Procrastination

I meant to do this yesterday.

 

It will wait until tomorrow.

 

Have a great day.

 

More Dick soon.

20191127_221204

Meribel 2019/2020. Part Trois.

Well, it’s over. We’re back home.

It really was a fantastic holiday and once again PIL excelled herself. The chalet we stayed in was fantastic with tons of space, we each had our own bedroom although PIL and CJ shared. The views across the valley to the mountains were superb and the food and drink we had was first class. Our thanks go out to the staff from Purple Ski who looked after us – Althea, Dane and Ryan looked after us extremely well although I have a bone to pick with Dane who cooked up such delicious food.

Ryan, Dane and Althea. Our thanks to all three of you for ensuring we had a great time and taking such good care of us.

During the week we stayed I put on 3 kilos of weight! Bugger me, that’s a shed load of visits to the gym, a place I’ve failed to go to for several years now. I was a bit of a chubby boy before we went and now I’m a right porker! It was worth it though. Ryan fixed up the boys with massages to ease their aches and pains and sorted Eds knee out with some K taping.

CJ had a massage with a young lady whose name I completely forget (Sorry) and had her arm, leg and back sorted out. Althea made sure we wanted for nothing during our stay. She knew where everything was and made sure everything was available and she always had a smile on her face. She organised cake and balloons for Eds birthday which is next week and put champagne, wine, beers and glasses down by the hot tub as she knew the kids went straight there after a full day on the slopes.

Dane took the kids out on the slopes one morning when he was off duty and took them onto some incredible runs so they spent more time skiing and less time figuring out where to go and how to get there. Even he was amazed at the amount of energy those three have! Greg was particularly pleased with himself on this day as the boys have apps on their phones that recorded their speed. Greg achieved just over 59mph on one of the runs Dane took them too. Next time he wants to get to over 62mph as this equates to 100kph. Mad sod!

PIL and I had a productive time in the peace and quiet each day. I have a couple of things to finalise before I get my new project off the ground and I will have them sorted later today if all goes according to plan. If not, by tomorrow. We had a walk most days, just down the village for a poke around the shops and to look in the estate agents windows at all the lovely chalets for sale and to gasp at the prices! We returned home with a lot of catalogues and brochures!

Best of all though was spending time together as a family, eating fine food (and plenty of it!), drinking excellent wines, Althea sorted out a variety of pre dinner cocktails, generally having a great time talking, squabbling, playing Uno (I never did win although PIL is the reigning champion) and other games we discovered in the chalet and playing an app on Eds phone.

It was great time. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely. So much so that it gave us cause to discuss amongst ourselves how we holiday and whether we should change the way we do it. More on that soon.

Time to end this post now as I have stuff to do today, including hanging out the umpteenth load of laundry and putting the next one into our long suffering washing machine.

Have a great day wherever you are.

More Dick soon.

auto

Meribel 2019/2020.

So it’s now the evening of Thursday 2nd January 2020. Greg has control of the music via Sonos. So far we have experienced Swedish Heavy Metal and Mongolian Throat music. I do wonder about that boy sometimes! Eventually, suitable background music was selected. Not sure what it was but I seem to recall thinking it was Sade without Sade. Bear in mind that several glasses of wine had been consumed before we sat down to eat so everything was a bit vague. One of the pleasures of staying in a catered ski chalet is that it comes with staff. A bloke to drive you to the ski lifts who coincidentally was the sports massage therapist and K taping specialist, someone to tidy up after you and assist with serving of wine, beer and food and a chef who prepared breakfast and an evening meal. Our chef, Dane, is from that world renowned centre of culinary excellence – Sunderland. So in amongst the ‘Whey aye man’ and ‘Canny like’ coming from the kitchen area, (Yes I know that’s Geordie, but it’s close enough) Dane cooked up a veritable delight of food for us. Every evening we all ended up completely stuffed and with a fine selection of wines, slightly inebriated as well. On his day off, we made a reservation at one of the many restaurants in the area, Le Cèpe, and had a meal there. Le Cèpe specialises in, but not exclusively, meals with cèpes or porcini mushrooms that they forage for locally. I had a really rather nice scollop risotto with a substantial amount of assorted mushrooms. The rest of the tribe had a variety of mains, some with mushrooms and some without which is fortunate as both CJ and Greg don’t like them. Highlight of the meal however was not the dessert that CJ ordered. Unknown to us, the restaurants chef would appear to be heavily influenced by that Blumenthal bloke and she ended up with a nice dollop of mushroom ice cream! Not well received! I like mushrooms and I thought it was gross. Despite that, we had a very nice if expensive meal. It has to be said though that we all much prefer the grub back at the chalet.

The point of this holiday though is not so much about the food and drink although that does play a part, but in Ed, Greg and CJ disappearing each morning just after 9am when the lifts open, going up whichever mountain or area they have decided on, spend several hours skiing a variety of runs until they stop for a lunch time meal and drink at one of several mountain top bars and restaurants and then spend another few hours skiing down even more mountains before returning to the chalet just before dark and jumping in the hot tub before dinner. After eating we will continue with our leisure activities that I hope leads to a dramatic improvement in my ability to play Uno and maybe even winning a hand or two. Would help if the rules didn’t keep changing

PIL and I have spent our time doing stuff that is difficult to do in the course of our normal day to day activities. I have accomplished a lot towards my personal objectives for the next few years and the fruit of that labour will appear to the world very soon now. Just a couple of things to finish off which I will have completed this week. We have both had the opportunity to recharge our batteries  and to spend time with our three children laughing, playing, arguing and squabbling. I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.

There now follows a shed load of photographs and short movie clips. I hope you enjoy them.

 

Have a lovely day wherever you may be.

More Dick soon.

auto

Skiing. Meribel 2019/20.

Happy New Year. I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

A short video clip. More to follow some time soon once we’ve sorted all the photos and video clips that Ed, Greg and CJ have on their phones.

Enjoy.

Have a lovely day wherever you may be.

More Dick soon.

auto

Oh Crap! We’re Going Skiing Again.

