Monday, February 01, 2016

Visiting La Scala Del Calcio - San Siro Stadium

Emdad Rahman: The famous city may host fashion royalty but for me a weekend trip to Milan means anything but shopping for designer clothes. Honestly, I’d rather watch watch paint peel. Two days away from London and I planned to visit the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral), San Siro Stadium tour, AC & Inter Milan Club Museum, Mondo Milan, Casa Milan and round it all off with the Milan derby. 

The tour of the stadium gave me an opportunity to relive the magic of Italia 90. I was amongst the global audience on 8th June who had marvelled at the building and introduction of this major football arena to planet football. The opening game of that memorable World Cup saw one of the biggest shocks in football history as the minnows of Cameroon beat Diego Maradona and World Cup holders Argentina 1-0 thanks to a springing Salmon act from Francois Omam-Biyick and a halloween howler from Nery Pumpido. Fast forward two days and the next moments of footy magic have been etched in my memory banks for 26 years. It was the skipper Lothar Matthäus and his two firecrackers on the evening of June 10th as West Germany hammered Yugoslavia 4-1 to nail down their position as tournament favourites were simply out of this world. 

The structure of the stadium was designed by the engineer Alberto Cugini and the architect Ulisse Stacchini. The grand arena was built to host Milan matches, but in 1947-1948 it became the home of Inter as well. In 1980 he famous stadium was named “Giuseppe Meazza” in honour of the Italian hero, who during an illustrious career which included two World Cup wins played for both clubs.

In the run up to Italia 90 the city of Milan chose to renovate rather than rebuild. Architects Giancarlo Ragazzi, Henry Hoffer and the engineer Leo Finzi chose to  construct a third level and eleven new cylindrical towers in reinforced concrete that contained a number of facilities were built. The spiralling concrete pillars were another childhood fascination and although we weren’t allowed access on the day of our visit I was able to climb right to the top the next day to watch the first Milan derby of 2016. 

The tour itself is independently led although very polite club guides are scattered around if there are any questions or queries. The Museum has the privilege of being the first in Italian football to be located within a football ground. This experience is the first stop on the tour and visitors are greeted with wax models of Ruud Gullit, Paolo Maldini, Lothar Matthäus and Javier Zanetti. There’s trophies galore and historical shirts on display, including the shirt of Giacinto Facchetti - One of the all time great full backs. Further on and you can come face to face with the San Siro twin towers of Franco Baresi and Giuseppe Bergomi - Two of Italian footballs greatest defenders. Those not in the know may wonder why this museum is such a compact and small scale operation when taking into consideration the burgeoning history of these two superpower clubs. No need to fret as there is the Mondo Milan Museum at Casa Milan - A much grander and modern display of the footballing wealth of the city rivals. 

There is a walk past the TV interview area, which is a lined wall with sponsors logos dotted across. There is no access to the press room. The changing rooms are very different in comparison. Milan have the customised sports chairs whilst Inter have plain benches with modern decor. In all the tour can be completed within 30-45 minutes although there is no time limit unless there is an emergency evacuation or official closing time is nearing. 

Visitors can step out into the arena and pitch side. This is a chained off corner at the Inter end of the stadium. The space is compact and could become quite congested when there are large groups of visitors. 

I loved the experience at La Scala del Calcio. It is something I have dreamt of doing since Italia 90. I suppose there is a requirement for modernising to bring the grand old theatre up to speed but there’s no doubting the standing and rank of the San Siro as one of the most renowned football arenas in the world. My thoughts were cemented the night after at the Milan derby. Although we had terrible seats I can say hand on heart that it is by far the most electrifying crowd experience I have witnessed at a football ground. It was all non stop frenzy from start to finish as I took my place amongst 80,000 fellow fans. 

It is an experience I would repeat at the drop of a hat and do over and over again. 

Twitter: @emdad07

The World Of Leonardo - The Ultimate Da Vinci Experience

Emdad Rahman: Now all one needs to gain access to the vast genius of Leonardo da Vinci is modern technology. The Italian geniuses hidden secrets are now accessible to each and everyone through the mere click of a finger. 

The renowned legend of the Renaissance is in full flow as Leonardo3 ― The World of Leonardo delves deep into the world of da Vinci. Whilst embracing the use of modern technology the exhibition in Milan relives da Vinci’s awe inspiring machines using amazing reconstructions which take visitors on a mesmerising futuristic journey using interactive experiences. 

The World of Leonardo is an incredible exhibit featuring world premieres and discoveries resulting from unprecedented studies on the work of da Vinci. And there more - scale models of Leonardo's inventions and machines with state-of-the-art touch screens enabling visitors to "turn the pages" of Leonardo's personal notebooks (Codex Atlanticus, Codex on Flight and Manuscript B), as well as showing the master’s artworks pre and post restoration (Mona Lisa and The Last Supper). 

The exhibition brings to life dozens of Leonardo's inventions, visions and concepts, including his gigantic flying machines, "automobile", robots, musical instruments, weapons of war and mechanical devices, which foreshadowed modern technology. 

Highlights of the new exhibit include the Great Kite, which is considered his "definitive" flying machine, as well as the world's first working prototype of his Self-Propelled Cart, and the first physical models of his Mechanical Bat and Mechanical Lion, or the only playing model of the Harpsichord-Viola among others. All of the models in the exhibit are premieres not present in other exhibitions or the correct interpretations of what as been made wrong by others.

All the exhibit is fully interactive thanks to avant-garde, touch screen technologies based on three dimensional, high-definition graphics and animations.

