Monday, 30 December 2013


Sunday and we are still in Aberdeen which is good.
The weather has mostly been crap but hey, it's winter in Scotland so what would you expect. By all accounts it's been worse in Toronto with the worst storm in recent history having decimated the city and NZ has had the usual rainstorms and floods between Christmas and New Year (why anyone would go camping in a tent at this time bewilders me).

We've eaten a lot. We've drunk a lot including a bottle of Taylor's LBV 2008 port and watched a lot of TV. The television in the UK is vastly superior to the offerings in Canada but I still think that NZ has the better balance - fewer channels but better quality.

When the weather allowed we've been walking. I've been into the city a couple of times which is only a short walk away from where we're staying. Aberdeen is a striking city built of granite. It boasts the second largest granite building in the world which is an architectural marvel. Generally the granite structures and houses are sombre and obviously gray. I don't mind this. Maybe it's the Scottish Methodist in my family background. There's not much overt signage on retail stores which is good. A 300 year old building that now houses a pub, a chemist or a boutique has only a small discreet sign outside. From a distance all you see is the granite building. I like this.

Now I'm no oil painting, ask the Old Girl but Aberdeen must have the greatest percentage of ugly people per capita in the world. I swear to god at one stage, in a shopping centre I thought the place had been invaded by Visigoths.

 I've heard Aberdonians complain about the recent influx of foreigners to the region - Poles, Russians, Chinese, Africans etc. but to my mind this can only be good as the gene pool definitely needs adding to kind of like in the way that the Appalachian mountains need to be invaded.

Tomorrow will be another hunkering down day as another storm is coming in but hopefully Tuesday (New Year's eve) will be good enough to drive down to Stonehaven for lunch at a restaurant that the Old Girl's cousin used to own and then out on the town in the evening.
Recently, (well since the millennium actually) we haven't bothered about staying up to see the new year in but this is Scotland. Hogmanay. We might have to have a kip in the late afternoon to make sure we are awake at midnight.

Lang may yer lum reek!

Thursday, 26 December 2013


Telecommunications companies around the world are all crap. Why this is I don't really know but I have a theory that any company or industry that makes far too much profit tend to skimp on the quality of what they do because it doesn't really matter as there are millions of more suckers lining up for their services. They are also safe in the knowledge that because their competitors are also crap that there is going to be a guaranteed influx of new customers who have left other providers.

In New Zealand I've had equally bad service from Telecom and Vodafone.

Vodafone, when there is a problem is almost impossible to contact in a reliable form. You can't email to get your query/complaint across. You have to telephone and then be at the mercy of one of their temp. Operators who work off a script. The results, for me, we're always unsatisfactory. I've one cancelled my account with Vodafone and still have a $20 credit for which I get monthly statements. Can I get these people to put the $20 into my bank account and zero the account? No.

Telecom has been a nightmare for years and as most people know they have fucked up in a major way with internet services, email security and phone services but they are still the largest provider.
Recently, before leaving NZ I made arrangements with Telecom to close the land-line account but to keep the email (xtra) account going. I telephoned, texted, emailed and physically visited to ensure that all was OK right up to the time I was leaving. I was assured that all was Ok.
Just before I left for Canada Telecom cancelled all my accounts including the essential email ones (my lifeline when I was changing countries). All of my travel arrangements, immigration details, banking etc was locked into these accounts. After a frantic 14 hour to and fro (engineering difficulties you know) I got my two email accounts reinstated just in time.

In Toronto The Old a Girl has her phone with Rogers (kind of like Vodafone) and I have mine with Bell and we have an internet-line Bell account.  I have had a couple of annoying hassles over billing but generally Bell has been OK.
Last week, 4 days before we were to travel I want to the local Bell shop to arrange overseas 'roaming' for my phone. The glamour boy, all hair and teeth organised it for me at the customer desk. We selected the voice and text option in UK which costs $45 per month. He said that as I had a credit limit on my account (which is $200 and each month I only spend $70 which always leaves $130 spare!) he would have to contact head office accounts. I suppressed what I felt like saying and said instead that by all means he should do so. He rang accounts and passed the phone to me - obviously the glamour boys don't talk to the trolls. I explained what I wanted and gave credit card details to process the $45 charge in advance (bastards). This went through as I checked my on-line Bell account and my bank account. 'Hair and teeth' assured me that when I arrived in UK that the phone would connect.
It didn't. And 5 days later it hasn't.
I contacted Bell Toronto (using a borrowed phone) and went through their help(?) desk. This took several calls with phone backs and the answer was that they could not do anything.
Pissed off? You bet. I trawled the net to find a contact for Bell complaints and found one titled 'complaint escalation' with an email address. I wrote a long explanation of the situation, the problem and my desire for an urgent remedy. 12 hours later I received a long email answer that basically said that Bell complaints had reviewed this and suggested I call - ie telephone - Bell customer services. They kindly provided a telephone number ( for me to dial on a phone that's inactive).

