Go Vince go…. please.

Another rant about another politician (when will I ever learn!)
Truthfully. I really don’t care much whatever they get up to as long as it doesn’t affect me directly. But recently it did. Their incompetence cost me money. Didn’t cost me much but still irritating when those elected simply aren’t fit for purpose yet strut about full of their own importance. Nothing new there though, and normally I’d let it go. Can’t be bothered. However, I’m moved to comment because as I write, I see there’s a bit of a kerfuffle going on, Seems they think Cable (my current bête noir) has been trying to engineer some sort of Lib Dem leadership coup against Clegg. He’s denied it of course, so obviously it can’t be true (Duh!)
What a world these politicians live in. What a cesspit ‘eh. All of ‘em smiling at each other face to face, showing loads of support, and all of ‘em looking over their shoulders waiting for their friends to stab ‘em in the back. And it’s not if, it’s when.
Anyway…

Anyone that reads my stuff on here will surely by now have got the impression, and rightly so, that I have no time for politicians. None. No time, no respect, nothing. You may have read my piece on Blair. My contempt for him still keeps me warm on cold winter’s nights but there are others. Almost all of them in fact, but most of them don’t matter. Inconsequential people. But occasionally one of the other slimy little fuckers will poke their ugly little heads over the parapet. Like The Right Honourable Vince Cable MP did recently. Again.

... and the same to you Mr.Cable.

… and the same to you Mr.Cable.


Not so very long ago, Vince Cable was suddenly elevated to some sort of financial expert, a guru. Yes, that Vince Cable. Why? Because he predicted the financial meltdown in 2007/8. Well done, Vince. But, without wanting to cast a cloud over his genius, I have to say that every day, someone somewhere is making financial predictions. And the bigger the better if you want to get noticed. As a for instance… the Euro was going to collapse ergo the Euro – zone would fall. And most of us would die. Then someone said there would be a double dip recession, no, wait, make that a triple dip recession. And those that hadn’t already died would certainly die this time round. And only a couple of months ago they said that America wouldn’t be able to avoid falling off the ‘financial cliff’. And all Americans would die.
But anyway, and let’s be fair, Vince got one right. And our wonderful press hailed him, and because most of the sheep in this country believe what they read, suddenly he’s seen as a guru, someone in Westminster who actually knows what he’s talking about. So, come the Coalition, Vince was installed as Secretary of State for business, and ‘we’ all breathed a sigh of relief in the certainty that we wouldn’t suffer any more nasty financial problems ever again. Yaaay. Good old Vince. His star was shining so brightly that he became a bit of a poster boy for the Coalition and they gave him lots of other responsibilities in his portfolio.
And Vince, flushed with his new – found importance made the same mistake most of ‘em do, and thought that somehow his intelligence had suddenly grown to match the importance of his role, and began to deal with stuff out of his depth.
Unfortunately within five minutes he thought he could take on Rupert Murdoch. He told the world he was at war with the Murdoch Corporation. Wrong Vince, wrong!
His inappropriate comments, his big mouth and his hubris resulted in humiliation and his responsibility for media, digital, tele – comms etc, were stripped from him by Dave and Nick. Had he been a Tory, he’d have been booted all the way back down to the back benches, but because he was Lib Dem, it was seen as politically right to keep him in the Coalition cabinet.
So, you get the picture? The man’s guess on the financial situation comes right. He’s promoted to a job he should never have been given. He makes a number of gaffes and is plainly out of his depth, but he’s still left responsibility for some important matters, one of them being the responsibility for overseeing the recent Royal Mail IPO. And this is where our paths collide.
Why? Because, like thousands of others, I had the audacity to apply for more than £10,000’s worth of shares in his Royal Mail sell off.
And for that he calls us, the thousands of us that wanted to buy ‘extra’ shares, spivs.
So what did I do wrong? Why does he call me a spiv? I’m just your average guy with a couple of quid’s worth of savings, who for the past six years has been looking for somewhere to put it. Somewhere long term, where it might be safe and gather a decent return. I’ll remind him that thousands of us are finding a pitiful 1% savings interest rates isn’t much use when inflation is two/ three times that, thanks to him and his ilk.

So now, he comes along selling off the family silver in the shape of the Royal Mail IPO. But for it to be a success he needs long-term investors and he plans to reward them with perhaps 6% – 7% yields. At last, I think, it’s almost been worth the wait. (Not really but after 6 years of being raped by the Bank’s interest rates, I’m punch drunk by now!) “Here I am Vince,” I cry and I apply for lots of shares, as many as I can afford. Why wouldn’t I? It’s been six years I remind you.

At one point, when they weren’t sure how successful the float would be, he was desperate for the likes of me; there was no talk of ‘spivs’ then. Oh no, quite the reverse. Had this looked to be going badly, he’d have been off around the City with his begging bowl chatting up the ‘spivs’ to help him out.
But no. It goes well. Too well. Arguably so well it’s embarrassing. But that’s another story. He gets the forecast price wrong. Badly wrong. And whatever he tells you, he has. So much so it was seven times oversubscribed? Excuse me? Seven times?
He prices the shares at £3.30…they open at way over £4, and finish the first day at £4.55… they have hit over £6 since. You had one job Vince, one job.

...and only Vince didn't see this coming.

…and only Vince didn’t see this coming.


But in his slimy way with words he blames a situation of his own making, on us, the investors, for rushing for shares. He gets the price badly wrong, we apply, ergo we are greedy ‘spivs.’ Geddit? Call me ambitious, over ambitious, perhaps optimistic. But I’m not a spiv.
Not nice Vince. Not nice at all.

But don’t you worry Vincey boy, we’ll get by without your help. We have to. Meanwhile if it all goes pear shaped my son, I can always lay me hands on a few RBS shares if you’re interested? Cheap?

The Road to Wembley re-lined with red brick pavers.

by Neil Chapman

This you should know. Over the last couple of weeks or so, I’ve posted on the remarkable success of Tunbridge Wells FC and their cup run. Their road to Wembley. I live in the town, I love the game, why not? After writing the pieces I then tweeted links to them. Yes, I’m on Twitter. people tell me you have to be, but I’m not convinced but if it helps, why not? You have to remember that the whole point of this website, this blog, is to point people at my book on Amazon. Thing is, the tweets got a lot of interest, and the site got a lot of ‘hits’, and I got a message from the sports editor of the local newspaper, ‘Tunbridge Wells Courier’. They were planning an eight page pull-out supplement to appear in Cup Final weekend edition. Would I write a piece for it, say approx 1000 words? Yes I would. Here it is……   

Unbelievable is an overworked word, but surely this headline was a few weeks ago?

Unbelievable is an overworked word, but surely this headline was a few weeks ago?

So what happened? How did we get here then, eh? For years we’ve been giving the back page of the ‘Courier’ a quick glance to see how they got on last week – and let’s be honest we weren’t expecting too much, were we? – and now, suddenly, we are on our way to Wembley! Did I miss something? It seems we all have.

This was a club that hadn’t won anything for years, a club that had found its comfort zone in the Kent league, a club that seemed to lose key players at the end of every season, but reckoned that the new signings would be even better. A club that for years promised the following season would be the one. Well, suddenly they are that club. The club that became a team. Unbeaten since last October, winners of the Kent Senior Cup, and the in final of the FA Vase. At Wembley. Let me write that again. In the final of the FA Vase at Wembley. I know, I know. Get used to it!

Am I a fan? Well, probably like you, I am now. Lots of us are… …now. As I write the team’s supporters have gone from a hardcore of 200 supporters to over 10,000 that have bought tickets for Wembley. 10,000! Unbelievable just a few short weeks ago.

It took me 35 years of living in this town to make my way to the Culverden stadium – disgraceful really – and last year I saw them get dumped out of the 4th round by St. Ives; a match they could have won. So fast-forward to earlier this year, 4th round again, and I’m not expecting too much, especially as they were playing the team that won it in 2012, Dunston FC. But this time The Wells soak up a lot of pressure, defend well, (must have been the new signings!) and score in the second-half. 1-0. Thank you.

Then they go off to Bath (without me) and beat Larkhall FC. They had a man sent off, came from behind twice, and then nicked the winner in the last minute of extra time. I’m starting to think that this is a team that doesn’t know when it’s beaten.

