2006-08-02

Steven Gerrard Owes Me £50 The End


Steven Gerrard
The Liverpool Football Club
Liverpool
Northern England

Dear Steven Gerrard

My name is Mrs. Beryl Simme and I am writing on behalf of my son Antony. As you may or may not know (it was not widely reported) Antony died two weeks ago in a tragic domestic accident. The exact details of his death remain somewhat of a mystery. It seems the poor boy was looking for something in his living room underneath a very large and heavy oak cabinet which collapsed on top of him killing him instantly - or at some point during the six days his body lay undiscovered.

I have no idea what my sweet Antony was doing under there but the police pathologist found some small pieces of potato crisp in his outstretched rigor mortised hand - he thought they may have been Doritos but he could not say for certain.

I know this news must come as a shock to you seeing as how you and Antony were such close friends. I was the proudest mother alive the day he told me about ‘Furthering Underprivileged Children’s Knowledge Of Famous Footballers ‘- the charity the two of you had set up together. Knowing that a famous footballer such as your self was involved, I, and the ladies down at the Day Centre, were more than happy to donate the £5 Antony requested of us (each), (every week).

Antony was always very interested in the plight of young children and, judging by the suitcase I found on top of his wardrobe, also in amateur photography - an interest, as it happens, he shared with his late father. Isn’t it funny how life has its own way of handing things down and relentlessly carrying on – and, of course, of sometimes just stopping abruptly, as in Antony’s case.

In an attempt to put my son’s affairs in some kind of order, I am writing to everyone in his ‘Correspondence Sent’ file and informing them of the sad situation. I am not one to pry but I did happen to notice that you owe him £50. If you still intend to pay up, may I suggest you donate the money to your and Antony’s charity - or failing that to your local camera club? I would humbly advise that you resist the temptation to consider yourself ‘off the hook’ as regards the debt as a guilty conscience can be a very cruel mistress.

Strangely, I can’t seem to find my son’s ‘Correspondence Received’ file - though I’m sure it will turn up somewhere. There is a large steel cupboard with a huge padlock in his bedroom and, when I find the key, I expect it will be in there.

I must end off now but would just like to say that you should not listen to all those things people are saying about the World Cup. At least you can hold your head up high knowing it wasn’t you who let the whole nation down. The goal you scored against Brazil was magnificent and you alone held your nerve and scored your penalty in the Quarter-final shoot-out unlike the other gutless failures who should hang their heads in eternal shame.

God bless

Mrs. Beryl Simme.

2006-07-28

Elk joke


William Gaddis once told me a joke. Not only me but I was there, a hot summer night several years ago in the Senate House at the University of London, so monstrously ugly a building it was used as the Ministry of Truth for the film version of 1984. Gaddis was in town, not exactly promoting his latest book, A Frolic Of His Own, the opening line of which goes

Justice? -You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.

In the book a character contrives to drive over himself with his own car and comes up wanting to sue someone.

Gaddis didn't read from the book at the Senate House or from any of his other books, namely The Recognitions, JR, and Carpenter's Gothic. He hated author readings, writers performing. He thought they were demeaning to the writer and the work and the reader as well. He never gave interviews either, for probably similar reasons. After the commercial and critical failure of The Recognitions, some people of a conspiratorial nature thought that he changed his name to Thomas Pynchon.

The Recognitions came out in 1955, was over 700 pages and seemed to be about authenticity, in art, life, human feeling. This was a preoccupation of New York artists in the fifties, authentic experience, and would carry over into the sixties folk scare, as Dave Van Ronk called it, how authentic the music was seemed to matter; were you authentic? In The Recognitions there's a lot of forgery going on- forged Old Masters paintings, dollar bills, forged personalities. Authenticity is scarce on the ground, propaganda all is phony. Almost everyone is playing some sort of game and when real feeling comes up it knocks you sideways-what the hell is that doing here?

There was a big gap between The Recognitions and Gaddis' second book, JR, twenty five years, and in that time, rather than change his name to Thomas Pynchon, he made a living working in corporate New York public relations, writing scripts for industry films, speeches for executives, press releases. JR is full of New York Corporate Man and their close relatives in government and military. The opening line in JR is

-Money...? in a voice that rustled.

Those dashes mean dialogue just like in Ulysses. In fact virtually all of JR, again over 700 pages, is written in dialogue and tells the story of eleven year old JR who, operating from a pay phone in his elementary school, builds up a paper fortune using the kind of methods that would get people like Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky in trouble ten years later. One character is a failed novelist, forever working on a book with no end in sight. He refers to his book as an old man waiting for him at home, sitting in a chair, banging his stick, drooling. The author has to go over to him and fluff up his pillow, keep him alive.

