Monday, September 26, 2011

Achtopus

Due to inexcusable excuses the nipper’s monthly update was delayed for excuses inexcusable whose inexcusabilty being inexcusably repeated negates the inexcusable making the excuse of whatever it was I was excusing (I can no longer remember) very much excusable indeed.

Most parents wait for their kids’ teeth to show at this stage. We’re waiting for his extra arms. The ones he has never stop. Two ain’t enough. He’s a flippin’ octopus. An arm for each month.
When he lies on his back, he’s a conductor leading a beautiful symphony somewhere in the heavens; when he’s vertical he’s grabbing, ripping, slamming, slapping, scraping, clutching or shaking the shit out of whatever he can. Jenny’s poor hibiscus is fucked. I told him she’d be mad but he wouldn’t listen – he still pretends not to understand us.
This was the month he learned to slither around. He’s pretty good at it, can gather quite a speed. He moves like a lizard, the resemblance all the more striking as he sticks his tongue out from time to time, while a lack of any hair worth talking of makes the resemblance uncanny. I presume hair would just slow him down. He doesn’t blink either. For some reason blinking is beneath him, like his belly. I don’t know why.
No sign of any teeth yet. Jenny got all excited and rang me in work to tell me of one emerging but it was a false alarm. “A crumb,” as Dáire suggested. He slobbers like a jawless alcoholic so there must be something stirring – the nipper that is, Dáire only slobbers a little bit.
But the nip remains in great form, despite his snacking pleasures being curtailed at night so his mother can get some sleep.The racket he makes in protest means none of the neighbours can sleep either. His hunger knows no rest.
He’s prone to little growling grunts of feigned rage when he doesn’t get what he wants but at least he’s easily reasoned with. “Go on outta that,” does the trick for now. Except at night.
It’s obviously easier to give him what he wants, but we’re both careful not to spoil him. Having said that, he’s got enough toys to open his own shop and more clothes than I’ve ever had in a lifetime. If he keeps growing at the pace he’s set, I’ll soon be able to look forward to a few hand-me-downs.
Of course we feed him too – he’s still eating the mush with a face as mushed as the mush – and we bring him for walks and try to keep him happy at all times. You can tell he wants to eat our grub though and drink my beer. “Not till you’re five,” I tell him as he makes another lunge for the bottle. Perhaps I should clarify that’s five years. He’s been lunging for the last three months.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Athletic break

Time for a break. Since August 5th I’ve worked every day bar three – from 46. Now I’ve a week off! Happy days.
Don’t get me wrong, I remember looking for work and am eternally grateful to have this job, but Jaysus I need a break. I staggered over the finish line last night, exhausted, not fit in mind, spirit or body – if any of the three exist anymore or ever did.
Last week was Vitali Klitschko knocking the crap out of someone, athletics at Berlin’s Olympiastadion, Champions League, Bundesliga, and then even more athletics in Zagreb, where I was invited to the athletes’ party afterward but couldn’t go on account of my labours. In fact, I didn’t have one beer in Croatia!
For Real Madrid vs. Dinamo, there was no wireless and none of my USB sticks worked, leaving me to ring London with my the match report before the phone died at the thought of the exorbitant roaming costs. This, for a Champions League game. 
An absolute nightmare. The Bad Blue Boys (Dinamo’s notorious ultras, not mischievous smurfs) were well-behaved, their worst being to needle Cristiano Ronaldo with chants of “Messi, Messi, Messi!” He seemed to see the funny side.
So tomorrow we’re off on a little holiday! Jenny booked it and it’s supposed to be a surprise but she let it slip so many times, I’m starting to think it may be a cunning ploy to get me thinking I’m going somewhere when, in fact, we’re going somewhere else. Who knows? I won’t spoil it by telling. You’ll just have to Czech back!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Zagreb

