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Crushed backs and other celebrations May 12, 2012

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I was fine until about half-an-hour ago but now I’m like Martin Sheen in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now. Alone with absolutely nothing on TV, pacing despite being declared medically unfit to stand, swigging a cheap rose I’d sniffily declared not to my taste at 6pm. In fifteen hours time Stoke kick-off against Bolton, a unlikely, but still very possible win for the latter and QPR are relegated. Unless QPR can get a point away at Man City. And that’s not going to happen.

Things couldn’t be worse: following medical advice I have spent the last two days lying flat in bed after having my spine crushed by a publican when Djibril Cissse scored a winner in our last Rangers game. Waiting months for a weekend of sunshine only to be told by the doctor to lie down indoors. And I never in my life believed my happiness would be relative to something that was happening in Stoke.

To compound matters I may just recover the ability to sit upright and walk just in time to watch the conclusion on television, sitting within arms reach of the publican, Lee Blewett in his pub The Bramley Inn.

In the past week the Man City – QPR game has become a matter of national debate. There is only one voice I’ve heard that entire time who has openly declared, with no hint of irony, they believe QPR will win: Lee Blewett.

It’s the kind of blind faith that has seen him travel all over the country full of vim only to witness in nine outings nine straight defeats and one solitary goal (compared to Chelsea’s six), so god knows what odds he is operating on for such a prediction, but despite all this evidence to the contrary, he will yet again experience the crushing disappointment that comes with confronting the odds with his hand on his crotch.

The tragic thing is this fixture and the need for Bolton not to win at Stoke coincides with the birthday party he’d organised for his partner.  Curious to how this would pan out I asked what the plans relating to football tomorrow, receiving the reply: “I am going to get her twatted tonight. Tomorrow is all about the footy’. Not a line I imagine we’ve seen oft used in the vaults of Mills & Boon.

Tomorrow one of us is going to need to watch the scores come in in a cage. I certainly don’t want him charging at me like an undersexed gorilla if Stoke or, god forbid, QPR score. The physio was amazed I’d been walking, driving and commuting into town after ligament strain he inflicted on my back. And it cost me fifty-five quid for he to tell me that. That’s the exact same sum I owe Blewett for the Chelsea away match he suggested we go to fortnight ago, all in the belief of a surprise result.

That finished 6-1 and he looked a broken man. Tomorrow the only man who may be broken is whoever is in reach at the final whistle and, with the state of my spine, I’ll be slowest out the blocks.

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Djibril Cisse gave me whiplash (and I liked it) May 7, 2012

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There’s living proof in my sorry arsed form that it’s possible to suffer whiplash watching Queens Park Rangers. A split second after Djibril Cisse scored an 89th minute winner to pull us out of the relegation zone I found myself in a headlock of an adrenalin pumped publican who proceeded to throw me around the stratosphere of Shepherds Bush until I landed back in a broken heap in my seat. He was still roaring like a primal being as I was doing a spot-check to see if anything had been snapped off. Such are the dangers of last-minute winners in the battle to stay in the Premiership

Even in joy there appears to be agony. Today my neck and spine are a twisted and broken column of vertibrae, but at least we are out of the relegation zone with one game to go. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I’d have given a limb and an organ in order to put the tension to rest.

The girlfriend seemed genuinely shocked today when I described that moment as ‘one of the highlights in my life’. Let us be clear that my life has been extremely rewarding, but nothing exceptional and with so much of its leisure time spent either in the W12 this has largely consisted of dashed hopes, disappointment and abject failure.

Otherwise, and with the exception of maintaining a no-claims bonus, there have been no births, marriages, awards, first-places, mentions in dispatches, Time magazine editorials on my enriching contribution to society or any other accolades of any note.

‘What about time we climbed Dunns River Falls together in Jamaica?’ she asked. Well, yes, precisely. That can be a bought experience and didn’t involve emotional risk, especially as it was shared with thirty morbidly obese Americans in their swimming costumes waddling up from the rear. Hardly the stuff of Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing.

Yesterday’s Cisse moment of seeing the ball hit the net was a spontaneous mass hysterical release of 17,000 people who invest most of their time and money into something that never actually comes off, who always fear the worst and get it delivered in abundance. The casualty wards of Uxbridge, Acton, Northolt and Notting Hill have probably never seen so many self-inflicted injuries all registered in the space of the same moment.

What we now have is hope and I will take being temporarily crippled for that. It will all be decided next Sunday and I will actually be in the pub of said landlord. There’s a chance I may die if we stay up, but it is a risk worth taking. God knows what he will do to me if we go down.

