Turnips and Hamstered Jam

“Now it’s Spring again,
I’ll sing again,
’bout turnips and hamstered jam”

(an excerpt from “Bygrave’s Songs, But Only Dimly Remembered” by Springy Le Marr)

[Editor’s Note: Springy Le Marr (1939-?), poet and small time kangaroo rancher is now wreathed in obscurity, but was once referred to by the great critic F R Leavis as head and shoulders above his fellow poets in the 1950’s Queensland Neo-Realist movement, “… just as a dwarf on a pogo stick can sometimes be seen to bob above the heads of a group of pygmies.” High praise indeed.]

Yes folks, Spring is here. The promise of sunshine; long, lazy summer days, the smoky haze of a million barbecues blocking out the clear blue sky. But on the fresh warming breeze is the tang of regret, for April presages the end of yet another season.

And so like a smart, upright, gleaming bottle of full cream milk, we find ourselves one bright morning deposited on the doorstep of anticipation, waiting for the front door of glory to open and the bath-robed arm of fate to pluck us away and pour us onto the cornflakes of eternal satisfaction.

But in these precious moments as we anticipate the good things to come, there is that small fear that at any moment some common tit will come and puncture the taut, foil gold top of our expectations.

Instead of being enveloped by the fridge-cool freshness of entitlement we will be left warming in the heat of derision slowly curdling into claggy sourness, ready only for the plughole of despair or, if you’re one of those who can take it in their stride, perhaps kneaded by the skilled hands of acceptance into the soda bread of vague disappointment.

In deference to the lactose intolerant and those who think humour should be in some way be amusing, I will now desist from milk related references.

BrylcreemThis international break has given us a chance to pull our trousers up to our ribs, tuck our knitted sleeveless jumper inside our pants and Brylcreem the side parting into a ferociously straight line before entering pater’s study to ask for a significant raise in one’s allowance.

Which is another way of saying we’d better be ready, because the next few weeks are season-defining for Chelsea.

And yes we are lucky to still be saying that, as the daffodils give way to whatever it is they give way to (look I’m not Monty Don). Those of us who’d completely lost our grip on reality during the early Autumn goal-fest would have expected the Premiership trophy to have only left our clutches long enough for the cleaners to give the cabinet a light dust before it was put back in there for another year, just about now.

The rest are probably relieved to be staggering away from the mid- season plane wreck: feeling perhaps a little thankful that despite our singed hair, we listened to mother and wore new, clean underwear for the journey. Because all that flying by the seat of the pants has left our arses dangerously exposed.

We have to ask ourselves whether this break came at a good or bad “moment” for the team. In Ancelottiville we exist at all times in a “moment”, ever-changing in nature, but always a “moment”. With the win over Citeh coming on top of success against the Mancs and Blackpool (henceforward known as the Donkey Botherers… oops), it felt as though we were building up a head of steam. And, while the performances were not outstanding, confidence was growing with key players finding some form. So did we really want it to stop?

On the other hand a it does give a little more time for some players to get over niggles and the long-term injured to get that bit closer to game readiness. It would be stating the obvious to say that given the upcoming glut of games, the more fit and functioning players available for the coming couple of months, the better. So there, I’ve stated the obvious.

I had a look to see what effect the previous breaks had on the team. Back in September when we were haring along, we hardly missed a beat as the Spammers were swept aside 3-1 at the Boleyn. However it was a somewhat different story when we played Villa after the October hiatus, with a 0-0 draw again away from home.

The November international didn’t require a break but came between the 3-0 home shellacking by Sunderland and the somewhat unfortunate away defeat to Birmingham.

To a great extent the results seemed to fit the general pattern of form at the time. The Villa draw may be the exception, although you could argue that along with the defeat by Citeh a couple of games before, it was an indication that we might not be as good as early season form suggested rather than wracked with fatigue from international duty.

So, we just don’t know what to expect on Saturday and the weeks to come.

But what of us, the fans. What has the break done for us?

To many the job of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic is a metaphor for futility and blind perseverance when all hope is gone. But with the bright evenings of Spring now upon us, I am determined to see it as an opportunity to make a strong statement about how key the placement of demountable furnishing in any outdoor context but particularly in extreme marine conditions, really is. Yes, I’ve decided to view the break as a “good thing” from the point of view of the fan.

This is indeed a moment to be savoured: one of those singular slivers of existence where time seems to have stopped still. The guns have momentarily fallen silent, there is a brief halt in the action. So, crouched with a cheek pressed to the cold mud of the salient wall, we pause, perhaps for the last time, to gaze upon the sepia image of a loved one before closing the locket and pressing it to our chest. Or we scribble our last thoughts and wishes and wedge them, with other valuables, in the splintered wood of a trench prop. Then on the piercing blast of the whistle we surge over the top to meet destiny head on.

There are eight games in April. Eight games in 28 days: more a hockey schedule than a football fixture list, as JM might put it. If the results keep going our way, the excitement will build with every passing game. To begin with we’ll start to feel that fourth place is secure, then third, then maybe second. In between times we might get a little step closer to another round of the Champions League. And yet… And yet one bad result and the sense of deflation could be nearly overwhelming. Every result is that critical.

