Villa away 16/03/19 and the ugly side of football

Yesterday I went to Villa Park to see Middlesbrough lose 3-0 to the Villains for the second time this season. It was one of the least enjoyable, most lifeless away days I’ve ever experienced. I won’t talk about my team’s management, tactics, and what went down on the pitch. But I will say Tony Pulis set up with the most defensive, most boring line up possible and the fans hated it. Despite being fifth in the league and having a strong mathematical chance of promotion it’s the most depressing time to be a fan of this football club for a long time. Hope and joy levels are well and truly sinking.

I arrived at the ground a couple of minutes into the match and was startled to see that a good portion of our allocated stand was empty. Much more concerning was that the fans were quiet. I’ve said on here before that as a fan who mostly goes to away games, I’ve hardly ever heard the home fans singing anywhere near as much as the away fans. I’ve always thought Boro fans were some of the best in the business at keeping the ballads firing throughout the match. For this match we were practically mute and there was very little to sing about. Everything we did sing was with little conviction and each chant faded away before it was completed. If you did sing you would be left feeling very self conscious about the sound of your own voice.

One chant we sang was the best we could offer

He can’t take a punch,

he can’t take a punch,

that Jack Grealish,

he can’t take a punch. 

but even that was a cheap shot. Come on you fools- Grealish took the punch exceptionally well considering it came as a complete shock. He didn’t rush to retaliate when many would have. He simply sat there, dusted himself off, got up and went on to score the winning goal (something we’ve not done for a while). So I can’t help but think the people who devised that one were a bunch of morons at worst, and desperate and devoid of ideas at best.

I was stood on the top left of the upper stand, away from the big bunch of fans to my right. This left me with maximum exposure to a few individual cretins who make me ashamed to be a football fan. Angry men who don’t watch the match, whose attention is focused on the opposition fans for long periods, swearing and abusing those who they know don’t know and will never meet. In this sense it’s like road rage or trolling, where people express as much rage at other individuals as they like while hiding behind the comfort of an automobile or a computer screen.

I understand a bit of jeering, that’s all part of the fun. But when the other team has scored and they’re pissed off, instead of keeping quiet like civilised human beings, they continue to express their anger by more violent swearing and insults, doing exactly what the opposition want them to do and paving the way to be mocked and abused themselves. The Villa fans absolutely terrorised us all game. I even chortled to myself when I heard them mocking the pig bag theme, singing

Du, du, du, DU…

Fucking useless!

Du, du, du, DU..

Fucking useless!

That was among the wittiest chants I’ve ever heard at a game. Whoever improvised that and got that one going- give yourself a pat on the back my friend.

They also sang 

Oh Tammy, Tammy…

Tammy, Tammy, Tammy, Tammy Abraham!

which was really good. The guy was absolutely lethal all game and looks to be the real deal.

I did something I’d never done before that match; left early. It got to the 85th minute and I just couldn’t see the point of staying anymore. I thought about all the times I’d watched from across the stadium as the home fans poured out of the stands

We can see you, we can see you, we can see you sneaking out!

And to think that I was one of those fleeing specimens now. It sits uneasily. But i’ll try and explain why.

I’d just seen a bunch of dodgy minors on my left, who’d been trying to cause trouble all game stood by the home fans getting escorted out, and as I gazed back up at to my right, a bit of a ruckus, a bit of infighting, and then down at the bottom a middle aged man was being marshalled away by the stewards while the Villa fans called him a fat bastard. We were a complete laughing stock.

I’d had enough of where I was. The atmosphere was so depressing it reminded me of fucking Barnsley away 2013. I was out of there. All this bollocks, it’s what throws the game into disrepute. It’s the ugly side of the beautiful game ladies and gentlemen. The actions of a few mindless yobs who do football for completely the wrong reasons.

As I walked out of the stadium I heard roaring, and for a split second I felt that hot feeling in my spine as I considered I might have missed a Boro consolation. Then I heard  “Oh Albert Adomah, Oh Albert Adomah!” and knew I’d missed Villa putting the icing on the cake. I remember that chant from the good old days, when we used to win at home, we had a successful formula in place and we used to approve of our manager.

