Monday, 27 January 2014

STRONG ARM TACTICS

I put a mean comment on Richard (of RBB)'s latest post today. He proudly spoke of execising with 6 kg weights and I inferred that it sounded like Olivia Newton-John doing a warm-up.


To be fair, any exercise done by this old chap should be encouraged. Apart from his over-developed right wrist and forearm muscles (developed from raising glasses of Chardonnay - not what you first thought) the rest of his once magnificent body (not gay) has been going to seed a bit in recent years.

I'm no longer a shining example of manhood having aslo let myself go to seed. Fortunately, living in a condo has its benefist with an in-house gymnasium (if I can be bothered to use it). When I do use it I usually do a half hour of cardio (bike) and haf hour of free weights and weight machines. The free weights I use are 15kg each (no leotards and leg warmers required). I have to be careful though as since I don't like running I'm in danger of having an Arnie Schwartzenegger upper body and a Pee-Wee Herman lower half.


Friday, 24 January 2014

BETTY AND SECOND FIDDLE'S VIEWS ON ANCESTRY






Second Fiddle, in a recent post suggested that Jesus' ancestry emanated from an inestuous rape.



In here Mrs Betty Bowers (played by Deven Greene) suggests something similar in this funny monologue (one of several Mrs Betty Bowers videos that cover religious, cultural and political issues).

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

FIGARO



I eventually went out today and braved the elements.

I had to get a haircut as The Old Girl said I was looking like Father Jack in Father Ted.


I went along to an Italian barber I discovered last time I had a cut. He's been in Toronto for over 40 years but still speaks minimal English. He has a radio tuned to an Italian language station which plays Italian opera and Italian song classics. Richard would love it as a chance to practise his Italian while asking for a cut (although I suspect he'd come out with a mohawk haircut or something similar).


My hair just grows out sideways and at the back now having given up growing anymore on top and in the centre. There it just gradually shrinks.


Years ago when I was a kid we went to 'the family barber'. This was Ken Crooks who had his barber shop in John Street Newtown. I remember going there from the age of about four right up until I went to university.
From about the age of 12 onwards I started to request hair styles from Ken.
"Just the slightest bit off thanks Mr Crooks and leave it long at the back and sides" was always the request.
The result was always the same - short back and sides. Ken only knew one design. It fit all users, old, young, male, female.


 Ken would prattle on weilding his trusty electric trimmer and hair would fly in all directions. When he used the scissors you'ld cringe, waiting for the obligatory slip and the gash in the scalp or nick out of an ear.

When the ordeal was over Ken would get out the big spray bottle of bay rum and liberally douse you as if you were a sheep going through the dip. This meant walking home to Vogeltown as getting on the bus smelling like a Turkish brothel was a no-no.

Ah fond memories.


SNOWBOUND



It's minus 11 degrees outside and snowdrifts are blocking the pavements (footpaths) so it's a good day to be inside listening to music.
I've been trawling through YouTube finding some old favourites and came across this great Emerson, Lake and Palmer song which took me back to a time and place. For me it was August 1973 in Christchurch when Tony, Mike and I went to the Canterbury Arts Festival. We were billeted for a week in some students flat, sharing a room. There was one single bed with a mattress. We took it in turns on a rotational basis. One night someone would get the bed springs, another the mattress and the third the floor. This for six nights which meant we each had the floor twice. Bloody,cold and bloody uncomfortable but we enjoyed it. In the flat, which was very bare, there was a stereo system with one LP. Emerson Lake and Palmer "Trilogy". We played it over and over with Greg Lake's "From the beginning" being the outstanding track. I never got sick of it.

Friday, 17 January 2014

TRAVEL OUTTAKES

The Old Girl and I went to Scotland for 3 weeks over Christmas and New Year.
We went to Aberdeen to stay with The Older Girl (The Old Girl's mum) and had a good catch up as we hadn't seen her for 4 years. Here are some small observations from our trip:

Border control and check-in personnel

Like anything in life the experience differs from person to person but is generally a poor one. I accept that people working in these positions might not like their jobs but a bit of courtesy goes a long way.
When boarding at Toronto the Canada Airlines staff were only just efficient but had no personality.
 As we approached the boarding desk leading to the air tunnel thing to the plane there were two sides. We had left it to the last as we had aisle seats and didn't want to make people clamber over us. The Old Girl went one side and presented her boarding pass to the female attendant. At the same time I went to the other side and presented my pass to the male attendant.
 He said "Sorry, this is for First Class and Business Class passengers only".
 I looked around. There was no-one queueing. We were the only ones. The separation between cattle class and preferential class was a short rope that ran out after about 3 feet. I looked him in the eye and walked the 3 feet to follow The Old Girl, presented my pass to the female attendant and said to him "there, that made a big difference didn't it".
He didn't catch my eye.


