Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The past month - November 2011

Here is a selection of the best bits from my blog over the past month:

I continue to enjoy watching the modest, yet sexy Harry Judd on Strictly Come Dancing.

I complained to H&M about their pants.  They did reply by the way - but just a placating email!

The dull and uninspiring official Olympics posters were launched this month. I expect the Games (and build up) to be far more exciting!

I blogged about our trip to Windsor Castle and various pubs. One of my favourite photos of recent months was featured:

Another famous coming out - professional footballer David Testo.

Pete and I attended Ladies Night, as hosted by my Mum - you got to see a nice picture of us with real bow ties!:

After a long gap (and a lot of nagging), I had a guest blogger - James all the way from Argentina.

And a rant all about the out of date public sector pensions.

Monday, 28 November 2011

As one door closes

I am mulling over a new idea to replace 5 on the fifth, which ends next Monday. I hope that you will consider being part of the new challenge - watch this space!

We may be upset, but we must battle on to the 5th of December and share our 5 photos with the world. So, the final '5 on the fifth' needs to feature as many people as possible!  Just take 5 photographs on the days leading up to the 5th and publish those on your own blog and then add the link to my blog so that others can find your images. 

As always, you can either take 5 random pictures or follow this months theme:

Winter Weekend

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Guest Blog #6 - James in Argentina

This is by my latest guest blogger (it's been a while!). My friend James is currently living out an adventure working in Argentina for a year (don't mention the war!). I'll explain all about James another day, but here are some initial thoughts on his life 7,000 miles away:
My first impression of Argentina when I arrived was that it was cold, crisp and with lots of really nasty concrete high rises on the way from the airport into town. Queen were playing on the radio in the cab and not a day goes by without my hearing an 80's anthem....

In the city center there are huge expansive roads and large blocks of buildings clustered together. On foot, the city sprawls and is full of surprises, grand architecture of all different types and influences, mostly really scruffy, way past its prime. Lots of litter, smashed pavements, graffiti and murals break up the spaces
 between different buildings. Tourist maps are very deceiving. Places look clustered together, but the amount of pavement to cover is considerably more than meets the eye. I must have walked for 3 hours at least to make way from the serviced apartment into the financial district and back again. I passed many independent shops and cafes on the way. One of the charms if you like, is that there are very few chain stores - Tesco has yet to make its ugly way here and dominate an otherwise healthy mix of family run businesses.

The strangest thing I have seen is the people who pick through bins outside the office at the end of the day. Small armies of guys efficiently pick through bins wherever they happen to be, for plastics, paper, electrical, cardboard etc and take the good stuff away with them. Weekly there are marches through the financial district and around the political centre, really big drums, fireworks that sound like bombs - this took some getting used to.

I recently saw a podgy little kid who walked through a pretty packed train carriage with a satchel and a well rehearsed speech, that I could not make out. He then produced 4 juggling balls and then effortlessly went onto skillfully throw these things into the roof of the train and catch them on his head as they fell, whilst juggling others and catching those on the back of his neck in a 2/3 minute rendition that left me speechless, all the while the train was moving and lurching around - it did not distract him one bit. I wish I had filmed it and put it on YouTube - his skills were incredible!

San-Telmo, whilst not strange per se, it is in a time warp - it has the largest collection of brick-a-brak imaginable. Huge indoor markets full of stuff. Old stuff. The type of stuff usually only found in the odd shop found in Greenwich, Brighton or Crystal Palace. There is a whole indoor market that sells old stuff, clothes, watches, records, furniture etc but also has  butchers and green grocers set up in the same market also - an unusual combo! 

