Tuesday, July 30, 2013


July has been a record-breaking month of blogging for me. That's a shame because my writing has been decidedly pants this month.

There are a few other things I was too tired to mention last night. Last Thursday we had our body corporate meeting. Guess what - for seismic purposes my apartment block is two separate buildings, and the one I live in is safe. Not safe safe, but above the magic 34% threshold, while the other building is a few points below. Unfortunately that doesn't mean a whole lot. A prospective buyer isn't going to think, you know what, that great big yellow sticker there only applies to half the block so this flat should be fine. And because it's a body corporate, we'll all have to chip in whether we're in the safe part or not. The costs of earthquake strengthening could easily run into seven figures. Heck, it's costing us $40,000 just to find out how much it will cost. Most people - myself included - don't have this sort of money, and there are thousands of us in the same boat all over Wellington. The government will surely have to step in. Where will the money come from? Well they could have used that few hundred million they spent on the America's Cup, so now I have to hope they win the bloody cup and can use the money from that.

My brother had an accident on his last scheduled skydive. I think there was some problem with the parachute not inflating fully, he had a very hard landing and was extremely lucky to only have bruises and no fractures. I hope we can stay in touch from opposite sides of the world. Despite a nightmarish last seven months for him, I'm optimistic of his future in the UK.

Last night we had another big turnout at the autism group. One bloke, who was a regular member back in the "old" days, made his first appearance for about 18 months and was taken aback by the sheer numbers. He used to be on the board of Autism NZ. We now have three facilitators including an Irish bloke of about my age. As usual we did our "what we did at the weekend" bit, in turn, and as usual our male facilitator said he played football. I always imagined it was some social team, but last night he said his team won through to the last four of the Chatham Cup. This comment went by almost unnoticed, but the Chatham Cup is a pretty big deal. A quick Google tells me that he's the captain of the team who came back from two goals down to win their quarter-final 3-2, and he scored the goal that sparked their fightback. For just about anyone on the spectrum, experiencing that level of success at a team sport is hard to imagine.

I just finished P G Wodehouse's golf book. Golf lends itself so well to amusing anecdotes. It's so full of jargon, even more so in Wodehouse's time when the clubs had names like niblicks, mashies and brassies.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekend with my brother

I had an enjoyable weekend with my brother; mentally he's already on the plane to the UK. We went to Te Papa and saw the Andy Warhol exhibition - neither of us knew much about Warhol outside his pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's soup tins, so it was enlightening for both of us. That was Saturday, my brother's birthday. In the evening we went out for a Thai meal on Cuba Street.

On Friday we just wandered around Wellington in the morning (he hadn't really seen the city before) and in the afternoon I took him to Lyall Bay - which was packed with surfers - and watched planes take off and land. That evening we went over to my cousin's place - she hadn't seen my brother this century.

Yesterday morning we went to the market (and had a really bad coffee that took ages to get). Later I took him to the south coast again and we had quite a long walk to Red Rocks, hoping to see some seals. They must have been feeding I guess - there wasn't a seal to be seen. Last night we went over to my cousin's again. She was pretty insistent that we come over - I'd have been happy to make a meal at home and chat with my brother.

Wellington could hardly have provided better birthday weather for my brother. I also thought the city would provide a quake-free stay for him too, but alas just after 1am we were both woken by a short, sharp shake measuring 5.4. Apparently I was running around like a headless chicken. The big shake of the 21st has made me über-sensitive. Within the last hour I felt yet another small shake (Geonet tells me it was a 4.1 - in fact I didn't feel it but I heard it). The seismologists at GNS Science have copped some criticism for providing "meaningless" probabilities. I've seen comments like "why don't they just admit that they haven't got a clue?" I totally agree that they have no idea of the exact timing, location and size of future earthquakes. But they don't claim to. And many of their detractors don't really understand probability. "You said there was only an 11% chance of a five-point-something in the next 24 hours." Yes. "But it happened." Yes. We never said it wouldn't.

My brother left this morning and it's anyone's guess when we'll see each other again.

