In Which Twenty’s Plenty for the Travel Wear-y

Post 26

Wagner liked a Wanderer and travelled extensively himself. Not only the enforced exile that tends to follow picking the losing side in a revolution but he traversed Europe trying (usually failing) to put on commercially successful operas. He also regaled in Mein Leben many tales of hiking throughout the Alps. Of his main characters, Wotan often operated under the pseudonym “Wanderer” (and lived up to that) and several others, including  Tannhäuser, Parsifal, Siegfried, the Dutchman and Lohengrin all put in the mileage. I guess a good yarn is a journey in itself so travel is an oft used device.

Don and Little Don also like to travel. Harbouring thoughts of a European Tour, we (well Don anyway) envisaged this season, following Wagner’s footsteps and was thinking in terms of Zürich Grasshoppers, Dynamo Dresden and someone nice near Venice, say Verona or Udinese. Any would have fit the bill, though we drew the line at Riga. But no, typical West Ham, we depart the Euro scene with the ink barely dry on the Referendum Act, going out to that footballing giant Astra FC. Good God. I mean just give me strength.

Fortunes always hiding but still we blow bubbles and all that (Slav accent). We decide that this year we shall discover the green and pleasant land that is England (and Wales)! Unfortunately Cotswolds FC, North Cornwall United and Delights of Snowdonia Athletic are still building up to Premier League status. So it has been slightly less bucolic idylls  including Liverpool, Manchester, Swansea and last week, Sunderland.


But pleasant sojourns nonetheless and hard to credit this season (as opposed to last) but I don’t think we’ve seen a defeat. Of course we lost at Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal but those are mere stretching one’s legs rather than proper travel.

So after a very nice lunch and a pint in gloriously sunny Newcastle we arrive at the Stadium of Light. It has lost a little of the Roker Park soul, fondly remembered by Don in the early ’80’s but is a pretty impressive ground and the support deserves better than the rubbish they’ve been served the last few years. It afforded Don the opportunity to explain the Bob Stokoe statue to Little Don (with whom it barely registered) but folks, it is of such annoying and futile gestures that maketh a parent (or not). Don was optimistic. He’d predicted a 2-1 Hammers win earlier in the week on the fabulous Stop! Hammer Time podcast  Hammers Stumble in Relegation Push and he was sticking with that. Predict Sunderland to score? But they haven’t scored in over a million seconds of apparently active football! Only a madman would back them to score. Surely?

And it couldn’t have started better. After knocking the ball around with some fluency, Carroll nodded the ball back from beyond the far post to Ayew who with the time, space and a carefree attitude that only a sunny bank holiday weekend can provide, adjusted his footing, lurched, stumbled, scuffed something..and the ball rifled into the bottom corner some way below the legion of travelling Hammers fans. We sang, we laughed, Slav was declared to be Super, the boys were knocking the ball around with some assurance, even at speed and (blow me) in a forward direction!! And all was well for a while. The apex was a flowing move that ended with Snodders (to his friends) clipping the ball just wide with the goalie nowhere.

Then the rot seemed to set in.  Khazri, one of those annoyingly effective players began being annoyingly effective. But even he would not have expected to score as he did. With Sunderland settling comfortably into their second million of seconds without a goal, they innocently win a corner. Khazri swings in a decent ball, which Fernandes (of whom Don is otherwise a fan), ushered through, lest not to interrupt its flow and Randolph (more of whom anon) under substantial pressure from the substantial Anichebe flaps at nothing and the ball goes straight in. Who scores direct from a corner? I mean beyond the playground, who does this? Maybe we were unlucky not to get a foul. Maybe.

Slave is declared to be not quite so Super and we limp through to half time.