I'm missing the British staples of Indian and Chinese takeaway. The Argentines know absolutely nothing about spice nor flavour! Most food is unseasoned but of good quality and generous portions, but  almost always bland! Apart from the ice-cream which out here is second to none. I never knew about Dulche du Leche - it's on every menu and is hard to avoid if you find it too sickly sweet - which it is really. It's true also what they say about the steak and red wine, great steaks! Different cuts of meat that you cannot get in the UK. The flesh of the cow is the same (obviously) but butchered differently to give cuts that I think just simply do not exist back home. It's true also though that they over cook, a rare here is really a medium and if you are not careful they go for well-done 9/10. I also would not order a 'Don Pedro' as a dessert again - look it up!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

My boy

I came across this very old picture a couple of days ago by accident. My cat was called Gnasher (he used to bite a lot as a kitten hence the name) and we had him for about 14 years. He died 9 years ago.

He was delivered to us late one night along with his sister Miff. They were only a couple of weeks old and the nasty owner was considering something horrible for them. My brother made the decision to take them straight away. We placed the tiny kittens with our two Golden Retrievers and they were inseparable from that moment on. I often wondered if the cats thought that they might be dogs themselves.

Gnasher loved people and would come when called every time. He was a great cat and a wonderful pet to come home to. His sister was aloof and did her own thing!

I still miss him.  Silly eh?!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Public sector pensions

Unlike many rants, this one is coming from a position of knowledge...  Next week we will see a huge strike of public sector workers who have been lied to by the unions.

In the past, public sector wages were lower than those in the private sector. A generous pension scheme offered to public sector workers was said to have compensated them for this lower income. In some ways, it made sense as the workers contributions were actually paying for those in retirement and therefore the schemes were self funding. But now, the cost of the various schemes is significant and growing dramatically. They are unjust when compared to benefits received by the taxpayers who are now funding the schemes.

Times have changed and public sector workers have wages broadly equivalent to comparable jobs in the private sector (something the unions overlook).  The big difference is that public sector workers enjoy pensions that are guaranteed and worth the equivalent of over 15% of salary per annum to fund... Private sector workers can only dream of such benefits, with most receiving around 5% of salary into a pension that has no guarantees.

The plan by the Government is for a reduction in public sector benefits, but still a very fair scheme - far better than 95% of private sector workers. Remember that the unions have negotiated wage increases for the public sector people when the rest have static wages or even reductions. Yes, the Government is asking for workers to contribute more for lower benefits - it seems unfair on the face of it, but it is not. Accrued benefits are maintained and the eventual retirement income will still be impressive and guaranteed. In addition, those on lower incomes are unlikely to see much of a difference anyway under the plans.

The fact is, if you were to construct a public sector pension scheme today, you would never consider the current terms. They are too costly and too generous. Something has to change.
I believe that the unions have misled their members to promote their power. They have provided poor information knowing that most people don't have the true facts to hand. I do not support the strikes, especially knowing that negotiations are still ongoing. I hate blackmail and I hope the unions fail.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Olympic hopefuls #4 - Aaron Cook

In the fourth of my series of fit and cute Olympic hopefuls for team GB, let me introduce you to Aaron Cook. Twenty year old Aaron is a Taekwondo master and like so many other young guys, has the obligatory mobile phone self-portrait online.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Some hatred in the world

I came across this image on Instagram and it enraged me.  I left a comment, along with a few others, stating how we found this picture a little insulting.  The God loving owner deleted the comments and started quoting the Bible.  Amazing how Christians pick and choose the parts of the Bible that suit them and ignore the many parts about stoning women for doing almost anything normal.

If you have an iPhone and use Instagram, please leave a few comments.  She obviously loves reading them:

Monday, 21 November 2011

Yes it's Ladies night

It's been an exhausting couple of days - but a lot of fun. On Saturday morning, Pete and I drove to my parents house in Kent (via Bluewater for a couple of hours) for a special black tie event.

My Dad is the current Top Dog in his Masonic lodge and Saturday night was 'Ladies Night'. My Mum had to make a speech to the 120+ present. She was terrified having never made a speech before, but she was witty and sounded confident. Dad made his speech as well and Pete got a mention as he had counted a paltry 4 real bow ties in the room and 2 of those were me and Pete!

