Sunday, 26 December 2010

Euro Efficiency

What a difference a few days make. That's not a very catchy way to start a song so I guess that's why it hasn't been used. Only six days ago the queues were forming around St Pancras International.

I went along this afternoon and got my tickets for the next couple of trips. No worries said the lady for Tuesday. But today is Sunday and anything could happen in the next 48 hours.

That's an adulterated line from Stingray and I am in a state of supermarionation after being given the DVD collection of Thunderbirds. It was always a superior product in my view.

The boy wrecked my video cassette recorder a while back and I haven't replaced it so I have not seen things like the Monty Python episodes I recorded. Nor the host of Thunderbirds I recorded long ago in the distant mists of my youth.

Now I have them all nearby. I shall put them near the Rockford Files.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

Mein Gott. Christmas Eve 2010. The year has whizzed by and I find myself in Caffe Nero in north London preparing for a bit of work at the radio station via the telephone.

Fortunately enough has been happening in London to justify my English dateline so in a way I should thanks Eurostar for having stranded me here. Why do in Paris what you can do in London when it can save money and save mental anguish.

Eurostar sent me a text message saying that it was planning to run a quasi normal service. Just turn up and hour before your departure, the email suggested.

That's not normal. I'm usually 35 minutes before the event.

But these are not normal times. I am in a cafe in north London working for an English language radio station based in Paris.

As strange as the queues at St Pancras International.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Staying at Home II

Years ago I used to go to Tooting Bec Lido. I went throughout the year. It was the healthiest time of my life. I went for a splash in all weathers.

Obviously at this time of the year, all I did was a width of about 30 yards.

It was the whole preparation for the 30 yards that was interesting and then the adrenal high of having completed such a thing.

That usually fired my cycle ride onto the Guardian via the cafe.

I was at the indoor pool in Tooting this morning. Thinking about how I used to go there when I was trying to get my head togther following the break up of a then very important relationship.

Not much has changed at the pool save the rise in prices and the installation of a sauna.

As I was cycling to my mum's flat, I passed the road where my house is and I saw this elderly figure going round the corner.

I recognised it as a man who about 17 years ago stopped me in the street and was really aggressive because - as he claimed -my mum owed him some cash.

I told my dad about it and a few weeks later my dad mentioned that the bloke wouldn't be bothering me any more.

It's the second christmas when we won't be having my dad's idiosyncratically seasoned chicken. I can understand why people want to go away at Christmas.

Heathrow and Eurostar just make it very difficult.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Stay At Home

Did not go back to Paris on Tuesday. I was told by a Eurostar chap on Monday night that I would have to go up to St Pancras at 5am on Tuesday morning and start waiting for the train formerly known as the 0653 because the schedule no longer existed.

I didn't fancy that. Especially since people had been waited five hours or more on Monday. I contacted my boss in Paris who kindly allowed me to stay in London and work. I was more concerned by the problems the trains might have on Christmas Eve.

They might not get through on the 24th and I didn't fancy being in Paris over Christmas. I am sure I could have watched TV and done lots of administration. But that's not the point. My mother is over from America.

I ought to be in the same country and even in the same house since she is in the same continent.

Quite how Eurostar promote themselves as a go-ahead company when they force people to queue in sub-zero temperatures is beyond me.

They have at least refunded my tickets for Tuesday 21 and Friday 24 and there should be more than that. But since this is an outfit that can leave passengers to camp overnight in the terminal, I just ought to say OK.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Snow

At the moment there is a queue outside St Pancras. People are waiting to take the train to Paris and there have been a couple of cancellations.

I like this bit when the company says if you don't have to travel then please don't. But how many people don't have to travel?

I know that when I head off for St Pancras on Tuesday morning, it is because I have to do so - a few work commitments in Paris. I would love to say no, don't have to do it.

Perhaps it will be fine on Tuesday morning. I am more concerned about Christmas Eve. Am due to be on the last train out of Paris on that day. Wow. Adventure. Don't have to go to a war zone for edge and and uncertainty. Just try travelling between Paris and London.

Sunday, 19 December 2010


I think there is a moment when it is important to realise that winter brings circumstances that are seasonal. It is cold. It is snowy and it is often quite horrible. But it's neat to celebrate that.

But if you have to travel ... it's right to prepare for a nightmare. 2013, the train should have left Paris. 213, it should have been in London.

But time becomes fluid in winter and so we left at nearly 9pm and arrived in London and 1130pm local time. So that was half past midnight European time - because of course Britain doesn't hang with Europe on this temporal thang.

Shame that.

I am wondering whether Eurostar will be dishing out any refunds or any sweeteners. I will ask. Maybe they will say you are lucky it only took four and a bit hours.

And you know what they're probably right. It is winter time.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Cancellations

It's only the beginning of December and Eurostar is having trouble with the weather. I thought I was really smart on Saturday because I phoned up to see if the 0913 was running. Yes, the Frequent Traveller woman told me. You can check it on the website, she added. And I was guided to a page where everything was shown.

When I got to the Gare Du Nord I realise my mistake was not to check on Sunday morning because the train had been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Just before I had boiled into indignation, a couple entered the lounge complaining that they had been told just an hour before that the train was running.

So off we went at 1013, quite how the weather had improved between 0913 and 1013 was not obvious as I looked out of the window. Perhaps earlier there had been a deluge to go with the snowy blasts.

