The Diary

29 November 2008: Memo To Mogga From We 'Well-Bread' Pair: Defeat 'Dough' Arf Hurt!

He may have overdosed on the ?statto? bit at some time or other, but I will say one thing about ?Im Indoors ? he always endeavours to take me to the nicest places. Or tries, albeit unsuccessfully, earlier this week. Well, partly unsuccessfully, as it turned out on Tuesday evening. Trip Number One? That was to Milton Keynes Dons (aka ?The Franchise? to football?s purists), but I wasn?t biting on that one, purely and simply because there was a bad case of ?brass monkey syndrome? about that night, and I do like to keep my delicate leetle tootsies nice and warm, when the temperature plummets like that.

No such trifling constraints on my other half, though: it?s an immutable Law Of The Known Universe with said partner that whenever the opportunity arises to Get A New Ground Done, he?s in like a terrier after a bolting bunny ? so that meant him belting off down the M1 at a rate of knots that evening, and me reading quietly while he was away. As you?ve probably sussed by now, there was another reason for the journey; Hereford United, who constituted the visitors that evening; predictably, when I remembered to turn to Ceefax to catch up with events there, they were in the process of getting absolutely hammered (sounds familiar, doesn?t it?), this time to the tune of three clear goals.

Mind you, it didn?t help that their loan keeper, Matt Murray, a temporarily escapee from The Dingles, was carried off on the hour after ending up with a badly damaged knee ligament, ending up out for the next 12 months (and will probably finish his career, I reckon, as he?s no stranger to A and E by any means): I?m given to understand that because of the sudden change in keepers, they subsequently shipped three in rapid succession. What made things worse was the fact that for the greater part of the game, Hereford were the better side. Yet more confirmation that when you?re knee-deep in the smelly stuff, yet more of the same will come thundering down, and all of it totally unrequited and unsolicited, of course.

Having managed to avoid a freezing cold night spent watching someone else?s side lose heavily (for a change), there was no way I could wriggle out of our next midweek (romantic?) jaunt, which was to the newly-opened Halesowen ASDA branch. As I commented earlier, hubby absolutely insists upon taking me to all the best places! Well that WAS the plan, but divine intervention, clad in the earthly form of the local Fire Brigade, ordained otherwise.

How come? By the time we?d arrived there, parked the car etc., then proceeded to the entrance, the following three factors stood out like the proverbial Hebrew at an Islamic wedding: 1) The presence of a fire engine outside the store, flashing blue lights, the works, 2) Untidy knots of people ? counter staff, trolley-pushers, management, evacuated customers. the whole shebang ? and, all of them standing right outside the main entrance because of Factor 3) - an exceptionally shrill version of a fire-alarm, the setting-off of which had automatically set in motion procedures for the presence of Factors 1 and 2 at the ?scene of the crime?.

It only needed a moment?s glance - the sheer presence of increasingly-flustered-looking staff giving out sweets galore to inconvenienced punters was a dead giveaway - to confirm that the incident had preceded our presence by some considerable time. A false alarm, clearly, but with the place being new to everyone, it seemed that nobody had a key with which to silence the errant system (or actually knew where it was located).

They did manage to turn off the offending noise briefly, hence the many sardonic cheers from outside when it happened, but that proved to be but a brief reprieve: just 60 seconds later, off it went again ? and so did we! Just to reiterate, yes, ?Im Indoors does take me to all the nicest places ? which is why he then sallied forth, with this column riding shotgun again, to yet another superstore ? Cradley Heath Tesco! Yes, just like Cinderella, we WILL get to the ball: let?s just hope that when we finally do get around to visiting ASDA?s nascent pride and joy, we?ll arrive well before Red Watch do.

Having adequately dealt with the tedium of our weekday social whirl, it?s now time to turn to far less amusing aspects of our day-to-day existence. And you all know what THAT means, don?t you, dear readers. ?Shelter? might well have been ?just a shot away? for the Rolling Stones, circa 1969, but given our current position in the table (couldn?t possibly be lower, barring a bolt-from-the-blue points deduction, of course) ?shelter? will be a commodity sorely lacking in the vicinity of our goalmouth tomorrow.

Having observed the opposition net remaining in pristine condition these past few games, I?m not going to invest in a full-on dose of false optimism for tomorrow?s Wigan jaunt. Once the ball starts transgressing the boundaries of ours, it?s far less taxing upon the old emotions to detach oneself from one?s surroundings, completely and utterly. Bar those already in possession of rose-coloured spectacles ? yes, John Homer, that means YOU! - others could summarise my current attitude as ?rapidly becoming resigned to certain eventualities?, I suppose.

