Slodgey victory over Villains

Arsenal played Aston Villa Wednesday evening. Funnily (to me), they are referred to as “Villains.” Aston Villa was the team Arsenal played on the last day of the the 2016 season that we were lucky enough to attend. They had already been relegated by the time of the match, and what most of that team had to play for was the opportunity to be picked up by an alternate team remaining in the Premier League. Although Aston Villa put up an early fight in that match, Arsenal beat them handily in the end. That happened to be the last time Mikel Arteta (our current manager) played in before he retired. He was instrumental in the last goal scored, although it ultimately when down as an own goal.

Aston Villa won promotion back to the Premier League a few seasons ago. Although they sat in relegation territory after the first 4 matches this year, they had played some relatively tough teams and came away with 1 tie and 3 very narrow losses. Although they seem to be struggling to score goals, they have equally been doing a good job of keeping goals out of their own net.

We met a fellow Arsenal fan friend for dinner before the match and walked to the stadium afterward. Fun to walk among all those fans. Looking at the fellow walkers, it was abundantly clear that the 2022 merchandise is very, very popular. At first I was not a very big fan of the home jersey (it has a collar, which seems strange, a bit nerdish and not fearsome). It’s been growing on me. And the 3rd, pink jersey…..when I first saw it I was all “no way, what were they thinking?” And after two matches played in it, and seeing many local fans in it, I am all “where can I buy this?” 

 I do know exactly where I can buy it. However, Security was super tight Wednesday and I was lucky to be in my seat in time for kickoff. Some other time. I see that Arsenal have started touting a new green and yellow warmup top this week. It’s pretty sweet. Who knows what they will convince me of by the time I’m back?

Aston Villa came in and did what a team like that should strategically do: slow things down, destroy rhythm, and be very, very physical. It was very similar to the last match on Saturday against Fulham, and quite successful. 

That does not, however, make it easy to watch. I was hoping for a match that would make me feel quickly secure and then enjoy a bunch of pretty goals. Instead we worked hard to get the first goal about 30 minutes in. Gabriel Jesus scored a scrappy goal following a rebounded shot by Granit Xhaka. And then, we struggled to make anything else happen. The refereeing was universally terrible, which made the physicality of the match concerning for the future. Arsenal already have injury trouble among defensive midfielders.

Into the second half, the Villains managed a goal on a corner kick. The kicker, Douglas Luiz, put it in the net himself, a rare phenomena, aided by what looked like interference by a teammate on our keeper, Aaron Ramsdale. The referee did not see it that way, nor did VAR. Fortunately, it ended up not being a talking point at all because Arsenal managed to squeak in a second goal about 10 minutes later. Gabriel Martinelli, who had a very good match, put up a tricky, high shot that the Aston Villa keeper couldn’t handle.

The last minutes of the match were as nervy as could be. I was a wreck.

Although I felt happy with the outcome by Thursday morning, at the final whistle on Wednesday night all I felt was relief.

The atmosphere in the stadium was again great. Despite being nervous as hell, it was so good to be among a truly supportive crowd.

Arsenal now face a run of tough matches, many of them away from home. We didn’t have any luck on the transfer deadline day bringing in defensive midfielders. We tried for–of all people–the very Douglas Luiz who scored that corner kick. (If you can’t beat ’em?) Aston Villa was not interested in selling.

Today, Aston Villa applied a very similar strategy for Man City as for Arsenal and managed to come away with a 1-1 tie. In addition to being useful for Aston Villa, the tie was useful for Arsenal, as Man City is currently in second place after 6 matches.

Here’s hoping Arsenal can win pretty again. But mostly, here’s hoping we can keep winning.

Magic TOOTbus

The first time I came to London was for business. At the end of a planned meeting, there were exactly three hours available to see the city. That time, I opted for a hop on, hop off bus. It was a good way to see a lot of the city, albeit only at a surface level. It made me realize that there was much more to see and do and that London would be a great destination for a longer vacation. That is partly what inspired us to take a Christmas trip with our kids in 2012. When we ask our kids about their favorite all-time Christmas memories, one of them usually brings up that trip.

