All posts by jonsmalldon

At the match: Eastbourne Town Ladies v Crawley Wasps

The Crawley Wasps goalie looks on … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

At the end of the match there were smiles. A few sighs of relief. Crawley could congratulate themselves on another job well done. Eastbourne Town could finally relax. An afternoon chasing shadows and working hard just to keep up was over. The final score was 7-0 to the visiting Wasps. It could have been more.

The Saffrons is almost too idyllic a venue. Even the Pier Pressure posters talking about saving the NHS and smashing the Tories have a nice retro vibe that fits well in God’s Waiting Room. The leaves were autumnal red and the weak sun shone. There was a cold side of the ground in shadow and an optimistically named warm side where the benefit of the sun was negated by being unable to see anything thanks to the glare.

Crawley are insanely well organised and today nearly everything they attempted seemed to come off. Town are a good side. They are balanced and work well for each other. I saw them put away lower league opposition 7-0 in the Cup earlier in the season. Nothing went their way in this game beyond Lauren Callaghan, Crawley’s indefatigable number 11, twice striking the inside of the post. But by then she had already opened the scoring (a parried save fell into her path) and set up several others. The management team on the bench were finding plenty to comment on in their Wasps’ performance. When you’re top of the table and averaging winning  by nearly five goals a game I guess you have to seek perfection. Eastbourne’s team just asked for commitment. They got it in spades but some games are never going to go your way.

After this game, Crawley are well clear at the top and unless something odd happens they must be odds on for the title; Town will have days when the effort they put in today translates into a positive outcome.

I brought my camera. Some photos are here.


Podcast review: Jon Ronson’s The Butterfly Effect

As I write this, I am listening to Anoushka Shankar. Twenty-five years ago, if I had wanted to do this, assuming I could even have followed a remotely similar path to hearing about and then wanting to listen to an artist, it would have, at the very least, have involved me paying a library for a loan CD. Likely I would have had to buy an album. But, tonight, the music is coming via YouTube. I haven’t paid for it. I don’t even know if the video is legal and royalties will be forthcoming. And, as Jon Ronson points out at one point, the fact that the public care so little when musicians end up being forced to give their material away for free means that nobody cares at all when the people who are affected by the streaming revolution are the folk who make their living in porn. The Butterfly Effect takes as its starting point the creation of PornHub by “a man called Fabian” and follows the ripples out through all manner of stories. It’s a thrilling listen.

Fabian Thylmann is now 39 and is very rich. Combining the thinking of YouTube and his knowledge of data geekery led him to create the website that is now viewed by tens of millions of people, of all ages and backgrounds, every day. His appearances bookend The Butterfly Effect. Ronson is such a good investigator he could have taken any starting point and made the stories compelling. The series he did about ‘who controls the internet’ for The Guardian a few years ago is a good case in point. I never did find out who controls the internet but I do remember seeing the guy who wrote Rebecca Black’s Friday create something equally baffling for Ronson.

And so it’s the tales of people that make you listen. Some are almost harmless. A few wry asides about the quirks of the buyers in the custom porn world for example. Some make you angry like the details of some of the people on the sex offenders register and the impact it has on their lives. Some just leave you wanting the world to be a better place for all who deserve it. And there are plenty of examples of that. Ronson’s interest is not in the normally newsworthy items of trafficking or anything forced. No one is judged. Everyone is consenting even if the context of that consent could be situations well outside their area of control, all caused by those ripples in the air started by Fabian.

There is humour and sadness. Even just describing the dates and times when registrations on Ashley Madison spiked reveals so much about a world that is often hidden. This may not be a podcast for everyone. Some people will not be able to get passed their own feelings that pornography even exists. But for those who can this is a rewarding experience but never a comfortable one.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Burgess Hill Town Ladies

An early contest for the ball – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

“This is my first time at a girls match,” the bloke trying to find a spot in the sun from which to watch the game said. He paused. “They know what they’re doing, don’t they?”

League Cup action in Bexhill. Not the Polegrove, the usual home of Bexhill United, but the even more windswept 3G pitch at the college. It wasn’t warm but it did mean the ball moved well and we had two sides playing good football to keep us entertained. They really did know what they were doing.

Burgess Hill took the lead after a scramble from a corner but Bexhill led 2-1 at the break. It could, and should, have been 3-1 as one shot rattled the inside of the goal-frame before coming back out.  It didn’t make too much difference in the end as a second half goal, another swung from the right wing that caused the ‘keeper too much difficulty, gave us that score in the end.

Bexhill should probably have more. They rattled the woodwork and forced some decent responses from the goalie. Burgess Hill played well and were always in the game without ever truly threatening a comeback. At the end everyone rushed off to find some semblance of warmth, pleased at least that the match had been one worth standing around for as the temperatures plummeted.

The camera was with me. Some photos are here.

Film Review: Daphne

Daphne is the feature debut of director Peter Mackie Burns. He was 49 when it was filmed. Quite an old man to be putting out a first film. Surprising it’s taken him so long when it’s such an assured creation, and a double surprise that it’s a laser sharp observation of the extended youth of our 31 year old anti-heroine as she prepares, or doesn’t, to move on to the next stage of her life.

It’s also a Scottish-funded film that is all London. A film which has moments of wincing sensitivity encased in long stretches of ennui and cynicism. Love is declared through a hangover cure.  And through it all bestrides Daphne, played with gusto by Emily Beecham. She bounces onto and off men, mainly annoys women, and self destructs whenever salvation approaches. It’s testament to the writing, direction and performance that you don’t doubt how many people want to be with Daphne despite the fact that she is not going to be in any way grateful.