Fair play to those who stayed until the end, and sang

we’re fucking shit,

we’re fucking shit,

we’re fucking shit

and supported us throughout. I’ll see you guys again soon, we will get through these ugly times together, preferably having a nice sing song while we’re at it. 

Macbeth: excerpts and comments

I had been planning on reading Macbeth for a couple of years and finally decided to do so last week. I absolutely fell in love with it, as I did with most of Shakespeare’s great tragedies- Lear, Hamlet and Othello being my favourite three. I highlighted a few lines that I found particularly interesting and comment on them. With some lines of course, I am lifting them out of context, but that’s the beauty of the exercise. Add to them what context you like. They’re rich, ripe and ready for transfer.

Alcohol, drugs, sex, murder, England, war, the news, the mediocrity and pointlessness of life. This one has got it all.

It really is true that Shakespeare is ripe for modern interpretation. What he says can be relevant and sometimes the resonance is startling. Whatever world Shakespeare was dramatising, so much of it survives in our world today, for better or worse.

Humans never change.

 

2.2

As Macbeth frantically broods on his fears and his desire to murder his nearest and dearest in order to gain power, his wife advocates mindfulness.

LADY MACBETH

                   … Be not lost

so poorly in your thoughts.

If only they had the Headspace app back then, everyone might have lived happily ever after.

 

When a naive Macduff (the play’s dullest, most flavourless character and also its hero) asks about the effects of alcohol, the Porter offers an extraordinary series of opinions.

MACDUFF

What three things does drink provoke?

PORTER

Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes. It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance. Therefore, much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery. It makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.

Alcohol makes you have a red nose, sleep long into the mornings, urinate excessively, and it drastically increases sexual desire, yet makes you very bad in bed (makes you ‘stand to and not stand to’, ie up for it but can’t get an erection).

 

2.3

MACBETH

‘Twas a rough night.

We’ve all had em, only difference is here Macbeth is playing down the fact he’s just brutally murdered the head of state.

 

DONALBAIN

Where we are there’s daggers in Men’s smiles.

That’s London today.

 

3.1

SECOND MURDERER

I am one, my liege

Whom the vile blows and buffets of the world

Hath so incensed that I am reckless what

I do to spite the world

Here Bill was onto some very early psychodynamic theory. This is the explanation that lies behind every murder. The killers certainly did not have nice, pleasant healthy upbringings. They were abused- they’re angry, confused and unbalanced, so they lash out at the world.

Spoken by one of three characters with no names, they are simply Murderers.

 

3.3

THIRD MURDERER

There’s but one down. The son is fled.

I include this one only because I like to think the phrase ‘one down, two to go’ originates from this third murderer commenting on how he has killed Macduff’s young son, but not quite yet managed to get to his wife.

 

4.1

In act 4 a group of witches erupt into rhyme while working their twisted magic. I’ve included it all because I think it’s a display of poetic mastery.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

SECOND WITCH

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

THIRD WITCH

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf

Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,

Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,

Liver of blaspheming Jew,

Gall of goat, and slips of yew

Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,

Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,

Finger of birth-strangled babe

Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,

Make the gruel thick and slab:

Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,

For the ingredients of our cauldron.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

SECOND WITCH 

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

 

Enter HECATE to the other three Witches

 

HECATE

O well done! I commend your pains;

And every one shall share i’ the gains;

And now about the cauldron sing,

Live elves and fairies in a ring,

Enchanting all that you put in.

 

Where does invention come from? It’s certainly not the poetry of any man, but some kind of God. A minefield of powerful imagery, short one syllable creatures and things. It’s an expedition.

Read it and speak it aloud, it’s one of the best adverts for our language you’ll ever see.

 

4.3

MACDUFF

Each new morn new widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike heaven on the face, that it resounds as if it felt with Scotland, and yelled out like syllable of dolor.”

This is the world we live in, relentless pain and suffering going on in the background. See the news.

When Malcolm and Macduff are contemplating how screwed the country is. Again, a relatable state of affairs, with Brexit sucking the life out of British politics, our national health service on its knees, knife crime epidemic in the capital, increasing homelessness, terror attacks, Islamist rape gangs…

MALCOLM

I think our country sinks beneath the yoke

It weeps, it bleeds, and each day a new gash

Is added to her wounds.