It hasn't been a good week for public transport in southern Europe. After the train crash in Spain killing 79 people, a bus has plunged off a viaduct in southern Italy leaving at least 38 people dead.

I saw a counsellor in my lunch hour today. More about that some other time. I think it's a positive step.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Big day for my brother

What should be the final chapter of my brother's saga will play out tomorrow. Let's hope common sense prevails and his ex-fiancée, an extremely poisonous and vindictive woman, doesn't cause any more damage to him than she already has. I'll be in touch with him during the day. Our body corporate AGM takes place at 6:30 tomorrow; the earthquake risk issue was already the elephant in the room before the recent shakes so it could be a marathon meeting. Hopefully the guts of it will be over by the time my brother's flight gets in around nine. I've taken Friday off work. I'm not sure what we'll do yet. The film festival is on - I really want to see 56 Up but I'm not sure that's my brother's cup of tea. We'll probably go on a long walk, weather permitting. He turns 32 on Saturday but he's never been a big one for celebrating birthdays. The most important thing is that I see my brother at all. He flies to the UK next Thursday and has vowed not to renew his NZ passport nor ever set foot in the country again, and although I'm sure his attitude will change, it's likely to be a long time before I next see him.

Last Saturday I did the Southern Walkway with four others including the leader whose extreme enthusiasm nearly drove me around the bend. She was about to change jobs; I don't envy her new colleagues. I didn't get much of a feel-good sensation from the walk (I didn't want to be with people) although the exercise surely did me some good. Danielle was there - she clearly doesn't like dogs (unlike many Aspies who are very fond of them). We finished up at Island Bay and could see the destruction caused by last month's storm.

Am I supposed to be excited by the arrival of the royal baby? Because I'm not. I'm much more excited about my friend Mandy's baby. A university friend sent me an email with news of people from the past. When faced with such news it's hard not to make comparisons: while other people have hopes and dreams and goals and plans and kids and stuff, I'm just going through the motions.

I've compared notes with my workmates and I'm alarmed by just how many aftershocks I've felt. If I had kids and plans and stuff I might not have felt so many, but I do seem to be in the dodgy zone. I've felt almost as many quakes as the smart-arse in Auckland who submits felt reports on Geonet, claiming to have noticed every single one.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Earthquakes - focusing the mind?

As expected I didn't get much sleep last night. I left the radio on most of the night - somehow that made the aftershocks more bearable. I slept upstairs to be close to the front door so I could make a quick exit if I needed to. National Radio has just one guy on the night shift which runs from midnight till 6am. At one point he was having microphone problems. It was starting to droop, he said, and was in need of some Viagra. Then he read out the shipping forecast with a lot more emotion than you'd get in the (iconic) UK forecasts. "Fifty knots in Puysegur. Five-oh. That's a biggie."

The aftershocks seem to have abated. At about 10:45 this morning we had a 5.2 shake while I was on the loo but I haven't felt a significant shake since. Our work building was closed all day today and we won't be re-entering until noon tomorrow. Overall Wellington hasn't fared too badly. If the quake had hit directly under the city as it did in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011, instead of being out at sea, the story would have been very different indeed.

Tonight I played two games of 7 Wonders with Tracy and Tom. In early September Tracy is having an operation to have her thyroid gland removed.

If anything my mood has improved since the big quakes. Maybe they've helped focus the mind. I've seen probability estimates of further large shakes - from the various figures bandied about it seems nobody has a clue what might happen next. Trying to predict earthquakes is notoriously difficult.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Too much excitement for one day

What a weird day. I slept really badly last night, then at 7:15 I was woken up by an earthquake I never thought would end. It must have lasted a minute but it felt more like a week. It was a 5.8. Then after yawning my way through all the necessary chores and grocery shopping, the big one hit as I was talking to Mum on the phone. I hit Mum with a barrage of expletives as the 6.5 quake ripped plaster off the walls outside my flat. I ran outside onto the street, still talking on the cordless phone. I've got a couple of cracks in my apartment around a beam. The aftershocks aren't helping and they're coming way too thick and way too fast. I can't imagine how I'll sleep tonight. Up until now I've been fairly blasé about earthquakes. They've been exciting more than anything. That's all changed today - these shakes are above my excitement threshold I'm afraid.