Even last Sunday?s opening episode of ?Survivors?, a topical (timely?) rehash of the successful seventies Terry Nation ?die-fi? drama, featuring a Britain with the majority dropping like flies courtesy bacterial warfare run rampant, and very few turning out to be immune to the lurgi, had me speculating like mad upon whether or not a similar real-life catastrophe would see us escape relegation through cancellation of the Prem programme!

Yes, my friends, you have to be pretty far gone to start thinking in terms of extinction-level event let-off for succour and comfort ? and I am one pretty-far-gone lady, right now. Time for John?s magic spectacles, perhaps? I really must call in on SpecSavers next week; perhaps they?ve got a nice special offer going, for the exclusive use of supporters of our own favourite football club. God alone knows we need one.

Even Mogga, once the proudest owner of ?glass-looking-well-full? gig-lamps in existence, now seems to be sinking inexorably into the very same stinking mire that caught the greater part of his followers several games ago. (Dunno if you could pin that one onto SpecSavers, mind; even Trading Standards would stand aghast at the sheer magnitude of the task, should you be daft enough to ask them to sue?.)

Believe it or not, Wigan are also beating their breasts mightily at the thought of tomorrow?s game ? but not for the same reasons as we are, it?s safe to say. Their problem? Tomorrow?s referee, one Phil Dowd. Two seasons ago, some of the lad?s decisions in the Arsenal-Wigan game at the Emirates infuriated both Wigan management and fans, and while they were about it, sparked a national debate on referring standards as well.

You don?t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out why Paul Jewell was subsequently summoned to the F.A. and Mr Dowd not the most obvious person to receive a Chrissie pressie from the Latics faithful. Unless their gift ended up in a bucket of water, and needing the attendance of the Bomb Squad to make the area safe once more, of course.

Despite the seeming absence of Jason Koumas from the fray, there will still be one ex-Baggie presence in the opposition ranks, tomorrow, namely one Chris Kirkland, a pretty competent performer between the sticks for us, in times gone by. Needless to say, he?ll probably have a blinder tomorrow. I just KNOW it: I can feel it in me water, as I type this piece.

The bad news from the JJB? Defenders Emmerson Boyce and Mario Melchiot have been declared well and truly in the side, after recent absence through suspension and injury. Will Egyptian striker Amr Zake be performing a ?sand-dance? routine, fez, nightshirt, the works, in the box, at our expense? Given that some of our recent displays have verged upon vaudevillian, at times, he might just be tempted into staging a virtuoso performance, just for our sole benefit.

Old-stager Emile Heskey also seems well up for tomorrow?s fun and frivolities, a double-whammy, if ever there was one (or should that be ?triple-whammy?, given there?s three people involved, not two? Aw, soddit ? you debate the grammar, while I go and make a cuppa, or roll a joint, or something. OK?) It would also seem that Wigan have yet to achieve back-to-back wins thus far this term, so on current form, I reckon we?ll be able to oblige little Brucie-Babes, without too much trouble on his part.

That was the opposition news ? now here is the weather forecast for the Wigan area. Dank, unremittingly gloomy, with a rapidly-worsening depression-trough, fully expected to hit the away dressing-room with hurricane force, come five to five tomorrow evening. The only variable left in the equation is the precise composition of the Albion side getting collateral damage in spades, if The Latics have anything to do with it. Much to my surprise, we seem to have emerged from the Stoke disaster with surprisingly few knocks and scrapes inflicted upon those unfortunate enough to be present at The Britannia last weekend. James Morrison seems to be a slight doubt, and it all rests upon whether he came through training today, or not. Tex and Olsson, our other ?walking wounded? seem to be OK, and very much in contention for the OK to start.

A ?poisoned chalice?, if ever there was one, is the Wigan caper, but SOMEONE has to take the flak. Hey, you guys ? we?d all love to come out in sympathy by taking a running jump off the famous Pier for you (it is, or was, a canal landing-stage, really, hence the eagerness with which old-time music hall grabbed the joke, then twisted it like a pretzel, for cheap laughs) but decimation in the wake of heavy defeat went out of favour with the fall of Rome, back in the 5th century AD. So stop hiding in the luggage compartment beneath that posh coach of yours, you shower, and take your punishment like men!

