Friday 14 December 2007

Top 5 Christmas Songs

'Tis the season to be jolly (or just very very drunk) and in keeping with that here's my Top 5 Christmas Songs. This will be my last Top 5 of the year, I'll be back in the New Year with my Top 5 albums of 2007.

1. Low "Just Like Christmas" - From their simply wonderful "Christmas E.P." this just evokes that long forgotten feeling of what Christmas was all about when you were little. For a band who specialise in quiet, sparse music this is an incredibly upbeat and joyful tune.

2. The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl "Fairytale of New York" - Another tune evocative of cold and snowy Christmas nights, drinking your way round the back streets of New York City ... or Shepperton. The contrast between MacGowan and MacColl's voices is fabulous and some cracking lyrics from Shane at his best.

3. Half-Man Half-Biscuit "All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit" - As perfect a recreation of my childhood as I am ever likely to see in song. Possibly not strictly a genuine Christmas song failing, as it does, to mention Christmas anywhere other than in its title. Transformer problems with my Scalextric and amassing the biggest collection of Subbutteo teams occupied much of my pre-teen thoughts. The Dukla Prague away kit is also one of the greatest football shirts in history, read more about the song and the kit HERE if you're interested.

4. Slade "Merry Christmas Everybody" - A song as universal as Happy Birthday but one that seems to retain it's charm. It's not Kerr-ris-mas until you've heard this song for the first time.

5. The Pretenders "2000 Miles" - From the "Learning to Crawl" album that seemed rubbish when I first heard it but somehow found it's way into my heart. For some reason the lyrics "2000 Miles, Is very far through the snow" always give me a little chuckle.

An honourable mention for Jethro Tull who have been serial Crimbo song writers. "Ring Out Solstice Bells" is their most well known, but I enjoy Ian Anderson's cynical lyrics for "A Christmas Song" and the subsequent, and appropriately named "Another Christmas Song".

Friday 7 December 2007

Top 5 Heroes super powers

In celebration of the final episodes of Heroes series one being aired this week (my favourite current TV show despite it owing a huge debt to the film "Unbreakable") here are my five favourite super powers. I decided to eliminate Peter Petrelli's ability to absorb other powers, as I figured it was a) cheating and b) a bit useless if there's no one else around with super powers.

1. Able to manipulate the Time-Space continuum (Hiro Nakamura) - This would be great. Able to travel back in time to see any event in history, and forwards to see what might be. This one could spawn a whole new Top 5 of places I would like to go.

2. Flight (Nathan Petrelli) - Who wouldn't want to be able to fly. No more waiting for a bus in the rain, no more struggling through rush hour traffic, and if you fancied a quick trip to the other side of the world, no waiting around in a crowded airport. Ace.

3. Telekinesis (Sylar) - OK so Sylar's a baddy but anyone who saw him flip that truck over in the last episode would know how cool this power would be. My tea making ability could move to a new level.

4. Able to Regenerate (Claire Bennet) - Pretty handy this one. No much fear of anything, just watch the back of your head and you'll be fine.

5. Super human strength (Niki Sanders) - This might have been higher had it not seemingly also meant you had a psychotic alter ego. That said Jessica is hot and if I was going to die at the hands of a lunatic super powered killer I'd choose her everytime.

Friday 30 November 2007

Top 5 Record Labels

Raiding the vault of top 5's that was the focus group again. Despite thinking having done this once before it ought to be pretty easy, it turned out not to be so. So many classic labels I couldn't fit in, Chess, Stax, Mowtown, Trojan, Blue Note, but then that's the whole point of a top 5.

1. Domino - So much of my favourite "Indie" of the last few years have come from this label. They have a link with Drag City in the U.S. which obviously helps but seem to have retained a uniquely independent feel despite massive hits with Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys. Recommended; The Kills, Smog, Bonnie Prince Billy, David Pajo, Pavement, Sebadoh and Sons & Daughters.

2. Sub Pop - I've always liked the name and they were in the right spot at the right time when grunge broke big. Recently made a return to the spotlight, as a Warner subsidiary, with a more indie feel. Recommend: Nirvana, Mudhoney, Tad, Soundgarden, The Shins.

3. Vertigo - ROCK! Mainly included for having a great name and an even better logo. The home of some classic British rock bands over the years though bizarrely also released the Lighthouse Family and Kraftwerk. Recommended: Status Quo, Black Sabbath, Metallica, The Noisettes.

4. Chemikal Underground - Set up by Scottish band The Delgados, made it's money thanks to the early success of Bis. Went on to release the early albums by Mogwai and Arab Strap alongside the entire Delgados catalogue. Recommended: Mogwai, The Delgados, Arab Strap.

5. Sun - My only slot for a genuinely classic label. Sam Philips little record company in Memphis made a massive impact on the world of music launching the careers of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins amongst many others. Recommended: Anything.

Friday 23 November 2007

Worst 5 England Managers

In tribute to Steve McClaren's short but woeful reign in charge of our national team here are my five worst England managers.

1. Graham Taylor (1990-1993) When the man we would eventually all know by a selection of vegetable analogies first took over the job I thought it was going to be a good thing. How wrong I was. Not only led the team to a poor performance in the 1992 European Championships, in which he substituted Gary Linekar in his last International game, but also failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, a campaign that was captured in horrific detail by a Channel 4 documentary.

2. Sven-Göran Eriksson (2001-06) The man single-handedly responsible for wasting the so called "golden generation". Yes I know he's a great club manager and his results and qualification record were actually pretty good. However, when the important games came around he didn't have the guts to do the job required.

3. Steve McClaren (2006-07) Not content to seeing six good years wasted under Eriksson, the FA felt it was a good idea to use his right hand man as his replacement, thus ensuring that we'd not have to waste any time on one of those tricky little European competitions that come round every now and again.

4. Kevin Keegan (1999-2000) Clearly he should never have left Fulham. At least he was passionate and had the good honour to quit when he realised it was far too big a task for him.

5. Glenn Hoddle (1996-1999) Mad as a loon and arrogant with it. Actually did OK results wise but had a far greater opinion of his own abilities than anyone sensibly should.

Thursday 15 November 2007

Top 5 Dr Who's

There are very few TV series that can keep you watching beyond the first couple of series. Even less than can cope with changing their leading actor. As a kid I was too scared to watch Dr Who and would actually hide behind the sofa to catch a glimpse of the action. It's hard to believe when you watch those episodes now, and especially when I consider what my boys watch at a much younger age. Maybe I'm just a wuss.

1. Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor) 1974-1981

2. David Tennant (Tenth Doctor) 2005-present

3. Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor) 1970-1974

4. Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor) 1966-1969

5. Christopher Ecclestone (Ninth Doctor) 2005

Tom Baker WAS Dr Who. He stayed in the part longer than any other actor and really made the part his own. It wasn't hard to believe that he didn't come from this planet. The Baker years were the ones I first watched from behind the sofa. When I did eventually pluck up the courage to watch regularly I was never quite sure I really liked him. He was just a bit too odd for me to feel entirely comfortable. However, companion Sarah Jane was one of my first hearthrobs (now back on TV and still looking great in the Sarah Jane Adventures) and K9 helped make everything more humorous.

The recent revamp of the show was an unexpected success and is improving all the time. Ecclestone represented a huge change in persona and made the part much grittier. I felt he was a little let down by the story lines and it was a shame he didn't make one more series. Tennant has been a revelation. He's brought the humour back in without making the show look stupid. An actor born to play Dr. Who.

Having only seen Jon Pertwee after the Tom Baker years, I struggled with watching Worzel Gummidge as the Doctor. Subsequent viewings have made me realise how good he was and I suspect had I been born a few years earlier he'd be my number one. The Patrick Troughton era was one I discovered as the show spiralled into it's worst period (I'm talking Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy here) and has remained a favourite ever since. An honoury mention for Peter Davidson who, history reveals wasn't as bad as first thought. He probably had the toughest gig of any Doctor having to follow Tom B but grew into the part and until the recent revamp would have claimed his place in the Top 5.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Top 5 Female Musicians

Is it really a week since my last one of these? To make it quick and a bit easier for me this is an old Focus Group topic (see Introduction). In fact I think it was the topic before I joined and therefore one I didn't get a chance to vote in.