The city looks great too, or, at least it looks accurate. Not the isolating streets of, say, Light Sleeper nor the fake communities of a Richard Curtis world. This is a city with some bars, some cafes, a bus or two, and a late night convenience store. The one most people end up living in, at least for a time.

Daphne passes the test of feeling real even if the central character takes it to extremes. It’s a film worth catching. Hopefully Peter Mackie Burns will get another film out before he’s 98 and Emily Beecham will get another role this good before long.

On the radio: Between the Ears, “The Clash”

The new Radio 3 controller has made a big thing about the need to incorporate slow radio into the schedule, to have times when the world pauses and you concentrate on little details that might pass you by. Alan Davey thinks this is innovative. I think Alan Davey hasn’t been listening to his own station. Radio 3 has been doing slow radio for ages. Between the Ears is a case in point.

The Clash was almost stereotypical Between the Ears. I mean that in a good way. The context was an upcoming match between Cushendall and Ballycran, two Ulster-based hurling teams. One player from each side voiced some of their thoughts. Around them the voices of players and relatives listing their injuries. The noises of the game. And, then, a pause. Scratching. The worlds in which the instruments of the game, the hurleys themselves, are created. One man used only ash, another had mostly replaced it. Both talked lovingly of their creations. Reverential, like a sculptor talking about how they pry an image from stone. And then the sounds of the game. One team won, I didn’t notice which. But the world had been created for us all. One in which these sports, codified in the late nineteenth century but coming from something deeper and older, are a part of the natural rhythm of their country and their community.  It was all rather profound.

And more of this kind of radio is not a bad thing. It’s certainly preferable to the revolving chattering programmes featuring mostly the same people that Radio 4 is filling its schedule with. We all need to be surprised and intrigued by things we weren’t expecting and which require us to pay attention to the little details.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Meridian Ladies

Launch it! – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

Those who do not learn the lessons from history are condemned to repeat it. Or, if you prefer, history repeats: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Either way, Bexhill lost again through a couple of soft goals and for all their hustle and commitment didn’t force the opposing keeper into much action. We’ve been here before.

There was a man asking questions on the sidelines: “Are you a parent?” Well, yes, but not of any of the players involved. Turns out he was writing a piece for the Hastings Independent. A somewhat overdue recognition from our fortnightly beacon of progressivism that there is women’s football in darkest East Sussex. Dark being a relative term. It was bright and sunny for most of today but the match our man saw was, for the most part, gloomy if you were of the home persuasion.

The first quarter of the game was even, in fact you easily make the case that Bexhill were dominant. Certainly, they had the ball and the territory. It was only gradually that things changed and by half time it was 2-0 to the visitors. Again, on balance, that seemed unfair. The goals were goalkeeper clearance that was lobbed back in, and a dolly of a shot that went through outstretched legs and in.  My photos from the second half seem to show a lot of Meridian possession. I don’t remember it being quite so one-sided but certainly they seemed to have more calmness when in possession and they grew in confidence as their shape became more solid and moves went their way. Bexhill, in contrast, were frequently chasing balls they’d moved forward in hope. There were no more goals in the second half and, overall, a two goal margin of victory for Meridian did seem fair, even if the way they’d achieved it wasn’t.

So, Bexhill are now exactly half way through their season and they have one point to show for it. Given the effort they put in whenever I’ve seen them that doesn’t seem right but, as I’m sure they say a lot on Match of the Day, the table doesn’t lie. Meridian are entirely balanced after their five games – one win, one loss, three draws and a 0 goal difference. Both teams have cup football next weekend. Meridian are playing the wonderfully named Faversham Strike Force, Bexhill are at home to Burgess Hill Town. The Hillians (I’ve checked) are in the division below, if you’re going to turn hustle into victories it’s games like that you want to have.

The camera was with me. Some photos are here.

At the Donmar: The Lady from the Sea

As the programme notes, when Ibsen was first performed husbands and wives would leave the theatre in silence, unable to speak to each other about what they had seen. So much of the repertoire we have from the nineteenth century is about being trapped but Ibsen, almost uniquely, saw clearly that even in the freest strata of society it was the women who were constrained the most.

We are in the Caribbean in the twentieth century rather than northern Europe in the nineteenth – technicolor not monochrome. There is a safety in updating so far but not putting it in the present day. When one of the characters makes a joke about whether Oxford is really like the stereotype about three-quarters of the audience laugh politely in recognition. But there is no follow-up. Privilege has been tickled but not challenged. I don’t think this is the fault of the script – Elinor Cook’s new version – which has some absolutely fizzing dialogue. The daughters in particular have lines that should punch hard but they feel pulled.  There’s nothing wrong with the direction and performances either. Helena Wilson and Ellie Bamber as Bolette and Hilde work well, and Finbar Lynch and Nikki Amuka-Bird as the ‘couple with a few issues’ Wangel and Ellida connect brilliantly. There’s a neat set of supporting roles as well: Jonny Holden has fun as the ever-failing artist for example. The climax, as Ellida is finally given permission to choose and makes her choice, is well realised and effecting.

But nobody is walking out into the night unable to look their theatre companion in the eye. In Covent Garden the bright lights of the very expensive bars shine. The trees have been torn down and put in a tree museum, or rather any vestige that there was once a community of workers who gave the area life has gone, they exist only in reclaimed signs affixed to walls, in the names of the streets or in the ironic distressed artifacts accumulated in shops or in flats. Nobody freed them, they remain trapped and out of sight. If he were around today, maybe it is to them that Ibsen would turn his gaze. I wonder then if anyone in the theatre would be brave enough to watch.