Thursday, 22 December 2011


A kindly couple of souls contacted me today to tell me that it seemed my email account had been hijacked. They'd received some messages about viagra supplies from Canada.

I tried to take action but failed. Rather apt really. I waited and hoped it wouldn't happen again.

And it hasn't happened again since this morning. Better check my entire online data facilties.

Currently just waiting for the results of the African Footballer of the Year as decided by continental coaches. The ceremony is taking place in Accra and André Ayew, Yaya Touré and Seydou Keita are up for the award.

It seems a long way to go for Touré who's Manchester City side are in action in a few days but these are young fit men. They probably don't fly economy and are more thank likley to have a couple of private jets around.

Travel by air has been banned by the bosses at the radio station. They want their charges to take any other means as the airlines haven't passed Euro safety standards.

As I'm not the happiest of flyers, this is fine by me.

But I've just tried to print something at work and the printers don't seem to be functioning.

Maybe they should go through some Euro checks.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Silence

Thought I'd better resuscitate the blog just as I approach a period of not travelling between Paris and London. Must be something to do with the time of year. Lots of the newspapers are doing their Year's Best Books/Albums/Concerts.

The brand that is Me is nowhere near performing that kind of thing. I am though interested in how the eurozone is melting down. What will having less money mean. Will we be unable to put food on the table. Will we all become feral as we scrap for the titbits of the rich?

No idea. I guess I will just have to continue doing all the usual things until it is all over.

Under these circumstances going to church made an awful lot of sense. Great hymns, crazy smells and utterly rational since no one here on earth seems to have a clue.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Quiz

I've been bemused by the Patrice Evra v Luis Suarez race hate allegations. According to Evra, Suarez directed racist obscenities at him during the Liverpool v Manchester United crunch last Saturday afternoon. Suarez, who's from Uruguay, has been denying it left right and Facebook that he did no such thing. He loves everyone, he says.

One thing is for sure Suarez would not be met by enthusiastic hordes were he to travel to Ghana. His handball on the line prevented them from scoring a goal in the dying seconds of the world cup quarter final. Asamoah Gyan, then missed the subsequent penalty and Uruguay ultimately won the penalty shoot out.

That's just the background. It suggests he is up for gamesmanship. But that does not necessarily lead to racist abuse.

But why not. If you're capable of sticking your hand up and stopping a goal - terribly bad form - what's to say that you can't string a few words together? Or as Evra suggest, the same slur 10 times.

But maybe Evra didn't hear right. Maybe Suarez uttered no such obscenities.

Evra is no goodies two shoes. He was part of the maniacal French team that entered a reality fug at the last world cup in South Africa. All had something to do with the coach Raymond Domenech, the striker Nicolas Anelka and a subsequent boycott of a training session. Classy.

Is my point that footballers are strange beasts. Yes they are. Rich, pampered and very skilful too.

Readers of the blog will know that I shuffle around a field of a Saturday morning. In the seven or eight years that I've been doing that, I've never been racially abused.

I have never racially abused anyone either. I would have to learn a whole welter of vocabulary that is not in my usual realm and I would have to learn it from people who themselves know how to be abusing towards North Africans and presumably the white French with whom I play.

It sounds like a lot of effort. But maybe Suarez has the kind of infrastructure that allows him access to racist obscenities.

But I do know one thing. If Evra has made it all up, he'll have a lot of black people calling him names too.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Law

There used to be an advert on TV about how a dog wasn't just for Christmas, it was for life. I really should try and apply the same discipline to this blog.

Neglect. Pure and simple. It's just not right. And there is so much to write about.

The football for starters. New season is up and running and two games in have brought a win and a draw. I've scored two goals (in the match we lost) and am now injured (the match we won).

As I cajoled my strained right thigh muscle towards the railway station on Saturday, I thought just how painful would this be if we had lost. I was pained the week before when we lost and I am in pain when we win. So the leitmotif?

Football is pain. Tennis doesn't seem to be produce so much agony. Perhaps just the angst of learning so many new things. But that's no bad thing.

I ought to try and get a bit more with it.