Well at least we were only seven minutes late into St Pancras which is good - if you were scheduled on the 1013. One hour seven minutes if like me one had been due to travel at 0913.

At least the staff in the lounge were pleasant. Coming round asking me if I needed any more chocolates. Shame it wasn't a lunch time train as I might have gone to town on the white wine.

Friday, 3 December 2010

World Cup Joys

I am not upset that England lost the world cup charge. Russia and Qatar have never hosted the extravaganza.

Jolly good luck to them. They have deep pockets and that is necessary to lay on a lavish show.

Russia doesn't have a brilliant record on race relations and will need to redouble their efforts to make the country alluring.

Qatar isn't exactly a haven for workers' rights and so that might change.

Sepp Blatter, the president of world football's governing body, has been a recalcitrant bureaucrat on a plethora of issues but sending the tournament into new territories has been his grand flourish.

Earlier this year it was South Africa. In 2018 Russia will have the fun and in 2022 everyone will roast in the Middle East.

A new meaning to the phrase hot tickets.

Gut Feeling

There I was feeling like it was sour grapes. I had been saying in a few blogs that the Eurostar trips were not as punctual as usual. Only once in five trips had the train been on time. Well on Thursday I received an email telling me that Eurostar was tackling this by cutting the service to 50 per cent.

However everything they say will be back to normal on Sunday. This is good as I am supposed to be travelling to London to do some work.

The Eurostar bosses have asked for all non essential travel to be delayed. This always strikes me as bizarre. How many people travel between the cities for non-essential purposes? That would be a fascinating survey.

Obviously somewhere there are lots of non-essential voyages taking place. I would love to get to that position in my life where I could take a non-essential trip.

It is not here yet.

Saturday morning's football match has been deemed non-essential. The opponents phoned our captain this afternoon to tell him that only five of them would be available. Since they are a good team they still might have won.

Since the pitch is booked for 11-1pm we could have a kick around. But the captain has suggested that exertion is a non-essential and has urged his troops to gird their loins for further exploits next week.

As the match was called off at the last minute, we will probably be given a 3-0 forfeit win.

It is quite a handy outcome. I have been invited out to a party tonight and I was going to leave early so that I could get enough sleep to run around in the morning.

I still might leave early to get some sleep.

At my stage of life it is essential.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Monday Feeling

The world's most important match is underway between Barcelona and Real Madrid. I would say that is tripe because the world's most important match takes place when I play on a Saturday.

Obvious really. It is all relative. Do I care more that Barca or Real win more than my own team? Certainly not.

It's wonderful being parochial.

Or at least travelling from Paris to London to see it all on satellite TV.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Suffering For Art II

There is no football on Saturday. But honestly the way the team plays sometimes it is difficult to say there is football when we are actually playing.

To misappropriate Mr Spock: It's not football as we know or understand it.

To that end Saturday will see a training session. A kickabout in which we maintain the rhythm of running around and overrunning the ball.

It has snowed today so it might be a bit chilly. Should be an ideal opportunity to stay tucked up in bed or cosy up on the sofa with my breakfast and Star Trek DVDs.

But if people are prepared to stand and wait to look at a load of pictures, it seems more logical to get up and run around in the cold.

Suffering For Art

A long time ago I went to Giverney with a then girlfriend and toured the house of Claude Monet.

I bought some postcards of plants and bits of water and went completely mad.

"Because of my paparazzi status, I got into the museum with my camera without having to pay.

So you could say I got my Monet for nothing and my clicks for free. Yes Paul is in dire straits .....

That made the trip for me. It was probably the kiss of death for the relationship.

Ho hum. I went to the Monet exhibition at the Grand Palais and felt duty bound to remember the lines. Still remember the girlfriend. Difficult to forget really since we had once bought a house together.

But looking back on it I don't think she ever swore to love me till the end of eternity.

Probably didn't have a chance to vow allegiance because I was too busy seeking corny lines for postcards.

I did not get any postcards from the exhibition today as there were queues.

There was a queue to get in and there were hoards of people looking at the pictures.

It was a sumptuous display.

Almost as good as a certain post card caption.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

St Pancras Old Church

Maybe Eurostar should just stop promoting the idea of a timetable. Got into London late - yet again - and went to the St Pancras Old Church to listen in.

It's high stuff there. Incense and the like and some of the old songs. The hymns reminded me of church of my youth before the pews were ripped out and comfy chairs were installed and poorer songs were put in.

One of the blokes in the congregation started telling me a few things about the church after the service had ended. That was kind.

I knew a bit about the history having once walked through the graveyard when I was covering an inquest at St Pancras Coroner's Court as a reporter.

The church looked very foreboding and its proximity to a mortuary, the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and of course the coroner's court imbued it with a vivid lugubriousness.

Fortunately it was jolly inside. And that's what counts.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Network Europe

I obviously haven't been to see a film in London for ages. I was visibly shaken when the lady at the box office told me it was £10.50 to see the feature.

I tried to place the last time I was at the Renoir in Bloomsbury and couldn't remember. I was given a leaflet about becoming a Curzon Cinema member and getting discounts at their lavish outlets at the Mayfair, Chelsea and Richmond cinemas.

It costs £50 a year to get two free tickets and a discounted price of £8.50.

I'd have to go more regularly to appreciate the benefits of that offer. I have been hovering for a few weeks hoping to go and see something at the flicks. But the times haven't coincided well with the finish at work.

But to cut a long story short, I went to see the Social Network, the film all about the Facebook phenomenon. Quite a good film but I didn't think it was worth £10.50.

