Posts Tagged ‘sport’

Call Me Robin

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

I am contemplating a life living in a forest with a bunch of merry men and attempting to win the heart of a fair maiden named Marian. I’m not sure how long it would last but at least I could feel confident heading off into the woods knowing that I’m not that bad with a bow and arrow.

On Sunday, Sir Pubert and I had a one-hour archery lesson in the Peak District near Sheffield. My single previous attempt at archery had ended in many tears and an early exit from the range. Seventeen years later, I had finally moved past that experience and felt confident enough to try again. My dad was a little concerned about me attempting archery again, but I assured him that as I am no longer 12, I am significantly less weak and pathetic and I now have a better understanding of the physics of bow handling,  I would be ok. But secretly I was still a little nervous.

The class was held at the Ringinglow Archery club and we were instructed by Damian. For obvious reasons the safety instructions were outlined very seriously but soon we were on our way to firing sharpened sticks through the air.

Archery

Not a bad view.

Our first target was 10 metres away, which doesn’t sound like much but when you’re attempting to make a thin projectile hit a dot on a board, it seems much further. It was very relieving when my turn came to shoot my first arrow and I not only managed to hold on to the bow correctly and make the arrow fire, it also hit the target. It wasn’t a bullseye by any means, but it didn’t go completely off track and hit one of the horses in the nearby paddocks. That is success in my books.

We were soon firing off arrows like pros – Sir Pubert will be disappointed if I didn’t mention that his final score was higher than mine, but who hit the central part of the target first? Oh, would that have been me? Why yes, I do believe it was.

Archery target

Arrowed!

Pubert wasn’t content with the 10 metre target and convinced Damian to let us have a go at the 20 metre range. I missed my first shot but managed to land the rest of the arrows. It was amazing to see how much you have to change where you aim when you move from one distance to the other. I would classify myself as a short-distance archer at the moment with potential for inclusion in the Olympic team in 2016.

A Weekend in Paris

Monday, September 17th, 2012

This past weekend it seemed as if Paris was having one final attempt at making the most of summer and sunshine and there were lots of events and activities happening around the city. My weekend was full of action which is always enjoyable particularly if it means I get to wander through Paris in the sunshine. Here was my weekend:

Saturday Morning
I have decided I should train for my 16km Paris to Versailles run that Becky and I will be undertaking at the end of the month. So Saturday morning I put on my Garmin GPS watch and headed out into the Parisian madness. I left early as there is no point in running through Paris when there are people around. Both tourists and Parisians are incapable of not being in the way and you may as well walk slowly behind them because you’re not going to get anywhere. I wanted to do at least 16km but wasn’t sure how I would go as I was running on my own and I usually get bored or just give up. I managed to surprise myself, running across the city and reaching the Eiffel Tower in under 7km. I then ran back home along the river, took a slight detour towards the canal and arrived back home having completed 17km.

Running through Paris

That red line is me!

It was fantastic! The key to running long distances is having something to look at. My run took me past the Opera House, the Ritz Hotel, through the Tuileries (twice), along the Seine, to the Eiffel Tower and then back past the Louvre, Notre Dame and finally the canal. I couldn’t get bored, I was too distracted thinking, “Ooh look I’m running past where Louis XIV lived!” That and “Move out of the way you slow tourists/Parisians who are taking up the entire footpath.”

I managed to do the 16km in around one hour and 30 minutes which was very pleasing considering I though I’d stop half way. GO ME.

Saturday Afternoon
I had read about a music event called TechnoParade last year but never went, so this year I roped my friend Marcello into coming with me. It is a electronic music festival that is open to the public and that had DJs standing on top of large semi-trailers and driving through the streets of Paris. These large trucks are then surrounded by hundreds of drunk, half-naked teenagers. I hadn’t thought about that aspect. When we arrived, I instantly felt OLD and as if I had been transported back to Perth and was at an electronic music festival. At least this time I hadn’t paid $150 for a ticket and there was lots of space to stand back from the crowd.

Technoparade

Technoparade

It was an interesting thing to see and there were approximately seven trucks playing different styles of music. They were driving very slowly so you could easily walk up and down the street, listening to the various sets. But I don’t think I will go again – it was very messy, the music wasn’t that great and it is hard to dance while walking! I did spend the entire time thinking, “This would NEVER happen in Perth.” Free music, driving down the streets of Paris, alcohol everywhere, drunk teenagers and people climbing on cars/bus stops/fences/walls/trees/lamp posts. Crazy.

Saturday Night
I thought I would be having a quiet night as all of my friends were either away or busy. I went and sat in the garden of the Récollets and was soon joined by various other residents and the night turned into a late one. The Récollets had been taken over by the Mairie de 10eme (the local council) and there had been activities, art shows, and music performances all weekend. The garden was full of people eating and drinking and at about 11pm a band started playing. It was fantastic music, I have no idea what it was though. There was a group of men playing brass instruments in a very upbeat “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” kind of way and then 10 or so girls with fantastic voices and gorgeous smiles singing along. It was exciting, vibrant and made you want to dance – so that’s what we did. You could certainly pick the foreigners from the Parisians – the dancing Australian/American/Italian weirdos and the straight-faced, sullen French refusing to even tap their feet (although the more alcohol-influenced Parisians were dancing too.) It was a great night.

Sunday Morning
My Saturday night did stretch into Sunday morning but I still managed to get up early enough to ride down to the Hôtel de Ville and be one of the first in line to go inside. This weekend was Les Journées du Patrimoine – two days where all of the old, beautiful buildings that are usually closed to the public are open. There are hundreds of buildings across the city that are used as government departments, hospitals, museums, or are privately owned, and on these two days you can enter and see what they are like on the inside. It is a fantastic idea and last year my brother, Ben, and I managed to be at the right place at the right time and went into the Senate. This year I had decided I would go to the Hôtel de Ville – one of the most prominent and most beautiful buildings in Paris that is now the main town hall.

Hotel de ville

Hôtel de Ville de Paris

While you followed a set route to go through the building, you are allowed to explore quite extensively and there are lots of people around to provide you with information about the building. The Hôtel de Ville was even bigger than I imagined and was beautifully decorated with plenty of gold and wonderful floorboards. The floor is always my favourite part of these old buildings – I love the way it creaks.

Hotel de Ville

Fancy.

You could enter the Mayor’s office – a lovely room with a great view but a really UGLY desk that looked like it was from IKEA. If I were the Mayor, I’d ask for a new one. The Mayor wasn’t there which was a shame. I would have liked to ask him if I could stay in France for longer.

Paris Mayor's office

Salute the Mayor!

Morning Tea Time
It was time for coffee so thankfully around the corner was one of my favourite coffee shops – Caféotheque. Unfortunately I decided I needed cake and made the mistake of ordering a chocolate cupcake. It was described as ‘chocolate’ but it was in fact chocolate and orange, a combination that I dislike profusely. Plus it was dry… but the coffee was delicious.

Caféotheque coffee

Mmm… coffee.

Next…
I then wandered along the river as I had heard there would be a market near Notre Dame. On the way, I had to wait for a group of very slow cyclists to pass – there was apparently a bike ‘event’ (I want to say race but they definitely weren’t racing) and I had been watching these cyclists ride past the window of the café for at least 30 minutes. Most of them were plump and over the age of 55, wearing lycra and taking the whole thing very seriously. There were designated people in yellow vests stopping the traffic, which is problematic in Paris as any hold up in the movement of traffic results in a fusillade of car horns. As I tried to cross the road I had to wait for a hundred or so cyclists to pass. At one point a taxi attempted to drive through the pack and a man on a bike with a yellow jacket started blowing a whistle, yelling at the driver and placing himself and his bike in front of a moving car. He was NOT happy. Neither was the taxi driver. Neither was the person who had hailed the taxi. Neither were the people in the traffic jam. Neither were the bike riders. I was THRILLED to be watching this incredulous action – it was absolutely hilarious!

