Friday, 25 December 2009

The Big Day

Seems a relief not to be anywhere near a train. Church this morning was rather sombre. It was a Eucharist service which meant lots of recitation. Agnus Dei. Very high stuff. Not many carols. It was for the high hards. The church was cold but that's not the point. The point is to go along and hear a tiny bit about the big day.

Certainly did that. Usual Christmas fare and then the snooze. At least these days I've got a three-year-old to cosy up to for the siesta.

And then there's the viewing. Dr Who the two part special which culminates on New Year's Day. So that was a non-starter as we won't be here on New Year's Day. But then again with Eurostar......

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

It Is Coming

So the trains are running again. And there's a chance to go to London. You just have to take it really. So Wednesday is the day. Only five days after we were supposed to travel. And precisely one day after I had psyched myself up to staying in Paris. But the children ought to see their grandparents. But I am sad since this is the first Christmas for a while that I won't be having it with my dad. I cry from time to time. Actually the strangest things set me off. But this, I guess, is normal. Having a blocked nose doesn't help.

Not sure if my current state is really travel worthy. But you just have to try.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The Non Christmas

Even though I may have been neglecting my blog duties of late, it seems that one of the planks of my lifestyle has gone into retro mode.

Eurostar has been crippled over the past few days due to the wrong kind of snow getting into the electrics of the locomotives. Services have been cancelled between Paris and London since Saturday - the day we were supposed to be heading over the England.

I have informed the bosses in London that I cannot come and do my duty as I am at the mercy of a train that cannot do snow.

It was a shame then that I finished editing and writing this for the radio station's website as I had a few extra days. But perhaps the deadline was a good thing. I got it done.

I also got a second passport done so I could travel to England. The first passport is with the Angolan consulate getting the visa inserted for the big trip in January to the Africa Cup of Nations.

There'll be no snow in Angola. But they do have mines.

Those definitely aren't good for trains.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Picture

Quite a palaver getting a picture taken. An old friend was visiting with her two children and I decided to take them to Le Grand Corona for a coffee. I thought there would be a photo booth at Alma Marceau. No. I asked at the ticket office and the lady said go to St Philippe du Roule or Franklin Roosevelt. Off I went to St Phil and sat in the booth. It swallowed my euro and then refused to work.

So back I went to Franklin. To abridge: it took me ages to get a picture. The pose that I managed to muster was remarkably calm given the trauma of the prelude.

The picture is now in the Angola visa dossier and I await the next step. We will fly out on January 5 on Ethiopian Airways. The radio station has not paid the broadcast rights.

I am still unsure as to whether I will be able to get into mixed zones and the like to interview the players.

If that doesn't happen, then it will be a very tough competition to cover.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Experiment

And just as I thought it was safe to avoid the joys of Paris....

Thought I would try adding a bit of technology to the blog. The little breakfast extravaganza is available from a cafe called le Grand Corona which is just on the Place de L'Alma.

You could be macabre and say it is the perfect place to take a coffee before going to see where Princess Di and Dodi met their ends.

But I'm not like that. It is just a choice venue to watch the fashionable people and cars go by. It is also the best tartine and coffee I've had.

The Season

It's an absolute disgrace. Nothing added since the last time. But of course since then there has been abject failure on the football field which, let's face it, has been the main thrust of the blog.

The season in the top flight is a top fright. Each weekend brings another atrocity. But at least it's not a profession.

Good job too. But how long can it go on? Not long for me as I am out this coming game. Did something rather odd to my left leg a few weeks back.

I went last Saturday to go and be the linesman but as one player could only do 45 minutes and another turned up and just about managed to warm up, I waddled around. But it was very unsatisfying. Unable to accelerate at all was frustrating.

I am gradually becoming restored. But by the time it happens I should be in Angola. Going to cover the African Cup of Nations for the radio station.

Jolly decent of them too. Will have to work ferociously hard. But oh the sun. Get those short sleeves out baby.

And of course what DVDs to take? I took the Matrix trilogy last time. And I remember waking up at various moments during the night hearing the pounding soundtrack.

It was a bit too pompous. I am thinking Die Hard or even the Rockford Files - perhaps the latter as the dialogue is good and who knows it might give me a few ideas for my reports.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Aftermath

Good grief it's only a game. But this is a far far bigger thing than all of us. The Irish FA want the France Ireland match replayed. Oh please the last one was bucklingly dull.

To play it over again? But why not since it was decided by outrageous cheating. Outrageous skill was never going to decide it so why not resort to the dark side.

Thierry you are no Jedi. Ho hum but the French football association and FIFA don't care about honour. it's results that count and what bigger result than getting to the world cup finals.

But at what cost to your mortal soul? Me soul? That went long ago.

I've seen enough on a Saturday morning with clunkers like me to know that odd things happen with people and football. The corinthian precepts go out of the window.

Perhaps that's why I would never have made it. I wasn't brought up to be like that and I never had being like that thrust upon me.

I once wrote in a blog that for me football is about how you can dine out on the game. Spouting off and being told to be quiet because no one wants to hear about the fantastic angled ball to set up a goal or the sliding tackle to avert a goal.

But these are things that can be dampened with good humour. Would you ever try to dine out on: "I handled the ball and got a cross in for my team mate to score. We were all pleased. The ref didn't spot it."

And with cameras galore watching the ignominy. You win a game. You lose the right.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Ta Ta Ti Ti

Quite how you are supposed to teach youngsters the joy of participation when you see the professionals being ever so dodgy.

France got through to the World Cup thanks to their captain Thierry (Titi to his team mates) Henry handling the ball and then passing it for William Gallas to score.

It wasn't the ball hit me hand ref, it was more I made sure I controlled the ball with me mits.

Oh well. France through and Ireland out. No feat of genius. No flash of skill. Just plain old fashioned cheating.

The match was tough to watch. Indeed it was dire fare and I don't think I was seeing the potential world champions battling it out.

Went off for supper before the match with me mate Charlie who was over from London. And then we saw the match from about the hour mark. What with extra time, it was about an hour's worth of "top quality" football. Dire.

While at tennis practice, there was a cacophony outside the tennisdrome. Klaxons galore as the Algerians all came out to blare their happiness as their team had beaten Egypt 1-0 in Khartoum to advance to the finals for the first time since 1986.

No element of a handball in their goal.

But then they're not the former world champions.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Laugh

Early train from Paris. Into London and bright joyous sunshine. What are the options with a few hours to kill before work? A cycle along the canal to the zoo to make the most of my new London Zoo all year entry card? Or a bit of art?

Art. Royal Academy art. Anish Kapoor is gracing the galleries though I wonder just what it takes these days to be called art.

The boy Kapoor has done well. My favourite bit was having a canon fire a 50lb globule of wax at one of the white walls. This is art? This is damn lucky.

I guess the creativity comes from having the guts (and the back catalogue) to say to the curators: "Look, what we're going to do is explore the relationship between violence and formation in the supra context of global reduction." I paraphrase of course.

But the canon went off and caused a flurry of chattering. It was a loud bang and the splat of wax was equally impressive.

One room was devoted to sludges. It reminded me of Paris. Lots of doggie dejections piled up high. Needless to say I thought these particular pieces were crap.

Loved the mirrors. Anybody who gets people in to look at themselves while looking at his art gets my vote.

Gets my laugh too.

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Overload Over

I might well be able to be all athletic on the football pitch but after three evenings of yoga, I might be too zen to be competitive.

Small price to pay for being able to stay on the field. But what's the point of being on the pitch if you're not going to be aggressive.

Be corinthian. Not being like that at the moment in Egypt where tensions are boiling over the match against Algeria.

But world cup qualification is at stake. The match takes place on Saturday. Shortly after the match. The match being our latest attempt to win a game.

The star striker is playing for the first bit and only 12 players are available this weekend. Unlike last weekend when 15 turned up and it was chaos.

I sense a result.

Even if we don't get one me and the missus are going to try a new restaurant out in the evening. It's North African cuisine and is owned by the man who runs Momo in London.

Give us a cous cous.

More like give me a break. The TV is on France 2 as the France v South Africa international has just finished. It's the loto draw brought to us by two young and wholesome people.

Balls flying around everywhere. Presage of the morning's activities.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Overload

Day one of a mass of yoga nights. Not that I have become over enthusiastic, rather the time limit on my card is soon to expire and I had about five lessons left.

Cue an intensive run. This means I should get my money's worth by the end of the week. But by the end of the week I shall be so chilled I won't really care about having fulfilled the demands of my card.

I was trying to watch the tennis on TV but it is on the pay channel and I have stumbled on Barcelona TV. All very interesting. At the moment talking about a Barcelona academy - school work and football. So have to 'watch' the tennis via the internet.

At the Paris Masters over in Bercy which I guess I could have gone to, top seed Roger Federer is doing his best to lose to the home hero Julien Benneteau.

Get the feeling that after winning his 15th grand slam at Wimbledon and having twins, winning more tournaments isn't going to be that easy.

Maybe he needs more yoga.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Trawl

There's one good thing about the football at the moment. The matches are in the morning so they're over and done with and you can get on with the rest of the day.

There's no time for pre match nerves. The kind of thing I suffer from.

So I viewed a 9am start with very mixed feelings. Upside was that I would be home for lunch. Downside was that I would have to get up early to wend my way to the venue.

When I set my alarm it was for 7.15am. Early early I thought. But not really because I get up half an hour before that to go to the swimmig pool during the week.

So in fact it was a lie-in. Lazy boy.

Perhaps that sluggishness was transmitted to the team. For here was an immensely winnable cup match against lower league opposition but as norma when 15 of our team turn up, we were useless.

