The Diary

01 November 2008: Yesterday, The Bonfire, More Baggie Fireworks Today?

Yesterday being Halloween, there was a massive gathering of the clans at my niece?s bijoux residence, deep in the heart of Baggie-land. Not that I?m casting any witchy aspersions in the direction of my kith and kin, mind, but there are occasions when I do wonder. But it wasn?t just about the ghostie-and-ghouly aspect: for many reasons, all of them excellent, we?d decided to make the spooky thrash a Bonfire Night thing, too.

Well done to Michelle, only recently given the ?all-clear? after a major abdominal operation, for laying on an impressive variety of ?eats?, ranging from traditional Black Country ? pork and stuffing rolls, with oodles of crackling and roast spud and pumpkin, via the inevitable ?grey farters and bacon?: they really do what it says on the tin, honest ? to Mexican (chilli con carne) and Indian - aka a particularly lethal version of curry: ?Eat THAT lot with those grey farters, go to the bog, light a fag ? and there you have it: West Bromwich?s first moon-shot?.? was my summary appraisal of my niece?s cosmopolitan culinary efforts!

But there was even more fun to be had outside, where my brother-in-law was busily stoking the mini-bonfire Michelle?s other half had prepared beforehand. And there was even a Guy Fawkes on hand to chuck on once the flames got going. My middle sis, Josie, hadn?t taken up my suggestion of finding a Dingles? short from somewhere, then dressing her ?creation? in that, sadly, but what she did come up with was an effigy that looked far more half-cut than scary. Maybe that was a Freudian slip on her part, given our clan?s collective love for the old falling-down water come the weekend?

Of one thing I do know: that effigy didn?t half burn well. Cried triumphant chief-stoker Des ? I swear he was using last night?s bonfire as a way of training for where he?s likely to go, once he kicks the bucket - to his ?audience? as the victim?s body was rapidly engulfed in flames:

?See ? that?s what happens when you try to say anything against the Government?.?

?Yeah, said I, ?But these days, New Labour simply brief against them!?

It was at that point, casually looking up at a remarkably clear sky, I happened to see a satellite swiftly speeding its way across the starry firmament, and duly pointed it out to my pyromaniac relative by marriage.

?How do you know it?s a satellite, not a planet?? asked my smoky-smelling, well-blackened relly.

?Easy,? said I, ?It?s not twinkling, so it can?t be a star, it?s moving fast, so it can?t be a planet, and there?s no lights flashing, so it can?t be a plane, can it?

Replied a pretty bemused Des: ?Suppose it?s two planes close together??

Me: ?If they were THAT close, both pilots would be needing a complete change of underwear, pronto, by now!?

Meanwhile, Michelle?s hubby was busily excavating a load of carefully-hoarded pyrotechnics from the shed interior. Expressing my surprise at the size of his ?arsenal?, he had the downright cheek to reply, ?Well, you want to lay on a good show for the kids, don?t you??

The kids? Yeah, right. They?d very sensibly gone indoors from the cold, and started to watch cartoon DVDs on the box ages before, so all you had left out there, really, was a gaggle of slightly-tipsy adults! Nevertheless, the letting-off of said fireworks still proceeded apace: a few skyrockets and Roman candles etc. further down the line, and observing that the lad?s stockpile adjacent to the shed door showed no signs whatsoever of getting smaller, I commented: ?You must have enough there to take out a small town!?

Then, turning to niece Lindsey?s other half, stood to my immediate left, another aside: ?You know what? Give the American Embassy a bell about that little lot, and they?ll come and invade him?.?

I could just picture it, an entire task-force of US Marines leaping over the garden fence, letting off loads of explosives, Bell Huey helicopters going ?whop-whop-whop? overhead, and the man in charge tipping his steel helmet slightly with his finger, a la John Wayne, then solemnly declaring: ?Ma?am, we have just made West Bromwich safe for DEE-MOCRACEE?.? before leaving the way they came, and probably drilling several colleagues full of lead as they did so. Hence my second comment, ?I wonder how the lad would look in an orange jumpsuit??

