Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Premier Unravel-Inn

Forgive me, it's late.

Anyway - despite much happy diversion at Burton with Shane (plus unexpected others) and plenty of attractive TV - it's time to actively disbelieve the hype and gaze covetously over to where the action is:

Leek, Leek, Leek attack! Amen, brothers.

Workwise, meanwhile, if current trends continue, I'm set for accredited take-no-shit status in early to mid to 2036. Grr!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The downhill shalom

So dear reader,

What of these times we live in? Firstly, I hope this missive finds you well.

And me? All in all, not bad... y'know, industrious enough [I'm feeling like what in football jargon is referred to as a 'good pro,' ideally without the imminent free transfer] though lacking a smidge in the momentum and inspiration departments, hence the intermittent service.

We have, and will have traveled both near and far, but mostly near: from beautiful telly (no, really: a rare, rare thing - TV that's a bit special) to The / A Beautiful Game in the space of a week, via a steaming heap of fresh horse manure for the allotment. And work, and Life, and normality, and b-o-o-k-s and the Sunshine Cafe - yes, those too, mm.

Good times are these - at least, quite good. I may even push the boat out this week for Everton vs Sporting Lisbon or (if I'm feeling logistically awkward) Loughborough Dynamo vs Leek. And I am childless on Wednesday, which leaves me free to visit the new People's History Museum. Happy days.

Furthermore, Sam received [gratefully] a new t-shirt from M and Q in Canada a couple of weeks back. The box-heckling result here in ST6 being: "sod the downhill slalom (initially - auspiciously? - mistyped): what we really want to know is what the cuddly mascot's up to!"

So thanks are due to them too. See? Times're not bad at all. They're quite good, in fact. The itchy question is: where do we go from here, or will we be swept away on the crest of some unforeseen (or all too predictable) wave?

One contemplates the next six weeks with interest, foreboding, and - most of all - mixed feelings.

Yours in hopeful anticlimax,


Wednesday, 3 February 2010


(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

- e.e. cummings


With Groundhog and I thwarted in our efforts to watch Leek play Kidsgrove, what better way to occupy ourselves than to case out one of the few pubs in the Potteries (maybe the only one) to appear in CAMRA's National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors?

"Hmm, I'm a bit scared," confided one of us - I'll not say who - as we chiselled our way around the knot of terraces and unannounced dead ends that lies just outside Tunstall.

The Vine
- "offering an unspoilt atmosphere," claims the signage - is curiously uncelebrated by Stoke-on-Trent's thousands of hostelry historians. Effectively the three-room bit of an end terrace, it is rather out of the way.

Gently drifting dialect filled the building, and we ventured into the lounge bar area, where a regular was propping up the bar. Eventually the friendly veteran publican appeared, wiping his hands, from somewhere out back, looking - I like to think - as if he'd been busy with his Airfix.

Pints of Walker's Smooth - respectfully topped up - in hands (and New Year's resolution amended...) we perched behind a laminate-top to gauge our surroundings. A conversation bounced around the pub's three rooms, mostly concerning the pressing issues of the day*, i.e. whether the dominoes and darts teams would be playing at home or away this week.

A perfect opportunity to make a mental note of the reasons why The Vine is ace:

  1. It is tiny and extremely local, yet survives.
  2. It has an ancient embroidered sampler on the wall proclaiming it to be 'the best little pub in Stoke-on-Trent,' where such an object would normally read 'suffer little children...' etc. Indeed.
  3. It has what appears to be the publican's back room at the rear of the building, and the pub is small enough for 'the wife' to be involved in all of the conversations while she knocks back a cuppa out back before taking over at the bar
  4. Though there are no cask ales, the fizzy keg has proper old-school crappy beer in Ansells Mild.
  5. It won an award for best external hanging baskets in the 1986 Garden Festival competition. How do I know this? Because the yellowing certificate is still displayed, proudly, 'pon the wall.
  6. The memo board is covered in all the exciting news and results from the Potteries' dominoes scene.
  7. The curtains are a really good three-tone 1970s orange.
  8. The regulars warm themselves by a gas fire like my mum and dad had in 1984.
  9. There are loads of black and white photos of regulars gone by, all old-school Potteries looking, hair swept up and brylcreemed into the perfect square (symmetry with the jaw), c. 1957 and beyond.
  10. Loads of 1982 royal wedding china and framed photos of the queen in her coronation year. I must admit, Monarchists make good pubs.
Go there. But don't go alone if you can't hold your own at cribbage.

(* and earlier, in May St Chippy, the gathered customers were reassuringly, vehemently angry about the way in which their workplaces' shop-fronts had been put through and their Muslim colleagues abused during the EDL affair last weekend.)

Monday, 1 February 2010

Busy doing nothing...

Bugger. The allotment's frozen and I have all but decided to take the risk of not applying for jobs despite various looming spectres. Well, then, what could be more productive than this?

Despite the prominence of some truly awful stock music, I particularly like the Hijo de Puta track that kicks in with beautiful timing around 19 minutes, the Carlos Valderrama stuff (the briefest CV cameo can polish any turd - any turd), the gentle ridicule of that certain-kind-of-masculinity, and the general lack of Premiership hubris throughout.

No more than a montage really, this, but a nonetheless superior one without the laboured Anglo-Saxon bias. Probably deserves a more inspiring title than it got.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Cross my palm with pixels

In a rather whimsical moment, I'm loving* the way that Wordle is apt to cradle and arouse the spurious crystal-ball quality in any old one-horse weblog (mine).

And so, let is be said. 2010 will be: Tracksuited. Tea-puddled. [And] Less than international.

Ta-da! Happy New Year, readers.

*Parlance of the postmodern thirty-something, I'm told.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The REAL Football Factory

Oi! Time for the off!

After I had infiltrated Belper's top boys (average age 73) with a plastic spoon (milky) I lifted from the condiments table, I spent the remaining 86 minutes behind the goal that Leek were attacking. In the lashing wind and driving rain, Groundhog and I were among the *six.*


1-1, ill-deserved equaliser in the dying minutes. Squalid as sport goes. Posh clubhouse though. "We only do Guinness Extra Cold." Ha facking ha.

Photo is licensed under Creative Commons by Jonathan Gill.