Ready to go on

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Fresh veg

The two shows of Saturday seem to wiz by with the thought of getting home, even if late, on a Saturday night. For me, yesterday's excitement at the prospect of home was doubled with the knowledge that I would spending much of Sunday with my wife, digging for victory.

No, that is not a euphemism. We are both keen vegetable growers and have a large allotment near our home which requires a lot of looking after. Unfortunately, what with me away most of the time and my wife working, we haven't been able to devote the time to our plot that it demands. Until today, of course.

And we're ready for it! I have bags of onions, broad beans, shallots, garlic, beetroot seed, potatoes, carrots and parsnips all ready to be planted. Fortunately these are plants that don't take a lot of looking after. You don't really need to water them or protect them from slugs or birds or, well, anything. Apart from a bit of hoeing (not in the rapper sense, obviously) there really isn't much required of the grower. I will be absent until the summer but today's efforts should leave me with a fine crop.

On consequent Sunday's, when I have the time, I can get in all the other things that need planting, but again, I will be concentrating on those plants that don't need much work - runner beans, french beans, spring onions, Brussel sprouts etc. The more difficult things will have to wait until I have more time at the end of the tour in July.

Then again, I also have to find time today to buy, or at least bid, for tickets to the Olympics. I can almost feel your repulsion at my mad extravagance. "You're honestly telling us that you are going to try and buy tickets for the Olympics!! Have you won the pools?!". I know it may seem that way. Much of the publicity for the Olympics has focused on the £2012 tickets that are available. They are so available that I will be amazed if they sell? I'm certainly not interested in them unless they come with a free holiday to the West Indies?

But I've looked at the pricing and I don't think it's that bad? I only want to go to the Athletics and perhaps the opening ceremony? At £20 for the morning sessions and £50 for the evenings, that's £70 per day. There are nine days of athletics that's ..... hang on while I get a calculator ...... 2.4756 to the power 10 .... sorry, hit the wrong button. Ah! £630. That's right, just £630! To get to every moment of athletics at the 2012 Olympics in London!! People pay eleven quid for a 2 hour film; this is a one off, never to be repeated, magical sporting event that only happens every four years. I could be dead by the next one? I'd be mad not to go for it.

I know I probably won't get any tickets, that millions of people will be applying and most of them for the cheapest tickets, but just imagine if I am one of the lucky ones? If I get to see Usain Bolt run? Oh my God!!

I went with my lovely wife for a week to Barcelona last summer to see the European Athletics finals and it was brilliant. Everybody from different nations mixing together and enjoying the skills of the competitors rather than blindly cheering in a jingoistic way - apart from the Spanish, who only bothered turning up if they had a chance of a medal.

I had asked my wife, who has been to a number of athletics meets before ( I was a virgin) if we would see the medal ceremonies and if the French might win something? She said they almost certainly would; as it turned out they were one of the most successful nations. I got very excited at this news. I had always wanted to sing along to Le Marseillaise. I think it is the most rousing of the National Anthem and here was my chance.

Before we went away I printed a copy of the lyrics from the inter net, found a recording of anthem and practiced until I had learned it. I found myself singing the words through in my head as I was on the plane, in the taxi to the hotel, sitting on the loo; I so didn't want to mess them up. As soon as we got to the stadium I found a French person nearby to my seat and started to chat to them with the ulterior motive of checking that I had got the pronunciation right - I speak very little French, very badly.

Amazingly, on the very first day, the brilliant young French sprinter, Christophe Lemaitre, won a medal and at the end of the evening he was presented with it. I have never been so nervous about anything. Not for him. For me!! This was the moment I had dreamed about. My wife knew I was ready to sing and moved away from me. She has had to suffer me at full blast before and knows how embarrassing it can be? As I've said before, I have a loud voice.

Then we were off. I stood with my hand on my heart (it seemed the right thing to do) and sang for all I was worth. It was difficult. Tears began to well up in my eyes at 'Aux armes, citoyens'. 'Formes vos battaillons, the tears were really flowing now. 'Marchons, marchons' I could hardly sing and was losing my voice. I struggled to the end. It was fantastic!! I so wish I was French just for the chance to do that more often. Around me other French people cheered and slowly lowered their flags.

Then, to my astonishment, they all started to chat to me in very fast, unintelligible French. After a moment of shock I had to explain, in my broken french that, 'je suis englias'. They stopped talking and stared. Some of them open mouthed.

"You are un English man?", one of them asked. "Increable!" They couldn't believe that an English man would not only know the French national anthem but would sing it with such passion. "I love it," I explained, "it always moves me."

The French won a lot of medals at last years European championships. Each time the French crowd around me grew as French people were brought from other areas of the stands to see the mad Englishman who would lead the singing of Le Marseillaise.

But that's not all. Maybe I was just showing off. Maybe I knew the effect it would have and liked the attention. But in the end even I was shocked by it's effect.

On the last day of the tournament the British team won a gold medal and, as the British National Anthem struck up, several French people around us unfurled the Union Jack and sang, "God save our gracious Quin." They had taken the time to repay the complement and had learned the words to God Save the Queen. They had trouble with "long to reign over us", a complicated sentence, but they bloody well sang the whole thing.

That is why I am applying for tickets to the Olympics. And I'm going to learn the German, Russian and American anthems. Surely that deserves at least one ticket? Wish me luck?

La Marseillaise

Allons enfants de la Patrie, Arise, children of the Fatherland,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! The day of glory has arrived!
Contre nous de la tyrannie, Against us, tyranny's
L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis) Bloody banner is raised, (repeat)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes Do you hear, in the countryside,
Mugir ces féroces soldats ? The howling of those ferocious soldiers?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras They're coming right into your arms
Égorger vos fils et vos compagnes ! To slit the throats of your sons and consorts!
Aux armes, citoyens, To arms, citizens,
Formez vos bataillons, Form your battalions,
Marchons, marchons ! Let's march, let's march!
Qu'un sang impur Let impure blood
Abreuve nos sillons ! Water our furrows!


  1. Almost crying with laughter by the time I got to "God Save the Quin" .....!

    I agree about the French anthem though - isn't it glorious (and gloriously bloody!). I also like the Italian one, it's wonderfully "bouncy". Good luck with the Russian one as I think it's a bit of a dirge!

    Hope you can still move after the work on the allotment!

  2. don't hafta be crazy...but it helps! I am impressed that your neighbours across the ditch did the honorable thing & repaid you in kind...damn decent of them....well done for forging international bonds Mike!