Friday, October 22, 2004

Everybody's Working for the Weekend

Or so it seems. Me, I have figured out long ago that to hang out for the weekend as soon as Monday rolls around means you lose 5 days in the process with all the waiting that ensues. Getting to old to lose 5 days a week thanks. So rather than regale you with what I am going to do in the next 2 days, I will fill in what I've done in the past 5.

I will start by painting a back drop of what has been going on around me to give you a context. Autumn is in full swing here in Manchester and as I moaned earlier in the week about the rain and the slimy leaves I will not carry on that vein as there is an upside. The end of October means that we stop saving daylight and we promptly waste it in one last burst before darkness descends. That is not so bad as we then have November which is generally crisp and bright when the sun is out but imagine if you can, that even if you look it in the face, it gives you no warmth. Winter really means business up here in the north.

The lead up to Christmas is jolly indeed. I have mentioned in years past about the German markets that magically arrive overnight in late November in the various squares around the city centre and proceed to emit mouth-watering aromas until December 22. From anywhere within a half mile radius of them you can easily smell spicy mulled wine, those gorgeous pork sausages you get with a plate of those fabby little noodle things, waffles and crepes. OK, you can't exactly smell waffles from half a mile away but I just know they are there.

The Christmas decorations go up, the tree in Albert Square (which has already been erected I should point out) is festooned with a million fairy lights and you start to sense that suppressed air of panic and desperation that only surrounds Marks & Spencers, Selfridges and Argos this time of year. Actually, take that as a warning to avoid these places of business on any given Saturday between now and December 24. To be honest, you would be best to avoid the centre of Manchester in completely.

This week I watched trees everywhere lose the bulk of their leaves in the face of the gale force winds that I am sure moved the British Isles a few feet west last night. We ventured out in this tumult on Wednesday night for a meal and to see the Finn Brothers live at the Apollo. I am sure I have said before how much I like the Apollo. It is an ancient venue in Manchester that for all its decrepitness retains this elaborate gilt ceiling that curves like the back of some huge whale which stands to remind us what a grand old dame she once was. I admire her style. No matter who I see play there (New Order, Underworld, Doves) I still get a buzz for the vibe is so good.

Neil and Tim Finn were fantastic. Songs from Split Enz to Crowded House which cover a period of over 20 years - a reasonably scary thought given I knew the words to all of them. I loved hearing Four Seasons in One Day as I was never organised enough to get myself to a Crowded House gig in years gone by and that is probably the only time I will ever hear it sung by both of them. Unlike Ian who has already seen them in London, Bradford and will be seeing them in Liverpool next Tuesday on this tour. Have I mentioned he is a huge fan? We managed to hail the only cab in sight right outside the Apollo which was just as well cause I was in dire need of a pee!

Last night I went to PJ's for a girly night in. I got there in time to play with Trinity, bath her and get her ready for bed. This did not involve however my taking my eyes off her for a split second giving her time rolled over suddenly and clonk her head on the wooden sofa frame. She screamed blue murder, more from shock than pain I suspect, so I bundled her up in my arms and made quiet shushing noises till she unruffled. To be honest I was surprised that I managed to get her to calm down on my own and when PJ appeared a few moments later Trinity was smiling. At least I know that when I look after her on my own for a while night next weekend I can manage to bring tranquillity to her little soul.

I used a little more baby bath gel than I am sure she is used to for she spent the entire time trying to work out what the white, fluffy stuff surrounding her and why it tasted so strange. She was also bemused by the fact that her brigade of rubber ducks, which she can normally spot in the clear water, were nowhere in sight. It was quite amusing to watch this normally fearless child behave so tentatively.

PJ and I then watched Mona Lisa Smile which was ok if not pretty much the inverse of Dead Poet's Society. I really want to believe that 1950's America was not as bad as that but I dare say it was. In a disconcerting way I could not help believing that the dressed up prejudices against women and those less priviledged that prevailed then still underpin middle America today. Not to mention those who rule over her. Still, not a bad way to spend an evening when outside the wind and rain howled around the house.

