A Z Alkmaar 2—1 Celtic.

Celtic got off to the kind of start we can only dream about. Tony Ralston with a perfect pass in behind the Alkmaar defence. Liel Abada rips it up and puts in the slide-rule pass. Kyogo Furuhashi makes it 1—0 on the night and 3—0 on aggregate and there was only three minutes gone. I was still nervous.  Celtic had started well, knocking the ball about and getting into good positions, but Alkmaar often went long. They knocked our centre-halves about and started winning all the second balls in midfield. The Dutch team hasn’t scored this season. Celtic gifted them two goals, and it could have been three, but for a save from Joe Hart just before half-time.

The Celtic keeper has been lauded of late. Here he lost us the first goal. Route one football. AZ keeper Vindahl launched it. The ball came off Welsh. The youngster was poor here. But the former England international waited for the ball on the edge of his penalty area. Zakaria Aboukhla nipped in and tackled him when he tried to swipe it away. He was left with an open goal and put the ball into the net. Celtic were rocking and on their heels.  

Sugawara, the Japanese international right back, who already had a volley past the post, knocked the ball into the box. Nobody in a red shirt was near to stick it away. Starfelt swung at it with his right foot, it came off his left and he knocked it past Hart. Our keeper had no chance. That just about sum up the Swede. He is both Laurel and Hardy. Another fine mess.

Taylor went off injured. Adam Montgomery comes on with most of the game in front of him. I do like the look of the youngster.  I prefer him to Taylor, but the ex-Kilmarnock man has been decent lately.

For the first ten minutes of the second-half it was all Alkmaar. Celtic invited pressure by trying to play it out from the back and losing the ball, immediately, in and around the penalty box. Tom Rogic has been great. Here he was a passenger. I want Edouard away, but he came on and did a job, providing a focal point and holding the ball up. Furuhashi went wide right and came in for some rough treatment. Ironically, when commentators start to talk about ‘weathering storms’, Joe Hart almost sells another. He flew off his line to try and punch a ball at the edge of the box. To be fair, neither Starfelt of Welsh won many of their aerial duals. We were a soft centre. But Hart missed his punch and Martins Indi nods wide from the resultant corner.

Not yet sixty minutes gone. The chance of the match, surely an equaliser. Alkmaar score and there’s only going to be one winner and it won’t be the Glasgow club. But, I clung to the hope this isn’t a team that scores many goals. Substitute Boukema, a centre- half playing centre-forward, brought on to win even more high balls, instead sets up Poku at the back post. He slides into the six-yard box. Montgomery trailing beside him. He puts it over the bar.

Too early to say this was going to be our night, but…with four minutes added on, the AZ keeper is up for a succession of corners. He bundled Joe Hart into the goals. Celtic hold on and go through. It was nervy. It’s not often you can say going with a two goal lead and scoring early and you know it isn’t going to be enough.

 I’m giving man of the match to Ralston again. His pass helped set up our all-important first goal. He was the only Celtic defender that won all of his headers. He was unlucky at the other end, winning a header from a corner that drifted over the bar. Honourable mentions, Adam Montgomery. Yeh, he’s a player. We can certainly score at Ibrox, any number of goals, but our soft centre and inability to defend, means anything can happen. Phewww…we’ll win 3—1 at Ibrox?

The Empty Chair — Perth Words… exploring possibilities.

Originally posted on Perth Words… exploring possibilities.: Periodically, I read poems posted on a blog called Write Out Loud even now and then, post one or two myself.  Last week, one of my favourite contributors, David Moore posted a poignant poem which reminded me so much of my dad.  With his kind permission I am reprinting…

The Empty Chair — Perth Words… exploring possibilities.

Kazuo Ishiguro (2010) Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall.

I’m not a fan of Kazou Ishiguro. I know he’s won the Nobel Prize in Literature and that says something about me, as if I’m lacking in something. And I am.

The Remains of the Day. Universally lauded. This more than any other book got Ishiguro his major prize. It was also like Never Let Me Go made into a film. Here’s the thing, I liked the films better than the books and I didn’t like the films much either.

Art for Art’s Sake. You know the cracked Greek Urn  (there’s a style for fixing these kinds of things in Japan that adds more value than the original, but I can’t remember what it’s called). I guess that’s the theme of these short stories. The first and last stories in the collection are best. Nocturne isn’t too bad.

Let me tell you about Come Rain or Come Shine and Malvern Hills. In the former book, I open a random page (if there is such a thing):

‘You know Ray, there’s only so much other people can suggest to you. After a certain point you’ve got to take charge of your life.’

Ray had been buddies with Charles, who was married to Emily. Both are successful, but feel like failures. Charles wants Ray to save their marriage. He travels to London. Ray and Emily had at college shared a common taste in music, which bound them together. But he sees in her diary, she’s written about the arrival of the ‘whinger’ and he has inadvertently ripped the page out.