Needless to say some Bell executive is going to get a face to face blast from me when I get back to Toronto  and secure a meeting.



..... Well, to be exact that song referred to Abilene and Aberdeen could never be described as pretty but it's good to be here.

Getting here was a bit of a fankle (old Scottish word meaning a difficulty). We set off to the airport in Toronto to discover that our flight had been delayed an hour. On boarding the weather was getting so bad that the wings had iced up and so needed to be de-iced with heat machines. We finally got away two hours late on Friday night. The problem with this is that when we arrived in London the connecting flight to Abilene, I mean Aberdeen had gone so we had to get rebooked. This meant standing in a line that didn't move for 2 hours with about 70 other people who'd missed connections. I don't get upset in these situations as the airline staff can't control the weather but I do get annoyed at inefficiency. Air Canada, like most airlines neglect to keep customers informed. It would be so easy to have an electronic message board giving information and updates but they don't do so. As a result there was a lot of grumbling from those waiting. When we finally got to the counter things happened very quickly. We were provided with tickets for a flight in a couple of hours, access passes to the business class lounge (very good wines and Otard VSOP Cognac)
 and 20 quid's worth of lunch vouchers (which we converted to a stack of muesli bars). We arrived in Aberdeen in the late afternoon about 6 hours later than originally planned.

We arrived on Saturday which as it turned out was the last good day before the UK was ravaged by snow storms, rainstorms, floods and hurricane-like winds which have closed roads, airports, train systems and ferry crossings. Toronto too is experiencing the worst storm for decades with hundreds of thousands of people being without power including the crackhead mayor. We are really happy to be here cocooned in the Old Girl's mothers cosy flat enjoying Christmas cheer.

Aberdeen is populated by people who speak with strange accents. I've found that in a bakery or a coffee bar it's best to be behind someone who is ordering something remotely like what you want and to point to it and say "same again". This is preferable to getting a haggis or black pudding filled doughnut if you go it alone.

Apparently the Aberdonian dialect is made up with Viking speak along with the most unintelligible Scots stuff so that many Scottish people haven't got a clue as to what they are saying. It is known as Doric and here's an example:


GIN I was God, sittin' up there abeen,

Weariet nae doot noo a' my darg was deen,

Deaved wi' the harps an' hymns oonendin' ringin',

Tired o' the flockin' angels hairse wi' singin',

To some clood-edge I'd daunder furth an', feth,

Look ower an' watch hoo things were gyaun aneth.

Syne, gin I saw hoo men I'd made mysel'

Had startit in to pooshan, sheet an' fell,

To reive an' rape, an' fairly mak' a hell

O' my braw birlin' Earth,--a hale week's wark--

I'd cast my coat again, rowe up my sark,

An' or they'd time to lench a second ark,

Tak' back my word an' sen' anither spate,

Droon oot the hale hypothec, dicht the sklate,

Own my mistak', an, aince I cleared the brod,

Start a'thing ower again, gin I was God.


IF I were God, sitting up there above,

Wearied no doubt, now all my work was done,

Deafened by the harps and hymns unending ringing,

Tired of the flocking angels hoarse with singing,

To some cloud edge I'd saunter forth and, faith,

Look over and watch how things were going beneath.

Then if I saw how men I'd made myself

Had started out to poison, shoot and kill [fell],

To steal and rape and fairly make a hell

Of my fine spinning Earth -- a whole week's work --

I'd drop my coat again, roll up my shirt,

And, ere they'd time to launch a second ark,

Take back my word and send another flood [spate],

Drown out the whole shebang, wipe the slate,

Admit my mistake, and once I'd cleared the board,

Start everything ["all-thing"] over again, if I were God.

Saturday, 21 December 2013


Me and the Old Girl have been together for over 25 years and seldom argue kind of like Richard and Shelley who've been together longer. By my reckoning they will have their 30th wedding anniversary early next year. What's the 30th? Balsa wood? Aluminium? I'm sure someone will know.