In what was becoming a battle of who could have the most laughable defence, we were 2-1 up shortly after the re-start. Ginger Pele nodding home. The only pressure he felt was the band of high pressure nestled somewhere way over the North Sea. Again Slaven was Super. And without too much trouble (relatively speaking), we were edging toward a correct score prediction and the moral high ground for Don. Step up Darren Randolph. Now don’t get me wrong I like Darren and Don remembers from his youth that being in-goal is a thankless task. Don also remembers Darren keeping us in a cup game at Anfield last year. However, this year’s Anfield was a different story; one that has had too many repeat readings and with a chapter added last Saturday. With the game drawing to a close, and under real pressure, he elects to catch not punch, at almost at 18 yards from goal. The ball falls to Borini and they are level.

Don recalls a similarity with Adrian. Both keepers are rightly criticized for hugging their line and not dominating the six yard box, never mind the penalty area. Bowed low with such criticism, every now and then, they decide they are coming for the ball. It may be around the half way line but they are coming for it. Just to shut people up.  It rarely ends well.

Don’s prediction in tatters, it ends 2-2. Oh well, survival will have to be guaranteed another time and its time to go. We leave the weary Wearsiders and head back to Newcastle, where Sunderland’s failure to take probably their final survival chance was greeted with widespread joy. We took a slightly later train which proved uneventful and home in Muswell Hill by eleven.

This is great improvement on Don’s last trip to Sunderland (Roker Park) after which night game, he had to hitch-hike through the night to get home, which was then Lancaster. Some travel even further. Take for example Scandinavian Hammers who have kindly let me re-produce their logo as it has more than a touch of Nordic Wagneritus around its gills. These hardy folk think nothing of several thousands of miles over the season which I could understand if we were decent.


Now apparently the good folk at Virgin Media recognise the monotony of the long distance runner as they were offering a tenner back on every away ticket purchased for last weekend. Anyone hear about it? Don saw no publicity whatsoever at Sunderland and only after tickets had been disposed of did someone mention to him the  Twenty’s Plenty campaign. Forgive Don’s cynicism but he ponders if this is one of those publicity stunts aimed at everyone other than those that might take advantage. Cue Don and Little Don rooting through bins looking for grubby tickets because it seems other proof of purchase does not qualify for the refund. Why the hell not? Come on Virgin, be a sport. And if your ticket is not in the bin, claim your tenner!

Enough retrospective. lets look forward! A relaxing shluf on the tube tomorrow before a Rioja or three down Enrique Tomas at the Westfield (you can take the bloke out of Green Street…)..before a nice three points at home to Everton. If ever there was an easy team for us…Come on guys, send those Scandi Hammers back to Tromso happy; they’ve made a big effort.

This episode of this Wagner blog has been painfully short of Wagner. That’s the way it goes. Some days, the Swan glides along the river bearing the Knight, other days it falls dead from the sky. You got to roll with those punches. Last time was all Parsifal. Don’s heard whiff of a Götterdämmerung study day on Sunday at Fulham Opera which might be cool and on election night he’ll be watching Lohengrin at Longborough (one can do away days in the Cotswolds!), starring the fabulous Lee Bissett.

But a sad note on which to end. We hear today of the way too early death of Ugo Ehiogu. As nice a guy as his name was difficult to spell and with whom Don was lucky enough to play a couple of rounds of golf. RIP Ugo.



If you have been, thanks for listening.


© 2017

In which Don gets a Rinse, considers Divinity (starting with some introspection) and may not be roving to Blackburn.

Post 3.

Its a momentous day at Don towers. It was two weeks ago today that I decided to start this blog and I haven’t been closed down yet. At least one person other than me has visited the site, which is up there with sponsor targets. My detailed analysis reveals that he/she was here for around two minutes, threw up and left. Still its nice to have some company.

Last night I actually attended a live Wagner performance but not in usual format. Accompanied by one of the Little Donettes, I went to see The Rinse Cycle at the Charing Cross theatre. Its a comedic skit on the whole 16 hour Ring, condensed into 2 hours, with laughs, which is a concept unknown in Wagner country. I was unsure whether to go until I realised that now I am a professional blogger (one hit and rising) I could put it on expenses.