On the back cover, a quote from the Observer: ‘Each of these stories is heartbreaking in its own way, but some have moments of great comedy…’

Here’s the side-splitting, slapstick. Charles tells Ray to cook up an old boot and some other ingredients he and his friend made up when they were at school—to subliminally suggest the smell of damp dog. Ray could then blame the diary being ripped on the dog owner, whose dog is let loose in the flat and creates chaos (it once chewed a coffee-table book). Side-splitting?  I nearly peed myself and blamed the cat.

Malvern Hills. Here’s the sketch. All of the stories are told in first-person narrator.

‘I’d spent the Spring in London, and all in all, even if I hadn’t achieved everything I’d set out to, it had been an exciting interlude.’

He goes to stay with his sister, Maggie, in Malvern Hills to write more songs and polish those already written. He’s left university to be a troubadour. A common theme in each of these stories. One I’m overly familiar with, being a would-be writer (Art for Art’s Sake). His sister and her husband Geoff have a hotel. They can’t afford to pay the narrator, but he gets free room and board for helping out.

He meets an old school teacher, ‘Hag Fraser’. He felt she’d belittled him in sixth form and hadn’t spotted his potential. Indeed she’d worked to bring him down. Now she was in the shit and her husband had left her for a younger woman and she was forced to open her house as a bed-and-breakfast. It cheered him up it was failing, she was failing. He plays a cruel trick on the two ‘Kraut tourists’, Tilo and Sonja, and sends them to ‘Hag Fraser’s, when they tell him they’re looking for somewhere to stay. Ha, bloody ha.

Here we have it. I never got to sixth form. We left school in fourth year to work or sign on the dole. Often the latter. The Krauts turn out to be two fellow musicians that praise his work. He feels guilty about sending them to Hag Fraser’s. He felt guilty about leaving his sister Maggie, ‘holding the fort’, while he was away creating. Clichéd yawn.

Tilo is the super optimist, Sonja the pessimist. They are cardboard characters. But even cardboard characters can have their say, can be truth-teller:

‘If Tilo was here,’ she said. ‘he would say to you, never be discouraged. He would say, of course, you must go to London and try and form your band. Of course you will be successful. That is what Tilo would say to you because that is his way.

And what would you say?

I would like to say the same. Because you are young and talented. But I am not so certain. As it is, life will bring enough disappointments.’

I am not so certain either. In Nocturne, the narrator is a saxophone player. He’s incredibly talented. He practices every day. His manager, Bradley, tells him he’s the next big thing. But he’s rat ugly. His wife leaves him for an old childhood flame. She too agrees he’s rat ugly, and that’s holding him back. Her new boyfriend agrees to pay for cosmetic surgery. A cure-all not just for ugliness but a stepping stone to greatness and the recognition he deserves. And compensation, in an unjust world, for her leaving him.  

Lindy Gardner is also having surgery. She’s in the first story, Crooner. Tony Gardner serenades her from a boat in a Venetian canal. Tony Gardner, in this story, was the equivalent of late-fifties Dean Martin. He used to be big. Lindy married him for his money. It was a great career move. She was moving up in the world and Tony Gardner used to be something. Now he’s making a comeback and has to ditch Lindy, because she’s an old dame. The saddest part was they fell in love. But she understood. That was show business.

Now Lindy’s in Nocturnal, making do and mend. This is her third face lift. But she’s sure it’ll take twenty years off her. She’s got another marriage in her. Anyway, she’s the nation’s sweetheart. Meg Ryan gave her a chess set to kill time after her surgery. No members of the public can see her, but nobody can see the rat-boy saxophonist either.

He thinks he’s made a terrible mistake with Dr Boris’s surgery. It was a moment of weakness, hoping to win back his wife. Lindy is the optimist here. He grouches about a national award for greatest Jazz Player. He’d worked with him and he’d been an industry joke. Yet here he was in the hotel they’re staying in, being honoured.

I guess I feel like that about Kazuo Ishiguro. His characters have no real-life resonance and grit. His stories don’t hold me. They don’t, to me, ring true. But they may to you. Read on.

Celtic 6—0 St Mirren

Ange Postecoglou makes two changes from the mid-week fixture. James Forrest dropping out with a knock. He said he’s giving Tommy Rogic a rest, with some big matches coming up. Ryan Christie and Edouard coming in. Our main man—and goal threat—Kyogo, plays wide. He had two chances he should have converted at the front and back post. He missed the target, but it didn’t matter much. Our manager took him off with twenty minutes to go. Resting him. Six goals in seven games. And 6—0 today without him scoring. We’ll not label him a slacker.  

St Mirren won on their last visit to the East End of Glasgow, but it was as easy as it gets today. A stroll in the Parkhead rain. A Premier League training match on matchday. Another victory.

