Thursday, 21 January 2016


* Fuck I'm Good Just Ask Me

I'm sure that you've noticed the excessive marketing feedback that is asked for by goods and service companies in recent years. What started as a trickle is now a bloody avalanche and is extremely annoying.

I'm talking about when you book a train or airline ticket, sign up for telecommunications or electricity, pay your rates, order something on-line or in fact interact at all with not only commercial agencies but also councils and government agencies - that immediately afterwards you get bombarded with requests to fill out survey forms as to how well they did and did you like their service.

I'm tired of it. It seems to me to be symptomatic of the Me Me culture that defines young people nowadays. I guess the over-pampered and indulged kids of the nineties are now the young mid-twenty marketers who have been coming out with this crap. They were brought up being told that they are wonderful and develop insecurity complexes if they aren't regularly patted on the head and rewarded.

It's time that everyone hardened up!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


I'm back in New Zealand after living the last 6 months in York.
Actually Yorkshiremen call Yorkshire God's Own but they can't spell it like we do.

I arrived back in Auckland on Thursday after 36 hours of travelling (included 11 hours stopover in Hong Kong).
Normally a long stopover like that would be a hassle but in Hong Kong you aren't held captive in the airport terminal like in some countries and I was able to take the train into the city. Now I'm over being impressed by big busy cities - to me they are all the same - busy, noisy, sometimes dirty with lots of shops and tall buildings (Vienna and Prague were pleasant variations though), but I took a bus up to The Peak which was very impressive.

I've read a few novels set in Hong Kong, the best being The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre. It was neat travelling around streets and seeing places as featured in the novels.
On the way back to the airport I stopped off at Kowloon. This is an older version of Hong Kong , very Chinese and grubby, rough as guts with every street seeming to have a different theme - fish, meat, vegetables, gold, jade, shoes, socks, clothing, etc. including prostitution where I got propositioned several times.

Our Auckland apartment is now untenanted so I stayed there Thursday night before heading up to Whangarei on the 7.30 bus the next morning.
Wow! The stunning view of the Hen and Chickens, Mount Manaia and the other Whangarei Heads features never fail to amaze. As the bus crests the Brynderwins it's all laid out in front.
The good feeling was palpable.

The house and more importantly the cat were in good nick and I set about moving back in after being 2 and a half years away. I did a couple of car trips from lock-up to house (about half hour each way) before realising that it'd take about 30 trips.
I hired a van on Saturday and did two 12 hour days making 9 big van load trips to get everything out and in the house except for paintings and artwork that I'll bring over gradually as I set the house up.
I was bloody exhausted at the end of this as there were lots of boxes and some heavy furniture.
Anyway all done now.

Those useless bastards Sparks (Telecom) let me down. I arranged with them, 2 months ago from UK, to have phone/internet set up. "Yes, yes" they said," no problem" and confirmed that the phone line would be working from 30 December and all I had to do was plug in the internet modem.
OK? Well I plugged in the modem which had been delivered but there was no action. There was no phone line (but this didn't stop the bastards sending me a bill from the 30 December to January 16!).
I spent 5 hours on the phone (Vodafone cellphone) talking to recorded messages, waiting and talking to people who were obviously outplaced to other countries).
"Yes, yes" they said "you have connections - it says here on the computer screen"
"No, no" I said "I bloody well do not, I'm in the house holding on to the damned phone and it just goes beep beep"
"Oh dearie me" they say before cutting me off.
This happened three times hence the 5 hours until I threatened escalation and demanded that a serviceman came to fix the problem This was Friday.
I got a serviceman on Sunday midday who took two hours fixing line problems (not in our house but external ones).
Problem now fixed and I'm refusing to pay anything until 17th January when I finally got a phone connection.

Shhesh! But to be honest they were no worse than Bell in Canada and BT in UK. What is it with these telecommunication companies? Oh, I know, they are staffed by Noels and Colins.

The Old Girl is doing the reverse in York - packing up the apartment and arranging sending furniture we bought back to NZ.
She leaves this weekend and was supposed to come directly to NZ but now they want her back in Canada!
Fortunately this is just for a week or two and she should be back here early February. Travels over (I hope). All her winter gear is packed though so the minus 20's in Toronto will freeze her whatsits.

