Tag Archives: Algeria

Welcome back, old friend. Lockdown provides one benefit.

26 Apr

We’re going left field today. Of course we should be talking about Saturday’s quite wonderful Brentford lockdown special with Sam Saunders and King Kev. Perhaps tomorrow. Instead, the memory has been tripped by an early morning message from friends in Australia and a trip to Africa that took place many years ago. A trip that was fuelled on something far stronger than a dodgy whisky run to Algeria. Err… Move along, nothing to see here. It was a trip that was powered by PG Tips.

So this one’s for Fay, Bucko, Rich, James and co today but, at the same time, feel free to come along for the ride if you want.

love a cup of tea as much as the next person. Or should that be ‘loved’. Lord knows it  kept us going some tough times – the aforementioned Africa trip being the quintessential example.

Back in the early 90s I spent six months going overland from Chiswick to Nairobi in the back of a truck via such exotic sounding places as Ouagdougo, Bangui and Kisangani to name but a few. Places I’d never even heard of before naively deciding that  being thrown together with 30 strangers and my University mate Rich would be the perfect way to put off entering ‘the real world’ after graduating. Some of which I’d never heard of even after we’d left them.

It was an amazing time. Sometimes scary. Sometimes rich in culture. Usually boozy. Often we were hungry. Ocassionally we ate like kings. There were fights. Angst. Stress. Dodgy guts and no toilet paper. Cabin fever – try crossing the Sahara with nothing to do for a week beyond playing Yahtzee, digging the truck out of (yet another) sand dune and look at sand.  Nothing to eat beyond powdered leek soup and Angel Delight. Made in a bucket. Andrea’s bucket….. I fell ill just thinking about that now we have hygiene once more.

If ever there was a metaphor for current life then there it was.

Moreso when you chuck ‘Eric Clapton – unplugged’ into the mix. How all but a few of my fellow overlanders had managed to bring the same tape, with it’s plinky-plinky acoustic stylings and piss weak mid-song banter, must be beyond the law of averages. But there you go. With no downloads or Apple Music it was C-90 cassettes or nothing.

And I reckon a good 26 out of 32 opted to bring ‘Handjob’, as I believe he had been nicknamed, with them. Because what everybody needed was yet another glass of ‘Malted Milk.’ It was stuck on almost repeat loop. A musical torture that kept hammering away at whatever place your mind was trying to escape to.

Eric slowly, and unwittingly, adding to the powder keg atmosphere that was brewing. Every twee chuckle from the audience another nail in the coffin of my sanity. That was, until salvation arrived. PG Tips based salvation. 

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This has to be against the Geneva convention

Whatever the stresses, hunger or confinement of the day there was always one thing to bring us together – a cup of tea.

No matter how hot it was or where we were, the stuff was always being made. The first rule of pitching camp was to get the fire burning and the water heater on. Forget dinner (such as it was) or washing up afterwards. It was always a case of getting the tea going before anything else. 

110 degrees in the middle of the desert – still need the tea. Want to climb a mountain in Algeria or need to rebuild a bridge in Zaire to cross a river? Fine, but not before a cup of tea. Stomach falling out of your arse? Pretty sure tea will fix it.

And boy did we drink it by the bucketload. Blue plastic mugfuls of the stuff. Overstewed and strengthened, if that is even the word, with powdered milk. Powdered milk that had quite likely been wee’d on by the family of rats we found nesting amongst the supplies somewhere in the Central African Republic. And by quite likely, I mean definitely.

Ahh – the sight of them being liberated from the Weetabix (Jurassic Park edition) and returning to the wilderness one I’ll never forget. But let it never be said that something as simple as rat piss got in the way of enjoying our breakfast cuppa. Anything but.

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Now with 100% less rat

Given the challenges we are currently experiencing c/o lockdown, I’ve found myself catching up a lot more with old friends. Several of whom I’d enjoyed/endured (delete as applicable)  the African odyssey with 25+ years ago. F*&k. Wow. That’s scary. But this morning there was a nice surprise over the messages – Bucko, pouring forth from Australia has put the question:

 “Nick essays on life and how to live it –  Fay and I find enlightening and entertaining. So mate can you please give a quick-shot  analysis on this this obsessive coffee culture…what is wrong with a nice cup of tea?”  