Anyway, even though we seldom argue there are sometimes occasions that put stresses on relationships. The current one is travel as today we are off to Scotland to spend Christmas and New Year with The Old Girl's family. Packing, planning, organising and spring cleaning ..... Yes you heard right, spring cleaning is all on the agenda. WTF? I said that as we're away for over a fortnight things will get dusty again so why other cleaning the bath, all surfaces, floors etc. her response ..."I don't want to come back from holiday to a tip like this Matey" levelled at me with, I think, an underlying condemnation of my cleaning abilities.

I had to respond.

There are three levels of argumentativeness in my arsenal:

Level one, which I used as a response was "blah, blah, blah"
This was good as it hit the mark and made me feel relieved. By hitting the mark though it triggered a response from The Old Girl along the lines of "watch it".

Now this was blatant provocation. It had to be responded to.

"Fiddle - de- dee Madam"
 Level two is "Fiddly - de - dee". This is a biggy and is wheeled out in extreme situations. It is extremely accurate and always hits home. I didn't actually use the 'Fiddly-de-dee" on this occasion but knowing it's power I threatened to use it. I said "you watch it or you'll get a 'fiddle de dee'".

Things were escalating. I knew it and The Old Girl knew it. This could lead to level three which has only ever been used once before about fifteen years ago. It was devastating and reduced The Old Girl to tears. She claimed that it was due to 'hormones' but I know differently.

Level three is " For God' sake".

The big gun. Big Bertha. Armegeddon. I gave her a meaningful stare letting her know what might be in store before picking up the duster and cleaning the surfaces.

Friday, 20 December 2013


I received a Christmas card from Richard today.
We don't go in for these much mainly because we're never organised enough to send them so they get there on time. I think we should just send cards at random times during the heat to confuse people.
Anyway Richard and Shelley's card will take pride of place in the apartment. It's the only one we've received after all.

I looked on the web for e-cards and found that most were saccharine sweet, kitcsh or offensive but found a clays Nat King Cole one which I sent them I hope they like it.


The 'rattle' refers to the tablets I have to take and the 'umm' as to whether they are efficacious or not.

It seems that as you get older medicines become part of the daily diet. I remember making fun of of dear old mum over the variety of medications she had to take in her old age and now that jesting has come back to bite me on the bum as it were.

I went to the doctors to get a prescription renewal a few weeks back. I have 3 medications relating to slightly raised cholesterol and hypertension. Two of them were known here in Canada but the third, bendrofluazide, a diuretic they didn't have a clue about. They prescribed something else that I started taking but ended up having a bad allergic reaction to it. I came out in a painful rash on my arms and legs that I at first thought was a psoriasis outbreak.
Back I went to the doctors (a walk in public surgery) and another doctor examined me.
The outcome of this was three referrals to specialists:
  • Heart specialist which had me undergoing ECG, echo sounding tests, treadmill fitness tests and a 72 hour heart monitor test. All clear and no problems apparently.
  • A colonoscopy done last week. All clear and they said come back in 10 years.
  • A skin specialist clinic appointment (January).
Now the Canadian public health system is brilliant. These 3 referrals to specialist have happened almost immediately (compared to what happens in New Zealand), are all at clinics within easy walking distance of where I live and they are all free. At home I had to pay for Southern Cross medicare to get such service.

The skin rash thing that I thought was a psoriasis flare-up got extremely bad a couple of nights ago to the point where I couldn't sleep. I surfed the net and looked up the contra actions relating to the newly prescribed drug and sure enough a side effect is a photo-sensitivity in some people that causes rashes. I had something similar a few years back as an allergic reaction to a penicillin-based antibiotic.
Back I go to the doctors and met with a third doctor. I explained the problem and offered a solution being the prednisone that fixed me last time. I had the web print-outs top show him.

 I think he was a bit miffed and took ages doing his own research but in the end prescribed me the prednisone which I have to take a course of. The stuff is magic and already after 2 days the rash is disappearing. This doctor also prescribed a replacement medication for the replacement medication that I had the allergic reaction to.

I am now taking: the two that I'm familiar with; the replacement for the replacement; the antidote to the first replacement. Bloody Nora I feel like a maraca.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


We've had a lot of snow here over the last fortnight. It seems that it's come early this year although that's the sort of thing that everyone says.
When walking to the shops yesterday I had to wear my snow boots which was a bit novel. It was like being on the ski fields but on the streets.

We have little snow drifts on the deck of our 16th floor apartment. Yesterday the iPhone weather app read minus 16 degrees but I think they must have their measurement out in a field somewhere. The temperature in the city with tall buildings around tends to be warmer. Maybe minus 8 degrees - positively tropical. If the wind comes up though the chill factor brings it considerably down.

