Sunday, August 31, 2008

Poulter, Cross and Cooper

Faldo the English man, and hardly a Hibernophile, picked two English players as his wild cards for the Ryder Cup - shock horror. I don't object much to either of his selections (OK I like Poulter - he's a cross between Payne Stewart and Rod Stewart) but Darren Clarke would have made a better team member.

Dorothy Cross on TV last night talking about her work and patronising some innocent Pacific islanders. Her kind of art needs an enormous amount of guff to sustain it and by God she's the girl for it. I prefer art that you can encounter without an intermediary. She kept referring to herself as an artist - a big claim. But she's a game bird with a talent for self-promotion and I do love her labrador, swimming alongside her uncritically.

Had a substantial bet on Kerry to beat Cork last Sunday but was made to sweat for my money. Colm Cooper is probably one of the greatest forwards ever to play Gaelic Football and he certainly proved it with the last goal - most players would have gone for a point at that stage. Now that's what I call an artist.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Golden Vision

An unexpected treat on BBC4 last night - a black and white film by Ken Loach (or Kenneth as he was then) called "The Golden Vision", based on the antics of a bunch of Everton supporters in the Liverpool of 1968. We get loads of wonderful period detail: the intruding priest (Everton were always the Catholic club), the bevvies, the pregnant birds, the long-suffering wives, Soho strip clubs, atmospheric slums, and moody shots of the towering stadium. You got Loach's political point - the energies of grown men totally absorbed by the great frivolity of football. But there's also the warmth, wit and camaraderie of the fans - amidst the deprivations of their daily life they keep their spirit and their sense of humour.

But the real treat for me was the interviews with the players from that era and the glimpses of various matches. That was a golden age for Everton, just after their famous 1966 FA Cup final win against Sheffield Wednesday (take a bow Mike Trebilcock) and just before their unexpected loss in 1968 to West Brom (hang down your head Jimmy Husband). I was a big fan myself in those days and the names still worked their magic. The solid and honest Brian Labone, the slight and mercurial Alex Young (the "Golden Vision" of the title) who looked like a minor Roman Emperor with his classical features and his blonde crinkly hair,
and the sublime Gordon West in goal with his film star looks and his hilariously short shorts. I remember him in the 1968 cup final when he didn't kick a single ball but rather threw everything - all the better to retain possession for a team that played elegant football. There was also the urbane Ray Wilson who played in the England World Cup team of 1966 - he was interviewed as he smoked his way to London on the train for a match against Arsenal. We caught a glimpse of the great Harry Catterick whose successful reign as manager was cut short by illness; and Everton's blimpish chairman John Moores who saw football as a device for keeping the masses under control by dissipating their energies.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Apotheosis of Padraig

It defies belief doesn't it - Harrington winning the USPGA and raising his tally to 3 majors from the last six. More than Norman, more than Langer, more than Olazabal and equal to the likes of Els and Singh. This seems more than a triumph for perspiration and his much vaunted dedication to practice. It's more a triumph of will and temperament. In both the British Open and the USPGA he took control over the closing holes as others faltered.

V. S. Naipaul: White Man Manque

Just finished reading Patrick French's "The World is What it Is" - a very candid biography of V. S. Naipaul.

The most astonishing thing about this biography is that it's authorised. One can only assume that Naipaul hasn't read it as the portrait it paints is consistently unflattering. However, it does all the while acknowledge his greatness as a writer. Maybe that's all he cares about, believing Auden's dictum:

"Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views
And will pardon Paul Claudel .
Pardons him for writing well".

The first thing to note about Naipaul is that he really wanted to be a white man. And in time he took on all the hauteur of an Oxbridge grandee - no doubt picking up his cues from the likes of Anthony Powell and Lady Antonia Fraser - he courted them and their ilk shamelessly and assiduously. He was born in Trinidad of Indian origin but was never happy with either designation.

The book tends to dwell on his two abusive relationships - one with his doormat wife Pat and the other with an Argentinian hottie called Margaret who seems to have brought him to life sexually and stimulated the most fecund period of his career. He kept the two of them going for ages, enjoying the movement between security and adventure. When Pat eventually died, he dumped Margaret and married an Indian woman dedicated to his service. What a hero.

The book is a rollicking read and full of wonderful detail about the upper echelons of British literary life. The author describes the sexually voracious Lady Antonia Fraser rejecting Clive James advances as he "wasn't from the first eleven". Presumably Pinter was.

I have always loved Naipaul's non-fiction (especially "Amongst the Believers and his work on Eva Peron and Argentina) but never got his far too folksy and characterful novels. This biography made me want to try again.