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.