The Beautiful Game on Film: ‘England’s World Cup Win’ (1966)

Today’s vintage film clip is from British Pathé, and is a fascinating glimpse into the world of football fifty years ago. With England playing Iceland in the Euro ’16 round of sixteen tonight, I thought it might be fun to have a look at some real English footballing success from the past. So we’re heading back five decades to the year England won their one and only World Cup.

We start with a brief look at how the World Cup footballs were skilfully made (mostly by hand, in Yorkshire) and continue with some great colour footage of the final itself, then some newsreel footage of the players being feted afterwards. And, of course, we get a glimpse of the legendary Pickles the dog, who found the World Cup in a hedge after it had been stolen a few months before the competition started.

I grew up on stories of ’66 from football-mad relatives who were actually there – they were at every single England game of that World Cup, including the final. They saw it all from the first match to Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy (and that Geoff Hurst goal? Didn’t go in). In this lifetime, I’d love to see England lift another trophy and match the achievement of that legendary team under Sir Alf Ramsay. I’d love for the magic of ’66 to live again, just a little bit…

A Few Thoughts on the EU Referendum

Politics has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I studied the subject at A-Level and as an undergraduate back in the 1990s, and participation in the democratic process has always been and still is of great importance to my family. I have voted in every single election (both local and national) since I was of an age to be included on the electoral register.

I am old enough to remember the viciousness of the Thatcher years, and the dramatic change of government in 1997 (with all that later entailed). But I cannot recall any political campaign as ugly, bigoted and as downright unpleasant as this one. The decision whether or not to leave the EU has brought out the absolute worst in a large number of British people, particularly those supporting Brexit. And I’m sick of it.

The horrible murder last week of the MP Jo Cox (by a man with the kind of disturbing far-right views that have basically hijacked the issue) is the latest – and worst – event in a campaign where racism, lies, bullying and aggression have been rife, becoming part of the political discourse of the UK in a way that has brought it all home to us in a terrifying fashion.

This violence has to stop. This racism has to stop. This lying for political gain has to stop (yeah, I know. It won’t). If many of those who are campaigning for Brexit get their way and we leave the EU, these issues will only get worse. I don’t want to see that. Most British people don’t want to see that, it’s not what this country is all about. We need to dial back the fiery rhetoric and start looking at the real questions that affect real people, because that’s what matters. People matter, wherever they’re from and wherever they’re going.

So yes, I will be voting tomorrow.

And I will be voting REMAIN.

The Beautiful Game on Film: ‘Football Again’ (1924)

Today is the opening day of the football European Championships in France and I’m quite excited. Indeed, I’ve got my fixtures wallchart ready and am planning my match predictions as we speak. One reason I’m quite excited by all this is that my team, the mighty Spurs, have sent a whole eleven (count ’em!) players to Euro ’16 – including five who are in the England squad – which, after the highly dramatic season we just had, is absolutely as it should be!

While I was looking for something football-related to mark the occasion, I came across this fantastic silent newsreel footage of the 1924 Spurs team in training and I just had to post it here (for obvious reasons…). Even from this brief clip, it’s fascinating to see how much is familiar to the 21st century football fan, as well as how much the game has changed since the 1920s – just look at those shorts and that heavy ball in comparison to the hi-tech kit worn and used by modern players, for a start. I honestly can’t see the likes of Wayne Rooney in get up like that…

Watch out for more vintage football-related posts coming soon.

For more from the BFI National Archive, visit their website or their excellent YouTube channel.

Vintage Animal Magic: ‘The Naughty Otter’ (c.1916)

Here’s something short and sweet to begin this new series of vintage film treats from the BFI National Archive. Regular readers will be aware that I have a fondness for river creatures (you can see my most recent encounter with such wildlife here), so when I came across this hundred year old snippet of film I just couldn’t resist.

The antics of this very cheeky little otter were filmed around about a century ago by Charles Urban, an American-born film-maker and producer. Despite being born on the other side of the Atlantic, Urban had an important influence on early British cinema generally – including producing some early examples of wildlife films, a genre which remains highly popular on British TV. We are still fascinated by otters too, although it is not often that we see one in the kind of environment that Urban found here!

For more from the BFI National Archive, visit their website or their excellent YouTube channel.

June Update

Hello my dear, patient readers.

My ankle. Stylish, no?

My ankle. Stylish, no?

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted for quite some time.

I apologise for this. Sometimes life just gets in the way – and sometimes, like this time, it’s a matter of having to battle the serious ill health that occasionally pops up and completely floors me, this time resulting in a change of medication which is currently knocking me out in a most interesting fashion.

And just to make matters worse, I now also have a broken ankle!

My ankle is still very painful and I’m on some rather spacey painkillers too (which is only adding to the fun…), but I have been looked after wonderfully by all the medical staff who have treated me so far (yay for the NHS!), and by my fabulous family and friends, both online and off.

