Monthly Archives: October 2013
What a season, if opposites could be book ends then last year would be on one side of the longest book shelf in the world. This year is sitting prominently on the other side, proudly showing off to the world. What a contrast, from the bottom of the American East in 2012 to the World Champions in 2013, this really is hard to comprehend. One things for sure, the film directors will be circling Fenway Park in the aftermath of the celebrations documenting all the events that led to a truly memorable night, one that was last seen over 80 years ago!
Being a British Baseball fan is pretty awesome, it’s a sport that I’ve been playing for a couple of seasons and one that is growing in the UK. Seeing the NFL being played in London is something that one day I dream of happening with the MLB. Baseball is a fantastic sport, god I’m so envious of the Americans having it on their door step. I’ve been a Red Sox supporter for three seasons and I have to be honest that for some unknown reason I’ve always loved Boston as a city, this is strange because I’ve never been. I started listening to baseball games on the radio in the early hours before I started watching them live on MLB TV.
The season itself was a fantastic journey, Boston were winning series against The New York Yankees, The Orioles and The Rays with some devastating displays. On the road we were winning at tricky grounds like Seattle, The Angels and Cleveland. A team that flirted with a .500 record last year were suddenly winning, winning in commanding style. The streak at one point hit 8 games and as we marched over .600 the dream was fast becoming a reality. Boston clinched the American East Division with a handful of games to go and they beat Oakland to the best overall record in the East. Something that I believe was fundamental in our success.
Beating The Rays 3-1 in the American East Division Final with little trouble showed the gulf in quality between Boston and their closest rivals. It also demonstrated the believe that this was a team that was ready to claim the title. When we were drawn against Detroit, a team that we had little success against in the regular season, I was curious as to how we would compete. We didn’t just compete, we went to Detroit and battled our way to a couple of massive wins. Heading back to Boston 3-2 ahead was a dream and one we completed at the first time of asking.
I made a deal to myself that I would grow a beard (just like the team) in an effort to show my support. I also made it a priority to watch as much of the World Series live as I had this superstition that if I didn’t watch it, that we would lose. Ironically the two games I didn’t watch we did lose, so it was a test of my stamina to stay awake till 4 in the morning.
The World Series was a spectacle and my somewhat biased prediction of a 4-2 win was true. Each game had it’s drama, from the overturned out at 2nd base in Game 1 through to the Middlebrook “trip” in Game 3 that saw the Cards go 2-1 up with a hotly contested walk off win.
If there was one person who almost single handedly won the World Series for Boston, it was David Ortiz. Big Papi was on fire, going into Game 4 he had made it to first base on all 11 of his plate appearances. It got to the point in Game 6 that the only way The Cards could stop him, was by intentionally walking him. David Ortiz rallied the team through some testing times and was awarded the MVP trophy.
Boston Red Sox, thank you! It has been an absolute delight this season. I have been truly blessed with some high quality individual and team performances. These guys have shown how you can succeed, even when things are against you. This has been rewarded with the highest accolade possible, The World Series.
My five stand out players this year have been:-
1. David Ortiz
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. John Lester
4. John Lackey
And what about the coach, wow! Not bad for a debut season. The last time a coach won the World Series in his debut year was 2006. I’m pretty certain this won’t be repeated anytime soon.
Today was my belated first trip to Elland Road this season for the visit of Birmingham City. A Sunday lunch time televised match had the added spice, as one of my best friends whom supports the Blues joined me for the match. The two and a half hour drive was swift and the sunshine was out for our teams battle. I have been friends with Chris since the 3rd year of High School and football has been the primary interest that made us gel. We have been to Leeds and Birmingham games in the past, with the most notable back in 1996 when my Dad infamously threw a pork pie at Michael Johnson who was blocking his view whilst warming up. This story is still talked about in what’s referred to as Pork Pie Gate Scandal. It still makes me smile when I think back about it, it makes us all smile!
