Thursday, 30 August 2007

Doctor's orders

I was supposed to take the boy for a medical this morning but I had to abandon that idea as I needed to go to the doctor myself to get her signature so I could play in the journalists' tennis tournament at Roland Garros over the next few weeks.

I was quite looking forward to taking my son along for his series of checks. I went with my eldest daughter a few years back and they test everything there is to probe. Ears, eyes, logic and probably ask the parent a few searching questions to make sure the bairn is being reared properly.

So my partner left early to take him off while I had the pleasure of staying with the girls who would accompany me to my 1040am appointment.

To butter them up I suggested tartines at the cafe before. Actually there was quite a lot of butter on the bread. That didn't seem to be that healthy so I scraped about a teaspoonful off. That was easy to deal with.

What's not so simple to cope with usually is the waiting at the doctor. Especially with the baby who either wants to spend the time screaming or clumping around. So the trip with an eight and five-year-old was a joy.

The eldest read her Totally Spies book while the other played with the various toys in the room.

At 1115 it was my moment. The youngest came in with me obviously intrigued by the idea of me going in for a check up.

The doc did my blood pressure. Good. Quizzed me about smoking. None. Knew my cholesterol was low because that was checked last year. I said I was cutting down on the alcohol (in readiness for the new football season in the top flight) and I added that I was going more regularly to the swimming pool.

She pointed at my belly and said running is good for the muscles. Well I guess I was being self-congratulatory.

Everything was whirling along. She asked me to do 30 squats. Mimi started counting with me at around 15.

I completed the task and my heart slowed down in a healthy manner. I got my certificate and got one thrown in for the forthcoming football season.

The entire family came with me over to Auteuil to deposit the dossier at Roland Garros; the cheque for 23 euros; photocopies of the French press card; doctor's certificate and a grid detailing availability.

I left the family at the Serres D'Auteuil - a series of greenhouses holding an array of wild and wonderful plants.

Once inside the Roland Garros complex I was directed to the press centre at Court Suzanne Lenglen.

I haven't been anywhere near the stadium since Rafael Nadal unhinged the machine that is Roger Federer in the men's final back in June.

Could I too conquer my foes on the terre battue and emulate the Manacor Matador?

Unlikely. I'm not a son of the soil. Worse still I'm not even left-handed.

Back in the world of level-headed people. I found my way to the event organiser Michelle Laune. She was seated at a table covered with piles of entry forms.

I introduced myself and asked if there were likely to be any problems with me being away on Sunday and Monday in London and working most afternoons in Paris.

"Actually we're not playing on Sunday," she informed me. "Paris St Germain are playing Marseille and they're locking down the area."

"With good reason," I chimed

"Can you play this Saturday morning at 9 or 10am?"

Given my limitations it seemed churlish to say no. But if I do play on Saturday my limitations will be fairly evident.

I haven't played competitively since my school days and more importantly I haven't played since my knock-up with my godson in Denver back in July.

But this is for the experience of gracing a clay court at Roland Garros. As I went to find the family in the Serres d'Auteuil I found myself chanting: "I'm going out on the court to enjoy myself." Clich├ęd gunk but I felt like a professional for saying it.

One of Ms Laune's helpers said there were about 170 people down to take part. I'm relaxed about the form of it all as I plan to go out and give it my best shot because I'm a Corinthian at heart and besides I don't have any rivals on the sports journalist circuit whom I just absolutely have to annihilate.

Would PSG and Marseille approach their Division 1 matches in a similarly beatific way. Their rivalry knows no bounds. But it's a pitifully young animosity in comparison to a clash between Rangers and Celtic or Arsenal and Tottenham or even Liverpool and Manchester United.

Why it couldn't really hold a flare to the intricate republican/fascist angst of a Barca v Real Madrid showdown.

Essentially the PSG Marseille squabble goes back to the early 90's, when Marseille was dominating the championship and the TV channel Canal+ bought PSG and made it a big team.

PSG don't really do great things in the league now. No one does because Lyon has usually had the title sewn up before a ball is kicked in anger.

In fact at the moment it's fascinating in France because Lyon aren't 200,000 points clear after five games.

Winning six games is my motivation at the moment. I just have to make sure the opponent doesn't have seven.