Well it was one particularly bad formation which cost us two goals. I scored so that's the third of the season in four games. That's not a bad strike rate for a midfielder.

But they've all been face saving exercises adn have never come to put us in the lead. Maybe I should take a lead and go up front.

Maybe I should take a lead and be more up front.

I went home and said to the missus - same old story when they're 15 of us. She asked me if I'd made my observations known. I reminded her that this was the team that voted to stay in the second division so that people could turn up and play. The idea was to win but not at all costs.

Better to have 15 turning up and to lose on a Saturday morning than eight saps in the dressing room wondering why the others haven't bothered to come.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Sexology

I'm not quite sure when it was bought but I got the Die Hard box set. It was called the Quadrology. And in it was eight odd hours of Brucie going bang crash wallop against a plethora of baddies.

I've had Star Wars Episodes IV, V and VI more or less since I've had a DVD player. Though I was never a great fan, I got the prequel epsiodes.

Trip to Burgundy last week was a joy of autumnal sunny flourishes and a trip to Chablis to stock up on me bottles.

For the children? The chronological rendition of Star Wars. It finished on the middle child's birthday back in Paris and the eldest has had her eureka moment at the end of episode three. "Oh now I know who Darth Vader," she cried out after Obi Wan had left his former pupil a severed mass in the lava of some volcano cum planet.

The middle child was just very sad that the cute little blond boy of Episode I had mutated into a bloodthirsty Sith lord.

The boy just did the Vader like breathing.

I have watched the first three that were made many times and it's the first time I've watched I-VI so rapidly. It was because of the children and it gave me a whole new realm of pleasure. The joy of sexology.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Side Effects

Now this seems to be a throwback. Up at ridiculously early hour because of a wandering child. At least I have a DVD player to watch my favourite recuperative programmes.

It's 5am so it must be time for an episode of Star Trek. How can I stay awake while watching Kirk, Spock and the gang.

Maybe the child has nothing to do with it. It could be a side effect. The first pill has been taken - four more to go. There's an ointment to rub all over my gammy right hand. I am wondering how an ointment can help a hand.

The pills are supposed to be anti inflammatory but the pharmacist told me I had to take it in the middle of a meal otherwise there would be rumblings in my stomach.

I thought a gammy tummy to remedy a gammy hand. What kind of choice is that. And besides I can't take pills to stop pain. We have to get to the source.

So the radiogramme later on Friday and then the neurologue after the holidays.

I was a bit tearful earlier as my dad had to take lots of stuff which had horrible side effects like a gammy tummy. He spoke about the difficulty of it all. It made me sad to recall it. Still does.

But he was battling cancer and gammy legs. At the moment I'm fighting a dicky hand and a boy who does not be too keen to sleep.

He has a siesta at school which renders him buoyant of an evening. Perhaps when the siestas stop he will be more malleable and tired at night time.

Auxiliary controls as some characters would say on a 1960s sci-fi series.

The Course

The trip to the doctor was its ever drawn out self. The appointment was for 10.20am. But we've been going for years and we know that 10.20 means some time after 11.

This relaxed approach to the time vortex has knock-on effects.

I spent the prelude to the visit showing the middle child Sex Pistols videos on YouTube.

Then the big child came into the kitchen and we watched a few numbers from the Specials. By the time the boy came in we were onto Madness.

Apt really. Because that's what I thought had enveloped me when I sat at 1050 waiting for my 1020.

Exasperation hit at gone 11 when I realised that the trip down nostalgia lane had ramifications.

I had not taken my cheque book nor my health card.

Sat in the waiting room without the vital pieces. I declared my incompetence to the doctor immediately and said I would come back immediately after the appointment.

She said I'm not moving from the surgery.

The point of the visit is a gammy hand. I cannot grasp anything with my right hand.

Is it repetitive strain injury? Is it a trapped nerve?

Well I'm on the merry-go-round. Off for a radiogramme thang on Friday morning and then I'm seeing a neurologue in early November.

Following my visit to the cardiologue in September, I'm feeling very integrated.

As middle age and its attendant crises take a hold, I am going to try and see if I can pass off a mistress as a sexologue.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Cafe

This is what we love. A quick entry while waiting for the eldest who's at her tennis lesson. I am recovering at a cafe after a hard day of administration. Methinks there should be more to a Tuesday than sorting out bank statements but actually no. I did my time in London and now I'm back in Paris the whole thing has to be sorted out. Such a shame I felt so ropey this morning. Must be the sheer joy of being with my family. Am literally going to make a splash later. It's children and parents at the swimming lesson. Perhaps that will help my gammy hand.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Long Weekend

Good grief it doesn't seem that long ago that I was cycling along the Regent's Canal from Kings Cross to get to London Zoo. That was a pleasant journey. Marred only by the fact that I had to get off the bike and wheel it through Camden Lock market.

There didn't seem to be anywhere else to go. But once through that it was tranquil cycling. I thought it would be an interesting piece to write on the different buildings lining the canal.

the industrial buildings and then the canalside residential developments. Some of them obviously brushed aluminum interiors while others were clearly not so plush.

I would simply settle for the regency type extravaganzas near Regents Park.

They must be cheap nowadays.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

The First Match 2009

Nice place Conflans st Honorine. There were tennis courts next to the football pitches and I felt more inclined to go and play tennis.

Well at least we got beaten on grass. That was a nice experience. They were better. But it still gets me when people start doing all that holding on stuff at corners. This is not professional football.

But clearly it makes people feel better.

One of their blokes kicked the ball away when it was our goal kick. It was a bizarre moment. They were 4-1 up with 10 or so minutes to go and he did that.

I can't get my head around that. And that's probably why we should be in division two rather than in division one with such idiots.

Friday, 9 October 2009

The Peace Prize

Must say I was quite surprised that Barack Obama was handed the Nobel Peace Prize. It was clearly a slow news day because there were enough people on the box wondering whether he deserved it.

I visited the Nobel foundation place while in Stockholm a few summers back just to get a flavour of the whole thing. My attitude is: I'm never likely to win one so well done to anyone who does.

Matchday I 09

First taste of the big league in the morning. Preparation was hit by the cancellation of the yoga class. How can I be as one with the ball without my Hatha session from the night before.

Questions. Perhaps getting a decent night's sleep might help.

I was ousted from the sofa by the middle child after being shunted from the bed by the boy. Well at least it meant an early breakfast and an episode of Star Trek to keep me going.

Went back to bed after I'd taken them all to school and visited the town hall.

Had to do that to get the railway discount card. Proof that I am in a couple.

Would have thought the bags under the eyes was testament enough.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Bee Book II

Have started the book about bees. First chapter tells the importance of bee imagery throughout the centuries, throughout the millennia.

Everyone has had a wise word about the insect and as for the work they do in pollinating crops. Ooh they're busy.

The Fashion Crowd

I joined the fashion gang today. Lunching with the in crowd at the Palais Royal. Well it was an old friend of mine who was in town for the Paris fashion shows.

We ate and then I accompanied her to her next show at the Carré du Louvre. There was lots of flash photography and in she went into the melee.

What a life. I awaited the bus to take me to the radio station to find out the latest about the wide wonderful world of sports.

Before I got the bus I did notice a few of the late arrivals racing for the door. But they were all in these high heels and unable to advance very swiftly or gracefully.

Good looking girls in a hurry. Most unappetizing.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Next Book

After getting through Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, I have moved onto something no less important.

It is written by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum and called A World Without Bees. Subtitled The Mysterious Decline of the Honeybee and What It Means For Us.

Well I know it won't mean blood drenched fields mutilation and rampant nationalism but I will dive in and learn and keep blog readers posted.

The Retro Journey

There's been a calculated policy of avoiding politics in the blog - you don't want to put people off - but there comes a time when you just have to have a say.

My nanny - the lady who looked after me when I was a kid and mum was out at work - told me that thee were a couple of things I shouldn't do.

1 Don't smoke
2 Don't tell anyone your politics

Being an obedient kind of kid, I have followed her counsel to the letter.

Of course over the years there's a natural assumption that because I work for the Guardian that I must be some furrow browed liberal.

But I'm a complex chap and I have learned over the years that many a prejudice emerges from assumption.

I've been working on the politics website over the past couple of weeks and it's been party conference time in Britain.

The Labour one was full of fighting talk about the party not going lamely to the gallows of the next election.

The Lib Dems seemed to be saying we've got some very good ideas and on Monday the Tories seemed to be saying we will mess up our chances of a whopping victory by reminding people exactly why they voted for Labour back in 1997.

The election has to be held before June 2010 and so far there's been talk of chopping benefits, making the NHS more efficient by offering people a "post bureaucratic" landscape.

And then there's a kerfuffle over participation in Europe. A desire to maintain certain powers for the national government rather than have a European wide modus operandi.

I just love it. I said to one of my colleagues listening to the radio before I went to work made me feel I was back in 1993 when this was the talk on the airwaves.

No need for rejuvenating facelifts. Just bring on the timewarp Tories and feel as if you have not developed.

A very sharp contrast to The Tomorrow People.

Friday, 2 October 2009

The Tomorrow People Not I

Well from the euphoria of watching two episodes of the Tomorrow People, I have some sort of meltdown in the software and could not watch episode 3.

Very discontented. Must not let it affect the performance in the first run out of the season. A cup match against a thoroughly unpleasant team whose saving grace is that they put on a lavish spread of bread, pate and wine after the match.

Shame that it is a home game and our hospitality in comparison is rather poor. But at least we're rich in spirit of fair play.

The question is do I potentially wreck my calm trying to get this website stuff to work or not. Maybe it is a con website in that it works for one evening only to torment poor nostalgia seeking saps like me.

