Posts tagged: World Cup

Timing Is Everything

Just back from a fantastic weekend in Birmingham. I know, for some readers that phrase alone, sounds like something completely crazy. Sure Birmingham does have a few negative aspects (a few which I will touch on in this post) but the City is much improved and this was my first visit since late August 2007. A great deal changes in three years. Before I get to the Birmingham segment of my Rock & Roll Weekend, let me start with my Friday working day and then my antics after the close of “play”. Friday is a critical day for me at work and I made a major effort to get into the office for 7:15am, to ensure I could kick off all the processes required for an extremely important report. I wanted to leave at 4pm (although the reality was, I could only leave once the report was ready and released!). Around 4:11pm, I finally was shutting down my laptop and could look forward to the weekend. The pressure had been intense but I had not let it phase me. Instead, I had just focused on the task (or rather multiple tasks) at hand, one at a time. I have to be honest though, it was the thought of the weekend that was keeping me sane! It was going to be great. A complete contrast to my feelings at 07:26am when I quickly updated my Facebook status before cracking on with work.

On the drive home, I blasted the stereo. I could relax, unwind and focus on all the things I had planned for the next few days. You know me though, this was not going to be just your average weekend. I had places to go, people to see and things to do. I got home around 5:30pm and quickly got changed, showered and my Mum gave me a lift to the train station. (There was no freak traffic event in Wycombe, like on Friday 11th June when I ended up jumping out of my Mum’s 308 and rushing into town on foot.) I bought my ticket and headed to the platform, I was perfectly on schedule, I had planned to catch the 18:25 (only two stops before the final destination of London Marylebone). I plugged myself into my Zen and zoned out, I was on my way! I text Niko to let him know I was still coming. It was supposed to be very different, I would normally have been working from home and headed into town on the bus around 5pm or 5:30pm at the very latest. Never mind, those were minor details. I was on my train, I had my music and I was on my way into London. I text Niko to let him know I was on the way and should make it to the pub in time for around 7:30pm. He response was just two words: “Good lad”. At Marylebone, I had to queue at the cashpoint before finally heading onto the tube. I had considered walking around to Baker Street, but then realised I had planned my Oyster Top-Up for the Marylebone Underground station, so that was not going to work. I made my way down the stairs (the escalator is being repaired or refurbished). I took the Bakerloo Line to Baker Street (one stop, I know extremely lazy) and then the caught the first Circle Line train to Liverpool Street. It was here I had originally planned to catch a District Line to Mile End and then the new(ish) London Overground to Haggerston and then walk over to Engelfied Road. This plan was broken, when then train driver explained the District Line was part suspended all the way to Barking. I had to take another option. Coming out of Liverpool Street, into a busy, but pleasantly sunny Friday evening in London. The pubs around the station were spilling out into the streets and after I got some bearings I decided what mode of transport to take now. I called Niko to get the bus number that would take me to the pub. He had sent it across as a message on Facebook to all those attending the affect but I had forgotten the number. It was 145 and I rushed around the bus station (which is adjacent to the train station itself but could not find any sign with that number or heading in the direction I wanted to go. I asked a few people but they were as helpful as a tin of sardines, so I made the executive decision to get a taxi. Although I made a circuit of one of the office blocks, searching for a taxi but they were all already taken. Eventually I find a guy with a free cab and showed him my Google Map print out and he told me it would be between £12 – £15 depending on traffic. The fare came to £8.80, as we had a clear run, unheard of on a Friday night but he still needed to consult my map to ensure he got to the right place. I thought all black cabs had to have an extensive knowledge of not just the main streets but these little hidden gems as well. I arrived and headed up stairs. It must have been coming up to 8pm as I said hello to Niko, gave him my card and started to be introduced to his friends. Then it was time for a well earned drink or two!

Rupa, Dani & Niko

Whenever I go out with Niko, he tends to show me parts of London that are off the beaten track. Although when I started speaking to his friends, they thought I deserved a medal, going from being in my office in Swindon around 4pm, and then being in North London (technically N1) before 8pm. Most of them were locals and the most tedious journey had been two stops on the East London Line.

I had been completely out the picture in terms of the World Cup Quarter Finals, not listening to the radio on my drive from work, or putting on the FM frequency on my Zen. I had asked my taxi driver, but he could only tell me that Holland had beaten Brazil which was a surprise. At The Talbot, the projector had been showing the Uruguay – Ghana match as I had walked it, the first half had been goalless up to that point. After some delicious food (it was a help yourself buffet, rather than the sit down and order individual meals as I had expected and it worked a treat). The projector was switched back on and they showed the penalties, although as I was outside on the terrace, I could not see the screen and let Niko’s friends relay the successful or failure of the penalty taker to me. It was a little while later I decided to call my old work colleague and football nut (he is now player manager of Henley YMCA) to get a full update on the football. He did not pick up his iPhone, but at 23:53 he text me to apologise and ask, “What’s up?”. I immediately called him. At this point in the evening, we had already been told to go downstairs, lack of space, meant we went outside but we then told due to residents, we would have to go inside and use the rear garden area.

