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Avaragado’s 2015 predictions

And here they are: a list of things almost certainly not going to happen in 2015. Feel free to pop down the betting shop as soon as it opens to chuck your savings at the opposite of everything below. Don’t forget to return this time next year to gloat with your millions.

News

  1. There is more than one UK general election.
  2. After one of the general elections, speaker John Bercow is deposed.
  3. The royal child-beast is of the girl persuasion, and called Elizabeth.
  4. Hillary Clinton confirms she will run for US President.
  5. Kim Jong Un is deposed as leader of North Korea.
  6. The record for the highest temperature in the UK is broken.

Sport

  1. Sepp Blatter is not re-elected as president of FIFA.
  2. Chelsea win the English Premier League.
  3. Australia retain the Ashes.
  4. Germany win the women’s football World Cup in Canada.
  5. Oxford wins the University Boat Race, again.
  6. Cyprus comes top of the medal table in the keenly anticipated Games of the Small States of Europe in Reykjavik.

Science and technology

  1. Apple releases a MacBook Air with a retina display.
  2. The Dawn spacecraft discovers ice volcanoes on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres.
  3. The probe Philae on the surface of comet 67P emerges from hibernation sufficiently to send useful scientific data.
  4. Microsoft buys Fitbit.
  5. Dick Costolo leaves his position as CEO of Twitter.
  6. YouTube users upload over 500 hours of video per minute on average.

Entertainment

  1. Best Actor Oscar: Michael Keaton, Birdman.
  2. Best Actress Oscar: Julianne Moore, Still Alice.
  3. Best Picture Oscar: Birdman.
  4. Best Director Oscar: Richard Linklater, Boyhood.
  5. Best Visual Effects Oscar: Interstellar.
  6. The BBC says BBC 4 will follow BBC 3 and move online.

Celebrity deathwatch

  1. Dodgy FIFA boss before the other dodgy FIFA boss, João Havelange (98)
  2. Avenger before the other Avengers, actor Patrick Macnee (92)
  3. Dracula, Scaramanga, Saruman, Dooku, actor Christopher Lee (92)
  4. I’ve met him you know, comics elder Stan Lee (92)
  5. President Bush before the other President Bush, George HW Bush (90)
  6. Spock before the other Spock, actor Leonard Nimoy (82)
  7. Run out, umpire Dickie Bird (81)
  8. War criminal, ex-veep Dick Cheney (73)
  9. Floating like an ex-butterfly, stinging like an ex-bee, boxer Muhammad Ali (72)

Happy New Year!

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Avaragado’s 2014 predictions

Here they are: the 2014 predictions literally everyone hasn’t been waiting for. Please return regularly to check my progress and coincidentally bump the readership stats on my blog to make me feel better.

News

  1. In the referendum on independence, Scotland votes No.
  2. Brazil grants asylum to Edward Snowden.
  3. The Lib Dems replace Nick Clegg as leader.
  4. UKIP wins more MEPs in the European Parliamentary Elections than the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems.
  5. An iconic building or monument is damaged in a freak/climate change weather event.
  6. Paul Dacre leaves his position as chief bigot/editor at the Daily Mail.
  7. More than 50% of Daily Express front page main headlines are about the weather.

Sport

  1. Brazil win the World Cup. England don’t qualify from the group stage.
  2. Liverpool win the FA Premier League.
  3. Team GB win exactly one medal at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
  4. Andy Murray loses in the semi-final of the men’s singles at Wimbledon.
  5. Wales win the rugby union Six Nations tournament.
  6. Johnny Brownlee wins the ITU World Triathlon Series.

Science and technology

  1. Steve Ballmer is replaced as CEO of Microsoft by Satya Nadella.
  2. The crew of the International Space Station is evacuated because of orbital debris.
  3. Apple announces a “revolutionary” (in their words) new TV device.
  4. The Nobel prize for physics is won by someone in the field of quantum computing/communication.
  5. Google buys Oculus VR.
  6. Webcam video of a celebrity, obtained covertly by an intelligence agency, leaks on the internet.

