Arsenal Shine with Goals Divine


Positivistas Ho,

A little glow of satisfaction this morning I am sure warming us as we go about our daily chores as a result of last night’s events. I admit after Saturday’s disappointment and bad luck at the Hawthorns I was a little worried we would take the field under a cloud and take time to get going. The ‘cloud’ such as it was lasted all of five minutes. After that clear skies and warm sunshine.

Not just a satisfactory result, but a night on which our players showed what they can do with the ball, and just as importantly without the ball, to take apart Zagreb. I see the stats of possession on arse.com split the game just 53/47% in our favour. I don’t care, our 53% was twice as good as their 47%.

3-0 was, in my view, probably a slightly generous score to the Croatians given the balance of the contest. If we had knocked in five or six it might have better reflected our dominance.

I hardly need to point out our top performers in Alexis and Ozil, both superb even by their own lofty standards, but sound performances all over the pitch. ‘PROFESSIONAL’ that’s what we were last night ‘PROFESSIONAL’. The much derided Flamini bossed the centre of the park and I have noticed, whisper it quietly, he no longer gets booked every game. He may be 31 years old but he is an intelligent player who still is learning and adapting his game. If you keep fit and continue to keep your aggression under control Matty  you have a long run in the side in front of you.

Talking of ‘much derided’ wasn’t Joel Campbell good last night ? Best game I have seen him for us, playing with real confidence in his touch and in taking on opposition players. His good effort provides Arsene with a bit of dilemma for Carrow Road on Sunday as to who to start on the right.

And Aaron ? Good to see him back and getting 25 minutes of action under his belt.

For our visitors a torrid evening but far play to them, they cracked but never shattered. The main reason we did not get to five or six was a top performance from keeper Eduardo, another gloved guardian who can look back on a good night at the Ems. 16 shots on target – that is busy !

So where does this leave us ?

With our fate very much in our own hands for what will be a HELL of a night in Piraeus on Wednesday the 9th. The killer issue for us is scoring goals. The question for the Greeks is whether to stick or twist. Intriguing, and I trust we will be getting UEFA’s top, top referee, for he will be in for a busy night. More of a steep hill than a mountain, but eminently conquerable if we show the same attitude from the first minute as was on display last night.

Enjoy your Wednesday and we shall meet later in the week.




Arsenal Versus Zagreb: Holding Out For A Hero


Zagreb then is it? I wonder if our fortunes will be reversed from earlier in the season when our league form was scintillating and our European scorelines so disappointing. I suspect not. Life seldom runs on such neat and predictable lines. People are glibly, or airily if you prefer, predicting that the return of some injured players will be the magic bullet needed to get everything back into the groove from which we have so recently slipped.
What is it with all this magic bullet baloney? Bullets aren’t magic. Firearms are simple machines, what comes out and where it ends up are dependent on what you put in and how well you aim them. There seems an almost superstitious Arthurian bent among much of our fan base. People spend the entire season believing that some mythical saviour will come riding over the hill, sunlight glinting on his shield, to save us from the dragon or lift the siege and free the city.
All the evidence points in a far more prosaic direction. Success comes from patient hard work. From sticking remorselessly to first principles and doing the right thing and when the right thing appears elusive continuing to try to do the right thing until over time a run of good performances and results have dragged us back into contention.
No single returning player can achieve what diligent hard work and nerve can do. The big problem with the returning player as saviour script is that injuries wreck our good form not just because we lose players at the top of their game and because the replacements are wont to be ring rusty. These things are of course significant, but what really gums up the works is disruption.

