28.6.10

The Golden Generation

 
England qualified for the 2010 World Cup with a near-perfect record of 9 wins and 1 defeat, the highest number of goals scored in the whole of the European groups and, in Wayne Rooney, a player who was finally justifying his hype on the international stage after scoring 9 goals during qualifying. With Fabio Capello at the helm, we had the level-headed, disciplinarian coach that was needed after the 'Stevie G, JT, let's-all-be-mates' era of Steve McLaren, and the Italian seemed to have finally battered those preening, prancing, millionaire playboys into something resembling a strong international force.

Last night, England were defeated 4-1 by Germany. Not only did we get beaten by a better side, we were dominated from start to finish, save for a brief period towards the end of the first half. The 'Golden Generation' - a tag which is genuinely laughable now - have surely played their last tournament as a group, and they exited in the least dignified way possible - destroyed by the fucking Germans.

Where did it all go wrong? Let's look at the main suspects in the case. 

The Players - Our final 23 players that travelled to South Africa included Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry. These are world-class players. That expression gets bandied around too much I know, but they objectively are. Besides Barry, they've all played in Champions League finals, they all play week-in week-out for the best teams in the best league in the world and are extremely vital components of those teams. Starting 11. First on the team sheet. I've read some nonsense about the fact that the Premier League is full of international talent and that it is this talent that is making our very average English players look better than they are. No, that's bollocks. Look at Wayne Rooney's record for United this season. He kept us in the title race on his own, literally on his own most of the time as he was playing as the lone striker for most of the season. He is a fantastic finisher, an incredible passer of the ball and has probably the best football brain of anybody I have ever seen play. Did we see this in the World Cup? No. We didn't see it from any of them. They were all shit.

Last night, we didn't pass the ball well, we defended terribly and we didn't create enough chances. Rooney was resorting to wild shots from outside of the area, Gerrard passed the ball to their keeper on more than one occasion and the support wasn't there to get Jermaine Defoe in behind the defence where he can do the most damage. Honestly though, when we were 4-1 down and a change was finally made, Rooney should have come off for Crouch, not Defoe off for Heskey. Heskey is a fucking donkey who can't score goals. Why is a striker at the World Cup who can't score goals?

Matthew Upson and John Terry were completely at fault for the 1st goal - completely, embarrassingly at fault - and didn't do much better for the rest of the game. Terry seems to have it mixed up in his head that throwing yourself around and not being scared to get the ball in your face translates as being Terry Butcher, but it doesn't. You have to defend. You have to be aware of your position. He was the senior defender in that back 4 and he should have been running the show. He wasn't.

And while we're on the subject of John Terry, I think we should talk a little about team morale or, more specifically, the lack of anything even approaching team morale. John Terry, you may remember from a few months ago, was caught cheating on his wife with the mother of Wayne Bridge's child, Bridge being his former teammate at Chelsea and current England teammate. This led to a divide in the camp, with all except those who sympathise with that kind of behaviour (i.e. Ashley Cole) supporting Bridge. After a short debate and John Terry being stripped of the England captaincy, Bridge decided he would rather deny himself of the chance to play in the World Cup than be stuck in a training camp with John Terry and ruled himself out of contention. Bridge would almost definitely have been in the final 23 had he been available for selection. The fact that he wasn't there and Terry was cannot have gone down well in the camp.

Terry further endeared himself to the players by breaking one of the cardinal rules of being in a football team - what is said in the dressing room stays in the dressing room. Terry needs to watch Band of Brothers. He needs schooling on the code of man. He came out for a press conference, publicly belittled the manager and betrayed the confidences of other senior players by suggesting there was going to be some kind of Terry-led revolt against Capello at a meeting that evening. This, obviously, didn't materialise and Terry was forced to apologise. Another knock to morale.