A stroke of bad luck October 7, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in QPR, Thirtynumbthing.
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Apparently I’m likely to have a stroke and not of the good luck variety. That’s according to the letter of invitation for a scan at the local village hall, opened in good faith and read as a fine accompaniment to my
cornflakes and sore head on Saturday morning. That certainly lit the touch paper for the weekend.

Had this column had been fired off  a week before it was going to be a nauseatingly pious and preachy piece on how easy it is to give up drinking fora few weeks. As it turned out, it would have to resort how easy it is to cave in. It appears the only things required to consign a few weeks of sobriety to empties bin is a ray of sunshine, New Girlfriend working and an oldacquaintance saying his wife had given him a pass.

The past three Saturdays had been full of purpose: up early, clear head, morning coffee, papers, no dealing with accusations or recriminations, shopping, and maybe even a period of controlled exertion down the gym or swimming pool. If there was a time not to have fallen off the wagon and wake up full of remorse with a stinker behind theeyes then this was it. I swear the Life Line Screening Organisation had beenhiding behind the bushes watching my arrival home before popping the invitethrough the letterbox. They know their target market. Catch a man at his mostvulnerable moment, just when he wakes up full of woe and staggers down the stairs looking like a bad case of taxidermy toward the buff envelopes.

The way things are going the only invite I’m likely to get these days is a summons, but this is hardly a
step up. It stated that I am ‘now of the age’ where I might want to considergetting a scan order to prevent a stroke. Even more worryingly I was inclined to agree.

I, for one, am happy to take time out to consider the testimony of Mrs Rudham from Oxfordshire and her
carotid artery disease, but not have the ire of the invite turned upon myself:

WHAT WOULD YOUR DOCTOR SAY IF HE OR SHE COULD ACTUALLY SEE INSIDE YOUR ARTERIES?

Quite frankly, I’m in no particular rush to the village hall to find out. Everyone involved would probably have to lie down if they did. God knows what they’d say if they couldsee inside and it would certainly be unprintable, possibly offensive enough toget them struck off.  There’s a good chance we’d all be on the news by tea time.

Let’s take an upstanding artery at the age of 16: introduce it to women, public houses, university, clubbing
and then a job in PR in the age of the halcyon age of the client lunch on expenses. Throw in best friends who include a publican with a pair of tattooed on his arse and a fine wine merchant. Add to those two relegations, an aversion to outdoor pursuits, a string of relationships that could’ve been scripted by
Stephen King, and investment of funds in a high-interest Icelandic bank account just before the crash. Then mix with a number of misspent holidays and city breaks with people who shouldn’t be allowed out of a straight-jacket let alonethe country. Would you be able to see a sound artery to be proud of? I doubt it.

By comparison Mrs Rudham’sarteries were probably as clear as the Channel Tunnel during a train strike. She’s in fine fettle now and about to enjoy a three-month sailing trip with her husband. Good for her. Active. Had she said she was going to spend the next three-months sitting on a commuter train wondering if the Bulgarian cleaner hadrazed the house then I’d have not be so moved.

If the stroke scan invite didn’t do for me, watching QPR lose 6-0 to Fulham on Sunday almost did. Their heaviest defeat in my living memory and there were no scans to show that was coming. What I thought was an aneurysm around 4-0 was just a burning eye-brain reaction to watching ‘One Size’ Fitz Hall go into a tailspin every time someone in white advanced towards him. Keeping score was problematic enough. There followed no drowning of sorrows just a night spent indoors in a torpor trying to forget.

The vow is now to get back on the wagon and focus on wellbeing. None of this is down to my being the age for a scan. There’s more pressing problems caused by Fitz Hall than could berevealed in the village hall. If I can get treatment to remove any memories of that performance lurking in mysystem I will be first in the queue.

Own Goals on Sunday August 24, 2011

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Goals on Sunday’ is an unwelcome reminder to anyone who wakes up in a cold sweat, stares at the ceiling and is unable to remember what exactly happened at the football match they’d attended the day before. Despite the elfin pleasantries of Ben Shepherd and the thigh-slapping banter of Chris Kamara there’s no stopping the swift descent into unfettered horror recalling your team has been stuffed 4-0 at home on the opening day of the season.

Unlike others who’d spent their summer clubbing to dawn in Ibiza, taking their kids camping in the New Forest, singing along doe-eyed to Bono with their lighter in the air at Glastonbury I’d spent most of mine in a trance-like state fantasising about QPR’s first game back in the Premier League for 15 years. As anyone who follows football knows there are dreams and then there is reality.

