Friday, 30 April 2010

Getting old

Us 40 year olds suffer from our health don't you know?!

I was back from Venice 2 days before getting a killer migraine.  It meant I was in bed all day Wednesday and most of Thursday.  Today I am just a bit bluuurrrgghh, but did some work all the same.  Aren't I good to my employer!?

I have just got back from the knee Consultant (though  I assume he has a far more interesting title) and he says that I do not have a torn cartilage or tendons, which is good news.  I appears that the fatty tissues in the knee are getting trapped in the moving parts and he suggested a steroid injection then and there which I immediately chickened out of.  So I need to take even more inflammatory pills and ice the knee for a couple of weeks.  If that doesn't work, it's needle time.  My mum has had it done and has just told me that it hurts - that didn't help.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Monday, 26 April 2010


The surprise 40th birthday trip ended up being a weekend in Venice. It's a place that I've always had on my "mental travel to do list", so Pete chose well and kept it a secret right up to the last minute.

If you have ever been to the city, you will know that it's an amazing place and very alien in so many ways - no cars, tourists outnumbering locals, huge churches, canals at every turn and tiny pathways everywhere.

We started the weekend on Friday morning leaving my Mum and Dad's house at 5am with my parents dropping us off - they had arrived back from Cyprus a day before. Pete had gone overboard as he sometimes does and booked us British Airways Business Class tickets, which meant access to the lounge - Magazines, juice, pastries and good coffee.

At the gate, my parents appeared and were coming along (though they left us to explore most of the time and were in economy class!). It was only a slight shock. My friend Sonny should also have been making a surprise appearance, but due to the volcano fun, wasn't in Milan on business as he should have been.

On the plane, you get a full breakfast in Business Class and much bigger seats. All very nice. We landed and got a water taxi. Basically they speed across the lagoon which was great fun.

The hotel was plush and the room huge. Hotels in Venice are not the usual chains, so what you get for your money can be a bit random - we got lucky.

Venice has some stunning buildings which are even more impressive when you know some are 500 years old. To build on some mud flats would be mad today, but doing this hundreds of years ago with wooden piles and ancient techniques was simply crazy.

We spent the next 3 days just looking at the sites, visiting the various islands using the water buses, eating and drinking. We has some rain on Friday, but by Sunday the sun was beating down. It's a great feeling, sitting and relaxing looking over the lagoon and drinking a well made Espresso in the sunshine.

On the way back, we ate snacks in the first class lounge (having just had a 2 course meal) and then had a meal on the plane along with 3 small bottles of Champagne each. The teenage couple opposite/behind us were almost having full on sex and the sunset was beautiful. And... I treated myself to a watch. It was my birthday weekend after all.

I would recommend a trip to Venice to anyone. Pictures to follow when I get on my home PC.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Who can pronounce Eyjafjallajökull?

The volcanic ash cloud from the volcano that no-one can pronounce has severely disrupted lives around the world. My brother and his family are stuck in Florida - he is losing income from not working and the 3 kids are missing school. Though I am sure that 2 of them wont be too upset at that.

Here are some witty comments from the 'net on the ash cloud - of course it’s probably a bit early for Icelandic volcano jokes and we should wait a while for the dust to settle (!), but here goes...

It was the last wish of the Icelandic economy that its ashes be spread over Europe.

Iceland goes bankrupt, then it manages to set itself on fire. This has insurance scam written all over it.

Iceland, we wanted your cash, not your ash.

Waiter, there's volcanic ash in my soup. I know, it's a no-fly zone.

I came out my house yesterday and was hit on the head by a bag of frozen sausages, a chocolate gateau and some fish fingers. I realised it must be the fallout from Iceland.

Woke this morning to find every surface in the house covered in a layer of dust and a foul stench of sulphur in the air. No change, I’ve been married to that bone-idle slob for 20 years.

I should be away in an aeroplane tomorrow morning as a surprise from Pete. All will be revealed when I post the next blog entry.. at which time I will be 40 years old. Oh my god... I mean God - if you believe in such things.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Me and Torres

I've just come back from my first ever MRI scan at the local private hospital. They have scanned the knee and I have to wait for the results and see the Consultant next week. It's highly likely that the cartilage is torn and I will need an operation. Whether this is before or after the holiday in late May has to be decided of course. By pure coincidence, the hunk that is Fernando Torres also has a torn cartilage and underwent surgery this week.