As we walked down to the ground from my car, we were so engrossed in conversation that we missed the turning to the ground. Today had a good feeling about it, the usual superstitious rituals that I’ve carried out since I was a kid repeated, with the added spice of a return to Elland Road of Lucas Radebe. The chief was a big part of my child hood memories watching Leeds and to have him present gave the crowd a lift as kick off drew upon us.
As we walked to the new refurbished Peacock pub opposite the ground for a pre match ale and burger, I managed to get a photo with another Leeds legend…. Don Revie.
The recently refurbished Peacock Pub which closed down during the Ken Bates era has certainly changed. Inside is smart, clean and modern with a nice open spacious feel despite many fans being present. We had a beer, mine was the much hyped Yorkshire Blonde and we made our way into the large rear Beer Garden with a burger in our hands.
One thing Leeds and Birmingham have in common, is the painful way in which we have been taken over and ran in a disheartening manner. The one thing that is very different, is that as Leeds seem to have seen the back of these uncertain times, Birmingham are in the middle of a control battle with current owner Carson Young on trial in Hong Kong. We talked about this in some detail which raised the subject again that football is a business. We finished our pint and made our way to the ground, blissfully unaware of what was to follow.
Leeds United and Birmingham City have had equally stuttering starts to this season. Leeds have slowly dropped down the table after an encouraging start, whilst Birmingham haven’t really got going and have been languishing near the bottom half dozen teams. There was nothing to suggest during the two week international break that we were going to be served a feast of football, what followed was simply breathtaking.
The sun was out and for most of the game you would have thought it was an opening days fixture in August. Leeds United who were soundly beaten at Derby County on their last outing came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders. Within five minutes Leeds could have been a couple up with Ross McCormack having a one on one shot saved and another effort saved at the near post. Chris Burke had a break away effort which he fired wide as Birmingham warned Leeds of the danger they could pose. Another Ross McCormack effort went narrowly wide as the Elland Road faithful grew extremely frustrated at their inability to put away one of these early chances.
The frustration was short lived as Leeds capitalised on a defensive blunder which saw Birmingham City’s goalkeeper Randolph lose the ball on the edge of his area. Rudy Austin teed the ball up to McCormack who fired the ball into an empty net with two defenders desperately trying to stop the inevitable. This spurred Leeds on and the lead was doubled shortly after as Ross McCormack continued to terrorize their defense. McCormack took the ball wide before crossing the ball to Rudy Austin who headed the ball into the net past a hapless Randolph.
As the game approached half time a dejected Birmingham team looked desperate for the half time whistle. Within a minute of me stating “that a third goal would kill off this game” Leeds promptly delivered it. More confusion in the Birmingham defense allowed a Ross McCormack shot to be parried out into the middle of the box for an unmarked Smith to tuck away what would be his first of the day. The whistle soon followed as a shell shocked crowd who hadn’t seen such a devastating display of dominance were left speechless. Chants of “what the f@&k is going on” were equally humorous.
Lee Clark made a couple of changes at half time and changed the formation around in a desperate attempt to stem the flow of one way traffic. This seemed to work and the second half was a far more even contest. Paddy Kenny was forced into making a couple of smart saves including a Murphy free kick which struck the post. Soon after withstanding this pressure Leeds broke clear and another McCormack cross was met by the impressive Smith who headed his second of the match past a hapless Randolph to make the score 4-0
Another one on one this time by Rudy Austin was saved and a Sam Byram effort blocked as Leeds tried to add more to a dominant performance. The crowd of just over 21,000 were treated to a rousing performance as Leeds jumped up to 9th in the league. Brian McDermott was a relieved character as chants around the ground confirmed the support for their manager who has had a challenging month in the hot seat.