1. Emma Anderson (Guitar)

2. Kim Deal (Bass)

3. P.J. Harvey (Guitar)

4. Joanna Newsome (Harp)

5. Meg White (Drums)

One of the difficult things about picking your favourite musicians of the opposite sex is avoiding the ones you just fancy. Emma Anderson played Guitar and sang in
Lush a band I had a big thing for in the 90's. I had a big thing for Emma too, but she can really play guitar! Kim Deal is a contender for "coolest chick in rock" and just manages to keep out her nearest rival for that title, Kim Gordon, out of my list. P.J. Harvey adds a second guitar and seeing as they can all sing so far I can afford the luxury of having Joanna Newsome on Harp (and screeching). Just need a drummer then and whilst Mo Tucker would be the popular choice I'm not a big fan of the Velvet's so Meg White's "less is less" approach steals in for the final slot. Probably would have given that final place to Kate Bush on Piano if I didn't need a sticks person to complete an all-girl supergroup. Hell, no room for Nina Simone, Patti Smith or Karen Carpenter, maybe I should make it Top 10's ...

Thursday 1 November 2007

Top 5 Power Rangers Series

No, wait, stick with me! It being my youngest boys 4th birthday today I thought it only fair I pay tribute to his favourite program. I realise that the Power Rangers are probably very few people's idea of good television but as a father of two boys I have earned a grudging respect for the super powered, martial arts, monster bashing series now in its fifteenth season. Maybe it's some sort of defence mechanism but having initially been forced to watch it with son #1 I now find I actually quite enjoy watching it with them, even if it does inevitably lead to son #2 diving from sofa to armchair in an attempt to recreate the latest episode.

Power Rangers SPD. (2005)

Power Rangers Dino Thunder (2004)

Power Rangers In Space (1998)

Power Rangers Wild Force (2002)

Power Rangers Ninja Storm (2003)

Barring the first three seasons Power Rangers have had a new team for each new series. This means each series brings in a new premise and new characters and whilst generally everything else remains the same it keeps the program fresh. Each show is a frenetic mix of martial arts, giant robots, evil monsters and teenage drama that manages a certain form of kitsch charm. It's like a blend of Monkey and Captain Scarlet but set in an average American high school/cop show/comedy. Some of the greatest episodes involve team ups between Power Rangers from different seasons enabling huge numbers of primary coloured heroes to do battle with ever more bizarre looking enemies.

Probably the favourite episode of both my boys was aired during PR Wild Force, a 20 minute special called
"Forever Red", in which ten Red Ranger's team up to do battle with the surviving members of the evil King Mondo's empire to prevent them resurrecting Lord Zedd's personal war Zord Serpentera. Oh yes. An episode which also sees an exceptional use of a piece of Power Ranger's recurring dialogue "we've only got one chance!" this is then followed by some inexplicable piece of action which wins the day for the Power Ranger's but is rarely something I would have expected their "one chance" to be.

Go on check out those links.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

Top 5 Cover Versions

I love a good cover version, sometimes a great song can be given a whole new perspective and sometimes a shit one can be given a new lease of life.

1. "Have Love Will Travel" The Sonics original by Richard Berry - Mr Berry wrote a huge number of songs that ended up being bigger hits for other performers and this is possibly one of his most covered songs. There are loads of great versions out there but this one by The Sonics takes my breath away. A great fuzzed up rock sound that is hard to believe was recorded in 1965.

2. "Mercy Seat" Johnny Cash original by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Johnny Cash has a huge catalogue of wonderful cover versions especially those recorded in the last 10 years or so with Rick Rubin under the American Recordings banner. This is for me the stand out cover though. A cracking song about a man about to be fried in the electric chair, Cash's vocal actually makes you believe he is that man in the chair. Powerful stuff.

3. "The Model" Big Black original by Kraftwerk - Big Black are a noisy hardcore band from Chicago, Kraftwerk are an electronica act from Germany. It shouldn't work but it does.

4. "Pictures of Matchstick Men" Camper van Beethoven original by Status Quo - A psychedelic pop song that Francis Rossi wrote on the loo and became The Quo's first single. Camper van Beethoven turned it into an College Rock favourite and achieved their highest selling album.

5. "Colombian Necktie" The Charles Napiers original by Big Black - Big Black were hardly shrinking violets yet somehow, Britain's premier Mondo Wray instrumental combo, make it even heavier and louder.

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Top 5 Carry On films

I haven't had much time of late to update this. I'm going to try a bit harder to at least post once a week from now on.

Carry On films then, I'm always a bit surprised when I find out other people don't like them as much as I do. I guess that, much like Bond, I grew up with Carry On films and they caught me at an impressionable age before I could pick up my "cool gland". Actually, to be honest, I never did develop that "cool gland" which probably goes a long way to explaining many of my Top 5 choices. Anyway, Carry On films will always be, for me, a glorious institution, mining that rich vein of farce, puns and double entendres that is peculiarly British.

Here's my favourites;

1. Carry On Cabby (1963) - The first of the Carry On films written by Talbot Rothwell who was screenwriter throughout the "classic" period of the films. Hattie Jacques launches an all female Cab company to rival her husband's (Sid James) firm. Liz Fraser is one of many busty beautiful blonds. A glorious ending as hundreds of Cabs converge on a field to capture a group of crooks.

2. Carry On Up The Khyber (1968) - All the regulars now well and truly established, this is possibly the ultimate Carry On film. Kenneth Williams plays Rhandi Lal, the Khasi of Kalabar attempting to incite a rebellion against the the Devils in Skirts after Private Widdle (Charles Hawtrey) is found wearing underpants after an encounter with Bungdit Din (Bernard Bresslaw). This made the BFI's top 100 films in 1999. How can you not find this stuff funny?

3. Carry On Cleo (1964) - Another historical parody in which the Romans invade a wet and miserable Britain. Kenneth Williams (as Julius Caesar) does his stuff as various people attempt to kill him off, resulting in the famous "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!". Amanda Barry is gorgeous as Queen Cleopatra.

4. Carry On Camping (1969) - The film's tone is set early on when Sid takes his wife (Joan Simms), best pal (Bresslaw) and best pal's girlfriend (Dilys Laye) to see a film about nudist camping. Joan is not impressed "You told me this film was all about camping!" to which Sid replies "It is, those are tents aren't they?". Famous for the Barbara Windsor bra-popping scene on which she based her entire career.

5. Carry On Sergeant (1958) - The first Carry On film, and very different from the films made at it's zenith. A more subtle romantic comedy starring Bob Monkhouse and Shirley Eaton (of Goldfinger fame). Kenneth Williams did appear though he was only paid £800 for his role as James Bailey.

A footnote about Carry On Screaming which is reputed to be one of the best of the series. For one reason or another I've failed to see yet but as soon as I do I'll add an update to this list. Check out The Whippit Inn or the official Carry On site if you want to know more about the series.

Thursday 27 September 2007

Top 5 Albums that mean the most to me

This was a Top 5 suggestion from TFI (my favourite FFC message board!). The top 5 albums that had a big impact on your live. So not necessarily the greatest albums of all time (in some cases, maybe, not albums you'd care to admit liking) but ones that are evocative of particular times or events in your life. I've chosen albums that were flagships for my changing tastes and typically, since first doing this, I've already changed two entries. In chronological order;

1. Status Quo "From The Maker's Of ..." - Quo were the first "non-mainstream" band I got into and really set me on the path towards my current more eclectic musical tastes. I first heard them around the time of the "Back to Back" album, a more "melodic" even poppy record than previous releases. "FTMO" was a compilation covering the first 20 years of their career. It was the album that made me realise Quo weren't the happy jolly pop band I thought they might be and led me into new rockier territory that would eventually lead to METAL!!

