In Which Lanzini Earns his Spurs, Tristan Sees the Light and its Top ‘alf Only

Post 27

Oh what a night! Late September back in ’63…

Sorry wrong record but what a night! We rocked, we rolled we twisted we shouted.

 

On what was no doubt Don’s first ever Friday night football match, the Olympic Stadium provided a dramatic setting to entertain our much-loved neighbours from up the road in N17. It’s always an event when Spurs are in town but this year the tension, the expectation and above all the apprehension was palpable. They arrived Cock-a hoop. Awesome is an over-used and oft inappropriate word but nine wins on the bounce indeed inspires awe. Don was afraid, very afraid. The pain of seeing Tottenham “coming for Chelsea” at our place would have been too much to bear.

But some optimism was justified. This time last year, their circumstances were similar (ours weren’t) and we’d stopped them in their tracks. Moreover, our form had improved recently, no goals but a solid defence. The return of Reid into a back three brings dependability and positional awareness that inspires confidence. One may say Adrian has also contributed but his jury is still hovering near the door.

Three clean sheets in the previous four games is excellent. Yes two nil-nils but sometimes Nil-Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, as they say around Everton. Our back three had Lukaku in their pocket so why not the far inferior Harry Kane? The phrase knocking around after the Everton game was that we “out Everton’d” them; meaning pre-Koeman Everton with the high pressing, hunting in packs and the style that has become a watchword of this season, personified by Spurs though ironically Everton have since been slightly more refined.

EvertonStroke

Against Stoke we were expressive but couldn’t finish off the chances we created.

So Spurs was maybe not the foregone conclusion it initially appeared…though probably would be.

But first a philosophical question: why does Don dislike Spurs with such vigour? He is envious of Chelsea so at least there’s some logic to that hatred and Arsenal do not raise the hackles with any real spirit. Brother Don (he of the dodgy Incest Post 7 ) supports them, could that be it? Not really. He only started supporting them 40 years ago to pinch that nerve. And it’s not as if they’ve had any real success to cause upset.

No, I think the issue runs deeper, in something neither Spurs or anyone can help. There was a Dr Who episode from 2006 in which miners have developed technology to dig very deep beneath the earth. Much deeper than any respecter of nature and unknown forces, should go. It’s the Wahn taking hold. Eventually, they discover why they should not have been drilling, for it is Beelzebub, the Devil himself that resides there; he has been disturbed and is not best pleased. Well that of course is fiction but sorry to report folks but I have it on pretty reliable authority that in actual fact the Devil resides deep beneath White Hart Lane and nothing good will come of the deep piling currently underway. Not Spurs’ fault; just the way it is and no team of the Devil will curry favour with Don.

the-devil

(sorry to rip whoever has copyright of this. I’m guessing BBC)

Don sincerely tries to warn his several Spursey friends (especially the three with whom he shared delightful pre-match Riojas at Enrique Tomas) but they won’t listen.

To the game! One may report that Don was really up for the fight but with 30 seconds gone he remembers looking at the clock, willing it to be over and we’d take the nil-nil.

But we swiftly grew into something resembling ok. Letting them have the ball in non-dangerous areas and closing down vociferously when needed. Noble of course had read the Julian Dicks pre-match relaxation routine and nearly permanently crippled Dyer. Mark, we all hark back to 1992 but this is 2017 and we’d quite like to keep 11 players on the field. Little Don remarked early on that their defenders were playing very high up, especially Walker and we could easily expose that with the right ball. Both Ayew and Calleri had chances to slot people in but didn’t quite have the guile but Noble and then Ayew did manage it, both times for Lanzini. We were not only holding them quite comfortably at the back (the Adrian flick over the bar aside), we showed signs of hurting them. The atmosphere began to cackle.

A word about Calleri. Its been hard to fathom why he is consistently preferred to Fletcher but no-one can argue with the shift he put in, as he did against Everton and Sunderland.  He single-handedly more than occupied Alderweireld and Vertonghen allowing opportunities for Ayew and especially Lanzini. It’s a shame we won’t keep him (which is probably correct to allow room for Fletcher and Martinez to bloom) but he will have learned a lot from his time with us and there’s a decent player somewhere in there. Somewhere.

