The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

There’s so much to like about Melbourne.  So much.  But I guess not the traffic.  So I walked for a while.   Spent the morning getting exercise by walking Fitzroy; it’s a mish mash of heritage buildings, gentrification, lovingly restored terrace homes, terrace homes much in need of restoration, cool shops and quaint streets and trendy restaurants, housing projects a la the old TO Jamestown and bottle shops and off-track betting.  In essence, it’s like old Toronto and new Toronto but very Australian and oozing charm which washes up against architectural blunders and very poor city planning.   Look at that over-intentioned bowl of yogurt, fruit and muesli! I made my way to an outpost on Napier called Brentwood where I had the most wonderful breakfast and a coffee they called magic, which is the ristretto from two shots of espresso and a top of hot milk but without all the heavy creaminess of a latte or typical Oz flat white and masking the ludicrous trendiness of uber-acid black coffee.   The younger Zverev was in the lobby when I arrived; I was told a few of the French players were here too.  I'd have to hit the fitness centre in the AM to catch sight of anyone.  Fat chance, obviously, of getting a selfie with an ATP pro.  My tennis tour, if you will, is Thursday through Sunday.  Today was a free day.  But I had bought a day session pass several months ago knowing SS wouldn’t arrive until the afternoon.  Yesterday I was in the second row from the front.  Today I was still in the lower bowl, but second row from the back.  Good part is that I was for some reason in the media section, and of about 60 seats designated media only 12 or so journalists were ever on site, so I got to spread out and be a hog of it all.   The line up was women, men, women for the day session.  First up was Keys and Kerber.  Honestly, it was so forgettable I had to give it a second thought, as I wrote this, as to who played.  Keys simply wasn’t there; it was like a phantom tennis player.  If Mischa Zverev got fined 75% of his winnings for tanking (what they called “poor performance”) I think Keys could be added to the list.  Or is that’s what’s acceptable in the top tier of the women’s tour?   Rod Laver gets a standing O upon entering his eponymous arena.    The men’s QF was the two upsetters if you will.  The challenger circuit nobody gone challenger, in the shadow of the alt-right kingpins, Tennys (“yes that really is my name”) Sandgren, and Novak-destroyer Hyeon Chung, who plays with as much emotion as Louise Lasser in Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.  I liked how the umpire pronounced it sand-ri-djen instead of sand-ri-gren.  Sandrigen has a huge game but his body language is DelPo-ish in that he can bomb a second serve at 210 kms but then skulk around the court as if tethered to a ball and chain, whiffing easy forehands; very up and down and unpredictable, like putting a novice at the wheel of an F1 car, all power but no skillset. It was not a rout despite the two and a half hour course.  There were stupendous rallies (I missed the ESPN commentary to know whether it was, e.g., a 22 or 28 or 31 shot rally) and a final game that was so weird (three match points to the wind, a long “practice rally” of soft returns and easy lobs in the middle of a point, then super aggressive and Chung prevailing) even Jim Courier referenced it as strange and out of the ordinary.   Chung defeats Sandgren.  When that finished I caught some of the boy’s junior doubles which was of a superior calibre and unfortunate so few were in the stands.   The two female seeds in the closer for the day session were women’s number one Halep and number six Pliskova who played half decent tennis, sure, some great shots and decent gets but half the match was one of them looking at a shot whistle past without moving a muscle.  That's club play.   It was a glorious day, 24 without humidity, but full on heat, and I was glad to have paid extra for a spot in the shade.   Back at the hotel just past five and SS was arriving YVR – Brisbane – Melbourne.  He didn’t even unpack before we headed out for eats; delicious tapas at a small spot called Anada. Look: It's our cutlery hanging in a window.  Something to emulate?        

