In Which we may have Redemption for the Redeemer (fingers crossed and weather permitting)

heaven-02.jpgPost 32 – Bumper New Manager Edition! Save Yourselves Now!!

Hello folks. Been a while.

I give you; Senta, Elizabeth, Elsa/Lohengrin, Brunhilde, Tristan, Sachs, Parsifal, Davy Moyes, David Sullivan, West Ham Fans, The West Ham Way.

That’s a bit of a list of saviours and/or entities seeking salvation.

Forget Bob Marley, no-one does redemption like Wagner. In trying to make any sort of sense of the operas (sorry, music-dramas) within his oeuvre (and they’re chock-a-block with insight, if not sense), Don finds it helpful to keep the concept Redemption, front and central. Then all one need do, is work out who needs redeeming, whose doing it and why.

Not into the West Ham thing? Skip about ten paragraphs…

Likewise, in the enduring Stratford soap opera, West Ham are in need of help. Big time. Never mind the results, we seem to have lost our way, our hearts, our focus, our cohesiveness, our home, our ability to sprint and unless we have a care, our roots and our soul. For West Ham (though don’t all clubs claim this?), has always been more than eleven players kicking a football; we have (or had) ..soul.

And to whom have we turned for our salvation? A man equally in need of at the very least, a good makeover, if not a blood transfusion. David Moyes, of no fixed abode, whose last three endeavours; at Man Utd, Real Sociedad and Sunderland, were if not outright failures, perched upon that end of the spectrum. He too is in need of a bit of a leg up. In His words, He has something to prove.

Can two lost souls meeting at the crossroads of life really be mutually redeeming? Or do we have two screaming blokes, colliding and hugging in quicksand? Their combined shackles entwining and hauling them both below the viscous depths?

CLEAVON LITTLE & CHARLES MCGREGOR BLAZING SADDLES (1974)

I don’t know, Don doesn’t know.

But we have an initial premise to test. Has He been brought in to save our souls? Were David Brent here, he’d probably dredge up the old “impossible is immediate, miracles take a little longer.” Poor old Davy M has just 6 months to save himself and WHUFC. So preservation of soul may be a little dramatic (not to say ambitious), what we’re talking here is Premier League status, where a win is a win is a win and be that with soul, Mo’town or R&B, no-one gives a stuff.

If that is the extent of our horizons, we may have got the right guy.

For when it comes to steely eyed, forthrightedness, roll up your sleeves, tracky bottoms and give me 5 laps and 100 press-ups…. Davy is your man. And we do need quite a bit of that. The stats that have (coincidentally?) come out this week have really just borne out what us ITK types have known for some time (via players we couldn’t possibly name) and to what the plebs that go to games is simply the bleeding obvious; we ain’t fit.

As much as we all loved Slav (and Don is as up for a bit of bro’mo as much the next guy – see below..), it is something of a fucking disgrace to see team after team out fight us, especially towards the end of the game.

Having said that (for you Seinfeld fans), I’m sure even under Sam, I recall any number of average teams looking fitter, passing crisper and being better than us. Maybe that’s pessimist me.

So to ignore that slight fly in the ointment, Don was quite impressed with Him at the press conference. Honest, urgent, footballing guy, whom (whom is good, if only we knew where to put it) has enough in the bank from Everton days for us to think he can inspire the 25 pretty talented blokes he has available.

To take an oversimplified case in point, Zaha’s last second goal that deprived us of 2 points at Palace; he shouldn’t have been allowed to turn, he shouldn’t have been allowed to shoot. Everyone should have been about a yard more bothered than they were.

Even before that, ignoring criticism of Antonio because that’s too easy and obvious, various Palace players should have been fouled in their half and the game won.

Its a little bizarre to reference naivety in a manager successful at  international level for several years, but the way Bilic had us set up for our own corner against Liverpool was almost laughable. Once the ball floated in it was 50/50 if we or they won the header; but once Liverpool did, the odds were quickly stacked for them to score some 90 metres away. Such was the paucity of our defensive cover. And those poor souls raised on a diet of West Ham over the last three years, know this was no isolated incident.

Though at this point; a word or two in support of Slaven are in order. For we come to praise Caesar, not to dig him up and bury him again.