Da Vinci had a simple wish that his mesmerising inventions and designs would be accessible to the masses. His deep desire was for his mesmerising machines to be accessible and be used for everyday purposes, be it engineering, plumbing, mechanics, art or war. The incredible and intriguing designs for these machines are all collected in the Codex Atlanticus, the largest and most precious codex of all. Now, for the first time in history, the Codex Atlanticus is accessible to the general public. Through the technology of high resolution digital photography, it is now possible to present the pages of the Codex on interactive stations, giving visitors the opportunity to discover Leonardo’s machines for themselves. 

Leonardo3 is now established as a world market leader in exclusive exhibitions and publications on the grand genius of da Vinci. Exhibitions are the result of extensive and thorough investigation by a rigorous research team  who investigate and develop never-seen-before machines.

The exhibitions was dynamic are “dynamic” rather than “static” and there is extensive use of 3D animations, physical models and interactive software to offer the public a unique level of interaction and a hands-on “edutainment” experience. 
I was able to experience for myself a  digital restoration of the Last Supper, to the reconstruction of his Crossbow, his Time Machine and his concept of the Ideal City. The electronic reconstructions were simply brilliant and like a school boy I spent a large space amount examining this feature of the exhibition. 

There is no doubt that globally Leonardo da Vinci is hailed as a genius of the highest order. Da Vinci is a golden example of an artist and scientist combined to flourish and be celebrated during a period of great enlightenment. It is precisely for this very reason that within one physical body a formidable scientific brain and master artist blossomed and thrived, hence Da Vinci’s outstanding works of inventions are also acknowledged to be works of art.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Milan see of Inter in derby day trouncing

AC Milan 3-0 Inter Milan

Emdad Rahman: AC Milan took home the spoils as the Rossoneri cruised to an emphatic Serie A derby win over city rivals as Inter Milan. 

Former Chelsea defender Alex broke the deadlock to head Milan into the lead before half time from a Keisuke Honda assist. 

In the second half tempers frayed as sixteen year old Gianluigi Donnarumma's collision with Eder was not penalised. The rejected second half penalty appeal led to rising temperatures in both Inter players and management. Mancini's remonstrations with referee Antonia Damato saw him dismissed to the stands for dissent.

Inter did win a penalty appeal later on in the game. Mauro Icardo, who had received a public dressing down after his woeful display against Carpi the previous week had replaced Stevan Jovetic. The Argentinian had been on the field for six minutes before he was fouled by Alex for a penalty. Icardi hit the post from the resulting spot kick. The miss followed wild celebrations from AC Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic as the pendulum swung back to Milan.

In the final 20 minutes Inter heads dropped as Carlos Bacca converted a cross from M'Baye Niang, who went on to seal a comfortable 3-0 win with a strike from Giacomo Bonaventura's pass. It was Bacca's 11th goal of the campaign. 
Mario Balotelli, who received the biggest cheers/boos of the night was bought on to play on 79 minutes. The on loan Liverpool striker came on for Niang and twice nobbled Chilean Gary Medel to receive a yellow card within a minute of his introduction to the game. There are reports that Mihajlovic is not fully convinced by Balotelli and the Italian may return to return to Liverpool with Milan unlikely to agree a permanent deal.

Milan (4-4-2): Donnarumma, Abate, Alex, Romagnoli, Antonelli, Honda (Boateng 89), Kucka, Montolivo, Bonaventura, Niang (Balotelli 79), Bacca (Bertolacciat 85)

Booked: Alex, Kucka, Balotelli

Scorers: Alex 35, Bacca 73, Niang 77 

Inter (4-2-3-1): Handanovic, Santon, Miranda, Murillo, Nunes Jesus, Medel, Brozovic, Perisic (Felipe Melo 77), Citadin Martins, Ljajic (Telles 87), Jovetic (Icardi 64)

Booked: Jovetic

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Peoples FA Cup - Grassroots football at it's finest!

Emdad Rahman: Team Legend played in The Peoples FA Cup today at The Norwegian Playing Fields at Power League Newham. 
To be honest we turned up to have a bit of fun and do our bit to promote and support grassroots football. All our team are aged 38-42. Most have grey, receding hairlines and expanding paunches. The game plan for the day was simple; Prevent a complete whitewash and keep the number of goals we conceded at a respectable level. 
Our tactics became even more urgent after we were told that it was an open age group from 16 years upwards. It turned out that we were almost twenty years older than the teams playing. We sized up the our opponents; leaner, meaner, fitter, faster, full colour kits. We watched the early exchanges to make mental notes on our opponents. They looked good and we formulated our plans, play it tight, watch the runners and stifle the playmaker. It worked to a tee and after a 2-2 draw we went on to record win after win to reach the last four. 
The boys played like warrior poets. The level of skill, determination and guts we displayed blew our opponents away. Don't forget Team Legend had plenty of guile and know how and we used this to great effect; drawing teams in, hitting on the counter and sometimes simply bamboozling them with dinks, feints and drop of the shoulders. Then there were the surprising bursts of pace and swashbuckling goals. 
We had turned into a cavalier team with guts of fire. It wasn't Total Football, nor samba, but we were pretty good nevertheless. 
When not playing we kept busy watching cardiac arrest at Carrow Road as Liverpool edged Norwich in a 5 goal thriller. United losing to a Charlie Austin winner at home to Southampton was the icing on the cake. 
In the end it was not to be Wimbledon 88 but we definitely manifested the battling qualities of those boys from Plough Lane. A 1-0 semi final defeat by an own goal against the eventual winners was nothing to be ashamed about and we left with our heads held high. It was lovely to be lauded, clapped, high fived by our youthful opponents. The referees came over for a chat and even officials from within the Power League complex. We were the talk of the town and we were simply loving it. Every bit of courtesy was lapped up. Kudos to the FA on the for this great scheme. It was a great day out we had lots of fun and made many new friends. 
I have a very sore lower back and can't move now after being poleaxed but have ticked another box on my vast life bucket list by playing and scoring. It was all the more memorable that I was there with my friends.
The Peoples FA Cup - It's a football fairytale. 
Roll on 2017. #PeoplesCup

