Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Here we go again

Back in hotels.

Checking in, the lady on the desk considerately mentions that there is an Xmas party in the hotel tonight and that she will try to find me a quiet room.

Tap tap tappity tap.



Looks up

I have a room on the other side of the hotel which will be quieter.....

.... it's a (yes, you guessed it)


It is at this point that I did something so uncharacteristic, so un-ENGLISH, that I worry I am in fact someone else, an Alien in Harlequin form.

I said no.

I may not even have said "no THANK YOU".

I just did a Mrs Reagan and just said "no"

I think this is why my room echos to the sounds of knocking hot water pipes. Why I have the only room number not displayed on signs and why my kettle just gave me an electric shock.

Do I care?

Do I heck.

I have a BATH, not a huge tiled room with floor rails.

True, when I brush my teeth, I virtually need to STAND in said bath, but a bath I have, nonetheless.

I'm very proud of myself.

Just a pity that the hotel has a health club, with 3 Jacuzzis, a steam room and sauna, so I don't need to use the bath.

But that's not the point.

Is it?

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

The dichotomy of hotel rooms

I remember, when I was a child, going on holiday with my parents. Typically, I'd share a room with my elder brother and we'd have an interconnecting door with my parents room, which would be open or at least ajar.

Sorry Mum and Dad.

A couple of years ago, we were talking about holidays and my Mum mentioned how, sometimes, she'd suggest we all go and have a nap, so that we could stay up later that night.

She also told me why.

There are SOME things about your parents that, even if you know intellectually, you need to NOT know emotionally.


Some of my earliest memories and indeed, some of my best, are of hotel rooms in various parts of the world and I can still remember the thrill, the excitement of being given a key and running into what would be our new home for a week or two. Even the mundane - the phone between my brother's bed and mine. Hotel stationery, embossed with a pseudo-crest like some D-Lister playing on a name not his own. I never did have anyone to write to, let alone someone who'd be impressed by the Hotel (silent H) de Charcuterie. Even wardrobes were thrilling.

Nowadays, I seem to spend a huge part of my life in hotel rooms. I have woken in hotels in far-flung parts of the world and only known where I was when I turned on the TV. Oddly, I still find a slight thrill as I stand on the threshold of my new temporary home, wondering, but today the only thrill seems to come when I find that, for a change, I haven't been given a disabled room.


I don't know what it is, but I seem to constantly get a disabled room. Recently I walked in my bedroom in Manchester, to find that my bathroom was twice the size of my bedroom. I'd opened the main door and been a little surprised at how small the bedroom was but hey, it was only for a couple of nights. I then opened the bathroom door and it was like a tiled Narnia. An entire ceramic world lay on the other side of that door. A veritable wet-room, although I fail to see the benefit of being able to shower from the comfort of your wheelchair. Would you want to spend the day on a wet seat?

I don't know whether someone at the agents thinks it's funny, or whether by some mysterious electronic glitch my constant demand for a non-smoking room has been registered as something more difficult to deal with, but the fact remains, hotels the length and breadth of the country think I am fulfilling a quota for them.

Oh, smoking rooms. We now have a ban on smoking in public places. You're not even allowed to smoke in a company vehicle, as a non-smoker may get in. So how come last month I was told all the non-smoking rooms had gone and they'd given me a smoking room?

And yes.

It was disabled.

Well, the room wasn't (although the remote control for the TV was), but you know what I mean.

So, as I sit here, I wonder how I can get the thrill back? I mean, for many people, staying in a hotel is still exciting, still something new. The problem, is that so many things that were special then, are mundane in the extreme now.

When I was a child, the idea of having a phone, an actual phone, that you could make calls on or buzz your parents and ruin their sex lives, in your bedroom, was amazing. Now you can make international calls, send media files and surf the Internet on something smaller than the silver case my Dad kept his cigarettes in, when you were allowed to smoke in hotel room.... oh.

Sometimes, in the room, was Television. I proper one, with actual programs. Heck, I remember when I first encountered a remote control. What a high. Now of course, you can get streaming video on said phone in your pocket. TVs in the home are becoming the size of cinema screens from my childhood, yet all anyone wants to do is peer myopically at the palm of their hand whilst simultaneously cooing like a gaggle of maiden aunts over a new-born and congratulating each other over how 'on it' they are.

