Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Welcome Home

Dori is back home. Yay!

I drove up to Gatwick airport yesterday to collect her. As with the outward journey, it meant a ridiculously early start for me - before the birds had even begun to clear their throats! Gatwick is further away than Heathrow, about 40 or 50 miles more, and Dori’s plane was due to arrive at 7a.m., so it was a crack of dawn start to the day.

The weather here for the last week or so has been glorious. In fact I can’t remember such a long stretch of unbroken sunshine for a very long time. So, it was a pleasant ride up to the airport (if driving along the motorways here can ever be said to be pleasant!), with my iPod choosing the music as I went. The sun rose as an orange ball as I left home, but was very soon shining brightly as I sped along the motorway.

I arrived at Gatwick at nearly the exact time that Dori’s flight was due. We are both very used to that journey, having made it countless times when we were both flitting back and forth across the Atlantic before we got married. So I knew roughly how long it would take me, and I arrived at pretty much the time I anticipated. It was a little chaotic when I arrived at the terminal as they are currently making changes to the road layout there, and have moved the drop-off point to directly in front of the car park entrance. Cars were going in all directions! Anyway, I manoeuvred my way across one lane of cars, and slipped quickly into the car park, leaving the mayhem behind me.

Having parked up, I walked over to the terminal and began my wait for Dori. The plane landed just a couple of minutes later, and so I anticipated a further 45 minutes or so for her to deplane and go through immigration, baggage claim and customs. An hour and a half later I was getting a tad worried! Thankfully, Dori then appeared at the end of the corridor. Apparently it had taken forever to get through immigration because they only had 2 people working there trying to get 2 or 3 plane loads of people through! But all was well :-)

We said our hellos and then made our way back to the car, and onwards back to Wiltshire. Sometimes the journey back from Gatwick can seem like it is taking forever, and yesterday was one of those days. Having to travel around the M25 (the inspiration for Chris Rea’s “Road to Hell”) doesn’t help!! For those that don’t know, the M25 is a ring road that encircles London, and is always extremely busy; and sometimes, as yesterday, at a complete standstill. So, it took much longer to get back home than it had for me to get up to the airport.

But, get back we did, and Dori is now fast asleep upstairs as I write this, trying to catch up on her missed sleep, and recovering from the jetlag. She had a wonderful time back home in Georgia, and I am sure she will be blogging about it all for you very soon!

In other news, apparently the World Cup is still going on, but I forget who is doing well and who is doing so abysmally poorly!! :-/ Maybe I will remember before the next time!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Sporting Time

So, I’m in Brit Boy sporting heaven right now :-) The World Cup has been going for 10 days already and is reaching the end of the group stage. This is where the fun really begins as every match is absolutely crucial.

England’s campaign so far has been abysmal, but long experience has shown me that they nearly always start big tournaments slowly and then improve as the competition progresses. They have drawn both of their opening games, and so have to win their third group match on Wednesday to go forward into the knock-out stages. Their poor performance so far has been a major item on all of the news shows here, quite often being the lead story! The country is certainly getting itself into a bit of a lather over their below-par showing. So, I am keeping everything crossed that the players will rediscover their form tomorrow and be able to beat Slovenia.

And, as well as the football still proceeding, yesterday saw the start of Wimbledon 2010. And what a start to the fortnight it was too! Six-time champion Roger Federer came extremely close to going out in the very first round. He lost the first two sets to Alejandro Falla, a Colombian ranked 60th in the world. But Federer isn’t the great champion he is just by accident. He drew on all of his reserves and experience to claw his way back into the match, and eventually ran out the winner, taking the fifth set 6-0.

That wasn’t the only near shock on the opening day either, with Novak Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko both being taken to five sets to win their matches too. Djokovic’s match didn’t finish until 11pm local time, and was completed under Centre Court’s new roof that was installed last year. Late matches like this are a new thing for Wimbledon, having only been made possible by having the aforesaid roof put on the top of Centre Court.

I am sure that Dori was glad she wasn’t here yesterday as there was 12 hours of sport on the TV non-stop! And that is likely to continue for a while yet – as I said, Brit Boy sporting heaven!

