Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Look Back & A Look Forward

I was absolutely incandescent. I was irately dancing up and down in my dressing gown and slippers, shrieking hell and damnation at the tv - as unedifying an image as you are likely to have seen at that time on a Saturday morning.

My one consolation was that the entire collective of ITV experts - plus Steve Rider - seemed to be even more flummoxed than I was. At that moment, during the 18th minute of the World Cup semi-final between Wales and France, there appeared to be only one person on the face of the planet who thought Sam Warburton's tackle on Vincent Clerc was deserving of a red card, and he was the man on the pitch with the red card in his hand, and his name was Alain (I say 'was' - I imagine it still is, unless subsequent accusations of favouritism have induced him to drop the 'i').

And yet. With the benefit of hindsight, a lengthy period of cooling down, and much conversation on Twitter, I can confirm that I was wrong. Note this down, because it never, ever happens - ask Mr Grimes. HOWEVER. I believe that the tackle was no better or worse than other examples which have been highlighted during the tournament, and which garnered no worse than a yellow, but I believe the referees were given a directive after the pool stages to clamp down on these types of tackles. Do I think there was any malice in the tackle? Emphatically not; would I rather see an over-zealous referee and no players with broken necks? Emphatically yes, semi-final or not.

I see now that Sam Warburton was a player bursting with enthusiasm, power, and zeal, combined with the youth and relative inexperience of a 23 year old at his first World Cup, and captaining his country in the semi-final; keen to lead by example, he committed to a thumping tackle which garnered admiration from such a player as Francois Pienaar ("Textbook!" I think Francois said. Better throw out that textbook, Francois - it's out of date). It also, unfortunately, gave Rolland the opportunity to interprete it as being dangerous. Ultimately, the fault lies with Warburton.

With hindsight, I don't believe Warburton's sending-off lost Wales the game. Their inability, unimaginable as it would have sounded a couple of weeks ago, to field a single one of four potential kickers who could actually kick the ball between the posts lost Wales the match, and that's all there is to it. With Priestland injured, many teams would have given the right arm of their physio and a large amount of chocolate biscuits to have James Hook, Stephen Jones and Leigh Halfpenny as stand-ins. Even Sally Morgan would have struggled to predict that that one wouldn't work out. She probably could have predicted, however, that with Priestland gone before the match, and then Warburton, Adam Jones and Alun Wyn-Jones gone during it, the gods were not looking favourably on a Wales/New Zealand final.

With the sending-off, and 60-minutes of the most impressive display of fitness and determination by a 14-man team I think I've ever witnessed, if Hook, Jones or Halfpenny had managed to get any of the penalty or drop goal attempts between the posts, that match would've been one of the greatest comebacks ever witnessed on a field of international play. It was one point away from being Wales' finest hour this century. Instead, we have a New Zealand v France final, and a Wales v Australia third place play-off.

I don't believe this guff about no-one wanting to play in the play-off match. Wales will be desperate to end on a good note, and third place is still a great result for them. Hopefully it will be a fittingly impressive way to bid goodbye to their mercurial and talismanic wing, Shane Williams, who looked close to tears after the final whistle on Saturday. Without wishing to belittle Australia's efforts, they crumbled with little resistance  in their semi-final against the raging All Blacks, and I would question their motivation for wanting to come third in a tournament they will feel they could've won. Alright, I'm lying - I think it's hilarious. The Aussies have always been a bit susceptible to rolling over under the onslaught of a decent mind game - happy to dish it out, they can implode as easily as they can seize the upper hand during a match.

And so to Sunday, and the World Cup final. Many people, myself included, will watch merely out of curiosity, to see which French team turns up. They are undeniably 15 highly talented and able players. But I hesitated to call them a team, which tells you all you need to know. Will the fractured and uncomfortable French play? Or the mesmeric, brave French, who can start an attack move from their own tryline? If anyone won't underestimate them, despite their unimpressive and fractured World Cup campaign, it is the All Blacks. They will have no need of being reminded of the 2007 World Cup semi-final, or that bitter memory of 2009, when France had the temerity to beat the All Blacks at Carisbrook, of all places.

