Sunday, 5 July 2009

A Week In The Life

A hectic week in glorious, blazing sunshine: Parents’ Day, Wimbledon, writing a column for The Standard, my son’s 17th birthday [right, a cake but not the cake], running an inaugural Scrabble tournament, our choir first public performance of the year, early morning Harry Potter preview and the end of the summer term [& the ending of my daughter’s school life] and our choir’s first public performance of the season.
First, to Parents’ Day, which can often be slightly traumatic. I arrive from London with a picnic, lay
out a rug in the orchard alongside hundreds of other parents, only to be
abandoned to eat alone after about 5 minutes of my children’s company as they go and do mysterious things in far off undergrowth, although I am assured it is something entirely curricular.
This year there were more faces missing than usual, nothing of course to do with the fact that the day coincided with Glastonbury. Many a teenager was off school having reported the sudden onset of a debilitating affliction only to return later with hair caked in mud and appearances on Facebook in front of backdrops that by no stretch of the imagination could be described as sick rooms, although with expressions that did indicate heavy medication.
It was Atticus’s birthday on Tuesday when he would be back at class, so I along with the picnic, I brought along a large chocolate cake. As he is a huge fan of the film Gladiator, the icing read ‘Are You Entertained?’ a quote from the hero Maximus Decimus Meridius after he has slain all comers in the arena. By the time I arrived, the heat in the back of the car had taken its toll; most the letters had sunk into the chocolate or slithered down the sides of the cake, so it now read ‘re Y tert ned’ which was a bit more MacArthur Park Klingon than Gladiator.

Wimbledon, under a baking sun in the beautiful No.1 Court; I was the guest of my friends Patrick & Lucinda for the quarterfinals. The crowd was a sea of gracious pastels, waving fans and partisans catcalls. Lucinda had come over all French Revolution and kept up a incisive running commentary while knitting a golf club balaclava at a speed comparable to a top spin forehand. The main protagonists in front of us were accompanied by an extraordinary corps de ballet: linesmen bending their knees in perfect unison for every point and when filing off the court, walked with their identically folded jackets draped over the same arm. The ballboys had also been drilled to perform every task with military precision, from emptying the walls from their canisters, to standing at the back with their arms behind their back during play. They looked more like scampering SuperMario characters than local schoolchildren as they rushed forward to present towels, and while the player walked and mopped, moon-walked backwards in front of them, until the towel was chucked back. Whenever the players returned to the service line for the start of a new point, two boys on either side stood to attention, each holding a ball aloft, their arms rigidly vertical - like a ‘D’ in semaphore. If they didn’t have any, they held their arms down palms out, an ‘N’ in semaphore and the internationally recognized gesture for ‘I got no balls’. The only other place you see chores executed with this sort of precision this is in a casino.
I hadn’t been to Wimbledon in at least ten years. I ran out of interest when all the big hitters came along, but I witnessed something grippingly gladiatorial in Roddick, the lightning server [right] against Hewitt the star returner [left]. The tall, all-American boy pitted against the smaller, archetypal Australian; the wholesome athlete against the stubborn scrapper, both former world No.1s. The pair were so evenly matched it was a game that someone would lose, rather than win. In the end, Roddick found the chink and overpowered Hewitt. It was war, but it was also art. Were we entertained? Yes we were.
I’d go so far as to say we were re Y tert ned.

I was writing about this match for The Standard column and found myself in the strange position of having to leave
the match before the last set, in order to get my copy about it in on time…

The inaugural Café Anglais Scrabble tournament took place on Thursday.
Up for grabs was the Alfred Butts Cup, named after the inventor of the great game, [pictured right]. Runners up played for the Rotorua Plate [named after the NZ city where a Scrabble game ended in a murder.] Fifty-two contestants played hectic one-minute-limit games until supper, amid much laughter and even more cussing. Although not everyone knew each other, they all swiftly bonded by the presence of an arrogant twerp in our midst. From the moment he walked in, he bossed people about, tried to take over and behaved as if the Cup was his entitlement; it was like playing host to an enormous ego, with a small male attachment. When other people, especially women, turned out to be quite as good as him, he was patronising in the extreme and thus the atmosphere entered a state of grace when he was battered out of the quarterfinals by, not only a clever girl, but a beautiful, clever girl with spectacular breasts. Combatants will lock antlers and re Y tert ned again in January.
In the meantime, the heavenly Café Anglais will be hosting a monthly Scrabble Club – & I am trying to persuade them to expand it to include Snatch, Perudo & Backgammon, of which I may or may not be the presiding Madame. Watch this space.

The Great Western did two public performances on Saturday. We rehearsed in Tom The Choirmaster's garden and sounded very wobbly, then set off to sing indoors at a nearby fete . [pictured right, the Tony Soprano section] When we sang for real everything changed. A couple of times I got goosebumps at the wonderful noise that came out of our mouths. The second performance was at a street party in the open air & there it all ran away from us & we sounded pretty ragged.
We are due to perform outdoors at the Big Chill at the beginning of August...eek [that'll be a D flat eek]

Driving to my children’s school to bring back all their books and clobber, I crawled in Friday traffic past huge roadworks. [I’m a sucker for heavyplant – who isn’t?] The project has been in progress for a couple of years as engineers burrow an enormous tunnel into a hillside, into which, the road will one day vanish.
A sprawling caravan site housing the workers has sprung up near the tunnel entrance and flags fluttered above the various sections of the site to denote the nationalities of the workforce – the red dragon of Wales, an Irish shamrock, a Polish flag, Kiwis, the double eagles of Germany and some Romanians [flag pictured left] – or were they Chadians? [flag pictured right] As every anorak knows and to the chagrin of both, those two countries share identical flags. Nice to see that some wandering Confederates had also managed to find work there.

It is possible my next blog may arrive a day late…
I am off to Norway for a week.
I am already excited by the language:
Blomsterbutikk = Flowershop
Sykhus = Hospital, Ferskin = Peach, Drittsakk = Shitbag

Check out
watch it from 50 secs in up to the 2 min's the type of Viking friend I am very much hoping to make.