Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The other side of the City

Springtime in San Francisco is actually pretty nice.  It has a generally mild temperature in winter but in summertime the city is shrouded in fog for much of the time.  But at this time of year its still not summer so the fog isn't around... yet.  So when its sunny which it was a couple of days back, it makes no sense to stay indoors.  And there's not that many better places for a Sunday stroll than Golden Gate Park.

I'd wanted to check out the Japanese Tea Gardens and the Conservatory but the lines were too big to get into both places and as I found out the flora is pretty nice just on the side of the street.

Some of the rhododendrons were starting to blossom, early I think.  Maybe it was the drought that accelerated their growth.  They should be in flower next month.  I'm glad they were flowering now.

The park is about the same size as Central Park in New York, about 50 blocks according to Viv's Uncle John, and has lakes, all manner of sports fields and just great places to walk, bike and run if you're a San Franciscan.

Viv and I strolled the 50 blocks down to Ocean Beach at the end of the park after which I alone bimbled back to John's place.

Ocean Beach
It was nice to see so many San Franciscans playing football on the 10 or fields in the park.  The pitches seemed to have teams lining up one after another to play.

In the Polo Field, there were 7 pitches laid out inside the field with as broad a disparity as you can imagine: young people of both sexes playing mixed and single sex games and at all ages ranging from teenage to adult.  The first was grown up men, the best on display on the field.  They were going at it at full bore and the match was actually quite tight.  The second was of teenage girls, next was teenage boys, next was adult women and the final match was grown up men.

The Polo Field in Golden Gate Park

US football channels carry advertisements for differing 'systems' of playing football.  Buy this rebound mechanism to practice control, that ball in a bag to learn how to kick the ball, attend these camps to learn how Ronaldo does those amazing step overs, and so on.  It seemed that every player had bought one of these systems or attended one of those camps as all seemed technically competent but there was something missing when the moves were carried out at pedestrian pace.

I did enjoy the ladies match though.  They'd brought along their children and am convinced they had snacks and cake as it was a true ladies party atmosphere when I first checked in.  But when the referee called the teams to order, they jumped up and clicked in to football mode.

I don't pretend that I ever was a great footballer but what I lacked in skill and expertise (and that was a lot) I made up for in effort.  Some of the greatest matches I played in may have been dreadful to watch but were always close with both teams playing their hardest and essentially closing each other down.  And this is what that game was all about.

I thought one of the teams was better than the other but despite their efforts, nobody could stay the course long enough to score.  One moment took me back to a soggy afternoon on Leigh Marshes when one player broke down the right and pushed the ball through the retreating defense to a colleague who mis-controlled it so poorly that it bounced off her shin back to a third colleague who was so surprised that the ball hit her on the knee and sent the ball through again to the second player to run in on goal.  However in the general trail of mishaps, this now made the player offside and so all that effort came to naught.  In my case I was the poor sap who mis-controlled the ball and ended up embarrassingly offside.  It took me ages to live it down.  In this case it seemed that all the ladies said "Too bad" and just rolled on.

It was the 2nd guy from the left in the back row who passed the ball to me and the guy in the middle of the front row that was surprised enough to make me (on left in the front row) remember this incident for a long time! 

I also enjoyed the final men's match and realized just before the final whistle that one of the teams was an Asian team, maybe all Chinese.  It came about because their best player embarked on a mazy run that took him past several opponents and finally fell spectacularly in the penalty area, rolling over and over again screaming in vain for a penalty.  The entire team as one turned on the referee and let loose a barrage of abuse ... that I couldn't understand.  As Viv's family are largely Cantonese speakers, I may not know what they are saying but I know what I am hearing!

The park in its entirety seemed full of people running, biking, jogging, playing golf, picnicking, barbecuing, and generally teeming around having fun.  So did I.

That bridge again, this time from nearby Lincoln Park

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