My brother is due to fly up to Wellington on Thursday. I'm really looking forward to seeing him.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Shock treatment

I slept through my alarm this morning, dragged myself out of bed (and off to work) eventually, and didn't wake up properly till the earthquake hit just after nine. I felt a small jolt followed by a much bigger one that lasted a few seconds. When my boss got under his desk I decided to follow suit. It seems kids are the best people at dealing with earthquakes: my cousin said her boys instinctively got under the table. The timing of the shake wasn't bad for me: when you're not performing, any distraction is welcome. It was a 5.7, tying for the biggest shake I've felt in Wellington, centred at the top of the South Island, at a depth of 16 km. I didn't feel any of the aftershocks.

At various points in the week I thought I was losing my mind. It goes without saying that I won't be attending tomorrow's function. At least at work I can maintain some illusion of normality.

Yesterday when I mentioned the mortgage situation to my doctor, he said I could just get a higher-paying job, like the one that landed me in so much poo in the first place. Is he incentivised for every milligram of Efexor I take, or what? He's trying to pull me back into the vortex of jobs that could kill me. I don't dislike the bloke but as I said last night, he doesn't know me.

The reality is that I'm earning the same (in raw dollars) as I was in 2005, and a dollar buys you about 20% less than it did then. Back then I was flatting in Milford, paying $140 a week in rent. Now I'm trying to pay off this sodding great mortgage on an earthquake-prone apartment. And unless my app takes off, my prospects of increasing my earnings are severely limited. I don't have many marketable skills. Not in this day and age anyway (100 years ago, being able to add and multiply figures would have got you a lot further than it does now).

I'm going on another tramp tomorrow.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Take more of these pills

Oh jeez. Things haven't been good this week at all. I saw the doctor today. He said I'm "undermedicated" and upped my Efexor to 225. Heck, you see me for ten minutes once in a blue moon and you think you know me. "We can go as high as 375." Yes I know. I've been there before. "There's no shame in taking antidepressants." Shame isn't the issue. I'd happily take a whole damn packet each day if I thought it would do me some good. "You're being quite negative. See, you're depressed. It must be your serotonin levels. I can help that. Take more of these pills."

This week life has seemed impossible. Especially work. It's my turn to handle the email inbox - I find that hard at the best of times (which these most definitely aren't). It used to be my turn every fifth week, then it was every fourth, then every third, and now it's every second. That's what happens when people leave, of their own accord or not, and they aren't replaced. Then there's the business of paying for this flat which has become a millstone around my neck.

They had a board games evening at the library last night. I went along after work but was only going through the motions. First we played Ticket to Ride; I did really badly but at least I had some clue as to what was happening. Then I got caught up in a game involving a rapidly-flooding desert island. I had no idea what I was doing and I sat there hoping we could all just bloody well drown so I could go home. It made sense that I should be playing a game where drowning was a serious possibility. Actually had I to see Julie before I could go home, and that made me even more anxious. I dropped my car at Julie's (I had to vacate the car park because we had someone clean the windows using a cherry-picker) and had a half-hour walk back.

Here are some pictures from Saturday's low-visibility walk. There was a major fire at the reserve earlier this year.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Money matters

A few posts ago I said I was managing to pay off my mortgage. That was a lie. The revolving credit thing - which I put in place on the off-chance (!) that my well-paying job would turn to custard - has worked out a treat. It allows me to keep my property without paying much off at all, and that's what I'm currently doing. I'm paying off the fixed portion (which is about half) but the revolving bit isn't going anywhere. I did make a dent in the revolving part when I had some lump sums to plonk on it, like the poker money and the proceeds of the shares I sold, but now I'm totally plonked out. And I'm hardly spending anything. If I decide to buy a new TV and some furniture for the flat, then travel overseas for a month, my loan won't be revolving so much as rocketing into orbit. So what do I do? Get a flatmate? Two flatmates? Let the whole place out and live somewhere else? Take up online poker again? Um, no. Hope my app sells millions?