Oh yes! We are off skiing. We are going to Meribel again, part of the Three Valleys (Les Trois Vallées) ski area in the French Alps.

Meribel is the quintessential French ski village. Filled with honey hued log cabins and chalets, hotels, shops selling skis and all the paraphanelia that goes with skiing – the clothes, the hats, the boots and gloves. There are also several Pharmacies selling knee braces, bandages, muscle soothing unctions and pain killers for when you bust yourself up. (I am a frequent visitor to the Pharmacies and have several loyalty cards).

There are bars and restaurants in every road where you can eat the most superb food along with a huge selection of first class wines and beers.

We will be staying in a catered chalet again and if last year is anything to go by, it will be fantastic. Whether there will be a hot tub outside we will discover when we get there.

Ed, Greg and CJ will undoubtedly spend most of each day on the slopes. There are plenty of them. Meribel boasts a total of 76 runs comprising 8 Green; 36 Blue; 23 Red and 9 Black and with 50+ lifts getting up the mountains is easy as is access to the rest of the Three Valleys with over 300 runs covering over 600 kilometres. The scenery, as you would expect is truly magnificent and riding the lifts you are struck by the vistas and also the silence.

 

About to hit the slopes

Post lunch

PIL, who does not ski and has no interest in it, will spend her time drinking coffee, looking cool and vivacious and probably spend time doing whatever she does on her laptop (looking at French Chateaus is odds on favourite). This year I may well give skiing a miss. I have stuff to do on my laptop that will enable me to start a new venture in 2020 and pursue a couple of interests that I have. More on that soon. It must also be said that when it comes to skiing, I am rubbish.

I belong to an elite group of skiers that receive top class coaching teaching us every aspect of skiing right down to how to put your boots on properly. You get taught how to get on the lift and get off again, start off down the slope, how to turn and most importantly, how to stop. Yet despite all of this expert instruction, we remain utter crap. If there was a league table of the the worst skiers I may not top it but I’d definitely be in with a chance for a Champions League place! I am so bad that I don’t even fall over with any style. The GIFs aren’t of me but they do demonstrate how bloody awful I am:

Day 1

Day 3

Day 5

Day 7

Even a 2 year old crashes with more panache than I do:

Even a two year old crashes with far more style than me

Now I’ve never seen my kids crash while skiing. This is mainly due to only being skilled enough to manage the nursery slopes while they spend most of their time up on the Red and Black slopes. I’m sure though that when they do crash it’s epic:

An epic fail by a proper skier. The way it should be done.

I may just sort a day pass for the slopes and hire skis and the other kit and spend a morning out on the gentle slopes but I’ll make that decision when we’re there. More importantly, I will have time to devote some serious concentration on stuff I want to start next year. Time is something I don’t normally have much of due to work and other commitments so I need to make the most of it. Although Ed, Greg and CJ will be spending most of the daylight hours on the slopes, for PIL and I it will be an opportunity to spend quality time with the three of them, to sit together eating and drinking in the evening, playing cards, Scrabble and squabbling. Can’t wait.

I’ll let you know how it all goes once we get back.

In the meantime, have a great day wherever you may be.

More Dick soon.

auto

If It’s All Going Tits Up, Have a Cup of Tea.

 

Now this is not a post about how to make a cup of tea but since you ask; I put the milk in last, one sugar and the water must be boiling. I am the sort of person who will reboil the kettle even if it stopped boiling mere seconds ago.

My Mums attitude was that a cup of tea was THE cure for everything:

Flu?

Have a cup of tea.

Broken leg?

Have a cup of tea.

Bad day at work?

Have a cup of tea.

Ebola?

Have a cup of tea.

You get the idea. I think it is the process of making and consuming that makes it such a wonderful beverage. Boiling the water, warming the pot, adding the correct amount of loose tea to the pot and adding boiling water. Putting the tea cosy over the pot. Allowing it to brew properly. Pouring into the cup or mug through a tea strainer. Adding milk. Drinking. It gives you a moment to ponder and to allow everything to slow down and concentrate on making your perfect cup of tea and momentarily forgetting whatever ails you. The World is a far better place when you have a freshly brewed cup of tea in your hand.

Tea, and the desire to be able to drink it whenever you want and wherever you are has become such an integral part of the British psyche that since 1945 and the end of WW II item one on all specifications for armoured vehicles for the British Army is a kettle so the blokes can have a brew. It’s not called a kettle, (because civil servants) it’s called a ‘boiling vessel’. It boils water for hot drinks, cooking ration packs and for washing. Just like a kettle!

Now what isn’t generally known is that after every battle, a study would be carried out to establish how the battle was won or lost, what weapons caused the casualties, what equipment worked well and what didn’t. The idea being that improvements would be made thereby reducing casualties and equipment failures. One of the things that was discovered during the liberation of Western Europe was that tank crews suffered more casualties when they were outside their tanks than while they were in them. The Brits concluded that this was due to the tank crews habit of pulling over and getting out to have a cup of tea whereupon the Erics and Jurgens, seeing this, would open up with all available weapons. Now I don’t know about you but being shot or blown up while enjoying a nice cup of tea just isn’t cricket!

So, knowing full well it would be impossible to stop the habit of having a brew every now and then whilst in mid battle (and why shouldn’t they – it’s a Brits right to have a brew at the most inconvenient time) and therefore the ‘boiling vessel’ installed inside the tank was born.

The Americans took a different view on this information. They, of course, never stopped for something as mundane (in their eyes) as a brew even of coffee. They concluded that US tank crew casualties were happening when they got out to confer with their supporting infantry. Taking a pragmatic view on this, they fitted a phone to the back of the tank so the crew didn’t have to get out and the infantry could shelter behind the tank. They still do this.

Now look at the next two photos and tell me who looks happier. The Brits with their cuppa or the US soldiers with their telephone (it’s in the little box on the back).

 

 

I know what I’d prefer.