I see that things are a bit different here now.
There is an Auckland exodus with people selling up their overpriced properties and moving out to outlying areas. Well, maybe an exaggeration but I'm told that the property market in Whangarei is buoyant with many Auckland buyers.

Richard (of RBB) has finally flipped and now only writes in Italian. Poor Shelley if he only speaks it .... hold on, that might be a blessing as he only speaks rubbish anyway.

Second Fiddle has taken off his clothes and runs around the neighbourhood waving his arms about.
 Well, that's christians for you.

Petone Ponderer has finally seen the light and fled Petone for Northern climes. Very sensible that.

Friday, 8 January 2016



 Donovan's sweet voice and lyrics are totally overshadowed by Dylan's edgy vocals and poetry.
This is a great comparison that doesn't really put either of the musicians in a good light.
Donovan looks like he is well aware that Dylan is the better poet and Dylan is just too cocky.

Baby Blue is one of my favourite Dylan songs though and young Bob does a very good job of it here.

I always liked Graeme Bonnet's version though.


Thursday, 7 January 2016



London England for any Americans reading this.

We arrived from Prague late in the afternoon on New Year's Eve. It was raining.

It was raining the last two times I visited London as well. What's that about?

We checked in to the hotel and went for a wander to find a wine bar before dinner.
We were staying in Covent Garden which is a pretty vibrant place - lots of pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants, theatres and shops. The trouble with it though is that while there are lots of bars and pubs very, very few serve up any decent wine, particularly by the glass. We're spoiled here in NZ with the offerings we get. Even RSA's and Cosi clubs offer better wine than most UK bars

We went shopping in the market and nearby fancy shops.

I bought a hat.

The Old Girl went a bit mad and reminded me of that Jaws scene when she said "We need a bigger bag"

We picked up our pre-booked opera tickets and tickets to A Christmas Carol with Jim Broadbent and saw that there were tickets available for Hangmen that evening.

Hangmen is a black comedy by Martin McDonagh (Cripple of Innishmaan) and had an outstanding cast including David Morrissey who nailed the part. This is well worth seeing if you get the chance. Dark, dark 'comedy'.
We went to the 8 pm performance and were back at our hotel before midnight.
We stayed at a cheap hotel (Travelodge Covent Garden) but as luck would have it we were on the 12th floor with a panoramic views over London which afforded us a great view of the New Years eve firework display at midnight.

This is an annual event that people pay to see and streets are closed for miles around. We got to see it free and unplanned for. Magic.

On New Years day we went to the matinee performance of the double opera Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci at the Royal Opera House.

We are opera lovers and built the New Years trip to London around this.
The Royal Opera House was pretty nice. It was smaller than other opera houses we've visited but beautifully appointed.

The performances were outstanding. We had good seats in the orchestra area with a good central view of the stage. The director chose to use the same Italian village setting for both operas (economical set staging) and created links between the two to make sense of this. The music was excellent including of course the gut-wrenching Canio/Pagliacci's Vesti La Giubba.
We were lucky enough to see Luciano Pavarotti sing this some years ago and love it.

After the opera double we had time for a quick meal before going to the Noel Coward theater to see A Christmas Carol.

I'd read about this and the great reviews it has been getting so didn't expect to get tickets but again we lucked out. One of the great things about London is the theater and the quality of acting. Jim Broadbent and the brilliant cast were sublime. This really made our day on top of the opera.

Next day (still raining) was just lazing about until it was time for our train back to York. This was not cancelled, not delayed and so for once British rail (Virgin) did the right thing by us.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


We arrived in Prague via fast train. This baby fairly zipped along.
It's great sitting on a train watching the scenery through the big windows. Much better than by plane, bus or car.

Prague is an old and beautiful city like Vienna but a bit more faded. It escaped bombing in WW2 so there is a great cross section of architecture over the last millennium. Virtually all styles are represented.
The Soviets are gone although there is a slight presence still there - maybe adding to that 'faded' image.
We had to show our passports at the hotel and you could imagine the old women sitting in the corridors recording the comings and goings of the guests.