In the second half we went up a gear and it surprised Tottenham, who looked increasingly ruffled, even before the goal. I thought Slaven’s tactics were spot on. We have four players; Byram, Creswell, Noble and Kouyate who are all decent but very capable of ill-discipline and getting wrong side. But they all stuck to the task manfully and both this and the back three formation allowed centre backs to attack the ball quite high up knowing someone had their back should it not work out. It invariably worked out. The rest of the ream replicated this attitude.

The passage of play just before the goal was an example. Ayew, without much hope of getting the ball put Vertonghen (was it?) under pressure into making a poor clearance. We collected possession and the rest is history. Don has seen precious few goals from his seat in the East Lower and no others (even Payet v Boro) resulted in him dancing in the aisle.  It was a wonderful moment as his Cha-Cha-Cha is indeed a sight to behold. And what can we say about Lanzini? The cliche is that was everywhere. Except he wasn’t; he focused on doing what he does best in positions where it could hurt them and often that was drifting into the space Walker had just vacated. He has emerged admirably from beneath the rock that was last season’s supporting role to being the main attraction. He deserves the plaudits and he will win goal of the season.

Considering what was at stake for them, the Hammers coped with the Spuds quite comfortably because we were simply pretty good. The fact is that our defence and midfield (even without Don’s favourite Obiang), is capable of competing with top 6 sides. It is up front that we are woefully short and surely that will be addressed in a few weeks. (Deja vu).

At the final whistle the place was rocking and it was a night no West Ham fan will forget. Maybe this spectacular stadium that contrives to be a monstrosity of a football ground, can feel like home. What choice do we have?

Suddenly albeit temporarily we are ninth. Top half eh? That takes me back but its the least we are entitled to expect. Tomorrow Don is going to see one of his favourite films, Brassed Off at the Albert Hall complimented live by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. What an absolute bloody treat. Should my Dear Reader have the impeccable taste to have seen the film, he/she will recall the quote from the lovely, nay gorgeous, Tara Fitzgerald, in recalling pubescent playground experimentation. “Top ‘alf Only!” Listen up Daves and think on…Top ‘alf Only!

gallery-1476463454-brassed-off-2.jpg

(apologies to whoever has copyright – don’t worry, only Don’s Mum reads this.)

Last week Don went to a Wagner Society lecture on Tristan and Isolde given by wonderful Anthony Negus and the equally wonderful Carmen Jakobi. Both of Longborough Festival Opera and its production of Tristan and Isolde next month, to be conducted by Anthony and directed by Carmen. Don can’t wait. An amazing opera and starring Lee Bisset who first came to Don’s attention as Sieglinde way back here and its fair to say she stormed that Ring Cycle in Nottingham.

In stark contrast to the forgettable pre-Meistersinger study day (which was just a run through of the synopsis – no questions allowed), this focused on a particular episode (Act ll/3 &4) and was wonderfully interactive. Two pre-prepped members of the audience read through the scene trying to make sense of quite mystical and tricky concepts and saying what it meant to them. It is the dialogue between Tristan and Isolde after the signal torch has been switched off and seemingly unfathomable dialogue concerning Day and Night. It all sets up the famous Love Duet in scene 5. Carmen explained that this is how she starts rehearsals with the cast and how important it is for the singers to understand the meaning of not only what they are singing but also what others on stage are singing.  But what depth of understanding is necessary? The torch is the signal to Tristan that it is safe to come to Isolde. Not when it is on but when it is extinguished. This is fitting because it is the illuminated Day that keeps the lovers apart while the secret unlit Night allows them to play out their time together without real world responsibilities.

