I wrote a letter to When Saturday Comes (@WSC_magazine) in response to a reader who spoke of the toxic history between Watford FC fans and those of Luton Town. It’s unlikely that they’ll print it as it’s far too specifically partisan, so here it is instead. (Note added 19/1/16: Wrong! It appears in WSC’s letters page in issue 360, Feb 2017)
Tim Turner in WSC 359 tells us that Watford‘s relationship with Luton Town was always toxic. He is so right. I was a solid Luton supporter until & after I actually moved to Watford of all places in the 80s. My divorce from Luton came during the time of fences and plastic pitches and I became that creature, “the man who always looks out for their results”, while getting my football fix at various non-league grounds around NW London.
My visits to Vicarage Road had been as an away supporter, and I was always dismayed at the supine, suburban atmosphere. Kenilworth Road always buzzed and jumped, and that was my template for what football supporting should be. We found “Elton John’s Taylor-Made Army” cringeworthy and, to be fair, we hated their success.
Living in Watford, I tried to get to like the team, but it was a dead loss. My last attempt was a game against Port Vale, and as Vale’s Martin Foyle powered a shot into the Watford net my half-standing, smothered “yes!” told me that I would never ever make the transfer – either that or I had been harbouring a secret Port Vale passion all this time.
But here’s the thing: years later, Luton have been through the wringer and I’ve only been distantly interested, but I’ve still never stopped hating Watford. There’s no logic to it and I’m sorry for it: these days I live on the South Coast and am a later-life scarf-carrying Hastings United ultra, unthreatened by Watford, yet here I am, a vaguely intelligent man, “well stricken in years”, still getting that little buzz when they lose. I may never grow up.
What I didn’t add as another reason for my dislike is the shafting Wealdstone FC got from Watford when they entered into an ill-advised groundshare at Vicarage Road. A good club with top-class supporters nearly went to the wall, and Watford got a new stand out of it.
I found it fascinating. Based on deep reading of the texts and the author’s own and others’ research we find there is a good deal more to the works of Jane Austen than meets the eye. Perhaps some of the theories are a bit of a stretch but everything here throws new light.
Also contains biographical information, showing that biographies of Austen quickly run to ‘might-haves’ and ‘maybes’ to fill their page-count.
Recommended to all Jane Austen readers.
*I just gave an actual Austen book 5 stars: I’m sure Ms Kelly won’t begrudge being given one fewer!
Note: since I wrote this a gent called Arnie (@janeaustencode, http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.co.uk) has been in touch, alleging, at the very least, that Helena Kelly may have borrowed some of his thoughts and writings for this book without giving him any credit. This little blog hardly seems the place to start a fight but if if the want to have a snarl at each other comments are enabled below!
I just thought of a way of rewriting Mansfield Park in which our heroine is, instead of being a breakable, probably consumptive, mistreated valetudinarian type, a heartily healthy and unfeasibly pneumatic blonde bombshell.
It needs some fleshing out (hur hur). I can’t help thinking that Mrs Norris, who is, surprisingly, not a cat but an aunt, might have had something interesting to say and Sir Thomas would have crept up to the East Room for a chat a good while sooner.
Instead of marrying that pill Edmund at the end, Fanny probably goes off with Henry Crawford in his borrowed BMW and is decapitated on the A509 Wellingborough bypass.
I was what you might call a reluctant Janeite. I suspect there are a lot of us out there, especially among us men. From being force-fed ‘Emma’ in sixth-form I was in denial – I recognised the writer’s quality without properly seeing that her stories are more than just tales of closed societies of young idle people wasting their time before being married off. I’ve begun to see to what extent I was wrong, and Mansfield Park has helped greatly with that process. Even some quite ardent lovers of Jane Austen have trouble with Mansfield Park, or, more particularly, they have trouble with Fanny Price. She’s not “feisty”; she lacks heroic quality; she’s weak. Broadly, she commits the sin of not being Elizabeth Bennett. These criticisms are true as far as they go, but here’s the thing: the book tells us exactly why and how she’s all this, how she copes with and ultimately overcomes her troubled upbringing and ends the book as a fully-rounded & admirable person. Here’s a girl, less than healthy, certainly neglected and conceivably abused at home, taken as an act of charity from her parents and placed in a high-class environment already packed with well-to-do, self-assured older children and adults who, with one exception, treat her with anything raging from condescension to disdain to simple ignoring, so that she almost always feels she is only at Mansfield Park on sufferance. Should she ever show “ingratitude” or independence of spirit, there is Mrs Norris to tell her how lucky she is to be among such superior society at all. If at any time she receives what seems to be preferential treatment there is always someone to remind her of her lowly status. The only adult who appreciates her is too idle and self-absorbed to be any help, and the only one of the children who supports her becomes neglectful when he falls in love. Is it any wonder that Fanny is less than self-confident? The story of the book for me is how she acquires her inner strength: as others fail and show their feet of clay she consistently increases in power without ever losing that essential eighteenth and nineteenth century attribute, modesty. And this rise comes organically and feels true, and through this I cannot be one of the anti-Fanny crowd. For me any weakness in the book comes late. The inevitable marriage feels contrived and even possibly objectionable: maybe another outcome would have been too difficult to pull off without upsetting conservative readers, but this somewhat bolted-on happy ending, while it doesn’t spoil a marvellous book, feels unwanted.
