martedì 12 gennaio 2016

A Couple of Kooks

Are you okay?

You wrote me -  in  ’71 I suppose – that you loved Bowie. And said (I’m going from memory here) “I’m in my bedroom listening to Hunky Dory (Kooks). Great album!”

I guess I was young and awkward then. Unlike you. In your bedroom, listening to David Bowie. But  I borrowed the album from a friend. And that song – and for me it was about you – lit a spark in my life and set it in amber. And every time I’ve heard it, or seen the  album, all through these years, a little piece of you has come floating back to me.

A year later I’d thrown my homework on the fire and taken that car downtown. And wanted to be like him, standing outside a stage door under a K. West sign….

Maybe everyone - all of us swallowed up in the spirit of the times he captured -  thinks they were the ones he really sang for. At certain moments. On our personal journeys. Post-hippy pre-punk me,  listening to Starman.  A post-punk little sister, on a journey to adulthood and riot-grrrldom, listening to Boys Keep Swinging.   You with your records and your cool,  in your bedroom. And all the generations since…..

I still think you and I were the ones he touched the most. But then, I would think that.

A guy on TV’s saying he met Bowie.  But we all met Bowie - all of our generation and beyond. That was the genius of the man.

Not my usual type of post and not how I wanted to start this year's blogs. But Bowie's death has hit us all so hard. We grew up with him and he grew into us, expressing things for us that we didn't know how to and showing us worlds...and sounds, we hadn't imagined.

giovedì 8 marzo 2012


Yet another blog!

“In heaven’s name, why?” you ask.

Easy. The best possible reason in the world.

To celebrate the sport played in heaven, Rugby Union, and how our small group of supporters live it. 

And to record how we’re continuing to face life in the stands since the demise of the club we loved. 

Because it’s cathartic for me to do this. And it could happen to you. So you might just want to know.

There are 9 of us who meet up at games . Six men and three women. Six Italians, two Englishmen and an Irish woman, who all support Rugby Parma FC. 

We were one of the top five clubs in Italy until two years ago. 

                                                      Winning the Coppa Italia in 2006

During a heady 5-year period, we won three Italian Cups and a Super-Cup and occasionally made waves in England and France.  And then, our world imploded.

Italy put two teams in the Magners League (now the poetically-named RaboDirectPRO12), which had until then been made up of the top Irish, Welsh and Scottish teams.

And when Italy did that, the club we loved ran out of money.  So they joined forces with a smaller local but solvent club called Noceto Rugby and formed a new team – Crociati Rugby – to play in the now downgraded top domestic league. 

So…. New team, new name, new colours. 

Then the team bearing the name and the shirt we loved so much was resurrected as an amateur team playing in a minor local league.

We were steered towards one of the Magners League teams, the purpose-formed franchise Aironi Rugby, since Rugby Parma were one of its founding partners and because it represents Emilia Romagna (our region) and Lombardy.  Some of us said we wouldn’t watch them.  But we’ve all trundled along to their games obligingly enough.

So…three teams to support now.  And it does seem like two too many.

                                     Betta and friend in happier days at the world-famous
                                                 XXV Aprile Stadium in Parma's Moletolo district

And then there’s another reason I’m starting this blog -  to try and let people know what Italy’s really like and what it’s like to live here.  And to find out myself.  Because although I’ve lived here for a lifetime, I’ve never really thought about it consciously, never articulated it.  But I still occasionally read or hear the old stereotypes that don’t do justice to the people or the country.  You know the sort of thing - a nation of hot-blooded, earthy, simple people who are friendly and fun to be with but at the same time slightly mad, imprecise and disorganized, who can’t govern themselves and drive badly.  And I know it’s not like that.

So I’d like to get past these simplistic, outdated notions   – what the Italians themselves call the pizza, mandolino e  birra image of the place – and celebrate the real character of this wonderful country.  And I’m hoping that unearthing this is a journey I can undertake with you through the questions I’m inviting you to ask.  Because if you want to know something, I’ll try and give you an answer, which will make me analyse the place and the people and look at them with fresh eyes.

                                        It's not always sunny here - Bologna mid-February


lunedì 27 febbraio 2012

Why Rangers must survive

It’s just one of those times when events overtake you.

This has got to be about Rangers

I hadn’t planned it that way.

But then I heard that Rangers had gone into administration.

And it hit me. It hit me hard. And I had to write something.

It doesn’t matter who you are. Rangers are a part of your life, whether you know it or not. Like Mount Everest. Like a force of nature.

And that’s why Rangers have to survive, whatever the modern world thinks they've brought to the table - and the field - since they were founded in 1872.

I want Rangers to survive because a club is about more than money.

I want Rangers to survive for their supporters. The rowdy, the quiet, the young and the old. Not because they’re Rangers supporters. But simply because they’re supporters. Because in a world where everything has a price and nothing has value, they have some things that can’t be bought with money – loyalty, a sense of community, a bond with one another and their team that doesn’t depend on its position in the league table or on the stock market.

This blog’s going to be about Rugby Union and about various aspects of life in Italy. And that’s how it was supposed to start.

It was not going to be about football. And not certainly not about Rangers. And I wasn’t going to start it yet.

But what’s happening to Rangers dwarfs all that.

We rugby fans think we’re different from football supporters. And we sometimes think that our game’s better than theirs with its diving, its rolling around on the ground, its nil-nil draws and its hooligan elements. And some Celtic fans think they’re better than Rangers fans. And Inter supporters…well, you get the picture.

But none of us is so different. And we know it. We get the picture.

We know that every Rangers supporter - like the Rangers supporters I’ve met - have their own special Rangers story that they want to share.

And we already know that story. The details will be different and so will the names. But it will be a story we know. Because if you’ve ever loved a team, it will be your story, too.

And now Rangers have hit an iceberg and that’s part of their story, too.

But it could be part of yours. Because Rangers, like Celtic and Aberdeen FC and the Scottish national rugby team are part of the fabric of a nation and more. They aren’t just ‘a business’ - they’re a way of life. A way of life that is in Rangers' case shared by millions of people worldwide. They’re an energy-giving source of pride, sporting culture, history and unity. They bring people together. To celebrate them or to shout against them. But however you look at it, they bring people together.

And if Rangers go under no-one is safe.

But I also want Rangers to survive because my team didn’t. And I know what it’s like to bleed all over the stadium floor. And I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Go on, Rangers! Prove the naysayers, the bloodless pragmatists, those without the guts to dream… prove them wrong!