Sorry to burst your bubble guys, but being 'on it' should surely take more than the ability to be approved for an 18 month phone contract? Or maybe not. Maybe fashion ratings and credit ratings are more closely aligned than I thought? Perhaps, somewhere, there is a fashion-rating bureau.

  • Equifax does your credit rating
  • Equifash does your credibility rating

(I realise that those of you who may read this outside the UK probably don't know who Equifax are, but then, you probably didn't know the collective noun for Maiden Aunts was 'Gaggle', so you've learned something, which is always good).

And finally, room service. I've just stuck the tray outside my door, having eaten food I didn't really want, didn't enjoy and am already regretting. A few years ago, room service was SO exciting. Even a couple of years ago, I remember my kids excitement when we ordered it on one of our trips. Now? With so many ready meals, TV dinners, instant-gratification-and-regret-in-a-plastic-tray lifestyle aids, having dinner, in your bedroom(!) in front of the TV(!) whilst ignoring the phone(!) by your bed for all except an early morning call(!!), room service is just bland, uninteresting and instantly forgettable. And that's before we talk about the food.

So, I'll put the tray outside the door for someone else to collect, so they can wash the dishes. Go and have a shower and leave the towels on the floor to be replaced with clean ones in the morning and get into my bed, freshly made by someone else and muse on the disappointment of hote.... hold on a minute.

Dishes taken and washed.

Towels taken and replaced

Bed made.

I LIKE hotels.

Monday, 10 December 2007


Like most people I suspect, I have mused on occasions on the question:

"If you had to lose ONE sense, which would it be?"

I remember being asked this question in a class once and I remember that my answer "Common" did NOT go down well with the teacher, although my peers loved it.

Looking back, I think that was the start of something.

However, the reason for this post is actually not about that, but about being blind.

I am not blind and although I had a friend who was, can have no concept of what it would be like. I do know however that it would be devastating. I would miss so much, so many many things, including movies.

I'm at home this morning, packing as I'm away on business for the week and on the TV (for only the 32nd time this month) is "Where Eagles Dare".

This is a movie I wouldn't miss.

Not because I don't think it's good - ok, a bit corny, but even so - but because this is a movie I could STILL enjoy without sight.

Next time it's on, close your eyes and listen:

The sound of the wind, which chills you with imaginary snow down the back of your neck. You hear it in the background whistling past the embrasures in the castle walls. You hear the silence echoing off the walls and stone floors.

The wonderful timbre of Richard Burton's voice "Broadsword calling Danny Boy" and even Clint, being, well, Clint.

And most of all, the music. From the opening drums, through the building tension, the action crescendos to the closing scene in the plane, the whole score just builds a complete picture in the mind.

Ok, so the film is corny and jingoistic.

But if I ever lose my sight, I'll send the dog out to buy me a copy.

Tempus Fugitive

Last night I was at a 40th Wedding party.

The tables were adorned with pictures, mostly from cruising holidays, that the happy couple and their sons have taken over the years, together with their wedding album.

Initially, this seemed like a good idea, allowing their assembled friends and family to laugh and joke about how young they looked, about the fashions, hairstyles and generally be happy about how much better such things are now.

Then reality bit, as it has a tendency to do.

Fashions come and go and, in truth, those of us still capable of breathing will no doubt laugh at what we wore last night, at some point in the future. Glasses (specs that is) in particular seem to give rise to hilarity more quickly than most things.

However, the thing that dampened the general enthusiasm for the past was, quite simply, the number of people absent. Pictures of our past can be a source of happiness, reawakening memories of times that seem, almost exclusively, better. Perhaps this is because we tend not to take pictures of times and things that make us sad?

The absence of so many people who had been there for the original celebration however, serves to remind us that time is not kind to things other than fashion. So many faces, smiling out of the yellowed pages of an album, oblivious of the gulf that now lay between them looking out and us looking in. So maybe the pictures taken last night, a stream of ones and zeros uploaded into the ether rather than glued into a scrapbook, will engender the same emotions in others and, it's to be hoped in us, some time in the future?