Since then, although my husband and I have sometimes used city busses to get around in London, we’ve never again ridden a hop on, hop off-type tourist bus. That is, until Wednesday. My husband has always wanted to do that, and since this trip to London has been longer than usual, we were happy to have someone else do the planning. My husband did some research and selected Tootbus.

The basics of all of these bus companies: you ride along predetermined routes while listening to information about the attractions you are driving past using an audio guide. And, as you might expect, you can get off at any time and delve into specific attractions as you wish. In London, it appears that many hop on, hop off companies offer similar routes. In the tour we took, there were two routes available. We hopped off once to change routes and once to have lunch.

What was most evident to me is that the areas of London we have not much visited over our many trips are those primarily devoted to shopping. I had forgotten how lively Piccadilly circus and the commercial area around Harrod’s is. (It still did not make me want to shop!)

The other thing that really struck me: pubs in London are gorgeous. A container gardener could do a lot worse in getting ideas than to wander around looking at all the pubs in town. Better still if that gardener is traveling with a beer or pie aficionado.

When the audio guide was not providing information about sights around London, it was playing songs from British artists. They were mostly great songs. However, I noticed that my husband removed his headphones when Rod Stewart was singing Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? It had been a while since I heard that one. It had not aged well. And maybe not the best example of British art?

In all, a fun and relaxing day, and we got some ideas for areas we want to explore next time we’re in London.

Like the Côte d’Azur, but gritty

As we headed over London Bridge on our way to London Bridge Station, we were walking against traffic. The Bank Holiday was over, and all of England was crossing the bridge on their way to work. However, several people had pulled off to the side of the bridge and were standing, watching over the water. That seemed strange, so we became curious also. When we looked out into the Thames, we could see the head of a person in the water, and a rescue boat on the way. The water was moving quickly, but the rescue boat was able to get in front of the person in the water and toss them a life ring. Hopefully, it all ended well. 

Our train to Brighton was delayed numerous times due to some kind of switching problem in Brighton, but at some point we were directed on our way. We’ve very rarely left London while we’ve been in town, and it was fun to see the green and lush English countryside on our way to Brighton. Brighton is a little over an hour from London by train, situated on the English Channel.

Photo: WholeArsed

Upon arriving in Brighton, we walked down the hill to the beach. There was something about the town that seemed so familiar, and I realized it kind of had the feel of Nice, France, that we had just visited this spring during our son’s semester of Study Abroad. It was like Nice, but gritty. This is not a criticism or either Brighton or Nice. Nice is lovely and fun to go to, but it does not have much grit. It feels like a place you go to be out of the world. Brighton feels like a place you go to be in the world.

The first order of business was to find the best Fish and Chips in town. Our googling brought us to an establishment called Bardsley’s, where we ordered the Cod, which the menu informed us was England’s favored fish. And it was very delicious fish….delicious enough to almost make up for the chips, which if I’m being honest were a bit soggy. 

We walked over to the Royal Pavilion and gardens. The Royal Pavilion was built as a summer home for King George IV in multiple stages. It was sold to the city of Brighton by Queen Victoria. As you can see, its architecture is unusual among the Royal dwellings. Its gardens have been recently restored and are fully organic. Some dedicated volunteers were busy weeding and pruning. Very pretty area.

Photo: WholeArsed

Then we walked back to the beach and along the Brighton Palace Pier, which has a big amusement park. School is not yet in session at least for some kids, who seemed to be having a great time on the rides and playing carnival games. There is an old electric railway, and we rode it to the point and back. 

Photo: WholeArsed

It was time for more adult pursuits. We stopped by a bar on the beach and enjoyed the breeze and some drinks while listening to live music. 

A very lovely day by the sea.

Photo: WholeArsed

Much ado about Pi

Sometimes the thrill of going to London is nearly as big as the thrill of attending an Arsenal match. As soon as we learned we had tickets for the Fulham and Aston Villa matches, we booked air tickets. And as soon as we booked air tickets, I booked roast dinner at The Princess of Shoreditch and tickets to attend a play at the Globe. We have had roast, my favorite culinary experience in England, at the Princess several times in the past. We have never been able to attend a play at the Globe theatre.