There's no self consciousness in dress though when it gets really cold. People go out in the most ridiculous hats and cold weather gear truly looking like 'Nanooks'. My "bag-of-busted-arseholes" style fits in quite well at last.
We're going east for Christmas to warmer climes. Aberdeen!

Saturday, 14 December 2013


“You’re looking very sartorial” said The Old Girl to me when we were going out to a wine dinner the other night. This was a surprise as normally she says I dress like a bag of busted arseholes.
Thinking about this today I thought I’d check up on the source of the word ‘sartorial’ and discovered that it’s attributable to Jean-Paul Sartre.

Sartre was a proponent of the concept of existentialism with his most famous work being "L'existentialisme est un humanisme" .
Existentialism is a term used to describe the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. Sartre incorporated atheism and Marxism into his doctrine and later ‘Absurdism’ when a local bishop told him he was being absurd. Sartre, as an atheist, argued we are born without purpose or meaning and that we must accept the freedom and responsibility of our existence and live out our lives so as to create purpose and meaning. So first we come to exist, then we create our essence.  OK?

Sartre was also a ‘bit of a lad’ and put himself out a bit with the eligible ladies around town. He played ‘boomps-a-daisy with Simone de Beauvoir whom he met in Paris in 1929. As Beauvoir explains in "The Prime of Life", "The comradeship that welded our lives together made a superfluous mockery of any other bond we might have forged for ourselves." They had countless affairs, but told each other everything and enjoyed an unconventional relationship.
More importantly though, and this aided Sartre in his chat-ups, was that he was a snappy dresser.
He spent most of his money with fashionable tailors and had a reputation for being well turned out.
“Just like Sartre” was a popular expression when someone dressed up for a dinner party and pretty soon this expression was adopted into the French lingo-"Comme Sartre". The British, when adopting this expression into English as they’ve done with many French terms and words were a bit nervous about the ‘comme’ given the anti-red sentiment of the times (late 1940’s and 1950’s) and preferred ‘Sartre-al which became ‘sartorial’


Confucius, the most important Eastern philosopher lived from 551 to 479 BC. At around the same time that the Greeks were debating ethics, morality, politics and nature Confucius was doing the same thing with ‘Analects’. Democracy, it will come as a surprise to many, was not entirely a Greek or Western invention. The Chinese were talking about the rights of the people many years before although of course it was never exercised.

With his version of ‘The Golden Rule’ Confucius said:

“What one does not wish for oneself, one ought not to do to anyone else; what one recognizes as desirable for oneself, one ought to be willing to grant to others"
The blending of negative, positive, active and passive language in this statement was a problem for contemporary and later scholars and they were addled by it.

While not wanting to appear dim by not understanding it and other utterances by Confucius they would nod sagely and agree. As time went on and Confucius’ reputation grew the largely incomprehensible anecdotes and statements were known as Confucius’ Idioms which in time was shortened to Confucions and later, in translations to Confusions.

I get confused sometimes.

This morning, when making coffee I put the milk in the frother and then put it in the coffee cupboard rather than the microwave. When the coffee in the cafetiere on the stove was ready I went to get the heated milk to discover that it wasn’t in the microwave. Now to be fair, when I put the milk in the cupboard I didn’t press imaginary buttons to activate it but, it’s a worry ……….

I have been known to go into a room to get something and when there wonder why I was there………

Most of all I’m confused as to why most of New Zealand voters have chosen to elect a buffoon like Shonkey to represent our country. In his latest stupidity he’s forgotten which side of the fence he was on during the time of the 1981 Springbok tour. To paraphrase Confucius:

“What one wishes for oneself, one ought not to do for anyone else; what one recognizes as desirable for oneself, one ought to be unwilling to grant to others.”

Friday, 13 December 2013


Plato (427-347 BC) is one of the world’s best known and most widely read and studied philosophers. He was Socrates’ student and Aristotle’s tutor.

Plato’s middle to later works, including his most famous work, the Republic blend ethics, political philosophy, moral psychology, epistemology, and metaphysics into an interconnected and systematic philosophy. These gave the theory of Forms, according to which the world we know through the senses is only an imitation of the pure, eternal, and unchanging world of the Forms. From this came the concept of ideal love of beauty popularised as ‘Platonic love’ - love as motivated by a longing for the highest Form of beauty.
It was Plato’s later work that is the most powerful and enduring though and this is his concept of ‘Plato-ing’ which, as a result of translation into French in the fourteenth century is known as ‘Plateauing’ or simply just ‘Plateau’
The concept, in simple terms, means that people reach plateaus in their lifetime in the various aspects of their existence. These plateaus can be in education, employment, relationships and health and vary from person to person. Some people have very low plateaus. These are referred to as ‘Base’.

