I don’t know how to express how I feel about what happened at the Boston Marathon. I have a hollow empty feeling in my stomach. It is not only because it was the first place we lived in when we got to the US. It’s not only because I see Boston as my US hometown. It’s not only because I am part of Red Sox Nation. It’s not only because I have so many friends who live there and watch the race each year. It is not only because I was worried sick about them all. It’s not only because the 2nd bomb went off 25 yards from my old office. It’s not only because I started running to one day do “The Boston”. It’s not only because I am angry and sad because of the death and injury to all of those out on a beautiful Patriots Day. It’s also because I am a runner…

My first marathon in 3:59:32

My first marathon in 3:59:32

I am a runner…

I am a runner. I run because we have no politics. We runners represent the world. We don’t represent any organization or country. We run as runners. We run and we are equal. We just run. No hidden agenda. Nothing but us and the road. We run because we can. We run as equals whether we are at the front or the back – we all run the same path. We are comrades battling ourselves and not each other. We are ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing for a few hours of running. And cheering each other on. We run for many reasons but in a single spirit. I am a runner free.

I am a runner. I run and I smell. I hear my wife and kids complaining and moaning about how I stink when I get back from my run. But I do it for the smile and kiss I get when I’ve done a race. I run for my kids to say how cool the medals are even though everyone got one. I run because my wife makes a little shrine of my running stuff. I run for them.

I am a runner. I run when I travel. I used to stay in my hotel room and just do nothing. Now I run. I see the cities and places that used to just flash by while I sit in a cab on my way to my meeting. Now I run and find the beauty in places so unexpected. I am a runner for beauty.

I am a runner. I run with my mates and sometimes we talk and sometimes we just run. When the world and all our problems feels a little bit too heavy – we run. All we need is the road and our running shoes to make it a little bit lighter. I am a runner for friendship.

I am a runner. I can run in silence or listen to the music of the world flash by. It can be on the road and cars roaring past or on a treadmill listening to my latest playlist or the trails and nothing but wind through the leaves and grass.  I am a runner for music.

I am a runner. We don’t run to write long stories because we know that we can never really tell you how we feel while running. Runners know. We just know. It’s freedom. Just you and the road. And sometimes a few mates.  I am a runner in silence.

I am a runner. I run and think of the funniest most politically incorrect jokes I will never tell the world. I think of the funny runners I have met on the road – the guy with the long socks or the girl with the fairy wings. I am a runner for jokes.

I am a runner. I imagine I am as graceful as a gazelle running free. I see myself gliding over hills and mountains. I know none of that is true. But I run sweating and struggling, and I run free. I am a runner running free.

I am a runner. I think I run alone but I never do. I hear the voices of my friends telling me to push a little harder. I hear the voices of strangers encouraging me to do one more mile. I am a runner with others.

I am a runner. I know I am no Haile Gebrselassie and won’t even win my age group in a local race. I won’t even get close. But I run because I can. I am a runner for me.

I am a runner. I run to be free of the worries of the world – even though it is just for a few miles. To clear my head and recharge. I am a runner for tomorrow.

I am a runner. It isn’t complicated. It’s a very simple thing. It’s just you and the road. We put our shoes on and we run. I am a runner because I can.

I am a runner. For every mile we fight pain and ourselves. Never others. We push and pull each other to do 26.2. I am a runner for marathons.

I am a runner. For the people cheering us on. Feeling our pain and giving us strength. I am a runner for them.

I am a runner. For every mile that will never be the same. I will never run alone again. I am a runner.

I am a runner. For every mile. For them.

I am a runner. For every mile.

I am a runner.

I am.

Running in my Red Sox cap

Running in my Red Sox cap

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I was in New York last week. No, that isn’t the story. Just the start. I had this meeting way down at 8th street. Or is that way up? No idea which way is up and which way is down when I am there. Who knows? Who cares? Anyway… My meeting finished way before my flight was to leave and I decided the day before to try something new. Take the bus back to the airport. I had more than enough time to get there – about 5 hours. How difficult can it be…

Well. More difficult than it seems. Especially if you have my navigational abilities. And street savvy…

Wait. Let’s just take a step back for a moment. I had this all planned out. I planned my whole trip the day before – back at the office. Printed out a map of the city. Marked the spot where I should catch my first bus. Where I should get off. Where I should catch the bus to the airport. And how long it should take to get to the airport. Everything was ready for me to fly off on a new adventure! I was prepared…

But I got home realizing that I left my whole stack of maps, directions and info back at the office. Right where I put them so I won’t forget them. Next to my bag… But hey! I can remember all the details right? What can possibly go wrong?

Now back to NY.

I said my goodbyes and left the building (AA has left the building.) I just flipped on my hat on and off I went… I jumped on a bus heading toward the direction where I should catch my bus to LaGuardia. Damn. Didn’t have the right change on me. And they only take coins. I got kicked off the bus by the bus driver. He could have been friendlier, but no problem. I’ll just grab a few coins from the shop. I bought some gum and a packet and off I went. Back on the next bus. Handed over my coins and settled in on my seat.

