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Showing posts from 2016

How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup by J.L. Carr

The 2015/16 football season in the England was perhaps the perfect year for a reissue of this book. It was the year that, against all odds and logic, unfancied Leicester City went on to win the English Premier League – it was also the season my team, Aston Villa, got relegated but we won’t dwell on that.

Coupled to this, most football supporters love an underdog story and many would confess to having cheered on teams like Bradford in their cup victory over Chelsea in the early rounds of the FA Cup in 2015. Of course, provided it’s not our team on the receiving end of the giant killing, we don’t mind.

How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup, published in 1975, is so much more than just a novella on an underdog team winning; it is also a much more interesting painting of rural society and how England was changing in the 1970s, seen through the eyes of J.L Carr.

The novella is narrated by Joe Gidner, a listless twenty-something who writes messages for the inside of greetings cards,…

Living for the Weekend: Racing Club Warwick

I’ve been spending a little bit of time over the last couple of football seasons visiting a few grounds around the southeast of England. After a conversation with an old schoolmate, Bendz, I realised that it was time to go home.

I’d wanted to watch a cup match of some description for a while and identified the Saturday 10th September as the ideal time to visit Townsend Meadow – the home of Racing Club Warwick of the Midland Football League Division 1 (the 10th tier of English football's pyramid). Their match was agains Coventry United in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Vase, the amateur equivalent of the FA Cup.
After some conversation with my parents, who still live in my hometown Warwick, we established that the last time that I’d been to watch The Racers was back in the early nineties. They had been playing against a team in red, the name of which was long lost to both them and me. In fact, I was likely still attending first school at the time and it was probably the first…

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

It was well timed, but I finished reading a book about moving to Denmark in pursuit of happiness shortly after the Brexit vote came in. I’d actually put the book to one side for a while, but inspired by the maelstrom of stupidity following June 23rd’s vote, I decided I needed to carry one. 
It had been noted by number of people, but over the last few years I've grown increasingly interested in moving somewhere like Denmark. Indeed, after a couple of occasions visiting my friends Matt and Signe in Copenhagen, I feel like this isn't simply a pipe dream.
The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell was actually bought for me as a Christmas gift by a colleague with a Norwegian partner. We had had a couple of conversations about my growing love of Scandinavia and so, clearly having remembered some of our chats at break time, she definitely won the award for 'Best Thought-Out Gift' last year.
The book tells the tale of the author, a former editor for Marie Claire magazine, m…

Le Petit Enfer de Calais

Warm-up rides completed, overnight accommodation in Folkestone booked and a smooth journey to southeast Kent completed, things were looking good for our second attempt at the French Revolution bike ride.
Two years before we had participated in the same event on a near-identical route and had completed it in around 4 hours and 45 minutes (including stoppages at feed stations, Jonesy’s detour into a maize field and a twenty-mile fight with a headwind), only for me to break my wrist whilst riding back to the car park. This year we were hoping for less trouble – obviously this wasn’t ever going to be the case.
Upon arrival at the Port of Dover, all however many hundred riders were required to join one queue in order to show their passport to a solitary French immigration officer. Whilst cars, spread across a number of lanes whizzed through, it took us the best part of two hours from the car park to the boat’s departure. Obviously the event was happening post-Paris attacks and during the …

On The Beach, Bognor Regis

One annual trip by the Year 9 girls of Fulham Cross is a bit like a right of passage. It is the last of the off-timetable days that they'll have in Key Stage 3 and it's a fitting end to their time in lower school.
On Friday 13th May 2016, three bus loads of hyperactive girls were dispatched in the direction of Bognor Regis once more. As with last year, the girls had a carousel of activities in the morning focusing on coastal defences, poetry and seaside history. When the afternoon came, following on from fish and chips, it was time to let them loose on the beach.
Whilst they ran around like crazy, I of course decided it was Instagram time. The weather being markedly better than last year, I was able to take a few pictures that really brought out the blue-green of the sea and the yellows of the shingle. 
On a day like this, a trip to Bognor Regis is well worth the sunburn.