My player ratings as follows:-
Paddy Kenny – 9
Stephen Warnock – 9
Tom Lees – 9
Scott Wootton – 8
Jason Pearce – 8
Sam Byram – 8
Luke Murphy – 8
Rudy Austin – 9
Alex Mowatt – 8
ROSS McCORMACK – 10
Matt Smith – 9
Everybody played their parts well and when called upon Paddy Kenny was a rock. Matt Smith was used as a target man well and made many headers that set attacking plays up, his two goals on another day would’ve made him my man of the match. Warnock made three top sliding tackles and was dominant, whilst Tom Lees cleared two goal bound efforts off the line. Rudy ran the most and covered so much ground and deserved his goal. My man of the match went to Ross McCormack who was involved in everything. One goal, two assists and creating all the space. Some would say he was wasteful early on, I’d say he was conducting everything exactly how he wanted. An excellent team effort.
In one of my first posts entitled Telling Stories, I spoke about the sad news of the passing away of Jon Brookes. Jon had collapsed whilst performing on stage in America to be later diagnosed with a Brain Tumour. Jon battled through treatment and was able to rejoin the band and take to the stage again in 2012. We learnt of his death the day after I asked my partner to marry me and the emotions felt that moment were simply numbing. We met Jon before The Charlatans performed in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival in August 2012 and would describe him as a down to earth, honest, friendly, hard working family man who was clearly enjoying the dream of being part of a successful band. Jon was their drummer and he quite simply blew us away with his performance during the gig that we were fortunate to witness from the front row that August night. Three weeks after that performance Jon’s condition suddenly worsened and he never fully recovered again.
Tim Burgess and Friends hosted an evening last night (Friday 18th October) to celebrate his life. It was also a fitting stage to highlight the devastation that Brain Cancer has on families all across the world. The stage was as grand as could be hoped for with The Royal Albert Hall showcasing this emotional event. The journey time from our front door to arriving on our seats was little more than two hours, which considering it was a Friday night in peak travel time, was delightful. There has been talk of further trips into London now we’ve realized how quick the journey takes.
This was our first visit to the Royal Albert Hall and from the moment we entered it, I could feel the expectation and history generated from its structure. It just has one of those atmospheres which is hard to explain. The circular corridors were graced by photographs of previous performances including Elton John and Kiki Dee right through to Sir Cliff Richard. Despite it’s age, the building was looking very very grand and all the intricate detail in the architecture was a delight to view.
We went to the Elgar Room where there was a bar area and purchased a couple of reasonably priced ales. In the corner of this open room, there was a striking gloss red piano on a small stage which could only draw your attentions to it. We then made way to our seats in anticipation of the nights offerings and celebration of Jon’s life.
Adrian Chiles was the MC for the night and his shared love of West Bromwich Albion was the obvious link to Tim Burgess. The opening performance came from Birmingham based band Dumb. Dumb were managed by Jon Brookes and their four song set was clearly full of emotion for the man who had given them a chance to succeed. It’s not every day you get to perform at a venue like this, it’s such a shame and tragedy it’s under these circumstances.
One of the most memorable performances of the night was then to follow as Tim Burgess performed with members of The Vaccines and New Order. Tim who needed the aid of written down song words to sing with both bands performed a breathtaking rendition of New Orders classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart” which brought the near capacity crowd to its feet.
The Chemical Brothers performed a live DJ set in between acts on the night which kept the energy levels up on a night full of emotion. There was a video presented by the Brain Tumour Charity which showed real life families coming to terms with the effects this terrible disease has or has had on them. It was at this moment I could feel a real lump in my throat as it hit me right then how fortunate I am. This important charity was set up by a family who lost their 16 year old daughter to a Brain Tumour after realising there wasn’t a specific charity set up to research this Cancer. If you wish to donate after reading my blog their site is at:- http://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/donate
James Dean Bradfield then took to the stage to perform an Acoustic set. The Manic Street Preachers front man delivered an almost haunting version of “If you tolerate this” and an equally emotion filled performance of the classic ” A design for life”
Liam Gallagher followed with support from Bonehead and others and delivered two 90’s Oasis classics. “Live Forever” was a fitting choice of song and one of my all time favorite Oasis tracks as well as “Supersonic” Liam certainly delivered and it was great to see them turn out in support of Jon.
