Letter to the editor

jtp0jana89xb8fmuf5vgI 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)

Dear WSC

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.

Book Review

Jane Austen, the Secret RadicalJane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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!

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Jayne Mansfield Park

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.

Fanny Price

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.

Yep, I’ve got this.

A book review

Mansfield ParkMansfield Park by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

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A Pen Portrait of our Visitors: Ryman League Division 1 (South) 2016/7

This is a piss-take, right?

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..

Carshalton Athletic


“Pure Football” says the crappy Pitchero website. We’ll be the judges of that.

Look, I don’t know who did their logo but the more I look at it the more worried I get. Just me I expect.

13/8/16 First Game – Horsham away.

Predicted League Position: 9th

Chatham Town



Met some nice people from Chatham last season, good community thing going on. So I’m going to leave them alone. For the town of Chatham, see also: Shangri-La, Utopia etc.

13/8/16 First Game -Three Bridges away.

Predicted League Position: 9th




Chipstead started last season as though they meant to get relegated as soon as possible, then appeared to change their minds.

They’ve recently  been to Le Touquet, which is nice.

People keep telling me where Chipstead is but I keep forgetting. Chipstead FC then told me I’d got it wrong anyhow.

13/8/16 First Game -Lewes @ home.

Predicted League Position: 9th





Famously don’t pay their players. At all. Amateur ethos and all that. Bet they get a shitload of exes though. Note to lawyer: by “shitload” I mean “hardly any”.

Chocolate & pink shirts like that ice cream your mum used to buy. Or like that hoody Jamie’s mate Olly always used to wear. You know, the one that said he’d lend you his beard oil that time.

Incidentally & seriously,  this book by Terry Morris is a seriously good history of amateur football. Recommended.

13/8/16 First Game -Whyteleafe @ home.

Predicted League Position: 9th

Cray Wanderers




Oh hallo!. Promoted last season. Bloke (turns out he’s the Chairman, lol) had a Cray Wanderers flag on a flat by the railway near Lewisham during the euros.

Hey they’re getting a new stadium! Looking good.

CrayWdrs_New _Stadium
I think this is probably it. Is that that church you can see from the train?

13/8/16 First Game -Sittingbourne @ home.

Predicted League Position: 9th

Dorking Wanderers




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.

13/8/16 First Game -Greenwich Borough @ home

Predicted League Position: 9th

 East Grinstead Town


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).

13/8/16 First Game -Molesey away.

Predicted League Position: 9th

Faversham Town


Watford used to have a fanzine called Mud Sweat & Beers which my old pal Paul Baker used to write for. Faversham has both mud and beer so something to aim for lads.

Sorry, fell asleep. Next.

13/8/16 First Game -Walton Casuals away.

Predicted League Position: 9th

 Godalming Town


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.

13/8/16 First Game -Hythe Town @ home.

Predicted League Position: 9th

Greenwich Borough



Welcome to newly-promoted Greenwich Borough, who play at Dartford while the builders are in at their new ground.

My boss lives about 10 minutes’ walk from their old ground but supports Fulham.

My boss is a wanker.

13/8/16 First Game -Dorking away.

Predicted League Position: 9th




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”.

In the light of recent events they may wish to negotiate a “Guexit” and go and play my other favourite team http://www.dinan-lehonfc.fr/ .

Their fans call every other club “dirty Northern bastards” which was certainly
a novelty in Hastings.

13/8/16 First Game -Ramsgate away.

Predicted League Position: 9th

Hastings United


The main stand at The Pilot Field is older than my mum. Like my mum it leaks a bit in the winter.

Sorry mum. I traduced you just for a joke. You may wish to cut me out of your will.

13/8/16 First Game – South Park @ Home

Predicted League Position: 1st

Herne Bay


That’s a heron. Good feet for a big fella.

13/8/16 First Game -Tooting away.

Predicted League Position: 9th





Horsham went away and now have come back again. I think this is probably a good thing.

These Young Men need to stop groundsharing with the YMCA though, fun though it may be to stay there.


There’s a very small chance you haven’t seen  this excellent drinking video from last season.

13/8/16 First Game -Carshalton @ home.

Predicted League Position: 9th

 Hythe Town


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?

That bloody badge is stupid. Behave.

13/8/16 First Game -Godalming away.

Predicted League Position: 9th



The new Lewes badge (not shown) for 2016/17 is an heraldic redition described by the College of Heralds as”Barry Glendenning in a beach hut obdormivitWe like you really, Barry Glendenning.

Home Kit
“Stripes man, loads of fecking stripes.Wooooh!  And hoops, yeah. Stripes and hoops. Groovy. And those oblong things, wossnames”. “Seriously, is there any of that stuff left?”

Last Season: Relegated big time, but then “Division 1 South is more, like, real.”

Whyteleafe Supporter
You Again?

13/8/16 First Game -Chipstead away.

Predicted League Position: 9th



I did an entirely factual thing about Molesey last season so there’s that.

All I can get out of their website at time of writing is a blank white page and a whirly buffering thing. I haven’t got all day. Jeez.

13/8/16 First Game -East Grinstead @ home.

Predicted League Position: 9th




Far Far Away, donkey.

Goat, whatever.

“Had a rendezvous with Janet/ Quite near the Isle of Thanet”. Look it up kids.

13/8/16 First Game -Guernsey @ home.

Predicted League Position: 9th



Have a look at what I said about East Grinstead’s website. Then have a look at Sittingbourne’s. See what I mean?

The Twitter page says “Sittingbourne FC are a football club based in Sittingbourne”. Thank Heaven you cleared that up, Mr Effing Holmes.

13/8/16 First Game -Cray Wanderers away.

Predicted League Position: 2000th

South Park



Trust me, they’ve heard it all before. This is Reigate, not Colorado.
Their ‘keeper is just big-boned.

Average attendance: 1

13/8/16 First Game – Hastings away.

Predicted League Position: 9th

Three Bridges


From the website: “Three Bridges FC is the No. 1 non-League semi-professional Football Club in Crawley”.

Consider yourselves pwned, The No.2 non-League semi-professional Football Club in Crawley. Nyah.

13/8/16 First Game -Chatham @ home.

Predicted League Position: 9th

Tooting & Mitcham Utd


For Twitter get onto RogerRamone rather than the official Twitter feed which someone set up, followed 7 people then forgot about.

13/8/16 First Game -Herne Bay @ home.

Predicted League Position: 9th

Walton Casuals


According to their website “the Stags now boast over 450 youth players”. That many, they probably play Shrove Tuesday football rather than the dull version we’re used to.

Groundsharing with Whyteleafe this season. I hope they’ll be very happy together.

13/8/16 First Game -Faversham @ home.

Predicted League Position: 9th



I dealt with this lot last season .

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.

The Ryman Isthmian League

Yer fixtures.



From Rye to Winchelsea & back in the Footsteps of Ford Madox Ford

“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.

View towards Winchelsea

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.