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Three Lions

Yes, I know the subtitle of this song is “Football’s Coming Home”, and football didn’t, but what am I supposed to do? It’s been a month or so since the end of the World Cup, and I think it’s enough time to be able to reflect on the event that crams 64 games into about 28 days, so here goes.

To start with, staging the finals in Russia has been discussed at length and needs no input from me. No one who follows football actually believed that removing Sepp Blatter and his cronies would make a difference in how FIFA does business, and of course, it didn’t. FIFA makes even the worst dictatorship look squeaky clean, and this was embodied in the opening game. On more than one occasion we saw shots from the V.I.P. box of  a triumvirate of evil; Vladimir Putin, FIFA President Gianni Infantino ( AKA Johnny Baby) and someone who I assume was Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia sitting next to each other and chatting. To be honest, it looked like the supervillain conference scene from a James Bond movie: There’s always one Arab in traditional dress present, Johnny Baby looks like a Bond villain and Vlad the Invader IS a Bond villain.  The scene just reeked of influence, corruption and contempt, so it was no surprise when the hosts, the lowest ranking team in the competition made it to the quarter finals.

Do you honestly believe that their games were fair and square? I’m pretty darn sure that every single official involved with Russia’s game had a visit from a couple of big blokes called Ivan and Sergei who said:

” Mister referee, here is special gift from people of Russia. Is whistle for competition. Is good for use in Russia, it glow in dark, and it stay  warm, so please, keep hold of whistle. Russian winter is very cold and dark, and we want you to be safe and make right decisions in game. last referee who made bad decision sat on park bench in Salisbury, he get very ill. We not want that to happen to you.”

Or words to that effect. You catch my drift, anyway. You might think that not having any kind of television service would be a disadvantage, but far from it, as I used a couple of streaming websites and saw all, or at least highlights of 63 games. I didn’t bother with the third place playoff as it’s the most meaningless game in world football and neither team wanted to be there. I was pleasantly surprised at England’s performance as I’d expected the usual squeaking through the group and then going out in the first knockout round to any half decent team. Thankfully, not being in England I avoided the inevitable hype surrounding a decent run, although by the time the semi final came round, even I was beginning to think that I might be about to experience England’s second appearance in a World Cup final.

Mind you, as a Liverpool fan I had already experienced the result of getting over enthusiastic about a final once this season, so kept my own counsel. I don’t know if the Germans have a word for Schadenfreude, but there was plenty of that to go round, and as well as seeing the Germans finish bottom of their group, I took especial delight in seeing Portugal, Argentina, Spain and Brazil fail to make the last eight. I have nothing in particular against those countries, but seeing Cristiano Ronaldo have to go home early was a delight. I can’t stand the guy for a number of reasons: He thinks he’s Gods’ gift and makes no attempt to hide it, he’s not a team player and doesn’t track back or make any effort to help the team and if he was made of chocolate, he’d eat himself. So, seeing him trudge off the pitch after the Uruguay game looking like you could light a candle on his bottom lip gave me quite a lot of satisfaction. I should point out, as others have done, that the last time Germany failed to make the last eight of a World Cup was 1938. Yeah, I know. They didn’t take that defeat particularly well, so I’d do a bit of planning if I were you. Yes, I know a lot of people were joking about this, but not really joking.

Mind you, I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised, I mean, Germany doesn’t exactly have a stellar record when it comes to winning in Russia, although at least this time the trip home won’t be quite so traumatic. I am, however, a little disappointed that Germany didn’t play any games in Volgagrad,  although I suppose that would have been a little tasteless.