Ace journalist and writer Jonathan Wilson was in Paris last week for the France v Bosnia match. I took advantage of his presence to do an interview with him for the radio station and go out for lunch.

By the time I emailed him to alert him to the interview, he replied he'd already had the link up on his Twitter page.

I plan to take six months off travelling between Paris and London.

Forget football and tennis, I need to to embrace digitalia.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

New Season

This could be construed as having something to do with the fashion shows. But the truth is sporting. Football sporting. Or rather my pallid attempt to be on a football field and playing something like the rudiments of the game.

It was a friendly against the team that won the division last season. They have been promoted and quite frankly I'm glad to see the back of them.

They were just too good. I hope they prosper in the first division.

For my pains I got a bruised cheekbone and somehow a bruised bicep. It was all so frightening when compared to the tennisfest I've been having of late.

Clearly I will have to toughen up if I am to survive the midfield engine room.

The good thing is there won't be as many teams as fast and furious as Saturday's opponents.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Season's End

It feels as if it's all over before it begins. First run-out of the football season on Saturday and I can't say it bodes well for the coming months.

Felt a twinge in the left leg and retired to defence and into the goal. to prevent any further damage since I was due to play tennis later that afternoon.

With the Roland Garros journalists' event coming up, this is no way to go into a major championship.

That's what I tell myself. But this is what six weeks without yoga class does to me.

Altogether now. Om.

High Stuff

What a whirl it's been. it feels positively pedestrian to be in the Wellcome Centre overlooking the Euston Road traffic bonanza. But time has come to take a rest.

I resisted the temptation on Friday night to bid for any of the lots at an auction at the Royal Monceau Hotel. The sale was in aid of the New Zealand Earthquake Relief Fund and some tasty gifts had been donated. There was champagne, some sculptures from the legendary French captain Jean Pierre Rives - now an established artist and a watch from Bulgari.

I shoved the radio station's microphone in front of a few people including the New Zealand ambassador and they responded.

The Bulgari watch went for around 20,000 euros, more than 10,000 euros above the list price. The champagnes by contrast wre more reasonable.

And after hearing figures in the thousands, hearing hundreds seemed ludicrously low. Still I wasn't tempted.

However I did succumb to the champagne. Some Pommery numbers before and more Pommery after the sale. There was a chef stirring up a risotto and all manner of lovely things.

I surveyed the firmament and thought if I stay here I can feast, so I decamped back to the radio station's more modest canteen well out of harm's way.

If the stairs and the atrium are anything to go by, I won't be hanging out anytime soon at the Royal Monceau. Way out of my league.

Hanging in high end hotels shouldn't naturally lead on to high church. But the early train from Paris brought me into London in time to catch the service at St Panras Old Church.

The priest's sermon was on the essence of forgiveness, punishment and the like. He preached on the back of going to a meeting on Friday involving community groups and the police on how to react to the riots in London and elsewhere.

A police superintendent attended the pow-wow to give it the enforcement perspective. And presumably the priest was there to inject a spiritual nuance to the proceedings.

If it costs £100,000 to keep somebody in prison, the priest wondered whether that kind of money would be better spent on re-educating some of the wrongdoers.

I guess that the post riot lust is for drooling vengeance rather than pragmatic perspective.

I was reading the Sunday Times on the train over and one of the columnists mentioned the British prime minister's gambit of 'tough love'.

And why not - as the film critic Barry Norman was wont to say.

As long as it's dispensed on miscreants throughout the social strata. But I just don't see that happening.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Shock And Awe

Went off to see some former colleagues on Sunday night. The rendez vous was in Highbury and strangely enough the streets were deserted. WAs it the Bank Holiday or was it the 8-2?

Who knows. I have got a pile of papers to see what the pundits say. The Daily Telegraph's front page splash: Call to legalise assisted suicide could equally be applied to the Arsenal performance.

But we must not mingle the genres. That would be crass.

To domestic things. I have discovered a little slice of mediterranean chic just near Waterloo. Lots of pot plants, shrubs and strong coffee. Curious name of Ev. But it is just behind Southwark station.

Went there with the missus. Rather a shame that the climate in London is hardly mediterranean at the moment. But if you want that kind of sun, then you go to the mediterranean. Really rather logical that.