But hand on heart, and as much I want the Final to be a close match, I cannot see anyone standing between New Zealand and the William Webb Ellis trophy. I thought they would win from the start, and now, within spitting distance of the final whistle, I don't see anything to change my mind. In truth, if the World Cup is to be awarded to the team which has shown global dominance for not only the duration of the tournament, but for the past four years, there can only be one winner.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Life of Grimes: England Expects

Life of Grimes: England Expects: So, probably I am the last person qualified to offer an opinion on this topic. I'm a girl. The only time I've ever actually touched a rugby ...

England Expects

So, probably I am the last person qualified to offer an opinion on this topic. I'm a girl. The only time I've ever actually touched a rugby ball was one ill-advised winter's evening while at college, when I gate-crashed the ladies' rugby training and broke a nail. I was on the wing, for god's sake - I wasn't envisaging actually having to do anything. I thought it was the rugby equivalent of playing 'deep fielder' in rounders.

Anyway, it's my blog, I can say what I like. And, as it happens, I have been a fan of rugby since 1990 (ok, since I saw Rob Andrew on Question Of Sport, and fell in love *crosses self*). I've been on 3 British Lions' tours, the so-called 'Tour of Death' to NZ in '98, and many a home international. I was a hardened Sale fan for all the years they languished at the bottom of the Premiership, up until the point they stopped actually playing in Sale. Then they started to get good, damn their eyes.

And I started to think about this whole England world cup debacle. I can cope with England playing badly on the pitch - takes me right back to the bad old days at Sale. But playing badly AND behaving like the Manchester United youth team in Ayia Napa? That takes some doing. And then I read David Flatman's article in the Guardian on the subject, and it made me quite sad. Sad because I didn't totally agree with him, and I ALWAYS agree with him. He's erudite, funny, and sensible (not bad going for someone who's spent most of their adult life face down in the mud). He didn't particularly lay the finger of blame anywhere, but rather lamented the media-driven obsession with celebrity, and the way it has started to seep into the previously-fluffy world of rugby since the advent of professionalism.

Now, I don't really buy that. It has, ofcourse, but one inevitably goes hand-in-hand with the other, as football has found to its cost. You can't welcome the money flooding into the game with one hand, while trying to maintain the ethos of the good old days with the other. And where does the money come from, ultimately? The loyal rugby fan. Now, far from the loyal rugby fan being too bothered about what the Daily Mail says about Tindall's/Tuilagi's/Haskell's/Ashton's/Hartley's, etc. behaviour (small fry considering what once happened to the Calcutta Cup, or that taxi that Scott Gibbs nicked perhaps), under the microscope at the biggest, most media-savvy World Cup ever is not the place or time for it. If there ever was a time for it, I suspect it was circa 1989, and it is long gone.

I could over-look it if the team were running rings round the opposition in their matches. But they didn't. They looked like 14 strangers, plus St Jonny of Wilkinson, who I love dearly but praise the lord, there isn't a team from here to Timbuctoo that hasn't worked him out by now. Osama Bin Laden has more spring in his step.

I look at the dedication of someone like Sir Steve Redgrave, who I doubt had a drink for about 15 years, such was his determination to continuously be the best in the World, getting up at 5am a year before the Olympics to train at altitude on the freezing waters of some desolate mountain lake. And I read that Sam Warburton hasn't touched a drop since the end of the Six Nations, and I think, you know what? It's not that hard. It's surely not too much to ask that the players devote themselves body and soul to be the best in the World, at the very least, for the 8 weeks that they're away. I managed to stay away from alchohol for 9 whole months, it's really not that difficult (drink like a fish now, ofcourse, but that's neither here nor there). Scotland, of course, could live like Trappist monks from now till Lewis Hamilton gets Sports Personality of the Year, and they'd still be crap.

Arrows are inevitably being drawn in the direction of Martin Johnson, and not without provocation. From the man you expect to lay discipline down like Hannibal, to rule the players with a wrath to equal Sir Alex Ferguson's infamous 'hairdryer', comments like "Rugby player drinks beer: shock" do not really wash. It might not be a shock, but it also might not be advisable in a country where rugby is the national obsession, and players' every actions are studied, analysed and splashed across the front pages. Where the biggest event in the country's history is the 2011 World Cup final. Not the country's sporting history, note: it's actual history. Because rugby IS New Zealand, like no other country on earth.