I have a night in alone tonight as Ian is on a late shift. I like these night. I like the space and time to just potter around and not have to think being somewhere or doing something. The only things on the agenda are make a vegetarian lasagne, open a bottle of red wine and find something to watch on telly. Oh, and to drag my duvet (doona) down to the sofa for the wind is still whipping its over England and if I am going to be sitting in a football stadium tomorrow somewhere in the Midlands, I want to be warm tonight.

Reading: Uncle Tungsten, Oliver Sacks
Listening to: Everyone is Here, Finn Brothers (courtesy of Tim the iPod)

A Bush in the hand...

Sometimes you just have to share these things ...

President Bush was visiting a primary school and he sat in one of the classes. They were in the middle of a discussion related to words and their meanings. The teacher asked the President if he would like to lead the discussion on the word "tragedy".

So the illustrious leader asked the class for an example of a "tragedy". One little boy stood up and offered: "If my best friend, who lives on a farm, is playing in the field and a tractor runs over him and kills him, that would be a tragedy."

"No", said Bush, "that would be an accident."

A little girl raised her hand: "If a school bus carrying 50 children drove over a cliff, killing everyone inside, that would be a tragedy."

"I'm afraid not," explained the president. "That's what we would call a great loss."

The room went silent. No other children volunteered. Bush searched the room. "Isn't there someone here who can give me an example of a tragedy?"

Finally at the back of the room a small boy raised his hand. In a quiet voice he said: "If Air Force One carrying You and Mrs. Bush was struck by a "friendly fire" missile and blown to smithereens, that would be a tragedy."

"Fantastic!" exclaimed Bush. "That's right. And can you tell me why that would be tragedy?"

"Well," says the boy, "It has to be a tragedy, because it certainly wouldn't be a great loss and it probably wouldn't be an accident either."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Sidebar changes

I've made a few changes to the links over there to your right.

Faith is my friend in Seattle who I used to go to church with in Melbourne many moons ago. She is married to another friend of mine called Joel who is a bit of a brainiac. I think its about time Ian and I got ourselves over to Seattle to see them do you not think? Her blog is ace.

I have also added my brother's Football newsfeed blog which also acts as a money raiser for the work he does with churches in Melbourne. The organisation is called Forge so to know what that is, follow the link. It is a worthwhile cause!

Off to do some work.

Expressions I have heard lately that I like No. 2:

Inexplicable Randomness of Shite (I'd like to thank Jane Lowder for that one!)

Football writing...

I wrote the following for a friend's fanzine. It should be published soon. It speaks for itself so I'll just post it. Enjoy!

My Grandmother complained for years about my Grandfather's obsession with the beautiful game. Until one day, in utter desperation, he sat her down, explained the rules and she was smitten. So much so that the year after his death, as a kind of memorial to him, I stayed at her house so I could go from bed to couch in one fluid movement for the 4.30am kick-off of the World Cup final she insisted we watch.

"When was a World Cup final kick off ever at 4.30am?" I hear you ask. When you live in Melbourne and you are the granddaughter of an Englishman, you do surprising things. Not that I can blame him for my lifelong burning desire to live in England, although there are moments in the depths of January when I have the odd quiet word with him.

My grandfather's name was Robert Peel. He was born in Malta to an English father and a Maltese mother. He married my grandmother in Malta and later dragged her, my Mother and her seven siblings to Australia in 1965 to start a new life. Although he spoke the language fluently, he was reluctant to call himself 'Maltese'. Having said that, he was a great advocate for elderly immigrants in his later life and while at home last year, I found an article about him at my Grandmother's.

In it he states that he was 'born in England'. "He was not," I said to my Grandmother in surprise. "Oh, he always told people he was and I never asked him why," she replied. Sadly, I never got to ask him either but I suspect his love of English football, cricket and the odd pint was part of a culture, although far away, quite dear to him. And somehow, part of it he left to me.