I am clearly heading to the point where I will only venture out to see the brainless blockbusters and consign myself to waiting for the DVD release of films like last night's.

Seems a pity for an avid cinema goer like me. But the days of heading off to the flicks two or even three times a week would just be financially ruinous were I living in London and that's even with the Curzon's cut-price offer.

But as the film proffered you can go out with your friends firmly ensconced on your sofa.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Wild and Crazy

My outrage is mounting. Yet again there was a delay. That makes three trips three delays. This time I quite liked the reasons. Sick passenger at Ashford International and then a broken rail in Haute Picardie.

So instead of arriving a 1017 we plodded in at 11am. Not drastic but when the whole spiel is about High Speed 1 and sleek services, I will have to rack my brains for an idea about something more tangible from Eurostar than the chef de bord saying sorry for the delay.

I want recompense.

Well Left

I contributed to the collective this morning. About 40 or so magazines of the engineering union, the AUEW. They belonged to my dad and I handed them into the Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell Green.

They'd been hanging around in my room for more than a year so it was good to send them onto a place where they might be appreciated.

The next thing to disposes of is the classical records. Who does vinyl classical records these days? I am of course keeping the jazz records. Space will be found for them.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


It really is drivel. All this hyperbole about being zapped between Paris and London before you can say Chateau Neuf du Pape. Two trips I've taken of late and both were way late.

That's quite American that expression. Must be the book I'm reading. The Time Traveller's Wife. Should be renamed the Time Consuming Book. Three hundred pages in and not much has happened.

Maybe there'll be an explosive last 200 pages. Perfect book for reading on the Eurostar though.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Hearth

Sunday night in wintry Streatham has brought warmth in bed in the shape of a hot water bottle. I have done my usual ritual of sorting out a few more of my dad's things.

A few more papers have been consigned to the recycling and the room that was a mountain of stuff a year ago is a bit smaller. The middle child wanted the music stand he had for his saxophone and there was also a metronome. This is all for her saxophone lessons. She's pursuing it diligently. The sax was left to her. The boy gets the trumpet and the eldest has the piano thing.

I don't see them forming a band.

Maybe they could perform before I go and play football of a Saturday morning. Got back into action on Saturday and missed a good chance to make it 3-0.

My how I rued that as the opponents came back in the second half. It finished 4-2 to our shufflers. The ribs that were happily crunched a few weeks back survived in tact. But I do fear for my right ankle. It is not a happy area after the game.

But that is probably all psychological. What wasn't in my mind was the searing cramp in my left leg on Saturday afternoon as I was watching the tennis on TV,

The strange thing was the pain in my ankle had gone. I'll have to pursue the theory of internal dispersal. Must avoid pain in my brain though.

Perhaps I should stop reading the Time Traveller's Wife.

The Review

The joys of being past the bawling baby stage on the Eurostar. I could look at the couple with the toddler sprawled over the seat and the babe in a harness wrapped round the mother’s neck

And I could rejoice that I’d passed through that voyage. Every day seemed to be a trial to get through.

And now the bairns are older, there’s wistfulness that they’re no longer the little cuddly cuties of yore.

Essentially I must stop reading books that provoke the contemplative side. It’s not good for my health.

Have started reading The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Quite what brought me to purchase such a tome is beyond me.

Perhaps it was my future self that did it. Because it seems inconceivable that my past self would have had any yen for this kind of novel.

As far as I can make out by page 60, it’s a cross between Highlander and Back to The Future.

For all the action of the Highlander film, there was a loneliness to the character who watched friends and lovers grow old and die while he continued.

I sense the same is in the offing in this one.

I shall avoid reading it on the 1013 out of Paris and concentrate on more immediate things like the economic gloom enveloping Europe.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Back to School

The middle child was a bit sullen during the short break in Burgundy. I went for a walk with her on Monday evening and it came out about how she didn't like car trips in which there was lots of traffic.

And then she recalled a trip two summers ago in which I drove from London up to Lancashire to see an old university mate. Once there promptly I effectively broke down and spent most of the time there recovering. Awful. So she cried about how I didn't go out with her and her siblings and my mum.

I did explain that the summer had been difficult with my dad's death.

I told her we would go back to Paris on Tuesday evening so that we could spend her birthday out of a car.

So the birthday has been a range of treats. Lunch out, Star Wars and bits of homework for school on Thursday.

My treat to myself was to get my dad's wallet repaired since it had become rather forlorn in the year or so that I've been using it.

The shop where I took it has fixed it but lost it.

The man in the shop told me it was either in the bag of some other client and they are waiting for them to call in or it is lost in the atelier.

They are waiting for it to turn up. He didn't think it had been stolen. It had just got lost. I didn't quite burst into tears but was pretty upset.

It may well appear. So for the moment I am using another of dad's old wallets and one of his change purses.

The loss of the wallet left me rather discombobulated. It wasn't an expensive piece. And at least it was lost while I was trying to care for it.

Perhaps it will be found. If not then I guess they'll have to replace it somehow. But it wasn't very expensive. We'll have to see what the gesture is.

I am a sentimental one. I mean it is me who has adorned the wallet with meaning. If I am riven by its departure then how would I be if I lost something of real value?

It's not worth becoming too ponderous about it. An error has been made. Frothing and foaming about it won't bring the wallet back. I was trying to do the right thing.

