Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Middlesbrough v Huddersfield Town, Monday 18th April 2022, 12.30pm

May 3, 2022

I’d got back home from Bournemouth after midnight on the Friday night and with plans to take in a non-league game on the Saturday. The fixture I’d selected at Murton didn’t take place for some reason though and I had to head back down the A19. The rest of that day was filled with Stockton Calling, a music festival spread over eleven venues and with eight bands. I saw thirteen of the bands in eight different locations. All of them were good, although with some of them I only caught three or four songs as I nipped in somewhere midway through a set.

Most bands played for thirty minutes which is pretty much perfect for a festival and despite it not selling out for the first time in ages, there was a great atmosphere from people glad to be out and about again seeing gigs.

Sunday was a music day too as I headed up to see Paul Weller at Newcastle City Hall.  Whilst I’ve seen him many times over the years my mind went back to being at the same venue for a Jam gig forty years ago to the month. On that occasion I’d watched the Boro win at Roker Park in the afternoon and then took a train into Newcastle to round off one of the best days that I’d ever had at that time.

Forty years on from 1982, Weller still put on an excellent show. I think that Fat Pop is his best album for years and, as with the bands the previous day, he really seemed to be enjoying himself too. I doubt I’ll be seeing him forty years from now but hopefully there will be further opportunities. It’s certainly much more likely that I’ll see him than the Boro playing Sunderland.

Back to the Huddersfield game. Harry and I cut it fine again as I hadn’t realised that I’d have to pay to park on a Bank Holiday. The machines don’t take money any more and so I had to download an App and pay remotely. Pain in the arse, but we arrived as the teams were lining up.

It was another poor performance to follow on from the home defeats to Fulham and Hull. A late McGree effort that hit the bar was as close as we came to scoring. The optimism from earlier in the season has just about evaporated and it’s difficult to see where the next win will come from, never mind the four from four that will likely be needed for a play-off spot.

Bournemouth v Middlesbrough, Friday 15th April 2022, 3pm

May 2, 2022

At the start of this season, I still had four Championship grounds to tick off. Everything had gone to plan so far and prior to this game Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium was the only one remaining. I didn’t really fancy heading there and back in a day trip, particularly with Bank Holiday traffic and so I went down to London a couple of days in advance and then got a train from Waterloo on the morning of the game.

As there is always stuff to do in London I’d gone along to a Sea Power gig at the Roundhouse the night before. They were as good as they always are and back up to full strength with Phil being available due to it being a school holiday and Abi having found someone to look after the sheep.

The train journey took just under two hours and passed through Southampton and Brockenhurst, both places that I’m familiar with from working down there thirteen or fourteen years ago. I passed sections of the New Forest that I’d walked in, pubs that I’d drank in and the seven a side pitches that I played on after work.

There were plenty of Boro fans on the train, but on leaving from the station most of them headed into town whilst I followed the signs for Boscombe Beach.

I walked for a few hundred yards parallel to the sea and then went for a stroll along the pier. Strolling seems compulsory on a pier. There was a bloke fishing off the end but I couldn’t see if he had managed to catch anything. There were a few holes of crazy golf with a sign warning that lost balls would be charged at a quid-fifty a go. It’s hard to imagine anyone playing a round without hitting a ball off the edge into the water.

After some lunch and a pint overlooking the sea, I headed for the ground. It took around half an hour. There was a drinking area outside but for home supporters only. That seemed a bit inhospitable, do they think that we are incapable of having a drink without being an arse?

With nothing worth hanging around outside for I headed in and after being extremely thoroughly searched I was able to watch the back end of the Luton – Forest game in the concourse.

For some reason I’d assumed the Vitality Stadium was a new ground, but it seems that it’s just a new name. Dean Court was rebuilt apparently twenty years or so ago with a ninety degree rotation but I think some of the stand to my left had been kept. It looked that way anyway, surely nobody would build a stand in the twenty-first century that still had columns obscuring the view.

It was good to see Jones back on the pitch, but he seemed off the pace and with a much less sure touch than normal. Perhaps his illness was still affecting him. Bamba had a good game again filling in for Fry. He didn’t ever move quickly but rarely had to as his positioning was spot on and that invariably gave him the time to do whatever was needed. Daniels returned in goal and put in a solid performance, but we never looked like scoring.