1. He brought in and for our purposes, discovered, Payet. If the West Ham Way means anything (and of course it doesn’t), it is Dimitri Payet gracing Upton Park and the current fishbowl. Not since Di Canio or Joe Cole in his youthful pomp, have we seen anything like Payet and nor will we do so again as far as the eye can see. Presumably other managers also noted he created an abundance of chances in France but it was Slav that moved quickly and decisively. For the memories Don and Little Don have of that man, we thank you Slav.

2. The same to a lesser degree applies to Lanzini,  Obiang and Antonio.  Lanzini could easily been overlooked in exotic desert leagues but he wasn’t. A fantastic talent whose entire potential is yet to be realised. Has he always been played in the right position? No. Does he often come too deep to get involved? Yes. But well done Slav for bringing him in. Same with Obiang, Slav’s first signing and probably rubber stamped rather than driven by him. Particularly as if memory serves, obstinacy kept this obvious talent behind Noble in the pecking order for half a season. Antonio, was and to a degree maybe still is, raw talent to be harnessed in the most effective way. Like Obiang he wasn’t an immediate favourite of Slaven’s but came to be such.

All in all, Moyes inherits a decent squad. Thanks Slav.

3. He presided over the best season in Little Don’s living memory. Don is ancient. Not only cutting his teeth on the boys of ’86 but even tasting the delights of Moore, Peters, Brooking, Robson and Devonshire. But for Little Don that last season at Upton Park happened to coincide with our decision to take in a few away games. Father and son, together on the road, seeing the Irons win and/or perform well in unexpected places, counts for something. Thanks Slav. Winning the final ever home games against Chelsea and Liverpool – thanks Slav. For febrile excitement at home to Arsenal – thanks Slav. Winning the final ever game against Spurs at UP – thanks even more Slav. And for that last game ever…..you have Don’s eternal gratitude.

4. What a guy. On the day you get sacked to say it was the right decision and no hard feelings. To say this will always be your club. To say this was more than a job…these are unnecessary words that one only says if they are heartfelt. And with them, he inscribes a place in our hearts. Get your next job Slav but feel free to turn up on the “terraces” with us any time you get. Cheers pal and all the best.

Back to our Redeemer. One season. What are his chances?  First advantage is he doesn’t need to work out the problem. That much s obvious; conceding way too many goals. Yet, we have a good keeper and decent reserve keeper. Reid is a perfectly acceptable Premier League defender, albeit on the creative side he’s no Rio. Similar re Fonte (after a sticky start). Ogbonna; also pretty good, provides left balance and better distribution. Loved what I’ve seen of Rice so far. Zabaletta means we shouldn’t be exposed on the right and Byrom, pretty good back-up. I worry about our defending at left full back. Creswell the better disciplined of the two gets exposed too often. Masuako, for all (and maybe because of) his attacking prowess is no defender, so that needs looking at. Add Kouyate and surely we have something to work with and working and organising defences is Moyes territory.

 

We live or die in front of our defence. In Don’s opinion we have one classy operator; Obiang and two that are played there that don’t have a defensive mentality. One is Kouyate a supreme athlete who if he is to fulfil the role has to stop getting wrong side and the other, the Captain who whatever his talents, never could think defensively and less so now his legs have gone (by Premier League standards).  So if all teams need a Kante, we are short and maybe where we head in January, especially if Carvalho remains an option.

Further forward, why shouldn’t we be ok? There is strength in depth and in variety.

Then youth. At Everton, Moyes had a reputation of giving it a chance and there is some talent to call upon. But lets not kid ourselves, he needs results and quick which is not typically fertile ground for blooding the kids.

So squad-wise give or take, He and we have a chance.

Another plus, is that the spirit also seems willing. Even though Slav looked a dead man walking for maybe a month, which must impact on the players even at subliminal level, they gave the impression they remained behind him. Much of this Don expects is because they liked the guy, which is a little surprising in this mercenary age but appeared to be the case. So also good.

Not so good is the amount of games pre-Christmas and the opposition strength in that run-in. If this goes bad we could be bottom and even detached by Christmas which will increase the panic and substantially reduce the effectiveness of the January window. Frankly if we are not in the bottom three come Jan 1st, Moyes will have done well. Probably comes down to home games against Leicester and Newcastle and picking up something (anything) at Watford, Bournemouth and Stoke, none of whom are bad teams and all capable of beating us.