Oh woe.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Tomorrow People

Just love the techno age. Have just got a hold of the software to watch The Tomorrow People, a series from my innocent youth. Never saw all of them because I think I had piano lessons or something like that.

This is all from the 1970s and the acting is as plonky as the sets.

Top nostalgia. Only eight seasons to catch up on. Doubt I'll be doing much sleeping over the next couple of weeks. Will have to show it to the children.

The Vote

In Copenhagen they'll be deciding the venue of the next Olympic Games. Chicago, Tokyo, Rio or Madrid.

Well it's London in 2012. Where in 2016?

We will know on Friday. For the moment just concerned about going to Angola and South Africa to watch some football.

Did I say football? A the beautiful game. I am gearing up for the first appearance of the season. It's a cup game on Saturday and I am anxious about a left leg. Is this a tight hamstring I feel before me?

No need to get theatrical about this.

Maybe if I don't go, then it will be OK.

That's so intelligent.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Zoo II

Am now a fully functioning member of the ZSL London Zoo. Or Make that the London Queue. Took ages waiting outside the special hut for people wanting annual membership.

Was behind a family who had some kind of problem. The lady apologised when she eventually finished. But I wasn't angry. It was just one of those things.

What seemed like two minutes later, my picture was taken and now I can wander off the streets of Regent's Park into London Zoo as many times as I want over the next year.

Must say that the zoo wasn't as much fun without the darling sweeties. But that's because I haven't tried it too often without them.

In fact I have never tried it without them. I will try it without them.

Sunshine adds a sharpness to the autumnal air. And cycling from the zoo to the Guardian would have been better had I managed to fin the towpath by the canal which I imagine goes right past the shiny offices at King's Place.

Couldn't get to the towpath and I figured I could spend ages looking for it and then keel over with low blood sugar levels.

I played the percentages and opted for the overland route from Camden. Before you could say St Pancras International ahoy, I was sweeping towards the office complex.

And yet another zoo.

Friday, 25 September 2009

The Godfather

Came to London a few days early to see Tommaso play at the Crypt in Camberwell. In my distant past I once looked for a place to live in Camberwell.

I cannot remember if it was with my old school mate Chris or with an old girl friend. Whichever it was it never happened.

Anyway Tommaso was with his quartet and it was very good. He introduced me to one of his former pupils who'd studied the saxophone with my dad and Tommaso showed me the spot where dad had sat when he'd gone to see him at the Crypt a few years back.

I didn't sit in the same seat but the former student did say I resembled my dad. That kind of thing usually sets me off on the tear trip

At the end I went to see Tommaso to say goodbye. He thanked me for coming and I said I was able to get dispensation to come to London earlier as it was him and his concert.

I mean I would not miss the first game of the football season for a small trifle.

I also took the opportunity to ask him if he'd be godfather to the boy. This was the idea of the missus this morning in Paris. I said to Tommaso he didn't have to give an answer straight away but he said yes instantly and that got me crying.

I said the christening would be in Paris and he could play at a joyous event. But he said the funeral was a happy event since my eulogy put everyone at ease.

Cue more tears.

My nephew who was also at the concert thinks it will be really cool for the boy to have an Italian godfather.

Marlon Brando impersonations all the way to the bus stop helped to lighten what is still a heavy load.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Sport Away From Home

Sadly today is the last day for going up to Roland Garros and having a knock up. The journalists tournament ends this weekend. My competitive participation ended long ago.

I did not go deep into this tournament. But then I never do. I must improve to have the chance and then it is the luck of the draw.

I have an individual coach called Rafael. He is from Mexico and he, with his heavily accented English, has helped me get the semblance of a backhand.

The problem is I feel my forehand isn't the reliable shot it used to be.

But this is where confidence kicks in. John F Murray, a sports psychologist I spoke to a few years ago for a programme, says in one of his podcasts that confidence comes from practising the motions and then it becomes knowledge.

His line is also that humans are born to be distracted - it helped having this awareness when sabre-toothed tigers were creeping around all those years ago.

Thus focus is not natural but it is something that is needed when on a field of play.


Sport At Home

I have decided to bolster my competitive drive. In an effort to restore flagging levels of testosterone, I'm upping the ante on a neighbour.

He lives above us on the second floor but because of the weird and wonderful acoustics of the building, he hears us. We hear everything from the flat on the second floor diagonal to us.

Ever since our arrival nine years ago, this man -let's call him Darth Neighbour - since I do love Star Wars -has been deeply unpleasant. He bangs on his floor when he thinks the children are making too much noise.

A few years back I'd just got in from the radio station and he came down to complain that there was too much noise. We had visitors and their children were running around with ours and making a din - according to him.

I went up to his flat later that evening and he did apologise for coming down when we had visitors.

Clearly he was ashamed that he had been exposed in front of other people complaining at 7.30pm on a Saturday evening.

It was then that I told him to go to the police if he felt there was a problem with us.

In my ever so untheatrical way I said we'd move out if he could prove to us that we were neighbours from hell.

He banged on his floor a couple of Wednesdays ago and after I'd left the house he knocked on the door to our flat. For some silly reason the eldest opened the door and he was there in his dressing gown complaining.

The missus was in the shower and the eldest told him to come back later.

All in all she shouldn't have opened the door.

I phoned up the managing agent of the building this morning. Spoke to a lady who said we ought to find some common ground.

I said how can I find common ground with someone who does not want to take the formal measures to show that he has obnoxious neighbours and who prefers to impose his own thresholds.

She said she would talk to him about it.

She'd better because the next time he tries banging on his floor, we will bang back.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


What I have come to know about September is that there will be sleepless nights. It always happens. It is impossible to avoid it. Maybe because I suspect it is going to happen so therefore it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The thing to do is ride it out. Good thing there is a blog to attend to. And then there are my Star Trek DVDs. Make very early mornings tolerable.

I was at Roland Garros on Tuesday morning waiting to have a knock-up with my doubles partner Eric. And I thought to myself, this ain't bad having a cup of coffee on a bright sunny autumn morn at one of the world's top tennis venues.

Losing so early in the competition is almost quite welcome.

But that's not fighting talk. Fighting talk will be about all we'll have from this football season. We have been thrust into the top division because at a meeting at which we were not present one of the teams who should have been in the top division said they wanted to be in Div 2. Et voilà. Team that wanted to be in Div 2 now in Div 1.

I said to one of my team mates who works at RFI that we at least know our fate this season.

A bit like me and Septembers.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Heat

The heat. The heat. The searing heat. Well it was hot outside as I toiled away inside trying to put together the 1400 and 1600 programmes.

There aren’t enough journalists around at the moment so I was redeployed from my usual sports slot and given the responsibility of producing the programmes.

RFI’s English service being a happy band, this is what has to be done sometimes.

Yet it does not really chime with the übermanagers’ viewpoint that we have a host of talented people and we will shove quality to a listening world.

I find it much easier to offer top sports news but obviously not on Saturday.

Clearly irked by stepping out of my comfort zone, criticism seems to have crystallized in my soul.

The path to the Eurostar lounge in Paris is badly situated. It is right by one of the accesses to the platform and with people forming a queue, it is often difficult to glide into the lounge without other passengers thinking you’re queue barging or simply brusque.

I am thinking of offering a few comments on this set-up just to see if there is any response from Eurostar's übermanagers.

Since Philippe Starcke conceived the Lounge scenario, perhaps passenger chagrin has been built into the concept.

Well I am well piqued.

Must be the effects of the heat.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Another Thrashing

Still ruminating on the nature of my participation in sport. Or maybe that should just be tournament tennis. Eric and I got taken apart in the doubles at the journalists' tournament at Roland Garros.

I suppose if the world was a fair place we would not have been on the same court as the other pair.

But we were. But we weren't on the court with them for very long.

Eric and I had a knock up afterwards and we left suitably sweaty after playing at our level for a while.

I gave him the Lady Grey teabags I'd purchased in London and he bought me a coffee at Porte D'Auteuil.

I went back to radio station to talk to a contact at Tennis Magazine in New York all about Kim Clijsters and her victory at the US Open last weekend.

Thar worked well as did the chat earlier with a sport science professor at John Moores University in Liverpool. Greg Whyte was a former Olympic competitor and happy to give me 10 minutes of his time on the subject of a woman coming back and winning a top tournament.

The upshot of it was quite simple. She was pretty good before she went off the circuit to get married and have a baby. She's pretty good now she has come back after a baby.

Debunks the notion of continued intensity but as Whyte said you have to have done the years of maniacal intensity before you can jump off the bandwagon to give yourself a chance at returning to the ride with perspective.

Fascinating stuff.

I went out with another mate called Eric this evening and told him of my singles debacle. The bloke who beat me used to play in tournaments 20 years ago or so before getting bored with the whole thing.

Twenty years ago I was getting my first shifts at the Guardian and trying to freelance my way on Fleet Street. Not a time for playing tennis tournaments.

The fact that I'm here in Paris, my favourite city, playing at Roland Garros in the journalists' tournament is, strangely enough, the real victory.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Midweek Kickabout

Strange to go to play a game of football and look longingly at the hockey teams. But that's how it was. I thought maybe I should ditch the football and take up hockey again.

But that wouldn't be logical. I liked playing hockey at school but that was an eventual thing as the school did not have any organised football.

On the issue of organisation. I'm going to have to be even more diligent with the tennis. It's coming along but played and lost yet again in the journalist tournament.

As I contemplated yet another drubbing, I wondered about the approach to games. I have been looking at them as a way to stay fit rather than from the competitive side.