Robert Altman's film Nashville came out in 1975, the same year as JR. Only Altman could have made a film of JR, maybe he still could. He would have to replace JRs' phone booth with a personal computer. And here's another thing- a blog (unlovely word) these days is what those small press publications used to be years ago, magazines and papers would spring up in cities with a big bohemian scene and in New York in the fifties Jack Green started his own newspaper and called it newspaper. Jack Green didn't use punctuation, not even full stops. He just made a few extra spaces to signify the end of a sentence. He made his living as a freelance proofreader funnily enough. In 1962 Green devoted three entire issues of newspaper to the defense of The Recognitions from the US reviewers who, almost to a man, trashed it. Green thought them all lazy, complacent, fools and titled his attack on them Fire the Bastards! The Dalkey Archive published these articles many years later as a book. Jack Green was (is?) a mysterious figure, his name isn't Jack Green for one thing. Maybe he blogs, might even be the patron saint of bloggers. Does anyone read this stuff?

Back at the Senate House the man behind the event, the US cultural attaché, so often a front for spies, was saying how well a recent visit from Joseph Heller had gone, much better attended than tonight he said, pouring out the white wine to all comers. Everyone went inside the lecture room and there was Gaddis at the desk down front, looking just like Kirk Douglas, shuffling through some papers, reading out bits of stuff. He settled a few old scores. Apparently the critic George Steiner had given JR a bad review in the New Yorker and Gaddis welcomed the news that Steiner was now in some bother over plagiarism regarding a novel he, Steiner, had written about Hitler. Gaddis said something like if he waited on his porch long enough, watching the river flow, all his enemies would eventually come drifting by. Mostly he talked about the law, the theme of A Frolic Of His Own.

Afterwards in the entrance foyer the bar had been restocked, you really can't fault the US embassy when they throw a party. Gaddis was chatting to people, smoking, completely approachable so I approached him and bummed a fag. He didn't have any, he'd got his from a guy standing behind us who overheard and offered me one, a small, thin cigarillo. Someone asked Gaddis if he was seeing any of Europe on this visit and he said, " Did you ever see Breaker Morant? When the British officer offers the condemned Australian soldier a deal to escape the firing squad. 'Take the deal, said the officer, go off and see the world.' 'Nah, said the soldier, I've seen it'"

Then a cheery soul, big, bluff and posh, pink faced, pin-striped suit, bow tie, skipped up and rescued Gaddis from us, said they had to be off to the House of Lords for dinner. Which made sense. Gaddis is Yankee aristocracy, there's usually a few of them in his books, authentic old world Americans washed up on the shore of modern mechanisation. In his work, Gaddis returned to the player piano as a symbol of the dark forces of mechanisation, the ruin of art, soul, the human heart.

And here's the joke he told that night

"One day the king of Norway was out hunting. A farmer, spotting the royal party in the distance, stood up straight and tall, waved his arms and shouted as loud as he could, 'I am not an elk. I am not an elk.' The king raised his rifle and shot the farmer dead. 'But Sire, said a lackey, he said he wasn't an elk.' 'Oh, said the king, I thought he said he was an elk'."

2006-07-19

I am music and I write the songs


Barry Manilow wasn't included for the book Songwriters on Songwriting, a collection of interviews by Paul Zollo. Actually it came as news to me that Barry didn't write I Write the Songs but at any rate, he wasn't given the opportunity to share his thoughts along with the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Townes Van Zant, Sammy Cahn, Todd Rundgren, Frank Zappa and many others on the craft, the process, the mystery. David Gates of Bread isn't in the book either nor is Neil Diamond. This is Rocksnobs approved mostly. That's OK, you've got to the draw the line somewhere.

Dylan once said, not here but somewhere, "A song is anything that gets up and walks by itself." It exists on its own terms independent of the creator or any recording made of it. Others could perform it it any style, under any circumstances and it would still have it's own undeniable identity. Many of the songwriters interviewed speak of some mysterious gift that comes to them, they know not how, when a real song appears from their hand. They can't explain it much, some say they were just the one who happened to be in the right place at the right time to receive it, to pull it out of the air.

