Monday, 15 March 2010


PLEASE NOTE: None of the images here are my own; I have tried to attribute them where possible. The text is all my own.

1. Thank you very much for visiting this page. Firstly, you can choose whether to read the "Bluffer's Guide to the 'Gambler'" by clicking on this link before you read the story itself. If you do read the bluffer's guide first, the plot will be given away. The alternative is not to click on the link above but to read this page from here onwards. The choice is yours.

2. Become a member of "The Gambler" Facebook fanpage
3. Contact the author Matthew Devereux at Facebook. Or at Twitter. Or at Wooshii. Or at YouTube. Or at FootyTube. The author is available for TV, radio, podcast, magazine and newspaper interviews. Let's confab, chinwag, chat and chew the fat. Let's parley. Tel. 07974971737 (UK) or +44 7974971737 (int'l). Email

4. See RAVE REVIEWS of "The Gambler"

5. Pack Devereux off to the World Cup. It's not a good cause, unlike the World Cup Challenge or "We're England Underneath" or Soccer Aid or United Through Sport or associated wristbands, or Street Child Africa, but please give generously anyway. I don't have enough stamina to run there like "Chariots of Fire".

6. Have a look at Devereux's Recommended Reading for the World Cup (and offer suggestions at

7. The story below is set in Britain and is written through the prism of an England fan's perspective. It is, however, also dedicated to the worldwide manifestations that football playing and support take, and also to the spirit of world literature or what Goethe called Weltliteratur (or 'world literature'). If you wish to translate the following text into other languages, please contact me at

THE GAMBLER: A Shakespearean - Dostoevskyian - Reiszian Take on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa

"Nick Hornby's 'Fever Pitch' meets Lawrence Sterne's 'Tristram Shandy" - bloke at bus shelter, Woking, Surrey

"Really self-indulgent, waffly,

otiose rubbish. No proper plot, two-dimensional characters, and a shameless cash-in on the demotic popularity of football by a cynical sell-out fifth-rate hack author with no genuine interest in football and no knowledge of it. More Faust, less Faustino Asprilla. Hopeless. Unpublishable. Even though it's a commercial sell-out, it's commercially unsellable. And it's not good enough just copying and pasting a picture of Gordon Banks without putting a hyperlink to Gordon Banks or to a video of Banks saving from Pele. Please stop talking to me immediately." - young female estate agent, but not necessarily from this estate agency, in a cafe, Woking, Surrey

"Without a hint of hyperbole, the publishing sensation of the millennium" - Matthew Devereux, Woking, Surrey (the place where you go into the kitchen but can't remember why, as Douglas Adams had it in "The Meaning of Liff")

"The publishing sensation of the millennium. Although it has to be said that the millennium hasn't been going very long. After your fifteen nano-seconds of fame something better will come along. Can you put me down now please." - relative of Matthew Devereux (under duress), Winchester, Hampshire

"It isn't really the publishing sensation of the millennium." - relative of Matthew Devereux (no longer under duress), Winchester, Hampshire

"You wot? You wot? You wot you wot you wot?" - Some Woking FC fans (in fancy dress) in St.Albania.(Hertfordshire)

Photography from David Holmes can be seen here. David Holmes is, apparently, no relation of David Holmes.

"Too many long words and bad puns and clumsy couplets and clumsy couplings, Wordsworth." - Scott Masson, guitarist with The Quarry

"Autor tego tekstu, Matthew Devereux, jest zbyt leniwy, aby uczyć się języków obcych, jak polski. Więc on ma tylko napisane:" Jestem zbyt leniwy, aby uczyć się polskiego ", a następnie umieścić go w Google Translate. Następnie udaje, że jest to cytat przez Barratt Giles. Nie jest....Mae'r rhan hon o'r quoation yn Cymraeg, sy'n Matthew Devereux yn rhy ddiog i ddysgu yn ogystal."-

made-up quotation from Giles Barratt and the Kino Orchestra (not to be confused with the Cinematic Orchestra, despite the fact that the German for 'cinema' is 'das Kino')

"We are the believers" - The Warmans (Hatfield-Brixton Express)

"Clockwork like Orange" - made-up quotation from The Clockwork Quartet

"Just walk it into the net" - Clive 'Luke Skywalker' Walker, formerly of Woking FC amongst others

"Buzz off. There's nothing wrong with my goal celebrations." - made-up quotation from Tim Buzaglo

"Welcome to the 'Match of the Day' studio Mr.Devereux. Why on earth are you dressed like that? Didn't you know that it's illegal to dress like that in a BBC TV studio-cum-broom-cupboard? Why are you accompanied by Roland Rat playing a Roland? And no, you can't product placement your novella here This is the Beeb, not ITV. Particularly given the fact that it is an Unfinished Symphony.." - made-up quotation from Gary 'Linacre' Lineker

"Welcome to ITV. You will find us far more relaxed about dress codes than BBC. You can dress as Funkadelic as you like on ITV. And you can fluff all your lines if you like." - made-up quotation from ITV

"Welcome to Sky TV. Fluff away like Chris Kamara.." - made-up quotation from Sky TV

"Welcome to the Football on Five TV studio, Mr.Devereux. No, we have nothing to do with 'The Famous Five' by Enid Blyton." - made-up quotation from Pat Nevin and Channel Five

"Rrrrrrrrroar! When I read this I was in rapture!" - made-up quotation by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy

"Football is as easy as Farmville. Fodbold er lige så nemt som Farmville." - made-up quotation by Nikoline Astrid Nielsen, the Princess of Denmark

"Paint the world with football" - Roxette in Chinese by Shirley Kwan and Hacken Lee.

"What's this about?" - genuine quotation from Myles Sanko (no relation of Tomasz Stanko, who is no relation of Dejan Stankovic)

"Putting in a cyber-link to my restaurant isn't going to do you any favours. Even though it's oat cuisine, there's no such thing as a free lunch in a Scottish restaurant. Get your coat." - made-up quotation from Gordon Ramsay

"Actually, on reflection, please come to my restaurant. Casserole is on me." - made-up quotation from Gordon Ramsay

"No, I am not going to do all your housework for you. I am not a 1950s housewife" - made-up quotation from Nadia Papachronopoulou, playwright

"I sometimes confuse Noel Edmonds with Noel Edmonds" - genuine quotation from Naomi Corrin, artist

"I am a medieval crotch pouch" - genuine quotation from Adrian Mackinder, a jester (who does not generally wear leotards)

"By George!" - St.George (speaking to Sir Edmund Spenser) and, later, to Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Carl Pilkington

"Prospero's (Face)books" - Made-up quotation by William Shakespeare in collaboration with Peter Greenaway and John Gielgud (in Italian).

"Et in Arcadia ego" - chap in Pachinko parlour, Japan

"A national goalkeeper needs a safe pair of hands. As safe as the Banks of England" - made-up quotation from Four Tet a.k.a. Kieran Hebden

"No, I am not your long-lost brother. Stop plaguing my answerphone" - made-up quotation from Bobby Davro

"No, I am far too busy winning the T.S.Eliot and Forward Prizes and adapting Dostoevsky to do a radio adaptation of your spaghetti junction of scribblings. Consider yourself defriended at Facebook" - made-up quotation from Glyn Maxwell

"No, calling me Queen Victoria does not mean you are coming on the show" - made-up quotation from 'Queen' Victoria Derbyshire, Magisteria Regina Imperaria Honoria Gloria Superba Adagio Interviewdulcissima

"No, I will never write a book called 'Devereux: Language, Faith and Fiction', not for all the tithes in the world. Your use of language is awful. Your grasp of fiction is woeful. And you look more faithless than soulful." - made-up quotation from Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

"No, I am not your long-lost brother-in-law. You gonna buy Chavopoly or wot?" - Devvo 'Lord of Devonshire' Devonshire

"Soweto is the name of a place in South Africa, not Soweto Kinch." - made-up quotation from Soweto Kinch

"Yes (we) ca" - made-up quotation by Yesca London

"Entschuldigen Sie bitte. Is Woking in Germany? Is it twinned with Freiburg or something?" - made-up quotation from Dash Berlin and Emma Hewitt (subtitled in Spanish)

"Why is there a photograph of me dressed as Puff the Magic Dragon on your manuscript?" - made-up quotation by Will.I.Am. Ella-Curtain (south London-Cranleigh Express)

"Frankly, a 1966-style England victory in 2010 would come completely and utterly out of the blue. Pure Utopianism." - a made-up quotation from Ferry Corsten in collaboration with bookmakers

"An England World Cup victory is not normal activity" - made-up quotation from Esquire Film, Woking

"Sous les paves, la plage" - made-up quotation by Pavement

"Mi nombre es Kate Joynes-Burgess" - made-up quotation by Kate Joynes-Burgess

"Now is the summer of our contentment" - made-up quotation by Henry Winter

"In some ways, a midsummer night's dream. In other ways, a comedy of errors. But mostly just much ado about nothing." - made-up quotation by Jonathan Bate

"May the mass times acceleration be with you" - made-up quotation by Prof. Stephen W.Hawking

"V for Victory" - made-up quotation from Charlotte V Aulsberry, superbmodel (pictured right with Conor Fitzgerald-Bond from London Alternative Fashion Week)

"Enjoy the Voyage Out to South Africa" - made-up quotation by Nicholas McArthur, artist

"Carpe Diem. Seize the day." - genuine quotation from Horace

"The England team are on fire" - made-up quotation by the F-ire Collective

"We can't be greedy and expect an England victory. Unless of course the opposition defences meltdown" - made-up quotation by idol-of-scrawl Paul Mason

"Pack your hot water bottles" - made-up quotation by Jeremy Paxman, author of "The English" and much else besides

"England victory? No problemo" - made-up quotation by Gamble Gamble from Worcestershire

"Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of an England victory, and you will see that the uncursed thing will come to mind every minute." - made-up quotation from Fyodor Dostoevsky, Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский, "Winter Notes on Summer Impressions" (the White Bear Principle version)

"Football is peace, not war. It isn't St.Crispin's Day. We happy few. We band of brothers. and sisters. Get your passports ready. We're off to South Africa. The more the merrier. The louder the lovelier. Send us victorious. Happy and uproarious. May our defence never be porous. May our attack be as bullish as Taurus. May our opponents never floor us. Let us sing in chorus." - made-up speech by Lawrence 'Larry the cat' Olivier in collaboration with Kenneth "Wolstenholme-Wallander" Branagh in collaboration with Alexander Scott Fairley and Rew Lowe

"If you prefer a milder novel, please ask for one." - STEWART LEE (pop star and presenter of "Top of the Pops" along with His Splendiferous Exaltedness Lord Richard of Herringbone). Count 'Duke' Lee is represented by Debi Allen Associates


Image on right: map of South Africa from South Africa Tours and Travel. There is also a wealth of information at the official South African gateway. 'Gateway' is, of course, an anagram of 'getaway'.