I Don’t Just Adore a Penthouse View

Caught an Uber to the airport.  It took a mere 17 minutes at the speed limit.  Central business district to the suburban airport.  There is a tunnel that virtually skirts the city, the traffic, but is also a vortex in its never ending arc to nowhere.   First time ever flying Qantas.  Extravagant, I know, but used points for a biz class fair Brisbane to Melbourne.  Went to check in and it said “see attendant.” So I did.  And he checked me in.  Then I went to the lounge because I was starving and hadn't eaten and that’s when I discovered I was in cattle class.  The reason they told me was that the flight was over-booked and I’d been bumped.  Go figure.  I’d booked in one class and Qantas had put me in another.  I said I wasn’t very happy but what can you do?  Such first world problems.  I got into the lounge at least and the spread was exceptional, fruit, eggs, smoothies, a barista churning out flat whites.   I checked at the gate if there was any chance to end up up front but, as they say on Little Britain, “computer says no.”    Had a wonderful “lunch” on board which was a sausage roll. Hey, at least Qantas is still serving a semblance of food.   Two hour flight but 45 minutes to get luggage on the carrels in Melbourne.  As part of the tennis package I got an airport transfer; ah the self-importance that washes over you when you see a chauffeur in a suit and tie holding a sign with your name on it.  A Mercedes to boot.   The hotel is expensive which I write only to state that nothing much about it is particularly great; we’ve stayed in the Sofitel in London which is exceptional, the Sofitel in NYC which was very nice, but the Melbourne Sofitel is desperately in need of an overhaul.  It does boast an enviable location (being a 15 minute easy walk to the tennis); the room however is on the small side, basic with a chillingly sharp view from the 41st floor which only makes me think of Towering Inferno, not Green Acres.  The air is so thin they should dispense oxygen masks.  It’s the Tokyo style of hotel; mall and commercial at street; office for thirty stories, hotel at the top.  As shown in the collage above, the interior centre is one large atrium, very past the due date.  For no reason I can discern, there are costumes from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, on display by the elevator bank.   My tennis package doesn’t start until Thursday but upon arrival the coordinator had an unused day session on her person which was offered and which I greedily snapped up.  Second row.  Dimitrov loses in the quarters to UK's Kyle Edmund; only the sixth UK man to make it through a grand slam quarter.  Did I mention it was the second row?   Dimitrov receiving from Edmund.  After the match I checked out the grounds which were bursting with activity; concerts, play areas, bars and kiosks, a zip line.  A zip line!  What would they think at Wimbledon?  After all was said an done I was back at the hotel halfway through the Cilic victory over Nadal which, alas, I had to catch on TV.   The bed was comfortable and I forgot about the 41 story drop.  Small mercies.

Snaps Means Sausages

Started with a four lap swim in The Johnson's 50 meter fifth floor swimming pool.  Nearly died!   Hot and alternately cloudy and sunny and overall wonderful in Brisbane (which, to be fair, I expected to be more crass, flash and glitz than it was.  Architecturally it was actually more interesting than YVR).  Re-connected with my Oz friend Glenn after more than 30 years (!).  We headed out in the AM to Mt. Coot-tha, the highest peak in the state.  It was weird how quick we were out of the city and into the bush.  At the top of the mountain are beautiful views north, west and south. Don't let the clouds fool you; it was plenty hot.  I had to, twice, take a European shower (that's when, instead of changing your sweaty shirt, you just spritz more cologne).  After coffee and a wander at the top, we drove down to the botanical garden, which runs over several hectares at the bottom (and dwarfs the older, smaller, inner city bot garden).      A bottle tree on the left.  Figs growing up the trunk of an Asian fig on right.   Heliconia, a beautiful bird of paradise-like flowering plant.   Flowering ginger.   Nardoo.  A floating fern that looks like a floating four leaf clover.  Indigenous Australians ate the plant fresh as well as grinding parts into a flour; alternately, many Europeans died from eating it. Vanilla pods. No wonder pure vanilla is at risk of extinction.   In the afternoon we walked the rejuvenated riverfront which has been reimagined in a livelier, more interesting version of Vancouver’s Yaletown, replete with a beach.  A shaded walkway shrouded in bougainvillea lines a lovely path which wends a few clicks past park, ponds and cafes.   Later in the afternoon we caught a movie then walked into Fortitude Valley and Newstead, diverse neighbourhoods which mix industry, gentrification and the quaint.  We ate at an old gasworks, redeveloped as an open concept living and eating neighbourhood.  Rolling pins on the ceiling; that was an idea that sounded good on paper.  I chose the lamb and passed on the snaps.  Remnants of the gasworks, a la Yaletown's roundhouse.  