Two-and-half-months are a long time to allow the male mind to drift into delusions of ‘tiki-taka’ football and goals aplenty from their team, irrespective of the alarm-bell ringing absence of decent signings and universal predictions for immediate relegation. Perhaps the warning signs were there: while Manchester City spent £40m on Sergio Aguero from Atheltico Madrid, QPR signed five players for a total sum of £1.25m and still managed to find a place in their Saturday line-up for ‘One Size’ Fitz Hall, a defender so addled by injury that he now limps onto the field of play.

For those of us who deign to leave the sofa to watch their team it is almost always an unedifying experience in which men are paid large sums of money to run into each other and fall over, or in the case of free-transfer debutant Danny Gabbidon, lunge like a shot animal to steer a straying cross into his own net. At these moments there’s no whizzy graphics and replays delivered with a whoosh and boom, just the tumbleweed silence punctured by the sound of a token erupting psychopath sat behind you unleashing a cluster of c words and spittle, followed swiftly by the sounds of small children pleading to be taken home

It had started well with composure and discipline but overconfidence led to sloppiness and then disgrace as the occasion overcame them as a normally workmanlike Bolton racked up an unprecedented four goals away from home –  like watching a flirty Auntie drink too much gin in the pub at Christmas and end up legless and led away  by a randy labourer who can’t believe his luck. Even Fabrice Muamba scored, that’s how bad it was!

New season, new girlfriend

Apparently New Girlfriend arrived at mine late on Saturday night to find me slumped on the sofa, wine glass in hand, illuminated only by the light of the television, 2-0 down to the Shiraz, mumbling ‘Danny Gabbidon’ like the dying burns victim in The Usual Suspects mouthing ‘Kaiser Soze’.

Sunday was a code red: the phone was switched off; appointments cancelled and New Girlfriend was scuttling around nervously making sympathetic cups of tea yet smiling nervously like someone who was trapped in a confined space with Fred West.  Not that these emotional deficiencies have been tolerated in the past – a previous girlfriend, coming from a more elevated, cultured social background than I, was absolutely appalled to the core that she was going out with someone who liked football. I challenged that because I’m not sure I actually like it, it’s just something I do, like passing water or bleeding when cut.

This is why it is all rather irrational. Someone commented to me only the other day that I didn’t seem like a QPR fan. Most of them he’d ever encountered were unsavoury and mentally unstable. I’d go along with that. To make a life choice to follow QPR when you have pick of any London team, is a quite insane decision, as if you are trying to prove a point, like putting your genitals in a food blender for a bet. (Not that regionality has anything to do with who your support these days – I once met an absolute idiot from Cheam who claimed to support Real Madrid but probably thought General Franco was a techno DJ).

Yet of course, it isn’t just QPR fans or me. Approximately half of the people across the country who crossed a turnstile on Saturday will ask themselves over this ruined weekend, Why do we do this to ourselves? (the other half will most likely be going through this torpor next weekend) as partners of both sexes seek escape. It’s a scene that would’ve been repeated not just in Shepherds Bush or Surrey, thanks to the digital age, from Kinshasa to Kuala Lumpur, but woe betide if they or anyone else suggests it is only or game or maybe it isn’t a constructive use of a Saturday.

Walking in a Stockholm Wonderland

Instead of burning the season ticket and deciding to spend the next Saturday at Tate Modern, take up lawn bowls, or go to South America on the Inca trail, we’ll have suffered the slings and arrows of colleagues’ comments and return gladly at the earliest opportunity full of good cheer and optimism for the next 90 minute debacle. All of which leaves me to conclude for most of us poor sods is just an elaborate form of Stockholm Syndrome, where an individual or group of people held captive begin to develop sympathetic and irrational supportive feelings towards their captors, even when presented with the opportunity escape and be free.

On the matter of escape, we are one game into a 38 game season and already I observed on Sunday afternoon, with the background hum provided by two hours of Alan Smith’s Brummie tones, New Girlfriend was looking at faraway locations on the internet and I swear it’s with not so much a holiday as permanent resettlement in mind.

(A postscript this missive: I’ve just got into work to find our Viking-like Head of Digital reduced to a tragic babbling mess having watched his beloved Coventry toss away a lead thanks to two injury-time comedy goals at Crystal Palace. Apparently their ‘one hope this season is a 17 year old from Burundi.’ Pitiful)

This post first appeared as a Thirtynumbthing article at blokely.com

No points deduction May 12, 2011

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The most beautiful three words in the English language are not ‘I love you’ but ‘No points deduction’.