Mandy, my ex-work colleague from Auckland, is pregnant. That's excellent news. She'll be a brilliant mum I'm sure. What the baby will look like is anyone's guess however. Mandy is a black African and her partner is a ginger Kiwi.

On Friday, the same day Mandy told me she was pregnant, she got her latest actuarial exam result. She didn't pass. How she keeps studying and sitting exams I have no idea. Doing exams and having everything marked and graded feels so 2005 to me. Or more like 1995. There was a big kerfuffle in the office on Friday when one of my colleagues disputed a mark she'd received for a call she took from a customer. She seemed less concerned by the small difference it might make to her bonus than the indignity of it. You see this quite a lot. I couldn't imagine being bothered by that kind of thing any more.

I never take calls from customers so I don't have any marks or grades to worry about. I do call customers though, and on the rare occasion I successfully get someone's payment details, I get to say the word ombudsman. It's one of those words that I struggle to say without cracking up. The name Ponsonby has a similar effect on me. Ombudsman is Swedish in origin, as is smorgasbord, which Joe Bennett said sounds like the noise a pig makes at a trough. The name Smeg (they make whiteware - I have a couple of examples in my flat) sounds Scandinavian to me, but is actually an Italian acronym. Talking of smeg (which you'll be glad to know I don't do very often) I just bought a Red Dwarf DVD for six bucks off Trade Me.

I took out a new book called One Last Thing Before I Go from the library last week. I picked it because of the cover, the title and the blurb. I got through eight chapters (and they're short chapters) before returning it today. The writing was clever but everyone in the book seemed so bitchy and bastardy and, I suppose, neurotypical. I wasn't in the mood for it. I took out a P G Wodehouse book about golf instead. I'd never read any of his stuff before.

The Trayvon Martin case got a mention at the autism group tonight. The bloke who watches Hitler speeches to relax made me shudder with some of the things he came out with.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

It drives me mad

I don't mind driving. In fact it can be quite pleasurable being in my own little bubble, listening to some music. Years ago when I lived in Auckland, and petrol prices were less of a concern, I'd often go for a long drive up north at the weekend. On my own. And that's the thing. As soon as I have passengers, driving becomes scary as all hell. What little sense of direction I have flies out the window and I become hyper-aware of every gear change and lane change. Will she think I'm too cautious? Too reckless? Too goddamn incompetent? I look in the rear-view mirror to see the expression on her face. If I'm by myself nobody's going to know if I've taken a wrong turn so the prospect doesn't bother me. I can relax, which means I can concentrate on the road. But when I've got passengers that all changes to the point where my judgement is impaired and I'm probably a danger to other road users. With certain people (like my parents, or someone like Martin who doesn't drive yet) it's not so bad, but with most people I can feel the pressure ratcheting up about ten notches. And that's what I felt yesterday as I took people the short distance to Happy Valley Road for the start of our tramp at Te Kopahou Reserve.

Instead of marvelling at the scenery I spent the first two hours of the tramp wondering if I can somehow get over this fear of driving with other people. It isn't completely irrational (if I had to guess, I'd say I'm five times more likely to have an accident in a car full of people than on my own). It's just as well we had the tramp yesterday and not today - it's seriously nasty out there now. Yesterday there wasn't much wind and only a light shower, but the low cloud made things very atmospheric. We started off on the Tip Track (so called because it overlooks the landfill site), walking past that slightly ridiculous castle. We then passed what looks like a giant football (made up of pentagonal and hexagonal panels) and is actually a radar station that keeps track of planes. That's what they tell us anyway. Next week we'll probably find out that it's used by GCSB for something more sinister. I struggle to remember much after that. There were some impressive views for sure (when the cloud didn't restrict them), but I was feeling a bit down and having a hard time taking much in. Some of the tracks were fairly steep but overall the trip was just at the right level for me. Today I was feeling the benefits of all that exertion without being put completely out of commission.