14.5 Hours in the Air: AC35 Vancouver to Brisbane

You know your flight leaves in the witching hour when the airport looks like this.  AC flies Melbourne direct followed by Sydney direct followed by Brisbane direct.  Long flights. First time in the newly renovated AC international lounge; during renos you had to go upstairs to a small and pretty drab space.  The reinvented downstairs is overall splashy, clean lines, bartender, good selection of seating, very friendly.  When you fly to Australia you lose a day; talked to an RBC staffer heading down who was going to miss his birthday. Boarding went smoothly.  Packed plane.  First time in business on a Dreamliner.  Must say it’s the best AC experience I’ve ever had.  The seat was private, comfortable, the AV screen enormous, the dimming options on the windows (instead of blinds) fantastic, all the basic amenities really good.  The aero-nuts blog those details as “hard product” which I’d rate very high.  The soft product (i.e., food and wine) is typical of AC; it always just misses the mark.  Even after pairing with David Hawksworth.  Hot dinner directly after takeoff, then a breakfast about an hour before landing.   Still, a direct flight instead of a LAX or SFO transfer is a dream.  Dream.  Geddit? Frangipani with the sun at dusk peeking through.   Brisbane arrival was straightforward although the taxi didn’t know where the hotel was and didn’t have navigation or a smart phone!  I told him I was staying at The Johnson, but he omitted the integral definite article and only upon arriving did he say, “oh, you’re staying at The Johnson."  The building was a 1970s government ministry building converted to hotel and condos a couple of years back.  They crushed the marble pillars and lay them down in the lobby. It has that austerity of impersonal government bureaucracy from the exterior although the interiors are on the warm side; Oz artist Michael Johnson is the supposed inspiration, and his prints litter the public areas.  The room was spacious, well appointed, quiet, with an excellent bed and pleasant views over the Spring Hill neighbourhood.

Yes, I do Know the Way to San Jose

It's about an hour SE of SFO on the 280. Sunday, November 19: We had to wrap it all up by early afternoon for the flight home.  Awoke to another spectacular sunny mild perfect fall morning.  We took an Uber into an undeveloped section of Mission where there was a (well worth it) 30 minute wait for Tartine Manufactory where we shared an egg sandwich on a soft bun with greens and ham, and a smoked salmon tartine with pickled onions, cream cheese and meyer lemon.  Then coffee and a scone.   Next door things were hopping at Heath pottery for a pre-Black Friday 20 per cent off sale.  We joined the hordes for a few SFO-unique take homes. [caption id="attachment_5000" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] Pics from Paxton Gate "ethically sourced" taxidermy[/caption] Then a longish walk to Valencia, up and down the heart of Mission, where the shopping ranges from urban revolt to taxidermy.  At about 7,000 steps we detoured to the BART back downtown.  Had late checkout at the W before an Uber to SFO. [caption id="attachment_5003" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] I kid you not. That's a six year old Golden Retriever in economy class.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_5004" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] Above the "blue and windy sea." Sayonara.[/caption]