I go to run around and stay vaguely lithe rather than for the joy of victory. Am not sure when this change happened but occurred it has.

And that's no bad thing.

The midweek kickabout was on a small pitch and there were too many people, it meant passing the ball quickly. Only a few players were able to operate in the tight spaces, I was not one of those players.

But then I am used to the wide open spaces of 11 a side. But I have learned to move the ball on quickly so I wasn't a total jerk on the pitch.

Stayed in goal for a while too. Have to keep lucid for the doubles third round at the Roland Garros tournament.

Must try to think win.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Cycle

Clearly there's some kind of escalation going on. The new season has brought fresh thinking. And I can see the differences between the two great cities from cycle saddle level.

First observation. There's further to cycle. The Paris flat to the radio station is a 30 minute stroll past some of the great monumental wonders of the world.

The Streatham flat to the Guardian is a as yet untimed slog past some of the monumental wonders of the world.

The Paris ride does not necessitate any pit stops. The London one was a kind of noblesse oblige. I came to rest at the Portuguese cafe near MI5's headquarters just along from Vauxhall tube station.

I sat ought and watched the cars thunder by. It occurred to me that had I gone on a few minutes more I could have stopped off at the National Film Theatre cafe and looked at the riverboats swan past.

Well I will chalk that one up to experience. But the good thing at the Portuguese cafe is one mean cafe latte. I know that doesn't happen at the film theatre cafe.

But then you don't get arthouse films at the Portuguese pit stop.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The New Season

Of course regular followers of parislondonreturn will know the New Season is likely to mean football. But as I like to be holistic, let's throw in the new school year and the new yoga year.

The second week of school has ended and as I shut the door on the Paris flat, it was to the sound of sniffing. Not because of my departure but because all three children have managed to become incrusted with various colds.

The boy was particularly hoarse, the middle child has recovered a bit and the eldest has refused to acknowledge anything like weakness.

This follows an episode last year in which she went back to school and promptly had a day off due to illness.

Me and the missus think it was overexcitement at getting away from her dull parents but the eldest isn't making that mistake again.

However the new season has indeed started and I went to my first practice match of the year - having had to miss last week's due to the first round of the doubles in the journalists' tournament at Roland Garros.

That was the start of a bitter sweet week. Through in the doubles, annihilated in the singles and through to the third round without hitting a ball in the doubles.

Me and my partner Eric are awaiting the schedule for our third round match.

As for the football....well I need to get match hardened as we embrace the new look format which will be a second division of eight teams - the bottom four from the top division and the top four from the second division.

There'll be a third division of eight teams.

I guess the ambition will be to avoid relegation. Last season it was about promotion.

A new season indeed.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Zoo

There was a great song released years ago called 'Mamma's taking us to the zoo tomorrow' which I remembered singing when my mother was on the verge of taking me and my sister to the zoo.

Well fast forward about 40 years and I'm preparing to take my own children to the zoo in London. In these here times of technological white heat, you can look on the internet for opening times and buy tickets to avoid the queues.

It also saves the shock of arriving to find that to wander around London Zoo will cost you the best part of £100.

Actually it's going to be £67. But that's because I have declined the chance to add a £1.70 donation on each ticket to a fund to save the endangered North American Greengage Peacock.

I jest about the endangered peacock. But what about the endangered parislondonreturn bank account?

A trip to Sainsbury's at Harringay was enough to make the visit to the zoo look like a cheap day excursion.

But what do I expect? This is summer in the city and cities cost. London seems far more expensive than Paris. Maybe that's because it is far more expensive than Paris.

But there's no point bleating about it. I'm here with the children. They're over to see their paternal grandmother and that can only help a few months after losing their paternal grandfather.

But from the way the children have been behaving of late, I think they might be seeing some relations at the zoo.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Doctor

Would you believe it but the doctor was on holiday in July. Am I ill? I phoned up last week and got through to her replacement.

We arranged for Thursday 10am. Now the great thing about the normal doctor is an almost otherworldly approach to time.

She has her first appointment at 9.00 but arrives for work at 9.30. Consequently the missus always ask for the one of the first appointments of the day and that way you get seen that day.

1140 is the one to avoid as you usually emerge anytime after 1pm because of the backlog. And people phone up while she's telling you that you've only got months to live.

It was good to see that the locum had eschewed house style by not only being in the surgery before his first appointment at 10am.

But he was ready to see me at 10am.

I went in to get a certificate which would allow me to play in the journalists' tournament at Roland Garros in September.

Last year's visit to my usual doctor for the certificate was not even in the notes. And I remember the exam was quite perfunctory.

This year the doctor asked me if I'd had an electro cardiogram. No was the reply.

As he loaded me up with the bits, a phone call came through and he just had to take it as it was the admin centre for his papers to start practising full-time at the surgery.

So there I was lying on the slab with electrodes attached to my test and he's talking to bureaucrat central. Oy what about your Hippocratic oath?

I was told to lie still while the things monitored my heart. I was motionless but one of the electrodes was getting into the groove of my heart and slipping off.

Sure enough the analysis of said heart showed I had an enlarged left ventricle. That's not bad in itself I was told. Sporty types often have this condition. What I've got to make sure is that it doesn't get dilated.

I have been given the numbers of two heart doctors who will do an ultrascan to tell me how it goes down from now on. I smell a scam here.

But given that my dad died of various complications to do with his heart and high blood pressure, you know where this might be going.

The heart doctor might well say you'll be fine just avoid playing football on a Saturday morning at 9.30 and avoid competitive tennis tournaments.

I plan to see the heart doctor in September.

The good news is that the soon-to-be-ensconced doctor at my surgery has a specialty in sports injuries. He told me this after seeing in my notes that I'd been on a couple of occasions for muscle strains.

My how we bonded over Eric Cantona and warm ups. I asked him if he played football. He said that he preferred rugby. I told him to see Looking For Eric and he spoke about the likes of Cantona and Lillian Thuram.

I chatted about interviewing Thuram for a programme at the radio station and blah blah blah we went on finally ending on if you've got any sprains or strains mate, I'm your man.

In at 1005. Out at 1115.

I think he's to the manor born.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Top Man

Usually when I work the extra day in London I am tired by the third day. My poor sensitive system cannot cope with the rigours of the third day. Especially if I go out on the night of the second day.

So sure enough when I woke up this fair Tuesday morning, I did not feel like a third day. But trooper that I am, I have trduged into the office to perform my functions.

On opening up the emails I found that the saxophonist who played at dad's funeral is playing in the pub next door to the Guardian tonight.

Well book me in. Tommaso Starace was dad's saxophone teacher a few years back. While clearing up dad's flat just after I got the news of his death, I saw cards dotted about with Tommaso's name and numbers. I remembered that dad had got me to listen to one of Tommaso's CDs just after it came out.

I called Tommaso and left a message on his phone to say that if any lessons had been booked then obviously dad wouldn't be coming and also to thank him for giving the lessons because I knew that dad had really enjoyed them.

I left it at that but while I was going over to my sister's for lunch I thought wouldn't it be good to hire Tommaso to play at the funeral.

Tommaso texted me back, we spoke and he asked me if I wanted him to play at the funeral. I said I'd foot the taxi bill. He said there was no need to do that.

At the funeral I gave the eulogy after Tommaso's solo of 'Round Midnight. I just about held it together for the oration. Outside the crematorium afterwards when I saw him I burst into tears and gave him a huge hug - you can do that kind of things with italians. He'd made the service for me.

He consoled me and said it was an honour to play at Victor's funeral.

I've emailed Tommaso to say that I will be there on Tuesday night to listen in. He's written back to give me an idea of his agenda. Playing at the Royal Festival Hall's open space and then up to the Cross Kings to play with a few other chaps in an Anglo Italian band.

I had lined up an evening of sorting out dad's stuff.

I think this is one time I can change the plans. It doesn't matter if I get home round midnight.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Lull

While there is no tennis to watch on the TV, nor any football, surprise surprise it's been cricket and the newsroom today was bubbling before lunch as England wrapped up the second test against Australia.

It wasn't that confident a win really.

England were bossing proceedings on Sunday when they'd reduced the tourists to about 120 for 5. But then there was a doughty partnership which took the score to 313 for 5. That was 209 runs off the victory target.

From a position of overweening confidence to anxiety. Would England snatch defeat from the molars of victory?

Andrew Flintoff hadn't read the script and decided to help England win the test. It was their first victory at Lords against Australia since 1934.

Made for a buoyant newsroom.

The New Goal

I shuffled onto a tennis court the other day to begin the preparation for the 2009 journalists' tournament at Roland Garros. Last year I lost in the first round.

I was out of shape having been in Beijing for a month and out of practice. This year I intend to be only one of those two. I'm not quite sure how much practice I'm going to get but I can at least dedicate myself to avoiding too much excess.

I played the match after going out till late watching a few African bands at a place called Cabaret Sauvage. Indeed the venue was stashed away and it was pretty wild when the bands came on.

One was called Konono No1. Their sound was through some old speakers which had been bought from a failed politician. It was like listening to music in a pressure cooker. Not that I've ever done that kind of thing - though with the hot housing I plan to do on the tennis...

The other band was Staff Benda Bilili who were a group of disabled street musicians. They put out a sound which was pure dance.

Which is exactly what I did. So I wasn't exactly twinkle toes on the tennis court the next morning. Well at least one lesson is implanted: don't go out dancing the night before a match.

Probably knew that anyway.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Almost Back to Life

I haven't been going between Paris and London of late.

It's been more just getting rid of the working days in Paris to get back to London so that I can obey the housing association's ludicrous desire to have me out of my dad's flat. I was initially told July 22 but then in their letter, they said July 19.