Bloody hell. It stops at every single block! And I am on 8th Street. I only have to get off at 95th. Or was that 116th? Maybe 125th? Anyway, I’ll sort that out later. But really. It is taking forever. And people aren’t that friendly either. I get a few stares. But I don’t mind. I got my iPod playing so don’t give a damn. But no “Love is in the air” from them. Grumpy bus people.

The ride took about an hour! It stopped for every single soul in NY and bloody everywhere. And people got on. And on. And a handful got off. I got up a few times to make way for pregnant women, women with kids, old ladies and gentlemen, and anyone who looked like they could do with a seat a little more than me. But hardly a smile or a thank you. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. They just sat there with their Yankee hats on and stared at me. The only one who gave me a smile was a Muslim woman who was visiting NY and didn’t speak English at all. New Yorkers? No sirree. Not a smile or a nod of the head. I just shrugged and did my own thing. Who will ever understand these people from the Big (Rotten) Apple?

But now I was struggling with another problem. What street should I get off at? I couldn’t remember if it was 95th or 116th or 125th. Don’t ask me how I got these three numbers stuck in my head. But I did. So the plan was that I’ll get off at 95th and then walk up to 125th. My bus to the airport will be around there somewhere. I think. Easy plan right? Yeah, right…

So I got off at 95th and started walking up towards 125th. On the same day that they had a huge event with McCain and Obama and Clinton and everyone speaking at Columbia about volunteering or national service or something. Whatever. It just meant that there was cops everywhere. And no taxi’s… But hey. I was going to catch the bus right? I can swear I see the right road just ahead…

An hour later I realized that I am hopelessly lost. I had no clue where I was. I knew that there was not a bus in site anywhere. And I passed 125th a long, long time ago. I have been walking and walking with no luck. And 116th didn’t look like anything where buses would use for a major stop. 125th didn’t make sense either. Maybe it’s just ahead. Morningside Heights have come and gone. Let’s go to Plan B. Catch a cab. Now that should be easy right? And I still have about 3 hours left. No problem…

But there wasn’t any cabs around. Cars yes. But not a single bloody cab. No problem. I must have picked the only spot in NY that is not covered by yellow cabs. But I know where I am. I think. I’ll just turn right and walk until I start hitting the main sections of Manhattan. Sounds like a plan. Let’s do it. So I turned right. Towards cabby land.

Mmm. Still no cabs. Let’s see. Where am I? Check out a few names of shops. Harlem. Cool. Never been to Harlem. But this isn’t a visit. It’s a mission. Get a cab and get to the airport. So I made another right turn down the main street of Harlem. Wazap my heavies! That’s to the dudes at the Hip Hop store. Lookin good! With the Yankee caps and hoodies. Lookin smooth bother! Hope they didn’t hear me listening to Enrique singing Hero… And why do the people give me the beady eye? What? What did I do dude? Is there something in my teeth?

Where the hell are the taxi’s? Oh wait there is one. Flagging down taxi! I am going to the airport!

He slows down as if he was ready to pick me up and then… Zoom! He hits the gas and off he goes. WTF? He didn’t have anyone in the cab! Oh well. It’s just one cab. And I still have loads of time…

Two hours later…

And I am still stuck in Harlem. Completely lost. Cabs refuse to pick me up. They slow down and then hit the gas. Some even flipped me a finger. I stopped guys at the traffic lights. But they just wave their finger at me and shake their head. Can you believe it! I stopped guys at a gas station filling up. And still nothing. They mumbled something about “Sorry sir… time… off” and other bull. I got into a taxi who dropped someone off and he turned around and his face just dropped when he saw me. Told me to get out the cab as he had some other business to do. Bloody rude cab driver! Everyone just ignored me or showed rude signs. And this went on for almost two bloody hours!

I started to panic. I am going to miss my plane back to Boston. I had just over an hour to get to the airport before my plane leaves! I gave up. I just stood on a corner seeing cabs everywhere but no one to pick me up. I just stood there. The iPod wasn’t even playing anymore. Head down. Shoulders hanging. And then the dude showed up.

“Looking for a cab?” I looked up. It was one of the hip hop guys. He was smiling. An odd smile. The smile you give to someone you want to laugh at but you know the person is really lost in so many ways. “Yeah, please”, was all I could say with a whimper. He shook his head and turned to a cabby on the other side, “Hey! Come here!” The cabby drove over and I got it. I looked at the dude that just saved me and said, “Man. Thank you so much for that. No one wanted to pick me up! You saved my life.” He just smiled, shook his head, and slapped the roof for the driver to take me.

The driver didn’t speak. I said, “LaGuardia please. My flight leaves in an hour and I still have to check in.” He just nodded. And then stopped to put some gas in. Well, after he drove on the wrong side of the road to take a shortcut to the gas station.

And he drove slower than Miss Daisy on a Sunday afternoon leisurely drive. And never spoke a word. Just looked at me every now and again with his Yankee hat on and gave me a rude stare. Like all New Yorkers did that day.