 Some people have very high plateaus. These are referred to as ‘Driven’

Most people fall somewhere in between.

An example of ‘Plateau’ is in employment. Most people, when young are driven to succeed and put a lot of energy into their careers. Getting further up the ladder of success is deemed by them and by their peers as being very important.

 There will be a time however when the drive diminishes. This could be due to factors such as failing health, being defeated, having relationship and family issues intruding or, in rare instances, of achieving ambitions and reaching the ultimate goal. At this stage the person is considered to ‘Plateau’

You can see how this can work with education, relationships, health etc. as well. Whether ‘Plateauing’ is a good thing or a bad thing really depends upon one’s point of view. Gung-ho high achievers probably think it is a bad thing. Laid back philosophical types probably think it a good thing.

I have ‘Plateaued’ several times in my life.
In education I was ascendant to about the fourth form and then plateaued.
In employment I plateaued early, staying on the plateau for many years until I was 28 and then went into an almost vertical climb which lasted to when I was 55. I then plateaued and have comfortably remained on the plateau for the last six years.
In relationships I also plateaued early. I had a vertical ascension in my mid-twenties to later twenties then plateaued again until I was 35. I have been in ascension ever since.

Monday, 9 December 2013


It's been a good weekend as The Old Girl, after a very busy fortnight of work with 14 hour plus days decided to, after the completion of a major bid, to take Friday off and work from home on Monday.
This meant that we could plan some nights out and daily activity in a way that we haven't been able to recently.

Thursday evening

We went out to a couple of Italian restaurants - one we'd dined at and a pizzeria we hadn't been to before for a glass of wine at each. A pretty ordinary Californian Chardonnay at the first and some nice Italian red at the second. When I say nice it was as a result of our blending. The Old Girl ordered a Montepulciano which was OK but a bit lean. I ordered a Valpolicella which was rich and opulent. As The Old Girl didn't like hers much I suggested we blend the two of them. We did. The result in the glasses was a nice blend which lifted the one and only slightly diminished the other.

 The result on the table due to The Old Girl's faulty pouring was a mess on the table cloth. Disaster? It could have been in other restaurants but this was a pizzeria with paper table cloths. As the napkins were linen I asked the waitress for some paper towels to mop u the mess. All good.
Take-A-Way burgers on the way home. At the corner of our street is a 'gourmet' burger joint which makes the most delicious burgers. Mine was a "Hawaiian' which in addition to the obligatory pineapple had wasabi, avocado and chili sauce. Scrumptious.


A bit of a sleep-in, gymn and off to the shops for a quick visit to buy me a pair of respectable long trousers (The Old Girl casts aspersions on my shorts and shabby chinos). I should have known. The visit to buy my trousers lasted about 10 minutes. Then the shopping started. I hung around for about a half an hour until I drooped and then ambled off to a food hall and sat down and read a newspaper until summoned an hour later.
Friday evening was wine and dinner in for me and many wines and music and dancing out for The Old Girl with her work colleagues. She came home at 2.30.


Slow start for The Old Girl (fancy that) and a normal one for me. Cold as hell (strange expression that) here and we went off to one of the local cinemas. Half-way through the film the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate. As no-one seemed to have any idea what was going on and it was getting to be late in the afternoon we decided to bugger off. It was cold as hell outside after all. (I got credit tickets for use at another time). Dinner in at home (leftovers from the freezer).


Sleep-in and book-reading. Brunch at local vegetarian restaurant which was marvellous and will be a regular feature. A bit of a walk and home to watch videos.
Nice and relaxing?
Yes but all good things must end.
"We need to do some housework" said The Old Girl.
"But I do it during the week" lied said I.
"We need to do it properly" said she and handed me add-on connections to the vacuum cleaner that only women and OCD men would know what their uses were for. Bugger.

Sunday evening was lasagna and wine (The Old Girl was ready to face the stuff again) and DVD's. Very pleasant.

Monday will be her working from home with me keeping her company until I get in the way at which time I'll go out for a while (in the forecast minus 5 degrees).
Monday evening will be a degustation wine dinner we've booked in for.

Toronto, where it all happens.

Friday, 6 December 2013


Our tax accountant contacted us last week with the good news that we are getting a tax refund from IRD.

