Urban Etiquette

I read an interesting piece recently by Desmond Morris who described eloquently how we’re still evolving as humans and one of our most significant achievements is our ability to live in huge numbers, in such close proximity to each other. He reminded us that this wouldn’t have been possible a thousand years ago, as we simply wouldn’t be able to do it without killing each other in great numbers.

I was interested then to see this Urban Etiquette Project where a range of well-designed vouchers were created to reward fellow citizens for good behaviour and reprimand for bad. Of course etiquette varies the world over and what is acceptable in London is completely out of order in Japan but I did think it was interesting that the rules of living together could be articulated this way.

I love the slightly sanctimonious tone of voice on these vouchers and it’s no surprise they’ve come out of California. Why not print some and dish them out on your local bus service and see what kind of response you get?


Breakfast #7

Been a bit of a heavy weekend what with BoysBookClub Friday, Wembley yesterday and the climax to the Fantasy Football League today, which was of course far more important that what was going on in the real football world.  Rustled up this little beauty to pick me up and get me going for the day, poached egg (cooked in the old cling film method with thyme, dried chilli, salt and pepper), beans and mushrooms served on a toasted foccacia.  Lovely start.

Wembley Dreams

6,403 – what a weird number.  We all have to remember all sorts of numbers in our lives, passwords, log ins, overdraft limits, telephone numbers but if there is one number that I will always remember it’s 6,403 the attendance figure of the first football match I went to – Newport County v Huddersfield Town (3-2 to the Port).  5 games (for me) later it was 18,000 as the mighty Port played in the Quarter Final of the European Cup Winners Cup against the East German cup holders Carl Zeiss Zena (see my programme below).  The Port had drawn 2-2 over in East Germany but despite dominating the most one sided game in history we got hit on the break and lost the home leg 1-0 and to be honest that’s as good as it got.  30 odd years later I’m reminded of Jasper Carrotts’s famous quip about watching Birimingham City – “you lose some you draw some”.  In fact I don’t remember us drawing many apart from a couple of seasons later when we stormed to the top of the old division 3 table (now division 1) beating those that can’t be named from down the road 1-0 in front of 16,500 with Tommy Tynan and John Aldridge leading the line on Easter Monday.  The future was bright the future was amber but history then cast it’s dark cloud as the only time we had previously been promoted from the 3rd division was in 1939 and WW2 broke out, so fearing a repeat we did the best thing for the country and capitulated, culminating with a last day defeat away at Huddersfield Town which sent them up and us heading toward the vortex of doom.

As all our players were sold and we began our descent into oblivion we managed to pass on a bit of that bad luck onto our departing players.  Aldridge had a great career via Oxford and then onto Liverpool but managed to miss the penalty in the 1988 cup final against Wimbledon.  While travelling home and away all over the UK watching the Port I also clocked up over 20 years of Wales home games missing I think 4 with a few European trips thrown in for good measure.  In 1993/4 Wales played Romania at Cardiff Arms Park with the winner off to America for the World Cup Finals.  At 1-1 a penalty was awarded to Wales and the Romanians were crumbling.  Paul Bodin hit the best penalty I’ve ever seen apart from the fact that he hit it so well and so hard it hit the perfect apex of post and crossbar – we lost the game 2-1.  Bodin was an ex Newport player – you get the drift.  The game of course was put into the shade by the tragedy of a fan killed by a flare fired into the crowd 2 blocks from where I was.

By this point Newport had been relegated out of Division 3 and Division 4 (100 games attended across both seasons not many draws) into the Conference where we went bankrupt, auctioned off everything and started again a long way from the football league.  At the same time the Football Association of Wales in their infinite wisdom banned us from playing in Wales as they wanted us to join their new fangled Welsh League and our ground was sold for housing.  When you can’t sink any lower however and your back is against the wall it’s best to come out fighting so we get up and running again sharing a ground firstly with Moreton in the Marsh and then Gloucester City, we sue the Welsh FA for restraint of trade at the High Court and win and finally end up back playing games in Newport.  Slowly but surely we inch our way back through the divisions and now find ourselves 1 promotion away from regaining our place in the Football League.

