Sportsthoughts (136) – West Ham’s wacky start to the season

Just four games in. I’d have been hoping for six points and we’ve got six points. I’d have expected losses away to Arsenal and Liverpool, wins at home to relegation candidates, Leicester and Bournemouth. So we beat Arsenal and Liverpool away and lost at home to Leicester and Bournemouth! Against Arsenal and Arsenal and Liverpool, we looked well-organised and incisive. Against Leicester and Bournemouth, an utter shambles. Same players, give or take a tweak or two.

What is going on?

I mean, the last time we beat Liverpool at Anfield was 1963, when The Beatles were No 1 with “She Loves You”. We rarely get a sniff against Arsenal, although I have memories of a couple of great away wins over the years.

It feels like the team – and maybe the new manager, Slaven Bilic – are nervous at home, with expectations high. And demands for attacking football maybe interfering with natural instincts.

Conversely, away from home, Slaven can set the team up as he prefers. 4-2-3-1, with counter-attacking the name of the game. Only the truly loyal fans in attendance.

Optimistically, I think if we can beat Liverpool and Arsenal, we will do well this season. Then I think if we can lose to Bournemouth and Leicester, we could start our time in the Olympic Stadium in the Championship.

We got rid of Big Sam because he didn’t buy into the West Ham way. Well, I think the West Ham way is back big time. Exciting football, but utterly unpredictable. Roller coaster time!

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lovelondonscenes – 102

The muddy flats of the Thames as the tide drifts away. Photos taken yesterday afternoon, as I strolled from Putney to Chiswick. By the time I got to Chiswick Mall it was pretty much low tide.

Near Putney Bridge, looking upstream. Two football grounds in this photo. Fulham’s Craven Cottage on the right; and in the distance, the white arch of Wembley.

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Hammersmith, looking downstream towards the bridge.

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By Chiswick Mall, looking upstream – and into the sun.

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Concluded with a pint of the finest ale, in the Mawson Arms, the pub right next to the Fuller’s brewery. A thing of beauty!

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lovelondonscenes – 101

The moment when the town planners in Brentford, West London, ran out of imagination…

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The Jam: About the Young idea, at Somerset House

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There’s a great exhibition of memorabilia, photos and music about The Jam at Somerset House, on the Strand in central London, at the moment. I went there on Sunday. It was full of geezers in polo shirts, Fred Perrys to the fore, of a certain age. Women too, and a few youngsters, of the punky kind. So I felt at home, in my polo shirt, though not a Fred Perry on this day.

The Jam were one of the great 70s and early 80s punk bands. But not really punk. They dressed more sharply, looking back to The 60s Mods; and their music was heavily influenced by the 60s sounds of The Who, The Kinks and The Beatles. But for me, as a teenager, they were one of the big four of the punk era, with the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks.

This was a lovely exercise in nostalgia for me and most of the people there. There were smiles everywhere. Tapping feet as people watched the videos. Great memories, and music that still sounds fresh and urgent.

Here are a few photos.

This first one brings a sense of regret, because since the NME ceased paid-for publication last month, none of these newspapers exist anymore. The world has moved on. NME is reviving as a free paper and will retain its web presence, but it is still truly the end of an era.

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Advert for one of the great singles.

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One of Paul Weller’s Rickenbackers.

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And some of the sharp clothes they used to wear.

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In the city, there’s a thousand things I want to say to you!

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My Top Thirteen – Reflective Songs for a Summer Evening

This was meant to be a ten, but I just couldn’t leave any of the songs out. In the same series though.

They are songs with their roots in folk, but few would be classified purely as folk. They are all, but for one, sung by women alone. Not a deliberate choice, but I guess the female voice, in all its variety, suits this gentle, reflective feeling.

It’s music that will soothe, that won’t annoy your neighbours on holiday. But it’s not bland. The feelings are deep, permeated by a fragile beauty. You can chill or you can wallow.

A few of these songs I’ve recommended before. Others are quite new to me. There’s even one about winter, but let’s not get pedantic!