Throughout the tournament, I began to see that Johnson isn't the demi-god I'd appointed him as. I'd been willing to overlook his dogged support of Steve Borthwick as captain, even though Borthwick is as much use in that role as a nylon tank. Capable player on his day, but a charismatic, inspiring captain he was not. And yet Johnson gave him way beyond the usual 'try-out' period, as if he was stubbornly trying to prove his point by sheer perseverance.

He seems to struggle to lose his playing loyalties in a way a less successful and conscientious man would not. Defending players from media accusations is one thing, but doggedly excusing their unacceptable behaviour is entirely another. Additionally, his continual advocacy of "a win's a win" above all else started alarm bells - surely at least aim to produce some entertaining, inventive play? Otherwise, really, what is the point? Aspiration to be the best should be tattooed on their souls, not aspiration to be ok. As Malcolm X once said, "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything" - mediocrity, as it turns out.

Not good enough. England - at least the hard-working, loyal rugby fan - expects the entertainment to be on the pitch, not off it. I'm not sure we can lay the blame for the implosion at the door of professionalism any more. I don't particularly remember an instanteous shift in the atmosphere of the English game the minute the gilded gates opened. It's more a culmination of many factors - previous successes at World Cups raising expectations, this being probably the first generation of rugby players who have never known the game as being amateur, and the accessibility of worldwide media within seconds from anywhere in the world, about things we really don't need to know but are bombarded with nonetheless.

I think there is a general feeling that your average rugby fan is slogging his or her guts out all week, working ridiculously long hours in a job that they probably don't like very much to earn a wage that just about keeps the wolf from the door for the next month, assuming they are lucky enough to have a job. Many of them have saved some of this hard-earned dough in order to travel a year and a half on an aeroplane to a country which looks like Wales, to watch '03 all over again. They hoped. And you watch these players, who are given the opportunity to represent their country on the world's stage, playing a sport that they presumably love otherwise they wouldn't be doing it, and getting paid very handsomely, thank you very much. You watch them amble round the pitch, and give penalties away left right and centre as though no-one has ever explained Southern Hemisphere refereeing to them, and you start to wonder. Then you read in every tabloid in the country about the dwarf-tossing, blonde-fondling, maid-harassing, ferry-jumping antics, and the continuous and repetitive excuses given by the manager who once you idolised as a human Hadrian's Wall, and you lose any respect that may have been dwindling in the bottom of your pint pot.

The killer-blow for me came when I read that Manu Tuilagi's 'ill-advised' (for want of anything that isn't a swear word) early swim off the Auckland ferry came on the return journey of a lovely jolly out to the island of Waiheke where they reportedly visited a vineyard. Well, I don't know about you, but I want my mildly-disgraced, rudderless-ship of a national side to be catching the next flight home after losing the quarter final to France, trudging through Heathrow looking bloody miserable, getting their heads down and getting back to work, not engaging in day-trips at my expense and having a 'bit of banter' (think again, Mr Youngs) in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Ahhhh! Lordy, that feels better. Nothing like a bit of a rant to clear the air. Now then, where's my Welsh phrase book? Diolch yn fawr, as we *ahem* say in Wales......

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

And in the news this week....

