Category Archives: Waffle

At the Match: Hastings United v Chichester City

Unite union poster supporting Labour
No endorsement from me but Unite were canvassing on behalf of Labour at the match.

There’s an election on. The local foodbank reported that last month it distributed over 10,000 crisis meal kits. In a town of 90,000 people. The numbers referred to it are going up. The pier’s been sold to a divisive character, the roads are full of holes, the trains are going nowhere, and the town keeps losing shops and business. And so we turn our lonely eyes to football and, thank god, Hastings are top of the table.

That table is the Isthmian League South East Division and only one team goes up automatically. Last season, over a thousand people, me included, saw Hastings lose to Ashford in the play off semi final. Turns out we needn’t have bothered – neither team could actually be promoted. History can’t repeat as that glitch has apparently been fixed. So Hastings are in the automatic spot just over a third of the way into the season and 600 were at the Pilot Field today to watch them ease past Chichester City.

Chichester City were the beneficiaries of Bury’s demise, obtaining  a bye to the FA Cup second round as a result where, last week, they went down to Tranmere. They played today like they were a bit hungover. Hastings’ possession football can be both a bit dull for spectators at times and very wearing for their opponents. They’re getting better at it too, not least because when you have Davide Rodari at the front there’s a chance that a couple of quick passes can turn into a goal.

It was 4-0 at half time and I’m not entirely sure that Chichester even had a half a shot. Hastings had plenty. Rodari got two, Sam Adams one, and my favourite was a run into the box resulting in a shot that went in off the woodwork from Ajakaiye.

Second halves when the match is over are often a bit of an anti climax and so it was today. The mood of many not helped by the power cut that took out both the burger bar and the lights in the loos. “I’ve had to wee in the dark, that’s not fun”, I had heard one woman say, whilst a group of teenagers looked bereft that cheesy chips would have to wait for another day. The personal impact on me was that I couldn’t get a half time Bovril. I suspect the personal impact on Chichester was that they had a cup thrown at them.

Because they were a bit better. And were rewarded with a goal from a smart move … which was almost immediately cancelled out by a Hastings converting a stonewall penalty. No VAR down here, obviously, but it looked pretty clear from any angle. And so, at 5-1, ten minutes into the second half, the scoring and almost anything of value in the game was done.

Chichester will have better days. They have a fair few games ot make up and it looks like respectable mid table awaits. Hastings are three points clear at the top with a game in hand over the second placed side. The season is long and, in this most marginal of seats, no one claims anything before all the counting is done.

On Radio 3: Dance Till You Bleed

Image from the BBC

Hans Christian Andersen wrote somewhere in the region of 3,500 works. Radio 3, with Toby Jones playing Andersen as a narrator linking some of the motifs back to his own life, adapted five of them for this Drama on 3 production, itself an omnibus of some fifteen-minute takes that have filled the Essay slot. I’d be quite happy to return again for some more, after all, they’ve another approximately 3,495 stories to choose from.

Andersen is, of course, best known for his fairy tales. Those deceptively simple fables drawn from folklore or personal experience whose impact comes from the directness of their storytelling. This radio production (or radio productions if you heard them over five nights) took some of the most famous ones – The Ice Maiden, The Red Shoes – but also some ones that I didn’t know quite so well like Anne Lisbeth – and drew from them sparks of autobiography and some very real bite.

Lucy Catherine, who also brought Gudrun’s Saga with its voices lost in the wind and world where magic and reality entwine to the radio, created some compelling adaptations and, almost predictably, Toby Jones was utterly compelling as Andersen. The soundscape was itself like a fairy-tale: simple, direct, occasionally mysterious, and always effective.

There’s a lot to criticise about the often far-too-chummy world of radio drama and comedy. But when it gets it right, it really is priceless. And Dance Till You Bleed got it right. Let’s have more of this quality again.

On Netflix: Ad Vitam

“Who wants to live forever?” So warbled Freddie Mercury as sad Macleod buried his love Heather in the 1986 ‘classic’ Highlander. One for the teenagers, there. But fear not because Ad Vitam is all about challenging the younger people. Minors in this world means anyone aged under 30 because at that age you can undergo regeneration therapy and, it seems, live beautifully, if a little lethargically, forever. It’d all be fine if these young people, who are now somewhat surplus, didn’t keep killing themselves provocatively.

Ad Vitam, rightly, comes with a proper trigger warning about suicide and self-harm. Avoid if this is a problem because it’s the core of the narrative. Cop Darius (Yvan Attal) is the tired old bugger, who looks youngish, who must trudge around trying to work out what’s going on with the young people he simply does not understand and who have no interest in the adult world that awaits. He is aided by Christa (Garance Marillier), who was involved in an earlier series of suicides, and together, with varying degrees of trust they attempt to piece everything together.

