Dabbler Diary – Kick and Rush

In the laminate section of CarpetRight I idly stroked a plank of Balterio Vitality Deluxe 4V Wood. To my mind the plank had a somewhat nautical look and I imagined how the living room thus bedecked might resemble a frigate from the golden age of British sea power, myself as Captain Jack Aubrey barking out orders to my wife in the galley and commanding the children to climb the rigging.

I was politely interrupted in this reverie by a salesman called Jerry. He was a big, soft-spoken man with a thick South African accent. Jerry explained that the laminate we were looking at came in two kinds: a single groove kind and a double groove kind. He pronounced it ‘debble grrreuv’. A soft-spoken South African makes a strange noise because the accent requires a harsh stress on virtually every word in a sentence – it takes them ages to say anything. As he spoke it became apparent from his build, smashed nose and cauliflower ears that Jerry was an ex-professional rugby player, probably immigrating to play for Bristol or Bath and now, retired in his early fifties, having to spend Sunday afternoons selling carpets in a ring-road superstore. It occurred to me that there must be thousands upon thousands of ex-sportsmen in such mundane places. Rugby players, cricketers and lower-league footballers: driving mini-cabs, pulling pints…Peak long since climbed and descended, glory days gone…Perhaps a former flying winger now explaining the benefits of double-glazing to uninterested customers who don’t even remember that they once cheered him as he drove over the line with seconds on the clock to win the local derby. But is it worse to be a forgotten hero or a never-was, one of the innumerable journeymen who never even cemented a place in the first team or scored a century, and every year a fresh batch of them is ejected from the ruthless machine of professional sport into dull reality….

During this second reverie Jerry again interrupted me. Something about which kind of grrreuv we would prefer. “Ummm….You’d better ask my wife,” I said, motioning towards her. “She’s the captain.”


Talking of accents, back here Gaw remarked on the fact that American ones can’t seem to process the words ‘squirrel’ or ‘warrior’, these coming out as ‘squorw’ and ‘worwyu’ respectively. Two more problem ‘r’ words featured on an episode I saw the other day of Tina Fey’s comedy 30 Rock. The loopy actress Jenna has made a movie called The Rural Juror (‘from the novel by Kevin Grisham, brother of John’) and the gag is that her tortured pronunciation  – ‘The Rwrrr Jwrrr’ – means that none of the friends she excitedly tells about it can work out the title (‘Could it be “Roar her Gem her?”’; ‘No that doesn’t make any sense. It’s got to be “Oral Germ Whore”’). So r-word mangling seems to be a problem that Americans are fully aware of (though doubtless George will be along in a minute to note that they all daily recite ‘The Rural Squirrel Hurriedly Worried the Warrior’ as clear as a bell in Texas (wherever that is)).


Further to Susan’s post about Christmassy consumables that outstay their welcome, we have in the fridge a giant jar of mincemeat which remains half full despite epic mince pie-manufacturing by Mrs Brit.

2012 was a good year for mince pies around here. As well as the homemade ones I sampled most of the supermarket efforts and my brother-in-law then furnished us with Fortnum & Mason posh ones and even some by Heston Blumenthal (which, following the instructions carefully, we blended and injected into our arms with a syringe while slapping each other in the face with holly branches). Mrs B has valiantly created a huge batch of very tasty mincemeat muffins, but the jar remains stubbornly full. Can anyone recommend any post-Christmas uses for a half a ton of mincemeat?


A lot of hate from the Twitterati towards the Harris + Hoole coffee chain, which looks independent and Guardian reader-friendly but is ‘secretly’ part-owned by Tesco (who have a 49% stake). So what if it is? The shop’s founders worked hard to build up their business and then managed to raise some finance from a big corporation. Good on them.

But I won’t be going into their shop because having now read some informed (i.e. non-mainstream media) reporting on the Starbucks fiasco, I’m eager to start a one-man anti-boycott, in which I’ll be boycotting all coffee outlets except Starbucks (I don’t actually like Starbucks much, but with boycotting you have to remember that it’s the sense of self-satisfaction that counts). This man explains why Starbucks have done nothing much wrong by taking the unusual step of actually reading the accounts. He concludes, sadly: “A New Years resolution…never rely on information from a newspaper again.”

This is the problem with newspaper journalism. It can seem plausible, even impressive, right up to the point when they cover a subject that you happen to understand better than the ‘specialist’ reporter. At which point, one’s faith in the news crumbles.


I was watching Fulham play football on the telly and noted that their team currently contains that wily old Greek midfielder Georgios Karagounis, a stocky, hairy man who seems to have been around forever and is the epitome of the ‘grizzled pro’. The commentators were making much of his vast experience and admirable workrate ‘considering his age’. This ancient man was, it turned out, ‘now approaching his 36th birthday’. I mentioned this to my fellow Sunday morning footballers and a grim hush descended. The fact that even the youngest of us is now older than the oldest, gnarliest Premiership footballer probably means, if we’re brutally honest with ourselves, that the chance of playing in the FA Cup final is officially gone.

