Saturday, 31 January 2009

Matchday VIII Postmortem

It was cold when I took off my track suit to play. Everything seems fine warming up. I trot round the running track with a hat on gloves, two sweatshirts and a track suit top.

I get about 200 metres and I feel this is a good idea getting out of a morning to run around. And it doesn't feel awful. The muscles have been stretched at yoga the night before and I am ready.

The trance is interrupted somewhat by the football match itself.

It started with me tucking in at right half and I watched the opening skirmishes unfold. Eventually I got involved.

It seemed to me that by the time we went 1-0 up we should have been well ahead. So when they levelled I thought more work to do. I'm not quite sure how our second goal was scored.

But after the break it was level pegging and I guess they just got tired because some very shoddy play led to it being 3-1 and within a matter of seconds it was 4-1.

Quite bizarre really. Then with that kind of cushion it was time for my team to turn off.

I stayed back, started screaming about concentrating. But I felt I was going a bit hoarse and since I was reading the news that afternoon, I kept quiet and concentrated.

It ended 4-1 and I have to say it was a fair result given the amount of chances we fluffed.

I was surprised at how their captain walked off when it was 3-1. Raging at the injustice of it all.

Before that dramatic strop, particularly odd was him ranting at the referee when he awarded us a free kick for a handball. The skipper was convinced I was offside but since the linesman hadn't flagged and I was well behind one of their defenders when I started to run on to the ball (which was stopped by a flailing arm), you thought what are you on mate.

I said to one of his team mates who was looking exasperated at his own captain that we've never scored from a free kick.

Sure enough we didn't score.

But we keep trying.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Matchday VIII Preview

Well this one is against the team we lost 5-4. Was they lucky? They was indeed. Probably. Can't remember. But it's the rematch and from the emails going out I don't think we're going to be numerous. That is depressing.

I was at the radio station today and the boss asked me to switch to an earlier shift. I had to say I think the team needs me. We're threadbare.

So there it is, I've been given dispensation to play and then go in and present the programmes. It is so much easier when I can do the sport and be left well alone.

But it's never like that. Went to relaxation class and was well and truly stretched. We did something to open up the portals of the feet and I must admit they did feel lighter.

I tried to imagine the ball gliding from foot to foot. But that was pipe dreaming. Not likely to happen.

But I might be able to run and not pull up in agony. We shall see.

I was just putting the bike away when I got a call. It was the eldest asking me when I would be home because the missus had been sick and hadn't cooked them any supper.

This kind of thing doesn't help the focus.

So rather than catering for my own meagre needs, it was the galloping gourmet or perhaps that should be galloping ohm(et).

Once the girls had been dispatched it was just a question of the boy.

Two stories and some potty action later he's eventually decided to stay in his room.

I no have free range on the sofa while the invalid spreads out in the bed. I shall doubtless be joined by the boy later.

As the yoga teacher said earlier: "This one and a half hours is just for you. Whatever happens later is later. Now is yours."

Mine was indeed then. But now is silence - apart from the cartoon series The Tick on the DVD.

Either I have to get the video cassette recorder fixed or buy DVDs of Star Trek.

That's the kind of fare for the night before a match.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The 18

I note that my tennis hero Roger Federer is into his 18th grand slam final. He's won 13 of 17 so far. His losses have been three times at Roland Garros and at Wimbledon last year.

If he wins in Australia on Sunday he'll equal my previous hero's record of 14. 'Pistol' Pete Sampras was a monster at Wimbledon. He won seven there, five US Opens and twice in Australia. None in Paris.

Sound familiar?

The Strike IV

Everyone seems to be angry with Sgt Major Sarko.

Nearly a month into the new year and a day of action. Or should that be inaction. General strike - grève générale or as the wags put it rêve générale.

I didn't stop to ask anyone with this daubed over their jacket why it was a rêve. My mistake as there were quite a few in the Petit Chateau d'Eau when me and the bairns went in for our snack at tea time. As I have been reading in the papers: people are upset over their lack of spending power and the fact that there are job losses aplenty.

At this juncture it seems to me that if you have a precarious position that it is not the time to go and possibly jeopardise. But I guess one day off isn't going to tilt things that much.

Maybe we should have been out there demonstrating. Though I don't think that a demo is any place for a child. It could turn nasty.

