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…

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…


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