Thursday, 13 February 2014

Out of the Wilderness.

I know this is a little late but I want to get a few things about the last few months at the club off of my chest. As some of you may have noticed from various posts over the last year or so, I was no fan of Chris Wilder, his negative tactics, terrible loan signings, bizarre team selections, inability to deal with the home form or his general shirtiness towards anyone daring to question any of the above. However I didn’t always feel like this and I stood with the 32,999 other fans on that unforgettable day at Wembley in 2010 singing his praises, I cheered along with the rest of you when he asked us if we ‘thought we’d chucked it’ at the victory parade a couple of days later, I even used to refer to him as Sir Chris for a good while afterwards. But the love and respect that we all had for this man turned sour for so many of us and divided the fans in a way no other manager has done and it was this division that caused me to dislike him above anything else. I’m sure you’ve read plenty of articles, blogs, comments about Wilder’s downside and also his plus points, so I want to look at a different aspect of his time here – the fans.

We all raised an eyebrow when we heard Wilder’s name announced as our new manager back in December 2008 but just a year and a half later we saw this unlikely hero leading us out at Wembley and back in to the football league. If he’d walked back to Oxford on the Thames that night none of us would have been surprised, such was the regard we held him in. But football moves very quickly and a couple of years later, the cracks were showing and although we were never in any danger of dropping back into the non league it soon became obvious to many of us that Wilder didn’t have the credentials to take us that step further. Yet there was a large section of the fans who failed to see this, in fact they failed to see any further than Wembley at all. It was Wilder himself who had told us that ‘history meant nothing’ yet here was a man who was being supported mostly due to his past glories at the club and therefore being contradicted by his blinded fans.

Now of course everybody is perfectly entitled to an opinion and if people genuinely liked the bloke or believed he was the man to take us forward then I’m not going to slag them off for that view, but I’m a firm believer of basing my opinions around facts and the fact is over the last two or three years, our home form has been poor. Really poor. Wilder had been unable to turn that around in previous seasons and appeared to be once again, hindering our progress with this stumbling block and the thought of a home game was as exciting as the promise of an episode of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories. We’ve played a style of football so boring and negative that my friends and I would often turn to making up football puns to relieve the boredom and make the long drag between 3.00 and 4.45 more bearable. We were losing and drawing against teams varying from ordinary to crap due to our lack of ability to break teams down and fans were getting tired of it and starting to stay away. But there was a large section of the fans who refused to let Wilder take any of the blame whatsoever, preferring to explore every other avenue to find someone or something to point the finger of blame at. The apparent gypsy curse was once again dragged out, the fact that we have an all seater stadium meant there was no atmosphere, the fans negativity, the players, the chairman, the tea lady (probably) basically anyone or anything except the man who was actually responsible for the on field matters at the club.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I wasn’t keen on Wilder, but I’ve always tried to argue my point fairly and based on what I see happening in front of me, whereas many of the Wilder fans or Chrisciples (© @JoffThompson – why not follow him on Twitter) seem to be basing theirs on blind faith and despite asking them what it was that they saw in Wilder that I obviously couldn’t, they never really seemed to come up with an answer. I’ve seen an alarmingly large amount of them claim that the appalling home form doesn’t matter because we’ve been unbeaten away. One even claimed that the number of goals conceded away from home made us serious title contenders, conveniently glossing over the fact that we had lost 5 games at home. Are they insane? Do they really believe that you can be shit in half of your matches and still finish top of the pile? Glossing over facts is something the Chrisciples have been good at though, countless times I have been told that we have progressed in the last three years under Wilder. No, we’ve finished 12th, 9th and 9th and last season finished with 3 points less than the season before, please explain to me how that can be described as progression?

It’s not just the refusal to acknowledge facts, but also the insults I’ve received, I often post my also-valid views and opinions on the official OUFC facebook page where I have received the most ridiculous comments from my fellow fans (although I’m not that keen to be associated with some of them on there). I’m called disloyal, was once told that my opinions are retarded and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen someone say ‘if you’re not on board, go and support someone else’. On one occasion I was told to ‘fuck off and support Swindon’ because I said I didn’t particularly like the new kit! Are these actual grown-ups with proper jobs and responsibilities? Think about what they are actually saying there, I’ve supported this club for 24 years and because I don’t like the kit, I should forget those years, cheers and tears and take my support and my money and plough it into our biggest rivals? And anyone who feels as I do should do the same? So they want half of our supporters to leave the club therefore reducing its revenue dramatically and probably cause us to plummet out of the league in the process and somehow that makes them a better supporter than me? I don’t understand how voicing an opinion on a regular basis can be seen as anything but feeling passionate about the club and, whilst I don't necessarily agree with their views,  questioning another fans loyalty or passion is something I wouldn’t dream of doing. One particularly charming little turd even went to the trouble of sending me a personal message on facebook asking me not to be a depressing prick! Funnily enough he didn’t send that message to any big burly men...

