Wednesday, March 26, 2008


This past week, both I, and my hapless husband have turned forty. We had known it was coming for some while. Since his mid thirties my husband has shown periods of despair over the passing of time. Players on the television aged thirty and above are often described as veterans and as coming to the end of their careers, allowances are made for their tired legs, and the counter argument of experience being a vital component of every successful side fades when another puffed out thirty plusser has to leave the field prematurely; my husband shrinking further into his chair as another “glass half empty” mood develops. In a brief moment of reconciliation and understanding I reassure him that it’s never to late, and there is a team out there on the lookout for someone of his size, shape, speed and skill level. Realistically its never going to happen, and the sooner he grows out of this ridiculous idea that someone is going to pay him to play football the better.
Myself? I have been coming to terms with this “advancing years” thing since my late twenties. An ever increasing need to seek support for various parts of my body. A chest of drawers full of various bits of underwear that promise higher buttocks and breasts, pants to flatten the tummy, trousers to trim the thighs, tops to shorten your neck and various bits of big sparkly jewellery to draw the eye to an ever lengthening cleavage and away from the landslides that have occurred in other areas of my personage.
While all of this support can give the impression of youth, I am convinced that it is in the mind you must try and remain young; try new experiences, use your active brain, and take on new challenges, all help to stave off the feeling of impending doom. Mention of this to my husband a few years ago, and it would have instigated cries of “there is still time”,” if your good enough you’re young enough”, “you can’t buy experience like mine” and “some of these youngsters would kill for a left foot like mine” Lately, as he as approached forty, his mood has mellowed, with brief periods of acceptance that there may not be a career in football for him. On several occasions he has suggested that as the children were getting older we should look for something that we could do together. Hiding my horror and stalling for time, I agreed, and said I would give it some thought, as long as it mean’t keeping our clothes on, and it wouldn’t create any conflict with my TV schedule.
Unfortunately my plan of stalling in the hope that reality would dawn on my husband’s ambitions to be a footballer backfired. A friend of ours generously arranged a surprise drinks party at her house overlooking a river. Many of our family and friends were there, and a good time was being had by all. Early in the party, a guest spotted through the window an Osprey in a tree, and flying above it a Red Kite. As we watched from the window, the Osprey dropped from the tree and took a trout in its talons from the river, apparently, a rare sight in this part of the world and one that drew sighs of wonder from the watching party goers. My husband stood silent, transfixed, and then turned to me and said in a whisper:

“It’s a sign, on such an auspicious day we have been given a sign!” Stanley Mathews played until he was fifty three, and so did Puskas, I still have my dream, I shall play on!”

“Good grief” I exclaimed

“It’s a fish-eating bird, eating a fish, how can that be a sign of anything? It’s not like its using chopsticks or cutlery is it?, more like the Vultures gathering if you ask me!"

And so we are back to where we were five years ago. Emboldened by his new found vim, vigour and virility, he explained at length to several friends at the party, that in some cultures this would be a significant event. If, for example, he were a North American Indian, his next job would be to add a Kite and an Osprey to his totem pole, and start looking for a football team with a bird Motif. After convincing him that it was only an Osprey, not a bloody Liver Bird, I persuaded him to wait for Liverpool to ring him rather than he ringing them, then we went home.

Since then I have gone down my “trying new things route”, and have secretly booked a course of dancing lessons for two starting in a few weeks time, if he hasn’t returned to his senses by then I shall be straight on the phone to Anton Dubeck with an offer he simply cannot refuse. Two hours a week tripping the light fantastic with Anton? Now that would keep me young!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fantasy Football