This week, my Aunt had a stroke. As I write, she lies in a hospital bed, being given the best our wonderful Health Service can offer - except the unit she needs has been closed and she's too ill to be moved. I hope and pray she will pull through, not only for herself, but for my Mother and in a truly selfish way, for myself. Losing a relative is always painful, but it's more the implication of what it means in relation to my Mother and what the loss of her Sister, (GF) would do to her.

For me, the implications are different. It reinforces the realisation that I'm no longer a child. As our parents age, the relationship we have with them is reversed - we become the parent and they the child. But in truth, this isn't complete and we never lose that irrational, almost primeval belief in their permanence. Each event, each loss, erodes that like the sea undermining a cliff, until finally it collapses under it's own mass. When that happens, we finally, irrevocably, grow up.

And I'm not ready.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

I heard that, pardon?

I bought a hearing aid yesterday.

I've been finding it more difficult to hear, to make out conversation, particularly in crowded social environments, largely due to a mis-spent youth as a DJ and, despite the pleasure this gives me in annoying my children by having the TV too loud, it has been irritating me more and more.

Yesterday, I was in Dublin and, having left a meeting, was walking down the street, soaking up the different sameness that is the Republic of Ireland. They drive on the left, but speeds are in Kilometers. The some of the shops are identical (McDonalds and Burger King vie for space in the litter bins and gutters) but then you encounter stores that look familiar but someone has changed the names when you weren't looking. Prices are in Euros, but people still talk about "30 bob". Signs are in Gaelic first, with English subtitles, but the language you hear on the street is English.

Or so I thought.

I'd left the meeting and, having cut my arm, needed some tape, so when I saw what I thought was a pharmacy, I darted in. However, what I found was in fact a medical supplies shop with prices that were, well, keen to say the least. Having found myself walking down the street and really struggling to understand what was being said around me, I made an impulse buy and am now the proud owner of a hearing aid.

Ok, it's not medical standard and is more an in-ear amplifier. Well, partially in-ear. Ok, it sticks out the side of my head like a badly-parked Volkswagen Beetle, but I thought it may make a difference.

Out in the street, I parked it in my ear and, once I'd got past the stage where it whistled like a building site spotting a blond in a mini-skirt, prepared myself for a whole new era of clarity and understanding.

Which is when I discovered that Dublin is full of Poles and, as a consequence, my confusion was due less to auditory atrophy and more to the fact that they were speaking Polish.

Anyone want to buy a Volkswagen?


Nature versus Common Sense

There are lots of useless things.

Wasps, men's nipples, people who call you up from India and try to sell you things whilst maintaining that their names are Jeremy, Nigel or Tracy. I don't know whether they are the work of a deity, of nature, or a mere random chance that has persisted, but either way, there are lots of things that just defy a rational explanation of their existence.

However, there is one thing that seems to exceed all others in it's sheer lack of justification. One thing that serves no useful purpose whatsoever, yet is more manifest than all of the others.

I speak, of course, of hair.

Not ordinary hair. Not the tumbling locks of teenage girls, straightened when naturally curly, curled when naturally straight. Not the full, glistening repositories of the output of half the world's chemical industry, cloaked in names like jasmine, coconut and Jojoba. What the hell IS jojoba anyway? Not the tweaked outrageous quiffs of 'yoofs'; coloured, lacquered, spiked as a vehement protest against..........well.............. jojoba I guess. Not even the hair that adorns men's (and some women's) faces which, for some reason, I'm told is a sign of untrustworthyness. How can it be untrustworthy, when so many priests and royalty have had bear...

Oh. Ok. I'll give you that one.

I'm not even referring to the hair that curls out from the armpits of the women of some European countries (and the odd absent/bloody-minded film star).

No, the hair I refer to is the most bizarre, pointless and curious thing.

Ear hair.

When I was young, I had hair on my head.

As I got older, I developed it on my arms, chest and the ability (resisted) to sprout it on my chin. My ears, thank you very much, were smooth, unadorned and didn't even stick out unduly.