After the tramp I had a nice hot shower and popped over to my cousin's for dinner. She had a friend over; we listened to my cousin rehearse a presentation about patents and trade marks that she was due to make tomorrow for the University of the Third Age in Timaru. The talk lasted an hour but it was interesting; she'd made a good job of cutting out the legalese. Today's ghastly weather meant that all planes (and ferries) have been grounded in Wellington and her talk has been postponed till October. I braved the elements enough to make it to the market, then braved Julie this afternoon. She's a bit more positive now that's she's got a new doctor.

The driving-with-passengers-is-scary thing is really just a manifestation of my general doing-anything-with-anybody-is-scary thing. I wish there was a cure. Perhaps doing it more often would help. Maybe a flatmate would help; the extra income certainly wouldn't do me any harm.

The Phoenix Foundation are a very good band from Wellington. I had no idea they'd hit the big time in the UK, but a year ago Buffalo got some serious airplay on BBC 6 Music. I wonder why that particular song was "the one". That station nearly closed down; when I was over there in 2010 there was a big campaign to save it. I notice Cerys Matthews is hosting a programme right now. She's Welsh and was lead singer of Catatonia in the late nineties. She couldn't really sing but I liked the band anyway and have two of their albums.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Miracles happen

The bloke who sorted out my laptop said it would now be "more faster" which indeed it is. He also said all my data would still be there. It's not. Thank goodness for flash drives.

So Andy Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon for 77 years. I was wide awake at 2:30 so I got up and watched the rest of the match (and drank a gallon of coffee when I got to work). There were so many twists and turns, it didn't feel like only a three-setter. (There were eleven breaks of serve, Murray claiming seven of them.) That final game was high drama; if Djokovic had broken for 5-5 anything could have happened. I'm glad Murray won but not because he's British. He's not really playing for Great Britain, or for Scotland, anyway. He's playing for Andy Murray. If nationalities were that big a deal they wouldn't allow mixed-nationality doubles partnerships.

Murray's Wimbledon win is his second grand slam title from seven final appearances. I'm fairly confident he'll follow in his coach Lendl's footsteps in winning several more slams. Frankly I couldn't give a stuff that a Brit won but if more Brits play tennis as a result, that would be a big win. In the UK (when I lived there at least, and I doubt it's changed) courts were empty apart from the Wimbledon fortnight and possibly the week after. It was as if tennis didn't exist for 49 weeks of the year. I clearly remember a conversation (well, argument) I had with a woman at my local club; she said that tennis courts should only be built in wealthy areas because nobody from poorer areas could afford the expenses needed to become the next Wimbledon champion. As if that's what matters. As if people getting off their arses and playing a game that doesn't involve pixels isn't important.

While Murray's win was nice it didn't come as a shock, unlike Bartoli's victory which continues to blow me away. Six years ago she surprised everybody by reaching the final where she lost to Venus Williams. Surely that was as good as it would ever get. But getting to the final again and winning? Miracles happen, don't they? OK, Kvitova's win two years ago was a bit of a surprise, as was Sharapova's in 2004, but Bartoli isn't Bartova or even Bartovic - she was cast in a different mould altogether.

TV coverage of Wimbledon, what little I saw, could have been better. You'd see an incredible winner and where was the slow-motion replay? No, you'd see David Cameron instead. John McEnroe does an exceptional job in the commentary box though, it must be said.

On Sunday I played board games with Tracy and Tom. Sitting on Tracy's shelves are a dazzling array of weird and wacky games - there's no Scrabble, Monopoly or Risk (or anything anyone has heard of) to be seen. We played three games in all. First up was 7 Wonders. You had to build up your wonder of the world (say the Pyramids or the Hanging Gardens) using resources which you can buy and sell, or sort of, and it was the "sort of" that always confused me. I must have driven Tracy mad as I kept asking how much stone or glass I had, and how much it would cost to get more. In each of three "ages" a war took place, and it was by winning the final war that I won the game, without really knowing what I was doing, and with one of the lowest winning scores on record.

