Posts tagged: Highbury

Saturday 22nd July 2006

It had been a difficult night, unpleasantly hot and I had been unable to sleep. I wanted to get up earlier than I did, much earlier. It was way past 8.30am by the time I did get out of bed, but I had wanted to be getting ready and heading into town by then. Instead I left about an hour later to get my haircut. The sun was shining and I was looking forward to a memorable day. Trying not to think about this afternoon’s game, I instead concentrated on getting myself ready to be there as early as I could. Just after 10am I returned home and started to get ready. After a quick shower, checking my e-mails online, a quick lunch and I was on my way. The last minute was how I would get to the mecca in North London. Originally I had wanted to make it a public transport affair but waiting for and taking the bus would add at least thirty minutes to my journey time. Plus I did not fancy walking up Castle Street in the midday sun. As I pulled into John Hall Way, I saw the 326 bus coming in the opposite direction, it would have been the one I caught into town. Thankfully I was in my car and on my way into town. In my head I went through a list of everything I needed and realised I had forgotten my confirmation e-mail, so turned around at the top of Marlow Hill heading back and calling my sister. Thankfully I had realised my forgetfulness before I boarded my train into Marylebone. Pulling up outside the house, my sister Natalie rushed out to give me the all important bit of paper and I jumped back in the car and headed off. I was on my way to Ashburton Grove and nobody was going to stop me. I had my sunglasses on and felt great, the sun was shining. The weekend was living up to it’s star billing. Yet there was much more yet to come. Driving into High Wycombe station, I struggled to find a spot but eventually found one quite near the entrance, rather than my usual spot which would be in a different time zone. Paying the £2.50 for the half day I went over to the Fast Ticket booth to purchase my tickets for the Chiltern Railways service. You may not know but the station is currently being repaired with temporary porta cabins outside, following a fire back in November last year. So there are no barriers, you literally purchase your ticket and jump on a train. There are ticket inspectors that occasionally check your pass. I rushed across to Platform Three, which is at the other side of the station, via subway and there were already some people waiting. I decided this was the perfect moment to wake up Chris. It was 12:37pm, my train was about to pull up. The morning had disappeared and yet my friend was half asleep as I spoke to him. I murmured something about going out in Reading on Friday night before cutting the call short as I saw the dark blue training pulling in around the corner. I felt really bad for walking him up and would get around to apologising on the phone later and in person tomorrow. Talking a seat on the train I noticed a father wearing the new kit with his young toddler daughter. Both with 14 Henry on the back. What is that saying about great minds think alike? I got comfortable in my seat, even slowly drifting off to sleep before we reached Wembley Stadium. I did not want to miss seeing the current state of our future national stadium. Chiltern Railways are making the most of the redevelopment working on a new platform that we take passengers from the train to the stadium. Until now, the area by the side of the track has been a mess, but today I could see they had removed some barriers and you could see more of the semi-completed stadium. The proposals look impressive and it will be great to come off at an amazing station platform just before you walk up to the ground. Rather than the tired and tatty looking stations that currently make up the majority of the network on the line down to the capital. After seeing Wembley, I drifted off, but only slightly. I would not call this sleep, instead just a few minutes of having my eyes closed and resting my head against the window. While the hot sun beating down outside, inside we were perfectly cool thanks to air conditioning. (Trying my best not to mention the annoying adds for cucumber man on LBC 97.3.) When I next opened my eyes we were coming into Marylebone. I got up out of my seat and was one of the first off the train. The experience from a few years ago does make you a more alert commuter. I headed to the barrier walked straight through and headed for the tube station. Thanks to my Oyster card, touch in and I was on my way. I rushed down the escalator onto the platform. It was just before 1.30pm, less than an hour and I was in central London. Give me twenty minutes and I will be in Islington. I took a few stops down to Piccadilly Circus and then caught the Piccadilly Line north to Finsbury Park. I perhaps should have got off with all the other supporters at Arsenal but as I had been there so many times before I preferred to walk from Finsbury Park and take the road to the old North Bank. The tube was crammed with Arsenal fans and the occasional small group of Dutch fans in their bright orange jerseys. An American tourist asked me what time the kick off was, 5pm I replied. “Why so many fans so early?” It’s our new stadium I replied with a smile. I was shocked by his response, “Yeah, we were up their yesterday, gotta say it’s damn impressive!”. Quite a compliment from a man whose countrymen play football with excessive padding and the wrong shape ball. He soon got off the train and I moved further up, taking a seat with a few other fans. Mainly families, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons. The train emptied at Arsenal but I waited until the next stop. Finsbury Park was just as busy. Just outside the station I was handed a leaflet for an artist. I thought it was a interesting piece of art, until I visited the web site and discovered Mighty Crowded was just a pop look at the last game at Highbury. The signed material was not related to the football club at all, just the autograph of the artist. No thanks.

I was nearly there. There were brand new signs all over the place, silver text on black, pointing out the direction to the new stadium. I could taste the air of anticipation in the air. There were hundreds of supporters making their way to the new stadium, but I opted to head back to Highbury, perhaps for one last time. I wanted to truly appreciate what we had left behind. As I came down Saint Thomas Road, I could see through the trees the date the North Bank was completed in 1993. It was a strange sight to see the stadium but know the match would be kicking off elsewhere. I expected a few more people at the old ground, but there were a healthy number walking around, some talking photos. I took a few pictures of East Stand before being approached by a Japanese tourist, perhaps a few years younger than me asking if I would take a picture of him in front of the stand. I took the picture and he was extremely grateful. Not the first time I’ve been asked to take a photograph of someone in London and for sure not the last. I headed up to the main entrance and was surprised to see it open, marshalled by some security guards. People were being allowed in, in pairs to have their pictures taken with Herman Chapman who still graces the marble halls. I considering going up there and queuing to have my photograph taken but there was no one around to take my photograph and I realised as much as I should respect the past it was time to turn around and head to the future. I joined the crowds down past Avenell Road. I wanted to pick up a couple of programmes and then head over to Ashburton Grove. In what has become routine I would also buy a programme from the same elderly gentleman opposite the entrance to the North Bank. To my surprise he had been replaced by a much younger model, all dressed in red. In fact all the programme sellers were young, aged around 16-18. What had happened to the old guys? The programme was a special souvenir edition which included a Bergkamp photo book. There was no time to look at it though, the crowd increased, as did the police presence. I was walking past Arsenal underground station and although I thought it a great idea to take a photograph, it was not the ideal moment, with just the sheer number of people walking by. I opted to leave it for now. There was a queue at the bridge but not for the stairs. The queue was for the small Arsenal shop, imaginatively called, “All Arsenal” built into the structure of the bridge. I took some photographs and headed up the stairs and held my breath before looking to the left. Through the steel mesh I set eyes on the stadium for the first time. Amazing, I took a photograph and smiled. I had arrived. I was here.

