Archive for March 2009
So Kevin Pietersen is tired. Well Kevin, I’m tired too. Tired of watching the same game of cricket over and over again.
Watching England’s one day side over the last fifteen years or so is like watching Last of the Summer Wine. The cast changes, but the plot remains stolidly the same. It’s just three old men in a bath going slowly downhill.
I’m tired of the constant look of bewilderment on Andrew Strauss’ face. He opens the batting with a Clegg-like dynamism. But he has my sympathy. His first tour has been a particularly trying one what with the tribuations of referrals, flat pitches, declarations and Steve Harmison. Strauss is the man to lead England into the Ashes series this summer, but someone should give him this little suggestion: at least pretend to look like you know what you’re doing.
And then Bopara. Compo. The iconoclast. Actually scrub that. I’m getting tired of this analogy. But not as tired as I am of England’s one-day performances. Even when they contrive to win it’s dull.
The reason I mention the openers is because they set the tone for the rest of the innings and, when they bat first, the bowlers. It’s like some wonky version of collective responsibility: if one of the team underperforms, then we’re all allowed to underperform.
Ultimately I’m tired of ranting. Every time I look in the mirror I look a little bit more like Bob Willis. And I’m tired because I wasted my Friday night watching this familiar drivel. When I could have been out. Or in. Probably in actually.
There is no sport that puts on a more satisfying farce than cricket. And last night in Guyana we had a belter. A game which ended in confusion as the result of a man grappling unsuccessfully with the arcane laws of the sport. Of course the shambles will be the cue for furious head-shaking and much wailing that cricket is being slowly put to an unedifying death by the petty legislation of slow-minded administrators.
But we should remember this: farces are supposed to be entertaining. So let’s just all relax a little and enjoy these little tableaux for what they are worth.
West Indies coach John Dyson was central to the piece, armed with his clipboard as a prop. He began to check his crib sheet on that clipboard almost as an involuntary tic. And every time he did so, he visibly wilted a little and aged a year or so. It was like watching a sitcom: it wouldn’t have jarred if a snatch of canned laughter had played out every time Dyson had returned to the infernal clipboard. Chris Gayle wasn’t laughing: he just sunk deeper into dark despond.
The contrast with the other dressing room was stark. Andrew Strauss walked off the field sporting the confused but ecstatic grin of a small boy who’s just watched his sister take the blame for painting the cat blue. The England team dissolved into incredulous giggles. Paul Collingwood summed up the mood by childishly attaching a torchlight to his head. Nice one Colly.
And in the commentary box, David Lloyd chuntered on repetitively like a drunk on a bus. “Play the game son, play the game.” Bumble is right of course, but sometimes the fun doesn’t start until the play is over.
As the University Challenge scandal trimbles on, my suspicions of a wider conspiracy are taking on a greater, more sinister shape. I have become increasingly agitated ever since I read this article about this report of the Newcastle vs Sale rugger game in the Guinness Premiership.
For Sam Kay read Andrew Fenby: an accountant inveigling itself into society as a near perfect replica of a human being, indistiguishable except for a lack of empathic response. You just have to look in their eyes. They’re dead.
The most frightening aspect of this is that both Kay and Fenby are employed by the same company: Pricewaterhouse Coopers. They may be producing these accountants on an industrial scale. I called the headquarters for an official comment on the situation but they not only declined to comment they also told me to go away because I was a bit strange. Suspicious.
The line between real and accountant life has become blurred, so watch out for more fugitives: if you are unfortunate to come across one my suggestion would be to to try to embarass it or maybe compliment it: tell it you like its hair. If it’s human it will blush. If it’s an accountant, it will maintain it’s lifeless pallor.
And remember to look behind the eyes. There’s honestly nothing there.
There are two World Darts Championships in the sporting calendar and they happen virtually simultaneously just after Christmas. It creates a kind of darting chemical reaction, the primary result of which is a massive surge in interest in the sport. Visit any good sporting emporium in the New Year and the darts will be flying out of the door. So watch yourself.
It’s the reason why Great Britain is so rubbish at the Winter Olympics.
My friends and I are impressionable folk: we get caught up in the whole craze. So we get tooled up with our arrows and head down to the nearest suitable establishment. Which is the Princess Alice pub on Commercial St in East London.
We were down there other night cheering on a 59-dart finish or a checkout of 4, when I became aware of a pair of unsavoury-looking types lurking near to the oche. They looked suspiciously at us: and it didn’t seem to be just the standard of darts. Worried speculation grew amongst our mob that we may have inadvertently stepped on the darting manor of some latter-day Krays. Or more frightening still, Mitchells. So we hurriedly finished our game and waved them onto the dartboard. It transpired then that they weren’t Cockney gangsters at all. They weren’t even from London.
They’d flown in that afternoon from Vienna on what they called their ‘London Dart-Exkursion’, which roughly translates from the Austrian as ‘a trip to London to play darts’. And they were catching the night flight that evening back from Stansted to their homeland.
