Tag Archives: arsenal

Arsenal: the Soap Opera

So the World Cup has crashed to a close, and around the world, millions of people are losing interest in soccer/football for another four years (cough, or one year if you’re interested in how awesome the Matildas are going to be in the REAL World Cup next year).

Unless, you know, you follow a regular team!

For Arsenal supporters, the next few weeks are critical. We’re watching the slow, painful process of our boys making their way back into regular training, sporting bruises, groin strains and emotional scars, and knowing our boys a few of the ones who spent their holidays at the beach will have been accidentally decapitated while sunbaking. Yes, they’re that fragile.

But just because the season is several weeks away doesn’t mean there isn’t a rollercoaster of melodramatic angst, heartbreak, romance and hope to keep us all riveted to our laptops.

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Faking It

Being a football fan didn’t come easily to me. It didn’t even come naturally. I was raised with a pathological disinterest in sport and it took a lot of effort to overcome that social conditioning. I developed an interest thanks to the support and encouragement of my good friends Kaia and Millie.

Me being me, this quickly turned into an obsession. It’s really not about the novel any more. I’ve seen Arsenal through two seasons, through joy and heartbreak, and I’m not going anywhere. One of the things that has added pleasure to my new interest, as well as educating me about the history, culture and in-jokes of football, has been the great writing by bloggers and commentators such as Arseblog, Gunnerblog, LadyArse, Lee McGowan, and Amy Lawrence of the Guardian. The weekly Arsecast was my first real podcast love, long before I actually started listening to the things as nature intended, on a genuine iPod. While the Arseblog has been my main cultural hub (this is where I learned to refer to international football fortnights as ‘interlulls’ and Liverpool supporters as ‘Mugsmashers’ which I embarrassingly assumed for a year was universal vocab before I learned that Blogs himself has a Liverpool-supporting brother who once smashed his Arsenal mug) I have had something to learn from each of these writers, and they have all contributed to my understanding and enjoyment of the game.

Our last season was significantly livened up by the addition of Up For Grabs, a brilliant, at times screamingly-funny podcast starring comedian Alan Davies and a bunch of his mates, ranting and raving about being an Arsenal fan. What I love most about this podcast is that it’s not just about the games, it’s about fandom, and it’s the first time I’ve really got a feel for what it must be like to be able to go to actual games.

Basically, I’m listening to funny men geek out about their obsessive historical perspective on their hobby. Sound familiar? I’ll get back to that analogy later.

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Back to Work

The school holidays are at an end, and that means I am officially back to work tomorrow. I’ve had two weeks of chasing my daughters around the house, reading library books and Wonder Woman comics with them, sewing, blogging and promoting my new release.

What I haven’t been doing, apart from a couple of lapses, is writing Book 3. I have been reading parts of the manuscript, and nutting away at titles, but I just know that when I go back to write Book 3, I want to build up crazy momentum and just blaze away until I get to the end.

Unfortunately that won’t be tomorrow, because my structural edit letter arrived in the mean time, and that means three weeks of frantic rewriting before the manuscript is sent to the copy editor. Editing is all about the frantic, for me.

Over at Ripping Ozzie Reads, I’ve blogged the playlist I constructed today which will hopefully help me build up the momentum I need and get the work done in the pieces of the day I can snatch for myself.

Now, with a couple of hours left of the “holiday” and my daughters asleep, I can put my feet up and watch Robin Van Persie v. Nicklas Bendtner on SBS. (possibly other people from Denmark and the Netherlands are playing, but who really cares about them?) Best case scenario, both boys get hat tricks and get carried around on their respective teams’ shoulders. Worst case scenario, RVP accidentally beheads Nicky B while breaking his own legs. Hey, they’re Arsenal, it’s not that unlikely.


I am now 32. The day has been celebrated by much and varying kinds of cake. It started out pretty badly after Jem pulled her becoming-traditional-Friday-night-teething-from-hell which meant basically I had to wake up every 1-2 hours to feed her or daub Bonjela on her gums and then feed her, and I woke up feeling wrung out and gnawed-upon. My honey and I horse traded for recovery naps and I won on account of being the one who had been chewed all night, plus the fact that I was the one closest to homicidal.

All in all, it meant that my lazy morning baking cupcakes with my eldest daughter turned into a dash to the finish line with green food colouring and cream cheese icing everywhere.

Food colouring. Just say no. Your carpet will thank you. On an unrelated note, why do icing nozzles not have freaking lids?

