Posts Tagged ‘football’

100 great goals

Robin 

Every night, for months, Robin has chosen, before sleep and after L or I have read to him, to read from a book that describes 100 great goals. A short description of the action is leavened with some information about the scorer or the occasion. There’s also a diagram of the movement of players and ball on its way into the net.

When sleep is about to smother him, Robin tosses the book from his bed. In the morning, it lies on the floor, crumpled. Its hardback cover fell off weeks ago. Its binding can’t hold for long. But even if it does disintegrate it has lodged itself in Robin’s memory. He knows the goals and scorers by number (1 to 100). He can even recite some of the reports if given a scorer’s name or goal number. 

Eliza

‘My palm has five layers of skin left,’ Eliza explained on the way home from gymnastics. Intensive work on the bars in recent weeks has worn a tear in the skin of her hand. She has been practising a manoeuvre that involves a complete rotation on the higher bar. To achieve this safely while in the learning phase, her hands are bound to the bar. It’s from that friction that the skin on her palms is torn away.

Gabe 

The election result has been welcomed by Gabe. At school, Corbyn is a hero. Gabe is dissatisfied by my position that neither major party leader is a fit PM. ‘What have I got against Corbyn?’ I was asked often during the campaign, as well as, who are you going to vote for and why? On election night, he sat with Lou and I as the TV guests and presenters toyed with the unlikely exit poll. Around midnight, with four GCSE exams the next day, he conceded that is was time for bed. 


Revision

Gabe

Gabe is several weeks from the start of GCSE exams. Since the start of the Easter holiday, he has been making sincere, if not always successful, attempts to revise. He’s easily distracted by his phone and possibly misdirected in his efforts. He owns up to some anxiety and admits he wishes he worked harder in year 10. By the Easter weekend, at the close of the fortnight’s holiday, he had reached a state of near complete dependency – needing L or me to be with him for him to revise. We both put in the hours and added momentum to his studies. I found out a lot about electricity, radioactivity, French tenses, An Inspector Calls, the New Deal and enzymes. Working in tandem, L and I had an important victory: managing to convince him that he must plan before he writes. Whatever his technical frailties, we both assume his powers of retention will put him in good stead to excel in the exam room.

Eliza

Eliza is becoming an expert and loving gift-giver. Her birthday present for L was perfect. In the past she has sketched me and her together and made me an Eliza-themed collage for my wall at work. This year, as my birthday approached, she hassled me for clues about what I would like, even calling me during a work meeting. Come the day, the centrepiece of her gift was an eight verse poem about me written out on a large piece of card. It was full of her disdainful wit: “your company will occasionally suffice” is almost as kind as she can manage to be. It will be treasured and maybe responded to.

Robin

Robin’s club football season has not been as successful as it might have been. Playing wide on the left, against very tight defences, he has had little opportunity for marauding dribbling and goals dried up after Christmas. When talk turned to next season and moving to another league so the team could play on Saturday (not Sunday), his interest was equivocal. We spoke about trying other teams or clubs. Eventually, he agreed to sign on again, after his friend A – even less committed given his skateboarding fervour – relented under his parents’ pressure. Another consideration was the promise from the coaches that the current centre-forward, a difficult and troubled lad, with sumptuous football skills, would not be returning and Robin would move back to striker.

30 day challenge

Eliza has joined L and me on (so far) two 30 day challenges with escalating physical demands. First, we did ‘abs and squats’ and now we’re attempting an arm strength challenge. We get together in the evening for that day’s exercise. Eliza goes first, so she can finish first. She does the exercises frenetically, pitching her torso up and down with sit-ups, not with the control I would expect of her as a gymnast. The fourth and final daily arm exercise is shadow boxing. Eliza thrashes her arms, getting quite uppity at the futility of the exercise and liking one of us to hold a pillow that she can flail at. 

Robin has played in his second cup final of the year, this time representing school. His team won all six matches, barely conceding a goal and with Robin leading scorer with 11. He has, I’m told, impressed playing alongside his friend and Man Utd academy player, Big L. 

The Beatles continue to be Gabe’s favourite band – to listen to and to play on the piano (Lady Madonna, at the moment). But he’s allowing other long defunct groups into his listening repertoire: Bowie, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and most surprisingly, the Smiths. He’s interested in which songs L and I like, encouraging us to add them to Spotify playlists (the subscription for which he convinced us to buy). He’ll listen to our choices, but hand down his own judgement on the correctness of our taste. 

Atypical teen

Gabe

Two colleagues have season tickets for City in the family stand. They qualify for tickets there because they take their nephew. This 14 year old is in a full-on teen awkward spell, which includes not wanting to go to football matches. Hence, I was asked if Gabe would like to go with them. Gabe accepted.

And so there have been rave reviews of what a fine chap Gabe is. He was great company, happy to chat, a pleasure to be with, would he like to come again?

