Sunday, 30 September 2007

Braque to basics

What’s to be done when the bleeding obvious actually happens? Do you stand up, clasp your hands and shout hosanna? Or do you sit down and growl about the lethargic pace of change?

I’m an upbeat kind of person so I’m more in the camp of singing songs of joy. But I have to say that the French education minister’s announcement a few days ago that from September 2008 there’ll no longer be school on Saturday morning is overdue.

When the eldest started to partake in this a few years ago, we viewed it as a quaint convention.

But since I’ve been indulging in the football, it has become quite awkward.

Yesterday was a case in point. My usual rendez-vous with the captain of the team is at 8.45am at Porte de Montreuil over on the eastern fringes of the city. And from there Renon drives me and another player, Walter, to various grounds around the Parisian suburbs.

The meet-up is usually achievable if I drop my girls off on Saturday as soon as the doors open at 8.20. I can then get the metro and be there with minutes to spare.

But now our team is in the top flight — things are going to be more serious. Referees are going to be slimmer and there are going to be prompt starts at 9.30.

So it was 8.30 at the Porte de Montreuil. I felt as if I was deserting a major offensive at home. The darling daughters had barely eaten their breakfast when I was on the brink of departing. As for the boy, the porridge wasn’t even in globules on his bib.

Reform is what Sgt Major Sarkozy said he was going to inject into French life. And I’ve no doubt that he is going to execute his directive but a fat lot of good that is to me in the here and now.

But maybe next year in the there and then I’ll be showering rose petals on the Sgt Major.

Got to Porte de Montreuil on time. We arrived at the pitch on time. On the field on time. Well before 9.30 only to find that the opponents hadn’t marked out the lines on the pitch. Maybe they’re into the expansive game.

So while a couple of their lads went round with some line marking contraption I continued my warm-up.

This routine is now embellished with a few of the stretching movements I’ve managed to retain from yoga.

I didn’t do anything too elaborate figuring that if I adopted the warrior position, it might transmit the wrong kind of signals.

Perhaps I should have as I was hardly combative during my 20-odd minutes on the right in midfield.

I was having difficulty in the coach’s 4-3-3 model. Especially since Nelson, who was supposed to be advancing with me on the outside right had drifted into the centre.

I ceded my place and about five minutes later Nelson came off.

He was remarking on the touchline how the right flank had been substituted when we scored from a move down the left.

Our first goal in the top division. My approach at times like this is never change a winning team and though I was asked if I wanted to go back on I said that I was quite happy on the sidelines.

Especially since the opponents hadn’t scored. But as the second half wore on, they were attacking at will down our left.

The left back had endured enough after 70 minutes, so I was sent back into the fray on the left in midfield and we were back in a 4-4-2 formation.

Nelson was on the inside and when I was able to break up an attack I instinctively knew where to look for him with a simple pass so we could launch the counter.

Reviewing our 1-0 victory, I’d like to think I curbed my natural attacking instincts for the good of the collective.

I was told I’d made une bonne rentrée and that certainly didn’t need much translation or even explanation.

I set off for work at the radio station happy with my contribution. I thought I was walking to the train station when I suddenly noticed that I was in fact striding.

I slowed down, looked at my legs and took some rather deliberate footsteps to make sure that it wasn’t some victory-fuelled euphoria that had numbed the pain.

No. I could walk. Hosanna I can walk after a football match. There were no grimaces, no self-recriminations for trying to stop the icy claws of decrepitude. Praise be I can walk.

Perhaps it’s the yoga. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’d avoided the tackles of their No 12.

Even this morning I could walk. No delayed effects. But there was déjà vu.

For the second week running there were no Sunday papers in the Frequent Travellers Lounge for the benighted passengers on the 0807 from the Gare du Nord.

This time it didn’t matter because I had the laptop back after a 10 absence with a faulty CD/DVD eject button and I caught up with the film Kinky Boots, a heart-warming tale of fortitude in adversity.

Duly inspired I got on the bus at Waterloo and went over to the Tate Modern. I think I shall do an onslaught on the Tate Modern because it won’t be just around the corner when the Eurostar goes steaming into St Pancras International from November 14.

I was looking at Clarinet and Bottle of Rum, Braque’s painting from 1911. He created it when he was in Céret in southern France. Picasso was working alongside him and they swapped ideas to such an extent that they had problems distinguishing their own work.

Two ladies in their mid to late 50s were cooing over the piece, admiring the layers and the musical motifs.

“Would you put it on your wall?” I asked one of them. She said she most definitely would. “Would you?” she queried.

“I’m not so sure yet.”

“Give it a few years,” she encouraged. “And you’ll come round.”

They wandered off and I had a look at a few of the other pictures before returning to review the Braque.

“I must create a new sort of beauty,” the artist claimed in 1910. “And through that beauty interpret my subjective impression.”

That’s a pretty stringent mission statement. I’ve nothing near as bold as that to proclaim.

It would be pompous to attempt to throw out something like that too. But I have to say that I’m doing my best to live a new sort of beauty.

But can it be done without the Sunday papers?