It's too easy to say that these players were at the World Cup and so should inherently be fighting in the same direction. Of course they all want the same thing, but they have to be moulded into a team. You put 23 grown men into a closed environment away from their friends and families for a month and there are going to be problems. Add to this the fact that these are highly competitive, highly-paid men who act like spoiled brats and are afraid to let their loved ones anywhere near John Terry unless he shags them, and you have a perfect recipe for a fall-out. Something was obviously wrong. We may never find out what, but I think Wayne Rooney had something to do with it.

Why? He is one of the best players in the world when he is enjoying his football and a petulant piece of shit when he isn't. He was scowling, screaming and sulking in every game he played in, even refusing to shake Capello's hand after being (deservedly) subbed during the Slovenia game. Alex Ferguson spoke to him during the group games and said he felt something was wrong. Anyone watching the team could see there was something wrong.

We could point to injuries (particularly Rio Ferdinand and David Beckham) and we could point to the fact that for the first half against Slovenia and the 20 minutes before half time last night we looked slightly dangerous, but at the end of the day the players didn't perform and they have to accept that. Most of the so-called Golden Generation will never play in a World Cup again and they have to accept that they simply didn't use their talent when they were required to.

The Manager - the build-up to this World Cup felt so much different for me than all the others because of Fabio Capello. I was confident in our manager. I thought that if there was anybody able to cope with the difficult task of organising a winning World Cup squad then it would be Capello. He had done perfectly up until the tournament, managing tricky situations like the John Terry affair and David Beckham's role in the squad with dignity and professionalism whilst maintaining the football side of things to a tee. I never thought he could be to blame were we to fail.

But then things started to change. David Beckham injured his Achilles and was ruled out of the tournament, yet Capello said that Beckham would still be travelling with the team. Why? I mean, I love David Beckham more than most, but I don't know why he was there. Morale? I mean, he's not Gazza. He's not the world's most fun person or a huge contributor to team spirit. It stunk of special treatment, and could well have been a source of resentment within the camp.

Then came the farce of the final squad announcement. BBC Sport did their little live text fiasco so we could all spend time staring at computer screens instead of living our lives, and the squad was being leaked player by player. Instead of one announcement naming the 23 players as every other country did, we were finding out which players were excluded from fucking Twitter, mysterious 'sources within the FA' and the tabloid press. That is not the way these things are done. And the teams were getting leaked during the group stages. I was really surprised by that from Capello. I thought he was better than that.

Then came the tournament proper and reports of unrest in the camp. The tabloids were talking about Capello's aloofness, that he would walk by players without saying 'hello', that he was forcing them into their rooms too often. I don't buy into any of that, personally. So what if poor little Wayne Rooney doesn't get a 'hello' off the gaffer? Man up! You're not a baby. He is a 65-year-old man, a legend within the game, and he can do what he likes. And you should be resting up in your room. You're at the World Cup not Butlins!

But, that being said, he made some tactical errors. We waited far too long to see Joe Cole, a player who always does well for England and could add creativity that we were lacking; he chose the wrong keeper for the first game and the fact that Robert Green had no experience at this level showed when he let in that ridiculous goal against the septics; and, as I already mentioned, Rooney should have been taken off last night, not Defoe.

He has 2 years left on his contract and so could be England manager until the end of Euro 2012 but I would be shocked if he is. Pressure will be too strong to lay the blame at his door after this tournament and I think he will leave, with a great big golden handshake from the FA, as they all do. It's a shame. He could have been a great manager for England. I think his reputation is too strong to be tarnished by this, I just think he may have underestimated the pressure of the job. There is no job like it in football.

The Press - When I was young, and even when I was not-so-young, I wanted to be a sports journalist. Not anymore. I think they are complete scum.

At a tournament such as the World Cup, the journalists travel with the squad, are given unprecedented access to the players and the training sessions, and a regular audience with the management in the build-up to the games. They are also responsible, as with all journalists, for setting the tone of the coverage and, in turn, the mood within the country they are representing. The English press seem to have one default setting - set 'em up and knock'em down.

It started more slowly this year. Since Euro '96, probably the last tournament in which we looked like genuine contenders (we certainly had the best song) England have been built up by the press (particularly The Sun) as certain finalists, probable winners, and when that hasn't happened people have been shocked. This year they seemed to cool it. We had failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and it would have been foolish even by their standards to predict we would win this tournament. But that didn't mean they had to be sensible journalists, oh no! Far from it!