Eventually the bike riders disappeared and things returned to normal and I went to the market, sampled some foie gras but didn’t buy anything. The same market had been there the year before, selling exactly the same products. Clearly nothing changes in Paris either.

Before Lunch
I decided to see if any of the buildings on Ile de la Cité were open and discovered a small queue of people outside the Conciergerie. This was where people were held before being trialled and/or executed and it is now open to the public as a historical monument and an exhibition space. It was open for free and the queue didn’t seem very long so I went inside. I managed to get into the first main space – a large medieval dungeon-like space with an impressive arched ceiling – before I realised that there wasn’t a queue outside because the REAL queue was inside the building. People had clearly been waiting for hours to go and explore the rest of the building and while it would have been nice to see, outside the sun was shining and it was a glorious day. Why spend it inside a dungeon? So off I went.

Conciergerie

Nice arches.

Crêpes
I met up with my friends, Sonia and Guibril, near Montparnasse at 4pm for goûter – the French version of afternoon tea. I love any country that has afternoon tea and really don’t understand those that don’t. Anyway, Montparnasse is known for having Breton-style crêperies and we sat and had delicious sweet crêpes (mine had chocolate and banana) and cider. We sat chatting for a few hours and before we knew it time had passed and our stomaches were grumbling thanks to the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. So it was round two – this time savoury galettes for dinner. Yum.

Home Time
One of my favourite things to do in Paris is to hire a Velib (the city bikes) and ride from the Montparnasse area, straight through the middle of Paris to my house. It is essentially one long, straight road and the first half of it is on a slight downwards slope. This means you can zoom through Paris with wind in your hair and not a care in the world (except, of course, the traffic on the road but at 9pm on a Sunday night there were hardly any cars.) It is such a thrill, particularly as you reach the Seine and ride over the river and see all of the lights reflecting and dancing on the water. Such a beautiful city.

So that was my weekend. Full of adventure, I learnt lots, I spoke plenty of French and I made new friends. Sometimes my life is awesome.

Les Jeux Olympiques

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

The Olympic Games snuck up on me – I thought they were going to start much later in August and then suddenly the opening ceremony was happening and athletes were competing. Normally I would watch a fair amount of the games, keenly discovering new sports that I never knew existed and cheering for the Australian competitors. This year, not so much.

I feel completely separated from the Olympics and haven’t sat down and watched any of the sports for the past week. I didn’t see the opening ceremony and I have no idea how many medals Australia has won. I have heard on the grape vine that Australia’s sports media aren’t overly impressed with the efforts of our team and that somehow the French have won more medals than us. Really, I don’t care, but it does surprise me that a country that doesn’t know what sport is, and that thinks me going for a jog in the morning is equivalent to running a marathon every day, is beating one of the world’s ‘top sporting nations’.

I have turned on the television to see what was happening in the Games once or twice, and have been warmly welcomed by the French equivalent of Johanna Griggs – a man with very large glasses and particularly impressive hair.

Olympics commentator

If hair was a sport, he’d win the gold.

He is very entertaining, purely for his eyebrows which even stand out behind his huge glasses. Also, when I would normally be transported from event to event following the Australian competitors, I am now kept up to date with how the French are doing. From what I have been hearing from the Australian media, the French commentators are much prouder of their team and will exaggerate and praise the skills and talents of their competitors, even if they come last. I like this. The Olympics are so serious these days and the amount of pressure that is placed on the athletes is ridiculous. I thought sport was supposed to be fun.

Olympic screen at Hotel de Ville

A giant screen has been set up outside the Hotel de Ville for everyone to watch the Olympics

(One of the) Best Days Ever

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Every now and then days come along that are just fantastic. You wake up and everything goes to plan or amazing things occur that make you laugh and jump for joy. Last Friday was one of those days for me, where I let down my hair and let whimsy take over. Thanks, whimsy. You’re a good one.