By now, despite Des?s best efforts on the stoking front, the temperature had plummeted precipitously into ?balls off brass monkeys? country. Time to go indoors, then: a good moment to do so, as the majority of my family were in there by then, and batting the breeze about our favourite football club, as is our wont at these family functions.

Oh yeah ? and they were also getting well stuck into hubby?s culinary masterpiece, created especially for the occasion: a tiramisu with a particularly lethal kick to it, in the form a glug or three of Marsala wine. Not the sort of thing to be having in quantity if you?re driving, but amazingly flavoursome all the same. He?s going to do a coffee version for his mum and Norm tomorrow, when they come to visit: not that driving is a problem, mind, given they only live half a mile or so up the road.

Conclusions? Pretty much the same as you?ve seen on these pages: we need someone to grab more goals, we should never have let Phillips go in the summer, and we need someone with a little bit more authority in midfield. Plus Mogga got his tactics wrong at Newcastle by not bringing Miller on until ten minutes after the second half kicked off. As per usual, it was classic ?Victor Meldrew?, aka brother-in-law John, at his doom-mongering best: as far as dark predictions are concerned, once he gets going, he?ll render an entire audience fit only for the Samaritans within a matter of minutes. According to my other sister, Wendy, he was still moaning the day we won the title at QPR!

But back to the matter in hand. With three games lost on the bounce, today?s game represents our best chance of grabbing some badly-needed points. We?re going to get sod-all from Anfield next week: a loss there will see us dropping into current Stokie territory, and given it?s always excruciatingly hard to get out of, once you?ve slipped into that particular rut, stern measures will be needed.

It?s going to be decision time for Mogga: will he go with two up front right from the start, I wonder? An easy call for me, looking through the distorted spectacles of prospective bottom-of-the-table misery ? my instincts, melding with the unlikely figure of the Iron Lady, circa 1980, say ?TINA? i.e.: There Is No Alternative. Miller and Bednar it has to be, right from the start. Just how match-fit is Kim, I wonder? He?s now in full training, of course, and therefore theoretically OK. Will Chris Brunt get a start? Meite also has the shroud of doubt hanging over his likelihood of starting this one. Definitely out are Tex and Barnett, both with knackered knees: a return date of next Saturday seems to be favourite, apparently.

As for the visitors, they also have problems, but more medical than anything. Roque Santa Cruz won?t be showing, apparently. He?s sidelined with a calf injury threatened to keep him out for a fortnight. Their other doubts are Vince Grella, the proud owner of a hamstring, and Stephen Warnock, a concussion victim, but the recently returned Chris Samba will probably get the green light to play. Other current battle casualties? The lad Oojier (well, with a daft name like that, reminiscent of the old Black Country ?oojar?, he deserves to be injured!) won?t be back before next week, and neither will Messrs. Dunn or Reid either. The referee? A chap whose name I?m not familiar with, suggesting he?s only been promoted from the riff-raff comparatively recently ? anyone out there au fait with K. Jones?

A couple of not-so-welcome stats about both clubs to chuck at you: apparently, since beating Rovers in the Prem at our place, circa February 2006, we?ve only managed two additional home wins at this level. The second? There?s not been a bloodless encounter between the two sides since 1975. Accentuating the positive to improbable levels (well, SOMEONE?S got to penetrate the miasma of gloom currently hanging around the place!), this season is our joint best ever start at this level. Yes, I know, clutching frantically at straws, as ever, but it?s either that, or a pint or three of gin, administered orally and often.

So there you have it, in heaps. After last week?s Hull fiasco, I?m not all that confident about today. Dreadful, I know, but I can only tell you like it is. Come on, Baggies ? surprise me!

YET ANOTHER CANDIDATE FOR ?NORM BARTLAM SICK JOKE OF THE YEAR? AWARD! This one floated past my eardrums last night, so blame my awful family?.. A belated 9-11 jobbie, it tells of a couple of Irish carpenters doing repair work on woodwork in an office in the Twin Towers, about two-thirds of the way up, on the day in question.

There they are, beavering away merrily, when Paddy Number Two suddenly stops work, grabs his coat, then heads for the doorway.

?Where are you going?? enquires a curious Paddy Number One.

?Oi?m just going fer a plane ter take de top off?.?

 - Glynis Wright

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