We had a great time with some OK food and some excellent music and dancing. Pete and I looked after the raffle at the start and raised an amazing £740! This was far more than I was expecting to raise and all of the profit goes to Guide Dogs For The Blind - a very worthy charity.

We both had hangovers on Sunday, but I decided to go and see one of my nephews play in a football game...the team lost. In hindsight, I should have to gone to see my youngest nephew play as his team won 16-3!  

Here are a few pictures from the evening - the first is me and my Mum. We both lost it at this point and were almost crying with laughter over something very silly. Then it's me and one of my brothers and finally, Pete and I.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Ha, Ha, Shock, Wow #9

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



Three guys, stranded on a desert island, find a magic lantern containing a genie, who grants them each one wish. The first guy wishes he was off the island and back home. The second guy wishes the same.
The third guy says "I’m lonely. I wish my friends were back here."


On April 6, 1925, the first in-flight movie was shown.
It was a silent film and appeared on a Deutsche Lufthansa flight

I am preparing a whole blog posting on this guy - but here's a teaser.
I think he is one of the most beautiful guys I have seen!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Australian approach

They don't much about with stupid sales tactics in Australia.  They get straight to the point...

Monday, 14 November 2011

I got those lonely boy blues

There is something really depressing about eating alone in a restaurant but tonight I did just that.
I have ended up in Hereford tonight on business.  This is a rare occurrence thankfully, but I am staying in a sterile hotel on the edge of town. There is nothing close by, not even a pub; so I had to drive into the city centre and as I type this, my food is being prepared. You have to do something when sitting alone - you cant just stare into space!
It's depressing being here especially in this dark lifeless town. Oh woe is me!
The only good news is that I don't have to go far in the morning as I am presenting at a clients team meeting in the same sterile hotel. I was lucky to be allowed to book it.
The major downside will be the 3+ hour drive home. I need to get something positive from this and will catch up on podcasts I think.

And in other news... I went out for a run yesterday in the lovely sunshine and managed to hit a low hanging branch with my head. Stop laughing!  I now have a red swollen mark on my forehead.  I look like a Harry Potter reject.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

At the castle

We've had a busy weekend.  On Friday we have 3 people round for dinner - Pete made Carbonnade Flamande (fancy beef stew!) and I made a cheesecake.  Both were very yummy.

On Saturday we met two friends Trudie and Jonathon and travelled to Windsor. We spent hours looking round the castle - which was actually far more interesting than I thought it would be. One fact amazed fact - the Windsor collection has 600 Leonardo Da Vinco sketches!

We had a walk along the river and then went to a working mens club - yes, you read correctly.  Jonathon is a beer fan and had found that this 'club' had a great choice of beers. It was not too bad, but not a place I will go back to! We then travelled to a couple of pubs (I was not drinking alcohol) and decided on a remote pub for dinner and beer.  We arrived to find the place in virtual darkness due to a power cut. It was impressive however as the candles added to the atmosphere - but the food was off and we had to go elsewhere.

To say that history is everywhere at the castle is an understatement. Henry VIII is even buried in the chapel.

I took a few pictures, including a favourite one of a cute fit soldier. Yes, I am old enough to be his father. Shut up.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

David Testo

Another professional coming out story emerged yesterday.  David Testo, a recently retired US footballer came out publicly.  Welcome out David!
Former pro soccer player David Testo has only one regret about going public with his homosexuality: He wishes he had done it a long time ago.  “I really do regret not coming out publicly earlier,” the 30-year-old midfielder, who also played with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Richmond Kickers of the USL and Columbus Crew of the MLS, told Radio-Canada.
“It’s like carrying around a secret, you know, and carrying around luggage and just never being allowed to be yourself.”
The North Carolina native said he now feels more confident and mature and is ready to speak publicly about his sexual orientation.
Testo said he had wrestled with making his sexual orientation public for a long time. He added that he was also regrets not thanking his partner as he accepted the team’s most valuable player award in 2009.
“The one person I wanted to thank the most, I couldn’t,” he said. “I just didn’t feel comfortable at the time.”
Testo said his sexual orientation wasn’t a secret among his family, friends or teammates. In the interview, he talked about the difficulty of being a gay athlete, both for himself and his teammates.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Yoinked from Twitter #1 - #childrensbooksmademoreexciting