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January snap with One Third Soup Kitchen

"It is in the shelter of each other that the people live." - Irish proverb

I had a good day and was really tempted to go see the 3D elephant, giant flowers and flying fish at Lumber London. In the end I joined my mate Shahel, Kam, Sugapuff and Farhana on the Soup Kitchen. West Ham were playing Newcastle and with Jonjo Shelvey ripping it up at St James Park we had some respite from the busy home football traffic. 

It was Shahel’s first time and it was magic having bigzy on board. He’s a natural is that lad. Kam never ceases to amaze. The Prince of South Woodford may now drive 4 cars after taking delivery of his latest Porsche but he’s there at the soup kitchen, serving with a smile. There’s a thorough lesson to be learnt each time and I just love working with this humble man.

I met Rosie after a few months and Shahel made sure she had a takeaway too. Sugapuff was our celebrity tonight and he kept the family warm with his quips and banter. I get the feeling he’ll be back before long. Paul was his grumpy cheery self and complained about hot chocolate. Turned out all he needed was a ciggie. Our usual friends turned p but there were lots of new faces

The weather was numbing and our regulars were out in force, patiently waiting, smiling, greeting and helping us unload the car of our table, food, water etc. 

I now need toothbrushes, toothpaste, face towels and sanitary pads for ongoing distribution. If you can help please get in touch.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Joe 90 at the death

Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal

Ramsey too quick to reach
Giroud's second a peach

Firmino smashing a brace

Rafa hailed by the Kop
Caulker thrown up top

Welsh Xavi strikes late to save face

13 01 16

© emdad rahman

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Our elderly are our gems!

“The old are in a second childhood” – Aristophanes

I made my first befrienders calls this morning to local elderly residents. I learnt three valuable lessons in this short space of time.

1. A little gesture can have a massive impact.

It was short, snappy and made an impact. Just the way I like it. I love supersonic! I actually enjoyed having these conversations more than they enjoyed listening to me babble on. It was fairly obvious that they really appreciate human contact. It's a crime that so many of our senior citizens live in daily isolation. It's no excuse - Get off your derrieres and make that call or long overdue visit. Make the peace if the situation demands. It’s not too late.

2. The elderly have much to give.

They trod the path before us. Their experience and wisdom is second to none. Their presence is a blessing and an opportunity to gain great satisfaction and rewards through supporting them. It’s not a burden if you really think about it.

3. There is a need for genuine befrienders to support our seniors.

It is their right. They must be supported to engage in our everyday lives, be it through a call, playing a quick board game, chatting, walking, playing sports, engaging in hobbies and family life.

If you would like to volunteer any of your valuable spare time for the barking & Dagenham Volunteer Bureau please email or call 020 3288 2168.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Celtic’s Smiler - The Neilly Mochan story

Emdad Rahman: Smiler Mochan is a Celtic legend who’s name doesn’t entirely crop up as much as it needs to but I have seen his hanging portrait at Celtic Park.

Celtic Football Club is quite simply the stuff dreams are made of. Started off to help impoverished and starving children in Glasgow this club has gone on to become one of the world’s great football institutions. Celtic players are symbolic and there achievements are part of the rich tapestry of this legendary club. Not many servants in the clubs history can boast the pedigree of the late Neilly Mochan and the launch and release of a new book and documentary has bought this stalwarts name and achievements right back to the fore.

The art of Duncan Mattocks greets you with a striking portrait of the subject on the front cover. As an avid follower of Scottish football I decided to delve a little deeper and made contact with Paul John Dykes - Author of Celtic’s Smiler, a fascinating biography of the life of one of the greatest players to have worn a Celtic shirt. 'Smiler’ is simply an exploration into the life of the amazing Neilly Mochan and his 40-year Celtic Park love affair.  

Mochan, who's parents escaped Donegal - amongst the most impoverished of areas during the Irish potato famine, has a vastly underrated status within the ranks of who's who at Glasgow Celtic. He doesn’t make the all time Celtic legends lists and it is a wonder why considering his achievements with the Glasgow giants.

Having researched the great man one of the first questions to Dyke was about Mochan’s worth in the modern game. He said: "A figure like Neilly Mochan would be priceless in the modern game. Not in respect of his monetary value as a player but for the fact that he instilled so much in the players around him. He looked after young ground staff boys like George Connelly, Brian McLaughlin, Tommy Burns, Charlie Nicholas and Peter Grant and guided them through their early years as footballers. They all respected Neilly and owed a lot of their successes to him.

Having made his name at Morton, the Carron Cannonball joined the Bhoys after a short stint in the north east of England after English legend David Jack took a shine to the Scots star and lured him to Middlesbrough. Over five glorious decades Smiler scored over 100 goals for the Bhoys, which assure him a place amongst the honour roll of the Hoops greatest players. He was also part of Jock Stein's backroom staff and alongside Jock Stein and Sean Fallon, Mochan trained the never to be forgotten Lisbon Lions.

