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 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 (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,_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

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! 

Friday, April 24, 2020

The new normal

There are a few ways that the current global situation ends - the most extreme is that civilisation falls, the infected turn into zombies after they've spent too long injecting themselves with bleach and inserting UV lightbulbs up their arses in a futile attempt to cure themselves and spend their days seeking out the healthy in order to crack their heads open and feast on the tasty treats inside. Those who remain uninfected spend their days avoiding the zombies and trying to scavenge enough food to make it until the next day. There are no farms, utilities or power because .... well, civilisation has fallen. At least the zombies will be easy to spot if you have a UV sensitive camera or happen to be a bee (which can see in UV) because the zombies still have a UV light stuck up their arses. Fuck knows what any invading alien species will think when they finally invade and find millions of corpses with UV lights lodged in the bodily remnants of the fossils they find.

The other extreme is a return to normality. At the moment, without a vaccine and without knowing whether recovery from infection provides lifelong immunity this scenario is just as unlikely as the first.

I think we'll see somewhere in the middle. This may take far longer than most people think - I'm guessing sometime towards the end of this year but it will certainly be measured in months, and not days. It will become the new normal, at least for a while anyway - but anyone expecting things in Vegas to change will be in for a very rude awakening. I've read numerous tweets, blogs and news stories about Vegas in the last few weeks and they all have one thing in common - what will Vegas be like when we get to the new normal?

The consensus is that things will change: room rates will decline, resort and parking fees will be dropped and everything will be done in order to entice people back into town. This is rubbish, in fact I think they'll do quite the opposite - rates will increase, more fees will be implemented in order to squeeze every last dollar (forget nickel and diming now, they want paper money not pocket change).

"What the fuck have you been smoking?" might be your response but hear me out. The new normal is where economics is turned on its head - I mentioned a few blogs back what I do for a living so I (sometimes at least) think my thought process is rational and I might be on the right track. 

In a normal situation there is one thing a supplier can do to stimulate demand - reduce price. It's a basic tenet of supply and demand that demand increases as prices drop (there are certain situations where the opposite is true but these are called Veblen goods - think fancy perfume or celebrity endorsed goods, if the price of smelling like Britney Spears's Snatch is $2 then no one wants it but increase its price to $100 and it's suddenly more desirable). 

So let me get back on track - in the new normal there are still social distancing restrictions meaning that tables can only seat 3, 1/2 the slots are removed or kept dark and restaurants and bars are only allowed 30% occupancy. In short - Vegas doesn't want to be full. Far from it. They don't want 100% occupancy in cheap as chips rooms when people can't drop a few hundred bucks a day into slots or on table games. They only want to attract 2 types of people - the first being the total degenerates who come to gamble away every dollar they have and have missed the place so much that they don't care about the price (we call this price inelasticity) and for the second group we're talking about whales, Moby fucking Dick. These are the guys who will keep the lights on in the new normal. They don't want people like me there (to be honest did they ever want me there in the first place? But I wouldn't want to be a member of any club who wanted me to join!) as I don't fit into either category. So they won't try to attract people like me, if you find yourself being targeted by Vegas you're either the Moby Dick (in which case congratulations and can I please borrow a few quid?) or you've got one hell of a gambling problem. 

But I'm just a monkey throwing darts at a dartboard, what do I know? 

Please let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments below. 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Chekhov’s gun

I alluded to this story a few posts ago - I was out with Mrs AC and I was telling her about something stupid which then prompted me to tell her about this blog - here is the story that I was telling her. 

As I've mentioned in previous posts I travel a lot. Now to some people (cough, Mrs AC, cough) any form of travelling involves packing 2 or 3 massive suitcases to the brim then struggling to move them at every step of their journey. Not me though. I usually travel pretty light and I can usually have a few weeks away with just a regular sized carry on plus a separate briefcase. This saves me time at airports, avoiding check in queues and waiting for bags to be delivered which can sometimes take longer than the actual flight. It also allows me to use public transport to and from airports if that's more convenient to me.

On every trip I have my list of essentials such as laptop, chargers etc but sometimes I have to get some laundry done mid trip – this isn't as much as a PITA as you think it might be though as I usually find a hotel that has a laundry room or even a public laundry where I'll drop my things off, head for a couple of beers and return a couple of hours later. No sweat. On some trips I have to pack a few non essentials like a dinner suit and shoes but I still manage to get away without checking bags. I'll scrimp on a spare pair of shoes or not take gym kit if need be if only to accommodate my one absolute, definite, must have item. But I've not always packed this item – I only started doing so in the last few years – and I'll explain why now.

A couple of years ago I'd returned from Spain and was staying in a small hotel in London for a couple of days before heading somewhere else. I'd never needed this particular item before and it certainly had never crossed my mind to have packed it, in fact I'm not entirely certain that I owned this at the time.