That's not learned at school, it's learned from parents. The spirit is the key for the next few days.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Zen Interlude

The advert goes the future is bright, the future is Orange. I do have a mobile phone account with Orange. But it really isn't on the basis of their shop in Place de la République. Actually there you do get to taste the future because it takes at least 30 minutes to get served.

But that was the subject of a previous blog or was that a rant?

I sent off a voucher to get some kind of refund for buying an iphone. Still nothing back. Maybe it will come. If it doesn't I don't foresee a bright future with Orange.

My point? Went to yoga. Highly indulgent this. No football this Saturday so what was the motive? Sheer pleasure at pushing myself to the edge and being happy to bounce out at the end.

I do believe the gammy side is healed. I did some things that three weeks ago would have been impossible.

The moral of the tale is next time I go up for a header, don't.

Of course now I'll be conscious of my torso. Maybe I should look for some exercise that strengthen that so I will be super tough next time a goalkeeper tries to take a chunk out of me.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cultured Club

I stood in the Basquiat exhibition at the Musee d'art moderne in Paris the other day looking at all the pretty pictures. Scribbled drawings and slashes of paint. References to a heritage and a present and it was all rather fascinating.

Thought about going to see the Gauguin at the Tate Modern in London on Monday but realised that Tate Modern and school half term did not really go hand in hand. So I have left that blockbuster for after the school holidays.

As I slouched onto the platform at St Pancras International this morning I looked out for the ICE. But it wasn't there. A couple of weeks ago it was being shown off ahead of the Deutsche Bahn service between London and Frankfurt that will make the German city accessible in only four hours.

Mein Gott.

I have very happy memories of Deutsche Bahn as I swept through Germany during the 2006 World Cup in its first class carriages. There was some month long ticket available on a special rate to journalists so I bought one and had a rail of a time.

That's a poor joke.

But with the new sleek ICE trains, Germany will be even closer. And for an anti aircraft person like myself, this makes me happy. If this possibility had existed before, I'd probably be living in Deutschland and commuting to London rather than Paris.

Cologne will be soon just a three hour breeze away. Wunderschön. And with 500,000 or so public sector workers newly idle, the trains ought to be full of day trippers heading off to savour the delights of the Chocolate Museum and the local beer.

But they're not likely to have much cash to be able to travel. Oh weh.

I assume the bigger brains than mine have taken all this into account.

Or is there a bigger gamble going on? I'd love to think about right wing military take over but even the armed forces and the police are being reduced.

That's reassuring in the event of social unrest. I'm going to seek the odds on a state of emergency being declared in Britain in less than five years.

The Strike

A few people in the office in London have engaged me in conversation on the subject of the strikes in France. Moreso since the eldest was interviewed by a reporter and asked about running the gauntlet of hate - that's my spin on it.

I thought it was quite strange, a journalist from my paper phoning up the daughter of a journalist on the paper. Let them get on with it which was apposite for both spheres.

The Economist was succinct as ever on the issue. Demography and economics make the pension reform in France inevitable. And bleating about it in the streets doesn't alter the state of the nation.

I'm always intrigued by the amount of anger that can spill onto the streets over these issues. And I muse why couldn't this energy have been used to rally support against Nicolas Sarkozy.

I mean if it is so appalling and everybody hates it why did they vote for him two years ago? It's something to do with the fact that he said pensions wouldn't be touched.

So he's gone back on his promise. Wouldn't be the first politician to do that. Ho hum. In two years time there's another presidential election.

Maybe in the campaigning for that the candidates will promise to put the pensions back to the way they were.

And Iraq will be uninvaded.

The Plunge

All of a sudden gloom appears to be the theme. It is very important from a media point of view because nothing sustains the chattering classes like misery. Systemic incompetence is so very good for the debate.

And there's been such a lot of it that it's impossible to call it a vicious circle because the virtue is that we've been forced to face the reality of big living.

Only now the cuts that are being heaped upon us are going to hit the very people who were powerless to stop the reason why they're being visited upon us.

As my little brain understands it, the banks had to be saved because they spent and spent without restraint. The taxes plugs the holes to save them because they're really important. And now the things that tax payers like - things like hospitals, decent rail services and local services like libraries all have to shut because the country can't afford them any more.

I have been reading around trying to find out what the 500,000 public service workers are going to do once they've lost their jobs.

And exactly how are they going to get some cash to live on since things like housing benefits are going to be cut.

I am sure an article will tell me in due course, perhaps the articles have already been written. I just need to surf the web to find it.

Of course once I've found it, Ill probably be quite gloomy.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Zen Times

When I started on my yoga journey the idea was to stretch my limbs so that I could play football without recoiling every few weeks with terrible strains.

Of course the yoga didn't save me from a terrible clattering a few weeks ago, perhaps it was because of the yoga that I was in a good enough shape to be able to jump for the ball which enabled the goalie to take out my side.

But I don't want to enter into cause and effects too much.

Even though I am not going to be shuffling around the pitch on Saturday I went off to the yoga session because I just needed to evade the fallout from the shenanigans at the radio station.

Change, as Barack Obama once said, is a coming. Not quite sure what the French for that phrase is. But the powers that be have decided they want to change the way the English service is run. So now there is work on change. Mr and Ms Uberboss had a meeting about this on Tuesday when quite a few people were on strike or like sap boy me looking after the children whose teachers were on strike.

Ahoy there, sensitive superbosses, don't you see the gutless irony of your actions? Non? Well let me explain it to you in terms that you can never comprehend. It's not that cool to be so remote.

