Friday, December 28, 2007

Don't taunt the kids....

Occasionally I've mentioned to my wife that it's counter productive to rush outside when you her the stones thrown against the window as once the kids who throw those stones know you react then it's more likely that they will continue. Similarly, to have a go at youths "up to mischief" is now also becoming frowned upon as in many occasions knives and guns are produced and people end up injured or dead. It's a sad state of affairs, but unfortunately a situation that we have to live with.
However the much sadder affairs of state now see our illustrious leader, Gordon Brown, having another pop at terrorists in Pakistan - a country now pretty much destabilised and rather significantly, one that possesses nuclear weapons. I'm sure you can see the parallel here - the kids may be about to have something a little more destructive than stones to throw at our windows!
Perhaps if we stopped getting involved so much in foreign affairs and concentrated a bit more effort on sorting out our own society we'd all have a safer world to live in.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Next size up!

I had an hour or so to kill today while waiting for a job to be finished at work, so I spent the time having a browse at some nearby shops. One of them was Next. Now I've never been a small lad when it comes to the odd bit of puppy fat, and it has to be said that my waistline is only marginally smaller than my age. In fact by a strict BMI index rating I'm considered obese. However, there's a lot of other men in the same boat in this country, as the constant 'stoutist' media coverage confirms, so one would think that clothing shops would want to have the money from us fatties too. But it seems that Next must have an something against the rounder individual, as out of all the pairs of trousers in the suit area of the shop there was only one single pair that had a 40 inch waist! So on top of the prospect of being denied medical treatment (lots of room there for another rant in another post) I'm also now not allowed to dress smartly?
And remember that's just a 40 inch waist. This is not the morbidly obese category that requires two seats on an airplane or has issues with turnstiles. So I have to wonder if the policy of Next is to ensure the overeight can't get a decent pair of trousers to increase their social stigma in a perverse attempt to shame them into losing weight?
Well, I'm afraid this fatty is back to M&S where they still make clothes for all shapes and sizes!
..and some really nice multi-pack custard donuts! :)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Russell Howard

I don't get out much - that's not a complaint, it's just a statement of fact. Even at 18 when I was first going (legally) into pubs I was only ever happy if there was somewhere to sit down with my pint and it was quiet enough to chat. So now in my 40's I'm positively comatose on an evening out. Consequently it's quite exciting the odd time when I do specifically go out to any kind of event. Last Friday was an evening at the Darlington Arts Centre and the stand-up routine of Russell Howard, probably most famous for being a regular on "Mock the Week". Now I was all excited, not only because it's the first time I've been out to a "gig" since Maximus Decimus Meridius fought Commodus at the Coliseum, but also because I like the guy's quirky sureal sense of humour.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, the evening was absolutely hilarious, so if you can still find any tickets for his tour I would very much recommend laying your hands on them. Sadly I have the memory of a goldfish so cannot actualy recount any of his routine for you here, (on the upside that probably means he won't sue me for breach of copyright though), but needless to say he had me and the rest of the audience in far more stiches that anyone who uses the term "Sleepy-time" to mean "going to sleep", should ever be able to do.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sick World

Today on the news we heard of a young man from just up the road in Hartlepool that has been jailed for 3 years for urinating on a woman dying in the street while his friends laughed and joked and took video on a mobile phone.

3 years...

3 F****ing years!

I tend to be a fairly tolerant person normally, but I'm afraid this depths to which mankind has sunk not only wants me to bring back the death penalty, but lets actually have people like this tortured to death. Bugger this "the death penalty isn't a deterent" - I don't care if it doesn't deter people, but these sad w***ers DESERVE to be put to death. Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating any vigilanty group going out and doing the job to this one person in 3 years when he gets out. No I just mean the time is now long past when we should have stopped worrying about the basic human right of trash such as this man is. Human rights should not apply to people that prove themselves to have no sense of human behaviour. The law and the view of society needs to change such that people have to live with the consequences of being evil, and not let evil people get let off because of feeble excuses like bad parenting, drug use, depression and the like.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

For God, Queen Lizzy and St. George!

