Monday, October 11, 2021

Ffootball, Ffriendship and Ffamily (Maybe) in Fflint

On Saturday I went to watch Flint Town United play Barry Town United in the Cymru Premier. Another away day with Barry and a chance to meet up with a friend I'd made online for the first time.

Fflint, to use the Welsh name, is a small place on the Dee river estuary. The Wirral is on the other side. I was meeting up with James, who I had 'met' on a football message board. James is a Bury fan and had recently lived through the dark days of Bury FC collapsing and being expelled from the football league due to a malevolent owner. In one of our discussions, I invited him to come and join me at a Barry game in North Wales as it's relatively easy to get there from Manchester. Today was the day.

I was a few minutes early so was able to take a photo of a large sculpture that is sort of hidden away behind Fflint train station. It's a big ffoot. 


James arrived on the train from Chester. I took this ffoto from the ffootbridge. (That's enough double effs for now.)


We then made the two minute car journey to the football ground. Fflint play at Cae-y-Castell. It's next to the Castell, although there is a lifeboat station between the castell and the ground. 


Next stop, the social club.



I took this selfie before I gave James his Barry Town scarf, which inducted him into the Barry Massive. I wasn't wearing my colours yet either. We were so early we saw the Barry coach arrive and the Clubhouse were yet to open their doors. 

In the clubhouse I noticed this old photo on the wall.


That's the Flint Town FC team in about 1920. Now this is really interesting to me because one of the few things I know about my Grandad - my Dad's dad - is that he played football for Flint Town and Holywell Town. He apparently once played against my great uncle Tommy Matthias, the Welsh international who played for Wrexham. So that would have been in the early 1920s, probably. 

I do have some photos of my Grandad from when he was young, including this photo where I would guess he is about 14, maybe.


My Grandad would have been 19 in 1920. So the question is, do you think the young man in the middle of the front row of that photo could be the 19 year old version of the lad in the formal suit?



I think it might be, in which case, I'm pretty sure that was my Grandad in the photo on the wall of the Flint Town clubhouse. 

Anyway, poor James hadn't travelled all the way to Wales to listen to my family history. We had a football match to go to! 

The Fflint clubhouse is a hundred yards from the actual ground. There was a queue at the turnstiles.


Because of the queue, and because they didn't serve any food in the clubhouse, I was waiting in line for chips when the game kicked off. Barry scored almost immediately and I didn't see the goal. 

We made our way around the pitch to where the Barry fans had staked out their territory by laying out out their flags. Fflint scored twice to lead 2-1 at the break. We were very close to the pitch in the stand we were in and there were hardly any barriers due to a lack of advertising hoardings on that side of the ground. The grass pitch was in fantastic shape.


At half time I walked back around to get a cup of tea from the refreshment hut next to the big stand. It was a long queue, but it was moving quite quickly. Not quickly enough though. The second half kicked off. Barry again scored almost immediately from the start, just as I was placing my tea order. 

I said to the chap serving that I'd missed both goals while standing in the refreshements queue so obviously I should take up residence there, to which he responded "no, you can ffwc off", and laughed.



It was a very even game, with fast-paced breaks from both sides. Barry had two or three really good chances to go in front. With a few minutes to go James observed that "this has last minute winner written all over it". He was right. A chance fell to the Fflint number Ffour and he hammered home a screamer from the edge of the area. Barry couldn't force any more chances in the final few minutes and ended up losing 3-2.

It was still a very enjoyable day though - meeting a ffriend, an unexpected ffamily connection, and a good game of ffootball to watch as well. What more could I ask for from a day out in Fflint?

Thursday, October 07, 2021

New (old) music review - Saskadelphia by the Tragically Hip


For our wedding anniversary, Cathy bought me a new release from The Tragically Hip. It’s a six track CD mastered from sessions during the recording of Road Apples in 1991. The tapes were only rediscovered within the last couple of years, as this long form review and interview chronicles.

I realise this release probably isn’t of interest to most people, but I never I thought I would hear new songs from my favourite band ever again! 

Even though The Hip are my favourite band, I wasn’t expecting much from the CD. These are songs that didn’t make it onto the album, gleaned from thirty year-old recordings. ‘Lost songs’ are generally lost for a reason. However, I was pleasantly surprised at their quality. They’ve been touched up a bit by the band while working on the project. The key component from those original sessions would be the irreplaceable voice of the late Gord Downie, the lead singer who sadly passed away four years ago. Fortunately, Gord's voice was captured well on the tapes.

