Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Bookworm Returns! A tale of books, trams and the Olympic Games!

Meeting Olympic cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy, October 2008, Manchester Town Hall.

Good Evening, Bookworms!

Yes, ’tis I! I know I have not blogged for a good few months but I’ve not had an awful lot to blog about. Certainly not when it comes to books as I’ve been having a very bad bout of reader’s block and have really not been feeling like reading much for various reasons. I guess reader’s block might happen anyway, even in good times, but I also had my work situation at Chorlton and the passing of my grandad in April, just before my birthday, to contend with, so books have really had to take a back seat, or should that be back shelf? I recall that in one of my previous blogs about my schooldays and the books I read back then, I mentioned my ability to whizz through a book, a skill which led to me being accused of skipping pages. I said in that blog that I was merely fast at reading to compensate for the fact I was bloody slow at running! Indeed, bloody crap at anything vaguely resembling sport, but as far as books were concerned, I was the Usain Bolt of reading! There’ll be more mention of Bolt and other sporting heroes later as I witter on about my Olympic Withdrawal Symptoms, lol, but just as sports people suffer injuries and loss of form, I feel like I’ve been through the bookworm’s equivalent of this! I have still been to my book club meetings, but it has to be said that I have had to admit each time that I’ve hardly read much of the books in question. About the furthest I got was with The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt which I did enjoy and might return to in order to read the rest of it, but I guess I had more pressing concerns at the time. Thus I suspect that I have been more the bookworm answer to Philips Idowu rather than Usain Bolt when it comes to recent reading… only partially fit and not able to give a good account of myself! In common popular parlance, I guess that is known as an Epic Reading Fail!

It is only temporary at present, but I am back in work at the moment, via an agency, and working in Sale in the council offices for Trafford MBC. I did do a spot of reading tonight on my way home, although I don’t have the long continuous journey I had to Chorlton and back. My route is, I feel, shorter, but it involves buses and trams and having to change, so I do have to keep one eye on which tram stop I am at! Also, if the tram is crowded and I have to stand, this is not conducive to reading! The current reading matter for my book group is The Adventures Of Vaclav The Magnificent & His Lovely Assistant Lena by Haley Tanner, a tale of Russian immigrants in New York and a boy who dreams of becoming a magician like Houdini! I, however, dream of quick connections and non-crowded trams! I do like trams, though. They are more frequent and reliable than buses, even if they have their moments! Monday evening after my first day in Sale… Stood on the platform of Sale tram station, I see no fewer than FOUR trams heading in the opposite direction, on their way to Altrincham, but none seemed to be coming my way, heading for Manchester or Bury. I began to wonder if there was some sort of transport black hole in Alty which was swallowing up trams and not letting them back out again!

I shall be back at my second home tomorrow afternoon, back in the Stretford End for Manchester United vs Fulham. Have to say though, while I love my club, I feel there is so much crap that surrounds football and a load of stuff which I am just fed up with. I hate transfer rumours, most of which are a pile of shite and very rarely prove to be true. I’ve been going to matches for around 21 years now and in those two decades, I have lost count of the amount of players linked with a move to Old Trafford. Enough to fill several full teams! But incidences of rumours proving to be true, such as the recent signings of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, are pretty rare! Most rumours are just utter bollocks and I’m pissed off with having had my hopes raised and dashed time and time again, so I’ve had enough of that crap. I have also had enough of diving, rolling around in mock agony, cockiness, greed and sad tossers who hate my club more than they love their own. I don’t want to hear about our owners either. I know that’s sticking my head in the sand as some would see it, but I’d rather do that than suffer a bout of depression, so the only time I want to hear about that garden gnome-alike and his family from now on is such a time as the pigs on runway one have been cleared for takeoff and someone genuinely wealthy has made them an offer they can’t refuse.

