The Racing

It is rare to come across a situation in my life these days that makes me consider something that I haven't already considered. What I mean is that I have already made up my mind about a lot of what makes me "me", and day to day very little I encounter acts as a change in view point. If I hear someone being homophobic, I will say something because I find it intolerable; if I hear someone being sexist, I'll say something; and when I see something happen that is transphobic, or anything else that I find bad, I'll say something.

These things have been formed over quite sometime, and I have found that these things can piss people off. I recently lost a friend when I pointed out that he was being homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, and racist. and that I found it offensive. He told me he wasn't being offensive, and that I shouldn't be worried about it anyway. To be honest, torching that friendship didn't hurt as much as I expected it would.

Recently though, contrary to the above, I've been made to consider my position ethically and morally on something that I haven't before, and that is racing - animal racing. Horses and dogs specifically. Several years ago I was asked to put a £1 bet on the Grand National, and I refused because it was a waste of money (betting is a whole other quandary that I don't get but don't have any objections to on principle, but I do have serious reservations about the culture of betting we have in the UK, but that's another post for another time). I didn't consider the welfare of the animals at all in my decision. It was last summer when, as a team building exercise, the department in work decided to go horse racing.

I told my wife this and she was intrigued - surely that wasn't an all-inclusive event? I started to think (really think) about the event, and what it meant, and the more I thought about it the more I realised I found it sickening - that these animals were raced and potentially hurt (and destroyed) during the race.

I don't like bull fighting. I reconcile with the concept of Zoos due to conservational and educational reasons, but they still worry me, and so horse racing was a natural extension. Horse racing is something that is culturally engrained in the UK, what with the Grand National, the Cheltenham Festival, and others taking place and getting massive press coverage. Jockeys are celebrities; horses are famous; owners are rich and well known.

I told this to my colleagues who were asking if I were going, and I explained my position. They understood and respected my opinion, and I respected theirs to want to go. I mean, at it's base function, the event was meant as a team building exercise more than a endorsement of racing.

This summer they are hosting another event, this time at the dog racing. This is another event I won't be going to because of several reasons, but mostly for similar ethical reasons above. Did you know that around 10,000 dogs are retired from racing a year, and only around 20% are rehomed? The rest go to shelters, or are simply destroyed. And that's just the dogs that are racing - there are many more puppies not "good enough" to race that are destroyed or left to be rehomed, unwanted by their trainers and teams.

It actually taps into a more interesting culture that I have noticed with work events (and not exclusive to this office or these colleagues, to which I mean no ill) that they are very much geared towards getting pished. I get that - I have been more drunk at work events than not drunk at work events, and for a time they were a great vehicle to getting smashed on the cheap. But as I have got older (and with more responsibility, natch) not only has that kind of binge-ing became lost on me, but that I've lost the part of me that enjoys it! If the 18 year old version of me could read this now...

I don't mind the idea of being left out of the events that build the team when it's my choice to do so (ethically or not), but when it's starting to be a pattern it is hard to not feel a little left out or put out.

So yeah. No horse racing or dog racing. Maybe just a meal and a bar next time?

NOTE: These are my personal opinions and as stated in the bottom part of this blog they do not reflect the opinions of the company I work for, or their clients.

The Tale of the Horrific Friday and the Heart of Ibrox.

This post will deal with things in a very normal and logical manner, starting with Friday, then moving onto Saturday, finishing with Sunday. Hopefully, even the most mentally challenged of readers should be able to understand the flow of the story.

Friday: The Night of the Living Drunk.

The reason for Hazel and myself to head out to Firewater was for Colin's girlfriend's 22
nd birthday, which we dutifully got her a card for and I bought her a drink. Steven, Kirsten, Lyndsey and Louise were all there too after receiving invites, but Hyder, Stuart and Pam turned up cause I fancied making a proper night out of it. My goodness, was that a mistake. Firewater is pretty awful. It is noisy, plays rubbishy indie (no KISS, Sparta or even LCD Soundsystem) and is so fucking expensive. I got my self a pint of Miller, which is the lowest on my scale of acceptable of the pishes to drink, and it cost me a whopping £2.60. I have bought pints of Stella for less.

Hazel, Steven and Kirsten all bolted before the true messiness of the night began - when we all headed to ABC. Once we made it inside, after a short sprint to a cash machine, booze was purchased. Quickly, I had a backlog of alcohol to complete.
Initially, I thought this would be the downfall of me, but in retrospect I think it saved me. You see, Hyder became horribly drunk, very suddenly. It meant that he pulled Louise, danced (barged) and spoke (slurred) to everyone around him. Stuart and Pam both were drunk too, as well as Lyndsey and Louise. I can say that for once, even though I was particularly pished, I was the most sober out of the troop... and that is saying something. Hyder only stopped the Taxi going home once to spew...

