L.O.B. vs St. Bids – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

With the Greys still sporting a few makeshift jumper-kits and St. Bids playing in all white, last night’s first game of the season was another eye-jarring encounter that emphasized the effective, elegant simplicity of the bib.

Playing in matching, self-vindicating England kits, St. Bids are the kind of team you want to beat. Badly. But unfortunately, their players are tall, fast and skillful, and work well together; driving forward as a unit, passing it around with creativity and confidence and never giving their opposition a second to think.

To be fair, the Greys looked off the pace from the start. And after a few sketchy moments at the back St. Bids went ahead. A long throw-in was met by eight-a-side England’s towering number seven, whose header deflected off Greys defender Theo’s arm, giving keeper Yusuf no chance.

After that the Greys struggled to hold onto the ball. Only Manu was really passing it around and creating chances in midfield and the half-time whistle came as a welcome relief. Somehow, the Greys were only one goal down and still in with a chance if the right half-time team talk lit a fire under their collective asses.

But straight away St. Bids started on the front foot, terrorising and always seeming to outnumber the Greys defence – players in white seemed to materialise unmarked, just when the danger had seemingly been snuffed out. It also didn’t help that St. Bids had a raging berserker in midfield, who kicked the crap out of anything that moved.

Ten minutes into the second half a St. Bids long-range effort deflected off Greys defender Mark’s head, sending Yusuf the wrong way and putting England 2-0 up.

Then the unthinkable happened; the Greys got one back. Ollie reacted well to tuck in a rebound and all of a sudden belief washed through the team, as Mark asked referee Ash Pedantic how much time they had left to claw their way back into it.

He needn’t have bothered, though, as St. Bids strolled through the Greys midfield and split the defence apart with a kind of flick-and-turn finish worthy of Thierry Henry or Neymar Jr. And soon after that they banged in a fourth goal to seal the Greys’ fate.

By this point, our heroes in grey didn’t look like a team that had won two games on the bounce. And in the end, the 4-1 scoreline, two deflected goals and in-team squabbling left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth at full-time. A deflating start to the new season. Let’s hope they can turn things around quickly to avoid another mid-table finish…

The Burger Chronicles #7 – The Somers Town Coffee House

Somers Town Coffee House
Handmade classic beef burger

The Somers Town Coffee House in Chalton Street, Euston is the kind of rickety chaired hipster pub that serves non-alcoholic dog beer and has “reserved” written on its tables in chalk. The manager wears a buttoned up fitted shirt without a tie, skintight trousers and shoes George Costanza would call “complicated.” Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against any of this. In fact, I quite like it. I’m just trying to let you know my surroundings pre-burger.

To be fair, the pub’s menu is loaded with tasty word bombs, which explode in my mouth as I read them. And for a minute, I was lost, until I notice the words “handmade classic beef burger” and how they seem to jump right off the page. Something about the place – the pastel bunting, the church pew seats, the teapots in the window – gave them special meaning. The implication was an elegantly understated meaty delight that didn’t need any dressing up (until I add chorizo relish and cheddar, that is).

Served in a brioche bun with burger relish, salad, steak house chips and a side of ant-sized coleslaw, the burger certainly looks the part when it arrives. And it tastes great as well. Nothing too flashy, just a simple, high quality presentation that tantalises my taste buds on its way down; fresh and emphatically handmade – like it was whipped up that morning.

The chorizo relish knocks it up a notch as well – bam – adding something a bit more wild and exotic to the burger’s simple delights. And of course, the melted cheddar topping seals the deal.

Somerstown

L.O.B. vs MZF – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

To be honest, things didn’t look good for the Greys tonight; half the team was in makeshift grey(ish) t-shirts and the opposition were in mismatched white. It looked like some kind of prison yard game, or the match that gave birth to the bib. But it didn’t seem to affect play, as both teams looked bright despite the cold, dewy conditions. Minus a few slips.

It was the final game of the season, and playing in mostly white, MZF made the first move. Two fast-footed strikers terrorised the Greys defence, but Pat, Theo and Koyes did well to deny them a clear shot on goal.

Meanwhile, new Greys signings Ahmed and Ollie looked lively up front and it didn’t take long for them to make an impact. Just over 10 minutes into the game, Ollie picked up the ball on the left wing and knocked a quick cross in towards Ahmed, who got to the ball first and headed it past the helpless keeper.

After that it was all one way traffic for a while. Holding the ball up well in midfield and spreading the play, the Greys looked fast, creative and dangerous. But mostly, they looked like a team. In fact, MZF’s keeper kept them in the game, really, pushing a curling back-post shot from Manu wide and diving left to brush a long-range whack from Adam into the side netting.

Early in the second half the ball dropped nicely for Ollie way outside the box on the left and he didn’t think twice about smashing an outrageous volley past a stunned-looking MZF keeper. The Greys continued to attack, and for a minute it looked like they’d win five, six nil. Ollie’s long throw-ins made a real difference.

