Tag Archives: lifestyle

Twitter Fans to Demand Leeds Only Sign Players Who Don’t Get Injured – by Rob Atkinson

LUFC Twitter

A Leeds United tweeter, yesterday

Storms in teacups and mountains made out of molehills. These are both specialities of the whinging, petulant, spoilt toddler types that appear to make up an uncomfortably large proportion of the Leeds United Twitter brigade. Time and time again, we see them launching into yet another rant when anything goes wrong at Elland Road. The latest mass tantrum is over Tyler Roberts‘ reported training ground injury from earlier in the week, with some suspecting that a knock the young striker was carrying when he moved from West Brom was actually something more sinister.

Whatever the facts of the case, the over-reaction from United’s more hysterical social media mouthpieces has been little short of embarrassing. And it’s a phenomenon not confined to injuries – anything negative is immediately seized upon and criticised with what almost amounts to a masochistic glee. This is no exaggeration. Certain alleged Leeds fans appear to like nothing more than a bit of a crisis, anything that shows the club in a bad light. They can then flap their virtual gums, competing with each other, so it appears, for the title of who can be the most pessimistic and ridiculously over-the-top negative. It inevitably degenerates into a why-oh-why session, with the usual suspects hurling abuse at the club they purport to follow. Naturally, the more moderate fans get sick of it, and a war of words ensues. It’s all so pointless, and it makes you wonder what other clubs’ fans think of our numerous bad apples – to say nothing of the Leeds players themselves, who must sometimes look on aghast.

It’s got to the point where I honestly feel we’d be better off without a large proportion of our social media “fans”. A lot of them seem to be there wholly or mainly to seek attention, or start an argument from the safely anonymous position of behind their keyboards. I swear that, in the days before so many virtual platforms were available – and when there was a lot more to moan about – there was less of this constant, dreary carping and moaning. Too much of that in the real, physical world of the terraces or the post-match pub would see persistent offenders in receipt of a thick ear, if they were lucky. But the virtual world is a safer place, and these needy types sally forth with impunity.

Some day, somebody will come up with an alternative word for a football adherent to the currently used “supporter” – and it won’t be a day too soon. Because what we see far too regularly on Twitter, Facebook etc etc, cannot be called support. It’s divisive, unhelpful, disloyal – the very antithesis of what football support used to be all about. My dearest wish is that a few of these discontented, attention-seeking, incognito inadequates should seek out other interests in life, and let the rest of us have a debate that hasn’t been dipped and soaked through in the Slough of Despond. Perhaps they could get hobbies, or girlfriends, or boyfriends, or whatever. I suspect that Twitter‘s gain has been a loss to the formerly popular pastimes of stamp-collecting or train-spotting. At least the Twatteratti would meet a few kindred spirits in those areas.

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. I’ve no choice but to plough through the LUFC hashtag daily, I rely on it as a source of information, or at least as a pointer for where information might be found. To have the Twitter feed clogged with such gloom and doom merchants, who clearly relish and rejoice in their own negativity, is annoying to say the very least. It makes an ordeal out of what should be a useful online repository of fact and opinion.

Let’s be clear: players do get injured, it’s an unfortunate fact of life. For an injury such as that suffered by Tyler Roberts to cause such an explosion of witless whinging is simply unacceptable. Man up and support the club, for Don’s sake. And if you can’t bring yourself to do that, then at least have the grace to stop whining – and get that stamp album out. After all, philately could get you anywhere. Preferably, far away from anything to do with Leeds United.

“Travel Man” in Barcelona: Channel 4 Sacrifices a Great Idea on the Altar of Cheap Laughs


Ayoade and his self-adoring comedy face

is a city I love and have visited frequently, my passion for the place surviving even my witnessing of a 4-0 massacre suffered by my beloved Leeds United. This explains the enthusiasm I felt for this Travel Man series opener – and also my deep sense of frustration and annoyance, having endured an hour of irritating ego-tripping and hopefully-funny silliness masquerading as an informative travel programme. Never have I started to watch a TV offering with a greater sense of anticipatory relish – only to end up feeling I’d have been better employed and more fulfilled eating a plateful of dried locusts.

The two presenters – Richard Ayoade and Kathy Burke – promised much initially, but fell woefully short of their supposed brief. This was, ostensibly, to sum up the attractions of a vibrant and wonderful city and maybe have a few laughs along the way. Ayoade, best-known (though not by me) as a presenter of a gadget show called The IT Crowd, was culprit in chief for what I count as this show’s failure. The premise in Travel Man is that “Richard hates travel and holidays – so what will he make of 48 hours away from home?” Sadly, all else was subordinate to this contrived central message, which Adoyade proceeded relentlessly to hammer home in the most unsubtle way imaginable. It was my first taste of his – for want of a better word – style; I shall not be putting myself out to repeat the experience.