It's the middle of the night and I'm slowly waking up in unfamiliar surroundings because I'm busting for a piss – I'd had a few beers the previous evening with a friend but it certainly wasn't a heavy session. As I come round I'm trying to work out where I am and where the bathroom is, but for the life of me I can't find the light switch on the table next to the bed. In fact I can't find the table which should be next to the bed and I'm not actually in bed at all. I seem to be on the floor. I also seem to be in a corridor rather than in my hotel room. And still busting for a piss. Really, really busting for a piss. Did I mention that I'm naked as well? Suddenly busting for a piss doesn't seem to be so important now.

So having come to my senses I need a plan. I stumble through the corridors to find my room, desperately hoping that my door hasn't slammed shut behind me but I'm way out of luck. The hotel isn't big enough to have any need for a phone on each floor and there's no bathroom anywhere without going through the lobby. I'm glad that it's 4am as the chances of anyone other than hotel staff being around are pretty minimal.

It's also pertinent at this point to come back to a very minor detail that I explained earlier in the story – that I'd just come back from Spain. This invokes the principle of Chekhov's gun that every minor detail included in the telling of a story must be relevant or discarded if it's not necessary Where I'd been in Spain had plenty of mosquitos and I think every single one of them had taken a bite out of me during my stay there. I mean every single one as I've got dozens and dozens of bite marks over my body – bizarrely none on my face or head but my torso is literally covered in bite marks. I'd been back in the UK for a few days – earlier in the week I'd probably have looked like a plague victim but now I just look like I'm recovering from the plague. So I'm naked, busting for a piss and look like I've recently had the plague. And I'm locked out of my hotel room in the middle of the night. 

Luckily there are a couple of room service trays outside a few of the rooms on my floor and I fashion a makeshift modesty protector out of two of them. I head down to the lobby and poke my head out of the lift to make sure that the place is deserted before I go to the reception desk. I explain that I've been sleepwalking and I'm in room 1234 and I'm handed a replacement room key. I'm shocked. I've not been asked for any ID so surely anyone could pull this trick to gain entry!! 

I head back to the room and I put my case against the door to try to prevent me doing this again – hopefully I'll fall over and wake up before getting out of the room if I have another unplanned walk. 

So the one, must have, unforgettable item I now pack is a simple pair of pyjamas – I've not found myself in this situation since but if I do manage a repeat at least I won't be naked.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

That’s mature

If I asked you to guess something personal about me I can virtually guarantee that no one would predict what I'm about to tell you - I make my own cheese. I've been doing it for a few years now - not overly regularly but one thing I do when I'm bored is learn something new. And a few years ago I learned how to make cheese. I've had a few hits (mozzarella, cheddar) and a few misses (a Brie which ended up harder than a hockey puck and one which I left in the garage to age but forgot about and by the time I found it had produced a swarm of flies and maggots of biblical plague proportions) over the years.

Last week I went to the supermarket for the weekly shop (just to get essentials and with no thoughts of buying 30 pints of milk) and they had an absolute fridge-load of full cream, non-homogenised (that's important - you can't make cheese with homogenised milk as the fat globules are too small) milk so I decided to pick some up and make some cheese as I've got quite a bit of time on my hands at the moment.

So when the cost centres went home after the weekend I told Mrs AC that we were gong to spend the day making cheese - stilton in this case. She initially thought this was hilarious and that I was joking - nope. You get to be the cheese maker's assistant I told her - chief job being timing and pouring the wine. The wine having no relevance to the cheese making process other than making it more fun!

We ended up making these 2 beauties - unfortunately I didn't have any different culture so had to make 2 Stilton rather than waste the milk.

So now the waiting begins - the book says to let them mature for 6 to 8 weeks but given the current situation I think we’ll still be in lockdown by the time they are ready.

What’s the weirdest activity that you’ve been doing whilst in lockdown?

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Honesty is the best policy

When I'd just started seeing Mrs AC I told her I needed to make a confession. Her immediate reaction was that I'd lied and was actually still married and was using her as a bit on the side given I travel a lot. Nothing that bad I told her - I've never understood why people want to run the stress of a double life, one woman in your life is hard enough work but 2 would be a complete nightmare (I did once casually date 2 girls at the same time but it was made easier by them having the same name).

The previous night we'd been to watch basketball with a couple of friends of hers. Of all the sports in the world basketball must be near the bottom of my list that I'd choose to watch. I'd rather watch paint dry. There's a central Asian sport called buzkashi (not what you think it is!) that is higher up my list - it's a bit like polo but uses a goat carcass as the "ball" - I've never actually watched it but it sounds better than basketball. It's not that I don't appreciate the skill or athleticism of the players - it's that there's too much scoring. When 1 score can be worth less than 2% of your total then each individual score has a diminished value - what's the point of cheering a 2% increase when it means nothing - just play the last 5 minutes and let everyone go home. Even the crowd know this as no one really gets excited until the last couple of minutes. If I was given the option of only watching basketball it would be a bit like offering me unlimited beer for life - but the only offering being Bud Light, I'd honestly rather have none. But anyway - I'm rambling.

