Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Back to Life

Back to life, back to reality .... as Soul II Soul put it ages ago when I were a lad.

After a dozen or so days in London and nearly a week without the brood, I returned to Paris.

Chores, administration, duties. The stiff stuff of ordinariness.

Went out on Monday night in London with a mate from work. A pub called the Fellow. Fine place. Should be fined for the prices. A bag of crisps? £1.50.

I still think that is a lot of money but perhaps people who live in London don't think it is. Maybe I am cheap.

Anyway it was good to go out and do what journos are supposed to do. Gossip with colleagues.

Cycling to south London wasn't scheduled but that is probably good for me. Don't want to be too rigid. Not with The Guardian looking for voluntary redundancies before turning the wheels which could bring compulsory redundancies.

Stay flexible. Be ready to get on the bike to look for work as the tough talking Tory Norman Tebbit bellowed when I were a lad.

Back then I didn't have to wear glasses. Now I do. I picked up the new pair yesterday just before playing tennis. They are beautiful. But they were not cheap.

No wonder I complain about the price of crisps.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


It has got to be something significant to stir me to my blog.

Of course that shouldn't be the case. I should be at it every day. But there has been a lapse.

It shouldn't have happened and I will make amends.

The first reminder was a piece in The Times about blogging. It said that bloggers - if they are serious - should get on with it and produce every day. If it can't be much, it has to be something.

Right. And with that logic there's no excuses.

The second jolt - and this was slightly more tectonic - was church this morning and a little trip out onto the green patch outside the church for the Remembrance Day laying of the wreath.

I didn't look at the memorial. In fact I never knew it was there. But the congregation stood outside and sang a hymn ... Our rock in ages past ...and then we said a prayer or two to hail those who sacrificed all during the world wars so we could proceed to dishonour their efforts in our greedy, selfish society.

During two minutes silence, there was a little toddler who was being anything but silent. She was jittering around walking up to the wall and back again.

I thought where are the parents. Get a grip. But then I thought that really is a bit crusty. Internal tut tutting.  And ironic as we were marking people who'd died so that we weren't all living in year 70 of the thousand year reich.

Fortunately that game ended well before half time.

And during the moments of contemplation on the church green, I thought of school and my French teacher there. A bloke called Vic Baker. The mildest of chaps. He imposed no order in his lessons and they were boisterous affairs. I remember getting threatened by the bloke sitting next to me to give him the answers to a translation - otherwise he'd punch me.

It was a strange affirmation of my excellence because he knew that I was going to get the answer right. But - here's the thing - he didn't want all the answers because if he got too many correct, the teacher would have known that he'd been looking at my work. I later heard the boy had become a police man.

But Vic Baker probably knew what was going on. I once mentioned the disorder in the class to a school mate's dad.

The dad said that he was letting us all get away with it. And then recounted how back in a war day, the mild mannered French teacher was some top behind-the-lines commando.

Even though he was getting on, he could have wiped most of us out before we'd got to nous sommes.

Maybe it was just a story. But it was a good one. And one that I've kept with me all these years.

Vic Baker is probably long gone from this earth. But I smiled wryly at the toddler girl.

I've not been asked nor told to fight in a war. And probably am too old now to do so.

The fight - as the vicar later expounded - is to make sure that we strive as much as possible for peace.

I'd like to think of Vic as a youthful ruthless assassin, it contrasts so vividly with his meekness.

I won't forget.

Friday, 5 October 2012

The Rest

I swapped shifts with a colleague and it has been instructive. I worked for him on Tuesday and so I've been off today.

'Off' is a loose way to regard things. Clearly I should have been off on Tuesday because I woke up this morning - no this is not a Blues song - and was so exhausted by the amount of administration that was looming into sight that I went out for breakfast.

I came back, opened a few files, arranged a few bank statements - the children seem to have more money than me - and then decided I'd had enough.

I went back to bed and slept. Obviously all too much for a frail petal like me.

But since my restart I've felt energised. Lunched well and in the still quiet before the wars (the children) arrive, I can dally with my blog and feel there has been achievement.

Perhaps I felt enhanced by a note from one of my doctors to his colleague.

My main doctor - let's call her Dr Chaumie - since that is her name - was away one summer and her replacement Dr Dumazy - no not made up - was her replacement.

