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.