Friday 4 May 2012

Finals Ain't What They Used To Be

So, tomorrow will see Liverpool and Chelsea facing off against each other in the 131st FA Cup Final – the premier showpiece occasion at the end of the English football season. Or rather, not. You see, The FA Cup Final ain’t what it used to be. Let me take you back....

The time was when the FA Cup Final was the only club match that you could be guaranteed of seeing live on TV. You might also get to see the finals of the European Cup or UEFA Cup if a British team were involved, but that was about it. Even England international games weren’t shown live as a matter of course, as was gloriously illustrated in the famous episode of “Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads”, where they spent the whole day trying to avoid an England result before they watch the highlights in the evening. So the fact that a game was being shown live was an occasion of itself.

Cup Final day was one of the most exciting days of the year in a young boy’s life. It was just about the only Saturday of the year when you would willingly get out of bed early. The TV would go on at about 9:00 a.m., and there you would sit for the next 9 hours. First off would be such treats as “Cup Final It’s A Knockout”, “Cup Final A Question of Sport”, “Cup Final Mastermind” or ...well, you get the idea. There would be regular reports from the two hotels where the teams were staying, and about  late morning Frank Bough or Dickie Davies (depending on whether you were watching BBC or ITV) would interview a couple of the players and the managers. This was mind-blowing stuff back then. Further interviews at Wembley with the likes of Tarby or Brucie or some other 70’s comedian would follow.

Early afternoon and we would have the joy of watching live as the two team coaches left their respective hotels on their way to Wembley. More discussion with the likes of Saint & Greavsie, Bob Wilson, Jack Charlton, etc would precede the arrival of the teams at the stadium amidst much talk of “going down Wembley Way” or “remember the White Horse Final” or “the Matthews Final”.  Then Tony Gubba or Tony Francis would buttonhole the players as they took a look at the Cup Final playing surface. Excitement on the sofa was pretty much at fever pitch by this point. The living room would be steadily increasing its population as kick-off time now approached. And then the moment would arrive – the Cup Final itself. What a way to end the season, and to bid farewell to all things football for another three months. Those matches are seared onto my mind, as they are to every football fan who lived through that time. True spectacle, and a real feel of occasion permeated the whole day. The FA Cup truly was the greatest cup competition in the world, and the final was the biggest day in the football calendar.

But now? Well, now the Cup Final isn’t even the last match of the season. The Premier League carries on for another week afterwards and there are even league matches being played on the same day as the final. The match has now been elbowed to a tea-time kick-off with the TV coverage starting a mere two hours before kick-off. The teams competing during the season have often fielded weakened teams for their FA cup matches as the priority now is very much the Premiership or the Champions League. There is even a possibility that Chelsea won’t be putting out their very strongest team tomorrow as they rest players ahead of their Champions League Final appearance in a couple of weeks time.

The Final is now just one of dozens (if not hundreds) of matches shown live each season and fans are wearily familiar with every team and every player. The competition no longer holds the place in the football season that it used to – both literally and figuratively. The world has moved on I guess, but progress doesn’t always mean improvement.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Keeping It Smooth

I was recently given the opportunity by the good people at The Clubhaus to review their EMJ Shave Cream Signature Mint. I am not a regular “wet shaver” but I do like to go down the traditional shaving route now and then. Sometimes an electric shaver just isn’t enough :)

The Clubhaus concept is simple; you Clean, Shave, Treat and then Style yourself. They will provide you with any info you need and a great selection of products; you then decide to what extent each stage suits your lifestyle with products to match. If you are looking for a Christmas gift for the man in your life this may be the place to go!

Anyway, as I said, The Clubhaus have given me the opportunity to review the EMJ Shave Cream, and I have been using it for the last 10 days or so. Although it is their “Signature Mint”, neither Dori nor I could discern much of a fragrance from the cream, but that ain’t necessarily a bad thing! The product claims that the “rich, low-foam formula softens and preps your skin and beard for a more comfortable shave,” and that it “won’t dry out skin or clog pores”.

Now one issue I do have is that my skin is very dry, so I was eager to test out these claims, as I know from past experience that some shaving creams can leave my skin feeling a little raw and dry. That was certainly not the case with this product though as the shave was indeed very comfortable and my skin felt refreshed and not at all dry afterwards. As they say, it is not a very foamy cream, but it certainly seemed to do the trick in keeping my skin as soft as is possible when you are running a razor over it. I have no complaints at all about the EMJ Shave Cream, and I will certainly be using the remainder of the 200 mL (6.7 fl oz) tube that The Clubhaus generously sent me. I may even go back for more afterwards!

Sunday 30 October 2011

Sharpening My Pencils...

The days are zipping by and it hardly seems possible that tomorrow will be Halloween. Where has this year gone to? Heck, it’s only 8 weeks to go til Christmas! You got all your shopping done yet? No, me either :)

Anyhoo, if it is Halloween tomorrow then it must be November 1st on Tuesday. Obvious I know, but I mention it because this year that is an important date for me. You see, for the first time ever I will be taking part in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is more commonly referred to.  The aim of the project is to encourage people to get writing, and in particular to write a complete 50,000 word novel within a month.

