Dear Diary... June 2003

Saturday 28th June - Bad hair day

I'm still in shock over Foé's death (see below) but coming to terms with it now. The fact that so many City fans have been down to Maine Road to pay homage says it all, I think. The ground is now full of tributes from the fans, with one most notably having Foe 23 RIP on the back of the shirt that was left there. City have retired the number 23 shirt as a mark of respect, which is a lovely gesture. Let's hope FIFA also follow through their idea that the Confederations Cup be renamed the Foé Cup as well, and maybe give it to Cameroon permanently if they win on Sunday. The players were asked if they wanted to play and as one they all want to win it for him. It'll be an emotional final but I am sure all the players will want to put on a dazzling show in his honour.

Anyway, I caught a glimpse of Big Brother last night while channel hopping (this series has been crap and I've refused to watch it - all the women have been really awful) and had to comment about Davina McCall. What has she done to her hair? It looks awful. There was a time when Davina had a razor bob and with the clothes she wore, she looked very lovely (in fact she'd regularly be one of my top 10 babes if that gives you an idea). Unfortunately she developed a condition known as Carol Vorderman Syndrome * which meant ultimately I went off her (ooh, I'm so fickle aren't I?) - and as for last night, the hair just doesn't work, it makes her look a bit, well, unattractive, actually. Looks like she just got out of the shower and left it to dry without giving a thought to styling it. Not good.

My cousin Alison gets married tomorrow, and it'll be a lovely wedding I'm sure. They're getting married in this really nice hotel which is dead posh, but because it's a civil service, none of the readings or anything like that can mention religion (probably a good thing) because it's not a place of worship. This just shows religion for what it is - thinking believing in it, you can be above all else. Anyway, can't wait to go. It's rare you see a couple so well suited but they are really happy together - and as a sign, it's more like they're best friends than anything else. And when the person you love is your best friend, that brings you a heck of a lot closer. Believe me, it happened even to me once or twice. I can't wait, it'll be lovely, and with that, adieu for this month!

* (for those of you wondering, Carol Vorderman Syndrome is a condition name invented by me (yes, I have copyright on the phrase, okay?) which was inspired by the TV presenter of the same name. Carol used to be on the TV quiz show Countdown for years, then all of a sudden she got put on to another TV show, Better Homes, and within about a year she seemingly was almost on everything on UK terrestrial television meaning the public got sick of her being on everything and started to dislike her. Thus the syndrome is when someone else does what Carol did.)

Thursday 26th June - Numb

I've just found out that Cameroon international footballer (and on loan to Manchester City from Lyon last season) Marc-Vivien Foé has died in tragic circumstances in Cameroon's Confederations Cup semi-final against Columbia. The fact Cameroon won will not be remembered, but the unfortunate sudden collapse and heart attack leading to attempts to recussitate the player, and failing. I'm just really numbed for words to describe how I feel right now. You don't expect a professional footballer, who'd just had a pretty decent season playing for us (second top scorer don't forget, not bad for a midfielder) and won over most of the fans with his hard working determined performances. The turning point was his goal against Sunderland and that was it - he was on his way, scoring twice against Villa and Charlton, scored at Goodison against Everton and helped himself to another couple against Sunderland later on the season just for good measure. Although sometimes fans' opinion was divided, he did get stuck in a fair bit and that's what most of us like to see.

What argubaly makes it even more upsetting was that the semi final was being played at Lyon's ground, where unless he moved elsewhere could have been back there playing next season. I've seen some events in my time, including Paul Lake swallowing his tongue against Leicester back in 1989, and that scared a lot of us but due to the fast reactions of the city physio, Roy Bailey, Lakey was saved and made a full recovery. That was scary enough. When I saw the footage of him collapsing that Channel 5 showed just before, I cried, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's gut wrenching, especially if he was going to sign permanently for us next season.

I just feel really numb inside and just hope that City pay tribute properly - a minute's silence against Barcelona and maybe some or all of the proceeds to his wife and newborn child as a show of support from us. What's been nice to see is the solidarity amongst all football fans posted on City fan site message boards - it shows the true nature amongst genuine football fans and is something worth noting in this dark time, I think.

