24 September 2007

Even Fancier

I did have one respite from the rugby at the weekend: Mrs B and I went to Casino Royale party. That's right: bleeding fancy dress again. But thank goodness for an easier theme: the party was at a riverside restaurant bar so I parked up on the opposite bank, donned my pale blue speedos and swam over.

I fancy I made quite a splash. And not just when I jumped in.

A splendid evening, even despite the barman refusing me a cash back on my Northern Rock debit card. Where's Felix Leiter when you need him?

23 September 2007

Trying Times

This last week I have been mostly watching rugby.

One week down, three long weeks to go.

Last Thursday my son and I pinned up the Times World Cup Wall Chart in the same, prominent place that Mrs Botogol has accorded all world cup wall-charts since 1995 - the inside of the coat cupboard door - and on the Friday evening we solemnly inked in the humiliation of France. Then we lost interest in the chart, and since then haven't entered a single result. Something to do with watching England I think. And tripping.

When I haven't been watching Rugby on the television, I have been watching it in the flesh, and when I haven't been watching it in the flesh, I've been coaching it, and when I haven't been coaching it I've been refereeing it, and when I haven't been refereeing it I have been talking about it at dinner parties. (A thought: is there too much rugby in my life? Can there be too much rugby in anyone's life?).

When I sit and think about it, I don't know why I even watch the pool stages of the World Cup: an endless procession of well meaning, brave but ultimately hapless minnows bullied and overcome by a ruthless, foreign superior force with whom they simply can't compete. I mean: if I want to see that, I can see it at work.

At work, my boss's boss has a new boss. Not that anyone has left: No, the new boss (my great-grand-boss you might say) is an extra layer of management inserted between my boss's boss and his boss. The uber-boss. We call him the uber-boss - the other middle managers and I - because he's as far up the chain as we can imagine. We are told on the intranet that the uber-boss himself has a boss, but emotionally it's hard to conceive what such a person would be like - a person of whom it is said that he reports to the ur-boss himself, the CEO, the one who appears on the webcasts.

When I say that no one has left, I should say: no one has left yet, for last week the minnows actually got to meet the Kwisatch Haderach [my great-grand-boss. Yes the new one...keep up] and, well, let's just say I reckon we are in only the pool stages of the RWC of our next grand re-organisation, that the charts are not dry on next week's powerpoint and at high levels some yellow card offences have been noted: Lack of directio, Disorganisation,Tripping. That sort of thing.

Why is tripping so bad in the list of Rugby sins anyway? For there is no two ways about it: in the hierarchy of grievousness tripping occupies a top spot: worse than punching, trampling, stamping, testicle squeezing and eye gouging, not as bad as biting, spear tackling or failing to get your round in.

Goodness, I once saw an eight year old sent off for tripping.

Although, oddly enough, it was his father he tripped; who was also the coach; and the referee. Fortunately you normally get tripped only if you are carrying the ball.

09 September 2007

Autumn Heat

Lately in London it has been unseasonably warm; and I have mostly been running for trains.

It's also been September. September is the month that SouthWest trains turn off the air-conditioning and switch on the heating.

Consequently, I have been very hot; and my my suit doesn't even have ventilated armpit holes, either, so when I say "hot", your mental picture should be "looks like he was caught outdoors in a hurricane".

Wednesday was hottest. I was in a hurry; I forget why; and I emerged from the underground at Waterloo just 87 seconds before the train left, which in the madcap world inhabited by Southwest trains means 27 seconds before the gates shut. So reader, I ran.

Much later, as I stood in the crowded aisle wiping the sweat off my blackberry, I reflected on my mistake. And on my bad luck for not only was it the hottest, most humid, sweatiest Wednesday for 47 years (I blame Gordon Brown), it was also the 1-day test match at the Oval and at Vauxhall 3,141 fans boarded. Singing.

When I say 'caught outdoors in a hurricane', by the way, I do mean Katrina. Not George or Eric or some other inconsequential tropical storm. Oh no.

At Raynes Park a seat became vacant, right before me. The woman next to it was so alarmed at the prospect of my sitting there, she gathered her possessions and escaped to the next carriage.

I judged it best to remain standing.

When I left the train at Kingston, three girls giggled and pointed at me behind my back (at my back probably) and most rudely, I thought. I would have stopped and remonstrated with them, but I simply hadn't got time, and instead I sprinted for the excess fares collector, in the hot corner near the ticket barrier.

I didn't want to be even later for New Parents evening

05 September 2007

Flowers and Memories

This morning, for some reason, I forsook my normal Guardian and bought The Times. On the platform, waiting for my coffee to cool, my train to arrive and my blackberry to synch, I read the births, engagements, marriages and deaths.

Normally when I do that there it is, smack in the middle: a name I know (the name that - presumably had already caught my subconscious eye and prompted my conscious read). This morning, however, I didn't know anyone.

But, even so, one of the sparse, 9point, close-spaced unknowns brought a lump to my throat (I have become so much more readily moved in my middle-age): an old man who died, aged 97, just 19 days after his wife.

But why don't people, any more, want flowers at funerals? What could be better than a simple gift of flowers: beautiful yet ephemeral, costly but without value? Instead we are asked, tackily, to give money to sad donkeys, or some such, to be totalled up and reckoned in a table of relative (and relatives') grief.

When I die I hope presents, donations and flowers are simply not mentioned, and that people will perhaps just come. Just come. And, if they come, their flowers, should they think to bring any, should be made so very welcome, but they bring no cash in their pockets to be offered up by direction, for a gift solicited is no gift at all.

I hope they play songs by Eddi Reader...

... and even read extracts from my blog :-)

02 September 2007

Don't you at least want chaps with that?

Don't you just hate fancy dress?

I was sweating badly, but the couple in front of me in the queue were in even worse trouble. "Well", he said, "well, the thing is: the theme is England".

"Oooh, that's hard", said the owner of the shop, who is -- hmmm, let us say theatrical, "England! Nothing more precise than that?"

"No", said she, miserably.

"and absolutely no ideas of your own at all?"


A little ball of tumbleweed blew in from the street, and somewhere in the distance an urban fox howled.

"Oooh", again, "that is hard. Well, the only thing I can suggest is that you look at our website for ideas, and then come back to me, otherwise..... ooh England. That is hard! Well, of course, I could do you Saint George - you know with the red cross and everything....or of course a Beefeater, they're English aren't they? And we've always got cricket players.... or Sherlock Holmes,
or Shakespeare, or Robin Hood, or Oliver Cromwell, or a Morris Dancer. But really I just don't know! England! That IS hard! Well, as I say, have a look at the website, and come back to me!"


The changing room curtain opened and out came an inoffensive looking accountant dressed from head to toe in bright, offensive, pink. He looked around for support, but the staff completely ignored him. It was the pinkest imaginable invisibility cloak. "Star Trek?" I ventured. "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", he confided. "Oh", I said, "Well, excellent"

The reluctant English couple headed for the changing rooms, struggling under the weight of their chain mail, and at last it was my turn.

"Cowboy hat please"

"Ah, a Western outfit?", well we have some marvellous costumes that you'll just love...."

"Just a hat, please"

"But.....", he said, "But....."

To be fair, the party was excellent. There was a quick draw machine, pork and beans, a bucking bronco, an Abba tribute band and an unusual fruit bowl. I sat on my hat.

It's always sunny, in a rich man's world.