When the kids were younger we used to spend a couple of weeks of their summer holidays with Eurocamp in France. It was rustic and a bit basic but over 3-4 years we had some of our very best family breaks at sites in and around the Dordogne and not one drop of rain in all our trips! And we met some great friends with whom we’re still in touch 30 years later. There was a Dutch family who we befriended with 5 beautiful daughters and mum and dad Dini & Burt. They were great fun and we and another family of all girls headed up by lovely Dennis and Julie were as pally as can be. Burt, Dennis and I used to keep an eye on the kids in and around the pool area whilst playing boules and drinking the odd beer or trois. And whenever Dennis or I had an unlucky bounce of the ball on the gravelly strip we’d turn to Burt and ask ‘Why me Burt?’. It became something of a catchphrase amongst us and I’ve often thought it’s a line that could easily be chiselled onto my gravestone, given the drama that always seems to dog my simple existence.
Well I have a confession. Up until very recently I’ve never really enjoyed watching women’s football. It just lacks the intensity of the men’s game to my liking – be it the physicality, skill level, pace, passion etc. However I’ve been watching the current World Cup matches on tv and I’ve really, really enjoyed it. Particularly the England matches of course. Last night the Lionesses reached the semi-finals by beating a very good Norway side 3-0 and it was a super game to watch. Maybe I’m missing the men’s game a bit but there’s no denying it was for a a compelling match. In fact all the England matches have been and I’m clearly not alone in thinking that. The last two games have seen tv audiences of 6.1m for the win against Scotland and then 6.9m for the Cameroon match – both record numbers. I haven’t seen the figures for last night’s match yet but I’m sure they’ll have smashed those figures again.
I’ve written about the sad slow demise of the high street before now and another big name tumbled recently with the collapse of Jamie’s Italian restaurant chain. I really liked it when it opened because I am a bit of a fan of Jamie Oliver’s recipes and of course anything that celebrates great simple Italian cooking is fine by me. That was when he had just one or two restaurants and the menu was delightfully different and the wines tasty and the prices about right. Then before you could say ‘turkey twizzlers’ he’d gone and opened restaurants all over the place. The exclusivity had gone. And I can remember telling Carol whilst sat in a Jamie’s Italian in the beautifully evocative Tuscan-like setting of Milton Keynes shopping centre that I thought the helpings were become less and less substantial whilst prices were becoming alarming high. Crucially in the rush to expand, the Italian-ness had just disappeared. And the place was half empty. That was at least 2-3 years ago and I forecast then that the chain wouldn’t survive and, no surprise, that was our last visit. Hey ho, I say this without any pleasure at all.
I read an interesting article today in the i newspaper sports section. It posed the question, what have these names got in common…
Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Ruben Dias, Bruno Fernandes, Gelson Fernandes, Kalidou Kalibahy, Nicolas Pepe, Adrien Rabot, Saul Niguez, Christian Eriksen, Kieran Trippier, Jan Obiak, Matthijs de Ligt, Paulo Dybala, Daniel James, Idrissa Gueye, Philippe Coutinho, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Wilfried Zaha, Thomas Meunier, Mauro Icardi, Moussa Dembele, Ben Godfrey, Nikola Milenkovic, Harry Maguire, Aaron Was-Bissaka, Patrick van Aanholt, Jadon Sancho, Gareth Bale, Toby Alderweireld, Joao Felix, Declan Rice, David Neres Campos, Kostas Manolas, Hakim Ziyech, Joao Cancelo, Marcos Llorente, Toni Kroos, Raphael Varane, Youro Tielemans, Robert Lewandowski, James Rodriguez, Keylor Navas, Lika Jovic, Jordan Pickford, Juande Ramos, Jack Grealish, Giovani lo Celso, Gianluigi Donnarumma and no doubt several others?
Well it’s been a great WC for a change hasn’t it? Alright England ran out of steam and composure in the end but their performance generally was as good as I’d wished for and predicted several weeks ago and my forecast of Harry Kane winning the Golden Boot looks likely to happen (unless Mbappe has a field day in the final, which he might). So as I’m clearly clairvoyant I thought I’d try a few more cheeky predictions:
– Messi to retire from international football properly this time
– Phil Jones never to play for England (and hopefully Man U) ever again
– Diego Maradona to shake the hand of God before the next WC qualifiers begin
– Gareth Southgate to be tempted by a serious offer of a job by Crystal Palace within the next 6 months but declines
– his assistant Steve Holland tempted by serious job offers from one of Southampton, Derby, Cardiff and Huddersfield within next 6 months and accepts only to leave a year later
– ManU to buy one player from each of today’s WC finalists France and Croatia but Jose Mourinho fails to get the best from them
– Paul Pogba to leave ManU
– Real Madrid to make a big name signing (ok not a stretch) but it’s not Neymar nor Mbappe then tempt THFC with a Bale/Modric double swap deal for Harry Kane/Delle Ali. Daniel Levy tempted but demands £60m too. RM Pres Perez chokes on his frittata
– Giroud to move on from Chelsea to …..who cares?
– Roberto Martinez to be sacked as Belgium manager and be replaced by Sam Allardyce (that last bit is just for fun)
– Alan Shearer to be named (and I’d never thought I’d find myself saying this) best pundit at the WC
– Russia to be judged as best WC hosts (and I’d never think I’d be saying that either)
There you go. Feel free to suggest your own
Well these were some of the gloriously happy scenes that greeted England’s victory over Sweden on Saturday, repeated up and down the country. We watched the match at my brother’s place and what a super day. And it happened the day after my lovely sis H got married to J which was also a great day. So a fantastic few days eh, especially for us. But the great thing is the effect England’s progress is having generally. Everyone seems to be up for it and excited at the prospect of tonight semi-final against Croatia. Shop assistants, waiters, check out girls. Everyone wants to know where are you watching it. I guess it’s that history in the making thing. Well at least potentially because a loss tonight will be gutting. Well except for maybe a few people in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia etc etc.
Well yesterday was a great day really. I headed in to London to see my old friend J who runs a very funky graphics design agency. We had a great meeting on how I might be able to help build awareness for him and his creative work now that I’ve sharpened up his online presence. All very exciting. En route to meeting up with him near Waterloo, I drove in to north London and parked up my car very close to where we used to live on Muswell Hill Rd. It was lovely to walk through Highgate Woods again on the way to Highgate underground station. Now you may not know it but because of the hilly terrain, the station was built in a deep cutting excavated beneath Highgate Hill. During the war, the deep-level platforms at Highgate were used by many as a shelter from the bombing of London by the Luftwaffe, and, later, V-1 and V-2 missiles. The entrance is a long way down. You can in fact get an up escalator to the surface from the booking hall but there’s only one way down via a steepish path. I’m not sure these pictures do it justice….