Firstly, in the news this week: me and running are over. O.V.E.R. It's official.
We had our good times (primarily, me deriving mild amusement from being dizzy getting off the treadmill), we had our brief tumultous love affair (primarily before I actually started doing any running), and now it's run it's course. Oh, enough already with the cheese. It's rubbish.
It's the most rubbish thing since Sir Clive Sinclair stuck a AAA battery and a couple of trolley wheels on an Easter egg and called it an electric car. Seriously, why does anybody want to actually run?
I understand the Ethiopians doing it. They have to. They've got to get down to the watering hole and back in time to milk the goat before nightfall and the watering hole is 175 miles away. Although if I was Ethiopian, I'd either fashion myself a bike out of a bit of goat hide and some wizened twigs, or I'd be Very Bloody Thirsty.
But why does anybody else do it? I resent lumbering along on the treadmill like some flat-footed elderly penguin almost as much as I resent doing it outside, scaring innocent dog-walkers with my heavy breathing, as I clomp up behind them in the manner of a terminally-asthmatic elephant.
I hate it more than I strongly dislike Katie Melua (hate is a very strong word to bandy at someone who has done me no perceivable personal injury). I hate it more than I hate people who plonk themselves down next to you on the sofa whilst you're watching The Only Way Is Essex and ask, 'But is it real?'. I hate it more than I hate getting to the last Mini Egg in the packet. I hate it more than I hate candy floss, and sundried tomatoes, and Sauvignon Blanc (the waste product of a cat, in my opinion). And I hate it more than Premiership football (there, I've said it. So shoot me).
In short, I'd rather be held hostage in Essex by a Premiership footballer and force fed candy floss than I would do a run. But fear not, faithful followers, whilst I've decided that the 10k may not be a realistic target (I believe Tatton Park closes at 6pm - I'd be locked in the park over-night, and possibly gored to death by an irate stag), I will be doing the 5k instead. Can't take more than half a day, surely?

In other matters, all hail to the hooded ninja warrior who has been rescuing the citizens of Tunbridge Wells from anti-social behaviour and general nastiness (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1380610/The-Ninja-Tunbridge-Wells-Pyjama-crusader-launches-vigilante-campaign.html). In all seriousness, it's refreshing to find someone willing to stand up and be counted in an effort to make our streets safer, and our communities closer. I'm not sure how much of a hotbed of crime Tunbridge Wells is, but still, somebody's got to get that cat out of a tree, and at least if a fireman's not doing it, it's not costing the great British taxpayer about £576.  The anonymous man has apparently been seen assisting old ladies across the road, dressed all in black and wearing a hood. There's a joke in there about old ladies having a stroke, but it's very old and crude, and quite beneath me.

Right, I'm off to watch Masterchef. It's basically the normal guy, the Italian bird who was a nurse but now wants to give up helping others and become a selfish, egotistical maniac instead, and the mad American who makes desserts out of dry ice and beer. Tonight can only be better than last night's episode of John Torode cooking John Torode's menu in John Torode's kitchen for John Torode's friends and family, hindered to varying degrees by the slightly-perplexed contestants. It promises to be better, if only on the grounds of the expressions of the 3 finalists on being told they were off to New York to cook: Italian bird...ecstatic. Normal Guy....chuffed to little meatballs. Mad American, from, I believe, New York....massive underwhelment (I know it's not a word, but it's how he looked).
His expression was much as mine would have been had I appeared in the Masterchef final and John and Greg had informed me I was off to learn great things in the restaurants of Urmston. Exactly.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Gym'll Fix It - Running On Empty

It's only Tuesday, but already I have learnt this week that my 10k charity run target in June is under threat on two fronts (no, not those ones): 1. I don't like running. At all. In any way. 2. I don't like being pink and sweaty.

I had a suspicion about the running hatred before I started, what with never having voluntarily run a step in 30-odd years and all. But this week, it's reared it's ugly head with a vengeance, spitting on my repeated attempts to run for longer than 12 minutes (I know, I know - it's 10k, not 10cm), and trampling on my pathetic attempts to embrace the boredom and move past it.

After a mere 5 minutes, with my enthusiasm plummeting faster than Charlie Sheen's ticket sales, I watch the figures on the treadmill keyboard limp painfully slowly past 0.5km. Oh, and there goes another....2 calories. Whoop whoop. By now, I could tell you every news headline on the gym tv, the telephone number for Cheadle Glass, and the last seven songs they played on the screen....and there goes another calorie....

I can't peer round at everybody else and gain mild entertainment from people watching, because I've discovered if I move my line of sight from the zone directly in front of me, I fall over. So I stare, glassy-eyed at the tv screens, contact lenses drying out from too little blinking, wishing some serious news item would break to relieve the boredom slightly. Nothing too drastic, you know, just a volcano erupting somewhere or a government coup in French Guyana.

