A problem nobody wants to talk about…

The new football season is almost upon us. Good news for some, bad news for all the football widows. Good news for the various gambling/casino websites whose name and logos will be emblazoned across the chests of professional footballers in the English leagues, bad news for the people who struggle with gambling problems and their families.

Earlier this year, footballer Joey Barton became just the latest in a long line of current players to admit to a gambling problem, after being banned for placing in the region of 1200 bets on football matches (not involving his own team). His ban of 18 months was considered harsh in some circles, particularly if you consider the fact that the Football Association had business and sponsorship deals with Ladbrokes. This was subsequently cancelled after Barton himself highlighted the hypocrisy. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Of the 92 football clubs in the top 4 divisions, at least 24 will have one gambling website or another printed on their shirts (source Historical Football Kits). That’s a quarter, give or take a fraction, of the teams. In the Premier League, the so-called ‘best league in the world’, 10 of the 20 teams are sponsored by these companies.

Now, personally, I feel that gambling is just as damaging as drugs, alcohol and smoking, yet you don’t seem to see any of these printed on football shirts anymore!! I remember the good old days when teams were sponsored by Electronics companies, or local enterprises. Arsenal were sponsored by JVC; Liverpool by Candy; Aston Villa by Mita Copiers and so on. Admittedly, Tottenham had a long-term sponsorship deal with Holsten, but as I recall, in the days before replica kits were the huge business they are today, the youth replica shirts did not feature the alcohol sponsor.

And that concludes this rant for today. Feel free to comment or have your say.

Just Imagine…

The past couple of weeks have seen the world news full of bad things. From the lost EgyptAir flight, to the murder of Christina Grimmie and the Orlando club massacre that took the lives of 49 innocent people and on to today’s senseless murder of British MP Jo Cox. The Human race is dealing with a number of self-made problems across the globe – Religious, Political and Social.

In the USA, the recent incidents are just the latest in a long list of gun-related incidents that only serve to put the gun nutters and the gun control campaigners at loggerheads, leaving the offensive Donald Trump to crow about how he would solve the problems of a nation by excluding an entire religion from their shores and building a wall between the USA and Mexico. Meanwhile all the right-minded people are shunning this point-scoring politics in preference for messages of love and brotherhood of the human race. The main focus has to be how easy it is to get your hands on a gun in that country without proper background checks – regardless of religion – because, let’s face it, every religion has it’s nutters.

Meanwhile in my own country, the ongoing EU Referendum debate is hotting up with the vote only seven days away. Friends and family are on opposite sides of the argument, with Immigration and Financial Control seeming to be high on the agenda. Personally, I am very much in favour of staying in – for reasons I won’t go into here – but people I know are on the other side. I’ve mostly chosen to keep my own counsel on this matter, but it gets really boring to see the same old soundbites regurgitated in various forms: “take control of our borders”, “our NHS can’t cope with all the immigrants”, “we send £350 million every week to the EU”. They are all easy things to say when you don’t have anything to back them up with – like politics for the simpletons. But the whole thing has been brought into stark reality with the murder of Jo Cox, a Labour MP who was an advocate for staying in the EU. At the moment, we don’t actually know the true motive for the murder, but I have seen the ‘Brexit’ related Internet already swirling with murmurings that the Remain campaign will use it as a tool to turn the tide of the debate. Shame on them, I say.

Finally, we have the global struggle to contain and eventually eradicate the ‘Islamic State’ ideology. On the one side we have their complete intolerance of anything that doesn’t fit with their rather twisted vision of Islam, and an apparent desire to enforce it on others, and then we have the normal, free-thinking world that is horrified at their willingness to inflict senseless pain and suffering on innocent people. I have to point out that the way matters were handled in Iraq, Libya and then Syria by the global powers have not exactly aided the situation either.

John Lennon wrote the song ‘Imagine’ in 1971, and I think the following lyric points to a lot of the trouble with humanity:

Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too

Imagine all the people, living life in peace…

So think on that, folks…

 

Genesis: Writing And Me

I can’t recall the moment I first decided that I wanted to be a writer. It was probably one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments you get from time to time, when something clicks in your brain, and you think ‘I could do this.’

Whenever that moment was, from that moment to this, there has always been something creative bubbling around my head. Whether it’s an idea for a short story, or yet another novel (of which I’ve had loads, but only now have I actually purposefully made a start on one), or even a Sitcom script, my brain is producing these things faster than I can write them down! I can’t tell you how many pieces of paper I’ve got lying around with little notes for things, or how many emails I’ve sent myself from work with plans and plots for novels.

‘What makes you think you can be a writer?’ I hear you say. Well, I don’t know. There is that old adage that everyone has a story to tell. I feel like I’ve got about twenty stories to tell. I’m not going to tell you that I’m an excellent writer, because I fully understand that I have a long way to go. I haven’t studied the technicalities of writing, I’m just going on my gut instinct, which judging from my choice of first wife, isn’t always on the money!!

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel that a writer needs support. Whether it be from friends, family or loved ones, I like to think that people are rooting for me to achieve my life’s dream of being a professional writer.

However, I can vividly recall the day I went to see the career advisor (with my mother in tow – what was I thinking?!) with hopes of getting on the right track to writing success, only to be ridiculed and pooh-poohed. “You’ve never had anything published” my mum cackled. “Have you ever written for the school magazine?” the career advisor smirked. “Well, no,” I admitted. “But I’ve got to start somewhere. Why not here and now?” This was not good enough. So I ended up stuck on a shitty Business HND at Shrewsbury College for two years going nowhere.

Yes, it got me a job. And I should be thankful for that. But my God it was dull. Even though my dream had been laughed at by the very people who should have helped me to achieve it, I did still get writing. I entered a couple of the BBC’s Script writing competitions, I started probably my first serious writing project, my still unfinished sitcom, ‘Blue Jay Way’, and I started messing about with a couple of novel ideas.