As an Englishman, the most disappointing thing was England’s performance in the Semi Final. The way I look at it is that if you get that far, you go out and play the greatest game of your life, putting all your energy into the game on the principal that if you lose, you will at least go down swinging, and if you win, hell, you’re in the final, and you might not be fully recovered physically, but the adrenaline rush of being in the World Cup Final is enough to reanimate even the mouldiest of corpses. Alas, this never occurred to the English team, who apart from the free kick never looked like scoring. Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Dele Alli were noticeable by their absence, and it just stunned me that they didn’t seem to realise that this game actually mattered.  As with all the other games I made a very strong effort to avoid learning anything about the game, so at least my day wasn’t ruined until the end.

My plans for the final were to watch it at home mid morning, until a friend offered to host me, as he has television service. Works for me, I thought, as long as his other half doesn’t object. In the end, two other friends, also expats announced that they would host a party in their workspace and had bought at 52″ T.V. in honour of the event. They popped by work the day before to buy ham and cheese for Panini, I brought some strawberries, and set off early on Saturday morning to indulge in that most English of activities, morning drinking while watching football.

There were about 18 present all told, most of them locals who were there for the social rather than the football portion of the morning, but my Chelsea loving expat friend and I parked ourselves in prime viewing spots and enjoyed what was, all in all a pretty good game. Of course I was disappointed, but in no way surprised that France won, but I have to say that Croatia ran them close at times, dominating the opening 20 minutes and giving as good as they got. By the end of the game, suitably full of beer and food we stayed to watch the trophy presentation ceremony, and I have to admit that there may have been some coded messages involved.

Firstly, as Putin stood on the pitch awaiting the completion of the podium, he was accompanied by someone who I can only assume was a very expensive Russian prostitute. I don’t know why she was there, as the rain made sure that the pitch was well watered. Maybe she was being rewarded for a job well done. The large flags or Tifos on the pitch were a regular feature of every game, but I couldn’t help but wonder why they were being held by what appeared to be extras from a low budget 1980’s sci fi movie, nor why there was a line of female flight attendants standing behind the dignitaries. Of course, all this took a long time to set up, and was done purely for the cameras and the advertisers, no walking up the steps to receive the trophy as Bobby Moore did in 1966 and I did wonder why only Putin had an umbrella while the Croatian president, Johnny Baby and everyone else simply soaked. Talking of all things soaked, did you notice that when the confetti cannons were let off, they shot huge volumes of golden foil into the air? Hmm. A golden shower in Moscow. Nah, it couldn’t have been any kind of sly jab, could it? Admittedly, Putin did have a sly grin on his face, but then again, he usually does, so I don’t want to read too much into it.

So, not a bad way to spend a month. Plenty of football, not too many boring games, a lot of beer drunk whilst watching it and a fun morning to cap it all off. Now what do I do? I have to wait a full nine days for the start of the English Premier League season to begin, but at least that’s a damn sight less time than the 1,572 days 13 hours and 25 minutes until Qatar 2022. Assuming of course it even happens.

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Science Fiction Double Feature

This post is going to be fairly long, so you may want to find a comfortable chair.

Even from an early age, my daughter has  had tastes beyond her years, and films are no exception. She has a particular interest in science fiction films not normally seen in a 12 year old girl. I suppose to some extent this derives from her interest in the Harry Potter novels. When she was about six, her reading ability improved exponentially and she tore through the series in double quick time, which, of course, led to an interest in the films. I’m sure all parents will be familiar with this phenomenon, and anything that encourages kids to read is fine by me. Her interest in more intense material didn’t take long to manifest, however. Not long after this, she was looking through my DVDs and asked in all seriousness: “Dad, can I watch “Alien”?”. Noooooooo! was my instantaneous response, as you would expect. When she and her brother first met my sweetie at the EMP to view the Lego exhibit ( See “We Are Going To Be Friends”), I had to forcibly prevent her from entering the exhibit of horror film props as the notice made clear that it was unsuitable for young children.