Eventually it got to the stage where I didn’t feel welcome at the club I’d supported since I saw Dave Penney score in a pre-season friendly in 1989, it was like there was a Chrisciples clique and if you were not part of it and didn’t back absolutely every single thing Wilder did then you were not wanted at the club. I also found myself actually thinking that I would like to see us lose an away game just to see how these people would react and what their excuse would be. How on earth did that situation arise, where I actually didn’t care if we lost? Ironically it was the people accusing me of being disloyal that were the ones actually pushing me towards disloyalty. I’d never stop going to support my team (despite suggestions to do so) and not once did I call for Wilder’s head during a match, but I’d lost the knot in my stomach, the excitement and the tension had gone for me and I wanted it back. When it was finally announced that Wilder had resigned following a farcical few hours the previous evening I started to look forward to the next match again and as I listened to the away match at Exeter the next day, I welcomed the return of that knot in my stomach as we hung on for a draw in the final moments. I’d suddenly got that buzz back and looking at the way the players performed in the home win against Wimbledon the following Saturday (and also from what I’ve heard..) I’d say they’ve got theirs back too.

As I write this we still don’t know who the next manager will be, there are plenty of names flying around and seemingly a new bookies favourite each day. Some names are more welcome on the list than others but I’m sure whoever is crowned the next King of the Kassam, the Chrisciples will all be 100% behind him and every decision he makes, would make them terribly disloyal otherwise of course...

Monday, 21 October 2013

Budgie, a parrot and some hens.

When I told some of my friends I was going to try and write some blogs, they looked at me as if it was the worst idea since Savile’s Travels. In fact a lot of my friends that I told greeted it with a look somewhere between confusion and boredom, but despite their lack of any kind of interest or enthusiasm, I thought I’d have a go at providing you lucky people with my view of some of the less interesting things that have happened this last week or fortnight or so (depending on when I actually get round to writing something)

At this time of year that favourite British past time of being surprised when the weather turns cold even though it’s October begins. Think how many times you’ve heard someone say ‘Oh it’s got so cold’ or 'isn't it dark in the mornings' this week, as if this is a rare occurrence in the autumn. Why, as a nation are we repeatedly surprised by and unprepared for the change of season? The weather forecasters really try and build their parts up these days too. When they show the headlines on BBC Breakfast and similar news based shows, they always do this ‘coming up in the weather today...’ tantalising preview as if people are somehow on the edge of their seats waiting to see if there might be a bit of a breeze today. We know you are going to show the weather, you don’t need to use it as a hook. You also don’t need to spend the licence payer’s money on sending them to various locations in Britain to do these over hyped forecasts. We do believe you, we don’t need to see proof of what the weather is doing and if we did, we could quite easily just look out of the window. Or look on Facebook of course, providing weather reports for people is pretty standard on there. The other thing that bothers me about weather forecasters is their apparent ability to guess exactly how you want the weather to be. ‘The good news is it’s going to be mild’ or ‘you’ll be pleased to hear there is a thunderstorm on the way to clear the air’. That’s not good news. I hate thunderstorms, they make me hide and cry, why would that be good news for me? I’m happy to have unclear air actually, if it means no more electric death rays bursting randomly from the sky, seeking out their next unsuspecting victim (I’m not odd, you are). Stop trying to be a man/woman of the people, just tell us what the weather is going to be, not your opinion of it!

It’s also been quite a footbally couple of weeks for me, with three home matches in a row – the good, the bad and the Johnson’s Paint Trophy, which never quite managed to be as entertaining as singing Erasure songs in the car on the way there and back with my friend Joff. In the supporters bar, I also had the pleasure of a ‘reunion’ (that’s a little joke for the Erasure purists there) with John Byrne, one of my most favourite Oxford players of all time, who managed to turn me from confident, chatty lady to shaking, blithering idiot with one look. Sadly the scenario where he takes one look at me and realise I was the love of his life as I hoped that he would when I was a teenager didn't materialise. Oh well, keep your fingers crossed for me if I ever bump into Jim Magilton.