Finally, for the first time in the afternoon I began to relax. I had arrived in plenty of time for kick off. It was around twenty past 2 and I had a good few hours to kill. Better get snapping. The stadium was busy with thousands of people milling around. I stood to the side of the bridge, out of the way of the passing supporters and began finding some good angles to take some photos. As I put the camera down to review a photograph I had just taken I saw Terry walk past. He and his friends and stopped just in front of me so I tapped him on the shoulder. I was glad to see him. I spent the rest of the afternoon, prior to kick off with the three of them, Sean, Lisa and Terry. Terry took a photograph of me in front of the stadium and I was surprised at how well it came out. While it was rather wet and the sun had disappeared I was full of life.

Teg @ Emirates Stadium

One of my proudest moments as a football supporter, standing outside the new home of football. I was glad I had met up with Terry, as a season ticket holder, he would spending every other weekend here and it was good to be with him for the first match (even though he seat is on the other side of the ground). We joined the queue for the Armoury and Sean purchased the new home shirt, when he found the right size. I must say for such a big shop they need to have a few more full length mirrors. It was busy, particularly at the shirt printing section at the far end of the store. I queued up with my purchases at till 7. Each till is number relates to a famous player that once wore the red and white. Mine was of course, Rocky Rocastle with my server Wendy. The queue was long and I must have been waiting a good twenty minutes. While in the queue, Terry told me that they would go into the ground and meet up with me for a drink in the lower tier. Great. After I got my bits and headed out of the shop, I saw security rush in to grab someone who had walked in through the exit to jump the massive queue. They found him and hauled him out. Time for a few more pictures before I head into the ground. My entrance was turnstile H, right at the other side of the ground. Putting away my camera I got my membership card out and e-mail confirmation and headed to the queue. To the left I saw a familiar face go in. When I was let him I recognised who it was. I must say this new fancy system is amazing. Place your membership card in the reader, some fancy red (now were they ever going to be any other colour!) light shines across it and picks up that you have a valid ticket and you are allowed in. I thanked the steward as I walked in but there was no need, he had done nothing to help. The famous D list celebrity I had seen, was Reggie Yates. A young fan had his photograph taken with him before he headed off to the far left, in direction of my block (15). I text Terry to let him know I was in and he replied that he was by block 3. I walked over (which was the other side other building and waited by lift A but they did not find me. I never saw them, so after waiting a while headed out to see if the stadium was as impressive inside as out. I asked a steward where my seat was and he told me it was to the right of the gangway, when it was actually to the left. The seat had a great view of the entire pitch. (Thanks for picking my spot Christopher) My row was quiet, and as I sat down I discovered a t-shirt and flag in bag. Just like at the last game at Highbury I opted not to wear the shirt on the day and just put it in my bag. There was no point in it getting spoilt. (I later learned that Dennis and personally paid for each of the shirts and his vision was to have ICEMAN and DB10 spelt out in orange across a sea of red and white on the tiers. As it worked out, perfectly this shirt was red, my shirt at Highbury had been white. The opening ceremony was scheduled to start at 4.15pm with kick off at 5pm. I made most of the time by taking some photos of the fans and my new surroundings.

The were presentation by various dignitaries and the name Emirates mention more often than not. A quick note on this. The current financial climate in football means stadiums will be built in partnership or with sponsorship with big corporate conglomerates. While I hate the idea of our stadium being named after a sponsor, if it means it is built on time and to budget I am more than willing to give it a go. Plus we should consider ourselves less fortunate than FC Dallas, whose soccer specific stadium is called, Pizza Hut Park. Although of course, ten years of history is nothing for a club that has over 93 years of history in their old home and five times the attendance of the team from Texas. In England, more specifically the Premiership over recent years you have seen more and more stadiums bearing the name of the sponsor. While for some grounds it has stuck, Bolton – Reebok, but for others, such as Middlesborough is still known as the Riverside rather than the BT Cellnet, but of course that company no longer exists. What I would like to know is what happens after the fifteen years or so after the contract with the Arab airline concludes? That is a question for another day.

After our chairman was present with a mock up plane by the CEO of Emirates and joined on the centre circle by the gaffer, it was time for something football related. A gigantic ball was placed in the middle of the north of the pitch and Arséne asked to kick it into the goal in what was described as the new “North Bank” by bloke on the tanoy. The ball flew up into the air and then hit the bar. Was that a good open for the opening game? The young first teams then came out for a warm up while we waited for the star of the day. DB10.

A group of Junior Gunners came onto the pitch holding flags of each of the clubs Dennis had scored against. Then, after a moment of flag waving, which is a tradition in Holland, out came our hero. The man of the moment. Dennis Bergkamp with his wife and children. The big man was truly back in time for one last roll of the dice.

Dennis without a shadow of a doubt is my favourite all time footballer of all time. He is someone I can relate to has being a genius in my living memory, my era. Sure there is Pele, Best, Maradona but Bergkamp is the name that will live long in my mind. Touches of brilliance, from a football mind way ahead of all the defending players on the turf. It was his amazing talent and the fact that he was the first of the new wave of European talent to arrive on this shores and take the English game by storm that makes him the greatest signing to our club in modern times. In years to come it will be noted as a significant turning point in the club’s history. Without Dennis, much of what Arsene Wenger has achieved in North London just would not have happened. Can this really be true? Can one single signing, one player change the fortunates of a club? I have longed believed that noone is bigger than the club. Yet from time to time you get a special person come along that not only wears his heart on his sleeve but on the pitch embodies everything that is great about the game and our football club. Sure, only during the French revelotion did we see the sexy interplay, the one touch football but it was infact Bergkamp was at the centre of every pass, every move.