The social meltdown is underway at large in and managers at an underfunded radio station want to run down a service but don't have the courage to eliminate it.

That's so sad.

I thought a couple of downward facing dogs of a Thursday evening would put the horror into context.

It has in so far as change is a coming and the old world was a laugh and a half. Ghana, Beijing and South Africa.

"Nothing lasts for ever of that I'm sure," Bryan Ferry once sang. Or to quote the bad man from the Water Margin: 'You've had a good run prime minister, now die with grace.."

Or something to that effect.

But it's time to adapt. Mac is not here to talk to about this. What would he say? Stay calm. Survive. Keep your integrity because without that you've got nothing.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Bleak Books

Fresh from reading Last Orders about how four chums go on a trip to dispose of a drinking mate's ashes, I am now into The Distance Between Us.

I found Last Orders disturbing because I still haven't decided what to do with the ashes of my dad. I might bury them in my garden once I reclaim my house. I can't bear the thought of scattering them somewhere.

I was upset on Monday and not much better off on Tuesday. The middle child is learning the saxophone which was bequeathed to her by my dad. She is finding it very hard and I wondered if she was getting weighed down by the implication of it all.

I spouted a tune about patience and learning a tiny bit at a time and we both ended up in tears which was all very sad. It was raining outside too.

Probably low blood sugar levels because after I'd made lunch me, her and the boy watched the Return of the Jedi from the sofa.

I think these strikes are fantastically good for father child bonding.

Society may be on the verge of meltdown but at least this family will burn together.


Never has an injury lay off been such a breath of fresh air. I have come to appreciate the joys of being able to stretch out. I am still nursing my traumatisme intercostal and though I am now capable of lifting my leg over my bike, I am still probably quite a way from being able to run around a football pitch.

So I won't.

The paper phoned up to ask me about how the eldest was coping at her college and about the shenanigans that the Lycee students are indulging in.

Well I guess the likelihood is that some of these kids' parents are out on the street being all anti-Sarkozy so why not the offspring.

To me there's something a bit strange about school kids getting politically involved. But I guess that I was just so institutionalised at 15 or 16. All I thought of doing was studying for my O levels or thinking about studying for my O levels.

I guess that is a default setting for someone who isn't that naturally bright. It never occurred to me to rebel. I figured that my best form of rebellion was to get educated and revolt that way against the constraints of poverty.

Gosh that's not so dumb. Perhaps I'll figure out how God was born.

Monday, 18 October 2010

London Past and Present

It seems like self mutilation to return to London to be sad. But I can't avoid the past because London is very much part of my present and therefore my future.

I wander around bits of south London and think of how my Mondays used to be spent - dropping in to see my dad and then going on to work.

Now it is a case of sorting out his bits of paper and going to work.

I went round to his flat today as various junk mail people are still sending out the win a billion pounds coupons. The couple who live downstairs at his place save up the letters just in case there's something important.

I went into the Cancer Research shop on Balham High Road and bought a couple of things. Took a coffee in the Cafe Nero just opposite.

It would have been a bit too much to have sat at the window seat where me and him had a coffee just after a visit to the hospital in May 2009. That was in early May and I remember thinking what a strange way to spend part of the May bank holiday weekend.

But a month later he died. Ladies final Saturday at Roland Garros.

I guess he knew the end was in sight because he made sure to tell me that I should not fret nor worry. He also said that I shouldn't be sad and to look after the children.

I ought to follow orders.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

New Phone Old Phone

It was the irony that kept me going. Having decided to get a newer version of the iphone, I was locked into a spiral. I needed Mac OS 10.5.8 to be able to download itunes 10.1.

I couldn't do this with my computer which was Mac OS 10.4.1.

It was frustrating. But I remained zen and went and got the new software. The man in the shop warned me that I ought to store all the data before installing the software.

I said I had storage somewhere but I bought some new storage anyway for the missus.

Lo and behold, the old data was stored and the new software was installed.

Itunes 10.1 was mine and the iphone did its things.

Almost seems a shame to have the same old photos and music on the new contraption.

But it puts progress into perspective.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Orange Tree

I'm not so sure that reading a book is the best way to survive the Orange Store in Republique. The system won't change unless pure anger is poured forth by everyone.

I arrived at 1030 this morning to find a queue outside the shop. Even when it is closed there are people waiting.

Some bloke arrived after me and just silently pushed his way towards the front. This is where e can enter into national characteristics because of course "the French" don't queue like "the British".

So it allows people to do that kind of thing. But rather than getting bolshie at the queue barger I just kept cool because I knew that another 10 minutes wouldn't make much difference.

Besides I had alloted an hour to the whole process.

Hallelujah, the things that didn't work on Wednesday work on Thursday and I have the new phone.

I just have to go and get the protective film for the screen and a case to hold it.

At some point I have to work today.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

More Battering

After the crunch collision on Saturday morning, I decided to take my battered left side to the doctor. There was great news in that she said I didn’t have to go for an X ray.

But after getting me to lean left, right and contort, she declared I had un traumatisme intercostal.

This translates into one month off football and tennis. Since these are my principal methods of exercise, let’s look at those kilos in a month.

The doc said I could do anything as long as it didn’t hurt. Fortunately the local swimming pool has reopened following a revamp which took a month longer than scheduled.

The doctor’s chat was offset with some intriguing news from this morning about the school where the eldest goes.