Fast forward a few years. In an attempt to find something worth watching, I had asked members of the “Monster Talk” Facebook page for recommendations of horror/monster films that were either well worth watching, or so dreadful they deserved to be seen. I was able to find some of the titles, although some were not worth the effort. A case in point being the truly awful “Super Inframan“. Apparently the first major Chinese movie filmed entirely in Hong Kong, it deserves to be buried forever. It isn’t even good enough for the “So bad it’s good” category, and has production values so low it makes the work of Sid and Marty Kroft look like “Lord of the Rings”. I mention this cowpat of a film because my daughter asked me what was the worst film I’d ever seen, and despite explaining the plot to her, she insisted on watching it, and nothing I said could dissuade her. She lasted all of 20 minutes, before agreeing with my assessment and suggesting we turn off the DVD player.

This led to a discussion about Sci Fi in general, and films worth watching in particular. We watched “Rogue” together, a pale imitation of “Jaws” with a giant crocodile instead of a shark, and absolutely no tension and then moved on from monsters to traditional Sci Fi. As you no doubt can guess, I’m a fan of “Star Wars”, and we watched the original trilogy together, which she thoroughly enjoyed, although this meant she wanted to see the truly dreadful prequels, and I have no shame in admitting that I fell asleep during “The Phantom Menace”, although this did mean that she wanted to see the originals again as well as “The Force Awakens” a second time, her mother having bought the disc. Of course, we went to the cinema to see “Rogue One”, and she enjoyed it, although it could have been a much better film.

I ran out of suitable films for her to watch, and had already confirmed that her mother didn’t want her to see “Alien” when I said to her “Do you want to see “Alien”?”. I know, I know, but she’s an eminently sensible kid, and had explained that films don’t scare her, because she is “outside” of the action, unlike a book where she is drawn in by the narrative and experiences the story first hand. To be honest, the film is a lot less gory than I remembered, and she already knew of the “Chestburster” scene, so she wasn’t shocked by it. Naturally, we watched the first two sequels, but didn’t bother with the third as it is nothing more than a patchwork made up of elements of the first three. I was impressed by the way she handled the films, and asked a number of insightful questions throughout. She’s an expert at picking out errors, inconsistencies  and plot holes, so watching a film with her is a lot more fun than it would be with most kids her age.

I wasn’t sure how she’d handle “Arrival”, but she really enjoyed it, despite it being devoid of the usual Sci Fi elements. It raised a lot of interesting questions, and the production values and alien design really helped. I then suggested we watch “The Day The Earth Stood Still” in order to compare attitudes in the films to the arrival of aliens. I gave her a hint to keep an eye open to the parallel to a more famous story, but I had to explain it to her at the end: Klaatu’s arrival is heralded as a star in the east, he arrives with a message of peace to all men, he takes the name Carpenter, he has followers, he’s betrayed, he’s killed by soldiers and then rises from the dead and ascends into the heavens. She didn’t exactly give herself a dope slap for missing the comparison, but it all fell into place for her when I pointed it out.

The idea of first contact really appeals to her, so tomorrow we will be watching “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, as yet another take on the subject. I don’t know why she has such a strong fascination for Sci Fi, but I do appreciate the opportunity it gives us to spend time together, and I have enough films to keep our weekend sessions going for quite some time. She’s as sharp as a needle, and I want to do all I can to encourage her interest and curiosity, and films give ample opportunity for that. I do have my limits, though. It will be  a cold day in hell before I let her watch John Carpenters’ “The Thing”.

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Most Messed Up.

Now that I am only working half time, and most of that from home, you would imagine that I have plenty of time to take care of all those little household tasks that require attention. Well, imagine again. It would not be unreasonable to think that given the amount of free time on my hands, I should be living in a home that resembles the model unit at a new residential development. Once again, you’d be wrong to think that. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in a dumpster, but for some reason, my living space is less than immaculate.

“Why is this?” I hear you ask. Well, actually, I don’t because not only don’t you read this blog, but my hearing is pretty much fucked, but I’m going to answer anyway. But first, let me say that I understand why so many single guys live like Neanderthals. Buying furniture, bedding, curtains, etc. is a harrowing ordeal. Going to Bed, Bath and Beyond is a nightmare that no single man should ever have to endure. The contact high from the Oestrogen pushes me two cup sizes higher. And that’s just in the walk from the car to the entrance.