Rather than go into details of what happened during the course of the game, which truly reflected that old chestnut cliché, “game of two halves” I would prefer to let FlickR be the photostory. Plus there is a full menu serving up the delights of the day over on the official site expect constant promiment mention of an airline.

Dennis BergkampNumber 10Sunshine

As I walked away from the stadium, following Dennis’ final lap of honour, I looked forward to returning to the ground as soon as possible. This had given me a taste of what was to come over the course of the season, particularly Henry’s goal! Leaving my seat the season ticket holder (gold member if you will) sitting next to me, finally spoke and asked if that was my seat for the forthcoming season. As much as it hurt, I explained that I was only a red member and it would be several years before I would be eligible for a season ticket. How could I ever end this entry on such a ‘downer’ as that. Talk amongst the fan community is that the wait for seasons tickets has been reduced to a more realistic four to seven years, rather than the original guesstimate I made of between twelve and fifteen. Who knows, I might be coming up to Holloway Road one afternoon to pick my seat, sooner than you think!

Monday 8th May 2006

I got home around 9pm last night and after dinner my priority was to upload my pictures from a historic and emotional day onto FlickR for the world to see. Photographs for once came before the blog, so here I am some 24 hours after the event, trying to keep my emotions on hold as I write about yesterday. Turning to my notes, I ponder where to begin. Without a shadow of doubt this was the biggest day in my life as a football fan. Yet as an Arsenal fan it meant so much more. Perhaps words cannot truly express how I felt. With the ticket in my hand and the thought of being there as forty thousand people wave goodbye to the stadium. Saturday night I could not sleep, even though it was way past 1am before I actually got into bed. Spending hours slaved in front of the computer preparing for the big day, charging batteries and topping up my Oyster card. Weird dreams of being at Highbury but being ejected by a tough steward just as the celebrations were about to begin. Thankfully I awoke to discover it was all a dream and the magical day had arrived with so much still to play for over ninety minutes. I was apprehensive, rather than excited. The emotions could wait until I was closer to the home of football. I drove my Dad to Gerrard’s Cross and then headed up to Chalfont & Latimer. On route, I found myself stuck behind a white Toyota pickup crawling at 40 miles an hour (in a 60 zone?!) eventually he pulled out of the way and myself and a brand new black Mercedes hit 75 plus trying to make up the lost time. I had been listening to a CD but switched over to the radio. For no reason in particular I switched over to LBC 97.3. A familiar voice from my childhood filled the car and the discussion turned to Arsenal and their departure from their 93 year old home. An elderly gentleman was talking about living near the ground but not being a football fan. Actually further to this he was not really a sports person. His neighbour at the time was the grounds man and on numerous occasions offered him free entry to the stadium but he turned them down. The conversation switched to his confrontations with the police and their demand for him to remove his lorry on match day, he refused being arrested until the thin blue line, banged up the owners of four Rolls Royces across the road. This was 1950 something and the cars were owned by the players.

Parking up and walking into the station, I grabbed my phone from my jean pocket and noticed a missed call and text message. It was Chris, I called him back without reading the message. He was early for football, over in Worcester and had a favour to ask. He wanted a match day programme. No problem. Then a voice in the background added, “Signed by Henry!”. I will see what I can do! Chris asked me how I felt but I don’t think I gave him a straight answer. Wishing me a great day, he said goodbye to begin warming up, as I returned to waiting. The tube train was scheduled to arrive at 9.50am, and it arrived perfectly on time. I was on my way to North London but it would be at least ninety minutes before I got there. I text Terry to let him know, sat back and tried to keep my nerves in check and enjoy the ride. Due to engineering works the Metropolitan line was only running to Wembley Park. Here I had to change onto the Jubilee Line to Green Park, then catch the Piccadilly Line up to Arsenal. Rather long winded approach but the most direct route to my team’s spiritual home. My ninety minute estimate was ten minutes out, as I arrived outside the North Bank entrance at 11.10am and called Terry. To my shock there were a big contingent of fans already walking around, taking photos, buying not just one match programme but six. I bought two, from the same person I had bought programmes from in my previous visits this season. Making my way around to the East Stand, I stopped to take photographs of a special “pimped” Rolls Royce. Then, making my way up to the main entrance, I took some further photographs and waited for Terry. On the fourth attempt at calling him, I looked down Avenell Road to see him walking and reaching for his phone, which I quickly disconnected. It was great to see him, on this very special day. We spent the next few hours, walking around the stadium and taking photographs. Then, as I had not see Ashburton Grove, Terry walked me around the corner, where I took some pictures of the Emirates Stadium. It looks amazing but has very big shoes to fill. Took a handful of pictures then walked back towards Highbury. The police presence had grown now and as we walked down Highbury Hill, a policeman and a steward checked our tickets. The copper then asked why we were here so early, I explained it was to soak up the memories. The sun was out now and it was going to be a beautiful memory afternoon for all the right reasons. I was constantly taking photographs, particularly the West Upper Stand entrance, which I would be using to gain access to the ground for the last time. We walked back around, to the East Stand, getting our tickets checked twice. Apparently on those with match tickets should be outside the ground, everyone else was being refused entry, which is a shame for fans who had made the pilgrimage.