Players like to play in settled formations and to build understandings and trust with their partners all over the pitch. Taking people out and adding them back in just buggers all that up, and again it takes time and patience to get it back.  Give the returning players a chance for goodness sake. Let them bed back in and let their team mates get back into playing with them again. Nothing good happens in a hurry and the team will need a little luck and a lot of resolve to get out of the trough into which they’ve slipped.
There is no crisis just an understandable dip in form or rather in results. Some of the performances have been fine, some of the individuals have been wonderful. A couple of things go wrong and in some matches you get punished in others you don’t – that is the boring truth.
I am not going to waste much time on the nonsense I’ve had to listen to and read about injuries. How they were avoidable or that something more could have been done to prepare for them. Not so many, not all at once and not all affecting similar positions on the pitch. Not possible and the drivel that I’ve read suggesting such catastrophic and unpredictable events could have been better planned for is too feeble minded and frankly beneath my contempt and so I shall pass over it with ne’er a backward glance. The manager and the remaining fit players must somehow cope with all that is thrown at them and we as fans must hope, or pray if praying is your thing, and just wait and see what luck and hard work can bring.
I’d like us to do well tonight but it isn’t the priority, that is the league. The problem I have is with the unpredictable and frankly surreal spate of one injury after another I’m left reeling and I now watch matches just beseeching the great unknowable forces of the universe that no one else goes under. Which is a shame as I am lucky enough to support one of the most entertaining football sides on the planet and I ought to watch games with a mood of drooling anticipation rather that the world weary cynicism that someone else is just bound to get hurt.
However these feelings can’t hold a good man down for long, and they certainly can’t hold a weak, old fool like me down either and I shall begin once more to approach each kick off with the same level of belief and will to win as I did the first match I ever saw as an Arsenal fan.
What will Zagreb bring to tonight’s encounter? I would be amazed if they didn’t come with precisely the same mind set as when they hosted us way back in September. Soak up whatever we throw at them, hope the ref does them a massive favour and look to hit us on the counter. Lightning we have been assured since childhood does not strike the same place twice. I am no scientist but I’m happy to go along with this as simple fact rather than the colourful metaphorical language it almost certainly intended to be. I can’t believe the luck which saw us hit the post, miss an open goal and a penalty will curse us again tonight as it did in the Midlands on Saturday. Likewise I can’t see Zagreb getting the run of green in quite the same was as they did in our previous meeting.
I can’t predict an amazing reversal of all the poor results and rotten fortune that has so blighted our enjoyment of the beautiful game of late but just a small change of wind might help. A deflected goal perhaps, a glaring miss for an opposition player instead of one of ours for a change, a close off side call going our way that sort of thing. It won’t take a lot, I’m sure the application and willingness is there among the players – they like everyone else just need a helping hand every now and again.
We here are of course not called negative Arsenal and for a bloody good reason. If we want to wail and gnash our teeth and rip our shirts to bear the freshly bloody self inflicted wounds of torment we have plenty of other places we can go and do these things. There are myriad Arsenal related (I don’t say supporting) blogs where such veiled and open criticisms of the manager and individual players can be aired, there is always Arsenal twitter which loves a moan and there are newspapers and talk sport and BBC radio which thrive on an Arsenal hating, self loathing, alleged Arsenal fan venting their spleen. Here we try to maintain our sanity and our equilibrium and pick out that which went well rather that pore over a tiny defensive lapse merely because it led to a goal. Honestly what pleasure does that bring people? I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, looking at and discussing a conceded goal is like gazing into the toilet pan after a difficult, unpleasant and forgettable visit to the smallest room. Why on earth would you want to do such a thing?
We have much to cheer still. Santi has been a revelation this season, playing us out of defence with calm assurance, supporting the attack with invention and wit. Mesut and Petr Čech are on a different level and Alexis is too hot to handle. Olivier Giroud can’t stop scoring and Monreal is one of the best defenders in the league right now. Much to love much to get excited about, much to distract all but the most hopeless masochists among us.
So chin up boys and girls, we live to fight another day. Saturday is already history, glory beckons the faithful, fame and fortune await the brave.


Arsenal – Sandwell Surprise

Good morning Afternoon Positivistas, though only just.


A mood of fear was abroad among the Baggies fans on the way to the game, anticipating a bit of a drubbing. “Best football team we played last season” was muttered, through clenched teeth as they thought back to their demolition at the Ems last May. Greying skies as the afternoon wore on, floodlights on, Winter football. They had much to contemplate. We, other other hand, I felt had much to look foward to. Top of the table by 5pm perhaps ? It certainly looked do-able.


And we did not disappoint the locals for the opening half hour. Though our game was not quite its clockwork best we probed and pushed, and penned them back until the inevitable opener. The landslide was on its way. The locals began to head for the meat pie and Bovril counters to avoid the half time rush. Le Coq’s departure was an unpleasant jolt though my first expectation on seeing the incident in real time was for Clattenberg to pull out a red card for our combative Frenchman. A wild tackle with, apparently, unfortunate consequences. Arteta on though, safe pair of hands, or legs anyway.


