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Mar 01

My house is about to go on the market. It’s 13 years almost to the very day that we bought it.

I’ve enjoyed living here. We looked at a lot of places when we decided to buy in New Orleans. There was one place down by Coliseum Square, I think we looked at it three times. There was another place on Prytania Street that we looked at twice, maybe three times? But the place we ended up buying was undoubtedly the best of all.

Although it’s a condo, in that it shares a dividing wall and roof with another home, really it feels like a house. There are no monthly fees to pay like there are with some flats, apartments, etc… I remember that place down at Coliseum Square charged hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month for communal upkeep, probably mostly because they have a communal pool.

So it will officially be for sale in four days, and after that I guess you just sit and wait. Will someone make an offer on it? How low will it be? How much under the asking price are we prepared to accept? The best case of course is that two or more buyers fall in love with it and bid against one another because they are desperate to have it. But I believe the housing market has softened here in the Crescent City, and while that may indeed have happened a couple of years ago (indeed it did happen to my friends around the corner), it’s a different ball game these days.

Anyway, time will tell. It’s the first time I’ve ever sold a home – not quite, but the last time was a private sale and not on the open market – so what can you do but sit back and wait.

Maybe next month I won’t have a place to live in. I’ll post an SOS if I need a couch to crash on…


Feb 06

The new year has been awful so far. Hopefully it will get better.

First off, as I wrote last month, my grandmother died. Then just a couple of weeks later, my nephew, my stepsister’s son, also died. She was 99, he was 19. A difference of 80 years and a whole life span between them, an extremely sobering thought that makes you thankful for what you have.

Then we got hit with crazy weather here in New Orleans, the Big Freeze, that left the city paralysed. I had always just considered a cold snap a mild inconvenience, but when you live in this part of the world that changes. When we did some work to the house a few years ago we never insulated the water pipes underneath the house. They are exposed and old, and that decision, that maybe would have cost $100 or something, came back to haunt us.

The water froze, and when it thawed one of the pipes burst. So I had no water for a bit, going to my friend’s house to shower and such. Then when we did get it fixed the valve in the water meter out the front broke, then the taps / faucets also went on the blink because the silt from the pipes blocked them. All-in-all it took three visits from the plumber and cost close to a grand to fix. Lovely. To add to the joy my upstairs heating also stopped working and that was more money to get someone out to fix that. And the heater in my car still isn’t coming on.

At least I have the Mardi Gras parades and ensuing revelry coming up this week, so a bit of light relief and distraction on the horizon. I hope 2018 gets better for me and is an enjoyable 12 months for you too.

Jan 09

My grandmother died 10 days ago. She was 99.

I was convinced she was going to live until she was 100, and her death came out of the blue. It’s sad, but of course that’s a helluva innings to have, just falling a few months short of a century. I found out about it when I opened up Facebook, my cousin’s son had posted about it. An illustration of the social media age right there.

My dad called me a few hours later, and no matter your age, it’s got to be hard to lose your mother. To make it worse, the funeral was held last Thursday, his birthday. So he got to bury his mum for a present, making it the most bittersweet day you can imagine I suppose.

Unfortunately I didn’t make it back to Belfast for the funeral. I just couldn’t swing it. The timing was terrible, if a death in the family ever has good timing. I’m in the middle of teaching a writing course and coaching soccer, and with it being so close to the holidays, just a couple of days after the New Year, travelling standby on my friend’s buddy passes across the Atlantic would have been hard. When I priced it, the regular return trip for just a few nights was more than $1,200.

I was at the funeral of my other three grandparents so I hated missing hers, but, as my friend said, funerals are for the living. I’m sure she knew that I loved her and that I was thinking of her.

So long Sadie. Here’s hoping that after some sad news, the year gets better from here on out.

Dec 14

In August I wrote a blog about how I had finished the first draft of my book. Four months later I sent it to the publisher. I hope this time, finally, I am done with it.

The first draft is the first draft of course, as stupid as that sounds. Two months later it was ready to go. The problem was the Americans. Not every American you understand, just those who play for the national football / soccer team. They were the people responsible, the culprits if you will, because they didn’t qualify for the World Cup.

So I had to write three new sections for the book, then edit those. It’s done, once and for all. Though probably not quite. Because we have had to rename it, redo the cover, rejig things, it means they will probably end up switching around some of the chapters and changing the order and such. Thus things I refer to as the reader already having read will come later. So my guess is there will be bits and pieces still to tidy up.

But to all intents and purposes, it’s finished. It’s been a labour / labor of love for sure, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I am glad it’s completed. Writing books take up a lot of your time, especially when they involve researching a tournament that’s been going on for almost a century.

So Christmas is fast approaching, January has me deep in soccer-coaching season, February brings Mardi Gras. Then maybe I’ll get my head up and see what happens next. Some changes down the line I feel.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone,


Nov 13

I don’t normally do this. I’ve had this site around eight years, and I’ve written (I think) a blog every month, so that’s probably close to 100 pieces. But today for the first time, I’m just going to post something I wrote for the Chelsea website. Because I’m so disappointed. Here it is:

I got 10 out of 10 in the World Cup quiz posted on the Chelsea website. It’s no consolation to what has been a crushing end to the tournament’s qualification campaign.

Last month the United States were eliminated when they lost to Trinidad & Tobago, even though the Caribbean nation were bottom of the CONCACAF hexagonal section. Despite the defeat, America would still have made at least a playoff unless both Panama and Honduras upset the region’s top two countries Mexico and Costa Rica. Both giant killers managed it, Panama benefiting from a ridiculous referring call when a shot did not cross the line, but they were awarded a goal anyway.

A similar egregious decision went against Northern Ireland in the European playoffs. Switzerland were awarded a penalty in the first game in Belfast when the Romanian official adjudged that Blackburn midfielder Corey Evans deliberately handled the ball in the box. Not only was his back turned and his arm not in an “unnatural” position, the ball didn’t even strike his arm but hit him on the shoulder! In three hours over two legs the spot-kick was the only goal. It sent the Ulstermen out of the World Cup.

The 2005 Champions League semifinal against Liverpool was decided by a debatable single goal at Anfield, a shot by Luis Garcia that was deemed to have crossed the goal-line. It was the first time I can remember hearing the term “ghost goal,” José Mourinho meanwhile memorably calling it, “a goal that came from the moon.”

But as unjust as the decision seemed that night – and indeed still does more than a decade later – it didn’t have the same finality about it. Since then we have reached the knockout stage of that competition four times, the quarterfinal once, enjoyed a trio of semifinal appearances, made it to the final, and of course, wonderfully, magically, the Blues have lifted the trophy. Call it arrogance or entitlement if you like, but every year I expect Chelsea to qualify for the biggest club tournament on earth. Progress to anything less than the last 16 is is a disappointment.

In contrast, Northern Ireland’s absence from the World Cup is going to stretch until at least 36 years, and probably longer than that. It was 1986 the last time we qualified, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s decades until we do it again. Hopefully they manage it once before I die.

So welcome back to the Premier League and good riddance to the international break. I desperately need football to cheer me up. A personal message to Chelsea – please make sure we beat WBA and their three Northern Irish players McAuley, Evans and Brunt this weekend.

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