Leonard Cohen recalls a songwriter’s chat with Dylan. He wondered how long it took Dylan to write a certain song. About fifteen minutes, said Dylan who then asked Cohen about one of his songs, how long? About five years replied Cohen. Actually, Cohen confesses to Zollo, it was more like ten years. Randy Newman leaves the LA suburbs every morning and goes downtown to an office to work. Van Zant went to Colorado in the summer or Tennessee in the winter, and came back with songs. Tom Waits writes songs with his wife, just like Slim Harpo used to do. Those kinds of relationships are built to last I would wager. There's the cut-up technique, adapted from William Burroughs, that David Bowie famously used. Experience could either count for a lot or not at all. Observation or hallucination, reporters’ notebook or dream diary, divine inspiration or outright theft, the muse or the bottle.

A songwriter friend of mine says he's basically in the scrap metal savage business. Sure, alchemy has to enter into the equation at some point but really you're just loitering around the dump, waiting to spot something shiny under the rubbish. He also said that when Paul McCartney was writing Yesterday his original dummy lyric was Scrambled Eggs. Did people want to know that? This classic song that people loved almost more than any other started life as Scrambled Eggs? It's like a member of the Magic Circle violating the primary directive - don't reveal the trick.

I started writing song lyrics a couple of years ago, been looking for a Bacharach to my David or Difford to my Tilbrook, or is that the other way round?

i'd beg for some forgiveness
but begging's not my business


Dylan brings up the true rhyme/near rhyme debate. He says it used to be a matter of pride for songwriters to get a true rhyme but nobody cares about that anymore. Close enough for jazz. Christopher Ricks says Dylan is the 20th century's greatest rhymer. Is that so? I can testify that when you come up with a rhyme you've never heard before, you feel like the best. Come up with a character voice that works perfectly and you fancy yourself the equal of Newman. Not too many of the songwriters talk about theft too much, maybe it's too obvious a thing to say out loud, an accepted piece of kit. Love and theft. Steal from your lover, steal from Howlin Wolf. Whatever works. Steal from the people whispering at the next table. If you don't pull it out of the air, who will?

The best advice in the book, and there's lots of advice, comes from Randy Newman, "Make something happen. Write something down. Do something. Go ahead. And stay there. Three hours, four hours. And good things will happen."

Absolutely, and I would imagine the best thing ever is a royalty cheque arriving one lonely morning.

2006-07-13

Hills of Trieste (song for Jan Morris)


woke up this morning
made my first mistake of the day

every cell in my brain

has seen better days

it usually pays
to look the other way

i remember


What do I remember?

I remember sitting alone one night in the Cafe San Marco and there was a girl in there who looked like Louise Brooks. The Cafe San Marco, cream walls and high ceiling separated by brown stucco leaf trim, long, dark wood bar in an L-shaped room, three large pillars in the middle of the main room which was lined with bookshelves and newspaper racks. Hardwood floors, black leather benches and heavy, wrought-iron tables with marble surfaces, gold-plated hatstands and and stand-up silver ashtrays scattered along the bar and around the pillars. The place had history, cheap wine and good coffee. It was dark, warm and enclosed, more Viennese than Italian.

on the hills of trieste
where the wild cats run free

so carelessly blessed

in my mild misery
on the hills of trieste

where it's no curse to feel alone

between the shining deep blue sea

and the harsh red stone

i remember


She didn't really look like Louise Brooks, she just had a Louise Brooks hairdo. The girl in the black helmut is what Kenneth Tynan called Brooks when he wrote about her. My Louise was hanging arty type fashion photographs of herself on the San Marco walls. Two chess players fell silent as she leaned across them to straighten a picture. She had a friend with her and they were both in skin tight black but Louise had a red scarf with white threading interwoven and her friend had a leopard skin scarf. They certainly had style but the photos weren't very good. Why should they be? Trieste is a small town and anyone with real talent and ambition leaves early for the big city, eager to conform to the current heat. Those who stay behind live in a certain kind of past where everything's good or, whatever isn't good isn't remembered. Not much.

on the hills of trieste
and the cafes at night

on my knees i confessed

i got drunk and felt unwell

with the devil in my stomach

cleaning his nails

everyone's drinking something red

i only remember
all the false things i said


Tynan tracked down the girl of his silent, black and white past dreams to a small town in New York and found an old woman, living off a rich man's allowance but she was no one's Marie Provost. She'd written about her contemporaries in old Hollywood and she was a good writer. Her articles were published in magazines like Film Culture and Sight and Sound and were later collected into a book, Lulu in Hollywood.