(A MELTINGPOTBOILER FROM A HUMBLE PAPERBACK WRITER - THE SONG, BY THE BEATLES, THAT WAS NUMBER ONE IN THE CHARTS ON 30TH JULY 1966) - or, perhaps more accurately, a "Paperbag Writer" as Radiohead had it

Image above left: Lego version of Birds' Nest stadium, Beijing, made by the Hong Kong Lego User Group




















21ST CENTURY DISCLAIMER: The following text contains references to sexuality and intoxication. It also contains references to non-league football that are potentially far more offensive, particularly to all those who believe that football should be a game played by twenty-two millionaire ballet dancers. Please make your own mind up about whether to read it or whether not to read it. If you do read it, please bear in mind that literature is based on complexity of tone and on nuance. Just because a character in a book or play or film espouses a particular viewpoint does not mean that the author does. Shakespeare did not necessarily espouse regicide when he wrote the Scottish play, for instance. He did not necessarily espouse the defending style or advertisement voiceover technique of Alan Hansen either. Please read the text with some PLAYFULNESS in mind, like Erasmus in "In Praise of Folly". It was quilled purely for sport. As the bishop said to Emma Thompson. Fortunately, at no stage in the text is there any mention of the Sultans of Ping FC. Even more fortunately,the author of this text is not sponsored by Subbuteo, which a) means that contemporary literature retains its purist edge, and is free to live another day from the sullying and sordid influences of commercialism, and b) that the author's bank balance is thankfully in no way swelled or tumescent with Subbuteo money - to the reliefof all. The lack of swelling of the author's bank balance fortunately forestalls any explosion of spending on the products of local and independent traders the author might embark upon, whilst strutting about in the manner of a lekking peacock or Eric Cantona, which could have disasterous multiplier effects on the economy (whether Keynesian or otherwise), disasterous effects on price elasticities of basic goods and services, and also disasterous effects on the mood of the author, which is manic enough at the best of times. It is, in general, a very sound principle that writers and literati should be rationed in their resources, as otherwise these homunculi have an alarming tendency to spurt out of their periods of hermetic and anchorite isolation by gushing their advances on the ephemeral joys of the floating world, as Kazuo Ishiguro might put it, which is ruinous to the profit margins and long-term fortunes of small and medium sized local businesses, whose patrons gasp in horrorhorror when they see the freshly advanced writer descending upon them with a mad pecuniary glint in his or her eyes and a hunger to disgorge some Veblenite conspicuous consumption. Such an outcome might presumably represent the decline and fall of civilisation, or something equally Evelyn Waugh-ite or Edward Gibbonian.

Image on right: Manchester United v Arsenal, Old Trafford, 1967 (All

When reading the following, you are very warmly invited to consider lying back and thinking of England.



Image on right: "Roy of the Rovers"


England win in 1966.

England win in 2010.

44 years of hurt; Jules Rimet still gleaming. Jan Leeming.

Ingerland. Wins. Angleland. Ingerlandia. Victorious, Victoria (Lake).

Blistering barnacles, ramshackles, slide tackles.

Seeds of lightning. Baddiel and Skinner. A little bit frightening.

Hiyah. I’m Billy.

They call me Billy Lyre. Because I'm a liar, like Billy Liar. And because I'm a virtuoso lyre player. One of the previous three sentences might be a lie. Or all three. But if all three, am I really lying when I say that I'm a liar?

Welcome to my manor. Centre of the multiverse. I live in Rouletteville. That's what we call it. Rouletteville, the New Vegas:Woking, The new Sun City. Surrey, England, Britain J ust down the trainspotting tracks from LDN.. Paul Weller's pot of Jam. The land of the fast hands, the quick and the silver deal, the Martine McCutcheon Martingale, arbitrary arbitrage, Chinese pagoda auctions, Dutch Golden Age auctions, snakehip eyes, binary bets, boxcar willies, cold deckchairs, portered Simon grooms, and high maintenance rollers. Make a Bank of England mint. Lose a Bank of England mint. From dusk to dawn, from morn to mourn. Safe as the Banks of England mate. We work hard, we play harder. We dance like bees in the hive trancing out the pollen lines. Round and round and round like Vic Reeves and the Wonderstuff's "Dizzy". Sleep is for Wimpies.

So I’m sitting here, opposite Amber, in the Rouletteville Thomas Cook, and I only came in here speculatively, just because I saw a sign outside that
said “flights-accomodation-England tickets to the South African World Cup 2010 from £2,449”. And I'd just been in the Rouletteville First Choice, and did really well avoiding buying tickets to South Africa there. As disciplined as a medieval monk. I've been listening to the Football Fan Cast and the Football Podcast and BBC Radio 5 Live World Football phone-in and watching GOL TV and Non-League TV and mousehopping at and Off the Post and England and Premier Fantasy Football and Big Soccer and Lion Sport and England Players Past and Present and ToePoke and and FIFA Football Facts and Football Manager 2010 FM-base and Footy Fanatic and Written By Fans, For Fans and the Small World Podcast all night long and trading old football shirts and Subbuteo kit on eBay all night long and haven't had a tiddlywink of sleep but that hasn't ruined my concentration or distracted me in anyway at all. And the fact that I just had five bellies' worth of Damien Duffs down at the Crown and Anchor in Old Woking with Johnny hasn't blurred my attention in any way at all. Nope. So I came in thinking to myself “no, it’s impossible, I know for a fact that I’m going to just have a quick look, and then leave, and not spend any money at all”. And at the same time as I was thinking that, I was also thinking "I am not going to be fooled into getting a deal and not noticing all the £345,000 worth of hidden extras.” I’m not going to be diddled. I’m in control. I’m right there, in the centre of the control room, with all the tube lines up in front of me, watching all the tube trains of thoughts buzzing through my head, and I’m in control, if I want to stop any part of the network at any time I can. Nobody else is in control. Nobody. Not even the fact that, improbably, there is a Soweto Kinch track playing the shop is going to distract me in any way whatsoever, or scatter my concentration to the four winds, even though the Soweto Kinch track that is improbably playing in the shop is completely distracting me and scattering my concentration to the four winds.
Image on left: 1908 cartoon from Oval Balls
Image on right: Pele, Brazil, 1970

It’s OK, this battle. That battle between the angel and the devil on the two shoulders, like a cartoon. And I know, as I walk into the joint, and as this woman calls me over, and she’s got a name tag on and it says “Amber” on it, which makes me think of traffic lights, that it’s going to be red for “don’t go” rather than green for “go” because as I walk into the joint I can see Hope’s face in my mind and Hope is nestling up with the angel on the shoulder and kissing the angel and hugging him and nurturing him and the feeling is so strong that I know there is absolutely no chance on this good green earth that I will be cajoled by this Amber and the way that she is undressing the devil on the other shoulder and starting to lap her tongue over the devil’s upper body and running her smooth fingers across his solar plexus. There is simply no chance whatsoever that the devil is going to win this argument raging inside me. I am walking out of here without spending any money at all and without buying tickets to the South African World Cup with the credit card that is already mushroomed with debt. No chance. I am in control of this situation. All is well. I’m Gavin, Hope’s my Stacey

All is well. W
e’re like Romeo and Juliet without the self-offing. Strong as a rock. Stick of Brighton rock.

And I’m not spending a penny in here today, like an incontinent. There’s no way I’m a
ctually gonna shift continents to Africa. Ain't. Gonna. Happen. Not on my watch.

OK, so when I’m passing over the credit card and Amber is fluttering her emerald eyes at me and running her gorgeous fingers through her caramel hair, and when she’s passing my plastic through her buttonmachine and I’m watching those delicate manicured fingers tinkerbelling across the buttons, and the machine is whirring and whizzing and I can hear all this money being pumped from the bank into the whizzbang and into my tickets, it’s OK because I am still fundamentally in control of this situation because even though I have capitulated and changed the rules of the initial situation by spending the money rather than not spending the money, it’s OK, it really is, because I’m buying two sets of tickets, and even though I’m transgressing a bit by finding Amber really very attractive and thinking about maybe asking her if she wants a drink tonight, and imagining


her back to my place and just gently easing off her clothes,

it’s OK, it’s all O
K, because even though the devil on one sho
ulder has in a way won the day by exhorting me to spend the money on the tickets, Hope’s still really the dominant one in the equation, she’s still in the driving seat really because I’m buying tickets for her too and I’m not actually going toask Amber for a drink, I’m just going to think about asking Amber for a drink, which is OK because just thinking about it rather than doing it isn’t a transgression.

Image on left:
Subbuteo (Arsenal team)

“Are you free for a drink tonight?” I ask Amber.
She runs her fingers through the hair that tressles down past her right ear and the diamond earring she has on, and says, really quietly and gently like in a rom-com, “Yes, I’d love to.”
There ya go. Bisch basch kaibosch Khyber pass wide out left. Spread the play. I’m the Man. The Man with the Oasis Masterplan. Look at that – she’s coming for a drink. Just like that. Alakazam. Abracada-Bra. Open sesame seeds. Blah, blah, blur.

Just don’t think about Hope’s face. Don’t. Let. The. Picture. Of. Hope’s. Face. Come. To. Mind.

Image on left: "Going to the Match" by L.S.Lowry

It’s OK though, even though the picture of Hope’s face is coming up all Sistine Chapel detailed in my satnav-thirdeye, it’s OK really, because I’m not going out with Amber Thomascook tonight with any intention of pulling her or doing anything at all with her, I’m just a young man going out for a drink with a young woman, like two friends, not lovers, not an affair, just good friends, going out for a drink, just friends that happen to be of the opposite sex, maybe even almost like work colleague friends, I mean I almost work in Thomas Cook really, almost, in between my sessions at the JobCentrePlusAlpha, which is fine, that happens in life, that isn’t a transgression, it’s just a normal,. everyday fine above board no problem thing, just a convo,a chat, a chitterchatter, a twittertwotter, what’s wrong with that, nothing, exactly, I agree, thank you.

Two work colleagues out after a really good week where the sales targets are maxbygraved and we’re just having a drink and a chat and then going our separate ways and that’s as coolash as goulash, it really is A-OK.

“Stick your tongue in my mouth” she says, all direct, Route One, Graham Taylor.

Image on right: "Cows love soccer" by Taju Kenya

“Stick it in”, she says. “Sherbet my tongue”, she says. “Lick me. Volupterise me. Veloceraptor me. Vacillate me. Vigorize me.”

So – I mean.


Say “no thanks” or “I’m sorry I can’t” or “I’m busy” or “I’m washing my hair” or “I’ve got a headache”?