But thank God I made it in time. I got there in 30 minutes, checked in and got on the plane. I was tired from all the walking and just pulled my hat over my eyes and slept all the way to Boston. Ready to catch a cab home.

This time I didn’t have a problem. It was an easy ride home. Had a chat to the cabbie about Haiti where he is originally from. Got home and said goodbye. Walked into the house and took off my hat. Well, my hat… That’s it! My bloody hat I always wear when I travel!

My bloody Boston Red Sox hat! I had it on the whole time. The whole day. Everywhere I went in NY. The bus. The streets. Harlem. The cabbies. You name it. No wonder the Yankee loving bastards glared at me and refused to give me a lift.

Oh man. They hate the Red Sox. Especially now. They lost out to the Red Sox and didn’t make it to the playoffs. Back when they refused to give me a ride it was still a close contest. Now it’s over. We won. You’re out. You Yankee loving bastards. I got the final revenge. Go eat this Yankee! I win. You lose! Red Sox Nation 1 : 0 Yankee Losers. Revenge is sweet.

_______________________

Note: To those “Souf Efrikans” reading this. The Red Sox and Yankees is like Province vs. Blue Bulls in rugby, South Africa vs. Aussies in cricket and Chiefs vs. Pirates in soccer. I’m the Province type of guy.

Today started off like any other Friday. On the train to work, iPod playing and already in a weekend state of mind. Almost like having Georgia on your mind, but with more fun and no threat of the death penalty. Anyway… I was getting ready to get off at my stop when I noticed her.

She was right in front of me. I didn’t take much notice at first. I was adjusting my iPod earpieces. And then I saw it. The tag of her jersey was showing. It was on the outside of her jersey. It took me a while to figure out whether she had her jersey on inside out or whether it was just a fashion statement. I couldn’t see her face and had no idea how old she was. And I have seen some funny fashion statements in my time. I lived through the 80’s people. Wearing clothes inside out as a fashion statement would not surprise me one bit. But now I was in a bit of a dilemma. Do I tell her or not?

I should do it. Just tell her. If I am wrong – no problem. I will be slightly embarrassed, but she would be fine. I might even bring a smile to her face. You know – she would be thinking, “What a dork. He just isn’t in with the latest style.” I can live with that. And if I was right? I would save her from embarrassment. She might be slightly embarrassed and pissed at me, but at least she will be okay when she walks around town later in the day. She might actually thank me silently later on when she sits down and have a tall skinny non-fat strawberry mocha frappuccino with no whipped cream at 200 degrees and room on top. And a block of ice and one Splenda. Whateva! (And I snap my finger and whip my hair around while saying that.)

I was still thinking through my options when I saw it. I froze completely. Just stopped dead in my tracks. I panicked completely. I have heard of this, but have never actually seen one. The nightmare no woman wants to face. And no man wants to be responsible for. The horror. The horror.

A skirt was tucked into her knickers…

Her whole backside was showing. Or all that I could see from my quick glance was her complete left buttock and about half of her right cheek. And the little red hearts on her white undies. Not that I noticed. But she was completely unaware that she was caught in the pantie-butt-tuck. One thought flashed through my mind. And right after that I thought – what now? What the hell was I supposed to do now?

Do I go up to her and tell her? How? Do I just tap her on the shoulder like a friendly stranger and flash her my winning smile? Do I walk past her and look back nonchalant and tell her in my normal voice as if nothing happened? Or do I whisper in her hear like an old friend? And then what? What do I tell her? That her skirt is tucked into the top of her pantie? That her butt cheeks are showing? Or at least one of them is in full view? I had no problem telling her. I was just stumped about how I approach the subject and what I had to say.

So I just stood there. My brain frozen. I knew I had to say something. But this was a first for me. Something I was completely unprepared for. And she disappeared into the crowd while I stood there like a stupid ass. No pun intended.

No, really. I was a stupid ass. I should have reacted quicker. But I really wasn’t ready for this. Next time I will be. Please God don’t let there be a next one though. Because I still don’t know how I will approach her and what I will say.

Excuse me, mam?

Excuse me, mam?

I eventually started walking again jumped into the shop to buy some… hum… cigarettes… I mean… nice healthy water. To calm my nerves. But at least the “water” wasn’t in a plastic container. That’s just so environmentally unfriendly. But let’s just say that it could be true. Except that I think that water is for meant for coffee and plants. And maybe to make putu. And sometimes for a shower. But that’s about it. Anyway…. I digress.

I was standing in the line waiting for my turn to hand over the ransom pay. Just minding my own business. I looked over to the magazine rack and my eyes started to wondered to the top rack. The adult section. I really didn’t mean to look at them. It was merely for “research” purposes. I swear. Ek belowe. And then I looked a little bit closer at the cover of one of the magazines. It was a Playboy cover. And the woman on the cover had the oddest pose.