There’s a lot that Ad Vitam does well. The world created rings true. People have to be retrained because otherwise they would become stale in their jobs. Darius will soon no longer be a cop, his partner used to work in the law but no longer does. The disdain felt by the regenerated for those too young or those who cannot (or choose not to) regenerate is well played. I liked the obvious hypocrisy of the campaign to get people to stop having children. The performances, especially from our front two, are excellent. Attal is possibly not quite gnarled enough but then he does need to look youthfully regenerated; Marillier who, at least, is playing broadly her age, conveys well the pent up frustration and bewildered rage of a betrayed generation.

And yet, for all it’s clever recurring jellyfish motifs, Ad Vitam does not quite hit the level of greatness. It’s damn good, and worth watching, but it never quite gets you in the gut and nor are any of its big reveals big enough or shocking enough. It’s clever, it’s well-done, and it would make a terrific “But who are we?” novel, but it lacks the soul that would give it that impact on screen.

For all that though, if there’s a second series, I will be watching.

At Hastings Contemporary: Victor Willing – Visions

Victor Willing self portrait
Self portrait by Victor Willing

There is a self-portrait in this exhibition. Painted in 1987, the artist, Victor Willing, was already severely restricted by multiple sclerosis and knew that he was dying. The face appears out of a light blue background, the eyes mirror that colour. There is a minimum of detailing. What we see is a man confronting his end in the midst of a painful struggle. A man who, although not well known right now was, in his lifetime, the more famous of the husband and wife team he formed with Paula Rego. But a man who, nevertheless, in spite of his artistic triumphs, still looks towards death with the anxious look of someone who feels they’ve been tricked somehow. Is this all life is?

What an exhibition this is. From the giant ‘vision’ paintings that dominate the main downstairs exhibition space to the scratchy head portraits painted when his hands could barely move, Willing stands tall as an artist whose career, life, thoughts and words we all should know more. His final ever picture is here. Une Autre Femme is enigmatic, beautiful and devastating. Simple, almost child-like strokes, but held together in such a way that you can see the force of will and effort required. And what emerges is as thoughtful a portrait of another human being as you could wish for.

Willing is remembered more now for the nudes that were the hallmark of his earlier career. The one he had in the late 1940s and through to the 1960s. They are upstairs. And if that was all he had done he would still be worth noting. Few men can have painted women so sensuously without obvious objectification. But between the portraits and those nudes we have the aforementioned visions – the result of drugs taken to combat the onset of MS – and his continued practice in that style afterwards. They are bright, intriguing and demand your attention.

This is the first major UK retrospective of Willing’s work since his death 31 years ago. It is startling that an artist whose work is so vivid and diverse is in danger of slipping into obscurity. It’s a credit to Hastings Contemporary that they have put on this show and put it on so well. I hope it’s a success.

At the Match: Eastbourne Town Women v Whyteleafe Women

Action from today's game
Whyteleafe launch a late attack … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2019, All rights reserved

So there will be extra time? Penalties? So asked yours truly when noting that this fixture was a League Cup tie. No, came the reply via social media, this cup has group stages. Oh, thought I, that’s a bit of a shame. I like a bit of drama. I shouldn’t have worried. This match had drama in spades.

Town and Whyteleafe have started their league campaigns off on a similar underwhelming footing: played 2, drawn 1, lost 1. The only difference so far is that in the FA Cup, Whyteleafe lost at home whereas Town won away. So, pretty even with, no doubt, both teams, eyeing today as the kind of fixture that you can build momentum from.

And so both sides went for it from the get go. There had already been a few skirmishes in the box before, on eight minutes, Molly Hill got to the ball quickest when the ‘leafe goalie didn’t deal with a cross effectively. Town continued to press but never seemed to be able to get a clean shot off; meanwhile the Whyteleafe midfield began to find its feet. Good passing to the wings and some strong running in the middle meant they began to create chances. There was an inevitability about the goal when it came – in first half injury time – but not that it was almost immediately cancelled out. The last action of the first half saw Eastbourne retake the lead – and, rather unbelievably, that was it for goals for the game.

The second half certainly never felt like it was going to be goalless. Whyteleafe probed time and again, looking for a way through, but Town’s defence with held firm or goalie Elleah Fenner was there to clean up. Town had opportunities of their own as the visitors in green stretched to find their way back. We even managed to fit in a spell of pretty brutal tackling and some proper shoving. Diffused with a yellow card but there was a bit of an edge to the game throughout.