Take care Marc, we'll all miss you mate.

Sunday 22nd June - The summer's so bright, I've gotta wear shades

The last couple of weeks have been okay weather wise, but when the sun does come out it's very bright, and my poor little eyes have been suffering a little bit. I managed to do something about it yesterday by getting myself a decent pair of sunglasses - for a pound! And they were pretty effective too. I'd have got a pair earlier mind you,but the problem is most of them don't suit my face too well and either make me look like a geek or make me look more rotund in the face department, so managaing to find a pair I actually look okay in was half the battle. It was just a bonus it happened to be one of the pound shops that I found it in. Ah, the pound shops are marvellous - you can get just about anything for a pound in one of them, and a local one near us (Levenshulme Bargain Store) also gets good business from me as they have all the things I need occasionally for not much dosh.

Finally got to see The Matrix Reloaded this weekend. And what did I think of it? Well, as I'm not going to do a full review, I'll say that it's good, but definitely not as good as The Matrix. The problem for me was that it took too long to get going (although I appreciate the fact that most of the plot had to be explained to make the watcher understand more about what Zion was about) and the ending, with there being a concluding part The Matrix Revolutions due in November, was a complete cop-out and reminded me of the two part episodes of something like Star Trek: The Next Generation. If they'd have ended it with what Neo dreams about in the start and left the viewers in a cliff-hanger until The Matrix Revolutions that would have been a lot better. Despite this, there are some good kick ass moments in it, but most of them you'll have seen with the trailer. I'll leave you to decide and see for yourself if it's worth it or not, but be quick as judging by how empty AMC Manchester was on Friday, it might not be on for too much longer.

Got the City DVD and duly reviewed it (see here) and overall I must admit I've been watching certain parts of the DVD quite a few times, especially a certain derby game at Maine Road and the win over Liverpool. Ah, happy memories. Talking of City, we're in the UEFA Cup as you know, and who do we get in the draw? Total Network Solutions Llansantffraid in Wales! We knew we had a chance of drawing them and I had a feeling we'd get them, and we did. The first leg's at the City of Manchester Stadium on Thursday 14th August, and then the away leg (most likely at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground, as TNS' ground is too small for UEFA regulations etc) is on Thursday 28th. Of course, we have to win on aggregate and then we're in the first round proper, where teams who lose in the Champions League 3rd qualifying round and Intertoto Cup winners also come in. I just hope we can put a decent run together and try and emulate the 1978/79 side, who got through to the quarter finals before losing to the eventual winners Borussia Mönchengladbach (try saying that after a few beers!) and beating AC Milan along the way. I can't see us doing that but I just hope we do okay. It might just give us a foundation for the next few seasons and also a taste of things to come.

Wednesday 18th June - Feed The Goat the MBE

I should have mentioned this in my last diary entry, but I'll do it now. Shaun Goater MBE received his award as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to football. You see, the wonderful Goat who'd been such a great servant to my beloved Man City for years always went home every summer and organised soccer schools and coaching for all the Bermudan kids, and made them feel valued as well as been a perfect example role model for them all. It was no surprise a few years back when the Bermudan Government announced every June 21st would be National Shaun Goater Day, and his exploits are closely followed by all Bermudan football fans. Over there he's idolised just as much as the Japanese seem to like some ex- number 7 wearing Man U player, so that says something I guess. This year, the Goat did a Grass Roots soccer festival, managed to get Nicolas Anelka over to present the prizes, and on top of that got the City Academy Under 17 side to play against a Bermudan Select XI in a special one-off game. Now if that isn't giving back what you put in, nothing is. He also carried their flag at the 2002 Commowealth Games in Manchester as well as carried the baton as part of the relay, legend of Maine Road that he is.