They wanted to play in the East End: they considered here to be the cradle of darts. So they found the Princess Alice on the internet and over they came. I think they expected wall-to-wall dartboards and possibly Eric Bristow somewhere in the vicinity. Instead they found one mouldering board and me, who had just thrown 27 darts at double one. And it’s my favourite double.
I hadn’t realised that there was a tradition of darts in Austria, but I had a peek on Wikipedia and there’s an entire category page dedicated to ‘Austrian darts players’. Admittedly I’ve never heard of any of them, including the improbably-named Didi Burger, who I’m sure I ate once in KFC.
Eventually we joined our continental comrades in a game and I was pleased to discover that they were equally as inexpert as us. Kinship in incompetence.
We promised to visit their website. They explained that they’d only had one hit in three years. Which is the sort of the point of this post. I reckon with the volume of traffic that this blog gets we can at least double that. So here it is.
You can check out the photos of the night. Some of the pub. Some of the action. Some slighty suspicious ones of girls who don’t look as if they know they’re being snapped. And one of some crocusses. Of course.
A world without Woolworths is one thing. But life without Emmerdale is a bleak dystopian vision that even the most pessimistic futurist would have difficulty comprehending. Slightly overdramatic possibly, but news that ITV is closing its Kirkstall Road studios in Leeds will be sending shockwaves through sitting rooms the nation over. But despite the cutbacks, filming continues and the doors of the Woolpack remain open. And the viewing punters keep pouring in.
However the Sunday night staple of Heartbeart has been told go and put its feet up and have a cup of cocoa: production has been suspended. The plan is to broadcast the stockpile of episodes already in the can and then resume filming in sunnier economic climes. But the denizens at ITV should be wary of prolonging the break too much: sometimes absence does not make the collective heart grow fonder.
The Krypton Factor returned to the screen in January after 13 years and ITV sounded the trumpets in fanfare: “we are taking a brilliant format and bringing it bang up to date with state-of-the-art technology.”
Amazing. My first thought was how this new technology was to be applied to the response round: that part of the show where the contestant was required to land a plane or a helicopter or a space shuttle using a flight simulator. I had visions of some whizzo virtual reality concept where competitors fought against evil aliens in a massive intergalactic scrap. Instead we got nothing. The round was scrapped.
I see no reason why the production team couldn’t have removed the tarpaulin off the old simulator and given her another spin: the response round was strangely riveting and had huge comic potential. I remember sobbing with laughter watching one confused contestant ignore the runway completely and career off into the stratosphere perhaps to an attempt a lunar landing. A laudable, if misjudged, game plan.
The observation round was also entertaining. It was usually based on a specially-made skit starring Tony Slattery or Bob Carolgees or some other god of the televisual pantheon. For the new series they have just raided the ITV archives to use clips from favourites shows of the recent past. I’ve heard there’s a few spare episodes of Heartbeat in case you’re interested.
The assault course has returned as well, and was hyped up as “iconic, menacing and 100% entertaining”. Which is true. If you consider a man slowly climbing up a tree to be iconic and menacing. I’d rate it as 47% entertaining. The lack of physical prowess among the contestants makes it feels like you’re watching a team-building weekend for an insurance company.
The essential problem with the Krypton Factor is that it has been brought back on a budget. It makes you wonder why they bothered. I assume that ITV banked on the original magic of the show adding the requisite lustre without having to throw money at it. It’s slightly like renewing your wedding vows at KFC.
And of course the most ingredient was missing: Gordon Burns. Bring him back and the audience ratings would go the same way as that lady in flight simulator: into orbit.
Ah. So it was an evil plot after all. Turns out that Sam Kay, the shambling presence on the left wing of the victorious Corpus Christi University Challenge team, was not all he said he was.
He was in fact an accountant masquerading as a student. Which is a pretty rum do if you ask me.The elders at the college hastily concocted some spurious story about Kay’s failure to get funding for a PhD forcing him to leave the university. But I’ve watched a lot of Morse so I know that more often than not there is something more sinister occuring behind the closed doors of these Oxford colleges.
It’s a plausible theory that Kay was merely a pawn in the machinations of the college: a whey-faced bean counter exploited for his boyish looks, forced to gel his hair up into an artful spike to reinforce the juvenile look.
I’m not sure of the extent of this subterfuge went and how much of a double-life Kay actually led.
But I like to think of him sneaking out of his two-bedroom detached house in leafy Surrey, leaving the wife and kids behind, and heading to the dreaming spires to immerse himself in the student culture. To hit the college bars, steal a traffic cone or two, sample a Pot Noodle, all the stereotypical studenty things: anything to perpetuate the myth.
His bosses at work will have asked questions: why the dark circles under the eyes? Why a sudden passion for Quincy MD? What’s with the faint smell of Snakebite and Black on the breath? It’s little wonder that it all unravelled on him.
And I want to know how wide the conspiracy was: and more importantly was Gail Trimble involved? I hinted in my last post that she may not be all that she seemed. Apparently she was unavailable for interview today – I suspect she may have already absconded. Halfway to South America probably.
Well it’s a good job she’s a whizz at answering questions. She may be hauled in to answer a few more.