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Holiday Daze

Last night I ended up in hospital – a severe and sudden bout of gastro left me suddenly without enough fluids to stay upright and, it seemed, without enough blood pressure for the paramedics to be able to get a drip into me. Their original plan was to just do that and be on their way – but instead I ended up strapped to a stretcher, taken into hospital, and put on a drip there.

It was an awful, scary few hours, but I got home by about 2am feeling a lot more okay. My honey had called my Mum to come keep an eye on the kids while he came to fetch me – and miraculously, neither girl even woke up during the whole mess.

We were already all pretty stressed thanks to another family member being in hospital under quite awful circumstances, so this was very much not what we needed – a long way from our original plans for the Easter holiday! I’m supposed to be internet free, writing up a storm and showing off my beautiful girls to various family members… well okay I still get to do the last part.

I had to break it to Raeli that there would be no Easter hunt at Glammer’s house today (itself the replacement treat after our first plans were called off) because the drive would be too much for me and none of us could eat the planned Easter feast. Also as Raeli had been sick too (though not as sick as me) she would not be allowed to eat any chocolate today.

That’s pretty disappointing for a 5 year old, especially one who has had to deal with a week of beloved relatives visiting, but not having much time and attention for her, because it’s all about the hospital and dealing with other, adult concerns.

It turned out that what she wanted most was the Easter hunt – because, you know, it’s Easter Sunday and apparently the bunny isn’t big on postponement. She agreed firmly that she was okay with hunting but not eating today, and so we ended up watching with pride as she trip-trapped around the back yard, finding her eggs and filling her basket. Since she hasn’t been sick all day we have negotiated up to one small egg tonight after tea… and she hasn’t whined about it at all.

Awesome kid.

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Why are Pilates Plural?

I’ve been feeling a bit blog-blocked in recent days. I suspect it’s because I’m not actively writing. My most energetic blogging happens when I am also writing up a storm – we all remember the twice a day Nano blogging, don’t we? – with my brain firing on all cylinders. This month is about prioritising other things, and I am a little concerned that my brain is going pulpy at the lack of horrific deadlines looming.

That would be bad, right?

I teeter between wondering what to do with myself (not the housework, obviously) and being overcommitted in new and exciting ways. Today I’m attempting Pilates for the first time, as the universe seems determined to tell me to do so (well, the universe and [info] godiyeva mostly, though C and Justine Larbalestier have also had a hand in it, important for writers to look after themselves *before* their body locks up and their typing fingers stop working). I’ve bought exercise clothes that don’t suck. I have my new horribly expensive shoes. It’s all a bit worrying.

I’ve avoided soccer with Raeli for a few days thanks to the incredible downpour of rain from Sunday onwards, but couldn’t think up any excuses yesterday, and it was brilliant. What a workout! She devises her own warm up and cool down exercises, and adores actual playing, though is still pretty firm that she prefers to win, thank you, no matter what I say about how winning means more if it’s a) a genuine win and b) you also know how it feels to lose. Luckily I’m not too much of a threat to her yet in the winning department, because of my high degree of suckage, and also she cheats like a fiend.

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Ruining Young Men’s Lives

On 27 February 2010, 19 year old footballer Aaron Ramsey had his leg broken in two places.

Over the last couple of years, Ramsey has worked his way up from being a Welsh youth player with great potential to signing for Arsenal, one of the top four teams of the Premier League, to playing with the first team. He’s very young still, but he was building momentum and there was much talk about the career ahead of him. On the day in question, he was tackled by the Ryan Shawcross, the 22 year old captain of the Stoke team, causing his tibia and fibula to be broken. The injury was so horrific that the game came to a halt, players were sick and visibly shaken, and the incident was not replayed. Ramsey was stretchered off the pitch, and Shawcross was given a red card – which took him out of the game, with a three match ban.

The backlash began almost as soon as the game ended.

Players, fans and pundits excused Shawcross’s behaviour, insisting that he didn’t mean it, he wasn’t that kind of player, it was a fair tackle, he was crying when he saw what had happened, he felt really bad… The story even circulated that the ref himself didn’t think it was intentional, and had only felt he “had to” send Shawcross off because of the extent of the injury.

A media storm unfolded, with one side pointing out that, you know, they had a player in hospital who might take 8-18 months to recover, and this was in fact the third similar injury inflicted on Arsenal players in under four years. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that the injury was “horrendous” and “unacceptable.” Shawcross’s supporters responded with “he didn’t mean to do it.”