The Czechs were always a bit feisty and non-compliant to both the Germans and the Russians through their successive occupations. When the Russkies put a T34 tank on display after the war in a central square the locals kept painting it pink. The Russkies would paint it green again and the locals would paint it pink. Eventually the Russkies gave up and put it in a museum.
Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) was formed after WW1 with sovereignty that was blatantly ignored and abused by Hitler's Germany and the major powers in the 1930's. Their ageing president was duped by Hitler against the wishes of the people. It was never going to be a happy state of affairs.
Hitler created a Protectorate and put in as 'protector' this bastard:

Heydrich. Number 3 in the Nazi hierarchy, Hitler's protege and a right psychopathic bastard.
He drafted the final solution' activity from gas trucks to gas chambers and concentration camps and formed the Einsatzgruppen - see here: THE KINDLY ONES
Heydrich was all the more scary because while he was a monster he was also very well educated. He had a wife and children, university degrees, played violin and was interested in arts, literature and music (Aryan of course).

Heydrich set about repressing the Czechs and exterminating the Jews. His position as #3 obviously attracted the attention of the British and they sent a group of Czech/British paratroopers to wipe him out.

The exercise was slightly botched but resulted in Heydrich dying from his wounds.
The Nazis however retaliated gruesomely. Enraged Hitler wanted to murder one in ten Czechs but his advisers calmed him a bit (they needed Czech labour for armaments production and agriculture) so they razed two towns - Lezaky and Lidice instead. It is estimated that up to 5,000 people - men, women and children were directly murdered or subsequently died in concentration camps.

Put that in perspective to the outcry over the deaths in the Twin Towers in NYC.

Anyway, why I mention this is because it is still a raw nerve in Prague. We went on a fascinating walking tour concerned with Czech resistance activity in occupied Prague.

We went underground where partisans hid from the Jerries, stored arms, food and ammunition and ran hospitals for their wounded. I feel that by doing this trip and visiting the Jewish Quarter we expiated ourselves from our fraternisation with the Austrian Nazis in the previous 3 days.

We took a tram tour of Prague and got a bit of a history lesson.

It's pretty nice but I don't think I'd want to live there even if the castle up on the hill above the river (Blue) Danube is magnificent.

So after 2 days and nights  it was off to London for New Year's Eve, flying by way of (Wonderful, wonderful) Copenhagen.

We went to Vienna and Prague for Christmas as we wanted to experience a white Christmas. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the weather was excellent - blue skies and sunshine, a bit cool down to 1 degrees but definitely fine.

Two years ago when we were living in Toronto we left just before Christmas to spend Christmas and New Year in Scotland where it was grey and rainy. While we were away Toronto experienced a 'Polar Vortex' bring the coldest weather that they'd had for generations.

Everything snap-froze so tree branches, poles, squirrels etc simply froze and snapped in half.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016


On Christmas Day we flew to Vienna via Cologne. We didn't see the cathedral or smell the city as we were just in transit at the airport but did have a German sausage snack there.
In Vienna, as I said, we stayed at the 25 Hours hotel (they keep different time over there) which was pretty good. The concept is to put fun into hotel stays. The service and services are as good as any that you'd expect but the staff are friendly and informal. They must be selected for their memories as they all seemed to know our names wherever we went.

(Maybe they were told to keep an eye on us)

I know that it offends old jokers like Richard (of RBB) but 25 Hours hotel has signs at the entrance to the restaurant like " Fuck it, eat pizza".

and all the other little hotel bits and pieces like door hangers are a bit different.

It's all a bit of fun.

Vienna is without doubt the most beautiful city I've seen.

It is scrupulously clean, grand and magnificent. The buildings are gold-embossed and on a scale that takes your breath away. It's a pity that the place is full of Austrians though.
Austria didn't recognise the end of WW2 in 1945 like all other countries. Austria didn't celebrate until 1955 which was when the Allied occupation ended. Austria still made it difficult for returning Jews to reclaim property and fill administrative and academic positions. Austria unashamedly appointed ex- Nazis to positions of power and authority all while pretending to have been above it all. They claim that Austria was the first country 'invaded' by Hitler's Germany.