Now, I haven’t written any piece of fiction, long or short, for many decades, not since I was at school in fact, and so to jump right in with attempting a full-blown novel is probably foolhardy and reckless. As you will have seen, I haven’t exactly been consistent with my postings here over the last good number of months, and so I have my own severe doubts as to whether I will be disciplined enough to get anywhere near the 50,000 word target for NaNoWriMo. For those of you who haven’t worked it out yet, that is 1,667 words each and every day for the 30 days of November. That is a lot of writing, especially when you are doing it part-time, alongside a full-time job and life in general. But then, if you don’t try you will never achieve anything! I fully expect to fall well below the 50,000 word target, but I am going to give it a shot and even if the end product isn’t exactly Shakespeare, or even Dan Brown, then it might still be the basis of something useful. And if not even that, then I will have a chunk of fiction that I have created myself and may be able to mould into something half-readable for my own personal pleasure and satisfaction. If nothing else it will be an adventure!

PS Happy Halloween everyone!

Sunday 18 September 2011

Sunday Snaps #13 - Our Summer

Time flies and I can’t quite believe that it’s been almost 5 months since I last posted on this site. Time has been short and for this, and a bunch of other reasons that I won’t bore you with, this blog has been just a little neglected over the summer. So, in order to get back into the swing of this blogging lark, I figured that it would be a good idea to resurrect my Sunday Snaps thread and share a few pictures that either Dori or I took during the summer. I hope you enjoy them :)

These first two photos were taken in St James’s Park, just across the way from Buckingham Palace in London. They were taken on the beautifully sunny day that followed the Royal Wedding way back in April. It was a lot calmer strolling through the park that day than it had been 24 hours earlier amongst the joyous chaos of the wedding celebrations!

These nest three snaps were, fairly obviously, taken during our trip up to this year’s Wimbledon championships. The day we were there was one of the hottest days of the year, though as the rest of the summer was fairly non-existent, that isn’t saying too much! Anyway, we had a great time and saw some really great matches, as I talked about over on my sports blog at the time.

The last couple of pictures are from our day-trip down to the south coast town of Bournemouth. We had a really great day out, and thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to the coast for 3 or 4 years.

Well, that was the summer that was. Halloween is just round the corner, and Christmas is only three months away. I swear that time is speeding up! Anyhoo, I will be trying to blog a little more regularly again from now on, so please drop by when you can and pay a visit. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!! Til next time.

Monday 2 May 2011

Our Anniversary...Oh, And The Royal Wedding

Well, what a weekend that was! As I mentioned in my last post, Dori and I were heading up to London for a few days to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and since William and Kate decided to choose our special day as their own wedding day it became a double celebration for us.

We left home on Thursday morning, travelling first by bus and then by train as we made our way into the capital. Once in London we headed towards our hotel where we dropped off our luggage and then went back out to see what we could of the last minute preparations for the Royals’ big day. We went first to Westminster Abbey where the crowds were already thronging outside. People had been camped out both there and on The Mall outside Buckingham Palace for a couple of days by then, in order to secure a good view of the events on Friday. The world’s media was out in force, as you would expect, and we saw a number of recognisable faces reporting back to the four corners of the globe.

We were kind of looking for a feasible spot to pick to stand at the next day, and it was immediately obvious that outside the Abbey was not going to be it! So we made our way over towards Buckingham Palace to see what was happening over there, and how many rows of tents there were already! It was busy there too, but a little less frenetic than at the Abbey and we decided that we would look to stand somewhere along The Mall on the following day. We hung around outside the palace for a while, enjoying the atmosphere and watching another large section of the world’s media doing their thing :) Everybody was in a good mood and the atmosphere was already building. After a couple of hours there we realized that we hadn’t eaten properly all day, and so headed off to get a bite to eat, before then going back to the hotel to get an early-ish night before getting up extremely early the next day!

The temporary media centre opposite Buckingham Palace

So, the big day arrived and we got up and washed before heading out a little before 6:00 a.m. We took the tube to Charing Cross and then walked down through Trafalgar Square and on towards The Mall. A lot of people were already there and we quickly chose a spot to stand about ¾ of the way along The Mall. There were some people who had camped out at the front and then a couple stood behind them, but we were right behind them with a good view of the processional route. It was cold, and we had a long wait ahead of us. Luckily, the people we were around were all very friendly and the atmosphere was one of excitement and anticipation. The crowds quickly grew, and before we knew it we were absolutely surrounded by people, and were unable to move much more than just shuffling on the spot. I think we managed to bag our position just in time!!