Celtic dominated early possession (as you’d expect). St Mirren came to defend and hit on the break. It worked last season for many teams, the Paisley side being one of them. But Celtic are simply better. Sure Main bullied Starfelt a bit and had a goal disallowed for offside that wasn’t, with Ralston on the touchline playing him on, but Joe Hart could have nipped off for the half-time pies and not came back and nobody much would have noticed.

Turnbull got into the groove early, hitting the inside of the post inside eight minutes. On another day that would have went in.

Not to worry, he scored three anyway and was the sponsor’s man of the match. Edouard had a free-kick from the semi-circle of the penalty box blocked out for a corner. But Liel Abada got our first just after 20 minutes. He’s direct and likes to shoot. The commentator compared him with Joe Miller. The Israeli’s deflected shot beat bearded St Mirren keeper, Jak Alnwick. He’d a shocker (*aye, we’ve been there with our own Greek tragedy) and should have saved it.

Two minutes later Alan Power got a red card for a shocking tackle on David Turnbull. He halfed him on the touchline, nowhere near the ball. (The kind of meaty challenges that used to be made by Tam Forsyth and be called legal.)  

Celtic punished them with a goal within a few minutes. It was an attack of the killer dwarves.  Number 7, Kyogo Furuhashi slipped the ball to wee Greg Taylor. His cross was met by the smallest man on the park, Liel Abada who powered a downward header beyond Alnwick. The St Mirren keeper was blameless. A big goal that mean the game was over, with twenty-five minutes gone.

 Callum McGregor, whose ability to move the ball quickly from defence to midfield to attack, has been so important in the Celtic resurgence, found himself on the edge of the box. He curled it just beyond the top corner.

David Turnbull scored the third just past the thirty-minute mark. Stephen Walsh played a pass inside, and from just outside the box, where he’s proved so deadly. It swerved up and over Jak Alnwick and into the keeper’s right-hand post. Turnbull should be looking at over twenty goals this season. As should many other of our midfielders. But with his shooting ability from distance, and with packed defences, he’s our main threat, but not our only one.

Ryan Christie, whose more than capable of scoring from inside and outside the box, and who is back to something like his best form, was lucky not to get booked. He made a wild sliding challenge on a Buddie’s player going nowhere. I’ll put that down to enthusiasm, but he’s previous here.

Kyogo missed the first of his two sitters shortly afterwards. And a Celtic combination of Greg Taylor with a backheel and Edouard’s improvisation looked to make it a fourth. The crowd were sure it was over the line, but it was scrambled away.

Turnbull added his second and Celtic’s fourth just before halftime.  Jak Alnwick parried an Abada cross into the path of Turnbull, and he finished. Keeper at fault.

Celtic didn’t let the pace slip in the second half, and St Mirren made two changes, but it was still one-sided. Kyogo missed his chance at the front post. Then he set up Edouard for his only goal of the afternoon. He made way for Tom Rogic. Ismaila Soro came on for Callum McGregor. It was a runabout for the young Israeli.

 Alnwick made a couple of saves from Rogic, Ralston, Edouard and Christie. But, arguably, Alan Power had a better game than the St Mirren keeper and the ref had sent him off after twenty minutes.

It was all about seeing it out. We’d even time to bring on Ajeti, who looked decent for his last six minutes cameo. He helped create the sixth goal. He won the ball outside the box, and fed it to Rogic, which is always a good idea. The Australian nutmegged the defender. Turnbull finished. Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic team were hunting for a seventh.

Easy, easy, it’s been great. But can we defend? Midweek in Holland and at Ibrox next week. Two away games. I don’t think Edouard will start either of them. Rogic will come back in. Angeball’s been exciting and effective. We’ve had a rub of the green, we didn’t have last season. Long may it continue.

Celtic 2—0 AZ Alkmaar

Kyogo Furuhashi with six goals in his first six games gets the sponsor’s man of the match (again). Edouard was left on the bench and Furuhashi played through the middle. His energy gave us that little bit extra. Edouard has been a drain, and his body language earlier in the season was off-putting and we wanted him to leave. (I still do.) Kyogo’s goal was spectacular. Tom Rogic set it up while playing keepie-up on the left, darting (well for Rogic a slowish foxtrot) to the right and swinging in a cross to the back post. Kyogo got a foot on it as it left the keeper with no chance. Celtic are a goal up ten minutes into the first half, but they could easily have been a goal (or more) down.

I keep going on about luck. Carl Starfelt is either the luckiest defender, or the unluckiest, since Shane Duffy. Five minutes in and Starfelt gets nutmegged and  Aboukhlal takes the ball into the box. The Swedish international pulls him back, but it’s soft and no penalty. Then minutes later Starfelt gets caught square and Pavlidis nips in front of him. He’s six-yards out and sure to score. Joe Hart makes an unorthodox save, diverting it with his toes onto the post. Last season that would have went in. But Hart picked the ball up.