Unfortunately (I only found out how unfortunate later!) he was a Manchester United supporter - something else I'd like to ask him why! So when I arrived in London in early 2000 and started seeing Ian, my dyed-in-the-wool QPR fan boyfriend (now husband), I quickly learned that to follow in my Grandfather's footsteps in this regard would result in me being single again. Cheers love.

So began my interest in all things football as I hunted for a team to embrace. I met mates of Ian's who supported teams that, to me, seemed incongruous with who they were and where they lived. I'll explain. One particular mate grew up in Congleton, yet he supported Liverpool. Another mate lived in Papua New Guinea but supported Manchester United (a phenomenon I was to learn was widespread…) So I started to ask guys why they supported who they did. The answers varied between 'Because my Dad does' right through to 'I liked the colour of their kit'. Most decisions I discovered were made around the age of 10. Which brings me to my beloved.

Ian was born and bred in south Manchester but, strangely, is QPR through and through. When I discovered that QPR are actually a West London team, I was curious to know how this came about. Quite simply, from an early age Ian was a Manchester City fan, until at the tender and impressionable age of 10, City imported one Rodney Marsh. In Ian's young mind, he deduced that if Rodney Marsh was such a phenomenal player, he must have come from an equally impressive club - and so a passion was born.

I know that it would have meant the world to Ian if I had simply gone along quietly and supported QPR. However, it would have been by proxy and one can't always drum up emotion and enthusiasm until one has had an emotional experience of something for oneself. Particularly something as all-consuming as football. Perhaps I'm just being female about it all but I wanted to feel for the club I ultimately supported. I had by this time learned that in England football is not just for the weekend – it is for life. At any time, night or day, if you turn to your bloke and ask hopefully, "What are you thinking about sweetheart?" you can be sure his mind will have to drag itself back from pondering profundities like, 'How many points do [insert appropriate team] need eight games into the season to avoid relegation woes.' I'm the wife of a QPR supporter - trust me on this one.

So how did I go from eventually settling on Newcastle United as my team of passion to reluctantly, obediently and completely find myself not just the wife of a QPR supporter but a supporter myself. Not just by proxy, mind. I am becoming the kind of obsessive who trawls the internet for club news, the kind of fixated freak who needs to know every player's name and shoe size, the kind of fanatical loon who is now arranging her social calendar around games and therefore politely advising friends, "Oh, we can't do Saturday, November 20 because we are going to Yorkshire for the weekend… to watch QPR play Leeds."

I more or less stumbled upon Newcastle for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are also called the Magpies, which is the name of my beloved Collingwood of Australian Rules Football fame - and, amazingly, wear the same black and white kit. And then, of course, there was Alan Shearer - but that is another woman thing I think we will leave for now.

I just loved watching them play. I wanted to support a northern team for, after my year in London, I'd had enough of all things southern. Given I couldn't even consider Manchester United and Manchester City just didn't do it for me, Alan... er, I mean Newcastle were the team that did. To say Ian was disappointed would be lying. He was gutted. But like the good man he is, he bore my passion with no grace, loads of cynicism and the weekly Sunday morning jibe from the couch - "Your boyfriend is on the telly."

I trotted along happily through a reasonable Newcastle season. Then came Cardiff. Ian called me after the game, which I had been listening to at home, and he was simply devastated. Not once did he slag off the players or the manager as many are wont to do. He praised their effort at getting thus far and his heart went out to them. He was inconsolable and my heart went out to him and to every QPR fan who cared. It was at this point I believe I began to care too.

The next season commenced and I watched QPR's progress from the sidelines. The wins, the odd loss and the deep-seated, unspoken hope that maybe, just maybe this will be the year. I used to think it was just Ian who was cautious, careful not to speak aloud his hopes in case they are somehow jinxed by their exposure to the elements. As an Australian, I am quite optimistic about most things in life and found his inherent pessimistic nature amusing. After a year or two of living here, I figured this amiable trait seemed the characteristic of every Englishman. However, after three years and countless conversations at games and in the pub, I finally learned that it was not inherent in all Englishmen - just QPR fans.

