On Playing xxi

Is that how it was?

Truly unbelievable.

Oh! How we laughed


n.b. Sometimes you just cannot make it up. The happiest coincidences, the spontaneous choices, the good fortune, the generosity of the people you bump into on the way, the adventures. Some call it fate, but that’s life!

CLP 30/01/2021

On Playing xix

Game of Truth or Dare!

Which is the most frightening?

Dare to be honest


CLP 30/01/2021

On Playing xvii

You playing or not

quite certain what the game is?

Me neither. Your turn!


n.b. The uncertainty seems to be increasing as physical distancing continues. Does anyone know what is happening to us? I write from a place of personal freedom, personal distance, personal isolation. Good days, bad days, happy days and sad.

When I read a book that mentions about going for a drink in a crowded bar, or for a romantic meal in a Paris restaurant; or when I watch a movie where people just move about acting out lives that mean having to be close to others and dealing with the intimacies of existence, I think, ‘Is this how it was, or will be? It doesn’t look or feel right. This is not how it is.

Interacting online with everyone is a miracle of technology, but I am tired of it. Everyone is accessible, everyone is removed. What is the game we are playing?


CLP 28/01/2021

On Playing xv

What do we do now?

I know, let’s play Hide & Seek!

No, Prime Minister


n.b. The man who hid in a freezer during the last General Election to avoid the press.


CLP 27/01/2021

On Playing xiv

There is a fine line

between right and wrong, you know?

I dare you She said


n.b. Sometimes the wider social rules are shifted to the personal. It is harder to persuade someone to do something than to not do something.

Step up: do the right thing.


CLP 27/01/2021

Lockdown 3 (Day 21) Postscript

To cap a suitably mournful day the UK has now lost over 100,000 people to coronavirus, (source: Public Health England).

Still there is discussion around shutting the airports, ports and the Channel Tunnel to all but the food and materials we need.

Take a moment to reflect on that figure again: 100,162 dead people due to coronavirus.


CLP 26/01/2021

Lockdown 3 (Day 21) Daylight

There was very little daylight today, but it has been milder and what light there has been has lasted a little longer than previous days. Today the Sun is up from 07:46h to 16:30h, tomorrow it be from 07:44h to 16:33h a net gain of five minutes.

This morning I heard a wider variety of birdsong than I have heard for a while. It reminded me of waking each snowy day near the Jura when on a trip there in 2018. That weekend there was a wall of song rolling down from the mountain sides as dawn broke. I was briefly transported back there this morning.

I need to swot up on birdsongs. It was not just blackbirds, pigeons, crows and blue tits. The orchestra is reforming.

CLP 26/01/2021

On Playing xiii

If I say “Jump” you…

“Jump?” No you must clap, ok?

When I say “Clap” jump.


n.b. Just a bit of fun. Isn’t it?


CLP 26/01/2021

On Playing (12)

Being substitute

is not a problem when you

get the chance to shine


n.b. As a boy being picked for the school team, even as a substitute, was to be part of something exciting. All I have ever wanted was to have an opportunity to have a go.

That is what we all want in life…to take part.

n.n.b. Quick explanation: 12 was the number of the player who could be used to replace an injured team-mate, or might be used to replace another player to change the flow of a match. This was in the days when football teams were numbered 1 to 11 for those players who started a game. There was none of this squad number / choose your favourite number business when I was a lad.

n.n.n.b. The Number 12 is now often allocated to a football club’s supporters, implying that after the eleven players on the pitch, the supporters are the most important people in the game. I will spare you the philosophical discussions that could be had around that, but when you hear a crowd gee a team up to perform better, or get on their backs and hinder their progress, you will appreciate that the supporters have an influence.

A report yesterday from Austria suggests that players without a paying, baying crowd present are much calmer and less confrontational with opponents and the referee.

From time to time Portsmouth have had players who did not need a crowd to gee them up. As the saying goes, they could start a fight in a phone box – with themselves. No names…but Pompey fans could tell you who I have in mind.

n.n.n.n.b. The picture is of St Andrew’s. The home of Birmingham City, who rent there ground to Coventry City, who were hosting a visit by Portsmouth that evening. Yes, we lost 1-0.


CLP 25/01/2021

Lockdown 3 (Day 20) Thorpe Saint Andrew

Trip trap, trip trap over the bridge I went to explore the more urban side of the river. Crossing the bridge was the easy bit. After that the carefully salted pavements and cycle tracks had iced over again and reset as black ice.

The sapphire blue sky and dazzling sunlight was the cue for blue tits to sing. They have a delightful vocal salutation to the Sun and I find their constant movement a joy. I find it most remarkable that they are able to go from fleeting flight to stock still on landing.

Other birds that were about included a grey wagtail in close to the door at Morrison’s. A young man was able to get quite close to take a good picture of it – the bird even stopped wagging its tail for a moment to help the photographer.

I wandered down a side road, under an old railway line bridge and on towards Common Lane, but I decided not to pass across the Yarmouth railway, as a woman was returning after seeing how flooded the lane was further along. I then took a left that ran parallel to the Yarmouth Road and found myself in a little bit of countryside. Mud and ice notwithstanding, it was a delightful diversion, which led me past the local scout HQ with its St. Andrew’s shield on the gate. They seem to have a great set up there, with a green and various bits of climbing equipment by the wood.

When I got back onto the road towards the city I noticed that the church has a tiny campanile of its own just inside the arched gate to the churchyard. The footpath to the church door passes through the bell tower, which is not even as high as the church roof. The church itself is an impressive structure for this the first town outside the city on this side of the river.

There are a couple of bank side pubs, both which have riverside terraces that are always busy in the days when pubs were open. The train journey on this line gives a good view across the river to the south-facing pub gardens and they look very attractive prospects for better times ahead.

There is also a narrow public garden with plenty of benches, some arranged around a war memorial that has the look of an anti-war memorial, (to which I have no objection at all). There is a more traditional war memorial more centrally located at the back of the park with the names of the local men lost during the two world wars of the C20th. The poppy wreaths were ringed by luminous red, backlit as they were by the Sun.

There is a point where the road and the river are very close and a way to the water’s edge has been provided for horses to get a drink. This access is called Horsewater. Like all those Norfolk roads named The Street, one gets the sense that not a lot of time used to be spent on getting creative with naming things around here.

I passed a cut through between houses. Here it is known as a loke, something that is is known by the name twitten in Sussex.

Closer toward the city is a car park, opposite the Broadlands District Council offices. This is for visitors to the Cary’s Meadow. Again this was badly affected by flood waters and instead of plodding around the meadow I spent some time standing in the car park talking to a woman who I had waited to go through the wooden gates before me. She advised that the ground was not easy walking at the moment, at least not for my trainers.

She told me a bit about the meadow and we soon enough got onto the pandemic and life as we now know it. She had been allowed access to the cathedral to light a candle in commemoration of her late husband, whose second anniversary it was last Wednesday. She was the only visitor inside that massive, celebrated building at that time. It was an important quiet moment for her. Life goes on, just differently these days.

I walked home past the east side of the football stadium and its car park. Coronavirus testing continues there, or are they vaccinating there now too? I did not ask. There were as many staff there as people visiting.

Crossing the Novi-Sad Friendship Bridge I saw the last flash of sunlight from the weather vane set on the point of the cathedral spire. Is it one of those proud brass cockerels that were once all the fashion? From the distance, in that moment, it seemed like a golden star.


CLP 25/01/2021