Rushing to conclusions after limited exposure is the only way to offend people and get away with it. In keeping with the man who brought me to Zagreb, my impressions of the city were forged in a bolt from the airport to the hotel to the venues and back. Damned quickly. I liked it.
It’s crumbling but fine with magnificent façades worn down and weary, somehow purveying greater dignity in their ornate decay than they ever could in their pomp, the supposition of a former grandeur far greater than mere bricks and mortar can ever be.
There’s beauty in its chipped, marked, used, flaking and eroding buildings, a reminder of what Berlin must have been like before they ruined it with refurbishments.
Soviet-style boxes of unimaginative decrepit flats can be found further from Zagreb’s centre, cut off by ring fencing to prevent the occupants’ escape. Long corridors stretch out under strip lighting throwing its blinding glare on the monotony of battered door after battered door after battered door, blaring TVs jostling for dominance among the pigeon-holed neighbours. Sometimes refurbishment is good.
But the centre’s pretty, populated by blue trams, hardly any traffic and squillions of studentskis. The place is crawling with studentskis and café bars, everyone sitting outside basking in the sunshine. The sunshine! Jaysus, I had to ask a local what that was.
They read a lot and don’t talk to each other much. Out of a group of four auld ones sitting outside on the steps, three would have heads buried in books or newspapers, with the other content to watch the world go by.
There were noticeably few fat people anywhere. Either they eat very well or they don’t eat at all. Maybe they’re cannibals and the juiciest and most succulent just get eaten. As I said, impressions were formed quickly. Perhaps too quickly.
Being relaxed and well-fed (or not), the people are very friendly and pleasant, possibly to the detriment of everything else. They tell you what you want to hear, rather than any truths which might be found unpleasant.
They’re worse even than the Irish, who will (understandably) flower unpleasantness to make it more pleasant, soften the blow of bad news in consideration for the recipient. Of course a German will do neither, delivering bad news with sledgehammer accuracy and the wherewithal to omit consideration but not any painful detail.
Croatians are the other extreme. On the way in from the airport, normal radio service was interrupted by a traffic report in English assuring us there were no delays anywhere in the country, that traffic was moving along just swimmingly everywhere. Of course, we were stuck in a traffic jam at the time. With the tourists duly mollycoddled, the service resumed in Croatian – presumably the real traffic report.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bolting from AP to Z

All these dealings with the world’s fastest has me going to places I didn’t know I’d be going to until now. Well, until this morning, when I found out Usain Bolt – really the fastest man in the world – is bringing me to Zagreb tomorrow!
“Who’s Usain Bolt?” I was asked today. “I'm not really into horse racing. With a name like that he must be a flier!”
It’s my foreignest and glamourest assignment yet. All that expense, time and effort for a race that will last less than 10 seconds. It will be over by the time I finish typing this sentence.
Usain himself isn’t bringing me of course, but the head honchos at the AP decided that “the Muhammad Ali of athletics” is worth a correspondent in case he breaks another world record. He probably will. He was kicked out of the last 100 meters he was in for a false start, so he’ll be gunning to make amends tomorrow.
Christ, I don’t know what I’ll do if he does. Explode. It’ll be my job to let the world know as soon as he’s done it. I’ll need a reaction time quicker than his.
So I’m off in the morning. Flight’s booked, hotel booked, accreditation sorted. My contact in Zagreb, Darko, seems to be a wizard at arranging things. Despite the short notice, I’ve also been approved for Dinamo Zagreb vs. Real Madrid on Wednesday night! Then back to the Bundesliga on Thursday. A Bolt back to normality.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Faster than the fastest

I just raced the fastest man in the world. And won! The 100m world champion Yohan Blake may not have known he was in a race, but no matter.
We were in a lift at the Hotel Ellington. Alone. Not a word was spoken. Eyeball to eyeball. Tension building. Floors counting up: 1-2-3...
As soon as those doors opened at the fourth floor, BAM! I was gone.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

C'été

Seasons are like buses – they never arrive when you want them to, if they arrive at all.
Summer never bothered showing up, and now we’re hurtling inescapably into the deep, dark winter. I still haven’t recovered from the last one, and the thoughts of it clasping us in its cruel icy grip sends a chill to my heart even before its icy grip does.
Autumn you say? Autumn me arse. I can’t enjoy it, not knowing the impending hell about to follow. I’m genuinely dreading it, don’t know how I’ll cope, have a knot in my stomach, am shivering at the thoughts of it alone.
I had to buy my jacket for the second time today. The nipper casually lost the one I bought the first time. I was waiting for him to buy me a replacement but panic got the better of me in our battle of wills.
All the sensible animals will hibernate or fly away of course, but I fear neither are options. Not anymore. Suffering is the best we can hope for now.