Remnants of the Street of the Dead

[caption id="attachment_4982" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] The "carbuncle" which is the de Young[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4981" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] The most spectacular views in SFO are from the tower at the de Young in Golden Gate Park[/caption] Saturday, November 17, 2017: Up pretty early, Nespresso in room, snack from Starbucks, then Uber to Golden Gate Park to visit the de Young Museum.  The Teotihuacan show was spectacular.  Spectacular.  Objects from an unearthed tunnel, unseen for 1700 years, pillaged reliefs never displayed for the public, chunks of pyramids and relics from the long lost Street of the Dead.  Nina enjoyed the regular collection, including a Maori Portrait show.  Snack in the museum café sculpture garden.  Upstairs: Best collection of African and South Pacific artifacts I’ve ever seen. [caption id="attachment_4983" align="aligncenter" width="756"] Incense burner lid. Just the lid. C. 350 AD.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4985" align="aligncenter" width="1008"] Fire god sculpture, C. 150 AD[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4986" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] Small exquisitely intricate figurines of women in headdresses which emphasize the burdens upon them and the tears of the work required of them[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4988" align="aligncenter" width="1008"] Avian effigy vessel C. 250 AD.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4987" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] Incense holder. Very, very elaborate incense holder![/caption] [caption id="attachment_4989" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] A collage of spectacular reliefs savagely looted by opportunistic archaeologists in the 18 C, then bequeathed to an SFO museum, then repatriated to Mexico, then restored, and on display for the public for the first time since antiquity. The serpent, over top of trees replete with roots, tells a story for which all Teotihuacan residents could recognize themselves—i.e., as some part of the social order.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4990" align="aligncenter" width="822"] Seated figurines taken from the Moon Pyramid burial, C. 250 AD.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4991" align="aligncenter" width="2172"] This life size figure is marble. It would have been adorned in obsidian and other jewels. When the Street of the Dead was burnt, when the Teotihuacan culture imploded with an uprising against the elites, he was looted and burnt and resurrected by archaeologists from over 80 fragments.[/caption] After the Mexican show a skinny around the rest of the galleries, the most impressive of which was definitely the African and South Pacific collections. [caption id="attachment_4994" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] Clockwise from top left: Funerary statue, Indonesia, ancestral figures and masks from Cameroon.[/caption] Around noon we took the #5 bus down Fulton towards the downtown.  Something of a “local experience” if you get my drift.  I opened the window and did my best to bear it.   Walked extensively through the Hayes Valley neighborhood window shopping, Nina picked up a snag at Timbuk2, we lunched at Absinthe, a lovely classic French bistro, where a gem lettuce in tarragon dressing and burger and fries and chocolate pot a crème went down a treat.   Later we wandered up to Fillmore and cabbed to Pacific Heights where we shopped amongst elites in quaint overpriced boutiques on quiet residential streets, then ambled back to Fillmore for another round of window shopping.  Got some swag at Ministry of Supply.  Hit 10,600 steps sometime around four, so cabbed back to the W for pre-dinner downtime.   Back to Pacific Heights for dinner at SPQR.  We had seats at the bar (to the restaurant) where the well-oiled machine of chefs and sous chefs turned out plates of simple antipasti to $72 portions of Wagyu beef.  A beet salad with chicken roulade was a star starter followed by a couple of pastas, the standout a bucatini with gorgonzola and fresh walnuts.  A donut for desert, with sautéed apple and caramel and crème fraiche was ludicrous.  House made marshmallows with the cheque.  Uber back. [caption id="attachment_4995" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] A "donut" and some half eaten appetizers. Watching the chefs at SPQR.[/caption]