I'm not helped by the wheezing, pounding noises emitted from the bloke next to me, who is clearly the running equivalent of the guy on the driving range who likes to remind everyone how manly he is by whacking 100 golf balls with a Big Bertha, the noise of which can be heard from the other side of the M6. 'You are not Haile Gebrselassie,' I direct angry thoughts in his treadmill's direction, unable to actually speak, 'You are Bob from telesales. Now pack it in!'

I've noticed distinct behavioural differences between men and women in the gym (I'm ok when I'm on the weights machines - I can peer at everybody without falling off). Women generally scuttle from one machine to the next, anxious to get it over and done with without everyone seeing any pink, sweaty, wobbly bits. They avoid eye contact and have headphones in at all times to avoid initiating any random conversation. Men, on the other hand, wear their pink sweatiness like a badge of honour. They periodically glance round to check who has noticed their prowess on the rower/treadmill/weights bench, and make as much noise as possible, grunting like a mountain goat as they get pinker and pinker.

I am about to push Bob from telesales off his running perch. If only I could dismount elegantly off my own, instead of staggering drunkenly like some inebriate on a hen-do. I fear there is about as much chance of me grasping the point of running as there is explaining trigonometry to a labrador, but I will persevere. Mainly because if I manage to drop another 3 calories on that weirdy-skiing machine-type-thing, I'm due a quarter of a blueberry muffin *sighs*.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Gym'll Fix It

So, race is entered, number's arrived in the post already - no backing down now.

In somewhat of a blind panic, I visited The Gym. Gyms have been my nemesis in the past - places of torture, and insanely sweaty, unpleasant-looking people in lycra (alright, 'nemesis' might be an exaggeration. I can't forgive Gym for relieving me of 6 months' fees in 1997, just because I wanted to sit prettily on a rowing machine and leer at the young men who worked there. How was I to know you had to pay through the nose for that).

I arrived for my induction last week, all outwardly cheerful at what I thought might be just a little sight-seeing tour round the hallowed exercise pits of David Lloyd Cheadle. Picture my dismay as Herr Gym Instructor signalled me to 'jump' onto a machine which I imagined could easily have been used to interrogate prisoners of war. Turns out it was a cross-trainer. Well, I don't know, do I??

An hour later, I collapsed to the floor, finished off by something ironically called a 'medicine ball'. An hour of galloping from one instrument of torture to the next, with HGI cheerily engaging me in a one-sided conversation, all the while scribbling worryingly on a clipboard. Our 'chat' went something along the lines of: HGI: 'How's that speed for you?'
               Me: 'Fine.'
               HGI: 'Oh really? Well, you won't mind if we just sneak it up a bit then, will you?'
               Me: 'Hmpppsshhhffttttt*'
It really was every bit as bad as I'd secretly anticipated. I had some Know-It-All Gym'ed Up twonk waffling on in one ear about interval training, blah blah blah, resting heart rate, blah blah bah, while my face turned the colour of Revlon ColourStay lipstick no.6: Scarlet Harlot.

Surprisingly afterwards, I didn't ache in every crevice as I'd expected. I braced myself for days afterwards when getting out of bed, waiting to be hit by the bodily aches and pains which tell you loud and clear that you've been a tad ambitious with your poor bod. But they never came, and I immediately convinved myself that this was the sign of a latent Paula Radcliffe in the making. I've been four times since then, and am enjoying the post-gym buzz enormously. I always thought it was an urban myth.

I'm also enjoying the Costa Coffee they serve at the gym (two birds, one stone), and the people-watching. I've nearly come a cropper off the running machine several times, trying not to snort at some bloke strutting by, towel over arm, approaching the weight machines. I have to look away so as not to become an RTA on my treadmill as he pulls a variety of sex faces whilst wrestling with a weight which is clearly several kilos heavier than is healthy. Then there are the ladies in the -shall we say - autumn of their youth, trotting daintily away on treadmills to my left, neither of whom are in danger of working up a sweat if they stayed on it from now till Christmas.

Soon the warm weather will kick in, my fitness will pick up, and I'll be out on the roads, pounding my poor knee joints to a pulp. But I'll miss the daily soap opera that is The Gym.

* Hmpppsshhhffttttt = eff off, you cross-eyed ginger twonk. Go near that button again, and I'll get your effing clipboard, chop it into 75 pieces, and feed it into an area on your body south of your mouth.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

'Run, Forest, run!'

