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.


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.


(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!


(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.


© 2017

In which Don tiptoes around the touchy subject of incest

Post 7

Don’s brother (Brother Don) has a Spurs season ticket; worse yet, he uses it to go and watch them. This notwithstanding (seamlessly assumes the first person), I am relatively fond of him but I can honestly say in the 50 plus years in which we have both been around, not once have I thought of jumping into bed with him.

Tricky Dickie Wagner on the other hand, seems to have a more cavalier approach to the treacherous waters of incestuous relations. Do join me in a poorly researched romp through some musings as to why that might be.

[For West Ham scroll down but why not hang around here for a bit…?]

The scene was set in last week’s Post 6 . In Act 1 Die Valkyrie, there is a rapturous love scene between the twins Siegmund and Seiglinde set to some of the most glorious and uplifting music in the tetralogy. What is the point of it?

In the first opera, Das Rheingold, Wotan has made a bad contract which he resolves by paying the giants with the stolen gold, including the Ring. This however, presents a much greater problem and everything depends on the retrieval of the Ring. He can’t do it himself because it will take violent coercion and that goes against his own rule of law. So his big idea (last scene, Rhinegold), is to find/create someone to do the job for him. A hero, Siegmund. The tension between the independence of the hero and Wotan’s hidden guidance feeds into the next couple of operas.

The main narrative thrust of Act 1 Valkyrie is to ensure Siegmund gains the powerful sword, Nothung, that Wotan thrust into an ash tree years before. Wagner didn’t need a love affair with a married women to achieve that, let alone for the married women to be the hero’s twin sister Sieglinde. He found certain hints in the mythology but nothing essential. So I wonder why Wagner felt this was necessary.


The Freudians would have us believe that all us little boys, latently lust after our mothers and resent our fathers as rivals. We spend our lives trying to escape that guilt and punish ourselves with castration fantasies (this literally occurs in Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal).  Can’t say this really strikes a chord with me but that seems to be the theory.

In The Wagner Complex, Tom Artin talks of the sword representing the father’s penis and the tree the mother’s vagina. The thrusting of the sword into the tree is therefore the intercourse of the hero’s parents. In the absence of the father, the incest guilt wains and the mother being displaced by the sister, the incest occurs with her. Sieglinde, product of same parents is comparatively passive in this theory but lets leave that.

Before Mr Artin gets annoyed, I am not a scholar of psychoanalysis and may have got the wrong end of the sword but that’s the gist as I took it.

Wagner’s parentage is ambiguous. He did not know his natural father, Carl Friederich Wagner, who died shortly after he was born. His mother took her young family from Leipzig to Dresden and into the arms of the journeyman actor Ludwig Geyer whom she married and whom the young Wagner considered his father. Geyer is rumoured to be the natural father and so the journey might have occurred pre-Carl Frederich’s death and because he discovered the boy was not his. Wagner would have no first hand memory of this but he would hear the rumours and know he is the product of an unsuccessful marriage.

Geyer also dies too soon with RW aged 8, so marriage and fathers have disappointed twice. Wagner’s own first marriage was a disaster and he was brazenly adulterous. There are no successful marriages in The Ring Cycle.

It is safe to say that Wagner’s relationship with his mother was complex. He yearned in vain for her love but she was often distant emotionally and physically and Wagner transferred his (the Freudians may say Oedipul), affections and needs to his elder sister Rosalie.

Free love. Queue this side only.

As a young man, Wagner was attracted to the Young Germany movement of the 1830’s. Influenced by utopian socialists, it rejected the church dominated, restricted society of the post-industrial revolution German principalities. It encouraged free thinking, separation of church and state, feminism and the incorporation of some Romantic ideas into practical society. It advocated free love; marriage and the nuclear family being artificial church imposed mores.

