Tuesday, 29 September 2009

100 facts about me - 71 to 80

Here is the next part of the "100 facts about me" list - previous entries can be found here:

71. I have come second twice in the Guardian Weekend photography competition.
72. When I was about 2 years old, I split my left middle finger open playing with glass and had 14 stitches. The scars are very visible.
73. I wrote a song when I was 10 years old and only a couple of friends ever heard it. I have lots of song ideas and at least one is a classic... I'm sure!
74. I play the same lottery numbers every week - and lose every week.
75. I think that the "What have the Romans ever done for us" from Life Of Brian scene is possibly the best scene of any film.
76. I like Adidas deodorant.
77. My lucky number is 8.
78. I have Jonny Wilkinson’s autograph.
79. At the time of writing, I (still) have an unhealthy obsession with Fernando Torres.
80. I have had one professional massage.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Assen and beyond

Pete and I have just spent a week just outside of Assen in The Netherlands. We stayed in a log cabin in the woods owned by a friend of mine. We were near a small town called Zuidlaren, which is a beautiful town and a lovely place to spend a few days - it has plenty of shops, bars and restaurants.

We travelled on the Friday overnight Ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland. This is a relaxing way to travel - fall asleep in England and wake up as you arrive in The Netherlands. We did a similar journey back in May.

We had plans to fill the week, travelling around the region and were very lucky to have sunny weather every day, which meant we could use the bikes as there are cycle paths everywhere. We started on Saturday with dinner with my friend and his family and on Sunday went for a long ride ending in Zuidlaren where a market was taking place. We had a fantastic pizza in the evening.

On Monday we travelled to Schiermonnikoog (yeah, try and pronounce it correctly!), the most northerly island in the country. It has hardly any cars and as there are cycle paths throughout, we spent several hours exploring with a couple of coffee and beers stops. After that we went to a sanctuary that is well known in Europe - so we were told. They do great work and the seals are so clever and inquisitive - I took this picture through a viewing hole and the seal appeared to love the attention.

On Tuesday we attended a massive market and horse sale in Roden then cycled into Grogingen - the biggest town in the area. We took a wrong turn and found the red light district - basically a street full of houses with big front windows. I wondered if it was a right of passage for a Dutch teenage boy to visit a prostitute?

On Wednesday we traveled to a small village called Bourtange near the German border which has been rebuilt as it was hundreds of years ago with an amazing moat with 10 metre high walls. This image was taken from the tourist site and shows the clear star design that makes up the moats around the medieval village. After that we went into Germany for lunch (because my friend Dominic insists that German sausages are the best) and then to a huge forest for a walk in the sunshine.

In between the trips out, we spent time with my mate and ate and drank beer. Pete managed (and I also was partly guilty) in having coffee and apple cake every day. What a brilliant tradition these Dutch have... order some coffee and get cake for only a few pennies more!

The journey home was also eventful. We drove to the port the long way round, over the Afsluitdijk - the longest dike in the Country. It's very strange driving 20 miles along a huge dam - it's an impressive piece of engineering. We took a detour to Scheveningen (another fun one to try and pronounce) as I had been there when I was 17 and had fond memories of the place.

Back to work tomorrow - boo!

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Saturday, 26 September 2009

Back home from the lowlands

We got back from a great weeks holiday in The Netherlands late last night, so I will blog about that tomorrow I think.  Today will be one of washing, tidying up and wishing that we had not had coffee and applecake every day for a week...

In the meantime, and for no other reason than he's a cutie and in the news, here is Nelson Piquet Jr:

Friday, 18 September 2009

Miscellaneous photographs #4

Following on from previous posts, here are some more photographs from my stocks for your enjoyment, this time with a theme of body parts...

1. The queen smiling
2. Legs
3. Count how many fingers there are
4. My eyes


Thursday, 17 September 2009

Where are the bloggers from Oz and NZ?

I had a crappy journey yesterday from home to Newbury in Berkshire - 85 miles in three hours! The M25 is bad due to the ongoing widening works (only another couple of years to go!), so that's understandable, but the M4 was awful due to selfish drivers. A major road linking to the M4 was closed and the queue off the motorway was around 5 miles long. Some selfish ****ards however, drove past the queue and then tried to cut in which meant that the middle lane also got blocked behind them and then the outside lane was blocked with people trying to get across.

If you are one of those people (usually in large 4 wheel drive tanks) that cuts in at the last minute... you are a selfish imbecile. Firstly, think about your actions and the massive knock on effect that it has. And secondly, just how small is your penis that you need such a huge vehicle?

Anyway... the main reason for this post was to ask where all of the Australian and New Zealandish* bloggers are?

I obtain stats from Google Analytics and I have bloggers for all over the world, but mainly the UK and USA. I am surprised at the lack of Australians and New Zealanders. Of course, I could go to London and see many thousands of people from down under, but it's just not the same.

If you are from Oz or NZ, please post a comment and let me know where you are from! And if you like this blog, let your countrymen know!

Only 2 days to go until I get a week off work - woohoo!

* New Zealandish? Now that cant be right!

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Monday, 14 September 2009

Songs you might like #2

This is the second post looking at some rare music - the first can be found here. Despite a lack of comments, it was one of my most read blog entries. So this time, please let me know your views and suggestions!

These are songs that you probably won't know but I would like to recommend them. You may love them, you may hate them - the choice is yours, but at least you had the chance to hear them...

"Trouble" by Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsey is the songwriter/guitarist/vocalist in Fleetwood Mac that wrote such classics as Go your own way, Big love and Tusk. In 1981 he released his first solo album called Law and Order which was a weird mix of music styles, but had this fine track with a killer hook. Supposedly, much to his annoyance, the album flopped whereas his band mate and ex-girlfriend Stevie Nicks' first solo album sold millions.

"Nobody's Sleeping" by Anne McCue

Once in a while, the freebie CD's on magazines throw up some magic and when I heard this track I knew I had to hear more. It's a simple rock song with a folky feel and is representative of her Roll album.

"Mother Of Violence" by Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel is one of my favourite artists - it's a shame it takes him so long to release new music. This song was hidden away on the second of three albums called simply "Peter Gabriel", this song has an eerie acoustic sound whereas the rest of the album sounds mushy to me. Peter's website was one of the first artist sites and his sort-of-monthly video updates are always worth viewing.

"I Wanna Stay Home" by Jellyfish

Back in the late 1980's, Jellyfish had a hit called The king is half undressed - a fun pop tune. When my friend Sonny went to Pakistan for a few months around 1999, he bought back a load of poorly recorded pirate cassettes and the Jellyfish album Bellybutton was one of them. This is a true album in that it flows from start to finish, is listenable throughout and has no filler - this is just one of many fine tracks.

"When The Spell Is Broken" by Richard Thompson

When I was about 20 (yep, many years ago) I started guitar lessons with a guy called Richard Pronger. I went for a couple of years and didn't progress as much as Rick would have liked - though he may be happy to know that I can still play The needle of the damage done. One legacy of those days sitting in his little "studio" was the great music I was exposed to: Neil Young, XTC, Elvis Costello etc. The list also includes Richard Thompson and I have only been able to track down a live recording of this amazing song (Richard is Teddy Thompson's dad by the way).

Here are some short samples of the tracks:

Saturday, 12 September 2009

The smell of autumn

I have been out and about over the past few days and there is a definate chill in the air and, despite the leaves still looking green, the smell of autumn is around us. It show's how evocative smell can be as I had flashbacks to my school days - returning to lessons after the long holiday and the anticipation of a new term. I can't say that my secondary school days were much fun, so these memory blasts are not that welcome!

It's been a wet and cold summer in the UK, with only short periods of sunshine. Now we are entering autumn and it's a season that can be very beautiful in England. I will aim to take a few pictures of the changing colours around the countryside this Autumn.

And for my North American readers... I will aim to take a few pictures of the changing colors around the countryside this Fall.

My legs are almost healed after the shin splints, so I will try a short relaxed jog this weekend if the weather is fine. I had wanted to do the big cycle ride along the canal into London (30+ miles), but Pete wasn't up for it. I may well go hunting for some running shoes as it's been difficult to find a good fit.

Talking of running, I found this truly amazing blog called Ryan Runs Europe featuring an (obviously mad) American running, yes running from Amsterdam to Athens over the summer!!! He has a proper site here that answers a few questions about the route (that he has been running for over 100 days) including the fact that he is carrying everything he needs on his back, has no money for a bed at night and is averaging 20 miles running a day!!!

And finally, you know what perks me up when I'm feeling a little blue? Ryan Phillippe... need I say more?


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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

0909 090909

I have had a relationship with four guys from Liverpool for a very long time. The Beatles have been part of my life since I was a small boy and I have to partially thank my oldest brother from introducing me to the best music ever made, despite the band splitting up just before I was born.

Today is the 9th of September (note the title, date and time this blog entry hits the Internet*), the day when The Beatles remastered CDs are released and I will be in the record shop later today. The Beatles Rockband is also out today.

My relationship with the band begun when I heard Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band when I was about 5 or 6 and loving every minute, from the opening tuning up of the orchestra to the crash of the grand pianos at the end. My favourite albums are probably Abbey Road and Rubber Soul.

Whether you are a fan or not, you can't fail to agree that the music, words, art, style and story of The Beatles are ingrained into our culture. No other artist has had the cultural or musical impact and no other artist appears to have such a wide appeal. Despite the music being popularist, it was constantly evolving, experimental, original, witty, serious and revolutionary.

The music is known by young and old and it isn't just the chart toppers. For example, do you know Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Eleanor Rigby, Here Comes The Sun, I Am The Walrus, Back In The USSR, A Day In The Life? None of these were singles - they were just album tracks. It shows the amazing quality throughout an extremely short career. They released 13 albums in 7 years and many singles and EPs that did not feature on these albums (plus 4 films). Most artists today would be expected to release maybe 2 or 3 albums in that period and nothing more.

My appreciation has changed over the years from merely enjoying the melody and hooks, to an understanding of the musicianship and structure of the songs and the art. But, when it comes down to it, so many songs are just simply great to listen to.

On this sort of official Beatles day, enjoy the music on whatever level you want. In fact... have a fab day!

* The number 9 occurs a few times in their songs of course.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Mens magazines

There are many lifestyle magazines for men in the UK covering fashion, fitness, travel, hobbies etc etc. The top sellers being FHM, Mens Health, Esquire and GQ.
Pete and I buy the odd one now and again and it has occurred to both of us that, without exception, these straight guy magazines forget that they have a gay market. I don't ever recall seeing an article or letter about, or aimed at, the gay reader. I haven't ever seen a letter in the problem page saying "Help! My best mates just told me he is gay... does that mean he will fondle me in the showers after squash".
I think that these magazines are missing a trick and could actually have some interesting copy on gay men or even deal with some stupid stereotypes and the worry that some straight guys have. They could really break down some barriers. Yes, your mate you play football with or see down the pub may be gay.. so what, get over it?!
I was therefore surprising to see in the current issue of Esquire, an advert for Vienna. it promotes the city as an interesting and romantic place for a city break... and uses two guys in the picture. Well, good for them for taking a risk.
On a different topic, I have to say that I was disappointed with the latest "5 on the fifth" posting. The participation rate was not good - but those that did contribute had some great snaps. For those who thought about taking part... it's only a bit of fun, anyone can join in, even if the pictures are taken on a mobile phone. I can only hope that next month is more successful.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Five on the fifth #3

Welcome to "Five on the fifth", a monthly posting that benefits from audience participation. All you do is take 5 random photographs on the fifth of the month and post them somewhere on the net - then post a comment here with your name, location and link to the blog/picasa/flickr site containing your photos and I will update the blog entry with your information. My own pictures are below links to those who contributed.

Jae, London, UK

David, Brighton, UK

Jason, USA

Andrew, Somerset, UK

Made in Scotland, London


1. Horny 2. Car mirror 3. Hand job 4. Self portrait 5. Pete's eye

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Edinburgh festival funnies

These are the top ten jokes from this years Edinburgh festival - as picked by a panel of judges. Some a just brilliant one liners...

1) Dan Antopolski - "Hedgehogs - why can't they just share the hedge?"

2) Paddy Lennox - "I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: 'This could be interesting'."

3) Sarah Millican - "I had my boobs measured and bought a new bra. Now I call them Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes because they're up where they belong."

4) Zoe Lyons - "I went on a girls' night out recently. The invitation said 'dress to kill'. I went as Rose West."

5) Jack Whitehall - "I'm sure wherever my dad is; he's looking down on us. He's not dead, just very condescending."

6) Adam Hills - "Going to Starbucks for coffee is like going to prison for sex. You know you're going to get it, but it's going to be rough."

7) Marcus Brigstocke - "To the people who've got iPhones: you just bought one, you didn't invent it!"

8) Rhod Gilbert - "A spa hotel? It's like a normal hotel, only in reception there's a picture of a pebble."

9) Dan Antopolski - "I've been reading the news about there being a civil war in Madagascar. Well, I've seen it six times and there isn't."

10) Simon Brodkin  - "I started so many fights at my school - I had that attention-deficit disorder. So I didn't finish a lot of them."


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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

It's the... side of the tiger

It's been a great bank holiday weekend.  It started on Saturday with a big family BBQ in Kent which was attended by several of my cousins that I hadn't seen for many many years.  We had a wonderful time catching up and the chat went well into the early hours.  Poor Pete had to endure hours of family talk.

My cousin Julie reminded me that another cousin and myself drew beards on the members of Wham on a poster in her bedroom.  So my aim at the moment is to find a classic Wham! poster and send it to her to try and make up for the childish prank - come on, I was probably 11 at the time!

Another cousin mentioned that a friend of hers works in a care home and knows the man who recorded the famous "Mind the gap" announcements on the London Underground and many other rail announcements too.  Unfortunately, he is now very old and occassionally (and loudly) just lists a whole rail route perfectly, much to the annoyance of those around him.

On Monday, Pete, a friend and I travelled to Cambridge to have a look around the shops, spy on the floppy haired posh kids punting tourists around and see a film at the cinema.  We watched the new Almodovar film Broken Embraces which was very good - perhaps not as good as the last couple, but still beautifully filmed.

After the film, we went into a pub and Pete was pleased to see a sit down Pacman machine.  A 20something student seeing this commented that "your generation might beat my generation if we played that" - which did not go down well at all!  Our generation!?  We are still young!

And the subject of this blog refers to the small zoo next to the train line on the way to Cambridge.  If you sit on the correct side of the train, you will see a massive tiger laying in the sun.

Don't forget that next Saturday is the 5th of the month...


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