At Heathrow we met the most pleasant and helpful attendant (non airline affiliated) you'd ever want to meet. He was in his 60's, had a nice manner and was friendly. Yes, friendly. He appeared to like his job and wished us a good day. For once, after hearing this ad-nauseum in North America, it was genuine.

Leaving Aberdeen we experienced the rudest and most indifferent service from British Airways staff once again. I said loudly to The Old Girl "I might understand it if this was the end of a long tiring day but this is morning, the airport has just opened. If these people don't like their jobs then they should fuck off".
They didn't catch my eye.

Arriving in Toronto we were queued at the customs entry and watching how things were being processed. An elderly woman was being interrogated by a male official as to how many things she was bringing into the country. She was Indian and was going to a wedding. She had said that she had one small present with her and no money over the allowable limit. He didn't seem to believe her and was haranguing her.
We looked at each other and hoped we wouldn't end up with him. The Old Girl was rehearsing the things she had bought in Scotland. Apparently Canada are at pains to discover what tourists bring back with them. I'm not talking about drugs, alcohol and cigarettes here. They are worried about truckloads of grannies bringing in undeclared doilies and table cloths. I'm not kidding. I said "Tell him nothing, the Nazi"
Murphy's Law dictated that we were in fact channelled down to this guys counter. We presented our documents which he quickly perused and waved us through.
"Have a nice day" he said.
Maybe he's a racist.

Delays

Our plane was a couple of hours late taking off from Toronto due to the snow storms before Christmas. Even when we boarded there was a further delay as the wings were de-iced. A guy stood on the wings (dangerous given how slippery they would be) and sprayed some chemicals on them.
As a consequence, when we arrived in London we missed our connecting flight to Aberdeen and had to queue for re-ticketing.
Now I'm not one of those people who rant and rave over things beyond control nor do I abuse airline personnel over weather related delays or flight cancellations. It's not their fault.
What is within their control and capability however is communication with customers. This never seems to happen. Customers are left in unmoving queues for ages without there being helpful announcements. Occasionally a Canada Airlines staff member would appear only to be hijacked by throngs of people who weren't even in the queues. What they should do is have a big noticeboard above the counters explaining what the hold uo was. How difficult would that be?



We had a four hour wait before we were allocated seats on an afternoon flight to Aberdeen. We were lucky.

On our return from Aberdeen to London we had about 3 hours to wait before or flight to Toronto which was to leave at 2PM. We waited. And waited. And waited. no boarding information was available on the electronic screens. The counter staff had no information. 2PM came and went. By 4 PM someone graciously decided to enter "Delayed" on the electronic board. The counter staff had no information.
By 7PM the counter staff admitted that there were "technical difficulties" with the plane. I don't mind waiting if there's a problem with an aircraft as I'd rather fly in one that was going OK but I remembered years ago that "technical difficulties" which led to a flight cancellation from Christchurch to Auckland was due to the fact that the pilot was plastered and they couldn't find another one.
We established that airlines hold off from cancelling flights until the very last moment as when cancelled they have to provide accommodation. The cut-off is 8PM for flights from London to Toronto. Sure enough, after 8 we were summoned to a herding area and put on buses to a nearby hotel where we stayed the night and were bussed back to the airport next morning. The flight left OK and we were back in Toronto mid afternoon - 36 hours after we left Aberdeen.
Once again it's no use complaining about the situation but communication needs to be a hell of a lot better.

