Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Knee II

I now realise the pain I'm feeling is symptomatic of the worldwide disfunction in the money markets. I was happily reading the news today or rather trying to avoid making too many errors.

For some reason a story about African migrants trying to sail their way to the Canary Islands was the one that got away from me.

It started: "Spanish coastguards......" but twice I read: "Spanish postguards....." What was going on? No idea.

Who are the Spanish postguards?

Monday, 29 September 2008

The Knee

Of course with all the yoga and swimming, I now consider any ache or slight pain an affront to the regime. I have got into thinking that I'm not going to get any kind of injury.

So the right knee feeling a bit gammy is strange since I don't remember it being a problem during the match on Saturday. Perhaps I was so adrenalin drenched after the goal that I just did not entertain pain.

Well the pain has messed up me warrior positions and I'm moving like I've never ever done yoga. I was going to go on the bike to work today. But I thought that might be asking for trouble.

Maybe a swim is needed. That's painless. And instead of adrenalin there's chlorine.

Just what's needed before reading the day's news. What with all the bail outs all over the place.

I was due to be the producer but there's been a change. This has meant no tennis practice on Tuesday night. That is annoying but one has to accommodate the boss.

Ah the whiff of compromise.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

The Wonder of Bagnolet

Apologies to German footballing folklore but it was a wonder. The new season started with a 3-0 win for the team. And after stalemate in the first half, the deadlock was broken by what for me was a wonder strike.

Nothing like a 25 metre screamer - sadly I can't kick the ball that hard but an off the ball run from just inside my own half to arrive undetected in the penalty area and sweep the ball in from about 10 metres out with the left foot past the keeper who didn't even have time to dive.

It was that incisive. What I liked about this was seeing the space in the penalty area, running into it and then calculating that as the pass came over I had to hit it first time.

It was a conjunction of beauties. I ran to the provider of the pass smiling: "Nice one, nice one." For indeed it was a nice one.

I then said to a teammate it was perhaps a bit lucky that it all came together.

But as I struck the ball I was relaxed "in the moment" - to cite Stephanie Rice.

After that the opponents seemed in a bit of disarray as they were in two minds about defending deep to stop a similar surge but of course they had to go forward to equalise.

The two later goals were products of their confusion.

One of their players complimented me on a "beau but" at the end of the match.

My goal turned the game but it's unlikely to turn my head.

But it did make me smile.

Friday, 26 September 2008

The Night Before The New Season

Well it only seems like yesterday that we were being passed into the ground. Division 2 is ours again as we roll out for the new season.

The first match. The tension is mounting chez moi so much so that I went to a yoga relaxation class tonight.

The teacher, Michelle, got us into a downward facing dog and then onto our knees and told us to lunge forward and then try to pull back a foot with one hand.

I was most upset that cramp kicked in as soon as I tried. I thought it was a test of balance. Maybe my legs haven't been strengthened this week by cycling.

In fact there's been a singular lack of cycling this week and then I was denied my morning plunge in the pool.

I was put on boy watch duty at 6.15am as he didn't want to sleep anymore and I was conveniently placed in the sitting room listening to the radio and getting ready to go to the pool.

I gave him breakfast and we ended up watching Thunderbirds till his sisters were roused for school.

By the time I started losing focus in my tennis match I realised I'd been up a good four and a half hours.

I was burnt out. Cramp at 7.30pm was - like our descent last season - inevitable.

The watchwords for the season: short passing game/pass and move.

And with apologies to Madonna: Get into the groove, boy you've got to pass and move that ball to me yeah.

Let's hope I play better than that flourish.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Club

It was cocktails at the Tennis Club Boulougne Billancourt. All courtesy of the journalists tournament there. I got talking to a man from the club and I think I'll sign up there.

I'm going to go for the life of contrasts. The chic environs of the west of Paris and the hard urban edge of the city's north-east.

The polarity will be good for my soul. No chance of getting too chummy with the quasi country club clique.

But it did feel like a tennis club, lots of courts and the setting is there too.

Having once belonged to a tennis club in Streatham that is important. Somewhere where you can just go and spend a few hours, play and watch other people play.

At the Streatham club, they stopped for tea at 4pm. I don't think they do that sort of thing in Paris. But I won't find out without joining up.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Restaurant

Cafe life is so tough. It conjures up so many choices. Sitting here on Avenue Parmentier at the whatever it's called by Goncourt metro station and I'm wondering whether I should go and try the cuisine at some place called Chateaubriand on Saturday night.

Just how far can you go by reviews? Some say the place is over trendy and the dishes aren't that big. But then sitting on the terrace at the whatever it is called, some people arrived and started smoking.

When the smoke came my way, I asked the bloke if he could possibly send it in another direction. His mate began telling me outside was free space and inside there were smoke free zones.