This week saw the national side finally qualify for the world cup in a tense match against Poland which was made considerably more unbearable by having to watch it on ITV. ITV football coverage has many levels of irritation, from the rarely-funny quips of Adrian Chiles, with his Yorkshire pudding face, to the camera hogging interviews by Gabriel Clarke. Clarke is the only post match interviewer that anybody can actually recognise, the reason for this being that he stands so close to the players whilst interviewing them that he is always in shot. Clearly failed the audition to be presenter. Then we have the commentating team of Clive ‘crap facts’ Tyldsley and Andy ‘tactics truck’ Townsend, with not and interesting fact nor anecdote between them. During one Champion’s League game involving Barcelona, I remember Tyldesley announcing to the not-so eager public that in fact, his neighbour comes from Barcelona. Do we need to know this? Why would any commentator consider that to be of any interest to anybody other than himself? Even dull-as-dust Townsend would struggle muster up any enthusiasm for that little snippet. 

My four year old son Finlay, has rather annoyingly resurrected his love of Postman Pat recently. Now I’m obsessed with Postman Pat. Not in weird way, I don’t sit outside his house waiting for him or have his picture on my wall or his name upon my scarf, but I’m fascinated by certain aspects of his self titled show.  For starters, he is clearly a useless buffoon. Not a day goes by when he doesn’t lose someone’s special delivery, or he opens it up and it jumps out/flies away/rolls on to the floor or some other completely avoidable catastrophe. And then when he retrieves that delivery and eventually gets it to its destination, the rest of Greendale are all over him like he’s some kind of hero, never occurs to any of them to ask what the hell he was doing opening the fucking parcel in the first place, the nosey, incompetent bastard. And why the balls does a local village postman, with seemingly only about 8 houses to deliver to, need a bloody helicopter? Particularly when he also has his trusty old bright red van, a transit van, a motor bike with side car and now a convertible four wheel drive thing (I don’t know what it’s called, I’m not James May). It’s not just Pat who bothers me though, Dr Gilbertson the resident GP who is never at work, in fact doesn’t even seem to have a surgery, is another one. ‘Alf’s got a cold’ ‘The twins have got chicken pox’. Clearly never heard of patient confidentiality, bloody blabber mouth. I’m also intrigued by the surprising amount of single parents there are in a relatively middle class country village and how many of them seem to have ginger hair, not that I’m starting rumours or casting any aspersions on the apparently absent Mrs Pringle, mum to Pat lookalike Charlie. Jeff Pringle has not been seen since 2006 so I am completely confused as to where Charlie resides now both of his parents appear to have buggered off. Mr Pringle’s position of only teacher at the school has now been taken by Lauren Taylor, whose name is nowhere near northern enough to appear in this series in my opinion. I also doubt her teaching ability though. In one episode, she decides to take the children on a nature trail, which sounds very nice until you realise they have gone to Pencaster town centre. Who the hell goes on a nature trail in the middle of a busy town? Funnily enough the only “wildlife” they spotted was the fucking parrot that Pat had let escape due to previously stated incompetence.In another episode Pat has a race around Greendale with Ted and Alf, amongst others, and gets lost! How do you get lost in a village that you have lived in since you were a child? Ginger twat.

 Last Friday, I managed to have a rare evening out, where I got to wear a dress and heels and all that jazz, for a night of dancing like a dick. The theme for the evening was ‘decades of disco’ or something of the like, and whilst I had a good evening there is something about these discos that I can’t help having an issue with. The DJ. Whenever you go to any kind of ‘retro’ disco, you can always predict exactly which songs they will play and any request you put in for something slightly different will probably be denied. As previously mentioned, I’m a bit of an Erasure fan but they always play A Little Respect, which is a great song, but the only one they ever play. So I asked the Rod Stewart-a-like DJ if he could play Victim of Love for me.
‘No, sorry’.
‘Ok, how about Sometimes?’
‘No,’ve got A Little Respect?’
Ironically, I have little respect for a party DJ who has no room for manoeuvre on his to-be-expected playlist. How can he only have one Erasure song, surely if you are frequently working in a party disco environment, you would at least have bought the greatest hits album of one of the most popular acts of the time? We’ve all been dancing to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and the diabolical Love Shack for so many years now, isn’t it time those type of songs took a step back and let some of the others have a go? Do we still want to be dancing to the same old songs in 20 years time or will anyone be brave enough to buck the trend and play Victim of Love for me or stick on a bit of (not the) Pet Shop Boys?
There is a hen party who have been on table next to us all evening, looking miserable and overweight in their 80s getup of luminous tutus and fingerless gloves. I would talk more about hen parties, but that’s a whole other blog on its own. DJ Rod announces that the stripper will be arriving later, so I expect he has You Can Leave Your Hat On lined up already, the predictable little twat.  The hen party are lucky enough to have their requested song played, not so lucky for the rest of us though as it's Mistletoe and Wine that they have chosen to be blasted out with a volume it doesn’t deserve. My disbelief that he only has one Erasure song on him and has no problem playing a fucking Christmas song on the 11th October has obviously turned my stomach and after 3 hours of It’s Raining Men, I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Build Me Up Buttercup, I head home and throw me dinnerup. And I missed the bloody stripper..