2. Marillion "Misplaced Childhood" - As I was discovering the joys of Iron Maiden and religiously reading Kerrang! I chanced across a band that was completely out of step with the heavy rockers I was enjoying but still being talked about by the same group's of writers. It took me a while to but by the time "Misplaced Childhood" came out I had developed a major obsession with Marillion. They were the first band I saw live (Hammersmith Odeon of the Misplaced Childhood tour) and seeing a live band for the very first time radically changed my life.

3. Pixies "Bossanova" - Caused a major change in my attitude towards "indie" bands. My mate was at Uni in Aberystwyth and visits up to see him revealed an exciting lifestyle that I had missed out on by going straight from college to work. We went to the Reading Festival in 1988, camped out, all three days ... saw six bands. It was a cracking weekend. The Pixies were one of the six bands I saw and are now my all time favourite group. This was the album that first woke me up to them.

4. Nirvana "Nevermind" - Having been through my Thrash/Death/Speed Metal era the discovery of Nirvana though this album, and the Pixies as previously mentioned, began my move away from METAL! into other areas of music.

5. The Sonics "Psycho-Sonic" - Just when I thought I'd heard it all, my introduction to the Sonics opened my mind to a whole era of music I'd never really been aware of. They are so raw and wild I find it hard to believe they are a product of the early 60's. This is another compilation and probably includes everything you could ever want to hear by them. It's led the way for me into the podcasts and a list of another 100 bands I have to hear.

Saturday 15 September 2007

Top 5 Film Directors

Enough of the Football stuff then, its time for another biggy. I reckon if I was only allowed to watch the films made by these five (or six if you count Ethan) directors I'd still be pretty happy.

1. Quentin Tarantino

2. Joel & Ethan Coen

3. Ridley Scott

4. Martin Scorcese

5. Akira Kurosawa

Tarantino came crashing into my world with a late viewing of "Reservoir Dogs" at Richmond cinema. I'd never really seen anything quite like it before. Tarantino films are stamped all over with his personality; visceral action, lengthy dialogues and erratic timelines still make his films unlike anything else you're likely to see. Three of his films are in my all-time top ten ("Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction" & "Jackie Brown") and so is "True Romance" a film based on a QT screenplay but directed by Tony Scott (Brother of Ridley).

The Coen Brothers have also made a huge number of films (too many to list here) that I have really enjoyed. They manage to make films that still have the feel of an Independant release whilst working with all the benefits of the major studios. Like Tarantino, their dialogue is always good and the storylines unique.

If Ridley Scott had only directed "Blade Runner" it would probably have been enough to get him into my Top 5, that he was also responsible for "Alien", "Black Rain", "Thelma & Louise" and "Black Hawk Down" puts him in the legendary status for me. Scott does not have the distinctive styling of Tarantino or the Coen's, he's more of a traditional big screen Hollywood director, but unlike so many of his contemporary's he does his job well and rarely repeats himself. According to he also owns Shepperton Studios with his brother Tony, so we're kind of neighbours.

Although "The Godfather" is often considered the greatest gangster movie ever made, Scorcese is, in my opinion, the greatest gangster movie director. From "Mean Streets" to "The Departed" via "Goodfellas" and "Casino" he just knows how to create a good crime story. Add to those "Gangs of New York", "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" and you've got an amazing canon of work. Scorcese makes me feel like I've lived my whole life in New York.

I've not seen the entire output of Kurosawa's work, in fact I've only seen three of his films, but two of them were so incredible that I could not leave this inspirational director out. "Seven Samurai" is worth the effort it takes to sit through a four hour, black & white, subtitled epic. A really moving film that spawned so many imitators. "Ran" is just as epic in scope and even more spectacular. The third film "The Hidden Fortress", whilst not as fascinating a movie, can claim to have been a significant influence on the characters of R2D2 and C3PO in George Lucas' "Star Wars".

Friday 14 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Players I didn't see play

I went to my first match in 1979 so having missed the first 100 years of the club there are plenty of great players to choose from. The first four really picked themselves but the final choice took a bit of thinking about.

1. Johnny Haynes

2. George Cohen

3. George Best

4. Bobby Moore

5. Allan Clarke

There's not much more to add. Seeing Haynes play in the flesh would have been something special. TV footage of the time is limited and doesn't really do him justice, but his stats say it all 658 appearances, scoring 158 goals for Fulham and 56 appearances (including the '54, '58 & '62 World Cups) for England, 22 of which were as Captain, scoring 18 goals. My Dad occasionally tries to explain how good a player he was, able to see passes no one else could and execute them perfectly, but I would love to have seen him play with my own eyes.

George Cohen's career was cut short due to injury in 1969 a mere 3 years after he had helped England lift the World Cup. 459 appearances for Fulham, scoring 6 goals and 37 appearances for England. I'm sure he would have made the 1970 World Cup squad had he continued playing and who knows what he could have achieved.
I only missed George Best by a couple of seasons, and whilst he was not at his peak when he played for the Whites, it would have been a privilege to have seen one of the world's greatest players at Craven Cottage. He managed 42 appearances for us and scored 8 goals.

Like Best, Bobby Moore was also at the tail end of his career but probably made a bigger contribution to our history. Leading us to the F.A. Cup final in his first season at the club and making a total of 108 appearances in which he scored just once. Another world great at the Cottage.

Allan Clarke was probably the ultimate goal scorer, his career stats show an incredible number of goals per game. He joined us as a 19 year old from Walsall, and played for two seasons during which he scored 45 goals in 86 appearances. We sold him to First Division Leicester City for £150,000. He would of course go on to be a legend at Leeds United where he scored a stunning 151 goals in 273 appearances. What would you give for someone who could score like that now?

Thursday 13 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Goals

My memory for the details of games is actually shocking so there could well be some great goals I saw that I just don't remember. Kamara's overhead kick to equalise against Spurs is a recent contender, Louis Saha's against Newcastle another, and Sean O'Driscoll's goal direct from a corner against Newport County also memorable. However, I reckon the fact this lot have stuck in my head so firmly means they're worthy entrants. As always your welcome to add your own selection in the comments, that's the beauty of Top 5 lists, they're not supposed to be definitive just your favourite choices.

1. Gordon Davies from the left wing against Chesterfield (30th Jan 1982)

2. Simon Morgan header against Villa in Cup (23rd Jan 1999)

3. Rodney MacAree at Carlisle (5th April 1997)

4. "Super" Mick Conroy from the half way line at Wycombe (12th August 1997)

5. Kevin Moore equaliser against Walsall (13th August 1994)

I must have seen Gordon Davies score a hundred goals but I can't actually remember many of them. I guess Ivor was more of a "fox in the box" than a 40 yard man. This one has never left me though. A hoofed clearance from Roger Brown was latched onto by our Ivor who then shot from somewhere near the Stevenage Road byline right in front of the Cottage. It probably wasn't as far out as my memory would have me believe, but it was certainly not an angle from where you'd expect anyone to score. It shot past the Chesterfield 'keeper though and hit the back of the net, 1-0 Fulham, game over! A glorious goal.

The trip up to Villa Park for this 4th round F.A. Cup match was probably my first trip to a big ground with Fulham. I remember being stunned at how big the Holt End was and never believed we would get away with a win. Eight minutes in though and Simon Morgan rose to head home a Stevie Hayward free kick. I don't think I've ever seen Morgs get up so high and it was a real bullet header into the back of the net. Amazingly we went on to put in a really solid performance and after Stevie H had added a second just before half time, managed to defend our lead against the team that were then top of the Premier League.

OK, I have to admit I'm breaking my own rules here. I wasn't at Carlisle. I was with the three other guys I regular go to the football with at a mates stag do in London. None of us were best pleased with the timing but there was no choice to make. We bundled into a pub to try and catch news of the game and find out the Grand National result. The National had been cancelled but when news came through that we'd won 2-1 we were ecstatic. I couldn't have a top 5 list that didn't include this wonder volley from McAree, probably the most important goal in the history of the club so far. "Who put the ball in the Carlisle net? Rodney McAree!"