Image on right:
from Postal Heritage



And as I’m kissing Amber, that night, in the bar, this new bar, Club Drumstep, and I’m going back to hers, that’s OK, it isn’t really technically a transgression, because the fact of the matter remains that I bought tickets for the World Cup not just for me, which would have been egotistical, but for me and Hope as well, so I’ve balanced the debitdevil side of the kissing with Amber and going back to hers which is this lush place with lava lamps, I’ve balanced it up and even gone further into the angel credit side by buying Hope those tickets, so it all evens out, and actually, when I look back on the day from the perspective of the next day, lounging about in Amber’s bed while she goes to work, waiting in her bed watching TV all day, eating her pizza from her fridge without having asked her if I could do,, and waiting for her to come back from work, and avoiding all of Hope’s phone calls, it’s all OK because the angel side is really up and the devil side is really down, I mean it’s not zero, fair play, but whose devil side is zero?

Not even saints have devil sides that are zero. Gandhi probably fancied the odd bit of thigh, you know. Must have done. Chicken drumstep. So it’s OK, I think to myself, as I sit in front of those tribunal shows and talk shows and takeaway shows on daytime TV, and eartrumpet all her Giles Barratt and the Kino Orchestra records on her stereolab, it’s all OK because the angel side has won the day and that definitely still means I’m one of the good guys overall, one of the Watchmen, and Hope is going to be absolutely smashed when she receives those tickets, and even though I bought them on credit, well what’s called credit, which is really debit when you think about, so in a way it’s more devil side than angel side, it’s all OK because I got them on credit not just or me but also for Hope, and Hope really deserves a break from work and from reality and from everyday life and she is going to be over the buttonmoon about all this. And I’ll pay it all back, I’ll just hike up some benefits with a fake sicknote or I’ll get some more blackmarket or something. Or some more Nicky Blackmarket or something.

Image on left: Kick Off 2 by Dino Dini

So I’m feeling pretty virtuous and I’m thinking to myself that all I’m really doing is just following the route of impermanence, which Johnny Le Fur tells me
is the Buddhist way of noble truth or something or other (I never know what’s he on about, he seems to think he’s a medieval samurai or shogun or something) when Amber gets back from work and comes into her bedroom and me and her just dissolve into this exquisite symphony of kisses. It’s just the route of impermanence, so that it makes it totally upgood and alphazone and virtuous like, because I’m just responding to the moment, to these little cactus nips in the nape of my neck from Amber’s manicured fingernails, and if I didn’t respond, well maybe that might mean Amber didn’t have fun right now, which definitely might lower her karmascore or something, or my karmascore, so I make sure I joystick back. That’s OK. It’s really Oh. It’s kryptonite. I’m just doing a quick commodity trade, is all. Bit of platinum for a bit of copper. Doing it like a City trader. Nothing wrong, both sides of the equation aphaville. FT Alphaville. Jean-Luc Godard Alphavillage. Sallgood. Amber’s having it largesse like Kevin and Perry, I’m having it largesse, all good. Finesse. No problemo. And I’m even managing to be quite good, I think, without any Viagra, which is even better. Definite Nurofenplus. Hope might even be quite impressed to see me with Amber, who knows, maybe impressed. I mean, she might be angry and try to crucify me upside-down, but maybe she might be impressed like. Anyway. I'm not too performance anxietied today. It's going smooth as Santana. I am the Man. I am the Don. The Don Draper. I think. I think I am. Poundsterling coopered. I might be the Man. Hopefully not the Invisible Man.

It’s OK, I’m in control of the situation, and my angel is rocking me back and forth like Four Tet, because when I’m griming with Amber I’m really thinking of Hope and I’m thinking of the silk sheets in the Pretoria hotel and I’m thinking of the editor of the magazine calling me up on the cellphone and I’m thinking of my name up in lights as the star journalist of the whole World Cup, making all these observations that illuminate everything, and it’s all OK magazine, it really is.

Image on right: Sunderland FC fanzine "A Love Supreme"

Just fined and dandied, totally drizzlegood.

I call Amber “Hope” by mistake halfway through – well, I howl the name “Hope” really, howl it like Ginsberg - and she kicks me out, but that’s OK too, it’s all OK. It’s KO. It’s Kickoff Two. It’s Sensible Soccer. It’s FIFA2010. No wozzas.

“Impermanence” says Johnny Le Fur. I can hear him saying it. He’s like my guru or something. “Impe
rmanence.” I can hear him saying it.

Except, you know, really of course I can't hear him saying it, because that's the point of impermanence I think, that it's what's happening right here right now, and I'm remembering him saying it, which isn't impermanence, or something or other.

Anyway, samurai says it’s A-OK. So it’s A-team. Me and Hope is off to Safrica. 2010. World egg and spoon cup.

o problemo. K-O. Hawaii Five O.

Image on left: "Philosophy Football" by Mark Perryman

Five minutes later Amber’s on the phone and I’m bounding back to hers and then suddenly we’re naked again. And maybe it’s me and Amber going to Safrica. I don’t really know anymore. Impermanence. Maybe I’ll call Hope in the morning and speak to her about it or something. Or maybe I’ll just stay right where I am. And get jiggly with Amber. All night long. And maybe not really call Hope again. Is that wrong? Am I wrong?

“Stick your tongue down my throat again. I liked it the way you did it last time,” she is saying. So what can I do, dear Reader, except stick my tongue down her throat again? What would you do in my situation, Reader? What would Gandhi do in my situation?

I am not, it has to be said, Gandhi.

Although I have eaten at a curryhouse called Gandhi’s.

Amber is, apparently, German. I’ve never kissed a German before.

And now I’m thinking about those silk sheets in Pretoria and I’m thinking about burrowing into them and Amber burrowing into my silkworms. And that seems OK. OK. OK. OK. OK. It’s OK. LOL. ROFL. BTW. IMHO. IMAO. GSOH. ADD. DVD. OMG. LMAO. OK magazine.. irswymuaaanui.

And now I’m wondering where Hope fits in.

And I'm wondering why I always get into so many scrapes when I forget to take my medicine for my attention deficit attention hyperactivity surplus attention disorder.

And I'm thinking maybe it has something to do with the five-bellies' worth of double espresso I had at the Great Panini cafe in Old Woking after the five-bellies' worth of booze at the Crown and Anchor.

And actually, I’m not really wondering where Hope fits in at all, because I’m busy fitting in with Amber, and at the same time wondering if Amber is a German name and why on earth, if she’s German, she’s got a thick New Zealand accent and why every single object in her bedroom is covered in pictures of Flight of the Conchords.

Have I just walked into the home of the Flight of the Conchords stalker like when Alan Partridge walks into the Alan Partridge stalker place? Amber seems too lovely to be a mentalist. But why is every single thing covered in a picture of Flight of the Conchords?

And why does she claim to be called Amber Sands when that rhymes with Camber Sands?

Is this really happening? And am I really go to South Africa?

And are we really going to win the tournament? Are we going to be scoring like Peter Osgood?

And did I really just meet the love of my life, my trouble and strife? And if so, how many liaisons dangereuses can I fit in between now and the stag-do? In sickness and in health, till death us do part? Can I really cope with the reality of that without a big helping of anti-anxiety smarties? What's married life going to be like - arguments over the washing-up and an ever decreasing sex life? Total lack of liberty? No more nights down the pub with the boys? Dante's "Inferno"? Dante?

And also, I'm thinking - I wonder who Amber Sands votes for? I bet she doesn't vote for the same people I don't bother voting for because I don't bother voting. Nothing to vote for, is there? They're all the same, aren't they? None of the above, innit?

Image above: the Rungrado May Day stadium, North Korea. The world's largest football stadium.

L8RS :///D ///,,

WAVS….WSC…When Saturday comes….

They Think It’s All White Cliffs of Dover. It is How Now Brown Cow:

80 days ago.


Image on left: Sensible World of Soccer, Sensible Software (link from Dan Taylor)

Hello darlings! I'm Hope! How are you all? Absolutely fabio I hope! Groove is in the heart, sistas! Have a deee-lite-full day!!! Doin' the do like Betty Boo aka Alison Clarkson! Today I'm dressed up oldschool like Happy Shopper! Yazz! The only way is up, baby, for you and me now!

Turns off the Small World Podcast....

I do love Billy.

As I'm leaving Hope Springs, which is the name I've given my pied-a-terre, A.K.A. The Love Shack. I'm thinking to myself "I do love Billy". I do. I do. I'm also really over the moon because my friend Dana Herbert from Conneticut, Uncle Sam, is flying over next week to interior design the pied-a-terre. She's the cream of the crop. Sister of Stacey Herbert. I aways spell her name wrong. It doesn't have an E. And I always spell Conneticut wrong. It has a silent C before the first T. What is it with silent letters? Why doesn't evolution get rid of them? It seems like really unintelligent design. As long as the Volcanic Ash Gardner doesn't ground the flights again. She's gonna come here and Jocasta Innes my palace. I'm so lucky. She's the best in the world. She's She-Ra. I've just had Marian Bantjes from Bantjes Island (sorry, Bowen Island) in Canada staying in the hotel down the road from Hope Springs. Just came over from Canada on her surfboard. She left some beautiful designs for wallpaper that I'm hoping Dana can work with. And she was such a hoot! I love the way that with the internet we can make connections with these awesome sistas all across the planet!

Anyway, on to Mr.Billy Lyre. Or Billy Lyon, that's his real name. Not that he uses it much anymore. Not even for tax purposes I don't think. I think Mr.Billy Liar last paid tax in about 1998. Not that he has any tax haven in the Caymans or anything - he's just skint. His doctrine is the opposite of Mr.Micawber's: for every penny he gets as income, 2p was already spent yesterday. He may be as stimulating as a stimulus package, but in a relationship he's as exhausting as an exhaust pipe.
Hope Sandlevowel's not my real name either. I'm called that because I'm a massive Hope Sandoval fan. Always have been, since the Mazzy Star days. And, yes, thank you - my tax affairs are in good shape and above board. Although it's none of your business and I don't know why you asked. It's like voting in the election - it's a secret ballot. I'm not going to tell you who I'm voting for. That's my business. Mind your own please.
Where do I begin? Shall I begin like Terry Jones? Or should I do what Billy wants me to do and say "this is my Storey-Moore" instead of "this is my story" just to make a bad pun on Ian Storey-Moore?

This is my story. Jackanory like Rik Mayall.
Well I could begin my telling you that I was born in Canterbury, Kent, the garden of England, in 1980....but I'll cut a long story short and tell you the ballad of me and Billy. I'll try to do it like Billy Bragg.

I’m Stacey, he’s Gavin.

