Perfect in every way. The match did not start until 1pm. Mrs H had the day off and had offered to take Dan and I to the football ground which was about an hour’s drive away in the hills north east of Tenno Station, south east of Hiroshima.
In car conversation touched upon Championship football, and cookery (as well as upon what the missing English player in our team would be up to in the spring).
Football: David enthusiastically filled Dan in on how Sheffield Utd drew with bottom placed Crewe, and Watford drew with Derby while Leeds beat fourth placed Crystal Palace to move back into third and six points behind Sheffield Utd with a game in hand…
Dan, however, bemoaned the fate of Stoke who lost away to Norwich whom they had hoped to get even with on points but instead slumped to 16th place.
Cookery: Ah, well, David cooked a few pancakes on Shrove Tuesday but only achieved perfection on the fifth; the egg/milk ratio on the one hand and the new IH cooker on the other caused the first two to end up too thick and too burnt, the third and fourth to be less well done and less thick, and the fifth to be what he thought to be the apotheosis of pancakes… until Dan described how he had followed Delia Smith’s method and… well, here it is:
First of all sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl with the sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets an airing. [Did most of that, except to hold the seive high.] Now make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Then begin whisking the eggs incorporating any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl as you do so. [Did it.]
Next, gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, [ah, I didn’t add any water…] still whisking. When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any elusive bits of flour from around the edge into the centre, then whisk once more until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thin cream. [Whisk again? Thin cream?] Now melt the butter in the pan. Spoon 2 tablespoons of it into the batter and whisk it in, [Do what?] then pour the rest into a bowl and use it when needed to lubricate the pan, using a wodge of kitchen paper to smear it round. [Good grief, this is turning into quite a business.]
Now get the pan really hot, [Did that.] then turn the heat down to medium [ah!] and, to start with, do a test pancake to see if you’re using the correct amount of batter. [First pancake was for Mrs H. That was the test pancake.] It’s also helpful if you spoon the batter into a ladle so it can be poured into the hot pan in one go. [Come off it, Delia.] As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. [Yeah yeah, did that.] It should take only half a minute or so to cook; you can lift the edge with a palette knife to see if it’s tinged gold [or black] as it should be. Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife – the other side will need a few seconds only – then simply slide it out of the pan on to a plate.
As I listened to Dan expatiate on the Delia Smith method I began to realize that perhaps my approach had not been ideal.
We then touched upon the subject of dinner and it turns out that Dan’s Mrs has not been converted to English methods as has Mrs H. Mrs H has discovered that English cooking is much easier than Japanese cooking and she also likes English food – you know, spuds, veg, meat and gravy in various combinations. And with a steamer the whole lot takes just a few minutes, and now with an IH cooker she has discovered that she can cook while in the bath although I have not inquired too deeply into how that is achieved. Last Thursday, for instance, I returned home weak hungry and drained after a hungover day, but instantly revived as I entered the portals and was greeted by the aroma of sausages and gravy on the go…
Jaime’s Spring: As this blog is in the public domain what was said on this subject will be passed over with a diplomatic silence…
We were the first of our team to arrive at the football ground. It was a bright day but the wind was a bit sharpish. We didn’t have a ball, but then too much of a warm up and practice is not good for the aged constitution so we stood around and chatted and watched the game that was in progress and noted that one of the teams had a couple of old geezers in it too.
The captain arrived with a couple of the lads and told us that there would be 15 players today. We were delighted. In the end 14 showed up, but still, it meant that Dan would play in the first half and I would replace him in the second half.
The rest of the team came shambling over, a motley looking bunch who appeared to have done an Inter-Milang trick of arriving straight from MAC bar. One guy, who will be our deputy captain next season, was sporting a purple-striped shirt and purple tie – but appearances can deceive.
The team included several of our strongest players including our stirling central defender, and a now long-haired Yuusuke who turned up to play in attack after a long absence, and who will be our captain next year – or at least he and the vice-captain will take turns…
Anyway, our opponents, playing in white, were Hiroshima Vanqueru. DEH kicked off and it quickly became evident that the teams were evenly matched and that it was going to be a fast paced game, especially, it seemed, on our right, where I was to play in the second half… It also became evident that the referee and the bespectacled linesman were the worst ever…
Cheering on our boys from the sideline I was constantly impressed with their effort and commitment. The future deputy captain was excellent at picking up balls in defence, and our nippy number 22, Yuji, was running all over the place and always to the point. Over on the left too, Ochi, the slight but agressive guy who scored that brilliant goal-in-15 seconds after kick off in a previous game, stormed up and down too. But the early goal didn’t come and Vanqueru began to press and it was beginning to feel a bit frustrating as we were playing a strong and deep defence with little to show – it seemed – up front…
Dan, in the centre of defence, had a good, committed first half. What had he said to me before the match? I really don’t like heading the ball… What did he have to do time and again, but intercept balls at head height! Despite the pressure our goalkeeper, Kurimura, did not have an awful lot to do.