Still, my travails in setting up a livable environment are well documented and need no repetition, so fast forward to the present. My Living Room is small, but serves the purpose and I try to avoid eating on the Futon as much as possible – late night snacking whilst watching a film and drinking excepted- but still, there  seems to be a permanent debris field of crumbs and random food particles on the rug no matter how careful I try to be. However, I have very little motivation in breaking out the stick vac. and clean up, partly because I know that in a couple of days the mess will return. Inevitably I will stand barefoot on some particularly sharp shard and will admit defeat by plugging in the vacuum.

I think part of the problem is that I have no separate kitchen, just a slightly larger than usual galley kitchen separated from the living room by the strip that covers the border between the carpet tiles and the lino, hence crumbs and general detritus have no significant barrier to migration. Actually, if I didn’t know better, I’d think that someone was breaking into the house at night and deliberately scattering crumbs on my floor. Intermittently I will do a proper clean of the house, removing everything from the kitchen counter and giving every hard surface a deep cleaning.

Until the 4th of July weekend I had deliberately avoided dealing with my son’s bedroom. I used to give each of the kids $5 for helping out around the house, which included keeping their rooms within accepted Western standards of hygiene, but as the cash has dried up, this went the way of all flesh. They still make their beds, and my son did gather up a lot of garbage, but the real horror lurked beneath his bed. He has a habit of eating whilst lying on his bed, and the fallout goes everywhere. A few months back I moved the bed away from the wall to find the top of the skirting board with crumbs so old they required carbon dating.

As Independence Day is not really my thing, I steeled my nerves, girded my loins and tidied the back room. Oh, and as my people gave you July 4 as a holiday, you’re welcome. Back in the day, the area beneath a teenage boy’s bed was the favourite hiding place for all manner of one handed reading, but at least the invention of the iPad and laptop have removed this horror from parent’s lives, so at least I can be thankful for that. It required the use of several wet paper towels to remove the mess, and I almost filled the dust container of the vacuum with assorted matter from the carpet, but at least I didn’t have to dispose of any questionable publications with their pages stuck together.

My daughter uses my room when with me, so I had less to deal with, although the pile of riding magazines on her desk almost required crampons and a belaying line to surmount. She’s a talented artist who seems to regard the surface of her desk as a blank canvas, so it took a gag – inducing amount of 409 to return the worktop to its original white. It didn’t occur to me until much later that I could have removed the top and sold it as a recently discovered Jackson Pollock original. Damn. That would have solved my financial problems.

Ah well, lesson learned.  I reckon I should put more effort into cleaning up the place and removing as much clutter and extraneous matter as possible. Despite downsizing as much as possible ( see “The Boxer and “Space Oddity”), I have acquired a lot of crap I don’t really need. A result of the OCD and pack rat mentality, I suppose. At least if I do, it will mean less stuff to deal with when I’m homeless.

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Fuck Christmas

You may not be too surprised to learn that in general, I am a miserable, sour-faced old git. Better living through chemistry helps, but even so, it can’t overcome my contempt for the forced, almost mandated so-called “spirit of Christmas”. Spirit of Scotland, yes, particularly if said spirit comes from the highlands or the island of Islay and is at least twelve years old. But I digress.

This year was particularly egregious in getting the holiday underway, as on a number of occasions I saw Christmas items competing for shelf space with Halloween stuff! Yep, you read that correctly. That really is too much, and it put me in a bad mood right from the start. I really dislike the fact that we’re all supposed to get excited about Christmas regardless of our age. No, it isn’t the happiest time of the year. It’s cold, the sun is gone by 4 p.m. and everyone is stressed out by having only just recovered from Thanksgiving and facing the prospect of plunging straight back into the fray.

In general I try to avoid this as much as possible, wearing earbuds with the volume turned up to eleven, and not doing much in the way of decorating. My house is not only too small to have a tree, I don’t even have the storage space for decorations. I do have a few things: paper decorations made by the kids, some glass balls my sweetie bought that are about the size of gumballs and a two foot tall tree composed entirely of tree ornaments, but that is it.

Not so my sweetie. She  decorates every square inch of her home and takes  great delight in her mid century modern aluminium Christmas tree. My kids take  almost as much delight in assembling it. It consists of three sections that form the trunk and a large number of branches covered in silver tinsel which have to be inserted into holes in the trunk in a specific order. Despite the fact that she is a hard core Seinfeld fan, she insists on assembling the tree so it doesn’t look like a Festivus pole. Admittedly, that would lead to the traditional airing of the grievances, but she usually saves that for special days.

The kids love assembling the tree, as they have for the last three years or so, and it brings out the best in them: my son gets to organise, and his sister gets to indulge her artistic side. Of course, we let them do all the hard work this year and they had a blast, as usual. I really couldn’t have cared less, but did my duty hanging decorations on the tree. I think the kids enjoy the novelty of an artificial tree, as they have grown up knowing only a ten foot Noble Fir in the corner of their living room.

Of course, the big issue is presents. As the kids have grown up, their tastes have become not only more sophisticated, but also harder to discern. This year was a real trial. My son the tech head is impossible to buy for without a very specific list. Thankfully he provided one eventually, but so much of it was pure wishful thinking that my choices were somewhat limited. My daughter was just as difficult – eventually giving me a half arsed list on the 13th. To some extent I understand. Neither of them is particularly acquisitive and both of them pretty much have everything they need.

My sweetie is a different issue in that for her, I was able to pick up things as I saw them, and when she did provide me with a list I was pretty much done shopping for her. I hate to buy only gifts on the lists people provide, so with luck she will be surprised when she starts the unwrapping – pleasantly, I hope.

Another thing that irritates me is the forced jollity. Peace on Earth and good will to all men is a fine sentiment, but why restrict it to Christmas? Shouldn’t that be the policy all year round? Am I missing something? I do realise that this year much more than most has been thin on the good will, and peace has been noticeable by its absence, but surely we can make an effort for rather longer than the last five weeks of the year.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for the kids I wouldn’t bother with Christmas at all. It just seems like such a waste of time. I’d rather wait until the spring and celebrate surviving another year and another winter. At least getting through another spin around the sun is something to celebrate, an actual achievement worth acknowledging , much more so than some  Iron Age fairy tale that went unwritten for three centuries. To quote Terry Jones in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” “Creeping ’round a cow shed at two o’clock in the morning doesn’t sound very wise to me.”

I could go on, but if any of you are still reading, you probably don’t want to read much more. Besides, I have a lot to do today: I have to harness Max and remember to make sure to take the last can of Who Hash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Avec Elegance

AVEC ELEGANCE. 07/07/13

I’m realising just how much women my age care about their appearance and how little my ex did. Case in point: yesterday I had a very enjoyable dinner at a well known waterside restaurant. And no, I’m NOT talking about Ivars’ acres of clams!  I’m not a spendthrift, but neither am I a miser.

Anyway, my point is this: my companion was a very charming lady who despite the fact that this was our first meeting had obviously given some thought to her appearance, even though the deck was most definitely stacked in her favour, as it is for all women on dates. No Capris and T Shirt for her.  She was dressed stylishly but in an understated way, her hemline being neither too short nor too long, her hair left loose and her neckline neither plunging nor hugging her chin, her arms bare.

Everything about her appearance suggested a successful, confident businesswoman who knows what she wants and is used to being in charge. Guess what? That’s exactly what she is. I guess, though, that women tread a fine line: how to appear attractive without looking too obvious , how to show confidence without appearing bossy, how to show interest without giving a misleading impression.