In the past, the outdoor play season has ended before the Premier League started, or at least before we have had match tickets. But this time, the World Cup in Qatar is in the winter, causing the Premier League season to start early and end late to accommodate a break in the winter. Yes, I have greed and graft in the soccer world that accompanied the Qatar World Cup to thank for the fun we had today.

In truth, my actual hope has not only been to attend a play at the Globe, but specifically to attend as a groundling, a peasant attendee who has to stand throughout the performance right at the front of the stage. You can attend as a groundling for £5, assuming you are lucky enough to get a ticket. Sadly, groundling tickets were sold out already when I was attempting to book, and really, almost all tickets for yesterday’s performance were sold out. My husband and I had tickets in different sections of the theatre.

The play running yesterday was Much Ado About Nothing, one of Shakespeare’s comedies. Although both my husband and I were English majors and took several semesters of Shakespeare, neither of us remembered the plot of this play. Like all Shakespeare comedies I can remember the plots of, the play features the intrigue of love. The play was wonderful, so well acted, and the groundlings for sure had the most fun and produced the most fun for those of us in the seats. Like being in the front row of Blue Man Group, groundlings are an important part of the show….and do get wet.


And dinner….I am obsessive about chicken in the UK. It is so, so much better than chicken in the US. And the very best I ever had was at the Princess of Shoreditch. Alas, it is so yummy it is almost always sold out by the time we arrive, and yesterday was no exception. I decided to try a vegetarian option this time, called Almonds and Dates. It turned out to be kind of like sliced bread stuffing. It was good, kind of strange. Also had a cold pea and mint soup. That was yummy. And roast always comes with Yorkshire pudding, my favorite part of the whole experience. I topped it off with a cherry ice cream sandwich.

The person who helped us select beer made a great suggestion for next time—when you book you can add a note that you’d like chicken. I feel that there is a lot of delicious chicken in my future.

Today we had a relatively quiet day, but formed a plan to see another play, The Life of Pi at the Wyndham theatre. This is the story of a boy who survives a shipwreck and is asked to tell how. He tells two stories, one fantastical, a story of wits, the other grim, a story of base survival. This was also a wonderful play, with wonderful staging.

Tomorrow we will go to Brighton beach. No shipwrecks planned (at least so far.)


So much optimism, it’s confusing

We left the hotel, me in my 2019 Arsenal jersey and my husband in an Arsenal jacket. The Tube station is more or less under our hotel and we saw one other fan enter the train in his Arsenal shirt, a small boy. We changed trains at Kings Cross St. Pancras to the Piccadilly line and were joined by considerably more Arsenal jerseys, including a lot of the black Away jersey and many of this year’s pink Away jersey. By the time we stopped a few times to pick up more people, the majority of people on the train were Arsenal fans. The train let us out at Arsenal station, only the few neutrals continuing onward on the train. We were playing Fulham, also in London, and there were a few Fulham fans mixed in with our crowd.

In all the time I’ve been coming to matches, I’ve never seen the fans quite so jacked up. They were singing for all they were worth along the Ken Friar bridge and into the stadium. I went to the seats to watch the warmup and my husband went to find a beer.

We were both in our seats at the singing of North London Forever (really called The Angel), the song written by a local musician/fan that commenced being used at the stadium at the end of last season. That was pretty special and I felt the lump in my throat. Once the match started, the stadium was electric.

Normally, I am very tuned into the details of the match but I couldn’t find my focus. There was so much chanting and cheering, none of it very coordinated. A third of the stadium was singing one song, a third singing something else, and a final third singing something else entirely. I started to realize that I had only one purpose—to sing and support my team and will it, with thousands of others, to a win.

It registered with me that we weren’t having our best match. Odegaard was playing well, but things were a bit sloppy from everyone else. Other than that, there were only five moments that stood out in my mind.

