Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur!

It's been quite a week, with a lot going on - but while there's been disappointment in not getting the house we wanted (in the end it went for £100,000 more than we offered - nearly 25% over the 'offers over' price), it was made up for, in my case, by Spurs winning their first silverware in 9 years!

Ok, it was 'only' the Carling (or league) Cup, the least glamorous of all the trophies up for grabs, but it's saved our season. Spurs are languishing in 11th place, with a lot of ground to make up if they want to break the top half of the table, and chances of finishing in the top 7 - thereby qualifying for a UEFA cup place - are very, very remote. Winning the Carling was our only ticket to Europe, and with Chelsea as our opponents it didn't seem all that hopeful.

It was quite a game - at least for Spurs fans. I'm not sure how interesting it would have been for the neutral. After having the best of the play, Spurs went behind to a Didier Drogba free kick, well taken from 20 odd yards - but where the hell was Paul Robinson? Terrible positional play, and Spurs had to go in at half time trailing by a goal. But the second half saw Spurs come out the gate flying, ably helped by Ramos's clever change of Lennon to the left, and Tom Huddlestone coming on in the middle. Chimbonda chucked his toys out the pram when substituted and stalked down the tunnel, silly bugger. The tactics paid off, and just under half an hour into the second half Wayne Bridge handled the ball in the box and we got ourselves a penalty. Berbatov was immensely cool, easily sending Cech the wrong way as he slotted his penalty into the bottom left corner. 1-1, and over 15 minutes left to play. Could we hang on and force extra time? Could we get another?

It looked like we were going to win it when Didier Zokora beat the offside trap and was clear on goal. His first shot was parried by Cech, but he got another bite at the apple - only to send his shot tamely over the bar. Terrible. In fact, Zokora pissed me off immeasurably on several occasions - not least when he squandered a good bit of build up play by taking a shot from 20 yards out that went into row Z. He's never scored from that far out in all the time I've watched him, so what the pissing hell was he doing?

It was a tense finish, but we didn't manage to get a winner and the game went to extra time - 15 minutes each way. Ramos had brought Tainio on in place of Steed Malbranque, giving us a more defensive edge which seemed ominous to me at the time. Were we just going to try and hang on for penalties? That would kill me!

Not so! Under 10 minutes into the first half of extra time saw Jermaine Jenas float an excellent free kick into the box. Cech came out to punch it clear, only to have Jonathon Woodgate head it onto his outstretched arms. The ball cannoned off Cech, back onto Woodgate's face ... and into the goal. A touch of good luck, to say the least - but not undeserved. Spurs were playing better throughout the entire game.

But then came another 20 minutes of play, and I saw very little of it. By this stage I was hiding behind the sofa - and no wonder. It was like watching England play. Spurs completely gave up on retaining posession, and simply allowed Chelsea to attack and attack, relying on the defence to bail us out. With only a few minutes to go, Kalou cut inside the defence and blasted a shot goalwards - only for Paul Robinson to have his Cup Final Moment and make a terrific save with his feet. Then followed a period where it seemed Chelsea battered our goal, winning corners and taking pot shots - all to no avail! The ref blew for full time in the middle of a Chelsea attack (Kalou hit the post anyway), which meant Chelsea, led by Drogba, finished the game berating the officials in a display of petulance only to be expected by top players nowadays.

Spurs went wild. Robbie Keane showed just how Spurs through and through he is by bursting into tears and flinging himself on Berbatov. Gor' bless 'im. It was 'only' the Carling Cup - but silverware is silverware, and we're in the UEFA cup next year! What has been a disasterous season, in comparison to last year's 5th place finish, has now got some serious silver lining. Well done, fellas. You made my week. Nay! My year!

Still, apart from the nonsense of looking at a house that proved far too far out of my budget and spending a fucking GRAND on a survey when the sellers had no intention of selling within my price range, we've had some good times.

The laydeez came up for the weekend, arriving on Friday night and partaking of some beef Wellington, lovingly cooked by these fair hands. We drank a little bubbly, as it was on offer at Tesco, and I sang Koios her new song - a silly little thing in no way worthy of her.

Next day, Fisher left for house-sitting in Northumbria while Koios, Phid, Janus and I set off for a 7 1/2 mile walk up by Dunkeld. It was great. We started off in the little town of Dunkeld, which is truly picturesque place, north of Perth. Koios fell instantly in love, especially when I took everyone into Menzies' Grocers - a little local deli. Koi and I shared a baguette to keep us fuelled, and then we were ready for the off.

The walk started with the ruins of Dunkeld cathedral, then set off along the river, into woodlands and away. We went past the Hermitage - an 18th century folly, built to allow walkers a great view of the Fall of Braan, where Dorothy Wordsworth once visited. It was very pretty, and I think I may actually have taken some pics on my crappy camera that aren't awful.