Then we played Takenoko, a Japanese-style game where you had to cultivate, irrigate and fertilise land so you could grow bamboo for a panda to eat. A really bizarre game if you ask me. And I did pretty badly - I came last by some distance. I kept having to buy irrigation sticks to water my land and hardly ever grew anything. I wanted to kill the damn panda but annoyingly that wasn't in the rules (which were quite complicated). Both these first two games were designed by the same person - you never would have guessed that as they were so different.

Finally we played Small World. By this stage I was longing for Community Chests or triple word scores, something I could get a handle on. Small World involves territories and armies, similar to Risk but more complicated. The armies were different races or beings, such as orcs or giants or tritons. Each race would have a special power or trait, like "flying" or "diplomatic". The races and powers would pair up at random and Tracy would get excited if a particular combination came up: "Alchemistic dragons, man. That's awesome!" Armies would kill each other until they were depleted when they would "go into decline". For me this was the most enjoyable game of the three, and I won with plenty of luck and advice from Tracy.

The illustrations in all three games were impressive; I liked the attention to detail in the way each race was depicted in Small World. Unlike the board games of old, these modern creations have been tested to the nth degree. But they struck me as being quite a niche market. There used to be a shop selling these kinds of games in the Old Bank Arcade. The games sold for around $100 and I was always amazed by how heavy they were. That shop closed down last year - they were selling obscure games in a fairly obscure location so I suppose you could see why. But it's still a shame. Also gone is the shop that sold coins, notes, stamps and war medals. In its place is yet another shop selling expensive household crap - mostly presents for people who already have everything. For $35 you can buy a side plate with either "bitch", "slapper", "wanker" or "tosser" written on it. Nice. The shop that used to sell candy and lollies has also shut down - it's currently empty.

I don't think I can make myself go to the Great Gatsby work function. Apart from some food, what is there to gain? Annoyingly it's only a five-minute walk from my flat, but I don't think anyone will care if I'm not there. The only person who might have cared was given the sack.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Good on her

Wow. Marion Bartoli really is champion of Wimbledon. Who would have expected that two weeks ago? I'm very glad I got up at 1am to watch the final even if Lisicki's nerves meant she was some way short of her best. Nerves play an even bigger part in women's major finals than for the men - the serve isn't as dominant so a soul-destroying run of say six losing games is much more common, and unlike for the men, six games is half the match. Bartoli was extremely determined and pumped up but all that adrenalin didn't compromise her thought processes in any way. Game two of the second set was huge psychologically, as was the first point of game three where Bartoli was well out of the rally but hit a down-the-line winner that would have been called out if Lisicki had challenged. Lisicki was struggling with her ball toss and by game five, when she chose a bad time to play a drop shot (people try that so often when they aren't thinking straight) she really just wanted to get off the court. I was happy that Lisicki staved off three match points for what would have been a harsh 6-1 6-1 defeat. For the next ten minutes she was a different player, but just as things were getting interesting Bartoli served out to love with a new racket and new balls, finishing on the right end of a crucial opening rally and serving an ace on match point.

That someone different like Bartoli can claim the greatest prize in the game must be a good thing. I really liked her speech as she held the trophy. She supposedly has a sky-high IQ (I saw someone on ESPN unsuccessfully try and trip her up on the Fibonacci sequence) and is also a keen painter. It took her 47 attempts to win her first grand slam title - that's a record: Novotna was older when she won Wimbledon in '98 but it was "only" her 45th attempt. As for Lisicki, she's got an excellent aggressive game which we only saw last night in that late cameo. I doubt it'll take her 47 tries to claim a slam.

The hard drive of my laptop is stuffed and it's costing me $340 to get it sorted. That's an expense I could have done without.

I was a bit tired today after getting up last night, and there's no way I'm watching the men's final tonight. Out of the blue Tracy invited me and Tom over to play some unusual board games this afternoon. This was fun even if I didn't know what was going on half the time - I'll write about it when I can do so less painfully.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A painstaking post about Wimbledon

I took my dying laptop into a place in Newtown to see if they can revive it. I then braved the market in the pouring rain. At one stall a woman gave me $10 too much change; a long time ago I might have pocketed the extra money but I wouldn't dream of doing so now.

