Thursday, 24 December 2015


[Click here]

Well, world peace is a given but I do have others.

Here are a couple to start with.

The total failure of social media platforms (Blogger excluded obviously).

I'm sick to death of the reliance that (not only) young people place on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and these other newfangled communication forms. They lead to over-exposure creating a 'look at me' mentality that is dangerous. As not everyone who 'looks at them' is to be trusted these platforms can lead to fraud, identity theft, bullying and other forms of abuse.
They constantly change format so that even if you think you are a bit techno-savvy a new one or an update comes along that buggers up all the skills learned earlier.
Due to over-use any sensible employers or agencies will or should look at all the crap written on social media with a certain amount of circumspection.
My wish for 2006 is that the whole bloody lot will collapse.

The total failure of telecommunication companies

Well, maybe not the whole lot going up in smoke but I'd like to see a paring back to the basics.
The basics being:

  • telephone
  • fax
  • videophone
  • email
  • texting
without all the other crap created by the telecommunication giants who have their hands in the pockets of our children.
Do we really need to have this immediacy whereby people telephone, email, text or tweet information like:

"I'm on the bus"


"Wow, I just saw a yellow car"

I'd like to see these giants get back to basics and actually reinstall roadside telephone kiosks - ones that actually have coin telephones, that work and that are clean. The telcos could pair up with local council engineers and create telephone boxes like the modern automatic public toilets. If anyone stays in them too long or lights matches or pisses then an automatic cleaning system is activated and the bastard gets washed out the door.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015


Sometimes Richard (of RBB) comes up with some good ideas.
In his latest Post on his blog he tells us that he plans to wear an Indian shirt on Christmas Day because he's going to be cooking an Indian meal.

Now I don't know if the thought of Madras turkey or pavlova bajees flick your switch or not but it will certainly make for a colourful experience.

I wonder if the old guy will carry on this idea throughout the year with his other clothing?







Friday, 18 December 2015



It is when a person uses excessive tanning oils, and takes one to many trips to the local tanning salon.
Hercules looked mighty retarded as he sported the orange face look in the middle of winter while waiting in line at the bar in the cold.
Urban Dictionary
OK, the references above didn't come from the Oxford English Dictionary but you get the idea.
We had a reasonable summer in the UK - better anyway than I was expecting. While it wasn't exactly 'rush for the beach' weather there were plenty of happy faces and even some of them showing a light colouring from real sun.

Now that winter is upon us the dreaded 'Orange face' is starting to be seen.
'Orange face' in the UK is when people who normally would be all peely-wally and just a shade above blue decide to 'look healthy' and sport a tan.

To do this they either go on a package tour to places like Benidorm in Spain:

or visit tanning studios who promise to make them look fit, bronzed and alluring:

Like this

Or this

Or even this

The results are pretty scary I tell you.

Saturday, 12 December 2015


OK, so I'm getting old, but do I have to be reminded of it all the time?

A couple of weeks ago when I had the problem on the motorway, the wind blew my spectacles off onto the road. While a lorry didn't crush them the frame still broke and had to be replaced.
When getting tested and fitted it seems that I needed a stronger prescription. As if the current shortsightedness wasn't enough.

What next - coke bottle bottoms?

Just around the corner from us is a hearing clinic. The Old Girl is always complaining (or at least when I can hear her) that I'm getting deaf. I decided to go in for a test. The test was very comprehensive and took about an hour. It showed that I do have a decline in hearing that can be corrected by hearing aids - equally in each ear. I was fitted with some to see the difference and it was pretty amazing. I could hear the  's' tones again.
I can't afford to buy any at present but it was an interesting exercise.

I keep getting new pains in knees and other joints. While this hasn't stopped me going to the gym and doing exercise it can limit activity from time to time.

I guess the trick is to just keep going so as not to seize up. I cycle around and out to the gym 4 or 5 days a week and walk as much as the odd knee pain allows. I'm looking forward to getting back to NZ (next month) so I can kayak again.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015


We went to Holmfirth on the weekend to see the Alabama 3 concert.


This was seriously good stuff.
Alabama 3 (A British band) is very well known - they did the Sopranos theme song - but chose in this case to perform in a tiny Yorkshire village at the local Picturedrome.