Mrs AC asked why I was happy to go out to watch the game. Firstly there was beer available and secondly (I might have reversed the order when telling Mrs AC) it's because I told her I wanted to spend time with her - even now (I wrote this pre lockdown and we've now spent 3 straight weeks together and she hasn't murdered me yet!) we still don't see that much of each other and I told her I was prepared to go through the tedium of watching basketball if it meant I got to spend time with her. She thought this was sweet. So since then we've always had a policy of being honest with each other - if one person asks a question then it has to be answered honestly, however embarrassing the answer. Neither of us is the jealous type and she's laughed herself silly hearing my stories about being pounced on by cougars and my drunken adventures in Vegas (especially when someone she knows was in town and took a few of us out drinking for the weekend).

Which is why I'm writing this up now. I've told Mrs AC about this blog. It's not that I'd deliberately kept it from her but that it had never come up in general conversation - it's probably not top of any questions to ask people when you get to know someone.

But just after Christmas it came up over dinner - I was recounting one of my stupid stories (bizarrely not poker or even booze related but I've promised to write it up) and Mrs AC asked whether I'd thought of writing any of my escapades down. Errr. Yes. I already have! So I showed her.

She read a few entries and laughed at some of them before telling me that I was a bigger idiot than she already thought I was - given that this is her regular friendly insult for me I know I'm not in the doghouse!

I've deliberately kept this blog anonymous (albeit there are a few very subtle clues along the way - stories that involve beer obviously!) due to the nature of my work, on the off chance of a client coming across this I might find myself with a bit too much spare time on my hands if I'm easily identifiable.

So welcome Mrs AC - you'd better behave yourself from now on otherwise your drunken idiocy might get recorded for all of 4 people to read about. But is anyone interested in the time you came in from a girls' night out and I found you asleep in the bathroom at 3am? Then proceeded to admonish me for "not paying you enough attention" the previous evening despite me not having been out with you!! It seems I've got a challenger in the drunken idiocy department - game on 😍

I wrote this a couple of months ago and now it seems the end is nigh - there's no sports on TV! First English football postponed their fixtures, shortly followed by F1, NHL and the majority of sports across the globe. I hadn't realised how much sport I watch but it must be a lot given how much I'm missing it - and that's only going to get worse as it looks like there's going to be nothing on for the foreseeable future. I miss sports so much that at this moment I'd actually watch basketball - but only if the world paint drying championship is not being televised at the same time!

Monday, March 30, 2020

I only played them cos they were suited

Those were the words that my opponent uttered when he flipped over a turned flush, beating my flopped set of Kings. Idiot. I'd raised to 5x preflop from UTG and he'd called from the button with 8-2 suited, flopped middle pair with a flush draw and we'd got it all in on the flop. What a fucking clown. I guess that's just poker but I still want to berate him for being so daft.

But I can't bring myself to do it - I just shake my head, reach into my pocket to rebuy and casually ask him if he's old enough to be playing as he looks like he should still be in school. "You know how old I am Dad" is his reply. He's just won about 85 pence ($1) from me and he's not even going to give me the chance to win it back as he announces that he's leaving with a profit and wants to watch a movie. 

It's the 1st weekend of lockdown and we are having a home poker session just for something different to do - I've only just recently taught Mrs AC to play whilst the boys have been learning for a couple of years so every once in a while we have a game. I never seem to win though - as bad as I think I run in casino games I can probably double that at our home games but at least my losses are only small plus I'm closer to the beer in the fridge. 

So rewind to the previous weekend and when I picked up the boys they couldn't have been in more differing moods - my eldest opened the door looking morose and declared sadly that his school would be shut for the foreseeable future. My younger son was virtually skipping through the house and told me the same news but with a level of glee in his voice that only an 11 year old can have - he was so excited that I thought he was going to explode. I don't have the heart to tell him that the majority of the next few weeks is going to be spent cooped up inside with his brother and mother. 

There's no official lockdown announced at this point in time but social distancing has been recommended. But given most people have read this as "cram yourself into the busiest train possible and go to the pub as usual in the evening" a full lockdown was announced on Monday after I'd taken the boys home on Sunday evening.

The 1st week of lockdown hasn't been too bad as I've actually been quite busy but the next couple of weeks will be much quieter work-wise so I'm not sure how they will go. Mrs AC had run out of meaningful work to do by Thursday so has binge watched an 80s British comedy called Only Fools and Horses - luckily there's another 5 series left to watch so that should fill some time. If you've never seen it I highly recommend it - it's one of the best loved British comedy series and here are a couple of classic scenes and She's also tried to tempt me with daytime drinking but given I've had work to do I've resisted so far - next week will probably see my resolve tested. 

There's a park near my house so we've at least had a touch of exercise most days but I really can't see this subsiding for a couple of months at the minimum - even when this is over I think it will take the rest of the year for the world to feel anywhere close to normal again. 

If we get to the end of April it will be the longest that I've not travelled on a long haul flight in about 6 years but there's a good chance that a large portion of the world's airlines will have gone bust by then so maybe my next trip to the US will be by ship - a couple of days spent crossing the Atlantic seems quite relaxing but I'm not sure how practical it will be for getting back home for the weekend. 

How is everyone else coping with lockdown?