Category Archives: Waffle

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.

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At the match: Kidlington v Slough Town

A few of the Slough fans – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017

As we journeyed through the pleasing Oxfordshire countryside we debated whether or not Slough fans would be interested in this game. Sure, it’s the FA Trophy and that sometimes counts for something but this is still a qualifying round and next week they have an actual FA Cup First Round Proper tie.  Turns out we were asking the wrong question. With an hour to go to kick off, there were already enough Slough fans to overwhelm the club car park but come the start of the game we were still a little bemused as to where the Kidlington faithful might be hiding.

We never got to test out how much noise there would have been if the home side had got into this game. This was a match that flirted with greatness before deciding that going exactly the way it could have been predicted to do was better for all. Slough won 4-1. They scored early, after only six minutes, and looked for all the world like they would overwhelm their green and black clad hosts. But the gods wanted a play first. Kidlington hit the woodwork, forced saves and had a goal rightly chalked off for offside. It was 2-0 at half time only because Slough roused themselves enough to remember they were much the better side on paper but games are played on grass.

The second half went much the same way. Kidlington pulled one back and came close to making a contest before Slough found their extra gears and pulled away. A late tap in gave their win the impression of comfort when for long stretches it was anything but. In many ways it was probably  the ideal warm-up for their upocoming Cup adventure.

Kidlington’s average gate is 62 (the lowest in the Southern League’s West Division); today there were well over 200 present. No wonder the home fans were lost among the vocal travellers cheering on the Rebels. No Cup dreams for Kidlington though. They have a six-plus hour round trip to Barnstaple on Tuesday instead for a routine league match. I suspect the club car park there may find it slightly easier to cope with the crowd for that one.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Worthing Ladies

It was a windy day – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

As an experiment, I got on my bike and cycled to this game. It was windy. On the way there, from Silverhill to the Polegrove, I was riding into an absolute sod of a headwind. I’d call it a brutal only that would leave me without an adequate word to describe this humdinger of a South East Counties Women’s Football League clash. Played with that same wind lashing from one end of the field to the other, it was tiring just watching it. Lord knows what it was like for the players who gave their all and then some in an always-competitive 1-1 draw.

Before today, and indeed after today, Bexhill were/are bottom. They’ve played a fair few more games than most other teams in the division so that’s not a good position to be in.  Worthing had played five games and were unbeaten.  Last week the two sides met in Worthing and the match ended 5-2. It wouldn’t have been entirely unexpected to see another big win for them today.  It didn’t turn out that way.

The wind, I’m sure, helped. But if you’d been unaware of the table you would have presumed you were watching two teams in similar runs of form. There were close contests all over the field and even if the side with the wind behind them had the lion’s share of attacking there were still plenty of chances falling to both sides throughout. Combined with hard running and hard tackling, it made for a very entertaining afternoon.

Bexhill scored, with the wind, in the first half.  A long distance shot well-judged for height swerved a little in the wind to take it away from the keeper (who collided with the post and was substituted for her troubles).  Worthing scored, with the wind, in the second half. A corner was deliberately floated into the breeze and swerved back deceptively enough to get through the defenders and goalie who had anticipated what was coming.  Both teams could claim they should have the spoils which likely makes a draw a fair result.

My journey back was rather fun as the headwind turned into a tailwind and drove me onwards along the seafront. No need to describe anything as brutal.  Neither side from today gets a let-up. Next week, Bexhill face Chichester City Development who have five wins from six whilst Worthing entertain top of the table Crawley Wasps Reserves.

The camera came too. Some photos are here.

I wrote a thing about #metoo. You can tell me to sod off if you like.

I’m a man writing about sexual assaults and harassment, that sort of thing.  The usual way this happens is male on female.  So, with that in mind, I will understand if you tell me to fuck off.

