In Which we may have Redemption for the Redeemer (fingers crossed and weather permitting)

heaven-02.jpgPost 32 – Bumper New Manager Edition! Save Yourselves Now!!

Hello folks. Been a while.

I give you; Senta, Elizabeth, Elsa/Lohengrin, Brunhilde, Tristan, Sachs, Parsifal, Davy Moyes, David Sullivan, West Ham Fans, The West Ham Way.

That’s a bit of a list of saviours and/or entities seeking salvation.

Forget Bob Marley, no-one does redemption like Wagner. In trying to make any sort of sense of the operas (sorry, music-dramas) within his oeuvre (and they’re chock-a-block with insight, if not sense), Don finds it helpful to keep the concept Redemption, front and central. Then all one need do, is work out who needs redeeming, whose doing it and why.

Not into the West Ham thing? Skip about ten paragraphs…

Likewise, in the enduring Stratford soap opera, West Ham are in need of help. Big time. Never mind the results, we seem to have lost our way, our hearts, our focus, our cohesiveness, our home, our ability to sprint and unless we have a care, our roots and our soul. For West Ham (though don’t all clubs claim this?), has always been more than eleven players kicking a football; we have (or had) ..soul.

And to whom have we turned for our salvation? A man equally in need of at the very least, a good makeover, if not a blood transfusion. David Moyes, of no fixed abode, whose last three endeavours; at Man Utd, Real Sociedad and Sunderland, were if not outright failures, perched upon that end of the spectrum. He too is in need of a bit of a leg up. In His words, He has something to prove.

Can two lost souls meeting at the crossroads of life really be mutually redeeming? Or do we have two screaming blokes, colliding and hugging in quicksand? Their combined shackles entwining and hauling them both below the viscous depths?


I don’t know, Don doesn’t know.

But we have an initial premise to test. Has He been brought in to save our souls? Were David Brent here, he’d probably dredge up the old “impossible is immediate, miracles take a little longer.” Poor old Davy M has just 6 months to save himself and WHUFC. So preservation of soul may be a little dramatic (not to say ambitious), what we’re talking here is Premier League status, where a win is a win is a win and be that with soul, Mo’town or R&B, no-one gives a stuff.

If that is the extent of our horizons, we may have got the right guy.

For when it comes to steely eyed, forthrightedness, roll up your sleeves, tracky bottoms and give me 5 laps and 100 press-ups…. Davy is your man. And we do need quite a bit of that. The stats that have (coincidentally?) come out this week have really just borne out what us ITK types have known for some time (via players we couldn’t possibly name) and to what the plebs that go to games is simply the bleeding obvious; we ain’t fit.

As much as we all loved Slav (and Don is as up for a bit of bro’mo as much the next guy – see below..), it is something of a fucking disgrace to see team after team out fight us, especially towards the end of the game.

Having said that (for you Seinfeld fans), I’m sure even under Sam, I recall any number of average teams looking fitter, passing crisper and being better than us. Maybe that’s pessimist me.

So to ignore that slight fly in the ointment, Don was quite impressed with Him at the press conference. Honest, urgent, footballing guy, whom (whom is good, if only we knew where to put it) has enough in the bank from Everton days for us to think he can inspire the 25 pretty talented blokes he has available.

To take an oversimplified case in point, Zaha’s last second goal that deprived us of 2 points at Palace; he shouldn’t have been allowed to turn, he shouldn’t have been allowed to shoot. Everyone should have been about a yard more bothered than they were.

Even before that, ignoring criticism of Antonio because that’s too easy and obvious, various Palace players should have been fouled in their half and the game won.

Its a little bizarre to reference naivety in a manager successful at  international level for several years, but the way Bilic had us set up for our own corner against Liverpool was almost laughable. Once the ball floated in it was 50/50 if we or they won the header; but once Liverpool did, the odds were quickly stacked for them to score some 90 metres away. Such was the paucity of our defensive cover. And those poor souls raised on a diet of West Ham over the last three years, know this was no isolated incident.

Though at this point; a word or two in support of Slaven are in order. For we come to praise Caesar, not to dig him up and bury him again.

1. He brought in and for our purposes, discovered, Payet. If the West Ham Way means anything (and of course it doesn’t), it is Dimitri Payet gracing Upton Park and the current fishbowl. Not since Di Canio or Joe Cole in his youthful pomp, have we seen anything like Payet and nor will we do so again as far as the eye can see. Presumably other managers also noted he created an abundance of chances in France but it was Slav that moved quickly and decisively. For the memories Don and Little Don have of that man, we thank you Slav.

2. The same to a lesser degree applies to Lanzini,  Obiang and Antonio.  Lanzini could easily been overlooked in exotic desert leagues but he wasn’t. A fantastic talent whose entire potential is yet to be realised. Has he always been played in the right position? No. Does he often come too deep to get involved? Yes. But well done Slav for bringing him in. Same with Obiang, Slav’s first signing and probably rubber stamped rather than driven by him. Particularly as if memory serves, obstinacy kept this obvious talent behind Noble in the pecking order for half a season. Antonio, was and to a degree maybe still is, raw talent to be harnessed in the most effective way. Like Obiang he wasn’t an immediate favourite of Slaven’s but came to be such.

