Saturday, 28 March 2009

Circle of Life

About 2 months ago I treated myself to a DVD recorder. My Sky+ was almost at bursting point with stuff I really wanted to keep, and more importantly stuff I wanted to burn onto to DVD so I can watch some 'proper' TV when I relocate to the States sometime in the future.

I had almost everything that Andrew Marr and Simon Schama had done on the BBC, plus other great documentaries, dramas, Life on Mars etc, etc - about 35 hours worth in total.

So over the next few weeks I gave myself the target of recording 2 hours a day on a DVD and releasing much needed space on my indispensable friend - Sky+. Such was my enthusiasm that I got back to 90% spare capacity - brilliant!

Being the inquisitive person I am, I thought: 'Hold on if this recorder has a scart socket, surely I link up my old VCR!'

Step ladder out. Up into the loft. After much rummaging around I find my old trusty Amstrad video recorder that has been gathering dust for the past 5 years. Back into the lounge, plug it in and to my surprise it worked!

Remembering that I had at least 10 hours of video tape from when the kids were growing up in the early 90's, I then undertook the mammoth task of tracking down the boxes they were in. Bearing in mind I had moved house 3 times, got divorced and generally been forgetful over that time.

Two weekends later - sorted! And I duly started the business of copying the memories onto DVD. Although some of the tape quality had deteriorated, some some parts loosing its colour, I was genuinely delighted that the content had survived.

Watching the home movies brought back really happy memories, but also made me realise just how much time had flown. The first scene I ever taped was off my eldest daughter playing with a talking doll which she had for Christmas 1989, the week before we bought the camcorder - she was 4.

Where this got really spooky was the Tuesday after copying said video scene. As usual I picked her up from her late shift at the beauty salon she works at and told her about the project I was undertaking. She was excited about seeing the scenes from her, and the family, all those years ago. Then she told me that she and her partner had found out that day that she was pregnant!

Those 5 minutes of video tape 19 years earlier now have an even more special meaning as she prepares to be a mother for herself.

I'm really starting to get the Law of Attraction now. It may have just been coincidence on this occasion, but there have been so many other manifestations over the past year, that I am starting to alter the way I think in order to get the things I want. The best Secret I have ever been told!!!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Hair today...

Just been to get my hair cut.

Nothing earth shattering in that statement, until you have a quick glance at my profile picture.

Yes I’ve had a shaven cranium for the past 12 years. So the only hair care products I have needed were a Gillette Fusion and shaving gel, for my weekly shearing in the shower – usually Saturday afternoon while listening to Sport on Radio 5 Live.

But why grow it back again? If you cast your mind back to November last year, you might remember it being minus 10 degrees – really brain freezing weather. Hence I ‘chickened out’ of shaving for a week, which led to two and before you know it, it was too long to use a razor on it.

Four months later and it was starting to get slightly unkempt, and with several important work meetings this week, something had to be done. So on the way home from work popped into a city centre barber shop offering cheap (£7) cuts. Nice place, really nice girls and got to say not a bad job – the Grisley Adams look tamed!

The next problem is working out which shampoo to get. I’ve been using the hair and body shower gel my mother kindly gave my in a cheap set for Christmas.

So off to the shops I trudged. Couldn’t believe my eyes when I encountered the shampoo aisle at Tesco, the one I had avoided for the past 12 years – well I had no need to venture there. There must have been 200 different makes, styles and fragrances. All I want to do is wash and condition my hair, but the offerings are more like a who’s who of oriental herbs and spices. I am sure that my local Indian supermarket has less lines from which I can make all manner of wonderful asian recipes!

I stuck to the Wash and Go (well the top of my hair is almost all gone anyway), but still want to know what on earth Jojoba is?

Friday, 20 March 2009

Sleep, per chance to...sleep

What is it about the weekends?

During the week my nightly routine is fairly consistent: Bed at about 10, read for about an hour, sleep like a log till 6.27 when woken by Chris Moyles on the clock radio. Then the struggle to get out of my pit to embrace a new day.

Seven and half blissful hours, uninterrupted, but the need for more sleep not far from my thoughts.

Come the weekend a totally different matter! OK I don't go to bed too late, maybe skip the reading, but generally asleep before midnight, with the prospect of a nice lazy lie-in the following morning.

