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Crushed backs and other celebrations May 12, 2012

Posted by normanmonkey in QPR.
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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.

Straight Outta Compton August 29, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Thirtynumbthing, Travel, West Byfleet.
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‘As I l leave, believe I’m stompin’, but when I come back, boy, I’m straight outta Compton’ – Ice Cube

In days long gone an August bank holiday was a perfect excuse to not go to sleep for 72 hours in the company of other itinerants a backdrop of thumping beats. Not anymore. Those same itinerants are now hollow-eyed and sleep deprived on account of their kids or running businesses and marathons, possibly at the same time.

As per usual I had been taken by surprise by the sudden arrival of an August Bank holiday. Where on earth do they spring from?  While trapped in the killing fields of commuting and the 9 to 5 (make that 6) ] I’d fantasised and whinged about  could be done if only I’d had the time the time. It was all visions of a weekend break in Rome or a bohemian day in Brighton and yet when the time came I realised it was too late to actually do anything meaningful.There was a mad scramble of phone calls, texts and tweets like a manager without a squad on transfer deadline day at 10.55pm and discovering that even Marlon King isn’t available.

So what did a Thirtynumbthing do with three days to fill?

Left to my own devices led to the usual distractions of writing a to-do list, losing it, giving up, and then forming a nest of papers, magazines, endless cups of tea,  and an interminable feed of live sports. That was Saturday morning. By Monday however the mind-numbing effect of Sky Sports News and fermenting scent of stale sweet and sour sauce tends to lead for a call to action. What was needed was escape from the detritus of my own mounting detritus. My kitchen had turned into a scene from a William Burroughs novel. Something had to be done!

Straight Into Compton
There comes a moment when a man doesn’t want cocktails or to be surrounded by hipsters and urban attitude. I’d hit that moment and what I craved was a radical departure reassurance and twee harmony. Above all that I wanted cake.

In what may prove to be a defining turning point I went online not to Time Out but Surrey Life.  The pleasurable afternoon I had as a result could be a portent of the comfortably numb future that will befall us all before incontinence.

If anyone goes to Compton in Surrey in a confused pilgrimage to the place made famous by Niggaz With Attitude they will be sorely disappointed.  Among the cottages and rolling green hills there’s a distinct lack of gang warfare, bitches or LAPD brutality.  I, for one, would still very much like to see a twin-town exchange programme and the resultant fall out in a fly on the wall documentary.

What Compton lacks in crack houses is made up for with the Watts Gallery Tea Rooms and a fine lemon sponge for starters. The Watts is precisely the kind of place a person can end up and lose an afternoon watching middle-England in full throttle. I’d been transported to another England, one well away from the London of my work week, the one of traffic, uppity bar staff, drunks on the Jubilee Line, wasabi popcorn, feral kids, feral social media gurus or cabbies moaning about ‘the fackin’ Spurs’.

This was a haven of scones with jam and clotted cream, genteel old ladies, upstanding families, children (and even dogs, come to think of it) seen and not heard. Everything and everyone had a place and permanence to the point you could practically hear Elgar playing in their footsteps. It was, in the words of Vivian Stanshall, ‘English as tuppence, changing yet changeless as canal water, nestled in green nowhere’.

The only hitch was that I’d left my wallet at home. What would Ice Cube or Eazy-E of NWA have done in Compton when faced with only enough change for the tea room or the Watts exhibition, but not both?  According to ‘Cube’ when he’s called off, he’s got a sawn off, squeeze the trigger and the bodies get hauled off.
Wise words, but armed only with a lighter and a copy of The Guardian, violence was not an option. It meant forsaking the Victorian art and sculpture of George Frederic Watts in the Gallery favour of Welsh rarebit and cake in the cafe. Yet again, my stomach triumphs in a mismatched bout with the arts. I shall be back.

What did I learn? Firstly to plan future bank holidays well in advance; second to remember my wallet if I do should venture out and finally, next time I’m heading down to Compton to pack a sawn-off just in case I can’t pay for a cream tea.

This article first appeared as Thirtynumbthing @blokely.com

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

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, QPR.
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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?

Carry On Adel January 25, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, In the news, QPR.
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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

Norman Monkey The Brand January 12, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR.
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If only I could apply the same determination, dediciation and focus to my personal life as I do in my professional (which has of late, it must be conceded, not permitted for much of a personal life), then I’d be Aristotle Onassis. I’d also not be awaiting a letter from the DVLA informing me how much I owe for not paying my road tax and I’d also have a white carpet that, thanks to red wine, didn’t look like the Marquis de Sade’s bed sheet.