Celtic took the game to Alkmaar. AZ goalkeeper, Verhulst, made two save in a minute. He parried a raking show from Liel Abada, who’d surges down the right and drove into the box. Then he kept out a Rogic shot, tipping it over. (One of those shots Barkas might even have saved, if he wasn’t playing for us).

But Rogic had three or more curling and bending shots on goal. His link-up play was outstanding, and he looks back to his best.  

Celtic had a let off after half an hour. Aboukhlal found himself free inside the penalty box. He looked to knock a low cross into the goal. But he did a Starfelt and got his feet mixed up and the ball spun away from him. But he didn’t have long to wait before Starfelt gave him the ball again, losing the ball near the half-way line. The Swedish defender had a better second half.

And Celtic went in at half-time a goal ahead. And what a goal it was.

Most of the second half Alkmar were the better team. They attacked more and looked to equalise. They’d a stack of corners, which we defended well. But nine minutes in and 1—1 looked odds on. Stephen Welsh, who had another excellent game and was unlucky at the other end of the field not to score with a header, stuck a foot in with  a last-gasp tackle to prevent a goal. But the ball spun out to Oosting who had the whole goal to hit, but miskicked it up and over.

Edouard comes on for Abada and plays through the middle. James McCarthy and Adam Montgomery replace Rogic and Furuhashi, but not before he’d skinned his countryman Sugawara and took the ball to the byline and whipped it across.  

The Japanese international helped make it 2—0. He came in from the left and played the ball to Forrest cutting in on the right. His shot was deflected into the Letschert from around ten-yards. Lucky again. But we’ll take it every time.

How we didn’t get a third is difficult to say. Unlucky. There’s a good case for making Tony Ralston man of the match. He’d almost a goal-line clearance to make it 2—1.  Sugawara got forward and whipped a low cross across the box. Pavlidis had a tap in, but Ralston cleared from almost underneath the bar. Then at  the other end of the park he almost created the third. Taking two defenders on, breezing past them and getting to the byline. He picked out Edouard, who should have scored, but Verhulst saves. The ball spins into the air. Edouard tries to head it over the line, but he saves it again. Montgomery fires in the rebound, but the defence scrambles it clear.

Five minute of added time Ralston went down after buying a foul with a clever intervention. The Croatian right-back we’ve bought will find it difficult to displace Ralston. And I never thought I’d say that. On the other side Taylor has picked up his game (but I still prefer Montgomery). Welsh didn’t make any rash tackles and give away needless free kicks. He was a threat in the opposition box. Starfelt is a worry. But all over the team is coming good. And we feel good. I’m not sure 2—0 will be enough, but maybe, just maybe, with Joe Hart in goal and breaking at pace, in Kyogo Furuhashi  we trust. The feel-good factor continues until Saturday’s tie with St Mirren. We can’t really afford to rest players, but James McCarthy can step in and play his role. Ryan Christie will hopefully be fit. I still want Edouard away, but in the meantime, use him. Everything is good.

Henry Marsh (2014) Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery.

I’m sure I’ve read Henry Marsh’s book before. Almost a quarter of our blood supply is dedicated to providing energy for the brain. When things go wrong, brain surgery is the last resort. What makes Marsh different is not that he’s a brain surgeon, but that he’s also a great writer.

Marsh tells us he’s grown more conservative over the years. Not conservative in terms of treating health care as something that should be floated on the market with trust competing with each other for business. He gives that nonsense short shrift. But conservative in terms of intervention.

‘First, do no harm…’Commonly attributed to Hippokrates at Kos, C.460 BC. ‘

The Hippocratic oath is conservative. And for good reason. He quotes Rene Leriche, La philosophie de la chirugie, 1951.

‘Every surgeon carries within himself a small cemetery, where from time to time he goes to pray—a place of bitterness and regret, where he must look for an explanation for his failures.’ 

This brings to mind a story about ‘Bomber Brown’ being stopped by a traffic cop and warned about his erratic driving by a policeman. A surgeon does not like Bomber Brown admit to killing hundreds every night, but his or her mistakes last a lifetime and it’s not their lifetime.

What is striking about Marsh is his humility. He doesn’t work for a Trust. He works for every single patient he sees. But a part of his job is letting go and training the next generation of surgeons. Something, he admits he’s not particularly good at. Their mistakes are his mistakes, but written on the patient’s body. He tells stories of medical cover-ups. And his own mistakes. One of them was to do with infection control and streptococcal virus. But another is hand’s on, but the hands aren’t his. And I felt sorry, not for the patient, or the trainee surgeon, but for Marsh, which seems contradictory.