The Harvey Weinstein allegations did not surprise me.  Here is a powerful man in Hollywood.  I am sorry to say, given what tiny bit I know about showbusiness, that I’d assumed that the vast majority of women in Hollywood and a sizeable proportion of the men, have had to ‘be nice’ to someone in power to get what their talent deserves. Hell, it’s hiding in plain sight if you read any halfway honest autobiography. Sixty-five years ago Marilyn Monroe was clear that she needed to offer sexual favours just to get a photographer to take nice pictures of her.

That there’s an entitled culture that goes beyond this is also not in doubt. I was duped by the first interview I read with Roman Polanski. It was in Empire and it made him out to be a perpetual victim, linking the murder of Sharon Tate with his trial for, if memory serves me right, ‘sex with a girl he didn’t know was underage’. The wording may be wrong but the implication was not.  Repulsion is an amazing film. I haven’t watched it or any Polanski since reading the truth of what happened and his response to it.

And that’s a bugger because I’ve had to do the same with Woody Allen.  I held out for longer there.  I was still mentally dividing the Woody of the films that I saw and inspired me when I was a teenager and whose collected works is eye-wateringly funny from the Woody against whom the allegations could no longer be denied. Then I read Mariel Hemingway’s words.  I should have believed other people before then.  Another one to avoid.  Another name to note who is still working with him.  The ones who are maybe so used to this pervasive culture that they literally can’t see who has actually crossed a line.

A few days ago I was at work and a colleague exchanged anecdotes about a famous person in the entertainment world we’d both come across. This person wasn’t interested in young women but, rather, slightly younger boys who they obtain through the influence they can wield over these boys’ careers.  Everyone who works with them must know this. And yet they still work. People may wince but all they do is comment and look away.  As, for my sanity, I am doing now.

If all this was confined to casting couches in the entertainment world then maybe a few boycotts would change things.  If enough of us didn’t watch Harvey Weinstein produced films until it was safe to do so – like how you can now, under controlled conditions watch D W Griffiths – then we might shake a few things up.  But let’s not pretend this is remotely a Hollywood thing and a Hollywood thing alone.

As I write this, there are a lot of women sharing their experiences of sexual assault. I wasn’t shocked to be told the casting couch is real.  I can’t say the same about the level of sexual abuse that is happening all the time.  I mean, I knew it was there.  I just didn’t realise it was everywhere.  As of now there does not seem to be a single woman I know (who has offered a view) who hasn’t had some experience of molestation or worse.

And this is not happening behind closed doors or where young girls have to please old men so they can get a job. This is on a train. This is in a shop. This is with men they know and men they don’t. At work. In a park. Men who seem like nice guys and men who seem like creeps. At the gym. At a concert. Men who are by themselves and men who are in groups.  In daylight. After dark.

I have had to cross the road to avoid people who look worrying to me. I’ve had to dart into a shop because the guy who was walking behind me caused me too much anxiety.  I’ve gone a different way home because when I walked in someone creeped me out.  I’ve never had any of the above.  There are some men joining in #metoo, and quite right too, but it’s not even close to being pervasive.  And we haven’t even got close to the catcalls, the shouts from passing cars and all that.  It’s making me tired just writing a list and I don’t even have to live this.

I’m not about shutting things down in some illiberal purge. For all that it’s a horrible, horrible song, I’m not suggesting that anyone should ban Blurred Lines but maybe let’s think about a world where the women aren’t divided into nuns and whores.  Or in the fuck-off-bantz view: women who say yes, and women who say no but really mean yes.  Let’s start to think about why men need to sing about their confusion as to whether they can force themselves on this girl … and why women just roll their eyes and dance along to it.

There is a tendency, one which I sometimes fall into, of politely pointing out (I think it’s called ‘mansplaining’) that women are not always victims. It’s a response to the ‘white male tears’ drunk by upper-middle class writers who get angry when asked to check their own privilege.  There are debates to be had there certainly. Men die younger, commit suicide more, deny themselves mental and physical good health, are falling behind in education, and clog up our prisons at an alarming rate.  Men who are genuinely the victims of physical and mental abuse from women get the square root of fuck all support.  A little more understanding from all people to other people’s problems would go a long way in these divisive times.  But, I firmly believe, that having a world where women are safer because the threat of sexual assault has gone is actually one which would benefit, rather than neuter (as some seem to believe), men.