So imagine every City's fan pleasant surprise Saturday morning to wake up and find The Goat was now an MBE for all the work he's done for Bermudan sport and his services. Even though it seems every year there are people who get honours who shouldn't really get one (and lots of unsung heroes who aren't famous that richly deserve their awards, I should add) The Goat's is richly deserved. In typically modest fashion, he was gobsmacked but mightily proud at the same time, which just endears him to us City fans more than ever. We're all going to be sorry to see him play for someone else eventually, but there'll always be a part of him at City, for that there is no doubt in my mind anyway. Feed The Goat the MBE, feed the goat the MBE :)

Elsewhere, it's been quite quiet really, although I managed to make a few people's day by spotting that The Young Ones Series 2 is coming out on DVD in August. At last! And you can now pre-order from Play if you click this link, too. I'm so chuffed. It has all the best episodes on, including Bambi (where they all go on University Challenge and Motorhead play Ace of Spades in the house) and Nasty (where they get a video recorded and Vyvyan tries to clean it by putting washing up liquid into it - classic). Put it this way, the second series was better than the first and possibly amongst the finest comedy episodes ever written. Yes, that's how good they are and I can see it shifting just a few copies. Get it ordered. Now. And that's an order.

Monday 16th June - It's all happening

Well, another fairly hectic weekend ensued really. First off, my brother was over on Sunday to put the last couple of flags down for the flagged area of the garden. The problem was that even with a decent angle grinder, the paving stones I had (which I should add were very kindly left behind by the previous owners) were rock hard to grind through. Cue a mad dash to B&Q Warehouse by me to go and get some more stone grinding wheels for the angle grinder, good job I got six as my brother needed five of them just to go through three flag stones (that must be how tough they were). Anyway, it's all done now and it really does look lovely, the little bench chair is made too so I can sit outside with just a few thoughts mingling around, so that will be great. Have to start thinking about getting a barbecue now, maybe a portable one I can just set up when I want and lock away in the shed when it's not used - that might be a good idea.

Unfortunately my Nokia Mediamaster 221T Freeview box decided to conk out though. It crashed, and when I re-powered it up, it just flashed both lights for a little bit, then flashed red both times and didn't play ball. Thankfully a quick trip back to Dixons did the job nicely and I have to say the customer service by St Anne's Square branch was exemplary (a rare breed) and swapped me the box out no problem. Thankfully I'd kept the original box so I just boxed up the old one with all the accessories and took it back. If you put a bit of effort in to look after your kit, the retailer's more obliged to help you, I always feel. So I have a replacement box and it's nice and efficient as ever, in fact probably more so. My guess is I just got unlucky with the one I got and could have been a one-off (these things happen: my condenser dryer kept blowing fuses when I got it and then when I got it replaced: perfecto every time) and so as long as people are nice to you about it, all well and good.

I took the time out to go and do a bit of shopping Saturday, not least to get my uncle's 40th birthday present (hope he likes it - not that I'm revealing what it is as he'll probably read this page!). It amazed me how busy it was just because the weather was nice, and in Piccadilly Gardens the little children were with their parents running around in the fountains there, which was nice to see that after a hard day's shopping, the kids were rewarded for being good by taking a dip and letting themselves cool down nicely. And Saturday evening I was sat outside Ra!n in Manchester with a friend, putting the world to rights while at the same time taking the view from the first floor balcony, dead nice to be high up there and getting a bit of the evening breeze at the same time. Yaay.

I received an email from Jan at A6 Poets letting me know they'd received my haiku poems okay for the page. So keep an eye on the page as hopefully some more of my work will be up there. As the main subject matter is the main road (Stockport Road, the A6) which is near my house, and as I've travelled up and down it more times than I care to remember, it wasn't difficult to find any sort of inspiration and all the poetry came naturally to me. It sometimes happens like that when you're inspired and you can just rattle things off.

Now just to wait for the new Man City DVD to come from Play so I can review it...

Monday 9th June - A long weekend

Long weekend it was, and not even in the pursuit of a leisure break of anything like that! Well, my broadband connection was supposed to go live Thursday, but there were a few problems which my ISP's technical support people very kindly sorted out - turned out it was a problem between BT and them which they had to kick BT's ass over. Much thanks to Dmoz (or some similar name) in the support department! Anyway, so decided to start stripping the walls in preparation for my mass decorating of bedroom spree over the weekend. I got about half of that done, and then some done on the Friday night as well - by which time broadband was live. It was so tempting to go and look at a myriad of web sites, because I could, but resisted temptation and got on with the important things. With a fair wedge of help from my uncle on Saturday night, and my brother on Sunday, they gave me the confidence to wallpaper the remainder of the room myself. I'll be the first to admit it's not brilliant, but it does do the job nonetheless and looks rather modern and futuristic in this metallic like silver colour. It's different for sure, but very me and that's what matters.