Of course running parallel to all this was me growing up, forging relationships, marriage and all that goes with that, moving away from the Port and after various cities now finding myself living and settled up in Yorkshire which makes getting to games much harder now, but I feel I’ve paid my dues over the years so I go as and when I can.  When I first started watching we had a small back garden with a hedge at the back and one of the those washing lines that you could fold up and down that span round which acted as my perfect defender.  I would spend hours in the back garden jinking past the washing line onto my right foot before firing a “goal” into the hedge.  A goal only counted if it went into one of the corners that were a perfect football sized hole in each corner of the hedge made from my constant shooting.  As I dribbled past the washing line I had only dreams of being one player – Kevin Moore an elusive, erratic, ebullient and effervescent winger for the Port, a player that still remains my favourite ever player.  Kevin launched us onto one of our best runs winning a penalty against Orient that put us into the third round of the FA Cup and up against the great Everton side of the mid 80’s who we took to a replay.  Of course at that stage I thought the only way was up for us and imagined (like every young fan everywhere in the country) that one day I’d see my team run out at Wembley.  It would surely only be a matter of time ?

Kevin on the charge and in our fantastically classic 80’s addidas number.

Of course that time never came but watching so much defeat helps to harden you to the knocks that come through life and over the years, contrary to those contorted in apoplectic rage, I watch games in a sense of zen calmness and magnanimity (although I still get worked up in my own way!).  Most of my mates were not interested and my family certainly wasn’t so I developed a certain stoicism, watching most of the games in my own solitary world.  In fact I often feel that my own existence and that of the Port is wrapped up in some weird mirror image that closely resembles Kipling’s If:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

However on Saturday all those dreams I had as a young lad will return as Newport County play York City at Wembley in the FA Trophy.  To many perhaps a meaningless bauble but in the 100th season since the club’s establishment our first visit.  I’m really glad that we are playing York as I live up here now and they are also a team that has fallen on hard times but is on the rise again and will return the following week with a chance to make it back into the Football League and I for one wish them well for that game.  On Saturday though no matter what I will certainly be treating triumph and disaster the same but may well shed a tear as the teams run out and one of my lifelong dreams is fulfilled.

Hepworth Gallery


Today saw a trip out to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield which in the year it has been open has really established itself as a jewel in the art scene in Yorkshire and no doubt beyond.  Having it pretty much on my doorstep has provided a fantastic opportunity to see some really interesting and thought provoking art which changes on a regular basis.  I’ve loved the design of the gallery from the first time I saw it floating as it appears to be on the canal.

What I most enjoyed about the new exhibitions today was the installation “Anna” by Heather & Ivan Morison which contained a serious of objects that reflected the life and love affair between “The Warden” and “Anna” and their “The Child”  The Warden and Anna were two large pictures and their Child was what looked effectively like an enormous lightshade.  Numerous objects scattered the room – pots, flowers, bones that gave a slightly unnerving air to the room that was enhanced through snippets of conversation being played (effectively the paintings talking to each other?).  I appreciate that this sounds crackers but hey it worked for me:

The Warden


Their Child

I had plenty of time in this room as my kids had got involved in an art project where they were sketching some of the objects in the room that they then transferred onto card and carved out their own etchings.  There were several really interesting art activities that children could get involved in that were all linked to the exhibits in the museum.  They were well run and allowed the kids to take their time and look at some of the objects in a way that they would never have done if we’d just been walking around.  Many other galleries could take a lesson from the approach that the Hepworth take here.  The afternoon had them produced their own collographic prints inspired by David Thorpe’s work.

As well as the visiting displays there is also of course the permanent Hepworth sculptures:

So all in all I’ve got high praise for what they are doing at the Hepworth, it’s a high class gallery contained within a beautiful building.  The displays are excellent and if you have children there are activities that are well thought through and linked to the art, together with an outdoor play area when you need a bit of a run around.  An excellent cafe with locally sourced products and a really good gallery shop and to top it off it’s free.  So if you’ve not been get yourself down there and if you enjoy your sculptures and are from outside the area then the Hepworth combined with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park just down the road would make a perfect weekend break.




I have to admit that after the fantastic Tequila tasting evening at Pinche Pinche in Leeds, I’ve got a little bit obsessed about Tequila.

We learnt all about how 100% agave is the only way to go from Leeds legend Skippy (he of Mojo fame) and how the different types of Tequila reflect how they are produced and every nuance is present in the drink itself. The tequilas we drank were very similar to fine malts or cognac – not the rank stuff you get as shots in bars. Anyway it was a school night and I was up early the following day with a surprisingly light head.