PR is all about problem solving. Make something famous, talked about, loved, even if it’s inferior to what else is on the market. My god, if I knew the answer to that I wouldn’t have been reduced to signing up to Match.com in the summer. On occasion, such as this evening, there is cause for an ebullient mood because I believe I may have cracked a very difficult brief. On other occasions problem solving often comes about from creating a problem that didn’t before exist and selling the problem in at the same time as the solution (lets call that the smallpox vaccination approach to marketing – the brand giveth the pox and the brand taketh away).  Then there’s the other times where a client has a genuine problem, mired in the shit, and it’s your job to work out how to extricate them if not smelling of roses, then almost certainly not smelling of shit.

So far I am managing to make a living out of this, but it is starting to occur to me that maybe I should hire myself as a client because outside the office I am dans le merde (is that even correct?). It’s the only logical solution to get myself out of the constant minefield of buff envelopes, ex-girlfriends who complained about my lack of free time (Village East and QPR and the post-trauma and fatigue of both is as much a factor as anything work related) and red wine stains that set in.  It’s only a matter of time that I spill red wine on the unopened buff envelopes containing despairing complaints from exes that I compound all my flaws in one.

If I were a client I may suggest a total overhaul in my comms strategy and make myself more accessible. Answering the phone, let alone being available for face to face interaction would be a start. Another would be to open the aforementioned buff envelopes. Early on in the proceedings the DVLA were sending me polite reminders but now there’s an angry red aspect to their communications and by which time its all too late to pick up the hints (the awkward irony should not be lost that I also lead campaigns for a leading motor brand reminding other drivers of exactly this kind of thing). As for the red wine it’s all about spatial awareness in as much as remembering firstly not to place a full bottle of Barolo on the carpet and secondly not to knock it flying whilst dancing like a tool to Bowie of a Friday night. If I had the budget, there;s definitely the case for a total brand overhaul and some third party partnerships with mineral water, the V&A and football teams that haven’t gone 11 years without a win in the FA Cup.

It was also revealed at work today whilst exercising my professional capacity into purchasing behaviour (people don’t want to be observed purchasing the cheapest if in aspirational surroundings)  that even though I required a white wine to remove the red stain I steadfastly refused to be seen buying a bottle of Blossom Hill white wine in Sainsbury’s in Cobham. At least, when everything else is unravelling due to my own ineptitude, its surely reassuring to know that I still have principles that are upheld. Even a stained carpet deserves to be doused with a bit of the good stuff and I was happy to help out with the leftovers.

A sentiment enough to send a sensitive soul to Beachey Head

 

Mad Men September 30, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in In the news, QPR, Single London.
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There’s a number of ways two young, single, professional gentlemen at the cut and thrust of the London PR scene can spend their evening. Start off with cocktails at The Ritz, dinner at The Wolseley, maybe a private members club or off to Bungalow 8 before retiring to their respective penthouse suites with the women of their choice. Modern day Mad Men.

I wager that few would choose to spend it in an alcove of a football ground in  Shepherds Bush with slightly unhinged, lagered-up middle-aged ‘geezers’ who also happened to be two of Millwall’s ‘Top Men’ (and I don’t mean in the boardroom) as riots and pitched battles flared up outside.

Come to think of it, that wasn’t exactly how DT and I envisaged spending our evening at the Rangers either: grinning inanely and taking deep breaths upon hearing yet another rapid-fire yarn lamenting the good old days of mindless acts of violence.

That was all made possible by Blewett who thought it would be a nice touch to introduce two regulars from a former pub of his to the club restaurant where we were dining so we could enjoy a live recital of The Football Factory.

This somewhat undermined the military precision planning and leaving work early from Bermondsey to be inside the ground at 6pm to escape the hooligans outside the ground only to discover our own mate had arranged for them to come to us. Of all the measures taken, that was not one I’d calculated for. Nice one, Blewett. I’ve never felt such gratitude and relief upon having my hand crushed in a farewell handshake goodbye.

I think we heard about 200 anecdotes unbroken for a pause for breath and all of them containing the words ‘Tear up’ (usually prefixed with the ubiquitous ‘proper’ or ‘right old’). Believe me, it’s exhausting this whole trying not to get a bottle of Becks banged on your head business – survival instinct kicks in.

