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…

Apr 05

Today an old Chelsea player named Ray Wilkins died at just 61. It’s very sad, it seems like it was a heart attack and it’s a young age to be passing away. Four decades ago he was my first Chelsea hero, a beacon of talented light in a struggling squad.

I only saw him in Blue once. My first game was in March 1979 against Liverpool at the Bridge in the old First Division. It ended scoreless, but as we are almost 40 years down the line, and I was only nine at the time, I don’t remember much about the on-field action. I was not even sure he played that day and had to confirm online.

Ironically, I saw him live more lining up against my team. He was an England regular, and every year they faced my home nation Northern Ireland in the British Championship. We were also in the same qualifying groups for both the 1986 World Cup and the 1988 European Championships, and I was at all four of those games at Windsor Park and Wembley. I probably cheered against my first hero around half a dozen times. Funny how things work out.

Now Chelsea of course are a world away from the club I supported as a young Belfast lad. Things change, time marches on, and at my age it’s not unusual that actors and sports stars and singers whom you grew up with are now dying. Indeed it’s almost a weekly occurrence as I near 50.

But still, sometimes one means more than most. I read about it on the BBC website as I was sitting in a motel room in Gastonia, North Carolina. I wrote a piece about him for the official Chelsea website. It is bizarre how far you can travel from your beginnings in life, both physically and metaphorically.

This is the second time I’ve written about a death in the last four posts. As my dad told me many years ago, “Dying is part of living.” I guess he is right. RIP Butch.

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.

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