The past joys of Cup Final Day

Today is cup final day in Scotland and England. These days it’s just a moderately sized game at the end of the season, but in times past when live football was as scarce as a Conservative politicians morals, cup final day was a day when as a boy you’d be glued to the television from early Saturday morning watching the build up. In the 80’s that meant David Coleman on the BBC…

Viewers in Scotland had their own programming which meant the parochial cheapness of BBC Scotland and STV, but live television gave us great moments like this fantastic Jock Wallace interview on STV.

Or Alex Ferguson having a pop at his Aberdeen team after winning the cup final in 1983.

How about Dickie Davies on ITV and his smooth lounge bar ethic?

Now, sadly, the game is another notch in TV companies schedules. Kick-off times are all over the place, fans are secondary to corporate fans and finals are dominated by the massive clubs like Chelsea or Celtic. Basically clubs used to finals and winning things. Shocks are a thing of rarity, but there’s the hope still at every single season that your team may well be standing there on the pitch at Hampden or Wembley holding the trophy.

So good luck to whatever team you support but I do miss the days when today was a day to savour rather than an afterthought.

The 1987 Spitting Image Election Special was the peak of satire in the UK in the 80’s

Spitting Image was an ITV satirical comedy programme that at one point seemed to be watched by every single soul in the UK on a Sunday night. It really was for around five or six years the only real game in town for political satire on television. It’s peak for many was the 1987 Election Special.

This was broadcast just after the polls closed as not to interfere with broadcasting regulations, so it’s got to be seen in the context of people having cast their vote, sitting down and Spitting Image telling them that the next four or five years are going to be horrible because the Tories were dreadful and the Labour opposition was hopeless. For myself, I was still a fairly bright eyed 20 year old watching in awe as it forced me to question the Labour Party, something not done if you grew up in a strong working class part of Glasgow.

What’s great about the special is the sheer brutality of it. The entire thing is a red rage by it’s writers and performers with it’s spotlight aimed squarely at Margaret Thatcher and the Tory government that caused so much damage to so many in the 1980’s. Neil Kinnock’s Labour also gets skewered for being singularly unable to take advantage of the fact that for the Tories winning the election, that didn’t mean vast parts of the country found them palatable or popular. In fact one could easily draw upon this as a source for anyone wondering when the collapse of Labour started as it failed to defeat Thatcherism, and in the end adopted her ideas and adapted it to Balirism in order to succeed in the South of England.

Mostly though what’s marvelous is the last four minutes or so. For a while there’s not been a clear, good version on Youtube that’s contained a complete ending to the programme, but this version does and it’s glorious. It even has the original adverts from what looks like the North of England Tyne Tees region in all their horrendous 80’s glory.

So here it is, Enjoy one of the finest bits of comedy/satire to ever be broadcast on British television.

The World Cup is over and I am sad…….

Yesterday Germany won the World Cup against an under performing Argentina side who relied upon one man. Here in the UK, 60% of those who watched the final saw it on BBC which means they choose to avoid ITV’s ridiculously awful coverage with Ian Wright leaping around like he’s just discovered speed, and Adrian Chiles proving that care in the community doesn’t work.

The BBC of course wasn’t immune to stupidity. Jonathan Pearce’s lack of understanding about how time works is still wonderfully thick, and his arrogance that he was in the right, and not wrong makes it funnier, but in all the hilarity over that people missed this corker of a fuck-up.

Alan Hansen retired from TV punditry and it ended up showing the public that actually, he was very good at the job and we’ll miss him. Especially as that cretin Robbie Savage will now get an increased role on the BBC’s football coverage.

Of course both channels bleated on about England and when England fell apart, the BBC at least put their jingoism on the top  shelf, while ITV still pandered to the UKIP supporter who seems to be their core demographic these days, by wittering on about ‘1966’ and ‘The Argies’ all the fucking time!. Both BBC and ITV need to remember that they’re not broadcasting to xenophobic English wankers.

As for the tournament itself, this was the first true classic World Cup of the 21st Century. The group stages had some of the most exciting international football I’ve seen in a long time. True, it was short of skill at times but the amount of well organised teams like Costa Rica or Colombia showed they could match or better so-called bigger nations like England or Italy. The standard of football was wonderful though, and the quality of some of the goals scored were glorious, as were many of the fans though the lack of poorer Brazilian fans were far too obvious as the World Cup is no longer somewhere for ordinary fans to go.

And this makes the Brazil World Cup the last great World Cup. In four years it’s going to be in Russia which comes with a distinct set of moral problems, while in 2022 it’s in Qatar, which is an utter joke as it’s going to make a tournament where players run the risk of serious injury all the time, but the entire tournament will be built upon the bodies of the thousands of people who will have died building the stadia by then. I’ve suggested fans boycott the 2022 tournament, and I hope they do in serious numbers. We shouldn’t support what FIFA, and Sepp Blatter, have turned the World Cup into.