Also challenging is the potential toxicity of the London Stadium. Us fans need to take full responsibility for the crap atmosphere, though if we had something to cheer, maybe ten thousand wouldn’t religiously head for Gidea Park on 80 minutes. Gidea Park must be a hell of a place.

Without wanting to labour the downside, also not so good is Him having to deal with our management hierarchy but hey, that’s the gig.

So Don on behalf of his family and the whole Don community (his family), welcomes Mr Moyes. Forgive the formality but we have more than enough Davids as it is. Wagner fans will know from Die Meistersinger how one can get mixed up over Davids. We’d like the one from the picture please, that slew Goliath.

Do your job, keep us up and we’ll get on fine. The West Ham Way can probably wait until next season.

Okay, West Ham fans, you are free to go. Any Wagner devotees that are still with us, Die Zeit ist da. Anyone that combines both, contact me immediately….we have so much to discuss.

So…Erlösung dem Erlöser, as until 1903 they could only say in Bayreuth. Redemption to the Redeemer. Don is too exhausted with West Ham to embark on a serious study of redemption in the mature ten and frankly there are thousands out there far better equipped to do so but maybe for a bit of fun, lets have a a quick peek at who is redeeming who(m).

Der Fliegende Hollander. Wagner’s youthful offering. This seems straightforward. The Dutchman (beautifully named only thus), is in desperate need of salvation. Not of course to walk off into the sunset, that would be too Disney but to finally sustain death (and keep that in mind for future works). Having made his pact with the devil, his only out is to find a women that will be true to him, Step forward Senta.

Tannhäuser. In modern parlance Heinrich  Tannhäuser is desperate to be saved from his porn addiction. He longs for the time when pleasure was not an orgy but the trees, the meadows and pleasant walks with Elizabeth. Resorting to a couple of Hail Marys he eventually escapes the clutches of Venus and her domain in Venusberg. But his old buddies on the outside are sooo boring, how can they be salvation? Elizabeth, a wonderful combination of both worlds, offers  real salvation but Tann is to dopey to see it and decides only the Pope in Rome is the answer, which it isn’t. For all the tremendous music, Tannhäuser as a piece, doesn’t really convince because neither of the worlds he’s stuck between seem terribly attractive and following Wagner’s pimping up of the Venus music for Paris, Don finds himself rooting for the dark side. So no salvation and we dont really care.

Lohengrin. Elsa is accused of royal fratricide and faces serious consequences unless she has a champion to defend her. Of all the best legal brains and top soldiers there must have been in 13th century Brabant, she chooses as her saviour, some knight that she saw in a dream. As you do. And yet, bugger me sideways, he turns up and does the business. We don’t find out his name (see Dutchman above) until the very end but you won’t be surprised to learn its Lohengrin. So some obvious saving there, which is tricky amidst the machinations of Ortrud, evil purveyor of the dark arts who not only seeks the throne for he family but who also gets most of the best lines.

But lets look at this guy Lohengrin. A more one dimensional cardboard cut-out you couldn’t wish to meet. Won’t tell anyone his name or anything about himself. Only if Elsa asks the question, will he spill the beans but he must then disappear.  So if Elsa wants to keep him as her champ (in every respect…), she needs to put a lid on that curiosity and get back to blind faith.

Of course it ends badly and he has to return to Montsalvat and guard that grail. But beneath that silvery cardboard exterior, one suspects Lohengrin, was desperate to be saved from his cardboard existence. Elsa wasn’t quite up to the job. All very allegorical of our attitude to religion and art. Plus music to die for…..and to.

The Ring Cycle. Four operas joined together for one story and if you think Don is going to (has ability to) pick out the various acts of salvation in a couple of paragraphs, you’ve another think coming. Brunhilde is a decent bet for saviour but she along with the most of the rest of the cast need saving, primarily (from himself), Wotan, king of the gods.

Tristan & Isolde. Their love is so far beyond the rule of law, any form of morality, metaphysics and life itself, that any consideration of salvation is futile.

Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. Well Sachs saves: the day, the headstrong couple, the community, artistic traditions as well as artistic flair so I guess he must be the saviour.  Underlined by orchestral and other references to John the Baptist. He does so willingly and at the expense of his own happiness but lets not head  down any Schopenhauer rabbit holes at this point. What he’s saving them from is interesting to some…pedantry, Wahn (no, we’re down the rabbit hole again – touched on in post 22 and others), art critics, the French, (the Jews??), urbanisation and I’m sure others.