Now it’s the sixth round and starting to get serious. Only eight teams left. Hadleigh FC from Ipswich are the visitors. Interest in the town is growing and a record crowd saw The Wells dispatch them 2-0. They made it look easy too. Next!

Don’t tell the players but now they are only two games away from Wembley. First leg of the semi-final, and if I’m really honest, after 20 minutes I’m thinking they might as well be ten games away. Their opponents, Shildon FC looked quicker, stronger, well organised and better on the ball. And confident. They expected to win. And why not? They had a couple of players who frightened the life out of the new record crowd of 1754, every time they got the ball. But The Wells defend as if their lives depend on it. You can’t write this team off. Outplayed for an hour then two lightening breakaways lead to two goals. Try and remember that, Shildon, next week in the second leg, this team does not lie down.

Oh dear. What have I said? An hour into the second leg and Shildon are 3-0 up, and the Wells are flat on their backs. Could be, should be, five or six to Shildon, they’re bossing the game and it’s

3-0 to Shildon and bye bye Wells? Thanks to 'This is Kent.'

3-0 to Shildon and bye bye Wells?
Thanks to ‘This is Kent.’

looking like another one of those ‘gallant’ defeats. Another one in the procession of Northern League teams stamping their pit boots over a side from the effete South on their way to Wembley. Thing is, no–one told that to the lads from the most effete town in the South, Tunbridge Wells. They wouldn’t have understood their accents anyway.

Away from home, in front of a baying hostile crowd, against a very good side who have outplayed you for large parts of both games and your lead wiped out very early on. You’re going out of the Cup. Your dream is over. You? You, at Wembley? Playing on the hallowed turf? Get real. You’re three nil down. Seems it was just a dream after all. Whey-aye mon, the ‘Road to Wembley’ isn’t lined with red – brick pavers.

How, how exactly do you cope with that, mentally? The TV pundits will tell you this is when you have to really ‘want it’. Want it more than the other side. But it’s been pretty obvious that for 80 minutes or so that Shildon would quite like it too.

But we know what happened. Skill is one thing, teamwork, fitness, tactics, desire, are others. But didn’t Shildon have that? Yes. But the Wells had belief. Real belief and guts. When it mattered. With only minutes remaining somehow they find a goal. Now it’s extra time and they snatch a winner. Lucky? Err, I don’t think so. Remember Larkhall? Sorry Shildon but I did warn you. This team does not lie down.

Carlsberg don't do tickets, but if they did......

Carlsberg don’t do tickets, but if they did……

And now it’s Wembley and for the first time in the long and distinguished history of Tunbridge Wells, thousands of its citizens are off to a major national final. Martin Larkin’s red and white army snaking its way around the M25, their cardigans and Boden tops cast off (just for the day of course) for bright new shiny red TWFC tee shirts.

It’s a day the players, the club, and probably Wembley will remember for the rest of their lives.

So will we.

Thanks boys and good luck!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can rely on politicians. They will always let you down.

by Neil Chapman

We all of us have a dark side. Could be just dark thoughts. Sometimes it’s a deep secret we don’t really want to talk about in company. Sometimes worse; it’s something that puts you on the same level as the people you despise. I’m afraid I’m revealing mine here. Don’t worry, it’s not illegal. It’s simply revulsion, a deep deep loathing of politicians. One in particular. 

Hi guys. Trust me. I'm going to be your Prime Minister.

Hi guys. Trust me. I’m going to be your Prime Minister.

Why do I get this awful feeling that Tony effing Blair is trying to wheedle his way back into my life? Just recently he keeps popping up in places, on TV, in the headlines. I see he was offering Ed Milliband advice a couple of weeks ago, and it’s even been mooted he might replace him as leader of the Labour Party. Have I really got to start getting used to seeing his  face all over again? That insincere smile, those darting crafty eyes, that smarmy voice that switches between trying to sound like a statesman to ‘Hey you guys, I’m one of the lads’. Is he bored? Looking to start another war?

It’s not just him. I have to declare an utter total lack of interest, trust or respect for any politician, not just Blair, it’s just that he’s the worst. And for this state of affairs I blame John Stonehouse. I, and many thousands like me, were victims of his behaviour way back in the early seventies. Heard of him? He was a somebody back in those days, a dashing, good- looking MP. A man with a future, already a cabinet minister no less and it was being whispered could go on to greater things. One of the few MPs then or since, that had any semblance of charisma.

Let me digress for just a moment. You should know that these were the days when MPs were revered, seen as gentlemen. Men of their word, men of honour and treated as such by the media. Fawned upon almost. And, even now, how important they think they are; how they ‘big’ themselves up. I heard one of ‘em on the radio the other day, describing his mates in the party as ‘war horses’ and ‘big beasts’. Err, no. For ‘war horse’ read prat, for ‘big beasts’ read fat, bloated prats. It was only when Robin Day came along they were shown up for what they are.

In the last 50 years or so, since I’ve been politically ‘conscious,’ our elected MPs of whatever party, of whichever sex have been regularly caught out in some sort of scandal. Usually, a couple of times every year, one of ‘em will get caught red-handed, up to no good. Sex, abuse of power, lies, you name it, they’ve done it. The recent expenses disgrace just about sums it up. Almost every one of them stealing, fiddling or just simply bending the rules to line their own pockets.

Trust me darling. I'm a Cabinet Minister now.

Trust me darling. I’m a Cabinet Minister now.

About the only decent one I can think of right now is John Mann. He seems an honest man. He ‘blew the whistle’ on the expenses scandal and was then ostracised by almost all of his so-called colleagues. Tells you everything, yes?

Anyway, back to the Right Honourable John Stonehouse. Following some boundary changes he pitched up in Walsall as my Labour MP and so I voted for him, the first vote I had ever cast. It was different back then. You voted like your father had. And his father. For your class. Solidarity brother.

Within 6 months or so, this champion of the people, this example to us all, this fighter for Socialism had gone missing. His clothes were found piled on some Australian beach a la Reggie Perrins. Had it all been too much for our hero and he’d committed suicide? Err, no. He hadn’t. He’d done a runner and nipped off to Oz with his secretary, leaving his wife and considerable debts behind. Taught me a lot about the breed that did. And since then, many others have with their lies and deceit, their shagging around, their hubris and conceit and most of all, their ‘in it all for themselves’ attitude. Trust me, the expenses scandal of a couple of summers ago is but the tip of the iceberg. If only we knew, if only we could find out.

Truss me.

Truss me.

But how times have changed. At least now we put the liars and thieves in jail. What a mob, eh? In recent history, the likes of Jonathan Aitken and Jeffrey Archer right through to a few weeks ago, Chris Huhne, another liar of the first order!! And these are only the ones that have been caught, the tip of the iceberg. What about the others?

And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. They’ve started breeding their own now. Have done for a while. They grow them in Universities, then nurture them in ‘research jobs’ then plant them out in constituencies and those with the better connections go to safe seats, of course. So we’ve ended up with lots of people – professional politicians – who have never done a day’s work in their lives (the current Old Etonian gang for example). Just the sort of people you need, to sit and make decisions that affect the 99.999% rest of us that have to work. Not.

But it’s our own fault, I guess. We vote ‘em in and let them get on with it. We don’t protest much, do we? Very, very occasionally but nowhere near enough at some of their antics. And then we vote ‘em out again. And why? Because they all end up being just as bad, inefficient and sleazy as the ones they replaced. They promise the earth and then make all the same mistakes. Isn’t it depressing? They don’t learn and it seems, neither do the great British public.. We fall for it every time… we think this time it’s going to be different, be better.

Is it just me that thinks this? It can’t be surely? Or is this country really full of sheep? Herds of sheep that are gamely following the ‘next big thing?’ It’s all PR spin. People getting paid fortunes to feed you lies. It’s astonishing really. Example. Look at the Nick Clegg phenomenon. Makes a couple of appearances on the live debates before the 2010 election, comes across as half intelligent, fresh faced and eager, and suddenly he’s the answer to all our problems. Hailed as the next Messiah almost. Yeah right. Cameron was the same, a bit. Even Vince cable had his moment as the next big thing, the guru we had all overlooked until he opened his mouth again and we knew why he wasn’t. And how do they all look today? Not quite so shiny, are they? And what’s the alternative? Ed Milliband? Ed Balls? Harriet Harman? Been there and done that. But the PR spinners are polishing their tarnished images of a few years ago and trying to make us believe that this time, this crowd, really do have the answers. Well, I’m sorry but that prospect frightens me. You can see why Blair, the great opportunist, is spoken about again now, can’t you?