But although our leader now finds his back very much against the wall, following savage criticism of his footballing philosophy from the likes of Alan Hansen, you have to respect those beliefs. Mogga certainly spoke my language when hitting back at his knockers (but in that vastly-understated and dignified manner of his, of course)?. ?What are we in the business for?? was his plaintive lament, ?Are we here to make money, or entertain fans? For me it is to entertain supporters, and get them out of their seats.?

Bloody well said, Mogga, but I fear his principled words, admirable though they may be, in theory, will fail utterly to placate those whose alpha and omega is Premier League-generated profit margins, i.e.: juicy sponsorships, and heavy TV and corporate largesse making up the shortfall. Come to think about it, even a goodly number of long-standing supporters super-saturated with the Albion tradition of sweet, passing football are expressing severe doubts, right now.

As far as I?m concerned, if it?s down to a straight choice of either going with the Stoke City-style stuff, or taking the drop with nary a discernable whimper, I know what I?d rather see. You, the readers, probably think differently, and I?ll always respect you for it. But that?s just old-fashioned, superannuated me, someone with opinions that don?t matter diddly-squat to anyone any more, least of all those who currently run our football club.

One Baggie who WON?T be participating in tomorrow?s frolics is second-stringer Bartosz Slusarski, who has gone and rejoined Sheffield Wednesday on loan. That will see the lad staying with The Owls (do I give a hoot?) until the end of the year, with a view to a permanent deal dangled under his delicate nose in the January transfer window. As the lad spent two months at Hillsborough last season, as well as a two-month loan spell at Blackpool on top, he won?t exactly be a stranger in a strange land, if you get my drift.

Ditto Craig Beattie, another fallen little Baggie cherub, now enjoying life as an Eagle with that nice Mister Warnock. Blimey, and there was I living in complete and utter ignorance of the fact he?s into heavy-duty S and M in his spare time; mind you, they do reckon that the quiet ones are the worst!

Said The Poisoned Dwarf, at today?s press conference: ?Craig has been superb since coming here, and he?s a great lad. Obviously, we would love to bring him here permanently?..I don?t really want to bring in too many players in January, but if I can bring in Beattie, I?ll be happy?? Aha! So vile rumours of the mere thought of bayoneting small babies AND Gary Megson bringing instantaneous beatific smiles to our chum?s somewhat ?lived-in? visage, are but a fallacy, after all. Damn.

Because this is primarily about what Biblical tub-thumpers are prone to call ?The Staff Of Life?, does that mean I?m entitled to title my usual parting piece: ?We Kneaded The Dough?, I wonder? Unsurprisingly, it?s all about the bread-maker wot we recently bought. Just a couple of weeks ago, in fact. After a couple of false starts ? the end product looked and tasted like concrete paving-slabs on both occasions, handy when you?ve got Dingles for next-door neighbours, but not so handy when it?s a quick sandwich you want ? then tinkering a little with flour quantities, we finally cracked it.

Result? Scrummy bread, fresh-baked as and when, minimal amounts of preservatives/ E-numbers involved, and costing only around a quarter of the price of shop-bought stuff, per extra-large loaf. And we?ve only scratched the doughy surface; lurking deep within the (flour-streaked) pages of the instruction-book that comes with the thing, there are around a hundred different bread recipes on offer.

Our newly-purchased gizmo can even bring forth pukka cakes into the world, should your current culinary requirements happen to stretch to square-shaped sponges etc. And as for the gorgeous smell created when the machine?s on the ?Bake? cycle ? WOW! Next step?s hot-cross buns, which I absolutely adore, no matter what the time of year. Yes, ?Man cannot live by bread alone? ? but with this thing installed in your kitchen, you can certainly have a damn good try!

Thus far, both ?The Out-Laws? (Norm, who reckons he hates brown bread, was seen munching upon a slice with obvious relish just the other night; praise indeed, given he first learned his catering in the Army, routinely pressing the likes of old dustbins and jerry-cans into service as impromptu ovens; he?d have been in his element in the old Brummie tea-bar, he would!), and my enormous family have also been beneficiaries of our crusty largesse. And so will The Fart, tomorrow, ere we depart for Wigan. Not that he knows, as yet, so let it be a little secret between all of us, eh?

Whether or not the Army ever had dustbins to hand during the Crimean War is a matter for speculation: they certainly had Florence Nightingale, which isn?t quite the same thing ? depends upon how many times she simply ?lay there and thought of England? for the officer class, I reckon - so I guess I?ll just have to ask the old reprobate en-route to Wigan, won?t I?

 - Glynis Wright

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