All in all, Moyes inherits a decent squad. Thanks Slav.

3. He presided over the best season in Little Don’s living memory. Don is ancient. Not only cutting his teeth on the boys of ’86 but even tasting the delights of Moore, Peters, Brooking, Robson and Devonshire. But for Little Don that last season at Upton Park happened to coincide with our decision to take in a few away games. Father and son, together on the road, seeing the Irons win and/or perform well in unexpected places, counts for something. Thanks Slav. Winning the final ever home games against Chelsea and Liverpool – thanks Slav. For febrile excitement at home to Arsenal – thanks Slav. Winning the final ever game against Spurs at UP – thanks even more Slav. And for that last game ever… have Don’s eternal gratitude.

4. What a guy. On the day you get sacked to say it was the right decision and no hard feelings. To say this will always be your club. To say this was more than a job…these are unnecessary words that one only says if they are heartfelt. And with them, he inscribes a place in our hearts. Get your next job Slav but feel free to turn up on the “terraces” with us any time you get. Cheers pal and all the best.

Back to our Redeemer. One season. What are his chances?  First advantage is he doesn’t need to work out the problem. That much s obvious; conceding way too many goals. Yet, we have a good keeper and decent reserve keeper. Reid is a perfectly acceptable Premier League defender, albeit on the creative side he’s no Rio. Similar re Fonte (after a sticky start). Ogbonna; also pretty good, provides left balance and better distribution. Loved what I’ve seen of Rice so far. Zabaletta means we shouldn’t be exposed on the right and Byrom, pretty good back-up. I worry about our defending at left full back. Creswell the better disciplined of the two gets exposed too often. Masuako, for all (and maybe because of) his attacking prowess is no defender, so that needs looking at. Add Kouyate and surely we have something to work with and working and organising defences is Moyes territory.


We live or die in front of our defence. In Don’s opinion we have one classy operator; Obiang and two that are played there that don’t have a defensive mentality. One is Kouyate a supreme athlete who if he is to fulfil the role has to stop getting wrong side and the other, the Captain who whatever his talents, never could think defensively and less so now his legs have gone (by Premier League standards).  So if all teams need a Kante, we are short and maybe where we head in January, especially if Carvalho remains an option.

Further forward, why shouldn’t we be ok? There is strength in depth and in variety.

Then youth. At Everton, Moyes had a reputation of giving it a chance and there is some talent to call upon. But lets not kid ourselves, he needs results and quick which is not typically fertile ground for blooding the kids.

So squad-wise give or take, He and we have a chance.

Another plus, is that the spirit also seems willing. Even though Slav looked a dead man walking for maybe a month, which must impact on the players even at subliminal level, they gave the impression they remained behind him. Much of this Don expects is because they liked the guy, which is a little surprising in this mercenary age but appeared to be the case. So also good.

Not so good is the amount of games pre-Christmas and the opposition strength in that run-in. If this goes bad we could be bottom and even detached by Christmas which will increase the panic and substantially reduce the effectiveness of the January window. Frankly if we are not in the bottom three come Jan 1st, Moyes will have done well. Probably comes down to home games against Leicester and Newcastle and picking up something (anything) at Watford, Bournemouth and Stoke, none of whom are bad teams and all capable of beating us.

Also challenging is the potential toxicity of the London Stadium. Us fans need to take full responsibility for the crap atmosphere, though if we had something to cheer, maybe ten thousand wouldn’t religiously head for Gidea Park on 80 minutes. Gidea Park must be a hell of a place.

Without wanting to labour the downside, also not so good is Him having to deal with our management hierarchy but hey, that’s the gig.

So Don on behalf of his family and the whole Don community (his family), welcomes Mr Moyes. Forgive the formality but we have more than enough Davids as it is. Wagner fans will know from Die Meistersinger how one can get mixed up over Davids. We’d like the one from the picture please, that slew Goliath.

Do your job, keep us up and we’ll get on fine. The West Ham Way can probably wait until next season.

Okay, West Ham fans, you are free to go. Any Wagner devotees that are still with us, Die Zeit ist da. Anyone that combines both, contact me immediately….we have so much to discuss.

So…Erlösung dem Erlöser, as until 1903 they could only say in Bayreuth. Redemption to the Redeemer. Don is too exhausted with West Ham to embark on a serious study of redemption in the mature ten and frankly there are thousands out there far better equipped to do so but maybe for a bit of fun, lets have a a quick peek at who is redeeming who(m).

Der Fliegende Hollander. Wagner’s youthful offering. This seems straightforward. The Dutchman (beautifully named only thus), is in desperate need of salvation. Not of course to walk off into the sunset, that would be too Disney but to finally sustain death (and keep that in mind for future works). Having made his pact with the devil, his only out is to find a women that will be true to him, Step forward Senta.

