Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Swamp Run

Over the last four days I've exercised more than I've done in the last twelve months or maybe I should say twelve years, lots of football, cycling, the swamp run and Roller blading.

It all kicked off on Thursday with an hour or so of indoor football. This was my second session with a multi-national bunch, known as the Chinese Dragons who were made up of Germans, Swiss, Italians, Chinese and even an Estonian.
On Friday myself and Tiiu were in and the Estonian countryside for a ten minute cycle which turned into an hour and forty minutes. On country roads only equalled by the motorways of County Cavan for its pot holes we cycled onwards. Fortunately unlike Cavan, Estonia is void of hills in fact it's flat, so there was little uphill cycling. The trip took as along endless little roads and tracks which all looked the same as we decided to turn left and then right and oh maybe left again, eventually making it back to our start point, but bloody hell a 105 minutes sitting on that bicycle seat, yeah that hurt.

Saturday morning I re-joined the "Chinese Dragons" and played three matches, in a mini world cup competition. Our first game was against an extremely bloody minded bunch of individuals(RUSSIANS!!!!), whose main tactic was "if you take out your opponent, you're the only one left standing with the ball.
When we limped of the pitch it was 1 - 7.
The remaining two matches weren't quite as brutal as we managed to just about meet the others for muscle, if not necessarily skill. Sweating and limping I plodded home the two kilometre journey.

Sunday was "a pleasant stroll in the country". This stroll is a yearly 6km walk known as the "Swamp Run", it's a type of charity event, but rather than being for charity its organised by the council to get the local population out and exercising. We covered the distance in 54 minutes, making fun of those running ahead of with any reason we could think of, real or imagined.

Finally today I made an attempt to Roller Blade in a local car park. There was many a concerned office workers watching me recklessly slip and slide past their parked vehicles.
Roller Blading makes ice skating look easy.
OK this wasn't my finest hour, but look on the bright side it can only get better.
Cant it?

Actually this is my final Final note on this article. The Chinese Dragons now want to practise twice a week.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Suspicious Character

I was on Swedish soil for less than twenty minutes before I had my first clash with the law, a Customs officer to be precise. As I stood pleasantly and politely on the train taking us from Copenhagen Airport to Malmo, a border guard or should I say a Customs Officer questioned me. He was curious as to the contents of my luggage, my point of origin and reason for daring to enter sacred Swedish soil. After telling me that my papers were in order, like a good little bureaucrat he allowed me go along my merry way.

Had this been the only such incident to take place during my week away I may have forgotten about it. But alas it wasn't, for two days later as I stepped out of my apartment a stranger called out to me in English and then changed to Swedish. Noting that his words meant nothing to me he switched back to English and identified himself as a policeman and asked if I was aware of any drug dealing in the building in which I was staying, what apartment I was in, how long I was staying for and why I was here.
Hiding my frustration at this second round of questioning, I assured him that I was unaware of any such dealings and shocked to hear of such a thing. He bid a polite farewell and wish me a pleasant stay in Malmo.
Oh yes, he asked Tiiu if she was Irish, even before he asked me where I was from.
An Irish accent?
I hardly think so.

And so onto the third, last and most annoying of these incidents
I popped into an off-lisence to buy a bottle of wine and was refuse permission to do so, as they "Had Reason to believe that I was buying drink for an underage person"
They meant Tiiu.
I appreciate that she is a very good looking woman and yes is younger than me, but she is twenty two, not twelve.
Bloody Bloody Fools.

In spite of my ranings, my week in Sweden was great fun and full of great people, except for three individuals who shall remain nameless.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Book Review No.5

Not Just any old American Civel war book, but the 1974 Pulitzer Prize Winner for fiction "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara.

Please click on MY BOOK REVIEWS on the right hand side of this page.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sunshine in Sweden

I'm in Malmo for a week with Tiiu at her sister's place and appear to have swapped the cold and wind for sunshine. Flew in from Tallinn to Copenhagen on Monday afternoon and then took a train straight into Malmo over the Orseund bridge.

The bridge was worth making the trip for on its own, it stretches for over ten miles and links the two cities.

I was in Stockholm for a day last week, but didn't have much time to sample their way of life.
Yesterday I made the obligitary and my first trip to IKEA, pronounce I-Gay-a, over here. Not quite sure what all the fuss is about, its a big shop with lots of furniture and cutlery. Or perhaps the greatness of this place went over my head.
Anyway, they sell pretty good hotdogs for fifty cents, so don't let it be said that I don't partake in the local customs. Tonight I plan to have a kebab, so there, how about that for blending in with the locals.

Unlike Stockholm the houses in Malmo have more of an English feel and design to them. No four of five story woodern apartments here, but lots of semi detatched houses with their own little gardens out front. The price of food and drink is cheaper than back in Dublin, infact its pretty similar to Estonian prices, but there is a far wider range of shops here. Speaking of shops and bars as I was or maybe wasn't, I couldn't find a bar last night that was showing the Champions league football, so had to make do with the BBC's web site. It looks like Man. Utd are finally going to lose somethng, But then again maybe they will slaughter Porto in the second match and Mr Phil Ralph will never stop reminding me.

Well thats about it for now, except to let you know that here in Sweden the internet connection is not a mere 3 or 8m, as in Ireland or 10 to 20plus as in Estonia, but 50. Yes 50.
Wow those crazy Swedes don't do thngs by half.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Indoor Football

This morning I played indoor football and as with most things I found out about it through someone who knew someone in a bar. Its sounds a little strange, but when you don't really know anybody its way things happen everywhere I guess.

Well over a pint or four last week I mentioned that I fancied playing a bit of football, the next day I was included in an email for a game on Saturday with a bunch of people I didn't know. Well Saturday was switched to Sunday and at 11:00 I joined a truly international bunch. An hour or so later a tightly fought match ended 30 - 25, or something like that. After ten minutes I was a star, giving some perfectly places passes and scoring three early goals, after thirty minutes my reputations was starting to diminish as my absence from any sort of football field for four years was starting to show, missing passes, slowing down, sweating like the proverbial pig and going in goal for a chance to get my breathe back.
But such is life.

I'm off to Sweden tomorrow for a week, so I'll miss next weeks game, but I'll definitely be back after that. Just hope I'm not too sore tomorrow morning after today's activities.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Estonia 1 - 0 Armenia

Last Wednesday I went to watch Estonia's World cup qualifying match at the national football stadium "A La Coq Arena". Although it didn't seem particularly cold when I left for the game, all that changed after taking my seat and the wind blew around me. Although the game lacked the excitement of the Ireland - Italy match a few hours later, it was great to actually go to a match again and help support the local team.

The stadium is named after a beer, in fact it's the only beer I drink over here. If they served it in Ireland it would be the only beer that I'ld drink there as well. Anyway back to the game. Armenia obviously came looking for a draw as they lacked the quality to win and most of their squad spent an average of five minutes on the ground faking injuries attempting to waste time. I'm pleased to report that their efforts were wasted, for with five minutes remaining Estonia scored the only goal of the game.

With Spain, Bosnia, Turkey and Belgium in the same group, Eesti's chance of qualifying from this group was always going to be small, but as more and more of their players join clubs in Europe's higher leagues, expectations are high for the future. With this in mind there is an under 19's tournament in May that I plan on attending.

Well after the match it was of to the Nimeta Baar for me to watch just about every other match, until the early hours of teh next day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Estonian Class

This morning I took my very first Estonian class. After many delays and a change of venue I was finally able to say to the class "Tere, Minu nimi on James", Hello, My name is James.

I've been over here for nearly three months and have felt a bit of an outsider because of the language barrier. Although everyone takes the time to translate their conversations for me, they shouldn't have to. After all what right would I have to complain about the Russians living in Estonia that refuse to learn Estonian, if I do precisely the same thing.

Before the class started a knew three or four simple expressions, but even these I tended to pronounce somewhat quietly, I little embarrassed perhaps at my efforts to speak someone Else's language.

Well at 9:00 this morning all that changed, as I and my three fellow students through ourselves into the course. The other students consisted of a Turk, a Hungarian and an Englishwoman.
Ninety minutes later the first of my twice weekly classes was over, only three and a half months to go. Full of enthusiasm for my new venture, I spent another the next two hours at home going over the material.

Off course with all this extra time being spent on the course, I have to wonder where I will find time play video games, read books and watch all those downloaded movies.
Ah yes, I just won't sleep.