If you ever want to describe someone you think is really bad, simply replace Macbeth with whoever you’ve got in mind.

MACDUFF

                                 Not in the legions

Of horrid hell can come a devil more damned

In evils to top Macbeth

If ever you want to issue a caveat for some extremely bad news, like your wife and only child have been ‘savagely slaughtered’ in your own castle or there are no snooker tables available at the club

ROSS

Let not your ears despise my tongue for ever,

Which shall possess them with the heaviest sound

That ever yet they heard.

 

5.1

DOCTOR

Foul whisp’rings are abroad. Unnatural deeds

Do breed unnatural troubles; infected minds

To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.

Everything is so extremely fucked that your wife or husband is probably dead, and you’re so desperate and insane now that with no one to turn to, you are sharing your own nastiest secrets with your pillow.

 

5.2

On the decline and impotence of Macbeth

ANGUS

Those he commands move only in command,

Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title

Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe

Upon a dwarfish thief.

What an excellent metaphor to describe the Joffrey Baratheons of the world, in power but unloved, despotic and weak.  

 

5.3

A servant approaches Macbeth with the news that an army of ten thousand English have turned up ready to dance. A truly hilarious exchange, Macbeth really, really does not like this man, specifically, he doesn’t like many aspects of his visage.

MACBETH 

Where gott’st thou that goose look?

SERVANT

There is ten thousand-

MACBETH

Geese, villain?

SERVANT  

Soldiers, sir.

Macbeth’s response is venomous

MACBETH

Go prick thy face and over red thy fear

Thou lily-livered boy. What soldiers, patch?

Death of thy soul, those linen cheeks of thine

Are counsellors to fear. What soldiers, whey-face?

SERVANT

The English force, so please you

MACBETH

Take thy face hence.

Can we ever know what he meant by whey-face? Probably not, but it’s extremely funny.

 

Maccy- B has just been informed that his wife has well and truly lost her marbles. He is talking to the doctor

MACBETH

     Cure her of that.

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

Raze out the written troubles of the brain

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart?

 

Can we cure mental illness, a bit of the good old mind crushing depression perhaps, with the use of the good old narcotics? Bit of Prozac to balance those serotonin levels, nice dose of psilocybin or LSD to change the way you look at the world, or maybe just a big, no bollocks hit of smack straight into the cephalic vein?

Many people try. Does it work? I don’t know. Interesting question.

 

5.5

I presume this next part is one of the best known parts of the play. Dick Dawkins even took Brief Candle for the title of his memoirs. This angry nihilistic monologue is something we can all relate to, the atheists among us. The absurdity of getting out of bed and going to work each morning, the relentlessness of existence, the only true respite occurring when we are dead in the ground, when everything that went before gets chalked off the board, rendered completely and utterly meaningless.

MACBETH

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time.

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

 

This is coming from a person who has reached the apex of human suffering, as any protagonist of any tragedy invariably achieves. A tragedy is guaranteed to display pure, abject misery. That’s why when the Greeks started it up, it was so good to watch. Because it made the spectators feel lucky that they themselves had such pleasant, calm and positive lives in comparison. Macbeth- this is what could happen folks. This is what happens if you overreach, if you one day get out of bed and decide you’re not going to go to work today, you’ve decided you’re too good for that and you’re going to be the King. 

Aristotle claimed tragedy served the purpose of purgation. By watching it and being free to enjoy such a ludicrous display of agony, crime and misery, we are indulging our own violent impulses without acting on them, and in doing so, purging ourselves of them. By watching this play, we are cleansed and purified. It’s the same as watching a horror movie. Why do you get pleasure out of that?

Because you’ve sampled a slice of hell, you’ve ventured there in your mind, you’ve seen what it looks like, you’ve observed its character. But when the movie is over, there you still are, sat on your sofa, in the real world, with something to live for; a family to love (they haven’t been brutally murdered by your enemies, or cursed by witches), friends to hang out with, food in the cupboards, water in the taps to keep you alive. The world we live in is bad, but it’s not Macbeth bad.