Not stopping there, my brother kindly did the decking over the weekend for us - the back yard now has a flagged area near the back door, and then the rest of the yard has this rather nice timber decking which has all been treated before I got it (so it lasts ages) and it's really a nice colour wood too. I was expecting it to be costly for the wood for the base and the timber to deck itself, but it wasn't too bad really. And as a bonus, it looks really nice and there's some wood left over so that's probably going to be made into a little chair or something so I can sit outside when it supposedly gets really hot outside. Well, we'll have to see about that one, you know what the great British weather is like.

Enough of the domesticated diary for now, I think. I'm completely appalled at one cover version I heard this weekend, as soon as I was chatting to my cousin Alison and mentioned it to her, she knew what I was on about as well. Jennifer Ellison (the actress who plays Emily Shadwick in the UK TV soap Brookside) has decided to only go and do an appalling cover of Transvision Vamp's "Baby I Don't Care" Oi! Jennifer! NOOOOOOOOO! It really is dire, and might even make my own top 10 of bad cover versions (yes folks, it's really bad). Now my coz was quite a Transvision Vamp fan back then so some of those songs shouldn't be touched (I tend to agree, actually) because you need someone as bold and in your face as Wendy James to carry it off properly, not some loudmouth girl who's more famous for going out with Liverpool footy players instead of trying to act properly (part of the reason I don't watch Brookside anymore - it went down the tubes a few years back and never recovered..)

Oh, if you want to buy yourself a classic album for not much dosh, head over to Play and get yourself Rollins Band's "Weight" for a mere £3-99. Trust me, you'll be glad you did. You can then understand just why it's one of my all time favourites, and why also it adds to the whole enigma of why Henry Rollins himself is one of the people I look up to in life. He doesn't just write music - he does a lot of spoken word talking shows which are hilariously funny, he writes poems and books, stars in films and these days presents Full Metal Challenge on Channel 4 - perfect for him it is as well. And watching that on a Sunday afternoon has proven to be rather addictive...

Wednesday 4th June - Two into one does go after all

Got up this morning, thinking it was just another ordinary day at work, and by 11am, it was confrmed that my beloved City had gone and signed two new players, both on one year deals - first, midfielder Michael Tarnat from Bayern Munich and then keeper David Seaman from Arsenal. Naturally, the Seaman signing has had more publicity over here because there'd been specualtion for weeks that the FA Cup final could be his last game for Arsenal. However, I must admit I'm more delighted about the Tarnat signing. He's a quality midfielder, and one of the most powerful left feet in German football (if you've seen any of his free kicks, you'll understand what I mean here). Plus of course he has that German "we will not be beaten" attitude that will probably do well for us to have instilled in a few more players as well and change that supposed losing mentality City sometimes have. And with Seaman, well, I'd rather we promote a younger keeper through the ranks, but experience does count a lot. Just ask any Sheffield United fan about his wonder save in the FA Cup semi and they'll tell you. Of course, the prospect of European football is something that will entice a few more players, so bring it on!

My ADSL broadband connection should go live tomorrow (I got an email from my ISP confirming it) and so in preparation I went and bought myself a PCI ADSL modem yesterday - this decent Zoom one which looks pretty much the business. Put the CD in and ran it before putting the card in, it installed all the stuff it needed to run a setup on reboot, I then shut down and put the card in, everything seemed fine thus far. Until it ran the setup on restart and Windows installed the drivers, that is. As soon as it tried to install the Zoom PCI Arbitration Device (for those of you who have noname branded PCI ADSL modems, it'll probably be called Conexant Access Runner PCI Arbitration Device) Windows 98 hung on me. And again. And again. I had seen this problem once before when I first got my current motherboard and tried to use my Matrox Mystique I had at the time - that too kept crashing if I tried to use the bus mastering option in the drivers - and I resolved that by changing a BIOS setting. After a couple of attempts of changing one settings, I finally remembered it - I had to turn off "Delay Transaction" (sometimes this may be called PCI Delay Transaction in your BIOS) in the advanced settings, and it worked a treat after that, installing every device it needed to without any problems. Yeehah! I then set up the appropriate dial up networking connection for ADSL on my ISP (have to set specific settings you see) and so I should be ready to go on Thursday. Fingers crossed, of course, that it'll work. It should do, provided I place the microfilter in the phone socket nearest the PC it should play ball quite happily.

