Tuesday, 24 May 2011

First The FA Cup, Next This

Today: Champions League Festival, Hyde Park
Maybe not.

Because chronologically it's the Premier League first.

Then off to Munich to win this in 2012...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Powerful Prayer Or Sentimental Hogwash?

So we went to see a young family friend receive her First Holy Communion at a Mass in Chiswick on Saturday.

It was the usual uplifting, Catholic set-piece event: a beautiful church; the delighted seven-year-olds at the heart of the Sacrament in their bridal white and Sunday best; parents, family and friends all dressed-up and smiling for what is a very traditional, spiritually-significant celebration.

So far, so comfortably familiar.

But then right at the end one of the parents stepped up to the pulpit and led the congregation in the Parents' Prayer.

It began in the barely-notice-it way that many modern prayers do. Then it got to the last paragraph about being a mum and dad. And I'm sure I wasn't the only one getting a bit misty-eyed. This is the prayer:

And when the work is done
and they are formed and raised and gone,
help us to turn back to you without children
and continue the journey,
wiser, with more understanding of you
and your love for us,
because we have children of our own.

I found it very moving for a minute in there.

Then we left the church, sent the kids to the fair at Turnham Green on their own and went and got happily drunk in the sunshine in Jack and Trish's back garden.

Well, only the last part of that bit is true.

Spooky Hammersmith Bridge

9pm, Sunday, May 22

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Nosey City Fan Shames Cup Win

Shameful new evidence has emerged of a Manchester City fan apparently picking his nose at the FA Cup Final last Saturday.

The man, aged between 35 and 55, was photographed by the official Wembley 360 camera in the North West corner of the stadium during City's match against Stoke City.

One onlooker said: "He's either pensive and thoughtful or having a proper clear out. But my money's on the latter."

He added: "Fergie called us the noisy neighbours but this bloke just looks nosey."

City won the match 1-0.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Why No Lap Of Honour?

When did FA Cup-winning teams stop doing a lap of honour at Wembley?

The celebrations after the trophy lift on Saturday were fabulous: Tevez with the lid on his head, wearing a City flag like a Superman cape; Joe Hart covered in blue ticker-tape; Tevez and Zabaleta with the Cup and the Argentina flag in the goalmouth; Mancini showing off the silverware to the fans behind the goal.

But all the celebrations were at the City end. And there was a lot of jigging about and Poznaning but no running around with the trophy held aloft by two players at a time

Plenty of flag-waving Stoke fans had stayed for the presentation as you can see towards the end of this video. The Potters had come for a party and Yaya Toure wasn't going to stop them having one.

But their view of the famous old trophy was confined to tiny flashes of silver seen from the other end of the stadium.

It didn't used to be like that. This clip from 1976 shows Southampton's victorious players, including future Blue Mike Channon, actually running around the old Wembley dog track so both Saints and Man United fans could pay their respects.

So when and why did it stop? Are today's players afraid they'll be abused by opposition fans? Is it seen as something that might incite angry losers? Or is it a tradition that's simply been forgotten?

If City had lost I would have still liked to see the trophy paraded at our end. It should be a guaranteed part of the £85-per-ticket Cup Final experience.

So come on the FA - let's Get Our Lap Back.

The imaginary campaign starts here.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

How Me, Vince, City & The Goat Won The FA Cup

We waited 35 years and all we got was this three-minute video.

The 28th Shirt

An 11am dash to the post office yesterday armed with the dreaded sorry-we-missed-you card was rewarded with the FA Cup Final special shirt.

Turned out to be a lucky one.

I'll post a mini-video of a fabulous day later.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Champions League In 13 Texts: City v Spurs

Vince at Eastlands (7.41pm): In position. Just made it. Packed. Come on blues. Good early start.

Me watching on TV in W12: Quietly confident.

United Fan Brother watching on TV in Manchester (7.43pm): Looking 4ward 2 sum sexy futbol. if mancini ruins this game there'll be calls 4 sak. bad sport 2, as witness fil nevil, sparky etc. Come on the lilywhites.

Me: Park the bus!

Me (8.13pm): Bloody dreadful.

Vince: Poznan! Lescott! Needed that. Phew.

Me: Come on!

Me (half-time): Can't remember shouting at TV so much. Agony.

Vince (8.53pm): Got to get another. Tev and mario on to put it beyond doubt.

Vince: We're suffering here. Need to clear our lines. Tev warming up. Too early yet. Edge of seat.

Me (9.16pm): Nervy 20 ahead.