They were straight in with the boot after the Algeria game, asking questions of morale and trying to stir up unrest in the camp. There were obvious problems, the whole world could see it, but prodding and probing John Terry into making a fool of himself is helping nobody. In the build-up to the Germany game, the press were bombarding players with questions about penalties. raising issues that don't need to be raised, creating nerves upon the ones that must have already existed. I've watched a lot of the press conferences during this world cup (footytube is a beautiful thing) and I've been embarrassed at some of the questions that have been asked. Asking the England captain about his club future the day before the first game of the World Cup is not helpful. Suggesting to an idiot like John Terry that the manager is making mistakes is not helpful. Blowing minor incidents into front page headlines is not helpful.
Look, I get it okay? I'm not stupid. I know that journalism is an industry and that these guys need to make a living and sell papers. But we're all English aren't we? We all want the same thing. We should be supporting our team, and the press need to accept their role in that support. I love my country and I love the English, but Joe Public is a fucking idiot and he needs to be held by the hand and led in the right direction. If the press created a positive spirit around the England camp, created realistic expectations and held back a little on the vitriolic criticism they spit out on a daily basis, then maybe the players wouldn't be so terrified of playing for their country. Maybe they won't get booed by their own fans who have been brainwashed into thinking that the World Cup victory is some kind of divine right of theirs, and so attack the team when it is not delivered to them.

The Fans - I have touched on this elsewhere so I won't go into it too much again. I just want to share an experience I had recently whilst watching South Korea get knocked out of the World Cup by Uruguay. I spoke to many Koreans in the build-up to the game, and they were all saying much of the same thing - that they hoped Korea went through, but they knew that it would be difficult. They knew they might well lose. They were managing their expectations.

When it came around to game-time, the atmosphere in Seoul was fantastic. We went out and got stuck in with the crowds, eating fried chicken and beer with the locals for hours until kick-off finally arrived at 11pm. By this time there was a carnival atmosphere in Seoul and the fans were ready for a party. And then Uruguay scored. What happened? Did they start throwing their beer cans at the TVs? Did they boo? Did they start screaming at their useless players and calling them overpaid prima donnas? No, of course not. That's just what the English do. Instead, the Koreans rallied around, got some more drinks in and starting singing again. Korea got one back before the game was finished off by Uruguay in the 2nd half, but the fans never once turned on their players. Cries of "괜찮아요!" (it's okay) could be heard all around, and people quickly got back to having a good time. They knew that they'd been knocked out by a good team. They weren't bitter.

Now, I'm not directly comparing the South Korean and England teams. I obviously recognise that there is more individual talent in the England team than the Korean one and so we should be expected to do better. But what evidence do we have to support these expectations? We have not been past the quarter finals since 1990 and we haven't won the thing since 1966. We are not an international powerhouse. We have to accept that. We have to manage our expectations and allow the players to enjoy themselves because this is when they play their best football. I don't buy into the ridiculous notion that you've paid a fortune to get to South Africa and you've not been repaid. So fucking what? Don't go then. If you want guaranteed entertainment, go watch Toy Story 3. If you choose to go and support the national football team, you have to support them, whilst accepting that you are more than likely not going to see them lift the trophy.

What the fans deserve in return for their money is their team to try their hardest, I get that. But I don't think we have been knocked out due to a lack of effort. There was a fear within the team - not nerves, fear - and I think The Greatest Fans in the World™ need to accept that they helped create that atmosphere as they booed the team off the pitch after the Algeria game.

This post has become slightly more convoluted than I wanted it to be. Especially since I am supposed to be planning lessons. I just started typing about an hour ago and I've only just looked up now. I've just been pouring my thoughts out and I'm sorry if it doesn't make any sense. But today I feel like my dog died, I lost my job and my girlfriend broke up with me all at the same time. I am heartbroken. I waited 4 years for this tournament, suffered through the dreadful summer of 2008 watching the Euros pass us by, and I was so sure we were going to do better. I watched it at home last night, away from the bars and the crowds of the city, knowing as I did, deep down, that we were going to get knocked out. But to go out in that style, to play so lifelessly and so heartlessly was truly depressing.