Here was my day:
7.30am – I met Becky down stairs for our usual morning run, but poor Becky had to pull out by the time we reached the first corner due to extreme knee pain. So I took it upon myself to run for the both of us, heading straight up hill to Parc de Butts Chaumont, and then down to the canal. Usually at this point we head for home, completing a 7km circuit. But I was feeling good, my legs weren’t tired and I had spring in my step. So I ran on joining one of our other routes and heading to a bridge that has “Cabaret Sauvage” written in shiny lights. By the time I got home I would have completed a 10km circuit. A great start to the morning.

9am – Breakfast. Having showered and de-stunk, I sat down and ate my usual banana, muesli and fromage blanc (it’s like yoghurt but better) concoction and continued to read Le Delicatesse. I am determined to read and entire book en français and have been given a short novel that I am slowly making my way through. I haven’t read much in French in the past as it is hard, slow going and generally frustrating as I realise how few words I actually know. But I am doing it! I am learning new phrases, new verb conjugations and actually enjoying the process. Fun times.

Between 9.30am and 12noon – I worked on some ideas that I have for a new book. I started researching my favourite street in Paris, Rue St Denis, as well as prostitution laws in France. Yes, prostitution. Fascinating history – it has shifted from being an acceptable and socially appropriate career to now being illegal. Despite this, it is extremely easy to spot in certain areas of the city.

10.30am – Morning coffee with half a gevulde koek.

12.30pm – Tom and I met Pip and her boyfriend, Manu, for lunch. We went to L’As du Falafel, one of Paris’s most famous and popular falafel restaurants in the heart of the Marais. As per usual, it was extremely delicious and ridiculously hard to eat as these pitas are stuffed full of falafel, lettuce, and grilled eggplant that just go all over your face and hands. So good.

2pm – Manu wanted dessert (I like this guy) so we wandered through the Marais before settling on le Pain Quotidien, a chain boulangerie that makes very good bread and desserts. I had a mini chocolate tart that fit perfectly in my stomach after my large falafel.

Chocolate tart

Yum.

3pm – Time to do something crazy. Pip talked me into going ice skating with her outside the Hôtel de Ville in the centre of Paris. It is a beautiful setting and each year the Mairie sets up an ice rink that people come and zoom around on. I am the world’s worst ice skater. Really I am the world’s worst at any physical activity that requires me to be balanced and moving at the same time. I stuck to the wall on the side and pulled myself along, my legs like two planks who refused to bend and glide, bend and glide. Pip eventually convinced me to go around with her. I didn’t fall over! I think that’s a positive. And there was a fun and supportive atmosphere amongst all of the less-talented skaters. I was sure to speak in my strongest Australian accent so everyone realised that I wasn’t from these European, ice-filled lands. I’m quite certain that Australians were not designed for ice skating.

Ice skating

Jess "Ice Legs" Davies

Anyway, for just five euros to hire the ice skates, it was a fun way to pass the time. The boys stood on the edge and froze. Silly things. And on my various turns around the edge of the rink, I could have acquired at least seven phone numbers from French men watching and saying, “Bonjour, la blonde!” They must be desperate if they’re willing to go for the dorky blonde who keeps saying “WHOA!” and almost falls over.

4pm – From here we separated ways and headed home. I went online and bought a Le Creuset pot for even LESS than I had seen in the shops! It arrives in the mail next week (I hope.)

8pm – We met Pip and Manu again for dinner Le Jardin D’en Face. We wanted to take them to our favourite restaurant before Pip and I head back to Australia. I had spoken on many occasions of the world’s best chocolate cake that can be found at this restaurant and so there were high expectations. Thankfully dinner (and the cake) were delicious PLUS the waitress who has been there for our past few visits mentioned that she recognised us and asked where we were from, what we were doing etc. When I said we were from Perth she became very excited and said she had lived there for eight months. Of course she had. Every French person between the ages of 22 and 30 has. So now we have a friend at our favourite restaurant. Hoorah!!

10.45pm – The night didn’t end there. The old saying, it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know (or rather it’s knowing people who know other people), came into fruition with Pip having scored us half price tickets to the Moulin Rouge. Pip works in the pub next to the Moulin, and the dancers come in for drinks so everyone is friends with everyone. This is fantastic when you want to save 50-plus Euros and see half naked girls dancing.

Moulin Rouge

Le Moulin

We were allowed to get in through a secret back entrance with a password, gate keeper and locked doors. Very exclusive. Pip’s friend and Moulin dancer, Alex, met us backstage wearing a face-full of stage make up and very dirty terry-toweling overalls. It was fantastic. All of the dancers were wearing these as they walked past with their heads high, shoulders back, looking ravishing from the neck up, and like trailer-park bumpkins from the shoulders down. I need to get myself one.

We were taken to our table as the show began and another friend of Pip’s was our waiter. Once again, this came in handy as he put an ice bucket on our table with three bottles of champagne. Thank you.

So, the show. I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The costumes were fantastic with some great use of colour and they were well designed to cover and reveal the dancers bodies. It wasn’t all boobs – some of the dancers remained covered up for the entire show and only the lead dancers revealed their ‘bits’. The dancers’ bums were more readily on show as most of the outfits involved minimal ‘bottom coverage’. It certainly wasn’t crude, nor was it overly sexy.

The choreography was a bit tired and could do with an upgrade or perhaps return to how it really used to be when the Moulin was in full swing. It seemed very 80s and some of the dancers looked bored to tears. It was the late show and I don’t blame them for being sick of doing the same steps over and over again, but the crowd is expecting some sort of enthusiasm. The girls were definitely better than the boys, with most of the guys looking like their mum was making them do it.

There were a few interesting moments involving snakes and miniature ponies, but really overly I felt the show lacked some sort of spark. Maybe my expectations were too high, but really I’d much prefer to spend that sort of money and go and see a band perform. It was a bit naff. I think the other problem was that the crowd was full of tourists, half of whom didn’t really seem to get into the performance. There wasn’t much excessive clapping and the atmosphere was generally quite flat.

The show finished at 1.30am, our day of Parisian fun over. Tom and I walked home and were finally in bed by 2.30am. It was a long but fantastic day and a great way to say “A bientôt, Paris!” It also made me even more determined to be back here in six weeks’ time for more good times and more good food.

Anyone For Table Tennis?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Autumn has arrived in Paris with the trees shedding their leaves at rapid speed. However, the past week has also seen beautiful warm weather – perfect conditions for spending the day outside. A recent visit to GoSport (an awful store selling all your sporting needs) saw Tom and I investing in a table tennis set. We didn’t just choose the cheapest option either – we went for the ultimate in table tennis brands, Dunlop.

There are lots of table tennis tables spread throughout the city in local parks and along the canal, and they are in high demand on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But if you’re lucky enough to score one then much fun can be had. Ben, Tom and I took our new set out for a spin the other Sunday at a table situated next to a lock on the canal and underneath some beautiful chestnut trees. We encountered a few potential dangers – the table wasn’t in the greatest condition and appears to also be used as a beer table, drug exchange hangout and a homeless-person’s bed; the canal/lock was right next to us and any mishit balls would end up in the water (this happened twice); and the chestnut seeds are currently in the habit of bursting open and dropping large cannonball chestnuts onto our heads. They hurt! Trust me.

Table tennis

Table tennis by the canal

We struggled on despite these dangers and discovered a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. This last Saturday, Tom and I headed back out to have a hit and had to walk up and down the canal for over half an hour in order to find a table. There are clearly dedicated table-tennis-ers who concentrate on their game play, as well as families out enjoying themselves, and groups of friends drinking beer and having a friendly game. I think as the weather cools down there will be less competition for the tables but we will also freeze to death playing next to open water. That’s the life of a pro table tennis player.