What was of interest to Don was that it became apparent that the singers were not expected to have any understanding of Schopenhauer. Fair enough, at face value, it would surely be preposterous to suggest one needed a philosophy grounding to sing an operatic role. And yet Wagner’s head was so full of Schopenhauer when writing Tristan that it guided his thinking and one can see it in almost every line, particularly the considered scene.  It begs the question of whether detailed knowledge of the author’s thoughts can improve performance. To momentarily switch operas, what are the credentials for singing the Wahn Monologue in Die Meistersinger? Simply learn the lines, belt it out and head for the pub? Don is not musical and so ill-equipped to know but it is weird (at least to Don) to think that a singer can give a stellar performance without really understanding what Wagner was getting at with all the Day/Night material.

If one reads through scenes 3 and 4 without any broader background, one will get the gist that Day is bad and Night is good. One doesn’t need to understand Schopenhauer to see that the night is for illicit lovers and that the day is real, it carries responsibilities such as being loyal to King Mark, whereas at night one can escape into a dream and live out alternative realities. That much is clear and pretty obvious.

But take the line; “The spiteful day, filled with envy, could part us with its deceptions, but no longer mislead us with its lies!” It’s as though the Day is a character and has force and compulsion in its own right. That surely is Schopenhauerian Wille. Does not knowing that detract from performance? Probably not.

A little naive pondering doesn’t hurt every now and then,

Remember Daves, top ‘arf only!.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2017

In which Don considers the real point of the Ring Cycle, spouses and the West Ham family

Post 9.


©Daily Mail

Hello Peeps.

Don is at his happiest with Mrs Don at his side. Its true she is a bit of a control freak, doesn’t really relate to Don’s mantra of idle mess being next to godliness, her knowledge of Wagner does not extend beyond X Factor and she cares even less. Yet Don doesn’t mind what the others say, he insists that in her own way Mrs Don is lovely and after 26 years, she is still Don’s bird. Imagine then, the unbridled joy at Don Towers, that Mrs Don was to make her final trek (of three in twenty six years) to Upton Park for Mark Noble’s testimonial.

Some say Wotan wasn’t as fortunate with his choice of spouse, Fricka but the opposite also arguably applies. More of that happy couple anon..

So off we trot on a lovely early spring day for a unique West Ham experience. One doesn’t see too many testimonials in these days of enthusiastic agents and signing-on bonuses. So it was pleasant indeed to celebrate Mark’s 10 years at the club and raise a chunk of change for the worthy charities.  And a unique day it was….there were even less away fans than the last time we entertained Wigan and what really appealed to Don, was that it being a bank holiday, the Controlled Parking Zones, the little darlings, sportingly ushered us through and invited us to make ourselves at home. If Carling did testimonials…

I vaguely remember testimonials in the 70’s. Bobby’s maybe was Celtic and Geoff’s was (was it?) some sort of All Star affair. Though my memory of that night is blighted by a dodgy burger sending my pubescent gills a diarrhoea shade of green and throwing up over the steps of the old west stand. Block C if you must know.

For Mark, the West Ham family were out in force and on best behaviour. It had such an end of term feel one worried for our next game (with reason as it transpired). How fantastic it was to see old favourites back on the hallowed turf (back to its resplendent best with recent bald patches having been given comb-overs). But as exciting as it was to see the Paolos and Rios, Don’s fuzzier feelings were derived from seeing the lesser celebrated folk back in claret and blue. Daly, Etherington, Bishop, Lomas, Moncur… I could go on. Not yer tip-top heroes but part of the glue that makes our club so special. There was a palpable feel of the players being excited to be there. Of course they would be. Imagine five, ten years after careers are ended, they have a final opportunity to play at the old ground in front of 35,000 adoring fans. And for us, a chance to say goodbye to players that just sort of drifted off. The game itself was pretty irrelevant, the 6-5 scoreline being only just off-script but chapeau to Deano for that most unscripted touch of genius. Seriously, Harry Kane is the poor man’s Dean Ashton. Oh what might have been….

More than I can remember perhaps ever, there is a feeling that we, the club, the players, the board the fans, are all pulling in the same direction.

All in all what a day. I don’t think Mrs Don and I will ever forget that parking space.

a chunk of Wagner and more footie below..