This is my final word on anything football realted for some time as, believe me, I am more weary of it than anyone else reading this. After a week of sleepless nights, gnawing fists, speaking in tongues during meetings, bursting into tears, barking at and breaking down in front of friends, family and colleagues and reading wild speculation from those in the know (and not a single sports journalist can be included in that grouping), it was announced at midday on Saturday that QPR would only receive a fine for their transfer transgressions and were officially Champions. It is a week that I, nor anyone who came into contact with me, will want to endure again.

Enough has been written about the scenes of delirium around Shepherds Bush already. I’m not in a position to report on that moment as I was in a cab stuck in appalling traffic and going nowhere for a King’s ransom on the Warwick Road. All I’ve got to show for it is crippling shin splints after giving up and describing to run the remainder of the journey in Timberland boots arriving just in time to hyperventilate at the steps of the ground as QPR scored their one and only goal 29 seconds into the game before going on to inconsequential defeat.

Next season we will be in the Premier League for the first time in 15 years, entertaining the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea and for most of those games I will probably be stuck in a taxi somewhere on the Warwick Road.

Then there is Russell an ex-colleague, now present friend and ensconced in Paris who is a Cardiff fan who has watched our success and their capitulation at the final hurdle in unbounded horror. The rivalry between his club and mine is intense and dates back to a 2003 Cardiff play-off final victory – in Cardiff – that was full of loathing and retribution has been like an open wound ever since. Even in his job interview, he grinned to me, the interviewer, upon hearing I was a QPR fan ‘We could see you crying on TV’. He very nearly didn’t get the job.

A couple of years later Russell thought it a good idea to join me in watching a televised Cardiff-QPR fixture in a pub full of QPR types, most of them proper nutters, on a Friday night on the Goldhawk Road in Shepherds Bush. Despite Cardiff then being unbeaten  top of the league and QPR being bottom and pitiful, the latter scored a goal with their first shot in the 90th minute. Amid the eruption of hooped flesh and cacophony of delight sat a broken Welshman on a stool, his pint knocked flying, jostled by simian men who assumed he too was delighted at this sudden unexpected, undeserved twist, staring agonised, unblinking at the floor as if he’d just descended into hell.

Russell then did a funny thing. He went to the gents and locked himself in the loo for a full hour and refused to come out. Years passed and this season looked like being a head to head. For only two weeks this season was another team top of the league, that was Cardiff and, of course, Russell would be on me like a flash to salute the great breakaway (‘Just you watch us now!’ etc), yet it still went to the wire with Caridff bubbling closely beneath. In fact, had QPR had any significant points deducted, as it was predicted by the press they would, then Cardiff would be promoted in our place.

The no points deduction was announced and QPR declared champions at midday on Saturday and despite my best attempts to elicit a response there was not a text, tweet or call from Paris. All contact was down. And then at around 8pm on Tuesday evening he uttered his first words via Twitter: I’ve just come out the toilet. If Cardiff progress to the Play off final and lose to their bitterest rivals Swansea let me you, that self-imposed exile in the toilet will become permanent.

Brandy on ice – a QPR promotion May 1, 2011

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Did anyone remember to check the Norwich score then?'

Only at QPR can supporters invade the pitch to celebrate being promoted to the Premier League before bothering to check whether the other game that affected our status had finished. It hadn’t. Yet no one had the foresight to patiently see if Norwich would finish with 2-2 draw. Norwich didn’t. They scored and won 3-2, rendering the chants of ‘The R’s are going up and now you’re gonna believe us’ premature.

I witnessed this from my seat just behind the Directors Box in full knowledge, unlike the club co-owner Lakshmi Mittal, the fourth richest man in the world, that our party had been shafted (it goes to show you that money can buy you anything, but not even 5 billion quid can give you the final score from Carrow Road before making a tit of yourself). The supporters were singing so loudly about being promoted that no one could hear the PA system trying to tell them we actually weren’t and asking them to go home. Eventually the message got through, the promotion celebration was brought to an abrupt halt (if it was a cartoon you’d hear the sound of a stylus being hoiked off the record player) and it was rather like turning up for a New Year’s Eve party where Big Ben only struck up to 11.

An old friend in Australia whom I haven’t heard from in 18 months even found time to email to say he’d spilled his Pinot Noir down his front laughing at the pitch invasion that had been on the news. Yes, our embarrassment and wretched anti-climax in a small corner of Shepherds Bush had gone global.

So after global derision, promotion and the Championship was secured with a majestic 2-0 at Watford yesterday, but, of course, it wasn’t. There’s the matter of an FA charge concerning the transfer of Alejandro Faurlin from Argentinian club Instituto in an alleged £3.5m brokered deal that appears to be part Gordon Gekko, part Gordon the Gopher. When Faurlin had his medical signing for QPR it is not known if physios found bruising from where he fell off the back of a lorry, but the FA are investigating how we happened upon the signing as his owners weren’t Instituto and there is a (possibly unfounded) speculation we may be docked points to deny QPR a return to the Premier League after a fifteen year absence that has taken in two relegations and no small amount of ignomy on the way.

This is typical QPR, certainly since I’ve been following them.  In 1986 we won away at Chelsea and knocked out the European Champions Liverpool in the semis to reach the League Cup final only to lose 3-0 to Oxford. Our last foray into Europe we managed to have a 6-2 home advantage over Partizan Belgrade overturned with a 4-0 away defeat. Since we’ve been out of the Premier League we’ve managed to spend an entire season in financial administration with fans collecting donations in buckets outside the ground; a court case involving a gun pulled on the Chairman at the ground by gangsters on a matchday (where the judge concluded the Chairman was an ‘unreliable witness’); a merger with Wimbledon; a possible move and certain death to Milton Keynes (Wimbledon copped that one) been knocked out of the FA Cup by a team that sounded more like a car dealership and whom no one knew existed (Vauxhall Motors) and actually not won a single FA Cup match in ten years. Think about that: ten years! There’s also been the matter of recent events where we managed to get through 12 managers in less than 3 years all with increasingly disastrous consequences until the appointment of Neil Warnock who may or may have not won us the Championship.

Frankly this FA inquiry is the sort of thing that keeps a man with a QPR season ticket and limited social horizons beyond the nearest bar awake at night (and disinclined to blog if you;ve noticed the lack of activity roughly coincides with the FA charge). Yesterday afternoon was still spent listening to BBC London hunched in the kitchen and then charging around in triumph, then pausing to wipe a tear, frantically texting and calling other emotionally unstable idiots with a similar orientation, but there was no champagne.  My publican friend Lee celebrated himself into a toxic stupor at his own real-ale festival, but after one false dawn the previous week I’ll save my celebrations until all bases are covered.

My Moet is being kept on ice until the FA verdict on Friday and I wholly expect to go berserk at the final home game on Saturday.  It’s not worth going into the details of the case safe to say the club say they’ve been transparent and are confident they will win (given our history, as soon as anyone associated with QPR says that concerning any contest I am immediately filled with dread). Considering the FA is in considerable debt, they’ve not exactly managed the case or publicity around it well and our owners comprise not one, but two self-made billionaires (who didn’t get to where they are today by taking no for an answer or with an ‘After you, Claude’ approach to business)  there’s doubt whether the FA have the stomach or can afford the lawyers for a very messy fight.

For fifteen years we’ve waited for a return to the top flight. It’s unprecedented a club can win the league with a game to spare and still be waiting for results to come in from else0hwere, in our case not from a football ground but a QC. And while we’ve waited since 1986 and that League Cup final to make another appearance at Wembley, at least the hearing is taking place there, but whether we’ll get a win reamins to be seen. Typical QPR, as we say. In the place of champagne a large brandy would be more appropriate. A final thought: Pete Doherty is a QPR fan, do you think he turned out the way he did by coincidence?

Dos coffee, Fraulein. March 13, 2011

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Imagine the scene: two Englishman arrive at an Italian cafe in a bohemian district of Hamburg one Saturday morning. One of them has not long mentioned in the taxi from the airport how a few years military service as a marine in Germany meant he picked up some of the lingo. Not that this is a factor of course as almost everyone in Germany has a faultless grasp of English these days. Imagine then the surprise when the obliging waitress arrives, he jabs the menu and, with all the authority he can muster, orders ‘Dos coffee’.

I could but look back at her bafflement with a pained, apologetic expression. This was the beginning of my pilgrimage to watch St Pauli FC with Lee Blewett, The Publican, a couple of weeks ago. And that was about as top of the game as we got. An Englishman speaking Spanish to an Italian waitress in Germany is a sight to behold and triggered our downhill spiral of this ‘cultural visit’.

