Friday, April 28, 2006

My Grass is Greener

Right now my little bit of the world is a great little place to be. It's been like this for a while now and there is no one thing (except for the sense that summer is coming - I think I need to stop my oft repeated claim that 'I am not bothered by the weather') that is identifiable as the cause. I've been in a good mood for as long as I can remember and that feels pretty damn good.

Oh, and I'm turning into my father. This week I started making a vege garden and got quite excited about it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

He shoots... and he misses

A conversation between Muzz and myself this evening. Muzz is in Auckland, I am in Oxford:

Muzz: Working in cafe in titirangi. M N Jones is at the next table. (M N Jones is one of the finest people to play rugby for NZ and one of the finest servants of the game. But his autobiography was a bit dull).
Richard: Wow. Say Hi from me. I sat next to Thom Yorke for an hour last month.
Muzz: Who the hell is Thom York?
Richard: He sang a song called karma police and has made two of the finest albums the world will ever hear.
Muzz: Oh, the Radiohead guy. Shit I'm ignorant.

By the way, Muzz, a very happy 40th birthday, you great and beautiful man.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Random Musings

(Pointless mutterings for my benefit more than for yours)

Easter: A mix of church and tourism spent hOME and abroad. Easter Saturday at Dorchester Abbey, Easter Monday Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. Westminster Abbey memorable for the communion disaster where a elderly clergyman with limited hand control attempted to baptise me in the chalice and resulted in my dribbling on the floor of the abbey while a somewhat younger clergywoman with impecable hand control dished out the bread. Was crying out for a trading of places.

The Tower (at fifteen groat, not worth the entry price - how have I gone twice?) was spent with Malcolm of New Zealand and Fiji and his girlfriend of Cambridge (this will require some work) and a million other tourists. I should stay away from tourist attractions. They are expensive, crowded, and I feel strong urges to yell at and punch people. No doubt the sentiment is returned. But people in these sorts of places are very selfish, and clueless with it. All that stopping in the middle of the path to get inside the map. In the case of the elderly German tourist, it was not to stop in the middle of the path, but to get very upset at the person who had stopped, grab them and everyone around them, and yell 'Schnell'. I yelled "wait!" back, got pissed off and admired his lack of control. How will people learn without him? But it was very good to see Malc again and meet the girl.

Brendon McLeod of the Fugitives was back in Oxford last week. He was the QI bar for a Hammer and Tongue gig. it was good to see him without the rest of the band and he was in good form. Less could be said for the venue. The bar was good, the food average and overpriced, and the staff ambivalent to the gig surrounding them. The venue has that certain air of pretenciousness about it, as can be seen by their rules - I especially like:

Men may not approach women directly. If a lady would like to speak to you, she will let you know. Men may ask a member of staff to introduce them to a lady.

Apparently Stephen Fry has something to do with the place.

But having been away from H and T for a while it was good to hang out with Steve and the rest.

Three Kings: £3 at a chain store near you and much better and poignant at second visit.

Friday, April 14, 2006

How does it feel?

Tonight, in an act of genius creativity (is that an oxymoron?) the BBC put on the Manchester Passion. The Manchester passion is the story of Jesus as told through the music of Manchester. It featured Darren Moffit as Jesus, Tim Booth of James as Judas and Keith Allen as Pontius Pilate. Ok, so I'd only heard of Tim Booth before this evening...

But the music included James' sit down, Oasis' wonderwall and cast no shadow, Joy Division's love will tear us apart, The Stone Roses' I am the Ressurection, The Smiths' heaven knows I'm miserable now and Jesus and Judas singing New Order's blue moon on monday to each other:

"How does it feel? To treat me like you do. When you've laid your hands upon me and told me who you are."


As Pilate and Jesus sang "Because maybe, you're going to be the one that saves me" I was starting to choke up. I seem to be doing that a bit recently.

I say it again.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Lucky? I don't think so

In response to Naomi's post about being cheered up last week I offer this:

Last night WCC had its pre-cricket season dinner. It was a good night and a good chance to catch up with some friends. As second eleven captain I get to give out two awards, one being my player of the year and the other being the youth player of the year. Both were dead easy decisions, Ricky Prescott being the second eleven player of the year and Tim Treadaway being the youth player of the year. Tim won his award due to his enthusiasm in captaining the under 15 side that had a remarkable season in winning every match while the adult sides conspired to implode. He made my job as manager of the side extremely easy. As I gave him the trophy he handed me an England cricket shirt that was signed by Tim and his players. I could have cried.

Then last night I came home to this email from a guy I taught in Mexico last week:

Hi Richard

I am happy to receive the attachment, thanks a lot for your rapid response and for your help, I am very interested to use correctly the software, then I am going to star the use with a simple problems, and I hope when I found some problems (I think and y hope they will a few) I can get some help for you.

I insist, you are welcome in cuernavaca, my house is your house, you can come for vacation, it is a great place, because is near to many cities and towns very peculiars.

I`m sorry for my poor English,

Have a good weekend

I could have cried.