Just as logical as giving the three darlings to my mother for the day, so that I can go to work.

Hang on I think I've missed a trick somewhere.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

End of Summer

You know it's the end of the holidays when football is on the tele again. I watch the highly paid professionals and wonder about the coming season at the lower end of the food chain. Will I have the stamina? Will I score a different type of goal? Will I score? Can I pass the ball?

With the emphasis of late on purely personal games such as tennis, the question really is will I cope with a team game?

As the world athletics championships unfold in South Korea with shock, awe and drama, it seems odd to be in Europe rather than in the ring for the radio station reporting from the arena.

I would have seen disqualifications galore. Who would have thought that Usain Bolt would be disqualified from the 100 metres sprint. But then who would have thought that Arsenal would lose 8-2 at Old Trafford.

I have seen it all now. Destruction. I am warming to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger's philosophy of open misery. It's compelling theatre.

And the great thing is that it is bound to continue. There's no one else that can bring them the kind of football they're used to now. And no-one else can cope with the players that they've got. Catch-22 if ever I saw one.

Football, bloody hell as Sir Alex Ferguson once said. It's supposed to be a game. But three matches in I feel worn out by the Premier League and we're not even out of August.

Maybe my intensity will drop once I get up and playing again.

Then it really will be the end of summer.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Riots

Where was the blog during the riots? Well out of it. Yet implicated. We are all in it together as our political leaders told us at the start of the austerity drive.

When it comes to meting out the post riot justice, some are more in it than others.

Some people want the ones caught locked up for ages and others are saying hang on or was that hang them?

Either way the genie of vindictiveness is out and about. Short termism is upon us. Britain needs politicians with a social vision.

But hey ho the football season is back. Chelsea need a midfielder with vision.

And I'm wondering about my own skills come the new season. Riots?

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The National Theatre

The last time I was at the theatre was ...

Bad sign. I cannot remember. So it is just as well to record Saturday July 23 2011 as the last time I went to the theatre. Went to experience Emperor and Galilean as written by Henrik Ibsen and updated by Ben Power.

Ooh was it big and stagey.

It featured a host of people I don't know - because I don't go to the theatre etc etc - but it had Ian McDiarmid. I do know him because he is Mr Bad in the Star Wars things.

An unmistakeable voice - well it is if you've watched the films as many times as I have - it was excellentt to hear it live.

Though I did get a bit freaked when he was urging the anti-hero to "abandon himself". I was waiting for "Give in to your anger."

But this was the Olivier Theatre and not the Death Star.

Utterly brilliant stuff and it made me wonder why i don't go to the theatre more often.

But I think I said that the last time I went.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Buses

Perhaps Alfred Hitchcock should have made a film called The Buses. If today's journey was anything to go by it could have been a chiller.

During the voyage from Streatham to Kings Cross, I had enough flashbacks to make Salvador Dali's moustache go green.

This is perhaps why people move away. Too many memories. I think I might have touched on this in the blog before. But with old age starting to kick in I am not exactly sure when I did this.

Perhaps it is all so obvious. I sat on the bus from Streatham heading towards Brixton and reflected on times past. Incident along the road there, memory of a rendez vous there.

Tube journies are not like that. I tend to read on the tube. But If I try to do that on a bus I feel ill. So I look out the window and end up feeling melancholy.

I might well be that way inclined when I travel in Paris in 20 years.

By which time I might have had to sell my homes to pay for my long term care. They are debating this kind of thing in the British parliament. The radio programme talking about it was too much to bear so off I set for work.

Then there was a problem with The Trains.

Which forced me into the vortex of The Buses.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Forfeit

During a particularly bleak moment in my glorious career, I was on the phone to my mother wailing about the atrocities being enacted upon me.

Even with the benefit of distance, they were indeed atrocities.

However at one point mother came over all US inspirational rather than her usual biblical. She said: 'Winners never quit and quitters never win."

It must have been running on the TV at the time over in America The phrase came to mind on Saturday morning after round 4 of the tennis club tournament.