No. Well, yes. No. These clubs and all the others up and down the land at a similar level (and Runcorn) are what football’s about. OK, the standard is often more Harry Kane in Euro 2016 than Harry Kane in most of his club matches (other players who were s**t in the Euros are available). These guys are still better than you (I) ever were (was), even if that stretches belief sometimes. Also, these are all clubs kept going by people who care, one of whom maybe repainted that barrier you’re leaning on (it’s still wet lol (made you look lol)), who sometimes wonder why the left-back is being given money when he does that stupid bloody thing ALL DAY. On a good day the 1000, 700, 400, 30 or whatever of you go home feeling as good as anyone leaving their bloody Theatre Of Dreams. Go to the game, have a pint or three, get worked-up about their dirty bastard number 4 , moan, go home and smash the furniture (Eight-Bloody-One!) . Next week go to an away game. Have fun. You’re winning, even if that useless mob aren’t..
From Dorking, which is in Surrey. Minted. I saw them in the Sussex County League a couple of seasons ago (at Eastbourne Town) throwing away a 3 goal lead. They haven’t done much of that since. Bastards.
Had a difficult season last year, following a difficult season the year before. We think they’ll have a difficult season, to compound the obvious difficulties of being from East Grinstead.
(I like their website; it has a nice unflashy (pun and no pun) layout with all the information you need easily found from the front page. It is amazing how many club sites can’t manage this small thing /rant).
A warm welcome to the players, directors and supporters of Godalming Town as they make their debut in The Ryman League.
They look grim.
According to this thing here (see map below), Godalming is the westernmost club in the division, apart from Guernsey. This may be the first & last time Godalming is ever described as an “outpost” of anything.
I’m dead certain they wish they could have gone into the Southern League so that they could all go to Devon every fortnight. See also: Whyteleafe.
Guernsey is an island whose people insist they are not French. Unlike noisy Charlie Hungerford neighbours Jersey, Guernsey decided to be a proper football club rather than playing Sark all the time in dumb “internationals”.
Seemingly nicely monied-up. Working on the principle that “if he ever played for Hastings he must be OK”. This is a theory that may be tested to destruction this season. Have they signed Richard Rose yet?
If there were any justice Whyteleafe would be moved to the Southern League so they had to go to Devon all the time. That’d Harsh their Smug.
We love you really. It’s just we’re going to build a wall around Whyteleafe, and THEY’RE GOING TO PAY FOR IT.
Club motto “Qui Curat?”
13/8/16 First Game -Corinthian Casuals away.
Predicted League Position: 38th
The Ryman League
Its proper name is the Isthmian League. It used to be an amateur league for clubs in and about London, but now it’s a semi-pro league in the South East, at a level equivalent to (or even better than) the old Southern League. Ryman have sponsored it for years now because Theo Paphitis actually likes his football, proving that some rampant capitalist bastards are only rampant capitalist bastards most of the time. (Disclosure: he bought me a pint once but never knew it). I remember when it was the Rothmans’ Isthmian League ‘cos I’m old.
“Thirty years ago or so Henry James lived at Rye. I had a house at Winchelsea”(Ford Madox Ford, “Return to Yesterday”, Chapter 1.
“Winchelsea stands on a long bluff, in shape like that of Gibraltar.” (ibid, Chapter 2)
It seemed a good idea to walk across the marshes from Rye to Ford’s house at Winchelsea one summer afternoon, in the footsteps of Henry James and Ford Madox Ford, so last weekend I did.
It’s an easy flat walk, except the last bit up to the town.
“There is only one Winchelsea, and there is no place like it, no place that so effectually and so pleasantly teaches us the lesson that we most need in these days of hurry and forgetfulness.” Ford, from the Introduction to his “Cinque Ports”.
Put another way, I saw two people this Sunday afternoon in July: there was a chap sitting outside the church and a man washing his car.
Down past the church and almost leaving town, is Ford Madox Ford’s house:
“The Bungalow was in fact a small house, built for his retirement by the first governor-general of Canada ‘in exact imitation’, Ford said, ‘of a Canadian (clap board) framed house.’ It had a verandah, across the front, now gone, over which hops grew and on which Ford and Conrad sat talking in the warm summer nights. It was later enlarged by Elsie and later still was bought by an old school friend of Ford’s, Charles Kinross, who in 1955 had a plaque commemorating Ford put on the front. Now called The Little House, it is, despite alterations, more or less as when Ford and Elsie lived there.” (Alan Judd, “Ford Madox Ford”)
The plaque, in the style of the well-known Blue Plaques, is over the front door. It has been painted over.
No plaque over this house, No 5., which is where Joseph Conrad lived. It is almost opposite. (There is a bit of my finger top left which I have left unedited for reasons of authenticity and laziness).
Out through the Strand Gate as I wanted to go back to Rye by another path.
The gates at Winchelsea are much-photographed, but one more won’t hurt.
Down the hill, turn right and head for Winchelsea Beach, a recent settlement that’s only possible since the waters receded. Where the road goes sharp right we carry straight on…
… back towards Rye via Camber Castle which has nothing to do with Ford or Conrad, but which was built by Henry V111. (I expect he had help).
The present custodians are not much interested either way.
I won’t burden this with lots of links – Wikipedia is your friend! – but www.winchelsea.net is full of goodies. Thanks to the people behind that.
Ford Madox Ford’s best-known books are “The Good Soldier” and “Parade’s End” (which is actually 4 books but usually sold in a single volume these days). “The Good Soldier” seems as though it is going to be a late-Victorian tale of morals and manners, but as the body-count rises… I won’t spoil it for you. “Parade’s End” is a masterpiece.
In 1997 a book by Sebastian Junger called “The Perfect Storm” came out, followed in 2000 by the movie. Since then any combination of two or more inconvenient events has been described by someone somewhere as “A Perfect Storm”.