The venue was small - even smaller than the old Wellington town hall - and intimate.
There was nothing fancy about it just a big open area in front of a stage with no seats and a 'mosh pit' atmosphere.
There was a balcony running around the area above the floor area just wide enough for a chair or one person to stand at each spot. I kind of expected this so hurried The Old Girl along to get there half an hour early to grab a spot which we just managed to do but got a damn good location with a good view of the stage.

The place was pretty rustic but had a well set up bar  - what more can you want - wine, Guinness and great music.

It reminded me of concerts I went to in the 1970s.

Coddy's Farm

We drove down and stayed the night at a farm-stay B&B which was pretty good. The views across the valley were spectacular. This is Last of The Summer Wine territory after all. See here:


That weekend northern UK was smashed by a massive storm which caused flooding in may towns and villages, It was a wild night.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015


I rented a car on the weekend to travel to Birmingham to a wine fair.
I normally travel by train but the timing and the venue location of this made it logistically difficult so a car was going to be easier.

Or so I thought.

I checked out possible rental car companies on-line. They all seemed to have the same deals on cars, mileage, insurance etc. When it came to fuel they all had a full-out full back policy meaning that you returned the car full of petrol.

When I say all, one of them had nothing on the website about this but I assumed that it was a standard policy. It was this company I used as it was the closest to where we live.

When I picked up the car on Friday morning I asked the sales person where the nearest petrol station was so I could fill the car up when returning it. The sales person, a trainee, pointed out a station along the road.

I climbed in and drove off to find the motorway South.

Not long down the motorway - the M6, while in lane 3 the fast lane the car started to cough and stall. I was unable to manouvre over three lanes to the hard shoulder and had to coast the car as close as I could to the centre barrier while still in the fast lane. I immediately put the hazard lights on.
Trucks and cars raced past at 70 mph. It was a life-threatening situation.

Soon after a police car came up behind and I explained that the car had stopped and seemed like it was out of petrol. On close inspection the gauge said just that. With a new and strange car with so many dials and dashboard lights I didn't notice this when I drove off. To be honest I wasn't looking for it as :

1. I assumed that the car was full of petrol and
2. I asked the sales trainee where I should fill the car up again on returning it to which he showed me thereby implying that I was taking out a car full of petrol. 

WRONG! This company (the only one) sends out cars with just a bit of petrol in it. The customer has to fill it up.
I looked this up later on the internet and it is apparently a rental car company scam. The customer takes out an empty car and fills it up. Ideally, when the customer returns the car he should do so empty but who does that? Most cars get returned with at least half a tank (as tourists don't want to run the risk of running out), The rental car company takes the car and DOESN'T give a credit for the petrol in it. In the UK petrol is very expensive with a tank being about £60  which is about NZD 150.

So here I am stuck in the fast lane of a very busy motorway. A second police car arrived and the two of them blocked off the motorway - all 3 lanes - with their cars and they pushed me across to the hard shoulder. They arranged for a recovery vehicle to come and hoist the car up and drive a few miles down the road to a service centre. when there I had to go to a petrol station, buy a petrol can and petrol and put 5 litres into the car.

It wouldn't start.

Apparently these Ford Focus cars throw a bit of a wobbly after running dry and won't start for a while. I had to ring AA to come out which fortunately happened within half an hour. The AA guy got the car going and I drove to the petrol station, filled up and continued on my way.

I arrived at the venue late but in one piece.
At the end of the first day of the show I headed off, at about 7PM for my accommodation which was about 25 minutes away. It rained and rained and was very dark. I had ordered a sat-nav from the car company but when I picked the car up they didn't have one. Now driving in the UK is a bit different from driving in New Zealand. THERE ARE TOO MANY FUCKING PEOPLE HERE! The road systems mostly consist of motorways and sub-motorways with numbers prefaced by 'A's and 'B's. You cannot stop on these to consult a map or google a location on your phone. I had to continually get off the motorways to find country roads to do this. Even on the country roads, when trying to find some street or otherwise there is always some cars up your arse no matter what day or time it is. As I shouted before TOO MANY FUCKING PEOPLE HERE!
It took me over 4 hours to find my accommodation and I arrived about 11.30pm tired and irritable (and hungry).
It was too late to eat or have a wine so I had a bath and went to bed.