Friday, 18 June 2010

The Yellow House Garden

As you may have seen in her last post, Dori is having a great time back in Georgia and has taken some wonderful photos of her surrounds. I love how green it is around there and I know that Dori has been enjoying some lovely walks along the local nature trail there.

Since Dori has been gone we have finally had some decent weather here, the first in a long while. It was so nice yesterday that I had to get out into the garden to enjoy it – these opportunities are far too rare! I thought that I would take a few pictures of my own to share with you all, showing some of the flowers and bushes here at the Yellow House.

I’m am far from being an expert in the identification of plants, so forgive me for not doing so here, The only ones that I do know in our garden are the roses, and we have a surprising variety of colours given that our garden is tiny. The first I will share with you is this lovely deep pink rose.

We also have a few lighter pink, and almost white, roses in the Yellow House garden.

And, of course, we couldn’t live in a Yellow House without some yellow roses to go with it!

I love the deep yellow colour of this rose, and the reddish tinges to it. We did have some lighter yellow roses, but those that have already bloomed have started to turn already, so I will have to wait to see if any more bloom to get some photos of them :-)

Other than the roses we also have other plants and bushes in the garden which will, by me at least, remain nameless! Here are a few...

If nothing else, these pictures prove that we do sometimes get nice, cloudless weather here in Wiltshire!! Let's hope there is plenty more to come.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, 14 June 2010

The Greatest Show on Earth

So, the fun has now begun in South Africa. The 2010 FIFA World Cup kicked off on Friday with the hosts playing out a 1-1 draw with Mexico. 32 nations will be competing to be crowned World Champions on July 11th in Johannesburg.

The first round of the competition is played in 8 groups of 4 teams, with each team playing the others in their group once. The top two teams of each group will then progress to the knock-out stages of the tournament, which is when the excitement really kicks in!

England began their campaign on Saturday when they played against the USA. This could have meant for a very interesting evening in the Yellow House if Dori hadn’t been on the other side of the pond right now! :-) But, as she wasn’t here, I convinced Trevor to join me in cheering on the England team. After a very competitive match (and one goalkeeping howler) the match ended at 1-1, with honours even. Having subsequently seen the other two teams in the same group I would imagine that both England and the US team should have little trouble in qualifying for the 2nd round.

No team has shone out yet, though there are still 10 more teams yet to play as I write these notes. Tomorrow will see the first game for Brazil, who are the perennial favourites when the World Cup rolls around, and then Wednesday will mark the first game for Spain who are a lot of people’s tips to win it this time. Spain are currently the European Champions, and will certainly be a very big obstacle for the other teams to negotiate.

But, the beauty of sport is that nobody really knows what will happen. There will be favourites and underdogs, but there will also be upsets and surprises and a few broken hearts along the way. As an England fan I am well aware of how crushing an exit in the latter stages of the competition can be, and how hopes can turn into despair in a matter of seconds. But that, of course, is exactly why so many people love the game.

Now gotta go – I’ve got the Japan v Cameroon game to watch!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Bon Voyage

We had an early start to the day yesterday. Dori was going on her trip back home to Georgia, and so we had to get up at the break of dawn to make our journey up to Heathrow.

The last time we made this trip was back in November, and it was dark and pouring down with rain. Thankfully this time, the change in seasons meant that it was already light by 4:30 when we woke, and the rain stayed away for most of the day. We drove up to London on the M4 motorway, and made very good time in reaching the airport. We like to leave extra early to ensure that any delays don’t prevent us getting to Check-In in plenty of time, and also to avoid the worst of the traffic.

So, we arrived in plenty of time at Heathrow and went to have breakfast at one of the cafes there. It was a French restaurant, but we both had a traditional English breakfast – sausage, bacon, eggs, mushroom and toast (although fried bread would have been more traditional). It was very good, and very filling :-) We then had some time to kill before Dori had to go through security and hence to her boarding gate. We are both quite used to killing time at airports now, and so we went and found somewhere to sit and I read a book as Dori checked through her bags to make sure she hadn’t forgot anything. I took this picture as we sat there as I thought the roof looked interesting.