Talk about touchy, just a request to divert the smoke if possible not a demand to stop smoking. Anyway Martin Luther who was going on about free space told me that the wifi was affecting his heart. I offered to turn the computer off but I don't think that was the point of his argument.

Actually, Martin, your smoke is doing more harm to your heart than my computer but when Martin, his mate and their chum all flicked their fag ends into the kerb, I realised these freedom loving citizens and me weren't ever going to see eye to eye.

And since I have a computer to protect, it's probably best no to get into a fight with this sort.

Now back to the Chateaubriand question. That's much more of a meaty issue.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Test II

The brilliant idea backfired spectacularly. It wasn't a three minute assessment. It lasted nearly an hour. Fortunately I got away with it as the girls more or less occupied the boy for about 45 minutes while I ran around with a few people who were more adept than me.

Alain said he'd call me. But will he?

Oh the angst.

But this being tennis, it's only up to a point so to speak. The children didn't cause havoc in the club house.

So even if the backhand is deeply dodgy, there's something going right somewhere.

Monday, 22 September 2008

The Test

It's becoming quite forensic this search for the tennis club. I'd like to think this thoroughness is a result of the PD James novel that I've just finished reading. It was called The Murder Room. It seems an appropriate title for a crime writer.

I started reading it on the way back from Beijing. It took my mind off being 400,000 feet up in the air and also kept me from playing with my reclining seat in Business Class.

After all I didn't want to look like a six-year-old.

And I've been very mature about this quest for the tennis club. After going for a test the other night and being told I could join a group to buff up my skills, I went to one of the sites where the members can play. It's up at Porte des Lilas in the north-east of the city. Not too far on the metro from where we live.

I've never been to Porte des Lilas and there's a huge project to green up the massive roundabout there which is criss-crossed by roads leading to the péripherique.

The state of the outdoor courts are appalling. The indoor courts seem fine and I got chatting to the site manager who told me that the site was going to be demolished and relocated to spanking new courts just where the cranes were. This was not far away at all.

He obviously told one of the club members that I'd been sniffing around.

Because Alain asked if I'd been up to the covered courts this afternoon. I said that before dishing out the cash I thought it wise to see what the facilities were like.

He couldn't fault my logic because it was flawless. The upshot is that Alain now wants to test my lack of skills so he can allot me to an appropriate group of similarly benighted wannabes.

The only snag about the test on Tuesday night is that while I was arranging that the missus was organising a night out with one of her mates who's visiting from England.

It's good to come home and share the day's developments.

Knowing how important my tennis is to me, she offered to rearrange it. Knowing how insignificant it is in comparison to her chance to go out with her mates, I said I'd try and get a baby sitter.

But then as I ate supper and my blood sugar levels were being bolstered, I was hit by a second swing of logic. Just take the children with me.

It's not going to require more than a dozen sweeps of the racquet to assess how I fit into the lesson scheme of things. The girls can surely entertain the boy for the three minutes or so of my assessment.

And if they can't, then maybe I should be concentrating on my parenting skills rather than my dodgy backhand.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Quest

After my horrendous exhibitions in the two journalist tennis tournaments I've decided - and I mean really decided - to take matters in hand.

I will join a club. I've spent a good part of the day trawling through the internet in search of a tennis club. The Fédération Française de Tennis claims that tennis is a sport réservé à tous. Right.

Try looking for a club to join.

I have furrowed my brows and I eventually said to the missus tonight that things must be going well if this is the extent of the stress in my life.

You're havin' it too easy boy. But as a diplomat once told me: enjoy the fallow periods when they come because when it's on, it can be on for a long time. Was it really me working those 18-19 hour days in Beijing?

Well, yes it was.

Me and the lady went off for lunch this afternoon at a local Corsican bistrot. Was recommended by neighbours on the 4th floor. And rather than going to our usual haunt of Le Petit Chateau D'Eau we tried Le Balbuzard. And though the leaks in vinaigrette were a bit watery, the rest of it was wholly nourishing and for 11 euros per head and a lavish 6€ for the wine. Well weren't we happy.

The idea afterwards was to go to the Orangerie to look at the pretty pictures. But there was an exhibition of Richard Avedon at the Jeu de Paume so we walked round that instead.

Martina Navratilova was there too. Clearly she knew we were going to be there.

Avedon extravaganza wasn't at all bad. More comprehensible than the stuff at the Pompidou. At least it was human. All about faces and people.

What I liked especially was walking out into the Tuileries on a bright sunny autumn afternoon and seeing loads of people out doing the same thing. Existing. Enthusing. I particularly liked the Tuileries security corps who go round on bicycles telling people they're not allowed to cycle.

I never thought of that one.

What I did think of when I got back from yoga though was a relationship breaking down and there being no contest over who would have the children.