Anyway, I take it as a good sign that we sat chatting for quite some time after the bill arrived. Bill? to be honest, it was large enough to be called William, never mind Bill. She was graceful right to the end of the evening, and I’ll take it as a sign of interest that she raised the question of us meeting again, something that I  want very much, if for no other reason that it was such a pleasure to spend the evening engaged in intelligent, stimulating wide ranging conversation that never flagged and never resorted to the linguistic tricks and innuendos that so often ruin an evening.

Question. Is it true that if he plays with her hair she’s interested? I do hope so, because she adjusted her hair  (Just below shoulder length and naturally blonde)every few minutes, and we were at the table for well over 3 hours.

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Electricity

ELECTRICITY. 07/07/13

July 4th has never been a particularly easy holiday for me. I put up with it, go along with the day, pack away a few beers, but that’s about it. Try and see it from my perspective. It’s a bit like celebrating D – Day in front of Germans, or the fall of Saigon in front of Americans. Get the picture? Good!

This year, however, was much, much easier. I took my early awakening as an opportunity to get things done, and so spent the morning in the traditional way by brewing some Belgian beer and watching a Japanese movie – “Gojira”, to be precise. What could be more American?

I was glad of the early start, however, when at just after 2pm, the power failed. I spent the following 9 hours in splendid isolation, sitting on the deck reading and listening to podcasts, with a 2 hour nap in the middle. A very relaxing day, with the added bonus of watching the sun sink slowly in the west, the sky turning from pale blue to yellow, orange, red and deep blue before settling in to a deep, deep black, a fireworks display that put to shame the best efforts of the Chinese chemists whose products rent the evening air with screeches,flashes, bangs and pops.

It’s funny, but I really enjoyed the day, seeing as I had no distractions and was able to follow wherever my fancy led me. I had to laugh when my ex asked me the next day: “Did you come to the parade?” Why in the name of Bonaparte’s balls would I drive to her town to watch a parade? I guess she was pissed off that I hadn’t asked to come to her barbeque, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to give her the benefit of that win.

All in all, a very enjoyable day. Perhaps I should hope for a few more power outages during the year. Thanksgiving would be a good one, don’t you think?

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Getting Nowhere Fast

GETTING NOWHERE FAST. 06/21/13

I think that the official halfway point in the year is as good a place as any to stop and have a quick review, don’t you? Not so good of late, it has to be said.  Of course, there is no prospect on the job front, which is pretty depressing in its’ own right despite all my efforts, and only time will tell if my current pivot will bear fruit. I’m not holding my breath, but it would be nice to at least feel like there’s a job out there for me, even if I can’t see it right now.

Still, the employment front is more heartening than the personal one.  If the employment front is the “War Without Hate” that was the North African campaign, then the personal front is Stalingrad in the winter of ’42. Now I don’t want to go all ‘Enry ‘Iggins on you, but why can’t women just come out and be honest? At least then I could walk away from the restaurant thinking “Well, at least the food was decent”, or “That’s the best Manhattan I’ve had in a long while”.

But nooooooo!. Both meetings last week appeared to go pretty well, but apparently I’m too stupid to read the signals. I’d much rather hear the truth, than be fobbed off with an email, or as appears to be the new standard, complete silence.

Not a good few weeks on the old personal worth scene, then.  Maybe that seems a bit harsh, but after having been told by a very reliable source just how unbefuckinglievably  low the bar is when it comes to getting a second meeting, I’m beginning to have some very serious doubts. Mind you, the fact that I’ve reduced my daily meds to once every other day to build up a stockpile for when my ex drops me from the health plan could have something to do with it I suppose.

Ah well, at least I have tomorrow to look forward to. A nice trip out to Port Townsend followed by a glass of wine on the deck will perk me up no end. Even though I know that nothing will happen, at least it will be a day spent in the company of someone whom I appreciate and have affection for, which has to count for something, don’t you think?

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