Phone calls last week asking for someone in authority to look at the details of my plight don't seem to have borne much fruit. So I ferret away at my dad's flat before I come into work. I thought I cut rather a pathetic figure at 7.15am going through the papers.

Everyone's going on about the right to die and euthanasia what about the right to pick up the pieces in dignity?

I have to say the whole process of dealing with death is bleaker when there's no time to contemplate the minutiae of someone's life.

It's bad enough having to tear up letters and throw away pictures but doing it because some barbaric bureaucrat says there are deadlines to respect?

Yet it is not good to wallow in what was so to a certain extent it is good to be pushed. Part of the legacy is to embrace the what is and it struck me as I came into the Guardian this morning that I hadn't seen my children for more than a week. The little sweeties.

They're with their grandparents up in Bedfordshire and I speak to them but it is all very disorientating.

It's probably just as well that the football season is over and that I've been able to go out drinking on a Friday night in Paris with my mate Eric.

Friday night out? Well it was all so exciting. I even went to another arrondissement. I gawped in shock and awe at the wonders of the 18th.

More like I gasped in shock and awe after cycling up and down and round the labyrinth of streets to find the restaurant.

At least it was a freewheeling test of the bike's brakes down back into the 10th. Maybe next Friday we'll try somewhere on the flat plains.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Back to Life

I was humming the Soul II Soul tune to the girls as we got off the metro at Chateau D'Eau to go home. "Anyway you want it....however do you want it, however do you need it...."

it's probably the first time they've heard me singing for the past few weeks.

They stayed in London with me to help me go through my dad's things. And my little helpers did me proud, folding up clothes to take to the clothes recycling bank.

We got through the wardrobes and now there are only shirts left. I have acquired quite a few extra things. Don't know how they will fit into Paris.

Must try and relocate my routine over the next week before I go back to London to continue clearing up my dad's flat. The housing association has given me until to July 19 to get out of his flat.

I have written to the Wandle housing association asking for a bit of flexibility in getting out. The housing association has decided to be callous.

One of the functionaries wrote to me offering her condolences, thanks for your letter explaining your difficulties she said, but get out.

I guess another letter should wing its way to them and I should do my utmost to get out of their hair. What a bunch of clowns. I take the death certificate round to their offices and they can't even be civil enough to give me a decent amount of time to get out of the flat.

My old school mate Chris is coming over to Paris this week. He has just been on the phone and he mentioned that it might be best to be away from the flat quickly.

Well I'll be gone as rapidly as possible. Can't deal with a bunch of clowns. Appropriate that the Star Trek episode I was watching was called Bread and Circuse.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

The Drought

In the waiting room before all the action of dealing with dad's death, I was able to cry some more today. This time because the blub king of tennis Roger Federer finally won the French Open.

I have been in Paris watching finals he has lost abjectly. This year I was in London not watching and he won. So that's 14 and the career grand slam. Now we can watch the tennis at Roland Garros with the Federer monkey off our back.

I am glad to have had at least one jolly (Roger) bit of news this weekend.

There's grim stuff to come but am at least certain that dad was happy with his life at the end. And you can't be unhappy about that.

The Unwanted Trip

Of all the trips between Paris and London this is the most painful. I was phoned just after playing football on Saturday morning and told my dad had died.

The team was celebrating coming top of the division and I think they were just about to break out the champagne. But I said my quick farewells not telling anyone of the news.

The middle child went out to a party and we told her and her big sister late in the afternoon. They were distraught.

I was on the train heading to London just on the verge of entering the administration of bereavement. I am upset because I was looking forward to going out for a coffee with my dad on Monday week before work.

He hadn’t called to say he was feeling unwell which he was perfectly capable of doing. And I hadn’t spoken to him for a week. So the whole thing is startlingly sudden.

For someone who had been suffering from prostate cancer, I always thought the demise was going to be in a hospital room accompanied by a bedside vigil until the end.

Preparation time. To hear after a game of football ahead of a weekend of French Open finals was not in the script.

I am not sure if I’m going to sign off from parislondonreturn for a few days or not. There was a heap of tales to tell about the end of the football season and even the tennis.

Not quite sure if I’ll be able to focus on those as there are trips to the mortuary to get to grips with and clearing up my dad’s flat.

Onerous times ahead.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Neglect

Simply outrageous. Have gone missing from my blog. What kind of commitment is that? Pretty poor is the answer. And what is more I've been channelling my energies on another blog.

Oh cruel perfidies.

The fruits of my blogging loins can be seen at RFI's english website until the end of the French Open.

Once Rafael Nadal has completed his romp home, I'll be back to my first love.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Beginning

A few days in London and the highlight was the latest Star Trek movie. The idea is how Jim Kirk became the dynamic captain of the Enterprise with his band of heroes.

Utterly brilliant especially since I have just acquired the DVD set of the original episodes. There was only one inconsistency in the film. But there you go you can't have it all.

Had to go and see the film at Screen on the Hill and it took ages to get back home especially with Tooting Broadway closed for maintenance after 10pm.

Oh well it's only north to south London.

Tuesday was a jolly affair at the Guardian. The Speaker of the House of Commons decided he had to resign after being fingered as the gatekeeper to the junket that is an MP's life.

They've been claiming for moat clearing, having their light bulbs changed and their mortgages paid by the taxpayer.

And Michael Martin, the Glaswegian boy pauper who's risen to one of the most prestigious posts, is the one who's been offered up for protecting the indefensible.

All quite a barrage of reactions and speculation. Left me dazed on the train back to Paris. In fact slept. Clearly going out late and then working on the perpetual slush fund that is the mother of all parliaments left me dazed and in fact I went to sleep.

No more London for a while, it is tennis galore for the next few weeks as Roland Garros comes to town.

I am growing weary again and I must finish as I am watching Balance of Terror - the first time the Romulans make an appearance in Star Trek.

Pleasing unity about that as there were maverick Romulans doing terrible things to the universe in the film I saw on Monday night.

No element of overacting. Really no overacting. Brilliance of the then and now.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Strike Latest

There's been a strike at the radio station. The technicians were off. And so eventually was I. No programmes. None of the listeners were to be told about Barcelona's Copa del Rey victory or Manchester United's surge to the English title.

Oh so what. It's only 200 odd redundancies. The early cut allowed me the chance to go and have afternoon tea with the missus and collect the boy from creche.

Well 'twas truly domesticated. Praise be to industrial action.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Vote

Actually the vote whether to go up to the top division has been more interesting than some of the games that we played in the top division.

Anyway the figures have come through. Six for going up, nine against and eight abstentions. Well you can't argue with democracy.

These things shouldn't have been put to the vote. Either you go up or you go to the salt mines. So there we go. No promotion and an overwhelming Corinthian ethos.

It has to be said it is very impressive that the diehard mentality can exist chez moi so late in life. I'm a bit sad that we won't be testing our collective capacity at a higher level next season but given that I plan to be away for about five weeks in January, it is easier to talk about going up but you've got to put in the hours.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Routine

Thanks to the crocked left leg, the usual trip to the tennis lesson was cancelled. This afforded me the opportunity to partake in Tuesday night family rituals.

I cooked supper and then settled down on the sofa with the bairns to watch an episode of the A Team. Have to say this was my idea of game, set and match.

Injury isn't so bad after all.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Democratic Way

Two days after the battle of wounded leg, I was dragging my frame up Highgate Hill and I thought why am I dragging my wounded frame up the hill when in fact I should be guiding it down the hill?

Simple really. I came over all zen after the morning yoga stretch and I decided not to race into Oxford Street to buy a portable CD player rather I would buy one in Paris with the money from the all the voice over work which tired me out which probably made me susceptible to injury.

There is an interconnectivity. I have seen the light too late.

There is a vote underway within the football team as to whether we should go up to the first division.
However if we keep on only turning up with nine or ten players then we're staying where we are.

I have said that I am up for going up. However there is a body of opinion which says that they're not up for going up and being beaten up as we were two years ago.

This is logical. Back to the Star Trek DVDs.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Trains

The front page of Liberation says there’s a debate about SNCF deciding to devote whole carriages to families during the summer rush.

Sharing a carriage this morning with about 30-odd adolescent girls on their way to England, I say why stop there?

Why not special carriages for school trips? Why no special carriages for frequent travellers? Why not carriages so special that no one can go in them?

Some families told the paper they’d had snotty comments from people and that’s why they wanted them.

Anyone who is narked about children during a train journey should, in my view, be thankful they don’t have them when the journey is over.

I have to admit that before I had children I never noticed them on a journey. Now that I have three of the darlings, I notice the noise.

If there’s a tot screaming, I’d never go up and rail at the parent. Equally if someone came up to me to moan about one of my children, I’d listen to their complaint and then probably ask them to go and arrange their upgrade with the train manager.

Most people, I would imagine, would look for another “less noisy” space.

But it does seem strange that the perception of public domain doesn’t take in other members of the public.

Most people anyway do seem to be locked into their private worlds. It is rare to see anyone these days without their Ipod or earphones tapped into their computers.

Do they really hear that much of the outside world at the best of times?

As I turn up the music on my earphones, I might ask the Guardian if they fancy a travel piece on it.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

The Shift

The end, when it comes, is as rapid as a demise in Star Trek. Unable to go back to sleep after the boy woke up coughing. So what to do? Come and update a neglected blog and tuck into the newly acquired box set of Star Trek.

There's a new film out which tells how Capt Kirk, Spock and the gang got together. Well there are must sees and absolutely vital sees.

This could be in the latter category.

I might be able to drag myself to a cinema on Sunday night. Recompense for an odd turn of days. We got back from London and I headed off to the radio station.