Travelators

We like to move about briskly at airports and train stations and get peeved at the dawdlers who meander all over the place taking up space. The travelators at Heathrow are great for whisking you along (you must walk on them and not stand there like a dummy) quickly.
When hurrying along to our flight from Heathrow we came across two travelators side by side. I took the left one and, behind me a bit The Old Girl took the right one. Walking along I noticed The Old Girl moving up alongside and then overtaking me. We are a bit competitive so I upped my walking speed as I assumed she had done. She still passed me and was getting ahead. I trotted. I ran. I stumbled. Laughing she looked over her shoulder and shouted that she was on the express travelator. Sure enough, I looked over the connecting walls and saw that hers was travelling at half the speed again that mine was. Bugger!
Other passengers around must have wondered about the dishevelled old guy, shirt-tails flapping and carry bag trailing who was running on the travelator and pondering why the silly old fool hadn't taken the faster one.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

LOOKING FOR MR WALKER





Canadians on the whole are a pretty courteous lot. They hold doors open for others, queue politely, behave themselves at sports events and are generally nice. They are nice that is until they get behind the wheel. Like Mr Walker in the 1950 Disney cartoon they turn into Mr Wheeler with all his aggressive driving traits.
It seems that Canadians, or certainly those who drive in Toronto, discover the car horn first when learning to drive. Whether stationary or driving beeping is considered mandatory. A car in front, beside or even behind must be honked at regardless of what the other driver had done, was doing or might consider doing in the future.
Indicators must only be a device on the side of the steering wheel for hanging handbags or something as there is little evidence that they are actually used, especially when travelling at 80 miles per hour along the freeways and lane changes are made.
Running red lights is a national pastime so it always pays for pedestrians to wait a few extra seconds to allow the last moron to get through the intersection. I'm forever giving the finger to the last couple of idiots who go through the last of the yellow lights and through the reds.

Monday, 13 January 2014

SUCH FUN




I went to my first pantomime ever when in Aberdeen over Christmas and New Year. Such fun.

As we get older our entertainment generally becomes more sophisticated through becoming more educated or by peer influence.
Recently The Old Girl and I have been to 3 operas, a Broadway play, several music concerts and visited art galleries.
These were all good and very pleasurable but at none of them did we shout out, scream and yell and laugh uproariously. In fact if we'd done so I'm sure we'd have been asked to move.


The pantomime though encouraged this and more. It was like being a kid over again.



We went to Cinderella in Aberdeen. This was great fun and featured some great Scottish comedians.
It was the final performance of the season and the audience was made up of a higher number of adults than the usual matinees but this didn't stop the calls of "look out behind you" and "oh no you didn't".


Honestly this was the best laugh I've had for years and I'm definitely up for seeing another one.

The pantomime tradition is a British one that hasn't been adopted by New Zealand. Pity.

Monday, 6 January 2014

GETTING FUNNY LOOKS

I went walking this morning. The sun, which has been missing for a few days was out and it looked cheery. At least it did looking out from inside.
I put shorts and t-shirt on and headed out. The temperature was about 1 degree. Frost was still on the ground at 10 am and the puddles were frozen. I noticed that the occasional jogger was wearing a woollen hat, mittens and thermal leggings. They and other people in cars gave me funny looks thinking I was some nutter. I didn't feel cold as long as I walked briskly and kept in the sunshine but my arms and hands were frozen.
I walked down to the golf course, taking the bag of golf balls with me. I was under instructions to return the balls that I'd found the other day. I watched some jokers teeing off and chose one who looked hopeless and gave the balls to him. He was most appreciative. It must have been like a booby prize kind of like Richard nearly won when he played golf once. He only nearly won because he cheated and didn't count a couple of strokes and missed having the highest score by one. Why on earth he thought that 190 was that much of a better score than 192 is anyone's guess.

After the golf course I went down to the beach and wandered about, collecting stones and looking to see the off-shore oil platforms. I think I saw a couple but they may have been ships. I had a pocketful of interesting stones but, given the cold reception that my golf balls received I decided to leave them behind.

All is good as Second Fiddle would say.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

NOTHING WRONG WITH OLD

An old double bass player I know (the person not the instrument as the instrument may only be about 40 years young) in a recent blog-post lamented the fact that he's aging. He's now bent of of shape but who knows, it could be an improvement.

Today we went for a long walk around old Aberdeen. By old I mean really old. There are buildings, bridges and landmarks going back to the 1300's. Wonderful.
We started at the end of the street where the Old Girl's mother lives and where old Aberdeen begins with Kings College, the Aberdeen university. The antiquarian buildings are still in good condition (not yet bent over) and are still in use.
The cobbled streets built for carriages and foot traffic serve pedestrians, cars and buses and still look in good nick.
We went through the university grounds which included  a cathedral, a cemetery, an old brewery, taverns, gardens and houses and made our way to the river Don which had stone bridges spanning it that Robert the Bruce would once have walked on. Living history. I like it.