Indeed Gabe has been very good company in recent weeks, all through Christmas and into the New Year. Much has changed and will be changing for him at this time. But one factor was that he broke his mobile phone before Christmas by knocking it into the toilet. He had to wait for Christmas to accumulate the funds to replace it, which he did by upgrading to an iPhone. I shared this observation with him. He agreed that he would spend less time on his phone. That would make him an atypical teen.

Eliza

Eliza has a cause: the French spelling bee. The paper on which the words she must learn are printed is crumpled with use. ‘Test me!’ she implores and delights in remembering the French words, and even more in spelling them with the letters in French: double-vay; y-grec, etc.

Robin

Our sodden winter turned cold for a weekend. On a walk by a canal the kids bounced stones along the iced surface, listening to the ethereal plimp noise made by the skimming, skidding stones. Then tried to hurl stones through the ice.

Even better, it snowed the following night. Robin was awake at 7am and by 7.30 had sized up the conditions. ‘Come to my room’ he begged, wanting us to open the curtains and behold a snowy garden. He woke Eliza, dressed, gulped some breakfast and then was out in the garden. For 45 minutes, there were snowballs and a snowman. He came in for more breakfast and soon after that the melt was happening.

 

French trip

Eliza

Just as Gabe had, three years earlier, Eliza set off in the early hours of a Sunday morning on a school coach journey to France and Belgium. The terrorist attacks on Paris had put in our minds the trip in jeopardy, but the school found the official advice favourable and Eliza didn’t want to miss out.

A couple of Christmas markets, ice skating, a visit to a chocolate factory, hours and hours on a coach and no educational value whatsoever – but she had a great time.

Robin and Gabe

The sodden autumn meant that game after game of football was cancelled. One weekend’s fixtures were lost when a weather forecast wrongly predicted frost. Meanwhile, Gabe’s revenue stream was interrupted as his chances to referee games were lost too. And during the idle time, Gabe’s coach was negotiating a mid-season relegation for the team after looking out of their depth in the first two matches in division two. In the New Year they will compete in division three with nine losses against them and in the division two cup competition, after the league refused to demote them for both league and cup.

Chocolate party

Eliza

Eliza had agonised over how to celebrate her 12th birthday. She couldn’t figure out how to balance her new school friends with her old. The solution came with a joint party with a new school friend and a sleepover with her best friend.

The joint party, in a local church hall, featured Oliver the chocolatier teaching ten attentive girls how to make truffles and other chocolate goodies. The group sat for an hour, chatting quietly and engrossed in the activity. When it was finished they picked from a buffet eating a fraction of the quantity of pizza our kids eat (and so a fraction of the pizza bought for the occasion). After tea they arranged their own games. Both sets of parents observed, praised, offered food but had very little to do with a group of self-possessed youngsters.

Robin

Robin was in a bad mood leading up to Eliza’s party. He had wanted to watch either the City match or El Classico, but both clashed with the chocolate party. Worse was to come when I offered Gabe the chance to go to the City match with friends, without extending the offer to Robin. City were one down before we left home. Robin was unimpressed and lapsed into exaggerated Manchester footy-speak as we listened to his team go further behind in the car on the way to the party.

Gabe

Monday nights, Gabe spends an hour with a German tutor. Prevented by school from studying more than one modern language, L & I arranged private tuition (the school has agreed to enter him in the exam) to enable Gabe to work towards a GCSE in German. He seems to enjoy the 1-1 lessons in our kitchen and, each week, L supplements this by working with him on vocabulary.

 

Camp

Gabe

Gabe joined 90% of his school year on a five day camping trip that rounded off his term. We heard nothing from him for the whole week and didn’t know what to expect when he came back from his first ever experience of camping. 

He was tired, but generally positive about the camp when he got back. The worst point had been sleeping one night, not under canvas, but shelters that they had made themselves. Gabe said he didn’t sleep at all. He was also unimpressed at his friends’ lack of cleanliness. Unlike them, he had changed his socks and pants daily. The food was also disappointing. Still, though, he had enjoyed the week. Would he like to go camping again, I wondered. “No”, was the clear answer. 

Eliza

Eliza’s final weeks of junior school were occupied by play rehearsals, shows, a school disco, talent show, spelling bee and various other activities that are part of the rounding up of a pupil’s education before they head to secondary school. 

Come the day of the talent show, Eliza turned to L at the school gate and said, “I’ve forgotten my costume.” 

“What costume?”

But before, L needed to rush home to find this costume, Eliza’s best friend appeared: “Don’t worry. I brought a spare costume, in case Eliza forgot hers.” 

Eliza sat and passed her grade 3 violin exam and at the leavers’ assembly, she was awarded the school music prize for her contribution to the school orchestra and recorder Group. 

Robin

Robin was awarded the coaches’ player of the season award at his football team’s presentation evening. He tried to look nonchalant, jaw jutting and unsmiling, but L was aware that he was nervous beforehand, betraying a hope or expectation that he might be a trophy winner. The coaches gave each player marks out of ten for various skills and likened each player to a professional footballer. Robin, they said, is like Edin Hazard for his ability to “tear opposing defenders to bits.”