From Ludgershall To Hollywood …

November 18, 2010

This newspaper article was sent to me recently by two friends! It relates to the republication of a book which I illustrated in 1994 (that feat of memory required a quick glimpse inside the front cover of my copy!!)

It was a bit of a labour of love to be honest – as anyone who has a knowledge of the village of Ludgershall can probably imagine!? The book itself was a meticulously researched volume penned by Ludgershall resident, Winifred Dixon. I wouldn’t say that it fell into the light reading category but I doubt whether there is a more detailed account of the history of Ludgershall. All the illustrations, including the dust wrapper, are of local landmarks – including the two local hostelries! Joking apart, I think all the drawings are very decent and I was proud of the finished article. It’s a bit surreal to see your own pieces of work in a book!! You can check out my illustrations on my website by clicking here.

And even more surreal is the fact that now it appears that my work is being stored somewhere on the bookshelves of Hollywood superstar, Susan Sarandon – who’d have thought it?

Apparently the book is being republished in paperback. Get your copy fast – I can see these literally flying off the shelves of your local Waterstones! The perfect Christmas present perhaps? Actually no, the perfect Christmas present would be a print of one of the original drawings for the book! And to coincide with the republication I have some available! Just follow this link back to my website. Go on, treat yourself – you know you want to!


Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue …

October 14, 2010

Hooray! The international break is over. And what a particularly boring interlull it was too – dredging the very depths of pointless tedium.

During the international breaks I tend to ignore football and get on with life as best I can …

Something Old – I popped down to the Railway in Winchester to catch Wilko Johnson live – anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I was a big Dr Feelgood fan.

Something New – up to the Enterprise at Camden to watch The Moons in a broom cupboard above the bar – great tunes, great vibe, great night!

Something Borrowed – had a go on my brother’s brand spankers carbon racing bike – very nice – makes mine feel like a Penny Farthing (note to self – save harder)

Something Blue – Yeeessssss!!!!! Football’s back – Birmingham City are in town for a spot of Wengerball in N5.

I look forward to the Birmingham game (always assuming that they haven’t been so careless as to lose their top flight status!?) for a couple of very good reasons; a) we tend to reap maximum points at home and b) one of my best mates happens to be a season ticket holder at the Blues and always makes the trip down to the Big Smoke. So it’s a good opportunity for a bit of friendly disagreement over a few pints and then decamp to the ground to watch the Brummies chasing shadows for an hour and a half!

I don’t expect the pattern to be altered that much on Saturday! I’m expecting us to perform properly and give Birmingham a right chasing. We were abject against the Albion – and although we had a lot of possession at the Bus Stop we ended up with the usual return – zip. Chelsea know how to beat us – and if we don’t take our chances – they do. The Chelsea result is not disastrous by any means but we desperately need an improvement on Saturday and a minimum of maximum points (does that make sense?!)

I don’t think any of our balsa framed players were damaged during the week and there is talk of a partial vacuum in the treatment room – save of course for JW who was in there having splinters removed from his arse. So, no further injuries and, shock horror, injured players recovering – whatever next?! According to reports even Almiunia is fit (for f@#k all?) giving Wenger a bit of a keeper dilemma. Not in my book – Fabianski must start – I’m to be converted but he did okay in Europe and also against the Chavs so he must surely get the nod. Gibbs is available and Sagna is injured so a back four of Eboue, Squillaci, Koscielny and Clichy/Gibbs ought to cope. I’d pick Gibbs ahead of Clichy every day of the week – not because I don’t rate Clichy – just because I reckon Gibbs is better.

Midfield – who knows? Wilshere for sure, Nasri and maybe Diaby. Up front I’d go with Rosicky, Arshavin and Chamakh. If Bendtner is as ready as he says then it may be a chance to give Chamakh a breather? I reckon Cesc, Theo and Bendtner will be on the bench and should figure at some stage if things go to plan.

And what of Birmingham? I don’t know and, to be honest, I don’t really care. That’s not any form of misplaced arrogance – it’s just that if we play like we can then we should beat them comfortably at THOF – end of story.

So I’m looking forward to Saturday – I’m gonna sink a few pints, argue with an old mate and watch the Arse get back on track with a thumping win! What better way to bring the curtain down on another dreary international break?