Tannhäuser. In modern parlance Heinrich  Tannhäuser is desperate to be saved from his porn addiction. He longs for the time when pleasure was not an orgy but the trees, the meadows and pleasant walks with Elizabeth. Resorting to a couple of Hail Marys he eventually escapes the clutches of Venus and her domain in Venusberg. But his old buddies on the outside are sooo boring, how can they be salvation? Elizabeth, a wonderful combination of both worlds, offers  real salvation but Tann is to dopey to see it and decides only the Pope in Rome is the answer, which it isn’t. For all the tremendous music, Tannhäuser as a piece, doesn’t really convince because neither of the worlds he’s stuck between seem terribly attractive and following Wagner’s pimping up of the Venus music for Paris, Don finds himself rooting for the dark side. So no salvation and we dont really care.

Lohengrin. Elsa is accused of royal fratricide and faces serious consequences unless she has a champion to defend her. Of all the best legal brains and top soldiers there must have been in 13th century Brabant, she chooses as her saviour, some knight that she saw in a dream. As you do. And yet, bugger me sideways, he turns up and does the business. We don’t find out his name (see Dutchman above) until the very end but you won’t be surprised to learn its Lohengrin. So some obvious saving there, which is tricky amidst the machinations of Ortrud, evil purveyor of the dark arts who not only seeks the throne for he family but who also gets most of the best lines.

But lets look at this guy Lohengrin. A more one dimensional cardboard cut-out you couldn’t wish to meet. Won’t tell anyone his name or anything about himself. Only if Elsa asks the question, will he spill the beans but he must then disappear.  So if Elsa wants to keep him as her champ (in every respect…), she needs to put a lid on that curiosity and get back to blind faith.

Of course it ends badly and he has to return to Montsalvat and guard that grail. But beneath that silvery cardboard exterior, one suspects Lohengrin, was desperate to be saved from his cardboard existence. Elsa wasn’t quite up to the job. All very allegorical of our attitude to religion and art. Plus music to die for…..and to.

The Ring Cycle. Four operas joined together for one story and if you think Don is going to (has ability to) pick out the various acts of salvation in a couple of paragraphs, you’ve another think coming. Brunhilde is a decent bet for saviour but she along with the most of the rest of the cast need saving, primarily (from himself), Wotan, king of the gods.

Tristan & Isolde. Their love is so far beyond the rule of law, any form of morality, metaphysics and life itself, that any consideration of salvation is futile.

Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Well Sachs saves: the day, the headstrong couple, the community, artistic traditions as well as artistic flair so I guess he must be the saviour.  Underlined by orchestral and other references to John the Baptist. He does so willingly and at the expense of his own happiness but lets not head  down any Schopenhauer rabbit holes at this point. What he’s saving them from is interesting to some…pedantry, Wahn (no, we’re down the rabbit hole again – touched on in post 22 and others), art critics, the French, (the Jews??), urbanisation and I’m sure others.

Parsifal. The final line of Wagner’s final opera is Redemption to the Redeemer. We can safely say that Parsifal is a if not the redeemer. He has re-united the holy relics and so saved the Grail community, including of course Amfortas. He has redeemed Kundry and allowed her curse like that of the Dutchman, to finally be lifted so she can die in peace. Depending on one’s take on the whole piece, one may say it is cleansing and cathartic for audiences and the whole world.

But does Parsifal himself need redeeming, for that is the heavy hint of the final line? He is a sinner from when he did not understand the concept of sin. He left his mother to suffer alone, breaking her heart and he shot the swan. The latter a sin of equal measure now Wagner is embracing a Buddhist and vegetarian agenda. He redeems himself in that he awakens to the concept of sin and other people’s suffering and then more graphicly, Kundry washes his feet with her hair. Kundry is therefore both in need of redemption and is a redeemer but it is doubtful that the last line is devoted to her.

Of course, Wagner himself needs redemption (boy, does he), though I’ve not seen much sign of him seeking that, unless one counts vicariously through characters. He believes he’s saved opera and because of its elevated status (in his eyes), art itself. By the time he finally came to produce Parsifal, I doubt he still felt art could radically change society, as he did twenty years earlier. But for the gift of his oeuvre for humanity, does he think he’s been redeemed?


If you have been, thanks for listening.


© 2017

In Which Don, West Ham and Wotan bid Leb Wohl


Post 13

Goodbyes are difficult to handle., especially when its family. And as if we didn’t know, last week the West Ham family bade farewell to its home. No-one forced us to leave; like the teenager that has outgrown its bedroom and needs to spread its wings, the time felt right.

If the Ring Cycle can lay claim to being the greatest art work ever created, so the chunk of Act 3 Die Valkyrie, colloquially known as Wotan’s Farewell, can claim to be the apex of that musicological mountain. Its got to be right up there.

More of that below. For now, all things West Ham.