Indeed, the sympathy for Shawcross began to snowball, taking on epic proportions. It was suggested that Wenger should apologise for suggesting that breaking his player’s leg was unacceptable, well before Shawcross himself had apologised for breaking said leg (there has still been no public apology though apparently a private one has been accepted).

One of the best posts on the subject I have read is this amazing, powerful piece on the Arseblog, which points out that in fact no one is saying that Shawcross meant to break Ramsey’s leg, but that the kind of behaviour he exhibited on the pitch (“he isn’t that kind of player” was also trotted out in 2007 whenShawcross broke Francis Jeffers’ ankle) makes the injury his responsibility. Arseblogger also points out the collective responsibility of the media and culture that enable and encourage dangerous play.

When Arsenal fan, actor Alan Davies, suggested on Twitter (immediately the incident) that Shawcross should be kept out of the game as long as it would take Ramsey to recover, he was met with a hail of hysteria and abuse. As Arseblogger put it: “the Shawcross ‘is not that kind of player’ brigade have been out in force.” Complaints were made that the whole incident was spoiling Shawcross’s delight in being called up to play for England, the day after the leg-breaking incident. (one blog compared Google hits for ‘feel sorry for Ryan Shawcross’ vs ‘feel sorry for Aaron Ramsey’ and even including websites which are saying things like ‘how the hell can people feel sorry for Ryan Shawcross’ the results are a little startling).

There’s no way in a million years that he would ever, ever go out to hurt a person. He’s a lovely kid and he’s been exemplary since he’s been at this football club. It was breaking his heart coming off the pitch.”
(Stoke manager Tony Pulis)

It’s a disappointing challenge and as I say it’s so ironic that Ryan’s involved in it because of all the players that we’ve got here he’s such a gentle kid, such a gentle lad.”
(Pulis again)

“There was no malicious intent from Ryan, he’s not that kind of player.”
(Stoke midfielder Danny Pugh)

He’s a committed player, but he’s never going to go into a challenge looking to hurt someone.”
(Stoke player Rory Delap)

I was with him at United for a couple of years and he’s not that type of player.”
(Wayne Rooney, striker for Manchester United and England)

Shawcross has been called into the England squad and he doesn’t deserve the grief he’s getting.”
(Paul Parker, former England player)

I’ve got to say I felt sorry for Shawcross. Not just because of all the hoo-ha over the challenge, but the fact it overshadowed one of the greatest moments in his life after being called up by England for the first time… I suppose the furore over the Ramsey injury is a bit of a spanner in the works, but the call-up is still a feather in his cap and he should go there and enjoy the experience as much as possible.”
(Lou Macari, sports journalist and former Scotland player)

It’s worth noting that no one has actually accused Ryan Shawcross of being malicious in his tackle. No one, not even Ramsey and Wenger and Arsenal’s most froth-mouthed supporters, has said that he deliberately set out to break the Welsh teenager’s leg in two places. Saying that a violent result of a tackle is unacceptable and was caused by reckless behaviour is not the same as saying that the result was intentional. And yet the backlash continually fights this straw argument, insisting that Shawcross is so nice, sweet, honest, gentle and kind to his mother, and more importantly, he didn’t mean to do it.

As has been pointed out calmly and clearly by many people so far, intent is important, up to a point. It’s the difference between manslaughter and murder, for example (both of which are in fact crimes). But crude, clumsy and careless can still have some pretty horrific results without there being malicious intent. Think of the damage someone can do at the wheel of the car if they are crude, clumsy or careless, not to mention drunk, tired, distracted. If you hurt someone out of reckless behaviour you get punished for it by law even if you didn’t set out to cause injury. Everywhere except the football pitch, where intent can apparently erase even the most aggressively stupid mistakes. Where spitting at someone, swearing at them or breaking their leg in two places attracts exactly the same punishment.

But I can think of another example where, socially and through the media, intent can become the difference between an incident being considered ‘a crime’ and ‘something best put behind you, eh.’ It struck me right between the eyes when I saw the language being used. About how Shawcross wasn’t that kind of player, wasn’t that kind of bloke, that he meant well, he was a good egg, that we wouldn’t want to ruin his life over something that wasn’t his fault because, after all, he didn’t mean to do it.

It’s the language of the patriarchy protecting itself. It’s the language of the privileged, scrambling to excuse the inexcusable, on the grounds that he’s a young lad, a good lad, has his whole life and career ahead of him, you wouldn’t want to spoil it for him would you? After all, he didn’t mean to do it, therefore it doesn’t count.