It was here that I started to actually take some more photos and noted that Katherine (Niko’s gorgeous girlfriend) had changed into more comfortable flip flops from her rather impressive high heeled stilettos. Girls, will be girls, so they had to get me take a few photographs to explain that this was very much a case of practicality over fashion.

Lan examines that high heel!Lan, Katherine & One Designer Shoe

As we were about to be thrown out of the pub, Niko invited me back around to his flat a minute’s walk around the corner for the after party! It was at this moment I decided to call Chris back and get a full update on the football. Some analysis, not just the name of the goalscorers but details of talking points in the games. This conversation was perhaps the only thing that was going to keep me going until sometime on Saturday afternoon. (The next opportunity I would have to sit down and catch highlights either on TV or PC.). It was great to hear from him again and I was glad he was better after a spout of bad health (although his friends do say his is stuck together with sticky tape).
At the after party, Niko’s brother Toby and his girlfriend Rupa, gave them their present. A photo of Pete Doherty kissing some other band member. I am sorry, I have to confess my lack of musical knowledge in this area, but am sure someone will point out who the guitar player is. (Just leave a comment!)

Present UnwrappingPete Doherty

Niko’s parents, whom live in Chorleywood, up the road from High Wycombe, so offered me a ride home. Otherwise, my Friday night would have ended quite prematurely at 11pm (my last train home was at midnight ten, but I needed to get to Marylebone from deep North London, perhaps another taxi ride). I had a really great time and it was great to meet Niko’s family and friends. He has always been good fun, particularly when we worked together. There are plenty of stories I could upload to this blog but I will leave them for another time.

We left around 1:30am and drove through London (which as you can expect at that time on a Friday night at the height of summer, was extremely busy. I fell asleep, it had been a long tiring day and I knew that tomorrow was another adventure (I was already almost two hours into the day). Niko’s Mum woke me up, asking for directions as we got to Handy Cross and I directed them to the bus stop closest to my house, thanked them gratefully for the lift and then headed home. It was around 2:15am and my weekend had just began.

I woke up around 8:30am on Saturday morning, I was buzzing. It was a mixture of a great Friday night and the promise of a weekend in Birmingham, meeting old friends and perhaps even catching a few moments of the World Cup action. My friend had originally planned to pick me up around 10:30am, and I was all set for this,b ut they were delayed, so were going to pick me up around 11am instead. While I watched, I put the Chris Brown MJ Tribute from the BET Awards (which had been screened Stateside the previous weekend). It was an amazing tribute and surprisingly different. I have had the privilege to see Chris perform Thriller at the World Music Awards back in November 2006. You can see how much he has improved as a performer and entertainer. Sure, I agree that he has done some bad things, but seeing him be so emotional when attempting to sing Man In The Mirror, I can only hope he is trying to make that change.

I had two albums for our drive up to the Midlands, I had got out from the garage (while getting my Cystal XBox) Teg’s a-ha H&D (Headline & Deadlines) Collection. This was one of the first albums that Pav had burnt for me, a personalised greatest hits of the Norwegian trio and included all the case artwork. My other album was a mixture of new songs I had recently heard on the radio and had been playing pretty much non-stop in my car. The drive up the M40 was uneventful, we stopped at Warwick services to get some water and I bought the T3 magazine. It was at this time, we decided that I should take over the driving, although maybe I made the decision more myself. The weather was amazing and apart from the humming from the roof rack (which was costing us an increase of two percent in fuel) I was enjoying the journey.  We put on Drake – Find Your Love and Nicki Minaj – Your Love (which takes a sample of Annie Lennox’s No More I Love You’s). We got to Birmingham just before 1pm, and after dropping of my friend I headed to find Sippy’s yard! I had my sister’s TomTom with me and knew from earlier Google Map searches that I would only have to travel a few miles.