She was bending over like she was carrying an imaginary backpack, her legs were slightly apart but straight as if she just wet her pants, her ass pointing up like a Dodgem car, her hands hanging down towards the floor neanderthal style, and she had that weird look like she was slightly constipated (or just wet her pants) but was trying to hide it from the camera – you know, that smirky smile. But it wasn’t her look that made me laugh. It was her total pose. It looked as if she was about to pick up something really heavy. My immediate thought was “she better be careful as she might hurt her back picking something up that way”. She should really use her legs more and not use her back when lifting heavy objects.

And the magazine next to it had a woman pushing her… hum… front view towards the camera. Like she was going to wring-dry her top. Really. I didn’t see anymore covers as I had to look away. People were going to notice. Especially with me laughing out loud standing in a queue looking at porno magazine covers.

It made me think. What’s up with the porno pose? This can’t be nice for her or for the sad little man who gets some sort of satisfaction when he buys the magazine. or rather when he reads the magazine. You must be really odd to get any satisfaction from the act of buying only. Would that be seen as soliciting? Anyway… I am sure that he buys it for the great articles on cars/environment/economy/whatever. I mean really. It isn’t even remotely sexy or attractive. Even if you objectify women. Someone really needs to get a life.

So it leaves me with two questions.

Tell me. What should a man say to a woman if she is caught in a pantie-butt-tuck. I need to know that.

And also. What’s up with the porno pose? I just don’t get it.

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Look, from an American sporting perspective I am pretty happy to be living in Boston. The Red Sox won the World Series. Again. The Patriots are still the team to beat after so many Super Bowl wins and finals in the last few years. The Celtics made history in basketball when they whipped the Lakers for the crown this year. The Revolutions are top of the league in soccer after making the finals for 3 years in a row. Hell, even the Bruins improved this year on the ice. Yep, it is pretty good to be in Boston if you like American sport. Or what they call sport.

But Americans really don’t play any sport. Oh they call it sport, but it really isn’t. American football (known incorrectly as Gridiron by some) are really only played by bunch of wimps. So much steroids, protective gear and stop-and-start kinda play that they look more like Transformers running low on batteries. Basketball is really just netball played by guys in over-sized pajama pants. Ice hockey is for guys who are too sober to get involved in a proper bar fight. Their soccer is watched by an average crowd of 7, including family, friends and coaching staff. And baseball is for guys who can’t play cricket.

Ah, cricket. Good old cricket. Nothing like watching the swing of the willow sitting on the Oaks at Newlands. Have a braai and a beer (and Klippies offered by your neighbour). I miss good old cricket. It isn’t shown on television over here. Americans just don’t get it. Their eyes glass over when I try to explain that it is a game played for five days from 10 am to 6 pm with a lunch break and two tea breaks each day – and you are still not guaranteed a result. Except if it is England playing and you pretty much know they will lose. But Americans can’t handle anything that will potentially interfere with the trip to the mall or watching daytime soaps. Or work for that matter. Short attention span. They have ADD when it comes to cricket.

And they don’t get the names either. Here it is all blood and gore – Steelers, Cowboys, Jaguars, Giants, Bears and more in the NFL (football). The Devils, Thrashers, Hurricanes, Avalanche, Predators, Flames and more in the NHL (ice hockey). Fire, Revolution, Earthquakes and more in MLS (soccer). We have the Warriors, Hawks, Rockets, Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Raptors and more in the NBA (basketball). And MLB (baseball). Well, let’s just say that the Brewers, Royals, Twins, Blue Jays and Sox don’t quite have the same bite to it. And what the hell is an Oriole? Is it a breakfast or a bird? Can you imagine them being known by the proper Latin name – The Baltimore Icterus Galbula? Anyway… The Proteas just doesn’t have the same ring or sting to it when it comes to the more blood and gore type names Americans love so much. (Note to self – look if there is a link between President Bush’s approach to foreign policy and the violent names of American sport teams.)

But I follow the cricket. Especially now when South Africa is doing their yearly humiliation of England. (Did I hear anyone say 1 up?) Like I said, I can’t watch it. But I read it. On my mobile phone. Via the live texting of the BBC. It is brilliant. Not the actual cricket, but the commentating. I know South Africa will win, but I keep on following the live texts because of the sense of humor and descriptions given by the BBC team. They are really special. Got to love the English for that. They might be getting their backsides kicked by Kallis, Ntini, Prince and the gang, but they sure know how to commentate. And keep you laughing all the way. It might be all they have left in sport – a good sense of humor. The play cricket, rugby and soccer like a bunch of clowns in any case.

I now check the updates every hour or so. It’s less about the cricket score than the wisdom and wise cracks from the BBC team. I want to share a few with you. It’ll hopefully give you an insight into British humor. Unfortunately it won’t help you understand cricket any more than eating a burger will help you drive better. There is no link. But I hope you enjoy these. I’ll might try to update these over the next few days. Now, sit back and enjoy the company of the BBC cricket commentators – in their words. It all started with their first text update this morning… (It’s in UK time and remember to read it in a ‘proper’ English accent.

And Nel takes another England wicket...

And Nel takes another England wicket...

10:33 – New Kid’s out on his ear because he upset ‘team unity’ (is the England dressing room actually some delicate eco-system?) and Colly’s back on the back of a few runs in a Twenty20 knockabout. If I was Owais Shah or Ravi Bopara, not only would I be a different colour, I’d be a little bit irritated as well.

