Saturday, 31 October 2009

Fleetwood Mac - The 200th blog post

I am proud to announce the 200th posting on my blog! And it's a special entry from me today following one of the most amazing concert experiences I have had, last night at Wembley Arena.

Pete, Sonny and I went to see Fleetwood Mac on their Unleashed tour and had some luck in obtaining front row seats. There's nothing like watching 12,500 people fill up an arena behind you! But better news was yet to come as one of the road crew came out and asked us if we wouldn't mind standing for the show! So we positioned ourselves right on the stage - I was actually touching the stage's carpet! He said that they were happy for photographs to be taken, so I was very pleased with that.

The show itself was truly stunning with a performance to rival any band. We were standing on the Stevie Nicks' side of the stage and she was on great form. I have always been a fan of Lindsey Buckingham's guitar playing, but he blew me away and when he came to our side of the stage for a long guitar solo, he stood right in front of me - his boots were 2 inches away from my hand!

This is the 4th time I have seen Fleetwood Mac and it's by far the best performance I have seen - the choice of songs was brilliant and the sound impressive. The strange thing about being at the very front of the audience is that you don't really hear the main crowd and get the atmosphere, so this was very much about watching the band from close quarters and enjoying the professionalism and performance.

A night to remember. I hope you like these pictures...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Lucky Iceland

In the last post I spoke about Starbucks - I haven't received a reply yet, but I am still hoping. On a related food-drink-chain topic, about 3 years ago on the 1st of January, I made a New Year's resolution not to visit McDonalds for a whole year. No more Big Mac, no more fries, no more volcanic apple pie.

The main reason was to avoid fatty food and as the year proceeded I noticed that when I walked near to a McDonalds outlet, I was overwhelmed by the stench of fat and had no desire to ever return. I haven't been in one of their branches since.

We all know that this is just fast food and it can taste great, but the meal has so many calories and fat that I don't want to eat it and then feel guilty for doing so. It's not actually that cheap in the UK, so if I am going to spend that much and eat all that fat, give me a high quality meal instead please.

Something else I noticed is the amount of rubbish with the golden 'M' that you see near (and not so near) to a McDonalds. I'm not saying that they are the only fast food chain that produces rubbish, but due to their success, the local roads and lanes have wrappers thrown down by selfish idiots. I call it McFly tipping. Why someone can't put their KFC greedy-bastard bucket in the bin always amazes me.

Those lucky people in Iceland are losing their McDonalds due to the recession, so it's back to fish for them. It would be no loss to me, but spotty kids may be upset to lose their regular dose.

There is an interesting economic factor to the MacDonalds global success and it's the Big Mac Index. It uses the price of a Big Mac to compare currency values on the Big Mac as services should cost the same in both currencies in theory. It was published by The Economist and has also meant a new word in the English language - burgernomics.

Monday, 26 October 2009

An email to Starbucks

OK, so the new layout didn't work, so we are back to normal (whatever "normal" is). I will review the layout again as I think the 3 column structure can work, but the width of each section wasn't right.

Anyway, I went into our local town on Sunday with Pete and was pretty disgusted with Starbucks after seeing a bag full of "in date" sandwiches thrown away. There are people starving in the world and local people who could benefit from food, yet Starbucks feel it is acceptable to destroy food. So I have emailed them - I will let you know if they reply:

Dear Sirs

I visited XXXX town centre this morning (Sunday) and walked past your Starbucks branch. I was shocked to see, in the rubbish next to the outlet, a bag full of unused sandwiches.

Whilst I appreciate the worthy charity work that Starbucks undertakes and your overall approach to corporate responsibility, the absolute waste of food in the bag cannot be justified. There were at least 40 uneaten sandwiches in the rubbish bag that could have fed those in need.

The obvious answer to me would be to give the sandwiches to the homeless; there is a homeless shelter in XXXX and another two close by in XXXX and XXXX. Making this gift would mean a difference to a lot of people and would avoid throwing them away or selling the items at a lower amount and therefore potentially damaging your brand. Seeing the bag has certainly made me question my support for your organisation.

Let me be clear: my criticism is focused solely on this irresponsible waste of food; I have no problem with your products. I hope that you will reconsider your approach to throwing away perfectly good food, at least at this local branch.

Yours faithfully

Saturday, 24 October 2009

I have died and gone to heaven

It's a wet and dull day today. There isn't much to tell you about the week that's just gone, but next week we have Fleetwood Mac to look forward on Friday and then on Saturday, a special dinner for a friends birthday present somewhere in London. I say somewhere as we cant quite decide where to go - wherever we end up, it will be classy and pricey and a lot of fun.

