Chicago Addick living in Bermuda
Friday, 30 November 2007
  Here starteth the lesson It has been said by perhaps me and certainly others that we have the 'best' manager in the Championship. Of course this is very subjective. Why do some of us think that? Is it his manner and the way he projects himself? Is it the way he prepares his team and his tactical ability. Is it because he is brave and confident in his decision making. Is it his record in the transfer market and ability to not only spot a player but then incorporate him with 10 others? Is it his commitment to play decent football, even in this division of hackers? Is it his past accomplishments? Or is it potential?

Whatever it is, I like Alan Pardew as our manager and I cannot think of anyone else that I would realistically want. In fact there are times, and yes my memory is fading with the onset of middle age, that I much prefer him to Curbishley. I think my memories of Lennie Lawrence are still golden, even though I did once join in with the old "Lennie Lawrence has f*ucked it up again." However I'd like to leave Lennie on his pedestal if that is alright?

So Pards is great isn't he? Well hang on he did sign Paddy McCarthy? And once or twice last season he was a bit negative in games, Man City away comes to mind, and should he have taken Semedo off Saturday and against QPR? Oh, and he did play for the Nigels.

To be honest it was difficult to think of many negatives in what will be 42 games in charge on Saturday.

I specifically like Pardew for his bravery in making decisions, a lot of which have handsomely paid off during games and his outstanding man-management skills. Another less-lauded quality is that of his relationship with the fans. This doesn't come easy at many clubs and normally only develops following success. However I believe he has worked really hard at this, and his ability to say the right thing and act in the right way has also rubbed off on the players, producing a connection rarely seen under the reign of Curbishley.

However sometimes confidence in one's own conviction and judgement can backfire. Not to the extent of Chris Coleman's tactical undoing of Iain Dowie last season, but a couple of times this season I think Pards has been thwarted.

Rather embarrassingly a certain Bryan Robson was one example this week and equally I thought the experienced Mick Harford picked him off in October at The Valley. Mind you Harford was rewarded with the boot shortly afterwards. Another perhaps was Nigel Adkins in our first game of the season but it has been rare and I hope it continues that way, nonetheless if we prefer cavalier to cautiousness, and I know I do, then it will no doubt happen again.

Saturday brings another new manager to The Valley in Owen Coyle. Another in the endless line of Scottish managers. Pardew admits that he doesn't know him but does know that he oversaw his new charges easily beat Aidy Boothroyd's league leaders on Tuesday night. Another test for Pardew then and his assistant Phil Parkinson but let us not underestimate how much of a test it will be for Owen Coyle and his new Burnley team.

I once remember sat at home 'watching' teletext and listening to LBC as Burnley gave us a football lesson at Turf Moor 7-1. If anyone is giving lessons tomorrow, let us hope it is Alan Pardew and his red and white army. 
Thursday, 29 November 2007
  Hey Björn, throw us some Kronas "And even today I'm a huge Charlton fan. I follow them all over, it doesn't matter where I am in the world." (more)

It is old news that Björn Borg is an Addick but it gave me a real kick to see his interview on the OS this morning. When I was a kid he was always my favourite tennis player and finding out in later life that he was a closet Charlton fan propelled him into higher esteem.

It was interesting to read that he credit's his grandfather with his love of Charlton. We have a lot of supporters in Sweden and I wonder if it had something to do with Hans Jeppson playing for us in the early 50's. Jeppson is considered by most fans of a certain age, to be one of the best all-time overseas players that we've ever had. He was also the first Swede to play in England.

When I hear of these famous people supporting Charlton my first reaction is for them to stick some money into the club. Private investment from a wealthy fan is a preference we would all like to see but from what I remember Borg, who does live in the tax-haven of Monaco, has very little left of his wealth made from prize money, sponsorship and endorsements after an expensive divorce and some failed business activities. Oh well best tap up Garry Bushell then. 
  Green Card What is it with the clamour for a flu vaccine here? Personally I would rather have my leg chopped off than have to queue for ages to have someone stick a needle in me. It seems as if everyone gets one. "Come on, we're going to lunch and going to get a flu jab while we're at it." Er, no thanks.

Signs sit in shop windows: 'Get your shoes rehealed and a flu-jab while you wait.' Honestly! That does remind me that my Green Card process means that I have to have all of my vaccinations up to date. That will not be a pleasant day in the Chicago Addick household, that is for sure.

A Green Card has been proposed to me by my company, in fact it was proposed a while ago, it's just that it's taken me ages to trawl through the hundreds of pages of questions. But a Green Card is a good idea, whether long-term I stay here or not because it gives me more freedom particularly regarding employment and coming in and out of the country at any stage in the future. It also doesn't insist on me giving up my British passport, not that I would have anyway. Neither does it mean I have to take the Oath of Citizenship, you know the bit about "absolutely and entirely renouncing all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign sovereignty" or "that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States, so help me God" etc, etc.

Anyway these were the kind of questions that I was asked in the green card:

1) Have you ever within the past 10 years engaged in prostitution or procured anyone for prostitution, or intend to engage in such activities in the future?
2) Have you ever engaged in, conspired to engage in, or do you intend to engage in, or have you ever solicited membership or funds for, or have you through any means every assisted or provided any type of materials support to, any person or organization that has ever engaged or conspired to engage, in sabotage, kidnapping, political assassination, hijacking, or any other form of terrorist activity?
3) Have you ever engaged in any unlawful commercialized vice, including, but not limited to, illegal gambling?
4) Did you, during the period March 23, 1933 to May 8, 1945, in association with either the Nazi Government of Germany or any organization or government associated or allied with the Nazi Government of Germany, ever order, incite, assist or otherwise participate in the persecution of any person because of race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, or political opinion?
5) Do you plan to practice polygamy in the U.S.?

I'm struggling with 3). Question 5) is a definite no, as I'm still paying for the first one. 4) I think I pass purely because of my age. I'd have to check my work contract for question 2) and 1) I'm not ruling out in the future but if I have in the past, it wasn't very lucrative! 
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
  Faye arrested on suspicion of being a footballer Unkind? Well.... "Elsewhere last night, midfielder Amdy Faye was not in the Rangers squad that was beaten 3-2 by Stuttgart in the Champions League." Probably because he was holed up in Glasgow nick ready to be taken down to London to meet fraud squad detectives. The murky old world of brown envelopes, agents, and football is closer to being exposed tonight.

Portsmouth boss Harry "me dodgy guv? Leave it out" Redknapp and his ex-Pompey chairman Milan Mandaric plus current chief executive of Portsmouth Peter Storrie were also arrested as was football parasite, sorry agent Willie McKay. It is clearly an assumption that all four were involved in Amady Faye's £1.5million in 2005 transfer from Auxerre and then his subsequent move to Newcastle for £2m the following year.

A few months ago Spurs' Pascal Chimbonda was arrested on suspicion of fraud along with another man, and both men are on police bail pending further inquiries. Willie McKay, who lives in Monaco, er *puts two and two together*, is also Chimbonda's agent.

It's funny, I was listening to Harry Redknapp being interviewed on The Times TheGame podcast this morning and was only thinking how underestimated he probably has been as a club coach, although to be fair he was blowing his own do-dar. I then noticed that his odds for the England job were falling (not anymore) but Redknapp's problem has always been his perceived trustworthyness and reputation in the game.

Since Dowie brought Faye to The Valley, his career has been in downfall but how much Faye was aware of all what was going on in his move from France was probably not an awful lot but clearly the fraud squad think Messrs McKay, Redknapp, Mandaric and Storie know a lot, lot more. 
  Therapy The Bulls won last night producing a sterling 3rd quarter scoring 36 points in 12 minutes. The vast improvement in the 2nd half was led by Lewisham boy Luol Deng, who had a team high 22 points for the game. The final score was 90-78 over a poor Atlanta Hawks team.