I had big plans but they were waylaid when I had to go and do a voiceover. Well there's money in it. Plans for a triumphant surge to promotion were waylaid when the team's star goalscorer injured himself at work.

That meant that for the second match in a row, we started with 10. And unlike the team of a few weeks ago, the one on Saturday night was much better.

When muggins here managed to get crocked, the team went down to 9 and the opponents then scored four goals to win 5-1.

I have veered from exhausted to peeved. But as I said to the missus when I got home, if we can't get a dozen or so people together three games from a possible promotion, then either I'm taking it too seriously or I'm taking it too seriously.

So as I watch Star Trek and nurse my injured left leg, I will channel the competitive edge into solitary exploits like my tennis and rather take each football game as it comes.

Besides, the last time we were in the top flight I missed a load of games as I went to Ghana for the Africa Cup of Nations. In fact it was a good half a dozen games and it took me a few matches after that to get back in the swing.

Have to be fair, can't take it to heart when it suits me.

Logical captain.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Big Games

While the rest of the footballing world is waiting for the UEFA Champions league semi finals, I am thinking of three games with a little more relevance to my little football life.

It is, as Sir Alex Ferguson describes this part of the season, squeaky bum time. The football team is four points ahead of our nearest rivals inthe old shufflers league with three games remaining.

The third placed team played their game in hand over the weekend and won it 1-0.

We've now all played 19 games. We have 49 points and the next two have 45.

More importantly we meet the team in third in two weeks. And worst part of that importantly is that quite a few of the side's best players are going to be away.

Essentially if we draw the last three games we're up as we have a better goal difference than them in third. However the ramifications of it all are enough to give you a squeaky bum.

So it is best to go out and win the right to go up. No ifs, no squeaky buts.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Fan II

Any regular readers of the blog will know that I’m a man of limited passions. The family, football, Star Wars being the ones oft cited.

Before all those arose there was Star Trek. I didn’t realise it was in colour until the early 80s when I saw it in the common room at university. Before then we only had a black and white TV at home.

In the mid 80s when the BBC said it was going to re run the series, I went out and bought a video recorder so I wouldn’t miss it.

Often I’d come back from my job as a local reporter at the Wimbledon News to watch episodes of yore.

I remember a childhood friend Derek who loved it as much as me. We always liked the fact that it seemed as if you’d never seen the episode before, inevitably you had.

A few weeks ago I had a dream that there was an episode I’d never seen before. I didn’t know if I was suffering from anxiety or something much worse.

I have got the original episodes on DVD now. They arrived in London and as I sit and watch one of the episodes from Season 2, I think surely it would have been cheaper to get the mangled video recorder repaired.

The boy stuck something in it a few months back. And I have not been able to relieve the stress of life by watching old familiars.

My logic is that if I get a new video recorder too soon, the boy will simply mash that one up as well.

So I have decided to lose to gain. There are scores of other programmes that lie unwatched in the video library. I have to wait. But in the interim, having the Star Treks accessible again has made me beam.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Fan

It is said that followers of football are in the main not very bright. And with seat prices at some of the London stadia approaching astronomical, you'd have to be mad to pay for it.

But there's no logic in fanaticism. I think that's the definition of it really.

I remember one tearful day long ago when my mum upbraided me for being obsessed with football.

And many years later as I go swimming and do yoga so that I can shuffle around a pitch, she may have had a point. But then since I'd probably do the same if I were playing for a team at tennis, maybe it's all just about competing.

Maybe I'm obsessed with competition - but in a corinthian manner. That might explain my career as a journalist.

But this isn't about where it all went wrong, this is about how trying to eschew plangent maternal criticism.

I got off the Eurostar this morning and felt the burning need to go to a gallery. Well somewhere other than the Guardian office too early.

As I got on the 63 bus, an Everton fan followed me on. I suspected he was an Everton fan as he had a blue scarf on and his team are playing at Wembley on Sunday against Manchester United in the FA Cup semi final.

After he'd paid up, he was on his mobile telling a mate that he'd placed a bet on the result.

"230-1....Everton to win 1-0 and Phil Neville to score the first goal.."

Now the fan in me knew full well that Phil Neville was once a Manchester United player. The journalist in me knew full well that the irony of that would not be lost in any of the news reports of the match.

The pedant in me wondered about the first goal in a 1-0 scoreline.

If the odds are 230-1 for the first goal, what would be the odds in the only goal of a 1-0 result?

Maybe the Rodchenko/Popova exhibition will take my mind off the conundrum.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

The Light Sabre

I was on the way back from the radio station and noticed an advert for Harry Potter 6 or HP6. It had the eponymous hero doing his magic thing with his wand.

I looked at the picture and thought the wand is not as hard as a light sabre. You can only look so tough wielding a wand. The boy is going round the flat brandishing a plastic light sabre which was harvested from a Corn Flakes packet.

We're due to be heading to Burgundy for a break - illnesses pending - and it might be the time to start on the Star Wars films. The first three as in the chronological trilogy are pretty ropey but there's lots of brandishing.

And if the boy feels suitably inspired to go on and become Jedi like in his ways, I, for one, will not turn him.

The Non Existent Matchday

Four games to go and our fate is in our hands.

The team from wherever did not appear so this meant a 3-0 victory and we keep our place at the top of the table. It suddenly occurred to me that we technically could go up without having to kick another ball in anger.

But that's unlikely. Sadly such good fortune cannot last. And next week we're playing BNP in the match that should have been played last November but was postponed due to a dodgy pitch.

Then we were a full complement but next Satuday it's going to be threadbare. Ho hum

While contemplating the prospect of promotion I've been tending an ailing flock. The missus has been well ill. And with the girls on holiday, I've had to delve into the vault of galleries that we might love.

So far Andy Warhol at the Grand Palais and Alexander Calder at the Pompidou.

I primed the girls by playing them the David Bowie song and showed them a few videos courtesy of YouTube and their mother gave them a book on Calder.

The Warhol trip was an unmitigated success. We avoided the 37 mile queues and went in, swept through the tons of cans and faces and headed to the Petit Palais for morning coffee and orange juice.

There's a magnificent garden cafe there and as it was a sun kissed spring morning we lapped up the rays after soaking up the culture.

A walk down the Champs Elysees and through the Tuileries to the Louvre to take the bus home was about as good as it gets on a holiday morning.

Better than winning a match without playing.

Monday, 13 April 2009

The DVDs

The DVD rental service has sent me the first four episodes from series 1 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the vehicle of Larry David after he left Seinfeld.

Strangely enough I had seen the first episode long ago on TV in Paris. It is cringingly clever and the plots are reminiscent of Seinfeld at its most acutely brilliant.

There isn’t the ensemble exuberance that made Seinfeld’s egocentric characters palatable.

A colleague who stayed in the apartment in Paris a few years back and who noticed the boxed sets of Seinfeld has given me Curb season 2 and I shall watch away before perhaps buying the boxed set of them.

The boxed set I have harvested though is 400 Coups and the other tales of Antoine Doinel.

This was on special offer via the DVD buying site. It is 50 years since the Nouvelle Vague unleashed their iconoclasm on an unsuspecting world.

The British Film Institute here on the South Bank is holding a retrospective of the finest creations from that period.

Seems de rigueur to dip in later.

It would give a filmic symmetry to the day.

The Gallery

The art of life confounds me at times. The Bank Holiday Monday meant that the starting time at the Guardian was a bit later than usual.

What better way to spend the extra hours than by going to see my dad and then heading up to the Hayward Gallery.

I wanted to go to the newly refurbished Whitechapel Gallery but they don’t do Bank Holiday Monday opening.

So the sunny South Bank was all mine.

Mark Wallinger is curating the Russian Linesman, Frontiers Borders and Thresholds while Annette Messager is doing The Messengers.

And the message? Seinfeld.

I thought of a line from George in Seinfeld where he said something like: “I don’t get art.”

It might even have been: “I don’t get modern art.”

Though I persist in trying to get modern art, I often think about the Woody Allen character in Annie Hall. In a gallery with Annie Hall he says: “It has a wonderful otherness.”

Perhaps I should have extra shots of caffeine to transport me to the spatial mentality where I would really get it.

I usually have the coffee as a reward for trying to expand my mind.

Not good for the gallery but might be good for the headlines at work.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Porter

Must have been something about me this weekend. On the way to London a woman asked me if I could help a man with his suitcase. "As long as it's not too heavy," I said.

On the way back to Paris a woman asked me towards the end of the journey if I could help her with her bag. "As long as it's not too heavy..."

Because of course the last thing I want to become is a crocked Samaritan. That would not do. Far too many things to do at the moment.

The management at the radio station have decided to smash up the house agreement so there's been a day of strikes. I went in not to break the strike but to give in a letter of support to a colleague who's in a dispute with another colleague.

It's not going to end well for somebody. A bit like the approaching UEFA Champions League quarter finals.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Matchday X Postmortem

I have to say heavens be praised for banks opening on Saturday mornings.

The team from BNP turned up without their assassin striker. Unlike a few years ago, his branch now opens on Saturday mornings and so he plays for the Sunday morning team.

This leaves the Saturday morning team short. And though their tricky playmaker did cause a bit of anxiety when he got the ball, there was no one to capitalise on the openings up front.

Unlike our side which seemed to have all the momentum. While I shuffle around the pitch I have these moments where I reflect on the phases of the match.

We might be dominating but we’re not scoring, I muse. How important is it to solidify that control into goals?

Leading 1-0 and being in command always makes me feel perturbed.

The counter attack and slight error and suddenly it is 1-1.