It was a first round league cup match, but Wycombe wasn't too far away and ground we'd never been to before. There'd been some chaos getting into the ground at the start and we'd ended up down the side in with a mixture of Fulham and Wycombe fans. Half the Fulham squad, including Kit Symons, were sitting behind us as well. It was a quiet sort of game, we weren't expecting too much as the teams trooped off at half time with the scores tied at 1-1. Then it happened. "Super" Mick Conroy controlled the ball in the centre circle, and then shot. "What the hell are you do ...? Oh my G ... GOOOOOAAALLLLLLLLL!!!". An unbelievable strike, I never thought it was likely to be even close but back then "Super" Mick could do no wrong. It wasn't quite from the half way line but it was near as damn it, and why should we let the facts get in the way of a good song.

My final choice is unlikely to be a goal many people remember. It was our first home match in the basement division, I had taken a philosophical view to relegation the previous season believing we could waltz the league title and re-establish ourselves once again. However, the stark reality of live at the bottom did not take long to hit home. The game was a fairly even affair but Walsall had taken the lead in the first half through Kyle Lightbourne. Attacking the Hammy End in the second half we just couldn't quite find the cutting edge to pull one back, until, in the final minutes, new signing Kevin Moore rose to head home a corner. I celebrated this goal like no other, the emotion of relegation and 15 years of steady decline had built up to the point where I actually shed tears of joy. Of course in the end it would get worse before it got better, but right then it seemed that we had finally turned the corner.

Wednesday 12 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Kits

A club's kit is often intrinsically linked to a particular era of football history, and sometimes a specific player (the Black away kit of 2003/04 will always be the unlucky "Steve Marlet kit" to me). These are my favourite five Fulham kits to date. Check out for pictures of these and every Fulham home kit since 1886.

1. 1999-2001 Home Kit (Adidas)

2. 1975-1977 FA Cup Final Kit (Umbro)

3. 1981-1983 Home Kit (Oscar)

4. 1993-1994 Away Kit (Vandanel)

5. 1952-1963 Home Kit

The vogue for adults buying football shirts really only started in the 90's, and so despite the fact that four of my top five kits are white the 1999/2001 Home Kit was the first white shirt I had bought since my Mum & Dad had bought a polyester replica Adidas top for me when I was about 12. I really liked this kit, it had a feeling of quality about it and was different to previous Fulham shirts whilst still looking quite traditional. Even a season under Paul Bracewell did little to dampen my enthusiasm and when Tigana arrived it got the chance to claim it's place amongst our most successful kits by seeing the team win the League and gain promotion to the Premier League. Player I most associate with it: Stan Collymore.

The kit we wore for our only F.A. Cup final appearance (to date) and then for the two subsequent seasons was possibly the first time we had deviated from a plain white shirt. The black collar and cuffs gave it a bit of seventies style and the "retro" FFC logo has remained popular ever since. Player I most associate with it: George Best.

This was the kit the MacDonald team wore as we won promotion back to Division 2 and then almost Division 1 the following season. Made by previously unheard of Oscar, this kit saw the addition of black eppilettes and was just as smart in the red away flavour. Oscar produced one more kit for the club in 1983/84 before disappearing completely from the kit manufacturing scene. Player I most associate with it: Ray Houghton.

I'm not sure I've got the year right but I'm sure I remember wearing this on that long trip down to Swansea to see us finally drop into the lowest league. It was the first of a series of red & black away kits that took their inspiration from the 1975 "A.C. Milan" away kit. Player I most associate with it: Gary Brazil

Really our kit hardly changed at all from 1903 right up to 1975, the reason I've singled out this period is that it was probably our "Golden Era" and for several of these seasons we wore some fancy stripey socks. The Historical Football Kits website has the stripey socks down as 1955-56 and 1959-61, so maybe they are correct, but scanning through the Turner & Coton book "Fulham - The Team" suggests players were less concerned with wearing matching socks back then. Anyway I'm basically saying I like the plain white shirt and this season's Nike version is just as good and could be a future Top 5 contender. We've not worn a completely plain white shirt since 1975 so it was due a return. Player I most associate with it: Johnny Haynes

Somehow I've failed to include any of the numerous away kits I have bought nor the 1977-1980 kit that was the first one I saw the team play in. That was a classic Adidas kit with black collars and the famous three stripes. I was maybe slightly put of it at the time thanks to that kit my Mum & Dad bought me as a 12 year old. My kit was always slightly too small, was made of a horrible polyester mix that was never nice to put on and had a badge that was a dodgy transfer which started to come of after a couple of washes. I wore it religiously to football training though, until eventually I had to accept it really was too small. Looking back it was a great kit as well but for now sits just outside my Top 5.

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Matches

The best five Fulham matches I can remember attending.

1. Portsmouth 4 Fulham 4 (1st Jan 1985 at Fratton Park)

2. Fulham 7 Swansea 0 (11th Nov 1995 FA Cup 1st round at Craven Cottage)

3. Fulham 1 Lincoln 1 (18th May 1982 promotion clincher at Craven Cottage)

4. Fulham 3 Spurs 2 (11th Sep 2002 at Loftus Road)

5. Fulham 4 Stockport Co. 1 (26th August 2000 at Craven Cottage)

A New Year's Day trip to a windy Fratton Park and the most amazing game of football I have ever seen. Within the first 15 minutes we had already lost Robert Wilson to injury and had seen a Pompey goal disallowed for offside. Less than 10 minutes later and we were 3 goals down. Pompey added a forth thanks to Jeff Hopkins (never my favourite player) attempting a clearance that only managed to smash into Alan Biley's face before looping back over a stranded Jim Stannard and finding the back of the net. 4-0 down at half time and nobody in the away enclosure really believed we were going to win the game. As the Whites trotted out for the second half though the away end sang loud and clear determined to make the most of a Bank Holiday afternoon out. With the wind in our favour we made a great start scoring the first goal two minutes into the second half. Coney reaching a far post cross from Ray Lewington. "We're gonna win 5-4" we sang hilariously - as if! Then we added two more in three minutes and suddenly, with 15 minutes still to play, realised we actually could win. Pompey fought desperately to stem the tide and for a while it looked like our hopes would be dashed. Hopkins headed a Portsmouth free kick into our own net but miraculously we got a reprieve as the Ref ordered the free kick retaken. In the final minute Cliffy Carr surged forward and was brought down in the box. Kevin Lock stepped up, right in front of the away crowd, incredible pressure but Locky was always the consummate penalty taker and he slotted it away to level the match at 4-4. The away end erupted in joy and as the final whistle blew we knew we'd seen something spectacular. Even being held back for 1/2 hour after the game did not dampen our spirits, in fact if anything we were happy for a bit of extra time to bask in the glory of the greatest Fulham comeback of all time.

Quite often victories by big scorelines don't make for great games. Its all too one sided and there's no edge to the game. This F.A. Cup success was something different though. We weren't having the best of times and Swansea were doing well in the division above us. We took the lead after just two minutes, Nick Cusack flicking on a Tony Lange goal kick for "Super" Mick Conroy to fire home. Conroy got his second after 16 minutes before Lea Barkus had to leave the field to be replaced by Paul Brooker making his Fulham debut. We added a third within the first half hour as Duncan Jupp shot home after a Gary Brazil corner. I remember being slightly concerned that we may lose our momentum having lost Barkus, Brooker however, turned in one of the greatest debut performances I have ever seen. In the second half he ripped Swansea apart time and time again and by the end of the game I genuinely believed we had a new Fulham hero in the making. Conroy completed his hatrick, before Cusack and Brooker made it six. Martin Thomas then completed the rout with a cracking volley from a Robbie Herrera cross. At the time this was the biggest-ever defeat of a club from a higher division in the history of the F.A. Cup.

A crunch match which could have seen either team claim a promotion spot. It was a dark and misty old night with a big crowd of around 20,000. We struggled to find our rhythm, and Lincoln looked by far the better team. Then "Big" Roger Brown came crashing in with a header to take the lead and we were back in the driving seat. Lincoln pulled one back with around a quarter of an hour remaining, but we held on and the point was enough to confirm our promotion back to the 2nd division. As the final whistle blew the pitch was swamped by supporters, who carried the players from the field. We stayed to see the team come out onto the Cottage balcony to soak up the cheers and applause, a great night, my first promotion season and one I will never forget.

