Thursday, 28 October 2010

Local Derby

Rivalry between Premier football clubs is rife. Chelsea, and all her fans, loathe Arsenal, who loathe Tottenham Hotspurs, who loathe Chelsea. Deep set hatred between waring tribes is part of the spirit of the Beautiful Game.

I don't pretend that it's something I really understand. Being our national game, there's a kind of expectation, I think, that you have a level of passion about it all, but I can't quite shake the feeling that it is, essentially, only a game.

The friction between local teams is the most gritty. Birmingham City v Aston Villa. Newcastle v Sunderland. Manchester United v Manchester City. The competition between these teams often frames the spirit of a whole city. You're either one or the other, bit rarely neither, and never both. Pubs are given over to one side or the other, and woe-betide anyone who fecklessly crosses the line. It's a deeply ingrained and passionate competition.

Liverpool city centre has seen something of a transformation in the last couple of years, culminating in the opening off a large and swanky new shopping centre called Liverpool One. It's typical of big city centre retail developments of the last few years; a big glass roofed beastie full of the same high street retailers that are in every other city centre development in the country.

But this week we got wind of a new tenant there. Everton FC have opened their official club store in the centre, selling everything from pencils to limited edition, framed, signed shirts. A sea of blue and white.

And the shop name?

Everton Two.

That's right. The official Everton club store has the address Everton Two, Liverpool One.

And so the rivalry goes on ...

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A Little Bit Mills McCartney

Seeing the Lovely Lucy mid-week is a rare luxury. On Thursday she had a meeting in London in the morning, so we planned an impromptu late lunch.

When we got to the restaurant, it was busy. A hurrying waiter said they'd lay us a table, so we stood and nattered until, out the corner of my eye, I saw a movement. Our waiter was trying to draw our attention to the table that had been laid for us, using the unconventional technique of jumping up and down and waving his hands in the air.

He was about 5ft 8 tall, and about the same around his middle, bald, and camper than a Bank Holiday at Butlins. He cooed and oohed and aghed at us, and made us feel like his new best friends. When Lucy said that she'd just have a glass of water, he rolled his eyes at me. "Is she always this boring?" he teased, in his soft Scottish purr. "I'm afraid so," I confirmed. We ordered and off he skipped to the kitchen.

So our food came, we ate, we chattered, set the world to rights, and from time to time our waiter came to check we were ok, and we were. He struck the balance between attentive and laid back that suited our mood, and it was all good. When we'd finished our meal, he asked if we wanted coffees, then winked at us pointedly and said they'd be on the house. He told us he'd only worked there a week, and whilst he was at the Gaggia, we speculated on whether he'd still be there in a week's time.

Whilst we were sorting out the bill, Lucy got up to go to the loo. There was one just near where we were sitting, and she made a b-line for it, but there was a kerfuffle at the door. Our waiter, another waiter and Lucy ended up doing a little dance at the door, "after you," "no, no, I insist, after you." After she'd closed the door, the other waiter rounded on ours. "Don't let customers use that toilet. It's a disabled toilet for disabled people. The customer toilets are downstairs." Our waiter waited until the other guy's back was turned, then rolled his eyes at me. When Lucy came back she apologised for causing a fracas.

So there we were, pulling on our coats, and draining our cups, when suddenly our man was back by our side, leaning over our table in a conspiratorial way. "I've just told him, 'you can't talk to that lady like that, you don't know anything about her. You can't talk to her like that.' And then I said to him, 'you see, she's only got the one leg.' So now, when you leave, you've got to limp a bit so he knows."

Limp a bit?! We were both laughing so hard we could hardly stand! I think we might have slightly over-egged our part.

Monday, 18 October 2010

A break for freedom.

This morning, started with the screeching of tyres and the honking of a horn.

It's an alarming way to start a Monday morning.

At first I couldn't see what had caused the snarl up in the traffic, or work out where the horns were coming from, but a dog suddenly appeared on the pavement in front of me, lollopping around in a clueless kind of a way, and the traffic started moving, so I assumed he'd been causing a fray.