The strategy when confronted with two men of a certain age for whom a broken nose is a term of endearment is to agree with everything they say and not to mention that you work in the media, have close friends who are French, use a personal trainer, read The Guardian, dislike lager, drink espresso martinis and, in DT’s case at least, you live with someone who has just competed in a Ladyboy of the Year competition. Actually, there’s no acceptable social context for the latter. He’s just going to have to soldier on alone with that one.

The football was largely inconsequential. As we were reliably informed by our acquaintances it was all about the tear up. Apparently liberties had been taken and a lot of old faces were coming out of retirement for this one. They weren’t wrong. Shepherds Bush was a battlefield in places and the violence made international news (USA Today, The Australian, The Ealing Gazette).

If Blewett was bang on the money with one thing it was better to have them inside with us, than for us to be outside without them. I see the logic, but I’d still sooner have swapped them for Penelope Cruz and Megan Fox, but maybe not for Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. I’d have probably taken him and his chickens, covered them in QPR memorabilia, lobbed them in the away end and turned a blind eye to that one.

After all that tension, we naturally needed to escape the war zone for a couple of  late night cold drinks to calm down. From Romper Stomper to Old Compton Street in thirty minutes. How;s that for varied night out and we’d have almost certainly got a pasting for mentioning that as a potential destination. Anywhere to avoid a beating. Better to be hit upon by a man than hit by one  is my new motto.

Play your cards right September 27, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Music, QPR.
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Waking up to a jolly cretin on the local radio station announcing that the train you’d rather been hoping to catch into town has been cancelled – along with all those that follow it – is a surefire way to kickstart the working week.  The only positive was the arrival in the post of the credit and debit cards I managed to lose over the course of 24 hours last week with depressing predictability just prior to a date with a woman who appeared to be both fussy and high-maintenance.

She had the good foresight to cancel the date hours before, but my being forced to subsist from a Friday to Sunday night on the company card is going to reveal to our Financial Director, at the very least, the itinerant lifestyle a West Byfleet dandy.

It’s all laid bare with spectacular predictability: Village East cocktails, Waterloo cash withdrawal at 8am on Saturday morning,  the train fare to Queens Park Rangers, Threshers, Sunday lunch in Weybridge and a Chinese takeaway. One thing that didn’t get a reduction on the card was the offer of a discount on a good bottle of Morgon from a shop proprietor on Bermondsey Street on the condition I give him a kiss. Friday had been one of those nights.

Latterly, I even managed to restrain myself from buying the 5disc box set of Bowie’s mid-70’s masterpiece Station to Station (according to legend The Dame was so out of it during recording, living on a diet of raw peppers and milk, that he is quoted as saying he only knows he recorded the album in LA because more reliable people have told him so). That particular gem has now been ordered as the first purchase on the new cards.

Two weeks of almost unceasing gym activity and abstinence from the grape always feels like two weeks too many when you’ve been stood up and Levi is grinning at you from the entrance to Village East. It was a fine evening and the company excellent as always. The next doorway I encountered in the light of day was the entrance to Loftus Road and a meeting with Blewett and Robbie Gale for a good lunch, three goals and three points before retreating back to the Wisley with the latter to celebrate another weekend at the top of the league that has left many people staggering around Shepherds Bush in shock.

Sunday evening’s subsiding mood was lifted by a text from DT that simply read ‘I’m at the Ladyboy of the Year 2010 with my new flatmate. He’s in it’. At least I knew there would be an illuminating conversation over morning coffee prior to getting down to the business of public relations. He’s gone from living with  70 year old landlady  to a twentysomething landladyboy. While the former cooks a far better roast beef  dinner, the latter clearly wins hands down in a head to head Beyonce lookalike contest.

There had been a sense that perhaps a return to the gym was what was required this evening. However, nodding off on the train back from Waterloo was probably a sign that tea and rest was required. Tomorrow I’ll need all the energy I can get as I may have to break my record time for running a mile. QPR are hosting Millwall. West vs East. And DT and I have to take the same route into Shepherds Bush from our Bermondsey office as the all nutters and their nuttier mates from the New Den.

We’ve talked about leaving work early for the journey so we can do our new business pitch the next day with our own teeth. We reckon 10am should be about right.