Instead after lunch we did improving things like read books - well that's what the eldest did. The youngest had his siesta while me and the middle child watched the A Team on the sofa. Or rather she watched the A Team while I nodded off.

I am a big fan of the do-gooding heroes taking the side of the underdog against overwhelming forces. And somehow it seemed the apt programme for a day of action.

As the lead into the show says: 'If you've got a problem and no one else can help, maybe you can hire the A Team......'

Get on that phone Sarko.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Wellcome

A rainswept Euston Road is not the most alluring of sites but I braved it nevertheless to go and visit the Wellcome Foundation. It has loads of scientific stuff which isn't normally my kind of thing. But having left Paris at the crack of dawn and arriving a bit later in London, I thought I ought to do something with my mind before work.

The exhibition War and Medicine showed us that while we now have increasingly sophisticated weapons which can maim and kill, there are now increasingly sophisticated methods of repairing the human body.

It was a bit too gory for me. But one thing I did like was the interactive human body where you could press a switch and bits like the large intestine or appendix would light up.

Never had one of those at school.

After my trip on Friday round the Jeu de Paume to see the Robert Frank snapshot of pictures, I'm feeling suitably nourished intellectually.

Thanks to the same wonders of technology that can rip human flesh from its bone in the blood spattering of an eye, I am at my desk at the Guardian waiting for the day at work to begin and watching the Novak Djokovic Marcos Baghdatis fourth round match at the Australian Open.

I arrived to find that Roger Federer had to come from two sets down to beat Tomas Berdych. Not the cruise to grand slam glory that fans like me would want.

But methinks his days of conveyor belt victories are well behind him and he'll do extremely well to equal Pete Sampras's haul of 14 slams.

But I should concern myself with actually having a backhand. That would be a welcome addition to the repertoire.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Alternative Saturday

Deprived as I was of combative physical exercise, I decided to go for a swim. Actually I was pushed off the sofa by the boy and decided to go and commiserate with myself in the pool.

The piscine is a glorious place when no on is there and at just gone 7am on a Saturday morning no one is there. In fact it was so alluring there might be a case to scrap the football and do the swimming.

Especially when I can spend it with the darling sweeties. I took the daughters to buy some yoga mats and on for a chocolat viennois.

They were then lunched. The middle child came with me to the radio station while the eldest went home - her belly full of confit de canard and pommes sautees.

Me and the mid kid spent the day at work with me working and her dooing drawings, reading and playing computer games away from the excoriating criticism of her big sister and the niggling tendencies of her baby brother.

I get the feeling the mid kid would love nothing more than jumping on the train with me and doing more of the same in London.

Wouldn't mind it myself.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

The Cancellation

Just as I was getting geared up for Saturday morning's exertions, an email arrived to say that the match has been cancelled.

Gutted. Sick as a parrot. I was ready for a big game. But it will have to wait for another morning.

So to console myself it's time for one of the Rockford Files. It's guest starring Susan Howard who later found fame in Dallas or was it Knot's Landing. I dunno. It's a google kind of thing.

I don't need to google what another of the guest stars went on to do. Sharon Gless is in another one of the Rockford Files and she became Cagney or Lacey.

I never watched the programme. More of a Starsky and Hutch kind of kid was I.

In fact given my affinity with American cop shows of the 1970s, it's a wonder I never entered pub quiz teams. But for that I'd have to go to a pub on a regular basis.

And that wouldn't help my football.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Waiting Room

It's so easy to yearn for warmer weather. This time last year I was dousing myself in mosquito repellent and broiling to a crisp in Ghana.

Now I get to sit in a waiting room at Streatham Common station and ruminate about life's great ride.

I had a curious conversation with the ticket seller at St Pancras International on Monday night. I asked for a ticket for Tuesday morning from Streatham Common to St Pancras.

And he said: " You mean Streatham?" .

"No," I replied. "Streatham Common."

"The train doesn't stop at Streatham Common it's from Streatham. They're two completely different stations."

"I know that," I said showing no hint of irritation that 40 plus years of using the stations should have afforded me.

"The website said that the train stops at Streatham Common."

"No it can't unless they've rerouted the entire network round there. It's 5.46 at Streatham."

And with that flourish he told me to look at a board of the routes. And indeed they showed me what I already knew.