The procession to the Abbey started at 10:10 a.m. with William and Harry being driven past us, dressed very smartly in their military dress uniforms. We did try to get some pictures of them, and of the subsequent cars carrying the rest of the royal family, and the Middletons, but they were all going just a little bit too fast for us to be able to get any clear shots of them. That was especially so given that whenever a car went past the crowd would get very excited and everyone would be jostled about.

The ceremony itself was broadcast via loudspeakers to those of us waiting along the processional route, with many a cheer going up at various stages of the proceedings. Before too long they were all on their way back towards the palace, only this time in horse-drawn carriages. Here are a couple of snaps of William and Kate, and the Queen and Prince Phillip. Apologies for the quality, but as I said before we were all being buffeted and we were trying to catch a moving target!!

Once the procession had finished we very slowly made our way up The Mall towards the palace. My knees wouldn’t have allowed me to go fast having been stood on one spot for nearly 7 hours, but the huge numbers of people there made that impossible anyway. By taking a circuitous route via St James’s Park, we were able to get ahead of a lot of the crowd and back onto the now-open Mall and walk towards the palace ready for the traditional appearance on the balcony. The crush of people was amazing, but very good-natured. We were able to get reasonably close to the front of the crowd, though not as close as when we went to Trooping the Colour a couple of years back :) Here are another couple of snaps to give you an idea of what it was like.

And then, once the royals had disappeared to enjoy their celebrations, we VERY slowly made our way away from Buckingham Palace and towards our own anniversary celebratory meal in Covent Garden. It was a really great day and, no doubt, one that we will always remember. It was very colourful and the atmosphere was wonderful. Occasions like this come along about once every 25-30 years, so we felt very lucky to be able to join in this time around.

The following day we had some time to waste before heading home, and so we revisited the scene of all the festivities as things were being dismantled and taken away. Here are a couple more pictures that we took that day.

Which just leaves it for me to say that I hope that William and Kate have a very long and successful marriage, and to wish Dori a very happy anniversary!!!

PS Dori has also blogged about our adventures over the weekend, with some other interesting photos. Check her out over at The Yellow House!

Sunday 24 April 2011

Sunday Snaps #12 - A Royal Occasion

Happy Easter everyone! Yes, it's been over a year but Sunday Snaps is back by popular demand!!

The holidays are coming thick and fast right now here in England. It’s a four day weekend for a lot of people this week, with Good Friday and Easter Monday being public holidays and then next weekend will also be a four day break with the Monday being the May Day bank holiday. Friday is, of course, also a public holiday here because of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. So, for the sake of 3 days leave you can actually have an 11 day break from work! Lovely Jubbly!

As Dori mentioned on her blog a little while ago, the day of the Royal Wedding is also our 5th wedding anniversary and, by happy coincidence, we had arranged to be in London next weekend anyway. So we will spend a great deal of our special day on the streets of the capital enjoying the ambience of the royal occasion. Whether we will actually get to see much remains to be seen, but it is really the atmosphere of the day that we are looking forward to.

We have already seen pretty much all of the royals, including William and Kate – though they were on a break at the time! The first time that we saw William and Harry (and Kate) was at the Concert for Diana back in 2007 on what would have been Diana’s 46th birthday. Here are a couple of snaps we took that day, including one of Harry taken on a mobile phone through a pair of binoculars – hence the very poor quality!

We caught most of the rest of the family at Trooping the Colour in 2009, which I blogged about at the time. It was a little surreal to see them all lined up on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, just as I have seen dozens of times before on TV. Here are a couple of snaps from that day too.

If we do get to see anything of interest on Friday then we will no doubt share that with you here on our blogs. If we don’t then we will just enjoy our wedding anniversary together just as the nation goes wedding crazy!

It promises to be an interesting week.

Sunday 27 March 2011

One Day in a Decade

Today is not only the start of British Summer Time here in England, when the clocks spring forward by an hour, but it is also Census Day. Which, come to think of it, makes it an odd day to choose – give every household in the country an extra job to do and then take an hour out of the day on which they are supposed to do it! But then “Government planning” has always been an oxymoron. :-)

So, this morning we sat down and filled out the form giving information such as the number of rooms in our house, employment status, educational qualifications, etc. For the first time ever it was possible to complete the questionnaire online this year, but we opted instead for the traditional paper form. It somehow felt as though it had more import that way. Of course, not being a traditional couple, the form did present us with a couple of difficulties – such as trying to write a US address into boxes that were structured for a British one. But, overall, the process was relatively painless and was completed surprisingly quickly, given how thick the form was! At least that job is now done for another 10 years.

The rest of the weekend’s highlights have been sport-related, and I did promise not to bore you all here with my sporty witterings now that I have a separate sports blog. So, head on over to The Sports Ground tomorrow if you want to know how else I have been filling my time this weekend.

Hopefully it won’t be another five and a half weeks until my next post, like it has been since my last one! Well, I know it won’t be because Dori and I are going on a little expedition within that time which I think a number of you may be interested in. Stay tuned for more info!!
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