The Wheeler Dealer and the Wheel Deal

September 22, 2010

I have to be honest that I was a little worried about Arsenal’s visit to the marshlands of N17 to play the Tinys in the Carling Cup. I assumed that Wenger’s team sheet would be packed with youngsters blessed with huge talent but obviously lacking in experience at the highest level. I had also assumed that ‘Arry would select a strong team which would eventually overcome our youngsters. Therefore I predicted a tricky night for us.

The Wheeler Dealer ...

How I laughed when I saw the teams – Arsenal a useful looking blend of youth and experience – Tottenham surprisingly weakened. The Wheeler Dealer probably set a new Olympic twitching record when he surveyed the opposition team sheet – I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that rancid dressing room.

I was full of optimism as I tuned into one of the live streams to watch the match. It was only the Carling Cup though – bollocks – it was a North London Derby and for that reason alone it counted.

... and the Wheel Deal

I was not disappointed as the boys in red and white gave the hapless Tiny Totts a comprehensive footballing lesson in the first half. Our skill and effort were rewarded as early as the 16th minute when a great move resulted in Wilshere crossing low for young Lansbury to ghost in to finish with aplomb from close range. I was out of my seat! Until half time Arsenal continued to dominate with the sparkling JW pulling all the strings from midfield. That lad has everything – the only thing missing is experience – and that will come with every game he plays dominates. He got kicked throughout by the arseholes in white but just got on with the job of making them look daft.

While the teams departed for the dressing rooms at half time, I was racing to the fridge for a top up – I was in the mood to celebrate. I somehow managed to arrive back at the computer 5 minutes late for the second half and consequently missed us contriving to allow that mallet headed pikey to equalise with a jammy offside goal. F@#k it! It took me a while to work out that the Totts had brought on both Keane and Lennon – the commentators marvelling at another ‘Arry substitution masterstroke. My arse – it was an obvious substitution (I bet he wished he started both) and they scored a lucky goal gifted to them by the linesman and Fabianski.

Arsenal took a while to regain the ascendency but they surely did. Gibbs didn’t give Lennon a sniff and Keane is just shit. Arsene introduced Arshavin and Chamakh with 20 minutes to go, our midfield once again took control and we finished normal time well on top.

What unfolded in for extra time was hilarious. Two converted penalties in 5 minutes had me jumping around and laughing uncontrollably. The clever fourth fashioned by JW and finished by our Russian Doll simply put the icing on the cake and ensured that the scoreline reflected the dominance Arsenal enjoyed almost throughout.

Jack Wilshere deservedly grabbed the headlines this morning but I thought everybody played well. Koscielny had another excellent game – he looks like a great buy – the Arsenal back line is starting to look reassuring solid.

A Nasty Case Of The Trots …

September 10, 2010

I used to loathe Bolton Wanderers. Actually, that’s not true – I loathe Sam Allardyce – ergo I loathed Bolton when the chubby Allardyce hands were gripping the Trotters’ tiller. Under Megson they were just crap. Recently they’ve had a Coyle fitted and things have started to settle down at the Reebok. We even entrusted young Jack to them for the second part of last season. In truth there were probably worse places for him to go. Owen Coyle will try to play more football than Fat Sam (actually that’s not saying much, Long John Silver could play more football than him) but they will always have a rough edge while people like Kevin Davies and Gary Cahill are on the payroll.

F@#k it!

Let’s hope Coyle doesn’t get them playing as much football as they did back in February 1994 when Bolton beat Arsenal at Highbury in an FA Cup 4th Round replay. Coyle scored a late equaliser at Burnden Park to force a replay in North London. I watched the replay from the Lower Tier of the new North Bank and it is still an unpleasant memory etched in my mind. Bolton had some decent players – Coyle himself, John McGinlay and a young Jason McAteer. McAteer was everywhere – they played us off the park and ran out deserved 3-1 winners. What a shitty night! Bolton have beaten Arsenal on the odd occasion since then but none of the defeats has been as humiliating as that one – in fact that’s the worst case of the Trots that I’ve ever had!

Tomorrow Bolton visit the Grove and I think it will be an interesting game which we should win fairly comfortably if we perform. We should have far too much firepower for them but Coyle will have them organised and they won’t resort to Fat Sam’s rudimentary and, dare I say, agricultural methods. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not Brazil but they will play to their strengths by getting the ball up to Kevin Davies as often as possible. The much maligned Davies is not a bad player at all – he makes life difficult for defenders and works incredibly hard. His touch is okay and he reads the game well – all this is augmented by the fact that he’s a dirty f@#ker. I will be interested to see how our centre backs (whoever they are) cope. Rumour has it that the Verminator is sidelined (one of his servo motors has packed up – apparently it’s a common fault on cyborgs of that model). So perhaps Squillachi will make his debut? Koscielny and Squillachi have previously never played against eachother never mind together so Gawd knows what will happen?

