Thursday, 27 November 2014

My French Life - un Jeu de Foot

 Guardian extraordinaire!

     Football is rife in France.  Every village, no matter how petit, has a pitch equipped with floodlights and somewhere to buy a (very drinkable) coffee (bring your own milk) or a beer. 
I have two sons who live for the beautiful game and need to train twice a week, come rain or shine.  Corme Royal has two pitches.  Impressive.  But there are not enough players in most age categories to form a local team.  This means (you guessed it!) joining another club in a neighbouring village.
     Last weekend (no rain - many thanks to the Management), my eldest played against Marennes. 

     The players jog onto the pitch in formation, lining up then passing along to shake hands.  The referee has sorted out a startling selection of gear, this time in an ecstasy of red, turquoise and baby blue.  The players take their positions.  The goalkeepers raise a hand.  The scene is set. The whistle blows.
     Dressed in layers, I shun the stands and observe the action from behind the barrier, joined by other hardcore football aficionados.  Today, there is a restaurateur, recently retired, a local Papi (grandfather), and his much younger wife out for an afternoon constitutional.  We converse, tentatively at first.
     Apparently, Federer (le Suisse) has just beaten their very own Gasquet in the final of the Davis Cup.  Now, here they were, in the company of an enemy supporter, with their team already losing 1:0 on its home ground.  Should I be afraid?  On the contrary, we are civilised, jovial, even philosophical.  I dare to cheer (je m’excuse!) when St. Georges scores against Marennes. 
     At half time, the Papi indicates the need for a roller.  Opinions vary.  We are joined by the linesman, who senses the chance to air his views and assures us that the ground is too soft for such a delicate operation.  We study the peaks and troughs, lost in a dream of perfect pitches.  The rather handsome restaurateur mentions the unusually long grass for the time of year and we nod, admitting that a judicious trim might be in order, were it not for the need to convince the Mairie to perform an out of season duty.  We laugh.  Ah, la France!
     The whistle blows for the second half.  I have three Tic Tacs and there are four of us.  Ah, les Tic Tacs!  I shake one into each of their palms, insisting that they are welcome.  As I look up, my son (the goalkeeper) performs an elaborate step over and lets in a corner.  1:1.  I clap politely.
     "Allez les jaunes!"  I call from the sidelines.  
     Moments later, just as I have asked about the excessively noisy frogs and am listening to a minute description of one, we score from a free kick, just outside the penalty area, through a chink in the five-man wall.
     “Hooray!  Bien joué! Allez les jaunes!”
     “Allez les blues!” calls the handsome restaurateur, entering into the spirit, at last.
     “Allez les verts!” I reply, going for ‘all inclusive’ with a glint in my eye.
     We move to a new level of understanding.

     2:1 and all is well.  But only for the next fifteen minutes.  After an untidy scuffle in front of the goal, the ball slips in and once more there’s all to play for.  
     My companions are discreet.
     “C’est un bon match – pas de bagarres (no fighting)”,  says the Papi’s wife.  Her hair is fabulous, in a ‘Back to the Future’, kind of way.
     I smile in agreement.
     I grumble internally.  Our team needs a win.  If we descend any lower, my son tells me, it will be difficult to find officials willing to referee or run the lines.  The game will become a brawl.
     We watch intently as the time ticks away.  The referee gives out free kicks at an exponential rate.  There is increasingly colourful language, including a phrase which I’d taken to be a figment of my old French teacher’s imagination:
     “Ta mère aux shorts!” shouts one of the opposition. 
     The Papi chuckles. 
     I consider the implications of such an overtly sexist remark (at the same time, I like to think I still look good in shorts…).

     Then, from the centre line, our most corpulent player – a beer-bellied thirty-five-year-old (my son is 17 yet plays for the seniors) steals the ball and advances in the style of Ronaldo, dancing, dodging, ignoring the coach, who is screaming, “Lâches!  Lâches! Donnes! Donnes!” (release/pass the ball!). 
     For God’s sake, I think, what a terrible show-off.  But he beats one defender, then another.  Do we dare to dream?  The coach murmurs, “Putain…”   One more defender is outclassed and the goalkeeper adopts the stance of a protective kangaroo (technical name: shot-stopper).  Our quick-stepping hero pauses and directs the ball  into the back of the net with a nonchalance that brings the crowd dangerously close to a communal cardiac arrest.  I clutch my phone as I regard our linesman turn purple, and try to remember the number for Samu:  is it 15, 16 or 17?
     The cheering dies down and the last five minutes seem like a lifetime.  The opposition does score, but the goal is given off-side.  I suppress a churlish whoop.  The final whistle blows and I relax.
     I shake the hands of my tolerant new friends and wait for my son, who will give me  a blow-by-blow account of the match on the way home.  He is jubilant, yet, as always, critical of his mistakes.
     I pull out a magic ham baguette and he grins. 
     "Thanks, Mum.  You're the best!"

Happy Days!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Goodreads giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

bunny on a bike by Bev Spicer

bunny on a bike

by Bev Spicer

Giveaway ends December 01, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

So much better unplugged!

This is one for the headset.

Hits me right in the nucleus.

Alice in Chains - Down in a Hole

Layne Staley (the one with the voice)
1967 - 2002

Occasionally there's a song that is so haunting that even the first time you hear it you get that feeling.  The one that reminds you that your skin is an organ and that each individual hair on your body is a sensor.  'Down in a Hole'  is charged with an almost unbearable dose of emotion.  It's dark.  But it's exquisitely beautiful, too. Love it. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

Short Stories

I recently published two of my short stories Strings  and Peaches in the Attic.  I was pleased that so many people chose to download them. 

A short story is not everyone's idea of fun. 

But good short stories can be intense, mesmerising.  They can take over a coffee break, or make us sit too long in the sun.  Every word fits nicely into our sudden distraction from routine. Every sentence leads somewhere, connecting us in someway with the plot, the characters, the place.

A  favourite of mine was and is 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge'.  Not a particularly catchy title, I'll admit.  But the author, Ambrose Bierce, had me with the first few sentences:

A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man's hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees.

What follows is as irresistible as the swift water below and the slack rope hanging to his knees. I won't spoil it for you.  If it grabs you, download it and read it.  You won't be disappointed.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge - Amazon link 

Another great read is 'Through the Tunnel' by Doris Lessing.  A bit more intrigue in the title, this time. The story is a call to our childhood selves.  To those moments we endured with shame or pride as we battled through difficult situations which must be won at all costs.

Going to the shore on the first morning of the vacation, the young English boy stopped at a turning of the path and looked down at a wild and rocky bay, and then over to the crowded beach he knew so well from other years.  

A choice is to be made, in a foreign place.  A challenge to be faced. The writing is superb. Being in the water has never felt so terrifying.

Through the Tunnel - Amazon link 

I've read hundreds of short stories, but these two were the first to come to mind.  They both deal with extreme situations.  They both build to a fabulous climax.  They both satisfy.

A short story is not everyone's idea of fun.  But ideas change, and fun comes in many forms. 

Happy reading.