Must admit I've been glad of the odd rain shower we had today - just to cool things off a bit weather wise. It's not the heat per se that does me in, it's the humidity, in somewhere like Manchester this really does get to you. The building where I work in is also very humid and so you do find you get sticky very quickly, which isn't nice. Thank heavens my house has ceiling fans in the downstairs rooms, what a godsend they are, they do the job really well when you need to cool down and chill out. And admittedly, I've been doing that lately too. I even dug out some of my old vinyl 7" singles and gave them a whirl - classics like the Banana Splits theme as covered by punk band The Dickies, Jilted John's self-titled single (simply class), Orgasm Addict by The Buzzcocks, and all that sort of thing. One thing I have been playing a lot though, I admit, are Skunk Anansie. Of course they're split up now, but with lead singer Skin releasing a solo album this week, time to go through my extensive back catalogue (I have all their CD singles and CD albums!) and in particular, play the Selling Jesus CD single. Their first single from the debut album Paranoid and Sunburnt, and it rocks. As do the B-sides, especially Skunk Song, which I've been lucky enough to mosh like a madman to when I first saw them live in January 1996 at Manchester Uni. One of my favourite gigs ever, it has to be...

Monday 2nd June - Europe, here we come!

I can't believe how happy I am today. I had an average day at work, but come home and find that my beloved Man City are in Europe, and in the UEFA Cup for next season. I've been on tenterhooks for the last few weeks hoping we might just sneak this, but basically as England finished top of the European Fair Play league table this season, it means England's nominated team get an entry into the UEFA Cup. Now, although City finished fifth in the English fair play tables, the four teams above them had already qualified for Europe anyway, so it was down to us to be nominated. Now, I would admittedly rather the team that finish 7th, namely Everton, take this one on merit as they finished above us, but I don't make the rules and if that's what UEFA want, I'll take it thank you very much. It does mean though that as we have to qualify through the preliminary round, we await the draw on June 20th with baited breath to see who we get in mid-August. One thing's for sure though: I bet the new stadium will be quite full, whoever we play. It's our first foray into Europe since a quite eventful UEFA Cup run in 1978-79 (and in that run, we beat AC Milan 5-2 on aggregate including a class 2-2 draw at the San Siro, then crushed them 3-0 at Maine Road) so many of us will be pretty excited to say the least. One downer is though that as UEFA Cup games are on a Thursday night, a fair number of our games are going to be on a Sunday. But that's the price you pay for being in Europe. I can't believe it still. City - in Europe. YES!

I was out enjoying myself down the pub yesterday and the conversation turned to good cover versions in music and which were also bad. It's intriguing sometimes to see a band cover an original song by another band and see how well they do with it - although there's also a part of me which is very sceptical and doesn't like the fact that many covers really do their best to ruin the original. Ever Fallen In Love? by Fine Young Cannibals for example, ruins the original Buzzcocks classic, or even Paul Young's brutal mudering of Joy Division's classic of all time Love Will Tear Us Apart. You get the idea. Now, with all things musical, it's subjective, and tastes do differ greatly between people. This is why I decided of the idea of a poll to see which is the best and worst cover versions according to you, dear reader. Simply fill out the poll here (it'll be linked from the main page also) and nominate your 10 best and worst ones accordingly. The page will tell you how it all works, and you have until the end of August to decide and send your votes in - if you dare. As I said, it is subjective and what one person likes won't be the same as another - far from it. But hopefully the good ones will stand out without question. Of course, I've pretty much nominated mine but I won't tell you what they are until after the poll (that along with the results will be on my music pages), so you can be kept in suspense for a bit.