  1. Jesus getting drawn in on some Fulham bad behavior and getting a yellow card before the end of the first half. Great animosity toward the referee. Seeing the guy in front of us in a wheelchair doing the international hand sign of—let’s call it—self love, and hearing the toddler next to us pipe up in his tiny voice, while holding his stuffed bear—“you DON’T know WHAT you’re doing! You DON’T know WHAT you’re doing!”
  2. Mitrovic getting behind the last two Arsenal defenders where they had no chance of catching up to get the ball. One of them was going to have to bring him down, risking a red card and maybe a penalty if it didn’t happen soon enough. And neither of them did. Instead, Mitrovic swung his mighty leg back to take a mighty shot that would produce a mighty goal….and then fell down as if God herself had laid a banana peel in his path.
  3. Our Gabriel having the ball at his feet a moment too long and Mitrovic picking his pocket. God, fresh out of banana peels, shrugging while he scored a big goal. The Fulham fans going berserk with joy. And we Arsenal fans doubling down on singing and cheering to get through this moment. 0-1.
  4. Odegaard scoring a deflected shot to bring the score to 1-1. I never took my eyes off the match, but where the ball came from, I have no memory.
  5. Willing the last goal from a corner kick near the end of the 90 minutes, from the foot of Gabriel. It wasn’t pretty but it was in the net. Waiting interminably for a ruling on a possible handball. Then celebrating like mad, as you do when you looked to be losing or tying, and ended up winning.

We hung around after the final whistle soaking up the joy, then walked back over to Arsenal station. The entire train was filled with Arsenal jerseys and fans, until stop by stop, the proportion of fans to regular people changed completely. Finally, my husband and I were the only fans left in the train car.

Super bloom where you’re planted

This year England celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. One of the celebrations was a planting of wild flowers all around the moat of the Tower of London, called Super Bloom at the Tower. It includes a Queen’s Garden that specifically commemorates the Queen’s 70 years on the throne. We wandered by and took it in from above. Many people were walking along the path, looking at the flowers as beautiful, peaceful music played. Given the queen’s love of natural beauty, this is the kind of tribute someone gives when they really “get” you. Or so I believe from my hours watching The Crown, which is probably a bunch of hooey.

Super Bloom at the Tower (Photo: WholeArsed)

Before that, we started our day at Natural Kitchen, a place in the neighborhood that specializes in healthy food. I had granola and yoghurt and my husband had buckwheat pancakes. My husband was especially happy with this breakfast because our wait person turned out to be Italian. My husband, while not Italian, has been a student of Italian language all through the pandemic. We took our first trip abroad as the pandemic was winding down this spring to France and Italy. Our son was completing a study abroad program in Nice, France and joined us in the trip. He and I would exchange amused looks when in France, rather than asking for help in English, my husband would ask for help in Italian.Because Italy is very close to France and Nice used to be a territory of Italy, almost everyone did speak Italian. I didn’t think my husband would find the same level of opportunity to practice speaking Italian in London, but there it was.

We walked by the Super Bloom on our way to the Tower Millennium Pier. Our destination was Greenwich, hosting the Greenwich Fair this weekend. We took the Uber boat from Tower hill to Greenwich, a lot of fun by itself. This boat moves fast, and then they announce that you’d better hold onto your small kids, after which they really kick it into high gear.

On arriving in Greenwich we walked to the top of the hill to the Observatory, then further still to a garden. The area was alive with picnickers and dogs trotting around, happily free.

We walked back down to the fair, stopping by one of the food trucks for lunch. We had a chicken wrap and vegan rice bowl from a truck selling Bengali cuisine, Nanizi’s. It was delicious.

And then we did the thing we came to Greenwich to do, went to the fair. The fair consisted of a variety of musical, circus, street art, staggered so that you can take it all in. It was a lot of fun. The act we were able to fully watch was called Barriere, from Belgium. They sang, played instruments, and did acrobatics on a pole. Quite a combination. 🙂

We planned to take the Uber boat back to Tower Hill before the match, but there was a 40-minute wait. Instead, we walked in the tunnel under the Thames to the Isle of Dogs and the nearest Tube station. As you may recall from your Arsenal history (or maybe not, shame), Isle of Dogs is where Dial Square (which later became The Arsenal) played its first match. On the train, we went past the hotel of the famous Tottenham lasagne incident.