The next day I worked all day at the wine event - bloody exhausting- and headed off north to Cheshire for another event I was to work at on Sunday. As my accommodation was a farm-stay I knew that I'd be in troble in the rain and dark so I borrowed a sat -nav from one of the people I was working with.

All seemed OK to begin with. The drive was to be about 2 hours and I was hoping to arrive about 8PM.

  • The sat-nav wouldn't sit on the dashboard. It fell off so I had to put it in my lap
  • The voice control was set really low with no obvious way to increase the volume
  • When the voice instructions came I had to hold it up to my ear (while driving at 70mph in the rain)
  • Occasionally it would cut out.
  • It would cut out at vital moments like : the next intersection turn xxxx####????.and then take the third exit to the xxxxx?????~#### ...........
It took me over 4 hours to find my accommodation, arriving 2 hours after I said I would.

The farm-stay accommodation was superb. Clean and comfortable room with a big bathroom with both bath and shower cubicle and a wonderful breakfast next morning.

With instructions from the farm owners I set off to find the wine venue which was very plush. I was presenting wines (with other brand owners and marketers) to the select customers of the merchant we deal with. The select customers are all very well heeled from the old money industrialists through to the millionaire footballers with their WAGs. I was there all day pouring wine samples, talking up our wine and generally chatting for about 8 hours. I was hard work but enjoyable.

At one stage I was to pour some wine for an attractive woman, aged about mid 40's and asked her what she wanted. She said a red wine as she couldn't drink white wines. Normally it's the other way around for people with allergies so I asked her if she got headaches with white wine. She sidled around the end of the table and whispered in my ear "It's because white wine makes me easy".


If it had been 28 years ago before I met the Old Girl I would have said:

"Have a nice big glass of white wine my dear"

As it was I sort of said "Ummm, OK, we have a nice Pinot Noir here"

The event was a success and I headed off back to York in the dark, the rain and 80km winds with the sat-nav pressed to my ear at vital junctions.
Generally I just headed north knowing that once I found York I'd be OK.

On Monday morning I returned the car to the rental car agency and proceeded to have an argument with them.
They said that they didn't have a full out full in policy but couldn't explain why they don't put this on their website. They had no explanation why the sales person didn't properly explain that I'd be heading out with a virtually empty petrol tank.
I did get a refund for half a tank of petrol though (against company policy) - I think they just wanted to get rid of me. Bastards!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Well what a day Friday was.


We went to Dublin for the weekend with the main feature being the Van Morrison concert on Friday night.
Wanting to do this in a leisurely way the Old Girl took Friday off work and so we booked a midday flight from Manchester - it's only an hour flight to Dublin so we intended having an afternoon exploring before the evening show. The Old Girl booked the tickets months ago as a birthday treat for me. The concert was a sell-out and in a big venue that fortunately had good acoustics and seating.

To make sure that we got to the airport in plenty of time we booked the 8AM train from York to Manchester which would arrive at about 9.20 - plenty of time before the flight.
We rose early and were at the station before 8 to discover that the train had been cancelled. Bummer.
We waited for the next train which was scheduled  35 minutes later. We waited. And waited...... it was delayed. Points failure or something.


The announcements kept coming about further delays. They were the only thing coming as the train certainly wasn't. We eventually climbed aboard a packed train (doubled up lot of passengers) which just got more and more delayed on the way. The result was that when we finally got to Manchester airport our flight had gone.
We had to book a later flight (and hand over another couple of hundred quid). This later flight was 5.40 instead of the noon flight we'd planned.
We headed off into Manchester city to kill some time and had an amazingly crappy lunch at an Italian restaurant. Yuck!

At least the flight was on time but arriving in Dublin and clearing Customs took us to nearly 7PM.
We hailed a taxi and urged the driver to get us to the city fast. He was Italian and every time I said "Pronto!" he said "Hello?"

We went via our hotel to drop off bags and made our way through slow Friday night traffic to the concert venue arriving at 3 minutes to 8. We found our seats and the band came on about 5 minutes later. No unprofessional pissing about and delays with old campaigners like Morrison.

The set was perfect - 90 minutes plus (about 20 numbers) of new and old songs. Morrison's voice is still great. This is his 70th birthday tour. His guitar, harmonica and saxophone playing superb. His autocratic conducting of the (very good) band worked and the resultant sound was a jazz rock fusion that matched the material.

There were no taxis to be found outside with thousands of concert-goers heading home but we hailed down one of those bicycle/rickshaws to take us to our hotel. It was only the second time we'd been in one of these, the other time being in Penang. It was bloody freezing!

The Old Girl had got a good deal at a classy little hotel near Trinity University so we were ideally placed for exploring on Saturday and Sunday - James Joyce, WB Yeats exhibition, Trinity College plus a bus tour around the city. We were lucky with the weather even though it was damned cold.

The flight home was quicker than the flight out - tail wind - but, par for the course the train was delayed, and delayed (points failure!). By the time one arrived there was basically passengers for three trains worth trying to get on. We were lucky (or bullish) and got on to claim seats but others had to stand, sit in the aisle or wave goodbye from the platform. We got home about 9M. All in all it was a good weekend.

Friday, 20 November 2015


See here:


 Well not exactly shitting in a hat - more like shitting in an envelope and sending it away.

In  UK the NHS has a free bowel screening programme where stool samples can be smeared on a printed card, sealed in a secure postage paid envelope and sent away to a lab for testing.

Not for the squeamish as they are at pains to explain but well worth while.
The Old Girl and I have done this. She received her clearance a few weeks ago and I got mine today.

A good friend of ours has cancer that has taken over her body. It began with undiagnosed bowel cancer and has spread catastrophically. In New Zealand there is some advertising about the dangers of bowel cancer but as yet there is no national screening programme like they have here.

The poor old NHS gets a bit of a bad rap in UK but I think that the moaners need to go to another country like the bloody USA to realise how lucky they are with having a free service.
We certainly have benefited from this (The Old Girl has UK citizenship and anyway there is a reciprocal arrangement with New Zealand) and the bowel cancer clearance is another one of those health worries taken away.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


I went to London for a few days and returned yesterday on the train.
After an hour or so I could smell a burning smell kind of like when a hair dryer has been on too long.
I looked around but no-one else seemed to have noticed anything.

I remembered a Sopranos episode where Carmine Lupertazzi, one of the new York mafia bosses smelled burning hair just before he had a stroke and died.

The smell persisted though and I didn't have a stroke and die but something did happen. The train stopped suddenly.
It had been trying to tell me something.

A feeder pipe to the braking system had apparently come loose and had triggered the automatic braking system. We were stopped about 50 kms south of York for about 45 minutes while the problem was fixed.

After about 10 minutes a Scots guy on the other side of the aisle asked me:

"Hey pal, what station are we at?"

(He'd had a couple of drinks on the way). I answered him:

" We're not at a station, we're out in the country somewhere. We're stuck here for the night".

"Nay bother" he said and put his earphones back in.

In real life, in 1947 when Sparky was recorded, a kid telling everyone that trains talked to him would have been put in a nut house. They'd think that Sparky was the one with a loose wheel.

Thursday, 12 November 2015


I'm going to give you the recipe for the best pizza I've ever had.

Pizza, as you may not know, has its origins in Italy and was named after the pizzafocco which is a kind of flat cap worn during the Renaissance between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Initially a form of peasant food because field workers kept their lunch under their hats and during the working hours the foccacia sandwiches they had, in the heat, molded itself to the shape of their hats, pizza soon was seen in restaurants and on dining tables everywhere.

I like making my own pizzas and have a few good variants.
Sometimes I make my own pizza base from scratch because the supermarket offerings are pretty dismal but here in the UK I've found a perfect 'ready to top' pizza base.

The brand is Crosta & Mollica and is made in Italy. I buy it in Waitrose.

It has a nice rim which is crusty on the outside and soft in the centre providing a 'well' for the toppings on a nice thin base.
The texture is more like a croissant than a chewy, bready form and it acts as a vehicle for the toppings rather than being too dominant. Delicious.