On Thursday late in the morning still recovering from a quick snap of bad belly, I phoned up to ask if the Thursday night match could be rearranged. Too late the organiser said. We'll phone your opponent to tell him not to come. I looked out the window at the dark clouds looming and figured natural forces might intervene. "I'll phone back at 6pm," I said.

As I emerged from my slumbers later that afternoon, the sun had decided to do the same and there was no way the heavens were going to open.

And since I needed some fresh air, what better way to obtain it than by running after a tennis ball. So off I trotted expecting a rapid annihilation.

After the first few games I thought to myself this is winnable - if only I had my usual pep. Should have won the first set. Didn't. Got the second set. And could not hold serve in the final set. The opponent served for the match at 5-4 but I levelled and so - with night enveloping the clay court, we moved to the floodlit hard court.

6-5 to me. 6-6. Tie break and this is where it got a bit heady. I squandered three match points from 6-3 then it went on from saving match points to losing them. And at 14-13 to me he hit a poor forehand and it limped into the net.

Match. More than three hours later.

Matchday four - to get all UEFA Champions League about it - was on Saturday morning. And after losing my opening service game I broke back and then gritted on to win 6-1 6-0.

Not as easy as the score line looks. "We have the same kind of defensive game," the opponent concluded. "Only you were more solid than me."

Once back in the club house I was told that matchday five was on Sunday morning. But I was on a train to London. Not good enough as an excuse. I asked if my beaten opponent could play instead of me. Not allowed. For that to happen I would have had to abandon at 5-0 up in the second set. And I didn't do that.

And I wasn't about to cancel work to play a very amateur tennis match.

So my unseen adversary marches on - the beneficiary of my Paris London lifestyle rather than my quitter mentality. The organiser at the club had offered to bring the match forward to late Saturday afternoon.

But given what had happened earlier in the week and the fact that I had an evening out with the family lined up, it wouldn't have been the most clever of moves.

Or as the missus put it - "You don't want to injure yourself."

That's game, set and match on every level.

Simply Eurostar

'"Are you Mick Hucknall?" - "Not at this time in the morning...." Simply deadpan really. I said to the rock megastar know what you mean and paid a compliment to the stuff he'd belched out over the years. He graciously accepted the compliment and asked if I knew which bit of the coffee machine to prod. I suggested asking one of the lounge assistants.

Woudn't call it rubbing shoulders but he was cool. Ronnie Corbett and his wife were just ace and Eric Cantona had presence.

Wow travelling between London and Paris can be pure showbiz.

Mr Hucknall and his companion probably went on to savour the delights of überclass while I dug into the more modest second sphere of travel.

And simply read.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The High Life

I don't think I've got the mentality to make it big as a sportsman. Shame. After seeing how the real honchos do the business last Sunday, I had my own tilt for glory in the first round of the tournament at my tennis club.

Having spent the week getting into the zone - avoiding too much alcohol - walking up the steps at the radio station and anything else that could pass for sacrifice, I went off on Saturday to play the match.

But of course did too much in the morning by taking the boy out with one of his chums. It meant that my lunch was rushed and the course to calmness was under threat.

Fortunately Ligne 9 didn't let me down and I was at the club at 1.10pm ready for the combat.

Down in the locker room - OK , I won't get too sporty. Down in the changing room, it was rather unanimated. So I did some warm-up stretches and when I went up my adversary was there.

While knocking up I started to gauge his game and I did not like his habit of twisting his racket before he hit the ball. It wasn't annoying, it just meant that I was watching the twirling rather than the ball shooting back towards me.

He had this forehand in which he got under the ball and it went flying into the air and when it bounced, it went galloping up into the skies.

Fortunately he ditched this once we started playing.

I now realise that games are like recovering alcoholics: one point at a time. While playing it suddenly stuck me that I could go all gospel and instead of One Day At A Time Sweet Jesus, I could just hum: One Point At A Time...

But entering into the realms of sacrilege isn't good for focus.

The adversary had his son with him and I thought is this a ploy to get me to be less ruthless. How can you destroy the image of the boy? But the first round of the tournament is no country for young men.