‘Neurotemesis n. the complete severance of a peripheral nerve. Complete recovery of function is impossible.’

The case seemed quite straightforward to Marsh. A slipped disc ‘a herniated intervertebral disc causing S1nerve-root compression’.    

The patient was fit, a computer programmer that competed in mountain bike championships before his prolapse.

Marsh complained that we had a tendency to go over the top, with the American model listing all of the possible complications and terrorising the patients before getting their informed consent. Later, he even questions whether such a thing as informed consent is possible. We sign the form (as I’ve done) and we take our chances.

Marsh had a good relationship with his registrar. I imagine he’d a good relationship with most of his colleagues. He recognised he was fortunate in being born middle-class at a time when it was possible to do a degree in political science and economics (PPE at Cambridge) and retrain to be a doctor. Eventually, choosing to become a brain surgeon when there were fewer than 200 brain surgeons in England. Like the idea of informed consent. It wasn’t possible to know what that meant until he was mature enough to have made mistakes. Mistakes that other people, his patients paid for. Recognition that he and his colleagues were the instruments of last resort. Even then, like the cemetery, in Stephen King, Pet Cemetery some bodies should not be brought back from certain death. Not at any price. Not all. Not at all.  Marsh’s breadth of experience wasn’t just of the conventional medic but also having lived other lives, outside the STEM system, this government advocates, having for example, worked on a ward as a porter and in a geriatric ward, wiping old men’s bums. If I were to have brain surgery, and I had a choice, I’d choose Marsh.

Marsh rallied against junior doctors working shorter hours of 120 hours per week (3 weeks in a week for normal people). This seemed at odds with the person I imagined him to be. People like me, who imagine only Tory scaremongers would demand that kind of thing). But that’s what we do, he said, invest surgeons with superpowers, imagine them to be godlike, until like Icarus they burn.  

He argues for the greater good, ‘it destroys continuity of care, and the shorter hours will mean that they will have much less clinical experience and that’s dangerous.’

Marsh let his registrar start the spinal case. The trainee had done so before (see one, do one, teach one) and although Marsh didn’t think him the best in terms of operating ability, he found him to be very conscientious and kind. Marsh thinks (like me) kindness trumps many other qualities. This was reinforced by the nurses liking him.

Marsh had talked over the operation, scrubbed up and came into the theatre. ‘Why such a large incision? he asked.

On closer inspection.

‘Jesus, fucking Christ. You’ve severed the nerve root.’

In thirty years of neurosurgery I’d never witnessed this disaster, although I have heard of it happening,’ he admitted.

Marsh had to tell the computer programmer and cyclist he would now walk, after rehabilitation, with a permanent drooped foot and limp.  The responsibility was Marsh’s not the trainee, who’d opened the spine at the outer rather that inner edge.

‘Hubris, n. arrogant pride, or presumption; (in Greek tragedy) excessive pride towards, or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.’

Marsh is able to meet his mistakes and face them down. It humbles him. Imagine a world in which politicians had to live with the choices they made for others. Architects had to live in the buildings they designed for the poor. And the rich, like the Pharaoh of Egypt were left with a mass exodus of the poor that served them. Imagine a better world. Marsh can and does. Not because he’s a surgeon, but because he’s a reader or flawed humanity. Read on.  

Celtic 3—2 Hearts

No Celtic supporter needs reminding that Hearts beat us at Tynecastle in the opening fixture of the Premier league. Celtic dominated large parts of the game. Today, even more so.  We went a goal down in typical fashion from a cross ball in the league game. Then we lost a late goal in a similar manner. Our defenders bullied. This season and last. We’d have been calling for Neil Lennon’s head, but he was already away. Then we won three games in a week and Rangers lost three. It was almost like old times.

I sat in my brother’s house and watched the second-half of the Dundee United versus Rangers game. My brother shouted through to ask what the score was. I didn’t want to tell him, in case it jinxed it. I remember Charlie Mulgrew falling on the ball in his own penalty box. Last season that would have been given as a penalty. This season—apparently not.

Then midweek, I turned on the Rangers game again. Malmo were winning. I thought of turning the match off, straight away, in case I jinxed the ten-man Swedes.

Then against our Czech rivals in midweek, Callum McGregor made a shocking pass back. Joe Hart save it, and saved us. He did the same thing two minutes later. The irony here is we won 3—0. We were so far ahead that score-line flattered them. Yet they could and perhaps should have had a penalty. And Joe Hart went walkabouts and our defence had to clear the ball for him. Last season they might well have snatched a draw. We’ve become lucky again, as our rivals have become unlucky. But against better teams, we will be punished. We showed that laxness, yet, again today.