Still, an away point at a promotion contender is a decent result and with all the Championship grounds now ticked off it made for a decent day out.

Middlesbrough v Luton, Saturday 5th March 2022, 3pm

March 7, 2022

Whilst we are going well in the Cup, we’ve faltered a little in the League lately with away defeats at Bristol and Barnsley contributing to a slip to eighth place. There’d been a good result for us in the Friday night game though with the draw between Sheff Utd and Forest resulting in both of the teams dropping two points.

I’d seen some of that game in the Malleable Club in what was my first visit since attending their Christmas parties as a child. Paul and I had called in on the way to see Altered Images at the Georgian. I’d read mixed reviews of their recent performances, but they did well. It seemed like an enjoyable night for both the band and the capacity crowd.

That draw meant that a win against Luton would allow us to leapfrog both them and Sheff Utd and move back up into sixth place. It’s ridiculously tight at the top of the Championship and whilst Fulham are probably far enough ahead to ensure automatic promotion the other spot could still go to any of the teams in the top eight, maybe even top ten. The play-offs are even wider open with clubs currently below half-way in the table still in with a shout.

Wilder had made two changes from the line-up that faced Spurs, switching out the strikers to allow Connolly and Balogun to start. The high-pressing game that we play makes big demands on the front-men and it makes sense to share the workload.

Luton looked a better side than us when we played them at Kenilworth Road back in October. We’ve improved considerably since those Warnock days though and, providing the Spurs game hadn’t taken too much of a toll, I was reasonably confident that we could take the points. Harry had no doubts. His logic being that if we could see off Tottenham then Luton should pose no problem at all. I was like that at his age.

Harry’s confidence wasn’t misplaced. Luton played a niggly game, trying to break up our rhythm at every opportunity. It’s exactly what we would have tried to have done under the previous manager. Once we’d got the first goal though it was always going to be difficult for them to get back into it and Watmore’s late clincher sealed the win despite an even later away consolation. The win was our ninth home league win in a row. That’s promotion form.

Middlesbrough v Derby, Saturday 12th February 2022, 3pm

February 24, 2022

The Boro games are coming fast and furious at the moment. That’s what happens when you combine a Championship season with a good cup run, although I suppose it’s nothing compared to the second UEFA season where we had to fit in League Cup games up to the quarter final, FA Cup to the semi and the UEFA Cup all the way to the final. Happy days.

I’d spent the morning of the game on a Boro-related activity in that I’d been to a racing stable just past the top of Sutton Bank. Now that I’m back in the country full-time I’ve joined a horse racing syndicate made up of Boro fans and my granddaughter, Isla, and I went along to have a look at our horse.

We chatted with the jockey riding him out and then went up to the gallops to see him run past. I can’t tell a slow horse from a fast one in those conditions but the other syndicate members who all know a lot more than me seemed content with his progress. Hopefully there will be some enjoyable days out racing.

After swapping one grandchild for another, Harry and I set off for the Riverside for a game with a bit of an edge to it. For some reason a fair few Derby fans blame Steve Gibson for their financial misfortunes rather than their own overspending and then penalties for cheating by breaching the FFP rules. There had been an announcement the previous day that a settlement for our claim had been reached but there was still some tension as we walked to the ground.

We made it through the underpass just before the arrival of a heavily-policed group of Derby fans walking from the station. Plenty of pictures of our chairman had been stuck to walls and lamp posts along the route to goad them and there were a few Boro fans wearing Gibbo masks.

Outside the stadium we passed the fanzone area. I could hear some music but didn’t know whether it was live or a DJ. I later discovered that Finn Forster had been playing. He’s a fella that I’ve seen a couple of times before and if I’d known I’d have got there early enough to take in his set. I’ve tickets for his Stockton gig next month and so I’ll have to settle for seeing him then.

There was a heightened atmosphere inside the ground too with more sections down the sides joining in with the singing led by the North and South stands, particularly when the songs glorified Gibbo. I recognize everything that he has done for the club, but I’ve not felt the same about him since he came out as a Conservative supporter. Despite my disappointment over his political allegiances, I joined in. When he’s under attack from the opposition I take the view that despite being a Tory, he’s our Tory.