Vince (9.48pm): Dave! We did it! Champions league!

Me: With 2 games to spare! Get in. Taste of Lahore next.

Brother: radio silence

Monday, 9 May 2011

Cup Final Countdown: 5 Days To Go

Today is the 30th anniversary of City's last appearance in the FA Cup Final.

The famous one when Corrigan, Ranson, MacDonald, Reid, Power, Caton, Bennett, Gow, Hutchison, MacKenzie and Reeves drew with Tottenham then lost to Ricky Villa's bonkers winner in the replay. This is my memory of it in an earlier post.

That unhappy replay took place on May 14 - the same date City go back to Wembley to face the long-throw ammo of Stoke in this year's final.

The 2011 ticket is almost identical to the semi-final ticket (above) and basically an advert for the sponsors.  Back in 1981 it was a mini work of art with an etching, a lion watermark and everything.

And it didn't cost £85.

Be good if we could hammer Spurs tomorrow night and take their place in next season's Champions League as a Final warm-up.

Revenge is a dish best served very cold.

More Birds In The Bush

The Swifts are back in Shepherd's Bush airspace.

We noticed the first one over the back garden at 7.20pm on Friday (May 6). There have been up to four at a time so far.

Their arrival was pretty much on schedule compared with recent previous years:

2010: Sunday, May 9

2009: Friday, May 8

2008: Saturday, May 10

2006: Sunday, April 30 - early doors.

The RSPB estimates there are 85,000 breeding pairs in the UK each summer but the number seems to be falling.

The first Swallow of the year passed through yesterday - a much more unusual sight in W12.

The one above was snapped on the pay-and-display machine at Morston Harbour in Norfolk on May 1.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

London Terns

I managed to get a few snaps of one of the two Common Terns that are fishing on the stretch of the Grand Union Canal in Brentford near the office.

The one above was taken just after a successful catch: you can just see the tail of the fish sticking out of the bird's mouth as it makes its final journey. I'll put a few other shots on Flickr.

The birds are presumably a pair. Not sure where they'll build their scrape but nearby reservoirs are the likeliest bet. They'll probably continue to hunt here through the summer. I've also seen them flying over the Great West Road on the way home.

They're fabulous, very graceful summer visitors. The RSPB estimates 12,000 pairs will breed in the UK before migrating to West Africa for the winter.

It's not the most idyllic of spots, right underneath the M4, but the water must be clean and full of fish. There are always plenty of Coots, Moorhens and Cormorants around and this week's gruelling lunchtime jogs have also been rewarded with regular sightings of a Grey Wagtail.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Best Clock A Man Can Get

The Gillette Building at 3pm today

The clock's stopped on the Gillette Building.

It's been telling the time on the corner of the Great West Road and Syon Lane near Osterley in Hounslow since Sir Banister Fletcher completed his landmark art deco building in 1936.

Gillette moved out to Poland five years ago and the process of turning their former European HQ into a four-star hotel has been painfully slow. At the moment the building is deserted and there is no evidence of any construction work.

But the four-faced neon-illuminated clock has carried on regardless. Until today.

So I was relieved when an unofficial spokesman for the owners, Bonnington Investments, told me the pendulum had broken and had been sent away for repair.

Time will stop standing still as soon as possible.

UPDATE: Clock started working again on June 13. So everyone can relax.

Monday, 2 May 2011

A Singing Nightingale: Heard But Not Seen

Salthouse Heath, Norfolk: 5.55am, May 1, 2011.

The bird must have only been a couple of yards away but we stood there for half an hour and didn't see a glimpse.

But with a voice like that...

The Road To Wembley Via Swaffham

I secured my FA Cup Final ticket today.

I had the required number of loyalty points but It still took three-and-a-half Bank Holiday hours of two people hitting redial - that's the equivalent of two finals and one extra time and included the unbearable tension of penalties.

For 95 per cent of the time I didn't get beyond the engaged tone. The rest of it was even more infuriating - I made it into the switchboard queue but got inexplicably cut off.

I eventually got through on my mobile on the A1065 near Swaffham in Norfolk. A seat at Wembley cost £92.

There must be a more efficient way of selling tickets to silver-haired veteran season ticket holders but I guess City haven't had much experience of sorting out finals in the last 30 years.

And in the texted words of Vince from his holiday hideaway in Tel Aviv: "Dave! What an ordeal but we're going back to the TASTE OF LAHORE. Er, WEMBLEY! Wow. FA Cup final. Come on Blues."