We’re better because we have a goalie that makes saves. Soro has been jettisoned and Callum McGregor takes the ball and makes forward passes. And, most importantly, we have a centre-forward in Kyogo Furuhashi that is hungry, talented and scores goals. Too often we dominated games but didn’t score, to be undone by a late corner or free kick. We’re scoring goals, lots of them, 13 in recent matches. But our defence is still, wide open. It’s a roller-coaster we’ll be on to the end of the season, but there’s hope now. In Kyogo we trust to hit forty or fifty goals this season. Today he was pushed wide, filling in for an injured Ryan Christie, but still created the first goal. A splendid pass into Forrest’s feet. He darted into the box. His cut back left Edouard with an easy finish. The Frenchman should and could have had another. He created space and hit Gordon from six yards. He was booked for diving. I want him away, but if he stays he needs to do more. Score more. Our midfielders to hit at least twenty.

The good news extended to our second goal. A short corner and Stephen Welsh scored with a header, a ball whipped in be Edouard, with ten minutes to go to half-time. I think the last central defender to score was Jullien.  2—0 at half-time. Total dominance. Hearts only menance coming after 30 seconds, with a corner. I held my breath. It was cleared. Joe Hart the proverbial spectator until half-time. Celtic with over 80 percent possession and 21 shots on goal.

Yet, Hearts made changes at half-time and scored two goals. Andy Halliday went off, which is always bad news for Celtic. Remember how we cheered him when he played for Rangers at Parkhead. Dumpling of the team award. Josh Ginnelly, on for Halliday, had a great claim for being Heart’s man on the match (ours was the more elegant Tom Rogic). Ginnelly continued where he left off at Tynecastle by putting the frighteners on Carl Starfelt. The Swedish international was the worst player on the park, yet again. First, he mistimed a header with Liam Boyce behind him, which he should have cleared, but forced Hart to make a save. Then he gave away a penalty. Starfelt got his feet mixed up with a clearance, in the same way he’d got mixed up with his header, but this time Boyce nipped in front of him. Stone-wall penalty. Liam Boyce stepped up to sends Joe Hart the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Celtic flapped. This had me thinking of the Scottish Cup final two years ago. Celtic in that game were so far ahead they should have been three or more goals ahead. With such a soft-centre  in defence anything was possible.

Kyogo Furuhashi dug us out of a hole with a little help from ex-Celt Craig Gordon. Kyogo was offside, but Turbull waited until he came back on again, before slipping the ball to him. He scored in off the near post, Gordon diverting it into the goal. With 25 minutes to go it looked, once again, like game over.

Kyogo went off and we brought on Celtic fan James McCarthy. McCarthy allowed McGregor to go further forward and fill the space behind the striker. Man of the match Tom Rogic was also taken off. Young Adam Montgomery brought on. He played as a winger, but I prefer him as a full back in preference to Greg Taylor. Montgommery had a chance from which he should have scored, but was unlucky. Ange Postecoglou, like the rest of us, probably thought the game was finished when he brought on Albian Ajeti and Soro. Ajeti had a great chance to claim a goal in the last few minutes, but opted to pass the ball inside the box.

But in injury time Stephen Kingsley got wide and flung in a cross. It was deflected into the path of unmarked substitute Aaron McEneff who scored from close range. 3—2.

McGregor took centre and kicked the ball out for a shy in the opposition half. Unbelievable as it seemed, we were playing for time. All the good and bad in this current Celtic side was here to see today. We’re sharper, quicker and scoring more goals. But like a hole in a water-filled bucket, we need to, because we’re liable to lose them almost as quickly. Stephen Welsh had a good game. His one blemish a crazy and stupid tackle. I wish I could say the same for his more senior colleague. I’m not hanging Carl Starfelt out to dry just yet, but using the word unconvincing would flatter him. In an ideal world it would be better if Edouard left, but we’ll wait and see on that front. I prefer Kyogo through the middle, but Edouard scored, missed a sitter or two and contributed. I guess that’s all you can ask. Big game on Wednesday night. I just hope our defence is up to it. The rest of the team look it, if that makes sense?

A.K.Benjamin (2019) Let Me Not Be Mad: A Story of Unravelling Minds, published by Bodley Head, London.

Stephen Fry, who had his own much publicised breakdown, writes on the back fly-leaf:

‘A perfectly extraordinary, not to mention an extraordinarily perfect – tense Hitchcockian psychodrama. I have rarely read a more haunting and enthralling account of descent into madness.’

A.K. Benjamin is a therapist working in London. His patients are given nom-de-plums and anonymised,  ‘JB,’ ‘Lucy’, ‘Michael,’ ‘Jane,’ ‘Dr Samuels,’ ‘Brad76,’ ‘Murray,’ ‘You again,’ ‘Me’. Their narrative is Benjamin’s story. In Robert Pirsig’s classic zeitgeist book of the 1970s, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, just as the narrator’s kids, shout out from the backseat of their dad’s car and tell him whether he should turn the steering wheel left or right to take a turn, or go straight ahead, Benjamin relies on his patients—his mad patients—to keep him on the straight and narrow, because, whisper it, he too might be mad. Only an unhinged person wouldn’t think they were mad and is sure they know which way they or we are going.  #MeToo I say.