Over the past month or so I have has wonderful hospitality from people such as Patrick (I haven't forgotten your CD, Patrick), Jane, a bunch of people in Mexico, Grant and Rebecca in Dallas (sorry, Flower Mound) and I'm sure there are others. I remarked to David, my translator in Mexico as we took the bus between Cuernavaca and Mexico City that in my job and my life I am extremely lucky with what I have been given and what I get to do. David looked me and said, 'we're not lucky, we're blessed'. It's made me think a whole lot this past fortnight about what that means. And what I'm going to do about it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Paper Reduction

After all the 'have you been a Nazi' and 'are you planning to commit a crime or immoral behaviour' questions on the US immigration form is the following. Note the spelling mistake and Paperwork Reduction Project. You might need 'ro' click on the image to see it all.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Seven beers, a football match and some chickens

Ok, as some of you know, I've been trying to go dry. This hasn't been working out so well in Mexico. There is an expectation that I will have a drink. Or two. Or seven.

Last night I went to my first ever football match. Los Tigres of Monterrey were playing Los Tecos of Guadalajara. The tigers versus the owls. My company for the evening was Jose-Luis, one of the brothers who run the firm I am visiting in Monterrey, his nephew Mario, and two of Mario's friends. Jose Luis drives a Dodge RAM, the biggest ute/SUV/truck I've been in. Jose-Luis speaks very good English but doesn't understand a word when it is spoken back.

So we go to the stadium. Jose-Luis and his brothers are responsible for the turf here. It is good looking grass. As we climb the stairs to our seats, he introduces me to one of two people who will conspire to get me drunk. I shake hands with Andreas, our 'bartender'. Andreas is lightning quick when opening multiple bottles of Carta Blanca, one of the sponsors of the evening. Before long there is a significant pile of CB bottle tops adorning the stairs at his feet.

The Bartender

The stadium is a sea of blue and gold. 40,000 people have come to cheer on the local side, while up behind the scoreboard and right beside (or on top of) the fireworks are the thirty Tecos supporters that have dared make the trip. I'm sure their were more before the fireworks were set off. This is just one of the ploys adopted by Los Tigres to put of their opponents. Later, whenever their players have the ball, the ground announcer thanks the sponsors. These include Cemex (that enormous cement factory), Coca-Cola, Carta Blanca and the tongue twisting Peter Piper's Pizzas.

The pre-match entertainment is a continual series of cheerleaders, a barrage of teashirts into the crowd and a man wearing a spiderman shirt (sponsored by Coca-Cola) who is doing astonishing work while holding a bottle of coke and, occasionally, who I can only presume is his two year old daughter. Whether or not the coke gives him his powers is a moot point. Occasionally he leaves his daughter to perform more tricks. She is non-plussed as both teams are warming up my kicking footballs around her at high velocity.

The home fans

The action. In the far corner are Los Tigres Locos, or the crazy tigers. They sang and danced non-stop for 90 minutes

Jose-Luis, the second man conspiring to get me drunk, continues to order beer from Andreas. One for you, one for me. I am impressed that I am matching him beer for beer and increasingly disturbed that he is also my ride home. As the first half continues, Los Tigres dominate through a mixture of their own skill and the timing of the ground announcer. They get the ball in the back of the net and the stadium erupts. Jose-Luis wags his finger at me. 'No goal' he states and after a dissappointed moment we all sit back down. There is distressingly little protest from crowd and players.

Half time and it is still nil-nil. Spiderman is back with his coke bottle, but his daughter is absent. Presumeably she has gone to bed and not been knocked out by a football. Suddenly some bales of hay are laid out all over the field. Two teams of children appear at each end, one in white the other in red. The ground announcer shouts 'uno, dos, tres!' and a man in a cowboy hat releases something. For a minute I can't work out what it is, until I realise it is a chicken. The two teams chase the chicken across the field until one scrags it to the ground and holds it aloft triumphantly. They go back to their places, and with an 'uno, dos, tres!' they're off again. I find myself cheering for the chicken. On its third attempt, it jumps the ditch that surrounds the field and gets away. After another chicken is found, the teams are back at it, and eventually the nasty white team from the far end emerge victorious, 4-2.

Somewhere here is the chicken.

The battle for the football resumes and this time Los Tigres are playing towards our end. They completely dominate but are thwarted time and time again by the Tecos goalkeeper. Suddenly it is fulltime and Los Tecos escape with a draw. No goals, no fights, no yellow cards even, but a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Jose-Luis pays the bartender, who shakes my hand profusely. Jose-Luis and I have knocked back 14 Carta Blanca between us.

The cups. Jose-Luis would place the new beer cup inside his old beer cups as he drank. I tried this but only managed to spill beer down my shirtfront.

We negotiate traffic and on the affirmative answer to Jose-Luis's question 'you like beef' we go and find a restaurant. As we sit down, he orders another beer. I have obviously been influenced by spiderman as I order a coke. As Jose-Luis starts his beer he points to it and says 'twelve. Four before the game, seven during the game and now this'. The man who is driving me home has drunk a dozen beers without having a visible effect. My seven beers have removed my fear, so I accept his ride home.

I can't say that no chickens were harmed in the making of this blog.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

You're welcome

A wee add from the United Church of Christ in America can be found here.