The scan itself is in a huge white Siemens machine and unlike those unfortunate people who have body or head scans, I went in only up to my chest. The contraption is quite noisy, so they put headphones on you and pipe Radio 2 through. It's a little surreal laying there with this large machine whirring away with Elvis Presley playing in your ears.

In other news... Pete has been planning a surprise trip for my 40th birthday this weekend for months. The plan had been to get a lift to the airport by my mum and dad and then fly off somewhere. Obviously, the travel chaos is likely to mean that we cant go away and as my parents are stuck in Cyprus, the family-taxi would not be available either. Watch this space...

Monday, 19 April 2010

Kai Z Feng

Those that follow this blog will know that I take a lot of photographs. I don't have many favourite photographers, but I recently came across Kai Z Feng and was impressed by the simplicity and the humour in the images and I "used" one of his images of Aaron Johnsn in a recent blog entry. Many of them are presented in black and white which is a skill in its own right - I hope to take some black and white portrait shots of friends and family soon.

Kai Z Feng was born in Shanghai and is now based in London. He started his career as a painter and took up photography aged 24. You can see more here, but these are a few of my favourites (I could have included pictures of young ladies, but I thought... why bother!?)

Friday, 16 April 2010

Falling apart

Good news

The dentist saw me at short notice after 2 teeth crumbled to bits.

Bad news

I need 3 fillings and maybe root canal work and have wait a month to go through the pain.

Good news

I completed
my first 10k run 2 weeks ago.

Bad news

I ****ed my knee up and had to see my doctor this week and he wants me to have an MRI scan.

Good news

I have private medical cover through my employer.

Bad news

There is a delay as I have to see a consultant before having the scan and the excess on the medical plan is £100.

Good news

My latest salary has gone up due to a reduction in my car tax after getting my new car.

Bad news

The excess payment wipes out the gain this month.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Vote vote vote!

Yoinked from Andrew's site, Votematch has been designed for UK voters who aren't quite sure who they should be voting for on May 6th. Voting is an important right and although the system can favour abstaining (in safe seats for example where votes can be seen as wasted), anything that can promote casting a vote has to be a good thing to improve on the 61% turnout at the last election.

Votematch has been designed to match individuals views to political parties. You can answer some simple policy questions and highlight the main areas that are important/not important to you here.

My result surprised me a little.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Ha, Ha, Shock, Wow #6

Following on from these previous postings, here are four more random items from the 'net for your pleasure and entertainment...


I lost out on winning the pub quiz by one point.

The tie-break question was,
"Where do women mostly have curly hair?"

I was completely wrong.... apparently it's Africa.


Endorphins released during sexual activity create a euphoria similar to that produced by certain drugs. The same endorphins also act as extremely effective pain killers. So there is no point saying that you have a headache to avoid sex!


Aaron Johnson is just a cute actor guy with lovely eyes
and an ability to fill out underwear nicely.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


300 blog entries and counting...

Last night we held a dinner party attended by Melissa and her new boyfriend George and Glyn and Charlotte (who works with Pete).I cooked Lasagne from scratch - a meat one for 4 of us and a vegetarian one (without garlic) for Melissa. As George is potentially the fussiest eater on the planet, I made him a rather plain chicken breast. I had intended making my paprika chicken, but he wouldn't like that and then thought about onions, peppers and some white wine, but guess what?!

I also made a huge rustic loaf of bread, which turned out great - you know how bread making is not an exact science and the results are always variable.
The guests brought desert and Melissa purchased a box of "jelly willies" to put on the cheesecake for some reason (see picture). Strange people!

Now the cleaning up must begin.

This is another tick on the kitchen list...

- Visit the local comedy club
- Go to the dog track DONE
- Cycle into London
- Watch the local non-league football team DONE
- Visit Pete's Uncle and Aunt in Oakham DONE
- Go to both local theatres
- Have more dinner parties DONE
- Poker night
- Go on a photo treasure hunt in London

Saturday, 10 April 2010

A conversation with... #1

So here's a new idea for a blog entry - it's a conversation that my friend Andrew and I had over a week or so via messages on Facebook... a random conversation:

Stephen: You are well read, do you have a book in you?

Andrew: I don't know. I did start one once, but that was about as far as I got. I've always got a book by someone else on the go though! What about you?

S: I am sure I have a couple of books in me, but not fiction. I want to write a fun self help book one day. And I don't mean THAT kind of fun self help either.

A: Damn, that's just the kind of self-help book I would read! So, when it comes to self help, what are the key things you would suggest for a more fulfilled life?

S: This answer is definitely "do as I say, not as I do"... it's all about trying new (and perhaps unusual) things and pushing yourself - I try, but am very good at putting things off. I have a part-written London walking guide that may never be finished!

What's the thing on your to do list that's off-the-wall, but you want to try it anyway?

A: I'm not sure, to be honest. I was never really into to making lists like that. Once upon a time I'd have baulked at the idea of doing a bungee jump, on the basis that I'd only go as far as a parachute jump. Having done the latter, I'd may do the former now. I know you do keep lists, but do you have a masterplan for achieving it?

S: My plans are in my head and are all jumbled up. So, the answer is probably no, I don't have a plan! As parachuting is just mad, do you like a bit of danger and risk in your life?

A: Not really - the parachute jump was for charity and actually, truth be told, it was slightly disappointing. I had built it up in my head that it was going to be an amazing experience. Of course it was amazing but not on the scale of how I imagined it. Generally speaking, I'm more a pipe and slippers man with little appetite for danger. What's the most dangerous thing you've ever done?

S: I am risk averse in so many ways. Buying a house was risky to me and there is no way I'd jump from a plane! Pipe and slippers suggests more than low risk, does it mean that you are comfortable with life?

A: I suppose I am quite comfortable with life - which isn't to say there's not things I want to or would like to change.

Things have been quite busy so far this year – I have a new job and am moving house later this month. Am returning to city life, so hopefully will get more chances to socialise and enjoy various cultural activities!

You made a move in the opposite direction - how does non-city life suit you?

S: It's not quite "non-city", we live in an estate on the edge of a town but within easy reach of grass and fields... but also only 30 minutes from Kings Cross. I like living here very much.

Do you intend to go clubbing every weekend when you are in Bristol and hit the gay scene?

A: Well, I intend to go out more often and try and widen social circle but I'm a bit old for clubbing every weekend!! I've never been a huge fan of the "scene" either - so while it will be good to have it there, it's not going to be the be all and end all of my new world.

In any case we're going to end up entertaining various visiting friends and relatives on a regular basis! Do you do much entertaining?

S: It's on my kitchen list to do more entertaining. I want to do another poker night and lose money again (certainty).

Talking of "the scene", I find it a little odd that some gay guys live their lives around bars and clubs that MUST be gay - any thoughts?

A: Hmmm... I've never understood that - to me it's a kind of ghettoisation. It's similar to the concept of the "gay community" - I find the concept of a community based purely on sexuality scary!

That said, I do understand that some people feel more comfortable, safer and more at home with those with whom they feel they have something in common, so who am I to suggest they shouldn't! It's just not my scene (pun intended).

When was the last time you ventured out to the scene? For me it must be getting on for two years (if not more) since I was at a gay club night!

S: I cant remember when I went out "on the scene". It was years ago. It was never my thing... ever.

I'd feel more comfortable going to a B&B with a Conservative! :-)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Bang bang

It was a great long Easter weekend. Both Pete and I did some DIY: the kitchen has been altered and the front bedroom is getting a makeover.

Apart from the 10k run, we also has a couple of nice meals and on Monday went to see our local football team (Hitchin Town) play rivals Barton Rovers - another tick on our kitchen list.

A crowd of 405 people turned up to see some scrappy, but entertaining football. Hitchin won 3-0. I go the such games to see the football, but must admit that there were some cute players on the pitch, warming up for my of the match right in front of us was one fit substitute - Danny Payne see picture and this link too.