It all seemed like good karma for the match to come.

You can take the train to Eltham Palace

We arrived at Heathrow extremely early this morning. The Border has become very efficient, and we were quickly in the Tube on our way to our hotel, the CitizenM Tower Hill. It was all quite a bit too quick and we arrived far too early to check in. We took a few minutes to reorganize for the day, checked our bags, and walked out into a beautiful, rare (at least for us) sunny London day.

We’ve been curious just how busy the streets would be post-pandemic, and for sure the number of people out and about was lighter than in previous trips. We were happy to see that it’s still incredibly vibrant. When we started coming in 2016, the number of cranes over the buildings was astonishing, suggesting tons of building and renovation. If anything, the number of cranes post pandemic is even more extreme. It’s pretty hard to take any kind of a skyline picture without cranes all over it. London is definitely not sitting around on its laurels.

Business first, we shopped quickly for the best SIM card deal we could find in our neighborhood. Because that took us over near Leadenhall market, we wandered about there for a bit. Leadenhall market is said to be J K Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley (and certainly where a scene about Diagon Alley was filmed in the first Harry Potter movie).

We also found ourselves wandering over to Borough market. I guess because we haven’t been in London for so long we wanted to repeat some things we’ve done before. We bought some croissants and empanadas to hold us over until a real meal could occur. And then we walked along the Thames over near The Globe. We enjoyed watching kids playing along the river front and listening to the variety of buskers making music and most enjoyably, making bubbles. They were so pretty in the sun.

Borough market

While we were there, we formed a plan to visit the Eltham Place. This is a smallish palace that started as a manor house and became a vacation/weekend haunt of Edward II and his heirs starting in the early 1300s. Henry VIII grew up in the Palace. It fell into disuse and was restored by a textile magnate and his wife in the 1930s. We learned that we could take the train to the place, so we set out for the London Bridge train station. We struggled to figure out how to buy round trip tickets to the location we had understood to be the closest and ended up buying tickets to the town of Eltham. However, once we got to the tracks we were informed by a train employee that you can’t get to Eltham Palace from Eltham.

At that point we had a decision to make. We decided to let the train take us to an adventure in Eltham, even if that adventure would not be Eltham Palace. I slept almost the whole way there.

When we stepped out of the train, our googling, enabled by the new SIM card, gave us new hope—it seemed we could EASILY walk to Eltham Palace. It was only 10 minutes up a pretty, shaded street.

Photo: Wholearsed

I’m glad we went because it was a very peaceful setting, with cool, somewhat wild gardens amongst Medieval walls. Note: you could see London skyline, including all the cranes, from the garden. The Palace, which would have been quite small by Palace standards (at least among those I have toured previously) was made larger due to a large great room used for parties.

The textile magnate and wife had left the exterior relatively pure to its roots, but inside had redecorated to 1930s standards in Art Deco. Although it seemed strange amongst palaces I’ve seen, it was interesting to see someone apply modern style to an ancient space.

We enjoyed the house and gardens and then trotted back to the train. By the time we returned to Tower Hill it was well past the time to check in to the CitizenM.

We’ve visited London at least 15 times and have never repeated a hotel….except this time. Partly because there weren’t very many options in our price point and partly because it just seemed like something familiar might be nice after the pandemic-induced hiatus from travel. Although the CitizenM is fine, it’s not the hotel I thought it was when we selected. Our room has the dreaded alcove bed where inside person has to climb over outside person to leave the bed. In my case, this is numerous times in a typical night. Oh well. We will enjoy the view and the location anyway.

Tower Bridge (Photo: WholeArsed)

We were happy for the shower and regrouped for dinner. For dinner tried a program via the Evening Standard where restaurants form prix fixe menus with typically three courses + wine for a reasonable price. We selected Cucina del Ponte. This restaurant is located along the Thames with inside/outside dining and a great view of Tower Bridge. There was also musical entertainment—an opera singer. I’m not a huge fan of opera but that was a very nice addition to the experience. The food was very good. I chose the Caprese salad, Scaloppina alla pizzaiola, and panacotta. My husband had bruschetta classica, mushroom risotto, and tiramisu.