We are walking the high wire. One slip and the upturned, expectant faces of the Big Top below will turn away in horror and disbelief. And if we don’t end in a crumpled corpse on the sawdust, we will at the least severely bruise our collective knackers (or lady-bits) on the steel rope.

Cycle SprintBut we have been here before. Last year was a roller coaster. Yes it was ours to lose, whereas this year we are doing the chasing, but as in this Sunday’s great one day Spring Classic, the Tour of Flanders if, after the battering of the cobbles (or the cobblers from the media in our case), the lung searing climbs, the cross winds and the rain, we are still in touch down the final straight, you have to fancy our chances in a sprint.

The late goal glut has maybe erased the memories of just how despondent we felt at times. I still cannot hear the words “Chessington World of Adventure” without a chill running up my spine. And that isn’t caused by the wallet damage or the Vampire Train, but by the chilling memory of United’s last-minute winner against Citeh and our defeat by the Spuds, later in the evening.

A chance to pause, to draw breath before we head into this turbulence is very welcome to me. Just as with the first scent of Spring, maybe the joy is in the anticipation and then, like those fond remembered, hot Summer days, where we forget the sweaty discomfort and the wasps in the sandwiches, it’s the savouring of the memories.

For it is a given that no sooner is the moment passed than the mind starts to work on filtering the lived experience into memory and so recollection is inevitably a changed world.

Do we really enjoy living through the anguish of knowing that one mistake, one lapse could end the quest for success? Can we face the inevitable despair when smiling fate once more snaps on the surgical glove of indifference and dips his cruel finger into the K-Y Jelly of ignominious failure?

I’m not sure. But I am sure that I welcome this opportunity to take stock and prepare for the emotional wringer. Starting with Saturday, every day of the next month will be some form of mental torture. Either we’re still going strong but waiting for the axe to fall or every step is a slow, painful progress to the knackers yard.

And lurking are the Mancs and the double header in the Champions League. Playing an English club has echoes of all those excruciating nights in Scouseland and Moscow. Whether your glass is half full or half empty, like a Humphrey with a red and white straw, they threaten to drain every last drop of joy from the milk glass of our souls.

But first things first. Stoke await us on Saturday. It’s a big, big, game. It will surely set the tone for the run-in. Having spent over a week in joyful relaxment and dreamy anticipation, the stomach is starting to tighten, the palms to sweat.

Yes, maybe like listening to Max Bygraves, you’re just happy before it starts and when it’s all over there’s the blessed relief. But let’s not think too deeply about how we’re going to live through it.

There are 23 comments

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  1. Chelsea Report

    While it’s a tall view from the high rope, it’s reassuring to know that if the other slips up they know there’s one breathing down the other’s neck. Nothing like pressure to seperate men from boys. And yes, that is a direct metaphor aimed at Arsenal, and to a lesser extent, Man Utd [Smalling etc].

  2. Chelsea Report

    While it’s a tall view from the tightrope, the pressure of others breathing down your neck really does seperate men from boys. And yes, that is a direct attack at Arsenal, and to a lesser extent Man Utd [Smalling, Fabio etc.]

  3. Anonymous

    Well played, BB!

    As fine a set of excruciatingly overblown extended metaphors as I’ve come across since the other Humphrey [Lyttleton] was called to the Great Jazz Band in the Sky, though I noticed Jack Dee was starting to resurrect the practice in the most recent series of I’m Sorry…

    I see that our fixture-jammed month will also have three consecutive Saturday 3p.m. kick-offs.

    A fine thing to be celebrated by all traditionalists, I hear you say?

    Indeed, except as two of them are away games I am left with the dilemma of either facing a buttock-clenching afternoon doing my “Bob & Terry” act, avoiding finding out the score until Football First offers 90-minute coverage at 8.25p.m./ 60-minutes at 10.15p.m., depending on the capriciousness of Sky’s game selectors, or I ruin my eyesight and patience watching whichever dodgy live internet stream doesn’t freeze on my PC at a crucial moment.

    As some wit once put it, I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.

  4. Ososdeoro

    And here I am complaining that Daylight Savings has added an agonizing hour to the wait…now I have to suffer all the way to 8am instead of the usual 7.

    Except this weekend. This weekend the game isn’t on TV. And since this game is vital, I think it’s finally time to search the internets for the game. Any suggestions in this matter would be appreciated. Cheap is good.

  5. Der_Kaiser

    Marvellous. There’s life in this old blog yet.

    When do we play some flippin’ football again? All this international nonsense goes on far too long for my liking.

  6. DayTripper

    Dear Avram,

    If you beat the Mancs on Saturday, and with plenty of physical intimidation into the bargain, all will be forgiven

  7. Donkey's Ears

    How do people think the Luiz issue will affect the CL? It seems odd to me that by definition you will be playing a weakened team in your most important competition.