I do. I really do. I love him. No, I’m not protesting too much. I’m just saying that I love him. I love Billy. Always have done. Since I first met him. Over the frozen fish counter at Morrisons. He said “your shell suit would look good on my bedroom floor”. Right there. Over the frozen fish. Came out with the world’s worst, most cheesy, most fromage frais chat-up line ever, just came out with it. How could I possibly turn down a man with such a small amount of dignity and such a poor grasp of the English language? He had really bad teeth as well, a scar on the left side of his face, halitosis, an eyepatch, a hoodie, a fake gold earring, and a really weird twitch in his right arm. He was wearing a retro Aciiiiiiiiiiid House T-shirt in lurid dayglo that had more holes in it than a hunk of cheese in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. It was love at first sight. Swept off my feet. Chavved right up. I’d broken up with my boyfriend precisely six minutes before Billy appeared. Cynics might call it rebound. . I'm sure that when I say the word 'rebound' Billy would be straight on to it like Gary 'Linacre' Lineker, making a rebound-football-joke-that-doesn't-make-me-laugh-because-I've-heard-it-550,000-times-already. "Jesus saves...and Lee Chapman follows in on the rebound". That kind of thing.

“Done up like a kipper, wasn’t ya?”

That’s what Billy always says. Done up. Like a kipper.

“Yes, Billy, I was done up like a kipper. Strung up, darling: dangling, hanging in the window of a fish shop. Yes, that’s right, Billy, you’re right to equate the woman you’ve been living with for fo
ur years with a fish that has been mercilessly butchered and noosed up
in a window. That’s right Billy. Tres romantic, mon amour, tres tres.”

You know what? I became a fruitatarian after Billy started saying that.

Image right: Giullanotti (Polity)

So yes, I love Billy. I love him warts and all, I love him with all his nooks and crannies. But it’s just – how do I put this?

Words aren’t easy to f
ind to express this.

Firstly, you can love somebody very much and sti
ll find yourself moving off in a different direction, like divergent railway tracks. You know, sometimes in a relationship you’re moving together towards that perspective point on the horizon and sometimes you’re just going in the opposite direction. No matter what you’re doing, you’re just going in the opposite direction. Growing apart.

But that’s not really good enough, is it?

It’s like having a little kid and your little kid asks “mummy, why do people go to war with each other?” over the sugar puffs one morning and you can’t just say “because they find themselves seeing things differently” or “they misunderstand each other’s language, you know, one’s from Mars and one’s from Venus” or “they get cross with each other” or something like that. It’s naff. It’s gush. It’s flange pedal. It's Marlon Blando.

It’s not enough, see. You can’t talk down to your kids, you know? You h
ave to speak to them the way you speak to adults. Right from day one. You have to talk about, um, you know, mineral supplies, or gold reserves, and commodity trades and stuff, and Gold Standards and currencies, and all that stuff, and how people form into tribal groupings, or groupings that are can be called tribal – I mean, somebody at the course after work in sociology, Max was his name, he told me there are problems with the word tribal, you can’t use it because it’s imperialist or colonialist or something, so, well anyway I did just use it. I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. What I’m trying to say – you see my point. Talk to your kids like you talk to adults.

I said that to Billy once.

At dinner. I say “at dinner”. That makes it sound like oysters and canopees and Iranian caviar at the Ivy or one of those Hampstead dinner parties where they discuss Israel and Palestine all night long or something. I don’t mean that. We went to the chippie. And Billy bought me some cod and chips and I told him “you know, Billy, I think that when we have kids we have to speak to them the way we speak to adults, right from day one, not just that way that people speak to kids, that la-la-ga-ga-po-po stuff, like in that Teletubbies programme on the telly.”

And what was Billy’s response?

Nothing at all. He didn’t say anything.

Image on right: Kelly Smith, captain, England women's football team

You know, I was only offering it as an opening gambit, conversationally like. I was going to tell him about my idea to have a computer in every room of the house to stream through foreign radio stations all day long so that my kids would learn languages by going from one room to the other, subconsciously like. Bit expensive, but it was my idea nonetheless and I wanted to tell Billy about it because I was excited by it.

And he said nothing. Absolutely John Terry Nutkins, like Claire Faireh.

And when I was trying to talk to Billy about sustainability in fishing and when I’d gone with Fran and Clare to see “End of the Line” Billy had just laughed when I suggested he come along too.

But the moment outside the Happy Fish B
ar - that was the moment when I knew.

I knew it not the way you know something in your head. Like what 64,000 multiplied by the temperature of the surface of the sun is, or something. Or the average quartile tension of the kinetic wattage of a high speed rail link from London to Newcastle in voltages and amperes or whatever those things are. I knew it in the heart.


It’s a kind of knowledge that some men don’t really understand.

Image on left: football cigarette cards, W &A Churchman 1939 (Carson's Corinthian Collectables)
Which is probably why some of them are always so busy smashing particles into each other in colliders or coming up with Unified Theories of the Entire Universe and how Everything Works Mechanically and Subatomically To An Ever Greater Degree of Detail. Or fretting about whether Wayne Rooney really will score that England World Cup winning goal in the final minute of the World Cup final in a slow-motion overhead kick like Pele in that film “Escape to Victory”.

They’re always banging on about that now, Billy and Johnny. Wayne Rooney’s Pele overhead kick in the final minute of the South Africa World Cup 2010. On and on and on and on like Aristotle. Or do I mean Ariston?

Of course, some women think about those things too.

And I’m not criticising them.

I’m just saying, I knew then, outside Happy Fish Bar, that Billy wasn’t the one. Particularly when Billy not only ignored what I was talking about but ran off into Sultan Kebab next door and emerged with four donners and mayonnaise all over his jumper. The one that I had knitted for him on the course at I Knit London. It took longer to do than the Bayeux Tapestry. "Don't worry about the jumper," he said, "I'll just chuck it away and get a new one".

We struggled on. For another year and a half.

And now?

Well me and Billy, I mean we’re still, like. Um. Together in our Facebook status.

That’s about it though.

I’ll always love him, in a w
ay, you know. You always love the people you’re with, don’t you? At least something about, the first thing at least that attracted you. The frozen fish at Morrisons in our case.

But, you know, it’s like John Lennon said, you know, life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

Right now I’m not making any other plans. That’s my point, as you already know: impermanence, not making plans.

That’s what Lennon’s saying: live in the moment and you’ll see where your life really leads. Live in the past and future and you’re not really living at all.

Right now I’m having a drink with Julio Igloo-Lazya**.

In Bar Dubstep, the new bar run by my eldest cousin Letitia. It’s nice. She got all the furnishings Fengshui’d and everything. Just opened tonight. In Woking, Surrey, the town of H.G.Wells. You know, Time Machine, Invisible Man, War of the Worlds.
And they've got really good musicians playing, the absolute hottest, like Giles Barratt and the Kino Orchestra. So hot you need asbestos hands to touch them. Not that you can touch Giles Barratt without asking very politely first.

Image on right: Albert Camus

“It’s bouffant!” Letitia tells me, as we
first enter the place. “We had this amazing geez in from Hong Kong, Feng Yii-Hsiang or something, and he just came in and look at the place! All those jade lamps. And the honeycomb aquaria. Nice, innit? Whatdyareckonista?”

The place is really going off, like an old Camembert.

It's going off like Alfred Nobel’s invention.

That’s what they call him, by the way. Julio Igloo-Lazya**.

It’s as if they can’t get rid of the Spanish Armada thing in their heads.

Yeah, boys, we’re still stuck in the sixteenth century. Nice one boys. Still stuck in the past, as ever. Keep fighting the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, boys! We haven’t, like, been at peace with Spain for, like, ever and ever or anything.

He’s from Spain. Barcelona, Catalonia.

An arc
hitect, like Gaudi. Really transcending Gaudi now though, and preparing these stunning buildings in one of those Costas. No, not timeshares. Real proper stuff. Eco-architecture. And biomimicry. That means that they copy what happens in nature. He just got back from Africa, looking at buildings whose circulatory systems are based on similar flows of air as termite mounds. And now they, the boys, they’re really bothered because they’re worried that Spain are going to win the tournament and England aren’t going to win, which is what they all fear deep within them. They fear it probably because it’s an embodiment of all their other fears and anxieties in life.

Maybe if they felt secure as men, if they were happy in their jobs, if they felt proud of providing for their families, they wouldn’t fear England not winning the tournament so much.

And maybe if they didn’t fear England not winning the tournament so much, they wouldn’t call a lov
ely Catalan like Julio things like Julio Igloo-Lazya**. And maybe if they didn’t fear England not winning the tournament so much, they’d actually help contribute to England doing better in it.

Image on left: Philosophy Football by Monty Python

They’d call him Julio Mendes, by the way, which is what his real name is, because his father was from Brazil, and settled in Spain a year after the end of the Franco period.

But they don’t even know that Mendes is a Brazilian name, and they don’t even know that they speak Portuguese in Brazil. And they think General Franco is the bloke running the door at Bar Dubstep.

That’s what I find so hard about them, these English boys: this ingrained insularity. I want to yell at them “Wake u
p! Smell the fair-trade! There’s a whole planet out there! Guess what - there's almost a whole continent where they actually speak Spanish and not English, boys!

It’s like they’re these people wandering about, thinking the sun goes round the earth, about fifty years after Copernicus pointed out the opposite.

Hello! Wakey-wakey! Wide awake club! Mallet’s mallet on your heads, boyos!

This lot wouldn’t Goldrun Blockbusters

Far too BlocPartied for their own good.

And the thing I am finding out about Julio is just what a gentleman he is. In contrast.

He doesn’t say “your shell suit would look great on my bedroom floor”. He doesn’t say “you’re done up like a kipper”. He doesn’t say “oi, bird, what’s for dinna?” He doesn’t scrabble around on his hands and knees at dinge clubs sherbeting up crock and cake like everybody does here. Half the country can't get out of bed without Valium and the other half can't get into bed without Viagra. Half the canine population of the UK is on Clomipramine.

Julio says “let me take your coat for you” – note, not “can I take your coat?”, something as hesitant and timid and supplicatory as that, but instead something nice and chivalric, but not too harsh or abrasive either, you know – “let me take your coat for you”.But it isn’t just that Julio says “let me take your coat for you” with words out of his cakegullet.
What he does, and I love it, he says it just at this nano-second after he’s started whipping the coat off you, so he’s saying “let me take your coat for you” not as an offer but a verbal affirmation of what’s already happening. I mean, that’s the point, isn’t it, Billy and all the rest of you, Johnny and all you lot – he’s doing it, not just talking it. He’s acting like that because he’s confident, see? And not just because Spain won the Euros. And not because Spain trade in Euros.

Image on left: Kuper and Szymanski
Image on right: Robinson. Link from Doug Cheeseman

He’s a multidimensional man, a Renaissance man. He makes beautiful buildings, he watches Spain, he doesn’t want to beat anybody up who supports other teams, he enjoys football as a conversation, not as a war. He knows about plants and their medicinal properties and doesn’t think that that makes him gay. He knows what a ley-line
is and doesn’t laugh at it and actually listens to me when I tell him about how I danced along the dragon breath of the ley lines to Glastonbury Tor when I went to the Glastonbury Festival. He knows about the planets and the nebulae and white dwarves and supernovas. Not just champagne supernovas. He’s awesome in the sack. I mean, just, you know. I’m a private person, you know that. I don’t like blabbermouthing about all that so I’ll keep that bedroomed right now thank you. But – you see my point. He’s continental, he’s cultured. He’s got amazing skin. And hands. As beautiful as Four Tet’s song “Hands".

