Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bring on the food.

Traditionally we always go out with friends before we go away on holiday for a last meal together. This starts off our holiday without the women needing to cook. Last night we went to one of our favourites, the Eurasian Tandoori 66 Cowbridge Road East, Canton, Cardiff. We have had many an excellent meal there in the past. Service last night was slow, very slow indeed. We had to wait over 60 minutes for our meals, we had a table for six people. After 10 minutes a waiter came to our table but he would only accept orders for drinks. Okay we ordered some drinks and waited for the food waiter to come to our table. Another 10 minutes passed and then we gave our food order to another waiter. I choose a lovely dish that I have had before. Murgh Annanas a mildly delicacy from the Valley of Baronti. Cooked in a rich, slightly creamy sauce, with a blend of fruit and spices.

Time ticked on and we got restless. We overhead other guests complaining that they also had been waiting far too long for their food. Nick and I were guessing just how long we would have to wait for our food and we thought that the golden hour of waiting would come to pass. Suddenly Deborah got off her fat arse and marched to the bar demanding to know what was going on in the kitchen. Embarrassed waiters rushed past and went into the kitchen. Then the head waiter apologized and said the food would come in another 10 minutes.

Sure enough most of the food did come 50 minutes after we had given our food order. My Peshwari Naan came and all the food for everyone else but my Murgh Annanas with Pilau rice was missing. We asked and were told it was coming. 10 minutes later my Murgh Annanas with Pilau rice came. By this time I had eaten my Peshwari Naan pretty much as a starter. The Murgh Annanas was as gorgeous as ever, a dish I really, really enjoy. It is Chicken done in a wonderful mix of fruit and spices that is very difficult to describe. It is not a traditional curry, more a Middle Eastern dish that is so full of flavour. It is not hot or mild, just so refreshingly different.

We were not the only guests who had been waiting a long time for their meals. Looking around and catching conversations all the other tables were suffering long delays. The kitchen staff were clearly having problems meeting demand. We had no better or worse service than any of the other tables.

And then we came to the bill. Oh dear, there was a listing for some drinks at £5.60 that our table had not drank. We challenged this item and the staff said sorry, our mistake. However, we are all well aware that some restaurants add another round of drinks to a bill when there is a group of people, hoping that nobody notices. It may have been a genuine mistake but I have my doubts because this is a well known scam. Cheat the public just a little bit, say £1 a person and you should get away with it! Still, the food when it did come was the usual high standard that we expect when dining at the Eurasian Tandoori.

This now brings me to the title of this blog post: Bring on the food. Tomorrow we start our all-inclusive holiday with it's self service buffet style restaurants. Lovely, no waiting - just help yourself to as little or as much of the food in front of you that is sitting there ready to eat! I love this style of dining, it is all there in front of you, grab just what you want there and then. No menu's to read and puzzle over, just grab the food and dig in!

Bring it on, Pedro!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Update: The Mystery Tour

Further to my post dated 14th September 2008, we had a telephone call on Tuesday from First Choice to say that we cannot go to the Playa Costa Verde in Guardalavaca, Cuba because of the damage caused by Hurricane Ike . This came as no surprise to us as the All about Cuba website reported on the 16th September that the Playa Costa Verde, will reopen on the 15th October.

First Choice have said that our flight will be diverted to Varadero Airport and we can stay at the Iberostar Playa Alameda hotel in the resort of Varadero . This hotel is described as having 391 spacious, elegant rooms in eleven 3-storey buildings surrounded by beautiful gardens. The brochure price for this hotel is around another £100 per person more than we were paying for the Playa Costa Verde. I think we have been offered a good deal, a deal which is as good as or better than what we have paid for. If anything we have been given a slight upgrade on our holiday.

The change of hotel and resort does not bother me. I am glad that we are still going to Cuba as a country rather than somewhere else in the Caribbean. I think that with this type of holiday experience you will have a good holiday wherever your holiday company sends you to. I do not think that there is much to choose between all the hotels on offer, they are all much of the same. I have not stayed in a hotel belonging to the Iberostar chain before but because they are one of the big players in the hotel business, I expect them to mirror their competitors.

We are all packed and eager to enjoy our Cuban experience.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mother and father move to Cardiff.

