In Which Pomegranates are not the only Fruit.

Post 31

Oh dearie, dearie me. Slav’s in a pickle folks. In fact that doesn’t begin to describe the doo doo in which my favourite football team currently reside. Not just Slav; from top to bottom and going by the embryonic league table, I’m afraid the emphasis is on the bottom. Don ponders this. But to take his mind off of it, he will also muse (without research or off button) whether Parsifal, far from/as well as being a Freudian wet dream, might actually be Wagner’s coping mechanism for having to go without his conjugal rights back at the ranch; Cosima having closed off that avenue of pleasure. And don’t even get Don started on pomegranate seeds.

Rock bottom, pointless, manager considered most likely to get the chop, needless sending offs, defensive shambolics, best defender injured in pre-match warm up, daft penalties…yes folks….you know it, we know it….can only be ….put your hands together for…… West Ham United.

The irony of course, is that it had been a pretty good summer. A week in Avignon with Mrs D followed by a lovely time outside of Dubrovnik again with Mrs Don, Little Don and one of the Little Donettes. There Don mused with Little Don over the challenge to come at Old Trafford; a tricky start of course but with our well received new quintet of Hart, Zabaleta, Arnautovic, Hernandez and Haksabanovic, we thought we were pretty well equipped; not to win at Man Utd of course, that would be silly, but not to be disgraced. And then to go into the Southampton and Newcastle games with justifiable hope. Added to this, very public talk of William Carvalho being when not if, Valencia gone, Snodgrass about to follow and we reasonably anticipated a winger and maybe one other addition to a good squad and a decent season.

Ok so we conveniently ignored pre-season form, or lack of. Also, various tittle-tattle  concerns re our training intensity, or lack of.

And so it came to pass. Not so much the defeats but the manner of them in the Man U and Newcastle games in which our effort levels doffed caps towards the insipid. Certainly, grit was on display against Southampton, its true; but having clambered to the life raft, we launch ourselves with gusto off of it and into the abyss.

Don’t get me wrong; Don is in the Slaven camp. There; said it and rightly so. It’s grossly unfair to judge after three games, even where tagged onto the ten at the back of last season. But there are very worrying signs. A talented defence looks shambolic. No protection in front. That’s no criticism of Declan Rice whose potential will surely soon be fulfilled and hopefully with us and to a lesser extent, the same applies to Fernandes but his natural instincts lie a little further forward. No, its the impression Slav gives that either Noble or Kouyate can protect a defence; they can’t. They may put in the odd gritty performance but both habitually get wrong side or don’t follow their man because they don’t think like defenders. Can’t remember which manager it was (maybe Curbishley?) that years ago took the young, attacking Mark Noble and said he could turn him into a defensive midfielder. He couldn’t and he isn’t.

Which all makes the William Carvalho debacle an even greater indictment on the numpties supposedly running the club. We thought they’d turned a corner in that some of the earlier transfers were done with comparatively little fanfare, whereas every moment of the early rounds of the Carvalho transfer bout were played out in Technicolor for all to see. And as the deadline approached, the one target so obviously needed, the one all signals from the club highlighted was Slaven’s main priority…. died. Dead. As dead as Frank Miller in High Noon; it took a while to kill him off but once done, he wasn’t coming back. Miller was a vicious outlaw, he had to die. But what had the Carvalho deal ever done to anyone? In these days of grossly inflated transfer fees there seemed little between the clubs though of course we only know what the clubs PR want us to know. Its like the Carrick sale to Spurs; the true details are so complex and obscure as to actually be beyond human comprehension. Like why does every salad now have to contain pomegranate seeds? But more of that later.

The overriding impression is that the board wouldn’t sanction it because rather than support the manager with £40 million, he was a dead man walking and they’d rather save the dosh for the next guy. Whatever one thinks of Bilic, that is shabby treatment because if that is how you feel, sack the guy. Either back him or sack him. Instead we have a half way house, where he hasn’t got the squad he wanted (albeit still one capable of avoiding relegation) and has to limp through to Christmas when he will no doubt be dispatched and the new guy will have some money to spend.

If Don’s analysis is even vaguely right, that is hopeless miss-management. This is supposed to be the second season where we settle into the new ground and assault some sort of challenge on the top half off the table.  I’m not even mentioning that we haven’t played at home yet. That’s unfortunate but we’ve known it from the off. One can only hope that UK wins no more major athletic events. But no, rock bottom, morale having to be built from scratch and the manager left to feebly persuade that he has the squad he needed despite losing the guy he was so desperate to sign.

Don’t get me wrong; there are two sides to every transfer, Sporting may be equally to blame. Also one player doesn’t make the squad. But nevertheless…

It would be wonderful if Slav could sign off with some memorable wins and whisper it, even a cup adventure but Don is in no doubt. He is signing off.

So we’re all in a pickle but this being West Ham, we’re quite used to that.