Edit: I am reliably informed by a colleague of mine that British Army tanks now have a phone attached at the back so that the infantry chaps can have a nice conversation with the tank wallahs while having a cup of tea. Also, US Army armoured vehicles are now fitted with an internally mounted boiling vessel! I doubt however that our American friends brew tea with it. I suspect they don’t quite grasp the necessity of boiling water. Whenever I drink tea in the States I find myself reminded of Arthur Dent in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when he gets a beverage out of the Nutrimatic drink dispenser which he describes as “almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea”. Having said that, the tea we drank in Hawaii was surprisingly good. Apparently the General Manager of the resort we stayed at was (and probably still is) an Indian. That is, he was from India not a Native American. I digress. Again!

Now talking about phones takes us very nicely to my Dad.

There are two things you need to know about my Dad:

1. A bull in a china shop is based on my Dad. Everything he did was done at 1,000,000 MPH, it needed to be done NOW and he wouldn’t stop until either the task he had set himself was completed or he was in A & E with chest pains! I kid you not. On at least two and possibly three separate occasions he ended up spending a few days in the cardiac ward after raking his bloody lawn! At least while he was lying in a hospital bed wired up to assorted pieces of medical equipment, he had the satisfaction of knowing there wasn’t a scrap of moss or thatch in his lawn. It has been raked to within an inch of its life. A bit like my Dad! You’ve heard of a furrowed brow? Well my Mum and Dad had a furrowed lawn! Two in fact. One at the front and one out the back.

2. The only noun in my Dads vocabulary was ‘doings’. Everything was a doings to my Dad. This often meant that no one, except my Mum, knew what the fuck he was on about.

Dad: I’m popping down the doings to get some doings. I won’t be long.

Mum: Can you get a loaf of bread while you’re there please?

Dad: Of course. See you in a doings.

A short time later.

Dad: I’m back. I got the doings and the doings and while I was there I got a doings.

Mum: Lovely. Will you put it in the cupboard under the sink?

Dad: I’ll put it in the doings when I go out to trim the doings.

Mum: The shed will be the ideal place. I’ll make a cup of tea now before you start in the garden.

Dad: Lovely.

See what I mean? Nobody else would have a scooby to what he was on about but my Mum always seemed to know.

Anyway, back to phones and my Dad being a bull in a china shop.

Along one side of my Mum and Dads front garden was a privet hedge. It ran all the way from the very front of the garden back to the house. It was about 3 feet high. At least once a year my Dad would attack it with a pair of incredibly sharp garden shears. Hand operated! None of those fancy electrical gizmos for my Dad. Starting at the front he would make like a Viking Berserker and slaughter the hedge. It must be said it always ended up looking very neat and tidy with razor sharp edges and dead straight in both horizontal and vertical planes. Unfortunately, running up the wall of the house next to the hedge was the telephone line. Yep. You guessed it. The soppy sod cut the phone line!

Dad: Em! You won’t believe it but I just cut the bleeding’ doings with the ruddy doings. Stupid place to put a doings!

Mum: Oh dear. Never mind. Come inside and I’ll make you a nice cup of tea and then you can call the British Telecommunications people to come out and repair it.

So they would sit down with a cup of tea and have a chat.

Dad: Righto.I’ll go and get this bleeding’ doings sorted out.

5 minutes later.

Dad: Em! The phones dead! I can’t get a line out. Stupid bleeding’ doings.

Mum: Might it be because you cut the cable?

Dad: Bugger!

Now the thing is, the daft bugger didn’t just do it once, he did it for several consecutive years!

Eventually, British Telecom got fed up with coming out to repair the line that once again had been cut by some crazy bloke who couldn’t control himself and they put the cable inside a length of armoured steel conduit.

Which very nicely brings us back to tanks.

There are times when even the most devout tea drinker is unable to make himself a brew. For the Army, this would normally be in the middle of a battle. Other sources of pleasure must be sought so I leave you with a story that took place during a bit of a kerfuffle in North Africa in the early 1940s between the Erics, Jurgens and Luigis on one side and the Henrys, Ruperts, Guptas, Bruces and Joosts on the other side and is a snippet I found while looking for something entirely unrelated. It is a story told by Lt. Ken Giles about commanding a tank in battle:

“The 75mm main gun is firing. The 37mm secondary gun is firing, but it’s traversed round the wrong way. The Browning machine gun is jammed. I am saying, ‘Driver advance’ on the A set, but the driver – who can’t hear me – is reversing. And as I look over the top of the turret, and see twelve enemy tanks, just fifty yards away…. someone hands me a cheese sandwich.”

So, if it’s all going tits up and you could die at any moment and you absolutely, positively cannot make a cup of tea there is always a cheese sandwich to fall back on.

Have a wonderful day

More Dick soon.

auto

Aloha Hawaii. Holiday 2019 Pt 2.

So we left the Andaz at stupid o’clock in the morning and went back to LAX where we checked in our luggage and went through the delight that is security in US airports. Actually, it wasn’t that bad although it would be better if the staff occasionally smiled. You feel you dare not crack a joke for fear of being escorted to a nearby room strip searched, anally probed and other such indignities. I’m sure there are some people that might enjoy such searches but I ain’t one of them. So it was keep schtum and carry on. Once through, it was a case of sitting about waiting for our flight to be called. I got my book out and continued to read. This years holiday reading material was a volume written by Mark Manson. Mark is a well known blogger, life style coach and general good egg apparently. The book I had was (and is) entitled “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. A counterintuitive approach to living a good life”. And what a jolly good read it was. I will undoubtedly read it again. There was some very good advise and excellent explanations as to what he is on about. Basically, he states that it’s not a case of not giving a fuck about anything at all – that’s being a psychopath. This is about being selective about what to give a fuck about.

It’s not about giving a fuck about everything your partner gives a fuck about; it’s about giving a fuck about your partner regardless of the fucks he or she gives.

Indeed.

Anyway, our flight was called so off we trundled down to the gate and took off on our 4 and a bit hour flight to the most isolated population center on the face of the earth.

We landed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Oahu is the site of Honolulu, Waikiki beach, Pearl Harbour, the only royal palace in the United States, the site of the worlds largest wind generator (it wasn’t while Greg was there!) and for those of you who are surfer dudes, the place to find the Banzai Pipeline.