I got married, and divorced, but still the writing bug never left me. In one of the few positive moments in my marriage, I was encouraged to do a Journalism distance learning course. I completed it, and enjoyed doing so, and I’ve got the certificate somewhere here!

In order to write a good book, a writer has to produce something believable. Something that gets his or her readers emotionally involved. At some point I will use the lows of my marriage as the basis of something, but for now, I am trying to plough a similar furrow to those occupied by Nick Hornby or Tony Parsons. The dark stuff can come later. Considering I’ve led a fairly sheltered life to date, my inspiration is going to have to come from without rather than within. Which means research, research, research.

About five years ago, I started this blog as an outlet for various things – stories, opinions, reflections and so on – and after originally plodding on using the Google blogger, I moved across to WordPress nearly a year ago. Over the years, I’ve had quite a few hits and visitors, but rarely have people left me any words of encouragement or constructive criticism even. Which is really what I was hoping for, folks!

I’ve got a Facebook page for this blog too, www.facebook.com/specsrugssausagerolls if you’re interested, and I try and drum up support and praise/criticism through there, mostly to no avail.

I don’t know who reads my stuff, whether it’s friends, family or complete strangers, but once in a while, it would be nice if somebody told me they liked a story, or made a suggestion on improvements here or there. Or even just damned well told me something was wrong or rubbish.

So, I’m going to finish now, but before I do, here’s a test for anyone that’s just sat and read through this post.

If you’ve ever visited my blog, for any reason, and found yourself browsing, what have you enjoyed reading most?

Opinions, Opinions, Opinions

We all have our own opinions on things. Since humans were able to form thought patterns and then articulate them to other humans, we have had opinions. And that’s great. The problems come when some people are convinced that others want to hear those opinions, regardless of whether those opinions are offensive, ill-informed and based on nonsense.

Before the Internet, these people had to make do with writing letters to newspapers, or Points Of View (so they could have Terry Wogan, or a random voice artist to read out their drivel). But since the proliferation of the World Wide Web, the opportunities have exploded. Web forums, Comment sections, Blogs (guilty as charged, Your Honour), and Twitter are just a few places allowing us to spew forth our feelings on whatever subject takes our fancy, whether it relates to the subject or not.

As a regular visitor of the BBC website, a web site called www.football-shirts.co.uk, and also a regular Twitter user, I come across quite alot of ridiculous comments by people hiding behind stupid user names pretending to know what they’re talking about.

Being most interested in sport, and football in particular, I quite often chuckle as these people argue amongst themselves and descend to childish insults over things which, ultimately, don’t matter. The other website is one where people post pictures of new and rumoured football kits, and other people then come and say whether they like it or not. You get the odd logical comment, but mostly it’s people ranting about the benefits of one manufacturer against another, which then moves on to the teams, and down from there! For example…

http://www.football-shirts.co.uk/fans/nike-arsenal-yellow-away_18080

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/21613783

The BBC makes the grave error of giving these people the opportunity to clog the pages with this rubbish, and there are regular posters claiming to have access to facts and what-have-you to back up their opinion, only for someone else to come along and use other ‘facts’ to disprove them.

And of course, there is the behemoth that is Twitter. It amazes me that even now, people still haven’t realised that a small off-colour remark can cause the greatest of fall-outs and upset. The presence of famous people only serves to increase the nuisance quota. Remember the Tom Daley incident? The fools in the Fabrice Muamba furore? Even when Welsh Football Manager Gary Speed took his own life, there was a number of people who felt it wise to make tasteless, nasty comments about him and his family.

True, these people were reported to police for their vile comments, but the whole thing was made worse by Twitter. The countless re-tweets of the original comments, the trending hashtag, then the returned vitriol of the sane majority. Ultimately, it always ends in the originator making a grovelling apology, blaming various pressures (like the kid who said he only said what he did because he was disappointed that Tom Daley hadn’t won a medal – pathetic or what?).

I have seen a few incidents where people have tweeted celebrities and turned to abuse when no reply was forthcoming, or as recently as this week, a chap asked Masterchef eater-extraordinaire and general-all-round-nice guy Gregg Wallace to retweet his charity fundraising event. Now, all Mr Wallace did was to correct the guy on how his name was spelt (note the extra ‘G’), and then it descended to abuse from the first chap, and then, as it re-tweeted, and more people got hold of it, the whole thing snowballed into random, unrelated folks inundating Gregg with abuse and pathetic name calling. Then sanity returned, and the messages of support came flooding in. And reading Gregg’s tweets, he actually made the effort to reply and thank people for their support (albeit briefly, bless him). And the one thing that people lost sight of was that he hadn’t refused to promote the chap’s page, just asked him to spell his name right! As a Jonathan, I’ve seen my name spelt so many different ways (there are so many variables!), but for Gregg, it’s an added ‘G’ – it’s not hard, especially when you just have to read his Twitter ID. Ultimately, the grovelling apology came, with the blame laid fully at the feet of Apple and their bloody annoying ‘Auto-correct’.

I’ve tweeted numerous celebrities on various subjects, and rarely if ever have they replied. But, do you know what? I don’t care. They’re busy people, getting messages from every Tom, Dick and Harry asking for something or other. They can’t reply to everyone can they? They’d never get anything done.

So, next time you’ve got an opinion on something, stop for a moment and think: Does anyone else need to hear what I’ve got to say? Will the world feel enriched for my wisdom? Or will the Earth stop turning if I don’t let it out?!

If the answer is Yes, then you’re either misguided, self-involved, or a politician.

If you have anything to say on this subject, feel free to keep it to yourself!!