I’ve a lot of time for Fay and Bucko. Namely because he taught me about music, beer aswell as being quite the philosopher. “Never ruin a good story with the facts” being my favourite and one still used to this day. We’ve all remained great friends and have met up with each others many times over the years. Rich and I even had the denouement of Euro ’96 ruined in quite spectacular style upon our fast post-Africa catch up in Australia, although that’s a story for another day. 

The point being that a question from the otherside of the world is one which can’t go undheeded. Not when it comes from Bucko who, true to form, was sparked out cold at this juncture and had left Fay to ask it on his behalf. Got to love an Aussie who can’t hold his beer…. 😉

So – why coffee culture over tea? I’d not really thought about this but he’s right. There has been an almost subconscious move over to the dark side. My old friend tea now nothing more than a relic from a bygone age.

We’ve all manner of coffee chains where I worked before the spare room became the office in recent months. Their call has contributed to my enjoying the black stuff over the years. Perhaps because paying £3 for a teabag and a cup of boiling water compared to fresh ground coffee beans seems morally wrong. A damming indictement of my own laziness when the office kettle and box of teabags in the desk would provide an infinitely cheaper and identical alternative.

At least with coffee, only the most hipster of workplaces is going to have their own supply of beans and a grinder.

Then there’s just the power of that eSpresso hit (take your ‘x’ and shove it). The perfect kick start to a morning which is usually being run against the clock of school runs and commuting. Every second counts ; every caffeine boost a performance enhancing drug with which to combat the pressures of modern life.

One which has now become the norm and spilt over into the weekend. The cup of tea now a forgotten memory in our house. But why? Addiction?  Habit? Taste? Preference? Probably a bit of all, if I’m being honest. Plus I really struggle with milk these days. Unless it is brand new opened that second, anything approaching a day old hits the gag reflex. I can’t drink tea black ; I can with coffee.

Which is a crying shame. To miss out on the comfort factor and more relaxed way to start the day is truly a loss that has crept up without even realising it. Until now.

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Tea – comes in many shades.

So waved on by nostalgia I’ve done it…..

The kettle has been boiled and a fresh container of milk opened. The drink has been made and, my word, it’s amazing. I’m now on mug 3 and whilst it won’t be a case of saying farewell to the coffee, perhaps the two can co-exist on a more equal footing. Perhaps the feel good factor and more calming feel of Yorkshire’s finest is what we need in these crazy times.

If it was good enough to keep us together in the middle of the jungle it’s certainly one remedy for personal wellbeing right now. A way to try and cope with what’s going on outside as we look to avoid the confines of lockdown.

Assuming you can get hold of some.

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Nick Bruzon 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of pre-season

11 Jul

Championship. Championship. Here come the Bees in the Championship”. Not my words but those of Billy Reeves and Bee Faction in their promotion celebrating, ‘Hey Brentford’ song. Still available on free download, this terrace anthem has been my earworm for most of the summer.

And thankfully so, with the gap from promotion to the Championship an excruciating wait. Fortunately, this has been just one of numerous distractions to keep me occupied.

Some bad : the departure of Clayton Donaldson, the leak of the away kit and the most cringeworthy tweet to ever come out of ‘official’ channels. I have no idea who ‘drives’ @brentfordfc on Twitter but the reaction to the phrase ‘#trophyfriends’ was one of almost universal embarrassment.

Please - NEVER again

Please – NEVER again

Still, that was very much the thin end of the wedge and there have been more positives to focus on than I could shake a stick at.

So here they are: the top ten moments of the close season

10: The play offs. An odd place to start, especially given our track record, but wasn’t it great to watch the annual torture session at the W place with so much direct interest for Brentford? Who from Rotherham or Leyton Orient would be joining us next season and who would suffer that ultimate kick in the knackers? Likewise, could Uwe do us a huge favour and keep the Loftus Road mob in the Championship.

In the end, it was Rotherham who celebrated like they’d won the FA Cup and Wigan Athletic who will be visiting Griffin Park for the final game of 2014/15

9: Pre-season friendlies. A complete contrast to last season where, instead of a full priced game against a Celtic reserve side, whose support were allowed free reign of Griffin Park, we’ve got visits from the continent. There could even be a smattering of World Cup stars present as both Nice and Espanyol visit, with tickets starting form as little as £5 for adults. Great work.