It’s all so chummy, I wouldn’t be surprised if the England team all bundled round Vaughany’s mum and dad’s house for a pyjama party after today’s play. Maybe Colly’s back in the side because he can get his hands on Porky’s?

11:28 – The man to the left of me has just pulled out a plum of a lookalike – Morkel and 1980’s ‘Brat Pack’ stalwart Anthony Michael Hall. If you were to stretch Morkel on a rack like a Catholic martyr, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

Vaughny was pricklier than the famed Jungle Book paw-paw in his Aggers interview. He said it with a laugh but it was saucer of milk for table two stuff.

11:54 – Plenty of empty seats at Edgbaston, not sure why that is. It’s got all the atmosphere of a nursing home Christmas party at the moment.

12:06 – Nel – or is it Gunther? – strolls down the wicket and spits a few verbals Cook’s way. I’ve got to be honest, Nel seems more simple than intimidating. It must be like batting against Lennie from Of Mice and Men. He drags another one in short – not sure why he keeps doing that, this pitch has the consistency of a lemon drizzle cake.

12:16 – A few more strokes like that and the ball will be speaking the Queen’s English.

Send back the defibrillators, I think this pitch might already be dead…

12:36 – Umpire Dar had no doubts, although Vaughan looks at him as though he’s just found him heavy petting with his mother on the sofa as he leaves the field.

12:46 – Cook gropes at an away-cutter from Nel and the South African paceman grins maniacally, like a staggering drunk who’s just seen up a lady’s skirt.

13:39 – I have o report that the England skipper is getting absolutely slaughtered in your email, anyone would think he’d nutted the pope.

13:59 – Another wicked delivery from Morkel Cook nibbling before pulling his bat out of the way as if he’s just been caught with his hands in his mother’s handbag.

14:12 – He actually has pretty good figures in test and first-class cricket but he’s had about as much cutting edge as a jam roly-poly in this series so far.

14:16 – If Graeme Smith is the nasty prison governor from Shawshank Redemption, Nel is the bully-club wielding prison guard.

14:25 – I’d hate to be there when something genuinely bad actually happens to Nel – he reacted to Bell hitting that four as if he’s just seen his car. Nel lets out a primeval roar – Gunther is clearly a very angry man.

14:42 – This England team reminds me of when I used to want to hang about with my older brother and his mates when I was a kid. My brother used to tolerate me, but you could tell he never really wanted me there. I got a bit choked up writing that.. such sad memories…

14:52 – Nel roars in Smith’s direction – Smith better watch his back, drop another catch and Nel will make his ears into a necklace.

15:00 – There’s former England skipper Graham Taylor in the stand – black shades, black shirt, white tie, he looks like he’s going to pull out a Tommy gun and start strafing the South African fielders.

15:05 – And he’s tighter than the elephant man’s hatband today.

15:11 – Thank God for that, watching the Durham man trying to get off the mark was like watching open heart surgery.

15:18 – The Durham man staggers out of his crease like a man emerging from solitary confinement.

15:26 – Does anyone else feel like trying to understand the England selectors is like banging your head against a brick wall whilst wearing a straight jacket and being held upside down in a vat of marmalade?

15:37 – As an England fan, I would rather smash my arm repeatedly in a car door than watch much more of this…

15:43 – Ambrose – another in the England batting line-up who makes Bill Wyman look like Gary Sobers at the moment. Old Nel is madder than a box of frogs.

… that’s tea. I’m sure it will be a cosy one in the England dressing room, all chums together sharing out the Werther’s Originals and telling tales of the 2005 Ashes series. I can just imagine Vaughany leaning forward in his armchair like Uncle Albert and proclaiming every now and again: “During the 2005 Ashes…” I wonder if they’ve got an open fire up there?

16:04 – Regarding the reference to the Elephant Man, whatever happened to him, he made on good film and no-one’s seen him since?

16:13 – Surely a couple of Ambrose failures here will lead him to being dropped – the Warwickshire gloveman looks like he’s been batting with an upright hoover for most of this summer.

16:19 – Nel chuntering down to the deep mid-wicket rope like a startled rhinoceros.

16:35 – Watching Flintoff having to bat like this makes for rather painful viewing, it’s like Maradona playing at full-back.

16:49 – Nel licks his fingers and grins, like a naughty boy who’s just polished off a sticky bun.

17:11 – Watching these two batsmen scratch away, I just had the sudden urge to start singing Onward Christian Soldiers. I’ve also got this image in my head of Freddie and Ambrose under siege in a dilapidated building, poking their heads round the corner every few minutes to fire a couple of shots.

17:30 – Good job Ntini ducked or his team-mates would have had to rechristen him Anne Boleyn.

17:37 – If you’d have believed my nan, her glory years were spent wearing a tin helmet in a coal shed fending off rats the size of rottweilers while the German bombs fell all around her. A deeply miserable woman, she didn’t tend to go out much after the War ended.