Today my mother and father have moved from their old home in Claverham , a small village in North Somerset, situated half way between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare, to a small sheltered housing flat here in Cardiff. My parents used to live 53 miles away from our home and now they are just 2 miles down the hill from us.

Their life in Claverham has changed over the years. First the only local convenience shop closed, then the Post Office closed. Now even the Post Box has gone in this very quiet dormitory village. There never has been a village pub. The nearest doctors is in the next village of Yatton. There really is nothing in this sleepy village so you need to get the bus into Yatton, Congresbury or Weston-super-Mare. Trouble is that bus is only once every 60 minutes. Mother is now 71 and father is 75 - they were feeling very cut off from things and thought that if they did not move this year, then they never would and things could deteriorate further. Their current housing provider was far, far away. To get any work done was drawn out and a surveyor is coming all the way from Brighton, of all places, tomorrow to wind up their tenancy.

From now on things will be very different for them. They have one of 41 units in a sheltered housing complex. Any trouble and you see the on-site warden. You do not have to see to any maintenance, just tell the warden what needs doing. There is no garden to tender but a communal garden to enjoy with the other residents. There is a communal lounge where they can gossip to other old people. Visiting them will be a doddle with them living just 2 miles down the hill. We can see them more often, we used to visit once every 4 weeks. We can take mother shopping every week. They can jump on the local bus and have dinner with us in our home. There is a Post Office with a convenience store just around the corner. There is a nearby - walking distance, Spar, Farmfoods and Aldi. There is a bus stop around the corner with buses running every 10 minutes to our house, their doctors, Canton and Cardiff City Centre. Their new home is smaller but it is large enough for them. All the hassle of living in Claverham has gone forever. The rent is cheaper too and the gas heating is included in their rent, so they are saving money as well.

It is a challenge moving home in your 70's but it has been well worth the effort. Welcome to Cardiff and the buzz of city life - enjoy your retirement in this vibrant and cosmopolitan city.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Authonomy is a brand new community site for writers, readers and publishers, conceived and developed by book editors at HarperCollins. They want to flush out the brightest, freshest, new literature around.

Okay, so what do you get when you click on this website? Simple, it is raw talent - remember the X factor television programme where you can watch want-to-be performers singing their cover versions of popular songs? This website is similar except that the people involved write new books themselves. These people do not do cover versions of successful material but write raw material, free of charge, for other people to read and express an opinion upon. It is simply a literary audition but rather than have a polished television programme to watch, the internet user can read and vote themselves.

Obviously this website will appeal to bloggers across the globe. Novelists can get their content out to a wider audience. Book writing however is very different to writing a blog. There is no crispness, brevity or urgency of content. Their work is timeless and enters another world, the imagination of the reader. Oh boy, can these writers tease the imagination of the reader. For example I would like to offer, from his book Termites in the Woodwork by Kweku Asumang a quote - but the Authonomy website does not allow you to copy and paste to your browser - so you must click this link to read his juicy content. Doing an internet search on Kweku Asumang reveals that he is not living in a mud hut in Africa but here in my home city of Cardiff!

I vote this website a hit. If you like reading books and would rather try new content online rather than put your cash on the counter, then add this link to your bookmarks. You have only your spare time to lose!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Avenger by Frederick Forsyth .

Frederick Forsyth wrote Avenger in 2003 and it was published in paperback in 2004. This novel is a thriller centered on a guy called Calvin Dexter. The story spans about 40 years of Calvin's life from a boy to a 50 year old man who has a codename of Avenger. This book follows Calvin's life and includes his relationship with his father, some work on construction sites, Army service in Vietnam, working as a lawyer and his sideline work as Avenger. Forsyth's style of writing is great. This is a quality read and Forsyth is a master at the art of storytelling. He explains everything to the reader as the story unfolds. You are not left in the dark as to why things have happened, every incident is reasoned. Forsyth eschews psychological complexity in favour of meticulous plotting, based on detailed factual research. His novels read like investigative journalism in fictional guise.

This book features locations in Vietnam, Bosnia, the United States and South America. I am familiar with the history of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia but I knew nothing about the tunnels used in Vietnam by the resistance. The parts of this book relating to Calvin's work as a soldier in Vietnam when he was a tunnel rat I found amazing. Forsyth really expressed the horrors of life and warfare among these narrow and claustrophobic underground tunnels. Later in this book Calvin uses the skills he developed as a soldier together with the skills of people he has met along the way. It is a great story and I vote this book a hit.