I could go on about the injuries we suffered before the tournament. I could say that Matthew Upson shouldn't be anywhere near an England shirt and wouldn't be if Rio was fit and Ledley King didn't have weird knees. I could go on about the fantastic and perfectly obvious goal that we had disallowed at 2-1 last night and what a difference that could have made to the game if we'd have drawn level before half time. I could go on about the ridiculous system that FIFA have in place, not only denying everyone of the goal-line technology that the game deserves, but also of putting in place inexperienced referees to take charge of a last-16 World Cup match between England and Germany.

I could say all of these things.

But I won't.

Because football, when all the bullshit is swept aside and the fanfare has died down, is a sport which is beautiful in its simplicity. 22 men. 2 nets. 1 Ball. The most goals win.

England did not play well enough at any time in the last 4 games to justify their position in the semi-finals and that is why we did not get through. Germany deserved their win. They played a smart, counter-attacking game and took advantage of what was some absolutely dreadful defending. Fair play to them.

But when it all comes down to it, the thing that hurts the most is that there is only one loser here. As I lay in bed last night with tears in my eyes, unable to sleep until ridiculous o'clock this morning as I played the games over and over in my mind, trying to decide which of these 4 suspects can be blamed for the loss, I couldn't help thinking that it was all of them.

There is something institutionally wrong with our national game and I wish someone could pinpoint exactly what it is. But if one good thing can come from this absolute abomination of a World Cup campaign, then I hope it can be a shift in perceptions away from England as a world-beating team. And an ability to manage future expectations.

This losing England team were many things. But the Golden Generation they, most certainly, were not.

And now, they never will be.

Love, Smithy x

23.6.10

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
        Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
        In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

                                - Rupert Brooke

Who Is She? She's Nice!



I went to sleep at 11pm and woke up at 3:30am. I ate a breakfast burrito. I watched a 2-2 draw between South Korea and Nigeria which put the Koreans into the 2nd round. I went back to sleep for an hour.

Since then I have been walking around like a zombie, trying to remember where I am and what the hell I'm supposed to be doing here. My co-teacher just left (she's preggers so she does that a lot nowadays) so I'm hoping to sneak out a few hours early to catch some shut-eye before the England game tonight. I'm nervous as hell. Bloody Slovenia and I'm nervous. It's ridiculous isn't it?

In the meantime, I have some more ludicrous ESL videos to show you. These three might well be the picks of the bunch. One in particular left myself, my co-teacher and the entire class of students staring open-mouthed at the TV. Did we really just see that?

Okay, here's number one -

video

What I love about this is the swagger of the young lad as he walks down the street with his woman. You get the feeling that he just became a man, if you know what I mean. She, on the other hand, seems rather less ecstatic about the experience, suggesting that she never dreamt that her first love would be an Asian kid in a yellow sweater who is two-thirds her size. The lad seems rather pleased with himself though as, when the random woman tells him that the girl is pretty, he just nods and smirks like, "Yeah, I hit it. And you'll be next if you don't watch out, toots."

Here's another -

video

Okay, a few things. Firstly, shock horror, the fat boy's eating crisps. Secondly, chubbs is supposed to be the native speaker in this situation, so who the fuck is Doolie? And thirdly, massive over-reaction by whitey in the flat cap, and why is he asking the names of random young girls? Well, I will tell you why -

video

Because he is a pedophile on a mission who doesn't seem to care about people finding out his passion for young un's. Look how blatantly he asks the names of these kids. In broad daylight! And, "He's nice"?? How is that ever appropriate to say about a strange child that you can only see from behind? Doolie should fix up, run inside the store and dial 119. Then some 12-year-old Korean police officers can come slap him on the wrist and tell him not to do it again.

