Sunday, 23 October 2011


FIFA 2012 – what’s all that about? It’s in the game apparently...

Now in my day it was table football – and Subbuteo in particular. Flick to kick! None of this Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 malarkey – but real plastic playing pieces on hemispherical bases (which were self-righting and allowed a dribbling movement of sorts) with a football the size of a small planet proportionally speaking. You moved the players across the pitch with a flicking action, usually with the index finger - no pushing or shoving allowed. I had such a set which I had built up over the years. Tremendous fun! Not just domestic teams either but teams from all corners of the globe were there – Cameroon, Italy (away strip), Uruguay, Argentina and not to forget Belgium...

Of course not everyone in our family appreciated the aesthetic and pleasure to be derived from staging a mini-World Cup tournament within the space of an afternoon. Especially younger siblings.

Enter sister dragging a limp, lifeless doll behind her complete with a vacant expression – and I’m not talking about the doll either. Plodding into the living room (now converted into a comprehensive playing area complete with floodlights and commentary box) with not a care in the world and trampling over the plastic players preparing for a free-kick; she didn’t have any clue the havoc she was causing! Considerable damage and carnage was wrought, I can tell you!

There was no explaining to her the mash-up she had made on these occasions! All she could offer was senseless, childish babble! In truth that was all she was reasonably capable of at that developmental stage of her life to be fair! After guiding her off the playing surface, with a few harsh words for good measure, the scale of the destruction was assessed. Peter Osgood (headless), Norman Hunter (missing left leg – probably no bad thing in his case), Gordon Banks (supine and unlikely to be upright again), Bobby Moore (missing bracelet) and it went on... You couldn’t repair them either – no amount of skill with an Airfix glue kit could undo the needless mutilation.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, I’m told. Now kids can be cruel – we know that. After a particularly distressing incident where most of the Brazil team was butchered after another thoughtless heavy-footed incursion onto the sacred green baize, I decided to teach the little minx a lesson – once and for all. Now I’m not proud of this many years after the event – but all I can say is the howls of pain and heartrending sobs at the discovery of a much-loved Tiny Tears doll – bereft of lachrimal function due to enucleation  – has lived with me for a long time. Truly traumatised, my sister was, with more tears and sobs than the doll had ever provided. After the eye removal the doll looked more like the spawn of Chucky than anything that could be taken to bed for comfort and cuddling! Not nice, though! Hang your head in shame...

I was chief suspect, of course – but then as now – have a habit of shrugging my shoulders on such occasions and adopting an implausible but at the same time credible aura of innocence – as if to say – “Surely you don’t think I would do such a thing? The very idea!” It’s an invaluable skill to have – so use it...
My dad – although given to bouts of ergophobia – was quick to act on the disharmony that existed between his two youngest offspring and entered into “resourceful dad mode”. He laid out the green baize pitch once more – but this time on its own bespoke chipboard base – which provided the necessary grip to bring about a perfect, smooth playing surface. Like Portman Road on the opening day of the football season. It didn’t end there, by Timothy! Goals were installed with mini clamps to keep them in place and the floodlights were repaired and were brighter than ever. The whole assembly could now be positioned on the kitchen table, which after tea was ready for some finger-flicking fun! Turning the kitchen lights off and relying on floodlights alone brought a collective gasp of wonderment - "Ooooooooo!"-  from school mates preparing for the evening ahead. Magical! Truly floodlit football - just like the Bernabéu Stadium on European football nights it was. Good work, dad!

I revisited my Subbuteo years later when I moved into a very nice studio flat in Crouch End and acquired additional playing resources. However the revival was as short-lived as a David van Day comeback, due to lack of playing partners, and the whole show was consigned to a closet for the duration of my time in north London and remained in closets and attics since then on my later travels elsewhere.

Why bring all this up now? Well I have recently decided to sell the remaining teams that survived along with those I acquired somewhile later. Seemingly there is a thriving market for these things which I have only just become aware of and some interest has been shown from dealers and table football enthusiasts alike. In truth the teams have lain untouched in various attics and hallways across the country for nearly three decades - and the proceeeds from their sale will pay for a decent night out or two. Some serious money can be trousered for the rarer teams, I can tell you. Italy (2nd strip -  ref 443 - see below) - £40.00?