I think the greatest compliment one can make, is that the football stole the show. This isn’t a dig at the “closing ceremony”, which was fine, albeit a little long winded. Whatever the club had arranged for a finale could not have compared to the amazing entertainment that preceded. A perfect synthesis of 11 players, a management team, a few subs and a supporting cast of over 30,000. We came together as one. Its a cliché that the crowd are the 12th man but its inconceivable that the players weren’t inspired by that atmosphere and raised their game.

No need to dwell on the game itself. That is why we have “Tivo” machines and proper journalists. There are no words to convey the white hot excitement. To have lost the last game would not have deflected the club from its trajectory but would have deflated. To have won it, to have beaten every top team this season, (all-right excluding Leicester), confirmed the need to move on. As I say, it felt right. Little Don and I left the old place a little wistfully but brimming with praise and optimism.

Don is confident we can finish in style against Stoke.

Last post Don considered some Upton Park memories and realised he omitted the occasion he scored on the hallowed turf. Back in days of the ye olde west stand, Don’s company was a match ball sponsor. This brings 4 tickets, a photo with a player and a signed football. An hour or so after the game and having consumed a befitting amount of alcohol, our little group became aware that we were a wrong turn out of the bar and and a few short steps to the pitch. The floodlights were still on and we had a ball. Well, it would have been rude not to! The client took a throw on to the ever alert Don who shimmied past a couple of imaginary defenders before slotting into the far corner in front of an ecstatic (albeit empty) Bobby Moore lower. We were then spotted and red carded. Not that Don condones such disgraceful behaviour but its a comfort in his old age that he has scored a couple less goals at Upton Park than the present manager.

Before moving to Wagner, a few words on the attack on the Man Utd coach. Don was there just after 6; already Barking Road was a street party; police were absent and fans competed with traffic for control of the road. Within minutes the fans had won and the traffic was gridlocked. Some 20 minutes later Don was by the church on Green Street. By this time thousands packed the street yet bizarrely the police who had eventually arrived in some numbers, considered it appropriate to guide buses, EMPTY BUSES down Green Street causing a severe crush in so doing and potentially a very worrying situation. I saw the MU coach, I didn’t see bottles thrown (though they clearly were). My tuppence worth is 1. the police should have been there on time; 2. Green Street and Barking Road should have been closed to traffic (other than player coaches) from 6 and 3. The Club should have opened the gates an hour before it did. The whole mess was easily preventable.

On to another farewell. Any parent must be filled with horror at the unspeakable pain to be endured at the prospect of saying a final goodbye to a child. So befalls Wotan in Act 3 of Die Valkyrie.

Wotan’s relationship with his favourite child Brunhilde is close, deep and spans an untold mythological length of time. Only she was there when he gained his insight; only she so understands him that she almost represents his conciousness. As Wotan may be representative of entire humankind, so Brunhilde may represent the world’s moral compass.

So when she crucially and fundamentally disobeys him, he is angered and dismayed beyond words. His commitment to his wife and the rule of law (often the same thing) means Brunhilde cannot escape the most severe punishment. She is to be stripped of her divinity and as a mere mortal sent to sleep on a mountain top and become the chattel of the first passing thug to find her and wake her. OK, in operatic terms, so far nothing extraordinary, albeit some superb music and one can see it is killing Wotan to have to punish almost a part of himself.

The next phase is the daughter’s pleading to her father. At the level of narrative, we have the philosophical position that whilst she disobeyed his overt order, she remained faithful to his true and unspoken intentions because only Brunhilde really understands Wotan. What she pleads for, is that if she is to be stripped of her godly power, if she is to be cast out and never see her father again, let her be protected on a mountain top by a fierce ring of fire. In this way she would not be at the mercy of the first bloke to wander by but only a supremely brave hero would be able to claim her. This was not only a selfish move but she of course had in mind Siegfried, then en ventre sa mere, who she thought (and thought for Wotan), would when grown up, try to attain what Wotan really desired.  Wotan knew none of this.

And then the melting of the father’s heart. His love for his daughter is unbearable, to lose her, even more so. Yet he must do what he has to do. But he relents and she will be protected in her long sleep by a ring of fire. And so it is time to say goodbye and send her into a sleep that would last 20 years.

Leb Wohl he sings as the emotional levee breaks in about 15 minutes of sublime music in which anyone who has ever said goodbye to a loved one and in particular fathers and daughters, will struggle to hold it together.

whole club

Leb Wohl Boleyn Ground. Thanks for the memories.


© 2016



In which Don hero worships; from Bobby Moore to Brunhilde and is holding out for a hero against Spurs.

Post 5

It was 23 years ago last week that a light went out in Don’s life with the passing of his great hero, Bobby Moore OBE.

Heroes are delicate things, they tend to let you down, either for turning out to be human after all, with all associated fallibilties or they leave too soon or both. The current TV drama re OJ Simpson being a case in point. It caused Don to ponder the concept of heroism.

