Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And A Merry Xmas To All Of You. Except You.

I may have mentioned this before, but I dislike Xmas a great deal. There's no trigger that I can recall. Never had someone die on Xmas day, never had a relationship fail then, no big fall out with relatives over tinsel arrangements; but I have never truly enjoyed Xmas since I was about three or four.

As you may have guessed, I'm not a religious man, so I don't celebrate December 25th as Jesus's birthday. And come on, if he was born then, why wasn't he called Noel or Chris? Now as I don't believe in God, I don't ever recall believing in Santa Claus either. Didn't believe the big lie, didn't believe the small one. Found it quite perplexing that children my age would queue to sit on an old man's knee and pay for a present that they didn't want. You want a decent present for sitting on an old man's knee? Go visit a paedophile. You don't pay, you get free stuff and you have enough to blackmail the bastard for the rest of his life.

Any way, I digress. Xmas. Presents are my main problem. You are obliged to get a present for people you are related to. This can be tricky. Particularly for parents as they seem to have everything they need when you're a kid, and your spending power is derived entirely from the pocket money they give you. Essentially they're paying you to buy them something they neither need nor want, and then pretend to be pleased with it.

In return, they then have to lavish you with gifts that you have to like. They've spent their hard earned cash on you, best you look grateful or your Xmas dinner is likely to have been licked by the dog before it gets to you. Plus, you're a kid and they're not. They will buy you something they think you'll like, rather than what you think you want. You wanted a Barbie, they get you a Sandy. You wanted a skateboard, they bought you rollerskates. Close, sadly no cigar this time, but do play again next year.

And why just at Xmas? If they can't afford to buy you something at Xmas, and have to get credit, why buy it then? You see something in August you think I'll like? Buy it and give it to me then. I'll do the same and we'll know all year round that we like each other. Don't try to work out in October what I might like 8 weeks later. I may have realised by then that my coordination and balance aren't good enough for a hula hoop. I'm 8, my interests change on a minute by minute basis.

Then we won't have to pay the hideous prices at Xmas and secretly compare how much your gift cost versus how much the one you recieved is worth. You could even just do it a couple of weeks later and buy all your presents in the sales. Crackers are unbelievably cheap then. And turkey? Practically giving it away.

Cards from people you don't hear from all year. Then they stop coming and you assume they've died. And two years later, remember that you haven't told them that you'd moved house. Cards from people you've never heard of, who, it turns out, your parents once met on holiday and vowed to keep in touch with. And the wonderful cards with signatures you can't read and no return address, which may not even be for you anyway. All these cards need displaying and again, compare how many you sent to how many you receive (your parents version of the followers:following ratio on Twitter).

The meal that takes two days to prepare and every pan in your house to cook it. It's never going to be as good as it is on Boxing Day when it's simply been re-heated, parts of it will be cold, and the burning holly on the Xmas pudding sets fire to the paper hat your grandmother is wearing. There are arguments about how to carve the roast, who gets first shot at the potatoes and why is it always me doing the washing up? And just how long after the mother of all lunches can you force down a sandwich and a slice of cake?

Is it acceptable to start drinking when you wake up? Or should you wait until you're out of bed? If Bucks Fizz is okay on Xmas Day why isn't a Bloody Mary fine on a Tuesday morning? Should you raise a toast to the Queen's speech or play drinking games based on how often she says "My husband and I" and throws in random bits of Latin? At what point during the Bond film will my mother deny ever having seen it and insist that next year "we're not doing anything for Xmas"?

I have had a quiet Xmas: frozen pizza for one and a Kylie DVD does not make the festive period particularly enjoyable. I've had lavish Xmases and spent the entire time fretting about how much of the food was going to end up getting thrown away. I've also had Xmases where I went to other people's houses and had to do Xmas their way. If you think your family have weird traditions, wait until you experience other people's.

You open one present on Xmas Eve and then save the rest until after lunch on Xmas Day? You are a freak. You have to wear all the clothes you get at once? Buffoons. It is compulsory that everyone takes part in your charades game is it? Guess what I'm miming, that's right, wanker. We have to go for a walk to burn off the calories from lunch? Well I fed the burned offerings you gave me to the dog, so I'll just stay here and eat this tin of Quality Street if that's okay. No drinking til Noon? I am leaving now and will never talk to you again.

This year, due to work commitments, our "family" will be celebrating Xmas on Dec 29th. If you're having yours on Dec 25th, have fun and remember when you have someone crying, someone angry and someone snoring, while you're making a resolution to not do anything next year, you're having the traditional Xmas.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Mike Ashley, Derek Llambias And Alan Pardew

I used to be a life-long supporter of Newcastle United. I supported them through thin & thinner. Despite having put up with nearly being in the third division of English football, nearly winning the Premier League twice and being losing finalists in several cups, I kept supporting.

This is no longer the case.

Owner Mike Ashley and Chairman Derek Llambias have tried my patience previously: They hired Joe Kinnear. They installed Denis Wise as a "director of football". They contrived to get us relegated. They re-named the stadium. All of which irritated me and alienated yet more of the fan base. But I remained a supporter of NUFC until now.

When the decision was taken to sack Chris Hughton, I decided to switch my allegiances to Sunderland. This is not an easy decision for me, nor one I'd like to last any longer than is necessary, but I will not support NUFC while Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias remain in control of the club.

It seems that despite insisting in October that they'd be giving a new contract Chris Hughton (brought NUFC back out of the Championship after the relegation with the longest unbeaten run in NUFC history) they actually had no intention of doing so. Despite NUFC sitting in mid-table, winning away at Arsenal in the league and at Chelsea in the cup and hammering Sunderland 5-1, it seems they wanted someone "with more management experience".

So speculation was rife that NUFC would get Martin Jol, or Martin O'Neill. But it seemed unlikely, given that Jol had Hughton as Assistant Manager at Tottenham when he was Manager and isn't going to take a job at a club that had just sacked Hughton. And as O'Neill walked from Aston Villa when it became clear he wasn't going to be given complete control of the purchases and team selections, he surely wasn't going to a club where players have been bought and sold without the manager being informed.

And then today, the BBC report that Alan Pardew is going to be taking over at NUFC. If I supported NUFC, I would be really quite cross about that. Pardew has managed for more games than Hughton, but most of them weren't in the Premier League. He did bring West Ham up from the Championship, but when in the Prem, he decided to pick Marlon Harewood ahead of Carlos Tevez & Javier Mascherano. His most recent job - from which he was sacked in August, allegedly for having sex with a player's wife/girlfriend - was to manage Southampton, in Division One.

So why is he the man for the job? Well according to the BBC, he knows Ashley & Llambias because he frequents the same London casino as them. Which, as a *shudder* Sunderland fan, seems as good a reason as any to me. There's already a rumour that he'll be working for NUFC for free as he owes huge gambling debts to Ashley and/or Llambias, but I doubt that's true (for any lawyers reading). But it could be.

The worst part in the BBC's report is that Pardew was apparently in talks with NUFC about taking over the role of manager some ten days ago. Or 8 days BEFORE Hughton was sacked. If that is true, then even as a *cough* Mackem, I would be furious at Pardew and incandescent with rage at Ashley and Llambias.

If the League Manager's Association (LMA) has any clout whatsoever, it would be delightful to see Mike Ashley and/or Llambias being fined for the way they've acted over the sacking of Hughton. As is more likely, sod all will happen, except Carroll, Nolan, Jonas, Collocini & Krul will be sold in January, NUFC will get relegated at the end of the season, and Pardew will be sacked.

When Ashley leaves, I will return - regardless of what division NUFC are in.

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