Parsifal. The final line of Wagner’s final opera is Redemption to the Redeemer. We can safely say that Parsifal is a if not the redeemer. He has re-united the holy relics and so saved the Grail community, including of course Amfortas. He has redeemed Kundry and allowed her curse like that of the Dutchman, to finally be lifted so she can die in peace. Depending on one’s take on the whole piece, one may say it is cleansing and cathartic for audiences and the whole world.

But does Parsifal himself need redeeming, for that is the heavy hint of the final line? He is a sinner from when he did not understand the concept of sin. He left his mother to suffer alone, breaking her heart and he shot the swan. The latter a sin of equal measure now Wagner is embracing a Buddhist and vegetarian agenda. He redeems himself in that he awakens to the concept of sin and other people’s suffering and then more graphicly, Kundry washes his feet with her hair. Kundry is therefore both in need of redemption and is a redeemer but it is doubtful that the last line is devoted to her.

Of course, Wagner himself needs redemption (boy, does he), though I’ve not seen much sign of him seeking that, unless one counts vicariously through characters. He believes he’s saved opera and because of its elevated status (in his eyes), art itself. By the time he finally came to produce Parsifal, I doubt he still felt art could radically change society, as he did twenty years earlier. But for the gift of his oeuvre for humanity, does he think he’s been redeemed?

 

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI! 

©DonnertheHammer.com 2017

In Which its a Wahn Wahn Wahn Wahn World

Post 22

The 1963 film Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World is one of Don’s favourites.

Starring Spencer Tracy, Phil Silvers, the incomparable Ethel Merman and a host of others, its a mad cap romp around San Diego in which a group of otherwise law abiding citizens get into all sorts of scrapes in a grasping frenzy for a pot of gold. The madness rears with two heads. Firstly the notion that extra money will improve their lives and secondly; that every man for him or her self will be better than cooperating as a group.

Wagner and his mentor Arthur Schopenhauer would have approved Stanley Kramer’s central critique.

Linguists tell me there is no direct translation for the German word “wahn”.  Ernest Newman: Wagner Nights in a footnote refers to “erroneous or false opinion”, “illusion”, “delusion”, “hallucination”, “error”, “folly”, “madness”. All of the above. Generally that mankind is propelled by an inner and irresistible compulsion to strive for something unseen and unknowable and that such striving is invariably at the expense of a fellow human who is striving with equally determined folly.

This resonates with West Ham’s ambition to improve itself by moving stadium. So far, not looking so good.

The anguish that there is no escape from such madness is a central, not to say overriding theme in several Wagnerian operas. Most obviously in the Wahn monologue in Die Meistersinger….to paraphrase..”everywhere people torment and flay each other until they draw blood in foolish anger…no-one has reward or thanks for it..he thinks he’s hunting, not realising its his cry of pain, as he tears his own flesh….”

Pure Schopenhauer and you don’t get that with Puccini.  

In the Ring Cycle too. Paul Heise (via Roger Scrutton’s intro) in his leviathan analysis, Wagnerheim, identifies in the Ring Cycle, in response to wahn as mankind’s destiny, a yearning for transcendence. A need to escape the forever pointless striving and return to an age of innocence. So generally the gold and specifically the Ring may not be (or not only be) symbolic of capitalist greed (as GB Shaw and others saw it) but rather of religious consciousness and/or scientific knowledge. In either case, the means whereby man has leapfrogged all other species to rule the world.

Whether you get this, you will at some level feel it. Lets put it this way. We have the scientific knowledge and curiosity to develop technical “solutions” to all the world’s problems. So what if we rape the world of fossil fuels? We’ll just create a better technology. Once the world is dead, we’ll move on to another planet. Technologically, humans will find a way.

But to what end? We are constantly striving but where are we going and is it any better? Some of us, possibly Schopenhauer but maybe also Wagner and Stanley Kramer, may wish we had not left an age of innocence when we desired nothing more than to roam the fields in our battered VW camper-vans (running on compressed sheep droppings), parking up by the river bank and strumming Leonard Cohen on a lute.