Entertainment

  1. Best picture at the Oscars: 12 Years a Slave.
  2. Best actor at the Oscars: Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave.
  3. Best actress at the Oscars: Emma Thompson for Saving Mr Banks.
  4. Bruce Forsyth stops presenting Strictly Come Dancing.
  5. The BBC reboots a classic 1970s sitcom (eg Dad’s Army).
  6. In one of those “celebrities doing stuff” shows (Splash, Strictly, Dancing on Wolves, etc) a celebrity does stuff that results in a nasty injury on live TV.

Celebrity deathwatch

  1. His Racist Highness Prince Philip, 92
  2. Nobel Peace Prize winner and war criminal Henry Kissinger, 90
  3. Thatcher defenestrator Lord (Geoffrey) Howe, 87
  4. Swivel-eyed Ulster firebrand preacher Ian Paisley, 87
  5. Oh no, it’s Yoko Ono, 80
  6. Fifties teen idol and Half a Sixpence crooner Tommy Steele, 77
  7. Much better than the last one Pope Francis, 77
  8. Founder of CNN and all-round not-Murdoch Ted Turner, 75
  9. Nobody did it better than Carly Simon, 68
  10. Free software evangelist and beardy gnu-lover Richard Stallman, 60
  11. Wayward ex-gurner and Gazza Paul Gascoigne, 46
  12. Apprentice self-firing rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins, 38

Based on the pattern of previous years I’m expecting to get about 40% right. Join me this time next year to find out whether I’ve got that prediction wrong too.

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A knock at the door

(April 2013 note: I used some of the ideas from the short story below in my novel Disunited, written as Anthony Camber.)  

 

“Come in.”

The door opened, wafting sparkles of dust between the slices of pale December light struggling through the blinds. He approached nervously, like a schoolboy summoned to the Head’s office. But I was the scruffy one, in a training kit smeared with the day’s mud, and he was wearing a designer suit. Too much bling.

“Sit down, son,” I said, tossing some unfinished paperwork onto the desk, with all the rest.

“Cheers boss.” He perched. I hate it when they perch, it means trouble. At his age he should be strutting and sprawling, I thought, flashing back to when I was eighteen. A different world. Back then I didn’t have his salary, that’s for sure. Or his talent.

“Well?” I was still the boss.

An awkward pause. Please, not a transfer request.

“I need to tell you something.” Like I said, he was perching.

“OK.” Keep it light. “Don’t worry, I’ve got Max Clifford on speed dial.”

That forced a weak smile, no more. He stared at his shoes and fiddled with a ring. Fine: the day’s schedule disintegrated in my head, which at least meant the paperwork could be forgotten for another few hours.

“It’s just…”

“Come on lad. What is it? A fight? Paps caught you in a nightclub? Got some girl up the wossname?”

“No!”

“Drugs? Listen, we’ve all done a little–”

“It’s not drugs. I’m not stupid.”

“A sex tape, then.”

“I haven’t done anything wrong.” His eyes blazed, the passion the fans loved him for, the passion that sparked into genius on the pitch. And now I knew there was trouble.

I was leaning forward – being confrontational, as usual. Bad idea. I forced myself to sit back, the leather chair creaking and crackling into the silence.

Calmly, despite my rocketing heart rate: “So tell me why you’re here.” I breathed slowly, deliberately, remembering penalties scored and missed, mine and others.

He hesitated. Mouth open and shut. A decision. Eye contact. “I’m gay.”

Freeze-frame for a second, or five. “I’m not in the mood for jokes.”

Another second. “No joke.”

“Because if this is a wind-up, I’ll–” I was forward again, agitated, visions of hidden cameras, Noel Edmonds, stupid gold-plated laugh-at-the-idiot-footballer trophies.

“Boss. I promise, no wind-up. On my mother’s life.” A pause, another choice made. “I’m not ashamed of it. It’s not a phase. And I’m not gonna hide it.”

I made a noise, some kind of neigh, as the air escaped my lungs. They didn’t cover this at the coaching academy.

Deep breath. Big sigh. I took in the room, not very fancy as these things go: desk, sofa, certificates, all seen better days. And photos of those better days, of a younger, clear-eyed me – shimmying round a defender, that look on his face; the cup-winning team, all scarves and smiles. Jeez, shorts were short then.