Children's books made more exciting...
Bi-Curious George
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Bone
Paddington Bare
Little Red Riding Ho
The Bi-Polar Express
Charlie Sheen and the Chocolate Factory
The Cat In The Hood
Peter Porn
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Taliban
Charlotte's Webcam

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Posters for 2012

We found out this week that the Olympic torch route passes a couple of miles from our house next year. It will interesting to see what event is planned for that particular part of the route.  And of course, that question that we all ask has been answered: what happens if the flame goes out?!

Last week, a range of official posters were released and I have to say that I was disappointed and underwhelmed.  We had an opportunity to 'wow' people and yet we have some bland offerings.  One of them by Howard Hodgkins looks like a 2 year old baby painted it. And this one by Martin Creed is just boring!

However, there are a couple of interesting ones:

Monday, 7 November 2011

5 on the Fifth - announcement

After 29 months of people around the world sharing their photographs on the 5th of every month, it's with a sadness that I must let you know that the December '5 on the fifth' will be the last for the foreseeable future.

Despite support from loyal bloggers sharing some amazing photographs, I feel that the time has come to mothball this monthly posting. It's not necessarily the end... but for now it's time to try some new blog ideas out.

If you have any suggestions for the December theme, please leave a comment.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Five on the fifth #29

Welcome to '5 on the fifth', a posting where you share 5 photographs taken on the days leading up to the 5th of the month. Remember to mention my blog on your own blog, so that your visitors can find the other contributions. You can take 5 random pictures or follow my suggested theme: MOVEMENT.

You no longer have to leave a comment with your details (though comments are welcome) - just complete the form below including your name and location in the 'link title' field and like magic, you will appear in the list of contributors.

My images are below:

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Dear H&M

Call me petty...
Dear Sirs
There are many great quests in a man's life: scoring that first goal, finding the right partner and even seeking out the perfect Mojito. One quest that I thought I had completed successfully was that of finding the perfect underwear - courtesy of H&M.
A few years ago, I found that your boxer-briefs (the ones with 95% cotton and 5% elastane) were near perfect. Excellent support and comfort! The 'large' waist size was just right, especially after shrinking a little in the wash. And the added bonus was that the pants latest well.
However, over the past year or so, every pair I have purchased have worn badly at the crotch and within months, have been thrown away due to the hole. And also, the waist size for 'large' pairs has been decreased by around 1.5 inches, making them a little bit too cosy.
Please investigate the decrease in quality and size.  Don't push me into the hands of Sloggi!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

I'm just wild about Harry

I tend to dip in and out of Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC (I loath the X Factor and everything it stands for - so wont watch ITV on a Saturday night).  Anyway... this year has the completely and utterly gorgeous Harry Judd dancing with a professional. I have no interest in McFly, the band he is drummer for, but I just cant get enough of Harry!

For those not in the UK, Dancing With The Stars is based on the BBC programme Strictly Come Dancing which in turn was based on a programme called Come Dancing which ran from 1949 to 1998 (which also inspired the Kinks song Come Dancing).

Here's Harry... enjoy viewing the images (especially the last one)! I should probably have said in the title that this posting isn't safe for work.  Oh well.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

5 for November

We are just a few days away from the next '5 on the fifth'. Take 5 photographs on the days leading up to the 5th and publish those on your own blog and then add the link to my blog so that others can find your images. 

You can either take 5 random pictures or follow this months theme: