Oct 03

This week I’m crossing the Pond again, even though it’s less than three months since I came back. Twice in a quarter of a year is a phenomenal amount of trips for me.

I once went three years without going home. I can’t write for certain, but I’m pretty sure it was between 2008 and 2011, while my daughter was young. The last few years I’ve made it a point to go over every year.

I was in Spain, England and Northern Ireland in June and July, and this very week 12 months ago I was also in England funnily enough. The summer is a much better time to visit: the weather is nicer, the days are longer, and my friends’ kids are off school. But the autumn / fall has advantages too of course, everywhere is less crowded and some things are cheaper. When you are travelling without children you don’t need to worry about pesky school holidays / vacations.

I’m probably most excited about visiting a new country. I ticked off two this year already when I was in Central America, and now I get to add another to my list in the form of Montenegro. I’m guessing it’s been 14 years since I last made it to three new nations in one year.

After that it will mean I’ve been to 52 out of the 55 UEFA members, with only Moldova, Kosovo and Kazakhstan left to conquer. You know, the biggies. I’m leaving the best til last obviously. We are hitting seven countries in 14 days. Very American.

Next month I’ll let you know how I got on. If I don’t decide to nip to Chisinau instead.

Sep 04

I’m writing this as a storm is heading towards New Orleans. It may be a hurricane by the time I finish. Hopefully either way, it won’t be too serious.

I’m in Gastonia, North Carolina, visiting my daughter for a few days. I flew out of Louisiana this morning at 7am, and it did feel a bit strange. Schools closing, the government shutting down, warnings to hunker down and buckle up… it all felt a bit familiar. But it’s been a while since we have had a serious storm or hurricane hit us I think.

The last serious one was about five years ago I believe when we evacuated to my friend’s beach house in Florida. Oh, the humanity! There is a definite feel in the Crescent City I think, having lived there for 14 years, that there is a distinctive way of dealing with an approaching storm. You want a hurricane to be heading towards you because then you can park your car anywhere you want, you can have a party with your friends and not have to get up early, and you get a day to laze around the house or go to the pub.

But obviously you don’t want anyone to get hurt or anything to get damaged. So we need it to blow itself out just before landfall, or dissipate and die or collapse on itself or something. Then everyone gets a lovely little unscheduled holiday.

So I hope Tropical Storm (or Hurricane) Gordon, does not cause any real damage to ourselves or our neighbours to the east like Mississippi or Alabama. Fingers crossed that this latest event amounts to nothing more than a day or two off work and off school for the populace of New Orleans, a city whose residents are well experienced and practiced in dealing with impending weather disasters. Hopefully there will be nothing serious for them, or anyone else on the Gulf Coast, to deal with. In this case, the lack of drama is a good thing.

Aug 09

It’s still brutally hot here in New Orleans, but it does feel like summer is winding up. Metaphorically if not physically.

It’s a million degrees and hot, humid and oppressive, so it’s more of a perception than fact. I guess that’s all to do with the return of school.

I’ve had a fabulous summer because I got to spend a lot of time with my daughter. She lives in North Carolina these days so I only get to see her once a month. Often it’s just a fleeting visit, a couple of days here and there. But I got to spend a good bit of time with her in June and July, then had her here with me for a couple of weeks in Louisiana as well. I’m taking her home at the weekend, so tomorrow will be our last day together for a while.

I worked at her school for six years, then last year I worked at another school, so I suppose I’m tuned into the academic year much more than I ever was in Belfast. I’ve friends who are teachers, I’ve mates with kids getting ready to go back… it all feels like we are about to move into Fall. But of course on the face of it that is crazy, and August I’m sure has temperatures that are as high as June and July.

I won’t feel like we are truly into the Autumn / Fall until we hit September. Indeed I think it’s crazy that kids stop classes around the 20th of May for three months – if it was up to me, I’d have them stay in school until the beginning of June and go back at the start of September. That’s what we do in the UK, and our weather is nothing like it is over here.

But, like, whatever dude. As the Americans say, “It is what it is.” And I don’t care what month of the year it is, I’ll just enjoy being a full-time father again.

Jul 17

I missed my blog in June. The naughty step for me.

I’ve been writing every month for close to a decade now, and I’ve probably only missed three or four. Not quite sure how that one flew under the radar. I guess I had a lot going on before I flew to the UK, wrapping up everything over here in New Orleans, doing press for my new book, sorting stuff out… pretty poor excuse though, even I can see that.

I had a great time across the Pond though. I got to spend four weeks with my daughter which was great and we had a wonderful time. The last time she visited Belfast she was only six, so she doesn’t remember much about it. It was tremendous to visit all the tourist spots and attractions that she either had not been to before, or did not remember. I think this was her fourth visit to Northern Ireland actually.

In between day-trips with her, I was writing for the local paper back here in Louisiana. I think I ended up producing 20 pieces or something, so obviously that kept me on my toes. And of course I watched as much of the World Cup as I could.

It was an exciting and enthralling tournament, one of the best in living memory. All-in-all, it was a fantastic month to be in Europe. Now I’m back in NOLA and it’s a million degrees with no sign of the heat letting up until, I don’t know, about 2028 or something.

I enjoyed my time at home. Now I’m back home. It’s complicated when you belong on two different continents. Til next time, stay cool.

May 03

My new book is finally out! It only took me nine years!

At least, there were nine years between the release of Finn McCool’s Football Club and this one, World Cup Fever. I don’t mean that it took me nine years to sit down and write the thing, although sometimes it did feel like that…

If truth be told, I’m delighted that it is finally released. It has been a labor of love in that there was a lot of research and cross-checking and reading and cross-checking and watching videos and cross-checking involved. You don’t want to put your name to a work and then have to be corrected a week after it is out when there is nothing you can do about it. There were three mistakes in my Finn McCool’s book and they haunt my dreams to this day (kinda).

But I’m proud of it and I hope I’ve done a good job. It’s fewer than 200 pages long and is more of a guide to the tournament than an exhaustive in-depth study, so hopefully it will appeal to the more casual fan as well as the football fanatics / soccer obsessives across America.

I have a pretty small window of six or seven weeks to promote it as much as I can before the World Cup begins, so I’ve been busy with it the last couple of weeks. And now I better get back. Til next time…

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