And the game? Another great performance. We passed Derby to death until space opened up for Jones on the right and his accurate balls into the box led to our first three goals. A late fourth from Watmore put us well out of sight and back into the play-off spots.

Dunston UTS v Bridlington Town, Saturday 4th December 2021, 3pm

December 13, 2021

Jen and I had tickets for a concert at the Sage, Gateshead in the evening so I picked an afternoon game that was less than five miles from our hotel. The gig was ok, but nothing special. It was the London African Gospel Choir singing Paul Simon’s Graceland. I like that album, but the choir arsed on too much, stretching it out by introducing everyone and indulging them with a solo and then having the women in the audience singing one line, whilst the men sang another.

I’ve no interest in party games. When I go to a gig, I just want them to play the songs and then clear off. If you haven’t got enough songs, then play some of them twice if you must rather than stretch the last two songs out for half an hour.

That’s enough of the music. The game that we went to beforehand was Dunston’s eighth tier Northern Premier League East Division tie with Bridlington Town at the UTS Stadium. We were able to park up in a nearby street a minute or two away.

It was seven quid in. I didn’t see any programmes, although they may have been selling them in the club shop. Maybe they have done away with paper copies completely as there was an electronic programme mentioned on Twitter.

There was a covered seated stand on the half-way line and we found a spot towards the back. It was absolutely freezing and whilst Jen had brought a blanket I wasn’t sure that she would survive the entire ninety minutes. The Tommy Mooney Stand opposite was standing only with a lot of people lined up along the rail behind the goal to our right.

Dunston went into the game in fifth position in the table with Bridlington rock bottom. Current form also favoured the home side with them having won four out of the last five whilst the visitors had managed no better than a couple of draws over the same period.

The standard of football wasn’t the best but I don’t mind that. By the time you get down to the eighth tier of English football it can be a bit hit and miss. I suspect Dunston will have played a lot better this season. The grass looked a little on the long side and I don’t think it helped with trying to pass along the ground. Once the turf started to churn it became even harder and the easy solution was to hit longer balls.

Virtually nothing happened in the first half until Dunston had an on-target shot blocked in added time. There was more going on in the second half and the Bridlington player-manager opened the scoring with a shot that went in off the post. They added a second with a finish that I felt the Dunston keeper could have done better with.

The tempo picked up after Dunston pulled one back from a pen but with the visitors time wasting at every opportunity tempers spilled over and a home player saw red for a kick at the Bridlington goalie.

Despite the cold we saw out the game and the away win. The chatter from the home fans on the way out was all about Newcastle’s first win of the season. A nice distraction for them from the dropped three points.

Middlesbrough v Preston North End, Tuesday 23rd November 2021, 7.45pm

November 30, 2021

After the success of the Wearside League game the previous week, I thought I’d take my grandson Harry along to a Boro match. I bought tickets for Block 62 in the South Stand on the basis that my son Tom is in that section and it meant that I could spend a bit of time with him too.

We all travelled down together in my car. Apparently, Tom usually parks near some college right next to the ground these days and my choice of along from the Westgarth Social Club meant a much greater walk than he was used to.

I’d been to the Westgarth a couple of times in the last ten days. At the weekend we saw Withered Hand and Billy Liar, whilst the week before we watched The Nightingales and Shrug. The latter are as Teesside as lemon tops, parmos and a chip on the shoulder. They put on a good show, despite not playing Archie Stephens Birthday Party.

Unfortunately, I left my phone in my car and so whilst I was able to borrow Tom’s for a photo outside the ground we don’t look sufficiently alike for me to fool the facial recognition once inside. That will make this post mercifully short.

At half time the there were lengthy queues of young lads waiting for the toilet cubicles. I suspect that it was more likely to be for a toot off the cistern than a dump in the bowl. In the second half a fight broke out in the row immediately behind us that spilled over the seats and nearly sent us crashing forward. It might very well have happened partly because the participants had artificially enhanced both their levels of confidence and fuckwittedness.

Harry, as ten year olds tend to be, was quite excited by the disturbance but at fifty-seven I was less impressed and next time we’ll be avoiding that area of the South Stand. On the pitch we ballsed it up again by throwing away a lead in the final quarter of an hour to end up with nothing. That’s the Boro for you.

