Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Court craft

The call has come through to play in the journalists' tournament at Roland Garros.

Wednesday morning at 10.15. I have no idea how to prepare for a match of this magnitude.

It’s probably not a good idea to stay up during the night to watch Novak Djokovic take on Juan Monacao in the last 16 at the US Open.

I might be best served by sleeping.

But I do know that it's probably not worth treating it like a usual game and getting up at 9 and having breakfast and ambling along to the courts.

It would have been good to have had one coaching session before but I've been working, doing my day job. I'm not a professional.

Of more importance is the boy's adaptation to his new life in the crèche. It was something of a saga getting a place. I documented the ups and downs in an article published a few weeks ago on one of the Guardian websites www.guardianabroad.co.uk/family/article/339

And after that tribulation there's an upside for the parent after dropping off the fruit of their loins at the crèche. It is slap bang opposite Chez Prune.

This is a cafe that doesn't try too hard. The food there is OK - not brilliant, not awful. The position — overlooking the Canal St Martin — is marvellous. And most importantly it was in the vanguard. It opened when the 10th was still considered a dead zone and the canal but a dirty and forlorn urban waterway.

Now of course it's a gleaming green canal — the epicentre of the bobo wonderland that has descended. At one of the spruced-up sluices Audrey Tautou ran the gamut of gamine as Amélie Poulain. Local estate agents thereafter chortled all the way to the Michelin-starred restaurants.

Maybe I'll be dining out with them with the earnings from my impending tennis career.

Hello Dali

"Your moustache looks so rigid — How does it react to the winds of public opinion?"

"She bends."

Oh that crazy Salvador Dali. Towards the end of the exhibition about the showman incarnate at the Tate Modern in London, there's a series of photographs with a few witty words from the rogue himself.

It was my second trip on Monday to see it. The first was about nine days ago. But that was with the entire family on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Since the Notting Hill Carnival was frenzying up the western sector, London Underground had laid on a fully functioning network.

That didn't necessarily mean that we could travel any more efficiently, but it was reassuring to know that they weren't making it more difficult.

We met my sister and her chap in the Turbine Hall and after coffees split up. She took the girls round somewhere while Ann, the boy and I went round the Dali & Film.

In the wacky race that is Hollywood, Dali ought to have fitted in a treat. And indeed he did but with some strange bedfellows such as Alfred Hitchcock, Walt Disney and The Marx Brothers.

Actually teaming up in any capacity with Harpo, Zeppo, Chico and Groucho would have to be a zany experience.

But the exhibition showed snippets of Un Chien Andalou and L'Age d'or. I knew about the dream sequence from Hitchcock's Spellbound.

There's the finely chiseled Gregory Peck on the psychiatrist's couch relating his innermost thoughts to Ingrid Bergman.

A man with no face, being chased by a shadow of wings, and wheels dropping.

You just have to love the bravura.

What I didn't know was that Hitchcock was a big fan of Un Chien Andalou and there's a clin d'oeil to the Dali/Bunuel film when a pair of scissors cuts through a photograph of an eye.

The razor blade across the eye in Un Chien Andalou still makes me squirm. Others — such as a bleeding horse's head on a piano — makes me chuckle. Ants on the hand leave me baffled.

I don't recall being overly impressed during my tour of the Dali Museum in Figueres. I went there about 20 years ago. It was during a trip to north-eastern Spain to see a then friend of mine, Nick, whose parents owned an apartment.

And the idea was to meet up with an Australian friend who was travelling through Europe.

The details are hazy now but I'd arranged to be at Nick's on something like July 21.
And told Caroline as much.

I phoned Nick to say there'd be a delay but I couldn't get any word to Caroline. This was in the time before emails and mobile phones.

So after my weekend in Manchester with a new flame, I set off for Spain.

I got there on — let's say July 24 — a few days late admittedly. Nick and Caroline were at the train station greet me.

Once I'd settled in Nick was asking me if there was anything between Caroline and me because he thought she was rather lovely.

I said definitely not, she's an intelligent girl.

Caroline wanted to know why I was late. I said I'd just met this woman and given the choice between travelling to north-eastern Spain and shacking up in northern England, I'd chosen the Lancastrian option.

I thought I was plausible but Caroline didn't buy it. I remember it to this day. "No, come on, why were you late?"

I obviously didn't look the type who could hang out for a weekend with a woman. I was hurt and quite insulted but still had enough about me to concoct a story about Barclaycard not giving me the credit to pay for tickets and being cash-strapped.

She accepted that reason and then she let the matter drop. We went on to have quite a good holiday.

While Caroline doesn't now remember repudiating my masculinity, we can both reconfigure the train trip back to Paris in which some bloke (who Caroline probably fancied) went to light up in the corridor between the non-smoking carriages at the same time as this good-looking woman (who I would have probably fancied had I not been still thinking northern England).

And obviously amid the haze there was a spark. They both returned and were virtually smoking each other by the end of the train ride.

Caroline went on with her Europa tour and I went back to London.

It later went surreal with the girl from Manchester but that's another story. Dali always whips up those memories.

So it wasn't surprising that on the solo visit to the Tate on Monday I found the Millennium Bridge swaddled in a spongy cash and coins carpet.

I wish it swayed as it did when it was opened. But it doesn't and that's the past.
The future, according to the MasterCard PayPass, is cashless.

A card thrust into my hand told me the MasterCard PayPass would change the way I pay for items under £10.

There'll be less waiting, less queuing and no fumbling for change.

To pay with MasterCard PayPass I will simply Tap & Go.

I'll be able to use this facility at around 1,000 retailers with the number rising to 5,000 in the near future.

All I now have to do is check availability with my bank and of course visit a website www.mastercard.co.uk/paypass

I'm not entirely clear I want to contact my bank for another card for the rather lovely wallet I bought in Mulberry while killing time at Stansted airport before the flight to Stockholm.

I quite like my change purse. The chink chink of little pieces of cash link me with my perceptions of being grown up.

When I was a child, adults had change. And people with cars had keys. We once hired a Renault to drive from Paris to visit friends in Burgundy. After I'd done the paperwork, the Avis assistant handed me a rubbery oblong object.

I looked at it, up at her and was just about to ask when I was told that it was the key.

No jingle jangle. No teeth. No way. Have to say the Renault was brilliant. Shame about the key.

I'm not signing up for the cashless future quite yet but I might well track down some Bunuel films on DVD.

It would be absurd not to.