This is the final year of wrap up of a small company that we ran and for which we  have tax credits. We have kept the accountant on to tidy up any issues so that we don't have any nasty surprises. Out tax record is clean and we've paid a fortune over the years for overseas earnings in share options and other bits and pieces.
The tax amount we're getting back is about $380.

Whoopdy Do! But at least it's something. I said to the Old Girl that it will pay for most of the PS4 that I'm getting for Christmas.

Then, yesterday we received the bill from the accountant. $396.


Thursday, 5 December 2013


I'm a crap typist at the best of times. I use two fingers and have to watch the keyboard all the time to make sure that I hit the right keys. Sometimes this is frustrating if the cursor isn't positioned right or engaged so that several lines of typing registers nothing.

When I purchased the iPad my typing problems increased. The touch screen keypad is very sensitive and small so it is really easy to make mistakes.

The iPhone is even worse in that it is smaller.

So, in terms of human evolution where are we headed?
If technological tools are to become more and more miniaturised are we going to develop ET-like digits?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


The history of Christmas present giving dates back over 2000 years to the birth of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ was a pretty lucky kid, born somewhere in Palestine at a time where no-one received Christmas presents and in fact were unaware that December 25th was in fact Christmas.

Jesus’ parents were owners of a massive hotel chain that spanned what was then the ‘known world’.

The chain was named The Stables and was organised in what was then a modern style with ride-in shelter for horses, asses and oxen built right next to the sleeping accommodations known as ‘mangers’.

As successful hotel owners with many very well-to do clients and hundreds of suppliers the owners, the Davidsons (or Davidinums as the Roman tax collectors listed them) were used to being treated to lunches and dinners as business solicitation. When Mrs Davidson was pregnant she had to turn down invitations though and some suppliers were a bit concerned that they might be overlooked. The King brothers, suppliers of sanitary produce came up with the idea of visiting the Davidsons when the child was born and to bring some food items along with trade samples. The eldest brother, Bus, gave hurried instructions to his head clerk to load the wagon with the trade samples and to also add a large hamper of food and drink. “Make sure it’s cold” he said, “plenty cold”.

When they arrived at the Mt David Hotel in Bethlehem and presented their wares Old Bus was embarrassed to find that the clerk had overdone it on the toilet air freshener Francinsense. He was even more embarrassed to discover that Mryrr the undertakers supply item was included but he was livid to discover that the large picnic hamper was full of gold.

“Bugger” he thought, trying to hide it but Joseph Davidson had spied it and vigorously shook Bus’s hand and the hands of the younger King brothers, Wan and Ris. “This is a wonderful trade sample” he enthused “and I’m sure that it will be remembered for a long time. At least until the same time next year” he said while looking Bus meaningfully in the eye.

So that's how the custom of giving gifts at Christmas came about.

For your edification here are the beginnings of some other Christmas customs:




Saturday, 30 November 2013


It's been snowing here for the last few days and it's only November. I guess that December and January are set to be doozy months.

This morning it was minus 10 degrees so any brass monkeys about will obviously be eunuchs now.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


We just had a four day weekend.

While this isn't a big deal for me as I'm not working, it was great for The Old Girl who has been working long hours recently.

On Friday we flew to Newark (New Jersey - Sopranos country) to catch an Amtrak train to Baltimore. We had to be up early which for those used to travelling means that you don't actually sleep for fear of sleeping in and were at the Toronto City Airport at 6AM. This airport is on a small island on Lake Ontario sitting just offshore from downtown Toronto. It is so close that the ferry ride is said to be the shortest in the world. We waited for our flight. And waited. And waited. The city was fog-bound and we were getting concerned as we had train bookings to meet. The Old Girl rang Amtrak and changed our tickets for a later train, but we were fully expecting to not be able to fly until Saturday. Fortunately the fog lifted at midday and we were away soon after.

We were expected for dinner with friends in Baltimore and were only a little late, spending a really enjoyable dinner party to the early hours.

Another Baltimore friend had offered her apartment for us to use for Friday night as she would stay with a friend nearby. The one-bedroom apartment turned out to be massive, occupying the top floor of a small historic building in Mount Vernon Square opposite the Washington Memorial. We were gob-smacked.

On Saturday morning we wandered around the square area. I'd been practicing my "Arright" Baltimese accent that I picked up from watching The Wire but didn't get a chance to use it. The 'Projects' as featured in The Wire must have been further away from where we were.

We got the Amtrak to New York City. The Big Apple.