During the game my friend Phil wrecked his ankle, potentially disastrous as he’s a self-employed driver. Such injuries are mounting up. Dave, who runs things, is out for months with cartilage damage in his knee. Matt, who did his knee last year, has been told he will never play again though he may be able to run eventually, and he’s only the same age as Georgios Karagounis.


What’s interesting about playing football over the years is that players never really change their style: if you’re a dribbler at 14 you’ll still be a dribbler employing the same repertoire of tricks at 41; and if you’re a bruising centre-half as a schoolboy you’ll still be kicking lumps out of strikers in the veteran’s six-a-side competition.

When I was 11 I played for a team called Gianni 88 (sponsored by a local men’s clothing shop) in the Portsmouth Boys League. We were successful but frankly it was mostly kick and rush and if we strung three consecutive passes together it was a rarity. So I was quite astonished to see this video of a goal scored by our near namesakes, AO Giannina, in which virtually every boy in the team, including the goalkeeper, displays preternatural coolness, movement and passing ability.

No doubt these Greek mini-maestros idolise Georgios Karagounis, but the chances are that for the great majority of them this goal will be the peak of their footballing careers.

Professional sport loves youthful promise and nostalgia. Once you’ve lost the former the machine will eject you without sentiment, but at least you’ll have the latter to keep you company as you wait for a customer to choose his groove in some ring-road laminate superstore.

Dabbler Diary is brought to you by Glengoyne single malt whisky – the Dabbler’s choice.
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25 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary – Kick and Rush

  1. Worm
    January 14, 2013 at 09:25

    add another word to the list of things americans can’t pronounce – caramel, or as they call it on Man vs Food: ‘carmel’

    To balance the Yank bashing, I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce either Des Moines or St Louis

    • markcfdbailey@gmail.com'
      January 14, 2013 at 10:35

      Des as in ‘de’; Moines as in Groynes without the ‘s’. St Louis, as it is spelt and without the Frenchification.

      • Worm
        January 14, 2013 at 10:55

        Deh Moine and Saint Lewis. got it! thanks R

        • jgslang@gmail.com'
          January 14, 2013 at 13:25

          And for the next round:

          La Jolla, CA
          Cairo, IL

          • Wormstir@gmail.com'
            January 14, 2013 at 17:54

            Are they not pronounced as seen, mr slang?

          • jgslang@gmail.com'
            January 15, 2013 at 09:22

            ’Fraid not:
            La Hoya

        • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
          January 14, 2013 at 14:57

          Meet me in St Lewis, Lewis, said Morse.

          I just blew in from the windy city
          The windy city is mighty pretty
          But they ain’t got what we got, no sirree
          They’ve got shacks up to seven stories
          Never see any Morning Glory’s
          But a step from our doorway
          We got ’em for free
          They’ve got those minstrel shows
          Pretty ladies in the big chateau’s
          Private lawns, public parks
          For the sake of civic virtue
          They’ve got fountains there that squirt you
          I just blew in from the windy city
          The windy city is mighty pretty
          But they ain’t got what we got
          I’m tellin’ ya, boys
          We got more life in Deadwood City
          Than in all of Illinois
          You should-a seen me a-windo’ shoppin’
          A-windo’ shoppin’ with eyes a-poppin’
          At the sights that you see there, yes sirree
          Press a bell and a moment later
          Up you go in an elevator
          Just as fast as a polecat a-climbin’ a tree
          I heard claim hundreds came
          To a thing they call a baseball game
          Cigar stores, revolving doors
          They got new inventions coming
          ‘Stead of outdoor, indoor plumbing
          I just blew in from the windy city
          The windy city is mighty pretty
          But they ain’t got what we got
          I’m tellin’ ya, boys
          I ain’t a-swappin’ half of Deadwood
          For the whole of Illinois

          Calam pronounced Illinois ‘illisnoise, should we copy and possibly start windo’ shopin’.

          • john.hh43@googlemail.com'
            John Halliwell
            January 14, 2013 at 16:09

            Malty, if every pub in England had a Doris singing these lyrics and dancing like this, closures would be unthinkable. In fact they’d be opening new pubs at the rate of 50 a week


  2. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    January 14, 2013 at 10:59

    Good point about sportsmen and women, post the day job. Some of mountaineering’s illuminati have found taxable employment. The legendary Italian Walter Bonatti, who started his climbing career using his mama’s washing line and famously conquered the Dru’s last great problem after smashing his thumb with a piton hammer, had a marvelous pub in Chamonix, we could spend all night chatting to the old boy whilst drinking crap French beer. Maurice Herzog, conquerer of Annapurna became France’s minister for sport and serial bonker. Chris Bonington, the first Brit to actually make money whilst still climbing, retired to his Lake District retreat, sorted his Kodachrome slides and sold ’em. Reinhold Messner, the greatest mountaineer that there has ever been, instead of retiring to his Tyrolean castle became an MEP and has many, mountaineering related, business interests.

  3. peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
    January 14, 2013 at 11:15

    Can anyone recommend any post-Christmas uses for a half a ton of mincemeat?

    Keep it in the back of the fridge cluttering everything until next December’s pre-Christmas clean out, when it will serve to remind you not to buy so much mincemeat.