A the age of 23, Neilly was already known as “Smiler.” It was an affectionate moniker. He was a deceptive striker and his first hat trick for his beloved Celtic was scored in front of 50,000 home fans. It was the first of many goals scored by Neilly Mochan in the hoops at Celtic Park, an occurrence that was often compared to the effects of a ring carronade cannon.

During the 50’s Mochan scored the winner in the Coronation Cup Final, won the double in 1953/54 and hammered an unforgettable brace in the unforgettable “Hampden in the sun" 7-1 annihilation of Glasgow Rangers. Smiler made the Scotland squad for the World Cup finals in Switzerland in 1954. He gave unstinted and distinguished service to Scottish football. Mochan was a friend to all. The great Bobby Lennox described him as “a 'buffer,' the cement between the players and management.” Dykes writes: "Mochan’s tale is Odyssean in its scale. His journey as rich as the passage of time itself, he would go on to become a fabled pioneer of the Scottish game, a progenitor of European trailblazing success, and an undisputed patriarch of Celtic Football Club."

After retiring from playing the game Mochan became a loyal assistant to Jock Stein, under whom he was Celtic’s first-team trainer throughout the nine-in-a-row era when the club was feared throughout the continent, winning their most glittering prize in 1967 on an unforgettable afternoon in Lisbon. Neilly’s successes continued into the 1970s, when ten men won the league in 1979, and into the ’80s, when Celtic captured the 100th Scottish Cup Final in typically cavalier fashion. The following season, he watched from the dugout as Celtic clinched a last-day title win at Love Street, and was again on hand for the club’s emphatic League and Scottish Cup double in its centenary year of 1988. Mochan witnessed the dour 90’s and the Fergus McCann takeover. He saw it all until his passing in 1994.

With four decades service and 50 winners medals in his kitbag, the Mochan legacy is an indelible part of Celtic folk memory. This book and documentary is the unrivalled story of the man whom team-mates, reporters, opponents and fans alike affectionately referred to as ‘Smiler’.

Mochan’s brother Denis has the perfect description: "Everyone who knew Neilly Mochan will tell you that he was a joker and a smiler.” He also remembers the light-hearted nature of his big brother. “Our Neilly was never dour. His nickname of ‘Smiler’ was a football thing and we never called him that around the house. When you play football, your team-mates or newspaper reporters often give you nicknames and Neilly’s was ‘Smiler’. He was the oldest of the boys in our house and we used to call him ‘Our Big Yin’.”

The Author does somewhat agree that Neilly Mochan has an underrated history at Celtic: "I think the importance of Neilly Mochan has been underrated as he played in an inconsistent and under-achieving team in the 1950s (even though their triumphs were spectacular).

He was then part of Jock Stein's back-room team and so he would always be in the shadows there. However, the historians have always lauded his role and I hope that the biography and documentary can keep that fire burning now. I think that the 50s are not as extensively covered as the 60s and beyond and for that reason Neilly's story was in the vaults. Thankfully now I have told it in film and print and I hope a new generation of supporters can learn about Celtic's Smiler.”

"Neilly was a small, powerful, deceptively quick scorer of thunderbolt shots. He could play left wing, centre forward and even left back. There is no-one like him! There are a few figures in the history of Celtic Football Club whose stories are legendary but for some reason no one has put them into print. Neilly Mochan served Celtic for 40 years and epitomised everything that was special about the club. It was an absolute honour to be asked by his son to write his story.”

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Celtic Park: A legend built by immigrants

Emdad Rahman: A club that started off by Aindreas Ó Céirín, better known as Brother Walfrid to provide food and warmth to the starving street children has now become one of the most famous names in world football. 

In 1888, Brother Walfrid came up with the idea that football could be used as an instrument for the greater good and the formation of this special club led to a much needed lifeline and helping hand being offered to the indigent and needy who struggled daily in the east end of Glasgow. 

By 1893 Brother Walfrid had moved on to the east end of London  to support barefoot children through his charity The Poor Children's Dinner Table but his amazing legacy remains not only intact but has become a global institution. It is for this very reason that Celtic Football Club can proudly proclaim to be a club like no other. 

As a youngster growing up we didn’t have Sky, BT and internet streaming. the BBC never showed Scottish football apart from internationals and the World Cup adventures and you’d get a short flash of the Hampden Park scores on cup final day. 

My most vivid memory was catching a glimpse of Frank McAvennie cancelling out Kevin Gallagher’s opener for Dundee United as Billy McNeill’s Celtic clinched the double in the centenary year of 1988. 

With YouTube around now I now watch the highlights of that match again and again. It was the era of Paul McStay, my favourite Celtic player. The maestro could have played and shined for any club in the world. At Euro 1992 he proved himself as one of the world’s great midfielders. 

South of the border every successful team had a Scotsman at its heart; Liddell, Busby, Shankly, Ferguson, James, Mackay, Bremner, Dalglish, Strachan, McQueen, Souness, Goram. Scottish football was swashbuckling; Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen under Fergie, the great Hibernian team, John Robertson at Hearts, Iain Ferguson’s cup final winner for St Mirren in 1987, Hateley and McCoist, Dundee United and the famous UEFA Cup run to the final. I could go on.

I always wanted to visit Celtic but ended up with three visits to glorious Ibrox before my very first visit to Parkhead. Rangers were quicker off the mark. It is without doubt one of the biggest football stadiums in Europe. The original stadium which is commonly known as Parkhead or Paradise was opened in 1888. The stadium was built on the toil and dedication of volunteers. The first match was played on 28th May 1888 as Rangers were hammered 5-2. 