Then a quick visit to a local pub called Hung, Drawn & Quartered for a London Pride, before we called it a day.

Singing the New Songs

People sometimes ask me how I came to love the Arsenal. The answer is I started watching them….and something spoke to me. I’ve heard someone describe picking a team as akin to a “sorting hat,” a la Hogswarts. The beauty of play was special, and I was fairly quickly sorted. Never to be unsorted. At […]

He’s sleeping on the couch now

Although I’ve visited the Emirates on many occasions and often stopped into the Armoury shop, I have rarely purchased anything. The Armoury is a huge retail space at the west end of the stadium nearest Holloway road. On a match day, it is bustling with people looking to buy jerseys, jackets, key chains, dish towels, pencils, hats, golf balls, oven mitts branded with the Arsenal logo. If you want to see a model of efficiency in printing money, you need only watch the system of queuing to pay for merchandise at the Armoury.

 

The reason I am so familiar with this model is that I decided I need a jersey. Adidas is again Arsenal’s shirt maker, and I happen to love the new home jersey. I’ve also never owned the home jersey, so this is the year! After we got off the Tube at Arsenal station, we walked to the other end of the station and parted with some cash. Then we walked all around the stadium, taking in the new art, the fans, and the sunny day. 

 

By the time we got to our gate I was getting quite nervous about getting to our seats, because getting through Security at the Emirates is not nearly as efficient as buying a jersey at the Armoury. We had seen droves of people backed up at every entrance as we walked around. Because I had a bag from shopping, I had to get it tagged, but the tagging area is very close to the “Ladies search” area. I separated from my husband to be tagged and searched. I should know better than to worry because the lines for ladies to get through Security are always much, much shorter than for the guys. So much shorter that I noticed a few guys trying to get through the ladies line by pretending they were with ladies whom they were chivalrously escorting through Ladies’ Search. A bearded gentleman to my left kept chatting me up as we got closer to the Ladies Search area, I think to appear to be with me.

After I was searched, the Security guard turned to him and asked, “Why are you here, sir?” “Oh! I used to be a bloke,” he explained good naturedly. She looked like the kind of woman who would never succumb to a line like that. But looks are deceiving: She let him through.

20191027_162754I got to my seat just before kickoff. The fans seemed well-engaged and were in good voice. It was a good thing I got to my seat before kickoff because we scored quickly. Arsenal got a quick corner kick. On Pepe’s first try, he didn’t even pass the first defender, but it got kicked out so he was able to give it another shot. This time, Crystal Palace made such a hash of the clearance that Sokratis was able to bounce it crazily off the ground and into the net. 1-0. Only a few minutes later, David Luiz scored in a similar situation. 2-0.

I don’t think anyone in the stadium felt the game was won at that point. We toiled more than we should have and it felt like Aubameyang couldn’t get any service at all. Lacazette got better service but, honestly, it looked like he’d been prematurely rushed back from injury. He didn’t look sharp, or at least he didn’t look like he could successfully evade the kind of attention he was getting from Crystal Palace’s defenders. At some point, Crystal Palace got the ball to Zaha, who carried it into the box, where any moron would say he’d been fouled by our boy, Calum Chambers, and earned a penalty. Every moron except the special moron Martin Atkinson, that is. He gave Zaha a yellow card for simulation. All of this was correctly overturned, after a long wait, by VAR, and Crystal Palace got the penalty kick they deserved. They did not miss. 2-1.

The second half didn’t look very promising, and before long, some poor defensive play by Arsenal allowed Crystal Palace to score again. Granit Xhaka allowed a ball to be crossed and David Luiz wasn’t close to the player who received it. He made no mistake and it was 2-2. 