The Climb by Chris Froome

I work in an English department at a secondary school so, naturally, my boss likes to buy all of his members of staff at book for Christmas. Having a little time to think about it, he chose the best thing possible for his cycling-obsessed English teacher; The Climb by Chris Froome.
In a manner similar to other sports autobiographies, The Climb is actually ghostwritten by the journalist of Lance Armstrong-hunting fame, David Walsh. The inimitable style of the Irish journalist is evident throughout the book, but it is easy to overlook this and believe that the words written are probably quite close to what Chris Froome would probably say.
Although my Head of Department tells me that the decision was purely based on Froome's sporting merit, he was quietly smug about the fact that the majority of Chris Froome's childhood was actually spent in Kenya. The East Africa connection, for me, is obviously something that I find difficult to ignore and, perhaps, has inspired me to want to …

Living for the Weekend: Dagenham and Redbridge

Dagenham and Redbridge. I remember seeing their name appear, albeit heavily abbreviated, on the videprinter on BBC’s Grandstand as a child. Teams like ‘The Daggers’ to a boy raised in the Midlands were a little bit mystical; much like Rushden and Diamonds, Stalybridge Celtic and indeed my current local team Leyton Orient.
Having discussed my idea to get around a few London grounds (and I know I’m stretching that criteria a bit with the recent trip to Southend United) with my friends Gareth, Dave and Keith, we had been mulling over the idea of a trip to Dagenham for a while. Eventually we settled on the visit of Yeovil Town on Saturday 27th February 2016.
The biggest shock of the whole experience was actually to happen about a week before the match. When I called to reserve six tickets, helped by the operative on the phone to choose the most ‘lively’ area of the ground, I was mortified by the price. 
“So, that’s six tickets in the terraced stand on Saturday,” the booking office operat…

Enkuto Eratukura #13: The Accidental Sheikh

Friday 10th April 2015 - 2pm 

It is a wonder that, in a town the size of Kabale, that there are still any areas of it that are yet to be discovered. Already on this trip I had found a few new back routes through Bugongi, had been to New Foundation Primary School for the first time and had caught a fleeting glimpse of Peter’s new school off the main road to Katuna.
Today, the group were heading to the hitherto unknown Ndorwa Muslim Secondary School after Tash and I had spoken to Peter earlier that week. I also needed to make a solo trip back to New Foundation to meet with Jonan and James for our feedback meeting.
I decided to hitch a lift in a pickup truck that we had been using all week, and to hop out and walk the remaining quarter of a mile from Ndorwa to New Foundation.
I arrived to be greeted by the expected chants from the younger children and found Jonan in a side office working away at something official looking. In his usual warm manner, he shook my hand and sent a runner to g…

Living for the Weekend: Southend United

I wouldn’t call myself a regular at Leyton Orient's Brisbane Road, but I have now been to around seven matches over the last two seasons and enjoy my spot near to the half-way line in the East Stand. During a brief spell of convalescence in Chelsea, Jonesy decided that it was time to try another ground.
With it being the closest ground to Jonesy’s house, on Saturday 23rd January we headed over to Roots Hall, the home of Southend United to see them take on Coventry City. 
Worryingly, the night before the match, a colleague of mine had been telling me about how Southend United had moved to a stadium outside of town. Visions of a Ricoh Arena style ground, surrounded by a Tesco Extra and giant car park flashed into my mind, but, as our taxi got closer to the stadium, it was clear this wasn’t the case.
As with most things, getting there wasn’t easy. The prospect of rail replacement buses saw me hop off at Pitsea station to be picked up. For a few moments, in the shadow of the flyover,…

2015 Cycling Year in Review

I [infamously] signed off last year's cycling review with the words "Let's hope that 2015 means more kilometres and hopefully staying upright on the bike."

I'll kill any suspense now: I failed on both counts.
Around six days after publishing that statement, as I rounded the corner from St Dunstan's Road onto Magravine Road in Hammersmith, I realised that a Christmas tree had been dumped in the road. Travelling at around 14mph, I braked with the front and tried to take a tighter line whilst cornering. The front wheel lost grip and hit the ground. Hit it hard.
Thankfully, an off-duty orthopaedics doctor was travelling in the car behind me. He helped me up and walked me to the hospital a mere 500 metres down the road where I was told about my list of injuries: a fractured cheekbone, broken thumb (on the same side I'd damaged last year), a cut requiring stitches above my eye and a badly bloodied lip.
What I am perhaps most thankful about was the fact that th…