I even asked him to check the station the train stopped at before Streatham. "Was it Tooting?"

He looked and he couldn't elucidate the stop before Streatham.

Obviously his stance slightly worried me. Had I been so tired that I incorrectly jotted down the information from the website.

I took the train to Streatham and another onto Streatham Common and sure enough 5.43 at Streatham Common and 5.46 at Streatham.

He was right and so was I. But he was very wrong to say that I was wrong.

The upshot was that I shuffled off for the walk to the nearer Streatham Common this morning and thought how kind of Thameslink to lay on an early morning train from my local station which takes me right to St Pancras International.

This cross border train travel is a breeze. Though I loved Waterloo, I always had to change to get there from Streatham Common.

Streatham Common to the Gare du Nord on two trains.

Now it's just a matter of waiting for the Thameslink service to be removed.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Matchday VII Post Mortem

The match actually started at 9.30am. And not 11am as some of the emails suggested. I had planned the morning for 11am.

I had breakfast and toast and set off for Aubervilliers. Fortunately all the connections came and I got to the pitch in enough time.

I didn't have enough time to do my warm up routines fully and I had just finished my second lap of the track when there was screaming about whether I wanted to go on. One of the players who was just back from injury injured himself and limped off with a gammy groin.

I thought it was too soon to be in the fray and took over being linesman.

I think I should have taken my chances on the pitch as trying to be an official is not my idea of football. Especially when one of the opposition liked standing in an off-side position and then running back onside.

Left me baffled and I allowed play to go on once when it should have been off-side. Oh well err on the side of the opposition is my motto. Not likely to endear you to your team mates.

The opponents scored through some flukey goal and though I observed from the sidelines quite a few chances for us, they didn't go in.

Of course my introduction at the start of the second half changed the course of the game. And it ended up with a 2-1 win to us. I didn't set up any goals, I'm not sure what I contributed but I was on the pitch and we won.

The kindest thing to say is that I gave the defence something else to think about. A different kind of movement.

A win and no muscles pulled. A result.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Matchday VII Preview

First match of the new year and I'm primed. It gets better and better. It's going to start at 11am which at least means a decent night's snooze rather than waking up at some unearthly hour to go far into the banlieue.

There's trouble at the radio station with the management wanting to sack more or less one in five of the staff.

I've resorted to quoting bits out of Hamlet. It seemed apt and tied in with the Galgenhumor needed at times like this.

I said to the missus that someone ought to go round the building dressed as the Grim Reaper.

Now that's what I'd call funny.

Probably not a good idea. Best to get the fear and trepidation out of the system by running around on a football field.

Must remember no aimless kicking out: that's for management at the radio station.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Fast Lane

Being a sober sort of driver, I rarely dabble with the fast lane. I consider myself a sober sort of person but there's the occasional flirtation with the fast lane lifestyle.

I took an early morning train from St Pancras International on Wednesday and it propelled me to Paris.

Just as we neared the capital I phoned to summon the family to meet me at the cafe over the road from home. However I was informed the girls had stayed out overnight with their chums.

The boy was brought to me in the cafe where he proceeded to gnaw and drool his way through bits of tartine. Ah sharing.

Wednesday is a high octane day even when I start the day in Paris. The girls have their activities and the boy usually has his swimming lesson.

I traipsed off with the eldest to her capoeira class and headed straight to the radio station.

There is no end of fun at the moment in the world of sport. The papers are full of the meltdown at Chelsea and then there's also the prospect of Andy Murray becoming the first male British tennis player to win a grand slam.

From what I've seen on the TV at the start of the season, he does have a good chance. He has beaten Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer - the world number one and two this season and from those matches, I'd say he's got the game to win the big prize in Melbourne.

Against Federer he rallies him à la Nadal and lures the increasingly error prone Swiss into a state of impatient frustration. Against Nadal he trades punch for punch. It's very impressive.

Fast lane Wednesday has now eased into mundane Thursday. A simple case of taking the boy to creche, the radio station and some yoga afterwards.

Altogether more zen.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Reader

My affair with Germany started round about 1970 when my family went there to visit my mum's friend Sigi. My sister and I were sent down the lane to a farm to buy 'Zwei Liter Milch und zehn Eier.'