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Supermarket Weep

‘Hello there, how are you today?’ beams the interest feigning teenager in their oversized, plum coloured fleece. If ever there was a time that you wish a teenager would just grunt at you instead of trying to engage you in conversation, it’s at the checkout at Sainsbury’s. For reasons unknown to the entire population of the British Isles, the bosses at Sainsbury’s and other leading supermarkets, have decided that the thing to really make the much desired end to your shopping trip is for the checkout staff to make awkward shopping related small talk with you, despite the fact that you are trying to pack your shopping whilst keeping an eye on your child who has descended to the three joined together chairs that no-one really needs or ever sits on and you clearly just want to go home. Whilst you are frantically trying to open the skin thin shopping bags with your freshly licked fingers and the wittering till operative is throwing your shopping at you at the speed of light, it is hard to be enthusiastic about comments like ‘Ooh I bought some of these last week’ and ‘I think that must be a new range’. So at this point I climb onto the conveyor belt, grab them by the scruff of their neck and bellow ‘JUST GIVE ME MY FUCKING SHOPPING YOU LITTLE TURD’ at the top of my voice. Well alright, not really but that’s the scenario that goes around in my head. ‘Wow, that’s a really good deal!’ ‘HOW WOULD YOU KNOW, YOUR MUM STILL BUYS ALL YOUR FUCKING SHOPPING!’. Tempting but I decide to stick to a typically British ‘yes it is, isn’t it’.

I don’t blame the kids at the checkout though, it’s clearly the management that have put them up to this humiliation. One thing I have learnt is that you never, ever under any circumstances respond to their original question with ‘I’m fine thanks, how are you?’ because they will tell you and in great detail. And even though you asked them the question, you didn’t really want an answer and you certainly didn’t want to know that they are really tired because they haven’t had their break yet. I know this might sound harsh but I genuinely believe that checkout staff should only speak if they are spoken to. ‘Hello’ is fine. ‘Do you want some help packing’ is acceptable. ‘Would you like some bags?’ is tempting us to answer ‘No, I’ll just balance it all on my fucking head’ but still a fairly reasonable question. Anything more than that is unnecessary.

Although I’ve pointed the finger at the kids for having awkward conversations, it’s generally the older members of staff who have the most inappropriate ones. There is something about a customer being pregnant that suddenly makes these middle aged women think they can be as rude or as personal as they like. When I was pregnant with my second child I was asked by a particularly rotund  lady how far gone I was (pregnancy wise obviously, I wasn’t pissed), I proudly replied that I was 4 1/2 months gone. This was greeted with a cackle that the green, Emu-hating bloater Grotbags would have been proud of and the comment ‘my daughter is 7 months gone and nowhere near as big as you, you’d hardly know she was pregnant!’ I resisted pointing out to her that if her daughter was as obese as she is then no, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell if she was pregnant or not. I didn’t because presumably she would have been offended by a comment about her size and I’m not a rude, mouthy cow. Nor am I insensitive like the woman who laughed loudly at me when I was heavily pregnant and couldn’t reach the food at the bottom of my trolley causing me to feel slightly emotional, so politely asked if she could get someone to help me. I’ve remembered her face though in case she ever steps out in front of my car...

My local Tesco at that time employed another right old charmer. This particular lady asked me every other day when my baby was due and when I told her she would tell me that her pregnant sister was due 5 days after that. We had the same conversation for about 4 months. When I’d had my son I wandered down to Tesco with him a few days later to stock up on nappies and any legal products containing caffeine that I could get my hands on. I approached this particular lady whilst carrying Finlay sleeping soundly in his car seat, thinking in the way that new mothers self absorbingly do, that she’ll be really pleased to see I’ve had him. ‘Hello’ she said ‘when is your baby due?’


‘When is your baby due?’

‘What, this baby here?’

‘Oh, you’ve had it. What is it?’

I looked down at Finlay in his blue coat, blue hat, covered by his blue blanket. ‘Well it’s a boy’

‘Oh. My sister is due soon. That’s £9.86 please’

Why spend all those weeks asking me when my baby is due if you then couldn’t give a shit when it does arrive! A few weeks later the very same lady asked me if I was pregnant again. I said no, of course not, she then replied ‘Oh right, yes I look quite fat in certain outfits too’. I guess I’ll put back these bars of chocolate then...

These kind of discussions make me wonder why management are encouraging the staff to make conversation when they clearly aren’t capable of doing so. My friend was once told by a checkout operative that she looked like ‘old whatsername from Eastenders.....Sonia!’ No-one ever wants to hear that! Another friend was informed by some bitter old crone that she was lucky that she could afford all these lovely vegetables, she certainly couldn’t afford them herself, she could barely afford to feed her dog. My friend brilliantly suggested that she had it shot, then she could get herself a salad. This particular checkout hag has rattled my cage on a few occasions though, I’ve learnt not to make eye contact with her now or she will tell you all about why her hand is bandaged or some dreary tale about her probably just as annoying daughter who I’ve never met therefore have no real interest in.

I try to stick to using the self service checkouts as much as I can now, although admittedly I did find myself calling one of them a cocksucker the other day. ‘Please place your item in the bagging area’ says the unrealistically posh voice as you are trying desperately to prize one of their bags open before they call for assistance, thus forcing you to interact with one of the aforementioned life draining biddies you have been avoiding, who now comes over to tell you that you haven’t put it in the bag quick enough. I KNOW! But you’ve put 15,000 bags in a pile here and they are stuck together by a force as yet unknown to man and I can’t get them apart in time!

She then looks in your basket ‘Ooh that looks nice’. Oh piss off...

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

We go again...

As I sit experiencing the excitement and drama that is the shuffle setting on my iPod, I find myself being serenaded by the dulcet tones of John Barnes rapping away during World In Motion by New Order (englandneworder to the purists). A nice tune that stirs some memories of Italia ’90, David Platt’s last gasp winner, Chris Waddle’s disappearing mullet and some bloke from Cameroon kicking Claudio Caniggia halfway back to Argentina. Sadly there is no football tournament this year and despite the Premier League seemingly ending about 6 weeks later than usual, August and the chance to watch my beloved Oxford United seem a long way off. So with my season ticket finally purchased and with my money probably already making its way down the drain, I think back to last season and some of the highlights. However I fail to come up with anything other than one of our players trying to do to Edgar Davids what the Cameroon player had done to Caniggia.

One match does spring to mind, although I would hesitate to call it a highlight. On a surprisingly wintery Saturday afternoon in late March  I stood in sub zero temperatures, with wet feet and hard nipples, being  showered with snow and presumably spit from the ludicrously angry man behind me, watching my beloved Oxford United put in a rather pitiful display against a not-much-better Northampton Town. I watched as the final nail in the coffin of our season was being hammered in with the help of some woeful finishing by our strikers and I despaired as the midfield proved to be as creative as pissing in said snow. All of the above and the 1-0 defeat are a fairly common occurrence here, as are the repetitive and nonsensical interview with our hapless and hopeless manager Chris ‘I wouldn’t know a decent midfielder if one sat on my face’ Wilder. After the extremely welcome final whistle blew, we squelched back to the car with our lips chapped and our blains chilled and removed our slush sodden boots. We listened to the interview and shouted the same thing we had been shouting all season, mostly containing the words ‘twat’, ’useless’ and ‘fuck off, you’. ‘I don’t know what else to do’, came the sack worthy excuse from a man finally admitting what some of us had figured out months ago. Half an hour after reaching the car, we finally made it out of the car park that we had paid £4 for (I know, the cheeky bastards) and headed home along the roundabout riddled A43.

You might look at that and think ‘that sounds like a fairly crap day, no wonder she’s moaning.’ But actually I’m not. That’s just how the day went, football fans simply accept that this happens to them. We don’t stop going because there’s a good chance we might lose, we keep going because there is just as good a chance we might win. Well, maybe not just as good, but you never really know what is going to happen, it’s a risk we are happy to take. We don’t mind the weather or the wait in the car park or the lack of decent toilet facilities (yes Swindon Town, I’m looking at you). It all adds to the experience and we will happily drive hundreds of miles for the pleasure of it. I love it when people say things like ‘can’t believe you went all that way to watch them lose’. No, I went all that way to watch them play, I didn’t know they were going to lose, did I? Several years ago we won a home game 1-0 with the goal coming in the first minute and a colleague of mine decided that it must have been a dull match because it was all over after 60 seconds. That train of thought mystifies me in the same way as people who assume that 0-0 draws are always dull. You don’t know that’s going to be the final score until the whistle goes! I try to explain the beauty of unpredictability to her, but then you realise you are talking to someone who probably spent the previous evening crying over some soap storyline they read was going to happen weeks ago.