Another cracking Fulham come back, and THE game I think of when I remember our years at Loftus Road. 2-0 down, having lost Saha early on to injury and not looking that impressive, we came out for the second half a different team. Inamoto scored on 68 minutes to give us hope before Malbranque slotted home a penalty, with about 5 minutes left, to level the scores. Having pulled it back to 2-2 no one could have complained, but then Sylvain Legwinski raced onto a through ball and fired home an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the goal to make it 3-2. It was just about the last kick of the game and we went home unable to stop smiling.

This was the game when I realised exactly how good we were under Tigana. I'd missed a few of the early games that season due to the birth of my first son in May and I think this might have been the first chance I had had to see the team for real. We were so good that I actually felt sorry for Stockport. They couldn't get the ball of us, we just passed them to death and how they ended up on the scoresheet I have no idea. We probably could have won by many more but this was as impressive display as I have ever seen from a Fulham team. It would go on to be one of our greatest seasons and eventually see us achieve Premier League status for the first time.

Incidentally in case you are wondering about some obvious games not included in this Top 5 here's a few great games that I missed; Carlisle 1 FFC 2 (5th April 1997), Blackburn 1 FFC 2 (11th April 2001), FFC 1 Sheff. Weds 1 (16th April 2001), FFC 2 Liverpool 0 (22nd Oct 2005), FFC 1 Chavs 0 (19th Mar 2006) and FFC 2 Arsenal 1 (29th Nov 2006).

Sunday 9 September 2007

Top 5 Fulham Players I have seen

These are my favourite Fulham players that I actually saw play. Not necessarily the greatest to have pulled on a white shirt but the ones that I enjoyed watching the most.

1. Gordon Davies

2. Steed Malbranque

3. Ray Houghton

4. Simon Morgan

5. Louis Saha

Gordon "Ivor" Davies was my first and greatest Fulham hero. He scored twice in my first ever match, and went on to become Fulham's all time leading goalscorer. During his two spells at the club you just got used to the fact that Ivor would probably score. After he finally hung up his boots it was a very long time before we found someone who could score goals as often as he did. In fact we never really did.

Steed may have left under a bit of a cloud, but for five seasons he left me spellbound with his wizardry and work ethic. He brought a joy of playing to our team. Initially under Tigana he played his part in a team that could all play football the way it should be played, and eventually under Coleman he was the star man, the driving force behind a team of more workman like cloggers.

Much like Steed, Ray Houghton was the creative spark behind the MacDonald team of the 80's. A team made up of promising youngsters and a few old heads that went to the brink of the top division before spiralling back down again as the key players were sold. Signed for free from West Ham, Houghton was a bundle of energy, and played a starring role in our epic series of games against Liverpool in the League Cup. Having been sold to Oxford he got to claim a League Cup winner's medal (beating QPR 3-0 in the final and scoring the final goal). Having played for several seasons in a very successful Liverpool team he then moved to Aston Villa and during the 1994 World Cup scored his most memorable goal as the Republic of Ireland beat Italy 1-0.

The 90's was a grim time to be a Fulham supporter. Having spent a couple of years away from football, my return saw a team I didn't recognise. No one stood out and we were frankly appalling. As I got more games under my belt one player did start to set himself apart from the rest. Morgs gave 100% in every game, he worked his socks of and whilst he didn't look the greatest I appreciated the effort. However, as our fortunes slowly changed, and new managers came and went, it turned out Morgs really could play. Under Micky Adams he drove the team on, moaning at every contentious decision but putting his all into every performance. Having joined a team expecting a return to 2nd tier football, he ended up Captaining the side that dropped into the 4th tier. It's a testament to his character that he stuck with us through those dark days and saw us back in the 2nd tier and on the brink of the 1st before his knees could take no more.

Another "black sheep" of the Fulham family, Louis Saha arrived from Metz with no great reputation to boast about. A short loan spell at Newcastle had not impressed anyone, but under Tigana's guidance and playing in a team that was all about style, Saha flourished. Our top scorer in the team that won the Championship, he continued to impress in the Premier League. Two goals in our first match, a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford, may have sealed his fate as far as we were concerned, but we did get to watch his style and goalscoring for a couple of seasons before he left us for "better things" and provided us with £12m which was just enough to offset the £11m we had wasted on Steve Marlet and ensure our return to Craven Cottage.

Friday 24 August 2007

Top 5 Gig Venues

Haven't done one of these for a while so having been to a cracking gig last night thought I'd do a nice easy one to get things going again.

1. Brighton Concorde 2

2. The Garage

3. Brixton Academy

4. (Old) Mean Fiddler

5. The 100 Club

Despite being some 60 miles away from home the Concorde 2 is remarkably easy to get to. Door to door in a little over an hour and I can park within 50 yards of the door. A converted sea front shelter within spitting distance of the beach, the C2 is a nice blend of historic building and contemporary refurbishments. The pillars down the right hand side can obstruct your view a bit if you end up on that side, but also give you a route to get nearer the front. Been twice so far this year, last nights corking "secret" show from Bloc Party and a simply dazzling performance from Breaks in June.

There's something about The Garage that has usually led me to consume vast amounts of alcohol whenever I go. The down side of this is I'm then really keen to stay for the after-gig disco and forget the consequences of finding yourself in North London at 2 in the morning trying to get back to the suburbs. The stage gives you a bizarre "widescreen" view of the bands due to the low dance floor ceiling, but easy access to the front can be gained thanks to the "toilet route" that runs to the front left of the stage. Great gigs I have seen hear include The Dirtbombs, The Soledad Brothers, Forward Russia (possibly hottest gig I ever been at) and the stunning Lightning Bolt show played from the middle of the dance floor instead of the stage.

Despite being in Brixton, the Academy is still a really good venue. Again there's good access down the front if you feel the need and the crowd barriers do an excellent job of ensuring when you do get down there you don't die! Seen a lot of great gigs here the ones that spring to mind are Faith No More in 1990, The White Stripes in 2003, the Pixies in 2004 and back to back gigs from Bloc Party and the Kaiser Chiefs in 2005. One positive about Brixton is my recent discovery (thanks Al!) of Speedy Noodles, a grotty little noodle bar down the Brixton Road, cheap food before or after the gig and they sell beer too. If you can cope with the occasional nutter passing by this is worth a visit.

The old Mean Fiddler was the one in Harlesden (another lovely part of London and probably the only place I have seen a MacDonald's with protective screening between customers and employees!), another bugger to get to unless you drove but well worth the trip. It had a very odd layout with a very small dance floor area but lots of bar space, and lots of odd spots where you could get a good view of the stage. They also served a really good pint of Guiness and I was very sad when they closed down and moved to the current Charing Cross Road location (which, I have just found out, is about to become the Astoria 2 again).

Final entry but one that could climb fast is the historic 100 club. I've only been to one gig here, a top night which saw The Futureheads supporting The Kills, but if I get along to a few more it could definitely claim the top spot. It's a venue steeped in history and there's something about the red walls, pictures of Jazz greats and the huge 100 Club letters that send a tingle down your spine. It has the feel of a proper working man's club and does not appear to have changed a great deal from it's 50's and 60's heyday. The other big selling point for me was they have a proper bar with a good selection of beer (including real ale's) and the staff were really friendly and helpful.

Sunday 12 August 2007

Top 5 Things I have bought

These are the top 5 things I have bought. They have to varying degrees provided me only with pleasure. They have not required that I go back to the shop and complain and they have not left me with that nagging doubt that I could have got a better deal or should have bought something different instead.