It didn’t happen that way. We went in 3-0 up at half time.

I don’t know if my recent goal shyness is behind me because I scored a goal that I don’t usually score.

Hit from the edge of the area rather than running onto a pass and slotting it past the keeper.

Since those kind of goals haven’t been coming of late, maybe I’m moving into the edge of the box goal phase of my game.

Anyway I’m still bemused as to how it happened and I’m trying to replay the sequence in my mind. I am still quite blank.

The (for me) wonder strike meant that the defender stayed with me. So I started to run all kinds of pretty patterns to create space for the others.

Thanks to my wonderful regime of yoga, swimming and cycling, I feel as if I have the puff to do this.

The other joy is that I don’t actually have to touch the ball, have physical contact with other people and potentially crock myself in a tackle.

The bloke tracking me was losing more and more steam as the first half wore on. Towards the end one of his co defenders said: “just let him run”.

Wise counsel since all my leggy zig-zagging had failed to yield anything concrete since my wonder strike.

The defender should have stayed with me really because I was able to get away from him on two occasions and was part of the move that led to the second and third goals.

Sadly the fat lady doesn’t sing after 45 minutes. And the opposition had a wind assisted rally in the second half.

But it fizzled out and 4-1 was a fair reflection. One of their other star strikers will be back for the rematch in a few weeks.

But by that time one of star defenders should be back from holiday.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Cry-Off

So much so for perfecting my skills as a forward. Friday night out with the missus ended up with me leaving the restaurant early feeling somewhat queasy.

She stayed behind with the others and I managed to get back, pay off the baby sitter and get ready for bed.

This is perhaps the kind of early to bed attitude that makes for goal scoring. But that's not why I was doing it. I felt unwell. And I didn't even attempt to try and turn out for the match.

That would have been silly. Especially since I would have conked out at work.

So all in all disappointment for not being able to enjoy my night out with my girl and a certain amount of misery for not being able to go out and play.

Prepare for next week.

As for the causes of the ailment. The missus says it is a virus. Me I think it's something in the air.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Conversion

The yoga teacher said what we did today would be felt tomorrow. Well since I'm not playing football on Friday - what's the point? That's not the way to look at it.

My legs strained. Half lotus? Painful lotus.

No yoga on Friday because it's time to take the missus out for a birthday treat. But must not overdo it. Am playing on Saturday in a cup match. It will be against a team which is third in the top division - the division we were roundly dispatched from after one season.

Should be a footballing lesson. But given the amount of midfielders we now have, it is time to think about being a forward again just like I used to be.

Have organised an eye test in London. My theory is that I have been inaccurate in front of goal because I can't see properly.

Tragedy will be if I get a pair of glasses and still can't score.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

The End

Clay courts are a lost field for the former world number one Roger Federer and soon the whole circuit might just be a memory.

I was watching him on TV the other night at the Indian Wells tournament and my how he is struggling. He’s actually toiling. And overt labour has never been a facet of his game.

Federer has been a swan over the years. Above board silent and graceful. But though I'm a big fan, it seems he’s becoming a dinosaur, superseded by a generation of sluggers and grunters.

It isn’t going to get any easier as Federer is expecting his first child with his girlfriend in the summer. That happy event domestically may well be the prelude to total meltdown on the tour.

Federer lost in the semi finals at Indian Wells on Saturday night to the British fourth seed Andy Murray, his sixth defeat to the Scotsman in eight encounters.

Still, it will be a more entertaining final as Murray will play Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s showdown and there’s a chance that the Briton might make a final of it.

That can’t be said when Federer meets Nadal. He's lost so many of their battles that it just seems everyone humours him when he calls it a rivalry.

Sad to see but the smooth Swiss is unravelling. Someone needs to tell him to get a coach and a backhand because everyone is battering that wing it at the moment and the swan is flapping.

Matchday Whatever Post Mortem

Talk about remiss. No matchday preview due to partying. That’s no way to prepare for a game.

But it was the yoga teacher’s housewarming number and the entire family was invited. No wonder really. Three of the five of us take lessons at her studio and the income garnered from this conglomerate doubtless accounts for some of the adornments in her substantial abode near her studio.

But curmudgeonliness is not an attractive trait. So I won’t persist. We arrived at the sprawling lovenest she shares with her husband just after my Friday relaxation class and stayed until I’d had enough of the boy trying to send the teacher’s zen lined dog into the next transition.

But on Saturday still no pyrotechnics in front of goal. How haunted can I be? Had a fairly good chance that just went wide and another which was only an opportunity due to sharp guesswork.

When we did score, it was ruled out for offside. That symbolised the bad luck. Still the opposition could have won it and that would have been gutwrenching.

"A draw is not a loss," said Tonio who’s just returned from five weeks of doing up his cellar. Quite why he came back is probably what he’s wondering as he had to face a barrage of jokes about working underground.

We were up against the same team that scored two flukey goals a couple of months back to draw 2-2 with us at home.

I should have suspected that it would end up as an injustice. Still the sun was shining and one of my teammates Pierre gave me a lift back to the radio station.

Another teammate, Joseph, was also in the motor. It was he who introduced me to the football team a few years back and as we walked towards the station, he was refreshingly philosophical: play, have fun, do your best and try to win - but not at any price.

After what I’ve seen of late from some of the opponents – victory for us won’t ever be easy.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Petition

Wednesday is always a high octane day. So the best way to start it was at the swimming pool. As I lurched along the 25 metre pool, I thought of the elite competitors who had taken part in the Olympics.

They told tales of throwing up after training sessions and generally feeling nauseous with the regimes they had to subject themselves to for the chance of glory.

How they would "leave it all in the water". I never warmed to that phrase but I guess that's because I'm not an elite competitor who should be doing things like leaving it in the water.

I distinctly did not leave anything in the water after my morning swim but I did take away a warm glow of having pushed myself further than planned.

So to home and to prepare the boy for his little session at bebes nageurs. A beautiful idea where parent and child can learn to play in the water. Occasionally some of the youngsters do "leave it all in the water" and the session is cancelled while the pool is given a healthy dose of bleach.

The girls have gone down this route of bebes nageurs - as opposed to leaving it all in the water. And now they do classes on Monday and Tuesday evenings respectively. Indeed the eldest wants to be Rebecca Adlington and swim to glory in the Olympics.

It would be ironic if she did become an Olympic swimmer but she'd presumably do all her training in France. Would she swim for France or Britain?

If the blog is going in 10 or so years, then I'll give the answers. That's assuming I'll be going in 10 or so years.

Difficult to see past 10 or so hours at the moment.

We're all afflicted with a nasty cough. I was fine when I was in London on Monday. Get back to Paris on Monday evening and the dry air has given me a tickle in my throat.

I went for the overproof rum remedy on Tuesday night. It didn't really help my throat but I slept really well.

I thought the rum had gone to my head when I took my CDs back to the library this afternoon. I picked some more CDs and as I was waiting for them to be checked in, then the librarian told me that the ones I'd brought back were a month overdue.

I had a fine of 15 euros. I apologised for the tardiness, naturally blamed my eldest daughter for clearing up my CDs - evidently prompting a memory loss.....

The he started to go on about a library in the 15th arrondissement closing down. And as part of the protest against the closure, librarians throughout the city's 20 arrondissements were refusing to collect book/CD/DVD fines.

Enfin, bref - as I have learned to say - it means that I don't have to cough up the cash. But he did ask me to sign a petition against the closure of the library.

Sensing a chance for übersmarm I said I would have signed the petition even if I'd needed to fork out.

Actually I wasn't being that smarmy I meant it.

Paying my dues when it comes to libraries is fine by me.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Matchday XI Preview and Postmortem

We were up against the second team in the league. And boy did I come off second best. Was one on one with the goalkeeper and completely messed it up. Tried to lob him and it was hopeless. I felt gutted. Ho hum. That would have been 2-0. Needless to say, they scored just before half time and then just after half time and somehow managed to get a free kick when it was their attacker who fouled our defender.

They scored from the resulting free kick.

What struck me as wild was the fact that one of their players went and sliced up the legs of one of ours. They were 3-1 up and doing that a couple of minutes from the end.

Some days you just have to say: OK. Best to get out in one piece and go back to the drawing board.

For said drawing board I have looked up the Chelsea campaign of 2004/5 and specifically the goal that clinched the title. Fat Frank Lampard has to run quite a way and beats the keeper one on one.

I have studied and inwardly digested.

Well that was all a long time ago. I remember I was doing a Saturday shift at the Observer when he put the second one in. I'm sure I went out and bought a pint to celebrate that night.

No pints tonight. Just sober recollection on how to do better.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Mat

There's a run on yoga mats at Go Sport at République. This strikes me as really odd. How can somewhere which is supposed to stock yoga mats not have yoga mats?

I didn't stick around to ask. Actually I wasn't even given the chance to enquire. The assistant told me they'd be in next week and off he went into a store room.

Well next week beginning of the week? Next week end of the week? Next week is quite a long stretch.

So my brilliant plan to take a mat to London has been scuppered. I was thinking of going down to Les Halles to see if they had it there. But I didn't have that kind of time.

Monday's little practise in London will have to be done on the cold hard floor.

It will doubtless make me appreciate the plush mat I have for Paris.

But while I was unable to splash out on a mat, I was able to buy a pair of swimming goggles.

They're UV and look sleek. I think I'll go faster just wearing them;

They had a list by the goggles stand detailing usage.

For the leisure specs, there were a couple of lithe adolescents seemingly at the shallow end of a municipal pool.

But the picture for the frequent usage/training glasses showed the gleaming white teeth emerging from an elite jaw.

Well I had to buy the Speedos. It would have been wrong not to have bought them.

