Sunday, 12 October 2008


I don't generally feel the need to answer the door if the doorbell goes. The chances are it will be someone conducting a survey or trying to sell me something. Or, at this time of year, kids doing Halloween stuff. I don't answer the door in the evening in October. And gone are the days when people just wander round to their friend's place and knock on the door like my friends and I did when we were children. Such behaviour now is seen as slightly desperate, even a little bit deviant.

Now I look back on it I find it unusual that I decided to answer the door at 10.45 yesterday morning, a Saturday. I was greeted by a man wearing a three quarter length wool coat and a Fedora who introduced himself as Bob. He looked to be in his mid to late forties and was accompanied by his son, who was smartly dressed in black. I observed these details after I realised that I was being doorstepped by Jehovah's Witnesses. You just know, don't you? They come in all shapes and sizes, and probably colours, but you always know instantly. Except for my Grandmother, who once kept a couple of poor unsuspecting Witnesses in tea and biscuits for a couple of hours whilst they talked to her about Jehovah. I wonder how long it took them to realise they were dealing with an Alzheimer's case and how long they would have remained had the home care not turned up!

When confronted by Jehovah's Witnesses one's instinct is to formulate a plan of escape. For some this comes easy. My dad has a stock response: "The only saving I'm interested in is the saves the Spurs goalie makes on a Saturday!". I believe he thinks it's witty. Others probably have no problem in closing the door in their face. I can't do this. My mum brought me up to show other people more respect than I show myself. So I let them speak and hope that an opportunity for me to end the conversation politely presents itself.

Bob began by asking me whether I was worried about the future of our planet. I replied that I was, or rather that I was concerned for the future of mankind. The planet will always be here whereas we are but dust. Bob liked this. He proceeded to read from the Book of Isaiah, telling me of Isaiah's prophecies. Isaiah got loads of stuff right, apparently, so we should listen when he says that "The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered". Unless, of course, we turn to God.

Bob kept asking me questions. By now I was quite enjoying our conversation. Bob seemed like a nice guy but, more importantly, he was teaching me about the Bible. I don't care what anyone says, it's an interesting book for more reasons than I have the time and inclination to go into here. I mean to read it but keep getting waylaid by other books and TV and the internet. Anyway, each answer I gave to Bob's questions prompted him to dig out another section of the Bible. It was uncanny. Bob was able to relate everything I said to the Bible. We went back to Genesis and talked about the creation and Adam and Eve. Then he related Adam and Eve's temptation to Christ's death. I found it all very interesting. I knew the stories but had never before had the symbolism explained to me. I was enjoying myself and had completely forgotten that I was supposed to make something up to explain why I had to shoo Bob and his son from my door.

I should contextualise all this - I've been quite depressed lately. It's not related to any particular event or prompted by trauma but rather that I've been questioning just about everything. Nothing seems to make much sense to me right now, especially when I seek to justify my own place on this earth. I fall woefully short of justifying my place. Someone else could do a much better job of being me than I do. I'm in quite a vulnerable place right now.

Also, I've long believed that there is a fundamentalist in me just dying to get out (I should point out that I don't believe Jehovah's Witnesses to be religious fundamentalists. Well, maybe only a little bit). I'd love to just belong to something and have that something give me guidance. I just can't take organised religion seriously due to what I perceive as over-reliance upon a book. I can't do blind faith. It is this that will always prevent me from following a religion. I like science and evidence too much.

So, Bob and I are getting on famously. I'm pleased that someone is teaching me something and Bob pleased that I haven't told him to get lost. But then Bob ruins it. He had to because he's an evangelist. But I'd started losing interest when he began talking talking about the the day of judgement being near. I'm not interested in that. I just wanted to hear Bible stories and have their significance explained to me. I told him that I had to get to the bank before it closed, which was true, and said goodbye after thanking him for an interesting chat and wishing him a good day. By the time I got to shut the door he'd shaken my hand three times and given me his mobile number. I think he was genuinely happy. I hadn't told him where to go and was interested in what he had to say. Not interested enough to become one of the 144000 souls who will be saved on Judgement Day but interested nonetheless.

Poor Ashley Cole

There seems to be an awful lot of fuss about the booing of Ashley Cole by some of the England fans during last night's win against Kazakhstan at Wembley. Sky Sports News is full of little else right now, reporting the comments by other players, journalists, managers, various pundits and the ever insightful views of the general public.

I'm going to be terribly non-committal here. I don't like Ashley but have never booed anyone at a football match and can't imagine ever doing so. Sure, I've shouted abuse at one or more of my team's players. It was probably the most fun thing about being a Fulham fan in the mid nineties. I've never booed though. But I can understand why people did at Ashley last night. Here are some reasons that people have come out with to explain why he was booed. They are all wrong:

- Because he made a mistake. This is wrong because loads of players make mistakes and are not booed.

- Because he plays for Chelsea. This is wrong because not every Chelsea player would have been booed after making the same mistake as Ashley. Can anyone imagine JT or Joe Cole getting booed after making a mistake like Ashley did? It wouldn't happen. Lampard? Hmmm, maybe...

- Because England fans are morons. This one has an ounce of truth in it because many England fans are morons. But even morons have a modus operandi. They don't just do things for the hell of it. They do things for a reason.

So why was Ashley booed? Here is some information that might help to explain:

- When I heard Jonathan (Barnett) repeat the figure of £55k, I nearly swerved off the road. “He is taking the piss, Jonathan!” I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. I suppose it all started to fall apart for me from then on. I’d trusted Mr Dein to push the deal through. (Ashley on his miserly £55k per week contract offer from Arsenal)

- The deal he offered was a £10,000-a-week increase to £35,000. A hell of a lot of money. But, when taken in the context of football wages and his own estimated value of me of £20 million, and when placed next to those other Arsenal wages of between £80,000 and £100,000 a week, his offer was a p*ss-take. It was a slap in the face, not a pat on the back. (Ashley on some other contract offer)

- Cheryl Cole told friends today she does not know if her marriage can survive a series of new claims about her husband's affairs. The Girls Aloud singer is "shocked and upset" that a hairdresser who had a one-night stand with Ashley Cole was offered money to have an abortion. (Daily Mail, January 14th 2008, on Ashley's very popular and not at all racist or nasty wife)

- His disgraceful behaviour in the match against Spurs last season.

- And loads of other stuff that I can't think of right now.

The reaction of a small section of the Wembley crowd last night wasn't just aimed at a man who had made a mistake on a football pitch. It was a spontaneous collective outburst aimed as much at what Ashley represents as the man himself. Those who pay an awful lot to watch football matches are rarely treated with anything approaching respect yet they still keep on coming. Acutely aware that those men on the pitch live a quality of life unimaginable to them they demand certain standards, on the pitch and off it. Ashley doesn't meet those standards. Not content with having a dream job, a beautiful pop star wife and more money than he could hope to spend he still moans, still behaves like a spoilt child, still appears to believe that the world owes him something. He may as well be spitting on those of us who pay his wages. And that is why he was booed yesterday.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Stevie Wonder leaves me dumbstruck...

I've just spent the last hour trying to write a review of the Stevie Wonder gig I attended a few days ago. I've just given up, whatever I wrote seemed far too prosaic to convey how great he was and how happy I was. I just don't have the words. It was very special and I won't ever forget it. There, I don't even need to write about it as it's captured in my head forever.