Towards the end of last summer, my husband and my son were swept up on a tide of excitement at the impending football season. New boots were purchased, whistles were polished, flags ironed and lots of cones put down on the lawn in various geometric patterns and then picked up again. As a “family” activity, one in which we could all participate and perhaps hold my daughter’s and mine attention to something near football, my husband suggested we all enter our own teams in the newspaper’s Fantasy Football league, we would also have our own little competition between ourselves with a first prize of £20.
With a double billing of “What not to wear” followed by “A place in the sun” imminent, and to avoid discussion, I hastily agreed; my husband and son retiring to the kitchen table to thrash out a two hour conference on the merits of various midfielders.
Refreshed by my daily dose of make do and mend, and houses by the beach I came up with the following side.
In goal I would have somebody who has worn the number one shirt in my heart, for much of my life, Thomas Magnum PI, Tom Selleck in the flesh. He has the height and muscular build to play in goal, I can’t imagine him ever swearing or getting cross at his fellow player or official, and his Hawaiian shirts would be colourful enough for a keeper. I once persuaded my husband to grow a moustache, just to see if we could recreate just a little of Tom’s sparkle. After six months he had something vaguely resembling a moustache that sometimes had small bits of food hidden within. Bedtime was more a mixture of Joseph Stalin or Freddie Mercury depending upon the occasion. So it was off with the tache and a welcome return to the hairless little peachfish that he is today
At left back I would have more tached tottie solving crime, Shoestring actor Trevor Eve. A cricketing centre back partnership of cheeky Phil Tufnell, and West Indian Michael Holding, a man with a voice like the deepest darkest chocolate, that would turn the stoutest legs to jelly. Completing the back line I would have more moustachioed muscle in Canadian snooker player Cliff Thorburn, there is something about a well turned out snooker player, in his tight evening wear, with a smooth cue action that leaves balls bulging in the pockets, that makes the heart flutter.
Moving to midfield where I am told I must play another four players. On the left I would have George Clooney in his batman costume, alongside a freshly showered David Ginola, (who, I am told has actually played football) lightly oiled and in a small white towel. Alongside David I would have my first crush, and another solver of crime, Fred from Scooby Doo, and on the right Rhino from TV’s Gladiators.
Strikers, I believe, must be up front and out there, so I going to pair the sexiest Dr Who to travel through time David Tennant, alongside Mr Sauce - Ainsley Harriot.
On the subs bench I would have Buzz Lightyear as cover for George Clooney, Take That as multi functional players, Mark Ramprakash for an injection of hip thrusting action, and Des Lynam - a poor man’s Tom Selleck, as goalkeeping cover. Peter Kaye would manage the side and I would do all of the physiotherapy and massage.
Of course my attempts at fantasy football were met with howls of derision and accusations of infantile behaviour from my husband and son, “why couldn’t I take it seriously?” “How on earth could I leave out Steven Gerrard?” So with Hotel Babylon about to start, I picked eleven players at random and forgot about them. My Husband and son spend hours each week poring over possible transfers that would lift them a few places from ten thousand and fifty fifth in the UK, and fourth and third in the family competition to some level of respectability.My unchanged eleven are in the top one hundred of a national paper, the team name to look out for? Momsmagnificentmagnumandfriends

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Scouting for boys

It is two days before match day and already the tension is building, my husband has heard through his place on the League Committee (Yawn yawn! he feels I should show him a bit more respect for this hugely important position that he holds) that there will be scouts from a Championship team in the area this weekend. My response, that I thought it a little cold to be out camping, and shouldn’t they be doing some form of indoor whittling, was met with another withering look. So,it is lots of practice, kicking balls all over the garden when it’s dry and around the living room when it’s wet. The correct food will have to be produced at the correct time; carbs must be loaded at the appropriate hour. The amount of sleep gained over the next two nights will be measured to the nearest nano second, indoor humidity and air temperature will be closely monitored, along with any sign that would signify bad luck. We must all sit in the same places while watching the TV, as we did the night before they last won a game. All family members must wear the same pants, socks and vest. Our black cat will not know which way to turn, as my husband and son keep walking in front of her, and any shoes placed anywhere near the table top will attract cries of anguish from my husband and son, who will instantly start juggling Voodoo Stones and Juju Wood, in an attempt to break the curse that may cause them to lose a game of football that Baden Powel’s grandson may happen along to watch!
To be perfectly honest I fail to see what can be gleaned from watching a group of eight year olds charging around en-masse in their efforts to kick a ball. I am told, by “his committeeness” that all the best players stand out when they are young, and that the clubs like to get their hands on them as early as possible. Apparently if you haven’t made it by the age of ten, you are over the hill.
Myself, I think a quiet word with the mum or carer of the player in question would prove to be far more enlightening than watching them chug around in the mud. Revealing questions like, “what is he like in the bathroom?” speak volumes. My husband’s exhortations while taking our young son to the toilet come to mind: “ Oh come on lets hit the target!” he would shout as number one son gaily sprinkled all over his suede loafers. Several damp areas around the loo over the following weeks confirmed to me that this boy was never going to make a striker. My husband continues to encourage him to “hit the target” and play up front on the football field despite this early indication of wayward shooting.
A close friend of ours had a dear little boy who unfortunately had a vague and vacant expression on his face for much of the day and consistently dropped anything you gave him. He currently plays in goal for an under ten team that is in danger of conceding over a hundred goals in a season, his father convinced that somewhere inside his son lurks a goalkeeper on the basis that he has big hands.
Another friend also has a relatively unsuccessful junior goalkeeper in the family. From memory, I recall that as a toddler, when excited, he would run round in circles clapping his hands; behaviour he still exhibits on match day when faced with an opposition corner.
A quiet word in the ear of the mum would prove to be far more revealing than standing in the rain watching a clumsy kickabout, or engaging in prolonged conversation with an over ambitious Dad.