First though, the great Bobby. I was six years old when England won the World Cup. Naturally I don’t need to specify when that was as we’ve only done it once and there is no repeat performance looming any time soon. I say England won it but being a West Ham blog, we all know…

Mumps was ripping up our road in Clayhall, Ilford that hot summer of ’66 and all us afflicted contagious kids were herded into our house to watch the game. I remember that but not the game itself. My first Bobby memory was meeting the great man in 1968. Incomprehensible now, the captain of England, champion of the world, spent his time when he wasn’t playing or training…in his sports shop on Green Street where, I read this week, his daughter Roberta had a Saturday job!

So in I trot, 8 years old with parents, for my birthday treats and get served by the great man (must have been midweek as no sign of Roberta). A claret tracksuit with blue trimming and badge and a 1968 England football annual featuring a Ray Wilson master class on tackling. Signed by [Sir] Bobby himself. Truth be told, he wasn’t a bundle of laughs but then captains of England aren’t there to crack jokes to eight year olds, they’re there to be upright, imperious and heroic…and he was. I bet he gave us the right change too.

As football heroes go, he is unsurpassed; bitter-sweet helped I suppose by his untimely death. When you hear legends such as the Charlton bothers in utter awe, one realises the huge stature of the man. The plinth on the statue at Wembley says it all.

“Immaculate footballer, Imperial defender, Immortal hero of 1966, First Englishman to raise the World Cup aloft, Favourite son of London’s East End, Finest Legend of West Ham United, National treasure, Master of Wembley, Lord of the game, Captain extraordinary, Gentleman for all time.

Statue Plaque

They say don’t meet your heroes but nearly 50 years later this little boy’s view of his hero remains undiminished. A gentleman for all time.

The Wagner bit..skip for the Spurs bit.. 

For anyone in the least interested in Wagner or probably any German kid, Siegfried is synonymous with heroism. He forges the sword, when the greatest smithy could not, he kills the dragon to gain the treasure, he walks though fire to discover the girl; he gets the girl…at least until he blew it.

But if he’s a hero, what is it to be a hero? Lets examine that a little closer and see if he stacks up.

A hero is fearless and leads from the front. He carries the flag, by which I mean he speaks for the rest of us. He goes where we may fear to tread. A hero like nature, abhors a vacuum. He is our hero. Its a symbiotic relationship; no audience, no hero. In other words, a hero strives to affect society though not necessarily being part of it; he is more likely  outside it and a dweller of somewhere purer. Purity seems right for a hero; if not a child of nature then at least a respecter of natural things and unsullied by corrupt ways of urban life.

A hero I feel, requires nobility; in his heart and in his aspirations. In other words, a force for good. Of course that in itself is subjective; what with one man’s terrorist being another man’s freedom fighter. (And by “his” I don’t mean to deny half the world, as we shall see). But is “goodness” an essential heroic ingredient? Maybe it even negates heroism?

In his Introduction to “Wagner and the Romantic Hero”, Simon Williams begins..

Heroism is, at best, a dubious quality. We admire heroes because they embody all that we consider most admirable in ourselves. Heroes are possessed of an excess of human energy, which has a propitious effect on the world around them. They display greater courage than regular people do, they know what they want and are fearless in achieving it. Through their exploits we glimpse, however briefly, images of human perfection and, depending on our beliefs, of something divine. But heroes are not easy to live with. The moment we try to incorporate heroism into our everyday lives, we play down whatever is individual about it and lay stress on its social virtues. Community newspapers encourage readers to nominate as “local heroes” those whose selfless labors are a benefit to the community. We designate as heroes people who help us, set us good examples, and save us from our worst selves. But, as Emerson put it, “the heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic.”‘ The heroic in our mundane world can be positively oppressive, especially when it claims authority over us. Our leaders may conceive of themselves as heroes, but the moment they do so, we find ourselves obliged to deny them. We hem them in with bureaucratic limitations and reduce them to our own size or smaller by insisting that they are models of indecision and inefficiency. We may be unjust in these judgements, but, even if we are, we show good sense in making them, for our pragmatic instincts resist the idea of anyone having authority over us on the strength of personality alone. Hence while we admire heroes, we must consign them to the sidelines of life: to sports arenas, where they can engage in heroic feats that have no tangible impact on our lives; to religious cults, where if we subject ourselves to charismatic authority, we do so entirely as a matter of choice; or to popular movies, where action-heroes feed our fantasies by evincing a singular freedom from the moral and physical restraints that normally confine us.

It is of course dangerous to form conclusions from an introduction to a book but there isn’t much mention of “goodness” in there. It implies goodness is an unnecessary aspect of heroism, possibly an hindrance rather then help. There are those (not yet I), that consider some of Wagner’s writing to foreshadow fascist thinking and if so, his hero would not be confined to the sidelines of life (as Williams suggests above) but be central stage in society. It is for us 21st century folk who have seen where such hero-worship might lead, that wish to constrain our heroes. Wagner’s time was characterised by languid self-interested leaders of separate German principalities and he, in common with many “left-leaning” Germans, longed for a hero to cut through that status quo and lead the volk to a united Germany. So again “goodness” not an essential pre-requisite.