So I'm writing this post on my phone which isn't an easy task. I'm playing around with the handwriting recognition thingy at the moment.

Right, so Del Potro was badly injured for his semi-final with Djokovic and would only last three sets. Or two or one or none. But as they got deeper into a long, intense game midway through the first set, all ideas of a quick match were out the window. The third set was a real belter. I was very impressed with Del Potro who produced 100 mph winners seemingly out of nowhere. Not only that but he defended brilliantly, staying with Djokovic in the long rallies which nobody normally does except possibly Nadal. All the time I was struggling to keep my eyes open and when Djokovic won that tie-break to go 2-1 up I hit the hay, fully (stupidly?) expecting the top seed to rattle
through the fourth set. Instead, as I found out this morning, Del Potro saved two match points in another tie-break and was only finally seen off after 4¾ hours, the longest Wimbledon semi-final to date. Andy Murray didn't exactly have it all his own way either, and I sympathise with him over the roof issue, but we have indeed got the final everyone expected.

With work the next day I couldn't realistically watch the women's semis. Had I watched them I'd have needed to pull a sickie, or in this case a Lisicki. I should manage to see tonight's final. I don't mind who wins - they're both fun players to watch and wonderfully grunt-free. If anything I'm probably siding with Bartoli because this might be her last chance to snag a grand slam whereas Lisicki (if her form this fortnight is anything to go by) should have plenty more opportunities. It's a tricky match to pick - Bartoli hasn't dropped a set in the tournament but has somehow avoided anybody above her ranking of 15th; Lisicki has had some very tight matches but has come up against the likes of Stosur, Serena and Radwanska. Should be fascinating. I just hope the crowd aren't too anti-Bartoli; I suppose she doesn't look like your typical tennis player and that's why some people don't take to her.

There's heaps of non-Wimbledon stuff I wanted to write about but writing on this phone is way, way too painful.

Oh, and last night I chatted to Richard for the first time in ages, which was nice.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A fascinating final four

The women's competition at this year's Wimbledon has been fascinating, not that I've been able to watch any of it. As we reach the final four, all the big names and familiar faces are gone. It reminds me of the men's tournament in 1996 (the year Sampras didn't win) which I found equally fascinating. Some people seem to think the loss of former champions like Serena Williams and Sharapova diminishes the competition but I don't see it that way. I think all the remaining women are a breath of fresh air. Agnieszka Radwanska beat Li Na in a great match last night and as she is seeded four and reached last year's final you can hardly call her a no-name. She plays Sabine Lisicki in the semis, a very popular player who has done well at Wimbledon before but really hit the headlines when she knocked out Serena. Also through (and yet to drop a set) is Marion Bartoli, who I've always liked since I saw her win the Auckland title in 2006. Bartoli plays two-handed on both sides and takes a lot of small steps during points to say nothing of all the bouncing around between them. In other words she's a bit mad. The crowd booed her throughout her win over Sloane Stephens last night; the booing was at its loudest when she wanted to stop play as the rain came down. Playing on grass with a grand slam semi and big money at stake, I'd want to come off too. Bartoli was runner-up in 2007 and she'll be up against Kirsten Flipkens, a name that's fun to say. Last night Flipkens beat Petra Kvitova, the 2011 champ, in three sets.

The men's tournament has seen its fair share of shocks too, but I still get the feeling that Djokovic and Murray are on a collision course to meet in the final.
Edit: I underestimated Verdasco a bit, didn't I? I shouldn't have done - he's a very good player.

Tonight there was a meeting about all the road works. I went along and peered through the window but left as soon as I realised it was a presentation which I'd already missed the start of. I didn't want to walk in and make a scene. I must say the communication to residents about all the work has been excellent. However I'd really hoped to meet some of my neighbours there and talk about the earthquake business which seems a more pressing concern.

My computer is playing up badly and I'm worried it might die on me completely.