From early in the piece, it was clear that Travel Man was to be the vehicle whereby Ayoade might reach a wider audience and give them the benefit of what he fondly imagines is his laconic and laid-back presentational personality. The dreaded “comedy voice” was a frequent intruder into his narrative; that annoying way of introducing ironic quotation marks by vocal inflection, so that the listener will (hopefully) be inescapably aware that here is a windswept and interesting cynic with an edgy and alternative view on pretty much everything he sees. Some people can carry this off and even make some decent entertainment out of it; Ayoade, on this depressing evidence, patently can’t.

In contrast to my zero prior knowledge of Ayoade, Kathy Burke is a performer I’ve always liked and rated – but here, she was drawn into a teeth-curling attempt to create an unlikely comic double-act. Everything of substance was sacrificed in the effort to get as much ironic comedy as possible – frankly, not a lot – out of this incongruous pairing. Whatever the lure of Barcelona’s many and varied points of interest, it all had to be about Richard Ayoade and his reactions to whatever he saw; a self-indulgent and subjective take on each too-hurried item with the twitchily uncomfortable Ms Burke doing her best to play up to her colleague’s self-adoration.

Thus, in the interests of establishing the desired laugh-a-minute feel to the thing, there was an awkward “Ooh, we have to share a hotel suite” moment with Ms Burke seeming to fear some unlikely molestation from her clearly aloof partner in crime; then there was some cringe-worthy banter at the Nou Camp football stadium, magnificent home of CF Barcelona – where Ayoade was at some pains to demonstrate his effete apathy towards the Beautiful Game – and next some frankly repulsive emetic slapstick in a restaurant, to the bemusement of the admirably patient, polite and professional staff. Burke is a highly capable performer, but she was rather dragged down to the level of her colleague, who was clearly preoccupied with projecting his individual personality over the whole undertaking.

So, instead of being treated to Barcelona’s panoply of vivid beauty and unique art, we got a series of laboriously ponderous set-ups culminating in yet another of Ayoade’s hopefully-cutting one-liners – drawled and mannered punchlines that invariably failed to be even a fraction as devastating as they were clearly intended to be. It was bitterly disappointing fare, and Burke did well to hide the embarrassment she must surely have felt. Perhaps she will reflect that, as an accomplished comedienne, she should not be wasting her time playing stooge to a partner who should have stayed at home surrounded by his gadgets – rather than stepping so far out of that comfort zone into the pitiless and unforgiving arena of comedy.

The victim in all of this squalid waste of time and opportunity – apart from the hapless viewer, sat seething with all hopes dashed – is of course the city of Barcelona itself. A feature-length programme could hardly do justice to its many attractions: the beauty and individuality of its Gaudi-dominated architecture; the culture that shines dazzlingly out of every sunlit surface; the cuisine, the sport, the history. It’s all there in one precious jewel of a city, just waiting to be described and marvelled over. But, disgracefully, we got none of that – in fact it is sadly fair to say that by far the most informative aspects of the whole production were the occasional graphics which flashed up, telling us the price of this or that and highlighting one or other sight worth seeing. Meanwhile, Ayoade and Burke were tenaciously flogging away at the dead horse of their joint comedic potential; it was grisly, unrewarding viewing.

What we did learn is that Richard Ayoade loves Richard Ayoade, and is keen to share that passion with a broader interest group than his usual audience of geeks – but that he is guilty of the cardinal sin of any wannabe comedian: that of forgetting to be funny. And we also learned that Kathy Burke, when handed lemons, will do her solid best to make lemonade, bless her. On this occasion, though, she should have thrown those lemons at her partner’s smug countenance – and hopped straight back on the train home. If she had – then maybe I and doubtless thousands of others might have been spared the empty disappointment felt after a production, that could have achieved so much, ended up delivering nothing but resentment. The knowledge that there went an hour of my life I’m never going to get back left me wondering what the effortlessly authoritative Michael Portillo might have done with such a nugget of a travel show idea. He could not, let’s face it, have been worse – and you just know that he’d have been far, far better – by an order of several hundred magnitudes.

This series will tragically continue with what we might dolefully expect to be a similar treatment of Istanbul, but it won’t have me for company. My advice is to stay at home instead of being tempted to go along for the ride and, with all due deference to Richard Ayoade’s forcefully-professed and overtly squeamish dislike of muddied oafs – see if there’s any football on.

