgford Lower.

I suspect they probably failed to appreciate the subtle different between the following two statements, the first of which is most certainly likely to be true of many Forest fans, the second it would appear is less universally adhered to (and that’s before you consider the planned price of £549 a year to do so!)

“It would be great to have the Lower Bridgford end for home supporters to generate an atmosphere”

“I would like to sit in the Lower Bridgford end”

Without properly ascertaining not only the will of those fans they would have been uprooting, but also determining the actual demand for tickets in that area and performing the necessary calculations to work out the financial impact, this has been an exceptionally good example of the kind of impetuous and ill-prepared decision-making that Fawaz runs the risk of getting a reputation for if he’s not careful.

Certainly taking fans views on board is a great plus – and I’m sure the intention is to please – but it needs to be conducted in a more robust fashion.  To say most fans didn’t want the change would be just as inaccurate as those when it was proposed who said that most did – it needs a proper piece of research with season ticket holders.  Forest have the contact details of all concerned, it wouldn’t be that difficult to arrange.

As they continue to consult over what to do about the away supporters hopefully the lessons they’ve learned from annoying their loyal customers will be built into any future plans.  Football fans are the dream ticket in terms of a loyal customer base – they aren’t likely to switch allegance any time soon, so you have to really mess up to see them walk away as a fee-paying customer.  Forest came close this time for many.

In an era when companies are able to manage millions of customer records then Forest really have no excuse in not wrangling the few thousand records they have to get a proper view of what people want.  At the moment that doesn’t exist – so people, self included to a degree, simply upweight their own preferences and state them as a ‘for the good of the fans’ statement.  Which is a ridiculous stance to take regardless of what you think, when it’s based on a sample of a few people you know – basically, ignorance.

I’m sure it won’t be the last mistake Forest makes with a relatively new regime in charge – but they should be applauded for pausing what looked to be a ‘done deal’ and taking on board the extent of opposition to their choice and backtracking.  Hopefully they can learn from the danger in assuming what a few hundred relatively anonymous emails or Tweets represent the views of all those who actually swell the coffers of the club in the form of season ticket sales.

Plus it sounds like we will have Forest fans behind the goal in the Lower Bridgford end anyway, so from the point of view of the original campaign everyone is a winner.

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Relocation Relocation Relocation

We’ve sat just above the leftmost John Pye sign for a dozen years. Now with a days notice we are expected to pitch up elsewhere.

It’s been a good extended weekend.  Hell, an excellent one – lots of good friends, good music and good food and drink and some not too bad weather either made my first trip to Bearded Theory a raucous success.  As well as getting the opportunity to see many of my favourite bands – The Levellers, Ferocious Dog, 3 Daft Monkeys et al, there was of course the chance to randomly happen upon lots of new music.

Upon getting back home yesterday though a degree of that residual good mood glow has been extinguished by the news that Nottingham Forest have decided, ostensibly as a result of fan pressure, to relocate away supporters at the City Ground to where I sit.  Where I’ve already paid for next season’s ticket, so they want me to join the Hoi Polloi tomorrow as season tickets hit general sale to sift through the dregs on offer in the rest of the ground.

Rich and I have sat in block U1 on the front row for a dozen years or more – we’ve made great friends up there, love the view, the atmosphere and everything else about it.  There’s nowhere else in the City Ground I would want to sit instead, so the opportunity to relocate to ‘better’ (read: more expensive) seats for no additional charge is an empty offer as far as I’m concerned.  Particularly when we’ll be stuck with the higher price come renewal time this time next year!

The worst thing is those seats in the Lower Bridgford end, supposedly highly coveted by Forest fans, will be amongst the most expensive in the ground.  Why anyone would pay the £150 more to sit under the away fans hurling god knows what at you compared with the comparable (crap) view at the Trent End I’m not quite sure.  So the move is a neat distraction from sizeable price hikes, and as far as I can tell at the behest of a relatively small number of fans who emailed Fawaz about it.

Whether these are the people who will pack that end out for £549 a season remains to be seen.  Should the consultation process conclude this move is to go ahead (the council and police will need to approve it from a safety perspective) then my seat won’t be available for home fans, I’ll be seeking a refund and not going anymore.  Notwithstanding the ridiculousness of the decision, the manner in which it has been communicated (or rather, not commicated at all) to those affected is shocking.