It looked the same as we remembered except for the replacement building for the Trade Centre twin towers. Ugly. Its height accentuated by a big 'Skytower'- type hypodermic syringe. I reckon that they should have had a big finger on top up thrust towards Mecca but then I'm not PC.

By the time we found our apartment on 53rd street it was about 4PM. We sorted ourselves out and walked uptown to The Metropolitan Opera to collect our tickets to Eugene Onegin. After dinner (Take-A-Way) we headed back up to the opera at about 7PM and got snowed on. It was great approaching the beautiful Met building all lit up with snowflakes swirling about. Magic.

The performance was outstanding. We'd wanted to go to the Met for quite some time and we weren't disappointed.

On Sunday afternoon we went to Barrymore theatre to see Betrayal a Harold Pinter play with Daniel Craig, Rachel Weiss and Rafe Spall. Great actors and a powerful performance.

It was freezing in New York with an unseasonal weather drop and we had to buy hats which, worn with scarves wrapped around our faces and our leather jackets and gloves just about kept the cold out as we wandered about. We went back to our favourite wine bar on the corner of 47th and Broadway, sat at a window table out of the cold and people-watched.

On Sunday evening we went to Birdland on 43rd street. We got there at 8pm and there was a 9pm concert due. Luckily there was a cancellation of a reserved table for two on an elevated area near the centre stage. We took that and shared a bottle of Chianti before the set. Artulio O’farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra played a 2 ½ hour set of great jazz. The line-up was O’farrill at piano, three percussionists, back row of four trumpeters, middle row of four trombonists and front row of four saxophonists with flutes. Oh, there was also a double bassist who they hid behind the piano. I had to laugh when the trombonists played their extended solos as the slides just scraped over the heads of the saxophonists in front.

Everything was within easy walking distance. The grid system of streets in Manhattan is a blessing for out-of-towners. We had no problems.

On Monday midday we took the train to Newark and flew back to Toronto.

What a great weekend.

Friday, 22 November 2013


Toronto, like Auckland, has a mayor who's hitting the headlines.

I don't think he's been sleeping with a much younger woman like Brown was caught out doing but he has been involved in some pretty bad behaviour. To name some:

  • Allegation of inappropriately touching a female mayoral candidate
  • Threatening reporters on public land when they were investigating his property purchases
  • Charged with failing to provide a breathalyzer sample while visiting Florida with his then-fiancĂ©e in 1999. A police affidavit reveals he was actually charged with driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. He pleaded no-contest to the first and the second charge was dropped.
  • In a televised mayoral debate said that in a “perfect world” Toronto wouldn’t take any more immigrants.
  • March 2008: Ford’s wife, Renata, calls police to their home. Ford is arrested and charged with assaulting her and uttering a death threat. A month later, prosecutors drop the charges, because of inconsistencies in the accounts.
  •  During a council debate over holiday shopping, Ford is criticised for remarking that, “Those Oriental people work like dogs. … They’re slowly taking over.”
  • A drunk and belligerent Ford is removed from a Maple Leafs game after shouting at an out-of-town couple who said he was being too loud.
  • Ford calls fellow Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby “a joke” during a council debate over a pothole. “She’s a waste of time. A waste of skin.”
  • Admitted to using crack cocaine while in office
  • Is filmed in a drunken rant threatening to kill a fellow councillor
  • While drunk and being escorted off the council premises says he will 'eat out' a security guards pussy.
  • When this accusation is made public he says that he is married and 'get's plenty to eat at home'
  • etc.etc.

No wonder that the Toronto town hall is in uproar.

Now all this seems somehow familiar. I'm reminded of another 'public' figure who was the self-proclaimed king of The White Sport Coat and Pink Carnation Society at Victoria University in the 1970's. This joker's out of control antics led not only to his impeachment but to the disbanding of the entire society.

History repeats I guess.


The Old Girl, is usually referred to by me as "sweetheart", "sweetie", "matey" or, on some occasions "hoss".

Her endearments are usually along the same lines normally addressing me as "darling" or "sweetheart". When she calls me "matey" I generally know that there will be a lecture at the end of it. The worst though, and when I know that I need to head for the hills is when she calls me "Peter".

My dad used to call my mother "Jimmy". What was that about?

Saturday, 9 November 2013


I haven't turned up a job yet so when The Old Girl goes off to work during the week it's just me here in the apartment.  That hasn't posed a problem over the last two months as every new day was an adventure of some sort and I was out and about exploring the city.
Now that I've kind of seen the sights or at least as many as I want to on my own I'm not in such a hurry to get out each day. Also, as it is late Autumn the days are definitely getting cooler so I'm not as enthusiastic as before to go out walking each day.