Cleator Moor Celtic v Cheadle Town, Saturday 7th September 2019, 3pm

January 19, 2020

After briefly stopping off at the Gosforth game, Jen and I headed further north for our originally intended destination of Cleator Moor. It’s usually an awkward place to get to, but as we were already over in this part of the world for a British Sea Power festival it made it easy enough.

The festival, which took place in the grounds of Muncaster Castle, was excellent. It had been limited to five hundred people, but as Sea Power aren’t the most popular of bands these days, or any days really, it didn’t sell out and so there were probably only around four hundred people to see three BSP sets as well as some band member spin-off stuff and some well-chosen support acts.

The festival camping worked well too, at only a short walk away from the barn where the action was and with drinking water supplied and showers nearby. A real toilet block made the facilities an improvement on just about any other festival I’ve ever been to. As you’d expect at a Sea Power gig everyone was very friendly with many of those attending being older than me and with quite a few of them having brought their dogs along too.

Daytime is a difficult time at a festival though. If you start the drinking too early then you may not see any of the bands later in the day. I remember one early start at End Of The Road resulted in me being asleep in my tent by 6pm, but then I woke up refreshed and ready to start the new day at midnight meaning I was able to catch the annual outing of the Jonathan Richman tribute band, The Modern Ovens, in the early hours. That was a little weird as I was more in the mood for coffee and Weetabix than I was for a beer. This time though, a morning hike and an afternoon trip to the football filled the daytime hours very well.

The football on this occasion was a Playermatch.com Cup fixture between Cleator Moor Celtic of the tenth tier First Division North of the North West Counties Football League and visitors Cheadle Town who ply their trade in the equivalent First Division South of the same league.

It was the first home game of the season for Celtic at their McGrath Park ground, after a run of seven away fixtures brought on, I think, by the laying of a new pitch.

I can’t remember how much we paid to get in but I’ve a feeling that it might only have been three quid with another pound for a programme. We were there just in time to take a couple of seats in a small covered stand. There was a separate covered standing area too, although most people just leaned on the perimeter barrier.

One odd thing was that nobody spent any time looking at their phones due to there being no signal in Cleator Moor or anywhere as far south as Muncaster. How can that be? It’s as if this part of Cumbria hasn’t moved into the twenty-first century. Instead of looking up line-ups and anything else random that popped into our heads we were distracted by more present goings-on such as the small dog playing with a clothes peg and a kid who couldn’t have been more than four years old wearing a denim jacket with Slayer on the back.

I’m not really sure that the Playermatch.com Cup figured significantly in the ambitions of either club, but for what it’s worth Cheadle took the tie by two goals to one leaving us to head back down the road to Muncaster for the evening activities at the festival.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Brisbane Roar, Saturday 6th December 2015, 7.30pm

February 28, 2016

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The second A-League game of our trip to Sydney took us out to the suburb of Parramatta for the game between Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar.

Parramatta was twenty-odd kilometres away from our hotel in the CBD and as we didn’t have a hire car we were reliant upon public transport. In this case that meant an hour-long ferry ride from the Circular Quay.

It was the sort of journey that you’d happily take just for the sightseeing rather than to actually get somewhere and as we set off we had both the Opera house and the Harbour Bridge in view. The Opera House was a lot smaller than I’d assumed it to be from when I’d seen it on the telly as the backdrop to the New Year fireworks.

We went to a gig there a few days later, not opera, although I wouldn’t have minded that if I’d been able to wear one of those collapsible hats, but Father John Misty. He was ok, better live than recorded, I’d say, with a nice line in self-deprecation over his newly announced Grammy nomination for the quality of the packaging of his latest LP.

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The Harbour Bridge was also smaller than I’d expected. Maybe it’s because these things are famous that I assume they’ll be enormous. You all know what it looks like, it’s just like the Tyne Bridge, which isn’t surprising really as both were built during the same era by Middlesbrough’s own Dorman Long.

As we passed beneath the bridge I looked up at the Teesside steel above me and reflected that the recent steelworks closures meant that there wouldn’t be any future opportunities for me to do the same somewhere new.