I ploughed on. One point at a time. 6-0. I knew the crunch was the first game of the second set. Don't lose this I said to myself. Maintain the grip. Hold your serve. Idiot boy lost the first game. And then at 5-1. Serve it out. Idiot boy missed a match point and dropped serve.

Well it was 6-2 in the second. Hardly Federesque or Nadalien. But it was never going to be anything approaching those lofty warriors.

I knew that. As God is my judge.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Paris Weekend

And so when it came down to it there was nothing really new about the French Open final. Roger Federer played well and lost. Rafael Nadal has clocked his card, got his number, sussed him out. Whatever.

So Roger is stuck on 16 grand slam titles and Rafa is into double figures now. Six of the crowns coming in Paris. Hussar for Rafa. Or perhaps that should be vamos.

As I was wearing my radio hat, the men's final wasn't my only sporting concern on Sunday. There were qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations and there was misery galore in Egypt as they could only draw with South Africa. Egypt are bottom of their group with two games to go and it looks unlikely that the defending champions will be there in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in January.

Wow. I've always been quite impressed by the Egyptians. Ace passing patterns and slick ball retention. I'd really like to have seen them take on the Spanish. Chess on a field.

But it looks like the Pharoahs - nickname for the Egyptians - won't be around for 2012. Holy Pyramids, Batman.

Sticking around for the French Open final meant that I was in Paris of a Monday morning with the family and it seemed to unhinge preparation for school on Monday.

There was drama and contention. Some mutterings about child 2 not getting out of bed to turn off the alarm clock for child 1. The boy not wanting to wear sandals. Maybe they all thought they'd put on a bravura performance to highlight what fun it is at the start of the school week.

No such fun and histrionics on Tuesday morning. The alarm clock was banned on Monday night and clothes were prepared for the day ahead.

It was as orderly as a Nadal Federer final.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Semi-final Woe

My tennis heros go back a long way. I loved Bjorn Borg, thought John McEnroe was great and have latterly wondered at the marvels of Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

Maria Sharapova has never been my cup of tea. Don't know why. She is a great player, gutsy and very able. But I don't like her. Maybe it is her off court (press conference) persona that I don't like.

Whatever. She has just gone out at the French Open. Beaten in straight sets by the Chinese player Li Na. I expected La Sharapova to advance. But then I thought Arsenal would win the English Premier League.

What struck me was Sharapova serving two double faults in her final service game. I've not seen anything like that in ages. It's something that I would never have expected from someone like her.

She was attempting to collect a career grand slam here in Paris. And I've got to say there'll never be a better chance for her to do so. There are no overpowering stars of the women's game at the moment.

The world number one Caroline Wozniacki doesn't seem to know how to win grand slams and the Williams sisters are out injured.

So it was an open field especially with the top two women's seeds eliminated before the last 16.

More importantly I will be less down on myself when I serve double faults in a game.

It happens to players far better than me when the stakes are really high.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Blizzard

An exciting new quarterly has hit the world. It's called The Blizzard and essentially jam-packed with top football writers and me.

I have an article in issue number one about the African Nations Championships - known as the CHAN. It was held in Sudan back in February and I went to cover it for the radio station.

Just before I went I bumped into top football writer Jonathan Wilson during one of his visits to the Guardian. And since I owed him at least one drink for his help during the world cup last summer in South Africa, off we trudged to the bar downstairs at the Guardian complex.

During our natter he mentioned the concept and asked if I'd do something. What else could I say but yes.

Glad I did because it got me to consider the tournament in a different way and also look at my surroundings. Can't say that I'd recommend Khartoum as a must-see place. But then I wouldn't say avoid it like the plague.

The Blizzard, on the other hand, receives unequivocal backing.

But I would say that, wouldn't I?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Wellcome Time

Obviously a trend is developing here. I arrive in London and go to the Wellcome Centre. It's not for the exhibitions nor the tales of medical mysteries but the cafe.

Though I am going off the coffee. I think the cup is too big. My cup runneth over?

Is life becoming so run of the mill that I'm getting picky about the cups?

But one does have to be judicious. A few weeks ago the powers that be at St Pancras erected the five rings of the Olympic movement. It's part of gearing up for the games next year.

The rings are rather splendid and dominate the moment of arrival. I find myself today thinking about back home.