girls at the bar
crossing their legs

girls at the bar

uncrossing their legs

sun sinking down
into the wrecks

under the waves

sun sinking down
and taking me with it


A lot of people might know about Trieste because James Joyce wrote Ulysses there. Joyce exiled himself from Ireland, wound up in Rome working for a bank but an English language school had an opening in Trieste, so he went there with his pregnant wife Nora. On arrival he told Nora to wait in a small park opposite the train station while he got the lay of the land. When I went to that park there was builder's rubble everywhere, lots of roped off areas. While he was exploring the city Joyce tried to mediate in a quarrel between some sailors and prostitutes. The scene became aggravated and the cops were called. They threw the sailors and Joyce into the back of the paddy wagon and Nora had a long wait, alone, in a strange city, not knowing the language.

on the hills of trieste
they make fireworks every day

for every night of the week

except when it rains

on the hills of trieste

across the harbour scene

every colour in the night

and every dream

i remember


Ettore Schmitz worked in a bank too, in Trieste as it happens, but he married the boss's daughter and did well for himself (I might have confused this with one of his novels). Once Joyce got out of jail and took up his teaching post, Schmitz became one of his students. Joyce noted the Triestian class system- Schmitz's wife blanked Nora in the street. Earlier in his life Schmitz had literary ambitions, writing and publishing himself, two novels, Senilita (As a Man Grows Older) and Una Vita under the pen name Italo Svevo. They weren't well received, the Triestian dialect proved distasteful to Italian lit snobs and the books didn't sell either. Schmitz stayed at his bank job and put his novels in the furthest bottom drawer. But, after many years, he showed his unloved novels to Joyce, who read them and said he liked them, compared them to Anatole France. Encouraged, Schmitz took up writing again and that's how we came to have Zeno's Conscience, also known as The Confessions of Zeno, wriiten once again by Italo Svevo, the novelist of Trieste.

on the hills of trieste
and the girls in their jeans

between the thrill of the moment

and the lifelessness of routine

on the hills of trieste

where your name is not your own

i couldn't have guessed
my direction home

i remember


girls at the bar
crossing their eyes

boys in the back

practicing lies

sun sinking down

into the wrecks

under the waves

sun sinking down

and taking me with it


Zeno's Conscience tells the story of Zeno, his youth, marriage and business career. It's told by Zeno himself in the form of three separate pieces addressed to his psychiatrist. He's trying to give up smoking and is constantly announcing his last cigarette after making some crucial, life-changing decision. Zeno's Conscience wasn't received any better than Svevos' other books but Joyce worked up a few French critics on its' behalf and the Italian literary establishment had to think again.

on the hills of trieste
and in my rented room

i got up and got dressed

i got sober and felt unwell
with the angels around my heart

singing a song

about the life we used to share

can't even remember
if i was even there


In the Public Gardens of Trieste, just up the road from the Cafe San Marco there are small, sculpted busts of the city's great and good, arranged around the park, each on its own small plinth. The poet of Trieste, Umberto Saba, is there and so are Svevo and Joyce, not too far from each other. You could go there, buy an ice cream, sit on a bench, watch the kids chase the ducks around the pond, look at Svevo and Joyce, have a smoke.

on the hills of trieste
where cigarettes are sublime

and the science of laziness

has no sense of time

on the hills of trieste

reliving my dreams

i felt a pain in my chest
in a moment so serene

i remember


Svevo died from injuries suffered in a car crash. It was rumoured he asked for a last cigarette in the hospital. He didn't die in Trieste, he didn't even die in Italy. He crashed his car in France, running from the fascists. It is said that Joyce used him as the model for Leo Bloom (not Mel Brooks' Leo Bloom, a different one). Kenneth Tynan wrote about Mel Brooks in the same book that he wrote about Louise Brooks, Show People. All leads to nowhere.

man on the pier
smoking a fag

worm on a hook

taking a drag

sun sinking down

into the wrecks

under the waves

sun sinking down

and taking me with it


girls at the bar
crossing their hearts

boys in the back

just seeing stars

sun sinking down

into the wrecks

under the waves

sun sinking down

and taking me with it


Jan Morris' last book, the last book she says she will ever write, is all about Trieste, The Meaning of Nowhere. Does the meaning of nowhere in relation to Trieste mean that once there, you are constantly thinking of elsewhere? The capital city of a certain neurosis- drifting, evasive living.

woke up this morning
made my first mistake of the day

every cell in my brain
has seen better days

it usually pays

to look the other way

i remember

You could go to Trieste looking for James Joyce and end up finding Louise Brooks.