Yesterday, I entered myself for the Cancer Research Race for Life 10k at Tatton Park in June. Nothing much unusual about that, you might think - unless you know me.

I don't run. It is one of several things I don't do, the others being: apologise, be unecessarily cheerful, drugs, and public transport. I drive past people out jogging on a Sunday morning and I pity them that they clearly didn't drink enough alcohol the night before. I avoid conversations with people who run in the manner that other people avoid smokers, in the fear that some of their get up and go might rub off on me like a viral infection.

And yet, I am about to become one of Them. I should point out that I haven't knowingly run a single step since my schooldays, and have still yet to do so. I'm already imagining myself winning next year's New York marathon without ever having pulled on a pair of trainers - not that I'm mildly delusional or anything. Short of discovering hitherto unknown Ethiopian heritage, that's not likely to happen. And yet, I'm already feeling cheerier (notice cheerIER, not actually cheery) than I have done in months at the prospect of a personal goal to get my teeth into. Factor in the purported anti-depressant qualities of running and exercise in general, and I imagine in a month or two, you could wrap me up and send me off to Pontin's as a redcoat.

I'll confess now that I was actually in the school athletics' team. But this was entirely down to unfortunate circumstances; these being that at the 400m trial, everyone else misheard the gym teacher and stopped at the finish line on the penultimate lap - I was the only one who kept going. More fool me. Humiliation at the hands of Manchester High School followed soon after. And it wasn't just the humiliation that made me go red - I've developed new tones of luminous day-glo pink over the years due to exercise. Some people just turn a pleasant healthy pink, but many's the time I've had to plunge my head into a bucket of cold water after an hour's horse-riding lesson, or risk having my head explode. So I can pretty much guarantee that 5 minutes into any run I do, I'll be able to light a whole street with my face.

So why do it? I can't put it better than Mark Twain, who said: 'Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bow lines, Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.' I might hate every second. I might puke up half way round in front of the official photographer, or do a Paula Radcliffe and get caught short. But I won't know till I try.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Back to the drawing board

Quite literally. After my recent work's been reliant on imagination and composition, it's been nice to switch off a little bit and complete this commission from an old junior school friend. He asked me to do a portrait of his two young daughters for his wife's birthday at the end of this month.

I have to be honest, this is the first childrens' portrait I've ever done (I may have neglected to mention this to Brian). Before I had a baby myself, I used to avoid kids like the plague, and stuck stubbornly to painting pets and adults, but actually I've really enjoyed this project. Childrens', and particularly babies' faces, are so soft and unformed that you really have to have a light touch with the pencil. Their hair tends to be wispy and fly-away, and eyebrows and eyelashes are barely there either, so you definitely need to exercise subtlety and use the harder pencils to capture them. The photos were supplied by the girls' dad, and were great and numerous, although indoor, flash-lit photos aren't brilliant to work from because the flash really flattens facial contours and bleaches everything. The older girl's photo was taken outside, and was much easier to work from - gave a really easy light to work with.

Have taken it off to the framer's, just hope Brian & Michelle actually like it when they get it next week! Ughhh, I hate that bit - get really nervous.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Things I Have Learnt This Week

1. Inflation is a dirty word.
Now possibly I missed the lesson in General Studies at school that explained the British economy in a nutshell, as I did with telling the time in French. I was pulling a spectacular sickie to avoid a Chemistry test and coincidentally shot myself in the foot with regard to ever being able to tell the time whilst in France. Fortunately I can still manage to direct myself to and from Charles De Gaulle airport to Monsieur Bertillon's house in an emergency, so all is not lost.
Anyway, I don't get it. The vagaries of inflation and interest rates are to me what class and decorum are to Kerry Katona. It's no good. I've had it explained to me more times than I care to remember, and still it's as clear as mud. I've long since consigned it to the list of Things I'll Never Understand, along with cricket, Poker, and cats' mood swings.