Then, one day, something happens.

You wake up and everything has changed.

Along with things like the noise that you make standing or sitting; the sudden interest in unsuitable fashion; the urge to buy a sports-car or motorcycle; the delusion that nobody notices you surreptitiously looking at the bottoms of young girls; something goes wrong with your DNA.

Clever little helixes that, for years have told your fingernails not to grow on your teeth, your stomach to produce acid strong enough to digest your food but weak enough not to digest itself, suddenly have a bad day. You can imagine the conversation.

"Hi, how's it going?"

"Not so bad, just making some enzymes and stuff. How's things with you?"

"Honestly? I'm a bit cheesed off. He's really irritating me."

"Why? Are you still pissed off about the reduced demand for sperm? I did explain that that's not really his fault."

"I don't know, I think I'm just jaded. Been doing this for too long. Same things, day in day out. I just need to get out of this rut and be free to EXPRESS myself."

"Well, what do you want to do? I mean, it's not as if you can break the rules and make his fingernails grow on his teeth is it? You've already messed with his digestion with all that strong acid, so he can't eat those hot curries any more. We're making his hair fall out, so short of making it grow back somewhere else...... hey..... why have you gone all thoughtful and quiet????"

So, there you have it. One day we wake up and, when absentmindedly stroking your ear, you suddenly feel it. For a moment, you have visions of your kids super-glueing a hamster to the side of your head when you were asleep but no, it's there, it's all yours and from now on, you have a choice. Accept it graciously and with dignity...

...Or buy a pair of tweezers and pluck the little buggers out.

However, it's only then that you realise the genius that is nature.

All of a sudden, you understand what earwax is for.


Tuesday, 13 November 2007


There are lots of useless things.

Including me, when it comes to technology.

I just posted the same blog twice and can't work out how to delete one of them.

Hey ho, not as if I work for a technology company or anything...

Where is a small child when you really need one?

(And I mean to help with your computer, before I get a knock on the door from someone thinking I mean something else!)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Neighbours, everybody loves good neighbours..

I have new neighbours

They owned the flat next to mine which they rented out, but sold their house and moved back in.

I met them a few months ago, doing their garden, which seems to be about all they do. I think the state of mine offended them at some fundamental, almost religeous level and, if I'm honest, even the wildlife was avoiding it now it was so untidy. You have to understand that the garden's are open plan, with each ground floor flat having it's own bit. Seemed nice enough people, although building a patio close to my boundry wall without mentioning it did seem a bit offhand.

I tidied it up and then got a gardener to finish off, but was left with a large pile of cuttings etc, which I was letting mulch down.

I walked into my kitchen a moment ago, just in time to see him throw a match onto my now petrol-sodden compost heap, which effectively exploded, taking both of us rather by surprise. The rather beautiful Buddlia bush behind it is also now basically charcoal. I am now faced with having to go in an explain that, whilst I appreciate his kindness in garden maintainence, I would rather he KEEPS THE F*CK OFF MY PLOT.

Where do these people get off? I am fuming and that is the only reason I'm not out there right now, but following closely on from the previous post, I am just NOT going to be 'English' about this. Sod etiquette (odd how a French word is used for something the French don't do), if this were America I'd have shot his lawnmower by now.

And Breatheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee............

Enough is enough

I just took a call from my Aunt. She was berating me for the fact that I can't make a family event, which coincides with my birthday. Claims she told my mother the date ages ago and can't I cancel the plans (I have tickets to see Les Mis).

I am 45.

Not 14

She knows it's my birthday around then, she stated as much, which is why she claims she told my Mother.

I am 45.

If you want to tell me something, tell me.

Not my Mother.


Unfortunately, my Mother can remember what happened to her at 16, but struggles sometimes to complete her sentences, losing the thread halfway through, so that she will complete her sentence with words completely disconnected from it's start. It's like seeing someone with the jacket from a blue suit and the trousers from a brown one and is both distressing and irritating, which in turn makes you feel terrible for feeling irritated.

I have a splitting headache, and was laying down with my eyes closed when my Aunt rang and it begins again.