So what does the reader bring away from this book? It shows the power of loyalty among diverse people and the unquestionable use of giving and calling in favours. It demonstrates the importance of skills, the skills of every person and the skills of others. It shows just what can be achieved when people pull together and use all their skills. By harnessing all this skills nowhere is impenetrable, there is always a way in. This means that the War on Terror can never be won because the terrorists can simply plug away at their target using the skills of their widespread membership base.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It has happened again .

Following on from my post of 25th June 2007, it has happened again. I have suffered another puncture with a tyre on my car. This time it was a discarded self tapping Phillips screw that embedded itself into my offside rear tyre. Prices have risen since the last time and today it cost me £36.78 to replace the punctured tyre. Rear tyre wear on front wheel drive cars is roughly half that of the wear on the front tyres. My car has now covered 17,000 miles and the rear tyres were around half worn.

This problem with people discarding litter and not taking care of building/do-it-yourself materials really pisses me off. If the muppets are not dropping rubbish all over the coach then the cowboys are dropping nails/screws on our roads. The attitude of some of the people in our society really annoys me with their "I'm finished with that" attitude. If a dog poops mess in an inappropriate place then you will rub it's nose in it to stop a repetition of the offence. I would like to do the same to those littering people who cost me time and money with their laziness.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Mystery Tour.

Oh dear, the wind has blown and Hurricane Ike has wrecked the hotel we have paid to go to in Cuba on the 29th September. According to Colin Jackson who stayed at the Playa Costa Verde Hotel, in the Guardalavaca resort, "I'd never seen anything like it in my life.

"More trees were lying on the ground than left standing, windows had been put through and there were slates lying on the ground.

"There was barely anything left of the hotel reception – the roof had been taken off and chairs were strewn all over the place.

"The beach hut wasn't there any more. There was no running water, no electricity. We were given food and bottled drinks by the hotel staff.

The Foreign Office website states: Following Hurricane Ike, we advise against all but essential travel to Holguin and Pinar del Rio provinces and Isla de la Juventud in Cuba (Holguin Province includes the tourist resort of Guardalavaca and Pinar del Rio Province includes the town of Vinales). Hurricane Ike hit south east Cuba on the afternoon of 7 September, travelled along the south of the island on 9 September and left the country on the morning of 10 September. Many areas of the island suffered damage (floods, loss of power supply and communications and blocked roads) and the effects are likely to continue for some time. Petrol may be in short supply and travel around the country will be difficult. The Cuban authorities are working to bring the country back to normality.

...So we are in the hands of First Choice and it looks like we shall not be going to the Playa Costa Verde or any other hotel in the Guardalavaca resort. We do not know if we are going to be staying in any hotel in Cuba, we may be staying in another country anywhere in the Caribbean. We may not even hear from First Choice, we may only find out our destination when we arrive at Gatwick Airport. I assume our alternative accommodation will be allocated on arrival. Working in the travel industry myself I know only to well how these decisions are made at the last minute by all companies. Just-in-time-management is what this culture is called. As a customer I am not bothered, I have paid my money and I will have a good holiday whatever the hotel or location I eventually end up at. I look forward to my Mystery Tour, I wonder where I shall end up going?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Handlebars a song by Flobots

Every now and again you hear a song on the radio that just hits your button. You are amazed by the new song with it's different sound and lyrics. When I first heard Handlebars by the Flobots I thought it was satire and someone was taking the piss. When I heard it again I realised the beauty of this song in it's arrangement. On the third listening I understood that it was not humour in the lyrics but a protest song about what is wrong in the world today. You can take this song three ways, satire, light entertainment or a political protest song. I think it wins on all three interpretations. The musical timing is spot on and the trumpet playing is a dream adding to what I believe will become a classic single in years to come. It reminds me of Hazel O'Connor and Breaking Glass - the film and the album. So judge for yourself by reading the lyrics pasted below...