However the strife would be over the wine cellar. A bitter battle over bottles. I said I felt a short story coming on. The missus said each case could be a vignette and then it could end with champagne with the new partner.

We like the concept.

It sounds more plausible than people on bikes telling people on bikes that they shouldn't be on bikes.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Water Baby

The Pompidou Centre was bathed in sunlight when me and the second child went there for afternoon tea. It was all something of deja vu.

In the morning I went swimming with the boy. I did this with the eldest and the second child and so it seems only right that he goes too. The swimming instructors greeted me like a long lost client - which is essentially what I am.

So me and the boy stayed and played in the water for 20 minutes or so. All very bonding.

As the eldest is off the Pompidou Centre - something to do with an orientation trip with school two or so years back - the middle one is the only taker for the bus ride there.

We didn't muck about with exhibition stuff. We headed right for the sixth floor and Georges for our drinks. She took the chocolat viennoise and I did look on the lashings of chantilly cream rather enviously as I supped my cafe.

She said she liked the exhibition too. I didn't take the brochure and have no idea what it was about nor who was involved. Must say it wasn't obvious to the naked eye.

I will go back and read up about it. Maybe then I'll get it. But whoever it is, it doesn't ooze accessibility.

I always thought that was the first rule of creativity. But then I'm very old school on that score.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Setback

Well it was a gloriously sunny morning and the tennis club was well located. I lost to exactly the same person I'd lost to at the journalists' tournament at Roland Garros. Well at least I discovered a new club. They say they just want the money. There's no waiting list and no interview. Oh the facility of cash. So I might give the Tennis club of Boulogne Billancourt a go for a year.

It's only two buses away from the radio station so it's easy to get to work afterwards. What could be better. Tennis and work all in the same sweep. You just know you want t.

The chumpions league is back with some very odd results. But as Jimmy Greaves used to say on TV: "It's a funny old game." Was that really Jimmy Greaves's coinage or was he just regurgitating some other wag?

Don't know. Will now go and talk to someone from Cricket Australia about their tour to India.

Monday, 15 September 2008

The Trial

And it only seems like yesterday that Man Utd were penaltying their way past Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League final. And it is starting up again on Tuesday. Well my heart is with Inter Milan this season because of that poor flunky Jose Mourinho whose brand of winning football was so ceremoniously booted out of west London for a brand of unwinning anything.

Well while the professionals are running around after a ball, I'm going to hit a ball with a tennis racquet. After not really having the game to advance further than the second round at the journalist's tournament at Roland Garros, I've pledged to be better for next year. So I am going to get some coaching and play more regularly because it's no point coming up with Federer like forehands if I can't then at least hit a vaguely competent backhand.

So to work. But before then another journalist tournament. This one's not far from Roland Garros. It is in the Tennis Club of Boulogne Billancourt. The fees make it seem snobby, just have to see what the reception is like if you want to sign up.

Question is do they stop at 4pm for tea. That's the sign of a decent club

Saturday, 13 September 2008

The New Season

I can't believe it. It only seems like yesterday that the football team was being thrashed by any old iron. That was in the top division and the big time. Now it's back to division 2 and, I suppose, the little time.

After the second training session this morning, the new boots seem to be coming on well. I've also discovered the joys of the short passing game. I will advocate the pass and run offensive this season.

Whether I have the physique to do this only yoga and swimming will tell. But after three weeks at the Olympics, you have to dream.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Upgrade

After all these years of not rushing to a plane. It was all wrong. I just needed to pay more to go business class.

For some reason I was put in there on the flight back from Beijing to Paris and 10 hours just flew past. I played with the chair settings. I was particularly fond of the setting for sleeping. So I pressed it and slept.

And then the one for being reclined and so on. Nevertheless I was overjoyed at the setting which meant I had to use two feet to get off the craft.

Perhaps this is what I've been missing over the years.

Monday, 1 September 2008

The Tourist Departs

My time at the Courtyard 7 is at an end. I take a flight back home this afternoon.

One of the upshots of the trip has been that if I'm going to be up in the air, which I don't particularly like, then it's better to be in a plane than in a chairlift.

But obviously one has to do certain things to go and see bits of the Great Wall.

Taking such a contraption was never in my evaluation when it came to seeing such a piece of history.

Beijing has been a varied experience. Like any big city there is the new and the traditional. What will be interesting to see is how those two factors develop.

The Olympics site was all very gleaming but what now for the Water Cube? During the week spent here on holiday, I've been able to see the other side - the restaurants, the tacky bar strips, the hip zones and the corporate power sectors.

And obviously it's going to be the personal that I'll hang on to. It'll will always be questionable whether the Olympics should have been staged in Beijing.

What is certain is it's a brilliant place to be.