As I said, far too much shit surrounding football, in general, and I just don’t want to hear about certain matters anymore. I already felt as though I was falling out of love with football as it was, and then along came a certain sporting occasion which takes place for a fortnight every four years, an event I have loved since I was in my junior years at primary school and which has only served to highlight all the stuff that is so bad about football these days! Plus, my lot are notorious for not getting off to that great a start, so I tend not to be that enthusiastic at the start of a season, until my lads shift up a few gears and really get going! In fact, in several past seasons, in the early months, I’ve not been remotely impressed and have wished that the season could be rewound back to August and re-started as I couldn’t see matters going in a particularly positive direction! Even the 2007-08 campaign which saw us end up as Premier League Champions and European Champions, beating Chelsea on penalties in Moscow, started off unconvincing and unimpressive in my eyes! Feel free to rejoin me around Christmas or early in the New Year and things might’ve perked up, but I’m not really one for the start of a season!

As I hinted, every four years, I also have another matter which occupies my very being and causes me to get very excited! The certain not-so-small matter of the Olympic Games! I am an Olympic nut and I make absolutely no apologies for this! So, how did I become an Olympic nut? I have been tracing back my awareness, and I actually feel the seeds were sown in a non-Olympic year and it was actually not a summer sport, but a winter one, which eventually led me to my love of the Olympics! Let’s go back 30 years to the early months of 1982 when I was eight going on nine. Not sure if it was the Europeans or World Championships, but I entered our living room one afternoon to see some figure skating on telly. A couple in gold outfits, skating a routine reminiscent of silent movies, and they were amazing! The judges clearly also thought they were awesome as they gave them the highest scores for both “technical merit” and “artistic interpretation” and, what’s more, these two skaters were ours! I might have expected them to be foreign, but, no, they were British! And they got gold medals to go with their gold outfits! I had just discovered the joys of watching Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean and continued, over the next couple of years, to take an interest in these two, as they brought us Barnum on Ice in 1983 and then came 1984… not only did we have the usual sporting events but it was also Olympic Year which meant that in the February of 84 we would have the Winter Olympics! I am pretty sure we saw some of the Sarajevo Winter Olympics on telly at school!

Christopher Dean was carrying the flag for Great Britain in the opening ceremony that year so we in the junior years (I was in my final year at primary school) went into the hall to watch the opening ceremony on the school’s tv set. I am also sure we saw the Original Set Pattern routine, the Capriccio Espagnol, where Chris is the matador and Jayne the cape, during a school day, although the free dance, Ravel’s Bolero, was definitely an evening event so I watched that at home… Tuesday 14th February 1984. I still remember it to this day. Even if I hear the full 15 minute version of Bolero rather than the 4 and a half minute version they skated to, I cannot hear that music without picturing T&D on the ice in Sarajevo! I could be a medal ceremony announcer at the Olympics – I even still remember all three couples who won the ice dance medals in Sarajevo! Yes, I know, I need to get a life. Don’t worry, I am already aware of this! Please excuse any spelling errors in the Russian names…

Bronze medal, representing the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko.

Silver medal, representing the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Natalia Bestamianova and Andrei Bukin.

Gold medal and Olympic Champions, representing Great Britain, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.

Feel free to give a loud cheer after reading that last bit! I usually do, lol!

1984 moved on a few more months and I finished primary school that summer. I had celebrated my 11th birthday that April and got a television set for my birthday, so the combination of having a telly and being on school holidays was just perfect for staying up late to watch live coverage of the Summer Olympics which were in Los Angeles that year! To watch live coverage you needed to be a night owl as LA is a whopping EIGHT hours behind the UK! Hence I saw some live coverage, but couldn’t quite stay awake for other events, such as the men’s 1500 metres final, so I woke to find we’d got gold and silver with Coe and Cram on the podium! Lasting memories of 84 would have to centre around Daley Thompson as he retained his decathlon title (which launched countless Daley’s Decathlon computer games back then) and told us all he’d got his Big G, before whistling along with the national anthem at his medal ceremony!

Basically, since 1984, I was hooked! Couldn’t wait for every 4 years to roll round! This also means that after each Olympics, I have tended to suffer Olympic Withdrawal Symptoms! Even in 1996 when we were rubbish in Atlanta and only won one gold, I still had a few withdrawals, but it has to be stressed that the better Great Britain do at the Olympics, the more severe my OWS are after the Games have ended! To say I didn’t want London 2012 to end is an understatement!