8: The World Cup. Putting England to one side, it has been a stunning diversion from the pain of pre-season. From the second day destruction of Spain by the Netherlands right up to the hosts being on the wrong end of a 7(seven)-1 semi-final bracketing, this has really been captivating stuff. The likes of Algeria and Costa Rica have helped demonstrate that cup football is one of the most exciting sports on the planet – moreso when there is this much in such a short space of time.

The World Cup gave us plenty to chew over

The World Cup gave us plenty to chew over

7: Diaries. Peter Gilham’s tour diary is always a great read. A fascinating view behind the curtain as to what really makes up a pre-season training camp – for both the players and the backroom staff. Moreso, it’s a sign that the campaign is almost upon us.

Always a great read

Always a great read

6: The roof is finally covered. At last. They squatted in TW8 for longer than the Kew Bridge ‘Eco village’ but Qatar Airways have finally been evicted from the roof of the Bill Axbey stand on New Road. We await news as to who replaces them with intrigue.

Going.Going.Gone

Going.Going.Gone

5: Team morale. It seems stunning. What goes on tour doesn’t necessarily stay on tour, when it comes to Brentford. Sam Saunders car wash, wearing nothing more than flip flops and three marigolds, and Harlee Dean being slapped in the face with a wet fish by Will Grigg are both videos I never thought I’d see. But am very glad I have

4: That moment when news sources recognise us. We know we’re a Championship team but others, outside of West London, are not always so quick to keep tabs. So when the likes of ‘News now’ move the Bees to their Championship page or the BBC have us as sitting in the new League table, it put a little tingle up the spine

3: Ticket prices. These increased, but marginally. The price rise was a token one and nowhere near the amount I would have expected from a club with a limited capacity (relative to our rivals) and now playing in a higher division. This really was a bold decision and they have been instantly rewarded with over 5000 sales. Thank you!

2: Mark Devlin’s strip tease. Of course, I mean the teaser campaign that has led to the unveiling of our home kit. I liked this idea – despite my desperation to see the ‘full reveal’ – and we’ve been rewarded with a great shirt. The away shirt, in particular, aside from the cracking design spec, achieves that rare feat of making the stick on sponsor’s logo look marginally acceptable. And when that happens, you know something good must be happening.

The family friendly strip tease

The family friendly strip tease

1: The Fixture list. If there was one thing to crank up excitement about next season, it is the moment when the fixtures are revealed. Away trips can be planned, Christmas is saved with a home fixture on Boxing Day and Uwe visits on the last day of the (hopefully) regular season. Oh, and there’s a return of the derby against Fulham

And if you need any reminder of how we got here, ‘Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup…..’ (The story of Brentford’s 2013/14 promotion campaign, amongst other football related chatter) – is now available as a digital book. Featuring the best of the not so bad columns from last season, and some new content, you can download it here for your kindle / digital device.

England go a bit Tourjansky. And are Brentford changing their tops?

23 Jun

With England limping out of the World Cup, watching any more of it seems a bit of a hollow exercise. The football over the weekend was very exciting (see: Germany, Ghana, Iran, Argentina, USA and Portugal) with even Algeria – South Korea, hardly the most scintillating prospect in advance, getting the blood pumping.

But these thrills are muted by the fact that every potential upset no longer has a knock on that could impact Roy’s Boys.

I’ve used this before but it is the archetypal example of my favourite analogy, a Timothy Dalton ‘Bond film’. The rest of the crew and cast may be the same, the action and the sound are identical but, ultimately, without the one-liners and raised eyebrow of Roger Moore it all seems to be lacking something.

Like Dalton, the World Cup still has a stunning supporting cast and incredible action but with our team of Victor Tourjanskys gone (and do check him out), it is definitely lacking a safari suit clad bite.

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England are reduced to a Tourjansky-esque cameo role on Tuesday

Brentford wise, things are just as downbeat on the surface. No real news coming out of the club, but rumour central in other sources. With Marcello Trotta, allegedly, no longer in the frame for a return, you may also be surprised to read that, “Bristol City boss Steve Cotterill is targeting highly-rated Brentford striker Will Grigg.”