We watched a terrible 1st half from the bar, and when I had drunk enough Stella to rid myself of yesterday's defeat to Sheffield United we took our seats in the United Center at half-time. Despite an upbeat 2nd half from the Bulls, the place often resembled a library - you think The Valley is bad - the majority of the crowd only got excited during the Dunkin' Donuts race carried out on the big screen and when a decent looking contortionist took the floor during a time out. I have no idea what she was doing, but whatever it was plus the Stella was perfectly therapeutic. 
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
  Sheffield Utd at home. What was the score? Lost 3-0 Let's get this out of the way as I have beers to drink, and my do I need one. What the hell happened tonight? Did we underestimate them? Have we outlived our formation, was it a fluke or more likely, was it a case of these things happen in this division.

Watford lost at home to our next visitors *gulp*, Bristol City didn't win again and well we blew it didn't we? Which leaves the door open for West Brom tomorrow night. I was convinced before the game that Sheffield United are a lot better than their position suggests and it sounded like they stifled us, matched us in midfield, got a bit lucky and done us some large damage in front of our apparent quiet home crowd.

I'm not sure 4-5-1 can work at home, and as my mate said to me we have to earn the right to win and we didn't do that even though if ZZ hadn't missed when it was easier to score, it may have been different.

Great thing about this league though is that we play again in a couple of days and as I wrote late last night Pards does have options within his squad. With only a few cyber friends at Charlton Life to 'talk' to tonight it sure sounds like a few players need a rest but remember it is one game, we have just picked up an unexpected 12 points from 12. Lets go again and not get too downbeat. Now where is that beer?

Who was at The Valley: Many Miles; Blackheath Addicted; All Quiet; Charlton Athletic Online; Frankie Valley.
Reports: Telegraph; Sporting Life; cafc.co.uk; Independent; Vital Sheffield Utd.
What Pards' said: "I cannot deny that we were a bit flat, which was surprising as we came into the game on the back of an exceptional performance at Preston on Saturday. There were things that went on in the first half that worried me and I will address those."
A bottle of fizzy pop for: Matt Holland. From what I heard, his half-time appearance did help encourage a more positive 2nd half. 
  Blackhawks doing ok, Bulls are not, Bears clawing on
I'm off to the United Center tonight for my first taste of this season's Chicago Bulls, who frankly in their 12 games so far have been shite, winning just two games and sat firmly at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Unlike the NFL where a bad start will almost certainly deny you a play-off spot, in the NBA teams play 82 regular season games, so there is plenty of time left for the Bulls to pick up the pace although from what I've heard and from the bits I've seen on the box, they have been bad. Yesterday the illustrious Ben Wallace said "if we can't get better, I'm going to lose my daggone mind." Tonight the Bulls are at home to Atlanta Hawks (5-7).

Chicago Bears are having a season to forget, that was until Sunday when in an exciting finale they came from behind to beat the Denver Broncos 34-31 in overtime. It was just the second win at home for last season's Superbowl runners-up and although it keeps the Bears in with an outside chance of the post-season - their season record is now 5-6 - they really cannot afford to lose another game, especially since arch rivals Green Bay are 10-1, with 38-year old quarterback Brett Favre having a dream record-breaking season. I'll whisper this quietly because I would be lynched by Bears fans, but I actually would like to see Green Bay go all the way.

I will deny I said that obviously. And finally while I'm doing a bit of a round-up, ice hockey's Chicago Blackhawks are doing pretty well. They get little media coverage in this city and most people treat them with indifference but I noticed their home crowds have been pretty decent (17-18,000) and with 16 play-off places up for grabs (there are only 30 teams) one of the founding members of the NHL might make the play-off's for the first time in 6 seasons.
 
  When does Pards change it? Two home games coming up. Oh, we've been here before haven't we? But if we'd not lost those two games, would we have won the next four? Pards switched to 4-5-1 for the Southampton game and has stuck with it since with wonderful results.

The positives have been well documented elsewhere but in particular Iwelumo's presence as the sole striker, even if he is not entirely suited to the role, Sam's burgeoning season, Thomas finally exerting his energies on the pitch, Reid doing damage in the middle, the formation fuelling ZZ's energy and Semedo fast becoming the find of the season have all been huge plusses since those back to back defeats.

However perfection is still a long way off and in my mind we still need to be more cut-throat in front of goal. Conversely the back five in recent weeks have been outstanding. Weaver, rightly so, revelling behind a more solid and assured defence. Mills has indeed been a revelation and Basey looks every bit as good as Scott Parker and Lee Bowyer when they first broke in the team, albeit in a less high-profile position.

Nonetheless it is the omnipresence of Sam Sodje that to me has made the difference. His impact on Fortune has been amazing and his mannerisms show us how much he is enjoying himself. Signing Sodje after the new year must be top of Pards' Christmas list.

I've mentioned every player but the question is when does Pards change it? Does he change it? Is he tempted to rest Reid for Ambrose or fit-again Holland for Semedo? When does Varney get another chance? Or Racon. What happens when Thatcher is fit and how does he find a way back into the team for the talented and popular Moo2Kil? And what role does the boss have in mind for the returning Dickson?

More questions than answers but if nothing else it proves the depth and flexibility of the squad that we have. If you're going tonight, don't underestimate Sheffield United and give them a homecoming the side deserves. Come on you reds. 
Monday, 26 November 2007
  Trump Tower update Almost 3 years ago my view outside my old apartment downtown was pretty perfect. The Chicago river, Sears Tower, the Loop's skyline, just the rather shabby Chicago Sun Times building being a bit of an eyesore. It was in need of a lick of paint, but when a certain Mr Donald Trump acquired the riverside location a touch of dulux was the last thing on the fringed-one's mind. What about a 92-story tower instead he chimed.

The Trump International Hotel & Tower is still only half built. About 40-odd floors are finished with glass windows and the whole site is a hive of activity with workers, cranes and heavy machinery. However on December 3rd it will open subject to city permits as a working and fully operational hotel.

The 'soft' opening is planned for 3 of the eventual 13 hotel floors and allows for Trump to start generating revenue and for staff to polish it's performance before the much grander and uber-publicised launch due in early 2009.

It seems strange why people would want to stay in what is a buiding site, with internal decor work going on up to floor 27 and above that full-on deafening construction work with about 42 floors still to be added. I knew the need for hotel rooms was great in Chicago but that takes the biscuit.
Trump Tower updates: August 2005; November 2005; July 2006; December 2006; May 2007
Saturday, 24 November 2007
  Preston away. What was the score? Won 2-0 Someone once said it only takes a second to score a goal. Well the last second is fine by me. Two great finishes with almost the last kick of each half kept the Addicks ticking along nicely, squashing any post-international rustiness and our 53-year barren streak at Deepdale. I always reckon ticking those kind of stats off is a very good sign and it was another fine away win adding to the four already collected this season.

In the first half I thought we had much the better quality and we showed some patient passing finally getting our rewards when ZZ superbly finished with his, wait for it.... foot. I sensed that we had that goal in us as the half came to an end, and injury time is as we know a great time to score.

In the second 45 our defence came under a lot more heat as the home players attempted to impress their new manager with real effort, if not quality. We withstood a couple of spells of intense pressure, particularly late on and Weaver made a couple of very good saves.

I thought the introductions of Holland, Ambrose and Varney each interrupted Preston's flow though and all three helped steady the ship, although Luke Varney surpassed himself with another confidence boosting cameo.

With me watching the clock tick down (I don't know where 4 minutes came from but it seems to be average in this division) Iwelumo released Varney out on the right and sensing he had the beating of Davidson he raced into the box and finished well before getting buried by red shirts. Then, as if on cue, the final whistle blew.

I took some advice and spent £3.50 and watched it online. The picture quality was good although I regularly lost the feed and suffered the commentators repeating themselves as the sound stuttered but overall it was great to watch the game, especially the movement of the players and of course the goals.

This was a fine win and even better because I thought it was one of Reidy's less effective games. Other players pitched in with the probing including Sam and Thomas, who I thought was top drawer in the first half. The back five were immense with Mills at the heart of everything, once appearing out on the left wing, Basey again impressive and the centre pairing of Sodje and Fortune dominant, bequeathing further confidence to Nicky Weaver.

Who was at Deepdale: Addicks Championship Diary; Charlton Athletic Online.
Reports: Sky Sports; cafc.co.uk; Sporting Life; Lancashire Evening Post.
What Pards' said: "If you're going to try to play football in the Championship, you must deal with the physical side of it and the tempo, and I think we have the right ingredients to do that."
A bottle of fizzy pop for: Nicky Weaver. A couple of great stops to perserve the lead and he coped very well under pressure at corners. Deservedly our number 1 in my mind. 
Friday, 23 November 2007
  Back to the ouija board I normally love hearing from my New York Addick mate but he pissed me off earlier this afternoon big bloody time. He alerted me to the fact that Setanta had changed their schedules and put our game on at 10pm Saturday night. Repeated at 10pm on a Saturday night, that would be a real pull to punters for my local Irish pub. I can see the flyers being handed out now: "Top DJ, draft beers $3, dancing all night and Charlton v Preston repeated in the main room."

Angry, fed up and isolated is how I feel. I don't expect to be able to listen to it on the radio, it clashes with the Chelsea game, and it will probably be blocked anyhow, so I reckon it will be the ouija board again.

Its bullshit, it really is and I've got the hump so much I have actually turned down my turkey dinner and ruled myself out of the England job! 
  Turkey trot How much do I love Thanksgiving? 4 days off work, eating, drinking, sleeping and none of that Christmas stress and expense of buying each other gifts! God bless America and all that sailed in The Mayflower.

The weather has turned wintery with the temperatures falling below zero yesterday and we got our first snowfall of the season. And which idiot got up to run the Turkey Trot 8k? Not me, but like a lemon I was there taking some photographs!

Today is commonly known as Black Friday in America, no not another stockmarket crash, that's every other day, but today is not a day to leave the house if you hate shopping, or come to think of it driving or queuing or spending money. The news last night was full of pictures showing people sleeping outside stores to be first in when they opened at 4am. 4am in my world is only a time for sleeping or for getting in!

Today is a day for movies though and we hope to catch one later. I might just tidy up my sock drawer too (I noticed I had a blue one and a grey one on the other day) and do some more eating and drinking and then it's the weekend. Cool.

Tomorrow, if I still need it, I'll get another opportunity to lie in as our game starts at 11.20am here. I am looking forward to seeing us on the box for the first time this season as (thankfully) I was away for the last two televised games. We should go to Deepdale in fine fettle and hopefully with Preston backing down on their crackpot pricing rule for one and not the other it'll encourage some more Addicks to travel. Credit to Ben Hayes for his work on this by the way.

Preston is a fair hop mind and particularly on a Saturday night. I don't believe I have ever been anywhere near the city, let alone Deepdale. Once the centre of the cotton industry, in recent years it has gone through much regeneration and is one of those clubs I have always regarded well and Alan Irvine is the latest manager to try to get the Lilywhites out of a division they've always challenged in since they came up in 2000.

Let's hope we don't succumb to another international break meltdown and Pards and Parky have them all wound up in front of the cameras. I would suggest another unchanged line. Come on you reds. 
Thursday, 22 November 2007
  England job - the odds Roll up, roll up. Lets all gather to watch the FA cock this up. "The recruitment process for the new coach begins now and we will do everything to get the right man for the job," (more)

It has been called the proudest job and the worst job in football. All of us think we could do better, but none of us fancy a scumbag Sun reporter in our back garden. So with 2nd choice Steve gone and probably on his way back to Middlesbrough (sorry Gareth, that's the way it goes). I thought I would look at the odds and help the FA out with the interview process, because on past experience they need it.

9-2 Martin O’Neill Does he really want it? Probably has a job for a very long time at Villa and remember The FA said he intereviewed badly last time by not saying "yes" enough.
9-2 Jose Mourinho Come on the Special One would be great wouldn't he? Imagine some of the post match interviews? He has made it clear that he wants to be a club manager though and he might have to wait until they change the rules allowing managers to buy players from other countries.
7-1 Fabio Capello My tip. Out of work, a lifetimes experience with a daunting media in Italy and Spain. I would be happy with Fab.
12-1 Luis Felipe Scolari Despite ongoing problems with the Portugese FA, he wasn't too keen on The News of the World hiding behind his barbeque last was he. Probably laugh if Barwick called him again, I would.
14-1 Sam Allardyce He was very outspoken about the FA's selection process last time. Think he thinks he can be at Newcastle for a while and bring those bare-chested fans success. Hahaha....
14-1 Guus Hiddink Why would he give up the luxury of being King of Russia?
14-1 Alan Shearer Don't make me fookin' laugh. That is a joke, right?
16-1 Jurgen Klinsmann A German? Why can't we have an Englishman? Oh.
20-1 Marcello Lippi Not working since resigning as Italian boss after world cup victory. Can't see him being interested, only ever worked in Italy.
22-1 Stuart Pearce Interesting one. I think he has earnt a lot more patience with the fans and media.
25-1 Harry Redknapp Undoubtably has been a great club manager but England? Really? Can Jamie be assistant? Oh and his nephew captain?
25-1 Arsene Wenger My first choice along with 50 odd million others, except perhaps some blinkered Spurs fans. Only problem is, is that he would be forced to pick Englishmen. Damn.
28-1 Alan Curbishley I wonder if he would have done better than McClaren? We will never know. I was once a exponent of his but I don't like him anymore (smiley thing).
33-1 Steve Coppell Fair choice. Good age for it, maybe his Reading job is coming to a natural end?
1,000-1 Prince William Why not? Probably understands the game better than his new found bud Brian Barwick!


What do you think? 
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
  Total shambles What a loap of crap. I have just heard Gerrard say that it was unfortunate and the 2nd half was a big improvement, he is the kind of prick that we don't need anymore. As for McClaren who spent the whole game sheltered under an umbrella, while his opposite number passionately patrolled the touchline, well he has failed us miserably and needs to be replaced. By whom I don't know and don't necessarily care. If he was a club manager, his position would be untenable.

Nonetheless my real grievance is with the players tonight. How many of those that wore the English shirt gave a shit? The bench, Beckham aside looked non-plussed. How much does John Terry really care about playing for England? And Gerrard, the captain, cares more about the next Champions League match than having the annoyance of playing football next summer.

The players are are so removed from the football fans in the country, what each of us will go through next June will not bother the majority of these overpaid prima-donna's one bit. The pandering to the few 'decent' players in our country and the complete dominance of 4 sides, who primarily look abroad for young players is killing the competitiveness and the attachment to the national team.

The only upside of our desperate failure is the hope of change but as I said yesterday I have no confidence in the people that laughingly run our game to implement it. When Prince William goes to an England rugby international, he is sat up in the stands, at an England football game, he is sat next to Brian Barwick. What the hell has happened to our game?

Croatia beat us twice, and deservedly so. We are not good enough plain and simple. A precocious coach would have changed it after 15 minutes. The defence was appalling. Crouch, who was only player to start to come out of the game with any credit cannot get in the Liverpool first team. Substitutes Defoe and Bent are 3rd and 4th choice strikers at a club near the bottom of the Premiership.

We need to start again, I actually feel for players like Beckham and Owen because they appear to actually care and were both inculpable. Personally I would like to see Beckham get his 100th cap but otherwise lets get the big broom out and start again.

Finally how much did we feel for Scott Carson? I said this morning that it surprised me that McClaren chose today to drop Robinson, overlook James and play Carson. When people in the pub sarcastically whooped and cheered when he controlled a back pass late in the first half my heart went out to our current player of the year. I hope he is strong enough to move on from this evening's complete disaster.

