7 December 2014

Brrr. It’s been a chilly week – so chilly that Ms Playchute has finally demanded that the electric blanket gets installed on the bed, much to my disapproval. It does have two controls so I don’t have to have my side of the bed switched on but I would sooner do without it altogether. A blanket and a duvet is just too much! I’d also probably have the bedroom window wide open at night if I were allowed. Still, it must be working – this morning I awakened to find that Penelope had flung all her blankets off and, at some point during the night, had stripped off all her pyjamas which were lying in a huddled heap at the side of the bed. I told her it was too hot!

Last Saturday I had a great day out. Our friend Stuart had been offered some tickets to the Australia v England rugby union match at the “cathedral” of rugby, Twickenham in west London and he very kindly asked if I would fancy going along. Naturally, I leapt at the opportunity.

The trip down to Twickenham turned out to be quite nostalgic as the train rumbled through several towns from our very early years in the UK. Bracknell, where we lived for two years, Ascot, where Nick was born, Virginia Waters, where we used to go for picnics and outings (including one with brother Sandy on his visit to the UK), and Sunningdale where our good friends Sarah Ferguson and “Randy” Andy had a palatial establishment courtesy of the British taxpayer, etc.

While the journey was somewhat nostalgic, I guess “rumbled” is not quite the right description – the train from Reading in Berkshire to Twickenham in west London is what is commonly referred to as the “milk” train, stopping at every station along the route, some of which seem to be only about 100 metres apart. The journey from Banbury to Reading (approximately 54 miles) takes about 40 minutes; the journey from Reading to Twickenham (about 30 miles) takes over an hour. And, to make matters worse, there was no WiFi on the second train at all! Honestly, this is the 21st century – how can a train not provide WiFi access in this day and age.

Stepping out of the station at Twickenham I met up with Stuart and we were herded along with 80,000 other visitors, through the suburban streets to the stadium. It was, as they say, a “sea of humanity” flowing towards the stadium. We were shepherded along by scores of police and along the route were dozens of pop-up stalls selling a variety of food and, not surprisingly, copious quantities of alcohol. Stuart and I had a burger each and then made our way to our seats in time for the anthems and the match.

It was a great experience and a lot of fun (as big sporting events often are, in my experience) but I have to say it was not the most riveting match I’ve ever seen. Hardly surprising as England and Australia are currently going through a fairly mediocre spell and neither side was ever going to set the field on fire. Still, England won which is always the principle objective, particularly when playing the Australians.

Interestingly, the Guardian’s post-match summary was full of praise for England’s performance – I am guessing the Guardian reporter watched a different match to the one I saw. Either that or he was just desperate to write positively about the England performance given their losses to South Africa and New Zealand in the weeks before this match. The BBC summary was a bit more balanced: “Plenty of power, little spark.”

To add to the “enjoyment” of the whole enterprise, on Sunday morning I spent two somewhat lengthy and “entertaining” spells on the downstairs toilet, courtesy of the burger, I suspect. I can’t think what else it could have been but I suppose it all adds to the overall experience. A day at the rugby just wouldn’t be the same without suffering the consequences of a dodgy burger?

Our friend Julie sent me an e-mail the other day with some examples of the work of Won Park, a master of origami. A quick search reveals some absolute masterpieces. Having a few one dollar bills spare from our recent excursion to the States, I found one of his sets of instructions for creating the carp. I have to tell you, one needs a PhD in Origami to even begin to understand the instructions, let along manage to create something that loosely resembles a carp. I am now the proud owner of three severely crumpled and tattered dollar bills.


I ran across an article in the Guardian the other day entitled, “Why I Hate Y-Fronts” which, I have to say, pretty much sums up my attitude precisely.

It was a cold day on 19 January 1935 – actually, it was a blizzard – when Chicago department store Marshall Field & Co displayed the first-ever pair of Y-fronts in its window. Soon afterwards management asked that they were taken down as they were inappropriate for such a frosty morning in the windy city, but before that could happen 600 pairs of these Jockey-branded briefs had already been sold. Thirty thousand pairs flew off the shelves in the following three months; pants had changed for ever.

I am a boxer man myself.

Love to you all,