Nearly 40 years and a degree in German later, I went to see the Reader starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes. Without giving away the twists - 16 year old takes up with older woman one lust swollen summer. He reads to her and she repays him in sexual kind.

But she clears out when a guilty secret might be revealed. Many years later and she's in prison where he sends tapes to her of the books they went through during that long lost summer. Classic tomes such as The Odyssey and Emilia Galotti. After listening to a tale from Schiller, she writes back to the Reader and tells him: "Schiller needs a woman."

My chuckle did slightly pierce through the silence of the cinema but it was a good take on the man. Actually I was slightly irked that I hadn't used that line while at university. Obviously too callow.

The Reader was frustrating because it hinted at issues of guilt and responsibility but the protagonists weren't expansively drawn and I couldn't really plunge into their dilemmas. The film was about two hours long but it could have done with another 20 minutes to have more visceral impact. It's supposed to be an Oscar contender. Es war gut... aber.....

I might buy the book to see what that's like.

On that subject I've bought over to London Primo Levi's Moments of Reprieve. I have yet to open it. Levi managed to elude the slaughter at Auschwitz - probably just as well I've not started.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

The Fatigue

Wooed by the price I booked up for the 0713 from Paris to London. If I’d taken the train an hour later the cost would have effectively doubled. If I’d tried to take a train that arrived shortly before I’m due to start work, then I would in essence be giving all the day’s earnings to Eurostar.

I was useless at science and not that gifted at maths at school, but even I realised that was not a good deal. So the 0713 it was.

I set the alarm for 6.10 – figuring I could be up, up and away by 6.30.

I woke convinced that I’d not heard the alarm. In a surge of commendable agility, I was out of bed without disturbing the missus and into the sitting room to check the alarm.

It was 4.10. Sadly the concoction of chemicals that had just allowed me such speed and silence didn’t subside and 20 minutes later I was still awake.

Rather than the BBC World Service fail-safe, I thought I’d put on the TV and lull myself back into sleep with one of the children’s cartoons.

Obviously the boy got wind of what was going on. I heard his footsteps and switched off the box. In he came and promptly planted himself on the sofa.

What a treat - a hot water bottle all for me. So I lay there waiting for him to go back to sleep before returning him to his bed.

I tried the TV trick again and he was back.

I gave up the struggle and took the headphones out of the TV and stuck them into the radio to listen to World Service perched on the edge of the sofa with my snoring hot water bottle.

After the updates on the bombs in Gaza and gas pipeline disputes between Russia and Ukraine, there was a piece on International Year of Astronomy. They had men from places with big telescopes and they were talking about going into schools and getting pupils to buy little telescopes that could be easily constructed so that a sense of awe and wonder would be fired about the universe.

That’s a good idea I thought as I drifted off into space.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Visit II

Another day and another visit to the doctor's surgery. This time it was the boy. He had to go and see the ear specialist. She was charged with checking whether all those ear infections of his youth had impaired his hearing.

The infections had certainly impaired my health. Countless nights over the past two years spent lying on cushions on the floor while he had to be cajoled to sleep with a combination of stories on the sofa or cartoons.

The doctor showed him an array of gadgets and stuck things in his ears. The bet bit was when she said he should only press a red button when he heard a sound.

He kept hearing sounds.

The thrill of the room catapulted him into a frenzy of excitement. And it's difficult to discern whether the doctor said he was fine just to get him out.

We paid and left and went for a coffee at a cafe which looked out onto the majesty of St Lazare church. The wobbly tables seemed to perpetuate his merriment.

I called it a day after that taking the train westwards towards the radio station as the boy and his mother headed back home.

I am relieved he is fine. I can now concentrate on the aching limbs from my yoga class.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Cold

What I particularly liked this evening was the way it felt tropical as I prepared to get onto the bike.

There's a big electronic clock near the radio station which beams out the time and the temperature. As I arrived at 1209 it told me it was minus four.

As I left at 1851, it had rocketed to minus two.

A time for rejoicing then? No, not really as the cycle paths seemed to have been omitted from the gritting programme.

"Danger and I are old friends," said the Romulan captain in one episode of Star Trek.

And I negotiated the paths gingerly. There was a bit of sliding but nothing I couldn't handle at a snail's pace.

The big disappointment of the trip to London was that Zavvi - the benighted DVD and CD store - wasn't giving away the DVDs I wanted.