What happened next was hard to see. You heard me say a few days ago that I don’t understand why Xhaka is untouchable as a starter. Although you can see that he has some utility, he’s not a guy a team should be built around and yet, that is what seems to have happened. He is also the team captain, nominated by his fellow players. So they must clearly see him in a light that is different from the light we fans see him in. He does appear to be a confident figure, tall and commanding. But he is extremely fallible: Commits a lot of costly and pointless fouls, chases the ball, misses his mark. 

After he was nominated captain, I found it interesting that when other players commented on the decision, they highlighted his propensity for handing out team fines. I find that weird, but I recall the same kind of commentary about Per Mertesacker when he was captain. A soccer leader is someone who notices the faults in others and holds them accountable. Ok, then!

Anyway, a few weeks ago, when Xhaka was removed from a home game before the end, the fans cheered. Normal fan behavior when a player comes off is applause from the fans, a polite, “thanks for your work.” Cheering is not done. On that day, he’d been having a real stinker and I think fans were still smarting from the nomination to Captaincy. In yesterday’s match, I didn’t think he played too badly. Anyway, Unai Emery substituted him at about the normal 60 minutes for a first sub and the fans cheered. Xhaka repaid the fans by leaving the pitch, with his team tied 2-2 in a clearly winnable game, as slowly as he possibly could. By the time he got to the sidelines he was being actively booed and jeered by the section closest to the player’s seats, and he was milking it as negatively as possible by putting his hand to his ear. He took off his shirt and went right down the tunnel. Total damper and downer. 

He was replaced by a youngster, Saka, and things did go a bit better after that. Martin Atkinson made a special point of calling every flop by Crystal Palace a foul. We still had at least one sub that could be made when the fans began singing a useful reminder for Unai Emery:

We’ve got Özil

Mesut Özil

I just don’t think you understand

He’s Arsene Wenger’s man

Better than Zidane

We’ve got Mesut Özil

Everybody knew that Özil was not going to be substituted no matter how nicely we sang and suggested because, once again, he didn’t even make the bench. But, yes, we all wonder, “Why?” How is it possible that someone with that level of skill, our most highly compensated player, is not able to start or even make the bench, especially when you see our forwards starved of service? It is confounding.

Sokratis ended up scoring again, but for no reason we can understand, it was ruled not a goal by VAR. At the field, you don’t get any information about why a goal was disallowed and you don’t get to see any replays. Like many people, after the match was over, I’ve watched replay after replay of the build up to that goal. There is simply no reason that anyone could rule it disallowed. None. But it happened anyway.

20191027_152517The game ended to boos, I think by that time, mostly directed at the officiating. The crowd walking back to the Tube was deeply philosophical, judging who was at fault for the various events of the day. There was much to discuss, from the ineffectual coaching, to why other teams are having no problem sorting us out, to the Xhaka moment and the various parties to blame (Xhaka, Emery, the fans), to what value VAR can/cannot offer.

We headed over to Shoreditch again, because you know Sunday means roast, my favorite British tradition. Leaving nothing to chance, I booked dinner at the Princess of Shoreditch as soon as we had our tickets to the match. I had the beef loin roll and my husband had hake. For dessert, trifle and some chocolatey thing. It was delicious, as always.

 

Because we’d failed in our quest to get London Pride beer on Saturday night, my husband felt we really needed to top off our dinner at the Astronomer, a pub near our hotel. We settled in with our beer and were befriended by a guy who claimed he was from Cypress and an Arsenal fan. I found he did not seem to know much about the team or the match that had just been played. However, he did have an interest in our buying him beer.

Now some of you who know me or have read my blog for a while know that I had kids late in life and prematurely had gray hair. I started dyeing it after learning that my young kids were embarrassed when people assumed I was their grandmother instead of their mother. But after I moved to California with my new job, I decided I was done with all that. I let it grow out and now have a head of salt and pepper. It’s a great color, but it does make me look older. I can take it, or so I thought.

In the course of our conversation with the guy from Cypress, he gestured at me and asked my husband, “Is this your mum?” 

Now what would you say, guys, if you were put into this impossible situation? My husband didn’t skip a beat. “She’s my grandmum!” 

“Ah, you’re a good bloke, taking your grandmum to the match,” said my new mate. He seemed very pleased that he had complimented me in this way. I smiled nicely at him while noting internally that he would never, ever see a beer from me.