Gratitude is everything.

 

I loved writing this. If you like what I’ve done her make sure to show that so as to give me the energy and motivation to move onward and do more. Much appreciated and thank you for reading.

Recommendations

I feel strongly that in our society we don’t treat the recommendation with enough respect. Recommendations are like gifts that enrich our lives in ways in which previously we could not comprehend.

I give a lot of recommendations out to my friends. I consume a tremendous amount of content, books, music, podcasts. My desire to listen to a podcast or video while I do the washing up, or listen to music while I move from one place to another is every bit as strong as my urges to eat and drink. Which isn’t good I know. What’s so bad about silence?

But it does mean that due to the amount of content I’ve got through, I find loads of stuff which is tailor-made for the people I know.

If I encounter something that invigorates my brain enough, I send it over.

Opportunities- Consider how much content is in the world, ripe for you to obtain from your home at the touch of a few buttons. With the fraction of this billion, billion resources, we select our own completely unique paths of content. We navigate through the wilderness all on our own, consuming this berry, that berry, a bit of this fruit, a bit of that fruit. You’re going to go to some wonderful places, why not bring a friend with you? What better way to share a relationship with someone than to be journeymen through the unknown, sharing knowledge, laughs and perspectives along the way.

Drawbacks- Recommendations are like gifts of the mind, but they can be hard to get into. What if I’m busy with my job, wife and kids, I don’t have time to listen to a 4 hour Neil De Grasse Tyson babbling on (in what might as well be tongues) about particle physics? But podcasts are easy, you can listen to them while you’re in transit, music is even easier, you can listen to music in social situations. It’s the books where you have to put in the hard yards. Take Better Angels of Our Nature by Stephen Pinker, for example. I’ve got that. It’s 600 pages long, it’s Biblically large, and it’s been unopened on my book case. I’m terrified of it. Thinking about it brings me stress. But think about what those 600 pages can offer me, think about where my mind is going to go, reading him. You’ve gotta dive in I’m afraid, the more work you put in, the more you get out.

I know that’s a cliche but it really is true. One thing I’ve discovered is that just a little bit of work in any area of life, a few press ups, the odd ten mile jog, making an effort to read a poem a week, writing a page or so about whatever is going on, it goes such a long way. The different between doing that stuff and doing nothing at all is absolutely enormous. So ask yourself when you’re at your lowest points, have you really made an effort to do the things you need to do? If not, then it’s time to do something, even though you couldn’t want to do it less at these times. This is where the challenge presents itself. Will you climb up the long, steep hill? Will you smash the wall? But anyway I have digressed, we shall return to our original business.

Hidden motives- You happen to stumble upon something you think is really cool. You send it to your friend so he can have it. How selfless and generous of you, right?

Nope, not always.

Maybe I’ve not really wanted to gift you, maybe I don’t even care if you like it. I just want you to associate that cool thing with the idea of me, or see how much of my time I’ve sacrificed, how skilful is my eye. I am merely signalling something I want you to think about me. We might not acknowledge it in our heads but it’s what’s going on, it’s how we have evolved, how our ancestors have survived.

We have hidden motives to look cool . There are times when I’ve discovered a mix from an artist I’m highly invested in, and I’ve sent it over before I’ve even finished the first ten minutes. My friends have done it too. This is an example of a hidden motive that propels an individual’s actions without their knowing what they are doing. The same way that when people post photos of themselves in fancy global locations they won’t admit it, but they’re blatantly trying to signal their own mental well being, affluence, and cosmopolitan tastes. What they aren’t thinking is hmmm this is a nice photo my friends will enjoy seeing.

Remember the material is king. It should never be used as a vehicle to enhance your own reputation.

Warnings- Don’t keep stuff to yourself, don’t be tight, it’s not fair.

Don’t ignore recommendations because you have no idea what they are and what they might do for you personally.

We’re all in the dark, and there’s so much light to be had out there, so many glowing and dazzling contributions to the world from the world’s greatest minds.

Discovering them and devouring them is one of the most enjoyable and edifying experiences our brains allow us to do.

Now go forth, and recommend, my children, recommend until you are blue in the face.