(psst, can’t you see just by looking at him that he deserves special treatment?)

It’s the same language that is used to excuse rapists because the rape was “only technical” and his behaviour was “out of character” and he had “a good employment record.” The same language used when a judge is concerned that a man (who pleaded guilty) might be “marked with the grave offence of rape for the rest of his days” for having sex with an unconscious woman. Chris Brown’s sister told the media that he was “a good boy, never violent” shortly after he was arrested for beating and nearly strangling his girlfriend Rhianna, and it wasn’t long before she was being blamed for her own abuse. And let’s not forget how sorry we were asked to feel for child-rapist Roman Polanski when he wasn’t allowed to pick up his Oscar in person, let alone when he was finally arrested for his crime.

This is not in any way to equate recklessly violent football players with rapists. There is no comparison to be made in that regard. But it is absolutely worth looking at the way that certain people in society – those who are privileged for their gender or race or country of origin, and particularly those who are privileged because they belong to a particular class of celebrity (artistic geniuses and sports stars are pretty high on that list) – are treated differently when they do something wrong. It’s worth looking at the way that so many people flock to excuse them on the grounds of intent, past character, and in many cases, on the grounds that being called on their inappropriate or criminal actions might disrupt their incredibly privileged lives.

Apparently 300 Arsenal fans sent letters of sympathy to Ryan Shawcross. I can’t quite get over that.

Aaron Ramsey is young and white and good-looking and healthy (apart from the broken tibia and fibula, obviously) and a British footballer, so under most circumstances he would be the most sympathetic party in a media skirmish. But Shawcross is all those things and he plays for England. Which, apparently, beats Wales. So it’s not his fault, and he’s a good bloke, and the most tragic outcome of that particular game is that the experience of being called up for the England team might be spoilt. The patriarchy has chosen a side, and closed ranks.

The patriarchy is not just a cultural phenomenon that raises men and their values above women and theirs. The patriarchy harms men, too. Particularly men who step outside the culturally approved masculine behaviours. More importantly, it protects men against what others might see as appropriate consequences for inappropriate behaviours.

Intent matters. It’s important to have good intentions, and particularly important not to have malicious, violent or abusive intentions. But intent is not everything. And it really is time that people stood up and said – no, actually. You don’t get to feel sorry for yourself right now. You might have had a hard week, but your victim has had a worse one. The fact that you cried when you saw what you had done is in fact less important than the fact that his leg will take seven months minimum to heal and that his first season playing as a starter for a Premier League football club is over four months early. Assuming, of course, that he does come back as anything like the same player he was before. Injuries like this can ruin careers, and lives, before they’ve even got started.

You don’t get cookies for not meaning to hurt someone when you have, in fact, hurt someone. Whatever the circumstances.

And maybe, if you’re not willing to change after three incidents of seriously hurting people on the pitch, maybe you actually ARE that kind of player.

I had a tough weekend, but to come and join such a great team was absolutely fantastic. Just to have been involved with the squad has been great. All the England players have been fantastic about what happened with Aaron Ramsey. They’ve got my mind on football really, nothing else. I’ve enjoyed their company and it’s been a good experience… What happened will not be a factor when I next play again for Stoke. Whenever I pull on the Stoke shirt I have to be 100% committed and the same as ever. Hopefully, when I am back from the suspension, I can do well again.”
(Ryan Shawcross)

Farewell to February

Well, the manuscript has gone, winging its way towards the offices of HarperCollins by carrier pigeon. (they’re speedy these days!) Two books down, one to go. (and, not entirely coincidentally, I have figured out titles for the first few Nancy Napoleon novels, which is almost as good as having the books themselves written) March can officially begin, one day early!

I should be jubilant, but I’m too busy being sad about the result of the last Arsenal game – we beat Stoke 3-1, but it was poor compensation for the horrific injury that Aaron Ramsey received. He’s a nineteen year old Welsh player who has been doing so well for the first half of our season, and had (hopefully still has) a brilliant football career ahead of him, and one nasty tackle has left him with a leg so badly broken that it could be a year or longer before he’s back. Devastating for him, for the players, and for the fans.

I wasn’t around for the Eduardo smash, which happened before I became a rabid Gooner, but I’ve seen how important his return and recovery was to the other fans and players. Having this happen again, and to the adorable baby-faced Welsh one, is gutting. I feel particularly bad that I’ve been joking too much lately about the Arsenal tendency towards injuries. Really not funny this morning. Here’s hoping it’s not as bad as it looked (it um, looked pretty bad, apparently… I couldn’t bear to watch the video, but apparently there were no replays on the feeds because it was so awful). The poor kid has a long road of recovery ahead.

For less depressing sports news, how awesome is Kelly Kulick? This is the first woman to win a men’s Professional Bowlers Association Tour title in the US. Women making it at the pro men’s level of sports is a rare and wonderful thing, and Kelly has been all but ignored in the sporting media. Is it because she’s female? Is it because bowling isn’t regarded as a legitimate sport?

It’s worth reading the whole article, because these questions are asked and some answers are found, particularly when it comes to gender bias. Particularly charming is the sportswriter who says: “Rule No. 1 in determining whether an activity is a sport: If the best female in the world can beat the best male in the world, it doesn’t qualify.”

Niiiiice. So Kelly Kulick is singlehandedly responsible for ensuring bowling doesn’t count as a sport? Or maybe, just maybe, there’s something else going on there.

In other news, I am totally buying my daughter soccer boots this week. She’s 21 days too young to be allowed to play school soccer, damn it, damn it, but we’re going to do the best we can to keep up her interest until she is allowed to play. One long year away. Hopefully the soccer boot shop has pink ones – if it’s good enough for Nicky Bendtner, it’s good enough for Raeli!

Crunch and Crumble

January’s over! Yikes. The end of the school holidays is fast approaching, which is good. I’m not nearly as far along with my rewrites as I wanted to be by this stage, but we can just call that another case of imaginary productivity.

There had better be nothing imaginary about my February productivity. I’m setting myself up for success the best way I can. When I haven’t been able to work, I’ve been building up anti-guilt points, playing with Raeli and setting up activities for her so I don’t feel so bad about disappearing into my laptop in the coming month. My honey is taking off the last week of the school holidays, which means he can entertain her and do the quality time thing while I indulge in reckless abandonment.

And of course there was the other work, the stuff with more immediate deadlines – proofs on proofs, and the last stages of correcting and redoing the maps. Not that I was actually doing the maps, but the last couple of weeks meant several meetings with Mum – the maps themselves were gorgeous but we’ve been juggling the sizing of text and my honey had to come to the party with electronic support and corrections too, managing to save Mum a lot of re-drawing time!

Meanwhile I’ve been reading my book 2 and notetaking and playing with Scrivener, and essentially pre-rewriting. The big work is all going to be done in the last month, though. I’ve worked through the fear and the paralysis stage (don’t know where to start! so much to do! make write better aargh!) and now there’s just the good stuff to do. I’m actually looking forward to it. I can see the shape of the book it’s going to be, and it helps that I’ve spent chunks of January immersed in the minutiae of book 1 – it’s amazing what themes and quirks you can slip into a book without realising it, and it’s only by being forced to read it line by line that you find those clever bits that really need to be elaborated on in later books.

It’s a trilogy I’m writing here, not three books, and it really is the first time I’ve done that – Mocklore was three standalone books, only becoming a trilogy of sorts in the final hour (and besides the wench is dead). I always wanted each book to expand on the previous one, making the story bigger and wider and sometimes changing the way you read the early books – but I’ve lived with Book One for so long now that it’s hard to let it go.

Final proofs are final. It’s gone. No changing it now. Further in, further in!

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Too Damn Hot

There are many jokes about Tasmanian weather. I suspect this is because a great many mainlanders manage to arrive on a rainy day and assume it’s like that all the time. (an agent once rejected a manuscript from me, complaining among other things that my Hobart-based novel did not properly convey a biting sense of cold)

Today was one of those days that makes us wish we had air conditioning. There aren’t usually that many – maybe half a dozen at most over the summer. Hobart days generally heat up late and cool down fast. It compensates for the fact that we have genuinely scary UV levels (sunburn on an overcast day is not unheard of). Only rarely do we get those days that are so much

I spent most of the day hanging out at [info] godiyeva‘s place, soaking up her magic-cool-air-maker, sipping grenadine, sewing, chatting and even getting in a bit of editing. I started a new quilt, finally, for Jemima and I love it already.

It’s past 10pm and still hasn’t cooled down below 27? inside. The baby has finally collapsed into sleep. We’ve spent the evening so far catching up on our Bigpond Movies stash, since Raeli is away at her Glamma’s for a sleepover, and we can oooh watch grown up movies before her bedtime. First was In Bruges, which was arty and dark and weird and violent and featured a manic Colin Farrell being all Irish and dumb as a stone.

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