But, back to Blair, because I really need to get this off my chest. It all started for me, the day after they (he) came to power after the 1997 election. He’s making a speech somewhere, can’t remember where, and he’s telling us, outlining what’s going to happen now that they’ve won. The thing was, it was all ‘I’ this, and ‘I’ that, as if he was going to do it all personally. He said it so often it really jarred; his strutting arrogance obvious even then. The word ‘we’ never came in to it. The word ‘we’ wasn’t in his lexicon until stuff went wrong and he wanted to share the blame. Since the Stonehouse business, I hadn’t taken much notice of him or any of the buggers, until then, but now I did. I was actually mesmerised by his ‘performance’. It was that of a man only concerned about himself, his status, his self-importance. We all know how he filled the vacuum following John Smith’s death in 1994, hoodwinking poor old Gordon in the process. Mind you, in hindsight, he did us a favour there. But in fairness a baboon could have led the Labour Party back then. Remember the talent he had around him? No wonder it was easy for him to become their leader.

Every time Gordon smiles, a little fairy dies.

Every time Gordon smiles, a little fairy dies.

What a roll call. John Prescott, Frank Dobson, Margaret Beckett, Clare Short, Tony Banks etc. And don’t forget Gordon next door in No11, curtains drawn, lights out, sitting there in the dark, fuming. Quietly fuming when he should have been practicing his smile.

Blair must have been depressed too. So depressed he rarely consulted them. Instead he patronised them regularly and when it came to the biggest decision a PM can ever make, he kept them in the dark and went to war with Iraq without getting their approval. Not until the very eve of the invasion. Not until it was too late. Just think on that for a second. Breathtaking arrogance. The fact his cabinet didn’t resign then tells you all you need to know about the sycophantic little prats hanging onto their jobs. No principles, no convictions amongst any of ‘em.

And who was it they were being this cowardly for? And for what? A brown-nosing little man who was doing all he could to impress George Dubbya, that’s who. His foreign policy, our foreign policy then was all about him being seen by the world as a leader, as important, a giant on the world stage.

It all fell apart for him though, didn’t it? His ‘Look at me, I’m Mr.Cool’ image, the one he still tries so hard to promote, all blown away in seconds. Remember the toe cringing ‘Yo/yeah Blair’ episode when they were both shown up for what they were. Blair the poodle. The incompetent George

‘You see the irony is what they need to do is get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s all over…’

Bush’s little lapdog. We might all have differing opinions of just how bright George W. really is, (am I being serious?) but in truth he saw right through Blair. ‘Yo Blair” he called as he saw Blair sidling up to him in his sycophantic way. Then he tells Tony not to bother going to the Middle East. But Tony splutters and stutters and says he wants to. He promises not to say anything significant, he’ll leave that to Condalisa. But George says no. So Tony didn’t because George had told him not to. The Prime Minister of this country being told what to do, by a lightweight like George W. Bush. The transcript of how these World leaders spoke to each other when discussing this issue that affect millions of lives is easy to Google. Go there. It’s horrifying. Even ‘Bremner Bird and Fortune’ couldn’t be so crass!

So Tone, your attempt at being a World leader didn’t quite work, did it? If there was any real justice in this world, you would have, should have, been tried as a war criminal.

How ironic that this warmonger is now a so-called Peace Envoy to the Middle East? You couldn’t make it up really, could you? And how are things going in the Middle East? Well it wouldn’t be

With thanks to John Pilger. This pic says it so much better than I could.

much use asking him, would it? No-one in the Middle East has seen him for ages. He’s sort of gone into hiding as we speak; dedicating himself to providing consultancy services to major companies that have reportedly paid him millions of dollars.

Any politician trying to make a comeback would be bad enough but not this one please. There is no-one alive on this planet I dislike as much. I say dislike, the truth is I cannot put into words my utter total contempt for the man. It’s wrong to despise someone this badly and I know it cheapens me, but it’s his fault. I’ve felt cheapened by him for years.

As well as the Iraq War, he left so much more ‘distasteful’ stuff behind him too. The David Kelly business, and the unanswered questions surrounding that. His expenses that conveniently got shredded in the midst of an expenses enquiry. Humiliated as the first PM ever to be interviewed by the police for flogging honours in exchange for donations to the Party. The list goes on. And on. What an unsavoury legacy.

Not sure where that’s come from, but there it is. Yes, I know that, arguably, it tells you more about me than any of them, There’s a few sweeping generalisations in there, but I do like a good sweeping generalisation. That’s what I think about politicians and Blair in particular. Not much I’m afraid. And since the Stonehouse incident all those years ago I’ve never voted. Yes, I know the arguments why I should; I’m not a fool, but I won’t be voting again. As I’ve said, it’s mostly the wrong type of people becoming politicians these days – professional politicians – and you’re welcome to them. And don’t get me started on the voting system either… approximately only one in five of the electorate vote for whoever wins. It follows then that we are governed by a party that four out of five of us haven’t voted for. And if you can explain the ‘fairness’ in that, let me know. And please don’t call it democracy!

 

They dared to dream.

by Neil Chapman

So how was your Saturday afternoon? Mine was the worst I can remember for some time.

It was also the best I can remember for a very long time!

I had sooo many things I had to do, sooo many places I had to be. But I spent it sitting hunched over the laptop, watching an online report of The Match.

What match, Chappers? The match, the second leg of the FA Vase semi-final. You know, the one I wrote about last week: “Tunbridge Wells, Theatre of Dreams”, http://bit.ly/Zhphoz when we (Tunbridge Wells) won 2-0 against Shildon. As I said then, all we had to do was go up there and come away with no worse than a 1-0 defeat and Tunbridge Wells FC would be at Wembley for the final. That still doesn’t look right in a sentence, does it? Well, whether it looks right or not, you’d better get used to it because that’s what happened. The Wells won on aggregate. They are going to Wembley.

But for a while there – well most of the time yesterday afternoon- it wasn’t going to happen. The Wells were run ragged. The online running commentaries said it, the post match interviews confirmed it. Shildon were the better team on the day. Unlucky. Deserved to get something out of the game.

Last week I said Shildon looked a good side. In fairness no-one could tell; the pitch was such a mud-bath it was impossible to say. It was what they call a good leveller. Even so, I think Tunbridge Wells FC realised Shildon were a good side and I think they went up there knowing they had a job on. Somewhere deep down – if they’re honest- they may have thought they ‘got away with it’ in the first leg at home. They knew to a man, and so did the supporters, that an early goal for Shildon in this game was the last thing they needed. A two goal lead, for some stupid unfathomable reason, isn’t as healthy as it sounds, especially against a good side. You just know, if they get one back, they have the momentum, physically and mentally, and a second one, the equaliser could be on the way if you’re not careful. You need to keep things steady for a while.  Or all your earlier hard work counts for nothing. So guess what? About 20 minutes in Shildon have scored two, wiped out the deficit, and are all over The Wells like a nasty rash. They are the better team it seems.

OK, as you know I wasn’t there (Easter, family arriving…excuses, excuses etc. etc.) but I didn’t have to be there. I’d already been there so often in my own ‘career’. I know how it goes when it’s going for you and when it’s going against you. Especially when it’s going against you; sometimes it’s unstoppable. Sometimes it’s easier to give in, to say OK, OK, you win, you’re the better side. We were lucky last time. If you happen to be playing in front of their febrile home crowd it doesn’t get any easier. Your loyal followers are easily outshouted, especially when the second goal goes in. So now they expect a procession, more goals. Let’s show ‘em, let’s humiliate these Southern softies. Don’t they know? When will they get it? Football is a game best played by Northerners, an inner city game. Tunbridge Wells? Do me a favour. Puhleeeaase. Someone actually tweeted Tunbridge Wells is full of lawyers, doctors and architects. Perhaps they should have a wander around the town centre late one Saturday night? … They might need a doctor at some point. Let’s see if they can find one.