17:47 – Most of the England players are looking a little bit sheepish in the field, like schoolboys shuffling nervously outside the headmaster’s office awaiting to hear their fate.

18:02 – The South Africa openers could only look more relaxed if they were basted in butter.

18:05 – A day spent browsing for ceiling tiles in B&Q would have raised the spirits higher than this.

End of day 1… With the South Africans way on top. England all out for 230 and South Africa sitting pretty at 38 for one. Now, where is that beer and braai

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I go to Back Bay station every working day. That’s where I get off to go to work and that’s where I get back on to take my trip back home. Sometimes I stop by one of the stalls to have a bit of popcorn for my trip (Ssshhhhh! Don’t tell my wife.) That’s where I saw the popcorn girl the first time.

She works at on of the stalls. Selling loads of goodies – burgers and chips and drinks. And, of course, popcorn. A dollar fifty a bag. Nice and hot. And I love the smell of popcorn as I walk into the station. Don’t know why. It doesn’t remind me of anything other than the movies. But I still like the smell.

Always salty for me thanks. That’s how God wanted popcorn to taste like. Just a pinch of salt. None of this fancy sweet stuff. And the horror of toffee popcorn. Really. It’s salty or it’s nothing.

Popcorn girl is somewhere in her mid-thirties. Latino. But she could be younger. Because I never saw her smile. And that makes you old before your time.

I always wondered if she enjoyed her job. Because she never smiled. Maybe it was me. I don’t know. But I always smiled politely and said thank you like my mother taught me. But she never smiled. Just said, “A dollar fifty” and that was it. I’ll hand over my money and she’ll hand over the popcorn. But I still couldn’t stop wondering what her life was like. Behind the frown. And the non-smiling face.

Was she happy? Was she happy with her life? Was it what she wanted from life? Did she have a good partner? Was she married? Why did she never smile? Did she own the stall or did she just work there?

The stall moved to a new spot. Don’t know if it was sold or just moved. But it was even better for me. It was now right in front of my little entrance to the platform. but still no smiles.

I knew she had a kid. Because he would sometimes come and sit there by her. He must have been about 7 or 8. He sat there and colored in or read or just ate some popcorn. Sitting by his mother. And her stall.

And then she was gone. The stall closed down and she was gone. They still sell popcorn at her old stall. They re-opened a stall there. Two guys. I think it was her old stall. because the popcorn machine looked pretty familiar. But she is gone.

The two guys aren’t the same. They run it like a business. All smiles – fake and sometimes genuine. But I have no questions about their lives. They seem… well… you know… just two guys selling stuff at a stall. And she is gone. Don’t know where and don’t know why. Just gone. And now I wonder if she is smiling at home? If she is happy not working at Back bat anymore? Happy to not sell popcorn to the guy with the funny accent? Happy to be home with her kid? or is she out of a job?

I don’t know. Popcorn girl is gone. And I never saw her smile.

Oh, and the two new guys? They charge $2 for a bag! Bloody rip-off. Now I am not smiling anymore.

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You thought you beat the British hey. The mighty Patriots. You got independence. Started it all. The great and good men of Boston. So wrong. You are so wrong. You lost and you didn’t even see it. Or notice it. The British won. By stealth. And I saw the proof of it all today.

I was just minding my own business. Walking to work from Back Bay Station. Got my Starbucks and taking a slow stroll – enjoying a bit of sun. And then I saw it. But I didn’t know it was the British invasion, or rather the Enlgish culture conquest.

I saw these barriers. You know, the type the police put up to control crowds or keep them behind the “line”. I stared at it for a little while. It was just so odd. I haven’t seen it since the Red Sox won the World Series and paraded through town. But these were different. It had two sets of barriers running paralel to each other – maybe 6 feet apart. As if trying to control the crowd within these barriers. And it went down the street and around the corner and further down to where I couldn’t see anymore. What the hell? This is one heck of a crowd they are expecting.

Is Bush coming to town? It made sense. They had police all over the place. But Bush tend not to pull big crowds over here in Boston. Proud Democrats thanks. Obama? He can pull a crowd. But that was just wishful thinking from my side. No reason for him to be here. He’s over on the other side for a while now. And he lost Massachusetts to Hillary in any case. I was dumbfounded. Who the hell could be coming to town? Must be a big wig.

I started walking again and deep in thought trying to figure out who could this superstar be? And then I saw it. It wasn’t a “who”. It was a “what”.

There were already 15 to 20 people standing in queue. Or rather sitting on their chairs in the artificial corridor created by the baracade. Patiently waiting. Drinking their coffee. Chatting to each other. Stealing a glance in the direction of what they are waiting for. I looked and couldn’t help but burst out laughing. They were all waiting for the new Apple store to open. Suckers. The British won the bloody war. And they didn’t even know it.

You see, the British invented queuing. Or as I call it – standing in a line, wasting time and doing nothing a.k.a. standing like an Englishman. They love their queuing. Nothing makes a Pom happier than standing in a queue. They can do it for hours. And they can do it for nothing. Create a queue from nothing. I’ve seen it happen you know. Someone walks down the road and drops something. They stop and bend down. In that split second that they stopped five people queued up behind them. Just in case it was a queue forming. A true Brit never wants to miss a good queuing. It’s just not British.