To my simple and frackered mind, it is such sentiment that is at the heart of much of what Wagner had to say and which couldn’t be further from the common conception of what he is about. Such is the fascination.

But what has this got to do with West Ham? To which Don says: any discussion that isn’t Mike Dean or the performance against Man City has got to be an improvement.

But actually there are links. Don is not about to re-write his own history and say with hindsight, he was always against the move. He understood the rationale at the time and was excited by the prospect of us little Hammers becoming a footballing giant. Which could still happen and we must judge the project after 5 years not 5 months.

But after suffering for half a season we look back to our golden age at Upton Park with not a little regret. Lets not kid ourselves that life back then was not, like now, more heartache than anything else but its undeniable that we had something magical and that is now gone forever.

There was a window of opportunity, between bids, when the TV money had kicked in and the club was not dependant on the move for survival. We could have redeveloped Upton Park to 45,000 but no, by then we were riding the Wahn wave. Don included.

I am not trying to equate the rape of world’s resources and pointless wars to the exit from The Boleyn but there is something familiar (and slightly nauseating) about this feeling that if one stands still, if one is not constantly striving for something else and being seen to be striving for it, one is as dead as dodo. Schopenhauer probably thought (and almost definitely said) that the dodos had it right.

So here we are. Team bereft of confidence. Ground that sucks out the atmosphere. Players that don’t look committed. Crowd that thinks its at Disney World and realisation that there is more to a manger than being cool. I fear Concerned is the new Cool.

Don will try to find some silver linings:

  • we are unlikely to go down
  • we have a good crop of youngsters. A team (3-4-2-1) of Randolph, – Burke, Reid, Oxford – Byram, Obiang, Kouyate, Creswell – Lanzini, Samuelsen – Fletcher/Martinez; has potential with more plus experience on the bench.
  • we have Payet; should he wish to play for us. If not, time to move on.
  • Board may realise it cant pick the transfers.
  • 10,000 day trippers may have had enough, allowing 10,000 waiting list fans that know what they are in for, to step up.
  • At some point, team will realise its in their hands and they cant blame the ground.
  • the manager is still a bit cool, for not being so cool.
  • We are West Ham United.

So breath deeply, don’t panic and don’t let the Wahn grind you down.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2017

 

 

In Which Wotan Got a Hat. Don at Der Ring part 3 – Siegfried

Post 16

Mrs Don and I are awoken every work morning with the strident horns (middle C?) that stir Brunnhilde so effortlessly and gracefully as she greets the sun after 20 years. I can’t remember ever seeing it being played live at such close quarters and what a thrill it was.

I have been a little frustrated through the week that the singers have been left a little at the mercy of the sheer power of the orchestra, elevated literally to the stage. Last night I was treated to full compensation. It was wonderful and fascinating to see the orchestra rejoicing in music I generally only listen to. The complexity and effort involved in what I thought were quite simple leitmotivs is extraordinary and was a privilege to see and that’s from a musical novice like Don. That pleasure must be multiplied by those more able to appreciate the technicalities.

Siegfried is a fantastic opera. The third act in particular is an epic masterpiece. I honestly think the Ring Cycle operas ascend in accomplishment through the week. A dozen or so leitmotivs in Das Rhinegold have now become a hundred at least and each constantly evolving, combining and emitting little secrets to the paying customer.

Die Walkure whets our lips for Siegfried and in the first Act we get to meet our hero; unwitting carrier of the world’s hopes and dreams. And there he is, a brash aggressive teenager, totally unappreciative of Mime, the struggling single parent. Reminds me a fair bit of Little Don. Brings a bear into the house for crying out loud! (Lets gloss over that it was fur coat shall we?)

Its so Wagner. He is wonderful at creating lofty ideals and then reducing them to everyday practicalities to which the audience relates; Valhalla is a building contract dispute, the nagging wife leaves his big ideas in tatters and now here, the saviour of the world is only interested in hunting playing and fighting.

Mime is allowed to be three dimensional. Sometimes cited as evidence that Wagner’s disgusting antisemitic views and even proto-facism pervade his art, he is on closer inspection, a rounded, interesting character. Yes, scheming and evil; no, not many tears when he gets his comeuppance but I think I’d be ready to kill if I’d have to put up with Siegfried for 20 years. Finely played by Richard Roberts.