A lot of words but no answers. Except maybe this.  Think of it as a voluntary code. No one is forcing you to behave like a decent human being, you can carry on thinking your masculinity depends on how hard you can imagine pounding a woman you don’t know if you like. Just those of us who’ve thought it about have decided that you’re a fucking arsehole.  And we’re a bit bored now.  Absolutely fucking fed up of hearing about how women we know and love, as well as women we don’t know from Eve, have had to put up with your shit every single day since they first dared to walk down a street.  So, if we’ve signed up to this code, we’re going to call you out on it.  Not because we’re white knights or virtue signallers but because you’re making this one life we all get to live that bit grubbier and it doesn’t need to be this way.  And how we’ll do it will be different depending on who you are, where you are or what you’re doing. It starts with calling you a prick if that’s what you’re being and ends with a signed statement to the police. Maybe a swift punt in the nuts when no one’s looking, we’ll see.

Or at least that’s my personal manifesto. I’m just one voice on the internet writing on a blog that no one reads. But it’s my pledge: I don’t have the answers, I can’t make a difference alone, but I promise to myself and to the world at large that I will do my level best to no longer be passive and to do the right thing.

And I think if we all signed up to do this then our world would be a whole lot better. Rather like how if you educate girls suddenly you find society improves in other ways. Take the threat of sexual violence out of the air and maybe you slowly remove the other kinds of violence too.  Remove the violence and people can be freer, more able to go where they like and do what they like. It’s an actual liberal utopia.

And if you believe our world needs a bit of testosterone fuelled snarling then maybe go and have a quick wank and calm down before going outside or logging onto the internet.  It’ll make things better for everyone.

At Coastal Currents: Dazzleship NN201 and Wayward

Jaye Ho’s ‘Dazzleship NN201’ in Hastings – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

Coastal Currents is back in Hastings (and surrounding area) with a lovely thick brochure and lots and lots to see.  So, in a ‘it’d be rude not to’ frame of mind, I ticked a couple of things off the list whilst undertaking other essential tasks in town (getting a hair cut, drinking a coffee, that sort of things).

First, to St Mary in the Castle, where in Wayward, six female artists have offered a response to the building.  The lines and brickwork of the Crypt have provoked the most literal of the connections through the use of stylised patterns.  My favourite involved sculptures created through the growth of mushrooms.  The twisting, splindliness reminded me of a lot of Dale Chihuly (I mean this in a good way).  I also liked the black coffin grimly defiant in one of the recesses.  I apologise for not making a not of which artist did what.

Second, just off the Stade, we have Jaye Ho’s Dazzleship.  In full on ‘what it says on the tin’, this is a fishing boat onto which has been applied World War One dazzle camouflage.  This follows up a previous dazzle ship display that featured in St Leonards two years ago.  It’s nicely distracting and looks good when set against the ongoing industry of the fishing fleet behind.  I think I may need to go back on a less grey day to get the full colour impact.

 

At the match: Eastbourne Town Ladies v Dartford Ladies

An early fight for possession – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

The last time I was at the Saffrons, the boys from Pier Pressure beat their drums and let off their flares.  Today, their signs were on display but the boys were not, instead the off-game noise came from an end-of-season cricket match, a well-attended display of bowls and the distant thwack of croquet.  Quite a few of those taking part in other sports took time out every so often to see what was happening on the football field. The question was easily answered: Eastbourne Town were putting on an authoritative display to power past their visitors Dartford and so progress to the next qualifying round of the FA Women’s Cup.

It was 6-0 at half time. The first goal was a sweet strike from Catherine Hyland after seven minutes.  The Dartford goalie made some neat stops and the defence tackled hard but they just could not clear the ball deep enough or retain possession long enough.  Town were relentless.  It really looked like we could be heading for a record margin of victory (at least a personal one – for a women’s game my most one-sided game finished 8-1).  That that didn’t materialise was due to a combination of a switch of fortune (posts were struck, balls drifted just wide) and a step up in harrying defence from Dartford who put a proper shift in to restrict their hosts to only one more goal: Meg Woods adding a seventh on 66 minutes.

