Monday 14 July 2014

The wind in your face

I don’t visit London very much, if I can help it. Who would, really, except tourists, politicians or those seeking their fortune? My reason for being there this week is that my children chose to live in the metropolis, for reasons I am sure make sense to someone in the twenties, but defy my desires. At least they don’t go running everywhere like most folk seem to. What is it that persuades normal folk to go jogging round London? Folks jog to work, jog back again, to the shops, the garage, church and the bakers, all timing themselves and treading air on the spot at traffic lights. Honestly, it’s like a scene from Chariots of Fire, everywhere you look. And try and take a walk along the banks of the Thames at your peril. What with dazzling Nike shoes stepping on your toes and eco-warriors on push-bikes, the capital’s footpaths are now a highly dangerous place for those who actually WALK anywhere. After a few attempts, I settled for sitting in a pub and yelling at anyone who passed by at more than 1mph to pay proper road tax – what with them wearing out the tarmac with all that lycra. It’s not right is it? But, as I found, it is no use trying to tell them as they are all listening to radio 4 podcasts on their headphones, in case they have – god forbid – to speak to anyone? Come on London council; Never mind your Boris-Bike, put a tax on Green Flash Pumps - or whatever their modern day designer equivalents are – so I can walk my dogs in safety.
Speaking of the dogs, ours have once again circumnavigated Europe this month, getting to stay in constantly new surroundings and a few swish hotels. Not that we always own up to having a dog in the room because they charge for that – fifty quid in places. So my wife-2-b and I have been known to smuggle them up the back stairs and hope they remain quiet through the night and don’t disturb too many other guests. Mind you – what with London traffic, the viagratic couple in the room above and Madam’s snoring – I think it is me who should be looking for a refund! Oooh, to be back home in my own comfy peaceful bed.
I’m not the only one, when it comes to that desire, as my hardy old Mum is still in hospital, battling for full recovery and giving the nurses hell. On that front, I would like it known that my last month’s rant about the NHS didn’t apply to the fab nurses on the Cookely Ward in what was formerly Kidderminster hospital who have, and continue to be, excellent in their quest to get her sound once more, and send her home. I am pretty sure the ‘physioterrorists’, as she calls them, will be as glad to see the back of her as she will be of them!
I know its old hat now, but I am too late to mention the football? Ha, what a laugh. Well it would be if it wasn’t such a waste of money. I am not sure anyone has tallied up the cost of dispatching team England to the southern hemisphere only to have them re-dispatched just as quickly, without even getting their shorts dirty. I tell a lie, they probably will have a few grass-stains on their white clothing, what with them spending most of the time writhing around on the ground as though they have been shot. They should be – in my humble opinion! And all those nerve wracking penalty shoot-outs? What I can’t understand is why they don’t have bigger goalies? If I was a team coach, I would go to America and pick somebody from the queue at MacDonalds for the job. Let’s face it, a six foot wide goalie would surely narrow the odds.
While on the subject of sport, does anybody actually understand cycling? By the time this goes to print, a hundred or so brightly clad men will have hurtled past our door in France at a helluva speed as ‘Le Tour’ comes through town. One will be wearing yellow, I get that bit. But what about all the other guys wearing more coloured shirts than Frankie Dettori. In a bid not to look too much of a novice, I Googled some cycling terms to broaden my knowledge and found the following statement on good old reliable Wikipedia (and I quote)  ‘paceline: a group formation in which each rider takes a turn breaking wind at the front before dropping to the rear position, and riding in the others' draft until at the front once again’. That’s not very nice is it, following that? I can’t say I have watched much of the tour on TV though, as the commentary is so boring. On the first day while the guys were in Yorkshire one said, ‘here we are in Skipton, home of the Skipton Building Society! Really? How fascinating – not. Well we will be watching in a place called Tombeboeuf which directly translates as ‘fallen beef’. Maybe one of the riders will crash on that corner, giving Mr Phil Liggett a story that he could regale time and again to yawning dinner guests for the next ten years. Oh how the winter evenings must fly by in his house!
Having been home to France, done a week’s work and then flown back to UK again, today I find myself in Birmingham and I have to say I am highly impressed. Most of the new developments are refreshingly well designed and affordable, the streets clean and the nightlife exhilarating but safe.  How is it that Britain’s number two city is so far removed from its first? My pal has city centre apartment overlooking the canal, where I am watching holiday makers leisurely cruising by in long barges with all the time in the world. Strange really, how some people seem to have so much more time than others. When I moved to France 8 years ago this month, I always envisaged that my pace of life would slow down a wee bit too, and yet, as each month passes, I get later and later finding time to write this column! Sorry Ed.