We were staying on the North Shore at the Turtle Bay resort and once again, PIL nailed it. It was lovely. Gorgeous rooms.

 

Pools, restaurants, shops, bars, a ranch where you could go horse riding and for Ed and Greg the absolute ultimate – a championship golf course designed by some bloke called Arnold Palmer. The beaches weren’t bad either.

 

It goes without saying that we all descended on the golf course so that Ed and Greg could play a round while PIL, CJ and I looked on in amusement. Actually in truth, PIL and I love watching our two sons playing golf together in an atmosphere of friendly rivalry. To do so meant that we had to learn yet another new language. Perhaps it’s to do with creating a mystique around it and all other sports. The first picture below is of the bane of Ed and Gregs life.

To you and me, it’s a ball but not in golf it’s not. In golf it’s called a “bastard”. We’ve heard it called other things, some of the terms used have shocked both PIL and I causing PIL to put her hands over CJs ears. We never knew they knew such words but we’ll stick with “bastard”. The object of golf, or so it seems, is to hit the bastard off a little thing the golfer pushes into the ground called a “tee”. It’s not shaped like a tee though. It looks vaguely like a miniature egg cup on a spike. The idea being to get the bastard down a small hole somewhere off in the distance.

The distance varies for each hole and you have to do this for EIGHTEEN different holes. Each individual hole has what is known as a “par” which is the number of strokes it takes to get from the teeing off position to the bastard going down the hole. Normally, it’s either 3 for a short hole, 4 for a slightly longer hole and 5 for a hole way off in the distance. Occasionally Greg or Ed will achieve par. Not very often, but sometimes. And when one of them does they are both ecstatic. Scoring the number of shots required to make the bastard disappear down the hole (whereupon you immediately take it out again!) is also odd. Golfers don’t use numbers. They use words like “par” or “birdies” or “eagles” or “bogies” or even “double bogies”. There’s probably a “vulture” and a “snot” in there somewhere but they must be for really low scores cos neither Greg or Ed have had a vulture or a snot. I think there’s an albatross in there somewhere as well.

The route from the tee to the hole is also fraught with danger. Along the way are “bunkers” which are just sand filled holes and “water features” that are really ponds and small lakes. The bastards that Ed and Greg use must be a special type because they seem to gravitate towards these hazards fairly regularly. The other thing that their bastards seem very fond of are areas known as “the rough”. You and I would call these areas “long grass”, “lots of bushes” and “trees”.

The boys seem to have bastards that have a particular attraction for these areas and it has to be said that sometimes, when the bastard lands in these areas, the language did get a bit ripe! The huge golf bastards shown below would be the boys ideal as it would make their life so much easier to find their bastards in amongst the “rough” but unfortunately, these ones are the domes from one of the radar stations dotted around protecting Pearl Harbour.

Irrespective of that, we all had a wonderful time on the course. The setting was glorious, the sun shone and it was just a joy for us all to wander around enjoying each others company.

 

 

Sometimes you had to settle in for a long wait

The kids also played tennis on one of several courts on the resort. PIL and I didn’t indulge but we went along to watch and act as umpires. Ed was wearing his sliders so just indulged in a knock about while Greg and CJ played a one set match. It was too hot to play more.

As in indication of the heat, the air conditioning in our room was set at 70F and it felt like a fridge when we walked into the room.

Most of all though we did that family thing we do. We slobbed around by the pool, drank and had far too much to eat.

 

Every evening we, like most of the resort guests, went and watched the sun go down. It was always spectacular and I make no excuses for the number of photographs we took. Every second of every sunset was different. The colours changed constantly and the way the skies altered throughout each setting was just amazing to watch.

We walked along the beach and poked about on the movie set when they weren’t filming (or looking). It seems Disney were filming a Christmas movie for release this year I think. Some famous actors were banging about and staying at the resort but I have no idea who most of them are. I did recognise one but not got a clue as to his name. No doubt CJ will remind me. Every now and again, each of us would wander off for a few minutes alone, to collect our thoughts and spend awhile losing ourselves. We were staying in a place where you could that.

 

 

Every afternoon at around the same time, turtles would appear just off the beach. Possibly to feed, I’m not sure. Their arrival could have had something to do with the tides but the tides in Hawaii are minuscule, a couple of feet at most. There are reasons for this but primarily there are points in the middle of oceans where tides are much smaller. These points are called amphidromes. Hawaii is near the center of the Pacific and only a few hundred miles from one of the amphidromes, hence not much in the way of tides. Whether the turtles were feeding or not I’m not sure but they did seem to be, coming right up to the solidified lava rock that formed a sea wall on stretches of the beach and poking about in all the nooks and crannies.

The sea itself was wonderfully clear and I have to say that on the parts of the beach we wandered along, there was a noticeable absence of any type of plastic. It was the same at Santa Monica and Venice beaches where the beaches themselves were clear of any plastic or litter of any kind. It was only beyond the beach at Venice that litter could be found. In recent years we have travelled to beaches in the Caribbean (Antigua) and the Indian Ocean (Mauritius and Kenya) and we found plastic litter dotted about but there was none to be seen in Hawaii. There may have been elsewhere on the island but we never left the resort so I couldn’t say.

 

Unfortunately, the time came when we had to leave and return home. As ever, we all wished we could stay but it as not to be. We gathered our belongings and went back to Honolulu International airport, went through a check with the Hawaiian Agriculture Department, checked in our luggage, went through security without a problem and flew to San Francisco where after a few hours of waiting (and going through security again) we got on our flight back to Heathrow. We turned left again as we entered the aircraft and took up residence in our lovely seats, drank drink and stuffed our faces with pleasant food. As time went on we all turned our seats into beds (press a button and hey presto!), had a nice sleep before arriving back in England and facing a 3 hour journey via the M25 before getting home.

Once again, PIL had sorted us all out with an absolutely superb holiday. Everything she had arranged was simply first class and leaves all of us wondering  how to follow that? No doubt she will and we are all eternally grateful to her for putting our holiday together.Where to next? We shall see.