When he met me you could see the euro signs roll round in his eyes. I said I needed a doctor's note because I wanted to play in the Roland Garros journalists' tournament. I also required a note to say that my heart was OK for football.

Dr Dumazy whipped out his cardiogramme and before I knew it I looked like one of the Borg.

The squiggles weren't right. "This calls for expensive testing," I muttered to myself and sure enough I was steered towards a cardiologue.

Now any self-respecting man of a certain age should have a cardiologue. And this one put even more terminals onto my extremities.

As far as I remember there was something which wasn't right but it wasn't wrong. I was sent away and told not to worry as it could be my ethnology.

Ah that be serious then.

Three years later. Doc Chaumie was on her summer hols and when I made the appointment with Dr Dumazy, I thought he'd dust off the cardioscam.

Not even. We chatted Olympic games as he cut to the chase and wrote a note to the cardiologue of yore.

At least he put in the note that I was 'sportif'. Which is probably Hippocratic oath code for you book the table and the drinks are on me.

Monday, 16 July 2012

End of the Dream

I am disappointed. I've just received an email from the Olympic site organisers informing me that the entrance near Hackney wick overground station is to close. 

That is a shame as it was very near the press centre and didn't involve running the retail gauntlet at Stratford. There are rather loftily entitled places called the Eastern, Western and Southern Gates. 

But they don't seem to be near any of the much hyped transport hubs. 

I can only assume this is being done for safety reasons and we can't complain about that. 

Were I looking to create a stir I would dub this Gategate. It's a scandal that we're being funnelled into tight spots.

But I really shouldn't complain. I've just seen in the Guardian that The Voice - Britain's biggest selling and oldest newspaper for the Black community - isn't being given accreditation for the Olympic stadium.

The paper is outraged as there are vast numbers of British athletes with Afro Caribbean backgrounds. The paper does have three other reporters allowed to roam the games but many wondrous things will happen inside the stadium and the paper won't be there to witness it at first hand.

Voicegate and Gategate - all within about 20 minutes. And with the continuing rain lashing down on our fair capital, we are on the cusp of a Watergate.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Rain

It was the wettest June on record and if the 15 days of July are anything to go by, it will be the soggiest July since records began.

 So what? The tour of the athletes' village was a sun-kissed journey into the sustainable future. There was the bus which got lost on the way to the village from the media centre. 

There were the hurried interviews with the athletes' village mayor Charles Allen and there were the perfectly hidden toilets.

But most of all there was the green. Massive open spaces and a swathe of trees. When the athletes have departed, the area will be renamed East Village and be home to all kinds of incomes. 

That's enough to regenerate the cockles of my heart.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Football Dad

My life as a football dad started on Monday July 9. It began in absentia.

I was in London while registration for football lessons for the boy was in Paris.

It meant that the missus had to stand in line for 47 hours for the lad to get on the course. I felt this was an abandonment of my paternal role.

It will be the missus who has to take him to the course as I will still be shuffling around the park on Saturday mornings when it all begins.

Strange really. At least there won't be any chance of living out my dreams through him for the moment. I couldn't become part of the Olympic Family in absentia. I went to the Olympic Park this morning to get my accreditation put into a lovely plastic holder.

I also put my name down for a trip round the athletes' village on Thursday. I will find out later if I have been accepted. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, will be there on Thursday. That should be interesting.

The park looks wonderful. They're still putting the finishing touches to it. And for the most part the helpers look helpful.

Going to the park from Stratford is a set a set-up. You have to run the gauntlet of shops and the urge to succumb to expenditure is immense. I faltered by the Cafe Nero. A macchiato and croissant were enough to gird my loins for the trip inside the fence or into the heart of the family - the international broadcast centre.

Once there I was sent off to the accreditation office and it was so painless. But then I've been used to accreditation centres at the Africa Cup of Nations. So anything other than that is going to appear scintillating in its efficiency.

There is another bonus to the Olympic dream. I am allowed to travel in the six zones of London for free until August 15. Quite what happens if you want to go to Hampden Park in Glasgow to see the football is a mystery.

If you have to pay, that will be a deep hole into any company's pockets. A snap train journey in Britain isn't cheap.

Might perhaps send you into a depression. Still I know one place where you can shop your way out of the anxiety.