Regular viewers will recall our occasional musing of the divine. So for our next God in The Ring Cycle, I give you Fricka. Fricka is the Goddess of marriage and fidelity in the Ring Cycle. She is married to Wotan the King of the Gods. Not your ideal husband, he fathers a dozen or so kids, some human, some semi divine; none however with Fricka who is sadly barren.

We get to know her in three scenes; two in Rhinegold and one in Valkyrie. In each she challenges, nay scolds her husband, two scenes are a private dialogue and one is in the company of the other gods. She is a women scorned and does not pass up an opportunity to let him know.

So what does Fricka offer us?

To consider this, we have to consider her husband and his true aspirations because make no mistake, to understand the Ring Cycle, one must understand Wotan (which is a gargantuan task, probably without end).

Superficially, the Cycle is a story of recovery of the stolen gold and its return to the Rhinemaidens. But Wotan was a troubled God on a mission, well before he heard that the gold had been stolen. Why and what was the mission?

Through snippets in the libretto; the riddle dialogue with Mime, the singing and spinning of the Norns, we get clues as to the timeless pre-history to the first opera. From his supping at the stream of knowledge and the stripping of the branch of the tree of the World Ash (the original sin?), Wotan has ruled the world through contracts and the rule of law. But he has become fallible, he has made bad and unfair contracts and through this fallibility he has pre (or early in)-Das Rhinegold, concluded that unless he can change course, the reign of the Gods is morally vacuous and in terminal decline. He had intended Valhalla to be both a symbol of the rule of law and a physical stronghold against challenges to that authority but instead it is a symbol of a bad contract in which he was prepared either to pawn his sister-in-law (goddess of love/youth by the way), or to dupe the giants. Either way, his governance lacks authority and he knows it. This backdrop illuminates for me a serious lesson of the Ring Cycle and a prime relevance to all of us.

For our lives to have meaning, whether we are the governors or the governed, there needs to be a moral structure. If we cheat, are dishonest or immoral, ultimately it is us that is the poorer. The riches that life offers do not lie in hidden treasure but rather in being decent to ones fellows. 

There you have it. Just saved you 16 hours.

For Wotan, at the helm of a ruling elite that lacks moral authority, his choices are either to somehow inject such morality or to hand over power to something more fitting. Either way he has recognised that the current crop of Gods has to go. This is a major simplification and throw a fair bit of Wotan complacency into the mix. Anyway, at this point, we start Das Rheingold (actually he still pretty complacent at scene 2) and fairly soon, Wotan learns that Alberich is in possession of the gold and has created the Ring. Suddenly lofty ideals give way to urgent practical expedience because Alberich in control of the Ring gives rise to another outcome; control of the world by an all-powerful amoral and vengeful thug.

So back to Fricka..

Das Rhinegold scene 2. She admonishes Wotan for contracting to pay the giants with the human trafficking of Fricka’s sister Freia, goddess of youth/love as payment to the giants for building Valhalla. She has no appreciation of the big issues with which Wotan has been grappling but she is naturally shocked and appalled at the bargaining of her sister. Beyond this, she has the myopic and vain hope that with a fine new palace, her husband is more likely to stay home with his wife and the myopic and vain concern that it will stand testament to the shame to the Gods .

Whether Wotan was really prepared to pay the giants with Freia is moot. If he didn’t need Fricka to set out his dilemma she certainly brings the problem into sharp focus.

Next scene and Loge tells the assembled Gods about Alberich, gold etc. But whilst Wotan realises he and Loge need to “retrieve” the gold from Alberich for selfless as well as selfish reasons, Fricka is all to easily swept from sisterly concern to superficial vanity as to what power the gold will bring to the gods and in particular whether the gold might adorn certain female Gods to better keep their husbands loyal. She is oblivious to the real threat.

By the time, Wotan has retrieved the gold, traded it with the giants to release Freia, thought (sword motif) of his Big Idea (Project Siegmund – not yet Siegfried…possibly) and led the Gods to Valhalla, Fricka is disappointed to have lost the gold but is generally a satisfied women, blissfully unaware of the tectonic movements that have been set in motion.