2006-07-03

Come on and take a free ride


The Criterion Collection have recently given their customary deluxe treatment of DVD re-issues to Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused. Lavish booklet (booklets should always be lavish), loads of mini-features and extras and, this sounds really good, a re-production of Frank Kozik's original poster. Hey Criterion, any chance of freebie?

The appearance of this new edition also comes with the revelation that Linklater had to fight with his producer for the inclusion of the scene where the players of a Little League baseball game form a line and shake hands, prefunctionally muttering "good game, good game" to each other as they pass. Apparently, the producer thought this scene slowed down the action. Aside from confirming the generally dismal nature of movie producers, the question arises, what action?

It's the last day of high school, 1976, small Texas town, and the priority of the summer- scoring front row tickets for Aerosmith, but first, get loaded and hit the party at someone's house whose parents are stupidly going away for the weekend. But shit, the old man has twigged, the parents aren't going anywhere, the party's off and there's nothing for it but to get loaded and drive around all night. Then score those Aerosmith tickets. And that's it basically.

The "good game" scene isn't the only one with resonace for some of us of a certain age. The difficult skill of flipping beer bottle caps, flared jeans so tight at the top you've got to lie down and do up the fly with pliers, lots of puffy sleeves (halter tops?), whit knee-socks, overalls and the music of course.

Here's what they listen to in their cars and bedrooms (no iPods or even Walkmans yet) on the last day of school/first day of summer: "School's Out" and "No More Mr Nice Guy" by Alice Cooper, "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith, "Jim Dandy" by Black Oak Arkansas, "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan, "Why Can't We Be Friends?" and "Low-Rider" by War, "Free Ride" by Edgar Winter, "Love Hurts" by Nazareth, "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath, "Fox On the Run" by Sweet, "Tush" by ZZ Top, "Right Place Wrong Time" by Dr John, "Slow Ride" by Foghat. The golden age of stadium rock.

If I start referring to these as the best years of my life remind me to kill myself.

American Graffiti was a similar movie for a previous generation. George Lucas's movie had a knowing, elegiac, end of one kind of innocence feel to it and so does Dazed and Confused but as for the times they are a changin', shatter your windows and rattle your walls, that sort of thing isn't going to happen to these kids.

The sixties rocked. We know the seventies suck but maybe the eighties are gonna be radical.

Hmmm. Shit happens.

Just remember kids, while all this Bicentennial brouhaha is going on this summer, what we're celebrating is the fact that some white, male, slave-owners didn't want to pay their taxes.

If this sort of flashy, provacative rhetoric was coming from Texas high-school teachers in 1976, you couldn't help but identify maybe Ben Affleck's O'Bannion and Nicky Katt's Clint (a man who dispels the notion that marijuana makes you mellow) going on to work for the Bush family in some capacity.

The movie is more sympathetic to the trio of nerds, Anthony, Mike and Cynthia, who aren't having the time of their lives. But that's OK, later on they'll have great careers in the creative arts or IT and all the jocks and stoners will work for them. They might even go on to make movies.

Some future stars make an early appearance here. Affleck plays a big, burly lad who takes the bizarre hazing ritual of paddling younger boys on the bum far too seriously. Like many a movie baddie, he comes to a sticky end. Parker Posey plays Darla, the school Queen Bitch and Matthew McConaughey is Wooderson, slightly older than everyone else but he can't find anything more fun than hanging with the kids

Those teenage girls. I get older, they stay the same age.

Well, yes.

Everyone gives good performances but the movie is carried by Wiley Wigans who plays Mitch, a junior high kid, younger brother of one of the senior babes. He looks a bit like Sofia Coppola and most of his day is spent trying to avoid the hazing ass-whupping, but he spends the night running around with the big boys and ends it chatting up a big girl. Way to go, Mitch. Good game.

2006-06-30

I don't know what it is but it's weird and pissed off


The thing to remember about The Thing is that it's all guy talk. There are no women in the U.S. scientific outpost in the South Pole, just men, getting on each others' nerves, exploiting weaknesses mercilessly, getting drunk, stoned, inflicting their differing musical tastes on each other, reduced to watching videos of old Let's Make a Deal episodes. Truly, this outpost is a bad gig.

One day a couple of crazed Norwegians land a helicopter at the base after chasing a dog across the tundra, shooting at it with rifles, machine guns, finally lobbing grenades at the poor thing until, upon landing, one accidently blows himself and the helicopter up with a dropped grenade. The other is shot dead by the U.S. camp commander after spraying the place with gunfire trying to kill the mutt. What the hell has got into these nutty Norwegians?