I did a bit of work as a contractor at British Steel thirty years or so ago and can remember the fire resistant jacket and trousers that I had to wear when in the vicinity of a furnace. The material was like carpet, which isn’t ideal for trousers. Or jackets either I suppose.

I sweated enough wearing them outside, but that was nothing compared to being indoors in the summer with a furnace blasting out its heat.

It’ll be young Chinese fellas who will have to dress up like that from now on and take their turn to point out their steel when travelling around the world.

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The ferry that we caught sometimes goes all of the way to Parramatta, but on this occasion it only went as far as the Olympic Park and so we then had to catch a couple of buses to get within walking distance of the Pirtek Stadium.

Neither driver would accept any cash from us, I think, as a consequence of the impending implementation of a card-only payment system. If all you had was cash, then you were just waved on-board for free.

Pirtek Stadium dates back to, well, quite a long time ago. Long enough for WG Grace to have played cricket there in the century before last. Or rather the site dates back that far. The current ground’s history only goes back forty years or so.

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There were plenty of people milling around with an hour or so to kick-off, many of them sporting the Dennis the Menace style shirts worn by Western Sydney Wanderers. We queued briefly to collect our pre-booked tickets, using my newly acquired Northern Territories Driving Licence as ID.

I like the idea of having two licences and am hoping that by using my Australian one when in the UK and vice-versa, I might very well be able to reduce the amount of penalty points that I accrue.

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On our way around the ground to the South Stand I was handed a leaflet by a bloke outside of the north terrace. He was a member of a fan’s group who were boycotting the game in protest at the banning of a number of ‘active’ fans.

It’s an A-League wide problem and the main complaint seems to be that the banned supporters had no chance to put evidence forward and no right of appeal. I sympathised with the cause, but my principles aren’t strong enough to miss a game at short notice after travelling from Darwin and with a ticket in my hand.

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We took our seats in the North Stand, opposite the deserted South where the ‘active fans’ would normally have been found. The ten thousand crowd half-filled the stadium but was around four thousand down on their gate from the previous game. On a selfish note, the boycott cut the queues for food and drink and so it was no trouble to get a couple of beers and a very fancy selection of three mini pies.

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The home side opened the scoring after half an hour when Mark Bridge knocked one in at the far post. The lead didn’t last for more than a few minutes though with Jamie McLaren equalising for the visitors.

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There were plenty of chances for both sides in the second half as play opened up, but the only other goal came ten minutes from time when Mitch Nichols curled in the winner. The result was sufficient to take Wanderers to the top of the table.

I’d have liked to have taken the boat back to the Circular Quay for the river view at night, but they’d stopped running and so despite the ‘free’ buses we opted for a taxi for the half hour drive back to our hotel.

LG Twins v Doosan Bears, Sunday 6th May 2012, 2pm

May 29, 2012

“Everyday is like Sunday, everyday is silent and grey…”

Not this Sunday though, because this was the Sunday that Morrissey came to Seoul. How good’s that? In the couple of years that I’ve been here I’ve only seen Elvis Costello, Mogwai and a few not so memorable Korean bands. That’s it, apart from keeping Jen company at a Duran Duran gig.

Whilst Japan seems to be a must-visit sort of place, Korea rarely seems to attract anything like the same amount of touring bands. I’d been on edge over the Morrissey gig since getting the tickets a few weeks earlier as the first Sunday in the month is usually the day that I spend travelling to Oman for a couple of meetings in the desert. Luckily this month my trip was scheduled for a week later and I was free to get along to the AX-centre on the Sunday evening.

It had been a late night on the Saturday and any plans that I’d had for a Sunday hike were scuppered by the hangover. I wasn’t really expecting to do very much until I put the telly on at 2pm and realised that the day’s baseball fixtures were about to start.  Twenty minutes later I was at Jamsil for the derby between LG Twins and Doosan Bears.

Despite it being busy I thought I’d take my chances on an outfield ticket.  As I emerged from the tunnel it looked like I might have made a mistake as there were already people sitting in the aisles. I spotted a seat without a bag on it and the bloke next to it was gracious enough not to try to claim that he was saving it for a friend who hadn’t yet arrived. Or indeed been born.

No spare seats.

It was a really sunny day, perfect for baseball and with the second innings about to start, still scoreless. Ben Jukich was the starting pitcher for LG. He’s in his second season with the Twins and is one of their better pitchers. From what I’ve discovered he didn’t ever get to play Major League baseball in America, but he’s certainly been effective in Korea.