More like welcomed.

We toured the city as much as time allowed (3 days) and one of the best visits was to the Jewish Museum in the Jewish Quarter. There is a Simon Wiesenthal exhibition there which is very informative. In other exhibitions it is clear that all is not forgiven by the Jewish community and rightly so.

Seeing the ferris wheel that featured in that great film The Third Man was special.

On our travels we found Mozart's grave which will please Richard and Robert.

It was in a park by the cemetery of St Marx. Now some people will have it that Mozart's resting place was discovered in 1855 (he was buried in 1791 in a pauper's mass grave).

What they say is his grave

What I found and believe as young Wolfgang had a sense of humour

We spent a bit of time at The Belvedere.

Upper Belvedere

Lower Belvedere

This magnificent building (Upper and Lower ) houses great works of art including the incomparable Klimt.
We've always loved Klimt's paintings and seeing them in the flesh (we stayed in our clothes) as it were was a treat. It's always great to be delighted and Klimt's paintings, with all the gold leaf are bigger and better than I had expected.

Food seems to be high on the agenda in Vienna so we indulged in a bit of good stuff. The wine offerings are a bit naff though with mostly Austrian and Italian wines on offer with the odd German wine. Nothing too flash.

I had the ubiquitous Wiener Schnitzel and Apfel Strudel which were delicious and we tried out a couple of the grand coffee houses that Vienna is famous for.

The pastries and cakes on offer were superb but frankly we get better coffee at home.

We were expecting colder weather and to be frank (Ha, Cyclone frank was back in the UK devastating York) we chose Vienna for Christmas because we were looking forward to a white Christmas. It didn't snow however and we had blue skies, sunshine and (although cool down to 2 degrees) fine weather.

The Christmas markets were impressive with great use of lights and lots of gingerbread men about.

After 3 days we had to head off to Prague,
We went by train as rail travel is always our preference. It is more leisurely, you can turn up to the station minutes before departure and you can see the sights on the way.

Monday, 4 January 2016


Well we're back from our Christmas/New Year jaunt away from York.
Did we miss much?
Well, apparently we missed this.

When we got back last night all the flood waters had gone. That was lucky.

It reminded me of two Christmases ago when we left Toronto where we had been living, for Aberdeen for Christmas and New Year.
When we were away Toronto experienced this:

The worst 'Polar Vortex' storm for a century.

We were comparatively warm - in bloody freezing north of Scotland!

We booked  a flight to Vienna on Christmas Day but, having had experience of UK train services and their almost planned disruptions, we traveled down to Manchester on Christmas Eve.

Now Manchester might be famous for Coronation Street and a couple of  soccer teams but really isn't that flash. I've been there before a couple of times and can understand how dramas like Shameless can be created.

We stayed at an airport hotel to be on the safe side as far as travel on Christmas day goes (Oh, I just remembered why we traveled from York to Manchester on Christmas Eve - the bloody trains don't run on Christmas Day! - at least they're are being honest and saying " Er, we can't promise that we'll get you to yer destination today so better that we cancel it altogether, OK love?".

So. Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day breakfast was had in the cheery atmosphere of an airport hotel.

Oh well, we've had worse. I remember spending all day Christmas day at Wellington hospital in intensive care with my mother. The Old Girl and I had our Christmas dinner at midnight in our motel room by the hospital - take-a-way Chinese. That was a sad and fraught time - good friends were also there with their son who had fallen off a roof and was also in I.C.

 We were off to Vienna (via Cologne) flying on German Wings.

This one thankfully and not the one below where some nutter of a co-pilot decided to commit suicide in the company of a plane load of passengers recently.

We arrive safely and soundly and easily found our way to our hotel in Vienna. This was a quirky one of a chain of German , Swiss and Austrian hotels that have a ski-chalet feel about them.

 They cater to 'vibrant' young people. We of course were the oldest there but who gives a fuck - we had fun.

More later.


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...