Guess what? 4.25am wide awake! What starts off as little trip to relieve a beer filled bladder, ends up with a brain in overdrive trying to sort out the meaning of the universe.

Why can't we have a switch that allows us to turn off all thoughts for the duration of sleep? Oh , forgot, we do. Those few beers to relax at the end of a hard week help us fall into an alcohol induced slumber, but are at the route of the 4.25am awakening!

Better stick with cocoa in future - and make sure it's taken at about 7pm make sure no early mental philosophical debates.

Timbers for the MLS

Great news coming out of Portland, OR today. The Portland Timbers soccer team are going to be admitted to the MLS in 2011. Tonight the Timbers take on MLS side New York Red Bulls in a friendly game - should be some celebration at PGE Park - just wish I was there to witness it.

With Seattle making their league debut this week and Vancouver, BC also earning a 2011 spot, the expectations of Pacific NorthWest 'derbies' is something to look forward to.

I was lucky enough to visit PGE Park in Portland last July to watch the Timbers take on Puerto Rico. What an atmosphere - 12,500 on a balmy Thursday evening to watch a game that was of an acceptable level.

MLS may not be to the standard of the English, Spanish or Italian leagues, but it's enjoyable.

Looking forward to getting my season ticket and seeing some good games - hopefully Beckham hasn't completely deserted the American game by then!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Act FAST - Improving your stroke??!!

Thought the following was hilarious in
yesterday's Worcester News.

Goa Confidential

Luckily I've been able to go on vacation to Goa numerous times over the past 10 years. Love the place.
Below is travel guide I wrote for a friend of mine who was going last year. Hopefully it may give others some insight to this lovely corner of India.



When you get off plane – walk fast to the terminal. It can take up to 2 hours to clear immigration, so get as far up the queue as you can!

Don’t change any money at the airport – rate is not very good. There are plenty of places to change money (or use ATM) in Calangute.

Have a pound coin handy – your cases will be ‘grabbed’ by a porter to take to the coach/taxi as soon as you get through baggage claim. They expect a £1 tip!

North Goa

The main tourist areas are to found along the stretch from Sinquerim (where the shipwreck is) up to Baga. Candolim and Calangute in between.

Sinquerim is pricey and quiet– Taj Heritage Resort here plus high end 4/5 star hotel – mostly all inclusive. There is a small fort that goes out into the sea and has great views along the beach.

Candolim is busier, but not OTT. Lots of really good restaurants etc here. The beach shacks are also very good.

Calangute is very busy – but dead compared to Blackpool! Very popular with Indian tourists. The weekends can get very busy with out of staters coming for stag parties etc. I tend to keep clean of the beach on a Saturday/Sunday, as it can be too busy.

Baga is loud, brash and for the young crowd. Lots of ex-pat bars, always loads going on. The only nightclub of note along the coast is Tito’s and it’s outside bar Mambo’s – worth a visit at least once.

Further along the coast are Anjuna (hippy market etc), Vagator (rave parties – used a lot by Israelis), Morjim and Arambol (both beautiful and well worth a visit).


Depending where you are staying you will be either right at the heart of the action (Mira, Silla Goa, Park Avenue hotels) or out in the sticks (Village Royale) Even if you are in the centre of Calangute the nights won’t be too noisy – everything calms down by 11pm usually – apart from the hotel bars.

The main focal point of the village is the roundabout. This is half way between the market/bus stop area and the beach. To your right is the Tibetan jewellery market with the ‘football’pitch behind it. The road to the right takes you to Baga.

Ahead is the road down to the beach. There is a statue just before the steps on to the beach.

The road to the left goes into the residential area, but has a few shops, bars, hotels and restaurants eetc.

Back towards the market there are lots of restaurants, shops etc, a supermarket (Menzies), an ATM etc. This is the ‘high street’.

Eating out

Veggie: The Plantain Leaf on the ‘high street’ is brilliant. A veg thalli of 8 portions, plus rice and puri will cost about 60Rs – (75p) and you won’t be able to eat it all. Yatri on the steps by the beach – up stairs above some shops. Masalla Dosa is good here – about 20Rs each.

Steaks etc: After 7 in Candolim is very good, but pricey. Continental cuisine which is good sometimes – you can’t eat curry every meal! Hot Plate in Baga is also very good and cheap.