So sometimes it’s easier to be the plucky loser, shake their hands say “well done, you were just too good on the day”. It’s a very English thing to do. And isn’t Tunbridge Wells the very apogee of Englishness? The Courier would still have hailed them, we would have hailed them. You did us proud boys… bad luck.

Then, early in the second half Shildon get their third. Game over the way this is going.

...good player, good goal. Will it be enough though? Thanks to 'This is Kent.'

…good player, good goal. Will it be enough though?
Thanks to ‘This is Kent.’

They are now in the lead. They are now on their way to Wembley. And for a few minutes, everyone, everyone in that ground, both sets of supporters, both teams and both managers thought that was it. Human. Natural. The Wells manager, the soon to be Sir Martin Larkins OBE. MBE, Mr. Freedom of the Borough, said as much. So here we are, around four o’clock in a cold North Eastern mining village, three down fighting wave after wave of attacks from a rampant, energised side. Where are our lad’s hearts and minds now? It’s at times like this you need a captain. A Jason Bourne type. Someone who can get you out of scrapes and win through. Well, funny you should mention that.. As it happens TWFC has such a captain, who just happens to be named Jason Bourne. You have to ask who wrote this script. Outrageous!

We can only imagine where his heart is at this moment of this match. The biggest of his career.… TWFC’s skipper, about 250 games for the Wells, been there years, it’s what he is, through and

Jason with Norman who played for the Wells 60 years ago....thanks to @elbowe

Jason with Norman who played for the Wells 60 years ago….thanks to @elbowe

through and here he is, half an hour from Wembley… and losing!   Hardly ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ at the moment… we are looking for ‘The Bourne Legacy!’  I’m sorry, getting carried away.

Well my heart is clinging in there too. Just. Imagine you’re with me, hunched over this Laptop watching the sporadic texts come in, courtesy of Glenn Garrett, sports editor of the Courier. He’s calling it. He’s saying this isn’t going well, this is getting worse. It’s not his fault it’s all gloom and doom. He’s right! Glenn is calling what he is seeing.

But, and I know it’s easy to say this now, but I will. Because I’ve been there, I know what can happen, and sometimes I know it’s simply hope trying to triumph over reality and that can lead to crushing disappointment. But sometimes, just sometimes….

Then out of the blue, if I’m reading our man’s missives correctly, we score. Andy scores. The Wells equalise. How? We were under the cosh. What happened? Who gives a fuck? We’ve scored.This could be a “sometimes just sometimes” moment. We can squeeze extra time out of this if we are lucky. And we do. And now I’m in full ‘hope’ mode, but I can’t watch anymore. So I’m up and down, in and out of the kitchen, hearing the match texts arrive, but not wanting to see them. I’ll wait until there’s a few. Might make it easier. I know it’s almost the end of the second period of extra time now. So I go back. It’s still all Shildon apart from a few sporadic Well’s raids.

Then Glenn reports “Goal!” Simply that.  It’s staring back at me for a minute? Two minutes?  This isn’t fair Glenn and you know it.  Who the fuck has scored this goal? I’ve taken a dislike to this man. Then you do know it. You know the Couriers’s sports editor wouldn’t mess with your mind like that. Would he? Then he confirms what you hoped, dared dream for the past hour or so. 3-2. Simply that. The Wells are through, on aggregate. I love you, Glenn.

I can write paragraph after paragraph trying to explain what that means. WEMBLEY. That won’t mean too much if you’re not really into football. It means everything if you are. Me? I think you know. I grew up dreaming about the place. Dreaming how I’d score the winner there. Don’t laugh but I still do, I really do. It never leaves you. But let’s move on. It’s every kid’s dream.

I’ll just say this and please excuse me; it’s not braggadocio, it’s really not. I’m just trying to put their achievement into perspective. I played for a couple of league clubs, picked up a couple of youth international caps whilst at Derby County, and played semi-pro non-league for years. Played in lots of FA cup games, FA Trophy games etc. etc. I never, ever got with a million miles of Wembley. Never. Can’t think of anyone I know that did. And ask 99% of professional footballers and they will tell you the same thing. It’s a dream. Wembley is a dream. The ultimate dream. And somehow that still doesn’t put this in to perspective. Anyway, that doesn’t matter. I’ll just say that for the people that are interested in the game, understand the game, these guys will become legends in Tunbridge Wells history. Their names will be recorded, their pictures popping up, being published in local rags for years to come. Hyperbole? I don’t think so.

You know what’s ‘bad’ about this? Because from now until May 4th,, the Town is going to be in uproar.  Four or five weeks of breathless madness. Suddenly everyone is interested. We are all supporters. Already the TW twitterati are making plans to be there; it’s all about how can we get tickets? How shall we travel? I’m just waiting for the “what shall I wear” tweet. That won’t be long.  TV, the Nationals, interviews, the whole media circus will descend on the team, you’ll see.

The lads... the legends... you'll see. Thanks to 'This is Kent.'

The lads… the legends… you’ll see.
Thanks to ‘This is Kent.’

And yet, a couple of weeks ago, did you care? Really care? TWFC were just a couple of columns on the back page of the K&S Courier and only a couple of hundred at most cared enough to go watch them regularly. Trust me, I’m not ‘having a go’. I’m just as bad. I watched them last year for the first time when they got knocked out at the last 32 stage … and I’ve watched the last three home games in this current competition. So I’m hardly a stalwart. But I’ll go and watch them more in the future. I mean that. And I’ll go to Wembley, and if you’re from Tunbridge Wells or close by, or have any semblance of interest, so should you. It’s one of those days that only come along once in a lifetime.

And since you’re interested. I shall be wearing mostly red.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theatre of dreams at Tunbridge Wells

by Neil Chapman

Surreal that’s all I can say. Surreal. And on so many levels too. Where shall I start?

At the Culverden Stadium in Tunbridge Wells of course, where yesterday a football match was played. Tunbridge Wells FC. beat Shildon FC. in the first leg of the F.A.Vase. At this point many readers living in Tunbridge Wells will have turned away; this town is not a ‘football town’. Sorry. We’re not interested. It’s a so-called game played by those oiks further North. No, not Tonbridge, I mean The North. And then there’s all that money, and just look at that awful Gazza person, those WAGs whatever they are, and please don’t even mention John Terry.

Look, don’t turn away just yet, let me try this:

Tunbridge Wells FC. are 90 minutes away from playing at Wembley.

Oops, just lost a few more readers. Well tough, their loss.

I’ll just say this to those who think it was just another football game.

Wrong! Very wrong. You couldn’t be more wrong. Yesterday was almost theatre. It wasn’t just about football; it was about hopes, dreams and aspirations. Not just those of a squad of players, but I guess all those that have been associated with Tunbridge Wells FC. over the years. And those who casually follow their results in “ The Courier”. In many ways this was so much more than just a football match. Without over-dramatising, it was part of an impossible dream for these players, for this Club, for this town. You should be proud. You should at least take an interest.

Yesterday, before the game, I had the surreal pleasure of driving around the leafy Culverden area of Tunbridge Wells trying to find a parking spot. For once, lack of parking wasn’t our greedy Council’s fault, no it was the sheer volume of traffic. And you could tell from the worried faces behind the twitching curtains that crowds of this size are unprecedented in this neck of the woods. In fact it was an all-time record crowd of 1754. But parking spots we all got, and we all followed the droves to the ground. Where we queued. Yes queued. Almost a first here, I reckon, and it was quite a long queue winding back up the dirt path, and between the rhododendrons from whence we came. But it was orderly, polite and respectful. A queue made in Tunbridge Wells. There was a patient air, the quiet buzz of conversation, with lots of dads holding their children’s hands, probably taking them to their first football game. Classic, and great to see. And as we stood and waited we could hear the noise of the Shildon fans from inside the Clubhouse, chanting and beating on some bloody great drum. Yes, the oiks had taken a drum inside the clubhouse. Inside. I’ll say no more. Let’s move on.

In the 35 years I’ve lived in Tunbridge Wells, I’ve only been here very occasionally, shame on me, but I’ve followed this year’s cup run with some interest. Why? Because I’ve played a bit in my time

..thats me...back row, third from the right. The white Pele.

..thats me…back row, third from the right. The white Pele.

and I love the game. Coming from Walsall in the West Midlands as I do, I could be parked and in the ground at the Wolves, West Bromwich Albion, Walsall, Aston Villa, or Birmingham City all within 30 minutes of my house. And on every occasion I could, I did. So, it’s in my blood, yes?

For all those of you that have never been to The Culverden, let me tell you. It’s not an all-seater. OK? I don’t think the Taylor report got this far. There are a few seats but you’re better off standing. But wherever you position yourself you’ll have a good view. I think the average gate is around a couple of hundred and even today with over 1750 here, we weren’t packed. Clubhouse and bar are handily placed just as you go in and usually drum free, and even today you could pick your spot. There’s even a man with a microphone. Once he used to announce the crowd changes to the teams but today it’s oh so different. This is his big day too.

Advert over, but you should go. I should go more because I call myself a football fan. Anyway… …

4688455-promo

..pic courtesy of KS Courier

The match? Well 2-0 almost flatters Tunbridge Wells. Shildon looked a good side, a very good side and for long periods had the Wells pinned in their own half. But the weather had determined that the pitch was a mud bath with the surface of an ice rink and many passes never reached their intended man, simply coming to a stop in the mud. So who knows who were the best footballing side? Couldn’t tell. Both sides struggled to play their game. Was it a lottery? Probably. I do know that the Wells absorbed a lot of pressure but then scored two good goals as a result of two well-executed breakaways.

I also know that the Wells will have it “all to do” as they say, when they go to Shildon this coming Saturday for the second leg. When it comes to this stage of a tournament, the semi-final stage, it matters little who the best footballing side is. What matters is who wants it more. Who wants to get to Wembley more. The Wells have a 2 goal cushion. Something to defend. Something to build on. But what a prize. Wembley! Unthinkable. Seriously unthinkable. As I said, surreal.

Want another surreal moment?

Try this. Halfway through the match, the Wells have been pinned in their own penalty area for ages, the ball pinging around in their box as if in some giant pinball machine, Wells players throwing their bodies on the line, up to their neck in muck, mud and bullets, defending corner after corner. Surely Shildon will score with all this pressure? And if they score now, you just know they’ll get another one, probably two. Game over. Tie over. Tense? To a man, the biggest crowd ever watching the biggest game ever will tell you just how tense this was. And our man on the microphone? What does he do? He decides it’s time to announce a couple of Birthday dedications. Excellent.

The whistle blows. We’ve won the first leg. The Wells players knew exactly what to do, they’ve seen it enough times on TV. And now it’s their turn. They run to their supporters, arms raised above their heads, clapping. Ecstatic. The crowd respond. Shildon slump off and go straight to their dressing room. They look a beaten side. Their manager follows them in, effing and blinding. Not happy. “Lads gave me all they had, left nuffin’ on the pitch, showed their character. And as for that effing ref…”

The man with the drum had gone very quiet too, obviously finding it difficult to play where he’s been told to put it. Their fans were quiet now too. They’d been giving it large all afternoon; we had politely waved back.

And so the record crowd left. In orderly fashion, of course. Back to our cars and off into the Tunbridge Wells night with no thought of rampaging through the town centre or pillaging the Pantiles. Good God no, we all went home for a nice cup of tea.

So, a good result. For us. And it made it to BBC’s ‘Final Score’ and also Sky Sports Results. And that’s big time. Because the F.A.Vase is big time. It’s a direct successor to the F.A. Amateur Cup, which once upon a time attracted crowds of 100,000 to Wembley finals. Well that’s not going to happen with Tunbridge Wells in the final. Even so. What a day.

Just think, if someone had said to you a few months ago that you might be going to the finest

...doesn't get too muddy here.

…doesn’t get too muddy here.

football stadium in the world, to watch Tunbridge Wells contest the final of one of the oldest football competitions in the world, what would you have thought?

Surreal I’d have thought. Bloody surreal. And wrong. Wrong, wrong wrong! Somehow I never thought I would ever see Tunbridge Wells, FA. Vase final and Wembley in the same sentence. This is the province of the Northern pit village sides of yesteryear. The Bishop Aucklands, the Blyth Spartans, the Crook Towns, the Liverpool sides like Skelmersdale and the London fancy-dans like Walthamstow Avenue, Enfield and Wycombe Wanderers. But in it they are. Well in it. Two nil up and only ninety minutes to play. So it’s right, right, right. This time next week lads eh? C’mon. You can do it!

And if they do? I’ll be there. And that music shop in town. You know the one. The one at the bottom of Grove Hill Road directly opposite Hoopers? Any chance they sell those big drums?

 

Poker: Walsall hold ’em

by Neil Chapman

I’ve just read Victoria Coren’s piece in the Huffington Post. It’s about the growing social acceptability of poker and gaming as a night out. She talks of launch parties, new card rooms, laughing people, spangly bars and smart restaurants. She goes on; it gets better. You can almost hear the polite chitchat, the tinkle of laughter, the clink of champagne glasses.  She’s titled the article ‘A New Age For Poker’. It’s a good article, I like it, I’m pleased.

... good start?

…that’s a good start. Let’s try to stay calm…

So Victoria, I’m calling your London Hippodrome Casino Club 2013 and raising you my Walsall Casino Club circa mid sixties.

Why? Because I have an interest, that’s why. In casinos, in poker.  Nostalgia. All those years ago, I was a croupier dealing five card stripped deck stud poker.

Reading it took me back to ‘The Old Age Of Poker’.  Not quite the days of the Wild West, cowboys sitting around card tables in saloons, scattering when the guy in the black hat had lost all of his money who then accused our hero of cheating. No, the days I remember were almost 50 years ago, in the Wild West Midlands. Walsall in fact. The Casino Club to be precise. And the clientele were far worse, far more dangerous than the occasional cowboy’baddie’.  The club attracted its fair share of local punters looking for a drink and a night

Gambling and the M6... the road to nowhere?

Gambling and the M6… the road to nowhere?

out, but this was at a time when they were building the M6 around the outskirts of Walsall, so most nights we might get an additional 40, 50 sometimes 60 or so Irishmen looking to spend their wages on Guinness,  gambling, girls and good times.

It wasn’t just a casino. No, there was a dance hall attached. Yes, a dance hall, the word discotheque hadn’t been invented yet; a dance hall that had already hosted amongst others, The Spencer Davies Group and Denny Laine, later of Wings and Moody Blues fame.Eat your heart out London! In the gaming room itself there was a small stage set at the end of the room. That was for the strippers you see. Just big enough for the four girls, (changed weekly), to do their 3 shows a night. Class.

So all the ingredients were there for an explosive cocktail. Local men, our Irish ‘guests’, local girls, strippers to whet appetites, tables to lose their money at… and booze. And of course, kick off it did. Often. But this was never a problem to the owners Sid and Bill. Let’s just say they were equipped, Bill in particular. Bill was a little fat guy (I can say that now) who, to the untrained observer looked quite innocuous. The trained observer would have noticed an ever so slight bulge in the contours of his mohair suit jacket, where he had secreted a rounders bat in a specially sewn in pocket.  So anyone causing trouble, within seconds would be lying on the floor, bleeding profusely, having felt this rounders bat pinging on their skull.  On a busy night you may not have seen this happening, but somehow you were always able to hear this strange hollow ‘plonk’ of a noise above the hubbub. It was strangely comforting, unless of course it was your head.

You may be drawing the conclusion by now that this was not a family night out? I guess you could say that the London Hippodrome has Soho adjacent to their club. We had our Soho  inside ours.

Anyway, the gaming consisted of a roulette table, La boule, a couple of blackjack tables and our card table, all rented from the owners of the Club. There were three of us and we rented our table

... in the  red

… in the red?

for £25 a week. A lot of money then, more than your average man’s weekly wage, but peanuts to us. Had the owners known we were clearing  £400-£500 a week , we would have been, err, offered a rent increase. And a bit of a ‘slap’ because they would have felt ripped off. It was that that sort of club and they were those sort of owners.

You need to know that gambling wasn’t regulated in those days. Well, it was, but the 1960 act was so loose, it had created a boom in the gaming business attracting all the wrong types. Crooks, villains, organized crime. In London the Krays had forced their way into numerous clubs, and the mafia were doing their best to muscle their way onto the gravy train, such were the opportunities to make serious money. But this was Walsall. This was a  ‘small time’. This was ‘straight’. And anyway, we had Sid and Bill.

So a game might start at 11.00pm at night, it might start at 2am, in the early morning or it might not start at all. It might finish after an hour or so or it might finish at 6am. It might go on until the following afternoon. It all depended who was playing and how much money they had. If there were just a couple of punters in looking for a game, it was not unknown for us to drive off into the night and knock people up, our regular gamblers having a night off, and whisking them back to the club, to make up a game. Their wives were not amused funnily enough, but business was business. And a good poker game was show business, attracting crowds of watchers, people all caught up in the macho environment.

All that mattered to us was that we had a game on, that we were playing. We earned our money by taking 10% of every ‘pot’. Illegal now but perfectly legal then. The longer they played, the more pots, the more money we earned. Occasionally though, about once or twice a month,we couldn’t get a game started so we would go looking for one to play in ourselves. For the craic. You have to remember that we couldn’t go home, not now, not at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Our body clocks wouldn’t allow us. This was our daytime. So off we would go, to Birmingham usually and often the Rainbow Club on the Hagley Road.

...the Rainbow. Birmingham's legendary casino.

…the Rainbow. Birmingham’s legendary casino.

Open 24/7, this was a pukka club, several rooms, several tables and always busy, and still going to this day. Alternatively it would be ‘Dannys’ in Aston, a cafe during the day and during the night, a gambling den. A bit ‘dodgy’ was ‘Dannys’.  Dodgy he says! It was that dodgy that several times I tried to drive there during daylight hours and could never find it! It disappeared, only to reappear at night.You really felt you were taking your life into your hands trying to get into this place in the early hours; lots of whispering through half open doors, quoting all sorts of dubious references hoping someone might know someone who might know someone who knew someone who knew you. It wasn’t quite as salubrious as the Rainbow; the milk bottles, salt and pepper, and bowls of sugar still on the tables spoiled the atmosphere a little but there were always one or two serious gamblers there. Money follows the money I suppose. If you were new to poker, this is not the sort of place where you would go to learn.

What an education this was. People, attitudes, characters, motivations etc.etc. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

But it all came to an end in 1968 when they amended the laws and gambling licences were awarded to towns. Walsall lost out to nearby Wolverhampton and Birmingham.  Shame, but almost every night for three years was enough. I was 22, looked 42, newly married, a few quid in the bank, knew all the words to ‘Danny Boy’, and had learned a lesson that would stay with me for the rest of my life. Never EVER play cards in a casino.

Read into that whatever you like. All I know is that it works for me.

So Victoria, your call. I’m ‘all in’ now.

Les Miserables and the hypocritics

By Neil Chapman

I want to talk about Les Miserables in a moment, but firstly I want to get something off my chest.

Critics.

Look down 

What do you think of ‘em, eh? These people who set themselves up as arbiters of our taste. The ones who go to all the first nights and then write their reviews for the newspapers the following day.

Critics or Muppets?

Critics or Muppets?

You know you shouldn’t but you do; you read them and they colour your view before you go to see whatever it is they’ve reviewed. It’s worse sometimes when you read the review after you’ve seen something that you really enjoyed it, then find the critics have slammed it. It can make you feel silly if you’re not careful. Silly or angry. Depends on your nature. Guess what I feel?

Yes I know, we are all critics from time to time. We all watch stuff and then have a view on it. So I guess it’s no different to listening to your mate’s opinion, but because it’s your mate, it’s easy to disregard their views because you know they don’t have your taste, your appreciation of the subtleties of the finer aspects of the arts, be that art itself, cinema, shows or even TV. But, when you read or listen or see what the so-called ‘critics’ have to say, for some reason you take more notice. Why is that? Because they’re ‘experts’? Because they know better than us? Because they are paid to do it?

Interesting question and I’m not sure either.

And dontcha just love it when they disagree with each other? Surely, (and think this through) if they were experts, all of them, surely they would all agree with each other? Anyway…

Master of the House

As my dear old mum used to say… Critics? Bollocks. They know nothing, at least when it comes to the arts, no more than you or I. I give you the Turner Prize. It doesn’t matter which year, or what won it, it’ll be questionable. But guaranteed to have some critics salivating at the mouth in their praise. I give you that pile of bricks they all loved, and what about Tracey Emin’s unmade bed?

Well...Mr.Saatchi liked it enough to pay £150k for t.

Well…Mr.Saatchi liked it enough to pay £150k for it.

All this is stuff you either like or you don’t. You might even grow to like it. What I don’t like though is being told what to like. And often, in the most high falutin’, pretentious, gobble-de-gook language imaginable.

It’s all about personal taste. I will refer you to the best writer I know and the best commentator on ‘entertainment’ I know, William Goldman, who famously said in his book ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’ that “Nobody knows anything.” Never, never has a truer word been spoken about almost anything, let alone entertainment. That’s just my view, of course.

Empty chairs at empty tables

Anyway, I digress, my point is, take no notice of the experts, the critics. If you want to see it, go and see it and make your own mind up and don’t be discouraged. Never forget Louis B Mayer originally cut  ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ out of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. It’s since won awards as the best song in a movie ever and no, I don’t like it either but that’s exactly my point! Decca Records? They turned down the Beatles saying “Guitar bands are on the way out”… and Western Union turned down a piece of kit in 1876 they said “Was of no inherent value to them”… that was the telephone. Oh dear.

More to the point, one of their most recent classic mis-judgements was in 1985 when Les Miserables was first staged. It was slammed by most of the critics, one of whom still hides behind the George Bernard Shaw bon mot, “50 million Frenchmen can’t be right”. Left to the critics this show wouldn’t have seen the light of day after its opening night in the Barbican. 28 years ago. 28 years! 42 countries! 21 languages! The most successful musical ever. 

On my own

So where is all this leading? The cinema that’s where, or ‘The Pictures’ as these places should be called. Why? Because I’m going to review a film for you. Yes after all that I’m going to be a critic. That’s why I wanted to compare notes about ‘critics’ earlier because here I am, putting myself in their position. Sort of. Although, this is more of a comparison than a review. And anyway, it’s my blog…

Bring him home

So here we go. I’m talking about the film version of Les Miserables recently released. And recently reviewed. It got good notices, but many of the critics just couldn’t help themselves and needed images-4(yes, needed) to disparage Russell Crowe’s singing. Why do they do this? Look, I know he can’t sing, you know he can’t sing and I’m pretty sure he knows he can’t sing either. But surely to God, after all these years, don’t they know it’s nothing to do with the singing? It’s all about the emotion, particularly his role.

I dreamed a dream

Anyway, I have just been to see it. I couldn’t wait. I loved the stage show and I love the music to the point that I break down in tears almost every time I hear it.

I came away disappointed. Very disappointed. You who have seen the stage show and are going to see the film, you’ll be disappointed too, I think, and I’ll tell you why. Because it doesn’t have the same power as the musical. And that’s what we wanted to see, to experience again! Almost certainly, like me, you loved the show because you interacted with it. The orchestra in the pit a few yards away from you, the cast larger than life acting and singing their hearts out, the incredible sets filling the stage. And the music. Yes the film has the same music but actually it doesn’t. Not like the show has music. Music that fills your head, grabs your senses, music that takes you over, makes you a character in scene after scene, suffering with them, feeling what they feel, sharing their determination, their pain whatever. The show is happening now, right in front of you, creating magic, chemistry. Of course great films can move you, take you with them, but not quite like the theatre. And nothing quite like Les Mis.

And perhaps that’s where the problem with the film lies. Any film is going to struggle to compare favourably with a good stage production of the same film. So… if you saw the show, I think you’ll be disappointed.

Do you hear the people sing?

On the other hand, if you haven’t seen the musical, go see the film. You’ll love it. I mean that. Great story, great music and excellent acting and singing. If you have one shred of emotion within you, one shard, this show will find it. Russell Crowe? He does OK, in fact better than OK. The singing, the acting is really first class; Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne et al, they’re all good. They ‘act’ the singing if you know what I mean and carry it off easily.

But, but, but.  At some point in your life, if you get the chance to see the show, take it. Do this one thing, just for you and see the musical version of ‘Les Miserables’ and take those you love with you. I think it will be a night you will never forget. I don’t think you would ever be able to say that about the film.

Who am I?

But I could be wrong.

Bugger! I shouldn’t have said that.

I’ll never make a critic.

Read my blog

by Neil Chapman

This blogging business is causing me a few headaches already. Good headaches mind. Something to do with not wanting to let my ’audience’ down; give ‘em something they will enjoy reading and want to come back for more. God, the arrogance of it… already I’m imagining I have an audience.

I should have one adoring fan though, my girlfriend.

I say should. I haven’t. Already she doesn’t like the site name ‘acksherly’, she doesn’t like my picture, and all that before I’d added any content! Now she’s got it into her head that she wants to ‘star’ in posts from time to time, a bit like A. A. Gill’s girlfriend ‘ The Blonde’ and the late Michael Winner’s wife, ‘Geraldine’. She didn’t go much for ‘Er Indoors’ or ‘The Ginger Minger’, so for future reference I’ve decided she will be called ‘My Wonderful Girlfriend’. That should keep the fragile peace for a while.

If you’ve been paying attention, you will remember the main reason why I’m blogging. It’s to try and   make more people aware of the book  ‘A few days up North’. Currently it’s just sitting there on its virtual shelf waiting to be picked up, looked at and bought. But unless you know it’s there how are people going to find it? No-one seems to know exactly just how many books are on the Amazon Kindle Bookstore, but it seems there are at least half a million. That’s a lot. Far too many to browse. So I know no-one is just going to stumble across my book.

Anyway…so how do I make this blog more interesting? More customer friendly.   (You see, all those years in marketing weren’t wasted.) I’ve been looking around, surfing, checking out some of the other blogs on here, see what they write about. I had this stupid idea I might find a gap in the market. FFS! What was I thinking of? Do you know how big this thing is? I’m not much of a one for numbers, stats, that sort of thing, (well not since I read that 37.6% of all statistics were wrong), but some of the numbers are huge, and getting huger by the day.

These are just a few of the numbers for 2012 courtesy of Pingdom who collate this stuff every year.

“My audience?” This gives you some idea of what I’m up against.

Websites

  • 634 million – Number of websites (December). … and I’m trying to stand out in all of this !
  • 51 million – Number of websites added during the yearand they’ll be trying hard too
  • 35% – The average web page became this much larger during 2012.
  • 4% – The average web page became this much slower to load during 2012. 

Domain names

  • 246 million – Number of domain name registrations across all top-level domains.
  • 104.9 million – Number of country code top-level domain name registrations….ie: .co.uk… fr….de….
  • 100 million – Number of .com domain names at the end of 2012.
  • 33 million – Number of .net/.org/.biz/.info  domain names at the end of 2012

$2.45 million – The price for Investing.com the most expensive domain name sold in 2012 … acksherly.com cost me about $30. Seemed a lot at the time. 

Internet users

  • 2.4 billion – Number of Internet users worldwide.
  • 519 million – Number of Internet users in Europe…. and there’s my market.
  • 274 million – Number of Internet users in North Americaand these. Have a nice day y’all.
  •  565 million – Number of Internet users in China, more than any other country in the world…. but not these. I know some speak English but I don’t think we have much in common except for those crispy duck pancake thingys.

Social media

  • 1 billion – Number of monthly active users on Facebook.
  • 47% – Percentage of Facebook users that are female. …So men are the biggest users?
  • 40.5 years – Average age of a Facebook user… and you were blaming the kids! 
  • 200 million – Monthly active users on Twitter, passed in December.
  • 175 million – Average number of tweets sent every day throughout 2012.
  • 37.3 years – Average age of a Twitter user…. That’s partly my fault. I’m dragging it up a bit!
  • 307 – Number of tweets by the average Twitter user… I sent 7.

51 – Average number of followers per Twitter user. 

Email nothing to do with anything really, but interesting

  • 2.2 billion – Number of email users worldwide.
  • 144 billion – Total email traffic per day worldwide….per day!!
  • 61% – Share of emails that were considered non-essential
  •  68.8% – Percentage of all email traffic that was spam.
  • 50.76% – Percentage of all spam that was about pharmaceuticals, the top category of all spam… err, pharmaceuticals. Sounds professional but I think they mean Viagra. 

As I said, just a few of the numbers. And there’s more stats, loads more, but now I’m as bored as you are; after a short while, the numbers become just numbers; too big to get your head around. But it’s bad news and good news isn’t it? The bad news is that this internet thingy is a crowded market…loads of websites all fighting for readers time, and a million, a million new websites added each week. So how do you attract ‘em and keep ‘em coming back?  I’m hoping the answer is to feed you boring statistics. We’ll see.

I also read somewhere also that millions of these blogs just die away, expire, are never maintained. But don’t worry. You’re luck ain’t in. I’m here for the long haul… this book of mine is going to take some selling.

So what’s the good news? Well the good news is that billions of people use the internet, and new users/ readers are arriving every day. So there’s plenty to aim at.

And it will be someone just like me, sitting in front of their computer who has an idea, for a better website, a better blog. Someone who will look at all those numbers and make sense of them and find a niche, a gap in the market.

I’m not saying that acksherly.com is the new kid on the block, or that the book will sell millions. But it has the same chance as every other new blog to find and reach out to its ‘market’.

I just need to figure out how, that’s all. And that’s the fun part…  once this headache has gone.

Extra Extra. Read all about it

by Neil Chapman 

Did I tell you about my brush with Hollywood? No?

Have they mentioned anything to you?

No? Seems I’ll have to tell you then.

Well. You’re in for a treat. But you will have to excuse the name-dropping. So lets get them outta the way. Charlize Thieron, Kristin Stewart, Rupert Saunders, Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins etc. My co-stars so to speak. Are you sure?

Rewind about eight, nine years ago might be ten, can’t remember actually, but I do remember playing golf with some guy who just happened to mention he occasionally got work as a film extra. Worked when it suited him, bit of fun, he didn’t do it for the rubbish money, he did it for the craic. Interesting I thought, I fancy a go at that. So a matter of hours later, there I was, eagerly Googling up all the casting agencies I could find. And that’s where it lost its appeal; filling in reams and reams of information, supplying photographs etc. As I remember, I think I half-filled a couple of them in, got fed up, didn’t bother any more, and of course never heard a word from them.

So now fast forward to the summer of 2011. Out of the blue I get an e-mail. Simply asked “ Do you have long hair?, ”Can you grow a beard?” “Are you available on these dates?” Not too difficult even for me. So I responded with the new pics they asked for, which then passed a number of ‘auditions’ and I was told to pitch up at Pinewood for a fitting. Seems I was going to be a Noble Lord in the $150 million 2012 summer blockbuster “Snow White and the Huntsman”.  Not quite the stand out role I was now hoping for; there was a 100 or more of us. But it’s a start.

Noble or wot?

Noble or wot?

So I turn up on the due day for my fitting at the labyrinth that is Pinewood Studios. You are quickly assigned a dresser, and mine minced off to find a costume that might fit.  I stood amazed, half naked but amazed, as he disappeared off into the distance. Try and imagine a huge hangar of a building, completely filled with hanging rails, stuffed with every costume, doublet, tights, coat and cloak that had ever appeared in a British period film ever! It was rather like the biggest TMaxx in the world except the clothes were better, and in some cases, more modern.

All in all I did 6 days filming or shooting as we (in the business) call it.  Three days getting slaughtered in the castle courtyard, and three days in the cathedral for Ravenna’s wedding and then Snow White’s coronation scenes. The hours were brutal. Supposedly 6am.until 4pm.ish (but we never left until at least 10pm, and some days were 2pm. until 10pm.ish (got away about 4am.) However despite that I found it fascinating.  Yes, lots of waiting around whilst they set up the next shots, but even that I found really interesting. Organised chaos; electricians, camera guys, make up people, lighting guys, I’m guessing at least 70/80 people all rushing around doing what they had to for the next shot.