As I entered the area, I came to the realisation that this was very much an Asian heartland, with the takeaways, corner shops and ethnic stores. It reminded a little of Green Street. No, not that Green Street in East London (which I have never been to) but Green Street in High Wycombe, which is the defacto Asian area in my home town. There were cars parked either side of the road and it was very difficult to get down the roads, so being the courteous driver I am, I let other drivers pass by first before attempting to head down. In only one instance did I get a wave of a hand or the nod of the head (the international driver’s code for thank you). As I headed down St. Paul’s Road, I called Sippy. He walked out of his house and met me outside the park. There was a massive community event taking place and the whole area was heaving. I had parked the car up at the end of the the road and followed Sippy to his gate and then he stayed there to ensure I could get in when bringing the car back down the road. Once I parked outside Sippy’s house, I took a long sigh of relief. Then I realised, that perhaps in a few hours I would have to go through the whole thing again!

When was the last time I saw Sippy? Well we tried to remember but it was sometime in late May 2004. In those interviewing six years, Sippy had got married and had a baby girl. It was great to see him again and we shared a Pepsi, (for the record Sippy had a Diet Pepsi) and I handed over the Crystal XBox, to a very happy new owner. Then it was down to the business at hand, transferring some avi files. I got Sippy to transfer over the MTV Movie Awards so he too could see Les Grossman save the awards ceremony. After it was time for some serious work, so we had both the MacBook Pro and iMac burning some DVDs. It was a geek paradise, as you will be able to tell from the photos over on FlickR. It will only be a small percentage of readers and I’m afraid to say the majority of them will be male that will be interested in the contents of Sippy’s network cupboard.

It was great to catch up with my old Uni friend. It had been too long, but then we do tend to get very busy in our own lives and forget some of our friends that in reality are not actually that far away (eighty odd miles). It was just a shame his wife and daughter Zahra were not around, as I was really looking forward to meeting them. However, you can imagne how stupid people must consider this blog post. The hottest day of the year, but instead of being outside enjoying the sunshine, I am inside getting copies of movies. Our time was soon up, I had only been granted a window of a few hours as Sippy had important places to be. I was thankfully for any time, particularly after a gap of over six years. Before I went, I had to work out how to take a self timer photo. The first two attempts I didn’t press hard enough on the shutter release (yes I know I’m sure you have heard it all before!) but third time lucky, I got the shot!

Teg & Sippy

It was coming to quarter to 3pm, as I left Sippy and headed onto the busy streets of Birmingham. I was taken a slightly different route by TomTom, so ended up driving through ford. (Yes the irony, a battered old Ford Focus, driving through a ford). There was a young girl, perhaps about four on the bridge with her Dad and she waved as I drove through the river, so I slowed the car down and waved at her as I then made my way up the bank back onto the main road. I got my bearings instantly and parked up before knocking on the door of my friend’s house.

To my surprise, they were watching the football and as I walked into the lounge, Germany scored! However, it was when I sat down on the sofa, I realised that even though there was a Sky+HD set-top box on, the channel was BBC1 SD, so I got them to change the channel to BBC HD and began to watch my first World Cup match in high definition. (Okay, there was one HD screen at Yates for England Germany the previous weekend, but I had been watching the big projector, so that does not count!)

After some delicious food, prepared by our hostess, I was able to settle down to the football. The man of the house had arrived and the ladies made themselves scarce (into the garden). Match 59 of this World Cup was turning out to be a classic. Germany turning over Argentina as if they were not there. Could it be an all European affair for the final?

We left pretty much at the final whistle and drove into the City Centre, first to New Street to drop off some friends at the stage (whom just made their train by the skin of their teeth, obviously they had not read my recent train related blog post.) We then drove around to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express which was on a one way system, but eventually we navigated to the car park. After checking in, we decided to go into town for a bit before grabbing some food.

As we entered by Tesco Metro to grab some desert and drinks, Spain scored against Paraguay. Luckily there were big screens showing the game live (only SD mind). I saw the replay and realised it was David Villa, top scorer now and odds on for the Golden Boot you would say.

Today was rather a relaxing day actually, a relatively late ish start after breakfast, heading into the Bull Ring, getting some clothes shopping done. I was surprised at how busy the shopping centre was at 11am, just as it had opened. Primark too, had been very busy during the “browsing” time, from 10:30am, even though the tills would not be active for another half an hour. While in H&M trying on cheapish sunglasses, I heard a beautiful song. I took note of just one word from the song, which I believed was the title. Listening to the song when I got home, I realised that this song was special. You get these songs from time to time (or maybe I just look too deep into the songs I listen to and it is all in my head). It was a song I felt was written for me, for my particular circumstances. This is not the first time, I have noted this and written about it on my blog. (With the band Sister Hazel from an entry from early April 2003.) The song is by Charice featuring I.Y.A.Z. and the title is Pyramid. (Check it out on YouTube. Oh and yes, she will be appearing as a guest star in the next season of Glee. I better get a wiggle on and watch the season finale.)