And you know, for once, instead of "yes Auntie, I'll see what I can do Auntie", I actually said "well, instead of telling Mum you should have told ME." She then suggested that I don't eat before the show (going to the matinee) and go to the function first? I declined.

I am 45.

Perhaps I'm finally beginning to act it?

Oh, I DO hope not.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Why is it

Someone has tried to blow up the seat of democracy, the Houses of Parliament. In the name of their religion, they tried to plant a bomb that would have killed dozens, perhaps hundreds of people. I'm sure they believed they had right, had G-d on their side, but how does that give them the right?

And the response from the population at large?

To celebrate the anniversary each year with fireworks and bonfires, burning the lead conspirator in effigy. To me this seems odd - someone tried to blow up politicians, so we burn him alive. This shows a strange dichotomy in attitude towards politicians to my mind.

It's odd what people do in the name of their religion though (wow, profound tonight, for my next trick I may remember my name) but I heard on the news today about a Jehovah's Witness who, at 22, gave birth to twins. She hugged them, but there were complications and she lost a lot of blood. This could have been handled with a transfusion, but she, her husband, her parents all refused to let them.

She died, leaving her husband "distraught" to bring up the two babies who will never know their Mother.

There was a phone-in on the radio, with lots of people saying how 'ridiculous' it was and how it 'shouldn't have been allowed'.

Personally, I don't understand her choice and it goes against my personal credo, but who am I to decide what her faith does and doesn't allow? But I have two questions:

  • What would be the decision of her church in the situation when she was in danger BEFORE the babies were born? Would they have let both her and the twins die? She can make a decision, but the babies?
  • No matter how good their door-to-door sales pitch is, how the hell are they going to get around THIS one when they come selling Watchtower?

Maybe I will ask them, next time they come.

Then again, maybe not.

Her G-d may be able to forgive her - I just hope her kids can too one day.

How to save seven years

Went back to the Dr this week, to get the results of my blood tests.




Don't get me wrong, this is good, as far as it goes, but still doesn't take my Dr any closer to why I am gaining weight and have stomach problems. Which is stress.

She sent me to see the Phlebotomist and what I want to know is; why does everyone have to have an impressive latin title these days? Is someone who is flips burgers a victualia-vexologist? What does that make me? A Boviscatologist?

The answer is yes, but I still don't know what to do for stress.

Answers on a postcard

Thursday, 1 November 2007

How many crises can you fit into one mid-life?

I ride a motorcycle.

Ok, that's a lie.

I have a motorcycle, but for the most part, it sits in my mother's garage, unridden. I sometimes have a vision of it sitting there, surrounded by toys outgrown by disinterested children, who despite this won't let them be thrown away. Surrounded by blunt garden tools and garden furniture that has that strange smell nature reserves to keep other smelly things of it. Surrounded by boxes of books that we promise ourselves we will read again, atlases full of countries that no longer exist, of borders long dishonoured, encyclopedias full of discredited opinions (what price a 1970 explanation of DNA anyone?).

I have this vision of it sitting there, like some automotive puppy, starting at the door with big round headlampeyes, willing the door to lift and it's master to stomp in, red and black kit making him look like a cross between spiderman and well, a walrus, to undo the chains cruelly holding it down and for those wide open spaces to beckon. To run free, the joy in the running, not the destination.

Yet, day after day, week after week, it sits there and both our joints become stiffer, the weather becomes colder, wetter and the odds of me riding anywhere become longer as the days become shorter. The closest I come is having a picture of the poor wee beastie as wallpaper on my PC.

Today, I was with a client. A few years older than me perhaps, divorced, in a new house, all sounding rather familiar.

I have found that when people see the bike, they often comment, creating a good icebreaker and it's amazing how many people comment along the lines of I had/have/would love to have a(nother) bike, if I could justify/use/get away with it with the wife.

This latter does tend to be the men, but I live in hope.

If they ask what it is, I explain that it's "a Honda Mid-Life Crisis".

Today however, the client took one look and before I could trot out my rehearsed line, commented "my mid life crisis is better" . In his garage, was a Harley Davidson, a bike that I've always wanted to ride down Route 1, but which is frankly silly down English country lanes. However, biker fraternalality (good word - wish it existed) didn't allow me to comment and we chatted biker chat for a while.