Mums could be encouraged to look out for particular signs.
For the aspiring striker, the aforementioned bathroom trick of wee-ing in the toilet and not on the floor is a good start. Holding onto things that they are given, and a reasonable level of concentration, good signs for a future goalkeeper. Children who show a propensity to hold hands and walk well in lines, would obviously cope well in defence with the off side trap, and the child who refuses to leave his friend’s side for hours on end would cope well with the man marking role. Children who endlessly run around in large circles were born for a role in midfield, while the lad who mixes sitting down a lot with brief periods of intense activity is obviously born to be substitute. To the female eye, the signs are apparent from the infant years. An awful lot of standing around in the rain assessing the merits of a particular boy could be avoided if the mum was consulted at the earliest opportunity.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Smells like Teen spirit

Well, after my last pre-menstrual rant, I decided to take back control of my emotions with the aid of a few scented candles and a dimly lit bathroom. Lying in my warm water cocoon my mind drifted to thoughts of aromatherapy and it’s possible place in the game of football. Recently I have not only had to endure boys’ football matches, but have been dragged along as “support crew” to some of the senior matches. Now I have to confess, that for fifteen minutes I was held captive by what was laid out before me. Look beyond the odd portly fading footballer, and there are some pretty shapely forms running around on a football pitch, with the occasional Adonis mixed in amongst them. Toned thighs, shapely calves, primeval grunts with the occasional moment of high wit, Oh yes, I was beginning to “get” football, when all of a sudden they fell out; petulance of the highest order from the players, and raging and gesturing from the spectators. My husband informed me that this was a little early in the game for this to occur. Normally they all start the game the best of friends, get increasingly niggly as the game progresses, then, after around seventy five minutes, tiredness kicks in, and they all fall out and start fighting. In my view the obvious solution would be for them only to play for sixty minutes, or at least reduce the length of the game, as they got older. For example, ninety minutes up to the age of twenty five, seventy five minutes for the twenty five to thirty age group, and no more than an hour for the over thirties, at least then everyone goes home on the best of terms having had a good day out in the fresh air; a suggestion that drew withering looks from my husband. It was with this withering look in mind that I came up with the idea of an aromatherapist on the touchline working alongside the physiotherapist. At the first sign of a flare up, or disagreement at a contentious decision, on comes the aromatherapist with the scented candles, wafting the calming oils under the noses of the main protagonists. The aromatherapist’s title could be “sexed up” to suit the masculine environment; something like, “The pacifier” or “The fella with the smeller”
All games could be played in the evening, grounds that have a roof could close it, and the game played out under dimly lit floodlights, with soothing panpipe music before and after the game. Large cauldrons of suitable oils could be heated beneath the stands, the soothing vapours finding their way through vents to all parts of the crowd. Instead of a pie and a pint at half time, supporters could be encouraged to take a peppermint infusion and a ylang ylang biscuit. My husband retorts that it would be like playing football in a craft shop, and that part of the essence of competitive football is the drama and tension of one side trying to defeat the other, hence the primeval grunts and the spartacus thighs. I however feel that a lot of the tension could be removed from the game if the sides came together before kick off for some kind of Ayurvedic massage, and chanting. Talked about the impending game, agreed on the outcome and who was to play what role. Shared some herbal infusion provided by the home team, played the game as previously agreed and parted on the best of terms. Instead of swapping shirts at the end of the game, a gift of a scented candle or potpourri could be made, the scent chosen reflecting that particular player’s performance during the season to date. The teams parting on good terms after a supreme sensory experience.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