And here and now: a boy, no more than that, albeit a hugely talented, highly paid, coiffed and tailored one, perching – still perching – before me. A dust mote flashed in the light and I followed it, carefree, immortal, until it vanished in the shadows. I felt suddenly very old.

“No,” I said.

“Boss, I’m not joking.” I was quite sure of it.

“I don’t care. I will not allow it.”

“You can’t stop me.”

“No. I can’t stop you. I can’t stop you drinking, smoking, clubbing, and all those other things lads your age do. But when it affects your performance, the team’s performance, I can drop you.”

“You wouldn’t drop me.” Standard teenage arrogance.

“Try me.” His next line was knee-jerk, obvious.

“Then I’ll quit.”

This wasn’t getting us anywhere. Time for a different approach.

“Listen, son. There are no gay footballers. There’s a reason for that.”

“I’ve read all about it. Justin Fashanu, he was gay. He played at the top level.”

“One player. One. Who was abused, transferred. Cloughy knew what he got up to, kicked him out. He ended up killing himself, you know that?”

“It doesn’t have to be like that!” He was angry now. I should have tried to calm it down, but…

“That’s just the way it is, kiddo. Get used to it. Get a girlfriend. Get on with your life, forget all this gay nonsense.” Stoking the fire. I regretted it instantly, expected a barrage of abuse in return.

Instead he just laughed, the bitter laugh of a future denied. My head throbbed. I rubbed my temples, filling time, as no words came.

Quietly, he broke the silence. “It’s the twenty-first century, man. I just want to live my life.”

“I know.”

“Gareth Thomas, the rugby guy. He came out, no problems.”

“There was a bit of trouble, but… I know. But rugby’s a different sport, a different crowd.”

“Football’s not so different.”

My turn to laugh bitterly. “You’ve never played at Millwall.”

He grinned. The tension evaporated. Sunshine striped across his jacket, contours of light over his face.

I stood and adjusted the blinds. “You realise the first black players had bananas thrown at them,” I said. “They still do sometimes, despite everything. You still hear monkey chants.”

“People are afraid of difference. But difference is nothing to be ashamed of. No reason to hide away. The more black footballers, the better it got. The more gay footballers, the better it will get.”

“But to be first – it’s bound to affect your game. And the rest of the team.”

He shrugged. “Someone has to be first. I’ll sort the team out. I can do the tabloids, the TV, talk to the fans, get them behind me.”

“It’s not our fans you should be worried about.”

“Sure. But if Viv Anderson could do it, and Brendan Batson, and Laurie Cunningham, and Cyrille Regis, and all the others, including Fashanu, I can do it.”

“They couldn’t hide being black.”

“Damn right. And they didn’t want to either. They weren’t ashamed of being black, and I’m not ashamed of being gay.”

I had to admire his determination, and he knew his footballing history. He was full of surprises, this boy. But he was so young. Could he deal with the abuse when it undoubtedly came? The barracking, the filth, even the death threats? He was so young.

“Why now?”

“You telling me there’s a good time?”

Fair point. “But in a couple of seasons, when you’re more mature…”

“Boss. I’ve read the bio. You were married at 21, kid at 22, and no saint before that. I don’t want to hide away, skulk around in the shadows, spend the best years of my life afraid of being recognised or, worse, not getting any. It was different for you.”

I had to agree.

“And…” he hesitated. “In four years, there’s Brazil. I want to be in the squad. And I want my boyfriend there too, if I have one. One of the WAGs.”

I laughed at that. Footballers are always footballers. But he had more.

“And then in Russia in ’18, I might be married. And captain.”

“Christ, you’re nothing if not ambitious.”

“How do you think I got here, fancy clothes, flash car? I’d never have kicked a ball if I didn’t believe I could do it.”

“So what about 2022? With your attitude you might still be in the team at thirty. But you can’t be gay in Qatar. It’s illegal. You heard Blatter, he says gays should refrain from…” I waved my hand, he knew what I meant.

A look, a defiant smile. “That’s why I’m doing this.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Blatter doesn’t matter. He’s an old man. Old thinking, old ways. We make the world we want to see. If I come out now, be the first, stand up and be counted, be successful, others will follow. They won’t be afraid. It’ll take a few years, but by ’22 there’ll be dozens of us – out, international players. Whether I’m playing or not, I’ll be in Qatar. With a husband, and kids maybe. And I won’t be the only one.”