And then five minutes of nonsense in which we gave away a soft first goal, then contrived to knock in a second own goal in a combination human movement that was bizarre. I shall not dwell. I will give MacLean a tip of my hat as he had a good game and made a couple of chances. There is indeed no purpose in my dwelling because you have seen then far more often than I. I was surprised, the locals were stunned, I kid you not.


I was not however, even for a moment, concerned. We had more than a half of football to retrieve the situation. Immediately we started the second half with more purpose. Mikel was immediately pointing to the bench to be taken off and Mattieu was quickly into the action.


We began to fizz and buzz. We were faster and sharper. Ozil really had his A game in action. WBA fell back, stretched, trembled, relied on the long out ball to relieve pressure temporarily. They did not however break and the equalizer would not come. A very rare Baggies chance saw our goal frame shaken but Clattenburg unmoved on about 70 minutes after which for the last 25 minutes it was solid, relentless Arsenal, attack v defence. Sanchez was tireless, he ran, he turned, he dribbled, he leapt. I cannot recall ever seeing any attacking player put so much energy into a game as the Chilean yesterday.


The home crowd were by this stage on the edge of hysteria, finally raised from their collective stupor, Clattenburg was receiving terrible abuse every time he called a foul of gave a decision in our favour.


And then the penalty, and my goodness it was a deserved penalty (if there is such a thing). The point was at least saved, and with ten minutes to go or more maybe the full set would be pocketed after all. I have exclusive edited 4 whole seconds of footage of what happened next, courtesy of Number One son.



I say edited because after the ball disappeared toward the M6 the next shots are of wildly celebrating locals. You will just hear the start of “Yeee…” I know we have no use for such undignified monkey business.


Undoubtedly any one who watched the game on the TV will have seen a lot more than me. From what I did see we controlled it to the first goal, lost our concentration for five minutes and paid a price. Then faced a durable and motivated home side, who defended well and had a little bit of luck to escape with the win. A good day out in the West Midlands spoiled only by the result of the game.


Word of thanks to Baggies’ fan Sam Foord for providing the seats and the barge trip. Have a Banthams on me.


Arsenal Versus West Brom: Bridging The Gap

That was the most enjoyable international break I’ve ever known. Like the Arsenal players I had been feeling a little jaundiced after a frantic start to the season. I was ready for a rest, a change of pace and a diversion from the usual routine. The Dreaded Break coincided with the November writing marathon that is National Novel Writing Month, popularly abbreviated to NaNoWriMo, and so I needed to remove all other distractions from my life, get my head down and focus on my characters.

Surprisingly this year’s novel has only referred to football twice and then only in passing and on neither occasion was the greatest team in all the land even mentioned. My subconscious telling me perhaps that I’d overdosed a little. I really must stop watching the pre season friendlies, charity shields and such. If my various addiction afflictions have taught me anything it is that you derive far less not more pleasure from an over indulgence in the things you love.

I am in fact not even going to watch the match at 3pm today. I’m going to write this, then my daily NaNoWriMo diet of two and a half thousand words and then I’m taking my mum out for the day and will catch the game on Football Origin later this evening. We’ve all seen the insane over reactions and complete lack of perspective exhibited on the internet by those who can’t keep a lid on their obsessions and I do not intend to join their ranks. Let’s face it the result in the Midlands won’t be affected by my not being there or not watching the game live. At least the picture quality will be better this way and I can fast forward any time wasting, which we all know is a Pulis trademark.

I actually won’t be too far from the action this afternoon. After throwing mum from the Skoda in Tintern I’m driving on up the Wye Valley to Hereford to take some photographs as part of a long term project. I’m engaged in photographing all the river crossings over the Wye. I started as you can readily imagine with the title Bridge On The River Wye which has doubtlessly been used before but was too good to miss. I do like a good bridge from the merest plank over a small stream to the mightiest suspension bridge and I would love to dovetail this paragraph with some clever football/bridge metaphor without sounding trite but I can’t so I’ll just go on to discuss the two sides and compare their contrasting styles and standings.

