Tuesday, December 15, 2020

It’ll be lonely this Christmas

Just a quick note to wish everyone a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah or just a celebration that the days will be getting longer if your gods are happy with the yearly sacrifices - in which case it's probably best to throw a couple more virgins into the volcano as something seems to have pissed them off! It's been a funny sort of year which seems to have dragged on for eternity on one hand but actually sped by when I consider that I've not actually travelled for work since February.

But it's finally happening - Mrs AC is leaving. Despite arriving in early March for what was only meant to be a 10 day stay she's been here over 9 months, but she's finally had enough and is travelling back to the US. I can leave the toilet seat up and walk around my own house scratching my balls as much as I want.

Now I've only got a limited period of time to enjoy my freedom as she is actually coming back, but this time on a more permanent basis. Due to the current situation and my inability to travel to the US coupled with a 2 week period of self isolation each time she could do the transatlantic trip she's accepted a job in London. But before she starts that there's some paperwork, admin and immigration documents to sort out which can only really be done from NY. She also needs "to pick up a few things from home" which will probably necessitate us having to move to a bigger house (when she first came to London I think she brought more things for a 2 week trip than I actually own!).

The only practical solution to having to quarantine in NY is to travel over the Christmas period - her apartment is going to be empty so it's either do it then or spend 2 weeks in a hotel room which would see anyone going crazy and drinking their own body weight in booze. Oh, didn't I do something similar last year? But at least I got a modicum of exercise, human contact and fresh air rather that sitting in a hotel room on my own for a fortnight!

It's also not my year to have the cost centres since I took them to family in Scotland last year. So it'll be lonely this Christmas - although my mother has decided that she's not comfortable travelling due to the current situation so every cloud has a silver lining!

Anyway - I'm off to leave the toilet seat up for the next few weeks. "What's that Mrs AC? I promise not to leave the toilet seat up - just don't beat me again! Aargh no, not the face...."

Monday, September 28, 2020

A family divided

Mrs AC is having a fit. We're just about to watch my mighty 49ers trounce her beloved Giants and she's not a happy bunny. Firstly because we should have been at the game (which would have been my first game on US soil as I've only ever been to the London series games) but secondly because my eldest cost centre has just announced that he wants to support the Jets. "You could have mentioned this a week ago when we trounced you" I said. "Also - Why in fucking bejesus would you want to do that?" Mrs AC and I both enquired simultaneously. We already support one mediocre football team (real football with the round ball) in Norwich City so you've got a lifetime of despair to look forward to in that I told him. Why not choose the 49ers or Giants so he has someone to cheer along with? Or at least someone who might be on TV more than once a season so you've actually got a chance of watching a game - we only get 5 games a week (3 of which start well after midnight) and apart from the main Thursday, Sunday and Monday night fixtures which are chosen in advance the U.K. sports channel mainly revolves around teams with a winning record.

"Well that's the point" was his reply. "I didn't get a choice in picking a team - you did it for me". That's the way it is with football - you don't get to pick your team and you can blame me for the rest of my life I told him. It used to be about geography and where you grew up - everyone just supported their local side albeit I haven't lived anywhere near the football club since I was a teenager. But nowadays the local playing fields are full of Man Utd, Liverpool and Man City fans who probably couldn't locate their teams on a map and have likely never been to a live game. I gave the kids options when they were younger - support my team and we'll go to games or support someone different and we won't. Luckily they chose the former although we do attend games lower down the leagues involving local sides.

But back to the original question - why in bejesus do you want to support the Jets? Well one of his friends at school does and he wants to show solidarity with his friend. He then declared he could side with another friend who is a Patriots fan - dear lord no and we're both quite happy for him to support the Jets!!

Luckily we don't have the same issue with my younger cost centre - he's only just started watching the sport but he'll happily watch a game, especially when an American level of snacks are provided. Mrs AC asked him who he was supporting for today's game and not wanting to disappoint either of us he replied quite diplomatically "I'll support both teams". But he's got a Machiavellian streak in him, especially when it comes to food or money so when Mrs AC offered to make him some popcorn whilst we watched the game he thanked her by declaring that although he's still supporting both teams he's supporting the Giants a little bit more!

Monday, September 14, 2020

A farewell to the queen

From the moment I saw her I was besotted. It was more than love, it was lust. She looked so good and I can remember every minute that I've ever spent with her. She's never complained that I've spent quite a lot of our time together working, drinking or sleeping but she's getting old and the competition is younger, lighter, quieter and far more economical. It's time to say goodbye - unfortunately I never got to plan one last ride as it's all happened so suddenly. But I'll always have my memories of the queen of the skies - the Boeing 747, which British Airways have just announced the retirement of.