Football commercialism had taken control and by 1892 the ground rent had increased from a mere £50 to £450. It forced the club to move and a disused brickyard at Janefield Street, a few hundred yards away from the old stadium became the location for the new arena. The nickname for the ground; “Paradise” came about after a journalist wrote that the move to the new stadium was like "leaving the graveyard to enter paradise.” Renton were the very first opponents at the new stadium on 20 August 1892. By 1894 the Scotland v England game in the 1894 British Home Championships attracted a crowd of 45,107.

One of the earliest events held at the famous arena was the World Track Cycling Championships in 1897, the year in which the football club bought the site. The record attendance at Celtic Park was set on new years day 1938 for the Old Firm game against Glasgow rivals Rangers. These days the capacity is a more modest 60,000.

It wasn't until Fergus McCann took over during the 90's that Celtic Park was modernised to bring things up to speed. The old terraces were taken out and a phased rebuild to change to an all seater stadium took place and developed by 1998. 

Glasgow Celtic, the heritage and culture has made the club famous and renowned the world over.  Guided tours are available of the stadium as well as taking a trip through the history of the club through various informative and impressive exhibitions. 

The tour includes the directors boardroom, changing rooms, tunnel, stands, press room, executive boxes and pitch side. 

Our tour guide was Marie. She was out of this world - A true Celtic scholar with razor sharp wit and fun approach. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if she is a current or retired school teacher. History rests heavy on the shoulders of the visitor and the experience will leave visitors with an all over tingling sensation.

Contact Address: Celtic Museum, Celtic Football Club, Celtic Park, 
, G40 3RE.

Community lunch with Neighbours in Poplar

During the Christmas week Neighbours in Poplar lost two clients, Henry Abrahams who almost reached his 104th birthday, died in his sleep in Hospital on Sunday 27th December and was laid to rest in Waltham Abbey Jewish Cemetery on Wednesday 30th December. The second client sadly took his own life on Monday 28th leaving his devoted carer in tears.  

We had a great community lunch with Neighbours in Poplar today at St Matthias. Sister Christine and I took a few minutes to discuss and reminisce the life of the recently departed Henry Abrahams who passed away during the Christmas break.

Henry's story is as follows and narrated by himself two years ago when he was in good health. He was born 3rd March 1911, one of 6 brothers and sisters. They had three rooms. 

Their gas cooker was in the landing and they used the same bath water every Saturday night, in the kitchen, one after the other. That's how it was if you were poor and the loo was out in the back yard.

Sometimes his dad used to get work and his Mum used to roll cigarettes, by the hundreds for very little money. The family was Jewish and observed the Sabbath weekly.

Henry could remember his childhood playing games safely out in the street. He went to school until he was 14 when he left for an apprenticeship as a Lithographic artist. Henry used to wheel sheets of brass from Clerkenwell to Kingsland Road in a wheel barrow. He received the grand total of one shilling for this and worked a 55 hour week for 7 shillings and 6 pence. He married Bessie on Christmas Day 1935. Sadly they had no children, one of his regrets in life. 

He was called up along with all his friends when war was declared, but when the authorities realised his skill in engraving he was sent to the munitions factory where each piece had to be stamped. At night Henry served as a firefighter.
Bessie died some years ago leaving him with nieces and nephews and Johnny, his brother in law.

In the course of the Christmas season, thanks to funders, donors and kind people, Neighbours in Poplar were able to provide:
  • 6 Parties for Over 50s – Final one January 3rd
  • 45 Parcels of Groceries to Over 50s
  • 30 Groceries to Families in Need
  • 28 Toys to Families in Need
  • 70 Turkeys to Families in need
  • 391 Meals cooked and delivered – December 25th/26th/January 1st

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Going Ape - Releasing the inner gorilla

What better way to spend a day in December to burn off those holiday calories than climbing and leaping from tree to tree.It is with exactly this in mind that a visit was planned to the latest Go Ape adventure site in Battersea Park, London. This is the first time Go Ape have built a treetop  adventure course outside of the confines of a forest environment. As a mark of popularity it is  also the 29th UK site. 

Go Ape is the UK's number one Forest Adventure with 55 adventures across 29 sites UK wide including Tree Top Adventure, Forest Segway, Tree Top Junior and Zip Trekking Adventure.  

This brand new site from Go Ape, the UK’s multi-award winning forest adventure company, is situated in the heart of Battersea Park, and combines a Tree Top Adventure plus a Tree Top Junior course for mini Tarzans. The experiences are physically challenging with the highest obstacle crossings double the height and many twice as long as the usual Go Ape courses.

Whilst welcoming the first guests to Go Ape Battersea Park, Tristram Mayhew, Chief Gorilla at Go Ape said: "Go Ape is all about creating accessible adventures so bringing the experience to a city is a big milestone for us. We’ve long wanted to create a high wire tree top adventure in the centre of London and we’re thrilled to see our first visitors going up in the trees today. There’s already a real buzz and sense of excitement and we’re looking forward to welcoming many more Londoners over the coming months and seeing if they’re up to our new challenge.”

I thought I’d make my own judgement and cheekily wondered if old Tristram had actually participated in the the adventure. I must say after completing the course I couldn’t agree more with the old chief gorilla. Go Ape is for both young and old. Slow or fast, you do it all at your own pace. There really is a great mix of people releasing their inner monkey and you’d be surprised how along the trail you can actually socialise and share experiences with fellow adventurers - even though the course is intense and full of adrenalin. 