Pulis against Wenger has always leapt out as a beauty and the beast encounter. One a baseball cap wearing troglodyte sending his budget players out to rough up the opposition and stick it high and often into the box all the while hoping for a lenient referee to allow multiple and rotational fouling to go unpunished. The other a debonair, highly intelligent aesthete sending out his expensive hugely talented show ponies to dance and trick their way around the opposition in a dizzying paso doble of dexterity and devastating one touch deftness. In truth this is often seen as a cliché, an attempt to reduce the achievements of one man and raise the profile of the other. You and I know it may be a cliché but it also happens to be entirely true.

Pulis is in some pretty poor company. From Phil Brown to Jose Mourinho to Fat Sam and Mark Hughes there have always been managers who have bought into the media pedalled illusion that you can simply kick Arsenal off the park and that they are weak at defending the high ball and set pieces. Statistic after statistic proves this isn’t true and it is only when one of these brutalist managers is given unlimited funds and the unequivocal support of the match officials that any of them have had any appreciable success over monsieur Wenger.

There are, in fairness, also stats which point to Pulis strengths as a manager of lower ranked teams. No one questions his ability to motivate players, nor to grind out points and occasionally take big scalps from unlikely places. He improved West Brom’s fortunes more than any other new manager when comparing the twelve months before his appointment with his first year in charge.

“West Brom won just 21 per cent of their games in the 12 months prior to Tony Pulis’ arrival at the club. They’ve won 40% of them since then though, an increase of 19 percentage points.” source http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/west-brom-data-improvement-under-10123175

This might be considered nothing more than New Manager Impact Syndrome, but that is thought to be only a short term phenomenon. I think there is more to it and Pulis has doing a reasonable job with the Baggies. He has still said and done many unforgivable things where Arsene is concerned and as such should not and will not be forgiven but he has at least attempted to soften the public comments of late. Nowadays he says things like

“I’ve got absolutely no problems with any of the managers. Nine times out of ten you will have five minutes with them after a game. I don’t know the person. I couldn’t say whether he was a nice guy, bad guy whatever… because you don’t spend time with them. And when you are involved in football a lot of people see you and they perceive you in this image that is projected. Nine times out of ten you turn the cameras off and we are different human beings. Softer.”

He even has a go at being humorous with predictably lamentable results saying that he would be happy to ask Arsene to sponsor him in his attempt to row the English channel, wait for it, here comes the punchlines, hold on to your hats, “I will also ask him the quickest way to Paris!” cue sound effect or Arctic wind blowing across the tundra.

Anyway today’s match isn’t about the relative cerebral gifts of the managers, it’s about one team’s quest for glory against another’s for mid table respectability. Both sides have their goals and both will, I’m sure give their all in their respective campaigns. Historically we’ve always done well over the Albion and in the last 18 premier league encounters we’ve only lost two and drawn two. More recently their home form has been uninspired. They’ve only won one of their previous six and that was against a Sunderland side who have been so poor this season they are only one place above Chelsea in the league. Overall Albion have lost four of their last six whereas the only blemish on our record is the two dropped points against Spurs.

Much today will depend on how well our patched up injury riven squad comes back after the break. Olivier Giroud is still in fine form in front of goal, it’s just a shame Manuel Neuer doesn’t play for West Brom as our huge Gallic symbol can’t seem to stop scoring against him. Good news about Hector but only if you’re not Matthieu Debuchy who was just getting back some sharpness and now will be relegated once more to the sidelines. The life of a millionaire premiership footballer can be tough sometimes.

A question. Am I hoping for too much from Joel Campbell? He’s had a few games lately and should be over any nerves and ready to start strutting his stuff. But time is of course running out for the lad and being so far down the pecking order that it takes every other possible starter in your position to be injured or on loan before you get a game must be dispiriting. He needs to do a Hector or a Koscielny but he surely needs more time to do it. Looks like Ox will soon be back so I fear for the boy, but again Arsenal is a big club and the very best of the best is all that is good enough.