Then seeing this week a wonderful selection of bottle designs on The Dieline website…well I just had to share it. I love how it goes from minimalist, modernist chic through to home grown authentic in the blink of an eye. I think it reflects how Tequila is all things to all men and apparently the fastest growing drinks ‘category’ in the world right now.

What’s your favourite?

Forms @ National Media Museum, Bradford

Paid one of my occasional visits to the Media Museum in Bradford recently and I must admit I’ve always had mixed feelings about it having never really been sure that the museum as a whole works.  At the moment they have an exhibition called “In The Blink of An Eye” which is a cultural tie in with the Olympics and features a fantastic collection of sporting images, some good features on different photographic techniques and two commissioned works one of which “Forms” I found mesmerising.

In some respects the idea is simple, film a variety of sports in action and “digify” the movement contained within that sport.  However the execution is far more subtle and striking than that premise. The animated graphic effectively seeks to capture then energy within each particular sport displayed on a massive screen.  In watching the repeating displays tumble across the screen (I think that there are 10 sports represented) you can step back and see the sport displayed on a smaller screen like the gymnast (above on the bottom right), or as I preferred ignore the screen and just watch the tumbling, exploding pixels of energy.  I could have stood there for hours.  The pictures above do not in any way do it justice, I’m not sure how long the exhibition is on for but if you are around then check it out (the exhibition also includes a great photo of Edward and Mrs Simpson levitating !).  Must admit though that I found it a bit odd that an exhibition celebrating the capture of moments using photography banned the taking of pictures.

Of course could not go to Bradford without checking out the new puddle:

I must admit that although one puddle does not a regenerated city make, it made me smile and everyone else who was there which has got to be a good sign.

The votes are in

I’ve been counting votes in the Leeds City Council election this morning, and in the lulls between boxes I was looking around the room at the goings on and musing on how strange it all is, once you think about it.

  • Rosettes – they’re an odd thing really aren’t they? Adults pinning shiny ribbons folded into pretty shapes onto their chests? But it’s nice to have some colours around the place.
  • Election agents – the thing I find bizarre every time is the way they crowd round the tables, staring intently down at you as you start to sort out the papers as they come out the box and endlessly asking which polling station it’s come from. They’re clearly counting, but why? They’re going to find out the result in an hour or few anyway. I was wondering today whether it’s so that they can get an idea of how people are voting in different parts of the ward, but generally they don’t stick around long enough to see the whole box being done, and anyway, they’re only looking at one person’s pile at a time. All they’re getting is a bit of a portion of a polling district in a ward. What does it actually tell them?
  • Paper folding – some papers are folded over into quarters, eights, even sixteenths. Why? Even if you fold it in half, no one is going to see where you’ve put your mark between you stepping out of the booth and putting it into the box. This is just my way of saying, please don’t do it. It takes longer to sort them (it’s surprising how much difference there is between opening a half fold and quarter fold) and makes it harder to count (it’s easier to flick through when they’re relatively flat).
  • Counting – it would seem that it’s pretty tricky to do something as basic as count. Before the votes are sorted into candidates, they have to be counted to make sure that it tallies with the number of ballot papers that have been issued in the polling station and there hasn’t been any funny business going on. This is by far the most time consuming bit of the process. Either it’s us being unable to count out 50 pieces of paper at a time (though sometimes I would blame the type of paper for making it harder to separate them), or it’s somone in the polling station who can’t count how many papers they’ve used.
  • Perseverence – there are some candidates who never come anywhere close to being elected, but still put themselves through it every time there’s an election.  Even if you hate their politics, you have to give them credit for fighting for what they believe in.
  • Spoilt ballots – each time there are a small number of ballots that are spoilt. Some are no doubt a mistake (e.g. marking too many cadidates), but some are obviously deliberate, such leaving it blank or writing a message on it. Some see these as a waste, but actually I rather appreciate them. Aside from the fact they make the whole thing more interesting (unfortuantely I only had a couple of blank ones today), I still think they’re a valid means of getting their point across. They might not affect the result of the election, but these people have certainly put more effort into their vote than most of us. Especially when they’ve written an essay!

I very much look forward to election time. Not so much for the actually voting, as I don’t exactly have many firm political convictions. But for the count. The people watching, the playing a part in the process, the waiting to find out the various outcomes – the ward you’ve been counting, the ward you live in, and if / how the political make up of the council (or government) has changed. It might seem rather old-fashioned to have people counting them all by hand, but it wouldn’t be half as fun to just wait a few minutes until a machine had done the totting up for you.