Danger Run

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

About a week ago, I signed up for a 10km fun run that starts and finishes on the other side of the canal from me. It is currently 9am on the morning of the run and I have just discovered that I need a doctor’s certificate in order to participate. In France, you can smoke and drink as much as you want but you can’t even contemplate doing any sort of sporting activity without consulting your doctor to see if you might die from it. I had stupidly not read the fine print on the email I was sent and this morning have discovered the truth, after leaving a party early last night and avoiding not drinking too much etc etc. Plus I was all excited as I have never done a fun run before and 10km is a nice challenge for me. I’m going to try and get in anyway but it is highly likely I’ll be refused. I guess if they refuse me then I’ll just do my own 10km run and it’ll be a much nicer course than the one they have set out. So NER to them, stupid French.

A Trip to the Market

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

I have made my first unnecessary and whimsical purchase of my stay in Paris. We have just returned home from the Marche aux Puces (flea markets) which is a collection of second hand antique markets in the north of Paris. There was so much great stuff – particularly interesting pieces of furniture that I really wanted to buy but that looked a bit hard to carry home on the metro. So instead I bought this:

Boules

Boules anyone?

A boules set from the 50s (I think.) The lady told me but numbers take me a while to translate in my head. Pretty cool, me thinks. They’re not super heavy like your average boule. I’ve probably been ripped off but I like them. They’re pretty AND will come in handy in summer.

Best… Game… Ever.

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

I was forwarded a rather amusing email this morning from a West Coat Eagles supporter. The email was entitled “Message from Mark Harvey for Dockers supporters” and contained a photograph of a lemur stating in a rather crude manner that Dockers supporters should just ‘calm down’. The Dockers’ win on Sunday against Geelong has resulted in as much talk as The Great Storm of Perth, 2010. I spent the last two days sitting in an office listening to people saying, “So how about those Dockers!” and “That was the greatest game I have ever seen!”. All it takes for the citizens of Perth to forget about their golf-balled cars is for a bunch a grown men to run around and kick an oddly-shaped ball between some poles. It appears the Dockers brought a sense of joy and happiness to the wounded folk of Perth and everyone is happy once again. Such a spiritual moment in football.

Sport has always been an important discussion and argument topic in Australia. We take great interest in our sporting heroes and will praise and cheer when they kick goals and score points, and boo and hiss when they fail miserably. Sports stars, particularly footballers, appear on the front covers of our newspapers as once again they have affairs or get caught drinking and/or taking drugs. The rest of Australia knows what they’re up to and we’re damn well going to have an opinion about it. If you’re ever stuck in an awkward social situation (eg. a wedding where you don’t know anyone, blind date, first date, second date etc) just say “So, how about those Dockers?” and there’s a 90% chance that you’ll have found the ice breaker. Of course, if you’re on a date with me, I’ll probably just say, “I think it’s a load of rubbish.” and we’ll ask for the bill.

But why is sport such a successful topic? I suppose for most people at some point in your life you were forced to play Saturday morning sport. Then if you were unlucky enough to have siblings, you’d spend Sunday morning standing in the rain as your brother/sister ran around in the mud. Sport is embedded into our systems at a young age and no one escapes. Then as you get older and pop out your own children, the torture begins again, only this time you have to pay to stand in the rain and watch your children fall over, scrape their knees and lose miserably.

Although it may sound like it, I’m not complaining about the influence sport has on Australian culture – it is probably a good thing as more sport can equal less health issues. However, before I end this rant I need to state one thing that I feel very passionately about. When I become Prime Minister, I am going to make it illegal for retired sports players to become television commentators or talk show hosts. I’m sorry, but sports players have spent their lives running around ovals and training their bodies. They didn’t have time to go to drama school to learn how to speak to a camera and nor should they have. There are actors who do that! I cringe every time another cricketer retires, puts on a poorly fitted suit and reads an auto-cue (badly). The worst part is when there are three of them sitting in uncomfortable chairs, clip boards in their hands, discussing the previous innings and sending us to an ad break. That’s the one time when I want KFC to sell me chicken.

Cricket commentators

Nice suits.