Foot news

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This is my foot. Yesterday. It’s succumbed to a mystery swelling. Sprained? Probably. Fractured? Possibly. All I know is, it hurts. A lot. Still, at least my work is sedentary.

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Where is the bulldog spirit?

Watching Friday’s football international between England and Montenegro made me nostalgic. Not because I follow our national side, or indeed football itself, with any great passion. I ‘m afraid these days I sit firmly in the camp that feels today’s proponents come with high salaries, low morals, and little else to offer the world. But that’s why I enjoyed this game. Not for the football, which was rather boring, but for a return to an emotion I have long since missed in football – national pride.

When Montenegro scored their second goal to force a draw, they went ballistic. The ground erupted, the players hugged their fans, a nation unified. This wasn’t some brow-beating, egotistical celebration of the like enjoyed by many of our Premiership footballers, but a genuine burst of patriotism to bring all together. And I found myself reminiscing. Remembering the days when watching England was like that. The Stuart Pearces and Tony Adams’ and Terry Butchers and Bryan Robsons who went for it, and absolutely gave their all for the Three Lions – not for the twelve-bedroom mansion, diamond-earrings and inflatable tabloid models that seem to drive players today.

And that’s my problem. Today’s England players just don’t seem like they’re up for it. I suspect they’d rather be back with their clubs, pocketing their salaries. It’s all about the bank balance, and playing for England is secondary. The bit-on-the-side. Sometimes I don’t blame them. The excitement of the Premier League, with its riches and multinational talent and close competition is probably far more alluring than turning up for England. Let’s face it, most international games are a waste of time. Hopelessly mismatched qualifiers, tedious to watch. Only the knockout tournaments really ignite interest. But it’s been allowed to get like that – it doesn’t mean it should be like that.

An apology. Of sorts.

Right. Best get it out of the way. Sorry. I have been startlingly remiss of late, having not contributed to my own blog for some two weeks. The blogger’s ultimate sin. For this I apologise. Truth is, I’ve been busy with other things. Which sounds a little disrespectful, until I reveal that these ‘things’ have involved copywriting. A lot of copywriting. Probably six point five days a week during September. Wonderful for me, if a little boring for my blog readers.

I’ve had the pleasure of working on a range of projects for a variety of people, and while I’m not sure I’d want to be as hectic every month, I’m immensely surprised and grateful that I was in what was my first month of freelancing. Thank you, all.

For pheasant’s sake…

Driving to work yesterday morning, I was unfortunate enough to witness a fellow driver deliberately mow down a pheasant in his haste to get to work on time.

Now I appreciate that the pheasant is a stupid bird. With no discernible road sense whatsoever. I also appreciate that when one runs out blindly across a main road, there’s not much one can do to avoid it. The risk of roadkill is incalculably high. But this was different. This was premeditation murder. ‘Murder most fowl’, if I was feeling humorous. But I’m not. I’m a little bit angry. Because the truth is that this pheasant was in the road ten seconds or more before it was killed.

It was stationary and easily visible. Clueless, but eminently avoidable. A touch on the brakes and no one needs to get hurt. But no. This driver was just too selfish to wait. After all, he had to get to work six seconds quicker. He had to make that little bit of extra ground just to queue pointlessly behind the car in front.

I realise it’s stressful driving on our rush hour roads. I realise that a punishment of living on an island as ludicrously overcrowded and rat-race-minded as this is to endure these thoughtless clowns hammering their hatchbacks every morning. But dear God, do they really need to plough through innocent birds while doing it?

I felt a tinge of disappointment as I watched the pheasant spin lifelessly across the tarmac before the cloud of strewn feathers came back down to rest. We should be better than this.

Idle banter

D’you know, this occurs to me every year. About this time of year.

I’m in the kitchen making what will be a most welcome tea after an hour spent raking leaves off the damp garden. It’ll taste nice. What isn’t tasting so nice, however, is the juddering sound of an idling car engine on the residential road outside. It’s annoying, it’s pointless, and reminds me of something I always think about at this time of year.

I realise it’s a little colder now. I realise engines need to be on to heat cars. But we’re not sub-zero just yet. There are no icy windscreens or frozen roads. So why oh why the need to leave your car engine running for ten minutes with no one inside?

I’m no environmentalist. I’m not even convinced there is any credence in global warming theory. But I do know that it’s unpleasant for everyone else’ ears and noses to leave an engine running outside their front door, parrticularly when it’s a loud, diesel-fumed chavmobile whose sole purpose is to be showcased to other chavs.

So drivers of Britain, join me in the war against idling. Turn off those stationary engines! Take control of those over-zealous chavs! And make the streets of Britain a quieter place. After all, itks bad enough with the planes already.

Saturday night, Sunday morning

A friend of mine came over last night for drinks. I decided we should go somewhere a little different; somewhere we’d never been before; a proper country local with a fire and local fayre.

I opted for the Rising Sun in Witheridge Hill. And a good discovery it turned out to be! What started as a quiet pint in the garden (unusually warm for October!) became a game of Trivial Pursuit with and against the affable locals, which ran on into the evening and brought with it the warm bonhomie that I’d hoped for. It’s a cycle ride away, but flanked by total darkness, just the kind of welcome retreat that rural England does so well.

Sunday satisfaction

It might sound like a cliche, but there genuinely are some days when one is glad to be alive. Today feels like one of them.

I’m high in the Chiltern Hills, a mug of tea by my side and a paper in my lap. If I look up from it I can see the hills rolling away to Henley and beyond, framed by a deep, bright blue sky and the welcome re-emergence of butterflies seizing an unexpectedly warm breeze. The dog doesn’t much like the heat but she looks as relaxed as I feel, spread out on the shady lawn. Earlier I spent half an hour walking the fields, and another half casually photographing birds opportunistically feasting on grain from the terrace. It’s a sleepy kind of a day, and it’s rather wonderful.