Anyway, on this grey day I have something rather nice to share... Fernando Torres in wet football shirt shocker as he is sprayed wet for a photoshoot for some reason. Well, my day has improved somewhat! Yes, look closely and enjoy the images.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Miscellaneous photographs #5

Following on from previous posts, here are some more photographs from my vast stock for your enjoyment - these were all taken in London (and all in portrait style but that is just a coincidence)...

1. Shad Thames
2. Mystery man and his friend
3. Should I stay or should I go?
4. Ernest Bevan, Union leader

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A letter to my 16 year old self

I saw a book on Saturday called Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self and was impressed by some of the entries by famous people.

So here is a letter from me to me - although I reserve the right to alter it as inspiration strikes. I hope that you are interested enough to do the same on your own blog if you have one.

It's actually quite difficult to find the right way to approach it - do you write as if your 16 year old self can make changes, make a list of instructions for life or are you just preparing yourself for a journey that has already happened? I chose a combination of all three, as the first option alone would simply mean I'd list a load of regrets:

Dear Stephen

Let me start by saying that your overall lack of self confidence and shyness is all in your head and you will grow out of it - maybe not fully, but it wont set you back. You have been, and will always be a late bloomer - it takes a while to figure things out and action them. Don't stress about it, just recognise that it takes you a little longer to get somewhere.

You have attractive black hair and it may be worth making the most of it while you can.

You have a talent with art and music, you must not let them waste away completely. Although you may not make a career from these skills, you will use them and enjoy them at every opportunity. New music will come into your life over the next few years that will increase your appreciation and enjoyment even further - always allow yourself to be open to new music and culture. You will soon pick up a guitar and you'll love it - make sure you practice hard.

OK, now the biggie... you are gay and there is no denying it. You will have a couple more girlfriends, but those fumbles you enjoyed so much with schoolmates are the way forward. As I have already mentioned, as a late bloomer, "coming out" will take a while to plan and execute and it's going to be scary as hell, but well worth the sleepless nights leading up to the event. Nearly everyone will know you are gay by the time you do it anyway, so it will be an amazing anti-climax.

Get that tattoo you want. It will hurt like hell, but it will look cool forever.
The friends you had at school will fade away and you will make wonderful new friendships that will undoubtedly last a lifetime. You will find love, but you will have to be patient as getting your head around being gay will take a year or two yet.

A new type of TV programme is coming - avoid it or you will get sucked in. It's called "reality TV".

As for family, make an effort to get to know your brothers and father. As you'll never have children, your niece and nephews will be a perfect surrogate. Your grandparents, as you know, are some of the warmest people you will ever meet - take the time to get to know them well as they have some amazing experiences and stories to share before it's too late.
Crystal Palace will not win the FA Cup and they will stress you out for years to come.

Your career (for want of a better word) will have a strange path and you are unlikely to ever figure out "what you want to be when you grow up". You naturally find the line of least resistance, so you must push yourself to learn more and more. This will mean studying and more exams I'm afraid. Never stay in a job that you hate.

And to end, my advice for you would be to take more risks as you play it too safe, too often. Oh... and wear sunscreen.


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Another world champion

It was Lewis Hamilton last year that had Britain celebrating as world champion in the greatest motor racing championship... Formula One.

But this year, super cool Jenson Button is the Formula One world champion. Two British champions, both in their twenties! Jenson won the championship at the Brazilian Grand Prix today cutting his way through the field from 14th to earn a respectable fifth. That's all he needed!

It's a well deserved season win after an interesting year that saw many twists and turns (did you see how I made that phrase fit so well?!). I think that next years season will be even more fascinating and hopefully will be about the driving and not the politics.

And after all the years that Jenson has been accused of being a playboy and enjoying his wealth a bit too much, here is the justice. OK, he has been enjoying the fast paced world and sexy ladies, but he is also a great driver!

Coming in my next blog posting... a letter to my 16 year old self.


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Saturday, 17 October 2009

Unanswered questions

Yesterday was not the best of days. Pete was placed "at risk of redundancy" by his short-term thinking employer and I received a speeding ticket. OK, Pete's bad news was worse than my self inflicted annoyance, but it does also feel like the shin splints are also back as I can hardly walk today!

I was in Edinburgh for a day this week and seeing the "head office engine" made me appreciate that I can do so much more within the company than I am currently doing. I need to talk to my boss I think, but need to be careful how I word it. The Scots moan about the weather (as we all do), but it always seems to be sunny when I am in Edinburgh.

Last night, I made a great pizza - including making the dough which wouldn't stop rising! It was enjoyed last night along with a bottle of red wine. We were watching the Simpsons and Marge is talking to Homer over a shortwave radio saying "hello... hello... is there anybody in there?" - which is the start of Pink Floyd's "
Comfortably Numb" which I now cant get out of my head.

One last food comment... I am going to attempt making my first cheesecake today. Wish me luck.

Some unanswered questions on a dull Saturday morning:

Was the
Daily Mail article about Stephen Gately homophobic, usual misinformed Daily Mail rubbish or just plain evil? More here
[Bloggers comment: the article, which I have read, seems to imply that only gay guys drink, smoke some drugs and have a 3some. Now, I am sure that the straights out there may have done 1 or 2 of those things!]

Was the balloon boy event a publicity stunt? It was strange, but when I saw the the little boy, he immediately reminded me of myself when I was his age - not that I ever hitched a ride on my Dad's balloon.

Why does every
new Bon Jovi song sound like "Bon Jovi by numbers"? Is it just a loss of talent or just very lazy songwriting?

Something that has puzzled me for a while... what sort of person is interested in Z list celebs like Jade, Jordan and Kerry? Who buys the magazines and the books? I don't understand it at all.

Why do I have to wait until late December for my new car?!

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Barry Manilow was on TV the other day being interviewed about a concert in Hyde Park. You know Barry... the New York singer-songwriter who is relying on performing his old hits for immortality. Well, it was shocking to see him - he now looks like a puppet or some kind of circus freak following a great deal of surgery.

Was he expecting the facelift and implants to improve his looks?! Was he hoping that no-one would notice that he now looks weird?!

I know it's not just an American thing, but it seems that many celeb's in the USA see surgery as the answer to aging. Growing old is natural, mutilation by surgery is not. One of my favourite singers is Stevie Nicks who is now 60 years old and has had no facial surgery at all. She looks great and obviously looks after herself (after years of drugs abuse that is). Why not grow old gracefully like her? That a sign of self confidence and she is being honest to herself and all of those around her.

Take a look at the picture of Priscella Presley. She was once a beautiful woman, but is now puffed up and looks like a victim of a car crash. It seems that something went wrong in the surgery as she now talks out of one side of her mouth!

Following a major skin stretch, Kenny Rogers looks like a Kenny Rogers impersinator but I doubt he would win first prize in a Kenny lookalike contest! The tightness on the forehead looks painful to me. Mickey Rourke used to look cool, but now looks a bit sad.

I would only ever consider a "procedure" for something minor that needed to be done and would never ever consider the overhaul that some people have had. And to be honest, not one of them looks better than before. Even Cher looks a bit strange these days.

Why would you do this to yourself? Especially knowing the results will never look natural and you will probably have bloggers picking on you for ****ing up a perfectly good face! The twisted and failed looks of Michael Jaskson were a lesson for us all that surgery doesn't work.

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Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A plan comes together

As mentioned in my first vlog, I will be 40 next year and have decided to treat myself (and Pete) to an 18 day holiday starting at the end of May.

The plan is:
  • Fly to San Francisco and explore the city over a few days, perhaps watching a baseball game.
  • Drive to Los Angeles in a convertible Mustang mostly along the coast road over 2 days.
  • Stay in LA for a few days taking in the sights including Universal Studios.
  • Take a few days to drive to the Grand Canyon.
  • Then drive to Las Vegas, via the Hoover Dam where we have booked a few days in the Trump International with a suite overlooking the strip.
  • Then home!
If anyone has any suggestions of must-see places on our route, please let me know.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Stephen Gately RIP

I have just heard the very sad news that Stephen Gately has died suddenly while of holiday aged 33. He was a singer in an Irish boyband called Boyzone that had success in the 1990's.

Boyzone wasn't really my musically taste, but he was certainly an inspiration to many young gay men and someone I respected. Pete and I even saw him on stage in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I always thought he was the cute one in Boyzone and when he announced that he was gay, I was surprised and secretly pleased. Despite all of the potential problems that coming out could have caused to his career, he was brave and defied the press that was going to "out" him.

Indirectly, his actions inspired me to sort my own life out and tell my friends and family that I was gay. And from what I have read, he helped many other young gay guys to do the same. When you need to make a big decision such as coming out, role models can be important. The strange thing for me and many others that had no real connection with his music, was that we understood what he had gone through and appreciated what he had done had taken great courage.

Thirty-three years old is far too young an age to die and it's a lesson to all of us who procrastinate, to get out there and enjoy life while we can.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Losing my vlog virginity

Here's my first video blog!

Link to Andrew's blog

A picture of Charlie Fink and a link to a performance by Noak and The Whale

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Thursday, 8 October 2009

October movie update

These are the films that we have received from and watched on TV and DVD over the past month or so (since the last update) - with my ratings out of ten from my movie list on IMDB.

I Love You, Man 5
A few funny bits, but some scenes were embarrassing and childishly unfunny.

For Your Consideration 5

Gran Torino 8
Clint Eastwood is so good, you forget he's acting.

Rachel Getting Married 3
Overlong scenes and some terrible acting by the supporting cast. Schmaltzy rubbish.

Chocolat 8*

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert 9*

Transamerica 9*
Kevin Zeegers should be a huge star - stunningly beautiful and a great actor.

Natural Born Killers 4
Stupid and violent. I had been looking forward to seeing this and found it pathetic.

Frost/Nixon 8
I was surprised that I found this docu-drama so compelling.

Stop-Loss 7
Violent, but touching - and Ryan Phillippe is yummy.

Doubt 6

Los abrazos rotos (Broken Embraces) 7
The latest Almodovar film which was very good - but perhaps not as enjoyable as the last couple, but still beautifully filmed.

Milk 9
An impressive film and highly thought provoking.

The Cave 5
I suspect that this was a straight to DVD production.

Conte d'hiver 3
Oh dear. Forget it.

* I've seen these films before viewing again this month, but thought I would include the ratings anyway.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Five on the fifth #4

Welcome to "Five on the fifth", a monthly posting that benefits from audience participation. You take 5 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. This month you can take your own 5 random pictures or follow my 5 suggestions:

1. The morning view from your bedroom window
2. The first person you meet on the day
3. Your favourite piece of art in your home
4. A treasured possession
5. A self portrait

My own pictures are below the links of those who kindly contributed:

Stevie B, USA
Andrew, Somerset, UK
David, Brighton, UK
Pete, Herts, UK
I am witness, Somewhere in the USA
Jimmy James, Greenwich, UK
Dominic, Vienna, Austria
Made In Scotland, London, UK
isnapfotos, Saint Paul, USA (over a few days)

I didn't follow my own suggestions: 1. My ring. 2. Today was a grey day. 3. One of those new 10 pence coins. 4. Tonights dinner - spaghetti. 5. Pathetic little car parked near our house.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Snippits October style

Before the next 5 on the fifth blog entry (see last posting), here are a few random thoughts...

FlashForward has started showing in the UK and from what I see so far, I think it's pretty cool. It's a shame that nobody watches Channel 5. It's from the guys who made Lost, so nothing will make sense and I don't expect it to!

For the TV record... The Sky+ box now records daily Frasier and King of the Hill with weekly recordings of Derren Brown, Peep Show, Futurama. Pete tapes True Blood and errrm... Ugly Betty. No accounting for taste.

For rugby fans everywhere, gay friendly bear Ben Cohen is on the front of Attitude this month. I don't buy it as it's trash, but will enjoy looking at the cover. On the rugby-ish topic, the posh England player Olly Barkley is a tease in a new calendar.

Great to see that Rio will be hosting the 2016 Olympic games. It's strange that no country in South America has never hosted a games. London will be fantastic in 2012 and I have already (mentally) booked a weeks holiday to see lots of sports. I think that the USA needs to stop bidding at every opportunity - the games need to travel a bit.

There was a strange coincidence when we were in The Netherlands that I forgot to mention. One of my brothers is a cabinet maker, but does other work if it comes up - well, he had been asked (with his friend) to make handmade wooden windows for an old manor house (when I say old, we are talking 600+ years old). When he turned up at the house, he recognised is as once being the home of the friend I was visiting in The Netherlands about 15 years ago! What was very strange however, my friend and I had "decorated" his bedroom walls with some hand drawn album covers and a funky black, red and grey line across the wall and ceiling... they are still there and it's amazing as we did this twenty years ago!

I don't usually like the questioning of someones sexuality, but... I had always assumed that Russell Howard (star of Mock the week) was gay for some reason - then he mentions a girlfriend. Is my gaydar in need of a finetune?

I have ordered a new company car, after being forced to drive around for nearly two years in a car I don't like! Assuming I am still employed, I will pick the car up in December. It's a BMW like this and it should save me loads in tax.

Next week will be interested as I am presenting in 2 training days. Public speaking was something I used to really loath, but now I enjoy it and actually get a buzz from ad libbing.

Please take part in "5 on the fifth" on Monday. Tell your friends!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Coming up... October "5 on the fifth"

Made In Scotland made a great suggestion for the next "5 on the fifth" - the idea is to offer some suggestions for those who want to take part but are unsure what to photograph. So... you can either take 5 pictures of anything that happens to you on the 5th of October or perhaps go for these 5:

1. The morning view from your bedroom window

2. The first person you meet on the day

3. Your favourite piece of art in your home

4. A treasured possession

5. A self portrait

I hope that these suggestions will inspire you to take part this month. You don't need a fancy camera, a mobile phone will be sufficient. If you are looking for a place to store your images, you can create photo folders via Hotmail or Google (called Picassa) for free.


I find the best way to follow blogs with varied and regular postings (like mine!) is to use a blog reader site. Google reader is good and so is this one:

Follow The State Of The Nation UK

It allows you to collect all of your blogs together in one place and receive emails as they are updated (if you choose to receive them).