Well, what about the Rugby tonight, eh? I'm not one normally to be racist but the emnity between us and France is hundreds of years old, so it's always an emotive pairing.
Anyway, 2 things struck me as I watched the match tonight. Firstly it amused me how we british (to be said with the same indian accept of the guy from "it ain't half hot mum") always like to be the underdogs. With the score at England 8 and France 9 I had a conplete stranger comment "doesn't look good, does it?" on the way past to the loo, and Shelley sitting next to me saying, "It'd be great to win, but I can't see it happening". Now I know the line of wisdom from Hobson's Choice goes "It's always best to look on the worst side of things first. Then whatever chances can't be worse than you've looked for", but do we take this feeling in England just a little bit too far? We seem to always assume we'll be crap at something just so we won't get disapointed when we do fail. The problem with this approach is that, a) we are just as disapointed as ever when we lose anyway, and b) if we go into things assuming the worst, have the time that apathetic approach puts us on a bad footing to start with.
The second thing that stuck me was oneof the newspapers that headlined with a picture of the Bayeux Tapestry and commented about the Norman Conquest that it depicts that, "this was the last time that the French beat us at anything important. Although in my best pub landlord spirit I have to agree with the sentiment, may I just stop everyone to point out that really speaking they didn't even beat us then. The invasion was by the Normans, or as they were originally called the Norse Men. These were Nordic people who had already invaded the North of France and settled there. The original Gauls that were displaced never had anything to do with the invasion. So next time any frenchman tries to remind you about Hastings, just remind him that those same Normans probably raped and pillaged his ancestors a few hundred years earlier!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Good News at the White Swan!

Went back down to The White Swan for a few jars last night, and I had also been interested to find out if Ash did carry on working as the barmaid there now that the new owners have taken over. So I got myself a pint of Consett Red Dust (a guest beer for the night) which was very pleasant indeed while Shelley has a Slimming world Vodka and Diet Coke (you can get 4 of those for 10 sins as opposed to just the 2 glasses of wine, don't you know), and I spotted Ash on the other side of the bar....I mean our side, the punters side! So I started to wonder if she'd packed it in after all. But then I noticed she'd moved about and was talking to someone else and I thought "Hang on a minute, she's got that 'landlady' look about her".
Sure enough it turns out that although Ash could raise the capital to buy the place (as I'm sure she would have had first refusal from June), it seems she's got the next best thing and the new owners have given her the managers job.
And from the grin on her face when we spoke to her, I think she's more than happy with the situation.
Good on yer, Ash! I'm sure you'll do very well.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Valentines strike back

The follow on from the earlier post, we were spending the day down by the pool wandering up and down to and from the bar for drinks during the day. When it got to about 4pm we decided to call it a day and we gathered up our stuff to take back to the room only to discover that my sandals were missing. I went back up to the bar to check there even though I was sure I'd left them by the sunbed, but they were nowhere to be found. I thought it a bit odd that they could have been nicked as the palm pilot or MP3 player were sitting right next to them while we'd been at the bar and are of much higher value and they were both still present and accounted for. So we went back to the room anyway (me barefoot) and them I had a thought so I said to Shelley that I'm just going back to check again and once I'd got back to the bar there was the couple who yearn for a toaster with the husband wearing my sandals. "Sorry to bother you but are you sure you've put the right sandals on?", I ask. At which point his wife looks and says to her husband, "Oh, those are like the pair you had last year!", so not only are they nicking my sandals but they are also pointing out that I'm wearing 'last year's fashion'!
He sheepishly removed them as another guy in the bar declared it was probably my beer he was drinking too.

Shirley Valantine reborn

I'm out in Greece at the moment enjoying a long looked forward to holiday in Parga. As is our want, Shelley and I quite often have to watch Shirley Valantine a little while before going in order to get more in the mood, so much of the film is still fresh in my mind. All the more bought to the fore by the conversation I had at the bar last night with a couple who "usually go to Spain". I have to say it took a lot of control not to laugh out loud as they complained that their accomodation is "a bit basic" as, woe upon woes, the shower did not have a hook in the wall! "How are you supposed to wash your hair like that? And I suppose a toaster is out of the question?"
Sadly, my dear, yes, a toaster is very much out of the question...

The Youth of Today

A few days ago Mr Cameron anounced yet another (what seems like) off the cuff policy. This time it was to deal with the delinquent youth of this country who seem to collect ASBOs as fast as my waistline collects inches over the Christmas season. The solution, he says, is to have these kids give us their summer break after GCSEs and do 6weeks off some kind of activity involing community service. Now I'm a bit vague on this, but I venture that this is because the whole scheme is a bit vague to start with; will it be compulsory? Well, no, but it will be 'universal'. How in the name of crunchie do you expect to convince a kid with three ASBOs and hobbies including common assault & scrumping for cars to giveup his free time to 'help the community? Sorry Mr Cameron, but you are living in cloud cuckoo land. If you are going to do this, then do it properly and go the whole hog: bring back National Service! And while we're at it, let's stop handing out ASBOs like they are medals and bring back birching. I have a hunch that a few less kids would be 'anti-socially behaved' in there was a good chance that they would publicly flogged if caught. Not The Nine O'Clock News had the truth of it in their 80's sketch; "Cut their goolies off! Cut'em right off!"