1. Engagement Ring

2. Apple 20GB iPod

3. Fulham Season Ticket

4. Canon Ixus II Digital Camera

5. Pure Digital Radio

Yes. OK. I am a chicken. Jane doesn't really know about the fact I'm writing this blog, she's giving me enough grief about the Fulham one, but she will inevitably find out soon and when she does I am not a brave enough man to put the engagement ring anywhere other than first on this list. It is almost certainly the single most expensive item I have ever bought that didn't require a mortgage or loan to pay for. It is a single square diamond which we got from Swag in Richmond back in ... er ... 1992, I think. It is perfect in every sense and despite it costing a fair penny back then I have never for one minute regretted buying it. The fact that it took us another 7 years before we finally got married meant that little ring probably earned its keep by remaining as a shining reminder that we were committed to each other, and it's still a beautiful peace of jewellery.

My iPod is wonderful. I don't care what people say about other MP3 players, the iPod is cool. It's white. It's got a cool click wheel. It's shiny on the back. I got my 20GB pod direct from Apple about two years ago. 20GB is a lot of music, though mine tends to stay consistently around the 16GB mark. It's more CD's than you could ever take on holiday with you, and lets me take all my favourite albums with me wherever I go. I've had no problems (touch wood) with the battery life and use it nearly every day. The shuffle facility has opened up whole areas of my music collection I had long forgotten (it's like listening to Radio Chop which only ever plays really great music). It occasionally displays an unnerving level of sentience, "Hello Dave .. today I am playing you a selection of New York Punk, later though we might try some soundtrack music". Though at other times the contrast of Folk followed by Garage Rock followed by Indie works just as well.

I bought my first Fulham season ticket in 1996, Micky Adams had just taken over as manager of the club and there was an air of optimism about the future. Previously the four of us who went regularly had found it just as easy to turn up when we wanted, but as the team improved and eventually rose through the divisions, we realised we were going to nearly every game anyway and a season ticket made more sense. It makes you feel a bigger part of the club, and also ensures that you are there for all the good games whereas when you pick and choose you nearly always go to the worst games. Having made the Premier League and enjoyed a couple of seasons in the top flight, the financial reality of supporting two children began to tell and I had to drop the ever more expensive season ticket. This coming year Fulham have made an unbelievably good offer for Season tickets in the part of the ground I normally sit so I am once more going to be a full ticket holder. I can't wait.

My digital camera is a Canon Ixus II. It's a 3.2 mega pixel camera with a 1GB SD memory card. It's shiny and silver. It's very small. It may not compare with the current cameras on the market and I might well buy a new one in the next couple of years, but I have been very happy with my Canon.

I had admired the Pure digital radios from afar for a long time. I first saw one at a party in Reigate and was struck by it's retro styling with wooden trim which looked great and nicey understates the level of technology involved. I kept an eye on the price for a long time. They stayed the same. Hardly dropped a penny. Then we bought one for my Mum and Dad. It looked nice and they seemed to like it. We didn't really need one though. The price still didn't drop. Eventually we just caved in and bought one anyway. An Evoke XT1 in beech. It is, much like the iPod, both beautiful and reliable.

Thursday 9 August 2007

Top 5 Avengers Ladies

Ba-ba-baa-bah, da-da-daa-dah. Dum dum dum dum dum dum double-dum, dum dum dum dum dum dum double-dum. Still with me? The Avengers was classic British television at its best, mixing 60's spy drama with science fiction elements, it was a show that never failed to deliver. Steed was the focal point throughout (even in that first series in which he was not officially the lead role) but it was the ladies that really defined each era.

1. Emma Peel (Diana Rigg)

2. Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman)

3. Purdey (Joanna Lumley)

4. Tara King (Linda Thorson)

5. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman)

The original show ran for six series between 1961 and 1969, so all my viewing was based on repeat showings. It was Diana Rigg, therefore, who was the first Avengers lady I ever saw, and she was pretty much single handedly responsible for me watching it from then on. During those two series I was entranced by Rigg's beauty and confidence. The chemistry between her and Patrick Macnee was palpable and the show at the point found all elements combine to achieve the perfect drama.

Whilst Honor Blackman should take some credit for defining the blueprint for Mrs Peel, she did not provide the same underlying level of sexual tension. She is good though and whilst I've not seen as many of the series she starred in the ones I have seen are very watchable. The story that part of her characters style was a result of her performing lines originally written for Ian Hendry show that it's not always by design that a TV show hits the mark. I was 8 when The New Avengers came along and only rarely allowed to stay up and watch it. I must have seen the Peel episodes by that time as I remember being disappointed with it in comparison. It also failed to compete with the raucous excitement of The Professionals which was grabbing my attention around the same time. The one bright point of The New Avengers though was Joanna Lumley, a woman who would later make me stay up half the night with the prospect that she might strip for Children In Need (this was before the internet remember, you had to get your thrills where you could!).

I only discovered the Tara King shows when Channel Four ran a repeat in the late 80's. These shows were surprisingly good once I'd got used to Thorson's less confident style. Finding a 5th lady for this was always going to be tricky. There are a few (Carol Wilson a receptionist in the first series and Venus Smith who appeared in six episodes of the first "Cathy Gale" series) but I've not seen enough (if any) of them to really let them count. Emma Peel, therefore, gets a second spot in the list thanks to Uma Thurman's portrayal in the truly execrable Avengers Film. Uma certainly looks the part in her leather cat suit and is as feisty and capable as a Mrs Peel should be, but she's not a patch on Dame Diana so really only makes the list by default.

Monday 6 August 2007

Top 5 Words I Frequently Mispell (sic)

I am ashamed to say my spelling is atrocious. Without a decent spell checker my blog's would undoubtedly be littered with misspellings and typos. I still rely on those old strategies taught at school to deal with certain words; Wed-nes-day, B-e-a-u-tiful and Bus-i-ness being particular favourites. However there are other words that have alluded my brain's capacity to cope with for so long I doubt I will ever avoid them.

1. Definitely

2. Whether

3. Lettuce

4. Twelfth

5. Disappointed

Definitely should definitely be spelt definately. I am sure in this one case I am right and the rest of the world in error. This one is stuck so solidly in my psyche that I don't recognise it as being wrong unless a spell checker picks it up, and even then I question whether the spell checker is not working on some flawed U.S. based version.

My difficulties with whether stem mainly from my geography studies. The introduction of weathering somehow introduced into my brain a previously unheard of third variation of the word spelt wether. My strategy for avoiding this one is to remember that there are actually only two variations and if I'm not talking about the rain or the sun then I need to add an 'H'.

Lettuce is not a word you have to write down very often, in fact I'm almost certain the only time I do it's on my shopping list. For some unexplained reason I feel the overwhelming need to add an 'A' and so for a long time ended up with the version 'lettauce'. My wife was quick to point out the error of my ways and I have now managed to improve my spelling in a slight, but still completely incorrect manner, so that my shopping lists now read 'lettace'.

Twelfth has long been a struggle. I think mainly it's the confusion between having a 'v' in the standard version (i.e. twelve) which then becomes completely redundant in the ordinal version.

Disappointed is just one of those words which you suspect has far too many double constants. For ages I have spelt it dissappointed, which I then adapt to dissapointed as I think I've spotted it's evil trick. Thank heavens for spell checkers they really have contributed to the well being of the world!

Irony of ironies - turns out I can't spell misspell either. I've left it in the title as a stark reminder to myself that sometimes there are areas that even spell checkers fear to tread.

Friday 3 August 2007

Top 5 Football teams other than Fulham

Yes, I might get mullered for this depending who reads it but I do have to admit to having a soft spot for some other Football teams other than Fulham.

1. Kingstonian

2. Arsenal

3. Hibernian

4. Brighton & Hove Albion

5. Whatever team Mickey Adams is involved with (currently Colchester United)

Kingstonian - I was born in Kingston and everyone has to have a non-league team don't they? Really caught interest when they did quite well a few years back and culminated in them reaching the Conference. I actually saw them play at Wembley (they won the F.A. Trophy 1-0 against Forest Green Rovers) which is more than I've managed with Fulham. They've fallen on harder times more recently but I still keep an eye out for their results.