I can ride my bike with no handlebars
No handlebars
No handlebars

I can ride my bike with no handlebars
No handlebars
No handlebars

Look at me, look at me
hands in the air like it's good to be
and I'm a famous rapper
even when the paths're all crookedy
I can show you how to do-si-do
I can show you how to scratch a record
I can take apart the remote control
And I can almost put it back together
I can tie a knot in a cherry stem
I can tell you about Leif Ericson
I know all the words to 'De Colores'
And 'I'm Proud to be an American'
Me and my friend saw a platypus
Me and my friend made a comic book
And guess how long it took
I can do anything that I want cuz, look:

I can keep rhythm with no metronome
No metronome
No metronome

And I can see your face on the telephone
On the telephone
On the telephone

Look at me
Look at me
Just called to say that it's good to be
In such a small world
I'm all curled up with a book to read
I can make money open up a thrift store
I can make a living off a magazine
I can design an engine sixty four
Miles to a gallon of gasoline
I can make new antibiotics
I can make computers survive aquatic conditions
I know how to run a business
I can make you wanna buy a product
Movers shakers and producers
Me and my friends understand the future
I see the strings that control the systems
I can do anything with no assistance
Cuz I can lead a nation with a microphone
With a microphone
With a microphone
And I can split the atom of a molecule
Of a molecule
Of a molecule

Look at me
Look at me
Driving and I won't stop
And it feels so good to be
Alive and on top
My reach is global
My tower secure
My cause is noble
My power is pure
I can hand out a million vaccinations
Or let'em all die in exasperation
Have'em all healed of their lacerations
Have'em all killed by assassination
I can make anybody go to prison
Just because I don't like'em and
I can do anything with no permission
I have it all under my command
Because I can guide a missile by satellite
By satellite
By satellite
And I can hit a target through a telescope
Through a telescope
Through a telescope
And I can end the planet in a holocaust
In a holocaust
In a holocaust
In a holocaust
In a holocaust
In a holocaust

I can ride my bike with no handlebars
No handlebars
No handlebars

I can ride my bike with no handlebars
No handlebars

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Irregular English spelling should be scrapped, says leading academic .

Irregular English spellings hold back schoolchildren and should be abandoned, a leading academic has said. Spelling should be "freed up" and the apostrophe scrapped, according to John Wells, Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London.

He proposes turning "give" into "giv", "river" into "rivver" and embracing Americanisms such as "organize" with a "z". Prof Wells will also claim the apostrophe causes unnecessary linguistic barriers. "Instead of an apostrophe," he will say, "we could just leave it out (it's could become its) or leave a space (so we'll would become we ll). Have we really nothing better to do with our lives than fret about the apostrophe?"

...Well, I agree with Christopher Howse on this subject. Spelling is important, it is part of communication. You use correct spelling so that people understand you fully in the same was as you speak clearly rather than in grunts and groans. Language is living and words are formed over time. The true spelling of words should be respected so that we all can understand what the author is writing about. Writing should explain thinks simply, part of this involves using the proper spelling of words. A piece of text should not be a brain puzzle to understand what someone is getting at. I have no time at all for this abbreviated text message style of writing where you have to guess at the intended message.

The apostrophe is important so that we can all understand what the writer is referring to. The rules of the use of apostrophes are simple and like swimming, once learned, you have them for life. If you do not like apostrophes then simply write the phrase out in full, eg; we will as opposed to we'll. John Wells' suggestions will not scan right for the reader and the meaning is lost and becomes an annoying puzzle.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Seventeen years, that is half of my adult life.

Oh the years roll by, for today is our 17th wedding anniversary. Gail and I have now been married for seventeen very happy years. As close friends know this is my first marriage and Gail was widowed in 1979. Marriage is a big step for anyone and we both were happy bumbling along on our own, not knowing that love was waiting for us across the Bristol Channel. It was a challenge giving up my independence but over time I adapted to sharing my life with a wonderful woman. What has made things easy for me is that Gail is such an easy woman to live with. We are both easy going, relaxed people and value the need for personal space - that, me-time factor.

Life for both of us here in Cardiff is good. Both of Gail's boys have left home over 9 years ago and we have a lovely home that we share with our little pet dog. Gail works part time 3 days a week from home answering the telephone and has an easy life. I still work for a nationwide company driving coaches where nobody bothers me, I do my shift and they pay me once a week.