Apparently there is no decree guaranteeing its future. This means that technically it could be closed down and we’d have no redress.

I like the idea of edgy education.

Perhaps as I sit out the next few Saturdays I can look into these kind of niceties.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Battering

Not quite sure where the book came from but it's found its way into my home. Am reading Last Orders by Graham Swift. Won the Booker Prize in 1996 so I am really in the groove.

Probably not the book for me since it is all about death and some drinking buddies going along to scatter the ashes of their erstwhile drinking chum.

Am getting through it in a methodical 20 pages a day way. Decided to leave in Paris for the weekend so I could concentrate on the newspapers and the magazines on the train this morning.

Was doing OK ploughing through the Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday which the paper informs me is 70p cheaper than the Sunday Times.

When I returned from the restaurant car - that sounds so Orient Express - I found a rather long haired tattooed type standing next to my seat and talking to three women in the seats in front of mine.

They turned out to be members of the Cellestial Cello Quartet on their way back to London after doing a gig at Le Grand Palais. They'd lost the fourth member of the group. But it was interesting listening to their tales of being one of the warm up acts for Laurent Garnier.

They're going to be at the Savoy later in the month.

Their stories kept my mind of my aching side. Horribly crocked was I in Saturday morning's shuffle. The only positive about having my side bruised was that the team won 2-0.

I'd like to think it was the image of me jogging round the running track which inspired them. As it was those few laps wer about the extent of my exercise in the second half. I went back on, ran a bit as I did my bit to defend the 2-0 lead but when I tried to stretch a leg out, I realised I couldn'ty go on any more.

Off I went.

Don't know if I'll be back on the park next Saturday.

If I'm not, more time for reading and listening to cello quartets.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Sorting Times

There must be something in the weather. Perhaps it is the season changing. I was on Tooting Bec Common on the bike on the way to work and I saw the conkers on ground.

That might have sparked the reverie. It certainly did take me back.

Was sorting through my dad's things today and found an exercise book from 1970. It had drawings of goalkeepers, warships and planes and on one page the question was posed: How was God born?

That has rather cheered me up. I think I might use it as a default response to an issue I'd rather not voyage into.

I wish I'd found the phrase earlier. It might have helped me write off difficult situations more quickly but then I might have had to endure the woe of being a a cop out.

Also found in dad's pile a little homily on aspiration. About looking past the immediate.

Seem to be coming to the split of London as the venue for contemplation and Paris as site for living.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Revolutions of Memory

Nothing quite like a journey through the smog of London on a bike. Especially on a bike that does not do fast. Not that I would zoom all the time. But every now and again I need to know that I could.

My bike is a stately procession of a piece. This cannot go on. The seven fast gears do not seem to exist. Thus I am in a 14 gear cruiser state.

And on the flat bits that is rather frustrating. I don't have this kind of quandary in Paris. There the bike is technically worse. It is heavier and bulkier and I can barely lift it up.

But I can whizz through the city.

Going along at a languid pace does allow a certain amount of contemplation. The voyage from Streatham to work is full of memory. And they seem more vibrant because the journey is seldom undertaken.

I think about Character X going past a certain door or Character Y as I glide past the common. Is this what advancing years do to you?

There's a strong case for going somewhere completely new.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Austro-Hungarian Empire

There must have been something in the air. I was horrendously indecisive. Got off the train and thought about the Whitechapel Gallery or the Royal Academy. Could not decide.

So thanks be to London Underground who'd closed down the Hammersmith and City line for the weekend. That ruled out the Whitechapel so I trundled along on the Victoria line to Green Park and the Royal Academy to see the show about the art from the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.

Lavish stuff. Quite liked the picture inspired by a Heinrich Heine poem. The Kiss of the Sphinx by Franz von Stuck. The caption said it was all about the pleasure and torture of having one's soul drained by the embrace of this half woman half lion.

Well there's an object lesson. There were a few other goodies around. I was rather taken by the paintings featuring Venus and her nymphs.

And the religious paintings had particular resonance. After the football team's first match of the season, a whole heap of praying will be needed not to plunge into the third division.

I said before the match that we usually lose when there are 15 and sure enough we lost when really we shouldn't have done. usual failings. Lack of concentration and a generosity of spirit.

Protocol of the games with referees says that each side should provide a linesman for each half and a ref for one half. As the visitors only came with 11 we provided all the officiating.

In one particularly splendid passage, there was confusion over a throw in. Rather than waiting for it to be settled. The visitors took the throw and promptly scored.

Impossible to play to the whistle as there was no whistle and obviously no sense of hang on let's all make sure this is the right thing.

Tough to lose that way but I guess it's better than winning against a team reduced to nine men due to protocol.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

More Strikes

Wow. Just when I thought it was safe to go to work, it's strike time yet again. Billions are out on the street protesting over plans to extend the years of toil before retirement.

Unions say 300,000; police say just over 65,000.

Whichever way it is, there's anguish. There were only one in two metros this morning. This meant that the trip to school with the eldest took on dimensions of stress.

For a 9am start, we left at 7.50am. I explained on the way to the métro why we had to leave earlier.

I gave her two worst case scenarios.

1. The métro is crowded and we can't get on the train. You arrive late.

2 The métro is crowded but we get on a train and we have to wait for 40 minutes in the café.

She realised that option 2 was preferable and option 2 is what happened. We met some other parents in the café.

Great minds think alike.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Travelling in Paris and London

Went on the metro today and was a lot more wary. It was just like travelling on the Underground in London. I wonder if this is to be my last journey. I survey people.