It always amazes me that people have no problem in quite aggressively expressing their hatred and lack of interest in football, more so than any other past time. It never seems to occur to them how rude or insulting they are being. They almost proudly announce that they have no understanding of the actually-quite-simple offside rule and then if you try to explain it they say ‘no don’t tell me, I don’t want to know’. Well that’s probably why you don’t understand it then. They are quite happy in their ignorance and lack of interest in something that might actually be quite important to their partner or friend or relative. I’d like to think that if someone has a real passion for a subject, that I will be decent and polite enough to let them talk about it or explain to me why it gripped them so much. I would never be so rude as to just say to them ‘no, I’m not interested, don’t talk to me about it’, even if I wasn’t that interested in it. How sad that people can’t have any respect for something that people spend so much time and money on, that stirs such a passion in them, can reduce them to tears and send them in to a state of ecstasy in the space of minutes. How sad that people can only focus on the negative aspects and not consider that actually this is quite an important part of life for some. I asked another football sceptic friend of mine once how many moments she had had in her life that made her literally jump up and down with sheer excitement and shout at the top of her voice in the way a football fan will when their team hit the back of the net. She struggled to think of any but I’ve had hundreds (should have had more admittedly but there you go) Why is something that makes you feel that way frowned upon so much, what harm does it do to anyone else? We do all realise that it’s not a matter of life and death despite Bill Shankly’s legendary and fairly ridiculous speech, it’s just a past time we enjoy and the majority of us manage to enjoy it without smashing in the faces of the opposing fans as well. As a supporter of a lower league team, I often wonder what drives the fans of clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea who expect to win every game. How can they understand the joy of standing with a couple of hundred other fans on a freezing cold evening, watching your team grind out a win against Kidderminster Harriers , or the feeling of not being able to sleep because you are still buzzing so much from knocking a team three leagues above you out of the cup. Where’s the joy for those fans in beating teams like Hull and Norwich week in, week out? That’s what they’re expected to do.

So as we trudged away from the Sixfields stadium, my brother and I chatted about the game at Swindon in August 2011 which was surely the ying to this games yang. A gloriously sunny day, our skin burning in the uncovered terrace, two beautiful goals from the rather marvellous James Constable sealing our first win at the County Ground (do your own graffiti there) for 28 years. As a game it was as close to perfection as you can get, but now felt like another lifetime. As the song from the terrace goes, I’m sure we’ll win again some sunny day.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The idiot's scrapbook.

I’ve always really liked Facebook. It gets a lot of unfair bad press, although admittedly it is mostly from papers like the Daily Mail, which is stuffed with more bile than William the Conqueror. Not so long ago I would log on to the social networking site and have long chats and debates with my friends, 50, 60 comments on each thread, all in very good humour and spirit. But all of a sudden, these thoughtful and funny threads have stopped and now you can’t move in there for people re-posting the same videos and pictures of cupcakes or variations of the ever crap ‘Keep Calm’ slogan  or ‘sharing’ these silly little paragraphs about angels. There is one I have seen a couple of times about some nosey angels that are apparently watching me, which was annoying because I still in my pyjamas when I read that and I looked terrible, you think being angels they’d at least have the decency to let me have a shower and put some underwear on. Bloody pervs. Anyway, turns out they are going to help me with two big problems I have - presumably being stalked by some feathered bloke in a dress is one of them. It then said they were going to do me a favor – hopefully learn how to spell favour – and I had to drop everything at once and share this post, but as I was reading it on my phone, I dropped that as instructed which then rendered me unable to share these words of bollocks. Suffice to say, my wish won’t be coming true and I will just have to solve my problems myself, as I did before angels learnt how to use the internet. Another one of these mumbo jumbo posts invited me to solve a couple of piss easy riddles before counting down from 10 to 1 after which it would allow me to close my eyes and make a wish. But then in a sinister twist it instructed me to share this post and my wish would come true but then threatened me that if I didn’t share it within 19 minutes then the opposite of what I wished for will come true. Well unsurprisingly I chose to not to share it and then wished to not win the lottery. That’ll show them.