Turns out that his bike sits in it's respective garage just like mine, having done a little over 2000 miles in 2 years. Is this different from my bosses, buying themselves Porsches when they sold the business? In a way it is, as they at least use their cars as transport, although this could be seen as a type of arrogance - "I can not only afford a Porsche, I can afford to use it as a car".

But it gets me thinking. Why do we, as our joints begin to creak and our feet become dimly remembered friends, still out there somewhere but not seen in a long time, why do we feel the need to try to wrest back some sense of youth by committing ourselves to toys that, in our minds at least, roll back the clock. Do we REALLY believe that, in some esoteric way, our possession of these youthful accoutrement's sends us back through some kind of Stephen Hawking wormhole, to a time when we were young and fit, even if such a time never existed?

Earlier this week, I was at an exhibition with some of the Directors. One company had hired an attractive young blond model to wander round, dressed as Little Bo Peep, all fluff and fake-tan, handing out leaflets.

The exhibition was dead and so most of the talking was between exhibitors. At one point, one of the wealthier Directors was standing with a group of us, including Bo Peep, chatting. A nice chap, his svelte days are long past, but he is now a very wealthy man.

Somewhat brazenly, he asked Bo Peep if she'd "go out with a fat man?".

She was polite, she was trying to avoid offense, but she was innately honest, so "no".

Now, you have to understand that I am a salesman. I sell. It's what I do, so that's what I did.

"But" I asked, "would you go out with a fat man with a Lamborghini?"

Brief hesitation "Yes" she said, then did a double take "Do YOU have a Lamborghini?" (this asked of him, not me you understand).

One of my colleagues then chips in "Yes, he has a Lamborghini, plus he owns a Napoleonic Fort in the Solent, with a luxury flat on the top".

Bo Peep was clearly moved and I've applied for the group marketing role.

But to come back to the question of why do we buy them, I think I've answered my own question....

.... but I'm still not going for a ride. My joints are telling me it's going to rain.

Friday, 26 October 2007

I'm just a boy who cain't say no

I've just been commissioned to write two articles on cars for a magazine.

Now, before everyone starts scaling tall buildings along my route to enable them to shower me with ticker tape (can you still GET ticker tape in this age of computer screens and online trading? If not, what a great loss. What will they do when China puts a man on the moon, and then puts another one on the moon an hour later?)

Anyway, I digress.



Before you get all excited, I should admit that these commissions are based far more on WHO I know than my Hemingwayesque writing skills. The next Jeremy Clarkson I am not.

Well, not yet anyway. FAR too tolerant (stop laughing at the back).

However, I need to deliver both articles by the 31st.

I am in Belfast at the moment, sitting in an airport lounge and am off again for a large chunk of next week. Which means I have committed to writing two professional, glossy executive magazine style articles over the weekend.

On a subject that, frankly, I don't know much about. If, 10, maybe 15 years ago I'd been asked to write about supercars, I could have done it easily.

20 or 25 years ago, and you probably would have found me struggling to write about much else. I could quote the BHP, 0-60 times and pros & cons of the Ferrari 308 GTS (the Magnum car - see, now you know the one) compared with a 911 Turbo. I could tell you that a Lamborghini Countach SS was ferociously fast, but that you couldn't see out of the back and needed to hang out of the door to reverse.

The clutch would also break your leg if you didn't watch it like a hawk.

But that was a long time ago and now, I know a Ferrari when I see one, but couldn't tell a Scuderia (and before you think it, I just read the name on the front of a magazine) from a Raspberry Ripple.

So, here I sit in Belfast, £10 lighter and 10lb heavier from Car magazines, facing a weekend of research and writing.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love writing and love the idea of being PAID to write even more.

But WHY do I always commit myself to things I simply don't have the time or resources to do?

Will you join me in the chorus?

All together....

He's just a boy who cain't say no,
he's in a terrible state
He just commits to everything
He's far too much on his plate.

Still, if I get paid, does that make me a proper writer? Damn, I hope this doesn't just become a 'job' to me.

