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Archive for June, 2012

I used to join in with complaints about the weather while living in England, but for the past few years have taken decent weather for granted here in France. However the last six months have brought me down to earth a bit, and the ranting about weather has started again. Like England we had a horrific winter in Vienne, with a period of -16c at night for a week or so running. Ice on the swimming pool was 25mm thick most mornings and took until noon to break up and dispose. When all this stopped and the early part of the year became spring we expected recompense for our suffering. Not so for this year at least. Rain has been the big enemy and cloud cover. This Department of France is famous for the number of cloudless days and fine weather. It usually rains at night, which keeps the countryside looking nice and green but maybe a change in world weather is having an effect on the whole of France.

We are finally in the middle of a fine spell of weather and long may it last. A few days like this continuing at 33c plus is enjoyable after the winter and bad spring. The pool is in constant use and walks in the country on the network of walking routes is as enjoyable as ever.

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Descartes

This chap (widely regarded as the father of modern philosophy) was born just a few kilometres from our home and the town changed it’s name to his! He was the famous philosopher who is known by the catchphrase “I think therefore I am”. His actual belief was something along the lines of “totally reliable knowledge doesn’t exist”. Scary really but then Existentialism is ingrained in a lot of French psychie’s (if that’s a real word). As Stephen Clarke put in his wonderful book “Talk to the Snail” It preaches there is no morality and no absolute truth, and that life is therefore meaningless. Nothing really matters, therefore it doesn’t  really matter if I push in the queue in front of you” and “So if  you’re at the restaurant and you ask the man at the next table why he is blowing smoke in your onion soup, and he replies ‘I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter because life is basically meaningless,’ you know that you’re sitting next to an Existentialist”.

I was never a great fan of these guys in particular M Rousseau, his idea that we are all born innocent and that society corrupts us is no doubt stated to give us hope, but in fact it’s depressing as we all have to live together.

We as a family are lucky that all the French people we are aquainted with are great people and I don’t think there is a philosopher among them. Bless em all.

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England’s two biggest problems, a deep seated fear of the penalty shoot out and an inability to retain possession still on display in Kiev last night. A more loaded mid-field might have helped a bit, but old habits die hard. If it wasn’t for a inspired display of defending by the back four and Joe Hart England would have been soundly beaten after 90 minutes, but fate played it’s hand and the shoot out just loomed into view.

An opening 20 minutes of good football set the fans pulses racing but it couldn’t be sustained and steadily the Italians got the upper hand moving relentlessly forward onto England via Pirlo who should have been marked effectively but was not. Rooney was best placed for this job but was seemingly unfit for a full game and it showed after 30 minutes. Overall this was a tough resilient England, but not sturdy enough when penalties came calling.

Both problems can and must be corrected by coaching and a different approach for the youngsters entering the sport now. We must not be the only nation who cannot retain possession or fail almost every time at penalty’s, but apparently we are. We gift the ball by trying passes in ludicrous situatons, and if we keep the ball lose patience and try the 1 in 10 chance pass. In the premier league this does not matter and pays off because the other team are doing the same and will soon gift the ball back again. But not at Tournaments like this. The penalty problem must be a mental complication, some players take good clean penalties in club games but fail miserably at this level. The belief that penalty’s are a “lottery” is nonsense, it’s nothing to do with luck, it’s all about applying technique and a confidence in that technique.

By their own standards the Italian team is a shadow of the great sides of the past, but they dominated an England eleven stuck in a defensive trench and stifled on the counter attack by their own inability to pass sensibly under pressure.

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It didn’t worry me at first but I am now getting very worried.

Living in England I always took music for granted, that is I expected to hear good stuff by right all the time written by English or say American writers. Accepting innovation and inventiveness as a norm was a given. My music taste is fairly wide, and if I was to write a list of favourite songs or pieces it would be at least 300 long and cover pop, classic and jazz. There is very little I cannot tolerate.

Not so in France, and I understand it has something to do with the state supporting their artists in some way. Don’t know exactly how this works but apparently if you are French and publish a recording you get a big break. The radio stations etc have by law to include French music as up to 40% of their daily output. This means of cause you will get exposure, it also means the industry won’t be competitive and won’t be very diverse or innovative. It’s also rubbish really, and why Johhny Halliday is still unbelievably revered. Most French songs have a great intro, (nicked from somewhere familiar, what is it you think?) your foot starts tapping and expectations are high. This doesn’t last long because the next stage is a singer almost muttering to you in very short sentences. The subject will be about love, betrayal, and usually very depressing. A bit like their films.

My eldest Grandchild will start “proper” school in September and will be encouraged by the teachers to take up music. That’s very good but I hear that instead of getting their hands on an instrument straight away they suffer up to a year of reading music, and thus most of them have their enthusiasm drained off.

Think I’ll get him a guitar or a key board and make sure his ambition is kept fresh.

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Watching the Spain v France game last night made me think what the ultimate form of the game would look like. Remembering the Dutch teams which nearly won the World Cup in 1974/1978 and the great Brazilians side of 1970 I watched as a younger man took me close to it. But they were men from a different era with different rules, different tactics and pressures.

This Spanish team seems to have prayed to the Goddess of passing and been blessed with passing as an art form. The concentration levels and patience are on a different level to current  opponents, most of who are also technically gifted and strong in most areas of the game. So why did they beat the lauded talented French with such apparent ease to reach the semi-finals?

Spain never had to raise their game to dominate the French. In their group game against England, France played the smothering role while England, accepting the role of under-dog, defended and counter attacked. Laurent Blanc retreated to the role of England for this match and unfortunately his defenders let him down badly. And that with Laurent Koscielny being a vast improvement on the suspended Philippe Mexes.

The Vicente Del Bosque technique of a hoard of mobile midfielders moving gradually upfield with precise sharp passes and astounding patience can only be achieved if you have weapons like Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Fabregas (again last nights most forward attacker) etc. He has this in spades and because he is without an inform striker (he doesn’t trust Torres) this form of the game wears down opponents, and the rest of us just wait for the inevitable goal. Often only one, but with the defence now vastly improved from recent times this is enough.

I started watching this tournament expecting a German triumph as they seemed the most gifted and strong all round team. I still believe the Germans will triumph but hope for a different outcome.

Would love an England team to go all the way but we will need a miracle or a lot of luck to overcome these two outstanding teams.

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TFL London

TFL London : What a great advert for England a world of overpaid out of touch bosses versus bolshy workers. Welcome to the Olympics

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At least that’s what it was like last week. But now that Roy Hodgson and his men have cleared the group hurdle and bounced into the quarter finals, I suspect that expectations will start to build and winning the damn thing will be a feasible outcome, and hence a right. So that if we get knocked out the team can be condemned for not living up to expectations. As usual though Wayne Rooney has come out with a “we can win it” snippet so he’s only got himself to blame. Went to Portugal and Switzerland Euro’s but not able to this time, and it looks at this time in the proceedings all the fuss over violence in Poland and Ukraine has been over-hyped.

 

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