I anticipate West Brom holding out for a draw while hoping to nick a win but how we will approach the game is less easy to predict. We’ve seen our side bamboozle opponents and we’ve seen them incoherent, tired and shattered by injuries. Something in between the two ought to be good enough but a return to form will be really heartening. People say the league isn’t won in November but that’s poppycock. It is won in August, September and October it is won in November just as much as December, and all the way through to May. It’s the one true test of greatness in the sport we love and if we want to win it we need to be able to ride the storms as well as coasting on the crest of the waves. Can we do it? Of course we can. Will we? Today might be a good indication.

Those of you with the outrageous good fortune to be at the game will, I trust, be treated as welcome guests by the Baggies fans, as to the rest of you I hope you get a half way decent commentator and a stable stream. I’ll catch up with you all later on and should you be canoeing under the Wye Bridge in Hereford this afternoon and you see an old man setting up his tripod – please don’t shout out the score.


Arsenal – Fragments From France




Good Morning Positive Arsenal fans,


A shockingly sparse landscape as far as Arsenal related stories, real or fabricated. These past few days with events in Paris on Friday night, and the aftermath, still the main focus of both the real news as well as football headlines. I was surprised to see the Belgium v Spain game called off overnight because of “security fears’. One man’s defiance in the face of terrorist threat may be another man’s prudence with the safety of fans and players.


I shall watch the England v France game tonight and probably would have done so anyway. Plenty of Arsenal interest in Les Bleus and while it is very unlikely to be any sort of a footballing spectacle. Hopefully everyone involved will enjoy the game and return safe.


As mentioned in last night’s comments Callum Chambers put in a sound performance at centre back against a rather good Swiss side in Brighton on a foul evening. The visitors were very quick and dangerous. Four starts in a row for the player for the U21s so he is getting some useful real game time although his chances in the first team have been limited. It seems clear the boy’s future is centre back rather than at full back.


A last minute test for Alexis Sanchez in Montevideo tonight before he goes into combat with the Uruguayans. I expect him to play as if he fails a fitness test then it is probably because he is really, really injured. Just at the moment that would be a blow with the trip to the Hawthorns then Zagreb, and injuries still pressing. The match kicks off at 11.00 pm London time tonight so I shall be ignorant until tomorrow.


Later in the week the trip to West Brom and, as I may have mentioned earlier in the month, I shall be attending the game with No1 son. We have tickets among the home fans so it will be a somewhat subdued Anicoll5 in the ground. It is a very long time since I have stood or sat among the opposition. I am confident times have changed. Ideally, for reasons of personal comfort, an uncontroversial 1-0 win would do us nicely. Clattenburg has the whistle so that is cause for mild relief.


I have also obtained tickets for travel to the ground by canal barge from Gas Street Basin in central Birmingham. It is about an hour and you are dropped 20 minutes walk from the Hawthorns. Again I suspect we shall be surrounded aboard by locals on the “Baggies’ Barge” but travelling to the football by canal is an outing that it was too good to avoid.


Be assured that the match review will be available Sunday, win, lose or draw, and hopefully a few snaps of the game not to mention the trip to the ground.


Enjoy the rest of the week. ‘Til Saturday comes ……..


*Cartoon by Bruce Bairnsfather at the top from his “Fragments of France” collection


Arsenal – The Scoreboard Explodes


Good morning all Positives,

The NLD matched my expectations yesterday. 94 minutes of sporting combat, two good teams playing football, trying to win the game, every loose ball, every tackle, every header contested. Both sides coming into the game after a hard week’s football. By the end the game was always going to be matter of who had the stamina to endure. That is the way football should be played. No buses, no clawing at the opponent’s eyes, no shrieking when you are touched.

The opening ten minutes I thought we started well, but having huffed and puffed we had not managed to even rattle the windows of the Spuds house. Somewhat relieved they got back into the contest, began to knock the ball about with a bit of purpose and took the game to us. We seemed to shrink a little, Santi apparently “dizzy” (?). Sanchez and Campbell worked hard but with no end product. Not often you see a player as limited genetically as Kyle Walker have a good game when facing a player with the quality of Alexis. Olivier was locked out by Alderweild and Vertonghen. Not able to get boot to ball.