I hope we all are and have real heroes to cheer in the future. 
  Playing with the big kids The eve of Thanksgiving and all ex-pat Englishmen will be hoping that McClaren and eleven others have the heart to give us another reason to enjoy a long weekend here in the United States.

I heard that if we don't make it today, nor Northern Ireland, then there is talk of the Home Nations coming back next summer to fill the void. That would be like the school playground. The best kids are playing on the grass and the crappy ones are playing three-and-in on the pavement at the side. How depressing would that be?

I don't necessary get that if we lose today, things will change. I don't believe that the FA are capable of instilling change in a positive fashion. I wouldn't trust them to put the rubbish out to be honest and can anyone make a real argument that there is a certain player playing in the Premiership that is not currently involved in the squad.

Nevertheless McClaren is still a nob but we're kind of stuck with him, so lets hope we make it through today so at least we can play with the bigs kids next June in Austria and Switzerland.

As I mentioned, this weekend is Thanksgiving and I plan to pack work up just after lunch today and will join some fellow ex-Pats including a young Croatian guy who used to work for me in the pub later.

The media are carrying stories that Scott Carson will start over Paul Robinson. Fully deserved but strange that McClaren chooses today to make the change. A five-man midfield and Crouch up front on his own. I reckon one goal will do it. 
Tuesday, 20 November 2007
  Hiroshima 広島市 Kyoto was our base for the middle part of our trip (more on Kyoto another day) and we couldn't resist taking what ended up as a thought provoking and poignant day trip to Hiroshima. We took the Hikari bullet train (Shinkansen) from Kyoto to Hiroshima, covering the 200 miles in about 90 minutes.

Now don't get Hiroshima wrong. There are plenty of sad memories in this city, home to about one million people, but there is as much concrete and blinking neon as you'll find in the rest of Japan. The largest city of the Chugoku Region, the westernmost region on Japan's main island of Honshu is thriving with cars a major local industry, Mazda's corporate headquarters are nearby and there is also a busy naval port called Ujina.

However that is not why people come here and the fact that people can still come here is great testimony to the people of Hiroshima. At 8.15am on August 6th, 1945 the unthinkable happened. A nuclear weapon, code named Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima by the crew of the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay. The detonation happened at an altitude of 1,800 feet with a power of 16 kilotons of TNT killing directly 70,000 oblivious people. By the end of that year, injury and radiation brought total deaths to 140,000 and approximately 70% of the city's buildings were completely destroyed. To add the cities desolation 5 weeks later Typhoon Ida killed a further 3,000 inhabitants and destroyed half of the cities bridges.

Just 3 days after Hiroshima was decimated American forces dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing a further 80,000 people. On August 15th, 1945 Japan announced its surrender to the Allied Powers officially ending World War II. The whys and wherefores of all of this lunacy will be written and discussed for ever.

Four years after the end of the war Hiroshima was proclaimed a City of Peace by the Japanese parliament and ever since then the city has continued to advocate world peace and the total abolition of all nuclear weapons. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is dedicated to achieving this goal and I stared at my feet with embarrassment at the list of nations with active nuclear stockpiles.

The museum graphically displays the atomic bomb's horrible effects on the city and its inhabitants and is naturally depressing and sad. I felt the similiary emotional after coming out of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC a couple of years back. The Museum forms part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, this was designated in 1949 at the exact spot of the hypocenter of the blast.

The park is dedicated to peace and there are a number of solemn memorials. The Children's Peace Monument is a statue dedicated to the memory of the children who died as a result of the bombing. The statue is of a girl with outstretched arms with a crane rising above her. The statue is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died from radiation from the bomb. She believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes she would be cured.

Every day children gather at the statue and deliver newly folded colourful paper cranes and millions must shiver in the wind. The day we were there the most well behaved group of children sung and prayed and one girl read a tribute, while her classmates bowed their heads. I didn't understand a word of it but the whole thing was very touching. Expect to see schoolchildren all over the Peace Park, almost as if to emphasize the re-birth of this once tragic city.

Near the centre of the park is a concrete, saddle-shaped monument that covers a Cenotaph holding the names of all of the people killed by the bomb. The Cenotaph carries the epitaph, "Repose ye in Peace, for the error shall not be repeated." Through the monument you can see the Peace Flame flickering orange. It is said that it will flicker until all nuclear threats have been disarmed.

The most vivid picture of that fateful day in 1945 is the site of the Genbaku Dome, or the A-Bomb Dome. This is the sole remaining structure, previously an office of local government and regulators and a key target for the American bombers. It is an absorbing scene and as I stared at it, I soon realised that behind the Dome and across the busy Ōta River was a thriving modern city.

The A-Dome building (right) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 despite reservations from China and the United States. As I said earlier, the whys and wherefores aside this is a desperate monument to what the human race can inflict on each other.

With depression complete, it was time to see some of the rest of Hiroshima and eat. Hiroshima is famous for its style of okonomiyaki, which literally means "cook it as you like it." After getting the tram from the Shinkansen station to the Peace Park, we decided to clear our heads and walk back via Nakaku, which is the central business area. We headed down the main shopping street called Hondori, which has a covered mall and out the other side and into the Fukuya Department Store.

In there we found a okonomiyaki place and took a seat at the counter. Okonomiyaki is essentially a savoury pancake made with egg, cabbage, soba noodles and meat or fish. Grilled in layers on a hot plate in front of you by an incredibly sweaty man (sorry, but I was starving) the 'pancake' is finally slathered liberally with okonomiyaki sauce and despite being messy, it was very tasty indeed.

I'm glad we took a trip to Hiroshima. It was eye-opening, alarming and of course depressing but the city had an undeniably positive attitude to it as well.
 
Sunday, 18 November 2007
  Schizophrenic tendencies Back from a very nice wedding weekend in Wisconson. A turkey, a pilgrim and a couple of native American Indians storming the dancefloor late last night only adding to the memories.

The European qualifier scores filtered through on Saturday and I did feel sorry for the Scots who suffered the inevitable anguish. I remember my brother and I having a beer at the end of September with a good Italian friend of mine concerned about his countries chances of qualifying and us reassuring him that Scotland were bound to cock it up. They did but it's a real shame because I for one would have loved to have seen the tartan army at the finals evoking halycon memories of Archie Gemmill and Alan Rough. Lets hope Northern Ireland can squeeze through the back door instead.

As for England, well my regular readers will know I have schizophrenic tendencies towards the national team. McClaren is a nob no doubt but against all odds Israel overcame the Russians and amazingly we now only need a point on Wednesday against the already qualified Croatia. For all but two months every four years my support of the national team is passive at best but then of course during the two big tournaments I wrap myself like others in the St. George.

Next June's festival of football would of course be wretched without us in it, although no doubt I would get over it. The answer to that renowned football fan question. Club or Country? Doesn't take much thinking about from this quarter.

So Wednesday I will of course drag a motley crew of ex-pats and American 'soccer' fans, including a Croat down to the boozer to hopefully watch us grab a place in Austria and Switzerland next year. Enger-land.... 
Friday, 16 November 2007
  Wedding bells No not me. Easy Mother.

Tomorrow two very good friends get married, a couple I have known since my move to Chicago in 2004 and both take a lot of credit helping me settle in back then in this huge country. They are both proud cheeseheads and the wedding is in Milwaukee but we will travel up this afternoon because tonight we have the honour of being invited to the rehearsal dinner, an American tradition of having a dinner/piss up the night before the wedding after the formalities of the rehearsal. In the old days we called this a stag but nevertheless clandestine emails have been floating around this week and the best man and 'groomsmen' certainly plan to make it a night to remember.

The wedding's not until the late afternoon and although I have been to Milwaukee before I have either been very drunk or working, or was that the same time....? Anyway the lakeside city has a decent arts scene and is quite walkable so we will blow the Friday night cobwebs off in the morning, even though the weather is expected to be a bit nippy with some snow showers.