“It might still be illegal.”

“What are they gonna do? Flog us all? Kick us out?”

I looked at him, the man-boy, the heart of the team, the fire of youth. He wasn’t perching any more. He was right, damn him. He was too young, he was naive, he was hopelessly, recklessly optimistic, but he was right. At some point you have to make a stand. At some point you have to do what you know is right, regardless of consequences.

“OK,” I said finally, slowly, a plan forming. “OK. I’ll talk to people. Max Clifford won’t like it, though.”

“He can get stuffed.”

“Just… don’t say anything yet. Let me arrange things, get the timing right. You – you tell whoever needs to know before it all gets out.”

A grunt. “My family, my mates, they’ve always known. They’re like, whatever.”

I should have expected that by now. “Good. Right. Clear off. Keep quiet. Get ready.”

“I’m ready. Cheers boss. I’m ready.” He stood, face in the light again, as it always was, as it always would be. We shook hands with a smile and he left, flashes of dust billowing again in the echo of the closing door.

I drank in the silence, the room, the discarded paperwork. The rollercoaster of life. Still time to jump off. I picked up the office phone, hesitating over the keypad. A deep breath; time for penalties. I dialled the number.

“Hi darling,” I said. “It’s time for me to come out.”

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England v Chicago

I love coincidences. Like booking months in advance to see a 3pm performance of Chicago in the West End only for England’s first match at the World Cup finals to be scheduled to start at 2pm on the same day. Yes, coincidences, I love ’em.

Lynda, Louise, Andy and I trained from Cambridge, Chef trained from High Wycombe, and we met outside Covent Garden tube just after 1pm. It felt more like Rome than London due to the heat, but a Rome invaded by England supporters. After an air-conditioned toasted panini we found a pub yards from the Cambridge Theatre so we could watch the first half. I’d predicted 1-1, but the early England goal was a worrying development: early goal for leads to cockiness leads to two goals against. I think it was Yoda who said that.

With ten minutes before curtain up the half-time whistle went and we dashed out to take our seats. Louise’s dad was primed to text her any footie developments.

We had an excellent view from the back of the stalls. But the heat was stifling, and Lynda – suffering from an early morning late night – had trouble staying awake during the first act, despite the talent on display. Andy failed to heckle Bonnie Langford, playing Roxie Hart, for her crimes against humanity in Doctor Who. A fat man last seen as one of the cast of the sitnocom Bread played Roxie’s husband Amos. Some pseudo-Sacha Distel garlicked up the role of Billy Flynn. Someone ejected from X-Factor by the great British public played Mama. There were lots of jazz hands.

At half-time in the show, Louise confirmed the full-time score in the football. Shame there hadn’t been more England goals – we’d speculated that we’d be able to hear cheers from outside, or someone in the theatre audience would find out and gesticulate wildly, or maybe even the cast would insert the news somehow – newspaper headlines feature more than once in the show. Still, 1-0 will do.

I was familiar with the musical numbers, the film having played in my presence (I wasn’t paying much attention to it) and having watched the excellent Channel 4 show Musicality (the winners played the major roles in Chicago in the West End, for one night only, and very good they were too). I think there must have been an American sitting not too far away, as someone kept yelling “Yeah!” after each number as us Brits applauded politely.

It was a polished performance: no slip-ups and technically very good (I am, of course, an expert in these matters). Since I find it hard to remember lyrics at all, I’m full of admiration for those who can sing “Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes they both/Oh yes, they both/Oh yes, they both reached for/The gun, the gun, the gun, the gun/Oh yes, they both reached for the gun/for the gun” while dancing, in time with everyone else.

Avaragado’s rating: peppered ragout

We stayed in Covent Garden for a pint at the Nag’s Head, met up with Sarah and Ades who were up from Bath for the day, and went for another pint at The Cove, nicely tucked away above a pasty shop with a view of the alleged entertainment badgering tourists below. Then to Fire and Stone, a posh pizza restaurant. None of yer Margheritas here: you get pizzas named after cities, such as the (may as well follow the theme) Chicago or Byron Bay. Occasionally non-intuitive ingredients, but very tasty.

Avaragado’s rating: bombay mix

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