Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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The Southern Sponge

London! I have booked train tickets and will be in London from 8:42pm on Wednesday 10th March to 7:45pm on Sunday 14th March. A large part of the plan is to visit as many of my friends as possible. Friends who I visited on my previous trip to London remain as cool and groovy as ever, but it would be nice to see some other people whose schedules were incompatible with my last trip as well. (Stateside friends who will be passing through London are very high on the priority list.) When would be good for you?

There could well be a little Megabussage up to Oxford as well, given that the costs of bus journeys from London Victoria to London King's Cross and to Oxford are currently identical, modulo a 50p booking fee. (Or, I suppose, to Birmingham, Cardiff, Swansea, Bristol, Kuala Lumpur, Exeter, Plymouth, Bournemouth, Southampton, Kuala Lumpur, Portsmouth or Brighton - but, sadly and inexplicably, not Cambridge.)

Rather more seriously, today is Self-Injury Awareness Day. foreverdirt has an extremely well-written general-interest piece on it including analysis of some of the reasons why people do it and why people stop; as she says, self harm is not a shameful thing, nor is it stupid or weak. I will add two links to her collection: Self-injury: you are not the only one and Things that friends and family can do to understand self-injury better, and to help a self-injurer. There's nothing that I want to tell the class at this point, though please don't assume that this means there's nothing to tell.

More about Middlesbrough, including how to get out of there.

I live in the town of Middlesbrough, which has about 140,000 residents. It is about 220 miles north of London and about 12 miles from the east coast of England. The river Tees is one of the traditional borders of the town; the Teesside conurbation, which is made up of {Middlesbrough, our equally-sized neighbour town of Stockton, subsidiary offshoots like Thornaby and Billingham, the coastal towns of Redcar and Saltburn and the 15-miles-away towns of Hartlepool and Darlington}, has a population of about 660,000 or so. Traditionally this was largely a steelmaking area, but the steel industry is really suffering. Chemicals have filled the gap to a certain extent, but increasingly (as everywhere else!) we are a source of cheap labour for the service sector.

We are not known as a great cultural town, though Stockton and Darlington have great public passenger rail history to them. Nevertheless, using the classic self-deprecating (and self-deprecating only because it's better than self-defacating) humour, it is reasonably widely felt throughout the populace that the only thing of interest in Middlesbrough is its football team. Middlesbrough's football team has historically not been very good - not one of the best ten in the country, but varying between the top twenty and the top forty or so. However, a self-made haulage millionaire, Steve Gibson, has pumped a few tens of millions of pounds into the club over the last 15 years or so and there has been a reasonably extended relatively-good phase, with the team peaking by peeking into the top ten or so at times.

On Sunday, Middlesbrough won the Carling Cup, which is a competition held between football clubs in England and Wales. The top 92 clubs submit teams; some clubs are seeded a round or two in advance, but it is essentially a single elimination straight knockout. It is the junior of the two similar football cup competitions in this country; the senior FA Cup is considerably more prestigious, by virtue of around 100 years' greater tradition and due to the fact that non-league teams can participate as well. Originally the FA Cup was considered the most reliable way to find the single best football club in England and Wales, but the league has overtaken it in prominence in recent years. However, that's another story.

Football clubs in this country spend vast amounts of money; the best footballers' wages are very high. Consequently, football clubs organise very large numbers of matches in order to try to make money and stay afloat. These days, many football clubs are in financial peril. Nevertheless, footballers can only play a certain number of games at their peak physical condition; accordingly, some of the clubs Middlesbrough faced sent in relatively weak teams for the Carling Cup matches. Some would say that is a greater reflection of the status of the Carling Cup than anything else.

The cup final itself was a controversial and exciting game. Middlesbrough beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1; Middlesbrough deserved to win and were clearly the better team throughout the considerable majority of the game, but Bolton can feel rightfully agrieved that Middlesbrough's inadvertently technically errant penalty kick was permitted to stand and that Bolton's excellent appeal for a penalty kick was denied. If both decisions had gone Bolton's way then they could well have had what would have been a completely undeserved victory. As is frequent in football, the right result through the wrong means.

This is of particular interest because the Carling Cup represents the first "major trophy" that Middlesbrough have won in their 128-year history. Now there are complaints about the limited stature of the Carling Cup, but it is major in the sense that the strongest clubs in the land could enter their strongest teams if they wanted to. By comparison, the minor trophies that Middlesbrough have won in the past have been the Anglo-Scottish Cup (a short-lived competition) and the Second Division title (traditionally "the best team outside the top 22"). This is definitely a step higher. The club chairman has been given the Freedom of the Borough (though, to be fair, that was decided before the latest win) and it seems likely that the team will parade the trophy about the town on an open-topped bus. I'm looking forward to that; it will be a novelty. (And a little akin to the start of Mike Bassett, England Manager.)

So Middlesbrough is a happy town at the moment; given that so many of the town's residents have so many of their hopes tied up so strongly with the fortunes of the football club, hopefully a well-behaved, more confident one, at least for a few days. (And, we hear, the tenth fattest town in Great Britain.) I always liked a tale that local independent radio DJ (and occasional fringe TV reporter) Judy McCourt told; as a season ticket holder to the football club's home games, she always enjoyed hearing the man two to her right, who became a very local legend. This man did not so much chant and cheer and shout along with the rest of the crowd, but he knew nothing other than to positively sing out COME ON, BORO in his refined. operatic basso profundo. It was almost as if he was bothering to sing the silent UGH in BOROUGH.

Erm, yes. As for getting out of Middlesbrough, would any Teessiders like to borrow half a dozen Evening Gazette tokens? As long as you take the half-dozen Gazette tokens with you, you can book a return train ticket from Darlington to Edinburgh for £10 or from Darlington to London for £15. (See my example above.) If you want more information (and to borrow my tickets!) then let me know and I shall sort you out. You must book 7 days in advance and travel by March 31st. Limited availability of cheap seats, but I could still book tickets less than ten days in advance.

Some self-absorbed surveying for the people who have met me: some LiveJournal users are meant to be very much alike in real life to the way they are in their journal; by comparison, others are felt not to be so similar. Noting that neither is a compliment or an insult; which am I, or where do I fall on the spectrum between the two? Extra credit opportunity for people who have known me longer: how have I changed over the years?
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