The goal came and, given the balance of play overall in the first half probably, a deserved lead. More disappointing was the lack of a single effort on target or Lloris required to make single proper save in the first half. Fair play to the visitors they were blocking every through ball, that we managed. On the few occasions we got to the edge of the box no one shot. As toothless as I can recall from us for a long time. Most odd.

A shrewd and seemingly necessary substitution brought the Flamster into the contest We immediately set about getting back into the game with more energy and that little bit of serrated Gallic steel the player has in his boots. Chances were created at both ends, Cech again saving well from Kane and Alderweild, Olivier centimetres out on three occasions.

No idea whether it was pure chance or shrewd tactics on the part of Arsene and his players but the moment we started putting in the high ball and putting the Spuds central defence under pressure they cracked. No reason it should have worked, as we are hardly kings of the high ball, but from being confident and in control at the back Tottenham lapsed into hysteria.

75 minutes gone and I was beginning to feel a little uneasy, with a second and probably decisive goal for Spuds looking as likely as an equalizer ! The introduction of Kieran Gibbs I admit did not quell the butterfly that was hatching. One glimmer of light was that Spuds were beginning to tire.

Fool that I am , you all saw Kieran put away what was a slightly scruffy finish. Walker nowhere to be seen. Scruffy counts just the same though. That I could have doubted for a MOMENT.

And for the final 17 minutes we had ‘em under the hammer, pressing forward against an increasingly desperate defence. Sanchez suddenly much more effectively playing inside. Mikel stroking the ball as only he can. Only one winner possible during that final phase but……… Our visitors mightily relieved when Atkinson below for the end. Even with multiple injuries we endured better than they did.

Fair result, both sides did enough to win so a point apiece the right result.

Good on our side ? Debuchy showed the quality he has, match sharp at last even if he ran out of gas a little short. Flamini again spoiled Spuds day, great effort from Giroud, never gave up.

For them ? I was impressed with Lamela – ridiculous I know but every dog has his day. Dembele was also a smooth, impressive operator.

Since the last international break we have played seven games, four wins, the draw yesterday and two defeats. Not perfect but pretty damn good.


I Want Mashed Spuds On Sunday Please.

We go into the NLD full of fear and trepidation. Well I say “we” when I mean me. No change there then ! I go into every game in this state of mind. My positive nature is suspended as each match day approaches. I hope for the best and fear the worst.

Off the back of the spanking of our depleted troops by probably the best club team in the world the result and performance is anything but predictable. I can imagine just about any outcome. Anyone that thinks the result is a sure thing, does not understand the nature of football, let alone an individual match.

The greatest fear going the rounds seems to be Debuchy playing at Right-back. Once again we see a very good player, returning from two long term injuries, being written off by our knowledgeable ‘expert’ fans, just as Monreal and Sagna before him were. Not to mention Ramsey, Jack, Rosicky………….shall I go on ? It takes any player a run of games to get back to their level. How people don’t grasp this would surprise me, if those people didn’t have a history of gross stupidity.

The Debuchy problem,(if there is one) is exasperated by not having one of the six players that would be expected to play in front of him fit. For me that would be Ramsey, Welbeck, AOC, Theo, Jack and Rosicky, in that order. So I expect it will be Joel. He did well enough against Swansea, so we can but hope and wish him well.

There is a debate as to whether it will be Per or Gabriel partnering Laurent, personally I think it will,and should , be Per.

Due to the lack of options from the bench I feel we will have to win it in the first 60 minutes or so, as the last half hour could be a problem.

To many of our fans this is the single most important game, to not lose, that we will play in any year. Given our league position its a game we really really really want to win, regardless of the opposition. Going into the international break level on points with the league leaders, with a few of the short term injuries due back afterwards, will be a great way to do it.

All I know is that if Arsenal play at their best, they will win, so lets hope for that.

Right, enough of my incoherent ramblings, the NLD would not be the same (and my old mucker Mel would not lend me his Kirk Stevens white suit again) if we don’t have the masterpiece Frank wrote for us when we started up. Wherever you are Frank, we miss you and love you.

Today we revisit a classic tale where Frank looks back, more in sorrow than in anger, to re-tell a chilling tale of a long-lost summer of love, terrible betrayal and lots of super furry animals. 

cock and bull

Today’s page turner …

I was mugged in Seven Sisters.

To be accurate I was attacked in Seven Sisters since nothing was stolen.

