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 compares thee to a summer’s day; in the beginning there was Woglinde and welcomes Big Sam

Post 4

How could I start this week other than at Ewood Park? Particularly now Slav has discovered poetry and creative writing. They all told me I was crazy to start this blog. Hammers fans and culture? You’re mad!.. they said. Yet, two short weeks after the “launch” and none other than our esteemed manager/saviour is smitten. Only yesterday did he ask if I could get him two in the dress circle for Giselle. Sorry mate; no can do.

Yes, he has signed up for a poetry course just so he can soliloquise (I thank you) in sufficiently grandiose fashion to do justice to the phenomenon that is…Dimi Payet.  Are we going a bit over the top? You can’t move these days for pregnant blokes in ill-fitting Payet emblazoned West Ham shirts. He is a very, very nice player…and how we’ve missed that at Upton Park in recent years; no offence Benni, Roger and Radoslav.  I don’t want him to get big headed and I do respect the restrained power of the understatement; so lets just say he’s a nice player….a very very very nice player.

Talking of nice players, so good to see Lanzini back. When I say, see, I mean on TV. Regular readers will know of the trauma in Don towers this week over our Blackburn tickets. There they were pinned to the notice board, pleading with Little Don and I to be taken to a turnstile up north. We however, feared we may be unable to oblige, what with life getting in the way….it was touch and go until Friday, when…it was gone. A happy ending however as we found a good home and one very excited nine year old went in our place. We insisted his dad went too because, well, you can’t have nine year old kids doing 500 mile round trips on their own.

The team was great, the fans were great, hey even the kit looked great..(claret and blue..who would have thought?) And my man Lanzini came on for a lovely little cameo and was… great. There was one heart in mouth moment when some northern yob fouled him but, like the little jewel he is, he got up. We wept with joy.

Where’s his song? Someone somewhere mentioned a few weeks back The Jean Genie which I though was great but I haven’t heard down Chav Corner. I’m no Sammy Cahn but come on, it practically writes itself!

He’s Lanzini, he plays on the floor, he’s Lanzini, he shoots and he scores; he’s outrageous, he pushed the lino (Liverpool away), he’s Lanzini let yourself go! Oh oh etc.etc.

Those that do this sort of thing..please sort it out.

Skip the Wagner bit for BFS below or…

Wagner wrote 13 operas. The initial three were to try to make some money and written prescriptively for what Wagner thought would sell rather than what he felt was right. I know of them rather than know them. Little more to say. The “mature ten” are what this blog is going to be about and I know some of those far better than others, for example I don’t know Tannhäuser and Lohengrin that well at all…yet. Its a twenty year journey and I’m taking it nice and slow. There’s tonnes of literature on every imaginable facet of his output so what can I expect to contribute that is not already out there? Answer is nothing but I will give my tuppence anyway and just cherry pick things that take my fancy.

The Ring Cycle, a composite of four of those operas, represents his magnum opus and is not only the most magnumy of all opii (sic., very) but arguably the greatest piece of artistic drama ever produced.

The first of the four or Prelude, is Das Rhinegold and it starts in the primordial slime. The theatre is dark and even before the curtain goes up, we are gradually aware of a sound – a long low constant note. E flat major. It becomes an arpeggio and evolves into a sound evoking water and rolling movement. It is nature at its purest. Raw, primitive and eternal. Before time began, let alone before humans. Is it before God? There’s a question. Wagner at this time was influenced by the philosopher, Feuerbach, who considered it absurd that a perfect god could have created an imperfect world. That E Flat major is intended to convey nature moving of its own accord unguided by some divine hidden hand. It suitably conveys that we are at the beginning of something huge and we’d better settle in and get comfortable.

The prelude to the Prelude continues; nature evolves, the river Rhine is stirring and suddenly a voice. Woglinde, a Rhine-maiden there with her mermaid-like sisters. Her sound is initially unintelligible, suggestive of the gurgling of the water but it becomes words as out of nothing so language and significantly art is born. It is known as Woglinde’s Lullaby, so called, commentators suggest, because she is attempting to send the world back to sleep, to keep harmful “progress” at bay. Too late, a solitary stout figure is there silhouetted…Alberich (he of Post 2) has arrived.

Big Sam bears no resemblance whatever to Alberich, who was after all a vertically challenged person and no-one ever mentions “short fat Sam.” There are those who nevertheless consider they share some pantomime villain characteristics. Not here in Don towers! As a kid I was proud of West Ham. We had never won the league and were usually nearer the bottom than the top but were untouchable in the manager stakes. No other club and had had so few managers. We won that league by miles. We’ve unfortunately redressed the balance somewhat in the last thirty years but nevertheless, ex-West Ham managers are something of a rare breed and are to be treasured.

It is in this spirit of magnanimity that I would like to welcome back Sam Allardyce this Saturday. And I speak as a booer (more in sadness than disgust) at the “ear cupping” victory over Hull. Magnanimous because I rejoice in the football we are now playing; a generous host because whatever Saturday’s result we will have no relegation concerns. I can therefore say Sam was good for us. The right guy for the right time. well done our Glorious co-Leaders recognising the right time to take him on and the right time to move him on. Thank you Sam, welcome back (with other teams) any time.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

Don the Hammer


© 2016