Is cucumber a fruit? Don’s not sure. Be that as it may, Don turns his roving eye to salad and a very worrying trend that no doubt has been praying on the minds of many readers. It may be a summer thing but why oh why oh why does every salad have to be covered in pomegranate seeds? It’s not just pomegranates, though they are the worst and most persistent offenders. Don feels mandated to speak on behalf of the traditional salad loving community and be in no doubt, we are a community, when he says…fruit belongs in a dessert bowl, not in the salad! Honorary non-fruits being tomatoes and cucumbers. We’ve seen the pickle the EU has got into by broadening its membership too far and we should beware that sorry tale.


Artists grapple with a difficult issue: how to know when the work of art is finished? How not to spoil it by keeping going? In the salad world, that conundrum is easily solved. It’s the moment before you put the fucking pomegranate seeds in!!

On to Wagner and his little pickle. Rather the little pickle he got into. Here was a man who enjoyed the company of women. We know this because due to his huge ego, he insisted on recording every aspect of his life, primarily in his autobiography Mein Leben which covers up to 1865. However, by nature, autobiographies tell the story the author wants us to hear. So it was with Wagner and although it hints at various dalliances it glosses over the less savoury adulterous and other aspects, largely one assumes because he was dictating it all to his then wife Cosima. However, due to his copious letter writing and above all to the Cosima’s diaries which record in detail his life from 1865 until his death in 1883, we have an insight into his life pretty much sans egal.


And we glean that Wagner found life quite tricky without a good women to organise his life as well as to tend to his various needs. His marriage to the long-suffering Minne is blighted with affairs; real or longed for. The most notable being Mathilde Wesendonck, his inspiration for Isolde, whose husband Otto, financed much of Wagner’s life through to middle age. Their dalliances, (possibly nay probably un-consummated) so embarrassed them and Minne, that various breakdowns in relationships ensued, leading to Wagner becoming estranged from Minne. Yet the on-off relationship endured and it was not merely one-sided. Mathilde’s feelings for Wagner were very real as some of her private poetry testifies and they both suffered the strain of deep affection that could not be fulfilled. Social convention prohibited but one also wonders at Wagner’s reluctance to truncate the husband’s financial succour.


Separation from Minne was a significant loss to RW. She was the stable hand on the rudder as well as the tiller. Without her he became increasingly penniless as well as rudderless.  Mathilde was not a realistic option and these years are characterised by a string of female companions from nobility to housemaids generous with their favours, Wagner needed a women.


Enter Cosima von Bulow. Daughter of Franz Liszt and young wife of Hans von Bulow, Cosima was many years Wagner’s junior. Hans was one of Wagner’s closest confidants and musical associates. He conducted many concerts and was, I think, intrinsically involved in the laborious Tristan rehearsals. in short he loved Wagner, realised and accepted he was losing his wife to the Maestro and remained devoted (to Wagner) even afterward.

Cosima was Wagner’s dream. She was prepared to subjugate her life to his genius and takes great credit for providing the backdrop for him to complete the later operas, particularly Die Meistersinger and Parsifal. But despite providing him with two children, she did not excel between the sheets. This aspect was taken up by Eva Rieger in last month’s Wagner Journal. Author of Richard Wagner’s Rebellious Granddaughter and Richard Wagner’s Women, Rieger took this aspect of Wagner’s life and considered how it affected the later operas, focussing on Parsifal.

Parsifal has been considered from almost every aspect, psychological – Freudian and Jungian; religious  – Christian, Pagan, anti-Jewish, mythological etc. But Don has not previously considered it from the perspective of a sex mad author who was having to cope without. For as Rieger says, Cosima declared fairly early on in their “marriage”, that she was ready for the convent and that must have put an awful strain on Wagner. At last he had the King of Bavaria and was not only financially secure but also had an opportunity to create a purpose-built auditorium to do justice to his Ring Cycle. He was in an established relationship with Liszt’s daughter no less, his operas were increasingly performed and he had become increasingly respectable.


Yet his personal needs were not being attended to. A mistress?? Dare he risk all that he had achieved? Dare he risk losing Cosima, his rock and mother of his children? Rieger says not. Most commentators agree that Wagner operas are largely about Wagner and so it seems sensible, as Reiger asserts, to consider them against this personal backdrop that if true, one can expect to influence his thinking.


In this light, the ascetics of Schopenhauer refracts a little differently. Hans Sachs’ acceptance that Eva will choose the younger Walter, the grail community of Monsalvat being male only and the central theme that sex is destructive and to be feared, all make slightly different sense. Is this Wagner accepting that in his later years, his love life might take a bit of a knock but the prestige the wealth and giving him the benefit of the doubt, the opportunity to achieve his artistic dreams was a price worth paying.?

Eva Rieger cannot know such personal detail but it makes interesting food for thought. Just please leave the pomegranate seeds.


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