Have a wonderful time wherever you may be.

More Dick soon.

auto

Holiday. Summer 2019

Hello. It’s been a while since my last post. Over a year in fact but I’m back now.

Our holiday this year was later in the summer than usual as Greg graduated from the University of Leeds in July and we weren’t going to miss that.

This year, we started our holiday in Los Angeles. A place we had never been to before. We were staying for a few days before continuing our adventure in Hawaii. We’d not been there either. So, full of excitement and anticipation we left for Heathrow.

We checked in our luggage and got our boarding passes, went through security with no issues and headed straight to the Virgin lounge where we indulged in good food, fine wines and cold beers.

It was while we were here that my brain had one of its primeval, fight or flight moments. The eye is drawn to movement, especially when seen out of the corner of the eye. You know the kind of thing, “Predator, food or safe?”

I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye. My brain instantly and correctly saw this as my own reflection and of no danger whatsoever. It also, incorrectly, identified me as this:

 

Me according to my brain!

I hate my brain. For a start my belly button is an innee not an outtee!

Our flight was called and we wandered off to the gate to board. Which prompts the question of why is your boarding gate a million miles away? It is always a 15 to 20 minute walk.

We boarded the aircraft and turned left whereupon we were offered a choice between champagne or orange juice. Determined to get our moneys worth, we had champagne. We found our seats and settled down for a 10 hour flight. I can tell you now that flying business, or “Upper” as Virgin call it is no hardship at all, even for 10 hours. Your own seat that turns into a bed, plenty of leg room, more privacy, better food and movies and plenty to drink as long as you’re not stupid about it. There’s a bar if you fancy propping it up or you can have drinks brought to your seat. Fantastic!

We landed at LAX and prepared to face US Immigration.

Which turned out not to be as bad as expected. While not exactly sailing through, it didn’t take long and the staff were reasonably good humoured. What happened next however, was a bit of a problem. Our instruction were to leave the Terminal, find the black and white ‘Super Shuttle’ lollipop, announce ourselves to the member of staff there and 15 to 30 minutes later we would be on our way to our hotel. We did all that and then after about 20 minutes asked when our shuttle would arrive. We’d seen half a dozen come and go with a single person or a couple getting in. Turns out we’d been cancelled! The guy tried to resolve the issue and judging by the look on his face he was dealing with an imbecile. Eventually, after being cancelled several times, including one as our shuttle bus pulled up that caused some mutterings among us, we got on board our bus that we shared with another pair of people. We pulled into the traffic and believe me when I say traffic outside the LAX terminals is horrendous. I’m not sure how many lanes there are – 6 possibly 8, but it crawls along and every lane is absolutely heaving with cars, trucks, vans, lorries, motorcycles and buses.

Finally, we arrived at our hotel, the Andaz in West Hollywood. It was on the famous Sunset Strip, part of Sunset Boulevard and what an hotel it was. PIL nailed this. It was lovely.

We were welcomed by the staff, offered complimentary wine, that we gratefully accepted and wandered up to our rooms which were very plush.

Turns out the Andaz has quite a rock n roll history. Little Richard lived there for about 20 years. When The Doors were the house band at Whiskey a Go Go, which is a hundred yards down the road from the hotel, Jim Morrison lived there until he got chucked out for dangling off his balcony by his finger tips. Axel Rose set off the fire alarms when he decided to have a barbecue on his balcony. The two Keiths, Richards and Moon are alleged to have lobbed their TVs out of the windows of their rooms. Richard Cole, Led Zeppelins manager used to ride his motor bike in the corridors. Robert Plant, the vocalist from Led Zeppelin is also said to have screamed from his balcony, “I am a golden god”, which probably explains why they only played stadiums as they were the only venues with room for his ego!

Those days are long gone now but there are a few hints about its history dotted around.

Some of the art in the hotel lobby

The following morning after a wonderful breakfast, we all headed off in an uber to Santa Monica beach. Los Angeles covers a huge area and it took a while to get there but it was worth it. The beach is brilliant and the pier is really nice. I never realised that the famous Route 66 ended at the pier (or started depending on your viewpoint). They were filming an episode of a tv programme (911?) on the pier but it didn’t interfere with us or anyone else enjoying themselves there. We meandered up and down the pier, popped into a few shops and cafes, took photographs and generally made like tourists. We walked on the beach or rather we tippy toed across it going “ooh aah ooh aah ooh aah” ‘cos the sand was bloody hot. The sea looked very inviting but I couldn’t help but think ‘shark’ and so we decided against a swim. We figured out that Venice Beach was just down the beach aways and within walking distance, so off we went, looking forward to seeing all the cool hipsters gliding about on roller skates and skate boards. Instead we found a bit of a dump! Lots of homeless people lying under tents made from sheets of plastic, litter, tatty shops selling tatty goods. I think that’s what surprised us. We’d seen some homeless people at Santa Monica but there seemed to be an awful lot centred on Venice Beach. It was not really what we expected, especially in California. We’d all seen plenty of homeless people begging in London and some in Canterbury but the sense of despair we felt here and the numbers we saw was quite depressing. Despite this, we had an excellent time at the beach both of which were spotlessly clean.

One of my favourites photos of all three kids

 

 

One of my favourites

We took in a walking, guided tour in Griffith Park where the Hollywood sign is although you can’t get too close to it simply because there aren’t any roads or paths the public can use that lead up to it or even get close. What we did get though was an excellent guided tour, magnificent views across Los Angeles and a bit dusty. Our guide told us about the wild life to be found in the park, mostly coyotes and a huge variety of birds. She forgot to mention the rattle snakes! Not that we saw any but it would of been nice to be aware of them. Not that I’m worried about snakes, I quite like them. Apparently during the course of our walk we bumped into the actress Andie MacDowell who was walking her dog. We went to the Observatory which was cool.

Note the warning sign!!