Seriously though, what is that video about? Is it supposed to warn the kids about kidnappers or something? To tell them that the white man is not to be trusted? Or do the makers of the video really thing that that is what happens? That grown men can walk up to pre-pubescent girls, ask them then name of a pre-pubescent boy, declare them to be "nice", and there be no problems? We couldn't quite believe what we were watching in class. The cry of "변태!" (pervert) from the kids must have been audible for miles around. 


Crazy.


Anyway, I'd better go. I need to leave like a ninja. I'll blog again tomorrow after the game.

Believe

Love, Smithy x

20.6.10

England Fans Are Idiots

So, after England's 0-0 draw with Algeria, Wayne Rooney did this -

video

Should he have said it? Probably not.

Is it a sign that still, at 24 years old with a wife and baby son, he is a petty, immature little boy? Certainly, yes. He's a professional footballer. They don't reach maturity till their late 30's.

But was he right? Yes. He was absolutely, 100% right.

I keep hearing all this bullshit that England fans have spent thousands of pounds to go to South Africa and this gives them the right to vent their frustration blah blah blah. No, it doesn't! You never have the right to boo your own team. It's counter-productive for one thing. What do they think is going to happen? It isn't going to inspire the team to do better. They need to know that their fans are behind them.

Rooney is getting slammed in the papers and I'm sure it will come to no surprise to him. He's issued an apology of sorts but its fairly empty. The standard 'overpaid prima donna' insults are being wheeled out and people are pointing to the England fans' passion as the reason they are entitled to hurl insults at their own team. It is no excuse. It is appalling. The fans should be ashamed of themselves.

All the Americans, Canadians and Koreans I've spoken to about it can't get their head around the concept. Why would you do it? The supporters are there to literally provide support, aren't they?

The one English person I've spoken to thinks Rooney should be sacked from United. Which isn't an overreaction at all, is it?

I would ask those booing morons to think about how much they want England to win the World Cup. I'm sure they would say that they want it a lot. A hell of a lot. Some would probably say they want it more than anything else in the world.

I would then ask them to imagine how much Wayne Rooney wants to win the World Cup. The fans are football fans who don't have the talent to play the game. Rooney is a football fan who has worked his entire life to become one of the greatest footballers on the planet and compete at the highest level possible. Imagine being a professional footballer. Imagine playing at the World Cup!

However much we as fans want England to win the World Cup, Wayne Rooney and the rest of the players want to win it 10 times more.

It's no wonder the players are so scared of playing for their country. They get booed at Wembley, they get booed at the World Cup. The press whips the country into a frenzy and when the players don't deliver what has been promised by the papers, the fans take it out on the players.

Same old England. Same old shit.

If we don't go qualify from the group stages then I won't be surprised. The team hasn't played well, Rooney in particular has been very disappointing, and criticism of their performance is justified. But the fans in the stadium have a job to do and booing the team is not part of their job. If we don't win against Slovenia, those fans should shoulder a share of the blame for the damage they will have done to an already fragile team morale.

And I couldn't care less how much money they've spent.

Love, Smithy x

18.6.10

Death By Football


This World Cup is killing me. And not just because the games have been, on the whole, pretty dreadful, and that the damn vuvuzelas make it sound like the entire female population of South Africa have left their vibrators on simultaneously. I am a man who needs his sleep and this World Cup is depriving me of it. I'm turning into a zombie. The games kick off at 8:30pm, 11pm and 3:30am respectively and, with a huge dose of Sod's Law, all the England games and most of the other games I want to watch are starting at 3:30. It's killing me.

This afternoon, my fatigue manifested itself as a fit of manic laughter at the most inopportune moment as I was sat judging an English competition at my school. This mostly consisted of kids discussing issues that are 'important' to them or, more realistically, ones that show them to have strong moral fibre. We had a speech about the school's annual rose festival for example, and one on the importance of learning English and Korea's need to globalise. And then there was the girl who sang a High School Musical song backed by her mobile phone. Watching a terrible singer trying their hardest is one of the most awkward things in the world, and I couldn't stop myself from giggling. As I looked away and tried to hide my grin, I saw my friend Eun Mi covering her face with a piece of paper and literally crying with laughter. It was terrible.