Musically, the songs definitely belong to the early part of the Hip’s career. They fill a gap in the timeline between the bluesy tracks on Up to Here and the more expansive songs on Road Apples. I would be interested to hear songs from the recording sessions for Fully Completely, the next album in the Hip’s discography, when their music went heavier on the basslines. Road Apples was a transitional album itself, but the band’s sound moved on considerably in the short space of time between the release of Road Apples and the recording and release of Fully Completely.

Who knows, maybe another box of tapes will turn up?

As a fan and completist, I was always going to want this album. I’m just really glad that it was better than my limited expectations.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

The joy of existing captured in Free Guy

This post contains mild spoilers


In Free Guy (newly released on Disney Plus), comedy genius heartthrob Ryan Reynolds plays Guy, resident of ‘Free City’, whose happy life is interrupted repeatedly by people punching him in the face, robbing the bank where he works, flying attack helicopters through the streets and so on. Guy just thinks this is normal and cheerily carries on with his life – saying hello to his goldfish when he wakes up every day, ordering his regular coffee with cream and two sugars, meeting his best friend who works as the security guard at the bank, and just shrugging off the mayhem around him.

Eventually Guy works out that he is actually a ‘NPC’ (non-playable character) in a video game. His life, which feels real to him, is entirely generated within the servers of a computer game company. This becomes more awkward when he falls in love with a player’s character who knows he is a NPC but also seems to be falling in love back with him. Guy has been programmed to love the character or has he? Falling in “love”, it transpires, breaks his programmed algorithms and sets him off on new courses of exploration and discovery.

That in itself is a lovely concept and one that could provide a useful metaphor for platform speakers the world over.

On the face of it Free Guy is a bit of a mash up of a few other film concepts. Cathy kept saying how much it reminded her of The Truman Show. The idea that computer game characters might have their own lives within the game was also explored in Wreck It Ralph. As someone with a lay interest in artificial intelligence, the concept of an AI algorithm reaching self-aware consciousness is fascinating to me.

But the bit that really moved me was about two thirds the way through the movie, when Guy is talking to his buddy, the security guard literally called Buddy, played incredibly well by Lil Rel Howery.  Through wearing game player spectacles, Guy has the capacity to see the world as gamers see it – picking up medpacks, ammo, and so on. Buddy doesn’t want to see the world as Guy sees it and refuses to put the spectacles on, but they remain friends.

When Guy is told that the world is about to end – because the villainous software developer who created ‘Free City’ wants to capitalise on its success by replacing it with ‘Free City 2’ – he asks Buddy why Buddy doesn’t want to know the truth about their world. Buddy’s reply perfectly encapsulated the power of living in the moment. He says something like ‘Maybe all this is just a game. But right now, I’m sitting here with my best friend who needs me. And is there anything more real than that?’

That really jolted me as a moment of truth in an otherwise fairly silly film. We have those moments when, yes, everything seems crazy and our worlds are rocked. But we still can connect. We can still hold those moments as real – the feelings we feel right then are actually the important things.

I really loved that brief scene. It elevated Free Guy from a decent way to pass the time to actually a movie with something to say.

We have the moment and in that moment, that can be enough. Because it is real.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

September 2021 - End of month review

Well that month seemed to pass really quickly. Maybe it was because I got to get out and about a bit with work, including a trip to Carmarthen despite the fuel panic at the end of the month.

From a footballing point of view, it was a much quieter month for me. Just four games, the biggest being a trip to Sheffield to see Shrewsbury play at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday.


Shrewsbury managed to earn a very credible point, helped by Wednesday missing a penalty and a host of other chances. 

It was a couple of days after my nephew Zac's 8th birthday and he came with me and my brother on the trip. His verdict on the day out was "We went to the pub for lunch and now Maccy's for tea. This is the best day of my life!"

"And the football," I said.

"Oh, yeah..." was the reply. Ah well. I understand. Having chips for two meals in a day is pretty special. 

In other sports news, the San Diego Padres fell completely out of contention for any honours as their form went into a death spiral. Lots of things have gone wrong this year but their chief problem has been hubris. I have consoled myself with my baseball card collecting project - two big parcels of cards arrived this month and took my collection to over 1,000 cards featuring Tony Gwynn. 

And of course there was a welcome return to playing Blood Bowl!

At the end of the month, Cathy and I had our 23rd wedding anniversary. It feels strange to think that we have now been married for more than half our lives (we were both 22 when we got married!), AND that we are only a couple of years off our Silver Wedding Anniversary. That just doesn't feel right. Silver Weddings are what old people have! 

One of the presents Cathy got me will be the subject of its own blog post soon!