DSCN2278

We were told the coach was arriving at 1.30pm, but an hour or so before hand got news via text about the situation with Spurs and food poisoning. Terry rang his friend, who was at home watching Sky Sports News. A statement from the Premier League was due at 1pm. I rang Chris to let him know, he knew nothing about it. He must have been listening to James Blunt instead of tuning into Radio Five Live. Further news was coming in, and the fans around us could not believe if. The match just could not be postponed, it would be a disaster and give our rivals an unfair advantage. We headed back from the Arsenal shop to the main entrance. The shop had been packed and although I had a quick look, there was nothing in there that took my fancy. As we made our way through the crowds, I noticed Faye White (captain of the Ladies team, walk past me) just as the Wigan coach pulled up and the players jump out. The Arsenal coach was on it’s way. I look to my left to see a elderly black lady whom I recognised. He voice was very familiar but her face not as much. It was none other than Eastenders star, Corinne Skinner Carter, standing next to me taking photographs while she waited for the coach to leave. Another famous Gunner! Terry gave it another five minutes, then another five minutes and headed for his seat. He, perhaps, made the right decision. It was quite busy by now and I was quite far from the entrance, with an extremely restricted view, even with my camera waving high above my head. There was a big cheer as you saw the coach, with full police motorcade escort pull around the corner at the top of the road and head down. Really I should not have waited, I did not see any of the players, just shouted out the names with the rest of the crowd. As the coached pulled away, I walked around to the West Stand entrance and braced myself for a roller coaster ride over the next ninety minutes, followed by an ninety minutes of reflection and celebration. Walking up the steps, I took my time to soak up every last drop of the experience, before heading up the final stairs to my block, Z. A steward kindly directed me to my seat. I sat down and grabbed the souvenir of the day, a “I Was There” t-shirt. There was a note that I should put it on and wear for the duration of the match. I decided to put it straight into my bag and instead, while it was relatively quiet to take some photographs. I got talking to a season ticket holder, whom had missed three matches of Arsené Wenger’s reign. Amazing return over ten years, if you think about it. He offered to take some photographs of me and we continued talking about the new stadium. Then, as more people arrived I took my seat. The stadium was nearly full and the sound being made was truly amazing. The best atmosphere, in the Highbury Library! I could go on with the tale, a full match report and a step by step account of what happened during the closing ceremony. There is no need. Photographs tell a much better story. So I have uploaded them all, 139 in total over to their own set – Highbury – The Final Salute. If you really have time on your hands to browse you can check out the several thousand pictures that other members have uploaded, by searching on the Highbury tag. If you want to know more you can just leave a comment on this blog entry or leave comments on the individual photographs, I will do my best to respond to any questions. To quickly reply to Sriskandh’s (I’ve blog rolled his blog, even though he should update it more regularly!) comments. I did not stay after the closing ceremony, I had to get back as I live outside London and with the tube lines closed, it was a good two hour commute. In terms of Henry, Pires and Cole on the centre circle at the end? I am not too sure. Should Henry stay, should he go? I do not know. All I can say is that moments on Sunday afternoon I was not watching a human being, I was watching a god, a living legend. A hero if you will. A hero to thousands, no millions of people.

Looking back over the weekend, it has been all about heroes. Amazing how we can idolise one person, one man on screen and on a pitch. Sure, they are just the same as you and me, of flesh and blood. Yet, they have been blessed with a gift from heaven, which enables them to entertain an audience and make them call their name!

A quick round up on other events away from football, Islington and record breaking French international strikers. As we knew already, Mighty Mouse has officially retired from blogging. He just does not have the time these days but will continue to update his project page and gallery with photographs. For this reason I will for the time being (even if purely for old times sake) keep his blog roll live. I eventually got his Myth TV DVD to work by downloading the Media Player Classic, which has been hot fixed to play almost any video format in the world. This was after I downloaded a codec expansion pack and attempt to convert the .nuv files to .avi. The problem was it just recreated a file that was 40gb but still with no sound. MPC did the trick and I must say the sound and picture quality is amazing. So on Saturday afternoon I caught the first episode of the second series of Doctor Who and it was worth the wait.

This evening broke the news that Sven has included Theo Walcott in his England squad for the World Cup. Now that is a shock but if you need an ace up your sleeve, surely TW32 is your man! Article over on Guardian Football puts it much better than me. (Hopefully he will get a decent squad number for the WC and Arsenal next season!). Just picture it, England are drawing 1-1 with Sweden, with a 20 minutes to go. Sven takes off Owen and brings on the Arsenal striker. With his deadly pace and fresh fearless attitude will have defenders all over the place. A risk yes, but an educated risk. Sven knows what he is doing and I am sure if he gets the tactics and more crucially substitutes right on the night, England can go the distance in Germany. Some great football to look forward to over the next few weeks and months.

Friday 5th May 2006

Chris had already seen it. Last night in fact. He had picked up his girlfriend from The Oracle, got home to Henley-upon-Thames, only to turn around and head back for the 10pm screening. (He was even willing to wait for the 11.15pm final show). To his surprise the theatre was empty with perhaps 20 people in total there. He wanted to tell me everything but I just wanted one answer to the question, “Is it worth going to see?” He just replied with a nod of the head and a plain yes. Before he could continue and reveal anything about the movie I told him to stop. I could wait for a few more hours, my screening was at 9pm, at my favourite cinema, formally known as Warner Village Reading.

I left work early (by fifteen minutes but who out there is really counting?) overjoyed with the mouthwatering prospect of the weekend. It had slowly crept up on me, having been for such a long time, just a future date in the diary. How did I feel as I drove home, through the country lanes across Berkshire? I felt strangely content after a roller coaster week. Glad knots of trouble had untied themselves. A voice in my head said that everything works out in the end and for a split second I wholeheartedly agreed. The main roundabout before I get to my house is called the Turnpike and is always busy. While I was waiting to turn left, I watched a black 3-series cabriolet (with top open) fly around ahead of me. I noticed the plate was MI3 S00. Amazing, strange what you noticed when on on the road. Getting home, I was upset. Upset that no one had answered the phone when I had called home, then my Mum’s mobile or even my Dad’s mobile. My Dad called me back at work and got things sorted. Even so, he kept me waiting and eventually came downstairs to say that he could not collect my special delivery item as it clearly states on the card that you have to wait 24 hours before visiting the Post Office collection point. Smiling, he then went behind the sofa to get two packages instead of just the envelope I was expecting. Result. For a change I was not interested in the big parcel, just the envelope and opened it. Yes! I had my ticket! Sure it was not where I had expected to be seated and perhaps I won’t have the best view of the game but I have my invitation to the party. Sunday cannot come soon enough!