Tibetan: The best place is The Tibetan Kitchen on the left hand side opposite the football pitch. Try to get a table away from the toilets though!

Breakfast: Infantria on the left hand side on the Baga road. Fresh breads, real coffee, fresh juices (inc watermelon). Jon Jenesis (I think that the name!) is a café in the left just before you get to the steps – good coffee and they sell English language Goan newspapers.

Fish: Available everywhere. The beach shacks are usually good. My mate Louie is a fisherman and spends his leisure hours at Dee Joy’s – usually the first shack to the right when you on the beach – and supplies them with most of their fish. Also a great place to watch the sunset with a Bloody Mary (quad vodka and FRESH tomato juice!)

Other stuff: Viva Goa on the left hand side on the main Calangute/Candolim road is a bit like a café, but sells the best biriany I have ever had, and cost less than a £1.
The Midas Touch is good (and air conditioned), sells a wide range of stuff – steaks, Indian, Chinese etc. Usually live entertainment, if you can get the night with the local dancing is best, otherwise you might be stuck with karoke!
Verundavan’s on the right hand side on the road down to the beach is excellent, as is Casandra’s- almost next door. Capricorn across the road is also supposed to be good, but not tried it yet.


Hundreds of them! 2 of note are:

O’Yes Bar. On the left hand road from the roundabout – about 20 yards on the right. In the garden they have dug out seating areas and are covered with canopies. Do Hooka Pipes here, if your into that sort of thing. Owner is a nice guy, who used to have a Scottish girlfriend. Bar open all year round – popular with backpackers.

Molly Malone’s. Irish pub, but has draught Kingfisher! (about the only place I have ever seen draught beer in India. On the same lane as Yes bar, about 200yds further on the left.

Days out

Anjuna market. Wednesday. World famous. Crowded and fun. Very rare to get any bargains to be honest. Worth having a look in a fixed price shop like Satagura (opp. The football pitch) to get an ideal of what things should cost.

Mapusa (pronounced map-sa). A real Indian market. Great for getting spices, unusual gifts etc. You can get their on the bus from Calangute, or a 15 minute taxi ride. Don’t go on a Friday – all the Anjuna crowd take over. For a break there is a place called The Pub on the road on the left of the market (if you look at it from the bus station), you can sit up there and watch all bustle.
Mapusa also has a good night food market. I’ve only been on a Saturday, but believe its on most nights.

Ingo’s Night Bazaar. Saturday night – market – live music – great food. Based the other side of the river between Siolim and Morjim. Great fun.

Morjim. One of my favourite beaches. Quiet, great shacks (I usually go to Planet Hollywood!). If there is a full moon when you are there, see if you can stay over and help the turtle hatchlings into the sea!

Arambol. Still a hippy hang out, deserted beach. Lie on a sun lounger and watch the dolphins jumping near the rocks at the end of beach! You can also hire a beachside tree house for a night. I believe this is the beach used at the start of The Bourne Supremacy.

Waterfalls/Hindu temples/Spice Plantation/Old Goa. Full day, early start.
You’ll need to get a taxi for the day – and start out at about 7.30. It’s a 2 hour drive to the village where you transfer to a 4 wheel Jeep, then about another hour into the jungle. The waterfalls are another 15/20 minute walk, but well worth it. 2nd highest in India, water is freezing but worth a dip, take some bananas to feed the monkeys etc.
On the way back stop off at one of the Spice Plantations for a tour. It’ll cost about £4 each and includes a buffet lunch. Takes about ½ hours.
The get your driver to take you to a couple of Hindu Temples around Ponda, before heading for Old Goa and it’s Portugese architure and stunning churches.
This will possibly be the most expensive day, but should be less than £30 each!

Agonda/Palolim. Combine either of these two beaches with on overnight stay in a tree house. Both are stunning and picture postcard. Agonda is the quiter of the two.

Panjim. The capital is very European looking – understandably!. Great walking city, with lots of great buildings, a lovely park by the Mondovi (Campinal) where the film festival is based. The huge market is also worth a look at. There’s a great restaurant, The Quarterdeck, on the riverfront. Great place to watch eagles fishing.