Wagner was a student of philosophy, if no philosopher. Prior to his discovery of Schopenhauer in his mid forties his prime philosophical influence was Feuerbach, “the breathlessly optimistic apostle of secular humanism”1.   Feuerbach rejected Christianity and other God centred religion. He considered that reference to the divine was a convenient means of dealing with abstract and elevated human qualities. ” Feuerbach maintained that when we speak of the nature and existence of God, we are confusedly trying to imagine certain admirable qualities in substantial form. So, for example, to say that “God is loving” or “God is love” is really just an indirect (and muddled) way of saying that “love is God”—which in turn simply is to say that love is divine, or of transcendent worth and importance.”2

For Feuerbach, there was no limit to human achievement when driven by the most elevated and purest of human emotion- love. Whilst he wasn’t so naively optimistic to say All You Need is Love, he felt we are at our best as a result of loving interaction with others and  society should be configured so that love may flourish unrestrained.

As if to appeal particularly to Wagner, music held special appeal for Feuerbach, (as Wagner would also discover with Schopenhauer), who thought that through music, man could elevate to a higher transcendental plane.

So philosophically and if we believe the Freudians, psychologically, Wagner was not wedded to wedlock, nor to “unnatural” fetters upon love in its various forms.


Lets hastily return to safer ground; the plot. Das Rhinegold we recall was about strong but fallible men, weak women and rules. Bad things happen if you break the rules. Alberich and Wotan both separately steal the gold, Wotan creates his powerful stronghold, Valhalla , built by male giants. The clever male Loge is expected to think of a solution to the big problem.

In the female camp, the Rheinmaidens are passive and superficial. Freia, goddess of either youth or love (Don says both), is traded like a pawn in a male contract. Love literally being traded for power. I conveniently ignore Erda as whilst passive (and certainly so in Götterdammering), she doesn’t quite fit the type

Which brings us to Fricka. Her role seems to be to complain from stage left to little effect, to be barren and to be shallow in her thinking. Not only is she the wife of the Wotan the most significant character but she is the ineffectual goddess and protector of marriage and fidelity. Wotan meantime, wanders off for trysts with other women, with whom we later learn he has begot a dozen or so children.

Then we come to Die Valkure. We are no longer in the heavens but on earth, with real people. The coal face so to speak. From the off we relate to Siegmund and Sieglinde. We don’t yet know they are twins and neither do they. We learn that her marriage is forced and wrong.

Love sweeps in. Mere rules evaporate in its white heat. It cares little for marriage; incest is just another bourgeois rule. There’s no analysis of right and wrong, there’s just Love.

And I think therein lies the point. If power is not the answer to the big question, might love be? The tetralogy continues that exploration.

the Hammers

A linesman’s lack of attention is all that stood between us and five wins on the bounce. Was so proud of my team and the magnificent travelling army. Much to Little Don’s frustration, I have curtailed the away day travel in his gcse year, especially (whisper it) as we are hoping for additional Wembley day(s) out.

As we prepare for Chelsea we look in such good shape. The best second goalie around. Ogbonna looks to have completely settled. I expect Reid to join him against Chelsea. Solid. Antonio will move back into midfield to scare them witless. The rest of midfield speaks for itself. Up front, whilst I don’t see a champions league grade natural goal scorer, there’s lots of good options.

Mrs Don and I were at Stamford Bridge last time we won in 2003 and there’s been precious little hope since. I don’t expect to win today or even get a draw but I love our attitude that we are in every game to win it; home and away. That attitude will take us far and in style. I am confident we will score every game so we have to concede at least two to lose and we don’t do that too often and when we do, we still quite often get a result.

The Don is sanguine about Noble’s non-selection for England. Of course he deserves his chance but one could argue the same for Drinkwater had it gone the other way. Even with claret and blue glasses, Noble is not a shoe-in for England. Beginning of the season I thought he may struggle to get into WHU midfield. He’s been brilliant for us; long may that continue and that’s enough for Don. Apologies for that balanced view.

Am getting increasingly unsettled at how few games left at Boleyn. The brilliance of the football is in direct contrast to how I feel inside. I am excited about the shiny new stadium but this feeling is not great. My consolation is we could not have wished for a better last season.