Now I'm not one to look at the past with rose tinted glasses - one of my favourite activities when I spend time with my mother is asking her to name one thing from the past that is better than the present day (the nights are long and there's no pub in her village). She came up with diseases! Yes, polio sounds like a wonderful way to have spent a childhood. Modern diseases are rubbish by comparison. Who wants to benefit from modern medicine and vaccines when we could all be worrying about catching something preventable that will kill or maim vast swathes of the population? But it's not like there's anything going on at the moment that's relevant is there? Oh. Hang on.

But due to the current situation BA have worked out that there's going to be a drop off in demand for global flights, especially in the premium sector of which their 747s are pretty heavy caterers to.

Now I'm lucky enough to usually sit in the pointy end of an aircraft when I fly - it's a necessity rather than a luxury really as I often need to work on flights and I'm just getting too old or useless to be able to miss a night's sleep and be slightly productive after an overnight flight. And one of the most special places to sit on any plane is upstairs in the bubble behind the cockpit. It's solely business class but on a nighttime flight I actually prefer it to sitting downstairs in first class as the bed is just as easy to sleep on and there's a lot less noise and foot traffic.

There are other aircraft that do the same job for lower fuel and maintenance costs but none of them feel as special as the 747 - most flyers won't notice the difference but I certainly will. So next time my mother tells me that everything was better in the past I can add the first item to her list.

On a more positive note I have actually booked some travel - it's not until next year but there are some amazing fares at the moment but I have no idea if the travel restrictions will have been eased by then so I'm not getting my hopes up too much.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

A spanner in the works

Well that didn't go as planned! Literally the day after I'd organised the trip the U.K. placed France on the quarantine list meaning we'd have to self isolate for 14 days as soon as we got back home (Belgium was already on the list but according to the rules I think we'd have been ok if all we'd done was stop to pick beer up and not been close to anyone, as we'd planned to do). But a stop at a large supermarket and wine merchants in France would have seen us having to quarantine for 2 weeks at home - which given we were only planning to be away for 2 days seems out of the question.

So the plans got changed - Mrs AC still needed to leave and re-enter the country so we either changed our plans to travel to a country that was exempt from quarantine (which meant foregoing the beer that I'd already paid for) or we elongated our stay in order to justify doing a 2 week quarantine upon our return. Eager not to lose my beer, I mean to spend some time out of the house (we've not been away from home since we arrived back from Scotland in mid March) I chose the latter and arranged to spend a few more days in France and I've arranged a tour of the famous Champagne region of France for a few days, with obviously a few tastings along the way. Then we'll be driving down to Italy (which had been our original summer holiday plans all along) for 2 weeks for a quick tour of some bars with maybe the odd cultural site thrown in as well. This is using the 2 weeks in Italy as our U.K. quarantine as it's exempt so as long as we don't stop off in France on the way back then we can arrive back in the U.K. with no need to spend 2 weeks stuck at home. Not that we've been going out a lot anyway and all our plans to return to the US are on hold until I can enter the country again - I really can't see this happening any time soon though and Mrs AC will need to repeat the exit & re-entry palavar in another 6 months so maybe I should order more beer now!!

Now I haven't told Mrs AC yet of the extended plans as it will be a nice early birthday present for her - but given when I just asked her if she regularly reads my blog her response was "do I look that bored?" there's no way she'll find out before we leave on Friday. She also added her pet name for me so hopefully I'll be getting lucky tonight as well!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Killing two birds with one stone

We have a problem. We Brits are a pretty stoic bunch and we don't like to cause a fuss but I can promise you that it's something major - I've run out of booze! I've just finished off the last of my fancy Belgian beers that I bought last year https://ayecarambapoker.blogspot.com/2019/10/im-just-going-outside-for-some-beers.html?m=1. You can only buy 48 small bottles at a time so I've done quite well getting them to last nearly 9 months, although it's not really a "session" beer and I don't think I've had more than 1 in any given sitting. 

We also have another problem - Mrs AC has been here for nearly 6 months and needs to leave and re-enter the country in order to renew her visitor visa, otherwise it will cause all sorts of problems if she overstays. When she arrived in the U.K. in early March it was only meant to be for just over a week and we obviously had no idea that it would be this long before we got to travel again. But she's been keeping Jeff Bezos's net worth high and my cardboard recycling bin full whilst ordering anything she's needed for the changing seasons. 

But anyway - Mrs AC is a grown up and can sort herself out. There are plenty of relatively cheap flights within a couple of hours from London so I'd originally suggested she take a day trip just to get the necessary exit mark and a new entry stamp. But hang on. I am a genius, maybe not a stable genius but a genius nonetheless. Why not combine a solution to both problems and kill two birds with one stone? Get Mrs AC to pick up some beers on her trip abroad! I suggested this to her and asked her what time she'd need to be at the airport. Her answer was her usual pet name for me. I think she's shy of using English when being affectionate so she uses Italian, "fottuto idiota". I think it means "my intelligent, handsome sweetheart", but I could be wrong! 