I wondered whether it would be such a telescopic view so as to be pointless or a music student’s end of term skit, full of in-jokes that I wouldn’t get. Seasoned Wagnerites such as I aspire to be, who take life very seriously, will look down their intellectual noses at this sort of stuff. But you know what? It was fun; a bit of a laugh and they had something going with a play within a play, a la Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound. If there were in-jokes, I didn’t notice (mum! they won’t let me play with them! mum!!). I’m no great judge of the technical singing but they sounded pretty impressive (in a small theatre). The monumental editing allowed Brunhilde to swerve the stupidly high notes (top E’s?) at end of both Valkyrie and Siegfried and who can blame her for that. However, had she done so, she would have got a Brava from Don. To be picky, I missed Loge but there are limitations with a cast of 5.

Its a light hearted foray into the deep, dark Wagnerian forest. If you’ve wandered onto this site because you are Wagner-curious but a bit concerned with weight laden music and serious ladies in horned helmets, give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen? You end up dead on Siegfried’s funeral pyre. Actually even worse, you may get embroiled in a Valkyrie sing-along at the end.

Moving on.

Sometimes I feel the need to talk about God. Lots of gods actually as there’s half a dozen in The Ring. I myself, Donner, am indeed a god, though frankly, the least impressive of the bunch. S0 lets start with me, if only to have done with it and move on.

Donner only appears in Das Rheingold, though he may subsequently be called upon/prayed to by various earth dwellers. Marvel Comics aficionados will know him as Thor, the bloke with a hammer who hits things and causes thunderstorms (SPOILER ALERT: I don’t actually look like this.)  He has a tendency to consider might to be right and that any problem will seem just a tad lighter if someone could possibly be smashed in the face. His main function in Das Rheingold is to allow Wotan an opportunity to hold Donner back  from whacking a giant and therefore establishing his (Wotan’s) credentials as a benign dictator who plays by the rules (his). We’ve all met a Donner; they tend to be Spurs fans and are generally unpleasant. I am of course the exception, basking as I do in the golden aura, that is supporting West Ham United.

Of course he has one thing going for him; he has a hammer and so perfectly equipped to name this blog.

Next in an occasional series…Frika. Goddess of marriage and poor neglected wife of Wotan, the big boss.

and seamlessly onto the Hammers…

I have been taken to task on the Stop! Hammer Time Facebook page (podcast par excellence), for missing the opportunity to mention Stephen Fry in my coverage of the Norwich game, him being both a Wagnerite and a Canary.  Too right. I would like to redress the balance and looking forward to Sunday’s FA Cup spectacular against Blackburn Rovers, I give you….

Harold Blackburn, a Scottish bass who sang Fassolt and Hunding in the 50’s/60’s.

Despite the best laid plans of Little Don and I, our trip to Blackburn is in the balance. Very frustrating but the claret and blue army (and it really is an army this weekend) may have to cope without two foot soldiers. No doubt this will be a setback but Slaven and the boys will have to huddle together and overcome. I think they have the mental strength to do it.

Am very comfortable with old Randy Randolph in goal and defenders Oggy (observant readers will have noticed his honorary mention in the Glossary) Collins and Creswell are obvious and good choices. We are struggling at right back but Antonio seems sufficiently disciplined (and hopefully has learned from the Norwich experience)  to do a job, provided Moses offers some assistance. The midfield is on fire, particularly with the luscious (and I choose that word advisedly) Lanzini on the bench.

Which brings us to Emmanuelle (f) (yes, I know, I did that “joke” last time and will repeat ad nauseum). You’re on your own Emmanuel (m) and West Ham expects; so please deliver.

Should be too much for Blackburn whom one expects to be sufficiently well-mannered to remember just how they won the Premiership in 1995 and  do the decent thing on the goals conceded front.

Looking forward to a great game and a home draw in the next round.

If you have been, thanks for listening.


Donner the Hammer

© 2016