Monday, 13 May 2013

A weekend of two halves

The jester
To borrow from a rather famous sporting cliché – it was a weekend of two halves.

First up, Saturday (although obviously you knew that anyway).

But Saturday just gone was FA Cup Final day – and I had a ticket for the match, with Manchester City set for their second final in three seasons, this time, against Wigan.

Now by this time you’ll all know that we lost.

And let it be said that the best team on the day won: Wigan coach Roberto Martinez got his tactics spot on, using very limited resources to cram midfield and stifle our attack, but without ever resorting to niggly or dirty play.

For City, Yaya Touré was quite clearly unfit; Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevoz had little or no service, and … well, given all the stuff going on in the background was certainly not helping, that was essentially that.

So congratulations to Wigan – you deserved it. And that is the romance of the cup – and long may it continue.

What made the day rather more bearable from a personal perspective was that I was with good company and that, as a result, the craic was good.

We started at in a pub at King’s Cross at 1pm with lunch – and not just the liquid variety, although the Skinner’s Arms does do decent ale as well as cooking lager.

The pasta
I opted for pasta – which reassuringly lines the stomach – with capers and garlic and chili, and it was not bad at all.

And then we headed for Wembley itself, taking a train that allowed us to walk down Wembley Way – the iconic route.

And yes – I admit it now – I bought a jester hat. Hey – it had to be done. After all, it now entertains the cats.

The atmosphere before the match was wonderful – no need to separate all the fans – and the atmosphere after was fine too.

Let’s pass over the game itself any more than noted above.

Hey ho hum – this is all part and parcel of the experience of being a real fan.

It’s impossible to get on a train straight away after a Wembley match, and hardly easy to get into a local pub. But one of our number knew of a local Catholic social club that opens its doors on match days.

We headed there for the wake, joined by something like 150 other City fans, and with community singing to accompany the cooking lager. This is what, in the darkest times – and they have been far worse than this weekend – have still made it special and worthwhile.

It was around about 11pm when I made it home – surprisingly still largely in a decent state.

The wake
The Other Half had retired, but on receipt of a text had put the oven on before so doing.

I slipped a Pieminster fish pie into the oven, half-heartedly teased the cats with my jangly hat, and waited until my supper was ready.

After that, the only possible place to go was my pit.

And there I stayed until yesterday morning, which dawned bright and sunny.

It was a morning that demanded time in the garden. First of all, though, a trip to Hackney Road was required to pick up a couple of framed pictures – not least, my Günter Grass lithograph.

Then, serious gardening time.

The runner beans had been going so completely mad that they couldn’t have stayed in the grow house a day longer without bending below the lid.

All three went outside. As did the three broad bean plants and one pea plant. For the beans, both varieties had new bamboo pyramids constructed – the runners are already up to the first level of string.

I raked away vast amounts of pink blossom from the tree above the potager: having finally come into bloom so late, the weather had then battered it into early submission with heavy winds over a number of days, leaving the delicate petals lying, like pink, drifted snow, across the carpark and flower beds.

The weather, which had stayed clear to this point, started to change. Clouds gathered to chunter among themselves. The merest hint of rain dropped.

I battled on.

New sowings of carrots and turnips went in, as the older ones finally show real development.

Then a new cloche, with spring onions, radishes, lettuce and chard underneath, sown generously in the hope that such largesse will eventually mean at least something to harvest.

And in the meantime, the blackcurrant bush looks serene as grows in splendid health.

Perhaps most astonishing of all, one of the peas – just a small one, really – is producing the first pea flowers of the season; a delicate white and pale green.

The brave little cat
So finally, the potager looks to be producing the first hints of harvests to come.

Much is still to be done – but these are the sort of things that revive the spirits after depleting times.

And if that wasn't enough, a half leg of hogget, roasted with Jersey Royals, baby leek and asparagus, was more than enough to do it.

Indeed, it wasn't enough, because then there was mad little Otto deciding that she was absolutely not putting up with local semi-ferel cat Reggie, who is SO much bigger than her, being in her carpark. And backing him into a corner and then sending him off in a flurry of claw-tipped paws.


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