That’s our song, if you must know.

That’s the song we’ll have at our wedding, if you must know.

And I’m thinking of a Homage to Catalonia, yes.

You take the gambles, I’ll take the Ramblas. Billy.

But it's secret and I’m a very private and introspective person and it’s early days anyway and I’m not thinking about weddings right now and I’m not feeling these little sparks of kaleidoscopic light in my womb saying to me, yes, yes, Julio’s the one. Well I am a bit, but, you know, that’s against my principle of impermanence.

Right now I’m looking into Julio’s eyes and with a Soweto Kinch record playing in the background those eyes... they’re sparkling like the sun on the Sagrada Familia and I’m falling deeper and deeper into those lovely lush lambadas.

Note to Billy. He’s taking me out, buying me tapas AND drinks (we didn’t go Dutch – and when I say those words you probably start thinking all your boring and obsessive thoughts about Cruyff and Kneeskins and Rep and Gullet and Van Basting and all that lot and all that stuff I couldn’t care less about).

Image on left: Paul 'Gazzstar' Gascoigne.

Julio’s talking football now, you know, he’s talking about Ajax and the development of Dutch Total Football, and Rinus Michels, and about how Dutch Total Football is like ballet (and I love ballet, you know, got into it through all that stuff about the Ballet Russes on BBC Four). And that's the difference, Billy - Julio talks about football, yes, but he'll link up Dutch Total Football with the Dutch Golden Age in art, he'll make connections between football and the wider world. He's a Barcelona fan and an Arsenal fan, but he doesn't think the world ends outside their stadiums.

and now Julio’s

telling me how Ajax was a character in Homer. And he makes a joke then, a clever one, about Homer Simpson.

“And I used to clean my bathroom with Ajax” I say.

And he laughs.

Note that, Billy.

Julio laughs.

Real laughter.

From the belly, Billy, from the belly

You beast!

The only thing I'm thinking, though, is this: I wonder who Julio votes for? Is he even registered to vote here?

I bet he votes for the same people I do.

Image on left: "The Art of Soccer" with John Cleese

They think it’s all Ovaltine. It is pow-wow:

80 days ago.


Image on left: early incarnation of Championship Manager

Greetings, salutations. Welcome to BattleToadHall. It's called BattleToadHall because I have tried to turn my bedroom into Toad of Toad Hall's Toad Hall. And I play Battletoads a lot more than a man of 27 should do. Or 38. Not 39, though. Definitely not 39. I'm definitely not on Level 42 yet. And no, I'm not bald. I'm just halfway between Graham Gooch and Donald Trump, that's all. Don't make any jokes about it or I'll Battletoad you. Fancy a brandy?

Dissertation 16 is co

Of the night.
I'm lucubrating like Lucretius.

For the PhD in Football Agit-Prop, the University of Life (graduate of the School of Hard Knocks).

I’m feeling prolific right now.





Even though I've been trading books all night on eBay, flogging off the stock I've been amassing at charity shops and jumble sales and car boots and the Curiosity Shop (not the Dickensian one) in the open-air market in central Woking, I've still got plenty of chi in my system. Not even the fifteen double espressos I just had at the Great Panini cafe with Billy has blocked up my system. Not too badly. And the sales of vintage Panini football sticker albums at eBay have been as golden as Arthur. I'm still buzzing off that folio edition of Ben Jonson's "Volpone" that I picked up in a skip three days ago and just DelBoy'd off to a museum in Kingston-upon-Hull. As unbelievable as EMF. It's amazing what people chuck away these days. Le Fur scores like Dixie Dean!

So I'm feeling prolific. Well if there’s a Renaissance on, brought about through the fact that the internet allows us all to become polymaths from our bedrooms and living rooms and studies, you don’t expect Johnny Le Fur to be sitting about on Incapacity Benefit playing Fifa in his underpants and gorging on Dorito’s do you?

Well, yes, I do that. Well actually they call Incapacity Benefit the “Employment Support Allowance” now. That’s ESA. Not ERM (European Exchange Rate Mechanism, the one we crashed out of on Black Wednesday 1992) or EMU (European Monetary Emu) or RHAE (Rod Hull and Emu). But ESA.

What that means is that every six months I have to go and visit a head doctor (not a shaman, but a GP, which means General Practitioner. Or, alternatively, Gilles Peterson). And then I have to pretend to this GP that my conjunctivitis, my bipolar disorder, my ADHD, my schizophrenia, my gangrene, my Bubonic plague, my swine flu, my Dutch elm disease, my lungwort, my leprosy, my HN5N15N115NNNN115NN1, my manflu and my manboobs ar
e still out as bad as ever. When I first applied for Incapben, I misunderstood the system and thought that you paid pro rata per disorder. So I made up a whole load of fiction and now I have to prove each one with symptoms. Luckily most of the mental health ones can just be done with a pair of Blackadder underpants on your head, sticking your tongue out and saying “I’m mental! I’m mental! The whites of their eyes! The egg whites! The egg yolks! I’m Lady Gaga! I’m Marmite on toast! I’m Lionel Blair!”

Then they give me my money. And my anti-anxiety Clomipramine supplies.

So. To the football. In the group stage we've got a match which is a re-run of the American War of Independence. England versus Uncle Sam. Although Hope keeps telling me that I can't say it's a re-run of the American War of Independence because football isn't war and me spending 36% of my time poring over maps of the Battles of Lexington and Concord is a waste of my time.

Now I’m pro Uncle. I hate all this unthinking, kneejerk anti-Americanism. I mean, come on. It’s blatantly obvious that US foreign and domestic policy hasn’t always been a barrel of bellylaughs, but then equally it’s blatantly obvious (unless you’ve totally lost the plot) that in every single country on earth there are people, and all the people on the earth are our brothers and sisters. I mean, that’s the point. So yes, plenty to laugh at or dislike about the U
SA’s government and all that blarneystone, just like with governments all over the shop, and I don’t intend to go into the ins and outs of that, there are enough YouTube vids and books out there to do the work for me; but anyway, there’s also plenty to admire, particularly in the letter of the Constitution (we don’t have a written one in Blighty as we don’t consider that writing something down makes it real, just some stuff biroed on a bit of paper – we’re not too Jean Jacques Rousseauist and social contracty here); and there are plenty of awesome Americans around. And there are lots of things that are done in the USA better than anywhere else. Demonstrably so.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the England team are going to go in any way lightly on the Yanks in the group match. Ohno. No sireee. No sireee Walt Whitman Abraham Lincoln Yankedoodle Danky Hanky Panky.

Image on right: "Escape to Victory"

I want a 58-0 England victory against Uncle Sam.



You think I jest?

I’m serious as swine flu baby.

OK. I know the cliches. "There are no easy games in world football these days". I am not trying to say that the USA cannot play the game. They can Alexi Lalas it (even if he did come from the other Birmingham, the one in Michigan rather than the one in the West Midlands - the one that they called 'the workshop of the world' in the nineteenth century).. But what I am saying is that we post a 58-0 tonking, we put out a message to all the other teams in the tournament that we are back on 1966 form. Open your mind, open your satnav-thirdeye. It is possible.

The Americans are lovely people, they honestly are, but they think football is American football and they think football is soccer. That’s schizzy. You don’t need to be A.J.Ayer or any of the other Logical Postivists to see that that isn’t logical.

58-0. Minimum. Mindpower. It’s possible. Do it Ingerland.

Image on right: "30 Something" by Carter USM

Johnny Le Fur's Sixteenth Dissertation of the Night

Image on left: "Addicted" by Tony Adams (not the Welsh actor)

Q. What happens when we score?

Now, I want to point out that I do not wish to denigrate Mr.Capello as a manager at all. He is a man of football. I mean, you sir, are a man of football, because I know you’re reading me for pointers prior to KO.

Your humble interlocutor Mr.Le Fur is not a man of football. Just somebody who has watched endless hours of it, on the TV and in the flesh. I’ve eaten cold pies of indeterminate meat on cold nights in non-league grounds where all the paint is peeling off in those dreary 0-0 midfield hooverbags that Nick Hornby wrote about in "Fever Pitch". I’ve been over-charged and been under-satisfied. I’ve trudged. I’ve stood on terracing with inadequate roofing in the winter. When you support Woking F.C. that’s what you get. It never gets any better. Just worse, worse, every year a little bit worse. A little bit worse until you’re six feet under. Which was a great show on the US HBO Channel, incidentally. Right up there with Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation" or "Match of the Day".

Despite the fact that it is the worst thing in the world, though, it is the best thing in the world. As you get older, and you face the problems of the realities of adult life - problems with jobs, or housing, or relationships, or having your things stolen, supporting your team is a fixed point, a stable point, and a place of community and support and solidarity. You wait for Saturday, you wait for Tuesday. It shapes and structures your life. It is a solid rock at the c
entre of it, even when everything else falls apart, implodes, collapses.

I also know that in the old days, back when people didn’t swear and fugazi-badmouth each other on TV all day long, but it a totally unShakespearean and unimaginative way, there was once a literature where writers like Laurence Sterne would write a big honouriarm to people like William Pitt on the first page Even if it was satirical.. And also, once upon a time, writers like William Shakespeare would use words like 'fustilarian' and writers like Samuel Johnson would put them into
dictionaries, along with playfully disparaging comments about the oat cuisine served up in Gordon Ramsay's Caledonian kitchens. But these days we have little imagination left for our discourse and we all swear at each other and nobody says “I am deeply honoured and indebted to you for x, y or z” and all that Ian Carr jazz. And nobody much bothers to come up with new quasi-Shakespearean insults, such as "Your face is as grim as a grey day in Grimsby", and nobody even bothers to click on the online Shakespearean Insulter and use some of the gems bequeathed to us from our insult and abuse and heckle heritage. I must stress, of course, that I am not disparaging Grimsby. I come from there. Moved to the condominiums of the conurbation of Woking ten years ago. Still read the "Grimsby Telegraph". My gran sends it down every week in the post. My gran has never been to London, let alone Woking. She thinks the south of England is a foreign country where everybody wears bowler hats and top hats and they all speak in received pronunciation and the Queen's English and everybody lives in stately homes. She seems to adamantly believe that Woking is like "Brideshead Revisited". Well, an Englishwoman's home is her castle. Even when she is out and about driving her Chelsea tractor.