The French Open started on Sunday and my mind is back at Roland Garros and the hard hitting thrills of clay court tennis.

I went to the press day at the tournament on Friday and listened into the likes of Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic is the head honcho of the moment not having lost a match this year. Seven tournaments under his belt, two of them on clay and he beat Rafael Nadal in Madrid and Rome.

This is seismic. It means that for the first time in many years, the French Open isn't about waiting for the final between Federer and Nadal. Or actually the Nadal victory because he always beat Federer in Paris.

Poor Rog. In his press conference he was being quizzed like an also ran. The one time boss of the circuit was reduced to admitting he was not among the favourites and hailing another man's unbeaten start to the season.

The mighty is falling but there's about 40 million dollars sloshing around his accounts to help him and his family cushion the fall.

Nadal and Djokovic will be out showing their wares on Monday and Tuesday. When I get back to Paris I'll do my best to go and give moraml support to underdog Rog.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Eye Life

My conscience has been exercised. My right eye was crunched by the ball during the Saturday morning kickabout. It has been watering ever since. Should I take time away from work to rest it?

It seemed a strange question to pose as I sat on the Eurostar. Given that I could see through the streams of water, it didn't seem serious enough to lay down tools. And I wasn't exactly sick.

Of all the injuries I have known playing football, this is the strangest. I was shocked by the bruised ribs at the start of the season but a gammy eye playing football? I am not that committed. Moreso since it wasn't a foot in the face going for a header. Just a deflection into the face.

Oh well. Probably a trip to the doctor when I get back to Paris on Tuesday or Wednesday.

It's impeding my mission to finish reading Simon Kuper's latest book called the Football Men. I plan to interview the author and do a review for the radio station website next week. WE were supposed to pow wow last Friday but then the Financial Times called him and said they wanted words on the FIFA boys and those allegedly wanting cash or favours to vote for England.

Am up to page 284 and there have been some fascinating insights into how the modern footballer conducts himself.

Of all their woes - tabloid stings, derisory pay rises and being benched - there are no tips on what to do when you get a ball in the face.

Perhaps they're such men, it never happens to them.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Church Life

Going to church is becoming such an emotional experience. End up in tears virtually each time. Must be something to do with the stained glass windows, the pews, I don’t know what.

I could be tired.

I nearly made a horrific mistake on Saturday. With the eldest out shopping with her mother for Grecian style sandals and the boy at a party, I said to the second child let’s go to the Gare du Nord to collect my tickets for Sunday.

I checked in my bag to make sure I hadn’t already got the tickets – I’m in that frame of mind at the moment – and sure enough I had the tickets and they were for Saturday night rather than Sunday morning – sounds like a film title that.

So a flurry of calls ensue to cancel the babysitter, the restaurant and the missus.
The big Saturday night out on the terrace is off.

But the upside of that is the chance to go along to Sunday morning service.

And what a joy it was. As it was the ‘all-age service’ it meant there were loads of children flying around and making it all like an Italian wedding – or in fact my only experience of an Italian wedding.

I quite liked collection time. A little boy sidles along the aisles egged on by his mother and proffers the receptacle. I plonked in some change and others added envelopes.

Each time there’s a collection I remember one when I was with my schoolmate Danny at Norwich Cathedral. His dad was the bishop of the edifice so it was kind of logical that we’d go to the service there.

The dean took some service or other and caused no amount of consternation in the congregation by exhorting them into a “paper collection”.

I guess me and Danny might have torn up the service sheets since that was the only paper we could muster.

I used to do collections when I was a youngster at church. Trip down memory lane and all that. Perhaps that’s the reason for the emotion.

But the final hymn was the Lord of the Dance. We used to sing that at primary school in assembly as well. If I’m like this two weeks before Easter, then I’ll be a quivering wreck on Easter Day come Thine be the Glory.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Wellcome Hysteria

Sundays aren't really ever going to be the same. For what seems my entire life, I've been watching Andy Gray and Ricahrd Keys spout on about football on Sky TV. But they've been sacked because of their sexist comments and there's going to be a new tranche of presenters. I didn't really consider whether they were any good. They were simply there. But then I'm not a Sky subscriber, I've merely watched incidentally while at work os have never been in a position to wonder whether I'm getting value for money from my subscription.