One of our midfielders, a bit beefier than the average in our team, put in a nice crunching tackle that I thoroughly appreciated. Then, in another attack down our right, one of our defenders ran back and took out their attacker just outside the penalty box. Vanqueru players, realizing that this ref was not keen on making his own decisions appealed for a penalty but he must have actually been looking as he gave them a free kick outside the box to the right. Kurimura carefully arranged his wall with Dan on the left end, but the guy who took the kick curled it round him and into the bottom right corner of the goal. 0-1. Oh dear, is it going to be one of those days again…?
After attempting a shot from the centre spot, DEH got back into the game again and rediscovered their attacking spirit. A lovely little string of passes saw Yuji, No 22, receive, pass and run on down the right wing to pick up the ball again in a lovely little move and slot it home. It was a brilliant moment – you could see the whole thing unfolding in your mind; and there it was on the pitch too! Sheer inspiration and a well deserved goal from our most improved player this season (goalkeeper excepted). 1-1.
Then about ten minutes later Yuusuke connected with a ball coming in low from the right across the face of the goal and whacked it home. 2-1.
I could watch this game all day… Then Dan shouted across to me:
We’ve been playing an awfully long time!
Was that just old age speaking?
Actually no, what it was was that the ref didn’t have a watch and was afraid to call time too early. After about 50 minutes of play he consulted the bespectacled linesman, who of course didn’t have a clue. I was nearby and pointed to my wrist and nodded sagely. I didn’t have a watch either, but we were winning 2-1 and it was obviously well past full time.
“Mou chotto surun…” said the perplexed ref, but the ball had gone off for a Vanqueru goalkick and so the ref, without actually blowing his whistle, ambled off and we came to the conclusion that it was half time!
It was good news for me that the ref had knackered everybody in the first half, but even so, the second half seemed to go on at a hardly slackened pace. The captain prudently decided to place me in centre-right of defence rather than out on the wing where three nippy Vanqueru attackers were very adept at making little triangles and switching the ball about. I told the future deputy captain, playing on my right, something or other and he looked with total incomprehension which made the rest of the team laugh. Next thing, I was yelling at our centre forward to watch out for the shot-from-the centre spot but he had spotted the danger and forestalled it.
Vanqueru did not have any surprises to spring on us in the second half. I had already noted how mobile their No 6 was. In the heat of the game I remember a constant procedure of having to close down the right, a crunching tackle on a guy coming through the middle, treading on a couple of other attackers’ feet, heading one ball out and blocking a stinging cross at close range with my back, and not getting called for foul throws.
Vanqueru did get a great shot in, which Kurimura tipped over the bar. Also, there was a scary moment when a corner kick came in high and came off the bar with Kurimura’s hand just beneath and myself also on the line thinking “Oh cluck…” but today the defence managed to deal with everything that was thrown at them.
Then disaster: two of us were chasing an attacker into the penalty box when he went down and claimed he had been fouled by the other guy (future deputy captain?). I marched to the post telling the ref to call a corner but it didn’t work…
There was a bit more comedy as the penalty spot had to be marked out. One of our guys paced it out and the Vanqueru penalty taker came out with the inevitable “ashi ga nagai” quip. Kurimura, our goalkeeper stood quite close to the ball and then, back on his line he crouched low. I was thinking, “Dive to the right… dive to the right…” Then an utterly brilliant thing happened. The penalty was taken, hit with the right foot towards the left, i.e. the goalkeeper’s right, and Kurimura dived to his right and stuck out an arm and batted the ball away… I was so delighted and I was the first one onto the ball although being old it took me a while to orient myself so as to face the right way and boot it up the field to cries of “Keep it in, Debido.” Of course, it did not go very far up the field and it went straight to a white shirt, but nothing came of that. 2-1 still! That knocked the wind out of their sails.
Then, five minutes later Ochi picked up the ball and headed goalwards and slotted it over the goalkeeper. Oh this is wonderful! 3-1.
We won a late corner and The Ancient of Days headed up the field and into the penalty box doing a sort of Crouch impression. Yuusuke took the corner and perhaps he was aiming for me because it landed among the defenders in front of me and one of them booted it and I booted it forwards, but unfortunately not goalwards… but the dream lives on… just.
Our retiring captain was asked what had been the best game for him during his captaincy and without hesitation he said,
“Yapari, saigo no.”
I recovered with the family in Yamato-no-Yu and allowed myself a Lenten indulgence of a beer before and a beer after in celebration.
So we finish on 10 points having won 3, drawn 1 and lost 4 in the league. That means we could finish somewhere between 5th (unlikely) and 7th. A couple of teams have two or even three games left. I predict that we’ll finish in 6th place out of 9… and retain our B Division status.