A light lunch at Bella Italia before cruising back down to Wycombe. I got home around 4pm. Rather than collapse on the sofa as I should have done (I could not have in any case, as both my sisters Julie and Natalie were lying on the sofas). I headed straight out to hoover my car and then give it a quick jet wash before, re-fuel and then get back home to relax. It had been a wonderful weekend and I was actually looking forward to the reality of work tomorrow morning.

Four walls and love, packin’ more than enough
Holding on to one another, be the cover when it’s rough
Mother nature or disaster
Won’t stop our happy ever after

Wednesday 9th September 2009

I took a half day today, to go and catch the crucial World Cup Qualifier at Wembley with Chris. While I perhaps could have just asked to leave earlier but it is not the same rushing to the stadium with everyone else leaving work. I would much rather head over and have plenty of time on our hands. However, as it panned I had a few jobs to do in Newbury before I headed over to Henley. The masterplan, which I had formulated, involved driving to Wycombe station and catching the train from there into London. From there we would be able to catch the direct train back to Wycombe from the stadium and then off home. There was no flaw in my plan. We got to Wycombe station, parked up and then headed to the ticket machine. You could hear the eerie music in the background (or more likely the theme from Tales Of The Unexpected. If you are clueless, just ask your parents!). As you may or may not know, Chris and I have a poor history when it comes to car parks, parking tickets and ticket machines. Here was another case in point. We were waiting for the clock to tick over to 16:00 so that we could pay the reduced half day rate rather than the full day rate. So as Chris had his pound coin ready to insert, I snapped a few pictures on my E65 for old times sake.

15:59

We went to Leicester Square and got a bite to eat at the Wetherspoon’s Pub underneath Capital FM studios, Moon Under The Water. I ordered some food but Chris had already eaten but ordered some deserts. They were two for one, so I thought I might as well help myself to the chocoolate pudding. So there I was, eating this pudding for on only my main meal to arrive. Presented by a waitress who looked very similar to Edna Mode but more on that later. “Wrong order…” I said but only got a frained smile from the lady before she disappeared. It was around 6pm now and we decided to head over to Wembley as soon as we could to ensure we got there in plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere.

Sunset over Wembley

The sun was setting in the distance as we made our way down Wembley Way through up to our gate. It was busy and there was a sense of optimism in the air. England were going to qualify with two games to spare and actually not make a meal of leaving it to the last group game. Once we got our progammes and found our fantastic seats, Chris got his flag out and put it on as a cape. Oh no, he was going against the advise of Edna Mode. Please tell me you have seen The Incredibles. If not you have missed out one of the best Disney Pixar animated movies ever. Edna plays the role of costume designer to the superheroes and has a stringent policy of “No Capes”. Chris updated his Facebook status, via his iPhone. Of course, the moment I wanted to update my Facebook status, the iPhone became a glorified mp3 player. The 3G signal was dead and there was no other airwave to jump on, even the Wembley wifi was chargeable. I thought best to leave it for now. We settled down for the match.

A great game to watch, I did not expect Croatia to just crumble, roll over and die like they did. Just hope the country does not get carried away by the result. We are far from world beaters but it is important to make sure you are at the finals and we are. The next stage is fine tuning the team in preparations for those games. The next stage for me is to organise myself to be there for the final. Anyone up for a trip to South Africa?

Friday 7th September 2007

I cannot tell you how glad I am, Friday is finally here. For the first time in several months, perhaps even years I am not in the mood to update this blog but I will because surprisingly I have plenty to get off my chest. The week started with so much promise, so much optimism. Now on Friday evening, I feel deflated, empty and cold. Proof that five days is a long time, even in my relatively lackluster life. I suppose I should not fret, it will all come out in the wash. Can’t beat myself up about it all weekend.

I had to visit a client on Thursday morning, so was on the M25 heading clockwise around North London. The matrix signs warned of delays at Junction 25 and queues from Junction 23. The later is where the London Orbital joins the A1(M). Queues were backed up for over a mile but I was able to bypass them all from the fast lane. As I went past the exit slip road to my left, I changed into the middle lane. Traffic was at a standstill and I had missed my chance to escape. I had no idea how long I would be stuck on here for. My colleague rang me, the meeting had been put back to 2pm and my attendance cancelled. I was gutted. The traffic was not moving. I switched off my engine. I had been listened to an mp3 CD for the past hour or so, so decided to attempt to tune into the radio. I caught the trail end of Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2. What I really wanted to listen to was the traffic report. After a few songs, I switched over to five live. The traffic report was on but I missed the opening segment relating to the M25. After the report, Derbyshire switched back to debate, so I switched back to Radio 2 and then eventually CD. By now people were setting out of their cars to take a look at what the trouble up ahead was. Truckers, securing their lorries, the white van man to my left had fallen asleep at the wheel. I was stuck here for an hour but during the time, finally listened to a news report that Italian tenor Pavarotti had passed away. As if a Hollywood director was producing this morning masterpiece, this is how the my day unfolded. Requests had been flooding into Five Live for Nessun Dorma. They were also asking for people’s memories of the summer of 1990 and more specifically Italia 90. Almost as inspiration, the song came on as the traffic started moving and I took the first exit at Potter’s Bar to get off the motorway turn around and head back down the anticlockwise carriageway. The song came to it’s climax as I joined picked up speed on the M25. Perfect.