Lets consider what Wagner intended for the Ring cycle. Unlike most operatic composers, he did not consider his music-dramas to be mere entertainment. He meant them to convey serious ideas that might influence his audience and so in turn may influence society. He considered Art, when properly done, to be that powerful. He felt his immediate milieu and possibly Europe as a whole to be run by out-moded bureaucracies, there to protect self interested commerce led aristocracy and precipitating against a more natural state in which, if left to their co-operative, loving selves, human beings may thrive in harmony.   Of course this is a great simplification as he wrote the Ring over several decades during which, he and his ideas changed. The poem was written during his Feuerbach period when he felt that the common volk, seized of great conviction could overturn society, right wrongs and achieve anything, especially if driven by a great hero. The score was written around 20 years later when, influenced by Schoppenhauer, he was far less convinced that heroes at least of the Superman type, were the answer.

So in the Ring, Wotan the supreme ruler has created a problem for himself. He initially attained supreme leadership (knowledge) in a Faustian -like pact at the expense of nature and maintains power by the systematic rule of law and contracts. The price is a continued whithering away of nature and neglect of love. That whithering is slowly constraining him and depressing him and the situation he rightly concludes is, like his power, unsustainable. He has made bad contracts which can only be honoured at the cost of love. He is trapped in a loveless marriage, so again love is suffering in order to honour a contract. In parallel the Rhine gold, placid in its natural state, has been wrenched away (by Alberich) and corrupted into the form of a powerful ring which equally threatens love and in time perceives Wotan, the rule of the gods.

Both self inflicted and extraneously, the harmonious state of nature has been damaged, possibly irreparably.  Wotan, recognising that a harmonious world is best served by allowing love and nature to flourish unrestrained, needs to arrest this development. He cannot do it himself for it will break his own laws. He needs a free agent  hero to recover the stolen gold and return it to its natural state in the river Rhine.

Initially he intends this to be his son Siegmund, born out of wedlock by an unknown women. Siegmund is trained (without knowing his father to be king of the gods) as a warrior. Siegmund has several heroic qualities; he is fearless, a loner-living somewhere in a tent, separated from parents (a la Superman and others) and most significantly he fights other people’s battles for them with no obvious reward for himself.

However, when push comes to shove, Wotan at the beck and call of his wife Frika, goddess of marriage and bureaucrat supreme, reluctantly (though without so much as a backward glance), abandons Siegmund and he is killed. Though it was partly Siegmund’s fault because ultimately he chose love for a women over “the cause” and that is not what being a hero is about. When I say love, it is born of compassion rather than sexual desire (which it fast becomes)…watch this space not only on the hero front but on all Wagner’s future music dramas.

Wotan’s next great hope was Siegmund’s son Siegfried. Another child of nature, abandoned by parents, fearless, strong, handsome blah blah blah. Siegfried is Wotan’s hope, he is Wagner’s hope and he is the hope of George Bernard Shaw (Post 1) and of those like him that later saw the Ring in Marxist/Leninist terms. He does indeed recover the gold in the form of the ring but as Alberich’s curse foretells, is corruptible and corrupted.

He starts off with the heroic basics. A precocious teenage tough guy brought up in the woods, wondering about his lost parents, feeling he may have a purpose but is blissfully ignorant of what that might be. Sufficiently heroic to pass through the magic fire to awaken Brunhilde, he is guided by her (his aunt) in the ways of love, sex and one hopes general maturity because the hopes of Wotan and the world vest in him. Gotterdammerung opens with the lovers preparing to part because Siegfried as hero, has to go and do heroic deeds. What they are, we don’t know, nor does Siegfried and maybe neither by now, does Wagner.

Because something else has happened  while the teenage innocent was growing up. Wagner left the Ring in abeyance for 12 years while writing Tristan etc. and swallowing the philosophy of Schoppenhauer hook, line and sinker. No longer was a Feuerbach inspired thrusting, dynamic hero the only answer to save the day. Maybe the day would be saved when humans stopped striving to win the race and backed out of the race to let someone else win, lose or whatever made them happy.

But Siegfried is not wired that way. He goes off, makes so called friends, is duped, drugged with some medieval kryptonite to forget Brunhilde and falls in love with the next girl, Gutrune, all under the guiding hand of the nasty Hagan. But even drugged his actions are inexcusable for anyone, let alone a hero. He is duplicitous, is prepared at to best deceive and at worst rape Brunhilde for a mate and rejects the chance to return the ring to the Rhine maidens. He displays precious little inclination to improve society, is happy to live among the bourgeois townsfolk of Gibichung. Notwithstanding his remorse when, in the throes of dying, he recalls all and notwithstanding the glorious eulogy from Brunhilde, I reject his claims for heroism.