It is frustrating to be pretty immobile and unable to do many of the things I take for granted (including writing), and I’ve turned into a bit of a Dalek when it comes to the stairs – but at least I have a cast-iron excuse to lie on the sofa and binge watch Euro 2016 when it starts later this week!

As a result of all this medical mayhem (ahem) I may not be able to post much over the next few months, but I have put together a selection of bits and pieces that I hope you will enjoy – including some more choice vintage selections from the BFI film archive to be going on with.

I was also thinking that it might be nice to have a few guest posts from a few cool and groovy people while I’m laid up. If you are interested in contributing something, please get in touch (you can leave a comment here or tweet me).

A new avian supermodel?

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“Aaaaand… hold that pose. Beautiful!”

While I was busily looking at blossom and daffodils on yesterday’s riverside walk, I was quite astonished to turn a corner on the towpath and encounter this heron. I’ve posted about herons before – but I’ve never managed to get so close to one in all my years of exploring the area. It really didn’t seem at all bothered by the many Sunday strollers milling around, and it let me get within a few feet of it to snatch these shots as it happily posed. Having consulted the bird guide on the RSPB website, I suspect this may be a juvenile bird, which might account for it showing off for us humans! A supermodel in the making, perhaps?

Watch out Kate Moss – there’s a new kid in town…

Thanks, Sir George: Naming blogs the Beatles way

This is why I owe the late Sir George Martin (and the Beatles) a small and personal debt of gratitude.

When I started this blog in the summer of 2009, one of the first things I needed to do was give it a name. My previous blog hadn’t been called anything, it was just an extension of my MySpace account (yeah, I know…), so it really wasn’t a subject that I’d ever given any serious thought to. I spent several afternoons scrolling through the hours and hours of music on my laptop, hoping to hit upon a song title or a lyric that would fit in with what I was trying to express with this smart new blog I was so excited about.

Eventually, I gave up in frustration and just let the music play (as a wise lady once sang) while I got on with my work. I admit that I wasn’t really paying attention by the time the Beatles’ Revolver began playing – my mind had wandered off elsewhere, as it is wont to do. It would be true to say that I’m not the world’s biggest Beatles fan full stop (in fact, my views on them could well be considered somewhat…. iconoclastic, perhaps), but I do love Revolver. It’s the perfect transitional album between the ‘pop’ Beatles and the ‘psychedelic’ Beatles, effortlessly picking up where Rubber Soul left off, and it is arguably some of George Martin’s finest work.

Suddenly, that lovely, upbeat almost Motown-style brass opening of ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ kicked into my headphones and Paul McCartney began to sing:

I was alone, I took a ride, I didn’t know what I would find there/Another road where maybe I could see another kind of mind there

I instantly sat bolt upright in my chair. That. Was. It. Another kind of mind – it was perfect. It was me. As someone of an imaginative bent who has also had experience of mental illness, I guess I’ve always felt like I do have another kind of mind. It just sounded right. Much later on, I discovered McCartney had written the song about his early experiences with cannabis, and that also amused me no end. It really was the perfect name for this blog then, and it still is today.

So, thank you George Martin – without your genius, the Beatles might never have made Revolver, and this Another Kind Of Mind would have been very different (and probably nowhere near as much fun)…

Weird Reading: The Diagram Prize is back…

Yes, my annual excuse to giggle at silly book titles has returned. The Diagram Prize is my favourite literary award for that very reason – it’s not about the usual up-their-own-backsides critics pontificating over the actual writing; this is voted for by the public and it’s all about the book titles, the odder the better. 2016 marks the 38th year of the prize, which is run, as ever, by The Bookseller.

Here are this year’s decidedly odd nominees:

Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers by Mark Avery and Keith Betton (Pelagic Publishing)

Paper Folding with Children by Alice Hornecke and translated by Anna Cardwell (Floris Books)

Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus by Jonathan Allan (Zed Books)

Reading the Liver: Papyrological Texts on Ancient Greek Extispicy by William Furley and Victor Gysembergh (Mohr Siebeck)

Soviet Bus Stops by Christopher Herwig (Fuel)

Too Naked for the Nazis by Alan Stafford (Fantom Films)

Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns from Outer Space: A Consideration of Cult Film by Mark Kirwan-Hayhoe (MKH Imprint)

For more information on each title (I’m rather fascinated by the mere idea of a book on Soviet bus stops, although I bet the winner will be something about bottoms!) visit The Bookseller‘s website here – and you can vote for your favourite here.

You’ve got until 23.59 on 15th March 2016 to vote for your choice of the oddest book title of the year, and I’ll update this post as soon as the results are announced.

UPDATE 18/03/16: And the winner is…. Too Naked For The Nazis! More on the result here.

Blue skies…

Blue skies....

Walking home from a hospital appointment yesterday, I was struck by these trees in a local neighbourhood park. Almost leaning into the wintery blue skies as if reaching for the hazy sunlight, it’s just possible to see a hint of new growth on their bare branches.

Maybe spring is on its way in London…