Go Ape Battersea Park features over 40 crossings in total, which if laid out in a straight line would cover over 730 metres, and includes a thrilling 50 metre zip wire, making it an exciting tree top obstacle course for adventure seekers big and small (well, those over 1.4m tall). It is worth completing one level, taking a break and ten starting the next one. As you climb higher the course level gets harder and a little bit more energy sapping. At the same time the fun factor and excitement quadruples. Each segment stage concludes with a super airborne zip wire finale.

Safety is paramount and every single visitor is given an induction briefing and dummy run before being released into the wild. Ours was by a a Lithuanian student - a total gentleman throughout.

Due to the extreme nature of some parts of the course some of the Tarzans may find themselves taking longer to complete a crossing. The experience will leave visitors both exhausted and feeling extremely accomplished. It’s more intense than Trent Park and the location is more compact with adventurers able to look into the park, the playground, the golf putting cafe below and even greet park visitors and joggers.

Many thanks to the real stars of the show - Sachin - an asset and total star in the making, and the team at Go Ape for being such great sports. These guys are real ambassadors for the brand and worth every penny you’re paid (and a bit more).

It’s not only  a good leisure activity but would be excellent for school trips and corporate/ team away days. Go Ape is based in Battersea Park and is fully open to visitors. It is most certainly a treasured memory be it with friends, family or even solo. Tree Top and Tree Top Junior Adventures available to book at

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

When the oppressed becomes the oppressor...

slander n. oral defamation; someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another and that untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed.” 

I've just had an interesting exchange with a gentle soul who I've never had the pleasure of meeting or chatting to... ever.

There is no doubt I'm innocent of the claims made, about me falsely slandering this gentleman and his good family. We engaged in an hour of lively discussion. 98 people were tagged into his post, which included a picture of me and full blame attached for the misery that the accuser and his kin suffered. There were a couple of nasty comments aimed at me by his friends and acquaintances. 

To be honest I felt his pain. Nobody should be subjected to the horrible claims made about his family. Then my mind diverted a little as I realised that this individual was subjecting me to the exact pain he accused me of causing him in the first place. It was a nonsensical Punch and Judy exchange. I couldn't really be angry and a close friend telephoned, gave me perspective and helped me remain calm.

A mainstream news outlet had been tipped off and I got a call to narrate my story as a wrongly accused victim. I pretended to lose connectivity and hung up. Despite the odds being in my favour no one wins when the press join the bandwagon. 

An hour later the post was taken down. I still didn't feel nerves, anger or relief, which is a good thing but the incident raises important points:

  • Don't go public without being airtight certain. At the least you'll have egg on your face. At the worst you'll destroy someone's life. 
  • Seek advice before you embark on a course of action you may regret later. 
  • Always back up anything you say with airtight evidence. This is not Snakes & Ladders.
  • Be prepared to go the whole hog. Sometimes there's no turning back.
  • You may have your loved ones, friends dragged into the tangle as each party vies for a foothold. 
  • The matter will divide the community. It's always a good option to allow genuine mediators to offer counsel.
  • Be strong. Easier said than done but if you value integrity then you'll be alright in the end. Don't bother paying heed to the lone voice hater but embrace the chorus that love and value you.

I'll be thinking about what happens next. The benevolent thing is to let sleeping dogs lie but it may not be the best option for me. I haven't done anything wrong. 

"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." Mark Twain

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Liverpool 1-0 Leicester

Four winless games halt to an end
By the big sub Benteke 
An end to the Foxes winning trend 
And three points on Boxing Day

Skrtel watched from the box seat
Whilst the Reds let off steam
Sacko conjures up a clean sheet
Against Ranieri's high flying team

Leicester still pretty at the top
In the pocket went Mahrez and Vardy
After the whistle I swear Lovren and Klopp
Looked and clapped straight at me

26 12 15

© emdad rahman

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day at The Whitechapel Mission

Emdad Rahman: It's been a very busy Christmas Day which started at the Whitechapel Mission at 5am this morning. Twelve volunteers came together to take some time out of their holiday and spend it doing amazing work. 

Although we serve the homeless and marginalised for me it's very much the other way round in that it is more beneficial for me on a personal level. I love the company of Tony, Sue, Ramesh, Billy, my fellow volunteers like Rochelle and Nicki. It is reinvigorating and something I look forward to with great excitement every year. I love meeting with the guests and spoiling them rotten. It's my community after all. I grew up here and it gives me great pride and inspiration when we all come together and serve fellow humans with a united purpose. Life is harsh and of that there is no doubt. If by any very strange reason you do doubt then a volunteering stint is what you require at a place like The Whitechapel Mission - a place that serves without any compulsion and will not turn anybody away, whoever they may be and wherever they're from. 

Ramesh bought his partners sons over. We had a great chat and the boys may join me on the British 10k in 2016. Sharon has launched her Dominican Fat Nannies brand. We are definitely keeping in touch. 

We cooked, served hot beverages, full English brekkies, cakes, presents and toiletries. There was great banter all throughout. 

The Whitechapel Mission has been serving the vulnerable and marginalised for 139 years. It is a cornerstone of Tower Hamlets. Tony and Sue Miller get the same buzz everyday waking up in the knowledge that they are about to embark on a day of making positive change and doing some seriously magical stuff. It's right up my alley and I hope I can maintain half that enthusiasm in future years. 

If you would like to support my British 10k run for vulnerable visitors then you could spare a few pounds

Right, I’m now off to Liverpool for the Leicester game. 