    • Brit
      January 14, 2013 at 19:52

      I doubt anyone could make a better suggestion than that, but the odd thing is that the shop only seemed to sell the stuff in gigantic tubs, as if it’s the sort of thing people need a lot of.

      • anthonywindram@gmail.com'
        January 16, 2013 at 03:30

        You could try a mincemeat strudel.

  4. henrygjeffreys@gmail.com'
    January 14, 2013 at 11:30

    I was so taken with how my (Californian) wife says ‘squirrel’, that her nickname is now ‘skwirl.’ She also pronounces ‘Dawn’ and ‘Don’ the same and is baffled that I insist they are two distinct sounds. O brave new world!

  5. john.hh43@googlemail.com'
    John Halliwell
    January 14, 2013 at 12:36

    I found that second paragraph both funny and moving. It immediately brought to mind one of my sporting heroes: Brian Statham, the great Lancashire and England fast bowler. The highlight of a school trip to London in 1955 was turning a corner and seeing a grizzled newspaper seller with his afternoon placard proclaiming: ‘Lords – Statham destroys South Africans’. Oh the joy! He was a sporting god; that glorious action, the pace, the nagging accuracy; surely he, along with the few of his kind, were somehow untouchable; he would live forever. Chris Waters, in his recent biography of Fred Trueman recounts:

    ‘Never was Trueman’s kindness more manifest than when he arranged a tribute dinner for Brian Statham in 1989. Statham had fallen on hard times – he’d lost his job as a Guinness representative and developed osteoporosis – and Trueman pulled out all the stops to alleviate the burden. With boundless energy, he sought out practically everyone who’d played with or against Statham and helped sell around a hundred tables at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel at £1000 a time. ‘It meant the world to Brian,’ said his widow, Audrey. ‘It meant he didn’t feel deserted or alienated by his peers. Brian had suffered a great deal of mental stress through work; a new hierarchy had come in and all the work had changed, and he was working incredibly hard. I can remember him doing party nights in Cheshire, being there until the end of the night in a public house and then reporting to Leeds for a breakfast consultation the following morning. It meant he was getting about three hours’ sleep at the time and eventually it took its toll.’ Statham died of leukemia in 2000, aged 69.

    • jgslang@gmail.com'
      January 14, 2013 at 13:21

      This makes me think of this line by Nik Cohn, a great Sixties rock writer long before he fell by the disco wayside. The topic is musicians, rather than sportsmen, but the point seems relevant:

      When you’ve made your million, when you’ve cut your monsters, when your peak has been passed . . . what happens next? What about the fifty years before you die?
      from Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom (1969)

    • Brit
      January 14, 2013 at 19:53

      Of all the sporting retirements, cricketers are somehow the most poignant.

  6. Worm
    January 14, 2013 at 14:58

    we had a succession of middling ex-sportsmen (mostly commonwealth athletes and rugby players) as sports and PE teachers at my school. They were normally a bit scary and were known to bop the occasional unruly boy on the nose

  7. info@ShopCurious.com'
    January 14, 2013 at 16:50

    Another word that Americans have trouble with is ‘mirror’ – their version is ‘meerrr’

  8. george.jansen55@gmail.com'
    January 14, 2013 at 18:17

    Accents: In a novel set about 1870, U.S. Army officers use “truly rural” as a sobriety test–pronounce it and you may be served another. So once upon a time we must’ve been able to handle the sound. The accent that turns “Earl” into “oil” was classically the New York or New Orleans accent; is the 30 Rock character a native New Yorker? Honestly, I have no idea about how most of us pronounce “warrior”, but I guess you should be able to pick up an NBA game in which the announcers mention the team.

    The middle syllable of “caramel” and the last of “mirror” are pretty vestigial, but I still seem to hear them. In any case, the first syllable of caramel rhymes with car, not care, so the candy is never mixed up with the city.

    • Brit
      January 14, 2013 at 19:57

      With ‘warrior’ we put the stress on the ‘i’, so “warr-eee–yer”, whereas Americans put all the stress the “a” and then sort of slur the rest.

  9. Brit
    January 14, 2013 at 19:55

    Re: American trouble with ‘r’ words generally, I’m intrigued as to whether they’re unable not only to say ‘squirrel’ as two syllables, but also unable to hear two syllables when Britons say it.

  10. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    January 14, 2013 at 20:55

    Alnwick: Anik

    Kirkudbright: Kurcoobry

    Penicuik: Peneecook

    Etc, etc, etc.

  11. owen.polley@talk21.com'
    January 15, 2013 at 12:43

    Were those Greek boys British, they’d have received a storm of abuse and criticism from coaches and fathers on the sidelines for passing the ball across the defence, rather than taking the opportunity to execute a thumping clearance up-field.

    • Brit
      January 15, 2013 at 22:25

      Yes they’d have been shouting ‘Get rid!’ for the first minute and half of that move.

  12. maureen.nixon@btinternet.com'
    January 15, 2013 at 22:34

    Use your mincemeat up in a fruit cake, Brit. Ask your mother for a recipe.

    Local village Woolfardisworthy = Woolsery

    I worked with a Japanese woman who grew up in America. Our conversations were mostly guesswork.

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