Though I suspect I am probably too leisurely in the pool for the all action types.

That's what makes yoga so appealing. You go at your own speed. One om per hour.


Monday, 9 March 2009

The Horror

It seems Eurostar are doing their best to turn travel into a nightmare.

Somehow the Gare du Nord revamp has failed to produce the desired results of easy streaming and it seems as chaotic and cramped as it was before the revamp to make it less chaotic and cramped.

I would like to think I remained calm and collected as I waited an ominously long time to get through the French passport controls and then the British immigration.

It was, as they say in Paris, limite.

I got the train just about and was sped to London with a minimum of fuss.

After negotiating early morning rush hour in south London, it is, by comparison, far more tranquil waiting in a queue at the Gare du Nord.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Guru

There was a special yoga class with a teacher in from New York to impart his wisdom. I've never done anything like that before. Can't say I'll race out and do it again in a hurry but it was brilliant to see a different way of taking a class. And it was good for the spirits.

I am not sure if my chakras have been realigned or even installed. There were quite a few movements and positions I was nowhere near but it was good to see just how far there is to go on the journey.

Empowering and humbling.

The Gulf II

There's a line in Seinfeld in which the character George says something like: "I don't get modern art."

I get to look at it because I am trying to see the point. I like Yves Klein because I like blue. I finally got Picasso after going round the museum here and spending time watching the development of the artist.

Enlivened by the Voids thang, I went to the Musée d'Art Modern de la Ville de Paris as there was a day of strikes at the radio station.

Since all this was announced and organised while I was in London I turned up at work to find out that I was not going to work.

Perhaps the Maison de la Radio is an art installation.

I took in Jimmie Durham and Giorgio de Chirico before taking a coffee and taking off when I saw a rather large mouse prancing under a table in a cafe.

These exhibitions had pieces in them. Positively clogged up by comparison with what I'd seen on Wednesday.

For sheer value for money, the Thursday bonanza at the Musée d'Art moderne wins hands down. But for enduring and exhilarating hilarity, nothing beats a void.

The Gulf

A rain soaked Wednesday? Relieve the gloom with a trip to the Pompidou Centre. More like relive the gloom. Seemingly slashed canvases depicting fractured angst and transcendent discord.

Well enough of the permanent exhibits. The temporary show caught my eye. Voids A Retrospective has been on just over a week.

It was a collection of exhibitions that - to cite the blurb - "presented a completely empty space, gallery, or museum".

There was Yves Klein's number from 1958. Lightly titled The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State Into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility.

Klein painted the gallery interior white to make "an ambiance, a genuine pictorial climate, and, therefore, an invisible one."

Apparently this show started the empty space as a work of art.

The other artists included Robert Barry, Robert Irwin, Laurie Parsons, Bethan Huws, Maria Eichhorn, Roman Ondák and Stanley Brouwn.

And they all had their take on the blank, white space.

Personally I've always liked the idea of emptiness being pregnant with meaning. But I was slightly befuddled about passing from white space to white space.

Fortunately there were arrows saying exhibition continues this way.
I really should have known there are whiter shades of pale. The boy certainly danced to this tune.

In Ondák's rendition More Silent Than Ever, the boy jumped out of his buggy and ran around it and me - a blur of motion. Oh the jauntiness of youth.

It seemed a trenchant summary on contemporary economic preoccupations.

I've always been impressed by a chapter in Sartre's Nausea. It went along the lines of: Nothing. Existed.

No matter how hard I've tried over the years I've never been able to connect with that kind of evacuation.

But since viewing the shoal of voids, I've been quite chirpy. Truly enwhitened.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Matchday X Preview and Postmortem

Somehow the preview got lost amid tot duties. The boy appears reluctant to go to sleep before very late.

He eventually did - obviously - but I figured that I needed some sleep before venturing off to play on Saturday morning. The rendez-vous with the team captain was at 8.15am at Porte de Montreuil.

That effectively meant I had to be at Republique before 8.

The location was way out in the countryside. 30 kilometres from Paris and there was bucolic bliss aplenty.

Good that aspect was available as the football was painful to watch from the sideline.

I sacrificed myself for the first half - fearing my leg would not last. I also figured that as we were playing the bottom team I might not have to do anything at all.

Wrong. it was 0-0 at half time and they were aided by the failure of the officials to award a goal. Apparently the ball went over the line twice but the referee didn't give it either time.

Ho hum. You can imagine that went down badly.

We eventually won 1-0 but it was edgy. Hardly imperious stuff. But at least the surroundings were pleasant and reminded me somewhat of the previous Saturday when I was in England.

It was good to get out and play too rather than watching.

The Whirl

I was back in Paris before I really had time to know I was in London. On the one hand this is a testament to modern communications and railway engineering.

But on the other hand it rather undermines the basis for a blog on Paris and London since I barely register London.

Next week I have a Sunday night and Monday night to savour the place of my birth. Ach Heimat.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Next Stage

Well nirvana me. The yoga teacher said at the end of Thursday night's lesson that in a couple of weeks she was going to be talking to me about perhaps moving to the Wednesday night class.

This is a slightly higher level. So after 475,000 euros worth of lessons I can step into another plain of pain.

I said we should perhaps talk about it after Saturday's match because I might not be doing any moving for six months.

I went out with a bloke who's thinking of moving from Athens to Paris with his family in a couple of months. Well under the circumstances you have to have a couple of glasses of wine.

It will be interesting to see who he fares.

By comparison we had it easy, we moved cities when there was only one bairn and she was 18 months old. He has two of six and eight.

He said he has cold sweats about the prospect every now and again. That's usually a good sign.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Real Match Day

The UEFA Champions League has returned. And coming to think of it The Match Day concept only exists in the group stages. They're long gone now. But after the first leg in the last 16, you can't really say there's a clear cut candidate for the last eight.

Maybe Wednesday night's games will provide some spice. I sincerely hope so as I'm going to do the weekend magazine on it.

As we draw nearer to my own matchday this Saturday I have picked up a new ailment. My left ear has gone all funny.

I don't think it is the thigh muscle strain working it's way up and out of my body. The missus thinks it could have come from some pressure thing in the tunnel on Monday night.

Well that's enough to put you off train travel. But will it affect my balance?

Already looking for excuses. Clearly I'm ready to take to the field.

Monday, 23 February 2009

The Return Journey

Back to the big city from the big city. Have to say the Eurostar journey from London was OK. The three children did their various things. The bit I particularly liked was the boy getting his legs stuck in the luggage rack. He climbed in, lounged louchely and then managed to push and twist his leg between the bars.

He realised the full stupidity when he tried to recline in an even more provocative manner.

It was a two parent job to get him out. I recall the girls clambering over seats, trying to play with door handles and being fascinated by the sounds of the Velcro on the headrests but never being so daft to get stuck like that.

I felt I had failed as a father when I saw the poor bairn wimpering. But once he was out he didn't try it again.

Clearly he's not that stupid.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Village Green

Am I getting obsessed? It certainly looks that way.

Crocked due to over exuberance in a practice match a few weeks ago, I continue my recuperation during half-term with muscular cycle rides with the children to the überplayground at the aerodrome and trots across the village green with the boy.

There's also been the daily yoga practice. I was going to do a practice in the garden on Saturday as it was such a gloriously un February like day. The eldest was all for it but I decided I didn't want to get my mat wet on the grass.

How out of sync is that?

Well I need to do more yoga because I was rather getting into the violence of the match between Ickwell and the other team which was the Saturday afternoon fare on the village green.

I could have had a view from the executive box that is the bedroom window of the in-laws' house. But I decided to go and mingle with the terraces that are the spectators on the bench outside the tea/changing rooms.

The Sky Blues were getting pasted by the team in white. Peter - who lives next door - told me that the team in white were the opposition.

"Oh dear," I retorted.

The Sky Blues needed a midfield facilitator who could turn defence into attack. Now I wonder who I could have been thinking about?

I wasn't quite kicking every ball mainly because I don't think I would have got anywhere near any of them. They all looked about 20 years younger than me even if they were moving with a sluggishness that hinted at a long Friday night out at the Hare and Hounds.

I was eventually called inside for a cup of tea. But not before witnessing the controversial decision not to award a goal to the Whites.

The good thing about watching a match in England is that I can understand the anger. When it all gets fractious in our matches in Paris I don't have a clue what the vitriol is about. I simply don't have that kind of vocabulary.

If I get fouled I simply get up and get on with it. Or even try and ride the kick. The skipper of my team calls it 'le fighting spirit anglais"

Which is odd since I always saw myself as a kind of continental flair merchant whenever I played in England.

As they say travel broadens the mind.

Friday, 20 February 2009

The Countryside

No son of the soil me. But I am embracing the shire lifestyle with a verve unbounded. Maybe the trip to Sainsburys helped me get in touch with my urban side.

Or perhaps it was the ride along to the aerodrome with the girls. There is a playground at Old Warden air field which is simply brilliant. Usually our school holidays don't coincide with the English ones so when we go there the place is deserted. Sadly this half-term is at the same time with England.

So the place was heaving. I managed to get a few minutes on the swings before giving way to some children. But I couldn't do my normal commando course stuff. Helas. The girls weren't that happy that there were others around.

I tried to explain that this was the nature of this playground. But I know what they were going through.

Me and the missus are just about to go off to a country pub for supper. I phoned to reserve for 7.30pm. The pub phoned back to tell us they only had 6pm start or 8pm.

Gosh pile em in and send em out. It sounds as if the Hare and Hounds is wunderbar.

But this is what they do back in the city. Metro manners with fresher air.

But will they be metro prices?