These are the songs:

No Me, No You, No More, from “If I Was” – The Staves
Let Me Down, from “If I Was” – The Staves
Flutter, from “Mount The Air” – The Unthanks
All In Cahoots, from Bashed Out – This Is The Kit
Actually, from “Friend” – Rozi Plain
Keep, from “Because I Was In Love” – Sharon van Etten
Kathleen, from “Under Branch & Thorn & Tree” – Samantha Crain
Give Out, from “Tramp” – Sharon van Etten
For the Rabbits, from “Own Side Now” – Caitlin Rose
In The Winter I Returned, from “Dear River” – Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo
Bonnie Portmore, from “Fair Warning” – The Rails
Stay Gold, from “Stay Gold” – First Aid Kit
Are You With Me Now? from “Mug Museum” – Cate le Bon

And you can listen to a playlist I’ve made on Spotify. Apologies if you’re unable to access Spotify. My techie skills don’t extend any further.

Just sit back and chill – or wallow!

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Sportsthoughts (135) – Premier League predictions 2015-16

So another Premier League season is upon us and West Ham have already been knocked out of the Europa League! Still, until they do something about those interminable Thursday evening matches, few English sides will give it the priority it should have. The Hammers are probably better off out of it so they can aim for that top ten place – and hopefully more – and go into the Olympic stadium in good shape the following season.

I’ll come back to West Ham later, as it won’t surprise you to know I’m not expecting a top four place! Not much change likely in that top four, though I think the order could change. Chelsea were by far and away the best team last season and they will be favourites to do it again. But I think they will be challenged more strongly this season. It’s hard to bet against them, but I will take punt and say that the cracks might just start to appear this season. Has Terry got another full season in him? (Hence the interest in John Stones, I’m sure). Will Costa’s hamstrings hold up? Can Hazard carry the side in the way he did at times last season? If the answer is yes to all of these, then they will win again. But if they wobble then I think this could be Arsenal’s season.

Oh yes, Arsenal. Do I ponder this every season? A touch of wishful thinking? Guilty on all counts. But there is one major new reason why I think their time may have come. Petr Cech. They finally have a world class goalkeeper. Good keepers spread confidence outwards. The defence becomes tighter, responsibilities become clearer. Mistakes reduce, and those that remain are more likely to be rectified. Defence (including the midfield contribution) has been Arsenal’s Achilles Heel for so long now. Petr Cech may just prove to be the cure.

I also think we may see the best of Mesut Ozil this season. And his best is as good as the best anywhere. Add a fully fit Ramsey and a restored Walcott, and the whole Arsenal enterprise looks strong. If they get Benzema, even better. Sad that Jack Wilshere has another ankle injury, but Arsenal can cope without him better than England.

The prospects at Man United are also intriguing. Depay, Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin all look like good additions and we can expect more from Luke Shaw this season. Defence may remain a bit of a problem, especially as De Gea looks like he is leaving. They’ll need a top class replacement: Loris from Spurs would be the obvious one. Would Spurs sell?

Man City look to be coasting, notwithstanding the crazy £49m they paid for Raheem Sterling. Let’s hope he doesn’t turn out to be the next Sean Wright-Phillips. They do have Aguero and Silva – and Yaya Toure – of course, which means they can beat anybody. But there’s a waiting-for-Guardiola feel about City. I even think they’ll miss James Milner. A fine, unfussy, hard-working player. City may not have enough of those.

Conversely, Liverpool will benefit from having James Milner. He’ll steady the ship while they learn to live without Stevie G. Brendan Rogers has splashed out a Lot of money again, but will it make them good enough for the top four? I think not. Benteke could be an asset if he stays fit, but it’s hard to know what to make of Firmino, Coutinho, Ibe and the rest. And will Danny Ings make the step up? They could be exciting to watch, but might implode a few times. The new Arsenal?

So it’s 1st Arsenal, 2nd Chelsea, 3rd Man Utd, 4th Man City, 5th Liverpool. Rest well behind. Can’t see Tottenham mounting a serious challenge, or Everton. Stoke may improve further, Swansea will probably slide and I might have fancied Villa for a much better season if they hadn’t sold their two best players: Benteke and Delph.

Surprise team of the season? How about Crystal Palace? Alan Pardew is a good manager and he got them playing well last season. Getting Cabaye from PSG was a bit of a coup – he will add creative class to a hard-working team, and he must get on with Pardew, from their time together at Newcastle.

Of the promoted teams, Watford and Norwich look like strong candidates to go straight back down, although Watford seem to have bought an entirely new team, so they could surprise us all. I fancy Bournemouth to survive, playing some excellent football. Maybe the new Swansea. Their manager, Eddie Howe, has got something about him.

And what of the happy Hammers? I was excited about Slaven Bilic’s appointment. He’s bought some interesting players – Payet, Ogbonna, Obiang – and one or two have returned from loans, including Zarate and Maiga. If we have to start playing the latter because of injuries (and both Carroll and Valencia are out for some time) we could be in trouble. I’d really like us to pay the £15m that QPR are asking for Charlie Austin before someone else gets him. He scored a lot of goals in a poor team last season. Our midfield and full backs could give him a good supply. I hope, at least, that we will see some better football than under Allardyce; but realistically, it’s probably another mid-table season. I’ll be optimistic and say 9th.

As well as the Premiership, I’ll be keeping a close eye on Brentford in the Championship, to see if they can improve on their almost-playoff finish last season. They’ve changed managers, brought in a few seasoned players and have lost loanee Mark Pritchard back to Spurs. So it’s hard to call – like all of that division. Always intriguing, competitive and played in the right spirit. The whingeing Premier League superstars could learn a thing or two from their Championship counterparts.

Hey ho, let’s go!

(Writing on another balmy Antibes evening, with a glass of chilled Rose by my side. It’s not football, but I like it!)

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The Royal Academy summer exhibition

The Royal Academy has been holding a summer exhibition for 247 years. And this was the first one that I’ve been to! I’m not sure why why I’ve never been before – just never got around to it, I guess. But now I’m a “Friend” there’s more incentive.

All I can say is that I thought it was amazing. A cornucopia of art. Vivid, varied, extraordinary, inspiring. In keeping with tradition, but evolving as time moves on.

I’ll just let the art do the talking, with a few of my favourites. Photos were permitted.

The exhibition is on until 16 August.

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First thing you see. Captcha No11 (Doryphoros) – Matthew Darbyshire

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Homage a Henri – Vanessa Jackson

 

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Can’t or Won’t – Christopher le Brun

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Room III – the pink walls really brought out the vibrancy of the paintings

 

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Mississippi river blues – Richard Long

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Noon Fishing – Mick Moon, painted on wood that looks like water

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From bottom left clockwise: Reigning Apps and Blogs – Derek Boshier; Stradella – Mali Morris; Untitled – David Remfry; Tree No7 – Tony Bevan

 

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Morning – Rose Hilton

 

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Uist – Jock Mcfadyen

 

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Calton Hill – Jock McFadyen

 

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Feast of the Gods II, after Bellini and Titian – Elise Ansell

 

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Top : Total Eclipse of the Landscape – Will Alsop; Bottom: Now Is Here – Louisa Hutton

 

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Canvey Island – Gold Mine Model – Nick Clear, Mike Aling, Hyun Jun Park, Simon Withers

 

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Colony – January – Barbara Rae

 

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Walking in the Rain, Seoul – Julian Opie

 

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The Birds/ A Second Marriage – Anthony Green

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Babel London (After Bruegel) – Emily Allchurch

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Swimmers (Diptych) – Ivor Abrahams

 

 

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Triangle Painting – Alan Charlton; Fictions 3 (Invisible Cities) – Tim Head

 

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Small Spin, Reserve, Hide, Look, Slew, Collect – Antony Gormley

 

So much to spur the imagination. So much to admire. I’ll be trying to go back before the exhibition ends, and get a different take, no doubt.

 

 

 

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