The Olympics of my younger days were good at the time and if we won about 5 golds, that seemed quite reasonable back then. As I said, the only disappointment was Atlanta 1996. We only won 15 medals in total and only one gold – quite possibly rendering the men’s coxless pairs rowing final at Atlanta 96 as THE most important race Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent have ever won for us as that was our only gold in those Games! The media led an inquiry into why we did so badly and what could and should be done to bring about a drastic improvement in the nation’s Olympic performance. I believe Australia are instigating something very similar now after London 2012 proved very disappointing by their usual standards and, if I have any Aussie readers of this blog, you can take heart from the fact that our post 1996 inquest had the desired effect! You wouldn’t know it was the same country! In Atlanta we had won 15 medals, one of which was gold. A poor do by all accounts. Four years later, at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Great Britain brought home 28 medals and ELEVEN of them were gold ones! At Athens 2004, we won 9 golds, so it did drop a little, but not too much, and our overall medal haul had increased slightly from 28 to 30, so it was still seen as a good Games.

And, if that was good, which it was, it improved further in 2008 when the youth of the world gathered in Beijing for a fortnight of sporting excellence. At the Beijing Games, Great Britain, aka Team GB, had a Chinese takeaway of 47 medals and a whopping 19 of them involved standing on the top step of the podium and playing our national anthem! N-n-n-n-nineteen golds! We were particularly awesome at the velodrome where we claimed 7 of the available 1o golds, and three of those were won by Sir Chris Hoy! The photo at the top of this blog entry was from the homecoming which was held in October 2008 to welcome back the north-west based Olympians and Paralympians. It was a typically rainy night in Manchester, but there was a shelter just in front of the town hall and it was under there where I met the Real McHoy and had my photo taken with him. He also signed my flag, so please excuse me for being exceptionally biased! I am exceptionally biased when the Olympics come round anyway, although I can still admire various other stars from other nations too, such as Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, but it’s a bloody good excuse to cheer on my country’s athletes. And if I happen to meet one and experience first hand what a top bloke he is, and then he goes on to get a richly-deserved knighthood, please excuse me for wishing to slap people who forget that he is a Sir! Like the medal ceremony announcer in London! Epic Fail! I mean… seriously… we’re the host nation at these Olympics, Sir Chris is probably the only person in the history of the Olympics to have a title and still be competing, and when he won the men’s keirin it was his 6th (and probably final) Olympic Gold, making him the most successful British Olympian ever! Yet the announcer, who got everything else right, forgot the Sir when announcing him as Olympic Champion.

Another little niggle, a grammatical niggle indeed, concerning the Olympics, is the matter of people turning the nouns “medal” and “podium” into verbs! I’d like to slap these people! They certainly won’t be winning any medals for English usage, that’s for sure! Medal and podium are NOUNS. They are most definitely NOT verbs!

I have most definitely waffled on, there, haven’t I?! Perhaps I should enter the Long Distance Blogging event?! If it’s not a marathon blog, it’s certainly at least a 10,000m blog, the written equivalent of Mo Farah running 25 times around the track! Talking of Mo, I think I’d better go and watch highlights of Super Saturday which I still have on Sky + and enjoy Team GB winning 6 golds in one day, including 3 golds in 45 minutes in athletics! When I was little we didn’t even win 6 golds in an entire Olympic fortnight, yet on 4th August 2012 we won 6 in one day! We ended London 2012 with a gigantic haul of 65 medals, including a phenomenal tally of 29 golds! No wonder I have the most severe Olympic Withdrawal Symptoms I have ever had! Several sporting biographies and autobiographies are going to have to be updated with London 2012 chapters (and in Wiggo’s case the Tour De France too) and this year’s Sports Personality of the Year Award is going to be hotly contested to say the least!

You will be very relieved to know you have now crossed the finish line and won the gold for blog endurance! Feel free to grab a large flag and do a lap of honour! You deserve it after putting up with that waffle! How about doing the Mobot too? Just a thought…

Take care and Happy Reading!


Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt
  • The Adventures of Vaclav The Magnificent & His Lovely Assistant Lena – Haley Tanner

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Filed under Books, Football, Manc Stuff!, My Bookworm History, Olympic Games, Reader's Block, Sports