They’ll do it for anything. And they’ll do anything to form a nice and orderly queue. Here is a typical scene. A Pom walks into a shop to buy a packet of fags (smokes or as you know it, cigarettes). But there is no one there but the person behind the counter. They look at each other for a split second. They know the drill. The Pom hangs around the magazine rack that is strategically placed close to the counter. He makes as if he is reading something – but he isn’t really reading. He is waiting. The door walks in. Another customer. Aah. Relief. He looks at the new guy and nod his head. The new guy nods back – a knowing nod. And waits. Guy #1 slowly walks to the counter. And waits for the other guy to come and stand behind him. Join the queue. The Poms are happy. They have formed a queue. World order has returned. And life goes on.

See what the proud Bostonians did? They formed a queue. For the opening of a store. Just a bloody store guys. And it was 7:30 am. AM – that’s in the morning. Guess what time the store opened? 6 pm. PM – that’s early evening. Ten and a half hours of waiting. For the opening of a store. No big specials. No free computers. Or free gas. Not even much of a store. Just an Apple store. Selling apples. Sorry, Apples.

The Poms won. Because they exported their most soul destroying tactic. Queues. Nice orderly queues. Just standing around and looking stupid British. Their propoganda worked on you. After all these years of thinking you beat the British and can sit back and enjoy your freedom – they were working all the time. Slowly but surely destroying you. Like a virus you never saw coming. Like Asian flu. That’s what British queuing is – Asian flu. It creeps up and bites you in the… hum… posterieur.

It starts innocently enough. They first make you fall for their accent. They only let you hear the BBC English. The one that sounds intelligent. So… worldly. What you don’t hear is when they switch off the cameras and start going, “Oi mate, pass I uh fag there guv”. It’s not a pretty site. They will smile for the first time as well. Can never do that on camera. You should see their teeth. It’s definitely a “before” photo. You don’t want to see that in broad daylight. It’s as yellow as the sun. And the smell. Hali-bloody-tosis. And you thought the French and garlic don’t mix. Try deep fried pizza (yep, they do that up North), deep fried cheap bottomfeeding fish (the stuff we throw away), deep fried chips (fat fatty fries) with loads of salt and vinegar, bad (really bad) curry they won’t touch in India, and pork pies (the less said the better).

Yes. You don’t see the ugly part where their stomachs hang out from under their vests, fag in the mouth, warm beer in their hand, yellow teeth gleeming, food flying from their mouths as they laugh at how they caught out those suckers in America. Come on people. They sell you Sella Artois and make you believe it is a fancy beer. Over there they call it “A can of divorce”. Bad stuff that. You fell for it and are now being taken over by their clones. Almost like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers“. Of course without the public killing. They just kill the soul.

And you think their humor is so great. So refined. Those funny Brits with ther funny accents. Here’s some inside info on their humor. You think John Cleese is funny right? Just remember what his mother said, “He is not funny”. And you think Fawlty Towers is a comedy right? Have you seen the service in the UK? Try buying something or eating out and see how you are treated. Remember, they all believe they are actors or something important. Not a waitor. So un-French. No. They suck at service. Fawlty Towers isn’t a comedy. It is a hard-hitting documentary.

(I stole that one from Greg Poops).

Come on proud Patriots. Fight the British. Don’t queue. You never what might happen next. Taking up a sport and waiting for almost a 100 years before you win another trophy? Oops. Sorry. Done that. At least you don’t play cricket, rugby or soccer. Oh, you do – just badly. So British. Or start driving badly? Oops? Known for their less friendly driving over here in Boston… Or crap weather. Oops… Have that. Okay, it could be worse. You could have an odd accent, expensive property, drive crap cars, expensive gas, gas – the other type, drink too much beer, have high taxes or… Bloody hell. Why don’t you just surrender and sing “Rule Britannia”.

Sad. Just sad. John Adams won’t be happy. Sam Adams – now that is a totally different story.

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I have been loyal all my life. Always. It was what made us special. The two of us. Together. Together through the good times and the bad times. The two of us. Now I won’t be able to look at her in the same way again. Never again. Because she will know. She knows. Even if I don’t tell her. She’ll know.

Well okay, I was loyal at least since I met her – my little special one. Before that I played around. I was young. I tried everything. I was reckless. But I have never cheated since I made my commitment to her. My special one. She was all I needed. Oh, I noticed the others. But I never did anything. I looked, but I never touched. I never wanted. I just looked and admired. And shook my head when I saw other men playing the game. Having one on the side. But I fell too. I couldn’t help it. I am just a man. A weak, weak man. A man with needs. Basic needs.

I promised her she was the one for me. And she still is. It is was a one-off. I promise you. It is a one-off. Never again. Never again. I knew that she was always there for me when I needed I her. And I need her now. I want her to be mine again. The way she was. The way she was before. Before I cheated.