I thought back those seventeen years ago, I was eight during that summer. I remember it in glimpses. I remember Coca Cola doing a promotion and offering these mini footballs if you collected so many ring pulls from their cans. I don’t think I got my hands on one but my neighbour had one. I remember kicking it around on the driveway. As for the football, I was not really interested. My love of football would not come around until the next World Cup. I watched some of the matches, particularly Argentina. I watched the England match but was not really that interested or patriotic, I could only name a few of the players. Looking back I regret not paying more attention.

A bumper weekend of sport. With ODI cricket, rugby and international football, what more could a sports fan ask for? I think I will be spending most of the day in front of the television. My friend Charlie thinks I should watch a real ‘man’s’ sport and recommended the All Blacks match tomorrow mid morning. I will give it a go, considering the last rugby match I watched was back in November 2003. (The day before my birthday in fact!)

Wednesday 21st June 2006

This may surprise you but I tend to prefer to watch football in two places. In the comfort of my own sofa, at home. Or at the ground (Highbury and soon Ashburton Grove). I have only ever watched one game in pub group environment. (While you recover from the shock, let me explain). It was the England Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey in October 2003. Looking back I started reading my archives as I often do and amaze myself how quickly the memories start flooding back, often putting a smile on my face. Back then, it was my final year at University and after a group of us wondered around the city centre to find a bar, we headed back to the SU bar and ended up watching there on the big screen. I decided not to go to Canary Wharf on Saturday for the first group game, even though I had until early on Saturday morning been quite open to persuasion. Dave persuaded me to come down to Litten Tree in the centre of High Wycombe. He messaged me while at work and explained he would be down there from around 7pm and to get there early for a good seat. I told him that as I finished work at 6pm by the time I got ready and had some dinner it would be nearer 7.30pm. It would be free to get in, I was assured.

My Dad got in just as I was having my dinner and said he would go down with me. We headed off just before 7.30pm and parked in the Sainsbury car park in Dovecot Street, directly opposite the pub. Walking up, we could see already it was quite busy and a small queue outside. It was student night, Bar 150, all mainline drinks £1.50, and you could tell the crowd was generally quite young. We paid £2 each to get in, which was bit of a joke, but I know of other pubs charging over £5 for tickets which had to be booked in advance. Heading to the bar, I felt the patriotic atmosphere straight away, with classic England songs being sung by drunken men at the back with the loud and deep voices. I text Dave, it was drawing closer to kick-off with a few minutes to go. Then, I looked around to the left of the bar and there he was, queuing for his beverages. He placed his order, got me to hand over the cash, while he went to hand the drinks over to his friends. I then went over to meet and greet them, some whom I knew from before. So we took our places, viewing positions for the match. We were watching one of the plasma screens at the back, but standing right by the staff bar door so constantly had to get out of the way for the bar staff as they came to collect glasses. Never mind, minor interruption. Come on England!

As you know I have regrets by the bucket load, but sometimes you just have to turn opportunities down and go with what you feel is right. My company was holding an exclusive football night at the Hilton in London for clients to enjoy a champagne reception, the game and guest speaker at half time, in the form of Harry Redknapp. At the last minute, due to cancellations, my manager offered two tickets to us in our team meeting. I thought about it for a few minutes but turned it down, as did Chris. We had to be there for 6pm and it would have been a made rush to make plans. Plus and perhaps more importantly I would not be able to wear my England shirt or actually get into mood, with the company and surroundings taken into account. At least down my local pub I could (to a certain extent) be myself. Do I regret turning down this great opportunity. No, not at all. Football is about passion in a relaxed joyful atmosphere. Something you cannot just bottle up and hope works at an exclusive hotel, with all the benefits of a lavish expense account.

So much has been said about the England game already. The injury to Owen. Sol Campbell making a hash of things at the back. Beckham going missing (again?) and Sven still not bringing on the boy wonder, Walcott. What is there really for me to add to the debate that has not been mention over the past twenty four hours. I love England and I love the World Cup but I’m realistic. I am a fan of the beautiful game and the best team deserves to win the competition (although that is not always the case, as I am sure those anoraks out there will be quick to point out). England need to play better and I am sure on Sunday afternoon they will put on an improved performance over the course of 90 minutes. England expects. Much much better.