How did it come to be like this?

When I was young we were all worried about nuclear armageddon and the build up of nuclear weapons. Well the weapons have been built up and it is just a person with a few bombs strapped to them that is likely to make the difference.

Not a 100 megaton warhead.

But that angst was all after I had played and lost the second round at the other journalists' tennis tournament. I played against the bloke I lost to last year. I actually won games this year. All those lessons have paid off. He has been taking lessons too. So I guess the key is to go on taking lessons and join the tennis club as my tennis coach Rafael suggests.

That's the way to make the step up.

Perhaps next year I'll lose to the same bloke.

I blame my gammy ankle for restricted mobility.

I blame the politicians for their policies that have left us exposed to the extremists.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Symmetry

Police are apparently running around Paris looking for a female suicide bomber. The security services have it on good authority from two sources that this lady is hell bent on destroying herself and a carriage load of people.

This is not good news. The suicide bombers have done their bit to make London super edgy and now they're angry with the French - more pointedly the Parisians

I'm just hoping it is a deflection story aimed at taking everyone's minds off the fact that the French government are kicking out the Roma from their midst.

The papers I read on the train over from Paris on Sunday were full of stuff about migration, immigration, work patterns, the need for foreign labour, the problems of foreign labour.

I guess I won't know how much substance there is to the rumours until a bomb goes off or the security services capture the kamikaze lassie.

It seems a shame that we can't all get along and grow old in peace. But I guess that was never the way of the world.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

New Era

Another season of football approaches and it could be fascinating. The final friendly was against a team from the third division. They didn't seem that bad but were slaughtered.

Perhaps it was down to the general ebullience of our two recruits who seemed to gel. I later found out that they played indoors each week with the star player Laurent. Well, it will be interesting when all three of them are on the pitch together.

I was dropped back to midfield to make way for the new man up front. The self-sacrifice.

It bore fruits as he scored a hatful and has pace. It means a kind of pass that I haven't been able to play - the one into space for him to run onto. I sense a learning curve coming on.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Tennis Times

Not quite sure how this happened but I've become tennised up.

The annual journalists' tournament at Roland Garros is taking place at the same time - I was going to use contemporaneously - as another tournament for journalists at the nearby Tennis Club de Boulogne Billancourt.

I found out about the latter two years ago when I was in Beijing. While sitting at my desk in the Ice Station Zebra that masqueraded as the press hangar, there was this email from the Open ISCA to come and take part.

I duly registered and I was invited to play. I asked where the Open ISCA got my name from and the organiser told me they dipped into the database of journalists registered to cover Roland Garros and picked me.

I ended up playing against the same bloke that I played against at the Roland Garros tournament. Lost badly first at Roland Garros but a few weeks later with my post Beijing fitness returning I lost less badly.

Last year at Roland Garros I wasn't really in a fit state as I'd been dealing with my dad's death all summer and was paired in the first round against someone who clearly had played well before. Tournaments he told me as I attempted to break sweat after a 6-1 6-0 annihilation.

It was the same at the Boulogne Billancourt event.

However 2010 has brought a bit more success in that I won my first round matches at both tournaments.

On a Thursday full of fun I played at 10am in the Open ISCA and won and then at 1pm had to play my second round match at Roland Garros. Not ideal.

I said to the missus on Thursday night I don't know how much of a bearing that early match made on the second. I think I was in better physical shape than my second adversary but he had better technique and range of shots.

I am at least contented that I did better than last year. I beat the guys I should have beaten and that is a start.

I am going back to Roland Garros on Friday morning with my tennis coach Rafael.

The great thing is that after you've been eliminated from the Roland Garros extravaganza you can go back with a mate. So I shall try a few returns there before the whole thing closes down on September 25.

This rampant individualism detracts me from the team game that is my football side.

On Saturday there is the second warm up match before the season proper. If the first warm up game is anything to go by it is going to be a stiflingly long season in the second division.

The goal is not to be promoted and not to be relegated. The first division last season was not much fun. I don't think the third division would bring much joy either.

There are a couple of new players. A forward and a midfielder. I shall doubtless shuffle between attack and the middle as befits the needs of the team.

But at what cost to myself?

Hang on that sounds like faux woe.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Changing Times

Apparently it's going to pour down in Paris later this Sunday. I'll miss the deluge as it's bright and sunny in London. As I strode to the metro station this morning, I suddenly remembered that I'd left my brolly behind in the flat.

My theory being that what happens in Paris usually hits London. So by the time I emerge from the office in London I'll be in the rain.

While men of yore circumnavigated the globe, these kind of conundrums are my beasts to conquer. Clearly I'll have to get a fold up umbrella for my locker iat the office n London. That way I can travel with confidence.

I bumped into my mate Robin at the Gare du Nord this morning. He was on his way to meet his mum and sister. Sister has her art on show at a gallery in London. The opening view is on Monday night and I might venture into Soho after my shift to mop up any glasses of wine.

That's the kind of art I can buy into.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Symmetry

London and Paris were a reflection today. There was a Tube strike in London and in Paris there was similar action. It's remiss of me but I haven't been following the details as to why the workers are angry.

How can I sympathise if I'm unaware? Well I went out on Monday night to Shoreditch House with a mate. I almost felt cool and trendy. Didn't overdo it as there was the small matter of returning to Paris on Tuesday morning.

