16 September 2012

Good morning on what looks like it could be a half decent sort of day. And, indeed, it’s been a half decent sort of week – mainly sunny and warmish although the mornings have a distinct autumnal feeling and the Boston Ivy on the fences is beginning to show the first flashes of crimson. Still, I did get a couple of decent bike rides in this week which, as I am definitely a “fair weather” cyclist, is clearly a sign of a half-decent week, weather-wise. Today is a bit cloudy and overcast but yesterday was gorgeous (and warm) and the forecast for the next few days is reasonable. Perhaps this is that Indian summer we’ve been hoping for.

After our delightful holiday in south Devon, I was “back to work” this week (or, at least I visited a few schools and discussed some work during the term to come – it really is more like pretending to work than actually doing anything serious). After my meetings on Thursday, I stopped on my way home at the Bicester Garden Centre for a coffee and to write up my notes. Just for reference, the date on Thursday was 13 September.

I only mention the specific date because, after I finished my notes, coffee and double-chocolate muffin (I was celebrating the fine weather, you understand), I wandered through the Centre having a look at various items, just out of interest.

As I rounded one corner in the shop I came across their impressive display of artificial Christmas trees, and a sizeable and very convincing display it was too. I have to confess to being somewhat surprised at seeing them on display this early but my surprise turned to mortification as I rounded the next corner to see the full Christmas display with all the baubles, Christmas lights, cards and ornaments money might buy. I am guessing it’s another sign of the flat-lining economy and the double-dip recession our Chancellor has brought about – merchants are desperate for the Christmas rush to rescue them from what has been a truly dreadful year, Jubilee, Olympic and Paralympic games notwithstanding. This is certainly the earliest I can ever remember seeing the start of the Christmas run-up although Penelope informs me that Lidl’s, a cheap supermarket chain in the UK (“Where quality is cheaper”), has had Christmas items on display since August. OMG – it looks like the run-up to Christmas will be almost as long as an American election. I can’t imagine many things could be much worse.

The other evening I was sitting in the lounge watching some baseball on the television with our Molly. Mind you, she doesn’t really watch the baseball but she likes to lie on the carpet in front of the television and snore loudly. As I was watching I couldn’t help but notice two cats outside the French doors who were posturing and scrapping on our fence/pergola, presumably arguing over who was the top cat in the neighbourhood. There was a lot of hissing and arching of backs as they glared and then chased each other along the cross beams. At some point during the performance, Molly awakened and noticed the activity taking place a mere ten metres or so in front of her nose. Inevitably, she stood up and stared at the combatants with an attentive and almost eager attitude, ears perked as if she was ready to crash through the French doors, bark vigorously and see them off. Of course, we know that Molly is scared to death of the neighbourhood cats who similarly regard her with disdain and contempt. Clearly, what she was really thinking was “I better pretend as if I will fight to the death to protect my beloved carers but in actual fact I am delighted to be safe inside with no way of getting anywhere near those pernicious beasts.” Interestingly, there was no barking only a long and determined stare until their scrapping took them further down the fence and out of sight. At which point, she returned to a reclining position and recommenced snoring.

I am deeply indebted to my very good friend Chip Boynton for sending me a copy of an article from the latest Yale alumni magazine describing how a set of class notes for the class of 1960 became a baseball classic. It was written by Bart Giamatti in 1977 who, at the time, was secretary for the class of 1960 and who, of course, later became president of Yale and then Commissioner of Major League Baseball before dying of a heart attack at the lamentably early age of 51. I have to confess, I had never heard of or read the article as, in those years, I was very much “in the wilderness” when it came to baseball and, indeed, most American sports. Certainly we didn’t have any coverage on our four television channels and this internet thing was just a glint in some bright spark’s eye. Following the link in the article I found the full transcript which you can read here. I also found a clip on You Tube which provides an audio of Giamatti reading it himself. It’s a lovely and moving piece which I think will strike a chord whether you are a fan of baseball or not.

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH2_dUboyBA

Of course, the article is particularly poignant for Red Sox fans after their many years in the wilderness. And, this year probably more so than some – after starting the season with optimism and confidence, with a sterling line-up and great players, this year has been one of unmitigated disappointment and disaster for Red Sox fans, leading to the trade last month which brought half their marquee players to the Dodgers. This year, summer ended disappointingly early for those Red Sox fans – in fact, they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs only this weekend but they’ve been “out of it” for months; summer never ends in Los Angeles but I can feel the chill of winter’s approach as the season winds to a conclusion and the Dodgers fall a game or two short. Oh well, wait ‘til next season.

Married to the MooniesI saw in the news that the Rev Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Moonies, recently died and the BBC site had coverage of his funeral. I was therefore mightily amused by a clipping from a recent issue of Private Eye (which originally appeared in the Daily Mail) highlighting an upcoming television programme on the cult of the Unification Church. The clip, as you can see, is helpfully illustrated with a photograph of a typically dysfunctional family.

And finally, I ran across the following on someone’s Facebook page – apologies for my inability to remember whose and to provide proper acknowledgement and credit. Still, it struck a chord with me and represents an attitude toward life which I am sure we should all embrace.

More Wine

Love to you all,

Greg