Confident take off

I'm currently on my outbound flight for my holiday to Greece having got off the ground after a short delay. What amused me was the message from the Captain while we waited to explain: "I'm sorry for the delay but due to the weather, the airport has invoked poor visibilty proceedures which is slowing us down a bit, and there's been some debris found on the runway which needs to be cleared before we can continue". Now to me the word "debris" being used when waiting on an airliner is not a particularly comforting one. It invokes thoughts of "bits of plane" - not a good thought when you'd really prefer the planes to stay in a single piece. I just have the feeling that the more nervous passenger's brain was busy translating the pilot's message thus: "I'm sorry for the delay but as it's really foggy the plane in front has crashed trying to take off, so we're just waiting for the wreckage to be cleared off the runway and we'll have a bash at it, OK?"

Saturday, September 08, 2007

End of an Era

Sadly today is June's last day as the Landlady of The White Swan in Stokesley. She has finally decided to pull her last pint, sell up and go on a few months holiday round Turkey, Australia and the Bahamas. Good luck June and enjoy the trip!
Ash says she will still be behind the bar under the new management and also told me that the new owner already has a few other pubs, also brews his own beer and has said he will continue the Captain Cooks Brewery going on site, selling his own beer alongside it in the Swan, and also taking the Captain Cook beers out to a wider audience in his other pubs.
As long as they keep a good traditional feel to the place and keep severing Real Ale, I guess I'll be happy but, June, you will be missed!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Shock News - Potter star actually has a life!

I read a news article today which stated that Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the Harry Potter movies had "admitted" that he hadn't read the final book yet. What I couldn't get over is that word "admitted" as if it's a capital crime to have gone the three whole days since it's release without reading it. Does the media have the impression that it's everyone's deepest desire to find out what happens in this tome? The article went on to describe how poor Radcliffe just hadn't had time as he had been watching the England cricket games. Daniel, Daniel...don't make excuses for it....YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ IT AT ALL! Surely having lived and breathed Harry Potter for the last 7 years it just might not be at the top of the list of things to do with your life.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ironning out those fantastic creases

Poor old Jeremy Irons. Now I'm a great admirer of a lot of this guy's acting, but he does just seem to kiss his brains goodbye when it comes to choosing which fantasy movie to be a part of. Back in the 80's there were a string on cheesy fantasy movies, but as they were in vogue at the time, films such as Hawk the Slayer, Ladyhawke and Krull gained a cult following and a certain cache. Sadly Jeremy Irons wasn't in them. Several years later after the brief period in which it was OK to like fantasy films was well and truly over, he starred in Dungeons and Dragons a terminally awful attempt to cash in on the geek following the role playing game had (yes I know I was one of those geeks in my teens……and twenties…enough about that). Then we had a brief attempt at it again in the 90's with Willow which did OK but finally in the good ol' naughties, The Lord Of The Rings arrived! Suddenly fantasy is cool again and it's time for Hollywood to churn a few more out. Up pops Jeremy Irons again and Eragon is born. Oh dear, oh dear! At least this time he's not alone in his shame with the likes of John Malkovich and Robert Carlisle also being drawn into the mess. The critics at least seem to let Rachael Weiss off saying her voice over part as the dragon was the only good bit of acting in the movie, but I must admit even that wasn't exactly inspiring.

I think the problem is that in the 80's fantasy was just getting going as a genre and the public (well teenage boys at least) were happy for anything they could get. Now in the 21st century everyone is much choosier about what they'll watch. The Lord Of The Rings worked because Steve Jackson had a passion for the material and gathered around him others with the same passion. He also had a piece of fiction to work with that had been born out of years and years of work by Tolkein to create a rich and complete fantasy world that had it's own coherence. The results were spectacular to say the least.

