And so it begins…

Well, it has started! After months of anticipation, political wrangling and much preparation, the football World Cup has finally kicked off. Not that any of the aforementioned anticipation and preparation are anything to do with me personally you understand. Quite the contrary in fact. Football is one of those sports I have never had much time for. In fact, I do not believe that anyone in my family, with the possible exception of young Nigel, has the slightest interest in the game.

Actually, I don’t think I have ever seen a football match – well, not a whole one. We were occasionally forced to play when I was at school, but generally, the masters preferred rugger or cricket. Soccer was not considered to be a game for young gentlemen. My father was of the opinion that is was a game solely suited for the working classes and that was the end of that. Mother took no interest in any sport that didn’t involve a racquet or a horse, which I can well understand.

I remember when I was in my last year at school we had a new PT teacher who tried to establish a football team. Bless him, it was never going to work. There was just no call for it. I understand that he left the school shortly after we did. Probably for the best; not the right type of chap at all.

Of course, some of the chaps at the Club seem to enjoy the so-called beautiful game, but it is not a subject that has ever been allowed to dominate the conversation at the bar. Mind you, I did hear a rather worrying rumour that a proposal had been made to set up a television in the bar to show some of the tournament matches. Not surprisingly, and to my great relief, the idea was given very short shrift by the trustees. It would have been far too much of an intrusion and would have set a worrying precedent for the future. Heaven knows, once one starts down that particular rocky road there is no turning back. One can only imagine where that kind of thing can lead. Amy anyway, there are a number of establishments happy to offer such facilities, but they have no place at the Club. Never hand, I hope, they never will.

Whilst I have no interest at all in football, one cannot help picking up on some of the stories and characters that surround it. I believe that for a not inconsiderable number of people football is more of a religion than a sport. I have often heard the quotation attributed to one former manager (I cannot recall his name, but I think he had something to do with the city of Liverpool) who said that “football is not a matter of life or death – it is much more important than that!” Nigel would know who said it but football managers all look and sound the same to me.

And that’s another thing – whenever I do see news reports or overhear conversations about football it was only too clear that very few of the names I heard were British. It would seem that the country’s “favourite” sports is owned, managed and, to a large degree, played by foreigners. So, if our national leagues are dominated by players from other countries, where does the national team come from? Not that I am too concerned or have given the matter much thought – if any. But by an unexpected twist of fate, I have found myself involved with the whole silly affair if only in the most peripheral way.

It turns out that Hopes former husband was a bit of a football fan and during their time together, Hope had taken an interest in the game. She did not normally watch matches or anything like that but said that the World Cup was different and she was supporting the England team. Charlotte, however, really does seem to enjoy it all and says she will be watching some chosen matches with her a group of her friends. I, of course, will be avoiding the whole silly thing as much as I can, which will probably mean spending more time either at the Club or at home. Even the office cannot be considered an escape from the damned thing. Only yesterday I noticed several television screens had been set up and were tuned into the tournament.

Anyway, my main goal for today (no pun intended) is to avoid any further encounters with the World Cup, if that is possible. I will pop down to the Club this afternoon, maybe stay for dinner and a frame or two over drinks with the chaps.

We just can’t cope with snow!

Like most Londoners, I have found myself badly affected by the weather. Coping with the vagaries of our island weather is very British sort of thing. We are generally quite good when it comes to drizzle, fog and occasional cloudy sunshine. Those we are very comfortable with. But when it comes to snow, particularly when it has the audacity to lay more than half an inch thick, then everything comes to a standstill. It seems that our smooth and efficient transport infrastructure comes to a crashing halt at the first sign of snowflakes.

But that said, it has been damnably cold this week. The Beast from the East the newspapers have been calling it, and a beast it surely has been. I understand that quite a few trains and the like have been cancelled and some parts of the north virtually cut off. But I am sure I remember much colder winters and certainly much deeper snow. As a child I would often be able to spend days on end tramping through the snow, building snowmen and hurling snowballs at my chums. There was actually something quite magical about the old estate covered in a blanket of snow.

