Black Ties & Black Cats

So, the Oompa Loompa from Kuala Lumpur finally did what everyone knew was coming, and sent Malky Mackay home to count a few million quid pay-off before he gets snapped up by another club. As dark clouds descend on the servant quarters in the Juno household all I can hear are the sad eulogies for the great accomplishments of the departing Malky, interspersed with expletive-laden remonstrations against the ‘clueless son of satan‘ who is holding the world’s greatest club to ransom. One thing is for sure, football fans have very little sense of perspective when it comes to reflecting on their own team.

The first embarrassment of Malky and Cardiff City FC came when the owner sacked Iain Moody as the experienced head of recruitment, and replaced him with a 23-year old Kasakh work experience painter and decorator. I am unreliably informed that the home team and supporters may find yet another surprise from Kazakhstan managing them in today’s crunch match:     Vincent Tan gallery: Vincent Tan gallery

As for today’s game, the big question is what happens when you throw a bunch of black cats amongst the wounded bluebirds?

        Sunderland FC have been known as the Black Cats since their 1997 move to their Stadium of Light home, with connections with such images over the last 200 years of history in the city. This can only cause conflict, huffs and recriminations in ‘Juno Central’; as I can sympathise with my ‘misguided servant-folk‘ and their persistence with lost causes, but I have to lend a roar to my kindred spirits.

History favours the Bluebirds… of 56 games Cardiff won 23, Sunderland won 19, with 14 draws. But history means nothing when the home team are in such disarray. The Black Cats are arriving on the back of ‘licking the toffee’ (and that is not a euphemism for anything, it is a surprise win away to Everton!). The Bluebirds are home again immediately after a ‘saintly slaying’, losing meekly to Southampton. My ‘resident lost cause‘ tries to suggest that current form counts for nothing, and the home team will raise their game in salute of the departing Malky Messiah, and in any case teams often win on the rebound to losing their manager, and in any case… blah, blah, blah!

With the locals in turmoil and the visitors in that unenviable ‘bottom of the table at christmas’ position this game has 0-0 bore draw written all over it in common footy parlance.

The Sky Sports dollar dictates that this match kicks off at 5.30p.m. and the home crowd are in full voice supporting their dear departed manager, as the team get into a bit of a huddle possibly still searching for the missing Malky.

City v Sunderland [1]

Twelve days of christmas

You humans do seem to like your lists at this time of year, and even try to put them to song occasionally. Take a tip from me… don’t do it! The following is not a list, it is my topical manifesto adding to the seasonal football overload; particularly as the locals here have been going through a megalomaniac-inspired, finance-confused, football-knowledge-free, pantomime of farcical proportions. After all of last week’s threats that the Cardiff City FC Manager was minutes away from the sack, the announcement this week that he remains in post ‘for the foreseeable future or until things change‘ sheds much light on the stability of a managers position… he is clearly now promoted to the security of being hours from potentially being sacked instead of minutes.

Anyway, Southampton FC must be wondering whether santa has left them a delayed gift as they arrive today to play a team and club in utter turmoil! But my ‘source of in-house erudition‘ says beware of the rabid dog with one eye hanging from its socket and sharpened teeth dripping with steamy green saliva… whereas I say beware of any dog (except Molly and Jack who bought me a christmas stocking gift). So, what is likely to be taking place here in God’s Own City this Boxing Day afternoon?

12 Bluebirds chanting

11 Saints for slaying

City v Southampton [2]

 

 

 

10 world class saves

9 ayatollahs

8 pitbulls snarling

7 pinpoint Whittingham wonders

             

6 (66) versions of looney tunes

5 TENSE MONTHS (until survival in May)…

4 captain Caulkers

3 great fight-backs

2 bruised egos still fighting

And a partridge in the City Arms! How much chance do you think we have of winning today Sean (Partridge)?

Sean's world

Ouch! Come on, that’s a bit harsh.

Meanwhile on the pitch… the home team are without their pitbull, the expected wonders seem to have been left behind with the leftover turkey, and the locals are caught between chanting for the saving of their manager and the disappointment with their team’s poor performance. Sean seems to have predicted it correctly as the slaying is being done from the outset by the Saints. Clinical Southampton players out-fight, out-think and out-play their Cardiff counterparts to go 3-0 up with barely half an hour gone. Boxing Day for the home team looks like becoming an embarrassment.

Hanging on desperately until half-time the ragged band of red-coated bluebirds are about as clear in their style of play as they are in their team colours and name. Surely the second half will bring some redemption:

City v Southampton [3]For Southampton it continues in the style of a training ground practice match, encouraging their own fans to taunt the locals. Cardiff make some changes of personnel and toil desperately to make something happen. But, as the second half draws to a close it becomes clear the Malky’s Marauders have been tamely put to the sword by the Saintly Slayers of Southampton… 0-3!

