Sunday, 31 May 2009

Hot and Bothered

God, isn't it hot? Certainly not the weather for getting down to that vital revision or work on my dissertation. Definitely the weather for ciders in a beer garden. Not wanting to commit to either of these extremes, I committed to an alcohol-free day in the sun, walking in the countryside.

There's so much countryside about. Much to my surprise, a twenty minute walk or so from the University campus at York brings you into glorious countryside. Another few hours and you're in the middle of bloody nowhere, lost and parched. Trust me, I know. The lesson I learned from an epic 'stroll' that eventually turned into an unsuccessful attempt to walk all the way to Elvington (what were we thinking?) is that too much of a good thing is not good. Initially, the animals, flowers and the fact that we were away from civilisation is novel and enjoyable. After a while, though, with the sun beaming down on pale skin, the animals appear to be mocking you, the flowers all look exactly the same, and the lack of civilisation is not as good as you first though when all you're after is a cool drink, a toilet or a lift back to where you came from.

It's sunny, and that's great (though I'm sweating like a paedophile in a playground and smelly to match). Venture away from the stuffiness of the city to the surrounding areas in search of peace and quiet, by all means. But, and this is a lesson that we can all learn with respect to life, for heaven's sake don't go too far.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Living The Dream

It isn't so much 'hallowed turf' anymore, given the well-known state of the Wembley pitch and the farce that surrounded getting the stadium built in the first place, but a trip to the national stadium is special for any football fan. Not least for the followers of Burnley, who have sampled the delights of Walsall and Plymouth more than they have Wembley over the last few years.

With several London pubs behind us, we joined the throngs of people walking up Wembley Way for what was bound to be one of the most nervous, intriguing games of football many of us had seen in a long time. This Roses battle, between the Clarets and Yorkshire's Sheffield United, would not only decide who would grace the Premiership next year but was also worth a significant monetary reward, around £60 million.

As it was, we needn't have worried. Wade Elliott curled home a beauty of a goal early on and Burnley were so comfortable that they proceeded to squander several great chances. United never looked like scoring, and the final whistle confirmed Burnley's return to the top flight of English football for the first time in 33 years. As the Sheffield United supporters ebbed away in disappointment, Burnley's 36,000 fans stayed behind to watch the team lift the play-off trophy and celebrate their return to the elite of English football.

A little over twenty years ago, Burnley won a vital game at Leyton Orient that meant they retaind their football league status. The finances of the club were so dire that had they dropped out of the league that year they probably would never have returned. A founder member of the football league, this would have been a catastrophe for the town and the fans. The climb back to the top has been slow, but that it has been completed is remarkable. In their 61st game of the season (only Manchester United have played more), Burnley's players put in a tremendous effort in sealing the vital win. All the more impressive is that the club have used a mere 23 players this campaign, less than any other Championship side, with five of those playing no more than once. Overpaid Premier League players complaining about the strains of a long season, take heed. For players like Graham Alexander (38) and Robbie Blake (33), this achievement is all the more amazing, and they more than deserve such success near the end of their careers.

A word about the fans. Burnley's average home attendance this season has been around 12,000, not impressive in itself, but when one considers the competition for fans' allegiances in the area, not at all bad. With Blackburn, Preston, Bolton, Wigan, Rochdale, Accrington Stanley and Bury, not to mention the two Manchester clubs, all within easy reach, Burnley are always going to have to work hard to persuade people to come. The town, however, only has a population of 73,000, and with this brought into the equation, only Middlesbrough can consider themselves better supported. Yesterday, Burnley must have been a ghost town, as 36,000 Clarets converged on London. After years of only being associated with race riots and the BNP, Burnley is now back on the map for the right reasons.

The money is crucial, it secures Burnley's future and puts less pressure on the wallets of benefactors Barry Kilby and Brendan Flood. But from a football point of view, Burnley's elevation is tremendous. A club steeped in history, with a great fan base and who play the game in the right manner, the Premier League will be a better place for Burnley being there. They will be written off right from the start but, mark my words, this little club will cause some big surprises next year. Up The Clarets.

Sunday, 24 May 2009


The end of your time at University is a funny old thing. On the one hand you have the excitement at the prospect of leaving, for a new place, new friends and new experiences. On the other you're leaving behind places, friends and experiences that for the most part have been good to you. If we had any more hands we might talk about the frankly horrendous prospect of having to get a job, the vaguely intriguing idea of actually having some of this 'money' stuff that people go on about, or the even more far-off possibility of getting tied down to partners, kids and mortgages. But there are simply not enough hands to go around.

For my own part, I wonder whether life will ever be as simple again. I'm not yet ready to accept the old dictum that your student days are the best of your life, half because I don't want to write off the rest of my days just yet and half because at points (notably during relationship problems, vomiting on your flat floor and open exams) University wasn't all that great. But it's certainly been a good crack and, as a I face the frankly absurd prospect of coming out of a good institution with a good degree, I contemplate whether the rest of life is as much of a breeze of this. I'm not going to deny that I have put in some work, for no student can avoid that without coming a cropper, but studying for my degree has certainly taken a backseat to socialising with mates, supping the rusty brown water (and occasionally the clear stuff: vodka or gin) and jetting off to watch football all over the country. Something tells me that once I get one of these job things the same level of non-committal attention is not going to cut it.

No matter though, there's more to life than knuckling down all the time and reaching the very top. It's easy to say now, but I don't think I have the ambition to really pull my finger out at whatever I end up doing. If any prospective employers are reading this, don't think I'm just a lazy, layabout reprobate who would be much happier slumped on a sofa with his dole cheque. All the same, variety is the spice of life. People at University who have worked their fingers to the bone and come away with a first-class degree but no friends and no stories have, to my mind, wasted the experience. Striking the right balance is essential. And this extends beyond the fast and furious student years. I don't intend to come out of life with the career version of a first if it means sacrificing other things that are important to me. Because, at the end of the day, things are only as important as you want them to be.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Loosest Of Cannons

My opinions have never been popular. My friends call me a champagne socialist (which really hacks me off, especially as poorer people who vote for right-wing parties never get labelled in a similar way- Vimto conservative, anyone?). My own mother regularly asks me, given that I seem to disagree with everything and everyone, what it is that I actually do like. My forthright opinions get me into trouble with plenty of people, my refusal to be censored in any way doesn't make for a very popular person within student media, and I even seem to get stick for the things that I don't have an opinion about either way, like 'student politics'. Whatever the hell that is.

I see nothing wrong with being dissatisfied, however. I am not a naturally unhappy person. Anyone that has ever spent time with me, been to an event with me, had a beer with me, will know that I'm pretty easy going, like a laugh and enjoy myself immensely. The things that make me happy are multiple. But there is no good in being happy with everything. Countless things in this world make me angry, irritable or upset, from the serious stuff like nuclear weapons and MPs ripping off the public with their expenses claims, to the extremely mundane everyday occurrences like people walking slowly in front of you when you're in a rush, vegetarians that eat fish, or pesky girls that mess you about. The purpose of this blog is to give me a forum in which to vent my fury and distaste at certain aspects of life. In a way, it's therapy. In a way, it's an attempt to save numerous friendships that are nearing disaster because I can't keep my (mostly cynical and negative) thoughts to myself. If I choose to vent my feelings, people around me have no choice but to listen, or create a row by not doing so. If I write what has particularly irked me here, then you are choosing to read it. Which of course makes you a very sensible human being.

So, here it is, 'The World Is Red', a blog devoted to the ramblings of a man who is very possibly insane.