Ben Jukich – LG Twins

Kim Seung Hye was the starting pitcher for Doosan.

Kim Seung Hye – Doosan Bears

Neither of these teams are likely to win the title, so bragging rights over the team that shares their stadium makes these games important for both sets of fans. Doosan took the lead with a run in the third.

Standing room only at the front.

 Doosan didn’t stay in front for long though and a mix-up in the fourth enabled LG to level the scores. Doosan’s Kim Jae Ho who was fielding at second just failed to run out the lad who was running towards him before firing in the ball to first to try to get  Yoon Jin Ho out. Unfortunately his wild throw went over the head of the first baseman and in the following panic, not only did Ho make it to second, but the other fella got all the way around to fourth for LG’s first run of the afternoon.

The second run came soon afterwards when a hit from Twins infielder Kim Jae Yool enabled Yoon Jin Ho to get home from second and put his side into the lead.

Now whilst all this was very enjoyable, it wasn’t  a baseball day really, it was a Morrissey day. So if I tell you that Doosan scored a couple of runs in the fifth before LG got three in the eighth to run out five–three winners then that’s probably enough baseball talk for this occasion.

A good day for these fellas.

So, Mozza. He was on at the AX-Centre. It’s the place where we saw Mogwai last year and it probably holds about a thousand people. We arrived just before seven and whilst we were chatting away outside one of the security fellas very kindly made a point of letting us know that Morrissey would be on stage bang on seven.

We collected our tickets from the box office and headed in to our upstairs seats. I’ve seen Morrissey at least a dozen times or so over the last twenty years. Sometimes at festivals, sometimes at small venues around the UK, sometimes at the big Manchester ‘homecoming’ gigs. If you’ve seen him before then this one was just like any of those gigs, with a fanatical crowd hanging off his every word and pushing  towards the stage for the chance of a handshake or to give him a flower or two.

Yep, that’s him.

His set list was decent with a good balance between Smiths songs, a varied selection of older solo stuff and some of the better tracks from the more recent albums. He kicked off with ‘How Soon Is Now’,  and got ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’ in early on.

That’s him too.

I was expecting a comment from him about eating dogs after Meat Is Murder, but he let it go. He included ‘I Know It’s Over’ and I can generally forgive him for whatever recent stuff he plays if I get to hear that one. Whilst we didn’t get ‘There Is A Light…’ or ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ he did finish on a high with ‘First Of The Gang To Die’.

By eight thirty it was all over. Morrissey and the band had a plane to catch to Singapore which might have explained the early start and finish. I’ll settle for that anytime he likes.

SK Knights v LG Sakers, Friday 6th January 2012, 7pm

January 7, 2012

It’s been a while since my last sporting event in Korea, over a month in fact since I watched Jeonbuk clinch the K-League Championship. I haven’t really had much of an opportunity to see anything else as not long after that game I had to go to Oman for a few days and then went straight on from there to England for a couple of weeks holiday over Christmas and New Year.

I didn’t get up to much in Oman, I rarely do. My favourite activity was probably feeding the dog that hangs around the site with a few pieces of Spam from the Korean breakfast. I think it’s a more appropriate food for dogs than for people.

He overcomes his timidness when there is tinned chopped pork shoulder.

The highlight of the trip was seeing a few wild camels wandering by the side of the road on the way to the construction site. Unfortunately one of them hadn’t been observing his kerb drill and so had ended up as what is undoubtedly the biggest item of roadkill that I’ve ever seen. I didn’t take a photo, but if there is anything left of the carcass when I go back I’ll try and get a snap next time.

Back in England it was a case of catching up with family and friends that I hadn’t seen since August. My son and my grandson both had birthdays, with the elder of the two putting a bit more effort into his celebration. I did pretty well for gigs, seeing Withered Hand, Paul McCartney and Cattle & Cane over a four day period. As I’ve only seen two bands in Korea this entire year, I was quite pleased with the scheduling.

He's less keen on Spam.