Image on right: Awaydays

So anyway – I’m not going to swear at you Mr.Capello. I’m not. And I'm not going to sit and grumble in the corner of a pub about how you're making all the wrong decisions in terms of selections and tactics and strategies. And I don’t care that you’re Italian. Makes no odds to me. I’m not bothered at all about that. I like it. Used to love that Channel 4 Italian footy highlights show, excellent. I really enjoyed watching James Richardson sitting reading Italian newspapers in sunlit squares from my council flat in Grimsby. No jealousy whatsoever. Love his "Guardian" podcast. So unjealous am I that I fully support Arshad Isakjee's campaign to get James Richardson presenting some incarnation or element of the "Match of the Day" stable. I like pizza, piazzas, cappuccino and frappadappachinos as much as the next Nero dubstepper or Tumbling Square or Twin Mono or Knives-from-Heaven. That David sculpture is awesome. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Michelangelo recruitment, love it all mate. Totally. No worries. Giotto gave us perspective. Fellini films, brilliant. Don't understand a word of them. Or Visconti either. But they look spiffing. Italian, va bene, grazie mille, grazie tente, grande, Vespa, Lambretta. Four tenors, four cheeses, four seasons. I always make sure I have some Garibaldi biscuits with my afternoon tea.. Without the tradition of Italian commedia dell'arte, we would never have had Punch and Judy on British beaches, and possibly would never had had either Richard and Judy on the TV or Adam Buxton's send-up of Richard and Judy. C’e una pharmacia qui vicino bambina?

Where would Mod fashion and culture ever have got to without Italianismo? I've just got a nice new set of threads being sent over from Milano myself me old mucker.
The first girl I ever kissed was a Neapolitan, in the ruins of Pompeii on a school trip. It was, of course, public service: I was breaking down national barriers the hard way. Her name was Lucia. It was a very very sunny day. Any hint of fear of the alterity of the Italianate dissolved away that day pretty quickly for me old chap.

And I respect you deeply as a mind that makes calculations on the game of football in the heat of the moment that are so complex and so beyond my understanding that if I did insult you, whether Shakespearanically or not, and even if I made the effort to translate the Shakespearean insults into Italian using Google Translate, even then it would just be absurd, me, just a bloke pretending to have lugworm and ringworm and tapeworm so he can scrounge some medium juice off the welfare state and sit around playing FIFA in his underpants all day eating Dorito’s in his mum’s house while she goes to work in the local council actually doing some thing real even though he’s now past thirty years old.

Image on left: a 17th century print showing the inflation of an animal bladder. From Spartacus Schoolnet: History of Football.

Sorry to ramble like the Football Rambler. I realise you are busy, Il Signore Don Sir Capello Mr.Chapel. But what I’m saying, as you already know from what I’m saying earlier, is that I’m not going to play the perennial England fan game of standing in a tavern like the Crown and Anchor, me and Johnny's local, or in a club like Club Chicken Drumstep and pontificating Vaticanistically about what the formation should be and who you should play and what the tactics and strategies should be. I’ll leave that up to you.

So. Um. All my real point is just, er, very simple. My real point is this: don’t forget, never ever forget, that British culture and English culture is based almost entirely on the banana skin. Behind every great work of art or science, every work of architecture, every paradigm shift, every technological advance, there is somebody ending up on their backside. Isaac Newton got it right: gravity is the great leveller.

We need to trip up.

Image on left: Pele bicycle kick.

We need to fall over and graze our knees and look a little bit silly.

We need to try bicycle kicks that don’t come off.

We need to Charlie Chaplin.

We need to Charlie Brooker.

We need shirts that make us look a tiny little bit crab.

We are all unique and we need to be respected as such. Some of us do it like Cram, some of us do it like Ovett, some of us do it like Coe. Some of us do it like Gideon Coe.

The key to unity is our difference; the key to difference is our unity.

We need to let the occasional howler in. Not too many. But the occasional real ludicrous silly awful howler.

We need to blunder. We need to bluff. We need to blag. We need to blah. We need to be badder than Erykah Badu.

We need to blooper harder than Chris Kamara.

A few of us need to wear outlandish primadonna coloured boots. Some of us need to Craig Jonhston Predator.

We need to wing it a bit, make it up as we go along a bit, improv it like Charlie Parker a bit. We need to be livin' on a wing and a prayer like Bon Jovi. We need to be quicksilvering up and down those wings like Wings. We need to fly faster than Lotus.

Image on right: Charles Chaplin

We need to robot dance. We need to Schlomo it. We need to mix it up like Carl Cox and Lisa Lashes.

We need hocus-pocus.

We need to dance like dads at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.

We need to dress up as everything from Morris dancers to Chris Morris to Morris Minors to Rod Hull and Emu.

We need to be a bit coarse and not terribly erudite or clever or cultured quite a lot of the time. Pretty much all the time as it goes. About 99.9% lack of erudition and 0.01% erudition is a pretty decent balance.
Any higher a quotient of erudition and we start getting fidgety and start thinking about going to taverns, inns, lounge bars, alehouses, drinking establishments, saloons, gin mills, drinkeries, grog dens, watering holes, hostelries, and rathskellers to make bad jokes based on private parts of the body that the Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin and the French writer Rabelais would have found hilarious. Check out the great artist of the temperance movement, William Hogarth, and his paintings of "Gin Lane" and "Beer Street".

We need to make a hell of a lot of really really raucous noise without getting in trouble for it or being told off . We need to do it like the groundlings in the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare's London. Don’t worry, we’re not a pack of virulent, beergut racists. Some of us are racist, yet, but the vast majority care only about talent, not roots or religion or creed (although we are interested in people’s roots and different ideas and creeds, but in an open-minded way that respects and enjoys difference), and loads of us think that everybody on the planet is descended from LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, from Africa (or, alternatively, the song by Suzanne Vega). We’re not brutal nasty hooligans. Bring on the melting-pot! The more variety, the merrier the band of merry men and women! Let's have rainbow football!

Image on right: FA Cup programme 1920-1

We don’t need to win this tournament by playing dirty. We can glorydaze this tournament with the cleanest, sweetest, truest football, like the cleanest, sweetest waters of the cleanest, sweetest rivers on earth, or like Robin of Sherwood’s arrows to the dartboard, darts from the heart. After all, we have a darts player, Mervyn King, running the Bank of England.

We can 1966 this tournament. We’re not violent, we’re just desperate and keyed-up to get out to South Africa ASAP to enjoy the football and enjoy the interchange of cultures – peacefully - and that’s why I’m going to drug Billy and nick his tickets once he’s had his little bit of mind control powder, wandered into Thomas Cook today, met Amber my sleeper agent, made love with her, and then given his tickets away to her.

Just joking on the last one. We’re brothers and sisters in the England troupe. I wouldn’t rob Billy of his tickets. That’s like robbing a mate of his goulashes. I’ve got my own.

The key to us is our inherent sense of the comedic in all things. That always needs to be translated into our football. It needs to be, quite literally, playful. Joie de vivre, va-va-boom.Je ne sais pas porquoi Vanessa Paradis Kylie Minogue. Check out Baddiel and Djalili ‘s “The Infidel” and Chris Morris’s “Four Lions”. If we can turn terrorism and war and religious hatreds into comedy, we can turn a football match into a farce. That’s a stroll in the park for us. A picnic. Play Monty Python or the Goons or the Goodies to the boys in the dressing-room before kick-off. Don’t let those muscles get too tight! Don’t worry about nerves, we in the stands and the bars in front of the TVs will provide a surplus of nervous energy. Just feed off us like Romulus and Remus feeding off the she-wolf. Then it will all be easy.

Credit default swaps! We need to make the wrong substitutions at the wrong times every now and again so we can take some of the pressure off by shouting and moaning at you a bit and questioning the provenance of your parenthood in a jocular fashion (Don't. Take. Any. Of. It. Personally. It's. Just. A. Safety. Valve).. As well as deeply respecting people who have genuinely achieved great things and therefore have real authority, we’re instinctively anti-authority. Please don’t take it badly. I am not in any way comparing you to them, sir, but do please investigate the little Hitler and jobsworth figures that we have mocked and scorned throughout our literary history - the Dogberries and the Vergeses, and characters like Blakey in "On the Buses".

We need to have the occasional fag here and there (give us the odd five minutes off that smoking ban) and complain and grimace a bit. It’s a national trait. Don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean we don’t love you or what you’re doing. Make the odd cock-up. We appreciate it. Nobody’s perfect. At crucial moments, moments of high tension, pivotal moments, transition points, and penalty shoot-outs, we lose our bottle and mess it up. That's our art and our vocation. And we excel at it. Apart from in 1966, of course, when we excelled in a different way. But don't think too hard about 1966 because then you will lose the Le Furrian Doctrine of Impermanence and fall off the Way of the Noble Truth of the Shaolin Soccer Player.

And if you do look back, look back for inspiration - don't look back in anger like John Osborne.

Check out Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias”. The king of kings is always just a bit of sand in the desert. We like a bit of rubbish along with our brilliance. Everything’s impermanent. Stay in the moment. Don’t get worried by the past or the future. Stay in the moment. Keep the boys on the field in the moment, flexible ,responding to what they face right there in the moment, flowing like the Berg, the Zambezi, the Kuiseb, the Luangwa, the Molopo, the Vaal, the Tugela or the Mangoky.

Image on left: Legoland Wembley stadium streaker (Rob Young)

We need the occasional bit of Route One. We can’t Total Football it and Cruyff turn it and Maradona dribble it and Pele and Garrincha it all day long. We’ve got tasty technically now but we also need to be as direct as a baked potato from a baked potato van in Birmingham after a good night at Heducation. Don’t forget that it unsettles the technically better teams to have something very fast and very direct and very muscular and very uncultured but very very very very very very very very very very passionate coming at them every now and again. Cue Rooney. Am I Hunter Davies in disguise? Or in the skies with diamonds?
Or Marina and the Diamonds?

We need the underclass, the plebs, the Jobskivers, the silly people, the Clapham Omnibus wayfarers, the nothings, the baggage-handlers, the shamblers, ramblers and gamblers, the walnut whips and the Brazil nutters, the lords of the riverdance and all the rest of the assorted rabble in those South African stands. It can’t all be corporate boxes. The game of football has its roots in the industrial working-class. OK, we live in a post-industrial society mostly now, but the game still has its roots. Still has its roots. We need to keep to the grassroots and that’s where our passion will take us through to the Final. Because although we might see the squad bringing that cup back home, it’s all the energies of all of us, and that includes those seen as the lowest of the low – the Dostoevskyian characters – it’s their work, as much as anybody else’s, that brings that cup back. Do it for the Charity Shop Orang-Utans. Do it for Stuart Maconie's Freakzone..
Do it like the Damned United with Martin Sheen.

Image on left: FC United of Manchester

We need the occasional Geoff Thomas miss. And there is plenty more to Geoff Thomas than missing by the way – check out the Geoff Thomas leukaemia foundation.

What I’m really trying to say, Mr.Capello, Il Signore Charlie Chaplin Chapel Capello, is this: thank you for everything so far; we are deeply indebted to you, sir.

Please keep it up, right up to the Final, and to the final moments, and the Wayne Rooney last-minute overhead kick like Pele in “Escape to Victory”.