Maybe we just got used to each other. Maybe the same thing that attracted me in the first place became the same old thing. The same thing every day. We forgot how it was back in the days when we just started. The first time. Familiarity breeds contempt. So true. So, so true.

She was the first things my lips touched in the morning. And the last thing at night. I can smell her when I wake up. That sweet, sweet smell. I can still taste her on my lips. But I can also taste the other one. The one I cheated with. And I can’t get the taste and smell off me. I can smell her on my clothes.

I saw her on the street. I was on the street. Just walking. And then I saw her. Through a window. She looked good. Oh so good. I stopped dead in my tracks. It was like a train hit me. I could feel my heart skip a beat. My palms sweating. The blood rushing. I knew I wanted her the instant I saw her. She reminded me of when I was young. And innocent. She seduced me like no other. And she didn’t even know it. She was just sitting there at the window. Just looking at me but not seeing me. Playing games with me. But she wanted me. And she stood out. As if her name was written in the sky. And I stared. Stared at her sitting at the window – with her seductive ways. That’s when I made my move…

Okay, maybe more like on the window. And she wasn’t really sitting. More like stuck on the window. The big letters wasn’t quite written in the sky. Just on the window. But it spoke to me. It said “Espresso Royale Cafe”. What a name. It sounded all European. All Italian. And I wanted one. I wanted her. A little Espresso. Right there and then. In Newbury Street. And I couldn’t care less who saw me.

<blink>

<gulp>

I know. It is a shocker. Me, Mr Starbucks Triple Grande Latte, was going to let a non-Starbucks coffee touch his lips. Hold on people. It gets way worse. Way worse… I… I… I actually did it! Yes I did. I just couldn’t help myself. I just had to have one. To hell with the consequences. I wanted an little Italian Espresso. And I wanted it now. It brought back memories of my first coffee fling. My little Italian girl. So I just walked right in and had one. Straight up. And it felt good. Real good.

The barista didn’t know my name. And she didn’t ask. So she never got it wrong either. It happens. And the sugar came in little packets instead of the “easy to operate, tilt and let it run” sugar containers of Starbucks. I need the large container you see. It holds almost enough sugar for my standard coffee order. But I didn’t care. I liked it for that moment. Even if I was stabbing my Starbucks barista in the back. Because I still love my Starbucks Triple Grande Latte.

I know those who know me will be shocked. Mr I-Was-Born-With-A-Cup-Of-Starbucks-In-My-Hand. I always have a Starbucks in my hand. I get up at 6 am and I have coffee. In my travel mug. And I have more coffee. And more coffee. It is a running joke. If someone mentions Starbucks everyone looks at me. And if someone wants my advice for free – they know to just invite me for coffee at Starbucks. I am easy that way.

Yes. I love Starbucks. And not only because of the taste of Ethiopian Sidamo. I love Starbucks because, as an ex-Oxfam campaigner who headed up the Coffee Campaign, I know they are pretty good at working with the coffee farmers and they pay a pretty damn good price for their coffee. More than Fairtrade. Yep, you heard it here baby. They pay more than Fairtrade for their coffee. We looked at targeting them when I was at Oxfam, but we didn’t. Because we very quickly realized that they are pretty damn good. Not perfect – no one is. But pretty damn good. And they make a damn good cuppa joe.

You think I care for the mom-and-pop shop? Not much. Three rules for me. Pay a decent price for your coffee so the farmer can benefit, look after those who work for you and make a damn good cup of coffee. What you do with the rest is just white noise to me. It would be nice if it was a mom-and-pop shop. But that is just wallpaper. Pretty pictures. Not substance. Nice to have, not a must have. Starbucks tick the three main boxes so I am pretty happy.

But I also like them because I am a newbie to coffee. I grew up in South Africa people. We are known for our outstanding crap coffee. Come on. Ricoffy, Frisco and Koffiehuis aren’t real coffee. Read my lips. Chicory is not a coffee. It’s a weed. A herb at best. Moer koffie. Ha. Look at the English translation. Beat up coffee. Or to be more specific on how South Africans use the word moer… hum… well… fucked.. hum… to assault. It is an open assault on what we call coffee when South Africans make coffee. Moer koffie. Ha! Tell me another one.

I fell in love with coffee in Brussels. Back in 1999. On my birthday. We were about to catch the train back to Luxembourg where we were visiting our very, very good friends when we saw it. A little coffee shop right on the corner opposite the Bruxelles-Central. Can’t remember the name. But we went in for a quick cup of coffee. We had 30 minutes before our train left. We walked out the café more than 2 hours later. On a buzz after about five cups of bloody strong Segafredo. It was the first time I met the Italian lady. And she got me hooked.

So my little fling in Newbury was nothing but a fleeting moment of weakness. Just a reminder of yesterday. Good memories. But she wasn’t really Italian. Just a good imitation. Like Vegas. But it was still good. I felt young again. Pure again. Good memories. Segafredo. She’ll always be my little Italian lady. And she’s the only little “on the side” I’ll ever have. She ticks all my boxes.

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