 

It goes without saying that we had a shopping trip to Rodeo Drive. CJ was in her element and led the rush to the Louis Vuitton shop. It has to be said that the attitude of the shop staff to 5 scruffy looking Brit tourists was first class and very welcoming. If we had gone into similar shops in London looking like we did, the staff would have been looking down their collective noses at us.

CJ leading the way straight to the Louis Vuitton store.

The other very important part of our trip to Rodeo Drive was that nearby was The Cheesecake Factory! Oh goodness me! What a wonderful place this is. We had been to one in Florida and didn’t want to miss out on another visit. The menu consisted of a list of two or three mains which were jolly nice if you like burgers and fries (which we do). The rest of the menu consists of a list of about 750 million different cheesecakes . Oh joy of joys. It’s not just a pokey little portion that you get in most places. What you get is a great big fuck off slab of cheesecake! Heaven! Plus, if you can’t finish it, which is highly likely unless you’re a fat bastard, they give you a doggy box to put the left overs in to take with you. Brilliant. Heart disease in a take away box.

Mostly though, we did what we love to do and are experts in – doing bugger all. The Andaz had a roof top pool and bar where we spent some considerable time lazing about and drinking and just chilling out in the sunshine. The view from there across LA was quite incredible if somewhat hazy sometimes.

The coolest and best looking woman in the whole of Los Angeles

Art work in the hotel car park

Apart from lazing about and drink superb Californian wines we also stuffed our faces with food. Simple stuff that as tourists we were duty bound to do. We went to an ‘In n Out’ which is similar to McDonalds except they make to order rather than having stuff sitting under a hot lamp. It was rammed solid, absolutely manic in there. We loved it but unfortunately for us we were behind a coach load of Chinese tourists. 32 of the buggers I think so we had a bit of a wait but we didn’t mind. It gave the boys a chance to grab a table outside and while it was nothing special it was an experience. (As a by the by, Chinese tourists are the worlds worst. They go everywhere in groups of a million, shouting and hollering and getting in the way of everyone else. They are a complete pain in the arse! They were a bloody nuisance in Kenya last year too)

We went to Wahlburgers which is owned by the famous acting family. We had a meal at the Riot House which is the Andaz restaurant. We also went to the Saddle Ranch Chop House which was an absolute blast. Saddle Ranch knows exactly what it is – a raucous cowboy themed place just a couple of doors down from the Andaz. We loved it! It’s even got a mechanical bull there. We didn’t attempt it as I could see me either breaking a limb or vomiting all over the place. Other people did though and it was brilliant. Green Day playing American Idiot on the tv screens, noise, laughter and just a heap of people having a great time. The ribs that Ed and I had looked like they had come from episode of the Flintstones! They were huge!

 

 

 

 

 

There was a huge array of restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the hotel. There was Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Italian, Vegan, posh and not so posh. Whatever you fancied, it was catered for. Thoroughly recommend West Hollywood for food.

Eventually though it was time to go. Our Super Shuttle to take us back to LAX was booked for 3.30 am and we decided to give it until 3.40 and if it hadn’t arrived we were getting an uber! As it happened, it arrived at 3.20 and shortly afterwards we were on our way to start the next part of our adventure in the most isolated population center on the face of the earth. 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; 4,900 miles from China and 5,280 miles from the Philippines.

The story of that part of our adventure will be along shortly.

Have a brilliant day wherever you may be.

More Dick soon.

auto

The Mara

We have returned from our holiday in Kenya. We went to see The Great Migration where 2 million (or thereabouts) wildebeest, 300,000 zebra, 400,000 Thomson gazelle and 12,000 eland cross from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. It all takes place in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem which covers some 40,000 square kilometres. In reality, the migration is a never ending movement of herbivores in search of fresh pastures and fresh grass caused by the rains.

PIL and I have been to Kenya before. In fact, we got married there in 1992. Fort Jesus in Mombasa. Prior to the wedding though, we went on our honeymoon which was a safari in the Tsavo National Parks further to the East of Kenya. We did have a tendency to do things back to front! We always said we would go back and after much planning and saving of pennies, we did! The kids came too. We flew Emirates to Dubai on an Airbus A380. After a short stopover, we flew on an Emirates Boeing 777 to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. We stayed the night in an hotel next to the Nairobi national park. The following morning we went to Wilson Airfield on the outskirts of Nairobi and took an even smaller plane to an airstrip in the Maasai Mara.

Our luggage allowance was 15 kilos and hand luggage was 7 kilos. With the exception of one bag of 15 kilos which went in the hold, all of us carried hand luggage. Oh, plus PILs hand bag which weighed 19 tons. Fortunately, all of the places we stayed at offered a laundry service so it was possible to live with limited amounts of clothes. We couldn’t take hair dryers, hair straighteners or similar items as some of the places we stayed at were quite literally in the middle of nowhere and the generators couldn’t cope with the extra loads imposed by such items. Didn’t bother me because I’m bald and I don’t think anyone else was particularly concerned.

We arrived at Keekorok Airstrip.

We were met by Moses and Robert who were to be our driver/guide and spotter and taken to our safari base – Sala’s Camp on the banks of the Sand River and a few hundred metres from the Tanzanian border and just a few metres from one of the crossings used by the migrating wildebeest.

 

What a camp! It was just so staggeringly beautiful. We were staying in tents but what tents. Solid wood floors, windows, doors, bathrooms, a deck, a small pool and a view to die for.

There was a total of 7 tents and we had two of them. The girls stayed in one as us chaps needed our sleep and didn’t really wanted to be disturbed by the girls snoring, farting and belching in their sleep. There was also a “Mess tent” where we had our meals. The service and meals we had were first class and our thanks go out to Elliott and JayD, the managers, who ensured that everything was just spot on. George, Richard and Isaac took great care of us and quickly established what we preferred to drink when the sun went down (and sometimes, before).

 

 

During the night Askari guards patrolled around with their spears to keep the wildlife from coming into the tents. This was genuine bush country and during the night we heard hippos in the river which was 10 metres away from our tents. Lions, hyenas and elephants prowled the footpaths around the camp, again just a few metres from where we were sleeping.

Then, before the sun came up, we went on safari.