In Eragon, we have the a Hollywood stampede of "Quick lets get another fantasy film out to pick up the void LOTR left" so we straight away lack the passion for the source material. And the source itself, is a book written by a boy in his late teens who wasn't even a twinkle in the milkman's eye when Hawk The Slayer came out. The, by now, horrendously overused "farm boy becomes hero" plot is the basis for 90% of all fantasy fiction so it has you yawning from the word go, and the villains are just as stereotyped. This is a child’s attempt at writing a novel, and it's been very successful as a novel because the audience it taps into do want more and more of the same stuff. In a book your imagination can flesh the characters out a bit. In the film your left with the same Evil King (our star wars Emperor) with the same sorcerous side kick (aka Vader) on the dark side and the same farm boy (Luke) aided by the same hero of old (Kenobi). The names all change for Eragon but the setup is the same. The added twist of plot is the bond between the Rachael Weiss’s Dragon "Saphira" and our hero Eragon. Unfortunately this departure from a "known" plot device, just smacks of plagiarism for any who know and like the Anne McCaffrey books for which the "Impression" bond between dragon and rider that occurs at hatching and gives the pair their telepathic link, is the central theme of her Dragonriders of Pern series. It is such an obvious rip off it surprises me I've not seen it mentioned before.

So with such flaky source material, a Hollywood push, and no help from a good scriptwriter, the curse of Jeremy Irons doing fantasy has been well and truely established. Sadly I have a feeling that Eragon, the movie may have put a nail in the coffin of fantasy movies for another decade or so.

On the other side of the coin, I do have to acknowledge that a) Jeremy Irons did do the best possible with the woeful material he had to work with, so this post is not a condemnation of his acting, and b) I'm told that the book is much better than the film…well, it couldn't be much worse.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The "Everything I say is a lie..." conundrum, revisited

There is a little movie I was watching called "The Rocket Post" which is not a bad film, if a little formulaic, about a German Rocket scientist who was working on Scarp in the Outer Hebredies in 1934 trying to develop a rocket to take mail to and from the main island of Harris. The sub plot follows the standard outsider is mistrusted, earns the locals trust, falls for the local girl and everyone joins together in the end to achieve the goals. Call me a big girl's blouse if you like, but I enjoy that sort of movie.
Anyway, this one had the extra little twist of the looming war with Germany and deals with the implications of a German scientist working for the British in the 30's. What struck me as odd though was the fact that the film opens with the words "based on a true story", and indeed a quick Wikipedia lookup of Gerhard Zucker reveals he was doing just as the film says developing a rocket post on Scarp in 1934. A bit of poetic license is of course taken with the love interest and in reality both his attempts at a rocket launch failed whereas the film depicts him succeeding in the second launch. Also the final outcome of the Gerhard differs from film to reality (won't tell you in case you actually want to watch it ever) but in the main it has to be said that this was indeed based on true events and a real historical person.
So why is this odd? Well, for once I actually sat watching the credits (as the end music was quite a good bit of Clannady/Enya style Celtic stuff), and when it rolled down to the very last bit of the credits the odd bit came along.....110 minutes after seeing "based on a true story" written on the screen, I see "All characters and incidents protrayed, and names used in this film are entirely ficticious. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental". Odd? Well no actually, it's just plain lying!
It just struck me as amusing that a company would be so worried about being sued that they'll print a complete howler of a pork pie to cover themselves. Which is effectively lying to cover yourself in case you are lying.....!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Devil take your arithmatic!

As I looked at my blog site today it struck me that I've now had 666 hits on the blog - the number of the beast. But it turns out that the famous quote in revelation "six hundred threescore and six" [King James Version or some such] is translated from the three Greek letters "χξς" that represent the number 666, and in some texts it's written as "χις" which in fact adds up to 616. Other texts refer to 665 too, so given that it's "he who has wisdom" that can calculate the number of the beast, it seems that a lot of these early biblical scolars weren't too wise at all as there seems to be a lot of answers to the same calculation. So definitely zero points for them as none of them even showed their working out...basic stuff for any schoolboy in a maths exam!

Still, it's all more work for the devil's tattoo artist as Damien comes back for a new head decoration depending what the current scholarly community think.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The ABCs of modern terrorism

Now it always went without saying that terrorists were grossly stupid in thinking that blowing up a shopping mall or some such was likely to achieve any political ambition, but the depths which both the terrorists and the media seem to plumb when it comes to clear thinking seems incredible.
A) My ambition is to kill lots of infidels, so I spend years training to be a doctor , get myself a job in the UK hospitals where I could easily slaughter loads of defenseless patients...... and then I get into a car full of propane and drive into a brick wall to incinerate myself! Our family fortune survey says... X!
B) I am a concerned news presenter that has found out that a small amount of anthrax could easily be dispersed as an aerosol over London and kill millions. It hasn't been done yet and the general public have never even considered the threat. So I broadcast the possibility on prime time TV which firstly scares a lot of people and secondly gives the idea to the terrorist (who just like the rest of us had never even considered doing it until this TV show! 10 out of 10 for an enthralling documentary... minus several million for good thinking!
C) I'm a zealous terrorist but I'm just wanting to scare people....honest. So I make up a device with highly dangerous chemicals and fuses to look just like a bomb and get on a tube train..... with it hidden in a backpack so no one can see it. Oh that is until all the chemicals leak and the fuse detonates itself only, which burns the back of the backpack wearer without setting of any explosive. Where to start? Is the stupidity in trying to scare people with a fake bomb that no-one knows is there? Is it just incompetent stupidity in making a crap bomb? Or how about the real stupidity in thinking anyone in the whole of creation would believe you were not trying to blow the thing up in the first place!