City by the Bay

[caption id="attachment_4961" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] A whole exit row to myself![/caption] November 17, 2017:  A weekend away in San Fran. Passing through US Customs at seven in the morning at YVR. Agent asks me why I’m going to San Francisco. I say there’s a show on at a museum I want to see. He says, and I quote, “Look at you Mr. Intelligence.” A half decent Friday morning in Vancouver with, unfortunately, a thirty-minute navigation system upgrade which set us back off the tarmac. Nina and I spent the best $25 of our lives, with exit row seats and no seat companions. Spread out on the "divan" and watched a movie. A glorious day in San Fran. Mild, sunny, blue sky. Cabbed into the hotel which gave us our room early. We set out promptly. All the way next door to the SFMOMA, SFO’s version of MOMA. The two special events were a Walker Evans retrospective and 30 years of Robert Rauschenberg. [caption id="attachment_4965" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Lamb Shank Manti[/caption] Before we took in the art we enjoyed an exceptional light lunch at the museum restaurant, In Situ, which was a menu of items from celebrated chefs. Of special note was the lamb shank manti, a Turkish dish with tomato puree, smoked yogurt and sumac. [caption id="attachment_4967" align="aligncenter" width="1008"] Rotunda looking up and rotunda looking down[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4968" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] Walker Evans collage. Top left is a Ringling Bros wagon[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4971" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] Close, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Fitzwilson[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4973" align="aligncenter" width="512"] A man in red stands in front of a red Robert Rauschenberg. Thanks Nina![/caption] After our dose of culture we waded into the depths of downtown for a mosey then back to the W for a siesta. Took an Uber early evening to Nopa, a hopping neighbourhood landmark just on the border of Haight Ashbury and Alamo Park on Divisadero. Food wavered between very good and OK. Uber home and bed before 11. [caption id="attachment_4972" align="aligncenter" width="1008"] Chuck Close is the Bomb[/caption]

There May Be a Protest

Well the last day was a long one but not much to report except several hours in the Galleries First and then a pretty smooth flight home.  An early check-out unfortunately, an uneventful cab ride to Paddington, a delayed express to LHR, an easy fast track through security, then several hours in the BA lounge.  At least I was able to stream the Murray Djokovic final, ad-free. lounge-champagne-bar The champagne bar. lounge-2 table-service Table service if you like. lounge-window major-tail That's some major tail. lounge-1 lounge-3 lounge-4 lounge-wine A decent selection of wines, a lot of space to spread out in.   Boarding commenced none to glamorously about two kms from the lounge around thirty minutes before departure. flight-champagne-1 flight-champagne-2 They started us off with Laurent-Perrier Grand Siécle.  Then I switched to the spectacular Taittinger Brut Vintage 2006. flight-starter Even though you leave on BA085 at 17:20 and even though you're eating early evening, they call it lunch.  I chose as my starter Fivemiletown Dairy goat's cheese beignet with a butternut squash, pumpkin seed and pine nut crust. flight-chicken For the main I had a roasted corn-fed chicken, ham hock and potato tartlet with haricot bean purée, runner beans and truffle jus.  Honestly, I could have eaten two portions, it was just that good. flight-cheese The cheese plate -- shropshire blue, gillot camembert, godminster and tomme de savoie -- wasn't bad at all. flight-pudding There was still room for orange and pistachio pudding. flight-pjs My "sleeper" aka pajamas beckoned. flight-bedtime Time for some shut eye. flight-sandwich flight-tea-cakes There was "tea" after a nap: Sandwiches, scones and cakes. there-may-be-a-protest There wasn't too much to protest.

