Monday, February 18, 2008

Five (barely) alive

I’m afraid this post will be one of those where I recount a recent activity in laborious detail, rather than one of the ones where I concisely articulate the human condition. It has to happen every now and again.

This weekend saw the second annual football grudge match-based university reunion, sponsored by Unibond, take place in England’s East Midlands. While proceedings were mainly centred on Nottingham, the fixture itself was staged in Derby on the advice of the police (Sting hates 5-a-side and happened to be in Nottingham that weekend). Sadly this so-called advice neglected to offer any meaningful tactical instruction to the Johnson Road side, of which I am part but certainly not whole, as it crashed to a second successive heavy defeat to the Rest of Lenton.

I write this 48-hours after the game – an ill-advised marathon 80 minutes of 5-a-side – and I feel overwhelmingly crippled. Despite doing a bit of unprecedented public jogging in the last couple of weeks, in the hope that it would return me to peak fitness for this showdown, it didn’t help a great deal. I’ve been experiencing spontaneous attacks of cramp in my left calf ever since, both of my feet are black and blue, and when I sneeze it causes severe pains in my pancreas. And all for nothing.

Football aside, the weekend was a fine collusion of humanfolk. We sampled a delightful post-match meal at a Thai/Malaysian restaurant in Nottingham which, despite failing to provide an option of steak and ale pie with puff pastry lid and chips the size of bricks, surpassed all expectations. Well done to Mark for putting his cuisine neck on the line with that choice. An evening of drink wound up in Chambers, a terrible Irish-themed karaoke bar and an old university haunt of ours. It seems that despite the introduction of the blanket smoking ban, some places are getting around any potential clean air problems by pumping vast amounts of dry ice into the room, just to make sure nobody can see, breathe, or taste how bad the beer is.

On my way back to Manchester on Sunday I stopped off in Sheffield to witness Boro’s drab goalless draw with Sheffield United in the FA Cup. Given that we had a record away following of almost 6,000 supporters, it was a bit of an anti-climax: you'd have thought the players were the hungover ones. Thankfully this was compensated for in some ways by a monstrously good sunset drive over the Peak District to get home. I took the A57 ‘Snake Pass’ route, which winds up and around the peaks, and it proved insanely beautiful – so much so that the Peak District has risen in my official National Park-credentials estimations. The southern bits I’d visited before pale in comparison to the delights at the top end, which just adds further weight to the mantra 'north is best'. To think that only 32 miles separates these two famous old industrial powerhouses, and yet they are separated by such sparse and intoxicating countryside. What beauty: what downright variety. You wouldn't get that down south with your piddling picture postcard villages, and broads and whatnot.

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