Reviewed: Sky Blues Interactive

Stuck in the Midlands with you.

Sky Blues Interactive
BBC Coventry and Warwickshire

“I just wanna say, guys, I mean really, to be fair, look at the results tonight, did any of you see how it was all coming, ’cause, for me, although we absolutely sort of professionally took a part with regards to the counter-attack and everything else, I mean nil-nil away? We needed to win. I thought we’d at least win one or two-nil. We needed to win.”

This was a Coventry fan, Dan, down the line to BBC Coventry and Warwickshire’s football phone-in (23 February, 5pm) vociferously complaining about his team’s nil-nil draw with Crewe Alexandra. But having left moments before the end of the match, he had evidently missed his team’s last moment goals.

“Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan . . .” interrupts the presenter, with electricity in his voice (he knows this clip is about to go viral). “We won 2-0.”

“What?”

Rarely has the moaning football fan been so hilariously and succinctly exposed. But everything about the caller’s manner illustrates precisely why radio programmes such as this, and Radio 5 Live’s 606, are increasingly hard listen to: the jigsawing together of Match of the Day-termettes like “with regards to” and “to be fair” and “for me”.

The coy mention of “professionalism” followed by unfettered rage.

Literally every call is now like this. Postmatch, the fans – on speakerphone in the car, clearly after a few – spit boundless fury. The “supporters’ trust” entitlement! The sheer stamina for complaint! Without doubt, it’s getting worse. An insistence that we must be listened to has always obtained in football, of course, but it’s all the more nutty now that it’s being directed at the uninterested capitalists that own the clubs.

Dan was even angry when he found out that Coventry had won. “Leon Clarke header?” he spluttered. “We left two minutes before the end of the game!”

Meanwhile, a midnight email from Planet Rock’s informed listeners announced that Led Zeppelin had been named the most influential band of all time in a February-long poll. The mail was panickedly abrupt – a mere telegram pressed into Mel Gibson’s hand before sprinting along the Anzac trenches to Zep’s “The Battle of Evermore”, with Giuseppe Rotunno behind the camera insisting on long master-shots. A later missive confirmed that Freddie Mercury and his harem of stockbrokers were runners-up and that Black Sabbath had followed up the poll’s rear. Stop.

There's always time for a Leon Clarke header. Photograph: Getty Images

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 04 March 2013 issue of the New Statesman, The fall of Pistorius

NANCY JO IACOI/GALLERY STOCK
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There are only two rules for an evening drink: it must be bitter, and it must be cold

A Negroni is the aperitif of choice in bars everywhere from London to Palermo - and no wonder.

The aperitif has the odd distinction of being the only alcohol that can always rely on a sober audience: it is the opener, the stimulant, a spur to the appetite for good food and good conversation. This preparatory beverage is considered the height of sophistication, and certainly nobody labouring in field or factory ever required a pep to their evening appetite. Still, to take a drink before one starts drinking is hardly clever behaviour. So why do it?

One reason is surely the wish to separate the working day from the evening’s leisure, an increasingly pressing matter as we lose the ability to switch off. This may change the nature of the aperitif, which was generally supposed to be light, in alcohol and character. Once, one was expected to quaff a pre-dinner drink and go in to dine with faculties and taste buds intact; now, it might be more important for those who want an uninterrupted meal to get preprandially plastered. That way, your colleagues may contact you but they won’t get much sense out of you, and pretty soon they’ll give up and bother someone else.

The nicest thing about the aperitif, and the most dangerous, is that it doesn’t follow rules. It’s meant to be low in alcohol, but nobody ever accused a gin and tonic or a Negroni (Campari, gin and vermouth in equal portions) of that failing; and sherry, which is a fabulous aperitif (not least because you can keep drinking it until the meal or the bottle ends), has more degrees of alcohol than most wines. An aperitif should not be heavily perfumed or flavoured, for fear of spoiling your palate, yet some people love pastis, the French aniseed drink that goes cloudy in water, and that you can practically smell across the Channel. They say the scent actually enhances appetite.

Really only two rules apply. An aperitif should be bitter – or, at any rate, it shouldn’t be sweet, whatever the fans of red vermouth may tell you. And it must be cold. Warm drinks such as Cognac and port are for after dinner. Not for nothing did Édith Piaf warble, in “Mon apéro”, about drowning her amorous disappointments in aperitifs: fail to cool your passions before sharing a table, and you belong with the barbarians.

On the other hand, conversing with your nearest over a small snack and an appropriate beverage, beyond the office and before the courtesies and complications of the dinner table, is the essence of cultured behaviour. If, as is sometimes thought, civilisation has a pinnacle, surely it has a chilled apéro carefully balanced on top.

The received wisdom is that the French and Italians, with their apéritifs and aperitivos, are the experts in these kinds of drinks. Certainly the latter are partial to their Aperol spritzes, and the former to such horrid, wine-based tipples as Lillet and Dubonnet. But the English are good at gin and the Americans invented the Martini. As for Spain, tapas were originally snacks atop a covering that kept the flies out of one’s pre-dinner drink: tapa means lid.

Everywhere, it seems, as evening approaches, people crave a drink that in turn will make them salivate: bitterness, the experts tell us, prepares the mouth to welcome food. The word “bitter” may come from “bite”, in which case the aperitif’s place before dinner is assured.

I like to think that a good one enables the drinker to drown all sour feelings, and go in to dinner cleansed and purified. Fanciful, perhaps. But what better lure to fancy than a beverage that exists only to bring on the evening’s pleasures?

Nina Caplan is the Louis Roederer Pio Cesare Food and Wine Writer of the Year

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times