Although, then again, if you pay me enough

Now, where did I put those magazines?

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Talking to strangers

The UK is a small place.

Having seen the vast distances in the US, where the distance from horizon to horizon is the distance from my home to my Brother's, I realise how small.

I don't see my brother much because of the distance.

Well, the distance and because we've drifted apart. I think the continental drift started the night my Father died. I went to pick him up to go to the hospital, and he offered his hand in a handshake. I ignored it and hugged him, but could feel drift begin even then, inexorable but definite.

So given the lack of size, it amazes me sometimes the huge differences even a few miles can make in regional personality and behaviour.

A few months ago, I went on my annual road trip with my daughters. Each year, we pack a bag, and set off, following our noses (a not difficult task in my case), stopping for the night in hotels wherever we may be, letting them enjoy the thrill of the things I take for granted in my life - room service, free sewing kits and shower gel, notepads and branded pencils. I remember their excitement the first time I confirmed they could keep them, along with the credit-card sized keys.

Now, experienced travellers that they are, they take them for granted.

Innocence lost.

We ended up in Blackpool. It's sort of like Las Vegas, but without the class.

Or entertainment

Or anything else particularly.

But that's where we ended up. Why were we up there? Because my youngest, bless her, when asked where she wanted to go, replied:

"Can we go anywhere?"

"Anywhere within reason, yes."

"Cool. Can we go to Manchester?"

"Manchester? Why on earth do you want to go there????"

Turned out a friend had been to the shopping centre there and told her it was "amazing"

It's not. It's a mall. But that's where we ended up and so from there to Blackpool seemed like a good idea.

What has this to do with anything? Well, not a lot, but I have found that in a blog, it's hard to keep to the point. So forgive me.

Anyway, both the girls were stunned by the different accents, the slower pace and different nature of the people they met up there. Particularly, how chatty and friendly everyone was.

They were also amazed by how their Dad was so chatty too, talking to complete strangers, immersing himself in conversations with complete strangers.

And that's my point. In the US, you get regional differences, noticeable changes in accent from State to State, region to region, with personalities seemingly growing out of the earth. I've been to New England and met people who wouldn't p*ss on you if you were on fire, and I've chatted to a Navajo indian at the side of a desert road as if he was an old friend and found that he had visited Great Yarmouth.

But that's another story.

But in England, less than 50 miles can mean a different attitude, accent and view on life.

So here I sit in Belfast, in a lonely hotel room, wondering whether to order room service or go to the pub (can't afford the hotel restaurant), and looking back on a day of chatting to the lovely Irish people I've met. This place is my secret - nobody else from work comes here, because they all think it's a war zone.

Why do they think that?

I couldn't POSSIBLY say, unless somebody, somebody who wants to keep the secret to himself, somebody devious has told them that.

People here are nice. They chat, they laugh, they smile. How they had so much trouble for so long I don't understand. How can you get on so well with a stranger, yet hate your next door neighbour enough to kill him?

I like talking to strangers. They are interesting, you can't guess what they are going to say. Sometimes you can't UNDERSTAND what they say, but that's ok too.

Best of all, they haven't heard my jokes.

And some of them are nice enough to laugh, which makes them friends.

Odd that, isn't it?

Sunday, 21 October 2007

I didn't win

I didn't win tickets, or rather, the right to buy tickets for the Led Zeppelin concert next month.

By rights, I'm a little too young to be a true Led Zep fan. I make a noise when I get up from a chair, a sort of cross between a duck laying an ostrich egg and a seven-stone weakling lifting 300lbs in the gym, but the egg still gets laid, the weight lifted.

My joints creak as I bend to pick up a piece of paper, but I can still bend.

I have my 'Craft' moments (Can't Remember a F***ing Thing), but can still remember my kids when they come and ask for money.

More's the pity.

And as I started young, I remember their songs, their lyrics. I remember lying in a darkened bedroom in my parents house, headphones the size of Volkswagen beetles on my head, volume turned up to eleven before Spinal Tap. I remember leaping horizontally 3 feet into the air as my mother, thinking I'd fallen asleep, sneaked in and lifted the headphones off.