Would the roads be clogged? The bus came at 6.30am and 20 minutes later I was at St Pancras. I was on the 7.27am and in Paris a matter of hours later.

For the sake of completion I took the bus from the Gare du Nord.

And as for the schools they were disrupted but four days into term. I'm not quite sure what impression this gives pupils but it's not what I'd call brilliant for the new children - ie the likes of my eldest.

They're going off on Wednesday for their half day.

At least the trains will be running.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

La Rentrée

The term rentrée should come with a warning. The children go back to school so that the trade unions can turf them out again because of strikes.

The season's first strike finds my eldest barely into her second week at secondary school. It's in the 15th arrondissement which is about a 20 minute metro ride from our flat.

Apparently there'll be one train in three on Tuesday so she'll be able to get there albeit in crushed circumstances. However the head of the school says she doesn't know how many of her teachers will be on strike. So effectively the eldest could get there and not have any lessons. The fact that the head knows that the canteen will not function merely underlines all the lurid cliches about the French.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Roland Garros Fun Day 1

One day you’re in a final and the next year you don’t even make the second round. It’s a grim business this tennis circuit.

Sure the sun may be shining and the clay court technicians might be finding their angles and sliding into their shots but Dinara Safina was top spinning incarnate.

The former world number one was a double break up in the final set against the 39 year old Japanese player Kimiko Date Krumm.

But Safina, blew her lead, going down 7-5 in the decider. Safina’s elder brother, Marat, was renowned for blazing winners and glazing out of the zone.

A distinctly dazed Safina said after her defeat that she saw her opponent starting to suffer from cramps.
But rather than focusing on her own game, she committed the cardinal sin and let her concentration drift.
Fatal in tennis terms. Perhaps a family trait. But touchingly humane.

Date Krumm played her first French Open more than two decades ago. Indeed little Dinara was toddling around the kindergarten in her native Moscow when Ms Date was testing her mettle in the Parisian dirt.

Date added Krumm to her name after hitching up with the German racing driver Michael Krumm and it was his yen to see her play competitively that led her to return from a 12 year retirement in 2008.

Date Krumm is 40 in four months and I’d like to think that Safina took pity on a veritable grande dame in a grand slam.

There’s no such concept of succour in the house of Rafael Nadal. The king of clay was in all conquering form against the French 18 year old Gianni Mina.

As one of the top junior players in the world you could say Mina is a major with the minors.

He had a bash with the playground’s alpha male instead of revising for his forthcoming Baccalaureat.

The good thing about going up against the four times champion is that he won’t have to worry about missing more revision period.

Beaten 6-2 6-2 6-2 in two hours 22 minutes. It was a lesson.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Star Gazer

There are times in the Eurostar lounge whenit all seems worthwhile. The tennis world was over in the west of Paris at the French Open and I was on the train back to London.

I walked into the frequent travellers lounge and lo I noticed Ken Loach engaged auteur extraordinaire. I wanted to go up and say something but modesty forbad. Besides what can you say other than liked your films, look forward to seeing the latest.

I declined but he went up in my estimation because the woman he was travelling with loooked about his age. I'm sure that if I were a famous international art house director, I'd be going round with at least my third or fourth wife.

Only because that's what famous film directors are supposed to do. Not because I'm actually fickle.

Having resisted the temptation to go and hail Loach, I caved in when Ronnie Corbett entered. He looked so approachable. Not surprising really since I've been letting him into my sitting room for all my life.

I saw him and he had such a radiant face that I went up to him (and the lady accompanying him) and said something along the lines of sorry to disturb you but for all the hours of fun and laughter - thanks. Don't want to disturb you any more....

But we got talking and he and the lady asked me what I did and we had a rabbit about journalism and why they were in Paris.

I got into the office and recounted to my colleagues my brief interactions with the stars. One asked if Ronnie Corbett was really small.

I said he is shorter than me but I felt as if I was looking up to someone.

And of course I was. His brand of humour had put him right up there.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Day Out

It is a rite of passage. Madame Tussauds and the attendant excitement. The middle child was so excited she didn't sleep properly and spent the day trip in a state of dozy contentment holding my hand at every possible opportunity with the exception of the hamburgers and chips at Soho House.

The eldest child who took full credit for the idea was just joyous. Seeing Johnny Depp and some bloke from High School Musical sent her off in screeching delight. And she was a voracious poser next to the wax works.

What I liked was the middle one sitting right next to Aundrey Hepburn and looking as gamine.

The eldest seemed freaked at the waxwork, claiming the leg was moving.

My bank account certainly moved. Entry and pictures of offspring with various stars sent it downwards. But the pleasure.

Without measure.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Air Chaos

I don't particularly like airplanes, so travelling between Paris and London by train seems a perfect fit. But it's been sticky on the trains of late as the volcanic ash in the skies forces the air lot down to the ground and onto the train. I was asked a few times if I had suffered any problems because there were stories on British TV of horrific queues.

Well I suffered. We had a baggage scare at the Gare du Nord. An unattended item and the terminus was evacuated. That was terrible. Well that's what I thought until I saw the ashen faces of the international stranded.

Friday, 9 April 2010

The Missing

What could be worse than going missing from your own blog? Writing another blog and not cross referring it. That is what I've been guilty of. While in Angola for the radio station I wrote a blog about travelling around the country. And my what a journey it was.

Here is the link to some of the pieces and I am glad to be back in good old France. Getting ready for Roland Garros and the World Cup in South Africa.