Imagine an English Premier League football club in England based on radical politics, punk rock, anarchism, eccentricity, a steadfast refusal to conform, a team that comes out to AC/DC, whose ground and fans bear a skull and crossbones emblem and locate their stadium in one of the world’s most infamous red light districts (in this case the Reeperbahn where the teenage Beatles cut their musical teeth and caught the pox for good measure) and you have St Pauli FC, recently proclaimed by CNN to be ‘the world’s coolest football club’.

The football was absolutely dire, the atmosphere was magnificent with constant singing, jumping and chanting all conducted by a few fans with megaphones. For 90 minutes this offered a spectacle inspired more awe than any 22 men hoofing a ball round a field could muster. It’s only this season and the likelihood of promotion that things have livened up at QPR. For the previous 15 years in the wilderness the only thing going on in the stands has been the occasional erupting psychopath or small children pleading to be taken home.  So St Pauli was a revleation, it was fun, it was raucous, it was friendly, especially given the plastic, witless and often oafish snarling nastiness of support we get served up on Sky these days.

Neither were we prepared to walk down the road from our  shi-shi hotel toward the bars of the Reeperbahn and be propositioned by at least twenty different pretty German girls in jeans, ski jackets and bobble hats to do outrageous things for money (I think, alas, the deal was we paid them rather than the other way round ). One after the other, it was relentless, like a domino effect and it felt like the opening of an Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Forget anything Usian Bolt has done, us pair completing that 100 metres without seizing up or falling at a hurdle has to be marked down as one of our greatest achievements. There are some friends we could’ve had with us who’d still be negotiating their way to the end now.

Twenty four hours later we checked out of our suite sporting our St Pauli scarves and holding our heads. Lee insisted upon crashing out in the hotel’s ironically named Wellness Centre spa rooms. I have never felt a Sunday is best spent spread out fully clothed on a lounger in a spa listening to ambient music as a publican snores loudly next to me with an assortment of towels and German newspapers over his head, so decamped to the bar for my book and a bloody mary to sort the nerves.

It wasn’t long before Blewett turned up looking  even more jittery and shellshocked than when I left him. He’d come to in the Wellness Centre, aware of the presence of voices and removed his towel to find a middle-aged German couple on the loungers near to him, both stark naked and in a state of contemplation. I didn’t know who I felt more sorry for, him or the couple. Imagine having your plans of  shared tranquility in the buff with your partner ruined by a hungover skinhead publican in Fred Perry polo shirt and jeans with a QPR bulldog tattoo on his forearms and a towel on his head staggering, spluttering and crashing from wall to wall in a panic to escape.

After that it back to reality for us at QPR. We’ve been top of the league since the opening day of the season (save for a fortnight when Cardiff had the honours but were rapidly hoiked out like a grubby man in a mac at a beauty pageant), but that may all change due to charges of an illegal transfer. When the potential points deduction and the promotion that may not be news broke this Wednesday I had to give Lee counselling to deal with the trauma. Meanwhile, somewhere in Germany there was the strong possibility of a middle-aged German couple booking in for the latest counselling session to overcome their newly found fear of ever entering a spa in the buff again. Karma perhaps.

Richard Madeley is back from the dead? January 30, 2011

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In a worrying development that would send most people rushing to the therapist, last night I had a dream that Richard Madeley was found dead in my parent’s garden. This was made more complicated by the matter that I’d discovered the body and Judy Finnegan pleaded with me not to tell anyone. As far as I can recall the first thing I did after confirming to Judy the secret was safe with me was rush to the nearest laptop to tweet that Richard Madeley was dead. So much for my solemn word.

None of this would have been exhumed from my unconscious had I not been making strides to the menswear department in Bentall’s when I was suddenly halted in my tracks by a large grinning image of the Madeley in the window of W.H Smith. This would be a cause for nausea at the best of times, but I stood there looking at him thinking ‘I thought you were dead!’, was wracked by shame at my lack of confidentiality and had to have a carrot juice to calm down and prevent a panic attack outside Millets.

Richard and Judy induced psychosis is not an ideal way to spend a Saturday morning shirt shopping in Kingston. It’s been that kind of weekend, the one that comes with good intentions and ends up being haunted by dead-but-living daytime TV presenters and an almost equally disturbing evening of mackerel fillets, Are You Being Served and inferior wine.  Not to mention thinking I was a little hasty in declaring my feelings for Adel Taarabt in the previous missive fired from this blog.

It seems North African unrest has spread from Tunisia and Egypt to a single Moroccan in a blue and white hooped shirt in Hull. His response today was not the performances that had seduced me all season, but instead to unravel spectacularly, throw a petulant hissy fit and demand to be removed from the field of play. If ever there’s been an apposite metaphor for  the typical course of my standard relationship then this is  just about bang on.