My husband and I had a pretty good laugh about that after our friend left.

He’s sleeping on the couch from now on. 🙂

I can only hope the significant others of Martin Atkinson, the VAR genius, Xhaka, and Unai Emery follow my lead.

See it, say it, sort it.

All across the world, as we deal with acts of terrorism, we have formed pithy ways of encouraging citizens to be vigilant against threats. In the US, we say, “if you see something, say something.” But here in London, announcements on public transit encourage travelers that if they see something suspicious, that should say something, and the authorities will sort it out. This is then abbreviated into, “See it, say it, sort it.” 

I think of myself as naturally suspicious, so I recognize I would have to see a WHOLE lot to legitimately “see” something of interest to the authorities. They would be sorting their days completely away.  That was on my mind after visiting the War Museum late in the day, which I’ll tell you more about in a few.

Some of you may remember a time when I visited The Breakfast Club in Shoreditch few years ago where our service was so slow the manager insisted on giving us our entire breakfast complimentary. She said, “I hope you’ll give us another chance,” and it turned out that yesterday, we did just that. I like this chain a lot. I think they have interesting spaces and a nice menu at a decent price. The one we tried this time is the one in City, near Spitalfields market. I had the blueberry granola waffle, and my husband had the Mexican Eggs. Both yummy, and much better service.

We stopped by the market, but it was only just being set up. We’ve been through there several times but never at a time when it was operational. So we headed for our first planned destination of the day, a pub that was playing the England v. New Zealand Rugby Word Cup semifinal from Japan. When we watch Premier League games in California at a bar, it’s always early in the morning, so it wasn’t a stretch to watch a sporting event at a pub in the morning in London.

20191026_102020The pub closest to us that was having a viewing party was the Goose Island pub near Shoreditch. Yes, Goose Island is a brew pub originating in our previous adopted home of Chicago, but we were assured by signage that this beer is brewed in Shoreditch. The pub was thronged with supporters of both countries, although the All Black supporters were clearly outnumbered. I have watched very little rugby in my life, and most of it has been when I was visiting London. Even for someone with little expertise in the sport, it was fun watching the fans cheer and sing until the final whistle blew with England (easily) on top above the previous world champions. But why “Swing low, sweet chariot,” and “Chelsea Dagger”? You got me. England has so much musical talent and history, it’s hard to imagine needing to borrow from slaves and Scottish musical groups. I’ll admit the songs are great.

After the match we headed over to the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, a recommendation from a friend. It was extremely worthwhile and interesting.  I’ve never seen an exhibit that did such a good job evoking the environment under which the wars began and were conducted, and their aftermath. We spent most of our time in the World War I and II exhibits. A few things that struck me: First, I’m not sure that humans are remotely good at learning from the past, or at least learning the right things. Second, we aren’t good at Seeing, Saying, or Sorting. We are driven by herd mentality and fearful of sticking our necks out, and complacent. Let someone else do the right thing.  The Holocaust exhibit was especially powerful, and dire. 

We left the museum in the rain and made it to Spitalfield market minutes before it closed. Spitalfield market is on the site historically associated with the textile industry and wool trade. Now it has numerous vendors selling from stalls for which merchandise is set up in the morning and removed at night. Interesting clothing, bags, hats.  

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Spitalfield market

My husband was interested in stopping in a pub we saw earlier in the day that had London Pride beer, the Astronomer. Unfortunately, it and other pubs and restaurants close to The Bull were so crowded we ended up again close to Spitalfields at a gastropub called The Grocer. It was a wet and raw night and we were happy to be in out of the cold. No London Pride. I had steak and my husband had grilled chicken. To ensure that the ice cream search debacle was not repeated, we both had Eton mess for dessert. I am a big fan. Ice cream, meringue pieces, fruit, and whipped cream. Delicious. My husband later wished he hadn’t eaten so much. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t have minded eating some of his (in addition to mine). 

Then back through the rain and hordes of people out having a fun Saturday night to the Bull. Someone has to go to bed in this town.