Cold bloodedly gratuitously attacked.  A summer afternoon several decades ago spent with a friend and I was heading home to Tufnell Park.  It was an early evening in July but I could hardly see as I turned into the tunnel heading for the tube, eating sausage and chips.  Out of nowhere something hit me on the back of the head and just as I turned, a fist hit me in the mouth.  I fell to the ground in a daze and the protagonists proceeded to kick the living shit out of me.

There was a lot a ‘fackin’ this’ and ‘kantin that’ as the boots went in and afterwards just the sound of nasal snickering.  Before I passed out I caught a glimpse of two of them.  One in white trousers and a bowler hat with ‘Tottenham Droogies’ written across the back.  The other had calf-length faded jeans, docs, white tee shirt, braces …. and a tattoo on his forearm.

A tattoo of a cock and ball.

I must have been out for a while because when I woke up, the ends of the tunnel were dark.  The reek of urine and unwashed bodies was only just bearable.  I was surrounded by squashed chips and, nestling in the gutter by the wall with not a bite out of it, was my sausage.  My head hurt like hell, split lip, bumps and bruises all over but I seemed to be OK.

I’d got away with it.

Could have been killed.  Could have been maimed or paralyzed for life.  Thankfully I had done what most blokes who are being kicked in the head do, I protected my privates.  Death is preferable to castration.

I had survived.

Slowly I got up.  I just wanted to get home.  Brushed off the fag ends, chewing gum, dog shit.  Stretched out my arms and then my legs, moved my head from side to side.  Tested my aching bones.  Nothing broken.  Lets go home, Frank.  Then someone behind me coughed.

I spun round afraid that they had come back to finish me off.

But there standing in front of me was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.  She had on an ankle length yellow dress and sandals.  She had long, long tresses of red hair and her smile was extraordinary; it could fill a room, or, in this case, a tunnel.  Her smell was intoxicating and as she touched my face with her hand I just knew that she was an angel.

I was dead and on my way to heaven.

She asked me if I was okay.  She asked me if I was in pain.  She asked if there was anything she could do for me … and before I could answer she passed me her guinea pig and started mopping my brow.

Guinea pig?

What the feck?

She gave me a guinea pig?  Well yes she did.  She handed me her guinea pig.  Cleaned me up.  Took her guinea pig back.  Held my hand and took me to Tufnell Park.

That is how I met Maude.

Oh Maude, Maude, Maude – you were perfect.  She took me home to my apartment and stayed for three weeks.  What a three weeks!


Walking on the Heath.  Drinking in The Flask in Highgate.  Strolling through Waterlow Park.  Saying “hello” to Karl Marx.  Wearing each others’ clothes.

Actually she wore mine, I didn’t wear hers, I really didn’t.  Getting drunk together on Grand Marnier and sick together afterwards.  Listening to a friend play folk songs outside the Admiral Mann.  I even started to read poetry, although it didn’t last.  Mostly though, we just made love.  Anywhere and everywhere.

In that time I was treated to a parade of animals.

Guinea pigs, rats, hamsters, geckos, turtles, tortoises, parrots, budgies, kittens, puppies, fish, snakes, you name it.

Every day she would disappear for a few hours and return with different animals.  Only on Sundays would she return without an animal and on Sunday evenings she was always very tired.  The explanation turned out to be a bit crazy but I could deal with it.  She let on that she was into animal liberation and spent much of her time nicking animals from pet shops and domestic animal stockists.

Her aim in life was to free them all.

Create an animal utopia where they could all live free from human bondage.  How she managed to get plastic bags of tropical fish and a twelve foot python out of a shop without anyone noticing I have no idea.  But she did it.  Insane of course, and I loved her all the more for it.  We were madly, stupidly, giddily happy.

Until that fateful day in early August.

So far we had lived in my flat.  It was OK.  But I was getting more and more curious.  Where did she live?  How long?  What was it like?  Was she sure that she was not using the animals as a cover for her sneaking back to a long time live-in partner or husband?

Joke, sort of.  What was she hiding?

After much cajoling on my part she finally agreed that we could stay at her place.  She lived in a flat on the first floor of a Victorian house on the A10 near to the junction with Clapton Common.  She had been on her way home when she found me in the tunnel.

