Thursday, 31 July 2008

The Generations

The ladies in the frequent traveller lounge asked me if I was going on holiday.

True I did look the part with my jaunty straw hat and stripey shirt. Both purchased for the princely sum of 6 euros from Thanx I’m a VIP just opposite the children’s school in Paris.

I said that I was going back to work. I’d been on holiday.

As there weren’t that many people around, the ladies asked me if I’d been upstairs. I said I’d disturbed the tranquillity there once before with the children.

As they weren’t with me today, it seemed a good time to return and savour the wonders again.

Upstairs in the lounge is no different from downstairs in the lounge. Only you get the chance to use a spiral staircase.

It all seems so novel. Before I took my year away from the weekly commutes, the lounge at St Pancras International wasn’t really up and running. But it is now and it is far better than the one at Waterloo.

But I still prefer Waterloo as a venue. But it’s gone. It’s in the past. The future is primped and golden.

I’ve been driving regularly through Kings Cross during my trips between north London - where I’ve been staying with the brood - and south London where my mother and grandfather have been residing.

Kings Cross is pregnant. New life is hovering. I’m reluctant to say renaissance because that would denigrate the vitality of what was there before.

OK it might have been prostitutes and drugs but in there were a few ordinary legal things.

But away from the glittering prospects of Kings Cross, I have to say that Wednesday was emotionally tough. I went down to south London early to see my granddad who is going back to Jamaica on Friday.

At 91, it’s possible that it was the last time I’ll see him. But I thought the same thing in October when I saw him in America. But I guess that since he doesn’t exactly live round the corner in Paris, there will be one parting which will be the last.

I had to say goodbye to my mother too. She’s going back to America on Monday, the same day I leave for China.

She says she has to have a few tests when she gets back home. Though I don’t think her demise is imminent, the farewells don’t really inject joy into my soul ahead of a 10 hour plane ride.

Hanging out as one of four generations of a family is a rare gift. Since October I’ve done it in the States, London and Paris.

That’s massive in the big picture book.

Friday, 18 July 2008

The Jumper

When it comes to jumps, few have beaten Bob Beamon's effort from 1968. It was 8.90m. A world record that stood for 23 years.

Beamon was in Paris this week to talk about his leap and the Olympic ideal. I went along to the Novotel Eiffel Tower to listen in and record his utterances for a magazine.

He said inter alia that setting world records was one thing but winning the gold medal was the essence of competition.

And he mentioned Mike Powell, his fellow American who broke the record with a jump of 8.95 at the world championships in Tokyo in 1991.

But Powell never won gold at an Olympic Games.

That, said Beamon, was quite sad.

I remember the images of Beamon at those games in Mexico. My mother, sister and me watched the olympics on a dodgy black and white TV. There was also David Coleman's commentary - a time when the BBC was the place to watch all the big events.

Beamon was in town while my mother and grandfather were visiting. It was my grandfather's first time in Paris. At 91 he seemed chuffed to be here.

He mused that he'd never been to Paris during his 30 odd years in England before retiring to Jamaica back in the early 80s.

My mother has been a couple of times since I moved here.

So we all did the tourism thang - Bateaux Mouches, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and a few of the local bars in the 10th. Four generations in a cafe.

I'll see them next week when I go over to London before they all set off on their various ways back to the United States and Jamaica.

At some stage I'm going to have to sit down and ponder the impact of all this apartness. Especially with everyone getting older.

Beamon was the apt figure to be passing through. Both my grandfather and my mother took big leaps during their lives - his - going from Jamaica to England - hers - going from Jamaica to England and then on to America.

London to Paris is minor in comparison but it's clearly a trend.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The Latest Quest XI

I'm still too frightened to read the rules on blogging from the Olympics. Maybe it's because I have other things on my mind.

Rain at Wimbledon played havoc with my television viewing and sports bulletins today. It meant that Canal+ had to show old matches. They started off with Richard Gasquet and Andy Murray's fourth round epic in which Murray came from two sets down to beat the French boy.

They then wheeled out Federer against Pete Sampras from 2001. The one where Rog beats Pete and the commentators said it's the passing of the baton. Sampras has been beaten by the New Sampras.

And so it came to pass that King Roger did reign on the lawns of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

After last year's lucky escape in the final against Rafael Nadal, I just don't think he's going to get away with it this year.

Nadal has just mashed up Murray in the quarter final. While Federer did do more or less the same thing to Mario Ancic. So they're both into the semis.

But while I was watching the Federer Sampras thing. I wondered why I warmed to Federer.

And it is simply because when he beat Sampras he was a spotty youthed kid who blubbed when he won. They had close ups of Federer's face and there was the late adolescent acne tucked away beneath the Nike headband.

Me and the missus are agreed that Roger is not world number one in the pretty boy tennis player stakes.

But his lambent beauty is the way he plays the game. The silky agility and luminous ease. Not one for grunting he.

Rog blubbed when he won Wimbledon in 2003 and I got tearful too. Mainly because you got the feeling that had he not been a tennis genius he would have been the type to get bullied in class.

I think he's ace. And even if he does get crunched up before Sunday's final or even in Sunday's showdown, he has defined the way the game should be played.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Directors

I came out of the TV room at the office to see that the boss was with SOME DIGNATARIES. So I sat down at my desk and started to look very busy.

It wouldn't have done for them to look in on the TV room to see me with my feet up and watching Wimbledon even if it is actually part of my job.

So I peered at a computer screen. The new superboss was introduced to operatives in the newsroom and while he was chatting away with one of my American colleagues, I was introduced to a elegantly clad lady. I smiled and said: "Hello."

Really because anything else might have been job threatening.

It seemed apt that the new director swept through because I have downloaded the guidelines on blogging from the Olympics. It is a long document and I will go through it in the fullness of time.

Suffice it to say that there will be certain things I will not be able to write about from China unless I want one of the Olympic rings around my neck.

But given that the content of the blog is rarely politically explosive, I'm sure I won't have anything to worry about.

However if there are clauses about clamping down on extravagant literary brilliance, then obviously I'm in trouble.