Not my words (I’d have given him the respect of prefacing them with “Northern Ireland International”) but those of the Bristol Post. You can read the full story here but it would leave us rather short in the ‘striker’ position if we were to accept the supposed bid of £300,000….

Moreso given the talk about Clayton Donaldson being a shoe in to join Birmingham City, now his contract has expired.

I remember a similar situation the last time we escaped ‘tier 3’ to join the Championship back in 1992. Then, goal hero Dean Holdsworth was sold off on the cheap to Wimbledon and we were left with Murray Jones in his place. Ultimately, a packet of Murray mints would have done a better job as, despite a sterling effort, the former Grimsby man failed to find his eye for goal and Gary Blissett was left to do the work of two players.

However, if Brentford clear the decks up top (and it is a big IF – these are only cyber rumours at present) then this time I have a feeling things will be different. We’ve been too long looking to escape this division to then go and throw it all away.

Warbs and Frank McParland have a stunning knack for unearthing talent – just look who has come into the club in the last year or two. I’d hate to lose Clayton but, if it was to happen, then I’m confident that they have somebody lined up.

Now, does anybody have Lionel Messi’s phone number?

‘Celebrating like they’d won the FA Cup…..’  – The story of Brentford’s season  2013/14 – amongst other things –  is now available as a digital book . Featuring the best of the not so bad columns from the last ten months, and some new content, you can download it here for your kindle  / digital device

Here come the Bees in the Championship as ‘keepers dominate.

18 Jun

Today’s the day! Finally, the Championship fixture list is released and Brentford find out when we’ll lock horns with the likes of Fulham, Watford, Charlton and Birmingham City (where, hopefully, we’ll see Clayton Donaldson playing for the team in red and white – ignore those rumours, folks!).

I absolutely love this time of year. It puts the next ten months into perspective as we find out if holidays clash with some vital away trip and when we can squeeze in a visit to see the mother-in-law.

The fever pitch feeling around TW8 is sure to step up a notch once we get the chance to map out 2014/15. This has already gone into overdrive with the news that 4,800 early bird season tickets have been sold. To put that into perspective, it’s almost half the capacity for Griffin Park’s home support and is a stunning effort.

In no small way is this down to the competitive level prices were kept at (to be honest, I was expecting a huge hike this season). Likewise, well done to all the staff in the ticket office who I cannot praise enough. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with them in person then you’ll know how hard the likes of Mads and Abdi work and how helpful they are.

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A new season dawns over Griffin Park

Then, just to keep the excitement bubbling over, there’s the World Cup over in Brazil where day 6 action was dominated by goalkeepers. Primarily, Guillermo Ochoa who kept Brazil at bay with an immense performance as Mexico drew 0-0 with the hosts.

I can only put his exceptional display down to his shirt which seems to be the international variant of the striking design set to be worn by Richard Lee and David Button next season. As somebody who looks for omens in the smallest of things, for me this one was as subtle as being hit in the face with a wet fish by Adrian Chiles and can only bode well for The Bees.

Later that evening, Russia took on South Korea in a game that threatened to rival the previous day’s Iran – Nigeria as the most painful of the tournament. I gave up after half an hour of dreadful football which, to coin a phrase I’d heard earlier in the season, “Was like watching two pensioners trying to play X-box FIFA for the first time”.

At least the goals started to flow in the second half as the match finished one apiece. However, where Ochoa had been flawless earlier in the day, his Russian counterpart, Igor Akinfeev, had a performance he’ll want to forget about. The BBC, whose coverage of this effort is here, put it best by saying he, “has practically thrown the ball over his shoulder into the back of the net”.

The day’s other game saw Belgium perform more like seaside donkeys rather than their billing as (cliché alert), the tournament’s ‘dark horses’. A 2-1 victory over an Algeria outfit who led for most of the game was hardly the stuff to strike fear into their rivals.

Just typical I’ve got Fellaini and co in the office sweepstake.

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BBC viewers saw Mexico’s Ochoa in the same design top as Brentford will be wearing next season