We have altered our plans to drive up and will get the train instead, reducing our carbon footprint in honour of the bride to be, who is very into saving the planet. I note that the 70 mile journey takes the same time as the 200 miles on the bullet train between Kyoto and Hiroshima mind, but its a start saving 33kgs of CO2, according to this
Thursday, 15 November 2007
  Mt Fuji and Hakone 富士山 I'm not big on organised trips but that is what we did to get us from Tokyo to Mount Fuji and then onto Hakone because making the journey independently is nigh on impossible unless you own good hiking boots and a flashlight. Neither of these made my suitcase so the bus from Tokyo bus garage driving south-west for two and half hours was what we did with the wonderfully dry and informative 'Harry' as our Japanese guide.

Seeing Mt Fuji, Japan's highest mountain at 12,388 feet, is not easy. For those that intend to climb it, this can only be done between the beginning of July and the 3rd week of August because of the highly unpredictable weather the rest of the year. The summer maybe the best time to climb it but its also considered the worst season to actually see it. Clouds, haze and general poor visibility often block the views of Mount Fuji, and we were told you have to consider yourself exceptionally lucky to get a clear view of the mountain. We were exceptionally lucky.

The sky was wonderfully clear the day we chose to go up to Gogome (5th Station) on the south side of the mountain. There are 10 stations or points between the top and bottom of the mountain and Gogome is where most people start their ascent. There are 5th Stations at four different points of the mountain. Our bus circled slowly the narrow road upto the Fujinomiya 5th Station (right) at almost 8,000ft, closest to the summit. At every twist and turn of the mountain the views were jaw-dropping. The roads were quiet, weekends will be very different, and we got to our destination pretty quickly. Off the bus to be met by crisp air, the sky was as clear as could be and I reeled off about 20 identical snaps of the perfectly shaped snow-tipped mountain.

Mount Fuji means the Holy Mountain and was shaped by volcanic activity, the last time erupting on November 24, 1707. It has been sleeping since then, but still the geologists regard it as an active volcano.

This is Japan's number one tourist spot, and the iconic masterpiece towers over Tokyo. Close your eyes and think of a mountain and this is what you will see.

After the Mt Fuji visit we headed to Hakone, which is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Here also is Lake Ashi formed after Mount Hakone's last eruption 3000 years ago. With Mount Fuji in the background we did a half hour gentle cruise of the lake. Hakone Shrine can be found here, it's presence highlighted by the prominent torii gates standing in the lake. Hakone is said to be a busy tourist spot, and there are some touristy traps but to me whole area had a peaceful feel to it and after being on a bus for long parts of the day, the boat was a nice intermission.

To add to the memory of tranquility we then went up the Mt. Komagatake cable car from the side of Lake Ashi. The two and a half mile ride giving a superb panoramic view of Hakone National Park. A brief stop at the top and back again to watch the sunset ending a superlative day. 
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
  Razorlight cancelled In Akron, Ohio today, about 35 miles south of Cleveland and the bottom of Lake Erie. Take a hint, don't make this top of your next American adventure itinerary.

Anyway originally I planned to get myself out of my meetings and back to the airport by 3pm as I had a big night ahead of me. For some while we have had Razorlight tickets at The Metro in Chicago and I was soooo looking forward to seeing them play live. But then, last week when I was in London, an email:

"Razorlight have been forced to make changes to their November US tour. The band very much regret that due to record label issues beyond their control they've been left facing impossible last minute logistics to complete the run of shows and are therefore obliged to pull out of the Chicago, Seattle, San Fransisco and Los Angeles dates. Razorlight would like to apologize to the fans who have already bought tickets and hope people understand that they're putting in place as much US activity as they can. Meanwhile, the dates in Boston, Brooklyn, New York and Toronto will go ahead as planned with The Von Bondies supporting plus Gran Ronde. The band will be attempting to re-schedule the remaining shows as soon as possible."

Fucking great. I had heard from my brother that Johnny Borrell has had one too many nights out according to the tabloid press recently, I'm hoping that wasn't the reason they blew off tonight.

Anyway I had strategically arranged for me to get an earlier flight tonight so I could get back to see them live, and now I have this empty feeling. I really hope Johnny and their record label allow them to get their arses in gear and get over here soon. 
Monday, 12 November 2007
  Revs put out Fire in joke-off's My inherited 'soccer team' Chicago Fire had their season extinguished on Thursday night when they lost to a spectacular overhead kick from Taylor Twellman giving New England Revolution a 1-0 victory at their Gillette Stadium in front of a paltry 10,317 crowd, almost 15,000 than Chicago's home average.

Captain Chris Armas announced he will call it a day this winter after being with Fire since they joined the league in 1997. I have always been impressed with Armas who in the games I saw was the driving force from defensive midfield but after the Eastern Conference defeat Armas said "My body is telling me that probably this should be it. Physically, with soccer I can still make all the plays I need to make. My knees have taken a beating over the years and my hips have some arthritis. I want to enjoy my family and function later on."

In the other game, the Western Conference final, last year's winners Houston Dynamo in only their 2nd year of existence beat Kansas City Wizards 2-0 and will meet New England in Saturday's final.

There was good news for the 'soccer' fans of Seattle today as it has been announced that Seattle will be the 15th team in Major League Soccer, after the addition of the 14th, San Jose Earthquakes, who will start next season. Seattle will start probably the season after.

Seattle has a good football tradition as it was home to the Seattle Sounders of the North American Soccer League from 1974 until 1983. In fact a team of the same name are the current champions of the USL First Division, the level below the MLS.

The MLS plans to expand to 16 teams by 2010 and could feature as many as 18 clubs by 2012. Rumoured to be on the horizon are start-up teams in Philadelphia, Portland and St Louis, a long time soccer area. In fact 5 of the 11 players that played in the USA's famous victory over England in 1950 were from St Louis.

The one flaw in the American game at the moment is the play-off's. It is a joke that all but 5 of the league teams make the extended season. The current system effectively renders a 30-game season of toil as virtually worthless. "There is no reward for busting your ass for half the year," a high-ranking MLS executive was quoted as saying recently before adding: "But the commissioner loves the playoffs and no one is going to take him on over this."

The attendances certainly don't do anything to encourage it and where is the reward for playing hard for 6 months travelling coast to coast in this huge nation? Having the most points after a long season earns anyone the right to be called the best team in the country and playing consistently week in and week out only earns you a stupid shield.

People who understand the game here get it, the people in the game get it but the idiots that run it and try to convince others of its viability don't. It needs to change otherwise soccer in the USA will continue not to be taken seriously by its peers and sports fans who are looking for ways to be converted to the game the rest of the planet calls beautiful. 
Sunday, 11 November 2007
  Cardiff at home. What was the score? Won 3-0 A nice little win yesterday. According to my regular post-game report from my mate it was a long way from perfection but we scored goals at the right time and there wasn't an awful lot to beat. However on the back of two hard away games, another clean sheet with Sam Sodje again at the heart of it, and another 3 points, life can't be bad. I just hope we get back out of the blocks after the international break slightly better than we did last time.

Sodje once again spurred Fortune onto another decent performance and the big lad was also on hand to put us in front. I hope New York Addick had a few bucks on him as first goalscorer.

Big Chris Iwelumo must have some kind of whistle detector on him, as he seems to find the net just as the referee is to about to bring the play to a close. His third in a stunning week and a well deserved call up to the Scotland B squad. I said after last week's win at St Mary's that he is not the ideal man to play alone up front but it is difficult for Pards to drop him.

The 4-5-1 can work at home as well as away although I still think the players need to be more patient with it, trying to play our way through Reid and Semedo and not lumping it forward. Thomas who is coming back to his swaggering best and Sam still need to hug the touchlines more and I would like to see ZZ more adventurous going forward. However back in 2nd chasing Watford is fine by me, strangely I would rather be the hunter than the prey.

Looking below us I wonder if Bristol City will now drop, a 6-0 hammering after losing their undeafeated home record cannot be good for their ambitions. Barnsley and Stoke have slipped and I find it hard to see beyond West Brom and Watford, however Magilton has got Ipswich playing some good stuff, although they have yet to win away. I note too that Sheffield United have started to put a run together and are now only 4 points from the play-off places.

Preston meanwhile look certain to have a new man in charge by the time we play them live on television in two weeks time.

Who was at The Valley: All Quiet; Blackheath Addicted; Charlton North Downs; Addicks Championship Diary; SE3 Addick; Frankie Valley.
Reports: icwales.co.uk; cafc.co.uk; Kent Online; Independent.
What Pards' said: "I think we can play a lot better in this system at home if our energy levels are higher."
A bottle of fizzy pop for: Jerome Thomas. Like Reid and Mills, Thomas is starting to believe and act that he can be head and shoulders above others in this division. 
Saturday, 10 November 2007
  Tokyo 東京 Think of Tokyo as a playground. For fashionistas, for industry, for pop culture vultures, for innovators, for brands and for foodies. It's a big city, 12 million living in the metropolitan area with sightseeing spread far and wide but a phenomenal train system that does a lot, lot more than just take the strain.

I loved Tokyo and its quirkiness. People watching must rival sumo wrestling for the national sport. You could not make up what young people wear on the streets. Love Hotels offering rates for different blocks of time often (I read) including karaoke machines for those, er awkward moments. It is said there are over 6 million vending machines across Japan selling everything from tea to underwear. In most American states walking in the street with a can of beer is illegal, in Tokyo and other cities you pick your poison from a machine on the side of the road. The place is spotlessly clean, the people are so polite and affable and crime is almost non-existent.

But Tokyo does not come cheap. Until recently it was for ages rated the most expensive city in the world, a badge of honour now taken by Moscow. Everything is expensive and despite the huge array of designer shops, one will not find many bargains. The other downside and it doesn't become apparent until you travel to other parts of the country is that Tokyo doesn't do old. I mean Japan according to archaelogical evidence dates back 6,000 years but it would be hard to find anything particularly ancient. Wars, earthquakes, the rapacious demand for land and its ardour for modern architecture has all led to a modern city with a short memory for its history.

Tokyo was previously called Edo and only became the capital in 1868. It was said to be the world's biggest metropolis in the early 18th century and it has lived through numerous shogun empires and American occupation after the war but you would hardly know, the Asakusa area aside.

Asakusa was once the place to hangout in Tokyo. Sensoji is Tokyo's oldest Temple (circa 628) and it lies at the end of a lively thorougfare of stalls selling traditional garb and food called Nakamise Dori. It's not hard to miss, just look for the distinctive oversized red lantern just minutes away from Asakusa station. Across the Sumida River near Azuma Bridge is the Philippe Starck designed Flamme d'Or bar, known as the 'turd bar' locally but I wouldn't let that put you off grabbing a Asahi from its beer hall.

The home of Tokyo sumo is also here at Ryogoku. Three 'grand tournaments' are held here annually but check before you get there as the sumo contests tour the country and were not taking place in Tokyo when we were there.

Earlier that same day before we were at Asakusa we went to geeky Akihabara, an area designated as consumer electronics paradise. Large stores such as Akky and Laox are places to head for (tax free) purchases of the latest gadgets, although I personally found it dull, more of an interest was the hunt for new fangled Maid Cafés, with drinks served to you by young ladies dressed up addressing patrons as master. We found one, but it was not open until later, probably after school-hours. Shame. The tiny streets here probably could have been fun in the evening but we moved onto Ueno Park.

The massive Ueno train station is the gateway to the North of the country and alongside it Ueno Koen (Park) circles a temple and three cemeteries as memory to its Shogun past. Uenu was Tokyo's first ever public park opened in 1873 and offers a slew of attractions including a zoo, the Tokyo National Museum and the most attractive bit, Shinobazu Pond. The pond is tucked away deep inside the park. The Bentendo temple sits in the middle surrounded by freshwater fish, a boating pond and infinite lotus flowers, which must have been quite a sight earlier in the summer.

For Temple watching head north of the park to Yanaka but just across the road from Shinobazu Pond is history of another kind. Ameyoko Market sidles up to the railway tracks and after World War II, under occupation this area became a massive area for black market goods. Now it is the capital's liveliest market with hundreds of stalls selling dodgy football tops to whole frogs. It is most definitely worth a mooch.

To give you an idea of how much running around we did, we started this day by getting up at 3.45am to get to the absolutely must-see fish auction at Tsukiji Market. There has been a fish market in Tokyo since 1590 and at this site since 1950 (it will move to a larger location in 2012). The market at 4.30am was a chaotic cacophony of sights and sounds. I loved it, while people slept wholesalers and restaurateurs haggled.

At 5am the tuna auction takes place, get there early to watch potential buyers hurry around huge tuna laid out on slabs, checking quality and taste. Then a whistle goes, a little man stands on a stool and all hell lets loose. Imagine Sotherby's and an oversized Billingsgate as one. If you hate fish don't let it put you off, the goods are so fresh there is no distinct stink and the market is home to an array of other foodstuffs and kitchen goods. Breakfast at one of the tiny and I mean tiny restaurants is compulsory. Raw tuna, pickled vegs and rice at 6am, don't knock it.

The Tsukiji fish market is ideal for jet-lag although our first day was Sunday and that is the one day it is closed. So we headed for another good Tokyo starting point, the Mori Art Museum in Roppingi. The museum itself was ok, but the building offers spectacular views from the 53rd floor of the city. One ticket gets you access to all areas.

Roppingi was once more Soho than Tokyo but an upmarket urban development brought Roppingi Hills, a city within a city with restaurants, shops, cinema, classy apartments, a television studio, hotel and of course the Mori Art Museum. Before embarking on this little oasis for a taste of what Roppingi was once like walk under the elevated motorway, but not before stopping at the Almond pastry shop for a coffee. Not far from here you will find Tokyo's most striking attraction from distance, and particularly at night, the Tokyo Tower. The spitting image of the Eiffel Tower but taller than its French cousin at 1,091ft.

Another glossy new development can be found at Shiodome. A former Japan Rail goods yard, they have done a nice job with this mini-Canary Wharf. Home to many large Japanese corporations, skyscrapers cosy up with as you would expect plenty of nice restaurants and shops as well as the Old Shinbashi Station, a reconstruction of one of Tokyo's first railway stations. Not far away the Hama-Rikyu gardens will take your mind of the modernity.

Ginza always was and still is the apotheosis of shopping extravagance. Men and women saunter the wide streets of Harumi Dori, Ginza Dori and Sotobori Dori dripping in luxury brands. I have never seen Cartier, Hermes and Gucci shops so big. Expensive bars, restaurants and cafés spill out onto the street to give it a Parisian feel.

The Japanese love to shop. I was once in Hawaii and got mowed down by small people with big bags. Now don't get me wrong but New York, LA and Chicago are up there for shopping but to my mind they don't get the department store thing right. Macys is not Selfridges and Barney's is no Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales is not John Lewis. If like me you love wandering aimlessly around department stores, let me introduce you to Mitsukoshi, Matsuzakaya and Wako. Beautifully laid out, vast historical buildings, credit card damage at every turn and the most stupendous food halls.

Ginza Dori is pedestrianised at the weekend and on each side street you can watch or join in tea ceremonies or sado. Art galleries, Japanese paper specialists and clothes shops stuff the side streets. Ginza is people watching extraordinaire.

The 8 storey Sony Building was a disappointment but some of the other architecturally touched shops were not. Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel were all photo-ops but my favourite was Mikimoto (left). Grab a hot chocolate in the top floor cafe there. Other Tokyo shopping destinations are at Harajuka and Aoyoma.

Tokyo is a shoppers paradise but more for window shoppers than 'holics. The Marunouchi neighbourhood has its very own Bond Street, Naki Dori with the Marunouchi Building at it's epicentre. This area is also home to many financial institutions and the Tokyo Stock Exchange is here as well as many serious looking political department buildings and museums, including the Yasukuni Shrine and War-Dead Memorial Museum. Worker bees each dressed immaculately own the streets around here, often wearing face masks to protect them from ailments and smokers.

Marunouchi has an avant-garde edge but just around the corner from designer handbags is Tokyo's Imperial Palace. Directly in front of the European looking Tokyo Station, the moat, stone walls, ancient gates and beautiful outer gardens divide it from the city. It was closed the day we were there (Monday) but you can stroll the Imperial Palace East Gardens. The Palace itself is out of bounds except for 2 days (January 2nd and December 23rd) but you can get close enough to it to get a good feel for history. A walk around the whole park, avoiding joggers, is a nice thing to do peering at old residences, crossing little bridges and guessing embassy flags.

Our first few nights we stayed at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku. In the west of the city Shinjuku is cosmopolitan, busy and home to the cities government. There is another big railway hub at Shinjuki and was our introduction to the city and its famed notoriety for non-existent street names and signs in Japanese only.

Shinjuki is big and has two distinct sides. The east side is home to shops, watering holes, and more than is normal sex parlours, well unless I have lived in strip-club free Chicago too long, whereas the west is much more clean-cut. The Park Hyatt's skyline bar called the New York Bar was made famous by the film Lost in Translation. On our first night we sipped on drinks after a long journey and got excited looking into the night sky from the 52nd floor for our week ahead.

We initially stayed in Tokyo for 3 nights and at the end of the holiday we came back for 2 further nights and stayed at the brand new Peninsula. The Park Hyatt was nice but the Peninsula was something else. There is no shortage of nice hotels in Tokyo but there are also many Minshuku (B&B's), basic business hotels, traditional Ryokan's (more on them when I write about Kyoto) or of course the Love Hotels, if you have just an hour to spare!

A famous landmark hotel in the city is the Imperial. Frank Lloyd Wright created a masterpiece on the site of the original in 1923 and it famously survived the Great 7.9 magnitude Kanto earthquake on its opening day and then the war but like a lot of 'old' buildings the locals lost their patience with it and built a new tower block looking one in its place in1976. The original Lloyd Wright designed bar remains though and is a great place to grab a cocktail.

I love sushi and sashimi and used to think I could eat it all day, I was wrong. Towards the end of our holiday a breakfast of miso soup, tofu, boiled rice, raw sea urchin and salmon roe was one too far. Japanese food is not easy to survive unless you don’t care what you eat and when, or are able to decipher from models or pictures what you are about to eat with chopsticks. In most restaurants the language barrier is a problem, English menus are not always in an English language that I ever learnt or a cheese and mushroom sandwich is not actually a cheese and mushroom sandwich.

Hotel restaurants tend to be easier to navigate but your wallet might be less impressed. We had dinner one night in Kozue at the Park Hyatt and it cost us 4 arms and 6 legs, and I still came out hungry, which was good because I have no idea how much it would have cost to fill us up.

Food is an art in Tokyo and there are many fine restaurants but try to seek recommendations, however even the hole in the walls can be trusted as hygiene standards are faultless. Department stores are a good place to find cheap(er) food and for the adventurous raw fish including unagi (eel) and tuna, tofu, tempura, horse, duck stew, deep fried pork and noodles are major features on menus, although restaurants tend to specialize in one type of cuisine. For a bit of a show Teppanyaki restaurants are fun. The chef cooks various meats, fish and vegetables on a hot plate in right in front of you, normally with some fancy knife work and juggling thrown in for free. By the way tipping is considered rude, don’t do it.

The Japanese love to drink, it is said that they can’t drink, but they do like to nevertheless. Bars of allsorts can be found in Tokyo, including endless karaoke and whisky bars. Sake is another must-try and less well known is the quality of Japanese beer. Sapporo, Asahi, Kirin and Suntory are the four major brands and each a damn more tasty than their American equivalents. Cheaper brews are the low malt beers, brewed to avoid paying tax to the government; these have less malt and less taste but are worth a stab.

Shaken by the economic collapse in the 1990’s, Tokyoites tend to have their priorities right. They live in small houses, drive small cars, but spend big on themselves. They like to go out, the streets are very busy in the evening, often filled with grey suited men holding the train timetable up working out their next train, a woman’s role I'd imagine is very different now to what it once was and younger people are pushing the boundaries, and not just in what they wear. However you sense that these courteous people have real respect for each other and their elders.

Fashion, eating and drinking line up alongside music, theatre and sport as great Tokyo pastimes, oh and newspaper reading. The Japanese are considered to be the world’s biggest readers of daily newspapers. In fact the English language papers are excellent. One more thing, grown men read comics and openly. Their fascination with animated characters is very strange.

Coinciding with America’s baseball ‘world’ series, with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka starring for the Red Sox, was Japan's very own conclusion to the summer season. Baseball is huge in Japan, brought to the country in 1872 by an American professor. There was no place in the final for Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants and Yakult Swallows but on the back page of newspapers it was nice to see football wrestle space with baseball. The J League is very popular with 31 teams in two league with decent crowds (20,000 odd). Tokyo has two J League teams. FC Tokyo and the recently relegated Tokyo Verdy 1969. They share the Ajinomoto Stadium in the south of the city.

Traditional Japanese theatre comes in many different formats. Kubuki has been around for almost 400 years. Women were banned form performing in the early days and men play all the roles including those of women. These 'women' actors are specially trained for playing female parts and the best ones are national heroes. We went to see a play at the Kubukiza and paid for just one act, which is about the 2 hours long. The whole play lasts 5 to 6 hours and people young and old packed the theatre bringing in their bento boxes and shouted the names of their favourite actors when they entered the stage. It was a unique experience and worth the Y800. You can listen to a simultaneous English translation which allows you to keep up with the spectacle. In Kyoto we also saw Bunraku, whose origins date to the 10th century. This is where puppets two-thirds human size are operated expertly by three people in unison. It was a magnificent spectacle.

We took the bullet train to Nikko one day a hundred or so miles north of the capital. Nikko is considered a place of great beauty and spiritual significance. We wanted to get up to the Kegon Falls at Lake Chuzenji where waterfalls plunge over 300 feet into a rugged gorge. An elevator takes you down lower into the falls. Lake Chuzenji is almost 4,300 feet above sea-level and sits at the base of a volcano. This is one of Japan’s most popular tourist resorts, as we found out with the bus taking 3 hours to climb the volcano known as Nantai-san. Our guide book estimated it at 40 minutes. It was worth doing but curtailed our day somewhat so avoid the weekends unlike us.

Our time at the 17th century shrine called Toshogu was limited as it was at the Sacred Bridge, built in 1636 for the shoguns visiting the shrine. The Tosho-gu area includes 3 UNESCO World heritage sites. Nikko itself is a cutesy town with tourist trappings such as antique shops and cafes. It is said that if you haven’t seen Nikko, you haven’t seen Japan and I’m glad we did before heading back to Tokyo.

Tokyo was a spectacular place, with a train system map that looked like a plate of coloured spaghetti emphasizing its mass. We tried to cram a 3-week trip into just a few days, it was very tiring but the cities stimuli is constant with its people, its history, it quirkiness and its modernity. Tokyo would take a lifetime to explore and I would love to go back in mine. 
Thursday, 8 November 2007
  Body clocked A fruitful trip to London, met some old muckers, a good time with my Charlton obsessed son, 6 points, work meetings went well, I think, everyone’s good. Need some sleep though, I’ve got out at bed before my eyes were expecting it far too often these last few weeks and my body clock is seriously missing its big hand.

I’m in New York now, arrived from Heathrow a couple of hours ago, we go again with work shortly and will be out for a dinner tonight, where we’re meeting some people where the conversation will be frank and direct. Hmm, I always reckon these things go better over a glass of wine, we shall see.

New York all day tomorrow for more meetings before flying back from LaGuardia, the airport equivalent of the M25 on a Friday night, to Chicago.

One of my good mates is getting hitched next weekend and we have him, his finance, and some other pals over for dinner tomorrow night for their last rites, sorry their last Saturday night single.

And despite me being absent from our Sunday football team for the last 3 weeks, after finishing 4th in the league they managed to get through to the final of the end of season play-off’s without me, this despite me being totally indispensable! I will drag my tired and unfit arse to the game and hope to repeat our success of last season.

Back in the office Monday but only until lunchtime, when I will be back on a plane, this time to Cleveland, Ohio until Tuesday evening.

But then the following weekend’s wedding in Wisconsin aside, I will be at home a lot and I can’t wait to familiarize myself again with my apartment and get my money’s worth out of my mortgage before my bank goes tits up! 
Tuesday, 6 November 2007
  Bristol City away. What was the score? Won 1-0 I've seen the goal, heard from mates on the M4 coming back from Bristol and read the reports, and that is one hell of a result.

The first half sounded ours, although squandered chances might have cost us. Excellent defending in the second 45 looked to have earnt us a decent point only for Big Chris to head home another fantastic winner in the last minute in front of ecstatic Addicks. Good on the 750 or so that made the journey, another one to chalk up in the travelogue.

Racon replaced the suspended Semedo and did well apart from the slightest signs of rust, according to eye witnesses Thomas put in another great performance as did Sodje but it was captain fantastic, quiet for much of the 2nd half, that spiralled away from two City players to put in a peach of a cross for Iwelumo to power home with his head. Get in!

A Big Chris header and those Danny Mills roly poly's will once again keep Addicks smiling all the way home.

Who was at Ashton Gate:
Reports: bcfc.co.uk; Daily Mail; cafc.co.uk; Sporting Life;
What Pards' said: "It was the worst pass of the match from Fortune into Reid, to pass there at that time of the game. Yet he's turned out of that, went down the left beat a couple and provided an inviting cross. Again I thought he was terrific tonight."
A bottle of fizzy pop for: Chris Iwelumo. Playing as the sole striker is not naturally suited to the Big lad, but despite running himself into the ground twice in a few days, he kept his awareness and positioned himself perfectly to win both games for us in the last minute. 
  Sushi and not City So after much tooing-and-froing yesterday evening it was decided that we will after all have a client meeting at 6pm tonight followed by a late dinner. Balls. The suggestion of an earlier meeting got the bums rush so no Ashton Gate for me later so I'll be relying on updates from mates who have still decided to go. Lets hope a few more make a late decision and get behind the boys tonight.

Oh and what are we eating for dinner this evening? Japanese. Well that will make a nice change, won't it?

Had a good day yesterday catching up with some old faces including meeting someone I'd never met before getting in touch through a mate asking me for advice on his plans to move with his job to the States. Embrace it and squeeze every last drop out of the opportunity I told him, you can always come home with your head held high because very few people a) get the chance and b) would do it.

The conversation made me realise that I have now been living in Chicago for 4 years. I went open minded, had a few early wobbles, planned to at least see out my visa which originally ran until July 2006 and am still there. For how long no one knows, I really do find it hard to plan ahead these days and try to live for the moment. I do try to be bit more astute than that financially but had to laugh at beauty Gisele Bündchen recently refusing to be paid in dollars when working in the States promoting Pantene products for Proctor & Gamble, asking for euros instead. If only I could have done that when I first pitched up 4 years ago.

Anyway I'm off to Tesco in a minute to stock up on some Twinings English Breakfast, Marmite and Branston pickle. Do you think they'll take my worthless to the rest of the world dollars? 
  Memories of Bristol City Bristol City 1-1 Charlton, 19th February, 1994
6,000 Addicks made the trip down the M4 and along the M32 on this February day in 1994, slightly more than I expect will travel to Ashton Gate tonight. Off the back of the upset we caused at Ewood Park in the previous round, Darren Pitcher's early screamer (well it was deflected like buggery) beating the soon to be Premiership champions, we were drawn at Bristol City in the 5th Round of the FA Cup.

We were both in the relatively new 1st Division, City were around mid-table and had done their very own giant killing by beating Liverpool at Anfield in a previous round but after two thirds of the season we were in 2nd place sandwiched between Palarse and Millwall at the top of the table. The Premiership under Gritt and Curbs was amazingly becoming more than a fantasy. We were also on a real roll after stuffing Oxford away the week before 4-0. It was a winnable game and Addicks fans filled the open terrace, which is now a new stand housing home supporters.

We had already drawn in the league there early in the season in front of 7,000 fans but 20,416 filled Ashton Gate for this game, the allure of the cup was still there 13 years ago. Liam Robinson and Wayne Allison led Bristol City's line, Leaburn and Nelson led ours with SAP playing in midfield.

It was important to impose ourselves on the game early and we didn't going 1-0 down on 11 minutes when Brian Tinnion shot home. This quietened the travelling Addicks and raised the noise levels from the home fans and at half-time there was plenty of talk of concentrating on the league (we finished 11th!). However in the 2nd half after City failed to build on their lead and with Charlton kicking towards us we slowly grew into the game. On the hour came my lasting memory of the 90 when Scott Minto failed to throw the ball back to the opposition after a City player kicked the ball out for one of their players to get treatment. Instead he released the ball to Darren Pitcher who instantly moved the ball forward.

The move ended with Mark Robson finishing from inside the penalty area. Addicks went crazy but the locals were riled. The atmosphere turned very sinister after that with home fans baying for blood. Few chances fell in the last 30 minutes with Gritt & Curbs seemingly settling for the replay.

It was a good result but the fun was just to begin for Addicks leaving the ground. I witnessed some of the worse trouble at a Charlton game that day. The big group I was with all got split up and it was a good couple of hours before we regrouped for the drive home. Aggrieved City fans (it was all Scott Minto's fault) were lying in wait outside the away end and with the police unorganised and their presence almost non-existent the surrounding roads and park were a daunting place to be.

Nevertheless the replay brought us an easy victory and that Quarter-Final tie at Old Trafford.

Charlton: Salmon, Brown, Minto, Pardew, Balmer, McLeary, Robson, Pitcher, Leaburn, Grant, Nelson.
Subs not used: Bolder, Garland, Sturgess.

Bristol City: Welch, Munro, Scott, Shail, Bryant, Tinnion, Martin, Pennyfather (Bent 70), Robinson, Allison, Edwards.
Subs not used: Llewellyn, Leaning. 
  Fire not extinguished I was flicking through the hotel's television channels earlier and I saw the end of the 1st Round MLS play-off between Chicago Fire and DC United and after winning the first leg in the windy city 1-0, Fire held the regular season's best side to a 2-2 draw (they were leading 2-0 when I switched on) and move into the Eastern Finals where they will play New England Revolution on Thursday at the Patriots Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.

Play-off's have its place in football but to play 30 games, achieve the best record and win what is called the Supporters Shield must be galling for DC United but oh well it will be Fire that extend their season as it seeks the MLS' big prize for the first time since 1998. Only 4 teams in 12 seasons who've finished the league season with the best record have gone on to be MLS 'league champions.'

Meanwhile David Beckham will be playing for a new manager next season as former Ipswich stalwart Frank Yallop has walked out on LA Galaxy to manage new 2008 MLS side San Jose Earthquakes next season. Steve McClaren anyone? There had to be a real reason why he flew to watch Becks play in a kick about with some aged rockstars at the weekend. The blokes a joke isn't he?

Meanwhile ex-USA national manager Bruce Arena was relieved of his manager's job at New York Red Bulls today. 
About Me
After living in Chicago for four and a half years, I moved to the beautiful if bewildering island of Bermuda in July 2008. This blog is about being an exiled and depressed Charlton Athletic fan and whatever else the day brings.
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