I Blame The Parents : Thoughts Arising Out of the Philpott Tragedy


Life sentence: Philpott

I find myself wondering today, in light of the fact that a waste of DNA like prison-bound Mick Philpott is biologically capable of fathering 17 children – and evil enough, aided by his accomplices, to hatch a money-making plan that took the lives of six of them – whether it is now time to reappraise the adoption regulations.  These strange little bits of judicial nonsense currently deny – quite arbitrarily – the chance to adopt for various categories of people who are unable to have their own children.  I’m talking here about the people who are adjudged to be unable to bring up prospective adoptees in the “right” cultural environment, people deemed too old or too compromised in official eyes by relatively mild mental health conditions, even people reckoned to be suffering emotionally from their inability to conceive naturally – and so on.

There seems to be an awful lot of good parenting skills out there being needlessly wasted, while all the time utterly unsuitable people are producing positive litters of children without the first clue of how to bring them up, look after them or contribute in any positive way to their well-being and social/emotional development.   All of this, just because of the accident of being physically capable of reproduction.  We simply can’t afford to waste good parenting skills – they’re all too rare and precious, as even the most cursory glance around us will reveal.

What is the cost of this evident anomaly down the line, in terms of the kind of society members – quite apart from the tragedy of children who don’t survive – that such a crazily-weighted lottery is producing? And meanwhile, let’s not forget, good people with much to give of both love and the example they’d set in bringing up children, are left on the sidelines, wringing their hands as a whole generation of clueless “parents” brings up a succeeding generation in their own repugnant image.

I can honestly foresee a time when parenting will be by licence only; not that I would advocate this as “A Good Thing”.  It would smell uncomfortably like social engineering to me, and I’d want to know a great deal about the machinery involved in any such process.  But can we really carry on as we are?  Talk to any teacher, and you’ll hear a tale of despair when the conversation turns to the contribution of many parents to their children’s disciplinary standards, and to their education as a whole.  Teachers appear currently to be struggling to accomplish the virtually impossible: turn out well-rounded, educated individuals who are fit to take a place in society, with hardly any support or input from the people most intimately connected to those children concerned.  That’s not just a big ask, it’s a massively unfair burden on professionals who can influence only a portion of each day their students experience, for a relatively small slice of that child’s life.

I have a friend who is a teacher; from everything I know of her she’s a very good teacher.  I know she despairs of the role that some parents play in the development of some of her students, and I can quite see why.  How hard is it for her to take, then, when her cousin and his wife are turned down as adoptive parents because – among other bafflingly specious reasons – “We don’t think you’ll get over not being able to have your own.”  Doesn’t that rather rule out anybody who can’t have their own kids?  Who actually “gets over” a blow like that?  And can we speculate on why people who can have their own kids would want or need to adopt?  It all seems extremely illogical, and it’s a perpetuation by default of the damage being done, every day, every week, every month and year by the people who – as a matter of biological happenstance – end up with the job of raising the next generation.

Maybe, ultimately, we’ll be able to put right a few of society’s ills, and perhaps more attention and resources devoted to the education and support of people contemplating parenthood will assist that process.  I really think it would help, and let’s praise to the skies the first government that sees this as a priority and does something about it.  If you think it through clearly, you could hardly imagine a better investment, a safer investment, than money devoted to training and support with a view to producing better parents.  The savings arising out of the consequent reduction in crime, mental health issues, anti-social behaviour and the disintegration of communities would be incalculable.  Good parents are the ideal people for the job of parenting – goes without saying, or it should do.  God speed that happy day when this is recognised and acted upon.

But meanwhile, let’s not waste the resources freely available to us now in the shape of a massive pool of potentially excellent parents – who currently see their urgent desire to love and care for children they’d bring up in an exemplary fashion being frustrated.  Thwarted by officialdom with its petty rules and guidelines, and its limitless miles of red tape.  There’s far too much subjective judgement going on in this whole process, too many petty prejudices being reinforced by intransigent regulations and ill-advised, ill-informed officials.

My friend’s cousin and his wife now happily have their own child – but it’s another, unknown child – unwittingly losing out on a wonderfully loving home – who has suffered by the bizarre decision they were faced with when they applied to adopt.  There was even some suggestion that the woman’s Polish nationality figured in the “rationale” employed by the decision-maker.  That’s absolutely scandalous when we’re talking about a stable, affluent couple who were looking at adoption rather than IVF because of their view that there were so many unloved kids already out there.

Ask yourself, honestly: what better motive than that could any pair of prospective parents have?  Let’s embrace what people like this have to offer, and maybe help save future kids from future Philpotts.  The biggest lesson of this tragic case is that the complex and difficult adoption dilemma is an issue that we absolutely can’t afford to ignore any longer.