Arsenal - They played in the first two F.A. Cups that I really remember watching and I was also lured in further when collecting my first Panini sticker album. Lost a lot of my interest when Willie Young viciously scythed down little Paul Allen in the 1980 Cup Final, but then regained my interest when Mr Wenger turned them into one of the most attractive teams I had ever seen. Oh, and I read Fever Pitch about then too. All this has resulted (in some unconscious way) to my eldest, Ben, becoming a Arsenal supporter. At four he was already taking a big interest in Football and wanted to follow a team, with red being his favourite colour I could see him being drawn to the perils of Man Utd and Liverpool so had to take action. I never realised that it would stick quite so solidly. Damn, if only I'd thought of Charlton!

Hibernian - My Scottish team. Mainly a result of George Best moving on to play for them after he'd left Fulham. Been up to Easter Road to see them play, managing through some fluke of luck to get a ticket for the Edinburgh derby against Hearts about 1/2 hour before kick off.

Brighton & Hove Albion - Partly a result of No. 5 (see below) and the numbers of ex-Fulham that have played for them recently. Also always enjoyed the trip down there and like the fact they are sponsored by Skint (a Brighton record company) which must be the most appropriate sponsor in all football.

Colchester United - Micky Adams deserves so much credit for turning around Fulham, and I really believed he was going to go on and be a big success in management. Hasn't turned out that way so far but you never know. Last year it was Coventry this year he's first team coach at Colchester. Come on you U's.

A quick mention for West Ham United who would almost certainly have made this list prior to Tevez-gate. I've already covered my interest in the Hammers in my post about how I became a Fulham fan on The Hammy End Chronicle but as it stands, and partly due to the Premier League's bungling, I don't feel much sympathy for them at all.

Thursday 2 August 2007

Top 5 TV shows I liked as a child

We're pretty much talking the early seventies here and TV shows that made a lasting impression on me. Interestingly I think all of these were aired on BBC. I have long held the opinion that ITV is rubbish and all really good telly is only ever shown on BBC or Channel 4 (which wasn't on when I was little) so today's poll (and in fact my earlier one about Quiz shows) would seem to bear this out.

1. Mr Benn

2. Camberwick Green

3. Wacky Races

4. Bod

5. Bagpuss

Mr Benn - They only made 13 episodes of this but every single one is solid gold. Written and based on the illustrations of David McKee, Mr Benn was both beautifully drawn and beautifully told. Mr Benn lived at number 52 Festive Road, the place where every show began and ended, and this was apparently based on Festing Road in Putney where David McKee used to live. It was also narrated by (famous Fulham fan) Ray Brooks. A new book "Gladiator" was published in the 90's (and is a favourite story of both my boys) and this has subsequently been turned into the 14th TV episode.

Camberwick Green - This is really an idealised view of what it was (and should be) like to live in Britain. A lovely little picturesque village with no crime and friendly people helping each other out. Nothing particularly amazing ever happens just nice little stories. Succeeded by "Trumpton", which introduced the Fire Brigade with their "Pugh! Pugh! Barney McGrew! Cuthbert! Dibble! Grubb!" roll call, and "Chigley", which had the 6 o'clock whistle at Cresswell's Chigley Biscuit factory to mark the end of the working day. Also made "cool" by 80's indie band Half Man Half Biscuit writing two songs based on the shows.

Wacky Races - Hanna-Barbera were responsible for some great cartoons, but this was the first one I remember watching on a regular basis. Eleven different cars race against each other in two races each episode. Dick Dastardly and Muttley in their Mean Machine being the only racers to never win a race.

Bod - Narrated by the immaculate John Le Mesurier with music by the multi-talented Derek Griffiths. It also featured a frankly bizarre interlude from Alberto Frog and his Amazing Animal Band every week. This always ended with Alberto choosing a different flavour of milkshake as his reward for solving a problem. The theme tune is forever stuck in my head.

Bagpuss - "Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, Old Fat Furry Catpuss, Wake up and look at this thing that I bring". Created and voiced by Oliver Postgate, who was also creator of "Noggin the Nog", "Ivor the Engine" and "The Clangers". One of my favourite parts involved "The Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ" and it's mice that sang in high pitched voices about fixing and mending whatever had been brought into the shop that week.

Ah, happy days.

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Top 5 Alcoholic Beverages

My alcohol preferences seem to change every five years or so, as a youngster I was a big Cider fan but that ended suddenly and in predictable circumstances. Hope this isn't going to sound like I'm an alcoholic, my opportunities for actually going out and drinking are few and far between, but when I get the chance I do enjoy it!

1. Kronenburg 1664

2. Guinness

3. Bombay Sapphire Gin (& Tonic)

4. Red Wine

5. Traditional English Ale (T.E.A.)

So currently I am still a lager fan and for me Kroney is the top dog. Stella's OK for the odd bottle at home, but try drinking it on a serious night out and your going to regret it. I have had a couple of "incidents" with Stella which I don't plan on repeating. Stella is also the only drink that can give me a hangover before the end of the evening. I prefer the taste of Kroney and generally the next day is not as bad. Guinness was my long held favourite drink and I still enjoy the odd pint, however, once you've drunk Guinness in Ireland it's never quite the same anywhere else again. I also need to make a point here about the current fad for "extra cold" Guinness. What is the point of that? It's quite cold enough already thank you very much and on the rare occasion that I'm forced to relent and accept an "extra cold" one I can't tell the bloody difference anyway! Pah! Stupid marketing people involved there I reckon.

The rise of "a nice gin & tonic" in my list must surely be a sign that I'm getting older. I don't think I'd even have thought of trying this before I was 30. In a big tall glass with some ice and a slice of lemon it's fantastic, kind of like Alcopops for grown ups. Blue Sapphire is great partly because it is blue (well the bottle is) and partly because it is slightly stronger than Beefeater. Though I like Beefeater a lot as well so it's probably mainly because it's blue. My love of red wine is another sign of my maturing taste buds. I used to only drink white wine (a bit of Blue Nun with some lemonade when I was 12 or 13!) but now have completely reversed that choice. You'll notice this is the only entry in which I've not named a specific brand. That's because as far as wine is concerned I'm a philistine. If it's red and wet it'll do fine thanks. I really wish I knew more about wine and could discuss the various merits of different types, but I tend to drink it, enjoy it and forget what is was called. I do know that I like a decent Pinot Noir (especially a good New Zealand one), and also like a lot of Merlot's but that's about as far as my knowledge goes.

The final entry goes to Traditional English Ale, a real ale brewed by the independent Hog's Back Brewery from Surrey. I've recently been making an attempt to get back into Real Ale and T.E.A. has been one of my best discoveries so far. The problem with real ale is finding a pub that actually serves it (or at least knows how to look after it) especially when, as a parent, my trips to the pub tend to be limited to a fairly small locality (i.e. Friday lunchtimes at work and the occasional Saturday evening with my mates)

Tuesday 31 July 2007

Top 5 Comedy Quiz Shows

OK this is a bit of an odd subject I know. With two young boys generally dominating what we watch on TV and the fact that I'm usually too tired to stay up and watch anything I'd actually want to see, I tend to find most TV I watch these days is just what happens to be on when I'm in the room. To this end I have found a fondness for a number of TV shows that I wouldn't usually have passed the time of day for.

1. Q.I.

2. Would I Lie To You

3. Never Mind The Buzzcocks

4. Have I Got News For You

5. Annually Retentive

Q.I. - Can you see what they've done there? Quite Interesting is chaired by the eminently watchable Stephen Fry and is both extremely funny and ... quite interesting. I love trivia and this program is full of it. Fry displays a passion for the subject and a depth of knowledge that I am sure does not just come from having decent researchers. Alan Davis is the only regular panellist but his anti-intelligent approach to the show complements Fry's gentle quips perfectly.

Would I Lie To You - Possibly much higher than it deserves to be but the main reason for this is the involvement of David Mitchell. There are not many programs that I will actually laugh out loud while watching but this is one. Mitchell really makes me laugh. A lot. Lee Mack is also a suitable foil for Mitchell and Angus Deaton has found himself a role in which he can exactly replicate his performance as HIGNFY host without making the BBC look bad for taking him off the show in the first place.