Saturday: " For some say the Celtic and Rangers are grand, but the boys in maroon are the best in the land..."

After the heroics of the night before, I was not up for working, but once I was at Ibrox ready to be picked up, I was raring to go. I had a Twix 'Xtra (natch) and a bottle of Volvic Touch of Fruit (just like the old times) and was ready for anything. Except socialising with the rest of the team... I met a guy called "X" who likes to sell DVDs out of his bag. They are fakes of course, but done in a way only a blind man could be fooled. His Inkjet printed covers, in generic black boxes, with purple readable sides of the discs look as good as the genuine article. Now, if he didn't ask every single person that had the bright yellow jacket on if they "Wantin' a DVD? I think ah can git ye' wan youll like". Persistent bollocks was never my cup of tea.

The others on the coach were much more acceptable, being nice and
genuinely funny which I can respond to. Sometime my jokes would fly over their heads, or other times I just would not repeat them after they ask, but at least I am trying to communicate.

Tynecastle is an interesting stadium. The seating is designed so that no matter what row you are on, you feel as though your are on top of the pitch. The angle of the stand is very steep, and very scary. Luckily, I was put into the old Main Stand and had to simply make sure everyone was seating properly. The premium seats were my job, and sure enough, the punters were accustomed to the arrangement and needed very little assistance. I got to watch most of the game with Hearts fans shouting loudly in my ear about how shite Neil McCann is and how "Vlad wis right about ye', you are in the pockets of the green and blue from Glasgow" in reference to the referee. (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/scot_prem/6364051.stm )


Sunday: The Tunnel and the Sending Off

I was awoke by my father at 9.20am on Sunday morning, late. I was rushing about to make it for 10.30am, which is the report time at Ibrox for a home game. Now, for a 3 o'clock kick off you might think that is early, but I work in the hospitality section at home games, which is the suites, the main doors and the dressing room tunnel area. Because of this, I have to be there before the team is, and the majority of the shareholders.

This morning I was placed into the "Red Zone". The Red Zone is an area around the dressing rooms and tunnels where only certain people can go into, because of the proximity to the players. I was tasked with standing on the main corridor next to the tunnel area to basically watch the comings and goings for a while.

An explanation of the layout of the backstage is required at this stage. There is a long corridor through the middle of the main stand, which links all the dressing rooms, press rooms and offices which used to be used as a main concourse for staff. One European game a few years ago, the team visiting asked an area was set up so they were no in danger of some one unauthorised entering, hence the Red Zone. Only people on the Red List can get in.

The first really famous person I met was David Murray, who was jovial enough. Then Walter Smith, then Ally McCoist, and then most of the Rangers team, like Prso and Boyd, with Ian Durrant giving me a coffee. Basically, what I am saying is that the area I was working in is the bit most of the fans would die to get into - and it is shite. It smells, is cramped, was too warm and most of the time was filled with people who got really angry when I asked them who they were. A girl, who was quickly reassigned, asked what Walter Smith's name was. Come on!

A few anecdotes came about from this. Firstly, Ugo Ehiogu came up to me and said "Excuse me mate, but do you know where the Rangers' dressing room is?". I was surprised by this as he signed for Rangers in January, but I showed him the correct way. I mean, surely he was given a tour of the stadium? And the big sign "Rangers (Home) Dressing Room" was a give away?

Secondly, in the last 10 minutes a large roar came from the stands. A message was shouted over the radio to my supervisor, who was surprised, and motion me open the door leading to the tunnel. I opened it to see the tunnel cover being extended and the steward saying "Falkirk man's been sent aff." I had to stand and watch him being taken past me by the fourth official and the assistant manager of Falkirk. As the dressing room door closed, I could hear "FUCKSAKEWHATTHEFUCKDIDYOUTHINKYOUWEREDOINGASTUPIDCUNTWECOULDBEBACKINTHISYADAFTPRICK" which was not very nice...

A few interesting facts.

Barry Ferguson looked like he had pulled his hamstring when he turned - at least that's what the physio was telling him when he walked past.
Dado Prso speaks fluent french.
Chris Burke is tiny!
Though Ugo Ehiogu is really really tall.
and McCoist is full of banter, but still causes little kids to be star struck. Even I was amazed seeing him, after years of singing Super Ally at primary school.

Tuesday here we come. Champions League night, AC Milan. Fantastic!