Mrs AC's suggestion that we take a trip together probably makes a bit more sense to be honest - it would be pretty hard for her to carry that much beer through an airport on her own and we'd run the risk of getting a few broken bottles at baggage reclaim. Plus we've been cooped up at home for so long and our summer holiday plans have been put on hold so it will be good to get out of the house, even if it's only for a short time. 

So next week we'll be having a day out on a booze cruise - driving over to Belgium and France to pick up some beer with a stop off at a wine merchants so that Mrs AC can spend whatever money she has left that she hasn't thrown in Jeff Bezos's direction. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

It’s just not cricket

Here in the civilised world we have an expression of "it's just not cricket". Which has nothing to do with actual cricket (Ace https://adventuresofanace.blogspot.com/?m=1 has uttered a sigh of relief as I know he's not a fan).

It's a bit hard to describe the true meaning of this expression but it essentially means that something just isn't right. Not that it's necessarily illegal, immoral or even against any rules but it's just not right. An example would be taking a fine Trappist Belgian beer and diluting it with lemonade, putting pineapple on a pizza or, to quote a blogger who has recently celebrated his 2 millionth page visit, putting mayonnaise on a hotdog https://robvegaspoker.blogspot.com/2015/03/who-hell-puts-mayonnaise-on-hot-dog.html?m=1 (congratulations Rob on the number of views, an achievement I can only dream about). 

But what isn't cricket I hear you ask? Well, football isn't. Not at the moment it isn't anyway. Now anyone who has read my ramblings for a while probably knows that I like my sports and my first love is football - the English sort with the round ball although I am a fan of what the Americans call football as well. And football is back - there's been none played in England since the start of March but I never got desperate enough to have watched the Belarusian Premier League which was the only league to have remained playing in Europe over the last few months. 

If things had gone to plan we would be sat here watching the European Championships where England would be sure to hype themselves up before crashing out to some lowly underdogs (it happened last time around where we lost to Iceland who have a population of 360,000!). But because everything has been on hiatus for the last few months we're now resuming the season with 9 games to go, plus the culmination of domestic and European Cups with the national tournament postponed until next year. 

I don't hold out much hope for my team in the league (even less so given we've now lost our first 2 games since the restart) - we were bottom of the Premier League at the enforced break and looked set to be relegated (I'm pretty sanguine about this to be honest as we are effectively a yo-yo club bouncing around the top 2 divisions) but I was more excited about the FA Cup. Just before the break we'd won entry into the 1/4 finals of the competition and we are 2 games away from the final - an achievement we've never managed in our club's 118 year history so every fan held out a small bit of hope that maybe this would be our year to win some silverware. Being part of an FA Cup final crowd is an amazing experience (I've been once before but as a neutral being hosted by a corporate client but I want to do it as a fan) but there's no hope of that happening. Not because the odds are stacked against us but because all games are being held behind closed doors with no fans in attendance. 

To me this is wrong - most sports are about the fans. I'm not naive enough to say the fans pay the players' wages or that the fans should have a large say in the running of clubs but without fans then sports are essentially meaningless. Even watching on TV is different with no fans in attendance - it's like a kickabout in the park being televised for all the enjoyment I'm getting out of it. There have already been 3 goalless games in the opening 14 Premier League matches (a small sample size I know but the long term average is around 8% of games remain goalless) so it's as if the players know that without the fans they don't need to care as much as well. I can't even imagine the apathy I'll feel if we manage to make it to the FA Cup final and there is no one in the stadium celebrating, no spontaneous acts of joy or beers shared with strangers after the game celebrating a win or commiserating a loss. It will be like it's just not happened, so it may as well not be happening. It's just not cricket! Talking of which, the cricket season is starting soon and I'm more than happy watching that on TV, with or without crowds in the stadium. 

What about US sports though? Are these going to be the same with empty or mostly empty stadiums? 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Girls just don’t understand football

Quite a few years ago (I just looked this up and it's 29 years ago - how time flies) my older brother took his girlfriend (now wife) to our football club for her first ever game. She didn't have fun. She spent the entire time not being able to see (she's quite short and people were standing in front of her) and our team suffered its worst home defeat for quite a few years. She's not been back since so a family joke is that she's effectively been banned from the ground ever again.

I've been going to watch my team since the mid 1980s and the cost centres love going to watch as well but it's a bit of a pain as we're 2 hours drive away and they get bored in the car. I usually take the kids a couple of times a year but I often go with my grown up nephews, but we usually take the train which means we can grab some beers and relax before having more beers before the game, more beers on the train on the way home and the football plays second fiddle to a day's drinking. It's also fun going to away games when we are playing in London as the reduced travel time means these are effectively home games for us.