    Will it be a straight swap with Alex for Luiz or will we see Ivanovic in the middle and Bosingwa or Ferriera?

    I think you’re right to be confident. You’re playing well and are at full strength (elibility issues apart).

  8. bluebayou

    As part of the daily grind that enables me to earn a crust, I have just been allocated a project to work on. It’s called “The Life After Stroke Centre”. When I first saw the project title and given the importance of Saturday’s game, I needn’t tell you what I first thought I’d just read. And I do hope there’s life after Stoke.

  9. Ososdeoro

    I think he’ll put Alex at center and Luiz on the left. Or that’s what I’m hoping for anyway. Thanks for the tip on FSC, Celery, I’ll re-check my listings.

  10. Anonymous

    A veritable isfahan carpet of elaborately-woven metaphor, Dr B. Marvellous stuff.

    My favourite: “there is that small fear that at any moment some common tit will come and puncture the taut, foil gold top of our expectations…”

    With us being drawn against the Mancs, I hope this doesn’t prove to be too prescient. After all, tits don’t come much more common than Rooney.

    DE — I’m pretty sure Carlo agrees with most on this blog that our strongest defensive lineup is anything not including Bosingwa, in which case Alex (if fit) will go in the centre and Ivanovic on the right. The only thing that might make him plump for Bosingwa is that he’s speedier than Branners and therefore might be safer against Nani coming down your left. But I’m pretty sure all Chelsea fans would rather have Branners standing up to your most dangerous attacker, lack of pace notwithstanding.

    Is Valencia fit? I’ve always been impressed by him.

  11. Anonymous

    Oh dear.

    Carlo’s won manager of the month. Luiz won player of the month.

    Kiss of death much?

    • Jon

      Clearly so! Utd come back fro 2 nill down and we fail to beat Stoke.

      Didn’t see the game so not sure how we played but looks like we are focused solely on the CL now!

  12. WorkingClassPost

    What a pleasant read for Saturday morning, cheers BB.

    The long break and all that other stuff going on, left me unaware that we had a match this afternoon. Just watching the news when they mentioned it, so double-checked the fixture online, nice surprise to have a game today and a good result will be even nicer.

  13. WorkingClassPost

    Got to admit that I was completely un-bothered by this result, world events put football into perspective and it really is Justa Game.

    Anyway, for those who didn’t get to see it, here’s my view.

    We started slowly, no, correction, we didn’t start at all.

    Stoke pressed and harried and we kind of ran around a bit.

    It’s nearly two weeks since we last played, but it feels like two months and looked like two years. We went behind and could’ve shipped a second.

    After about twenty minutes we’d pulled ourselves together and looked well worth DD’s equalizer. From then on we were clearly the better team and it looked just a matter of if/when we went ahead, but Oh Carlo, or as my Italian commentator would say Oh, Ant Shelloti

    Nobody really shone and Nico was fairly subdued and duly subbed but in one of those dreaded double substitutions Ramires went too. Why I don’t know.

    He looked fit and didn’t have a card. He wasn’t at his best (along with everyone else) but the guy’s like having a twelfth man and we immediately fell apart. Stoke piled it on and we could’ve gone behind by a hatfull of goals before we finally put some chances of our own together in the last few minutes.

    Two points dropped?

    More like a point gained.

  14. Anonymous

    Also entirely unbothered, I don’t know why. In a weird way the season feels like it’s already over. Anyone who thought we were ever going to be champions after our catastrophic “moment” was dreaming, and anyone who thinks we’re going to beat that Barcelona team (let alone any of the others) to the CL is also a fantasist. Though to be fair it would be fun to make it to the final.

    Anyway, in the context of this season not a terrible result, plus the Spuds only drew as well so no need to start panicking yet about dropping out of top 4.

    WCP and I can’t be the only ones taking a relaxed attitude to this. It’s been six whole hours now since we dropped points to a “mid-table” team and there hasn’t been a single “Ancelotti Out” post so far.

  15. Cunningplan

    Certainly agree with some of the sentiments, once we went behind to an opportunist attack, and subsequent goal, it was one way traffic for the first 60 mins. I did think that once we got to the that stage, we would revert to type, by dominating and stretching the game due to tired limbs from the opposition, but we appeared to switch off and let them back into it.
    On saying that we could have easily won it, as much they could have, but still, considering they haven’t lost at home in the league since the 28th Dec last year, it was a good result.

    A quick comment on Utd, when they went 2-0 down and Vidic, who should have been sent off for his last ditch tackle, to me that was a turning point, along with their soft penalty. I know we were always in with an outside chance of the league, but I think that it will take a huge miracle now, but second is, as I said before a possibility.

    Excuse any typos I’m totally pissed, not because of the result, but because some bastard invented alcohol!

  16. Anonymous

    +1 for not being bothered.

    What hacked me off about yesterday was the media reaction to our title challenge being over. It was over a few months ago. Utd have it in the bag now.

    The CL is an outside chance and nothing more. Wednesday will be a boring spectacle. More excited by the Spurs v Real game.

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