Yesterday I had a days holiday from work. I decided to relax a bit and finish off some DIY, sorted out some finances and then treated myself to an hour massage at a spa nearby. It was truly amazing and I felt so very relaxed afterwards. I will certainly be going back!

One other thing that happened was that our neighbour managed to take 4 days to build a door for his shed using approximately 150 nails! The banging banging banging noise started to get to me. This is dedicated to him, to the tune of Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)...

A shed door he will build anew
He found some wood and nails too
He makes things very carefully
He surely must have OCD

Bang bang, he's hammering
Bang bang, still hammering
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, I hope that door falls down

Monday, 5 April 2010

Five on the fifth #10

Welcome to 5 on the fifth, a monthly posting that benefits from audience participation. You take 5 photographs on the 5th of the month (or the days leading up to the 5th) - post a comment here with your name, location and link to the site containing your photos and I will update the blog entry with your information. Remember to mention my blog on your own blog, so that your visitors get to see the other contributions. You can take 5 random pictures or follow my suggested theme - and this month we have 2 options: Spring and/or Bank Holiday weekend.

You can now join the 5 on the fifth Facebook page here.

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

Daniel, Sweden
New Leaf, USA
Les Maudites, France
Bryn, London
My Time, Ireland ***warning, strong language***
Mr. Urs, Zürich, Switzerland
Made in Scotland, UK
Greg, USA
Dennis, UK
Julie, USA
Pete, UK
Torchy, UK
Andrew, UK
David, UK
Howard, USA
I am witness, USA
Mark, USA
Dominic, Austria
Mike, USA

1. Metal man staring inside to metal man
2. Spring skies

3. Sun through the peephole
4. Dutch tulips all over our garden
5. Elvis ain't dead

Saturday, 3 April 2010


So I have achieved something today... my very first 10k race!

It was actually far more difficult that I thought it would be. Running in the morning is not something I enjoy and I had little energy despite boosting the Lucazade profits today. I was struggling (not helped by being unable to train due to shin splints for the past 2 weeks), but was doing a respectable speed until the 6km mark, my left knee gave way and was incredibly painful for the rest of the race. I am pleased with 1 hour, nil minutes and 31 seconds, but it would have been less had my knee not given up. I am still in a lot of pain as I type this and my leg no longer wants to bend.

The day started at 5.30am (yes, crazy time) with a quick breakfast and then off to the station to get a train into London as the race was in Regents Park. The mad thing was that there was supposed to be engineering on the rail line so we were expecting to have to get a bus, then a train, hence the early start. However, First Capital Connect had stated on it's website that the engineering had been postponed and an hourly service (rather than the usual 4-6 trains per hour) would run... but didn't mention what times the trains would run! Even more stupid is that National Rail Enquiries had no knowledge of this change!

Anyway, we made it to the park in plenty of time and after warming up, me and 200+ others ran 3 laps around the eastern end of this grand Royal park. Some were real athletes and were finishing as I started lap 3. I have no idea where I finished, but about a quarter finished after me.

For those runners who have done 10k, half marathons or even marathons who may scoff, let me remind you that I have never been fit in my life and this was the longest I have ever run! I have another race in May in St Albans and I therefore have a month to train, all subject to the knee healing of course.

For the record, the shin splints were fine.
And finally, for those taking part in the next "5 on the fifth", there is now a Facebook group here.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

It's coming

It's almost time for the next "5 on the fifth".  To ensure the monthly posting continues, I would be grateful if you would tell every person you know who takes likes to take a photograph about 5 on the fifth by sending them a link to this page, even if you will not be taking part yourself.

As usual, anyone is welcome to take part. You can either take 5 random pictures of anything that happens to you on the 5th of April (or the days leading up to it) or perhaps go for my suggested theme. This month, I am going for 2 theme options... Spring and/or Bank Holiday weekend.

I hope that you will be inspired take part. If you are looking for a place to store your images, you can create photo folders on Hotmail or Google (Picassa) for free. Don't forget to add a comment on my blog on the 5th with your name, location and link where the pictures can be found. Remember to mention my blog on your own blog so that your visitors get to see the other contributions.