But suddenly things changed; the Greys defence parted like the Red Sea and an MZF striker broke through the middle. Making the most of his gifted chance he struck an emphatic, top-right shot past Greys keeper Yusuf and brought MZF back into the game at 2-1.

After that something changed and play was limited to the Greys’ side of the field – well, box mostly. But resiliently, they weathered the storm thanks to a combination of dogged defending and defiant goalkeeping. In the end, the sound of the final whistle was like the opening scene of The Flintstones. Job done. Exhale…

*NOTE: I didn’t write up last week’s 2-1 win against St. Bids – so that’s two wins in a row now. Yabba dabba doo!

David Bowie – Blackstar (ISO/Columbia)

David Bowie - Blackstar

David Bowie – Blackstar (2016)
ISO / Columbia

News that David Bowie had died of cancer hit me harder than Monday morning. It was such a shock. What the fuck? I had no idea. I spent the day listening to his final album Blackstar, released two days before his sudden departure from this planet. And I couldn’t believe what I heard.

Everyone from Brian May to Kanye West sang Bowie’s praises on Twitter. He was described as the greatest, a genius who changed the face of pop music forever, and on Blackstar – his 25th album – you can hear it like a freight train. It’s phenomenal; a timeless, textured adventure lightyears ahead of, and simultaneously behind, its time.

Listening to Bowie’s carefully planned goodbye in context is truly heartbreaking, yet there’s a peaceful sense of acceptance and resoluteness to his now not-so-subtle clues that the mothership was coming back to get him. And amazingly, the videos for singles “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” are filled with defiant, captivating and very physical assertions that the show must go on until the final curtain. Even on his deathbed, Bowie’s performances are mesmerising.

Musically, punctuated with such mind-blowing consideration and driven dedication, every pulsing note, layer and breath sends shivers down your spine and arms your skin with goosebumps. Bowie’s band is incredible, rallying around and supporting their ailing Thin White Duke with such palpable emotion and respect. It’s an immense parting gift; bitter-sweet and haunting.

“Just like that blue bird, oh I’ll be free…”

The Burger Chronicles #6 – MeatPorn

Meat Porn
The Jameson Bacon Cheeseburger

The key to a good burger’s all in the preparation. Take MeatPorn in the Old Truman Brewery’s Ely’s Yard, Shoreditch, for example. I mean, the name sounds about as appetising as Ron Jeremy’s moustache, but as soon as you read the menu you’re licking your lips like “The Hedgehog” in his heyday.

The first thing you notice is that all MeatPorn’s burgers are soaked in whiskey, which straight away activates a mini sprinkler shower in my mouth – even now. And if you’re anything like me, the second thing you notice is the Jameson Bacon Cheeseburger. Order placed.

The cook grabs a fresh-looking beef ball from the fridge and flattens it out on the grill. After a bit of sizzling he covers it with a metal bowl and proceeds to check it with the kind of regularity a Swiss watchmaker would be proud of.

Next he sticks a bun on the grill and toasts it in the juices of a million whiskey soaked beef and pulled pork burgers. Then an order of bacon hits the deck, before it’s covered in cheese and hidden under another metal dish.

Finally, with the precision of a surgeon, the cook adds some salad, red onion pickle relish, smoked and pickled chillies, and my selection of tastebud-tantalising homemade sauces to the devilishly toasted bun. Then he tops the burger patty with the bacon and cheese coagulation, looks up and gives me the two-minute warning.

One minute and 59 seconds later he’s scraping it all off the grill and delicately handing me his lovingly created work of burger art with a proud, knowing smile. It lasts about five glorious minutes.

Meatporn

L.O.B. vs Crus Missiles – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

The Greys kicked off 2016 with a bang against league leaders Crus Missiles. Midfield maestro Manu hit a stylish no-look Ronaldinho chip into the box and fearless striker Ahmed pounced on it, tucking the ball past the sprawling keeper to put the Greys one nil up against the Pinks. Only Manu will know if it was a shot or a pass, but it looked like something straight off the Barcelona training ground.

The bubble burst, however, when the Greys failed to deal with a relatively non-threatening Crus Missiles attack. The resulting free-kick struck the wall, rebounded off another Greys defender and fell to an unmarked forward in pink, who smashed it in to level the score.

As usual the Greys kept fighting; Alex hit the crossbar from way out and Thomas, Adam and Manu all fizzed shots just past the upright. But again, our heroes failed to react when keeper Yusuf parried a Crus Missiles shot, watching on their heels as a Pinks forward grabbed the opportunity to go 2-1 up.

Midway through the second half both teams looked like they’d been to James Wilson’s New Year’s Eve bash. The pace dropped right down, opportunities dried up and the game was pretty much reduced to a blow-for-blow bout along the halfway line.

Suddenly, the Pinks hit the crossbar with an acrobatic overhead kick, which seemed to spur the Greys into action. But it was too little too late and a series of dogged last ditch attacks failed to break the deadlock…