I would have taken more photos, but I didn’t want to look like I was casing the joint!!

It soon came to the time when Dori had to make her way to the boarding gate. We have had plenty of emotional goodbyes in the past, as we have had to go our separate ways for months on end. So, this small separation of 3 weeks is child’s play for us :-) We said our goodbyes, and then Dori went off through the security area. I waved her off and then made my way back to the car, and onwards back to Wiltshire.

The journey back was almost as easy as the one up to Heathrow, with no major problems traffic-wise. In fact, the journey went so quickly that I was back at the Yellow House before Dori’s plane had even lifted off of the tarmac!

I have just spoken to Dori on the phone, and she had a good trip over. The journey time was almost an hour less than scheduled, which is always a nice surprise, and she tells me that she sat next to a very nice French lady on the way over. She is now looking forward to spending some relaxing time back in her hometown.

I will miss Dori whilst she is gone, but will be consoling myself with lots of World Cup football, Wimbledon tennis and having the whole bed to myself! Now, I just have to try to find out where it is that we keep the kitchen....

Friday, 4 June 2010

Rolling Back the Years

It was while we were having our recent spring clean that I came across a relic from the Ark – my old vinyl records. They had been tucked away out of sight, and out of mind, for a long while and so it was quite a surprise when we uncovered them the other day.

I’m not exactly sure when the last one was bought, but I guess it was sometime in the late ‘80s, and flicking through the collection was like taking a step back in time to that decade. The ‘80s were when I was at my vinyl buying peek, as before then I was a kid with not much cash to spend on such things, and after that time it was CDs that came to the fore, before the digital revolution of music downloads. So looking through my record collection I came across names such as Queen, Wham, Eurythmics, Altered Images, Kate Bush, The Bangles, Belinda Carlisle, Dire Straits, Billy Joel, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, ... and the list just goes on and on. Many happy memories, of spending hours in my room playing whichever was my latest fave record over and over again, flooded back.

It is interesting that despite growing up on different sides of the Atlantic, Dori and I have a shared musical memory of the ‘80s. Many of the biggest bands of that time were British, and there was a lot of crossover from one side of the pond to the other. There were though, a few bands/artists that, naturally enough, Dori hadn’t come across before. One of those was the band who made the very first single I ever bought. Or actually, to be precise, the joint first single I ever bought as I actually purchased 2 at the same time.

The band in question was Bad Manners, who were a ska band from North London led by the unique Buster Bloodvessel, and the song was “Walking In The Sunshine”. Here it is...

Wow, that was a long time ago. Ironically, with the title of the song being about sunshine and all, the video was shot on a very grey day. It must have sounded like a good idea at the time when they were thinking about how to shoot the video – “I know; we’ll go down to the coast and have lots of shots of the band messing about on the beach” - only to be scuppered by the traditional English weather!! :-)

If you are at all interested, my other first single was “Shut Up” by Madness, which contains one of my favourite lines of lyric – “I’m as honest as the day is long - the longer the daylight the less I do wrong!”. I guess I was a bit of a ska boy back then. :-)

Aah, memories! I would love to know what your first singles all were. Drop me a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Fading Dreams

I hope that everybody had a good weekend. I know that it was a holiday weekend for a lot of us, with it being Memorial Day yesterday in the States and the imaginatively named Late May Bank Holiday here in the UK.

As you all know from my last post, I was at Wembley on Saturday to see Swindon Town take on Millwall in the League One Play-Off Final. Sadly, things didn’t go to plan and the Town ended up on the losing side of a 1-0 scoreline.

I headed out from here early in the day as we had to be at the County Ground by 9:00am to be ready to board the coach. It was a grey day when we left, with a few spots of rain in the air. As the day wore on, so the rain got harder ...and harder ....and harder! Maybe that was a sign of things to come! Anyway, the coach was waiting for us when we got to the ground and we hopped straight on. There were 62 “official” coaches being run by the club, with something like another 100 being put on by other groups, clubs, pubs, etc. We left spot on time, and made our way along the M4 motorway towards London.