The variant that I've developed is a vegetarian one.

On the base, which is already lightly coated with a tomato sauce, I spread a little more tomato concentrate mixed with some sweet chilli sauce and some Lee Kum Lee chilli garlic sauce.

If you don't have this in your pantry as a staple then you'd better get some. We use it in spaghetti sauces, taco mixtures, stews, casseroles, curries - basically anything except desserts but probably only because we haven't tried that yet.

Trim and slice a capsicum (any colour) and gently saute in a pan with fresh garlic in a little oil (only ever use olive oil).
You should have already boiled a small to medium size potato. In UK Piper Maris is best but in New Zealand I'll use Agria. When this is cool or cold, slice it thinly and layer on the pizza base.

Next slice some artichoke hearts. I use bottled ones from the supermarket. I find that they keep well in the fridge if you use them up over a couple of weeks. Layer the slices over the potato.

Spread the sauteed capsicum and garlic across the potato and artichoke layers.

I now use some delicious Piquante Peppers. I buy these in a jar. The brand is Peppadew which I've found in UK and NZ. These have a sweet and spicy taste combined. Not too hot but with a nice 'bite'. Chop them in pieces and mingle with the capsicum.

Olives are next. Only ever use Kalamata olives (Greek or Italian). Don't use those nasty Spanish ones that are chewy and have no flavour. I buy the pitted ones because I don't have an olive pitter, Cut the olives in half or quarters and liberally distribute over the ingredients so far.

I've already put some sweet chiili sauce and some chilli garlic sauce into the base mixture but I like my food with a bite of a 'kick' so, when the Old Girl is away like she is at the moment I add a little bit of hot chilli sauce.
I have some in a bottle I bought from an Asian food store which is surprisingly hot. The brand is Uni Eagle Sriracha.

With this little number you only need a few dribbles across the top (drops even) to do the deed.

I finish with a sprinkle of grated mozzarella cheese - not too much as you want to taste the vegetables and not the cheese. The base can have a few sprinkles as well.

I sometimes use some fresh herbs (basil, rosemary etc) but this is when I haven't used the chilli.

10 minutes in a 220 degree oven and this is ready. I had mine last night with a reasonable NZ Pinot Noir.

(photo off the web. Mine looked much nicer)

Saturday, 7 November 2015


This next chap was/is weird and would qualify for other categories as well - none complimentary.

At one of the yearly conferences (the Yanks would call it a convention) in USA with the liquor company I worked for we had Bruce Jenner as the guest 'motivational' speaker. This spot as usual was on the morning of the break day in the week long conference with recreational and 'team building' activities in the afternoon.

This conference was at Monarch Beach at Dana Point south of L.A.

Jenner's 'motivational' speech was extremely uninspiring and the FIGJAM merely talked about himself. It was, all agreed, an exercise in self promotion.
After lunch we went to the beach. As the sumptuous resort hotel was actually by the beach this was only a couple of minutes stroll. In keeping with the over-the-top conference management though we of course went via a fleet of golf carts ranging from 2 people ones through to 8 people ones.

The beach trip was for 'team building' games which as anyone who has had to endure this sort of crap is basically self defeating and causes more enmity than camaraderie.

Some marketing or event management idiot thought that in keeping with the Jenner theme (Olympian decathlete) the team building games should incorporate throwing, jumping, running activities (team?) so we all  proceeded to mangle each other as best we could fueled of course by copious lashings of wine, beer and spirits - all company brands of course,

To get from event to event we jumped on the nearest golf cart and usually it was the drunkest one driving.
At one point I went to jump on a buggy only to be told

"Sorry buddy, this one's taken"

It was driven by this joker.


It was an eight-seater and other than him there were two gorillas who were his bodyguards.

The 'buddy' thing got to me and I still proceeded to board the cart. There were 5 spare seats after all.
The gorillas loomed towards me menacingly. The were dressed in dark suits, white shirts and dark ties.
This was California in summer! They were obviously 'packing'. What I don't know - the bulges in their jackets might have been sun-screen lotion but I stepped down, made a 'loser' sign to the 'winner' and got on another cart.