But I've had awful experiences taking girlfriends to games - we've never won a game when I've taken a girlfriend and I even had one try to start an argument with me at halftime then act surprised when I told her she could make her own way home (we both lived a 2 hour drive away and she'd not thought ahead enough to actually think this might not have been the best of ideas).

But a few months ago Mrs AC decided she wanted to go to a game. Brilliant. It's been lovely knowing you Mrs AC but I'm not sure our relationship is this strong - the last time we'd watched a match together was at 8am in a Vegas hotel room where we suffered our worst home defeat in 10 years. Plus she banned me from drinking at 8am so it wasn't the best of omens. What is the world coming to when you can't open a beer whilst still in bed?

It's also an absolute PITA to get tickets - our capacity is only 27,000 or so and we have over 20,000 season ticket holders meaning tickets are rarer than hens' teeth. But I managed to get 4 - not quite adjacent but we managed to switch seats with our neighbours and all managed to sit together. 

Before the game Mrs AC got her own team shirt plus other paraphernalia from the club shop - it looked like she'd been covered in glue then rolled through the shop. We all had our usual pre-match ritual of a meat pie (you really have to be British to appreciate this) and Mrs AC "borrowed" my favourite scarf (which is actually only 3 years younger than she is) - a scarf being the only item of the club shop that hadn't stuck itself to her when she was in there. 

Mrs AC is not one to watch sports in ignorance so she's constantly asking questions about the game. This isn't so bad when we're watching on TV but live it's pretty irritating. Luckily my oldest cost centre is a bit of a know it all so regales Mrs AC with each player's statistics, rules of the game and even teaches her the words to our songs (we actually have the oldest known song in world football at our club https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Ball,_City). 

Now if this were a Hollywood movie we'd have won the game and we'd all live happily ever after. 

We didn't. We got thrashed. We were awful. If they had announced that they needed substitutes from the crowd my boys would have volunteered, with the exception that I'd have said my boys were too good for this standard. The score line of 1-3 flattered us, we conceded 2 penalties (both of which were missed) and we only scored our consolation goal in the last couple of minutes when the game was already dead. 

To be honest we were never expected to win - the prematch odds on us were +300 as we were playing Manchester United. Now even if you don't follow English football you've probably heard of them (they've won the Premier League more times than any other team) but our mood was sombre on the way home (on the flip side I took a Man Utd supporting colleague to this game about 15 years ago and he sulked all the way back to London after we'd pulled off a shock 2-0 win). 

Our mood is lightened by hearing this story of a Southampton fan on the radio - having travelled 4 hours to his first ever game they got thrashed 9-0 at home https://talksport.com/football/620992/southampton-fan-st-marys-leicester/

I dropped Mrs AC at home before driving the boys back and as she said goodbye to the boys she told them to look on the bright side as at least we'd seen them score. It's on the short drive back to the boys' house that we discussed the game and the youngest piped up with "that's exactly what mum is going to say, what does it matter that we saw them score or not if we lost? Girls just don't understand football". I told Mrs AC about this comment when I got back and she laughed whilst promising to give my youngest a friendly telling off next time she saw him. 

So now fast forward to New Year's Day - we spent the previous evening with friends in a town called Torquay which is about 200 miles south west of London. We were staying for another day so after a pub lunch and a couple of drinks we decided to watch my friend's local team - Torquay United. This is as far removed from the glitz and glamour of the Premier League as you can imagine - they play in the 5th tier of English football so the footballing standard is not overly great whilst the grounds and facilities can only be described in one word - spartan. Most clubs at this level have old school terraces where spectators stand rather than sit (these were banned in the upper leagues about 30 years ago following various incidents but most famously at Hillsborough stadium where 96 Liverpool supporters were killed during a crush in 1989). Quite a few of these terraces are also uncovered so you're open to the elements - luckily it's quite a mild day so we're not getting cold and wet but that didn't stop the girls from moaning that we had to stand. We jokingly told them they weren't worth the extra £2 ($2.60) it would have cost to sit but I actually prefer to stand at these sorts of grounds as it adds to the atmosphere. For the entire match they chatted to each other and they didn't talk to us apart from offering to get some coffees during the game. My friend is a semi regular here and never usually brings his wife but she agreed as she had someone to chat to. The opposition had a man red carded after 10 minutes but that didn't stop them from beating the home side 2-0. It was only at the end of the match that my friend told us that they'd lost 6-2 to the same opposition only a week or so before. After the game we headed back into town and as we sat in the pub Mrs AC asked a question about the match "what was the score?"

Now we've all been at the same match so we just looked at her for a bit before my friend's wife said "oh, I wasn't paying attention either so I can't tell you" before my friend tells them the score, shakes his head whilst turning to me and saying "girls just don't understand football". I chuckled at this and Mrs AC told my friend that it's not the first time she's had that said about her - but that the last time was by a 12 year old boy!