It was only fitting that this amazing night of celebration was brought to a close by the three guys who have really felt the loss of Jon Brookes. The Charlatans performed an hour long set with classics included such as “North Country Boy” and “One to Another” it was another emotion filled set and one that brought the crowd once more back to their feet.
It was a truly amazing night and one that we will never forget. Jon’s wife wrote a piece that Adrian Chiles read out, thanking everyone for being there and the truly devastating effects that the family have felt because of this. All in all this was a fitting tribute to Jon and one that raised the importance that there is still so much work that needs to be done to beat Brain Cancer.
So a fairy tale week of Baseball saw the Boston Red Sox dispose of the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS Semi Finals. The best of five series was over in four fiercely contested battles, for which a Lobaton inspired Walk Off Homer in Game 3 spared the Rays of a White Wash for Boston.
Game 1 saw Jon Lester square up
Against Matt Moore at Fenway Park. A tight opening saw the Rays take a 2-0 lead heading into the bottom of the 4th inning. It was at this point that the game was blown away with an explosive eight run blast. Five runs in the 4th and Three in the 5th helped by hits from Pedroia, Ortiz and Gomes whose monster hit bounced off the Green Monster to bring in a double. The Rays spirit was blown away and with Four more runs coming in the 8th the rout was complete. Lester threw 7 2/3 innings with 114 pitches in one of his strongest games this season. The only runs for the Rays came off two homers with a final score of 12-2 to Boston. 1-0 Boston heading into Game 2….
Saturday night saw John Lackey take the mound in a battle against David Price. Unlike the first game, Boston found themselves ahead from the 1st inning. David Ortiz hit his first homer of the night in the 2nd inning and by the time this game reached the 5th inning, Boston were 5-1 up and looking to put the hapless Rays to the sword. James Loney hit a double to bring the Rays back to within 2 runs, before Jacoby Ellisbury who had a three hit game brought one back in for the Red Sox. Ortiz who beamed about feeling like 20 again hit his second home run of the night in the 8th, as the Red Sox won 7-4 and headed to Tropicana Fields with a 2-0 series lead. Special mention to Uehara who threw 11 strikes from 11 pitches to claim the save in the 9th inning.
Monday night saw the Red Sox travel to Tampa Bay with a series whitewash in their sights. Clay Buchholz faced up against Alex Cobb as the tension started to build around Tropicana Fields. A win would keep the Rays alive, whilst a win for Boston would see them through to their first ALCS Final since 2008. The game started positively as the Red Sox saw themselves grind out a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the 5th before the Rays hit back. Clay who pitched 6 innings was unfortunate on his way to 114 pitches. Despite heading into the top of the 9th inning 4-3 down, Boston came back to drive in a tying run. Step up Lobaton who hit the walk off homer to take the series into a 4th game.
It was up to Jake Peavy on Tuesday night to bring home the Red Sox as tensions grew on from last nights walk off defeat. The Tampa Bay crowd proved a hostile bunch as a full house hoped to take this back to Boston for a decider. 5 closely fought innings saw no score before the Rays brought in the opening run in the bottom of the 6th inning through Escobar. It was in the top of the 7th that the Red Sox hit back through Ellsbury and Bogaerts and a pinch hit from Bogaerts saw the series clinching run scored in the 9th. Uehara threw a 1-2-3 9th inning including Longoria to end the series. The scenes of jubilation that followed were a fitting chapter as the season moves on into the ALCS Final.
Boston now awaits the winner of Detroit and Oakland as their series is locked at 2-2. I am not sure who I’d rather see us play, however with the first games at Fenway Park it’s really a case of who would rather take on the Red Sox. Either way there is a welcome break until Saturday when the teams square up for Game 1 at Fenway Park.
