Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Skeleton Coast

Without so much as a Spanish silver dollar* to show for their three recent voyages to ports on the South coast of England (Exeter, Southampton and Bournemouth), Bristol Rovers are far from out of the woods. In fact, a 'skull and crossbones' might be used to denote those results - and it remains to be seen if our hopes of playing League 1 football next season lie buried somewhere in one of those grounds. League 2 of course isn't 'Davy Jones's Locker', nor is it '20,000 Leagues under the Sea'; but relegation to the Blue Square Premier division, only a string of bad results away, is really the football equivalent of 'walking the plank'. And although there are still points to be won, "Greavsie's Law" applies in these circumstances - "It's a funny old game". I think it was a game against Port Vale which Rovers needed to win in 2001, facing the same danger. They dominated for 90 minutes, but still lost 3-0...

'Kievska Pecherska Lavra' (my Kiev photos were a mixed bag)
Today i've reached a town called Piryatin (i kid you not), on my way, please God, to the eastern city of Kharkiv, where Mary's Meals operate. I returned to Kiev/Kyiv (Ukrainian spelling) by mini-bus on Monday and was delighted to be able to pick up my passport from the Kazakh consulate, with a one month visa. If i'm able to make it there, God-willing, i hope to apply for another Russian tourist visa, and perhaps one for Mongolia... but i mustn't get carried away**. On that visit to Kiev/Kyiv i stayed at the TIU Backpackers' Hostel, which is at least as deserving of a mention as the other place, and did some sight-seeing on Tuesday 26th April, which happened to be he 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. There is Andrijvs'kyi Uzviz, a street which winds down from a very graceful Church dedicated to St. Andrew, on the site where, according to legend, the "first-called" Apostle erected a cross. Another 'must-see' is the Kievska Pecherska Lavra (roughly translated as "Cave Monastery"), a complex of beautiful Churches and monasteries, with a network of narrow underground passageways in which generations of holy monks are buried. It is probably the most important site in Orthodox Christianity outside the Holy Land.

It seems to me that at one time, the thought of visiting Kazakhstan would call to mind the so-called 'Great Game' - the rivalry which defined the relationship between the Russia and Britain in the 19th century. In the 21st century however, it's the 'Beautiful Game' which fires the imagination of people on every continent. I believe Russia should look at 'Mexico '86' as the model for the tournament they hope to stage in 2018...

*aka a 'piece of eight'.
**i'm supposed to be walking, after all.

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