Theo and RVP will keep eachother company in the infirmary for up to 6 weeks by all accounts – no real surprises there. We should have plenty of other attacking options – I’m not overly worried. Rosicky, Arshavin and Chamakh will keep them occupied.

If we play well Bolton won’t be able to live with us (despite the injuries) and I fully expect people like Cesc and Diaby to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Our untried CB pairing means I think we may concede – so I’ll go for 3-1 to the Arsenal tomorrow.

International Rescue

September 7, 2010

I don’t mind admitting that the ‘international breaks’ bore the hell out of me! I was forced to endure England’s pathetic performances during the Summer and as soon as the new season kicked off, the Premier League program is suspended for a fortnight so that we can be further entertained by our over rated shower of shitbags attempting to qualify in grand style for another tournament which will no doubt result in disappointing failure.

I watched the Bulgaria game a) because it was on terrestrial telly, and b) because Theo was in the side and I was curious to see just how England would seek to nullify his attacking threat. The inclusion of Kieran Gibbs in the squad had me praying for a serious injury to Ashley Cole even more than I normally would.

Is This England?

Walcott had a half decent game – nothing special, fleeting glimpses of what we know he can do. What is it with the media and Walcott? The match commentators kept wittering on about him and his unbelievable start to the season with Arsenal and then about his football brain (which he doesn’t possess apparently) and then about his increased confidence etc etc. F@#k me, why don’t they just let him get on with it? I ended up muting the telly and sticking a record on! What I did notice though, was that his England teammates (in the loosest sense of that word) don’t seem to have a clue about how to integrate him effectively. Arsenal manage to get the ball to him in good attacking situations most of the time – they know when and how to bring him into the game so that he can burst past his marker and into the danger areas. England are another kettle of fish – they pass to him when he is closed down and when he is in a good position he is ignored – the ball played infield or over to the other flank. Theo seems to cut a pretty isolated figure at times – or am I just imagining it?

No - This Is England

So – I’m almost glad that tonight’s game is on Sky – I can get on with something else – maybe write a new post? Later on I noticed that Channel 4 are screening ‘This Is England ’86’ – Shane Meadow’s follow up to his great film. What a treat! I loved ‘This Is England’ and I’m a big fan of Shane Meadows. To accompany this, Film 4 are running a mini Meadows season – consisting of ‘Once Upon A Time In The Midlands’ and ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’. I’ve seen both and they’re cracking films. Dead Man’s Shoes, in particular, is memorable – crackling with violence and revenge – Meadows collaborator Paddy Considine plays a soldier returning to his home town with a score to settle. It’s a belter that you can’t take your eyes off for one minute.

So when I’m through with ignoring the game in Switzerland, I’ll be heading over for the first episode of ‘This Is England ’86’ which finishes just in time for me to set a course for BBC1 to watch ‘La Bamba’ – a biopic charting the (short) life of Ritchie Valens. I’ve never quite got my head around how three well known 50’s recording artists all died tragically in the same plane crash. Unsurprisingly, another (similarly ill-fated) contemporary of Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper – Eddie Cochran – also features in the film and I noticed that he is played by Brian Setzer – perfect! I thought the Stray Cats were a great band so this is another reason not to miss this one.

Bolton at home this Saturday – normal service resumes – can’t wait! RVP is injured, the Pope continues to practise Roman Catholicism and last night I saw an interesting nature program which featured a bear shitting in the woods.

Cortina Trap

September 1, 2010

A while ago, I can’t remember exactly when, me and Erixx were chatting about the Clash’s ‘Janie Jones’ and what a fantastic song it was is. And more specifically about the reference to a Ford Cortina [‘that just won’t run without fuel …’]. And then I immediately thought of Tom Robinson’s ode to the much maligned motor – ‘Grey Cortina’ – another great tune by the way. And it’s always the Mk III version which springs to mind – the ubiquitous motor car whose styling, for some reason, reminded me of Thunderbird 2. The possibility of a two-litre lump combined with a black vinyl roof proved irresistable to many a boy racer in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

MkIII Cortina - boy racer's dream!