I'd only just recovered from this when a group of children came out to do a performance of Hansel & Gretel. It was rather boring and mostly muttered and my mind was starting to wander when I heard something that grabbed my attention. The word Hansel had been Koreanised into 한젤 (Han-jael) and had been annoying me anyway, but one of the girls who was performing kind of mispronounced it and it sounded an awful lot, to me at least, like she said handjob. Maybe it was because I was tired, I don't know, but for the rest of the performance all I could hear in my head was Handjob & Gretel, Handjob & Gretel and I was pissing myself laughing. Nobody could understand what the hell was going on and the kids must think I'm a right nobhead. But it's not like I could say, 'Sorry guys, carry on. I just thought she said Handjob & Gretel and that is hilarious to me.' Handjob & Gretel. It's still making me smile 2 hours later.

I also had the opportunity to rub Korea's 4-1 pounding by the Argies in the face of one of my students today who likes to remind me on a daily basis England's shortcomings. He's a pretty lazy student, cocky, plays on the football team and the girls love him. He doesn't ever speak English to me, or Korean for that matter, unless we're talking about football. And this only started after the England-USA game. I've been opening most of my classes by asking about the previous day's games, and on the Monday after we drew with the US, I did the same.

"Yeah, England were not so good on Saturday. I think we'll be okay,"  I said.
"Maybe not"  says the cocky kid who never speaks.
I said, "Yeah, we just need to beat Slovenia and Algeria and we'll be fine."
"Yes teacher, you have to win," he said, fixing me with a menacing glare. "Or your World Cup is die!"

Little shit.

So today, I started the class and wandered over to him.

"Did you see the game last night, Min Su?" I said.

He didn't look up.

"Korea didn't do so well, eh? You must beat Nigeria or your World Cup is dead. Not die, as you previously said to me. Your jive talk was grammatically flawed."

Min Su, looked up at me with an expression bordering on pity and closed his textbook, which was only open in order for him to draw what appeared to be some cartoon breasts on the inside cover. He stretched his arms out above his head and yawned, before scratching his scalp with his pencil. Then, with his other hand, he removed his glasses from his face, fixed me with a smirk and said,

"Yes teacher. But I'm very handsome, right?"

The girl sat next to him swooned.

Cocky Little Shit - 2
Andrew Teacher - 0

I need to get more sleep.

Love, Smithy x

16.6.10

What Is Love?


 I've been neglecting this blog somewhat because, shock shock, horror horror, I'm actually busy. I'm staying up till stupid o'clock every night watching as much of the World Cup as possible (in short, most of the games have been pretty boring, England will be fine, the vuvuzela can fuck off), and I've been planning stuff! Me! Can you believe it?!

As I hinted in my last post, I have been accepted onto the Journalism course of my dreams at Cardiff University and I have deferred entry until September 2011. The application process was a little stressful and I had a fair few pieces of writing to get done for that, but it was exciting, and I was delighted to get in. I'm going to use my year until then saving money and trying to get some writing experience. Although I'll probably end up on the bins.

As well as this, I've been assigned an after-school programme with Mr Kriska which I'll be doing for a month. I've had to do a bit of planning for that and it is officially the least organised thing I have ever been involved in. Including my dissertation. I'm officially sick and tired of working in the Korean public school system and I want out. Which is handy. 'Cos I only have 4 weeks left at my school.

The other thing I've been planning for is...CHINA! Bloody China! I'm going at the end of July with my homosexual Jew-friend Adam, who I have already decided will be bullied relentlessly by me the entire trip. He's flying from England to meet me in Beijing and we're parting 10 days or so later in Shanghai. What we will do in between is something of a mystery - all we can agree on is that ducks must be slaughtered, crispified and eaten - but I'm extremely excited about it. When I was little China was such a mysterious place to me, I never ever thought I would visit it. I'm thrilled that I will be.