Resident masochists‘ have heads in hands muttering something about despair, so I am a quietly sniggering Juno feigning sympathy until we speak again.

A christmas message for QE2

Dear smile-free zone, the President and Vice-President of my fan club were delighted with your card on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary, but I am reliably informed by my resident ‘Welsh Republican‘ that the photograph looks a bit formal and poker-faced. So, I thought I would cheer you up a bit on this festive occasion with a couple of pictures of my compatriots… some might tolerate this nonsense but your ‘local detractor‘ tried to get me into one of these poses and can now be contacted at the local hospital in the vicious lacerations department for their efforts.

Talking of ill-fitting circumstances, I was wondering how the Greeko-Germanic axis was functioning in your marriage these days? I get the distinct impression from various news sources that this type of relationship usually takes the form of German supremacy with a sprinkling of unorthodox Greek political incorrectness… does this sound familiar? Not difficult to see who wears the headscarf of power in central London, and who risks a beheading if he steps out of line:

 v 

Your ancestry seem to have cornered the xmas market; in fact German christmas markets are the rage everywhere, even here in Cardiff:

Xmas [3]

As for the perplexing question of what you buy the monarch who has everything for christmas, it seems that the good people of Cardiff have wrapped a castle (as if you didn’t have enough already!):

Xmas [4]

Royal arcade xmas [2]

They have a Royal Arcade in these parts and seem to have found a setting to use up a number of spare light bulbs…

But, also in honour of your historically dis-functional family there is an icy scene to greet you on the Hayes:

Hayes xmas [3]

 

 

 

All-in-all it seems like christmas in Cardiff this year is struggling to find any wise men (particularly at the local football club, with the exception of the local messiah Malky Mackay), but there is no shortage of stars to guide late night revellers down ‘inebriation walk’:

Xmas [5]

 

And in keeping with the Dr Who 50th year celebrations there even seem to be a few ethereal stars floating around the city centre in search of a TV christmas special to participate in:

XMAS [1]

 

I have been Juno, and before we speak again I wish you seasonal greetings; but I intend being busy at 3.00pm on christmas day away from any TV, so send your reply in the form of a New Year honour for me to graciously decline.

A Dumbfuckistan Christmas

With rotting thanksgiving turkey drumsticks littering the yard a whole three weeks after they had been discarded Clint Junior III knew it was time to get in his demands for christmas before the younger competition cottoned on to the annual ritual. After all, his younger siblings Earl, Cheyenne, Savannah and Walt still seemed distracted by the imminent arrival of the triplets (already named Sky, Harper and Brett II even before the gender of each is known). Seems like one more local dude from the neighbourhood bars has unwittingly gone out for a few Buds on a March night only to become the unsuspecting star of a Father Christmas Horror Show nine months later. But Clint Jnr. was nothing if not resourceful, and knew it probably meant one more sucker to roll, down on his luck in guilt city. The local cats are busy welcoming the festive season in with traditional style:

        

But on one of his rare sojourns into school, in search of a pack of Lucky Strikes, Clint Jnr. had recently lucked upon a strange tale about christmas, something about wise-asses and a star opening up the door to loads of gifts. He may not have been the largest wing in the bucket but he had a sixth sense when it came to personal gain for minimal effort. If he could spell out this story to all the family, as they gather around the daily delivery of a grease mountain from the Colonel’s Giblet Shack, he would be in the driving seat… he gets first dibs when it comes to staking a claim on the spending of the welfare check down at the local mart.

  Aunt Ruby and Aunt Krystal were always first to arrive at the smell of the chicken and fries, and always had their own unique ways of interrupting a story with their own interpretation. Clint Jnr. only has to make the merest suggestion that three wise men are on the scene when Ruby shrieks “I remember them… it’s George, Don and Dick.” To which Krystal can’t help but spit a few fries across the table trying to remember which Dick… “There were so many…”.

Who needs a horse’s ass for a manger when you have Dumbfuckistan’s finest on hand? Clint Jnr. remembered the story had a star and a hill or something that the wise men were trying to get back to, but was more distracted by the idea that the kid in the house gets all the presents. Ruby downs another Rolling Rock, belches for attention-seeking effect, and announces that she has solved the puzzle… without any thought of irony she says “Jesus, that star must be Obama; how did he become a messiah? I heard that Washington joint is a bit of a stable. Come back Dick and George and Don… grant Clint Jnr. all his christmas wishes.”

Clint Jnr. licked the grease from his fingers, and lead the crescendo of praise around the table and worn out armchairs for their place in the land of the brave and the free… “This christmas I think I would like a personally monogrammed drone.” he said, as he grew ever more comfortable into a vision of yet another all-American defender of the constitution. He was rapidly outgrowing the Remington 12 gauge shotgun and Smith & Wesson handgun he received last christmas. As the warmth of christmas spirit filled the land, all in the National Riffle Association could raise a glass to their latest convert. Meanwhile every self-respecting parent should be thinking more seriously about personal home tuition for the kids, instead of enrolling into the local state sponsored target range (aka school).

Personally, I have been Juno, and until we meet again I am glad I live where I do.

Another christmas ghost story

Ebenezer Mackay approached the staff entrance to the Cardiff City Stadium and immediately reeled backwards in surprise. There on the door was the most ghostly apparition starring back at him…

A disembodied voice boomed: “Malky, before you enter this portal again you must reflect on the ghosts of Premier Past, Premier Present and Premier Future. Firstly, Premier Past… I know you spent too much of my money, and as a punishment I removed your right hand and replaced it with a chocolate teapot, but what were you thinking at Palace last week?

“If we are to stay up and you keep your job we have to be winning these games… or at least that is what people who properly understood football have suggested I say.”

Malky, accustomed as he is at the blank expression required for trying to be serious when talking to doors [see above image], offered the usual Glaswegian response to such threats… unfortunately no interpreter was available to provide a coherent translation, but a combination of ‘Jimmy’, ‘stitch’ and ‘that’ were audible to those close by.

The apparition boomed again: “If you can’t speak fluent Malaysian when addressing me, your Almighty Leader, at least get the fans off my back with a win against the Warner Brothers Association or whatever they are called. The fans have had enough of the Hollywood extravagance from recent visiting teams, they want some of the fabled gritty British stuff to be dealt out by us to the opposition.”

Malky knew on this occasion he had a prize ghost up his own sleeve, the ghost of Premier Past and Premier Present would be available for selection in his own team:

       v.       

So is it to be the Peter Odemwingie show? Will he step up to the plate and put the West Brom transfer debacle behind him, and respond to the away fans taunts the way all Cardiff fans expect?

The blood-curdling voice made one final remonstration: “The ghost of Premier Future will come in the shape of Liverpool at Anfield. We can discuss your christmas present after that result.” Malky stood unrepentant, and with the defiance that comes from having all of the fans on your side he delivered his own ghostly response… “Threaten me pal and I will send a few ghosts around to your mansion for a little talk. The ghosts of Scottish football history will pay an enlightening visit.”

      These guys can tell you a little bit about football, and they also know something of the Glasgow ways of doing things.

It’s 3.00p.m. on a grey Saturday afternoon, the West Bromwich Albion players look unimpressed by the Cardiff pre-match love-in, the home fans are awaiting some fireworks…

City v WBA [1]

 

From the off the Bluebirds/Red Dragons/Purple Dragonbirds (take your pick) promise fireworks with three early chances, but as with many a fireworks display it fades after a few minutes of sparkle, bang and crash… with no goals to show for the effort. The remainder of the first half follows a pattern of Cardiff domination that the locals have become unused to seeing so far this season… but still no goals.

The second half seems to be providing much of the same, when at last in the 66th minute a cross from Craig Noone was met for a rare headed Peter Whittingham goal (a bonus for my personal representative, who also has Whittingham in a fantasy team).

Peter Wittingham scores

Chances at both ends happen during the remainder of the match, with both teams making a bit of a meal of scoring any decisive goals. West Bromwich Albion are possibly more famous for their Balti Pies, and on this performance they are still more famous for their pies as they were definitely the undercooked product in comparison to a home team sponsored by the more appetizing Peter’s Pies:

The ghost of Premier Past failed to haunt the away fans, but Peter Odemwingie did enough to draw the applause of Premier Present in the form of the home fans. For the record the final score was PETER’S PIES 1 BALTI PIES 0. Ebenezer Mackay went away with a smile and a little less fear of any outcome from the ghost of Premier Future at Anfield next week. As for Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, they will be enjoying a few more smiles when they look at the Premier League table after this result, but await many more guarantees before the promised riches of the league are secure for a further year.

I have been Juno, and I hope these seasonal reflections didn’t scare too many anxious Purple Dragonbirds as they seek a reassuring christmas carol from the Malaysian humbug in their financial driving seat. I look forward to further seasonal ruminations before too long.

Nelson was a cool cat

For all he did for black cats everywhere I am truly saddened to hear the news of the passing of Nelson Mandela. Though amongst the millions of sincere outpourings of grief and reminiscence, it does leave me coughing up fur balls to witness some of the politicians clambering onto the number one bandwagon of the moment. The great man himself said in the Pretoria courthouse in 1962 “If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who calls himself a man.” Fortunately for South Africa and the world he had another 51 years left, and fulfilled a considerable promise.

As I contemplate lunch…    … and lie back to    listen to the ongoing tributes, I am sure that the Gorgeous Georges’ of the US & UK (Dubya and Osbourne) would act on Mandiba’s advice, in not hesitating to do the same again. Though for them it would more likely be a case of screwing over the many for the benefit of their already rich mates. David Cameron spoke of ‘ his heart going out to [his] family and the people of South Africa’… I say prep Operating Theatre 1 for surgery quickly.

Desmond Tutu, the patron saint of the drawn match (2-2, come on, keep up!), said of Mandela “He was renowned the world over as the undisputed icon of forgiveness and reconciliation.” I am sure I can adopt that lead, when my ‘appointed servant’ gets their act together and provide me with more of that roast turkey from Cardiff Market. Bill Clinton said “Nelson Mandela taught us so much about so many things…” Personally, I do hope that Mandela was not a cigar smoker, as even Bill must have had some original thoughts of his own.

Perhaps I need to cast our memories back a few decades (or ‘dickheads’ as Nelson pronounced it) to find the true essence of the person. Some old dame or another became famous for repeatedly referring to Mandela as a terrorist… well the first thought that comes to my mind is that it takes one to know one, particularly if you build a career on terrorising the weak and the poor of your own country in order to break the spirit of the hard working people in the industrial communities. The following image sums up contrasting leadership styles: a warm smiling generous spirit who can stand upright and proudly face all people, and a hunched evil purveyor of misery always looking over their shoulder (make your own choice as to which is which)…

Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela

The only real tribute this cat can pay to the passing of an icon is to try and follow the lead he embodied through his life. With this in mind, I am stoically trying to shoulder the pressures and burdens of my imprisonment in my own personal Robben Island:

Sunshine at 14 2           Plotting an escape

And I can only sit and wile away the time as I contemplate my own personal long walk to freedom. When I am finally released I promise to treat all cats equally… the strange albino types, ginger toms, even those fluffy persian types (who I am sure have nothing to do with any accusations of terrorism based solely on their middle-eastern sounding origins). Until we speak again I have been Juno, and I can only sign off today with an R.I.P. Johannesburg Cool Cat.

A Cat and the Dude go Greek

Having a ‘personal food taster’ can be a bit tedious at times; particularly when they refuse to taste what they put in my bowl, yet seem only too happy to travel back to my original homeland and let me know how good the food was! Why go eat in London… it couldn’t have been a longing to see the old place? Having said that, London has many merits to get people into the christmas spirit without necessarily having to shop… like Tower Bridge at night:

Xmas at Tower Bridge

Xmas at Hayes Galleria

Or a view into Hayes Galleria near London Bridge. But it still primarily harbours madness… millions of people constantly rushing around to be somewhere else, and taking photographs of anything that doesn’t move (and a few things that do) just so they can be digitally stored with all the others that are hardly worth giving a second look… or simply adding to a blog post to interrupt the reader’s urge to fall asleep!

On this occasion, the local cat was simply in the mood for meeting up with the recently inaugurated ‘Dude‘, who’s last visit to this side of the bridge necessitated a viewing of The Big Lebowski in celebration of his newly acquired title. I am told that they decided to take a stroll along the South Bank of the Thames, and kind of drifted towards their favourite Greek place.  After all, I am told that if you can come up with a great idea the dude abides. The South Bank is where you can see some great examples of old and new next to each other, such as Southwark Cathedral and The Shard (you will have to guess which is which)…

Old & New in Southwark… which kind of puts you in the mood for good food. However, most of the cuisine will be of a modern variety along this stretch of ‘nouveau tourism overload’. So, in order to combine old culture with modern cuisine Greece is the most likely source of satisfaction.

Cannon Street and beyond

This Real Greek place on Bankside has a great location opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, and if you chose to sit outside (not a particular treat for December) you might just take in a view of the latest developments in the world of the super-rich over the river in the City of London.

The Real Greek

Meanwhile, back in the real world, closer to the Greek economy itself (as opposed to the poor bankers having to make do with reduced bonuses in six figures rather than seven), a joyful feast awaits anyone with a couple of hours of time to relax and a budget of no more than £20/head including some fabulous Retsina wine.

On this occasion, the ‘One who should be more respectful of my culinary limitations‘ went on mouth-wateringly about souvlaki’s, greek salads, dolmades, calamari; and even spoke lovingly about ‘chips’… and then some more about the unique resin flavour of the Retsina (so much so, that the waiting service always ask if you have tried it before each time you order it). Something to do with respecting your tastes rather than any godforsaken health and safety requirement, I imagine.

Talking about imagination, I am Juno, left with the feline cuisine of rocks and water yet again. I will just have to continue dreaming of good greek food until we speak again.