Then who wanders in? The Wanderer, Wotan of course. The props cupboard was still locked but the cloakroom has been raided because bugger me, he’s been found a hat. It may be trivial to you but this is important stuff. He is now transformed. Middle aged bloke in dinner suit becomes…Wotan. “tief hing ihm der Hut”…”his hat hung so low”. And the Theatre Royal down-lighting created a wonderful shadow so we could believe he’d lost an eye.

Thoroughly enjoyed Bela Perencz’s performance, with one quibble and Don sounds like a broken record.

I (in the stalls), lost an entire line of Wotan waking Erda. I realise that Wagner expected the voice to kind of roll with the waves, float atop of the sometimes undulating, sometime raging currents of the orchestra and is an instrument in itself. However in none of my live audio recordings do I lose that line. Its the downside of the orchestra being on stage. Wotan is virtually within it. How is one voice expected to overcome a hundred instruments in full torrent. Such a shame in one of the highlight passages. Either the orchestra goes back where it belongs or give the singers radio mikes.

Lets continue through the Third Act, hard to imagine a better 90 minutes (save of course that final game at Upton Park). Its a different Wagner, he stopped for a decade. He wrote Tristan and Meistersingers. But most importantly (I think he would say), he discovered Schopenhauer (was why he stopped the Ring?). Wagner was consumed by his philosophy and the Ring cannot be understood without recognising its influence, front and centre. The revolutionary zeal will be found wanting (getting ahead to Gotterdammerung) , Wotan becomes sanguine to his fate and a new type of hero(ine) evolves.

Kelly Cae and Lars take a bow. And you did. Quite right, excellent stuff. Boy meets girl (aunt). Boy nervously cuts open armour (yes, we imagined the armour..) to see curvy womanly bits and enters shock. Unsurpassed duet ensues. Its not all esctasy; Brunnhilde needs to adjust to recent loss of divinity and impending loss of virginity but then gets back on track. Fantastic. The theatre palpably heaves with nervousness as the top A approaches and then we collapse in a heap of (Arthur S’s) laughing death.

Jo, Mats, Jeni and Ceri. All good and brevity prevents further detail.

Bravo, Bravo and if I’d have had a bunch of flowers I’d have chucked them. The amazing thing is Gotterdammerung should be even better.

What a day, England try to mess it up at Lords and West Ham launch a new kit. Exhausted!

COYI!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2016

In Which Don trips Down Memory Lane. Goodbye Boleyn.

Post 12

So its upon us. The day that seemed so far off we needn’t worry, is now so close we can almost touch it.

9th August 1969 Newcastle United. 10th May 2016 Manchester United. Bookends in Don’s life. One hopes not terminally but bookends nonetheless.

And 47 years is a lifetime; not quite pre-historic but getting there. August 1969. Neil Armstrong had taken a small step three weeks earlier. Woodstock would be a week later and Concorde would have to wait another month for its first supersonic flight, paid for with lots of thre’penny bits in taxes. Europe was decidedly foreign. Wasn’t even called Europe; it was The Continent and some place very exotic. Sainsbury’s was the small corner shop with sawdust on the floor and BT was simply the post office.

Don spent the summer applying pressure to Parent Dons to let him go to West Ham. Don was 9 and had no-one to take him as both parents worked in the markets. Eventually we found a 15 year old regular who promised to look after Don (that lasted a week) and the first season ticket was secured for £15. West Stand, Block C, Row J, Seat 38. Bus to Barking from Clayhall and two stops on the tube. Job done.

I knew the area well as had “grown up” (to the grand age of 9) in Queens Road market. Not the current cathedral to grimness called Queens Market (more of which anon) but the open sunny idyllic way which is now the link road by Upton Park station. That holds vibrant evocative memories and my first West Ham recollection. It would have been 2 years earlier and the first day of the football season. I was “helping” my Dad on the stall. Sheffield Wednesday were in town and my first West Ham memory is the claret and blue scarves mixing with the blue and white ones down the market. I learned recently from Tony Carr on the KUMB podcast that that was the first game following the world cup win.