2. Men learn the art of deception at a very young age.
A stark illustration of this concept was shown to me today. As I watched my 16 month-old son inverting himself on the kitchen floor in a slightly alarming example of the well-known yoga position 'Upside Down Delinquent Crab', whilst emitting the noise of an industrial-strength fire alarm because I wouldn't let him have the pack of chocolate mini rolls he'd just found in the cupboard, I was reminded of the lady at nursery who'd remarked, less than an hour previously as I picked The Ginger Prince up, 'We can't wait to have him in our 2nd year class - he's so placid, isn't he?'

3. However blonde I am, my friend Jade will always beat me hands down.
This evening she is juggling with the problem of having sold a pasta maker to a lady from West Yorkshire, who is on her considerable way across the Pennines to collect said machine from Liverpool as we speak. Not, in itself, a problem, if it were not for the fact that Jade has just realised she sold the pasta maker over six months ago to someone else whilst she was pregnant.
I add the fact that she was pregnant since obviously it's a well-known fact that women can be a little forgetful when they're about to push an elephant through the eye of a needle. In Jade's case, however, it's a fairly terminal condition. I can list, without any sort of cerebral effort: the time she left her grill on for 3 weeks while we were in Australia, and couldn't remove the twist-off petrol cap from the motor home because she was pulling it; and the time she arrived at Silverstone race track ready for a day of work team-building, only to find everybody else was waiting at Brands Hatch.
I love you, Miss Jade, you're ace. Although if that pasta woman's arrived, it could be RIP, Miss Jade....

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Sod's Law

It occurs to me, on this cold, dank January afternoon, that aside from the law of gravity, and the law of offside (although I'm convinced this law is mere mythology - every person you ask gives you a different version of it), the law that plays the most important part in our day-to-day lives is Sod's Law. Alanis Morrisette wrote a song about it - a complete arse, those black flies in your Chardonnay. And even the 'unsinkable' Titanic fell foul of Sod's Law. Imagine finding the only thing in a huge chilly ocean likely to rip a hole in your nice shiny new boat...a ruddy great iceberg. What are the chances??

Sod's Law decrees that when you prise your way into your car of a dark, icy, mid-winter morning, after grating your fingers getting the ice off the doors and virtually gassing yourself with the anti-freeze, the first thing you hear when you turn the ignition on (aside from the asthmatic mutterings of the engine) is an advert for some far-flung exotic holiday on the radio.

Sod's Law also says that the shortest queue for anything is always the slowest. Always. This law is carved somewhere on a boulder at Stonehenge, it's so ancient. Queueing at check-in? Quick, get behind this tiny queue with just a couple of old people in it. Then stand there for light years as they shuffle over to the desk with a suitcase that seems to be rammed with some kind of heavy furniture for a two-week stay in Tenerife, and is twice the normal baggage allowance. Listen with disbelief to their conversation with the delightful easyjet lady, who is shouting and using her limited knowledge of signing, because they are tone deaf. To change queue or not? Change queue. Now find yourself behind a shouty family of fifteen from Liverpool, none of whom is claiming responsibility for the fact that they haven't got a passport between them.

Queueing to pay at the petrol station? Pick the shortest queue behind the nice lady without a basket full of grocery shopping (remember when petrol stations used to be manned by mechanics? You could buy fuel. And that was it. Genius, no?). And yet, find that she's being served by the delightfully camp but desperately slow man who looks like Joshua Rosenberg, the BBC news reporter with the unfortunate lithp. Er, lisp.

He asks her how her son is, tuts at the price of nappies (I wouldn't worry about it, there'll be an effing sale on by the time you've finished scanning them through), and debates the wisdom of altering daylight saving time (well, it was light when I came in...). Meanwhile, you're turning a virulent shade of scarlet, and wishing you'd gone, for the first time in your life, for the pasty-looking silent teen goth on the next till.

Queueing at the bar? Here's a near-space between the rows and rows of people waiting. You get your little finger actually touching the bar, which is practically as good as being served, no? No. The woman next to you has a cleavage that could swallow whole streets, and after being served within milliseconds of getting to the bar, she is now ordering a round for 27 people.

I could go on. But I won't. I'm watching my cheese on toast under the grill, and Sod's Law says if I take my eye of it for one single second, that'll be the window in Time where the temperature of the cheese reaches ignition point, the grill explodes and my whole house burns down. Sod's Law, you see?