When the distance between therapist and patient as Valeria Ugazio suggests at ‘the maximum level of empathy’, ‘the two points of view would become fused’.

Benjamin is patient with his patients because he, too, is a patient. ‘You,’ for example,

‘Look at you, you are no accident. For once my dinosaur colleague is right: you really are ‘charming’. We have spent the whole morning together. That’s more time , with more tender, dedicated attention, than either of us would share with our children or partners in any given week.’

There is an erotic tone. Therapists don’t usually write love letters to their patients. We all know about transference. The jingo of therapy speak. But this is a love letter to what is lost.

‘I see your future unspool. Forgetfulness first, losing your children’s friend’s names, what you’d come into the living room for, [shit, I do that] what time you put the roast on, asking the cleaner if you’d fed the cat, asking again five minutes later. The beginning of ‘dyspraxia’: a moment when you forget how the remote for the television works, which way the key turns in the lock, how the buttons on your blouse fasten. (‘Dizzy’) The onset of ‘anomia’ following the rule of frequency: losing the name for Caerphilly, then Cheddar, then cheese, then children, your children. A steady upsurge of confusion: why the weekend started on a Tuesday. Where the living room is (Don’t we live in all our rooms?)

My mum had dementia. This was her future. Perhaps mine too. This was my past. She’s dead and I said I was glad. Our personality, our person and their reality is tied in with memory. Different people inhabited the same body. We all do that. But she forgot the way back and we couldn’t help her, abandoned her in Boquanran Old Folk’s Home.


‘Could you hold your left hand up?’

‘My left hand?’

She had Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia or corticobasal degeneration or nothing. She had the same name as my mother, was close to her in age, wore the same that mum might wear.

She was not doing well and she knew it. The lines on her tired, aging face gathered like a storm map…She had earlier mistaken her neighbour’s house for her own…She had flooded the kitchen answering a cold call while washing up, or the washing machine wasn’t working properly. It took her 15 minutes to find her way back from the Ladies.

Names would stick on her tongue like peanut butter.’

Writers are told to show not tell. This is fantastic writing. We can see ‘Lucy’, just as a few weeks ago I spotted my neighbour Hugh. I was going out on my bike and he was standing in the lane. I shouted ‘Hallo,’ but stopped. He was in his seventies, but still had a full head of hair and a moustache. He liked to nip down to the bookies, along the canal and back to put a wee bet on. He turned his head, squinted at me: ‘Can you tell me where I live?’ he asked. He was standing at his back gate and gable end of his house.

There are thirty-three variants of dementia, perhaps more. Hugh couldn’t count them. He’s in ‘freefall’. And there’s nobody to catch him. That’s the sad part. I hear his wife shouting and swearing at him. I’m not sure if she’s got dementia too.

Benjamin tells of his own madness, or mental-health difficulty. ‘A summer evening in 1999.’ Tottenham Court Road.

‘I escort myself up the escalator and out of the station, and frogmarch myself all the way home, so taken was I with the idea that I would jump’.

… the doctor was friendly enough: he seemed to believe me.  

… a follow-up appointment with my GP, I was told I met the criteria for a major psychiatric disorder…The psychiatrist prescribed a cocktail of drugs I was to take indefinitely. I never took the prescription to the chemist.’

‘L’ confused me. I thought I had a handle on who A.K.Benjamin was, a male therapist around my age (late fifties). But here he is out on a second ‘date’ with ‘L’ at a Greek in Marble Road, he’s used to and is known in. (‘In truth the Greek was a Cypriot raised in Penge. In truth there had been far too many awkward, depressing nights in the years since I’d moved out of Helen’s house’).

‘L’ was a social worker, specialising in neurology (Benjamin’s field of medicine).

‘He was a few years older than me, a six-former to my third-year…I might as well have been a teenage girl drawing his picture in biro on my maths folder.’

…he brought unusual interest and therefore depth to each case, he was able to think about the meaning of injury, imagine for himself the lived experience of the person, their family, how it would translate into their forever changed lives.’

L is therefore the type of man you’d want to care for you or yours. He is loveable. But it flipped me because I believed from what I’d read so far that A.K.Benjamin was a man, a heterosexual man. But here I was re-imagining him as a her, as gay, as bisexual. Which made ‘L’ also one or more of these fluid gender categories. But later he or she described ‘L’ as ‘fatherly’.  What had thrown me was the word ‘date’. Date to me means sex. It is not erotic love (or perhaps it is) but agape, the unconditional love of another

Benjamin wanted ‘L’ to be his hero.