Arsenal versus Wigan Athletic

For all their faults, the ticket office had delivered! A few hours earlier, Terry (who has a new blog over on Bebo) had come on MSN and sent me a link to the full running order of the closing ceremony for a grand old stadium. Even now, as I write this at 1.38am, it has been updated with a half time penalty shoot out featuring David Seaman. So much to look forward to and so little time. Sunday will be an emotional day for Terry and I plan to spend the morning with him has he takes his final memories of the ground away with him. Fifty photographs will never be enough in my humble opinion, but the man knows what he is looking for.

Back to tonight, a little after 7pm, we headed to Reading. The sun was just setting in the distance as we made our way down the A404 and A4, the traffic was steady and slowly drifted off as we edged closer to the town. Pulling up to the car park and slotting into a nice slow on level three, right by the main lifts right by the cinema we headed down to Riverside and shops (as the female voice pronounce in a slight electronic drone). I went in to get my tickets and as usual one of the machines was being examined by a member of staff, as my five tickets were printed I asked when we would be allowed into screen four. 20:40 was the time I was given, so we had almost an hour to kill before our date with Ethan Hunt. We went for a walk around the Oracle shopping centre and into the town centre, only to find it deserted and all the shops closed. We headed back around to the Oracle and walked through as the shutters were coming down on the final few stores that had been, until a few minutes ago, open. Heading back towards the Riverside, we took some seats outside Cafe Nero, only to discover it was closed when I walked in to place our order. Walking across the bridge, we went to Starbucks. Or rather my family took a table outside and I went in and ordered some drinks. An attendant came across to off me some free summer Frappuccino, which I quickly declined. She would have been better suited behind the counter serving, rather than handing out freebies. In any case, here I was again at the corporate coffee shop, which just goes against my very existence. I am not a coffee drink and consume a limited amount of tea, so should perhaps join the Hate site. The cool air outside indicated the sun was slowly setting behind the car park and the night would be soon upon us. The evening crowd were slowing descending around us, as we headed into the cinema and went upstairs. As we came up the second escalator, we discovered we were not the only ones eager to get good seats for the third installment of the spy series. I went to get some popcorn and drinks, while the rest of the clan waited in line. Just as I picked up my order the queue was opened and the crowd began to head into the screen. I took the lead and as we headed saw a perfect spot but minus one seat. So I went up and asked a couple to move to the left, luckily an empty seat which was not taken meant a five seat space had been created. I thanked the couple and ushered the rest of the family up. A guy behind me was shocked as I explained I had just taken all these seats, “What, all of them?” Erm, yes I’m afraid. Sorry. We took our seats and got comfortable. Perfect. For the first time in three trips to the cinema (two to this particular venue) I would be able to enjoy the Pearl & Dean music. After the trailers, the film began and I think from the very first scene you are instantly hooked. I know I was. Now I suppose most people will read this review as overly bias. Yes I think Cruise is a great actor and I love the Mi movie installments. However I want to clarify this with being a true fan of the original series from the 60s and 70s. I was bought up on a strong diet of episodes by my father, from the re-runs shown on Channel 4 in the early 1990s. While as a television series it mixed the drama, suspense with the thrilling chase of a spy action series, it hadn’t aged well when I was watching Jim and the team. I am so thankful Tom took it upon himself to bring the series to the silver screen. While perhaps he would have gone a satisfactory job starting in someone else’s vehicle, being in control of almost every element in the movie series means it is true to his vision as a fan. Briefly, a quick synopsis. I enjoyed the original (which I saw at the cinema) it had some great action scenes, perhaps a slightly doggy plot and I did not like the betrayal at the end but the action scenes were breathtaking, including the climax. The second saw a change in direction but once again included a rogue element. Thandie Newton walked her part, which was a shame because she is quite an accomplished actress. Yet, once again the action scenes and some light comic relief rescued the affair. So with this third installment I had quite high expectations, particularly as we had already been waiting a year for the movie to be made. Overall, a fantastic movie which if you are a movie fan you will want to see. There is action, less use of gadgetry, and while it perhaps tries to be an American James Bond, there is a greater emphasis on team work, which makes the I, in IMF rather redundant. The support cast are excellent, particularly the team of Rhames, Maggie Q and Bend It Like Beckham star, Meyers. The drama is tweaked and for the first time a true love story develops, which makes the ride much more emotional than before. Cruise, as always carries out the job with a toothy grin, sparkle in his eye and a big thumbs up. Looking back ten years (yes it really is ten years since the first film was released) Cruise has done something unimaginable. Taken a well loved television series, made three very different movies, with different directors, actors and styles. The music as well takes a different genre, to match the fabric of the movie in each case. This time around Kanye West, “kills” the original theme to pimp it up with some heavy bass, meaning that the Moby mix from 1996, remains most faithful to the original score and my personal favourite. Although I cannot say I am that much of a fan of the track “Impossible” featuring Twista, Keisha and BJ Thomas. Back to the movie, the villain, played perfectly by Hoffman (but you can understand why Kenneth Brannagh was original slated to appear) is perhaps the strongest we have seen to date and a real match for Hunt. Perhaps because there is some conviction in his threats and he always appears to have the upper hand on our hero. Michelle Monaghan beautiful in her role as the “girl” although I have not seen her in any other movies or television series I will keep a look out for that wholesome face in the future. The on screen chemistry (although limited) is clearly electric, right to the end. There is also great comic relief, particularly towards the end, with our very own Simon Pegg. Strange to think he was starring in Doctor Who this time last year. I suppose Americans need to have an eccentric Brit to lighten the tone, but funny how he plays the role of technical support. A great action movie, but with a few unexpected twists and turns which will keep you hooked on the edge of your seat. The question is will Hunt return for another adventure?