The walk then took us out to Rumbling Bridge, allowing a close up of one of the numerous waterfalls. I took a photo, after giving Phid both dogs to hang on to, and a car promptly turned up. I turned to see Phid struggling with both dogs, trying to get them out of the way while the old lady in the car patiently waited. I viewed Phid's struggles with mild interest and general dim-wittedness, until I gradually managed to tune in to the quiet words she was muttering, amidst the rumble and roar of the waterfall. (The clue's in the name 'Rumbling Bridge.')

"Ohh!" I said. "You're saying 'help!'"

"I'm trying to get your bloody dogs out of the way!" she bellowed. Funny how they suddenly, and very pointedly, became my dogs. Anyway, before I actually needed to do anything, the old woman realised she actually had about 3 acres of room, and deigned to cross the bridge and get her car the hell out the way.

"But you were doing so well!" I told Phid guiltily, under her accusing glare, before relieving her of Bridie and, a few paces on, suggesting Janus might like to take a turn with a pooch. Phid had clearly had enough and was pretty close to breaking my neck.

Our path then took us out into the open, gradually climing up to windswept fields which afforded a beautiful view of Glen Garr.
Glen Garr
After a mile or so, we headed back into woods and descended to Birnam village, where a rather pathetic Beatrix Potter Garden, with a couple of interesting information boards, allowed us to have a quick breather from walking. I didn't actually know that Beatrix Potter spent childhood holidays in Perthshire, or that the area was her inspiration for her books - but it makes sense. Anyway, beyond Birnam, we re-entered woods and took pictures of ourselves lounging against what is thought to be the only remaining oak from the Birnam Wood in Macbeth.

It's big.

Birnam Wood. Didn't go to Dunsinane.

Alas. As Koios was taking her photo, I leaned back rather heavily against the massive trunk - at which Phid cheekily chuckled and said:

"I'm just waiting for this ancient oak to go 'creeeeaaaak' and topple over."

"Cruel!" I cried, aprreciatively offended at such a crack about my weight. She then added to my indignity by attempting to push me over. I gave a girlie squeal ... at which Baffie and Bridie, presumably thinking me a goner, set upon one another in an immediate bid to eliminate each other and become Alpha. Phid and I separated them with, luckily, no harm done - although Bridie had, as usual, come off by far the better. She's a dirty fighter. She had Baffie's paw in her jaws at one stage - and also her nose. Baffie, of course, sat looking terrified with one paw up, meaning everyone fussed over her and ignored Bridie, who stood between my legs, barking, snarling, and wagging her tail with savage joy - like the fiend from Hell she is. If she could talk, she'd have been saying:

"Lemme at her! Lemme at her!! Kill!! Kill!!"

At least, this time, Janus didn't separate them by sticking her arm in Bridie's mouth and getting badly bitten. All in all, I rather regretted bringing the pooches - who first attempted to set Phid against me, then, having failed in that, tried to kill each other.

However, with pooches settled we had no further incidents and returned to Dunkeld with satisfaction high, legs aching in a good, life-affirming way, and bellies ready for another trip to the deli. There we stocked up on cheese and bread before heading home and preparing for the night ahead.

The night ahead saw the arrival of Brave Bird and Minstrel, who'd brought his guitar and was badgered into playing, and also Arrow and Lubentina. I cooked up a chicken and quail casserole thingy, involving most a of a bottle of white wine, and we had a very chilled, pleasant evening of song, chatter and light boozing. It finished early, by our standards, and that was no bad thing. We were all pretty tired and ready for our beds.

Next day, I cooked a roast pork Sunday dinner, ably helped by Janus and Koi as Phid was off on a 12 mile run. I had wanted to go with her on my bike, but the girls wanted to leave by 2, so I didn't have time to cook and ride. And, despite Koi's protestations that I could have left them with a list of instructions, I'd feel it was pretty cheeky to ask people to Sunday lunch then get them to cook it themselves!

Without Fisher's light hand, the roast potatoes were distinctly inferior - but perfectly edible - and I was happy with the pork. I even managed not to screw up the gravy. Leek and asparagus veg, fried in butter, accompanied - and was followed by leftover cheese from the Dunkeld Deli. After our leisurely lunch was done, the ladies helped my clear up and then, in the blink of an eye, were packed and ready to go. It was perfect timing. The Carling Cup final started very soon after they'd left, and I also got to watch Aston Villa play Reading - so it was a Sunday from heaven, as far as I was concerned.

The only other thing to report is the 5k run I did yesterday, at Tentsmuir, which was slightly odd. I thought I was flying, and was convinced I'd do my fastest ever outdoor 5k. I did it in 32.25 (again, officially a minute slower than that, but only because of the sat nav's inconsistency), which is definitely one of my fastest times - but hardly record busting. There was a pretty powerful head wind as I ran back, but I can't use that as an excuse as my time out was 16.30 (ish) so I ran back just as fast. Anyway, despite thinking I'd gone faster than I did, I was pretty pleased - and the pooches loved it.

So that's that. It's a beautiful day today, and I should really take the dogs for a walk up the hill - but I can't be bothered right now. Maybe later.