I'm grateful, as now I will recognise the heart attack when it comes.

But I'm sad I didn't win tickets. Sad I won't be able to say to my grandchildren that, when the latest boy band covers Black Dog as an acapella harmony, all covered zits and rippling pecs, that I remember actually SEEING Led Zeppelin, the REAL Led Zeppelin, in concert. Sad that I will never have the chance to hear Stairway to Heaven, live, warts, bum notes and all. Something to look back on as the Craft moments take over more and more, knowing this is one thing I will remember, along with my generation's Kennedy, the Towers. I'm sad because I won't be at this last of the great concerts, when others will be, others who simply have money, but no right.

And, if I'm honest, I'm sad I won't be able to sell the tickets on Ebay and clear my cards. Sad I won't be able to persuade some corporate poseur that he should entertain his clients there, letting them hark back to their youth whilst he cynically reckons the value of nostalgia in future orders.

Besides, let's get real here. When I was too young to go to a Led Zeppelin concert, the joints Robert Plant was concerned with weren't the ones he has to smear with Tiger Balm when it looks like rain.

So, do I REALLY want to sit there, realising that they have subtly changed the lyrics, and now, in 2007, they're singing about a "Stairlift to Heaven"?

You bet I do.


Saturday, 20 October 2007

The oddest things

Make me laugh.

I have just heard a television presenter say:

"The only way to take a tapir's temperature..."

Say it out loud.

Now tell me that's not funny.

Oh well, takes all sorts I s'pose.

However, I makes me think I will keep a section of this blog for the things that make me laugh, in the hope it does the same for you.

Right, I'm off to wander round saying "only way to take a tapir's temperature" and chuckle.

To Blog or not to Blog

Well, here we are, committing what I'd always considered to be the height of self-absorbed arrogance - Blogging. Committing to cyberspace my thoughts, in the curious idea that somebody, anybody, may want to read them.

So, in the spirit of a litigious world, these are the terms and conditions of my blog.

This blog is intended for my personal use. Any content is intended not for the reader, but for myself. It's primary use is as a receptacle for the outpourings of my subconscious, as a personal journal which I won't put down and lose.

Ok, so I don't lose things, I just remember them being elsewhere.

None of the thoughts, statements or opinions are posted to elicit any reaction in the reader, as I fully expect the reader to be me. They are not designed to be provocative, confrontational or indeed, accurate. I fully reserve the right to post comments that are ill-judged, founded on poor logic and just plain silly. It's my blog, if you want to disagree, get your own. I promise not to read it.

I do not commit to posting with any regularity, for my posts to have any particular theme or even to make sense. This is not a journal of any aspect of my life, it just 'is'.

Some of the things I post on here will be true.

Some of the things I post on here will be fiction.

Some of the things I post on here, I will be able to distinguish between the two.

Others I may not.

I leave it to you to decide which is which. If you can tell, please don't hesitate to tell me. All assistance in dealing with reality is gladly received.

Generally ignored, but gratefully received.

This blog will therefore be free of all warranties, guarantees, promises and commitments. I don't do well with commitment. I've spent my life trying to avoid being committed. Then again, they tell me the food is good in there and they now have cable...

All I do promise to try to keep my posts readable, grammatically correct (unless for effect) and wherever possible, free of spelling errors. This last is promised because I've just noticed the spellcheck button. Now I live in fear of American spelling.

If you wish to comment on anything posted (Blogged? See? Already I'm struggling), please feel free. I may even read your comments, or even comment on your comment.

Then again, that will rely on my remembering my password. For me, passwords are a bit like car keys. I put them down in a logical, safe place.

Then someone moves them.

I blame the sock-pixies.

Over time, I'm sure I will become more familiar with Blogging, and this journal will evolve.

Or maybe not. Either way, you have no grounds for complaint.

I have only one request.

If something I post on here makes you smile or laugh, then I'm glad and please feel free to tell me. If something I post on here makes you sad, then please feel free to share that too. If something I post on here makes you angry with me, then please feel free to stick it.

If I want to be reminded of my failings, I talk to my children. They're professionals.

I thang yow.