That no actually robust survey beyond the #nffc Twitterati emailing an ‘Ask Fawaz’ session occurred is scandalous – they have our contact details, they could easily determine what number of fans would welcome a move, and what proportion would relocate to the hallowed lower tier.  This is something I suspect that was decided without consideration for supporter needs – even the superficial ‘Ask Fawaz’ ones.

Whilst I realise we are mere walking wallets as far as the powers-that-be at football clubs are concerned, it looks as though this wallet at least might well be shutting itself after many years of freely and liberally helping to fund the club.  Now I need to think of something else to be doing with my season ticket money and free weekends, perhaps there is a link to this new dilemma I wasn’t expecting to be facing and my opening paragraph?

Of course, it’s possible that the club will fail to get this move ratified – as I type there are council and police representatives at the City Ground presumably for that purpose.  Should they raise objections, coupled with a surprising number of people who are very annoyed at the move, then we might well find the club backtracking with some excuses around safety concerns or otherwise, in the meantime because there’s a bit of a furore everyone forgets that they’ve actually made the prices rather high.

I do hope that sense prevails and this plan is quashed, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to move to an inferior location than the one that I paid in advance for a few weeks ago now.

NB: I thought I’d published this before, apparently I didn’t!

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Fergie time (is up)..

Fergie as I first encountered him – the then-beleagured gaffer of under-achieving Manchester United.

Whilst I’ve no love for Manchester United I certainly don’t have the rabid dislike many football fans of other teams seem to automatically plump for.  Odd too, my first ever Forest match was against them – it was the game when supposedly Fergie would’ve been sacked had it not been for Mark Robins popping up to score having escaped the attentions of Stuart Pearce.

Nigel Jemson had a goal disallowed that night too.  I hadn’t been truly ‘bitten’ by the football bug then but walking down the steps to the front of the Executive Stand upper tier (as t’was then) afforded me a glimpse down onto the lower tier which was home to the leering Mancunians gesticulating up to us.  I remember finding it distasteful more than offensive.

Fast forward a couple of years and I was in Wembley Stadium, for the second time that season, watching Forest play United again this time in a cup final (the Rumbelows Cup, no less).  Because of ticket dodginess there were a lot of Mancs in our end, one of whom thought it okay to gob in the face of a fourteen year old me.

On reflection my Dad did well to keep it together and marshall his two lads around that day with no incident because the concourses were scenes of running battles that he seems to have spared me any memory of – as I only really know of such things from retrospective reminsces from fellow fans who probably quite enjoyed partaking in such things.

This reminiscing really has perhaps only suggested that really I should dislike Manchester United for personal reasons if I’m not going to blindly do so to follow the crowd.  Maybe being so detached from the spheres in which Manchester United operate for many years has numbed me to indifference – maybe I can hold on to that rather splendid afternoon spent at Old Trafford where Pearce and Collymore netted to see us win 2-1?

Whatever the reasoning – and despite the lack of strong feeling – Alex Ferguson has been at the helm of the club since I really knew anything about football – so it’s quite monumental even to someone who is at best marginally interested in them when he steps down after over 26 years of service and a trail of silverware – and surely somewhat inevitable too, he ain’t getting any younger afterall.

There’s much to dislike about his legacy – of primadonnas crowding referees, of haranging officials when decisions go against them – but whilst that grates with my moral compass I’d point the finger at the powers that be in football who allow such shenanigans to detract from what should still be the beautiful game.  Let’s face it, Ferguson might be a pioneer in such schtick but he’s not the only protagonist.

The biggest grudge I can muster against Ferguson is the folk-wisdom that suggests he had a hand in this abhorration of a circumstance happening.

He should rightly be considered in the pantheon of football management greats for his achievements, and will leave difficult shoes to fill for David Moyes – particularly as he will remain in the corridors of power at Old Trafford.  For the club to continue to meet its’ high expectations Moyes needs to oversee an evolution of the systems Ferguson has ruled for over two decades rather than the revolution a Mourinho type figure might have inspired.

On reflection, he was apparently instrumental in the appointment of Alex McLeish at Forest – so to conclude, good-riddance you purple-nosed bastard! (I jest).

To end sensibly, I do think if I were present as an opposing fan I’d be respectful toward him.  It evokes memories of when our own great manager Brian Clough stepped down at Forest (in a much less auspicious position admittedly), but the respect he was shown by Sheffield United and Ipswich Town fans in our final games that season was a lovely tribute to the impact he had on the whole game – not just at Forest, Derby, (Brighton, Leeds) and Hartlepools as a manager.

 

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