My Dad has been gathering a great collection for me, of World Cup pullouts, souvenirs, guides, both Panini and Merlin sticker books (official tournament and FA England respectively) and other merchandise, over the past few weeks. My favourite by far are these stamps thanks to Royal Mail.

World Cup Winners

Sunday 18th June 2006

I enjoy the occasional quiet weekend. In recent weeks I have had far too much going on, while enjoyable it is not the same as staying in at home and doing nothing. I say nothing but I have just been watching the wall to wall football from the World Cup. Regardless of the countries playing I will try and catch the match, even if it means watching it in a window on my computer (as I am doing currently with the France versus South Korea game). It is the World Cup, you have to enjoy every second over the next few weeks for it will be another four years before we get the chance again. In 2010, however, I intend to make a big effort to get down to South Africa for some games (without or without England’s qualification. The atmosphere at this tournament, with the fan fest, has encouraged me to go, with or without tickets to enjoy the atmosphere. The main discussion and build up can wait until after 9th July.

Firstly we have to discuss Ghana’s game against the Czech Republic. Now Essien is a great footballer, but perhaps only now is he justifying the record transfer fee that Chelsea paid for him. He bossed the midfield along side the captain Appiah. An industrious performance, scoring an early goal and then a second to kill off the European nation, which is currently listed 2nd in the FIFA rankings. I was very happy for Ghana, to become the first African team to win in this tournament. They deserved it. I was looking forward to seeing them play and they put on a brave performance against the Italians. Here, they seemed to have built up some confidence and actually string some passes together to push the ball forward. The Black Stars to qualify through to the next round? Well if you listen to the jubilant, colourful supporters, you would not bet against it. It would perhaps take another shock in the evening game for that to become a greater reality.

Ever since USA ’94, I have followed the ups and mostly downs of the US national team. Why? I am not really sure, I suppose deep down I want them to do well. While their domestic league is ten years young but still perhaps a light year away from reaching the standard of the English Premiership, I enjoy watching some of their creative players, particularly those’s based in Europe. It must be an English mentality, to want to see the underdog do well. Soccer, may currently be a minority sport in the US, but over time, with a population so vast, it is only a matter of time before they finally arrive with a bombshell on the international stage. It is slowly growing in popularity, mainly pushed by the big immigrant community. Last time around hardly any matches were screened in English, four years on both ESPN and ABC are showing every match. The evening game was a mouthwatering prospect. Italy keen to confirm their position has group winners. The US to claw back some pride after a dismal showing in the first match (often refereed to by the American media as Match Day 1). Before kick off, there are the national anthems. My favourite national anthem by a country mile is the Star Spangled Banner. I wish I could say that my own country’s anthem was as patriotic, to rouse that feeling of unlimited pride in your stomach. The lyrics along with the almost swashbuckling melody makes it bring out the best (and worst) in it’s countrymen (and women). Searching on YouTube for some examples, I came across Beyoncé Knowles performance at the Super Bowl, which is perhaps the only time a celebrity singer really belts out the song, accompanied by full orchestra. The best recording I have on mp3, is by Kelly Clarkson song without any musical backing.

I could comment on the match but I am sure if you saw the match and heard the poor commentary from ITV, you too have made up your own mind on the referee. The BBC give as always, a balanced view on proceedings. Nine versus ten was never going to be a contest but the American spirit saw them through to the end. What makes me chuckle is how before hand, our hacks over at the Guardian World Cup Blog (second only to the BBC) believed it would be a case of getting the biggest score line to truly smash their credentials on the table.

Booked my tickets for the British Motor Show yesterday. I was originally going to attend on Saturday 22nd July but as that clashes with Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial at Ashburton Grove, I rescheduled for the Sunday. The tickets go on sale to silver members, but I have been well informed that as this is the first weekend of the kiddies school holidays, there is a high probability of many fans being on holiday. Last time around, over two years ago I went by myself to the NEC. Chris is coming along this time around, although he did take some persuading. What won him over was the fact that you can actually test drive a selection of cars on the day. Plus, this will be my first visit to London Excel. Expect a full blog report and FlickR set in due course.