Well. it came from outer space, many years earlier, and has been buried under the snow and ice. The Norwegians dug it up and now it's on the loose. What does it want? Nothing conscious but what it does is invade the body of human or animal in various graphic FX ways before perfectly imitating the host being. So, once the thing's MO is sussed everyone suspects everyone else of being a murderous alien and what little social cohesion has kept these guys from killing each other breaks down completely.

John Carpenter's movie is a re-make of Howard Hawks' 1952 original and I can't say which is better because I haven't seen the original. However, despite Hawks' version being rumoured to have been script doctored by Ben Hecht , you couldn't swear in the movies in 1952 and if you were confronted by a shape-shifting alien which invades your body before exploding out with a spray of goo and gore you'd probably be swearing your head off. This, I suspect, gives Carpenter the edge.

The script is by Bill Lancaster, based on a short story called Who Goes There by John W Campbell, the photography is by Dean Cundy, the score, all throbbing doom and grandeur, is by Ennio Morricone and the special effects, maybe the best in horror movie history, are by Rob Bottin. Here's the cast; Kurt Russell is MacReady, Wilford Brimley is Blair, TK Carter is Nauls, David Glennon is Palmer, Keith Davis is Childs, Richard Dysart is Dr Copper, Charles Hallahan is Norris. Peter Maloney is Bennings, Richard Masur Is Clark, Donald Moffet is Garry, Joel Polis is Fuchs and Thomas Waites is Windows. They say each other's names constantly throughout the movie because they're good movie names that sound good when you hear them.

Jed the Dog plays the lead dog. All the dogs are good but Jed turns in a bravura performance- watchful, intense and duplicitas with a great actor's timing.

There are elements of paranoid classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers and also of the famous Alien scene where the monster first appears out of John Hurt's chest. The Thing isn't as good as those two (or three if you count the 50's original and 70's re-make of Body Snatchers) because it's all guys. Stupid, nasty, bored shitless guys who are forced to have to save the world from...what? The thing.

2006-06-20

Steven Gerrard Owes Me £50 Part 3


Steven Gerrard
England World Cup Squad
Shlosshotel Buhlerhohe
Baden-Baden
Germany

Dear Steven G

Congratulations on your first ever World ‘Cup’ goal – and what a cracker it was! Admittedly the game was already won (and technically over) when you scored it and in the FIFA rankings Trinidad and Tobago are on a par with countries where football is illegal, but, nevertheless, I salute your achievement. Let’s just be thankful I didn’t place a 1 – 0 Correct Score bet.

Talking of Correct Score bets, I have to confess to being a little disappointed not to have received a reply yet to my previous letter. I have read it back to myself several times now and can find nothing at which you could possibly take offence. I trust that there is a legitimate reason for your delay in paying me the £50 you owe me but I fear you may be displaying the arrogance and the disregard for the common ‘man’ that is so often found in people who manage to escape the slums by nothing other than pure chance.

I am sure you probably think that men such as I have no idea what it must be like to be a top professional footballer, but I feel it only fair to mention that I, in my day, was a pretty handy player myself. I was never actually selected to play for my school team – apart from three games in goal for the Under 15’s when there had been an outbreak of Glandular Fever – but I always considered myself an archetypal creative Number 10, a forerunner, if you like, of Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney. Indeed, I often think how uncanny it is that my nickname on the pitch in those days was ‘Spazza’.

In the ‘aforementioned hitherto unanswered’ letter I made an oblique reference to Doritos. I had not intended to pursue the matter, but, of course, that was before I realised how uncooperative you were going to prove to be. Let me, if I may, take you back to that FA Cup Final: I had a handful of Doritos in my hand at the exact moment your goal crossed the line, and, just as you did to my dreams, I found myself crushing the said Doritos into a thousand useless pieces. My fifty pounds was lost and I caused quite a mess on my floor into the bargain. It is not so much the cost of the Doritos that concerns me (they were part of a ‘multi-pack’ and, as such, were very good value), it is the mess they caused. I am still, all these days later, finding stray Dorito shards and crumbs in the most unlikely places and I am worried that they may be causing a public health incident as I live in an area with a very healthy rodent population. I am not entirely sure what kind of compensation I should be seeking from you over this dangerous situation, but I am confident that you and your lawyers can come up with something.

All the best
Antony Simme

P.S. My sources inform me that you will not be taking part in the forthcoming Sweden game, so I am off to place my England to win 3 –2 Correct Score bet with a renewed confidence.