Talking to some of the American conference attendees they said that FIGJAM believed he was so important he needed 'personal security' around him.


In more recent years I've seen him on TV with his family the FWGJAU Kardashians.

This lot obviously deserve each other but, apparently, have split with old Bruce who now goes by the name of Caitlin.

Weird. And getting weirder although I wouldn't mind betting the whole thing is a publicity stunt dreamed up by the 'Reality World' marketers.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015


Robert aka Second fiddle wasn't impressed with my Weirdest People I've met # 1 post complaining that it is old news from last century and that plenty of people have wanted to kill him in this century. I can well understand that.

Moving on, another weird person I once met was when The Old Girl and I were in France.
We were in Bordeaux and guests of the owners of Chateau Palmer which is one of the great chateaux in Margaux region.

Chateau Palmer

The owners, Peter and Diane Sichel didn't live in Chateau Palmer, it being used as a showplace and for formal entertaining. They lived in their family home at Chateau d'Angludet not far away.
We enjoyed some Champagne and canapes there while the kids had an early meal before bed and then proceeded to Chateau Palmer.

The main dining room at the front of the chateau had been set up for dinner with 6 place settings - the Sichels, The Old Girl and me and two Brits who arrived soon after us.

The dinner was simply amazing consisting of that European elegance, quality and understatement with four courses providing everything we would want without being over the top flamboyant. We were served at table by a trio of staff who were long-term Chateau Palmer employees very experienced in catering.

The wines, Chateau Palmer, were stunning from the very rare and superb quality 1961 for which Palmer as a 'second growth' outshone all 'first growth' wines that year through to successively younger vintages.

Anyway, on to our British table fellows.

He was Chairman or ex CEO of a major British brewery - a very important man.
He was brash, outspoken and noisy and was a bit of a caricature - one that I've seen many times on UK television kind of like a cross between Jerry's Boss 'Sir' in The Good Life and Sir Ralph Richardson in Blandings Castle.

Reginald Marsh - 'Sir' in The Good Life
Sir Ralph Richardson

His wife was also a bit of a caricature. She was tiny - thin and mouse-like and reminded me of 'She Who Must Be Obeyed"'s friend Dodo Macintosh from Rumpole of The Bailey.

Ann Way from Rumpole of The Bailey
She was quite mad and would interject into conversations with the most hilarious and disconcerting statements like this:

Peter Sichel: "The 1970 Palmer scored almost perfect points but when we try it next to the older 1961 it makes the '61 look like it's just come out of the ......
Mad British Woman: " Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha  my gladioli haven't done at all well this year ha ha ha ha ha"
Weird British Chap: " Harumph"
Peter Sichel: "  ........ ummm as I was saying the '61 which scored 20 out of 20 tastes just like ..."
 Mad British Woman: " Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha the tea at Harrods this year isn't a patch on last year ha ha ha ha ha ha "
Peter Sichel:  " ............................. more wine anyone?"
Well if we thought that Mrs Weird Person was mad, her husband seemed keen to outscore her.

At one point during the dinner table conversation, between updates on country gardens and department store shortcomings, the 'chairman' regaled us with stories from their driving adventure from London to Bordeaux.
It was hilarious not so much in the content which was of a dreary ferry journey, mad drivers, no decent tea to be had in the cafes etc. but in the manner in which it was recounted.

Weird British Chap: " So after we cleared the bally ring roads of Paris we decided to bash on down South"
Me: (being devil's advocate) " Sorry, what did you do after Paris?"
Weird British Chap: " Bashed on down South what? That's how we got here to old Borders what? Thought we'd look up Peter for a spot of nosh what? Said he was having dinner what? Sort of invited ourselves along what? Bloody good vino what? Just the...."
Mad British Woman: " Reginald snores you know ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ..."
 Weird British Chap: " Harumph"
It was a very memorable evening and we felt as if we'd been somehow transported into one of those '60's/'70's British shows with over the top performances. The eye-opening thing was that these types of people actually exist,

The dinner party went on for several hours followed by a private tour of the cellars before being chauffeur driven back to our hotel in Bordeaux.

Weird but magic.


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...