Tuesday 2nd May 2006

It is a long time since I jumped on the computer straight after a quiet night out to blog. I rarely blog ‘live’ after the event these days. It usually takes me a few days to gather my thoughts and put a decent entry together. I must be showing my age, after all I have been at this game for coming up to four years. Perhaps I have become far too much of a perfectionist or my readers expect far to much, first time around! Tonight I went into Marlow after Eastenders to meet up with my work colleagues for a few drinks. It was a good laugh and great to get away from the computer for a few hours after a shockingly bad day in the office. We ended up playing pool and leaving around 10.45pm to head back home.

Got a package that I had been waiting for, well quite a few weeks. Hussein had posted it some time ago (or so he tells me) but I got it this morning and it wasn’t my hands until 6.30pm, when I got home. So were the seventeen days wait worth it? I can’t really answer that question because I have only been able to see, but no hear the recorded footage. Myth TV is perhaps the marriage of two of the biggest pastimes of the geek. The coming together of television and recorded digital media. Having seen it live at the secret layer of Mighty Mouse deep in the heart of North West London, I can report first hand that it is an amazing experience. The quality of the video is better than Sky Digital and the sound reproduction is awesome, perfect in fact. Knowing the trials and tribulations my friend went through to put together this sweet home entertainment setup (including completely dismantling his sister’s beloved wardrobe!). He should really get his act together and update his project page with the full details.

Myth TV

ITV1 have been screening the Matrix Trilogy, with the second installment, “Reloaded” is coming to a climax at the moment as I write this. It is perhaps my favourite of the trilogy, which is typical. Generally speaking I usually always go for the second movie in any trilogy as my favourite. While most people believe the original is best and the other two movies filled with more effects than actual plot, I prefer to enjoy the return of a hero greater than his birth. Does that make sense?

Many will frown at me but I had to be at the last game at Highbury. This afternoon, just after 1pm, as my lunch hour kicked in I called the “agent” and experienced the strangest customer service in the world ever. The 0870 number rang and after a few rings someone answered, a bloke. There was no salutation or pleasant greeting. It was more of a surprised, “Hello?” with the thought of why is someone actually calling us. I gave my reference number and explained who I was and the details of the ticket I was chasing. I was then asked how many I had purchased, just the one. Instead of inputting my reference number into a computer system, and tracking my order, the guy took the phone away slightly to shout across the office at a colleague. “Dave, got a Mr. Tegala on the phone about ticket to Wigan…” I heard the reply in the distance, “I’m just sending them out now!” The clerk (or whatever he was) came back to the phone to say, “You’ll get the tickets tomorrow!”. Now if that was a lesson in poor customer service, I don’t know what is! Plus at these prices, I expect to be speaking to Holly Valance or at least Toni Phillips.

Sunday 5th February 2006

With thirteen seconds left until half time, Henry scored the goal that most of Highbury had been waiting for. Yet, the fight back in the second half, which most expected materialised only without the final killer bite. Instead the focus was not on those eleven out on the pitch, but the one player that had been substituted and subsequently left the ground. The Managing Director of my company supports Spurs and although his contact with me is generally non-existent, he sent me three e-mails on Friday, all relating to the Sol Campbell joke and some humourous images of the centre back. While I am happy to take such banter on the chin (as it is meant) I find it amazing that my big cheese has the time and sense of humour to send these e-mails to me. Several months ago, he sent me some of the amazing football quotes, which prove how stupid some professional footballers really are. I bet there are football fans out there, dreaming they could have a big boss like mine! :) The least said about the football the better. While I have no problem of people rubbing in the West Ham result, particularly at work, I have an issue with non-football fans giving me stick, when they find it convenient. Take my colleague, whom on Thursday morning printed off not one but two copies of the Sky Sports match report, pinning one to my board, one to my monitor and going the extra mile by converting my desktop background to the match report also. Thank you very much. Add to this the fact that he text me twice during the course of the match to remind me of the score. Thanks mate, great working with you too!

Have you heard the Pussycat Dolls latest single? Beep is the female response to the Black Eyed Peas track, “My Humps”. Will.i.am features with the cabaret girl group and it is fantastic radio friendly pop. However Chris kept singing the chorus (as sung by Fergie) all day and he was getting on my nerves. Thankfully he didn’t annoy me to the point where the song got into my head and would have had me singing it as well, that really would have been a disaster. A quick search of Google provides some answers, firstly the why then the how to get them out of your head. There is even a count of the top 189 most annoying songs of all time. Strange number though, you’d think there would be at least 300 but then some are more a matter of opinion than solid fact. Hold on there was another song that everyone started singing on the helpdesk, and I was to blame. Whenever anyone asks a favour or wants something done (as long as it is not senior management) we later say, “Your Not The Boss Of Me Now. The theme tune to the American comedy, Malcolm In The Middle. The song is sung by They Might Be Giants and puts to song the chaotic craziness of the show. I suppose, you could call it our unofficial anthem, along with the fantastic phrase Google It!

Yesterday, I woke up just before midday and music television was the only order of the day, while I had some brunch. Smash Hits (the television station continues, even if the magazine dies later this month) were having a Pop Disaster Weekend, with pitiful cover of The Crossroads by The Blazin’ Squad being screened. This was with the headline, too many cooks spoil the party. I could not agree more. There should be no more than five or perhaps six members of a man. Not ten. Thankfully they have learnt from their mistakes and disappeared from the music scene completely. The next video played was a bit of shock, but good to see in any case, even if I dispute the labeling. The song was You Rock My World and the artist does not need to be stated. However I felt it was disrespectful for the label of shamefaced comeback to be stuck across the screen. Particularly as this was a man who has to be the biggest entertainer the world has ever seen. Even if his recent work does not match the dizzy heights of his previous classic material. Talking of which, on Friday night I had a extremely awkward experience. My friends were playing Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in a pub. The quick fire question, to win the three life lines was about MJ and his music. Put the following singles from the 1990s in order of release. Of course, somewhat (who will remain nameless) said stop, Teg’s the big Jackson fan, let him answer this one. Of course, I bottled it and got the question wrong, although still cannot think which two singles I got the wrong way around. In any case it was just another shining example of being put under extreme pressure and not delivering the goods. What I really needed was a inner circle fan from the forums, like Obi-Wan.