Christmas Day with Neighbours in Poplar

The second part of the day was spent with Sister Christine and Neighbours In Poplar. NIP was founded in 1969 and is a registered charity providing practical support to older, frail, isolated people of all cultures and faiths, living in Poplar and the Isle of Dogs. It was a wonderful experience to be amongst the volunteers delivering hot Christmas Day dinner to the homes of residents who needed it most.

Volunteers are never lonely people and it’s been a blast making new friends and reconnecting with others.

Sister Christine told me that volunteers had been preparing the food since the day before and this rest of the volunteers joined me a little while after I had arrived to lend a hand.

Also out in force were the youngsters who Amrana does a sterling job with day in and day out. This bunch jumped in the minibus and visited two old peoples homes to bring some cheer to the residents.

Neighbours in Poplar...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Scottish National Museum & Hampden Park

Emdad Rahman: The football heritage of Glasgow is unheralded. Football romantics will be hard pressed to find a story to match that of the Lisbon Lions, born within 30 miles of Parkhead and who went on to lift Britain’s first European Cup. There’s also the Quality Street Gang about whom I’m reading a book by Paul John Dykes. It’s about arguably the finest collection of talented youngsters to come through the ranks at Celtic - boasting amongst many the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Davie Hay and Danny McGrain.

Glasgow Rangers hold the record for the most league title (54) wins in the world. I visit once or twice every season. It’s a giant of a club made up of giant people. I’m always welcome there and the sheer sense of history and achievement never fails to sparkle and inspire each time I visit Ibrox. It’s a spine tingling experience.

Glasgow is also home to the Scottish Football Museum and Hampden Park. This superb stadium is home to Queen’s Park - the only fully amateur football side in the Scottish Professional Football League. It also hosts Gordon Strachan's Scotland national team and the Tartan Army. 

As an exhibition the museum is amongst the top three attractions in bonny Scotland and the first in Glasgow to receive the prestigious Five Star accolade from VisitScotland.

There are 14 galleries and on entry visitors are greeted by a tribute and homage to the very first game between Scotland and England in 1872. It was in fact the very first international football game in history and the showpiece encounter was staged at the West of Scotland Cricket Club’s pitch in Partick. 4000 boisterous fans watched a competitive draw as both teams went home with honours even. 

There’s a host of historical shirts, the European Cup, memorabilia from Scottish football greats, and a tribute to Zinedine Zidane’s magnificent volley for Real Madrid against Bayer Leverkusen to win the 2002 Champions League final. 

There is a life sized re enactment of an iconic moment in Scottish football - Archie Gemmill’s wonder goal against Holland in the 1978 World Cup. It’s a magical memory of the night the pint sized attacking midfield schemer cut the Dutch defence to shreds. Gemmill’s silky mazy run cleared three Dutch defenders before a deft chip left Jan Jongloed clutching air. It was voted the goal of the tournament, Scotland’s greatest goal and is recognised as one of the most memorable moments in the history of the World Cup. Gemmill won 43 caps for Scotland and has even seen his solo magic celebrated courtesy of a celebratory jig in a modern dance sequence performed by 200 school children at Hampden Park.

Visitors also get a chance to spend time in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame which is a permanent feature in the Scottish Football Museum to honour the truly great players, managers and officials who have reached the pinnacle of their profession and have made a significant contribution to Scotland’s football reputation through their skill, spirit and determination.

The Hall of Fame has quickly established itself as a ‘must see’ for every true football fan and everyone involved in this great game.
As one walks through over 100 years of history it is impressive how from very humble beginnings Scottish football has risen in world football.  The Museum’s galleries transport the visitor from the 19th century beginnings to the modern day.

We finished with a look at the dressing rooms where I got to sit in Mario Gotze’s seat when world champions Germany last visited Hampden. We had a quick chat with the Queen’s Park manager Gus McPherson and had a wander pitch side and in the media seats and stands. In between I was able to prove my worth as a real Hampden Hotshot as my laser guided penalty in the Hotshots Gallery struck home. Although our tour guide Stephen may disagree I believe my thunder strike would have made True Blue Jorg Albertz proud.

To cap the day we took our place with the home crowd to watch Queen’s Park take on Peterhead in the Petrofac Cup Semi Final. Alas a home win was not on the cards as Peterhead won 2-1 to reach their very fist senior cup final.


The Scottish Football Museum
Hampden Park,
G42 9BA

Tel: +44 (0)141 616 6139


Pic Credit: M. Ali

Jack the Ripper - The Ultimate Terror Tour

Emdad Rahman: In Autumn 1888 a sadistic serial killer rampages through London’s East End of London causing terror and mayhem in a bloodbath that will ultimately capture the attention of the world. Thanks to the mischievous creativity of a journalist, the silent killer who started off being labelled “The Whitechapel Murderer” is now universally acknowledged as "Jack the Ripper.” Hundreds of books and papers have been published on this dark episode in East End history. Documentaries are released regularly and conspiracists have a never ending well of realistic and downright bizarre theories to drink from.  

Established in 1982 by Richard jones, bestselling author of Uncovering Jack the Ripper’s London and the Jack the Ripper:- The Casebook, the original Jack the Ripper Walk transports visitors old and new through the dark and murky backstreets of the notorious Victorian era East End of London. Participants on the tour are led through the dark and very harsh world of the Ripper and his victims.

