Friday, September 29, 2006

In Deeep Water

Coming to a cinema near you. Hopefully. Deep Water tells the very weird and wonderful story of Donald Crowhurst, the oddball amateur who committed suicide during the 1968 Round the World Yacht Race.

A weekend sailor at best, Crowhurst piloted a hopelessly unseaworthy boat and faked stories of remarkable progress around the world. In fact he never left the Atlantic and hoped to tuck in behind the winners on the final leg and come home a hero. Then delusion and the hell of loneliness stepped in.

The documentary lays out the unfolding tragedy in a gripping story that puts all Crowhurst’s failings on display but always in a hugely sympathetic and touching way. The contributions of his widow and son in particular are extraordinary.

I’ll declare an interest in that the film is produced by one of my oldest and dearest friends, John Smithson. That said, his credentials as the man behind Touching the Void need no help from me. Great documentary on the big screen – I also recently saw One Day in September, the terrible story of the Munich massacre (also kevin macdonald) - is priceless. Let’s hope this one can get some decent distribution.

The talk after the film was how impossible it would have been for Crowhurst to have done the same thing today. His own word about his progress and position, sent by morse code, was impossible to dispute or corroborate. Today, the wonders of GPS would have his position displayed on the web to within 10 metres. By phone, email, weblog and video diary we would have had Donald with us 24/7.

Beyond that he would never have been allowed to get to a mile of the starting line. He would have needed to prove his competence to race with licences, safety qualifications and endless fitness tests while his boat would have been scrutinised and stress tested within an inch of his life.

The most touching bit of archive was Donald getting on his boat wearing collar and tie and carrying a battered leather briefcase, looking for all the world as if he was off to the City for the day. The days of the amateur buccaneer – the gentleman cricketer, the privateer racing driver, the give it a go yachtsman – are sadly way behind us.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

No technique

Great piece in the Daily Telegraph by football writer Henry Winter on the dearth of talent among Britain’s youth players who were outclassed by France last week. He writes:
Eidur Gudjohnsen [was] talking enthusiastically at the weekend about life in Barcelona. Apparently, Gudjohnsen's eight-year-old son has been enrolled at the Catalans' academy and been stunned by the technical expertise of his Barcelona counterparts.

As readers of this blog know, young Gudjohnsen is in Ben’s school. Ben, who has plenty of talent, but alas not the parental genes of Eidur’s boy, also fesses up that the local lads are a bit special.

But it’s all to do with being taught properly. Ben’s football holiday camps in Britain were all about kicking a ball about. His experience at the Barca camp in June was completely different. Look the part (they were all given three kits), eat well (advice on what to have for breakfast) and then huge emphasis on developing the right skills of passing, controlling the ball, running and shooting. It was all done properly on manicured pitches with proper rest breaks. He came out a much better player and had the time of his life.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Merce, merce me; the Bollanders come to twon

A famous weekend in Barcelona, not only for the Merce, the biggest holiday weekend of the year but also for the visit of my sister and her family. And wonderful it was despite some foul weather on the Saturday. With shopping, eating and visits to La Boqueria and the Barca football museum there was something for everybody.

The culmination was all of us sitting in the Gods of the Camp Nou on Sunday night to watch Barca and Valencia fight out a pretty even 1-1 draw while fireworks for the festival exploded over the beach in the background.

I then went through the old city with Rebecca and my teenage niece and nephew touring the various sound stages that were part of the BAM music festival. Every square and street was heaving with people while many thousands more were watching other bands down at the Forum.

Doubtless it was all pretty uncool for the teenagers to be accompanied by their aged uncle, but they were heartily cheered up by hot chocolate and churros at the wonderful CafĂ© de L’Opera on La Rambla.

Monday, September 18, 2006

i want to play in the fathers' team ...

new recruits at my children's school this term include the sons of lilian thuram and eidur gudjohnson, joining an impressive roster of footballing talent that includes the offspring of gio van bronkhorst and steve archibald, a name that brings nostalgic tears to the eyes of any spurs fan of a certain age.

even with seven duffers such as myself making up the numbers, this could be one of the greatest fathers' teams anywhere in Europe. First game would be versus the French Lycee which could only boast Samuel Eto'o in its ranks...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

la lluvia llega

It rained last night like I have never seen it rain before anywhere outside the tropics. Mercifully we were under cover at the Barca game (which surely would have been abandoned had it started two hours later when the thunder and lightning were at their worst) and amazingly found a taxi home afterwards.

Then we had another gigantic storm around 4am and the biggest one of all today at 2pm. Biblical stuff and more to come, they say.

Last night's 5-0 walloping of the pathetic Levski Sofia means Barca have now scored 15 goals in four games at the Camp Nou this season and let in one. They look awesome. Like Osasuna on saturday, Sofia folded after an early goal and looked like they wanted to enter a plea bargain on the lines of: 'OK, let's stop now, you can have a 3-0 win and we can all go home and get dry.'

Funniest sight of the night were the visiting female Bulgarian fans, a thoroughly blinged up bunch of trashy rich men's trollops if I have ever seen one, dashing back from their open seats under cover as the rain started and threatened their mascarara, their hair and the fit of the D&G jeans.

Martin Amis

I know I am late with this but it's been a busy week. But do take the time to read Martin Amis's hugely long and brilliant piece in the Observer about the vileness of islamism.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 is different here ...

Not out of any disrespect for the victims of 2001 but because it is Catalan national day, marking the defeat of the City by Spanish forces in 1714. It unleashes the young and the rebellious on to the street proclaiming about Spanish imperialism, the police being an occupying force, Madrdid fascism etc etc.

We ate in the heat of the old town where there was quite an impressive demo going on with the Catalan flag draped everywhere, and revolutionary speeches made from a podium to cheering crowds. Whereas Britain's revolutionary gatherings now tend to be addressed by 80 year old Trots, the two speakers we saw both looked under the age of 16. I presume they were on early so they could get home and be tucked up in bed by their mums.

Still if it is all piss and wind (as we say up north) it is non-violent piss and wind. Apart from the odd firework left under a lamppost proclaiming the start of a Catalan people's bombing campaign, and attempts by various hooligan groups to blackmail Barca, nothing has exploded, nobody has been maimed or killed and nobody is left missing their loved ones on 9/11.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

We are back

How long for I dont know. But after a hugely enjoyable two weeks in the UK it was great to get back here, see the pine trees, smell the warm air and read La Vanguardia. Simple pleasures ...