In an English Country Garden

Little bit pre-menstrual at the moment so I’m gonna tell it like it is!
Spring is in the air, and while most creatures’ thoughts turn to procreation and uncontrollable carnal duties, mine turn to gardening. I love my garden, spending hours tenderly nurturing fragile plants, labouring hard to create new features. Producing plant life from my countless packets of seeds to create a vision of horticultural brilliance from April through to October. Carefully planning which plants complement each other, experimenting with colour schemes, relishing the challenge of providing colour from spring to Autumn, painstakingly planning which flowers will bloom when, to provide a succession of changing hues. It is quite an operation, and one completely unappreciated by my husband and son who regularly flatten my horticultural creation with their bloody footballs! It is not enough that they have a football pitch in the village and a makeshift goal in the nearby field, no, these two will dash outside for a quick kickabout during the ads, or during half time of the televised match they happen to be watching. Five minutes of football on the nearest bit of grass from the settee, laying waste to all flora within ten yards of the lawn; returning to their weeping mother in the lounge, and insensitively assuming that the sad advert about a dog needing a home had been on again.
Last year I had managed to propagate some particularly difficult seeds in my greenhouse, They had been pricked out and were in “position A” – top spot in the greenhouse, signifying their status as very important plants indeed. One morning during the school holidays I was settled down in front of Jeremy Kyle, fully equipped with Jaffa cakes and tea, when I heard a crash from the garden. I rushed out to find that the Greenhouse had been breached and Position A had been wiped out by an invading football. My son and his mate had been practicing bicycle kicks, they hadn’t quite got the hang of it but felt sure that they were getting there. Had I not had to withdraw to sign for a delivered package, Jeremy Kyle’s next series may well have featured an item entitled – “my mum attacked me with a garden rake then cooked my football and made me eat it”
I am sure that I am not alone in having this problem, maybe I should count my blessings that they are not into stock car racing or throwing the hammer because that would really make a mess of the borders. Maybe it is entirely attributable to PMT and the time of the month, but currently, each time my garden is trashed, my mind quickly turns to payback, nothing as destructive as rotovating the pitch and planting a few beans, or campaigning to turn the pitch over to public allotments. Just fixing a few hanging baskets to the goal posts of my son’s team. Replacing the corner flags with obelisks covered in sweet peas, and encouraging every gardener who’s life is blighted by someone who can’t kick a ball straight, to go out this autumn and plant a conker on the centre spot and penalty spots of their local football pitch. It may grow, it may not, but at least you will feel that you are not powerless and can fight back in your own small way against the nemesis of every keen gardener – the bloody football!
Normal service will be resumed in around 7 – 10 days time.

Grandad woz ere!

Grandad is staying with us at the moment, I left him alone for half an hour, and he has had a go on the computer. I really didn’t think he knew what it was, the kids told him it was a new kind of “etch a sketch” and that he wouldn’t like it. He has written this, and when he wakes up he will want to show it to me, so, to humour him, I will leave it on until he goes home at the weekend or passes away peacefully, whichever comes first.

She’s left this computer on and she doesn’t think I know what I’m doing, just because I’m old. I've got medals in silver surfing, learnt to type and drive a lorry in the army, If she didn’t hide the knives and screwdrivers I could have this machine in bits in seconds then we’d really make it fly!
Well here goes, football as we used to know it, played by men who ate steak before a game, shook hands after scoring a goal and wouldn’t know how to dive if it didn’t involve snorkel and flippers; learning their game with a can in the street, the training ground for a world cup winning side.
When I were a lad, football were different, we had no computers or TV, very few books, and sweets were a treat. We’d come home from school and someone would shout “Lets go kick a ball around and head it till it bursts” and we did, head, head head, kick kick kick till we’d popped the b……r, Couldn’t play enough of the game, pitch marked out with jumpers, every game was a cup final; Mathews, Mortenson and Finney - I was all three in most games. And the Cup final was the game to watch, no champions league then, the big game of the season was at Wembley, over 100,000 people all stood up, every man jack of em with a hat on and smoking their heads off, and a handful of police to keep them in line, stewards in yellow jackets hadn’t been thought of then. One year a keeper called Bert Trautman broke his neck in the final, didn’t stop him finishing the game. Nowadays if a bloke breaks wind the game stops for an inquiry.
The ball they used was nothing like the floaty thing you use today, it were made of leather. Not the soft leather you might make a coat from, but leather from a cow with a thick skin across his arse. It got wet and soaked up water and ended up twice as heavy. Heading it pushed your head down between your shoulders, and if you were lucky it popped back up again. Kicking a wet ball, gave you legs like tree trunks and calves of steel. We had big heavy leather boots, not the light plastic slippers of today, I used the same boots for flying up the wing as I did for chopping wood and killing a chicken, Aye blood on yer laces that’s what you need and good thick leather with sharp metal studs.
We never saw a game live, only on the news at the pictures but it was enough to wet your appetite. No replica kits but we would have had one if they were available; proper long shorts and shirts with cuffs, and their legs moved quicker.
Footballers had proper names like Clyde’s Harry Haddock, and Eddie Clamp from Wolves, nobody argued with the ref, and occasionally you would see the linesman with both a flag and a fag.
Every Christmas I’d get in me stocking an orange, a wooden spoon to hit a saucepan with and Charles Buchan’s soccer annual – a bible for the young footballer in my day. All the pictures showed smart young men with good family values, not like some of the spoilt kids you get playing the game nowadays.I once wenZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The right shirt for the real you