My response to this malaise has been swift though may not prove to be one of my wisest impulse moves: I’ve organised a trip to Hamburg with a publican who has a pair of eyes tattooed on his arse.

Carry On Adel January 25, 2011

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A fundamental problem of having Sky multi-room and having someone else living somewhere in the house with a remote control is you never quite know when your viewing of a BBC4 documentary downstairs is going to be interrupted by someone deciding to go for a tour of the Babestation channels upstairs. One minute you are taking in Martin Luther King and he’s got a dream the next second it’s Monique from Essex and she’s got the horn.

My mini-cab driving cousin in hiding will be here for one more week before it’s time to move on and I wonder if it’s because he’s starting to disapprove of my lifestyle. He’s developed a taste for Barolo and late nights and I’ve developed a habit of waking up when I hear home go for his first fare at 4am. The result is we both look shattered.

As someone who has resolutely lived alone for eleven years coming home to an occupied house after a grueling  twelve hour day is something I’ve yet to adjust to and its especially hard to unwind when you are greeted with a full recital of who said what to whom on Talksport since sunrise before you’ve even had chance to reach for the corkscrew.

Sometimes our conversations tend to go off on tangents or hit a brick wall altogether. Last week some colleagues and I pitched to the marketing director of a well known biscuit manufacturer and I was explaining this he looked at me and said ‘They’ve got them two for one in Sainsbury’s at the moment. I’ll treat you before I go and get some of their double chocolate ones in…they’re the bollocks!’.

I don’t know who was more shocked, he or Iliana the cleaner when she found him here the other afternoon. Although he explained he was my cousin I’m sure this has further proof in her mind that I’m a closet homosexual, especially as I told her not to mention to my parents he was staying here should she see them. Iliana gave me a certain knowing, conspiratorial Bulgarian look, the sort that said,  ‘Ok, but In my village they would paint your house pink and then nail your genitals to the wall for this’.

Then again, I have begun to question my own sexuality recently as I think I am growing increasingly infatuated with someone of the same sex, a young Arab boy to be precise. He’s name is Adel. I often go into London to gaze at him for upto an hour an a half at a time, whereupon I swoon at his gentle touch, the way he moves and become utterly lost in rapture. There are times he leaves me utterly speechless and I can’t imagine him out of my life.

Before we get all Cecil Beaton in Marrakesh, it is probably worth pointing out that Adel plays for Queens Park Rangers, wears the number 7 shirt and is the Zinedine Zidane of Shepherds Bush. There’s nothing worse than a football bore, but I’ve an overwhelming desire to express my feelings about him and can barely contain myself. In 25 years of going to the Rangers I’ve never seen a player like him, and in my time I’ve seen the likes of Dalgleish, Hoddle, Gascoinge, Cantona, Bergkamp and our very own Shittu and Doudou (by God, the early 2000’s was not our finest hour). In formative QPR years I idolised Clive Allen, Roy Wegerle and Les Ferdinand, then rapidly accepted that almost all footballers were just potential rapists who could kick a ball more accurately than your average builder and in the meantime I discovered The Doors, David Lynch, lager and cleavage.

But Adel is not like all the others. In the past six months under the paternalistic guidance of Neil Warnock I’ve seen teams taken apart singlehandedly by his nonchalance, trickery, panache and outrageous grace. Sunday was no different. He produced live on television and everyone was talking about him and asking why he was playing for QPR. That’s when the jealousy set in as Chelsea and Manchester United fans started tweeting they should sign him up. Now I’m torn and hope that he’ll realise what there is to savour between us and put in a shocker when the media spotlight is on him so I can have him all to myself a little bit longer. It’s getting beyond replacing the pop art prints with an Adel poster and flying a Moroccan flag above Wisley House (Neighbourhood Watch would have something to say about that). If I was ten years younger and not tied to a career, I’d give serious consideration to having a transplant of womb, ovaries and uterus just so I could have his babies.

It is only a matter of time before he’s playing for Real Madrid in the Champions League, I’m brought back crashing down to earth watching a bunch of blokes called Dave falling over and running into each other for ten grand a week and Adel will be a faded, tear-stained memory. This is getting a bit too Death in Venice for my liking.