But all the while, the true hero has been among us. The Valkyrie; the chooser of the slain, witnesses Sigmund choose ignominious death over glory in Valhala to stay true to his love Siglinde, At that moment Brunhilde recognised the strength of free will. That he was choosing “hell” before parting with his love and remember his love was not instant sexual desire but was born of compassion. In such moment she saw what her father really wanted/needed for her to do (even if he did not know it himself) and how the world would be saved. In that moment she realised that heroism was compassion; self sacrifice in order to save others; that death was not to be feared; laughing death. Brunhilde the Hero.


So as someone put it, its West Ham/Tottenham Eve and the excitement is approaching fever pitch. I’ll admit to having Tottenham mates who are very dear to me and I really should find somewhere, some small spot in my heart where I am pleased for them in their title endeavours, especially after all I have just written about compassion….but I can’t. Honestly, I’ve looked and looked but its not there. We have to do them tomorrow night.

I think back to glorious moments…Anton, Pearcey, Yossi, Piquionne….Ravel!! I go way back to Sir Trev cutting in from the left before curling one over Pat Jennings into the far corner. Heroes all. But you know I don’t think Don has laughed so much as that wonderful Adebayor/Paulinho wall. When times are a bit grim in Don Towers we put that on a loop and suddenly the sun’s rays start to peak over the horizon.

Heil der sonne.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

Don the Hammer


© 2016

In which Don considers the whereabouts of Alberich, the Norwich game, Dalton Trumbo, Sylvia Kristel and has cup fever.

Post 2

According to the psychoanalysts (and to be fair also some sane people), the Ring Cycle represents a human life. It starts in a safe watery place and ultimately it all returns to dust, ready to be re-cycled. Ring Cycle re-cycle – it even sounds the same, so must be right.

And who disturbs the sanctity of the womb? Why its arch baddie Alberich; right there in Act One, Scene One. His exchange with the Rheinmaidens  starts it off and sets the tone for the whole tetralogy. But is he there (alive) at the end of Götterdämmerung? I’m pretty sure I spotted his son Hagan, going under the waves of the Rhine, gasping for last breath but Dad was conspicuously absent.


  1. Does it matter?
  2. If he’s not there, where/when did he go?

1.  Yes it matters. This is the guy that struck the original bargain; renouncing love to gain the power to rule the world. It also became clear that he didn’t intend his to be a benevolent rule. We had a taste in Das Rhinegold of his treatment of fellow Nibelungs where even his brother wasn’t spared the whip. So the prognosis for humans and others was not good. He tells us explicitly what is in store for women. He has renounced love but not sex and intends to force his lust upon whomsoever takes his fancy. Because for Alberich sex equals Power;  the Rhinemaidans spurned him so women will be forced. Wotan (der wuthende Rauber) robbed him, so men will know his revenge in equally violent and coercive fashion. Would he have been so horrid if not himself taunted beyond endurance by the Rhinemaidens? That consideration is for another day.

By the very end of the story, the Ring is returned to its rightful place, Brunhilde has destroyed the Gods (fulfilling Wotan’s wish?). We are back to square one in the primordial world but the clock has not been turned back; what has happened, happened. So it matters whether the arch baddie is still around awaiting his next opportunity, or is not.

2. When/where did he go?

To paraphrase Oprah Winfrey “what do we know for sure?”

He is released, cursing as he goes, by Wotan and Loge in Das Rhinegold. We hear of him but don’t see him in Die Valkyrie. In Siegfried, Wotan offers him first dibs at persuading the dragon to part with the Ring (pretty reckless of Wotan) and after a contretemps with his brother, we see him no more…or do we?

At some point, either during or before the 20 or so years between Wotan putting Brunhilde to sleep and Siegfried awakening her, we know Alberich begets a son, Hagen, by a prostitute. We don’t know if the mother is forced (his gold has been taken but presumably he is not penniless) but the son attests that she is brave and that “she yielded to his cunning.”

In the Prologue to Götterdämmerung, the first Norn asks her sisters: what happened to Alberich? tantalizingly, just as we are to get the answer, the rope snaps,  the ability to see ahead, behind and sideways is lost and we never know. One can’t help but wonder why Wagner had the rope snap on that question…

So to Act 2 in Götterdämmerung and the whole discourse between Alberich and his son Hagan. All we know of this for sure is that it is heavy with ambiguity! The overriding impression is that father appears to son in a dream but if that is not so and if he is really there at that point in the proceedings, Wagner must have intended that he survive the immolation because nothing afterward indicates to the contrary.

There is no doubt Hagen is asleep (for sure at the beginning): the stage direction says so. That doesn’t mean Alberich is not there, though it may suggest so. If he is not there, it means Hagan is dreaming of a having a dream (because it is not a normal conversation; Alberich is wishing him a nice sleep). Can one dream about having a dream? Could Hagan be asleep initially, wake up but pretend to still be sleeping? I really don’t see the point of that; surely they’d just have a normal conversation.

So here’s a test: If its all in Hagan’s head, he could not learn anything he doesn’t already know. Does he?

What does Alberich tell him?