Quite a few people didn't like the duo. Keys complained that 'dark forces' had been responsible for the leaking of their 'banter' to the newspapers. Sad.

As I wait for the Chelsea Liverpool showdown, it seems apt that I trundled off to the Wellcome Institute this morning. It was an exhibition called High Society and related how drugs and narcotics had got a grip on society.

In some places, tribes chew on roots to surge into collective hysteria. I breathed in the exhaust fumes of the Euston Road to get to the institute and the pollution obviously contrived a potent mix with the incense which was wofted around at St Pancras Old Church.

They sang some great old hymns at church. Perhaps I should have laid off the coffee at the Wellcome cafe.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Going Courtauld

There's something wonderful when art and exercise unite. The Courtauld Gallery provides such an opportunity. The rooms are at the top of a grand staircase. Of course there's a lift but I don't take lifts.

The pictures range from the Impressionists to Fauvism and quite a bit of 18th century. I was particularly taken by a portrait of two brothers 'in the gracefully relaxed attitude recommended by the contemporary manuals of deportment'.

I might adopt the phrase. No, I will adopt the phrase.

Despite the relentlessly grey skies in London today, it's mild. And I feel unusually exhilarated. It might have something to do with being shown how to use the self checkout facility at Sainsburys in Balham. It might have something to do with the double machiatto at Caffe Nero a few minutes later.

I used to go to the cafe to take a break while I was sorting out my dad's things after he died. That was the summer of 2009 and 18 months on the sorting out still hasn't finished.

Certainly isn't helped by heading off to art galleries. But I feel I have to get a helping of art into the system before voyaging to Sudan.

The radio station has decided to save a few pennies by sending me to the tournament to cover the knockout stages. So while my French colleagues get to peruse the group stages, I fly in for the adrenalin rush.

This means I am only there for 10 days and I stay in Khartoum rather than having to flirt with Wad Medani.

Fine by me. It also gives me a few more weeks of football. The team was taken apart on Saturday. It was not pleasant. We were missing the star defender and star midfielder and there were a couple of walking wounded. The skipper says that was no excuse.

Obviously have to put it right on Saturday. My preparation for that?

Lots of tennis.


Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Suddenly Sudan

Prospect rising of travelling to Sudan to cover the Cup of Nations for players based in Africa. It takes a month for the visa to come through and costs 80 euros. You would have thought they could get a visa together more quickly than that. But that's the way they do things.

Have to wait and see if the radio station bosses are up for sending me there. Get those sunglasses ready.

Lost Horizons

I finished reading The Good Soldier and had put Utopia in the bag. But I seem to have travelled to England without it. Lost Utopia seems a fitting symbol for the place.

The prices have gone up on transport. Tax on goods have also risen. It will be a more expensive place to be. Not that it was cheap before. Oh well. That's how it goes in austerity Britain.

I was impressed by the Sunday papers who told us that some of the leading politicians were wintering at £8,000 a week chalets in exclusive Swiss resorts.

But it seems right that if you have the money you must spend it. That stimulates growth. Stimulates resentment more like it. But since the people voted for these rich people to make us poor, you cannot get too irate.

Utopia will truly be lost if there was a revolution. Perhaps utopia will be gained with the revelations that suffering is going to be for a swathe of the population. And perhaps the people who didn't expect to be hit will reassess their choices.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

New Year 2011

All of a sudden I had a birthday and was older. Well not so much of a sudden. It was 364 days in the offing. So it cam. People came to my home, ate and drank. We went to the home of some friends and then we ate and drank. My head was a bit furry on New Year's Day. I guess that is a good sign.

L'Equipe had a DVD of the Barcelona Real Madrid match from a few weeks ago. I got a mate to buy it for me while I was in London. I watched it on the train this afternoon on the way to London.

Very good stuff. The fare on TV in England by contrast was awful. I think I shall just insert a Thunderbirds DVD next time there's a match on tele.

How awful then it must be to watch the stuff I play on Saturday mornings. But it's not the watching, it's the playing.