I am not going to go into detail here, I’ll let the photographs tell that particular story but Moses, our driver/guide (who is one of the nicest blokes I’ve met – mad as a box of frogs but by God he knew his business) and Robert, our spotter (who was a complete contrast to Moses but got on really well with Ed and Greg and called out different animals constantly) took us to some brilliant places and we saw masses of animals.

Moses took us within a couple of FEET of lions, cheetahs and leopard. Within a couple of metres of elephant, zebra and wildebeest. We kept well away from hippos and buffalo – they are bloody dangerous! We saw them all with the exception of Rhino and we witnessed (due in part to Moses’ skill) the horror, confusion and rapidity of 2 lionesses taking down and killing 2 wildebeest simultaneously about 30 metres apart.

We, with the exception of PIL who is not terribly fond of heights, went on a balloon safari which meant getting up at 0430 in the morning and travelling across the Mara in the pitch black so that advantage could be taken of the thermals at dawn.

We had breakfast in the middle of the Mara and it was sublime.

We visited a Maasai village and the boys joined in with the Maasai men for a dance and were taught how to start a fire while the girls joined in with the singing and dancing with the women.

Eventually and far to soon, it was time to go.

We hadn’t seen the massed herds crossing the Sand river nor had we seen the millions of grazing animals. Unfortunately, natural events don’t work to a strict timetable and the herds stayed in the Serengeti in Tanzania. There were a number of reasons given for this. The Tanzanians said that late rains had provided grazing for the herds who therefore didn’t need to move in search of fresh grass. However, the Kenyans had the hump with the Tanzanians who they claimed had deliberately set grass fires between the herds and the border.

Take your pick as to the reason. I do think that we possibly invaded Tanzania on a couple of occasions though! I guess we all felt slightly disappointed but we had all had an absolutely fantastic time. We had seen a gradual increase in the number of wildebeest, zebra, “Tommies” and topi but not the millions we had hoped for. We had seen numerous elephants, giraffe, warthogs (pumbas), lions, cheetahs and a leopard. We would have preferred to stay but no doubt we will return. Kenya has that effect.

Please be aware that some of the photographs that follow are pretty gruesome but demonstrate (I think) both the beauty and the brutality of the Mara. The first group tell a story all of their own. The previous day while PIL and Moses were driving to meet us at the balloon pick up, they came across a lion feasting on a wildebeest. It was probably 500 metres from Sala’s Camp. The following evening, we were returning from the afternoon safari when Moses decided to check out the kill site. We found 2 lionesses with 3 cubs. They were chilled and relaxed. We stayed awhile and then went to check on a small herd of wildebeest just up the road. Not much occurring there either so we returned to the lions. They were still sprawled out on the track when suddenly the 2 adults became very alert. The cubs moved to a place of safety while the lionesses went off and disappeared into the grass. We knew where they were but they were incredibly difficult to see. Then we saw the reason. A long line of wildebeest, probably a hundred or so, was approaching. When the lionesses attacked, it was devastatingly quick and totally confusing for the wildebeest and us. Cries of “Whoa! Over to the left” and “Whoa! Over to the right” left us swinging from side to side in the truck trying to see, watch and photograph. Very quickly the 2 wildebeest were overcome and we saw two male lions coming down the hillside to claim their part of the kill. We returned the following morning to find all the lions still there and still eating.

 

The big male lion has a huge hole in the top of his skull, showing that they may be the top predator in the Mara but they don’t always have it their own way. We suspect that he may have tangled with a buffalo.

We returned to Nairobi where we stayed in the very luxurious Giraffe Manor. Within the Manors grounds is a herd of endangered Rothschilds giraffes. Rothchilds have no markings from the knees down and are very distinctive because of this. They also like to join you for breakfast!

While there, we also visited an elephant orphanage. Baby elephants who are orphaned or become separated from their herd are brought here and after being cared for are then taken to another place on the Tsavo parks where they are assimilated with wild herds in the area. So far over 300 young elephants have been successfully returned to the wild. A brilliant achievement in my eyes.

Back at the manor we were joined for high tea by the giraffes.

 

Giraffes have incredibly long tongues and drool a lot!

 

After a couple of days enjoying wonderful food and being kept occupied by the giraffes we went back to the Wilson airfield and left on a small plane to go to the beach and do what we do best on holiday – slob.

We stayed in a beach house on Diani beach. Once again, the accommodation was first class. We even had a butler! The owner, Fabrizio, came each morning and discussed the days menu. Hand made ravioli, gnocchi, lobster, yellow fin tuna, prawns, soups, pizza. All fresh and prepared to perfection. The G&Ts were superb. The wines splendid. We walked along the beach and collected shells, saw pregnant starfish, crabs and fish in the rock pools. Wonderful. We messed about in the pool and we indulged in our favourite holiday pastime of not doing much at all.

All good things come to an end apparently and we flew back to Nairobi, We flew to Dubai for a few hours before continuing our journey home.

Once again we had the time of our life and that is primarily down to PILs planning and organisation ably supported by the staffs of all the places we stayed at and visited.

We were advised to take plenty of photographs and that we did. The main camera used was a Canon EOS 5D MkIV using a Canon EF 28-300mm lens. We took over 1500 photographs with this camera. None of them have been enhanced in any way.

We also took over 500 photographs using the iPhones that PIL, Ed, Greg and CJ had with them. My phone stayed at home.

Would we go again? Absolutely. It will take a few years of saving the pennies again but Kenya and the Mara in particular is a fantastic place. Safari is hard work. If you want to see the animals, you need to be up and out quite literally at the crack of dawn. Get back to camp for lunch and out again mid afternoon until the sun goes down. Then it’s meal time, a few sundowners and early to bed for another early start the next day. The tracks in the Mara are not maintained to any great extent so a game drive involves a great deal of bouncing around. It can be quite cold first thing in the morning despite being almost on the Equator. It’s rainy season now although we didn’t see much rain at all. By midday the temperature has risen to the 30s centigrade from 12 -15 in the early morning.