The Sunset Cruise is a most – about £2 each – leaves the jetty at 6pm each night and lasts about an hour and a half. Try and get there early so you can get on to the one which has Indian entertainment, the other has ballroom dancing! You can bet you will be the only white people on the boat, but it is hilarious – also beer and food for sale!

After go the Delhi Darbar. The nearest you’ll find to an English Indian Restaurant. Food is excellent, air conditioned, expensive by Goan standards (about £6 per head!!) and a guy in full Maharajah’s costume greets you. Was in there 2 years ago and it was full of Bollywood stars, and ‘Tinhead’ of Brookside!

Above: The Delhi Darbar, April 2006, with Karen, Chris, Tony (Shrek) and my lad Ashley. We were in Goa for the Cricket

If you get a bike a good ride is to see the Prison at Fort Aguada, then up the hill to the fort itself. About 15 minutes ride from Calangute.

Coco Beach is ok. It’s on the Mondovi, fairly quiet. You can help the fishermen drag their catch in. Boat trips will also take you out to see Crocs, dolphins, the prison etc. The setting in good, and you have to travel along some very rural lanes to get there.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Wheels falling off?

Well Villa lost to Spurs as I expected.
Over the past 4 weeks the wheels are falling off:
- Dumped out the F.A. Cup
- Heartbreak for the kids in Moscow meant UEFA Cup is out of the window
- Dropping points in the league allowing Arsenal to leapfrog us into the last automatic Champions League spot.
Lets hope that Everton don't have a bit of a spurt especially considering our next games are against Liverpool and Man Utd!

All hail to the ale!

One thing that has surprised me more than anything in the Pacific North West is the abundance of excellent ales. Coming from a land where drinking is now classed as an Olympic sport, and a city which has recently been named the ‘Binge Drinking Capital of The Midlands’, I feel right at home.

The real revelation has been the quality of what is on offer. I’m not sure if it’s the abundant rain fall, the excellent quality of the ingredients used or the lack of chemicals, but I can say hand on heart that I have not found a bad pint yet.

Back in Blighty the only experience of American beers we normally have is Bud, Miller and Coors – bland lagers that go hand in hand with our weak imitations of European brands such as Carlsberg and Heineken. Some of the larger supermarkets stock Sierra Nevada, Anchor Steam and Sam Adams but at over $4 for a small bottle it’s fair to say that they are not the beers of choose for a night in watching the Benny Hill Show!

My first induction to real American beer was when my better half took me to The Powerhouse Pub in Edgefield. The flight of McMenamins' samples is something I had never experienced before. Six wonderful brews on a tray with an explanatory sheet about each one - I was like a kid in a sweet shop. Dead excited and not knowing which one to try first! Needless to say that lunchtime will always be ingrained in my heart, and a memory I will take to the grave.

The numerous micro-breweries in Oregon and Washington is also something that is great to see. I remember them cropping up in the UK back in the 80’s and 90’s, but sadly few remain in the area I am from. From the small industrial breweries like Red Hook near Seattle, to the craft micros all over the place, it seems as if the revolution is here stay.

Many differences are evident between the UK and Oregon beer mentality.

Firstly is the measure. A pint is 20 fluid ounces in the UK and only 16 here – I get 20% less for my money! Glasses are the same with the exception that it is illegal to sell alcohol in anything which is not etched with a crown and code indicating that it conforms to Official UK Weights and Measures. Having said that I’ll drink out of a bucket if the content is good!

Secondly is the role of the pub. If you visit any village in England you will find 4 common things: The Church, The Village Green, The Cricket Pitch and The Pub (or 5). Life tends to revolve around these institutions and all, including the pub, are family orientated. The two main soap operas, Coronation Street and Eastenders, include pubs, The Rovers Return and The Queen Victoria respectively, as the focal point where the characters interact. Much the same as in real life. Here the role of the pub/bar is very different, and something I am still trying to get to grips with.

Thirdly is age. 21 here. 18 in the UK. I’m not saying which is right or wrong, but if you’re old enough to vote on alcohol related issues, you should be old enough to drink.

Lastly, and possibly more important is cost. Although the size of pint is smaller here, the usual cost of around $3 a pint compares favourably to $6 in the UK. One point of warning: don’t buy drinks at the airport hotels. In Paris I was stung for $36 for a pint of beer and a small glass of Rose!

Rick Wakeman review


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