And for my first game in 1969 we started with a win! Geoff Hurst around the 69th minute and I remember it like yesterday. Naturally soon enough the home defeats kicked in, so I was under no illusion as to the world of pain in store. 1-4 to Man City is particularly vivid.

b32300dc9a06b2d8fa4bf52ca2af7d55--west-ham-united-fc-tower-hamlets

But that season luxuriates in wonderful evocative recollections. There was the feel to the place. The woodbines, Bill Remfrey, the “military” band on the pitch (was it Salvation Army?). The bloke near me that encouraged with “Go on Chocolate!”, every time John Charles or Clyde Best got near the ball. (And by the way, even in 1969 that was outrageously unacceptable to me, so am grateful to parents for upbringing). The peanut and programme sellers and a really ancient man in a top hat, union jack waistcoat and a bugle who, like me arrived ridiculously early and I think perched himself on the corner of the north bank. To a 9 year old he seemed about 109 and I was amazed he lasted the season.

The players from those distant days; George Best, Colin Bell, Jeff Astle, Peter Osgood, Charlton Bothers, John Radford (not for us obviously), Peter Lorrimer. Names that are ancient history to Little Don but to me, pure gold. For us, well looking back it was a privilege to have watched Bobby Moore week in week out for 5 years, not to mention being served by him (see Post 5 ). My heroes though were Billy Bonds and Trevor Brooking; couldn’t split them.

Back when books were books and not digital files, season tickets were too. A little waxy spined book that Don spent most of the week looking at (it wasn’t much of a read) and compulsively rubbing the spine with his thumb. The added excitement on match day was musing upon which would be the lucky numbered page to be torn out for that game. Well for some reason mine had to be collected in person for the start of the next season (1970/71) and off Don trots one hot July day to Upton Park and respectfully knocks on the door the Secretary’s office. An atheist to his boots, only twice has Don felt a vague presence of holy spirit, once in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The other time was when that door swung open…

There in all his magnificent tallness, stood the immense Ron Greenwood, smiling down at this little boy. Words formed in the head and they trekked in determined fashion towards the mouth where they evaporated leaving just a little drool. I just stared…dumb struck. The God-head Ron must have assumed there was a purpose to my visit because he invited me in and introduced me to the secretary Eddie Chapman. Not only was I given my season ticket but also a little tour and remember the verdant green of the July pitch and the absence of goals.

Those first five years are my significant memories of the ground we are about to leave forever (the other period being the last ten years in which Little Don and I have been going together). Back then, the cliches were true; how close the stands were to the pitch, those odd small goals, the floodlights perched on roofs which hung so low that at night, the din of the crowd came from black voids within. No wonder opposing players were intimidated.

There was a short but wonderful time when Saturday for 10 year old Don meant that he was just about young enough for Saturday Morning Pictures at the ABC in Green Street (Doing the Lambeth Walk between the various features), fish and chip lunch and then West Ham; and it didn’t have to be the first team! Don was equally prepared to not only attend the reserve games but still arrive an hour early with his one page 2d programme and stare at god knows what until kick off.

After the Cup win in ’75, domestic economics determined that at 15 I was old enough to run the market stall and would have to give up my ticket. So I missed our ’76 Euro games and my vivid memories of the Eintracht Frankfurt night, are sadly at home by the TV.

But those 5 years in Queens Market are inextricably linked with the ground. This was the second skinhead wave (the “faux” one, much more concerned with violence than music and street culture of the early ’70s).

Anyone West Ham knows the market; situated between the ground and the station, it saw many a battle in the mid/late ’70’s. The stall holders were as tough as they come; not us obviously we sold costume jewellery, but the proper ones. The fruit and veg game was clearly cut throat and many had the scars as testament. Don did a lot of growing up down that market. I now bizarrely recall that my Saturday helper was Alan Curbishley’s sister (or maybe niece – with poetic licence I say sister).

What with Uni ‘oop north it wasn’t until the 80’s that Don got back into going regularly to home games, culminating in the wonderful ’85/86 season.

Nostalgia for the ground drops off significantly once the old stands came down but for Little Don, the ground as it now stands are his memories and stuff of his blog in 40 years time.

west-ham

So there it is. I’ll be sad of course but progress is progress and the new ground has much to excite. Don’t think I’ll rush back to the area, wont miss the impossible parking and traffic but the memories are golden. I suppose a life in claret and blue.

No Wagner this post. Tannhauser on Sunday.

Onwards and upwards and if you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2016