I Did Not Dare Miss It

An empty platform midday.  Imagine that.   First thing, in the blaring sun, I went to Camden Town to run an errand.  The 46 gets there in about seven stops from the flat.  I had to see someone about a parcel; a long, convoluted, Royal Mail, eBay story that is too tiresome to relate.  Then I came back to Chancery Lane, took the tube to Holland Park, and stopped at Paul for a delicious apricot tart and coffee; get my portion of fruit for the day. Simon had come down with a lung infection, more or less clearing the rest of the day.   On the bus a man talked about taking the 168 to Kentish Town for a six quid a night hostel bed and being able to beg for rent on a daily basis but never having time to wash his jacket, only his pants, and that the hostel staff had advised him to tidy his living space of they would take away his freedom. And who were hostel staff to think they could take away his freedom?   On the tube I saw a woman in a black dress, black net stockings, black wool coat, with a faux rose corsage, porcelain rose pendant necklace, two rose earrings, a rose pink beanie and rose pink Vibram’s five finger shoes.  She had a large black bag which she rummaged through for quite some time settling, eventually, on a plastic container with raisins, about two full cups, which she ate with a plastic fork, thoughtfully, and with consideration. Her wan skin was like mother of pearl, flashing two tones of white, gloss and satin, depending on the reflection. My question is: did they spend more on the plumbing or the topiary? My question is: Did they spend more on the plumbing or the topiary? At Paul there was a man being interviewed about corruption in the housing industry and a woman next to me who, on a paper marketing plan, wrote in the margins “do this” several times over.  I was glad to be on a so called holiday.  I spent some time in Holland Park. I've always preferred the brambly, feral end of Holland Park... I've always preferred the brambly, feral end of Holland Park... [caption id="attachment_4885" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]...as opposed to the more cultivated and "British" end ...as opposed to the more cultivated and "British" end[/caption] hp2 I walked down to Leighton House.  I don’t think I’ve been there this century; but in the 80s when I was broke I went there a lot because it was peaceful, exquisite, and free. It got an extensive reno in 2009.  It’s now 12 pounds entry.  All 1100 square feet or whatever they allow you to stroll through. [caption id="attachment_4887" align="aligncenter" width="756"]The "back yard" at Leighton House The "back yard" at Leighton House[/caption] A woman asked me what cologne I was wearing.  I said “Old Man, by Neil Young.”  Pause.  “He released it just after Bob Dylan won the Nobel.” Crickets.  The British; tough crowd.  She didn’t laugh at my joke but she did borrow my camera.  When she returned it there were numerous photographs from a place where photographs are strictly prohibited. [caption id="attachment_4888" align="aligncenter" width="756"]The Arab Hall The Arab Hall[/caption] lh3 lh5 lh6 lh4 The story of Flaming June is the basis of a good novel, and much more interesting than Wikipedia would have you believe: The painting first showed at the RA to much acclaim.  The sensuality slash titillation of the picture, the fact that you can spy the sleeping woman’s nipples, was not without controversy.  It sold for a good sum to a magazine owner and art collector.  It changed hands a few times, last being “shown” in the 1930s.  Then it completely disappeared from view, no one is quite sure what trajectory it took.  Victorian art was well out of fashion.  Then, mid-20th century, some builders doing a reno in Clapham of all places discovered a piece of art placed behind a plaster wall.  They took it to a dealer; it made the rounds, but not of much interest amongst buyers, until it was snapped up for mere pennies by a collector in Puerto Rico, where it lives today. [caption id="attachment_4894" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]As if As if[/caption] After Leighton House I headed for the Royal Academy.  What better place to follow LH, where Lord Leighton had once been “PRA” or president, and presided over the tasteful and appropriate display of Victorian art, only to see the hottest show on the planet focused on abstract expressionism: de Koonig, Pollock, Kline, Rothko, the list goes on.  But I was bit cultured out if you will; I didn’t make it.  As it was I wandered through west London, ending up on the Central line back to Holborn to pack. [caption id="attachment_4893" align="aligncenter" width="756"]Mama mia that's a whole lotta cheez Mama mia that's a whole lotta cheez[/caption] I arrived home just in time to see Andy Murray clinch the first set of a two set cliff hanger, and Stan Wawrinka commit racket abuse. Also, there was more packing to do than I anticipated.  Why did I buy so much Christmas pudding? [caption id="attachment_4895" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]Lamb sirloin with girelles and spinach at Hix in Soho Lamb sirloin with girelles and spinach at Hix in Soho[/caption] In the evening I took a pre-theatre at Hix.  I’d eaten there in 2013, to no great acclaim, except that the bar stools have backs.  The food tonight was exceptional, perfectly seasoned, beautifully prepared, not skimpy or restrained.  One bartender was “Persian” (I eventually got it out of him that he was Iranian) and the other a young Brit desperate to move to Canada, ideally Calgary (for no good reason other than to ski he said; I had no comment). [caption id="attachment_4896" align="aligncenter" width="637"]I didn't dare I didn't dare[/caption] The play I saw, the sixth of six plays, was either the worst play of the week or the best.  Steven “Billy Elliott” Daldry resurrected J B Priestly’s An Inspector Calls at the National in 1992.  It’s been traveling the world ever since, only now to return to the West End.  I think it’s wonderful and encouraging that a play over a century old can speak to current themes: our collective responsibility to others and the guilt we share or ignore in respect to our willingness to understand the plight of others.  Parents will make no qualms to allow their elementary class to attend; witness the school boys in uniform, rapt. [caption id="attachment_4897" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]Playhouse Theatre, Embankment Playhouse Theatre, Embankment[/caption] But it’s linear, predictable, uninspired, and scarily stereotypical.  I smell a Bill Millerd debut in the next ten years.  It was a brisk walk up to Covent Garden, then a short tube hop back for the final night. lights-at-night-1 lights-at-night-2