But please smile a bit! Laugh a bit!
Even when confronted with a pole-dancing beauty, you look as serious as a firefighter during the Blitz. I admire that: it takes Bismarckian iron discipline to keep up appearances and maintain dignity and keep a stiff upper lip when confronted with such provocation. But next time a pole-dancing belle is thrust in front of you in some sort of Italian TV saturnalia, why not just dash off a quick oil painting like Sir Winston? She was an oil painting, after all. Even if you do it warts and all, as Cromwell said to Sir Peter Lely.

I know you’re busy, old chap, but football’s just a game!
People who take it too seriously are being silly and will no doubt end up encountering a banana skin at some point. Even though I spend 67% of my life poring through the work of military historians such as Michael Howard and Leo Tolstoy, Hope keeps pointing out that football is NOT war. It's fun! A laugh! A trifle! A diversion! A lark and a plunge! On the Christmas Day truce of 1914, it was a break from the conflict. It was a chance for the soldiers in that horrible carnage to fraternise, to share, to engage in a physical dialogue which is peaceful, structured, and fun. Listen to Captain G B Jameson remembering the day: oral history is so important. It connects us with those who have gone before us. Those stories and those voices, a bit like the Kalevala in Finland, are our heritage.

Relax! Relax! Relax!

Image on right: football punditry from "The Fast Show". Analysis of football punditry can be seen courtesy of Midfield Dynamo.

Have a glass of grog! A nice meal! A little relax at night by the fire in your stately home with a Dickens or a Thackeray or a Trollope or a Chaucer or a Jane Austen or a George Eliot or a W.H.Auden or a J.B.Priestley or a Jonathan Swift or a Daniel Defoe or a D.H.Lawrence or a Keats or an Evelyn Waugh or an E.M.Forster or an H.G.Wells or a J.G.Ballard or a Samuel Richardson or a Henry Fielding or a Helen Fielding or a Pinter or a Fraser or an Amis or a David Mitchell or a Blake Morrison or a James Fenton or a Will Self or a Bainbridge or a Byatt or a Blake or a Kipling or a John Galsworthy or an Eagleton or a William McGuire 'Bill' Bryson or a Jack Rosenthal or a Kingsnorth or a Winterson or an Ivor Baddiel or an Orwell or a Mantel or a Byron or a Tennyson or a Larkin or a Bronte or a Raymond Briggs or a Sue Townsend or a Silja Swaby or a Caitlin Moran. More of our writers should have the skills to diversify into other fields, such as Caitlin Moran and her interior designs. There is a Renaissance on, after all. Or if the Restoration vibration is more up your street, why not check out some Aphra Behn? Or some Bridget Christie?

Or maybe even forget that line between the civilisation of England and the Pictish barbarianism of Scotland and read the entire oeuvre of Irvine Welsh or an Iain Banks or a Laura Hird or an Adam Smith. As Benedict Anderson put it, these are all just imagined communities, aren't they?

Or how about checking out the Arts Council's list of 500 contemporary writers operating in the UK at the moment?

So read, read, read and, above all, enjoy the ride to the Final!

Express yourself creatively as a coach as much as possible!

Take risks! Allow flair to show itself!

It’s in the bag mate!

It’s in the onion bag!

Don't listen to the doom-mongers: as the ancient Chinese proverb has it, "Man who say it cannot be done should not interrupt man doing it." Or, according to the English proverb, or to George Harrison, "All things must pass". Just like football players. Or lovers. Carpe diem mate.

Go for it - it's time to laugh even harder than Michelle Thornton!

End of dissertation. End of communiqué. Over and out.

Buys “AWAY” kit. Listens to a cheeky bit of Kasabian.

Sorts tickets, sunglasses, passport, books, pants, games consoles, top trumps, Meccano set, Lego sets, Mego kit. Closes suitcases. Goes to bed; doesn’t sleep; tosses, turns, turns, tosses.

Calls Fran.

No answer.

Tossturns like Shakespeare’s “Tempest”.

Tries out UK chess grandmaster Nigel 'Rodney from Only Fools and Horses' Davies's remedy for insomnia: watching Sergei Tiviakov's DVDs on the Maroczy System of the Sicilian Defence.

Something's up. The rabbit holes of the Maroczy System have never failed to Morpheus me. But this time even that doesn't knock me out. I remain un-Frank Bruno'd. What is going on? Is this actually real? Are we actually going to win this tournament this year?

Reads some prosperous books.

Reads some preposterous books.

Watches some Peter Greenaway.

Watches some Derek Jarman.

Calls Fran. Texts Fran. Bluetooths Fran. Emails Fran. Inboxes Fran. Snail mails Fran. Apps Fran. Ipods Fran. Ipads Fran. Sawtooths Fran. Tweetdecks Fran. Datastreams Fran. Smartphones Fran. Buzzes Fran. Satnavs Fran. GPS's Fran. Hotdesks Fran. Morsecodes Fran. Cyberpunks Fran. Semaphores Fran. Telegrams Fran. Telegraphs Fran. Walkie-talkies Fran. Pigeons Fran. Pigeon Streets Fran.

No answer.

Checks passport, tickets, toothbrush, books on the history of South Africa, guidebook to Table Mountain, the Aldo elephant safari park, the Robberg nature and marine reserve, and a biography of UK jazz head, Soweto Kinch.

Checks eBay positions on the books, first editions, paperbacks, hardbacks, folios, quartos, codices, vellums, parchments, leather-bounds, calf-bounds, octavoes, overseweds, twin-loop-bounds, versos, rectos, zipbinds.

Feels excited to be finally going to Africa for the first time; and humble too, to be going to Africa for the first time.

Tries to sleep.
Drifts and dozes for about fifteen minutes. Dreams of being in the waiting-room in the film "A Brief Encounter". Wakes up again.

Calls Fran.

No answer. Leaves message on answerspazz: "Fran. I'm sick of all this waiting."

Sets alarm clock for Employment Support Allowance reappraisal session tomorrow morning at 7am.

Rolls over.

Rocks, rolls.

YouTube Rickrolls.

Tries to sleep. Fails. Instead, flumps.

Whilst flumping, suddenly forgets the football for a nano-second and thinks about the General Election.

Thinks: "I wonder who Fran votes for? I bet she's a floating voter. Not like me. I always vote the same. Easier that way. Then I don't have to bother thinking about polis-tricks. Just polis-ticks. Easier if you always know which box you tick, innit?"

Stops thinking about politics. Thinks about football again.

Listens to the Small World podcast. Reads some Dirty Tackle, Flat Back Four, and Robbo Robson. Reads some Tim Vickery, "The New York Times" Goal blog. Pores over Caught Offside. Views Some People are on the Pitch...has a scan of Some People are on the pitch. Appraises Soccerbilia. Squizzes the Green 'Un. Clocks Total Football TV. Quickeyes the Total Football Academy website. Runs through Football Groud Guide. Rambles on endlessly in debates over formations and tactics at

Viddies "Footbubble".

Vidiprints dissertations.

Listens to a bit of Arcade Eden from the Isle of Wight.

Falls asleep.

They think it’s all Lover. It is ciao:

80 days ago.


My name is Fran. I am bezzie mates with Hope.
Welcome to Froggle Rock. Froggle Rock is the nickname for my council flat. I call it Froggle Rock because I furnish it with the fraggly furniture I discover thrown away in skips and junkyards and shipyards. I get a lot of goodstuff in Cosmopolis, Cardiff, which is where my family live now. But we decided not to call it Fraggle Rock in case Jim Henson comes and sues us instead of providing his Fraggles and Muippets as guest stars in the filming of our lives.

My sistas, chicas, dolls, lasses and goddesses are all gleaning like characters out of Jean-Francois Millet or Vincent. It's incredible how you can furnish a joint in a better style than 99% of the frogpads out there with things that you glean for nada. My laydees Alicia, Suzanna, Clare, Aamina, Bagrat, Marcellina, Emerentiana and Zita have a business making their own jewellery and mending, repairing and updoing the furniture they find and we get from house clearances. It's our form of Michelle Dewberry's Chiconomics. And no, Johnny, Michelle Dewberry's Chiconomics has nothing to do with Chico Marx. You made the same joke yesterday morning. And my other sista Louise is setting up her own design consultancy like Jennifer Hardy Design. She's definitely got the XX Factor. She's got it like Zandra Rhodes in the documentary by Peter Greenaway. A total natural. Unique.

Johnny's always banging on and on about Soccernomics so it's only fair we have our style. And it's only fair that we sistas have our own style council and run our own affairs. Check out the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh: they provided loans to lots and lots of women to run businesses, and boy do those businesses fly. We're running it our own way these days -doing it like Wikinomics, Although with 'ics' this and 'ics' that, my favourite form of economics is probably Getafix at the end of the day.

Goes to plasmaball-stereo. Puts on "Long Hot Summer" by Paul Weller and the Style Council. Quaffs Tequila Sunrise and looks out over the balcony at the little boys practising bicycle kicks on the herbaceous.

Checks answerphone friend Peter Ulrik Roeder from Denmark has left 64 messages about induction and falsification in the work of Karl Popper...He wants to come over and visit the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford where C.S.Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien and the other Inklings had their fireside discussions...Peter, the author of "Game Over", is writing his eleventy-first book at the moment, which is about Karl Popper's philosophy and he keeps asking me questions...and I keep trying to tell him that I don't know anything at all about Karl Popper...I do know the musician Robert Popper but that doesn't count...and yet Peter keeps phoning and phoning and phoning and leaving messages..and half of them involve him rapping in Danish...or poesying in Danish...and a quarter of them involve him making predictions about how many goals Denmark are going to score in the World Cup final against England...which Johnny says is ludicrous because Denmark are in the 'group of death' or something....and anyway I don't understand a word of's all Greek to me...and I'm not interested in football...I'm interested in some footballers' legs, yes, but not football....
Feeds my parrot, Ischel...Ischel is as loquacious as ever...she is a Jamaican Conure ...she is super smart, speaks words in three languages, a lot of personality...goes and settles down...thinks about this year and all the changes it has brought so far...and about all the changes to come...but tries to keep in the moment...impermanence, impermanence, impermanence...

Image on left: Wallpaper by William Morris & Co (Walthamstowe)

Anyway. On to Hope. Hope is my bezziest, bezziest, bezziest, bezziest, bezziest mate. She's bezzier than Bez. She makes me happy, even on a Monday. And that's not my funday, it's not my I-don't-have-to-run-day.

Hope and I met in the mid-1980s at primary school.

I met Billy and Johnny through Hope.

From the minute I met them I knew they were a pair of absolute turkeys.

They’re turkeys like the Smallfry in Shane Meadows’s “Smalltime”.

I can’t believe Hope’s still with Billy.

Although I think maybe she and Julio have got something cooking.

What Julio and Hope have got cooking smells like really nice paella.

I now seem to have ended up in a relationship with Johnny.