What makes our marriage and my life so good is the easy living that we both enjoy. I feel really lucky that things have worked out so well. Meeting someone that is so easy to live with has paid dividends. I was surprised last night when I added things up to realise that this happiness that I have enjoyed over the last 17 years equates quite simply to half of my adult life. Half of my adult life that has been well spent, a really big portion - not a passing phase. To any single bloggers reading this I can advise that if you meet someone who is really easy to live with on a day to day basis, go with your intuition and propose marriage to them. Your subsequent marriage should pay dividends and you both should live happily ever after.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A sign of the times?

I was amazed by 2 signs today on my travels. The first was outside The Norton at Meadowhead, coming south out of Sheffield along the A61. Today is Monday 8th September and this advertising board offered a Christmas 2 course meal for £7.99! A two course meal for £7.99 is good value but advertising now for Christmas is perverse. Christmas is over 3 calendar months away and advertising Christmas meals now is rather sad. I know that pubs are having a challenging trading outlook at the moment but talking about Christmas in September is madness. This advertising space could be put to far better use without it insulting the intelligence of people passing. We know what day it is and Christmas is far, far away. We are still on British Summer Time for goodness sake! There is something in the name here, summer time - not Christmas time, so shape up Sizzling Pub Company .

The second signs that caught my attention was a multi site advertising campaign for JD Sports . It features 2 designs, 1 for mens clothing and the other for womens clothing . Only thing is that both posters use models to display the clothing and your first impression is, WOW! what a dodgey character he or she appears to be. I wonder if they have an ASBO, take recreational drugs and are involved in criminal activity? I know that image sells but these images convey the threatening posturing of hoodies, bad people you do not want to know. This advertising campaign would not tempt me into one of their stores.

This cool dude will continue to get his sports style clothing from Sports Direct instead. Yes, the hood will go up but only when it is raining. I am not in the business of mugging old ladies or buying/selling drugs - I just walk the dog, yes - dog walking not dogging!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What is it like to be fifty?

I had my 50th birthday on Tuesday and many friends and family have asked me the question, what is it like to be fifty? My answer to them is, worldly wise.

I feel the same physically as I did in my 20's, the difference is in my head. Looking back over the past 50 years I am aware of how my thinking and understanding of this world has changed. I understand far more about our society than when I left school at 16. Through the years I have learned an ability to spot the bullshit that is put around about everything in our lives. Things are talked up all the time by others and many people are taken in by these claims. As you get older you can spot these false claims and see what life is all about.

I have become worldly wise about most things and when I hear news stories, I no longer think that the story is new but just a repeat of previous experience. Readers of this blog may have noticed that the number of news stories that I comment on has reduced in the past year. This is because I have become a little bored with news media. News no longer appears new but more of the same, with nothing to surprise me. The same applies to the media commentators.

I have become worldly wise regards business and employment. A few key players have power and influence. Forget the ideas of empowerment, feedback, participation, career paths - they are all corporate bullshit. Employees are wage slaves who exchange their hours for pay, you are only as good as your last shift, do not forget it. That nice manager can turn on a sixpence, fire you and replace you before you can get home. Do not be taken in by kind words, you are just a number.

We only have a veneer of democracy in our country. We do not have any say, only a token vote every few years. The job of government is done by a select group and by changing a few through the ballot box will never really change things very much. Life will go on being run by the same crowd with maybe a new slogan on yet another bullshit banner.

The idea of equality and opportunity is a myth. People are not born equal and there is little most people can do to really change their lives. Education is pushed by people employed in education so that they keep their jobs. Our population is over educated because of the myths put about by government. People do not need this extra education for their jobs, it is just the bullshit machine in action and employers being lazy in training and recruitment.

Religion is a con that has brainwashed loads of normal people by fear. They become frightened to think for themselves and conform to the doctrines of established religions.

Business runs while claiming competition and consumer choice. Yet consumers are conned into thinking they are getting a good deal when they are not. These skilled marketeers pervert our language in their sales and have behind closed doors meetings to fix the markets. Consumers are conned week in and week out.

So here I am, 50 years old and worldly wise. The body of a 25 year old man with the brain, experience and life skills of a 50 year old man. Grumpy, definitely not - just worldly wise.

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