Now we’re home and the normality returns. I have to mow the lawn and get ready for work tomorrow. Bummer. Time to take up wildlife photography and learn the language of stops, aperture and speed settings. Looking forward to next years holiday already. I wonder where we’ll go.

Have a brilliant day.

More Dick soon.

auto

My Brain Has A Mind Of Its Own.

I’ve written about this before in a roundabout way here.

Sometimes it’s like that when I remember something and my brain decides all on its own that I need some extra information as well as some associated facts like all those collective nouns. Most of which I have no use for.

Other times, a part of brain will just spout out some random fact like Donald Ducks middle name. Fauntleroy since you ask. Or that Battersea Power Station is the largest brick-built structure in Europe and took approximately 61,000,000 bricks to build. It might also mention that some of the rooms in the building were used as the set for the inside of the Tardis in early episodes of Dr Who. Having been in there and seen all the buttons, levers and analogue dials, I can believe it. Another time a voice in my head will just pipe up with the fact that most American car horns honk in the key of F. These are entirely random and pop up at any time and for no reason. Usually, the voices in my brain shut up after a few seconds and go back to doing important stuff like keeping me alive by ensuring I continue to breathe, my heart beats and that I stay upright when walking along and don’t bump into stuff.

However, there are times when different parts of my brain want to make a contribution and I end up having full-blown conversations or arguments with them. Unfortunately, these can become quite insulting and sarcasm features a lot.

A little while ago I was clearing my room and came across a music CD. It was Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette.

She has beautiful eyes

I hadn’t heard it in years. I opened the case to find it was empty. We don’t have CD players in the house any more so not really a problem. My Temporal lobe informed me that it was one of my favourite albums and that You Oughta Know was probably in my Top 5 favourite songs of all time.

You really like the bass and guitar on that track mate. Matt Laug played the drums and Flea and Dave Navarro  who were in RHCP at the time played bass and guitar.

How do I know this? I thought.

You’re one of those sad anoraks that always read the sleeve notes so of course you know it. I could probably tell you the name of the printers. I’ll go take a look-see.

Then Occipital suggested I watch the video for You Oughta Know. So I wandered downstairs, fired up my laptop, logged into Youtubbie and for the first ever, I watched the video. (The song and video came out in 1995 and that was at time of either no internet or at the very least, dial-up. I know this because my brain told me so).

I settled down and watched the video with Occipital chatting away in my head:

Y’know, you looked like the guitarist back in the day. He’s undoubtedly better looking than you, but the hair’s the same, same build, same long black hair, wrist band on right wrist, the shades, even the hat! (Read about my hat here). Shame you’re such a chubby boy now.

Do you mind mate? I thought. I’m trying to watch this.

Stop pandering to his ego! said Temporal butting in and disturbing my train of thought.

Look! We know that the recording band were Dave Navarro, Flea and Matt Laug and sure as hell the band in the video isn’t any of them. In fact, the drummer looks incredibly like Taylor Hawkins……

Nah! said Frontal, who had decided to join in.

This was shot in 1995 and Taylor Hawkins would have been like 10 years old then.

So, of course, brain had to find out who the band was in the video. Turns out Temporal was right. The drummer in the video was indeed Taylor Hawkins. The bass player was Chris Chaney and guitarists were Jesse Tobias who may have been the bastard who stole my hat and Nick Lashley. They were Alanis Morissettes touring band.

Well, said Temporal. That’s sorted. By the way, You do know who printed the sleeve notes. I found ’em.

Took your time on that didn’t you? I thought.

Who’s fault is that then?

Mine I suppose but why is it always my fault?

Remember Suzy?

Of course, my girlfriend some years ago. Bit of a hippy. Always wore cheese clothe blouses, no bra and those long skirts. Drop dead gorgeous although seemed to be a bit spaced out.

Yep. That’s her and what did you do one day when you got back from a hard training session?

Oh crap! I knew where this was going. Brains seem to be like women. Always dredging up stupid shit you did decades ago!

You had the meal she prepared for herself didn’t you and she told you not to eat it cos it had magic mushrooms in it didn’t she? And you scoffed the lot didn’t you.

Well I didn’t know they were going to do what they did did I?

What did you think magic mushrooms would do you twerp? Card tricks?

Hey! Come on. Thought Frontal. Give the bloke a break. Back then he was incredibly naive. All he was into was canoeing and sex. This is the guy who when people he knew said they’d smoked some good shit the night before sat and thought ” Why would anyone smoke excrement? Do they smoke their own shit? Someone else’s shit? Dog shit? Horse shit? Why would any one smoke shit? It must smell terribly and who thought it would be a good idea in the first place?” He just thought shrooms gave you a bit of a boost.

Yeah well, he was stupid cos after returning from Kensington Gardens to play with the  unicorns and watch the sun go down while saying “OOOOH sparkly” for 30 minutes and nearly getting arrested, what did he do? He had a couple of Suzys home-made ‘chocolate chip’ cookies but it wasn’t chocolate was it? And then you gobbled up the rest of them didn’t you? Got the bloody munchies!

Suddenly, Hypothalamus asked;

Is it me or is it hot in here?

What? I thought. Followed a split second later by the other parts of my brain thinking;

What? 

Which worried me slightly as if I had an echo, there couldn’t be much in my head.

Oh for Gods sake, it’s Pituitary getting all menopausal again. Don’t say anything cos it might stab the human in the eye. From inside! It will passSo the upshot of the human accidentally getting stoned out of his mind and cruising around the Universe on a dragon is that we lost a whole week of his life and Hippocampus where we store memories was traumatized for years and memories are a mess. Everything for a decade or more was filed under “S” for “Stuff”! So yeah, sometimes it takes a while to find memories and it’s not my fault mate.

And so it continued for a while longer with different parts of my brain slagging me off and generally having a good time at my expense. Not that I mind. They keep me company when I’m feeling lonely in a crowded room.

I’m very fond of the voices in my head. They keep me sane.

For info, I’ve just been informed that Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, was allergic to carrots. Not many people know that.

Have a lovely day.

More Dick soon.

auto