Never Mind The Buzzcocks - Well it's about music so it's bound to work for me anyway. I'm also a big fan of Mark Lamarr so when it first aired it was essential viewing. It definitely started to flag towards the end of Lamarr's spell though so I was very surprised when Simon Amstell took over and actually made it better. He's probably over stepped the mark a few times but there's not much funnier than seeing a big headed rock star fail to see the funny side of a particularly cutting remark.

Have I Got News For You - This seems like its been on telly almost as long as the Simpsons. I kind of take it for granted these days and don't watch that regularly, but whenever I do I am amazed that it is still hitting the mark. The introduction of guest hosts each week has probably helped keep it fresh and put's Merton and Hislop firmly in control of the humour.

Annually Retentive - A comedy quiz show about the filming of a comedy quiz show. Brilliant. Rob Brydon is perfect as the self obsessed host and the cutting between the "real show" and behind the scenes really works. There's added value from the inclusion of, my current favourite comedian, Dave Gorman as a regular panelist.

Monday 30 July 2007

Top 5 Albums

Time to go for a really big topic then. My Top five favourite albums of all time. This is the sort of subject I could probably publish a slightly different list for every month, but for now here's my current Top five.

1. "Surfer Rosa" - Pixies

2. "Ramones" - Ramones

3. "Nevermind" - Nirvana

4. "Out of Time" - R.E.M.

5. "The Undertones" - The Undertones

The problem with a topic as big as this is overcoming your desire to show how ecclectic and broad ranging your tastes are whilst actually still picking five albums you actually do really like. I'm pretty happy with this list. The Pixies could easily claim all five positions I like them that much. Surfer Rosa is their debut full length album and is pretty much the perfect example of everything that was great about the band. Its also produced by Steve Albini which is always a good indication that an album is going to be good (Hmm future topic - Top 5 record producers).

I have been a relatively recent convert to the Ramones, but this album (again their debut) has rocketed to the top of my favourites list. It's a perfect album, fourteen tracks every single one as good as the last. Their sound obviously didn't change a great deal from then on but if you only own one Ramones album then this is the one to have, they never got it as perfect again.

I agonised a little over the inclusion of Nevermind, "is it a little too obvious?" I thought, I really like In Utero (also produced by Albini by the way) and their debut Bleach, maybe one of those were more deserving? Then I played Nevermind again just to check. Well, there's no competition it is a genuinely great LP. I think I suffer a bit from over familiarality with music and generally choose to play music that's newer over music I used to love. This one's still got it though an amazing piece of rock.

Talking of over familiarality "Out of Time" is another. I almost feel guilty for still liking this as much as I do. It was the big breakthrough album for R.E.M. (and the first one I heard). Subsequently they realised "Automatic for the People" a widely regarded career highlight, and previously they had stayed truer to their indie roots with "Murmur" and "Document" being particularly good. However, in the summer of 1991 I played this constantly. I love the variety of musical styles and the expanse of ideas, and more importantly I know it inside out. From the KRS-1 rap in "Radio Song", through Kate Pierson's gorgeous backing vocals in "Shiny Happy People", to the Americana of "Country Feedback" it's still an album with surprises and delights enclosed within.

The Undertones is the third debut album in the list and much like Ramones is packed full of fantastic tunes. I went to see the band play a few years back in a small club in Islington. Fergal Sharkey had long since detached himself from the band and showed no interest it getting involved again when asked so his place had been filled by a new guy. Despite Sharkey's obvious importance to their sound, his voice still has a unique quality about it, I really didn't notice his absence. It was a great night in which they played so many of these songs and what stood out was that the songwriting shines through and they still sound as good now as they did in 1979.

Sunday 29 July 2007

Top 5 Bonds

It is an exceedingly quiet Sunday so might as well get another Top 5 up and running with another easy topic. My top five James Bond's.

1. Sean Connery

2. George Lazenby

3. Pierce Brosnan

4. Roger Moore

5. Daniel Craig

Sean Connery - Well he is Bond. Whilst Moore was the big screen Bond for most of the time I was growing up, Connery had already staked his rightful claim to the role by being on the telly every Christmas. The Connery movies seem to be closest to the Ian Fleming books, a classic sixties British spy thriller. For me Connery is the perfect Bond and everyone else are just reaching for second place.

George Lazenby - Yes he only made one film, but it was a good one. It had Diana Rigg in it and that gorgeous end theme by Louis Armstrong. I suspect if Lazenby had gone on to make more films his stock with me might have slipped but from my point of view George was the closest Bond to Connery's version and therefore deserves this lofty position.

Pierce Brosnan - I remember when he was playing Remington Steel I was appalled at the suggestion that he might play Bond. In his place I think Timothy Dalton stepped in and in doing so became the worst Bond of all time. When Brosnan finally did get his chance it heralded and fresh start for Bond and I was excited about the prospect of going to watch a Bond film in the cinema once more. He has one blot on his copy book which is the appalling "Die Another Day" but I'm prepared to let him off that for now.

Roger Moore - My best friend and I used to argue over who was the best Bond. I, obviously, thought Sean Connery whilst he argued the case for Roger Moore. My best put down to this was that in my view Roger Moore was only the 3rd best Bond. With the passage of time he's now slipped to 4th - sorry DB. Actually Roger made some of the best Bond movies so I am probably being too harsh on him but the feeling that with his later films the whole Bond experience took a nose dive is something I still not yet prepared to forgive.

Daniel Craig - I really wanted to like this. The tougher, meaner Bond was something I should have liked. I've only seen "Casino Royale" once so maybe I'll enjoy more with future viewings but initially I felt they were trying too hard to be gritty and real. I'm also a little disappointed they didn't let Quentin Tarantino direct it, not that it would have made it a better Bond, but it would certainly have been an interesting one. Craig's got time to make up the ground though so never say never!

Top 5 Biscuits

A nice easy topic to get things started. There's nothing quite like a sit down in the afternoon with a cup of tea and a nice biscuit. Here's my current top 5 tea drinking accompaniments.

1. Custard Cream

2. Digestive

3. Jammy Dodger (Fox's Jam Cream to be precise)

4. Hob Knob

5. Ginger Nut

The custard cream has long held on to the number 1 slot in this list, there is never not a good time to have a custard cream, the only problem is that one is inevitably followed by "just one more", then "a couple just to fill me up", then "one last one then". The traditional digestive is a marvellous biscuit to eat with tea as long as you can avoid the dangers of it collapsing into the bottom of your mug if you're dunking. The Jammy Dodger is the glamour boy of the list. Note I am very specifically referring to the Jam Cream here not the "johnny-come-lately" brand named jammy dodger which only has jam in it and misses the point completely. The Hob Knob faces similar dunking issues as the digestive. Finally the Ginger Nut is a more recent addition to the Top 5, a sign I think that I am getting older, it is probably the premier dunking biscuit as it suffers no "potential collapse" issues and is so dry it's almost not worth considering consuming unless you are going to dunk it. Got than spicy aftertaste as well which is good, and also, and this is a good thing for my waist line, I can probably only eat about three in one sitting.


As if writing one Blog wasn't enough I've decided to write another one. As its title implies this is just a collection of my Top 5 favourite's. I'm a bit of a list-aholic and have always kept lists to remind me what I need to do, what records or books I want to buy, what films I want to see and this naturally (being a bloke) led to me developing lists of my favourites. A while back, through mutual friends, I also got involved in something called The Focus Group which was a weekly music related Top 5 topic based largely out of the PRS. This took my list making to new levels and for a long time dominated my weekly thoughts (more often than not when I should have been doing something far more important - "Honey, can you fix that leaking tap in the bathroom?", "In a minute, I'm just trying to work out what my Top 5 favourite Cuban instrumentals are!"). Anyway having been writing about Fulham F.C. (The Hammy End Chronicle) for over a year now, I have an overwhelming desire to start talking about music and books and films and ... biscuits! So this it it. My outlet for nonsense. In trying to name this Blog I realised there are loads of similar ones out there already. If you're searching through them as well then look no further, the others aren't very good this one is. It might not get updated every day but when it does it will be worth a look. Oh, and if you want to add your own Top 5's for each topic then please do so, use the comments link at the bottom of each post.