At half time, whilst snaffling a coffee from the committee room (I had permission) the conversation turned to Town’s chances for the season. Apparently they have struggled for goals in the past. Overrunning a side by all seven goals in seven would, on the face of it, make something of a mockery of that.  But they will be aware that there will be tougher tests ahead in the season, not least Aylesford who they will face in the next round, also at the Saffrons.  For Dartford, they will lick their wounds and return to league football but they should, at least, take some pride in how they kept going right to the death.

I brought the camera along.  The spots of rain (and my incompetence) played havoc with the autofocus but what survives can be found here.

At the IAAF World Championships

Sandra Perković, who won the discus with a throw of 70.31m, takes the applause and the pose on her lap of honour. (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

What they don’t tell you is how much you will end up living and dying with athletes whose names you don’t know in contests you hardly cared existed. Yes, there’s Bolt, Farah and the rest on the posters but what actually makes you sit in wide-eyed joy are things like a women’s triple jump final whose lead chops and changes and is, in the end, won by less than an inch: Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela taking the gold ahead of Caterine Ibargüen of Colombia.

That was the first evening of two that we were fortunate enough to attend. Fortunate in this case being twofold: we were lucky in the ballot for seats but also lucky to be able to afford (albeit with severe wincing) to move up a grade to claim our spot. Still, wherever you are in the London Stadium the atmosphere and views are spot on.  It really is a lovely place. West Ham are more fortunate than even our luck would allow.

The men’s 1500m goes by … (C)Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

London in August did sometimes feel  more like the seaside in winter. No matter. This was a crowd determined to be happy. Not in any forced New Year’s Eve kind of way but in that easy manner that comes from knowing what you will see will entertain and enthrall.  That all human emotion would be on display.  But also that no one is going to care if you need to rush your child to the loo because they are not prepared to wait until after this particular high jump.

I’m sure some people were bored. I didn’t sit near any giving off such vibes. I’m sure many people were cynical. It’s hard not to be. Some performances require sellotape and steel will to stop the eyebrow raising.  Athletics is the rawest of sports in how it feels to find out its heroes dope.  It really is that test of body against body, and it’s meant to be an equal test of ability. Nobody is that naive. But sport rises above even its dirtiest instincts. The effort, energy and dedication on display cannot be faked. They could all be drinking Ben Johnson’s magic potion but its lonely, determined training and single-minded focus that gets them here. Or at least that’s my feeble-minded take to rationalise it.

Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby lies distraught as Eilidh Doyle and Aleksandra Gaworska run by in the women’s 4x400m final – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

And, in the frenzy of this happy, lovely crowd you can forget it all anyway. I can say, with pride, that in the women’s 1500m I saw a race for the ages. With equal pride I can say that for the final 100m of the men’s 4×400 I was shamelessly, jingoistically Trinidadian as they surged past the USA.  The British bronze was safe, we could find our voices to will on the underdogs.  The men’s high jump was pretty good too as was Omar McLeod’s 110m hurdles glory. And a beautiful silver for the British women’s 4×400 too.

The victorious Trinidad and Tobago men – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

The final action on the track though was a horde of photographers and assorted media following the messianic Usain Bolt as he took a final lap. A bronze and a DNF were the great man’s return in this, a games too far.  His walk felt a lot more like a changing of athletics’ guard than did the handing on the baton to Doha for the next world championships. Sadly, that felt a lot more like business as usual for the IAAF.

Usain takes the applause. Photographers ever present. (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

When the tickets arrived, I looked over the events we were to see. I made careful note of the van Niekirks of this world and which of those would be performing for us. But, like I say, those guys are the hook. It’s when you’re willing Majededdin Ghazal to bronze in the high jump that you know that they’ve got you, and that you are so very glad that they have.

More photos here.