I watched the team's progress with increasing interest and was surprised that I was beginning to feel Ian's anxiety. What was more surprising was the growing realisation that Ian was actually beginning to hope – out loud - that maybe, just maybe, this year QPR would get promotion.

You all know the rest of the story, don't you? The last few games, the realisation that it was going to happen. Then there was that game at Sheffield, that spectacular performance in front of 8,000 away fans, all singing 'The R's are going up'.

Still I waited. I wanted to be sure. Before committing myself to QPR for life, I wanted to be sure of what I was feeling. Was I just jumping on the bandwagon of promotion success? Was I just a fair-weather fan? Was I just looking for a vicarious moment of elation? I wanted to know for sure that I was being true to myself.

The summer of 2004 sort of came and went. I watched. Ian drip-fed me QPR propaganda and I lapped it up - quietly and without ever committing myself. I didn't even raise an eyebrow when he paid £20 for the 'Promotion' DVD he bought at the Loftus Road shop (this from a man who won't pay full price for anything!). I have to say that the only thing I hoped for after watching the DVD was that Ian would take his cues from Chris Day, and cook more!

I do not think I spent as much time considering marrying Ian as I have deciding on whether QPR were the team for me. In hindsight I can not pinpoint what single thing actually pushed me across into fandom. Was it Ian's consistent passion? Was it the great guys I have met at the odd game and the conviviality of the many gatherings over the past five years when the Manc R's have gotten together? The players? Ian Holloway and his absolute dedication, passion and mad one-liners? Or was it a combination of all these things - plus the added benefit of finding myself a part of a history and a past I cannot claim any other way? I honestly do not know. What I do know is that I never was one for living vicariously. I want to be in the thick of things - wonderful and woeful. And from what I have seen so far, supporting QPR is a sure way of experiencing it all.

Oh, and Marc Bircham is gorgeous.

© Claudine Berrisford 2004

Monday, October 18, 2004

Slackness indeed

Well, here we go again.

I do so hate having to do this. The grovel and the squirm that comes over me as I log into with teeth gritting determination to update the bloody thing. I always feel like I've somehow let somebody down by not blogging daily or even weekly. I'm not even sure anyone even reads this thing but me. Still, I guess the squirm is down to the fact that I'm one of those people who either does something completely, absolutely and perfectly or does not do it at all. That would explain a lot about my life actually...

So, its October, Autumn has settled on the northern hemisphere in typical Manchester fashion. Its raining and the footpaths and roads are slimy with brown decomposing leaves. I know that sounds a little negative but bear with me, I have still not forgiven whoever it is that programs Manchester's weather for the great non-starter that was Summer!

Lots has been happening but I'm not going to go into too much detail. Basically since July 28, August and September have slipped quietly by. There are some significant things that occurred in and around my life the most recent I guess, an hour ago actually, I was officially offered the job of Sales & Marketing Executive with the company I currently work for. Hooray!! Not as glam as the title makes it out to be but it is a new job, a challenge and something that gets me out of the office from time to time and better still, means I attend all the posh events we run for our clients and targets! The downside is I may actually, after getting by without any corporate gear at all, have to buy a suit. Bollocks.

We are doing well. We passed the year anniversary of our miscarriage last Friday and we drank a glass of Spanish red wine toasting the end of a particularly difficult and painful year and the start of a new one which we hope and pray will bring us good things.

I have spent some wonderful times with my Goddaughter, Trinity over the last few weeks and I've delighted in watching her become more and more animated and see her personality (and determination and will!!) emerge. There is nothing like having an 8 month old giggle and smile openly when she claps eyes on you. Nothing at all.

I have to confess at this point that this particular burst of creative writing was inspired by my old (not age old just known her for ages) mate Faith. She emailed me out of the blue and asked me to check out her blog. Well, was I shamed - its fabby! I will link to her when I get a moment but for now I'm simply going to post this so my blog is not so terribly, terribly outdated!

Listening to: My iPod otherwise know as Tim ... don't ask.
Reading: Dirt Music, Tim Winton (a brilliant book!)