Looking forward to Chelsea. They will need to score at least twice to beat us and I am optimistic of at least a point.

If you have been, thanks for listening.



  1. Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner’s Ring
    Philip Kitcher, Richard Schacht
  2. ditto.

© 2016





In which Don wonders who has nicked his football team and questions the Renunciation of Love.

Post 6

Hello folks. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. All those voices in my head couldn’t be wrong. It was simply a matter of time before Don’s unique offering was discovered and revealed to the nation. And so it came to pass that I was asked to appear on the Stop! Hammer Time tv show before a live audience at the London Palladium.

Ok so due to some minor technicalities it is for now outrageously, a studio based podcast but Don knows talent when it slaps him in the face and can see where these guys are headed. Phil and Brian were accomplished raconteurs of the airways and made a novice such as myself feel very much at home. Thank you and I earnestly urge my handful of twitter followers to subscribe immediately.

Mind you, my timing was impeccable. Seeing as West Ham had won four (FOUR) games in a row we could have just sat there, silent, with satisfied smiles and allowed the mellow smugness to ooze across the airways and gently waft into receptive brains across east London, Epping Forest and beyond. Medicinal marijuana for the claret and blue masses. However, professionals to a tee, Phil and Brian felt this to be short-changing people and were delightfully entertaining; I did my best to keep up. If you missed it follow the link above.

Which brings me to the theme of this week’s post. Just who the fudge are these blokes pretending to be West Ham? I wasn’t born yesterday; I am old enough and been let down often enough to know that our allotted role is to cling on for dear life in football’s top tier, whilst cultivating an occasional decent player that we can sell to our betters to pay the ‘lecky bill. My suspicion was aroused quite early in the season when we scored from a set piece and then bugger me, some weeks later, we did it again. So that was that.  This current feeling of elation is tempered by the uneasy conviction that there’s a dozen sweaty average to poor footballers chained in some Chadwell Heath basement reminiscing about Gary Breen (no offence Gary).

So whoever these angels really are, I thank them from the bottom of my heart; long may the masquerade continue and may they never get caught.

A cynical man may point to our four victories in February 2014, culminating with that supreme honour, a manger of the month award for our then portly glorious leader. Yes, that’s true but it was an errant highlight as though magic glitter had been accidentally spilled on our dirty floor of a season, before being quickly mopped up, lest someone noticed.

Whereas our current crop are the real McCoy. No one month wonders; these most un-West Ham like performances have continued since August. We go two nil down to our bogey team, no problem; we win 3-2. Need an hour or so for that? Nah, 12 minutes should do it.  I mean who are they? Hey, who cares? When you win the last ever ever Spurs visit to Upton Park, you don’t ask questions, just enjoy man; savour and enjoy.

I am tempted, on such an unrealistic and optimistic a note, to stop there but my other follower likes Wagner and also deserves to be fed. So, talking of imposters, lets consider a question posed by Deryck Cooke (not suggesting the eminent DC is an imposter, read on): Why would Siegmund sing to the Renunciation of Love leitmotiv as he pulls the much needed sword from the tree (he being otherwise weaponless)?. It sure as hell didn’t look like he was renouncing love for the rest of Valkyrie Act 1. A blind man could see he was rejoicing, swimming and drowning in love. Right there, right then and with his sister, to boot. Because if love conquers all, it certainly isn’t going to let some bourgeois convention about sisters being off-limits, stand in its way. So our imposter is a leitmotiv pretending to be something else.

Your honour, the facts as we know them are these; at the beginning of Das Rheingold, the Rheinmaiden Woglinde ill-advisedly tells Alberich that in order to take the gold and fashion it into an all-power bringing ring, one must renounce love. She is accompanied by a melancholy tune, known as the Renunciation of Love motiv and is one of the best known leitmotivs in the Ring Cycle. On the somewhat dubious assumption that we all treasure love beyond any riches or power, so no one would renounce it, the Rhinemaidens thought the gold was safe and frolicked away until Alberich did so renounce and robbed them blind.