The Boro fixtures fell nicely for me as well. Tom and  I took the bus down to Cardiff where a half past seven in the morning start to the drinking meant that I remember little of our away win. We later took four points from six in the home games against Hull and Peterborough. I even managed to squeeze in a Boxing Day visit to Central Avenue for the Billingham derby between Synners and Town.

Now that's a backdrop.

Tom and I spent an afternoon at Sedgefield Races too. I suppose a meeting a few days before Christmas isn’t going to be the best attended fixture of the year, but I was surprised by how small the crowd was. I wasn’t surprised by how much money I lost though, the knack of picking a winner is something that I seem to struggle with these days.

I think the entire crowd was in this photo.

A couple of days walking in The Lakes either side of a night in Coniston got me a bit of fresh air as well as a battering in a hailstorm on the hills above Hardknott Pass. It was nice to get outside though, despite the weather.

That was taken just before the hailstorm.

So, that’s the ‘what I did on my holidays’ update out of the way. Jen is still in America visiting her folks and so after work I got the subway on my own to the Jamsil Students Gymnasium to see SK Knights play LG Sakers. I bought a ticket from a tout in the subway for eight thousand won and got myself a roll of gimbap and a bag of chestnuts for my tea. I tend not to eat quite so well when I’m by myself.

 I hadn’t seen SK Knights this season yet, but I’d watched LG Sakers at Samsung Thunders a few weeks back and had been impressed with the way they had gradually clawed back an early deficit to win 81-74.

The Nigerian centre for the Sakers in that game, Olumide Oyedeji, was no longer playing in Korea and had been replaced with the somewhat pacier American  Aaron Haynes. I noticed that he was wearing headphones as he warmed up. Sensible bloke. Maybe I’m getting old but I found the noise from the speaker system in the arena to be just below my pain threshold. I saw Mogwai in Seoul just before Christmas and fortunately I had been warned in advance to wear earplugs for their performance. Next time I’ll bring them to the basketball too.

I'm tempted to wear a pair of those at work too.

SK Knights seemed to have been through a few foreign players themselves and tonight’s starter was an American called Amal McCaskill. If Google has given me the right fella then he’s knocking on a bit at thirty-eight, but has turned out for a few NBA teams over the years.

Amal McCaskill takes on SK Knights by himself.

As the game started the place was probably about a quarter full, although with people continuing to arrive throughout the game it was probably near to half its capacity by the end.

SK looked quite effective early on with some swift passing and had six points on the board before Sakers got their first basket. It wasn’t to last though and by the end of the first quarter the visitors led by 16-12. LG continued their good form in the second quarter, increasing their advantage to 41-33 at half time.

I had been wondering which K-Popstars would be ‘entertaining’ us at half time, having been subjected to Sistar, Shinee and that old biddy who looks a bit like Tina Turner’s Mam at previous games. SK must have a smaller budget though as all we got were a few obstacle course type games, cheerleaders dishing out pizzas and a dance routine from the seven mascots. Yes, seven. We had a bloke dressed up as a hamburger, another one as an orange, one who was either a tub of ice cream or a dumpling and one who I think was meant to be a pork chop. They were joined by a giant can of Pocari Sweat, a two legged horse and someone who I presume from his hat was supposed to be a knight. Maybe Sistar might have been a better option after all.

Horse, Hamburger, Orange and Pork Chop.

SK fought back after the interval and by the end of the third quarter had turned an eight point deficit into a four point lead. They stayed ahead until a couple of minutes from the end, setting up what would be a tense finish. As the match entered its final thirty seconds SK were two up and had possession. If they scored they would win, if they missed then LG would have maybe six or seven seconds to score themselves. SK did miss their shot but the lad was fouled in the process and he put one of the free-throws away to increase the lead to 77-74. LG had six seconds to score a three-pointer to tie the game.

There's just enough space for the obligatory cheerleaders photo.

We had to sit through an incredibly long time-out before play restarted. So long in fact that the mascots put the crowd through their paces with some exercise routines. Most of the Koreans joined in, but just as I do when I’m at work and all that nonsense starts, I left them to it.

When play did get underway again LG were able to work the position for the three point shot. Aaron Haynes took it but it rolled around the rim and came back out again. SK got the rebound and it was game over. It was definitely the closest game that I’ve watched whilst being over here and the win might just have moved SK back ahead of the Sakers into seventh place.