I really didn’t want a relationship with anybody right now.

I don't really think I want an Eternal Flame, thank you, even if an Eternal Flame has already just walked into my life and it's already far too late, probably, to even go wondering whether what has just happened to me is an Eternal Flame coming into my life. Does that even really happen to us in life anyway? Do Eternal Flames really even turn up? Does true love really happen? Fairytales? Happy endings? Is heaven really a place on earth? Particularly when the Eternal Flame that comes into your life looks about as sharp and sexy as Postman Pat?

And a Postman Pat with an alarming tendency to turn up at Froggle Rock so hungover that he is entirely incapable of providing any happiness to me at all and instead just collapses into the neo-Eames lounge chair and ottoman that Zita just concocted out of bits of discarded plywood and leather and then demands endless bacon butties and bottles of beer as if I am one of those helots and workers that had to build the pyramids? Why does he keep demanding bacon even though I've told him that I agree with Shirley Wilkes- Johnson that the torturing and killing of animals should be abolished like we abolished slavery? Why can't I just be left alone to Walk Like An Egyptian in front of the mirror on my own as I've been doing secretly whilst dreaming of being a pop star without telling anyone for years? What if our dreams really are china in our hands? And why do opposites attract? Why couldn't I be attracted to somebody who actually shares some of my values and principles instead of this monster? And why are all men these days basically little boys that spend their whole lives Peter Panning and refusing to grow up even when they're 49 years old or whatever Johnny really is when he stops lying about his age? Why do they all seem to want us to be their mothers at the same time as their lovers?

You see, I’m trying to work out how I’m going to become an artist. And a pop star. There's a Renaissance on, Johnny says, so I can do more than one thing. But to do that sometimes I need my own headspace.

And hooking up with Johnny is like hooking up with some kind of muscle wasting disease. It’s not going to end well. He's a total fustilarian.

He's not just a fustilarian, he's a knuckle-headed carnivore. I can't stand it. He has steak tartare for breakfast. It took me seven attempts to drag him to the all-you-can-eat vegan buffet Indian Veg in Chapel Market in Islington before he finally made it and then he spent the whole time grumbling really loudly and really stupidly and kept asking the nice waiters to put some spam in the buffet which was just a total humiliation. I mean, that's like turning up at a Hindu wedding with a steaming plate of beef Johnny.

And even though Johnny likes to pretend he's all Phd'd and cultured-up and literati and articulate and open-minded and Buddhist and all that, really he just likes sitting about in his underpants drinking booze and shouting at players who can't hear him on television sets, just like they all do. So when I introduce him to the work of the finest artists around, like Kelly Warman and Naomi Corrin and Alison Thomson and Jane Townshend, and Carina Jo
rgensen and Tigana and Lucy Devereux and Lynnda Rakos and Andrea Femerstrand and Vanguard Art and Anibal Lopez Lenci all that happens is that his eyes glaze over like a glacier and he makes silly excuses to leave the room in a totally clunky and ham-fisted way like he's acting in "Neighbours" and is trying to leave the room at great speed and with zero finesse because he is trying to matchmake some jejune couple or something.

Actually, when I mentioned Tigana to him, all he did was shout "Jean Tigana!" as loudly as a slightly unhinged street-preacher, and when I mentioned Jane Townshend to him, he instantly said "Jane Townshend! JT! John Terry!" and then spent the next eleven minutes noisily shovelling burgers into his braggadocio. Whilst getting dijon mustard, brown sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, horseradish sauce, tartare sauce, soy sauce, louisiana hot sauce, chutneys, worcestershire sauce, shichimi, wasabi, mint sauce, apple sauce, bread sauce and relish absolutely all over my new Persian rug that Bagrat discovered lying as abandoned as Oliver Twist in the clearout of stock from a closedown shop. He's a cream-faced loon.

Worst of all, I now seem to have been persuaded to put the only grand I have in the world, that I’ve been saving for art resources and materials, into an online bet on England winning the South African World Cup in 2010.

"Don't buy a ticket and you won't win the lottery" they kept saying. Over and over again. Till I cracked like a mirror in a fairy-tale. I think that is probably a criminal offence of some kind. I might try to get them ASBO'd for it.

I don’t like football and have no interest in it whatsoever.

I have never put a bet on anything before in my whole life.
I never shall, ever again.

I think gambling is basically mathematically mad and psychologically flawed and morally totally awful, as awful as blood diamonds or nuclear weapons or something.

I put the bet on England winning because Billy told me to.

Billy is a fantasist, a delusionist, and a chump.

He’s as much a fantasist as the character in the film “Billy Liar”.

He’s a worse dancer than Billy Elliot.
He's a worse dancer than John Sargent.

I cannot believe what is going on in my trouble and fife.

Why has it all gone so Pete 'Tonga' Tong? Particularly when five minutes ago I was listening to Gilles 'General Practitioner' Peterson, five minutes before that Fabio 'Capello' Grooverider, and five minutes before that Mary Anne 'Choclate Hobnobs' Hobbs, and five minutes before that Judge 'Jury' Jules, and five minutes before that Annie 'PC' Mac, and five minutes before that Kutski 'Prime Kuts' Kutski?

"Eartrumpet the goodstuff, Fran. We need the right choonage to get our poundage", Johnny keeps saying. He's very proud of this joke, or what he claims is a joke, because it refers to tunnage and poundage in the English Civil War period and poundage has a double meaning - poundage, as in pound sterling, and poundage, as in something that sounds rude. Johnny is so proud of this joke he has made it to me 37 times. I have counted. He's said "The Great Millwall of China" 112 times. I am not joking.

The problem with jokes that you have to explain Johnny,or jokes that you repeat relentlessly, or jokes that you time totally wrong, is that, like Freud's "The joke and its relation to the unconscious", they're not funny. As well as a Jim Davidson, Johnny fancies himself as a bit of a historian, and a military historian at that. Why am I attracted to this horrific creature? Isn't he precisely the sort of specimen that evolution is meant to quietly remove from the equation? And who does he vote for - I bet he doesn't vote for the people I vote for?

A grand, a grand, my Queendom for a grand. A grand in the hand is worth two in the bush. Why has my life suddenly turned into “A Grand Don’t Come For Free” by the Streets?

Why is everything turning into “Human Traffic” and “24 Hour Party People”?

Why can’t I kick this social networking addiction and actually do some paintings, installations and performances?

Why do I keep joining the groups that Johnny invites me to, all these silly things like "I wonder how fast I can find 1 billion people that love football" which always seem to have at most 15,000 people in them?

Do I keep joining them in order to please Johnny? And if so, why? And what happened to my feminism? Reaches for the Natasha Walter and the Camille Paglia books on the cafetiere-table....Why on earth did I join "Non-league is better than league football" instead of doing that tapestry version of a William Morris Icelandic saga I wanted to work on? If I end up being with Johnny from now to the stars, will I progressively sacrifice all my own identity until I am some sort of hideous clone of him? Why do I find it funny when he's trying to fool me into cooking his cheapo abbatoired supermarket bad karma bacon for him and he says stupid things like "put it in the mixer like Delia Smith" which he tells me is a football joke (I really couldn't care less, but still - somehow - find something funny in it) when it's against all my principles and against everything like sistas such as Delia fought for and other sistas like Delia Derbyshire fought for so that they could have proper employment instead of just bashing their heads against the glass ceiling and being housewives or, at best, secretaries in the typing pool like they work in the offices of Sterling Cooper in "Mad Men" or something?

Why does my phone keep ringing?

Why does Johnny keep ringing me?

Shane Meadows – is this England?

And if so, why do I get the sudden feeling that I’m in Africa? South Africa?

Goes to stereolab. Puts on Soweto Kinch record. Dances. Puts on some Guru. Dervishes. Puts on some Giles Barratt and the Kino Orchestra. Desideratums.

Allows myself to enjoy this sensation of confusion rather than fighting it. I think I am enjoying it. I think.


Are we REALLY going to South Africa???


If England win, and I win that bet, will I become a gambling addict???

Will I spend the rest of my dribbling on about my childhood at Gambling Anonymous?

Time for my Clomipramine. A nice sit down on the neo-Eames.



And a nice little listen to the Small World podcast.

And a nice little read of some Surrey history. Or should I say herstory - the ones that the 'victors' conveniently leave out of the his-story books full of the exploits and derring-do of so-called great men constantly gallivanting round and making their Lord Flasheart Grand Entrances. As Sir Walter Raleigh was messing about playing bowls in Plymouth or being silly questing like Quixote for Cities of Gold and looking for Eldorado on BBC One, presumably there was some poor woman washing his underpants and putting all his socks into neat little pairs in his drawers and cleaning up his errant brown sauce and then having to listen to his interminable waffling and prattling at night about how he did or didn't win the bowls and what the score was and how rubbish his opponents were. Why shouldn't her voice be as loud as his in the grand scheme of things?

Cake...cake...cake...which is what the tournament is going to turn out to be, isn't it boys?




Breathes deep...lies down on the neo-Eames...thinks of Johnny's eyes and how they are as beautiful as the lakes in the Lake District...even if he does make fun of me by saying that my hair looks like Carlos Valderrama's...and even if he is the ugliest and nastiest specimen of humanity I have ever encountered in all my oxygenpuffs...

If I am a sapiosexual - in other words, somebody who finds intelligence to be the most attractive attribute of a human being - why have I fallen for such a blockhead?

And as well as trying to become an artist, I'm now trying to learn Russian...trying to read Dostoevsky's "Gambler" in the original Russian...which is proving more taxing than an eighteenth century English turnpike road...

Reads Sophie Zamorski's "The Rookie Files"...Reads the latest edition of "Aesthetica" magazine...Puts on "Late Junction"...relaxes...falls gently off to the gentlest of gentle sleeps...

They think it’s all Rover. It is, Slough.

80 days ago.

80 days to go.

Passports ready? Passepartouts ready?



OK. So I'm in a bit of a rush. Rush goalie. Ian Rush. Scramble goalie. Wall-ball rules. Scrambled eggs on toast at the Great Panini cafe.

I'm in a rush cos I've been up all night watching OurTube vids of Ian Wright (by Vince), Kevin Keegan, Jimmy Greaves, Ray Wilkins...And playing endless rounds of Soccer Stars... .I'd write all the others I've been watching and playing but I'm in too much of an Ian...

Run for train. Block doors with laptop. Force doors open. Fall into train with one leg hanging out. Look silly. Make meeting. Keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep job!

79 days ago


Run for train. Block doors with laptop. Force doors open. Fall into train with one leg hanging out. Look silly. Make meeting. Keep j

79 days ago


Run for train. Block doors with laptop. Force doors open. Fall into train with one leg hanging out. Look silly. Make meeting. Keep j

79 days ago


Run for train. Block doors with laptop. Force doors open. Fall into train with one leg hanging out. Look silly. Make meeting. Keep j

79 days ago