  1. That he was robbed by Wotan whose power has since waned. That surely is not news to the son. Presumably they had discussed the revenge plan ad nauseam as it was what Hagan was born to execute.
  2. That there is a wise women (Brunhilde) that may urge Siegfried to return the Ring to the Rhine (and so spoil the Alberich/Hagen plot). Of course Hagen knows all about Brunhilde but surely not in such detail that he would know of her attitude toward the Ring? The only people who discuss that with Brunhilde (on stage) are Siegfried, her sister Valkyrie, Waltraute and maybe much, much earlier, Wotan. However, I don’t think Alberich is telling Hagan that Brunhilde would urge Siegfried to return the Ring to its rightful owner, he is conjecturing that she might. There is no indication that either Hagan or Alberich previously met Brunhilde but it is realistic that news of her bravery and wisdom has spread, so no definite new knowledge here. [By the way, I am prepared to accept that the world no longer knows she is the former demigod, daughter of Wotan, otherwise surely that point would have come up here].
  3. That Siegfried doesn’t know the true power of the Ring and treats it as a trinket. We know this at least has the potential to be untrue because in Siegfried Act Two, Scene Two, the Woodbird tells Siegfried that with the Ring he can rule the world. Did Seigfried take this seriously? The stage direction is “quietly and with emotion” which I think suggests sincerity and he replies, “My thanks for your counsel my dear little bird, I gladly shall follow your call.” Siegfried will shortly stress test the Woodbird’s other claim that Mime is a fraud and that turned out to be correct and moreover, he seeks Brunhilde because the Woodbird says so. So it is very likely that Siegfried accepts the Woodbird’s credentials and so knew in the previous opera that the Ring was no mere trinket; but rather, something extremely powerful.

So why did Alberich say something untrue to Hagan, or if it was all in Hagan’s head, why did he make this mistake? I’m not sure but what is germane to this post is did this information inform Hagan of something he didn’t previously know? if so, Alberich must have really spoken to him. I cannot find anything definitive.

By the end of Act 1 Götterdämmerung, both Siegfried and Brunhilde are aware of the Ring’s significance so Alberich is in the dream passing on old (and by this time inaccurate) news concerning Siegfried. I can’t find evidence that this signifies anything other than not all characters are kept up to speed in real time, which simply reflects real life.

Bottom line is I can find no smoking gun either way. One wonders therefore at the point of the scene at all. Bearing in mind the dastardly plan is already underway, how are we helped by understanding that Hagan is doing it for himself and not for Dad? Unless the very point is the implication that Dad is still around…?

On the basis that I don’t see him die and I am troubled by the concept of dreaming of having a dream, I am going to conclude he is really there. But its hardly convincing.

Either way, I suspect Wagner did not want to close the door on the possibility of the baddies (in whatever guise) returning. If he wanted a happy ending, Brunhilde and Siegfried would have returned the Ring to the Rhine in triumph, glory and love. But that’s too easy. Whilst at the end of Götterdämmerung, we are all redeemed through Brunhilde’s supreme and selfless sacrifice and we are optimistic of a better world, we also have a nagging concern that this brave new world is just as susceptible to the corrupting influence of Alberich, or someone quite like him. And so we Re-cycle..



Naarwich away. Didn’t get to this. In fact I only heard it up to half time. Mrs Donner, sniffing retribution for my recent absence at Anfield and the impending one at Ewood Park, gave me a look that meant one thing and one thing only: DTH was in for some pre-Valentine’s Day shopping in Islington followed by a bit of Dalton Trumbo at the Arthouse, Crouch End. As it transpired, both company and film were pretty good. The film was actually very good (as was the company – oh shit..). If you suspected that John Wayne was a wanker but weren’t sure why, go and see this. Stars the excellent Bryan Cranston and the magnificent Louis CK . So phone switched off promptly at 16:00 and I was reconnected with the world at 18:15. You know how you want to re-live it in normal time but real life gets in the way (Likely Lads style)? So the first thing I saw was a tweet how Moses turned the game and I got all excited (a bit much in the Arthouse) about a win, before the slightly anticlimactictical  realisation of 2-2 draw. Still the West Ham spirit, don’t know when we’re beaten  etc. etc.

First outing for Emenike. Welcome to WHU Emmanuel. [aah Sylvia Kristel…behave Don] May you score a hatful of goals in claret and blue and mainly against Spurs.

In my goodbye to Carl Jenkinson last time, I forgot the equally valued Mauro Zarate. Little Don and I went to Goodison last season, when he came on from the bench and ran the game – naturally we lost but an heroic defeat. Not sure why he’s gone, especially for such little money. Suspect its to do with FFP and the Carrick deal (from 10 years ago!).

Getting a bit excited re FA Cup. We’re part of the seven thousand trekking north at weekend. In hope and expectation. Gosh! Good luck Slaven and the boys. Will we see anything of Sakho and Lanzini?

Wrapping it up there. I doubt anyone will read this but if you have, well done.

Donner the Hammer



© 2016