I was actually a little disappointed that it was not like this last week when I was back at the old pace. Although it has to be said that too much snow can leave one a little isolated in the country, especially if the local hostelry is temporarily beyond reach. I remember one particularly harsh winter as a child when we were unable to leave the house for almost a week, the snow was so deep. My father was extremely frustrated and stomped about the house the whole time. He was never very good at relaxing I being away from work for more than a day or two was something he seemed almost physically incapable of doing. For my mother and me it was something of an adventure. With the grounds looking like a scene from Narnia, it was a very special time when I was able to spend the whole time with my parents without them rushing around, busying themselves with social engagements and work.

Despite the inclement weather I did manage to get down to the Club yesterday evening. I had expected it to be a little quiet, what with the snow and wind, but instead, I found the old place quite busy. I was joined for dinner by my old chum Cambridge, who it turns out has been staying at the Club for a few days. Something to do with faulty plumbing or some such. I found him in surprisingly good form. The last time I had seen him he was looking a little frail. But Cambridge is not the sort of chap to let a little thing like cold or flu get in the way of things.

After eating we adjourned t the bar where we walked in on a very interesting debate about the weather. It is not an unusual subject for the chaps at the bar, but this particular discussion had just moved on to the idea of global warming by the time we joined them. It is one of those subjects that comes up every now and again, with the two sides of the debate seeming to become increasingly irate. I rarely get involved in these debates as I feel that I do not know enough about the subject to form any kind of meaningful opinion. Not that this seems to stop some of the other chaps from wading in with their size tens and having their say.

But whether one is suitably informed or not, one cannot deny that there is something slightly amiss with the weather these days. Every year one reads increasingly alarming reports of record-breaking extremes; heavier than usual rainfall, stronger and stronger winds, more hurricanes than ever before, flooding and like. It really does paint a very worrying picture. But one has to ask, is this just a case of the media exaggerating events to fit their own agenda? Or is there really something behind all the stories.

I know that my father was very much in the doubting camp. He claimed that all the talk of global warming was total rot. He would often remind us of the really bad winters we had back in my younger days, and the droughts and water shortages that plagued the country for several years at a time. And what about those long past winters when the Thames froze over and they were able to hold winter fairs on the ice. No, to him it was all very clear and he would have none of it, despite what the scientists say.

And I have to admit that his argument was very persuasive and it was one I shared until very recently. That is not to say that I have completely changed my mind, but I am becoming more and more convinced that most of the people I hear opposing the idea of climate change are those who have a vested interest in the status quo. But I suppose that is true of anything, nobody likes change, particularly those who have something to lose by it.

Anyway, the talk around the bar became rather heated at one point, with some of the chaps claiming it is all a conspiracy and others saying that even if it was true, it won’t affect them so why worry about it. I may not be particularly knowledgeable about these things but I do think that when so many respected scientists are all telling you the same thing, it probably makes sense to listen.

I am not particularly happy when discussions of this mature get too heated, so I made my excuses and left. All the way home I thought about the various things that were said on both sides. Whilst I am not entirely convinced that there is a problem, one cannot ignore the weight evidence that says there is. I am sure the debate will rumble on at the Club and elsewhere. I wonder what Hope or Dorothy have to say on the subject.

Talking of Dorothy, she told me this morning that she and Angela have found themselves a flat and are planning to move in around Easter. I have to admit that I had hoped it would take them a little longer to find their own place. Purely for selfish reasons, I admit – I am going to miss them both. Although Dorothy has only been staying with me for a few months, I find it difficult to imagine the place without her. Although she tends to keep herself to herself, it has been rather nice just having her there when I need someone to talk to or to watch old black and white films with.

I haven’t heard from Hope this week. I presume she has been busy with the gallery. I did try to speak to her on Monday but she was out for lunch, I presume with a client. I have been invited to a bit of a do in the country next month and I would love it if she were able to join me. I am planning to make a weekend of it, staying at a lovely little place I know in the Cotswolds. I will have to try her again tomorrow.

This evening I am joining dear old Uncle George at his club for some kind of celebratory dinner. It involves some political chappies so it is bound to be a frightful bore, but one has to support one’s family.