In fact it didn't even have the DVDs I craved. I thought here's a business that's called in the administrators, it will be a dream time to buy.

Forget that. I looked for the DVD sets of Star Trek - the original series - and found a few films featuring the old crusties from that era. Not even discounted.

I asked the cashier if they had the DVD sets hidden away somewhere. She looked at her computer and said nothing seemed to be around and said a few were due in but would be at an astronomical price.

She advised me to go to amazon which is why I guess Zavvi was in trouble because people were doing that kind of thing anyway

I did find the Star Wars DVDs at something of a discount though and bought the first three episodes.

Now I have 1-6, the complete collection.

And even though I found the first three tedious I shall sit through them again so that I can have the chronological thrill.

Just need to find the appropriate moment to binge on them all.

Perhaps a day recovering from a cold.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

The Return

Well a sabbatical is over and the life between Paris and London is back on. Sunday queues at Gare du Nord and travails with my ontology.

There were masses at the Gare du Nord and I ended up behind the person who had passport issues. I’ve always found it odd that we have to go through French and British immigration in Paris while in London you only have French immigration to clear.

What do they care about in Paris that they don’t care about it in London or is it the other way round?

But the nature of travel is people. And Patience. Experience has taught me not to panic at times like this. They’re being scrupulous for a reason. The train will not leave without me.

And sure enough it didn’t. In fact it failed to depart on time and with problems in the Channel Tunnel dating back from last year’s fire – we were rescheduled to arrive at 11.47 rather than 11.19am.

Since the Guardian now sports shiny new offices at King’s Cross what difference does that make?

I’ll still be on time for my 12.30pm start. But I had hoped to get there really early to browse around the new high spec superstructure and recalibrate.

No such fortune.

As the train sped through northern France it does appear that we’ve been lucky in Paris to have escaped the brunt of the cold. The fields have a slaver of snow and lakes and ponds were partially frozen.

Because of the huge demand for train 9019 I ended up in one of the more expensive seats.

This is good for racking up the points to maintain my Carte Blanche status – and access to the lounges in London and Paris – but a lavish breakfast isn’t as good as a slap up supper which you obviously get on the evening trains.

But since that isn’t an option, you have to run with the reality.

And the truth is the Guardian has moved to within a 10 minute walk of St Pancras International.

O lucky man.

Friday, 2 January 2009

The Cardigan

There is a shop near where we live which is deeply trendy. It's so cool it opens at 1pm and closes at 7pm. Last summer I bought a straw hat that my grandad approved of. He is 92 and said it reminded him of the ones worn back in Jamaica.

As the hat only cost a couple of euros I thought go ahead. I also bought a summer shirt. On subsequent visits there hasn't been anything quite so appealing but the other day I saw a cardigan. I wasn't wearing the right kind of shirt in terms of material so I didn't buy it.

Went back today - well after 1pm -with the right kind of shirt and it wasn't open but the keys were in the door on the other side and the lights were on.

I went off on a few errands, returned and still the same scenario. Lights on and no one home. I'm obviously not supposed to have the cardigan. So I'll spend the money on a better pair of tennis shoes.

The current ones have cracked up at the edges. In fact there's no grip on the left side of the left foot and that could be the reason for the crocked leg.

I doubt there's any link but at least it gives me food for thought as I trip along to the Adidas store on Tuesday to purchase a new pair.

Ones with übergrips.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The New Year

A happy new year to all readers of the blog.

I am starting the year with unbridled optimism and writing 'readers'. With the blog monitor I know that there are 'readers'. So clearly not all the verbiage is in vain. There was a message from a satisfied customer a few weeks back who just wrote a line to say that she liked it - that's all - nothing more -voilà. I'm assuming it is a she as the name was Doris.

But I don't want to assume too much.

New year and it should be a time for resolutions. I have no idea what I would like to give up or what I would really like to do. I am reading more and that is good. I even ordered a few books off Amazon the other day. Wow - somehow I felt more intelligent doing that than purchasing songs off Itunes.

Though with the iphone I have downloaded a translator onto the phone. So at any moment I can clear up any of those niggling gender issues for nouns.

However the paranoid coward within is reluctant to whip out the phone on a whim for enlightenment just in case someone whips it away.

New year - same old same old.