I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t see at least one person, let’s call them ’bored women’,  re-posting a message, usually in a garish 1980s quiz show type font on a pink background from a page called ‘I love being a mom’, about how much they love their children. I think someone needs to tell them that actually, it isn’t unusual for parents to love their children, in fact I’d go as far as to say that it’s expected of them really. Actually I did tell them but they didn’t take any notice. So let’s just assume that we all love and are proud of our children and we’ll say no more about it, ok? My favourite ones are the pictures of dogs being booted up the arse or some other ‘heartbreaking’ image with the instruction underneath to ‘like this picture if you don’t agree with it’. What you’ve actually done is just ‘like’ a picture of a dog being booted up the arse. That’s all. That dog’s life hasn’t changed because you clicked ‘like’ but what has happened is that someone somewhere is laughing their tits off at all the fools who fell for their ploy of seeing how many people they could get to like a picture of a dog being booted up the arse. I liked the picture too, but that’s because I don’t like dogs and think it’s funny when they are booted up the arse.

Then there are the latest video crazes such as the ‘dancing’ pony or the neither funny nor clever Harlem Shake or the ear and eye torturing Gangnam Style. I’m quite happy to see videos that people enjoy, but there is very rarely anything original or a bit different there that hasn’t been posted before on numerous occasions. Facebook now seems to be just a platform for scores of talentless bastards to plug their latest bandwagon, people seem to have stopped using their brains and would now rather share undeservedly over publicised images or videos than their own thoughts, observations, opinions or humour. I try to do the latter, but because I choose not to use smiley faces, countless ‘lol’s and a ridiculous amount of unnecessary question marks, people seem unable to interpret a post as humorous or tongue in cheek anymore. The light hearted chats have petered out and unless I put anything funny that the kids might have said, my posts, which I always try to make amusing and different, are largely ignored. I find this quite frustrating when you then see someone announcing that it’s ‘Wine o’clock’ for the fourteenth week on the trot and this receives about 13 likes. I also get shouted down for these kind of comments because people can ‘put what they like in their newsfeed’, which is true for all of us including me, so fuck off of my page and stop contradicting yourself with obvious statements.  So I don’t really bother to post much anymore. The news feed cloggers have won unfortunately with their inane tripe and constant over posting of crap, so will probably put most of my thoughts on here or elsewhere from now on to avoid people grabbing the wrong end of the stick and preceding to beat me with it. Oh and  do feel free to share this blog on Facbook by the way..

Sunday, 3 February 2013

No el vino please, we're British.

According to Facebook, one of the highlights of 2012 for me was changing my profile picture to one of Shakin’ Stevens. Whilst I enjoyed that immensely, I wouldn’t put it in my top 20 to be honest. It was actually a rather lame attempt to convince everyone that I was simply having a wonderful Christmas time when the truth is it was more Mud than McCartney. This was the first Christmas for myself and my children in our new house since I split from their unfathomably absent arsehole of a father and I was determined that it was going to be festive perfection. Like most women, the preparation for Christmas inexplicably began for me sometime around 5th September, months before the irritating coca cola advert apparently makes it official by thrusting the hideous phrase ‘holidays’ in our faces. In an unusual effort to be organised, I made a list of everything I needed to do and buy so that I would not be rushing around like the purple toast shaped Mr Men character 5 days before Christmas with a lot still to do.

                So fast forward to 20th December and there I was, presents bought and wrapped, cards long since written and sent, children sat happily making paper chains and gingerbread men while the over-bearded Roy Wood serenaded us with his ridiculous notion. Yes, there I was at my friends house, and while all of the above were most definitely the case in her spotless abode, my Christmas was looking very different, Nothing wrapped, no cards sent, half the presents to buy and no time, money or motivation with which to do it. But last minute shopping looms, although not as last minute as I was expecting. Although I am a season ticket holder for Oxford United, I find myself with a free afternoon the following Saturday thanks to the postponement of the mighty yellows match against Fleetwood Town due to a sodding sodden pitch. It amazes me that despite evolving over hundreds of thousands of years, mankind has never really got used to rain. Mankind in Oxford is particularly struggling today, many hot and sweaty people panic buying in the gift section of BHS. ‘Fuck it, that’ll do’ mutters the man next to me in Debenhams as he picks up an average looking dress in probably the wrong size. There’s going to be a lucky lady on the receiving end of that in a few days time. I love looking at all the crap that shops laughably pass off as gifts, after all who wouldn’t want a set of three decorative, ceramic balls of wool or a mug wearing a jumper? Whilst browsing, I spot yet another unfunny selection of ‘Keep Calm’ merchandise. Ironically the whole range makes me very angry, thus rendering it pointless. As I walk past Calendar Club, I wonder where all the members of staff work from January to November. And where do they keep all of their shelving and signage? Surely they don’t sell enough calendars to pay for 11 months storage, staff wages and still be left with some kind of profit? High street Goliaths are toppling all around us, but the David that is Calendar Club soldiers on. The ill-fated HMV is next on my list and on one hand I hope I wasn’t too rude to the handsome young shop assistant who suggested I might be interested in treating myself to the new Michael Buble album, but on the other hand he’s lucky I didn’t throw it at his pretty face. On the depressing realisation that I look like a Michael Buble fan, I go home.