Friday 16th June 2006

Well I made it to Friday, there was a slight wobble midweek but we made it. It has been a few days since my last entry and I have been thinking of what to write about. The World Cup has been dominating everything and perhaps the reason I find myself struggling to come out of bed in the mornings is the late highlights show on BBC1. It is all worth it and I do have the long straw in comparison to my friend in the Far East. Daniel has to watch the late evening game in the early hours of the following morning, around 3am! Then wake up a few hours later to go into University. It must be a tough life, but perhaps as he was in the ‘right’ time zone last time around. I have been speaking to him briefly on MSN while at work and commenting on the games (his personal message changes to comment on the most recent match). I love the World Cup, but so do another couple of billion people around this planet.

I should really mention England but there has not been written or said already. Ultimately there are more questions than answers. The team have one last chance to get everything together against Sweden on Tuesday evening. I sincerely hope that Sven has the bottle to bring Walcott on. After all, putting him in the squad last minute took some guts, surely he deserves a twenty minute run out.

YouTube is very addictive. Life threateningly so. You can search for one thing and end up watching a completely different amateur video made by some guys from Hong Kong and filmed on their college campus. I was curious to find what results would appear for the search of “take on me” my favourite (and arguably the people’s) music video of all time. Among all the versions of the video available to view, there was a rare original version before the remix and animated version with which we are all know and love. You can understand why it did not sell many copies. I continued scrolling down the pages and found a gem. The one and only Kanye West dancing to Take On Me at his live performances (he performed it at several on a recent world tour). But this is not the smooth movies we all love him for, but the Carlton dance. Enjoy, but trust me, you will find it hard to close your web browser.

This is the first World Cup with blogging at the forefront of all the action. While the BBC blog (will someone please explain to Gary what it means and what they are) is fantastic, I prefer reading some of the amauteur blogs out there. In particular, My Sofa World Cup discussion every aspect of the tournament including some of the poor television commentary and analysis. There are other blogs out there, but some of the best are linked from the BBC World Cup blog.

Friday 9th June 2006

It has just turned 1am as I begin to write this entry. I should really have gone straight to bed after working on client’s web site but opted to stay up, chat to some friends on MSN and blog. My main motivation is that the World Cup has started and unlike four years ago, when this blog was just beginning, I can now truly discuss how I feel about the biggest tournament on the planet. Particularly after what has been quite a rubbish week by my standards at work. Rather than dig up old news and bore you with the tedious tales from the office I prefer to look at the positive. Dave called me up last night. I was quite low at that time, but his call really cheered me up and made realise that there is so much to look forward to. I hope to meet up with him in September to go to a Palace game, although they will not be in the Premiership (as he had hoped prior to the playoffs). Dave is my best friend and one of the silent readers of this blog. He will read most of the entries but never comment or take part, but he will mention entries from time to time when he rings me. The second person to cheer me up as on MSN and as I had not spoken to them online for what felt like months, it was great to catch up. Hopefully we can speak on Skype over the weekend. Following on from my complaint to Vue, I have four (yes four) free tickets for Vue cinemas. I will be going to see Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift with Pav next week and then hopefully Pirates Of The Caribbean 2 with Clive a few weeks after.

Were you ready for the World Cup? Felt like I have been waiting an age for this day to come around. My digital clock at work, was counting down to this day as soon as the domestic season began in mid August. Chris, also had (although less accurate) countdown as his personal message on MSN. Yet, he was there for the final countdown today, as he was in Spain with his girlfriend. I couldn’t sleep last night, I was too excited. The World Cup, this is what dreams are made of. The tournament for me is the greatest sporting event on the calendar. International football just has an edge of passion, magic and panache, that is lacking in the domestic game. Sure, there are great goals and entertaining players throughout the leagues, but to play for your country in the World Cup Finals is the dream of many (if not every) schoolboy. While the European Championship is a good ‘filler’ tournament, it does not arouse the same degree of interest as this tournament. What I feel the media have forgotten is how that it could have been held here in England. We did bid for it, remember? Then again, seeing the state of Wembley maybe it was a blessing in disguise we did not, and the Germans did. Four years ago, seems such a long time ago, sure it is but then I was able to enjoy the games from the comfort of my student house or here at home. Now I would have to make do with a mixture of BBC Online, DAB Pocket Radio and Five Live AM in the car. Thankfully there are plenty of highlight programmes dotted around the schedules for me to pick up and of course rolling news channels with their own roundup ever fifteen minutes or so.