Now to brush up on my German, just in case we get a German team in Europe next season. Entschuldigungen Sie. Wie komme ich am besten zum Fußballstadion, bitte?

Sunday 1st June - Monte Carlo or bust

Today is the Monaco Grand Prix at Monte Carlo, possibly the most exciting Formula 1 race of them all. At first glance you wouldn't think so, the circuit is only 2 miles long, and it's mainly raced around the streets. But there's where the excitement lies - it's the only F1 circuit that is a street race (a shame there isn't more) and anything can happen with miles of Armco barrier so close to you. However, only the truly great drivers on the whole do win here too, so it is a test of skill. I'll be munching on snacks for my lunch while I watch the race (a bit of a tradition in the Towers, actually) and like many of us we hope for lots of excitement and incident. Not least as it's ridiculously hard to pass at Monaco anyway (the roads are so narrow..)

There are, of course, cynics who say people only watch F1 for the crashes. Well, I don't mind someone going off if they're battling for position, but a car failure which endangers the life of a driver isn't good. Yesterday Jenson Button went off due to a slight driver error, just after the tunnel at 180mph, hit the barriers and came to a stop with a force of some 30G (to give you an idea, normally the maximum we can stand is 3-4G for a prolonged period) - pretty horrible crash it was. Thankfully the car stayed pretty well intact considering and he was able to be taken away to hospital in an amubulance with only minor injuries - he could even race today if he passes the medical. All that shows not just the courage of the drivers, but also the enormous amount of progress in safety to ensure drivers are able to walk away from crashes without too much injury.

As for the track changes, what the hell have they done to Saint Devote? (the first corner). Before this year, you had to steer round the corner carefully to avoid Armco on the inside and then make sure you didn't drift out of the corner too much and hit the Armco on the exit - a real driver's corner. With the Armco replaced by a simple red and white marking on the inside of the corner, it's much easier to get around as the fear factor has been reduced a fair bit. I can understand them even butchering the entrance to La Rascasse because of the need to reclaim land from the harbour, re-profile the track there and so make room for a new pit lane (due to be opened in 2005) - even though it makes the corner easier, but I'm with ex-F1 driver and ITV commentator Martin Brundle - Saint Devote isn't what it used to be. If you subscribe to the F1 information site Forix they'll probably have a map of the new look circuit, so you can see what I mean.

Anyway, enough of that. Over here we've been basking in a mini-heatwave, although maybe a little too hot for my liking. It was supposed to be around 25-26 degrees, but in parts it felt like 32-33! It was roasting. And when I had to do some shopping, the bus into town had a rubbish engine that was just giving out immense heat, almost like 40-45 degrees in there. Completely unbearable. I feel sorry for people in London having to take the Tube. Because of its underground nature, you can take the air temperature outside (which was around 30-31 in London) and then add 10-15 degrees because you're so far down below. And of course as there's no air conditioning and nowhere for the heat to escape, it must be pretty unberable if you're working as a driver - never mind being a passenger for a little while. Aaargh.

They also had the kids final of Stars in Their Eyes last night. For those of you who don't live in the UK, Stars in Their Eyes is a talent show where people go on and dress up and sing like their favourite pop star (a sort of lookalike tribute to them) - and normally the best ones win and even manage to carve out a small career in some tribuite act type thing. Anyway, the kids' final was a bit out of order, and here's why: during the final, each performer got a nice gift from the original artist - the one who did Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights (and should have won!!) got a gold disc of the single and a handwritten note from Kate herself, which was lovely. Well, each performer got a gift and the one who did Bjork got one of her dresses which was pretty nifty actually (I missed the bit where she got a gift, so I thought she'd got nothing at first...). Not just that though: there was also a few of them who looked well over the under 16 age limit imposed by the show which made you wonder whether they had lied about their age to get on the show. Well, if people tried it during Pop Idol and Popstars, you never know, right? I think my Mum was happy as her favourite (the one who did old 50s/60s singer Connie Francis) won - but what amazed me most that all these kids were very intune and performed pretty well considering it was live - much better than Jemini at Eurovision last week (which admittedly isn't hard, but still). Who knows? Get one of them to go in for the kiddies Eurovision this November... (can you believe that they're doing that??)