So that's it, I'm sorry it's been brief. I have a few blogs building up about the World Cup and I'm going to write the definitive guide to being an "English Teacher" (note the inverted commas) in Korea but for now, I'm a little busy. I will get them done though.

One last thing before I go. For those of you that care - Eminem has made a good album. I's been about 8 years since his last one, but a good album it is. Very good in fact. And he's managed to squeeze in a sample of Haddaway's What is Love? which is an impressive feat by anybody's standards. Eminem has said everything on Recovery that I wish he'd said on the, quite dreadful, Relapse and it is probably the best rap album of 2010 so far. It's actually a rap album too, not some poppy shit. Eminem raps over Just Blaze! Man...

Go get it when it comes out. Or be a cheapskate like me and get it now.

Love, Smithy x

4.6.10

One Can Only Hope For More Erection Days


Summer has hit Seoul and the relentless battering of heat and humidity coupled with a plethora of outsized bugs will have me whinging until I leave in August. It's nice to have a change though. I've been whinging about the cold for long enough and then for a short period I could whinge about the yellow dust. Now it's the heat. I'm English, what can I say? We complain about the weather.

At least I'm still here though! No North Korean insurgents on the horizon just yet. Besides an increased military presence in the skies and a general feeling of unease for a few days last week, the furore over the Cheonan and the predictions of impending war have died down. There will surely be more to the story but if they can leave any more action until the end of August then I'd greatly appreciate it. If you're reading this, Kim Jong Il, hook a brother up will you?

I woke up yesterday to the news of a shooting spree in Cumbria by a Derrick Bird who seems to have been described by everyone who knew him as a nice, normal guy. He woke up one day, took a couple of guns that it would seem he legally owned, shot a few acquaintances and then drove around shooting complete strangers in the face with a shotgun. It's unbelievable. Cumbria is a beautiful part of England where I spent a lot of time while I was growing up and it sort of makes it more tragic that this happened in such a tranquil place.

I'm sure there will be uproar about firearm ownership in England just as there was after Dunblane in the 90s but the truth is, we have gun laws that we can be proud of. It is very, very difficult to get a gun in England and, save from going back in time to prevent the vile objects from ever being invented, there is not a great deal more the Government can do. You can't legislate against madness of the like that clearly took ahold of Derrick Bird. At least in England, if a person goes fucking mental for a day, the chances are he probably won't have a shotgun. In America, if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, you can pop into Walmart and pick up a 12-gauge with your pancake mix. So in that regard, I agree with David Cameron. Although his lack of sincerity in his statement of 'grief' annoyed me a little bit and I think his comments on Cumbria's community spirit are a tad patronising. Stay down south you posh little mong.

In other news, Wednesday was election day in Korea which made for some interesting pronunciation errors by my co-workers and allowed me and the Canadian to take some kimbap and mandu down to Yongsan Park for a bit of a picnic. It was great to get out of the house and see some actual grass for a change (although I managed to burn my stupid ginger face in the 28° heat) and a mid-week day off might well be the way forward. Mr Kriska was saying yesterday that a 2-day on, 1-day off, 2-day on, 2-day off week might be the perfect work situation and I think he might be right. Got to go find me one of those.

I'm 25 tomorrow. My youth is over. Fantastic. All I've got to look forward to now is the onset of arthritis and the rest of my hair falling out.

Nah, I'm playing. I don't really care to be honest. My Canadian girlfriend is 42 or something so I'll always have that youthful jump on her. There have been a couple of exciting developments that I may mention later with regard to my near-future, but it would be a little premature to discuss them yet. Lets just say that at 25 I'm feeling fighting fit and ready to tackle the next chapter of my life. I've just got to avoid any nuclear bombs and giant dragonflies and get back to the safety of the UK, where people are apparently running around popping each other off like it's the bloody Wild West. Is there no hope...?

I'll be having fried chicken and beer tonight and then all-you-can-eat Brazilian steak tomorrow. Then I have to hit the gym on Monday. I'm getting old, you know?

Love, Smithy x