Talking of music there are some new singles being released very soon that I have been listening to non-stop on my computer. As you know I love some smooth RnB and I heard the song, So Sick by Ne-Yo on KISS last weekend, but never got the chance to hear the name of the artist, and only remember the chorus, “Why can’t I turn off the radio?” I think this is the perfect antidote to the period of Valentine’s that always come to invade us as soon as we enter the second month of the year. The other video I saw was for a feel good dance number by Shapeshifters (Shape:UK in the States). I did not really like their previous singles, Lola’s Theme and Back to Basics. The new single, Incredible is somewhat more upbeat and refreshing and the guest singer, Kelly Marie (no, not that one!) is easy on the eye, particularly in the video. However, not been able to find it anywhere, just yet. The search continues. I been listening to Like U by Bow Wow featuring Ciara. It was played on KISS last weekend also, and this afternoon I saw the video on KISS television, as part of their Smooth Grooves Sunday. Then, when I went to clean my car and check the oil and tyre pressures, they played the song on KISS radio. Fantastic. Yet another amazing weekend. Plans for the rest of the evening? Go back to classic VHS and trawl through an Ali G video to find a clip of Borat at the Henley Regatta? Why I hear you cry? It is perhaps the most funniest comedy scenes ever as he cheers on my county in a minor boat race. Yes I am very sad! You can read the full episode over at Borat Online. There is a Borat movie planned for release later this year, having had a screen test state side earlier this month.

Wednesday 18th January 2006

If I gave titles to my blog entries, this entry would be called, ‘The Lost Evening’. I have often considered adding titles, but knowing how difficult it is for my friends, such as Sippy and Nazma to think up titles, I have always given it a miss. Particularly as I would want to add a twist to proceedings and never use the same title twice. Some ask. I had been watching Eastenders in the lounge with my family, when I noticed the ability to focus drop. A headache was on the cards, I could feel it in my bones. At 8pm, I headed back to my room and tried to get on with something, but just could not concentrate, even fighting the on coming pain. Just after 8.30pm, it was no use, I had to rest, I had to get some sleep. I went into the living room to disconnect the wireless broadband router and tell them I was retiring for the night. My Mum said she would wake me up with a cup of tea, later in the evening. I put on Five Live and jumped into bed and slowly drifted to sleep, hearing that Reading were two nil down to West Brom. My Mum came in at 10.30pm to wake me, with that cup of tea she promised but it was wasted. I would never get out of bed. Instead after being awake for a while, and listening to the radio drone with news and idle chitchat, I feel back to sleep, only to wake up again just before midnight and become extremely restless. I was awake for what seemed like hours and eventually got back to sleep sometime in the early hours. Yet I woke up this morning, feeling quite tired and not fresh as I had intended. Note to self, never ever take an early night and be in bed before 9pm.

While we were watching the full ninety minutes from Football First – Game Of The Day (the seven goal thriller against Boro) my Mum asked why I wanted to go to yet another Arsenal game at Highbury (I’ve already been to three games so far this season, plus the Community Shield). Rarely do I go into explaining my beloved sport to my Mum. It never really goes beyond indicating the colour strip my team are wearing and the score. Well it is never really the score. It’s usually, winning, losing or drawing. Although the word for draw in Hindi is quite elaborate and perhaps more entertaining than the translations of win and lose. Arsenal have been at Highbury for 93 years. My Mum thought I was giving the year and then in a rather unimpressed tone, said that is only twelve years (the same age as my youngest sister). No Mum, since 1913. Then she was shocked, even more shocked them from October, when I had explained that Number 14 (no, giving the players names would be too difficult, only Shearer from Euro’96 is the name player within my household of non-football fans) had scored 186 goals for the club! Talking of Mr. Henry, don’t you just want to download this and watch it again and again. Indeed, it is finally show time!

In my opinion, if it counts for anything, is that everyone should have a blog (of some description). Just like everyone deserves their fifteen minutes of fame. Afterall everyone has an opinion on something (if not everything) and the blog is the ideal spring board to broadcast your views to the world. If Gorgeous George can get away with harsh racial views on prime time television, than we all should have the opportunity to respond and debate what is said. The other night, I feel asleep and wondered (in a strange way) how my life would be different if I did not blog. It takes up a big chunk of my time, but I feel there is nothing worthwhile to fill the void that would be created if I did hang up my keyboard. I would also miss out on the small but loyal community of friends and readers I have gained over the past four years. Yes, by the time the World Cup comes around in June, this blog will have been going strong for four years. Amazing that my enthusiasm has never diminished in that time, if anything it has grown over the course of those years.