The eerie walk lasts two hours and even though it was dark, wet and miserable when we visited, not a single participant left early. Highlights during the tour included a visit to the historic old building where a suspect worked as a barber in the basement. There was the the actual doorway in which Jack the Ripper may have scrawled a chilling message which read, "The Juwes are not the men that will be blamed for nothing.” This was controversially erased on the orders of none other than Sir Charles Warren. Some say it was to avert potential conflict involving the targeting of innocent members of the local Jewish community by local vigilante groups, whilst others point to a more sinister cover up. 

There is a walk down the dark and spooky alleyway along which a victim walked with Jack the Ripper in the early hours of 8th August 1888 and a saunter past the public house where Mary Nichols drank away her “doss” money shortly before her body was discovered nearby on 31st August 1888. 

There is a discussion point based on the night of the double murder on 30th September 1888 where it is acknowledged that the Police came closest to catching Jack the Ripper. It is also the night where the phantom like death merchant left behind the only clue as to who he was. 

There’s also the church tower on Commercial Street which was re enacted for scenes for Jonny Depp’s “From Hell.” There’s the rowdy pub where all the victims drank. It is quite possible that the Ripper mingled amongst them, drinking, chatting, getting to know them before luring the vulnerable women to their sordid deaths. 

Not far is the former convent where the Ripper’s last victim desperately sought shelter shortly before she was viciously murdered in the street opposite. The tour concludes at Mitre Square at the scene of the gruesome murder and mutilation of Catherine Eddowes. 

The tour guides present photographs of the sites as they were in 1888. The fainthearted will be asked to turn away as crime scene photos of some of the victims are also passed around.  The guides are informative and authority’s on the subject. Their insight into this dark and murky world really is unrivalled. Our tour guide was historian Lindsay Sivitas, a published historian who has conducted original research into the Jack the Ripper crimes as well as being the leading expert on Sir William Gull, whom several dramas and films have effectively named as Jack the Ripper.

Although the gentrification process is surely changing the character of the locality there are still original daily life features of the dark side of the East End to enjoy, talk about and photograph for memories. These include some of the old tenements used as “doss houses,” where punters could enjoy a good nights sleep in a hired coffin. There are still some  cobblestoned streets in existence around the locality.

The Jack the Ripper Tour is truly a journey into darkness. The cadaverous tales of one of the world’s most notorious serial killers will not only strike fear but excite and educate at the same time. A tour not to be missed. 

The Jack the Ripper tour takes place every evening at 7pm. The assembly point is outside exit 4 of Aldgate East Tube Station on Whitechapel High Street. The £10 fee is a mere pittance and is highly recommended for not only tourists but locals too. 

Contact: 020 8 530 8443 -

Ice skating at the Tower of London

It’s time to dust off the hats, scarves, gloves in preparation for real outdoor seasonal entertainment.

Slap bang in the middle of the historic dry moat is the Tower of London ice skating rink. Seasoned veterans and fledgling skaters have been taking to the ice cool surface to enjoy some festive fun amidst some of the most iconic views in the world.

Each slippery, sliding session lasts an hour and due to popularity visitors are advised to prebook. There is suitable provision for wheelchair users too.

An hour is a long time to skate but those who wish to take a break can always slide in for a quick cuppa at the Ice Cafe which is located right next to the rink. 

The only known drawback this year has been the weather as the warmest December in recorded history has led to some of the ice melting at certain points. With an awesome historical backdrop enveloping visitors, skating on the rink is a unique experience. 

The rink is open until Sunday 3rd January 2016. 

Robin In The Hood

Emdad Rahman: Writers Trish Cooke and Robert Hyman reunite with director Kerry Michael for the first time since their excellent production of Dick Whittington in 2013.

Robin Hood at the Stratford East Theatre is all about the array of fresh young talent being given an opportunity to blossom. And do this cast grasp that opportunity with gusto. 

The story commences in Strattyham with an energetic performance to engage the crowd courtesy of Robin Hood (Oliver Wellington) and Merry Men, Tuck (Geraint Rhys Edwards), Red (Alex Chang) and Titch (Ashley Joseph).

The prince of thieves and his swashbuckling posse of merry men are content with robbin' the rich to feed the poor until a change in their daily lives leaves Robin and his companions having to take on the mantle of protectors of the town of Strattyham as they seek to save the good King Richard and the poor people from the evil designs of Prince John who plots to steal the crown.  

The excellent Derek Elroy who plays Nurse is the real star of the show and bought the house down several times. Nurse and Marion, who is played by the very talented Nadia Albina meet up with Robin and his hood and the crowd gain a sense of what is to come by way of Prince John. The Kings brother is played by Michael Bertenshaw and is a truly classic pants villain. 

Against the advice of his peers Robin disguises himself to take part in the kingdoms archery contests. His true identity is discovered and the cheery champion is arrested and locked in the dungeon with no release date due. It is whilst wandering in the murky darkness that Robin meets and befriends the true King Richard (Ashley Campbell), brother of Prince John and father of Marion. King Richard had long been feared perished after being made to walk the plank by pirates. The pair escape thanks to a dragon and thwart plans for Prince John to marry Marion and publicly squash Robin and his men in the  town square.

Robin Hood is banging - It’s totally thrilling from start to finish . This great panto treat for families is suitable for children of all ages. There is much fanfare, light and laughter with the audience regularly encouraged to join in… oh yes it does! Every song and dance during the whole show was top of the tree and exquisitely choreographed to infuse the production with much vibrancy and colour. 

The show runs till January 23. 

Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, Stratford E15 1BN; until January 23, 2016. Details: 020 8534 0310.