It's funny but I have bonded once more with these little plastic fellas in recent weeks, but they have been boxed up (25 teams) and sent off to a dealer who has offered a decent wedge for them. I hope they get the opportunity to grace the baize once more. I miss them already.

Interesting fact - tin cans and tin foil are constructed from aluminium, not tin.

Saltburn Conservative and Unionist Club
1 Balmoral Terrace,
TS12 1AS
Tel: 01287 622473

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


12th October 1985 – Nottingham Forest beat Aston Villa 1 - 2 at Villa Park on that Saturday; it was a warm, balmy day as I recall and it was also the day I got married at nearby St. Mary the Virgin parish church. I’m no longer married now – that much is obvious. In truth we ended up with food in the 'fridge that lasted longer than our marriage – but I remember my wedding day as if it was yesterday – if it was tomorrow I’d cancel it!

I am not saying I lacked uxorious intent, my ex-wife and I were happy for quite some time, but that was before we met each other!

Happily-married – an oxymoron or a blessed union? I’ll let others decide...

I had to hector my pressed mum and dad to let me have a drink in the Rodney before we attended the church service – a bit embarrassing that for a man in his late-20s imploring his parents in that way. The fact that we had to wait for the pub to open didn't lighten my dad's mood any. And his mood was to get worse! I still don't know how we got lost on the short trip to the church. The narrow country lanes didn't help of course.

"What does that sign say over there, Minnie?"  he said to my mum sitting in the front passenger seat, after we left the pub.

"Err.... Pick Your Own, Jim"  she said.

"NOT THAT ONE! I can bloody read that one! I mean the one underneath!"

"Errrr..... Strawberries"  she replied. "And there's no need to shout!"

Four of us – including best man – crammed in a Talbot Samba – the colour of which I will never be able to describe eventually made the trip to the church after an all too quick pint. Last pint as a bachelor...

Interesting fact - Ambisinistrous is the opposite of ambidextrous. It means 'no good with either hand'.


The Rodney
North Hill
nr Chelmsford
Essex CM3 4TQ
Tel: 01245 222385

Saturday, 8 October 2011


My first trip to the US was a long time ago now and included a wedding in Connecticut (a couple I scarcely knew in all honesty) and a chance to meet up with an old, sadly now-estranged, friend of mine who was best man at my wedding some two years previously. Incidentally I have never held that against him! He had moved to NYC the year before I got married – maybe he knew something I didn’t...

When I go abroad I tend to avoid drinking places which have “Pub” in their title – and especially if they’re Irish/Scottish-themed with shamrocks, shillelaghs or tartan! They don’t resemble any pub I am likely to want to drink in anyway...

Now we have the internet at our disposal, you can plan your likely watering hole locations in advance before you travel. My recent trip to northern Italy was a good example of that (blogs #39 – 41). A spectacular success! Good bars and food...

Planning ahead saves hours of low-quality drinking time. I’d sooner walk past 10, 15 or even 30 establishments to find the right rub-a-dub dub that will suit my needs and wants.

Thankfully my estranged chum was aware of my drinking preferences and took me to the place featured here. It’s relocated since those days, not far from the Village, and the beer range on offer remains impressive (another pub is now at the previous address). Yes – Peculier Pub does include “Pub” in its title – I’m aware of that – but a little local knowledge helps as well.

Let’s Go Mets!

Peculier Pub
182 West 4th Street 
Greenwich Village
NYC, NY 10014

now relocated to:- 

145 Bleecker Street
NYC, NY 10012-1429
Tel: (212) 353-1327

Saturday, 1 October 2011


Indian summer – what’s all that about?

Well the recent good weather certainly reminded me of what these unseasonably warm and hazy conditions in autumn are all about!

Now the term Indian Summer has nothing to do with the south-east Asia continent, but rather the reference began to emerge in the 18th century with North American Indians who were considered the first to witness and comment on these meteorological conditions. The North American Indians - native Americans - who lived on the eastern seaboard used to depend on extended periods of fine, quiet, sunny weather at this time of the year to complete their harvest and to put together stores of food to see them through the long, cold winters.

The north-eastern US is well known for the combination of high temperatures and high humidity levels during the summer, often starting in June and not subsiding until September.

In the UK, weather observers knew of the American description from the mid-19th century onwards, but the expression did not gain wider usage until the 1950s.

Ms J Grucela
The Cask & Glass,
39-41 Palace Street,
Tel: 0207 834 7630