Friday, 3 January 2014

GETTING TOLD OFF

Or, getting a skelpin' in the local (Doric) dialect.

We awoke to a nice sunny day here in Aberdeen. The Old Girl went off to a local gym club to go swimming and I decided to go walking. I put on my shorts and t-shirt and headed off in the late morning. Whilst it was sunny the temperature was about 5 degrees. This compared to Toronto was positively balmy but I got some odd looks from the locals who were out in their heavy weather gear.

I walked around the golf course near to where we are staying. It's a links course by the sea and I rambled over fairways but generally kept to the dunes areas where the 'rough' was. Beings beside the sea though the sea breeze brought the temperature down to an unbalmy probably sub-zero temperature. For me this was treasure country. I love golf courses and love playing golf but most of all I love finding golf balls.
As an errant golf player I instinctively know where misguided golf balls will land and I soon had a dozen and a half balls in my pockets. I only stopped collecting them because the weight of them was pulling my shorts down - not a god look even for a fine specimen of manhood like me.
I made my way home, finding a nice woollen scarf on the way and presented my finds to the Old Girl and her mother. I would have thought that she'd have been a bit more appreciative what with her birthday being in a few days but no, she said, in rapid order:


"What were you thinking going out like that you're turning blue,

"What have you got in your pockets I hope they're not golf balls"

"What do you think you're going to do with those golf balls? You're not taking those home matey"





Skelped. Never mind, she ran me a hot bath so all was good.

What am I going to do with those golf balls though.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2014 already

It's hard to believe these dates that roll around with disturbing frequency. 2014 in say 1974 seemed an    eon away.
While not as cold as Toronto, Aberdeen has been a bit dreary and miserable over the Christmas/New Year period. We've been having a good catch up with the Old Girl's mum (the Older Girl) who we haven't seen for a few years.
On New Year's Eve we went for a jaunt to Stonehaven, a picture-sku town just south of Aberdeen. They were setting up there for a Simple Minds concert but also preparing for flooding. It was raining heavily and we got soaked just going from the car to a small museum which was beneath the restaurant that the Old Girl's cousin used to own (raining too hard to take a photograph). The museum was one of those enthusiasts ones full of tat and run by a couple of aged nutters.
The restaurant was closed so we drove to a country inn and had a delightful lunch in an authentic 18th century setting. Blazing fire in a coach room with hearty Scottish fare was real cosy.
Back at the Older Girl's place we hunkered down for a night in, cracking a bottle of champers and watching TV but by 11pm we thought we'd brave the outdoors as the rain had stopped. The Old Girl and I wrapped up warm and headed out for town which is about a half hour walk. We found an historic pub and had a Hogmanay whiskey each (Cragganmore 12y.o) and then walked up Union street at midnight to watch a magnificent firework display.

We wandered back down town and decided to celebrate with a glass of champagne. After trying three bars who had no champagne by the glass we found one that was serving Prosecco. We looked at each other and decided that Life's too short to celebrate New Year with a cheap Italian sparkling so ordered a bottle of champagne instead. They only had Mo√ęt but needs must. We lingered over the bottle until they closed the bar just after one am and made our way home. Cities at this time are always interesting. There is a combination of risk and excitement. We greeted a few festive well- wishers; circuited a few drunks ( and their deposits on the footpath); nodded to young police persons (the polis) and enjoyed the conviviality. There was only one sour note. Going down a side street we came across a couple on the other side of the road having an argument. The man was yelling and screaming at the woman. I grabbed the Old Girl's arm and stopped her saying we should wait there and watch them as the man had shut up when he saw us (the coward). The Old Girl was a bit concerned that I might get stabbed or something so I suggested that we just walk to the corner where the traffic lights were and wait there under a light so the man could see us. We stood there looking back at them making it very clear that we were watching his every move. After a while they walked back up the street to a main road area where there were more people so we decided that things were OK for the moment anyway.
The Old Girl said that as the woman was giving ad much back verbally as the man was dishing out that the situation might not be too dangerous. She said it would be a real worry if the man was doing all the yelling and the woman was mute and cowed. I guess she should know as she was in an abusive relationship years ago. I hate seeing things like this but it's universal. Too much booze I suppose.

We got home at about 2am feeling we'd had a good night out.

NEW POST - THE RELIGIOUS CURMUDGEON

Robert has freaked out The Religious Curmudgeon. HERE