Whatever you may have heard about film extras being treated like cattle, ill fed etc. forget it. It was very inclusive experience, everyone was really polite, matey even; all part of the team. As for the grub, first class. And food becomes important at 3am in the morning when you’ve been there 12 hours. And even that becomes a bit of an event; 50 assorted pizzas, 50 lots of fish and chips and 50 lots of scampi and chips, and the chuck wagon kicking off again, turning out burgers. Surreal really, all dressed up in medieval clothes, mingling with the ‘stars’, 3am in the morning, leaning against the walls of a $5 million castle they built last month, and all of us talking bollocks about our next ‘project’. Yup, I’m now officially a ‘Luvvie’.

Of course you don’t get to mingle with Charlize, and obviously Rupert and Kristin were off doing

More evil than medieval

More evil than medieval

their own mingling. But that’s another story. Perhaps ‘Not so Snow White’ or ‘I used to be Snow White but I drifted?’

There’s not much more to add really. Well there is but modesty forbids. I want to tell you how I threw myself into the role, draining myself emotionally, giving it my all as a Noble Lord. There were a couple of moments there I allowed myself to think BAFTA.

All this took place in the November, filming was completed in December, and the film was premiered June 1st 2012. No, the bastards didn’t invite me to the premiere. Leicester Square Odeon, 1673 seats and they can’t fit me in. I could have stood at the side, I’d have been very quiet and I would have promised to wear a suit. But no. I’m ever so slowly beginning to get a bad feeling about this.

So I go to my local Odeon with my Wonderful Girl Friend. She casually mentions at the ticket office “He’s in this” pointing at me. Cue pandemonium… I’m signing autographs for all the staff and the people behind us in the queue. Love it!

Watch the film… it’s good. Very good. But one small problem. I ain’t in it. No-where to be seen. And apart from a minutes worth in the Cathedral, neither was any of the stuff we spent six days filming.

So it was a case of very early one morning in October last, waiting for HMV to open. I thought it odd there was no-one else queuing for it, but that’s another story. And at 9.01 am I have the DVD, the expensive one, the extended version, the directors cut with an extra five minutes, the one with all the added features. At 1pm. I want to take it back. Get my money back. Two hours and seven minutes and no sign of moi! Unbelievable.

Seems that Rupert let Charlize, Kristin, Ray, et al, hog the show. I’m starting to think now this film business is like everything else. It’s who you know. But wait. There’s always the deleted scenes. Of course… at least that’s something. An hour or so later, nope. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. It would appear that I’ve been deleted from the deleted scenes as well.

So that was my brush with Hollywood. The end of a love affair. In fact my experience was a bit like a new love affair…it’s full of nice surprises and then you get fucked. That’s a film industry term I believe.

But guess what? We have to go all through this again. Yaaaaay.

Last May I did a couple of days with Ralph (call me Rafe) Fiennes and Kristin Scott-Thomas (oops, there I go again). It’s a film called The Invisible Woman’, about Charles Dickens and the much younger mistress he kept very quiet about. This time I’m playing a train passenger who gets involved when the train crashes. Lets just say I’m quietly confident I might appear in this one. We’ll see. I think it’s due out in April-ish. Worryingly I haven’t received the invite yet for the premiere…I’m starting to see a pattern here. And there may not be an HMV to bale me out either.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

Rejected? They’ve made a mistake!

by Neil Chapman

I’m new at this blogging malarkey. But that’s a good thing because it gives you a certain energy,and recently I’ve expended a bit of mine looking at other author’s blogs. As you do.

Very Interesting and they are all very different. Some are rubbish and I mean that; tap in to Google and see for yourself.  But some of these guys are good, and helpful too, in guiding you around the writing business.  They are experts, and justifiably so when they’ve got a number of published books out there.

It made me think and question. What am I good at?

I know.

Rejection.

That’s my area of expertise. So far.

There are a number of reasons I guess why people like me write books and then publish them on Amazon Kindle.  In my case, there are two. Firstly I’ve been rejected… I can’t get an agent sufficiently interested to take it on, and secondly, going the e-book route gives you so much more control.

(I have to say that I never even tried going direct to publishers. I’m reliably told that almost all of them only accept submissions through an agent, and those who do accept stuff, dump it on the ‘slush’ pile where it may, or may not, get read.)

So I tried the agent route. Now this will tell you all you need to now about me; I thought getting an agent would be a doddle. Don’t laugh, because we all daydream don’t we? And when I let my mind wander it wanders into some pretty serious territory.  I was thinking a good agency and then a decent advance from the publisher who’d won the rights after a frenzied auction. Then came signing events in Foyles to start with, then Waterstones all over the country, a bit of local radio, perhaps even regional TV. (If I had the time) and regular meetings and talks to my adoring fans clamouring for my next book.

Then of course there’s the film rights, because it does lend itself naturally to being the best British film thriller for years. So of course I quickly knocked out the screenplay.

Never forget that I really liked the book I’d produced and naturally thought everyone else would. Isn’t that what every writer must think?

My first rejection came from the biggest literary agency in the land, Curtis Brown. But even that seemed to confirm my optimism, coming complete with personally handwritten words of congratulations and encouragement. A  rejection yes, but close!

In all, over the next few months, I probably sent the typescript to around 25 literary agents. I got interest from 8 of them, all of whom wanted to read the whole book. (They ask that you initially approach them with just the synopsis and the first 3 chapters or so.) Apparently most agents get around one hundred new typescripts every week, 52 weeks a year and in a good year they might take on two new authors from that lot! So you work out the odds. Let’s just say they are stacked against you but on the other hand, if the book is good enough….

But even that doesn’t work does it? History is littered with great authors and best sellers slipping through the agent’s net, J.K. Rowling being the most famous modern example with over 40 rejections. There are loads more.

Let’s be clear. This isn’t me ‘having a go’ at agents, sour grapes or the like. Not at all. They are self-employed, and they only make money if the books they take on, sell.  So they have to be as sure as they can be that they can sell that book to the publisher. And of course the publisher needs to be confident that the book will sell enough copies to recoup the small advance they make you, and then sell more so they can make a profit.

So in a way, my book getting interest from one in three of the people I sent it to was quite encouraging. I thought.

And then I got their feedback. And rejection. What I also got was confused. Very confused. If to a man they had all said “ Look Neil, this really is absolute crap”, I would have understood. Disagreed perhaps, but understood. But they didn’t. They all came up with different reasons for not taking it further, and this is where I became confused because they all seemed to contradict each other. Time after time, parts of the book that some liked, loved even, the others didn’t like at all, and parts that some said needed work, other agents liked. Total contradiction. But they all said it was publishable and would like to see it again when I’d made the amendments they suggested!

Examples. One didn’t like the fact that it switches between first person and third person, saying it never works in her opinion. But others did, and one compared it favourably with Martin Amis’s ‘London Fields’ where it works wonderfully.

Another said she couldn’t see a structure, whilst another said how well it was structured. But that same woman complained after reading that a character in the book had smoked a cigarette indoors, (against the law since 2007). The fact that the book is set in February1991, and every chapter heading contains the date, seemed to have escaped her notice.

Even the book’s title caused dissent. Why it’s even noteworthy escapes me, because it’s something you can change in an instant. But good or bad, it was commented upon.

I could go on…

So what am I to conclude from all of these considered thoughts from some of our leading literary agents? Well, obviously I think they may be wrong in rejecting the book. I’m not saying they are, just that they may be. Now, you might see that as braggadocio and you might be right. But what I do know is that when my printer friend produced half a dozen paper backs, it allowed me to hand them out to friends to read. I asked them for the truth. The brutal truth. Let’s just say I got good positive feedback.

So what’s the upshot of all this? Well I can only speak for myself here but I find it encouraging. Simply that. I’m guessing the scenario I’ve described above has been played out countless times by authors worldwide, who now find themselves on Amazon Kindle and selling loads of books.

They are more in control, probably reaching more readers and earning more than if they had gone the traditional printed route.

It gives me hope. We’ll see.