Leap forward one opera to Valkyrie Act 1. A stormy night in the forest; Siegmund, warrior at large (on side of goodies only – see hero, Post 5), stumbles exhausted into the unhappy matrimonial home of the lovely Sieglinde and horrible Hunding. Naturally there is a tree growing in the middle of the lounge. She feeds him. They look at each other thinking something’s vaguely familiar, can’t put one’s finger on it. Hunding returns and during social intercourse realises that Siegmund is his tribe’s mortal enemy as he keeps turning up to spoil traditional sport of rape and pillage. Sieglinde’s own marriage to Hunding is both forced and wretched.

Hunding challenges Siegmund to a duel the next morning. Siegmund, a compassionate man, accepts, to both rescue Sieglinde from her plight and (does he yet know this??) to win Sieglinde as his bride. If only waffenloss Siegmund had a weapon. Well wadya know, years before a stranger thrust a sword into the tree on S&H’s wedding night and no-one since could free it.

Until now. Hunding is drugged into an early sleep. The storm breaks, the clouds part and a gleam of light highlights the sword. Sieglinde hopes this is the hero to rescue her from her pig of a husband. Siegmund hopes he is up to the job and with one heave the sword is freed. He now has a mighty weapon and they fall headlong in love and lust, realising without coitus interuptus, that they are long lost, separated as nippers,  Bruder und Schwester. No matter. Too late now.

Never mind the incestuous fun, what worries us is why would he wrench the sword to the Renunciation of Love motive when he’s about to get as luvvy as its possible to get?

As he pulls the sword form the tree, he sings “Holiest love’s most mighty need, passionate longing’s feverish need, brightly burns in my breast, drives to deed and death”. As Solomon below says, this has the flavour of affirming, not renouncing love. [Though as we know from Alberich love and sex are two different things].

I am by no means a serious scholar of Wagner but even from my limited reading, Deryck Cooke seems to be a worthy and reliable authority. He is troubled by this paradox. He considers whether the leitmotiv may have been wrongly labelled initially by Hans von Wolzogen in 1878 but felt not.

Cooke somewhat uncomfortably justifies it on the basis that Siegmund is not only taking the sword to win Sieglinde but also in subliminal recognition (by the audience if not him) that this is the sword that will win back the gold that Alberich stole by Renunciation of Love.

Larry Solomon in 2002 thought this too remote and convoluted to be appreciated by the audience. Wagner tried to convey multi faceted and subtle ideas but intended the audience to appreciate them on the night and not after completing a PhD. So I see his thinking. However, I don’t think I have a problem in the audience being reminded what the sword stands for, by reference to the leitmotiv. It underscores that Alberich’s action in Das Rhinegold and power versus love, is at the centre of everything.

Solomon instead felt that because of biblical and other references to a flaming sword representing sacrifice, he thought the motive was about sacrifice not renunciation.  In that context Alberich is sacrificing love and Siegmund is sacrificing himself in the duel for the sake of Sieglinde. No doubt Alberich sacrificed love (not sex, no sir) but Siegmund? This raises a number of issues in my mind;

  1. the sword is not flaming. Siegmund refers to a burning in his breast but this seems to be his passionate longing, not the sword.
  2. Siegmund does not know at this point he will be sacrificed. Of course the orchestra may be signalling that he will be in due course but do we need to know this at this stage? I don’t see why we would. But I do think we need to look back to resonate with the broader task of recovering the gold, stolen by Alberich by renouncing love (Cooke’s point).

Because, up to that moment, give or take, the story of Die Valkyrie Act 1, has no connection with the events of Das Rhinegold; it seems like a whole different story. One is all gods and power, the next humans and love. Maybe some reference to Walse resonates to Wotan but not on the scale of the striking Renunciation of Love theme. This motive makes that most vital of connections between first and second operas. To paraphrase The Dude, that rug really tied the room together.

If you have been, thanks.

Man U, cup, excited.

Donner the Hammer


© 2016