I brought the camera along and some photos are here. As ever, they don’t really do justice to the game. Up next for Town is a trip to Stanwell to play Ashford Town (Middlesex) whereas Whyteleafe have a day out in Brighton to play Saltdean.

At the Match: Hastings United v Broadbridge Heath

Crowd scene from the Pilot Field, Hastings
Watching the game … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2019

So, out of nowhere it seems, we have weather fit for the high point of the cricket season. And so, for this Preliminary Round FA Cup tie, we had drinks breaks and tempers fraying in the heat. We never quite got a classic cup tie but we did get a close and feisty one. And, really, that will do.

Broadbridge Heath (“The Bears”) won away at Punjab United in the Extra Preliminary Round and have also found time to win one, lose one and draw two in the SCFL Premier. That little lot does reveal only six goals across those five games which, allowing for the normal SCFL rate, might reveal a bit of a problem. Especially when your opponents are the Isthmian South East’s finest exponents of grinding possession football. You’re not going to get much of the ball so you need to use it effectively when you get it.

For about an hour it looked like we were watching a rerun of Tuesday’s match against Faversham – albeit significantly warmer – as a team in blue barely laid a finger (well, beyond some very tetchy shoving and ankle taps) on an opponent who were a bit too content to hold the ball but not turn percentage into an unassailable lead. A first half Ben Pope goal (told you he’d get 50 this year) was followed by a lot of blocked shots, a chance hitting the post and a confident goalie sending a few over and a few wide. It was drifting … and then …

Hastings’ twitter feed says Howard-Bold scored, the Bears’ says it was Alfie Jones. The FA results page is silent on the matter, It was down the other end of the pitch and I was too busy thinking, “They’re going to score here if Hastings don’t stop that ball coming in from the left”, to notice who got the decisive touch. Whoever it was, for the final twenty-five minutes we had ourselves a proper match.

Let no one tell you the FA Cup has no meaning. Maybe for those at the top but from the way the Bears celebrated to the genuine animosity that built between their defenders and Hastings’ attackers as the latter failed time and again to break through, this was a match that counted. And Broadbridge Heath came so close to getting a draw their effort – if not their possession and chances – deserved. It was on 88 minutes when a move down the Hastings’ right that should have been dealt with came to Pope (who else) in broken play and he dragged the ball across the keeper and into the far side. 2-1 your full time score.

That’s that, then. One of a staggering 160 ties that the Preliminary Round squeezes in. And now we all go back to the league. Broadbridge Heath are now away to Crawley Down Gatwick and then, next Saturday, have another qualifying tie, away again, this time in the Vase against Bagshot. They should be confident. Meanwhile, Hastings have the pleasure of a visit to East Grinstead before returning to the Pilot Field next Saturday for the visit of Whyteleafe. The season rolls on. Maybe next time it could be just a little bit cooler?

At the Match: Hastings United v Faversham Town

Leonard is back but Simon has gone. By which I mean: Hastings United’s seagull mascot has returned, albeit in a stripped down less likely to fall apart version, but the Hastings Observer’s diligent boy reporter Simon Newstead has left the paper and will not be replaced. Visible progress meets sad local reality. And, on the pitch, an efficient but not-really-that-exciting Hastings performance but aside Faversham with an ease that the 2-0 scoreline doesn’t really reflect.

428 were there to see it. A positive turnout of what seemed to be exclusively home fans on a late August evening that felt decidedly autumnal as the sun began to set. My son certainly regretted his “I never get cold” bravado but warmed himself up, in the way that children do, with a can of chilled Diet Coke and some gummy sweets.

And what did he and 427 others see? They saw Hastings play possession football and Faversham mostly let them. The ball sweeping across the field before being returned back to the defence and then the goalie if nothing opened up. And things did not always open up so there were long stretches where not very much happened at all. You don’t mind this in August but we’ll need a bit more to warm the cockles when the winter properly arrives.

Still, there were a couple of decent goals, both from Ben Pope and both very similar as they resulted from sudden bursts to the byline with the ball then checked back. If Hastings keep working the angles this well he should get 50 goals this year.

After two games, Hastings are the only team in the division not to have conceded a goal. In fact today the only danger faced by the home keeper came from his own players when a bizarre mix up led to him requiring extensive time with the medic on the field. There will be tougher games. Faversham presumably were sharper when they scored three on the weekend and can’t be this lethargic every week.

So, most people left happy. Even my chilly son who was delighted that his 2-0 prediction (made on the basis of no evidence) came true. I’m going to ask him for this week’s winning lottery numbers. With my winnings, I’ll buy Leonard a hat and install a reporter back with the Observer.

Hey, it’s August, I can dream.