‘I wanted Lewis to look his disease dead in the eye, stare it down.  I wanted him to tell the truth, however frightening…I realized I couldn’t bear his denial – couldn’t bear it because it disrupted my own; couldn’t bear it because it brought to mind my father in different ways…’

Benjamin wanted ‘L’ to be superhuman, but, like the rest of us, was all too frail and human. A geriatric patient at fifty.

Let Me Not Be Mad tells painful truths. You can read it like you’d read a collection of short stories with a common overarching theme. As character studies it’s hard to beat and should be on the syllabus of any creative writing class. This is not a hymn to Lear’s madness but uncommon human decency, which is perhaps the same thing.

Elena Ferrante (2019) The Lying Life of Adults

I read the first 40 pages of The Lying Life of Adults. I’ve read most of Elena Ferrante’s fiction and non-fiction. It was to me a familiar story of Neapolitan middle-class life in a fashionable apartment. A brilliant father who studies and lectures and publishes. A beautiful mother, who is also brilliant, but less so, being a woman. And an insecure daughter that needs to be both brilliant and beautiful and fears she is nearer. Imagines herself to be kin to her father’s sister Aunt Vittoria who has been erased from family photographs by her brother.

Why did I give up?

I’ve read it before, or feel that I have, which is much the same thing. I guess as authors we write the same story again and again until we get it right. Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend, had already done so. This feels to me not so brilliant. Maybe I’m wearied and you’ll feel differently. Read on.    

CELTIC 3—0 JABLONEC (7—2 aggregate win).

James Forrest comes in for Liel Abada. Much the same team that thrashed Dundee at Parkhead on Sunday. We’ll take much the same score and performance. Kyogo Furuhashi is in on goal after less than thirty seconds. One-on-one with the Jablonec keeper on the edge of the box. But the keeper stands tall and sticks a foot out to make a save.

Kyogo had the ball in the net after 20 minutes. Forrest drifted across the box and played him in. The linesman called it offside, but the ball was already in the net and the almost 60 000 crowd in the air before it was called. Replays show it was close, very close. More onside than off.

Tom Rogic’s twinkle toes had been hard at work. He picked out Christie, who played in Kyogo. This time he was offside. Welsh also had a chance from a cross, but the defender nudged him and he headed over.

David Turnbull had a speculative shot from the edge of the box, which the keeper palmed out. A minute later, Greg Taylor pushed up to get a rebound and played in Turnbull. Our player of the season (last season) scored with the outside of his boot in the 26th minute. Turnbull, like McGregor and Rogic, looks back to his best.

Celtic a class above the Czech team, but they have a few chances from the edge of the box, without troubling the keeper.

There was still time for Rogic to play Kyogo in with a ball over the top, but the Czech keeper is quickly out and clears with his head. Kyogo ends the first-half with a booking, trying too hard. Never a bad thing.

Celtic dropped down the gears at the start of the second-half. Starfelt, five minutes in, almost gave the opposition a penalty. (I thought it was a penalty). He jumped into the tackle—minimal—but unnecessary contact. We’ve been lucky recently, and this is a good example. The German ref didn’t give it.

Ten minutes into the second half, Turnbull finished the tie. A strike from 25- yards into the corner of the net. A bumper of a goal. He won man of the match. It was a toss-up between him and McGregor. McGregor moves the ball so much quicker than Soro. The team look far slicker.

Ironically, McGregor set up the best chance of the night for the Jablonec attackers by playing a terrible back pass. The loudest cheer of the night came from Joe Hart’s save. A minute later he made an even better save. But the Celtic keeper did make a complete howler out of a pass back, getting caught on the ball, only to be helped out by his defence. We got lucky again there.

A number of changes for the last twenty-five minutes. Edouard, one of our subs, (let’s hope he leave soon and isn’t running down his contract as some of the tabloids suggest) missed a great chance. He tried to chip the keeper, but Forrest followed in with the rebound to score in seventy-two minutes. A good night’s work for the winger. He was given the captain’s armband when McGregor went off. But it’s a toss-up between him or Abada for the position on the wing. The young Israeli is averaging a goal a game.  

Montgomery got booked for a terrible tackle and Ajeti missed with a header in the final ten minutes. Celtic play Hearts on Sunday, I’m sure we’ll win in the league cup game. But I’ve not seen the Eredivisie outfit AZ Alkmaar. We play them on Wednesday.

McGregor, Rogic, Turnbull, outstanding. Kyogo, was very good. Christie pass marks, his performance not hitting the heights of recent matches. Our two full backs were good. Let’s hope the soft centre doesn’t return. It’s easy against teams like this we’re so much slicker and better than. Harder when there’s not much in it. Won three in a week. Rangers lost three. That’s always good news, even for an old cynic like me.