Wednesday 5th October 2005

Sunday came around quicker than I imagined, yet I still seemed to be working to a Sunday clock. I got up just before 9am, thinking I would have plenty of time to make it to the ground, meet up with Terry with time to spare before kick off. Well things got to a bad start, when I did not get Terry’s mobile number. Never mind, hopefully he had noted mine and would be in touch. After spending some time watching music videos on Sky, I decided to get a move on. My first decision was to check the oil, water and tyres pressures on my car, assuming that I may have to go on a longer journey than planned. By the time I got ready and headed out of the door, it was nearly 11.30am and my train from Wycombe station was at 11:53am, would I make it in time? What most people forget is I’m a seasoned veteran when it comes to traveling by train and tube (something that will come up again). I had originally decided to travel from Chalfont & Latimer, but knew that with proposed engineering works, three major tube lines would be affected and it was safer bet to be closer to home, rather than the other side of the county. Boarding the train, I took my seat and looked up to see a bunch of Birmingham fans sitting opposite me, one of them shout, “Gooners”. I looked backed and smiled. The usual questions about if I was going to the game and if we would make it on time on this train. I looked at my watch and explained we would have plenty of time. I then went on to explain the best route by tube. They decided to follow me, but I knew they would have to be quick to keep up. I was surprised they did not offer me a can of Carling as a token of thanks, but then later in the journey I discovered all the cans were empty, as the tower they were making, crashed onto the table. The journey was long, and another group of lads started to play music from a underpowered mp3 player and it showed. The train was packed for a Sunday lunchtime and the fact we arrived in Paddington instead of the customary Marylebone, meant I had to adjust my journey (only by two stops) to compensate. By the time I hit the Underground, the Arsenal fans started appearing. I wanted to make conversation, but everyone seem stuck in their own world. Perhaps, the fact our season has not been going quite to plan, has meant that there is little to cheer about. Liverpool doing us a favour in the final match of the weekend, would be a great benefit. The exit at Arsenal station, was busy as expected, but the walk upstairs, was quicker than I had expected. I was greeted by a strong police presence, before I was swallowed in a sea of red(currant). I was here. Finally after six years of waiting. My first Arsenal game, when I didn’t have to beg, steal, borrow, or guilt trip someone into taking me or letting their tickets go. I had little time to take in the great North London atmosphere. Kick off was fast approaching and I had to quickly grab a programme from one of the sellers outside on Gillespie Road and head into the North Stand entrance. Through the turnstiles, I tried to savour each minor moment. My seat was towards the left of the upper tier on the North Bank. In line (just) with the outer pitch, so had a great view of the game. I was hoping, that all of Arsenal’s goals would come in the second half, give me something to cheer about. My seat was 54 and owned (perhaps) by a Alan Read. To my left, a middle aged man, perhaps out to a football match with his thirty something daughter. To my right, there was a young girl around 14, with her father, enjoying a Premiership match for the first time. Yet across the North Bank (where I have always sat for my previous two Arsenal games) there is camaraderie between those friends, who come to every home game. How I wish I could say, “See you in a couple of weeks, Tom!”. :( No time to think of the future, there was a match to watch, as the teams came out.

We play poorly, by our high standards. Our passing game, was great, but when it came to the final third, there was no body there to finish the job, take a shot. Cunningham was set off, early on and I thought that would drive us forward, but instead we just sat back and probed forward when we liked. When we were awarded a penalty (speculative, even in my biased opinion) I thought this was when the flood gates would truly open. Pires stepped up. I was confident after his last pen against the Ajax. He didn’t look confident and Maik Taylor made yet another great save. A guy behind me, made the comment, that we are not going to score with a team full of midfielders and I agreed with him. At times frustrating to watch, I had to be patient, but we all expected more from our team, if we were serious about plugging the game between us and those Chelski Blues. Everyone was looking to make the final pass and not actually take it. Arsene knows. He made the changes, that would bring this game to life. Bergkamp came on, along with his fellow countryman, Van Persie. These were the changes that finally gave us the cutting edge. Further probing and, then a shot far out by Robin, gave us the lucky goal, we perhaps didn’t deserve on the day for the football game. We needed to win, if only for the confidence of our team and our fans. I enjoyed the match, even if the performance wasn’t vintage Arsenal. The best moment? Singing along to… “One Nil to the Arsenal…” while the clock had a few minutes to tick away.

It is important to think of of those less fortunate than ourselves. Even if they come from the richest, most powerful country in the world. The most striking statistic, for me is the fact that our country, the United Kingdom is used to describe the level of devastation caused by the Katrina hurricane. While perhaps, some may consider it too little too late, I feel that in these circumstances, every little helps. James’ performance of Human Nature, as seen the Dangerous Tour in 1992 was amazing. The perfect song, to end the perfect weekend. It has gone full circle. But is this chapter on my life truly closed? I think, it is only just beginning.

Eros Statue
Seany, Anika & Teg

I Get A High Whenever
You’re Around Sweeping From
My Head To My Toes
I, I Gotta Get My Feet Back
On The Ground
‘Cause You Make Me Go
Out Of My Way
Crossing The Line
Making Me Say
What I Have In Mind

Tuesday 25th January 2005

Can you believe that exactly a month ago, it was Christmas Day? The thought alone makes me shudder, looking back, it seems much more time as based, than the thirty one days, my diary clearly shows. Thankfully it was yesterday, to be precisely calculated as the worse day of the year, which is understandable given the circumstances. Diamond Geezer sums up the feeling of an entire nation, with a list of tasks that seem to take forever. Having said all of that, yesterday was not too bad and the time flew by quite quickly, with very just the odd ring of the telephone. So, how was your day? Hussein came up with the wisdom of the day, which should keep us drudging on, if only for a few more weeks. “But hey, that means every day is going to be statistically better than this one!” You can rely on our resident superhero to always look upon the positive. Funny how that those in the southern hemisphere, report with joyfulness our plight. Although I have a strict policy not to view personal blogs during the work day (even in my lunch break) I do try to get my daily dosage of online news. Although no one can doubt the resource might of the Beeb, I need some more selective reporting on the crucial news of the day. For this I turn to the Guardian and their fabulous News section. Written in the form of a web log, each weekday they bring a roundup of the articles to be published online, through the various sections of the paper, at around 11am. This preview is followed by news bites later in the afternoon, with all the detail you need to read up on the subject at hand. The pick of the day is usually well worth a visit and a image, is also used to summary the main event of the day, or the week. To my surprise, the link Chin’s Happy Moments was able to take my thoughts away from the busy office, just for a split second and I realised, just as I had been trying to pay more attention to the finer things of life yesterday afternoon. Happiness is all about the wonderful things, the every day things, the things that mean so much to you, and just you.

Great to see Arsenal back on form, if not quite the finely tuned engine, we have all come to expect. Hopefully we can be firing on all cylinders by the time we meet Fergie’s men at Highbury next month. Some great chances did go begging, even if more to the great performance of Shay Given. If the feud has finally come to the end, time to let the football do the talking. Read the latest at Arse Blog , as he was lucky enough to be at the match with the Toon. Really need to get myself down to North London for a game, particularly Champions League, which I am well informed have the best atmosphere. My long term aim, is to beg steal, even borrow for the final game on the North Bank before the big move. Then, it will be how to swindle my way onto the waiting list for a season ticket If you have any advice that may aid my plans to move from a armchair supporter in the pocket of Rupert Murdoch to part of the North Bank faithful.

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