Racket Abuse

02-roof [caption id="attachment_4866" align="aligncenter" width="788"]I think they covet the paycheque more than this... I think they covet the paycheque more than this...[/caption] It was the second double double header of tennis.  The morning crowds were not as thick and testy as Tuesday: Monfils had dropped out of the tournament due to his lingering rib injury.  But at the year end event, they replace injured players.  So David Goffin (not next in line, Berdych would have been, but I guess he declined) played Djokovic.  The doubles match prior was a rather slim straight set effort.   I was seated next to some Germans, some very large German youth.  They had snuff.  Snuff! [caption id="attachment_4867" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]goffin-arrives The rock stars arrive. First David Goffin.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4868" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]Then Novak. Then Novak.  They reprimand the players for poor behaviour and shh the crowd but amp us up with strobes and rock music and Dylan Thomas (yes, it's true, it's the UK, they "violence" it up a notch too), then act shocked at the racket.[/caption] At just over an hour I’d like to write that the match was a clinic.  But it wasn’t; Novak made several double faults and shot wide of the mark on numerous occasions.  However, as is often the case on the ATP, lesser players cower on the court with him.  Goffin simply couldn’t rise to the occasion.  An hour seven; we could have been watching first round women’s tennis at a Grand Slam. [caption id="attachment_4869" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]Novak wins. Surprise. Novak wins. Surprise.[/caption] I might add that for his hour and seven minutes, David Goffin took home a paycheque of $179,000 USD.  Ouch.   There was still plenty of time between the day and evening matches; on a whim I took the clipper to Greenwich, wandered around for a spell, had a light nosh at a wonderful bakery called Paul Rhodes, then a spot of rain set in so I bussed back to the 02.  I can think of someone else who would have just taken a nap. [caption id="attachment_4870" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Who is this mutt and why does he keep interrupting this blog? Who is this mutt and why does he keep interrupting this blog?[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4871" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]The Emirates Air Line. Geddit? North Greenwich to Canning Town. Fractionally quicker than the tube. The Emirates Air Line. Geddit? Fractionally quicker than the tube to Canning Town.[/caption] The evening doubles session, Dodig/Melo vs. Murray/Soares was actually enormously watchable and would have gone to a third set if doubles had a third set but instead they go to a 10 point tiebreaker.  Game, set, tiebreaker, Murray/Soares. [caption id="attachment_4872" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]Murray and Soares finish the year as the number one doubles team Murray and Soares finish the year as the number one doubles team[/caption] Milos took some practice time on the main court before the doubles. [caption id="attachment_4873" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]Milos practicing with coach Carlos Moya Milos practicing with coach Carlos Moya[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4874" align="aligncenter" width="857"]The grey head on the left is someone called John McEnroe The grey head on the left is someone called John McEnroe[/caption] On Tuesday the 20,000 people or so loved Raonic.  He could do no wrong.  On Thursday night it was all about Thiem.  It’s true what they say: the British really do root for the underdog.  Thiem is a great player and will win a grand slam or two; his serve this year has become refined and a weapon.  But he’s still nervy and uneven and in two longish unpredictable sets Milos sailed into the semi finals. [caption id="attachment_4875" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]Milos heads for the semi-finals Milos heads for the semi-finals[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4876" align="aligncenter" width="1008"]The Cutty Sark in Greenwich at dusk The Cutty Sark in Greenwich at dusk[/caption]  
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