So off we went.

We spent a pleasant few hours in the Spaniards’ Inn and went to a party with friends in Stoke Newington.  Caught a taxi to hers.  Let ourselves in.

Her living room was full of no-longer-soon-to-be-pets.

It was smelly and it was noisy, but she cleared a space  and we sat and drank tea and chatted amongst the boxes, cages, baskets and tanks.  Finally we fell into bed exhausted.  The following day was Monday and neither of us needed to get up early.  We were very soon fast asleep in each others arms.

We awoke on Monday morning refreshed.  She made cups of tea and brought them back to bed.  Gradually we began to get interested, the way you do.

We kissed and cuddled …

Then Maude whispered that she would like to make love in daylight amongst the trees and birdsong.  Her garden was beautiful at this time of year, she said.  She asked me to open the curtains and open the window.

Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.

About as excited as I have ever been in my life I leapt out of bed, hopped to the almost full-length sash window and threw open the red velvet curtains to let the sun in …

The No 149 bus route has been transporting the residents of that area to the City for many years and I believe that it still does to this day.

In the days of the old Routemasters, in the rush hour the bottom deck was crammed full of people, many standing and some dangling from the platform at the back.  Upstairs was calmer and those fortunate enough to get a seat were able to read the paper or a book, do the crossword, do the Pools, knit, or in most cases just sit and watch the world go by.  There are a number of points on that journey where the bus comes to a standstill for quite a while as the traffic gets well and truly jammed.

One particular point is just outside Maude’s flat.

The floor of the top deck on those buses is roughly about the level of the first floor of that particular block of houses, and the windows of the bus are about six feet from the residents’ windows.  You can see awful lot from the top of that bus and on that day passengers had a real treat.

As the curtains opened they were greeted with … think of Leonardo’s Study of Human Proportions according to Vitruvius. 

But weedier and in a state of arousal.

For my own part I just remember seeing an endless stream of tickets coming out of the Clippie’s machine and thinking thank goodness they can’t see my feet because I’ve still got my socks on.  I turned to shout at Maude for setting me up, and as I did so I noticed something.  Something very serious indeed.  Something which caused me to shut out the embarrassment of the last few seconds completely.  I couldn’t believe it.  I froze.  The blood drained from my face and obviously from other places.

The bottom fell completely out of my world.

In the lower right hand corner of the window was a sticker.  Not a very big one, about the size of a bob-a-job sticker.  But this particular sticker had a motif on it.  A dreadful symbol.

A cock and ball.

We just hadn’t discussed football.  People had the summer off in those days.  No transfer activity.  I turned to her and just shouted “TOTTENHAM” at her at the top of my voice.  At first she completely misunderstood and she laughed and shouted:  “YES. YOU TOO …?”.

But before she could finish, she realised.

It was probably me screaming “YOU ARE A FARKING SPUD” that gave it away.  Her beautiful face contorted into an ugly grimace and in a vicious whisper she spat “Arsenal.  You are a fecking Gunner?  You bastard”.

I couldn’t stay.

I needed air.  I grabbed my clothes, putting them on as I scrambled through the menagerie in the living room.  I got to the front door and slammed it to, shutting out the cacophony behind me.  I headed for a café on the corner of the block, ordered coffee and just sat in a window seat sipping and smoking.  I half expected her to follow and to be honest I half hoped that she would.

But I realised it was over.

I could take the pet rustling and I could even take being humiliated in front of a bus full of people but I could not take the fact that she was a SPUD.  That could never work.

But that was not quite the end of it.

As I sipped my third coffee, having smoked half a pack of cigarettes, two panda cars and a police van arrived at her flat.  Maude was led out in handcuffs and for the next hour policemen loaded the back of the van with her contraband, Noah’s Ark fashion.  I felt bad about that at the time as I watched her driven away in the back of the police car it seemed unjust that she should go down for stealing animals when she had such good if not misguided intentions.  It turned out in court about six weeks later though, that every Sunday she ran a pet stall on Club Row.

She had been nicking pets and flogging them on.  She also stole them to order.

I will always remember Maude though and if I ever meet her again, which is very unlikely, I know exactly what I will say to her……………




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