The journey went quite quickly and we arrived at Wembley in very good time, and got straight into the car/coach park, which is something that never happens! Wembley Stadium is not the easiest place to get into, or out of, and the traffic is normally backed up for a number of miles as you approach it. But this time, as I said, we sailed straight in and parked up to the west of the stadium.

As we had so much time to kill – it was still another three and a half hours until the match kicked off – we decided to go and get something to eat and drink. First stop was a local McDonalds, which was bursting to the seams with both Swindon and Millwall supporters. It was literally Standing Room Only. Having refuelled ourselves we then headed out to find a pub for a little pre-match refreshment. On occasions like these, the local police allocate certain pubs to the fans of one team or the other, so that any trouble is minimized. So we set off to look for a “Swindon pub”. Of course, we went in entirely the wrong direction and the further we went the more and more Millwall fans were surrounding us.

I should explain here that, although football hooliganism in England is far less than it ever used to be, the Millwall following still has a bit of a reputation as being one of the most violent in the country, and from what I have read since, there were some incidents on Saturday. So, our being encircled by throngs of Millwall supporters was not exactly reassuring! Realizing that we were now in entirely the wrong part of town, we asked a policeman for directions to the “Swindon pubs”, and were told that we would have to go right back to where we started from. If only we had turned left instead of right! D’Oh!

Anyway, we made our way through the rain and the Millwall hordes back to virtually the stadium itself and then followed all the other Town fans to the nearest pub. The rain really was lashing down by this time. The pub had prepared well (I imagine they have plenty of practice being so close to the stadium) and had erected a marquee in the grounds, from which to sell beer. You can see the top of the marquee in this photo, behind all those sodden Town fans!

We had a couple of pints as we sheltered beneath the branches of the trees that bordered the beer garden, and then decided to head back to the stadium and hopefully some dryness :-)

The atmosphere was already building by the time we got there, and thankfully just as we did arrive so the rain finally eased off. I bought a programme and this T-shirt....

...and then we headed on out to find our seats. There was a little pre-match entertainment, including these floating flag things, and then the excitement jumped up a notch as kick-off time approached.

Sadly, as I mentioned earlier, the result was not what Swindon wanted. The team looked overawed by the occasion during the first half, and were very nervous. Millwall took the lead during that time, and though the Town played better in the second half, they were unable to score the goal that would have levelled the match. Their best chance fell to Charlie Austin, whose story this year has read like a fairytale. At the beginning of the season Charlie was working as a bricklayer and playing for a part-time club down on the South Coast in front of crowds of about 200 people per match. The Town management team spotted him, signed him on and believed that he may play 2 or 3 games by the season’s end. In actuality, Charlie played 31 games for the Town this season and scored a miraculous 20 goals. He is already being talked about as a possible future player for the national team. Anyway, having started the season in front of a crowd of 200, Charlie Austin ended the campaign at the National Stadium playing before some 73,000 fans. That is some journey.

As I said, Town’s best chance fell to Charlie, but unfortunately the Wembley pitch is not what it should be. There has been plenty of controversy about the state of the pitch lately, and it has had to be re-laid 12 times in 3 years! As he raced past the last defender and was about to fire the Town level again, the ball bounced up off the poor Wembley turf, causing it to hit Charlie on the shin and forcing his shot wide of the post. You could hear the shock go round the ground as everyone had been certain a goal was inevitable. And that was that. Town had some other half-chances but it was not to be.

The referee whistled to end the game and the dream was finally over. We all made our way back to the coaches and began the long journey home. Incidentally, it took forever to get out of the Wembley complex, after having got in so quickly. It was nearly an hour and a half before we were away from the stadium grounds and battling with the other traffic trying to get out of London and back to Wiltshire.

Another three hours later and I was walking in our front door - tired, disappointed but very proud of what the team have achieved this year. Nobody believed at the start of the season that they would be able to get anywhere near the top of the table, let alone enjoying a day out at Wembley for the Play-Off final. So I have to say congratulations to Millwall, and I hope that the Town can follow them into the Championship next year. It’s going to be tough, but the dream will be born again in August :-)

Come On You Reds!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin