Tuesday, August 07, 2007

France revisited. Just a quick note to say what a great time we had in France at the end of July. In the beautiful country house of Seb and Jane, with space for the kids and Nelson to run around. Nelson's favourite things were there in abundance - steering wheels (on cars and farm machinery), "au-au"'s (in this case, cats) and lots of kinds of "bodga" (that's "bola" or "ball" to me or you). It was great to meet, some for the first time, some of my extended family and celebrate some key dates: JR's 40th, Aunty Margaret's 70th, Mum and Dad's 30th...

In France, we mainly relaxed although this did not mean we necessarily slept more (think jet-lagged baby waking up at 2am ready to play). A trip to the Asterix Park proved a highlight for me as a I relived my childhood (and, perhaps, adulthood) obsession with comic strips. Seeing Mum and Dad and letting them have time with their grandson was, of course, the key reason we were all there. An extra bonus for me: I benefited from some excellent discussions with the likes of Jane, Seb, JR and Joelle on life, parenting, our family history, Politics, travel... plenty of food for thought.

Random things round our way: the Machadao. I've cheekily copied the picture above from the Wikipedia entry for the stadium which resides less than half an hour walk away from our house. This huge disk is probably the best stadium in the North East of Brazil, and according to Steve, was designed in such a way as to remain breezy and cool despite being filled with 35,000 sweaty bodies. I have been lucky enough to visit stadia in Fortaleza, and several in Recife and another in Natal and none of them match the Machadao on all accounts of size, aesthethic appeal. access or general (pre-game) cleanliness. Natal's own America RN were promoted to Serie A (the Premiership of Brazil) last season and so they have entertained the likes of Sao Paulo and Corinthians here. In fact, the first game of the season - versus Romario's Vasco de Gama - attracted the biggest gate receipts for anywhere in Brazil.

With all that in mind, it was a pleasure to take Ruth to her first football match at the Machadao last Saturday evening. America RN were hosting Nautico, a team from Recife and the darlings of my Father-in-law Steve. At possible risk to our well-being we sat in the Nautico end, with Steve clad in a Nautico shirt, for the encounter. The game was a cracker and Nautico - recently buoyed by having a new manager - overturned the Natal team 5-1. As you can imagine, there was bedlam in our end of the stadium. The drums were out, everybody was hugging, jumping, dancing and hollering... By the final whistle most of the depleted America crowd had already gone home. You can see highlights of the game on YouTube here. The best goal of the game was from Nautico's right back Sidny (whose Father meant to name him after the Australian city, but misspelt his name). Look out for any gringos celebrating the goals... that would probably be us!

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