He fell in alongside a woman ahead of me, trotting at her heel, running a few steps ahead, hanging back to sniff at something. She dropped a hand to run over his head and he kept pace with her. They appeared to be a happy duo, and together they rounded the corner at the top of the road at the station.

Thirty seconds later I rounded the same corner. Up ahead, on the bridge, was the back view of the woman, but no sign of her dog. I assumed he'd gone on ahead, lured by a particularly tempting whiff.

But no! I stopped at the newsstand at the station entrance, and there was our mutt, sniffing around behind the counter, and nudging the stallholder in the hopes of a scratch behind the ear. The stallholder obliged, simultaneously running his hand around the dog's neck, looking for a collar or name tag, but there were no clues. Mutt took off into the station, ducking under the ticket barrier, in a blatant flaunting of the rules and he was away.

Down on the platform, confusion reigned. "That was a dog!" "What's a dog doing here?" "Who does he belong to?" He wove between the morning commuters, sniffing here, nuzzling there, begging for scraps and attention. All the time the trail was wagging, the tongue was lolling, and he skipped along, keeping just ahead of me.

Then things got a bit hairy. He kept right on off the end of the platform. Where it sloped down at the end to the train tracks, he just kept trucking, sniffing exploring. The crowd got restless.

A combination of quick thinking and lunchbox shaking on the part of one commuter lured him back onto the platform, whereupon he trotted along to my side, looked at me in a happily feckless way, turned himself around, and say on my feet.




Would you mind ...?


OK then.

I scratched him behind the ears and he leaned in. His tail was still drumming the platform, and he wasn't showing signs of moving. This was a dog who was comfortable, thank you very much. Another girl just along the platform watched on, then set off. "I'll go and get one of the men from the ticket office."

So I kept scratching his head and talking to him, and hoping that he wouldn't bolt when the train came. Then the train came and I realised that I wanted to bolt. That was my train!! My new furry friend and I watched the train pull in and watched the train pull out.

So STILL I kept scratching his head.

Suddenly a man was by my side; one of the ticket office men. "You again?" he asked, looking at the dog in mock frustration. He looked to me, "we'll take it from here. Thanks," and he clocked his fingers. The dog hopped up, stretched, and wandered off with the station guard.

And that's as much as I know.

Frustrating, isn't it, to not know what happened next? Well that's how I've spent my day, so I thought I'd share the frustration with you all too.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010



I've been away for a while.

Well the thing is, I was quite busy, and a week went by without a post, then I missed a "this weekend ...", then I thought that when I wrote a post it had to be really good to make up for so much radio silence, but I was still busy, and then writing anything seemed a lot like hard work, which isn't really the point is it? So in short, I haven't blogged for ages because I just haven't. I have lost my blogging mo-jo. (My "blo-jo"?)

But today I did something slightly (very) embarrassing, and it struck me that in the old days (like, a month ago) I'd have blogged about it. So I thought I would ...

So. I had a meeting in Tooting this evening in a part business, part pleasure, part busy-body way, at 6:30pm. That kind of meant leaving work at about 5:45pm. I actually left work at 6:15pm. Woopsa! So I ran, and I ran, and I ran, and I ran, and I got on the Tube. Maybe it was that I was running late and was flustered that discombobulated me.

These days I don't often travel on the Tube. I tend to be all about the overground trains. Perhaps it was this unfamiliarity that discombobulated me.

Then when the train came in, it was rammed. Proper heaving. Maybe it was the general level of over crowding that discombobulated me.

Maybe I wasn't discombobulated at all. Maybe I have a bit of Tourettes.

So. There I was. Out of breath, and wedged in the middle of a very squished train carriage. As the doors closed, and the train set off down the tunnel, the draft that runs through each carriage picked up a scent. On the breeze there was the unmistakable aroma of fried food. And I acknowledged this fact by raising my head, raising my voice, and saying loudly, clearly, and with fine voice projection, "I CAN SMELL CHIPS!"

Fifty pairs of eyes turned on me for a second, then turned to the floor. Fifty people stifled sniggers. Fifty people said nothing. And one person (me) pretended to have said, or heard nothing.