Could we put together a Cortina based Top 5 between us? A few more minutes rather half hearted efforts only yielded a tenuous link to the Courteeners and that was that! Oh well. In the meantime however, I have realised that we had overlooked a couple of gems that I know reside in both our record collections. The first is the Jam’s ‘Saturdays Kids’ who, amongst other things, drove Ford Cortinas with fur trimmed dashboards. The other one I remembered more recently is ‘Billericay Dickie’ – Ian Dury’s loveable Essex rogue who had a ‘love affair with Nina in the back of his Cortina’.

I sort of dried up a bit after those four – I could of course complete matters with The King’s ‘Suspicious Minds’ which immortalises Dagenham’s finest in its opening line ‘We’re cortina trap, I can’t walk out …’ – but that’s probably stretching it a bit – but hey, I’m struggling and this is my game so I’ll allow it!!!

Forget Cadillacs, Corvettes, Ferraris and other exotic marques that are easy to wax lyrical about – my mind had already wandered onto other dodgy British motors that have been immortalised in song. Wreckless Eric’s Ford Zodiac in the brilliant ‘Recconez Cherie’, ‘From A Vauxhall Velox’ by Billy Bragg and even the hard up Stranglers who ‘didn’t have the money round to buy a Morry Thou’ in their 1977 ditty ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’. Dr Feelgood’s Lee Brilleaux once complained, ‘I bought a brand new motor … and I’m waitin’ for a loan so I can fill her up and start her … Then I’m going back home’. He was unspecific about the make but I’m struggling to conjure up images of anything too flashy!? In my mind it would have been a second hand Zephyr or something similar.

And all these motors had something about them, I suppose. I haven’t come across any songs referencing such piles of shite as the Hillman Imp, Vauxhall Chevette, Austin/Morris 1100, Morris Marina or Austin Allegro (by the way – didn’t BL produce some real horrors back then?)

… and just for the record a Cortina based Top 5 has been added to the list!

‘Fill her up, Jacko!!’

Beauty And The Beast

August 26, 2010

The Lord Wenger and some fat bastard ...

Saturday’s performance at home against a rather hapless Blackpool produced a great result – the scoreline emphasising the one-sidedness of the contest. I’m not getting carried away in any sense, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Premier League newcomers being systematically dismantled by a very exciting Arsenal team. Towards the end I even felt a little sorry for Blackpool whose task was going to be difficult enough even with a full complement – the sending off effectively ending the game as a contest before half time. The side from the North West have a likeable and honest manager and they want to play football so I hope they survive. Unlike our next opponents from the same area of the country – whose manager and playing style I detest. Yes, Saturday sees The Gunners visit those anti-footballing shitkickers who ply their ‘trade’ at Ewood Park.

Allardyce always sends his teams out to disrupt us with strong arm tactics – a strategy where the ball often seems almost irrelevant. Last season’s encounter up there was so disappointing – from the crude tactics adopted by the home team to Arsenal’s poor defensive display and lack of steel which resulted in our ultimate capitulation. And how the pundits and the rest of the assembled media loved it – Arsenal’s weak and cowardly fancy dans undone yet again by some proper men from the North West (aided in no small part by some myopic leniency on the part of the ref). In truth we defended poorly that day – insufficient pressure on the man in possession allowing all those high balls to be rained into the box. It made a nervous looking Fabianski appear very poor and I couldn’t help feeling that it wasn’t all his fault.

So, Saturday will be interesting. Any win will do – but to win in style would be good, playing a bit of nice football when we can and making sure we get in their faces a bit too. These days our ‘young’ players should have the nous to go away from home and make fools of teams like Blackburn. Looking around the squad I also think we can impose ourselves physically and give those arseholes something to think about – Chamakh’s a big strong lad, Song and Diaby too – Vermaelen is made from titanium and has been sent from the future to help us in situations like these – and even the littl’uns like Cesc and Jack can look after themselves.

We need to win – because of the result last year – because Chelsea and Man U will win there – and because it might signal the start of a coming of age for this team which promises so much (and one which I’m sure will deliver ultimately). I want us to win because we play fantastic football and I’m offended by the physical anti-footballing approach of sides like Blackburn.

A quick word about the seemingly imminent arrival of Sebastian Squillaci – if he puts pen to paper, I think this could be just the sort of signing we need – an experienced and uncompromising defender – good in the air and, by all accounts, a hard bastard. This would provide another option at the back – especially for games like Blackburn away – we have a few of those to come (e.g. for Blackburn substitute Stoke).