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Confirmation

There's been far too much fun in the house of late. And I've been living a life far beyond normality. Went to church and had the bishop confirm me along with about 16 other people.

A few were being baptised and it was all very Italian with god parents hanging around, photographers and there was a moment when I didn't seem to have room to kneel at the front to get me blessing. Oh woe. I muscled a little place and the bishop did his thing.

The family came and the boy did the decent thing and fell asleep about 15 minutes into the extravaganza. Must have had something to do with the party the night before.

Well if there was ever a good reason to stay out till 2am, that was it. So out we went for food after the confirmation service and Le Grand Corona was serene. Said hello to the boss and sympathised with him as he'd just come down with angina. Next thing we know we were being offered aperos on the house.

All that was left was to send the children up to him to say thank you.

Come Monday and it was lunch with the eldest after her tennis lesson.

As we sat in the restaurant, I said my what a life is this. Sunday supper in the 8th, Monday lunch in the 16th. By this reckoning I will be skint by Tuesday and on the bread and cheese.

Or perhaps that should be bread and wine.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Holiday part III

Wow wines galore. In fact it was a hyper market of the stuff at a place called the Cave des vins. Fortunately it was not underground. Had enough of subterranean ventures at the chateau at Breze. A chateau beneath the chateau was its unique selling point. And we wended through caverns and dungeons and underground bakeries. Would be a god place for a party or a film. But it was grey and cold and they must have suffered in days of old.

Loire version 2012 is not as hot as Loire version 2011. But 2011 was mighty warm and that was freaky. I have enough layers so that is a good thing.

And the owners have set the heating on. So it's cosy in the morning and not horrific at night. In between it means that you have to go out or get chilly.

But with so many chateau to choose from who would want to stay in. Chinon, Breze. Whar a wonderland.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Holiday Part II

What I've always found fascinating about self catering holidays is the self catering.

But of course to do this means a trip to the hyper market or travelling with a car load of food. As we did not voyage packed with vittels, Monday has meant a trip to the Super U. Super it was was and U it was cold.

I can't argue with that really but I thought I'd gone into the tundra. When you end up doing the shopping in gloves you know that they take their food conservation seriously.

It fair knocked me out. I had to retire for a siesta while the children watched Harry Potter part 3. Something to do with the prisoner of Azerbaijan.

The eldest let slip that she found Harry Potter quite attractive. Might have something to do with the fact that he is the hero and solves problems. Guess I know what type of bloke she'll be bringing home in the future.

Man of action. That should really help send me into decrepitude. But I think I can do that very well myself.

The moustache project doesn't seem to be progressing apace.

But this is not something you can really do anything about. I looked at the table for the football team and from what I can gather the team is in the relegation zone, not on the fringes of it but actually in the zone with three games to go.

I sincerely hope the star players will be available for the crunch three matches otherwise it is division 3 next season and that would be a real drag. Might win some games.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Holiday

To the Loire. What kind of glory lies there? Wine country so you can't go wrong. Well I probably can. I am being encouraged by my family to grow a moustache.

I find this very odd behaviour because there is nothing in my approach that screams moustache.

But I am going along with the binge because it would be churlish not to. Sadly I am not the kind of man that can grow a moustache. I am not hirsute.

Great shame.

I've taken solace in an annual pass for Fontevraud abbey. It cost 25 euros and is only 1 euro more expensive than getting in with the entire crowd. This is bargain country for at Fontevraud rest great kings and queens of France and England.

I first visited Fontevraud more than 20 years ago when I was in another (moustacheless) incarnation. And then they were at the start of their great renovation project.

Needless to say that over two decades they've restored a large part of the ruins and now they even have a couple of cafes. Great history and coffee.

The thing is that we only get down to the Loire once a year but if we visit Fontevraud twice during the visit we'd be quids in.

There are chateaux galore to visit. Not quite sure what kind of state I'm going to be in.

The trip was preceded by a football match with the team. We are in a relegation dogfight. And though we won, the teams in front of us won so we're not really that much better off though a lot better off than we would be had we lost.

I must console myself with that. The next three matches will make or break the season.

UEFA Champions league? Well that's straightforward. English Premier League....Manchester United are five points clear. Veterans B division. It's squeaky bum time to cite a footballing knight.