The right shirt for the real you

Christmas has come and gone and once again my loving husband has given me a gift that he would quite like himself. Several years ago I was fortunate enough to be given a very expensive fishing rod and reel in my stocking, his face drained of all colour when I said that I had been thinking about taking up fishing and how it would be a hobby that we could both do together; I am still waiting for a fishing invite, although the fishing rod does now appear to have been extensively used. Of course I could retaliate by buying him something completely inappropriate like hair straighteners or an Iron, but I’m just not that petty. No, as expected I received a Liverpool football shirt, which I accepted with good grace and promised faithfully to wear whenever they play. I am sure I won’t be the only person in this predicament so I have come up with a few ideas on what to wear with what shirt.

In an ideal world we ladies would get to pick which team we would like to support, choosing a team with a strip that suits our individual shape, complexion and hair, rather than the rather unimaginative practice of supporting the team closest to your home.

Starting with Liverpool and the many other teams who play in red. Red can be a tricky colour to wear, if you have the slightest hint of fake tan, prone to flushes or blotches, Red can bring out the lobster in you. A common mistake when wearing red is to pair it with white or black, Red and Black can come across as tarty so be wary of Manchester United shirts. Big blocks of red can effectively be broken up by wearing see through patterned material such as lace or a string vest, over the top; If you are one of the few people who can wear red, then wear it, loud and proud and on its own.

Blue can be a problem colour for many, the darker shades like Rangers can give a washed out or pasty complexion. Avoid shirts from Chelsea, Everton, Rangers and Birmingham, plumping for a paler baby blue like Manchester City. The Man City shirt is the perfect top if you have blue eyes and blond hair and can be teamed with a variety of colours from white, pale green or yellow.

Barton Stacey green is a tricky one, and is a colour that many of us avoid for fear of getting it wrong. Always remember Blue and Green should never be seen, which is fortunate as Barton Stacey’s shorts are black. Many worry that green can come across as a little “county”, teamed with wellies and a Labrador this is definitely the case. Accessorise green shirts with strong patterns on a scarf or waistcoat, an unusually shaped pair of glasses or a hat with feathers.

Burgundy shirts like Aston Villa and West Ham on an olive skinned person can be absolutely stunning, although on the wrong skin tone it can be very ageing. Burgundy is a great alternative to black, don’t over accessorise and wear brown shoes if relaxing, black if you are out to get something done.

Orange is another tricky colour, much favoured by the Dutch. It should be avoided if you are sunburnt or have a puce complexion, however if you have a natural tan or are olive skinned with highlights in your hair, go for it. Team it with pink or brown and wear throughout the year. For a great effect, sit with hundreds of others in a similar shade of orange.

The yellow of Norwich and Watford is another tricky one ,but should always be considered. Like Orange it suits the darker skin and is a great one for coordinating with darker hair shades and skin tones. One of my favourite shirts is the Gold and black of Wolverhampton Wanderers, a warm rich shirt that suits most complexions.

White is a tricky one, Tottenham, Bolton, Fulham and Real Madrid have a huge following and all play in different shades of white. Some whites can leave you washed out, a look much favoured by Yvette Fielding while seeking out spooks with Derek Acora, other whites can give you a fresh look with a natural reflection to your face. Whites are best accessorised with another colour, and not cigars, shades and a barrow full of bling a la P Diddy. During my many hours on the touchline I have often thought that if some teams had opted for an off white or cream, it would have made the shirt far more wearable. Grey-white should be avoided at all costs, it just looks like you can’t work your washing machine.

Teams to avoid supporting are Celtic and Queens Park Rangers, not the shirt for the girl with the big bust. Wide horizontal stripes leave a big bust looking like a book shelf. If stripes are your thing stick to Sheffield Wednesday (blue and white) Both Milan teams, Inter’s blue and black for the day, AC’s red and black for the bedroom. Newcastle Utd (black and white) give that “bar code” look while Sunderland (red and white) suggest an impending hazard or highway maintenance and are best avoided. Squares of Blackburn Rovers, are best avoided at all costs.

Finally, if for some strange reason your man buys you a referees shirt be afraid, he is up to know good with ideas far beyond his station, no one in their right mind would wear a referees shirt in public, best kept for the bedroom where the red card definitely comes in handy and he won’t be paying too much attention to your skin tone or hair colour anyway,
So there you go, I believe that there is a shirt for most ladies out there, it may just take a little gentle female persuasion to get your man to change to the team that suits you.