I am a big fan of Toni Braxton, she has a wonderful powerful, yet satiable voice. My favourite song is perhaps, Breathe Again, which I only rediscovered earlier this year. I found out only a few months ago that she was teaming up with Il Divo to record the official song for the World Cup, Germany 2006. Now, let me set the record straight, official songs for any tournament or event are usually nothing but cash cows to have fans part with yet more money. This song is different, it perhaps does reflect how, we the fans feel when the World Cup comes around every four years. Before this I would place Pavarotti’s version of Nessun Dorma as my favourite theme (anthem is just inappropriate) to a World Cup in my living memory. 1990 was the first tournament I recall watching on television from start to finish. Four years later, in the US of A, they had Daryl Hall with the Sounds of Blackness with the fantastic ‘Glory land’. Although it was more optimistic in nature than full of joy. Yet I think this year’s song beats both. Let me explain why. It is the perfect World Cup song because I had goose pimples all over me, as I heard the arousing chorus for the first time. I think Toni’s beautiful voice makes the song what it is, it needs that woman’s touch. With every football match, there is a sense of expectation, the sense of not knowing what is going to happen over 90 minutes, but knowing this is the biggest stage for footballers and for many a one off experience. I saw the video briefly on the music channels in the hotel in Norfolk last weekend. Having just watched it in full (thanks to YouTube dot com I have can pin down exactly why it works so well. It is pure emotion. Showing some of the magic moments from classic games from yesterday. That is it, the reason why this pointless game is so successful, so special is the emotions we feel, as we win, as we lose. We win together, we lose together. Either way, I hope we all have the time of our lives. To those that do not follow the beautiful game and do not care, they will perhaps never understand. Football is a religion, the players are our gods and this song is, for this year at least our hymn, our sermon.

I tried to watch the opening ceremony on the BBC web site while at work (it was dead on the phones today, by the way) but I missed it, the page just kept crashing due to excess traffic. Thankfully I had asked Mighty Mouse to Myth TV for me from home, so I should be able to download that over the weekend. It will only be the opening ceremony, but then again this is the first one I have ever missed. Call it routine, but I just tend to watch most open ceremonies for most events. Time for bed, in less than twelve hours England play in their opening group game.

Wednesday 24th May 2006

With the World Cup less than fifteen days away, a fantastic way to keep tabs on all the World Cup matches you dare not miss. While I could link directly to the site, hold on I have! I actually read the story over on the GU Technology blog.

Some of you may have noticed the site was down from around 11pm last night until around 7pm this evening. The reason for this is my monthly bandwidth ran out for the second time since I moved over to 123-Reg as my hosting solution. So, after some thought while in the office I have upgraded to the next level of web hosting, which gives me 250mb of space and much more bandwidth every month. Hopefully, unless this site becomes far too popular, I should never exceed the limit again. One of the causes in the recent increase in visitors, has been the inclusion of my brief review of Da Vinci Code on the Canadian news digest web site The Info Zone. The article tries to get a feel for the general response on the movie from the blogosphere. My site is steadily growing in popularity and I am sure by the end of the year more and more blogs will link to me. It would be good for the site to be on the weekly radar of avid web servers and blog readers, just like myself.

Thought I would give a quick roundup on plans for the weekend and beyond. Firstly, booked tickets yesterday for Pav and I to go see X Men 3: The Last Stand at the Vue in Reading. While they are perhaps not top of my list of favourite super heroes, the movies generally have been very good. My dear friend, Sippy is a much bigger fan of the whole franchise, but as he is spending less and less time online I doubt he will review it on his now, almost abandoned blog. He saw the first two movies at the cinema, whereas I saw the first one on DVD at University and the second on Sky Movies Saturday Premiere, during my placement year. Both movies are very good, but even so, I prefer Spiderman, Superman, Batman and even Indy before the X-Men. I suppose deep down, I will always compare with the television series, the animated cartoon, which was very good, but sadly finished in 1997, just after I had grown out of children’s television and switched over to the grown up variety. Nevertheless I am really looking forward to the movie, mainly because I just love super heroes, any super heroes and of course the first spin around in the M3 since our Germany trip at Easter, over a month ago.

Moving on, Saturday will be spent shopping, mowing the lawn and cleaning the car (if the weather holds). Sunday will be a good day (or so I hope). I am heading towards the south coast for my first ever music festival. The HiFi Music Festival has been plugged heavily by KISS 100 for the past few months and Pav is heading down with some friends and invited me along. Tickets are not cheap, but I thought for the experience I might as well go and have some fun. Although having said that my ticket hasn’t arrived yet, although a special delivery package did attempt to be delivered this morning and will hopefully be redelivered tomorrow. I will leaving Wycombe around 1pm and spending the night down there. All part of the full festival experience I am told. I will of course try and take as many photographs and come back refreshed on Monday with a full account of the day and night. Hope you have a great Bank Holiday Weekend, whatever you get up to and that the weather is kind, in your part of the world. Initial reports predicted rain in Winchester, but Pav has just sent me a link and the weather report now is quite clear and warm. The wellington boots can go off the shopping list.

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