Talking of crashing back down to earth my cousin just came down from bed because he couldn’t sleep and clutching his mobile:  ‘Here’s the name of that old Doris I saw on Carry on Cruising the other day. Google ‘er up…she looks just like our Nan.’.  He was right, she did and with that he disappeared just as quickly again upstairs to get reacquainted with women on Sky Channels who, I can assure you, look nothing like our Nan.

The young Arab boy in the hoops is simply divine

Speechless October 17, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, QPR.
2 comments

Outside working hours, certainly not in this blog, I’m not normally in the habit of shameless product endorsement unless it is either in a bottle or a skirt or a QPR season ticket. These are  the constituents of a good weekend, though not necessarily all at the same time and it is, from experience, unwise to pursue it as such.

However, it is only fair that a nod is given to the chicken noodle soup from Marks & Spencer as it is not only restoring my faith in soup, but also my power of speech. There are many occasions I have been left speechless in the past, normally again down to one or more of the constituents of a good weekend, which it has to be noted can also be constituents for a very bad weekend, if not considerably longer. Yet, this is the first time it’s been the case where I’ve gone to say something and all I can emit is a wheezy croak. It’s been like this for 36 hours and the novelty has started to wear thin.

Perhaps it was induced by the shock of waking up on Saturday morning in a colleague’s armchair to corpsed laughter with my shoelaces tied together and lipstick on my face, but one suspects having shown the early stages of mannish-flu a big Friday all nighter with colleagues from Cow was precisely the sort of thing the doctor wouldn’t order. Thankfully, it meant a short journey from Shoreditch to QPR and the team recognised my frail state and duly decided the last thing I needed was any further excitement or something to cheer about.

The combination of illness, being able to point to a lacklustre performance (and, not forgetting, operating as a member of society with a job to uphold) also meant I had the perfect rebuff to Blewett’s question of whether I fancied going to Swansea on Tuesday night. I can’t yet conceive or any time I’d fancy I’d going to Swansea, but certainly not on a Tuesday night in October. Maybe I’d go if it were another time of year and not in Swansea. I think that’s about the closest one can come to a compromise. Blewett is, afterall, a man who was once told by his partner on a bank holiday Monday that, for once, they were going to something together as family rather than him go off on his own to watch football.  So he bundled her and their young daughter in a car and drove them all to Barnsley to see the Rangers. Had she castrated him there and then I don’t think there is single a jury in the land made up of six women to five men who’d have convicted her. A standing ovation more likely.

I hate to say it, but as a result of illness my appearance in the Bermondsey Square office tomorrow is looking highly unlikely. Or Haile Selassie, should I make it in.This is always a decision taken with due consideration, especially for my peers, but more so for me when it should happen on a Monday. Even in the fevered throes of illness it is tempting to travel from Surrey to London simply to avoid being around  as that’s when Iliana comes over to clean.

One look at me curled up with flu in bed she’ll quite likely to mistake me for rubbish and dump me in the bin labelled general waste. At least she’d have the good sense not to put me in the recycling bin: there’s very little about my person that is much use to anyone else and some of it is positively toxic.

Iliana has after a number of years of service established that I do not lead what may be considered a conventional lifestyle by most people’s, let alone her own Bulgarian, standards. Conversely I cannot be entirely sure what she considers to be normal cleaning practices. Just as I manage to subsist alone in an unnecessarily large family home and she can discover half-drunk, long forgotten about glasses of wine (and on one occasion a half-drunk, long forgotten about friend), she thinks it perfectly the done thing to open all the windows in subzero temperatures and hide anything of significant value or importance in cupboards or drawers, not always in the same room where she finds them, to the extent that a man can be driven mad at the best of times, but even more so when he has a train to catch in fifteen minutes and no bank cards or keys.

That’s the pay off to return home to a spotless house. The reason it is spotless is because most of the contents have been hidden. Missing books that I’d been perfectly happy to leave on my bedside cabinet I discover are now stored under the bed.  For a while I’d become convinced Wisley House had become a literary Bermuda Triangle. At the same time I don’t want to be seen monitoring what she’s doing, just as I don’t want her observing me and my torpor and then getting a lengthy bit of advice about how people with these ailments are traditionally dealt with back home (should warm water and honey fail, with a blunt object perhaps?).

Once, having just returned froma wedding I made the mistake of asking if there were any traditional Bulgarian customs to be observed on a wedding day and got a long, confusing monologue about how the groom has to find the bride’s hidden left shoe. After her cleaning I know exactly how he feels. Every Monday is like a Bulgarian wedding here. Perhaps she’s flirting with me? Now there’s a thought to diminish the power of speech for good and no amount of M&S chicken noodle soup could possibly rectify.