What is Wotan’s Big Idea? The gold (inconsequential) including the Ring (very consequential) is now held by Fafner the giant who has used the Tarnhelm to transform himself into a dragon, better to guard it. Wotan knows the Ring must be recovered. Whilst Fafner is not Alberich he cannot risk his dark counterpart regaining the ring – besides, Wotan just wants it. His overriding issue is to find a suitably moral ending to the Gods reign, so he can’t simply take it by force but Fafner will not relinquish it by other means. The big idea is for a third party, his son Siegmund (by an unnamed human women) to become the hero that will take the Ring from the dragon. It is not spelt out but presumably Wotan trusts Siegmund to then give the Ring to Wotan.

By Die Valkyrie Act 2, we have seen that circumstances have prevailed (Wotan (in human guise) has spent many years training his son), so that Siegmund is the hero warrior, he has met, saved, loved and impregnated his long lost twin sister Sieglinde see Post 7 , recovered the “needed” sword Nothung and is about to duel with Sieglinde’s barbaric husband Hunding. Wotan has sent Brunhilde to protect Siegmund and is confident he will be soon be ready to seek Fafner and regain the Ring. Plan on track.

Enter Fricka. Remember she is Goddess of marriage and fidelity. Not only is she appalled that her adulterous husband’s son has broken up a marriage but has committed incest to boot! This is whom Wotan wants to protect? Houston, we have a problem and No Way Jose.

Lets dispense with the superficiality. The infidelity objections really underscore her own humiliation at the hands of her stay away husband and serial adulterer, so arguably she is not so pro-marriage as pro her own marriage. She fails to see the big issues. For example for Fricka, marriage (loveless or otherwise), is the contract on which a contract based society is based. So she sides with Hunding, an oaf who has forced his wife into marriage and effectual slavery. She cares not one wit for the extra-marital love between Sieglinde and Siegmund. More significantly, she has completely failed to grasp the serious issues weighing on Wotan. It’s about Fricka’s marriage, Fricka’s sister, Fricka’s humiliation. The decline of the Gods is not on her radar.

But for all her inadequacy, she spots something that has not occurred to Wotan and when it does, changes the course of the tetralogy. The Big Idea requires an independent agent. Wotan cannot recover or command the recovery of the Ring because he parted with it under his own contract and for a new moral society , means must shape the end. Siegmund therefore, is the free and independent agent that will do so.

Fricka observes that he is neither free or independent. His warrior training, his meeting with Sieglinde, his procurement of the sword and even his success in duel with Hunding is all engineered by Wotan. Siegmund is a proxy and no more. And so the devastating line….

“in ihm, treff ich nur dich”        In him, I find only you.

In that moment, Wotan sees this for what it is and is wrecked. His Big Idea has no moral authority and therefore must fail. Musically Fricka moves in for the kill; she now sings with a sweeping majesty and he increasingly the opposite.

Fricka exits leaving him in a tailspin of nihilistic depression. His Big Idea is in tatters and he longs for a precipitous end to the reign of the Gods. Dignified and fitting if possible but not essential. From King of the Gods he has become Shelley Levene.

“nur Eines will ich noch: das Ende..das Ende!”     only one thing do I still want: the end..the end!

We don’t get the end for around another thirteen hours. Good stuff.

More footie..

And on this happy note, a quick review of the Arsenal game. We’re up there with the best teams in the country. Thus far, no big Premier League club has beaten us this season. Simply amazing. The place rocked. Referees decisions go against us. Another normal day at The Boleyn. What a blinding season. Little Don, season ticket holder (missed just two home league games) and veteran of several away games this season has yet to see us lose! Effing unbelievable!

So few games left and they are all going to be crackers. Bring on Man U in the week. Check out all the Andy Carroll videos you want LVG, he’s unstoppable!

Next season in the magnificent xxxx Stadium, we in the East Stand Super Chicken Run or whatever it is, we’ll have to sing our hearts out to get close to our unique Boleyn.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI!!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2016