Daily Archives: June 14, 2012

The Dark Heart of Europe

The Euros have started, to keep us all occupied, and surprisingly the games have been entertaining. My pre-tournament prediction of the winner, Germany, are looking like likely winners already, beating Holland though enjoying less possession.

This year the tournament has gone to Poland and Ukraine. It is only to be expected that any country hosting a major tournament will comes under the spotlight, and Euro 2012 is no exception. Accusations of endemic racism have been levelled against both those countries, and although probably exaggerated, there is likely a kernel of truth in these accusations. I confess that I have been surprised by the enmity of many of the Polish immigrants – most of them born since 1980 – towards Jews. This is all the more surprising since most of the worst excesses of the Holocaust took place within Poland  – Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Birkenau were all within current Polish Borders. As a European on the Western fringe of the continent, the idea of central Europe usually involves France and Germany, but for a Nazi, concerned with lebensraum, Poland is as central to Europe as it gets.

If any inanimate object such as a building can be said to possess evil characteristics then surely the prime candidate must be the entrance to Birkenau, although the “arbeit macht frei” gate at Auschwitz comes close. On one side of the entrance is innocence, on the other almost certain death. Auschwitz – Birkenau has, quite rightly, been assigned as testimony to man’s inhumanity to man. Continue reading


Gordon West

Allow me to post in a personal sense for posterity.

I am not a person that allows much room for heroes. I have a few – Jefferson, Orwell, Keith Richards – but most of my heroes played in royal blue.

And they are personal heroes. I started supporting Everton Football Club in the early 1960’s for no other reason than they played in blue, my favourite colour, and also that their players tended to have comic-book names. I got caught up with it and am changed forever, despite my better nature.

I first saw Everton in 1967, at an away game in my then local city of Nottingham. But at the tender age of thirteen I started going to home games which were over a hundred miles away from my home. My first Everton game at Goodison Park was a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in 1969. We went on to win the league that season. And therefore the team of team of 1969-70 has remained special to me.

From memory, Everton used only fifteen players in that whole season. Nowadays every team has at least fourteen starters or substitutes. Sandy Brown and Tommy Jackson came from Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively, but didn’t figure much that season – apart from Brown’s spectacular own goal for Liverpool. Remarkably given the state of today’s Premier League, of the remaining thirteen, eight, no less, were born within the city limits of Liverpool. The remaining five were all from Northern England – not a player south of the Trent among them all.

Gordon West was one these five, hailing from Barnsley in Yorkshire. Nevertheless, he came to Everton in 1962 and stayed for ten years, winning the league twice and the FA Cup once. He was the best goalkeeper in England by 1970, but elected not to go to Mexico in that year, preferring to spend time with his family. He did play for Tranmere after that, but was seen at Goodison as a fan for many years. The last time I saw Gordon West was at a pitch-side remembrance for his former colleague and Evertonian Brian Labone. I recall thinking that I didn’t remember him as that big. But he was a giant for Evertonians of my vintage. I confess that I am truly upset that Gordon West died, after a long illness, on Monday June 10.

Gordon West, 1943-2012.


Diamonds are not Forever, Hopefully

As I said a few posts ago, these are interesting times in the UK just at the moment. We have the Olympics next month and that won’t happen again for another hundred years or so if we’re lucky. And we also have just the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. In well over a millennium only three monarchs have made it to sixty years, and one of them was insane at the time. So 2012 is special in more than one way. We have a chance for a harmless knees-up, based on something that happens less than once a century, and therefore we should take it. Those who take a different view, such as Republic, are seen as joyless party-poopers, and, reading their website, one can see why. Continue reading