It's interesting living in a high rise apartment building in that even though there are hundreds of people above and below us (we're on the 16th floor) you don't hear or see them. When going down in one of the three lifts to the ground floor often the only person I meet is the concierge at the front desk.

This week, as the weather has been a bit wet and very cold and as I've had a head cold I've largely stayed indoors. If I don't look out the window to the streets below then it's quite possible to feel that you are the only person left on earth.


This week has been a bit of a nothing. I've had a bloody cold all week. Bastard! I try to keep fit (lots of walking and there's a gym in the building which I use 5 or 6 days a week) but here, when it gets cold the buildings are all overheated so when you go out you go from freezing to boiling to freezing when you enter and exit a building, shop or metro station. I think that' s why I got another cold.

Anyway, I dosed up on a strange version of lemsip, had some whiskies and watched a lot of DVD's I got from the library. We have a TV but haven't bothered getting it connected to cable so just use it for DVD watching. The libraries here (I use about four of them that are close to subway stations) have good selections that are free for 7 days. Great. Last night watched a  French film set in Iran named Poulet et Prunes (Chicken with Plums). It's about a violinist. Richard and Robert would like it. He's depressed and dies.

The cold has gone (hopefully) so when The Old Girl gets back from work we'll go out to a wine bar or something.

Hey Ho. Busy, busy, busy...

Sunday, 3 November 2013


The old girl just gave me a verbal report for my performance. In summary it was:

"Inattention to detail, no perseverance with a tendency to laziness"

Well, she's an ex- schoolteacher after all.

Friday, 1 November 2013


Reacher was on his back. On a table. The table was exactly 30 inches high and 30 inches wide. It was 80 inches long. Long enough, just.
There was a light fixture above him. It was long, about forty inches with six high wattage  bulbs angled differently to cover the table below kind of like they have in pool parlours. This wasn't a pool parlour.

Reacher's arm hurt and he looked down at his left bicep. It was bruised and there were two puncture marks. A small piece of gauze attached to a piece of sticking plaster was lying on the table beside him. It had a smear of blood on it so must have been used to cover the puncture marks before it had become detached. The table was covered in white linen stretched tightly. It was kind of like an operating table. It was an operating table.

Reacher's memory stirred now that his mind was becoming free of whatever drug had been administered. He recalled a struggle. Four guys had tried to hold him down. Four guys had ended up in crumpled heaps around a room. A white room. Reacher looked about. There were no guys on the floor but he could see some scattered objects; several balls of cotton fibre; some stainless steel scissors; a metal bowl; a patch of blood. What had gone on here?

Reacher shrugged his shoulders and as he did so felt a pain down below. Well, not a pain actually, more of a discomfort. He concentrated on this. Yes, there it was. It was in his arse. Deep in his arse. What had happened here?

The curtain that screened off the table from the rest of the room was pulled apart. A man stepped in. He was tall. Cadaverous. He was wearing a white smock that was smeared here and there with some indeterminate stains. He had a grim look on his face.

"Assman" he said "Joel Assman, Proctologist. You OK now?"

"Proctologist" Reacher echoed....then.."

"Yes" said Assman "the colonoscopy you scheduled. You went berserk when we tried to insert the scope up your rectum. It took four attendants and a strong sedative to calm you down. Sorry, but we might have been a bit rough going in. You'll feel a bit sensitive down there for a while".

Reacher remembered. He'd had stomach pains for a while and a barmaid friend of his had talked him into getting the colonoscopy. He should have read up on the procedure before committing to it. The indignity of it!. "OK doc, sorry about that. How'd I do?"

The Proctologist looked at the clipboard in his hand and shook his head. "You really should have eaten your vegetables. That diet of black coffee and steak and hamburgers of yours has, well, come up to bite you on the ass. So to speak."

Thursday, 31 October 2013


Canada has some wonderful foodstuffs once you get beyond the processed crap that has 'american loads' of sugar in it.
Unfortunately, at least in supermarkets, cheese is not one of them.

There are some good delis and markets where a comprehensive selection of imported (on quota) and local can be had but these are few and far between.

The local brands are a lot like the American brands, in fact a lot  of them are American brand names.

These are usually like a rubbery compound and of garish, often bright orange colours. It pays to avoid asking for cheese on hamburgers and in toasted sandwhiches because the result is this nightmare .....

....followed by this nightmare while trying to sleep.


I like John Oliver. His retakes of the news are insightful and very funny. Have a look via the link below at his latest review of Facebook...