Go Boston!! The dream continues…..
This weekend has been a truly wonderful opportunity to share time with family and our closest friends. Since our Engagement in August whilst away on holiday in Cornwall, we have been blessed by the amazing people we share our lives with. We set a date for our Engagement Party soon after the proposal in Cornwall which was this Saturday.
It’s safe to say that time sneaks past us when we are least observant and it was exactly the same in this instance. We are both extremely busy with our jobs and since my relocation to Bedford it’s certainly made the time spent at home during the week shrink. It is at this moment I’d like to place on record in writing on my little blog a massive, sorry I mean a MASSIVE thank you to my wonderful fiancé for working her socks off in preparation and launching this fantastic party of celebration.
Now I’m a typical guy, not in the sense of being lazy and unaware of the urgency of certain situations, but in a more traditional sense. I mean I’m always there to wash up after dinner and in the rare instances I’m back before dusk, I’ll get some dinner on to help share the responsibility. I’m talking about the inability to gauge time and understand the order and detail required to make things go smoothly and without any trouble. It’s because of my fiancé, I must go on record again to thank her for undertaking all of these things on top of her workload which borders on excessive most days of the week. It is because of this tireless effort and commitment our party was the success it was.
The weather was on our side and despite a worrying blanket of thick grey cloud in the early afternoon we were treated to a pleasant warm sunny day. We opted for an open house format of party, which in its name gave a simple and non time constrained day. The beauty with this is you are able to control the flow and keep a steady number of people with you throughout the day. This is great in theory, but as we are pretty awesome* people, the number actually increased as the day went on! 😉
* Self proclaimed by me.
All the detail was beautiful, from the disposable cameras right through to the decorations we had acquired from random events during our busy year. The carefully selected play list of party tracks and songs right through to the ever filled food buffet.
We are looking forward to developing our cameras in the next couple of weeks and seeing what delightful moments have being captured. If it’s like past events, I’m sure there will be the usual one of me looking slightly perplexed and bemused by the situation.
A party is only as good as the people who attend them and it is because of this that I’d like to thank every single one of you. In fact as I write this blog in my speak I should say we both want to thank you for joining us. There were some amazing scenes of our families meeting each other for the first time and the opportunity for our friends to meet each other too. Obviously there were those unable to join us but wished they could. We would also like to thank you for being thoughtful and supportive with your kind wishes, we will be seeing you all very soon.
So what did I learn from co hosting a party on the day? Well I learnt that frozen mini pizzas do not take 15 mins at 180c (Waitrose we will be in touch!) and while Salad is healthy, people prefer couscous instead. I’ve also learnt that it pays dividends to have an Xbox 360 and a wireless network. The children aged between 2 and 14 were more than preoccupied with this and I couldn’t have been prouder with the fact there were no tears all day. I learnt that Pacman is still cool and that despite no one actually playing Scrabble, that there were one or two of the children inquisitively asking about playing the game! I’ve also discovered that our Bathroom now has it’s own fan club!
So once again I’d like to thank you all, you made our special day well and truly special. It was an absolute pleasure to invite you into our home. Oh and before I conclude this blog, I’d like to also thank a couple of people.
Firstly I’d like to thank Amanda from All Seasons Kitchen. The cake you made was an absolute treasure-trove of sweet chocolate delights. Everybody loved it and we were not surprised to be left with only a couple of slices at the end of the night. Please check out her web page to see what else she is able to create at:-
And finally I’d like to thank our friends at Whittlebury Brewery for supplying us with a lovely 18 pint pack of Old Tun. My fiancée certainly knows how to spoil me and it was because of the quick delivery of this that we were able to enjoy it. Very reasonably priced we finished it off within a day and it went down a storm. We have both been invited to visit their brewery which is something we will be accepting. Once again, please check out their site, it’s a great place to see what they do at:- http://www.whittleburybrewery.com