So thanks to Brazil for the last month It’s been a wonderful World Cup with by far the best team winning it. A month ago I honestly was expected an average tournament and got fr beyond any expectations, and although it’s not hit the peaks of the 1982 and 1986 tournaments, it’s up there. Had it had a truly glorious final, it’d have been close. I’m going to miss the nightly games, and the endless speculation about what might happen and although with the Scottish league season only a few weeks way will bring some of that back, it’s not quite the same.

Only another two years til the Euros though….



The weird day that was 9/11

It’s coming up to that time of year where everyone starts talking about ‘what were you doing on November the 9th?’.

I’ll credit Stewart Lee with that joke…

Anyhow, it’s nearly September the 11th, or 9/11 for most people, which means that the largest media event in the history of the planet happened in front of millions upon millions sets of eyes, and this is the story of how they unfolded in front of my eyes in particular.

It was a Tuesday and I was off work with flu/stress so I was a messy lump. This wasn’t helped by the fact that although I was kind of on good terms again with my then girlfriend after going to the Reading Festival a few weeks earlier, we were a wee bit frosty. That morning I was up early as she went out for a double shift which meant she wouldn’t be home til the next day as she had to sleep over at the care home she was working at, so I was up early and after a trip to the shops I settled in front of the telly for a day of recovery and doing nothing.

To help myself chill I decided to watch The Matrix again, so I settled into the comfy chair early on what was an amazingly warm and nice sunny day and watched Keanu Reeves shoot people and hit them with his fists for a few hours. After dipping myself into the violent conspiracy filled world of Reeves and company I went to make myself a bacon sandwich when this happened as Neighbours was just finishing…

I didn’t know what exactly I was watching as it felt unreal, and as you can see from the clip, the reporters are in a state of disarray themselves. What was unfolding was astonishing to watch, especially if you’re on medication for the flu and you’ve just watched The Matrix. It quickly became obvious that this was indeed very real and that thousands were probably dead .

I spent the next few hours sitting in front of our little TV flicking between the BBC and ITV who had both abandoned their normal programming to run continuous coverage of the events. Also, as this was the 21st Century I was able to follow developments online though in those days of a dial-up connection that was often slow, and of course, sites were crashing left right and centre but thankfully the internet keeps almost everything, and sites like this help show what webpages were like on the day..

The BBC site kept crashing but it was up in a basic form for most of the day while other sites crashed instantly, or were so slow that they weren’t worth looking at. All the while on the telly the images were unfolding in grim detail and then the rumours and conspiracies started-was a plane going to crash into London? Was the Whitehouse going to be hit? The lack of firm facts meant there was a vacuum which was being filled by speculation by most people. This meant people got scared quickly and this became apparent when I realised that one source of information were internet forums so i went to one comedy forum I used a lot at the time to read what was being written by various posters.  Most it was speculation, some was panic, a lot was ranting insane rubbish. In the midst of it all a picture was starting to form and by the night it was clear a massive atrocity had happened but unlike 99% of atrocities we saw it happen, unedited, in front of our eyes.

I was glued to the PC and the TV til gone midnight and beyond. Eventually I went to bed to be woken up the next day by a call from my girlfriend who was worried, so we had a chat and she said she had to cover another night so I spent another day off work sick glued to the TV watching things happen which nobody knew were events which ended up changing everything for the world.

It was an odd couple of days that every now and then I think about, and although I find the conspiracy theories that litter 911 on the whole to be ludicrous, I do find looking at the raw footage from various channels to be utterly compelling. The CNN coverage for example  is amazing to watch.

Some of the raw footage is painful to watch, especially when there’s a musak version of How Deep is Your Love? playing in the background. Be warned, this is the sort of raw footage that rarely makes it into news programmes anymore.

The more you get into watching these clips, the more you realise how filmmakers must have done the same in a massive scale to make modern Found Footage films like Cloverfield. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Here’s another example and if you look around the 20 minute mark or so you can see the wake of the boat in the previous video.

It’s astonishing that when you look back you realise how this one day changed politics, media, culture and the way things are done so effectively because these images are carved into the brains of anyone to have seen them. The problem lies in how they’ve been interpreted, so for some it’s a conspiracy by THEM to bring down the world, for others it’s a senseless act of terrorism for others it’s the excuse for war they’d always been looking for and so on..

It’s a Rorschach blot, but looking at the raw footage without scary music, or self-important commentary that gives a sense of the reality and impact of the day, so there’s one last clip left I’d like to share that is simply utterly terrifying as you can see the horror build up slower than you normally see when the clips of the second plane hitting are shown. It’s a clip that you need to watch.