That evening I begin the arduous task of wrapping with my iPod filled with carefully selected Christmas songs blaring out. I usually seem to put at least 20 songs on that I actually hate but somehow feel obliged to listen to, but have decided this year that life is too short to listen to John and Yoko and the criminally unknown Under the Tree by the Water Babies seems like a good place to start. I doubt my technical and playlist creating skills however, when the particularly un-festive Animal by Def Leppard makes a welcome appearance, lifting my spirits more than any of the yuletide offerings had managed to do.  My attention turns to the mountain of presents that Santa is taking all the credit for and I wonder how I have made it to 34 without ever owning a sellotape dispenser. As I start to wrap, I hear footsteps on the stairs. For the first time in his entire life, my three year old son Finlay has decided to wake in the night, sneak out of bed and come downstairs for a “cuddle on the sofa”. Why he had to choose the one night when the room was filled mostly with Thomas the Tank Engine trains and merchandise is both a mystery and a massive irritation. Having ushered him back up and sung the theme tune to the 1970s slapstick fest, the Goodies to him to get him back to sleep (yes, really), I can continue the once joyful but now hideous job of wrapping the presents beautifully enough to convince my daughter Lily that Santa’s magic elves did them. Another bunch of bastards taking all the credit for my hard work. After 2 ½ hours or trying to stretch wrapping paper because I had again cut it 2mm too short, I call it a day. I log on to Facebook to be informed by many of the people that I have hastily written and sent a card to that they will not be sending cards this year, just donating to charity. That’s a lucky charity that will be getting the cash equivalent of a packet of Tesco own Christmas cards and 12 first class stamps. These are interspersed with almost identical pictures of people’s dull, colourless Christmas trees, as if anyone other than themselves gives a shit what it looks like. And what’s wrong with tinsel anyway? When did Christmas suddenly become tasteful and colour co-ordinated and people become too scared to buy interesting decorations that their kids might actually like, because it doesn’t match the colour of their sofa? Bored by the smugness of those declaring they have finished all their wrapping and are apparently now sitting down to enjoy a glass of ‘el vino’, a bafflingly over used phrase by ladies attempting to be either funny or clever and achieving neither. I decide to follow the most popular of all festive traditions, the stuffing of ones face. It's at this time of year I like to stock up on multi-packs of crisps and 'crackers for cheese' as if they will never be available again, so there are plenty to get through.
And then a few days later, it’s gone. 3 months of over planning, over spending and over eating are, ironically, over. Apart from the latter of course, we all have to quickly finish off the last of the chocolate before the diet starts in the new year, it never occurs to us that all we are doing is giving ourselves another half a stone to lose. Saying you are ‘just using it up’ doesn’t magically make the calories and fat content disappear. I look around at the piles of toys and wonder which were bought in love and which were bought in haste and I despair as I realise that I should have just wrapped up Finlay’s willy and given to him as that seems to be all he is interested in playing with. I sit and think of all the things I was going to do but never got round to and how I will do it differently next year. At this point I realise that you actually start planning for Christmas on 26th December and probably carry on throughout the year. Hmm better start making a list.

When the kids are in bed, having passed out in a chocolate induced coma, I open my own cocoa bean based treat and think of all the fun I’ve missed and all the fellas that I haven’t kissed this year. In an attempt to block out the deafening silence around me, I log on to a popular forum that I sometimes lurk on, where a woman has come on to say that she will be telling her young children that Santa doesn’t exist because she does not intend to lie to them. I can’t resist this one. I get into a bit of an argument with her after suggesting that all of us lie to our children on a regular basis, which she disputes. She did, however, seem to leave the conversation when I questioned whether it upset her children when she told them that the painting they has just done of her is actually crap and looks nothing like her or when playing peekaboo she says ‘don’t be ridiculous, of course I can see you, you’ve only got your hands over your eyes, you are still clearly visible.’ This makes me feel slightly better because whilst I might be feeling miserable, I know I am not really a miserable person.