Of course what we really miss are the good ol' days of the gentleman terrorist. Remember the IRA? They used to phone you up before hand to tell you when and where the bomb would go off! As Patrick Kielty says, they were a better class of murdering scumbags.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Land of the Free

A recent news article (click here for article) describes how one Lewis Libby, a former White House aide, has been let off his prison sentence for lying and obstruction of justice in a CIA investigative. Apparently although after trial the court had decided that he deserved 2 years in jail, good ol' President Bush has stepped in and commuted the spell in prison because he says it's "too harsh".
So here's the way it goes.... You're head of the state and so "the buck stops here", but it never does because you've always got a fall guy in the ranks below you. And then when the fall guy takes the heat, you step in and bypass the legal system to get them off their sentence!?
Call me old fashioned, but just as leaders of state should not be above the law (even though it seems they are), I don't think they should be able to nominate friends and cronies to be above the law either.

Monday, July 02, 2007

What's in a name?

There's been some recent news items on the ease with which people can change their name which seems to throw into disarray all sorts of things such as (always a hot topic) tracking paedophiles. Having had a little think about this it's left me baffled as to how any tracking systems or databases could have worked even if people couldn't change their names. Just thinking about myself with a fairly common name (I am constantly getting mail for my namesake in another part of my company) does this mean I could have been confused with anyone else with the same name on the paedophile register? Surely people must be tracked by something other than just their name, like a social security number or something? In which case should it matter how easy it is to change a name as long as it's not possible to get a new social security number to go with it?

Friday, June 22, 2007

I can't stand the rain / against my window....

...or more aptly against my conservatory roof!

The Tuesday before last those nice men from Blazes came round to install a new gas fire. So we had to empty the living room and since then we've been living in the conservatory as it is a truth universally acknowledged that any room in posession of a new fireplace must be in want of a decorating! Not that I'm complaining about the decorating. As usual most of it is being done by Shelley as I'd only get in the way, so I can't exactly winge about the hard work. The only problem is the timing. Since I work from home, and am now working in the conservatory I've had a week of the rain clattering on the plastic roof and it becoming a bit like chinese water torture - it's worse than being in a tent in the rain!
Still, I can always hope that the roof manages to leak on the TV and result in a nice insurance claim followed by a new HD one! :)

Thursday, June 07, 2007


In case anyone is interested there's a description of our last holiday at
The hotel we stayed at did have the cutest cats...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Madeleine McCann - one month on

Having got back off holiday at the weekend I was both sadened to see that poor little Madeleine has not been found and surprised that the story is still in the media thanks maily to the efforts of the parents to keep the profile high, even a month after her disappearance.

I do feel sorry for both the missing girl and her parents who must be going through such pain at the moment, but I must say I am a little surprised that the media seems to be only briefly skirting round the issue that these parents are guilty of neglect - they left their young children in the aparment with no supervision, while they went out to enjoy themselves. Unless you are close enough to hear a cry and be there within a few seconds (and I mean 10 or so not a minute or so), then you are being negligent. When the Portugeuse media suggested this, our news machine seemed all to keen to report how uncaring that news item was, carting out all sorts or indignant relatives to say how disgraceful it was to suggest the McCann's were anything other than the most loving of parents.

But the fact remains, Madeleine would in all probability still be with them, had her parents looked after her properly. I'm not suggesting any lack of love for their child, but they made a big mistake, and put their own comfort before their daughter safety. Nor am I suggesting that it's their fault Madeleine was taken. No, blame lies squarely with the abductor. But, by ignoring the responsibility to their children that the McCanns failed in, or suggest it is wrong to question their behaviour, is to somehow validate this neglect, when the lesson that needs to be learnt from this sad occurance is that it is not OK to leave your kids alone while you go out to play. If you want to take the children with you on holiday, look after them. If you want a calm relaxing one leave them at home with relatives or trusted friends.

Or, like a couple I saw when in Cala San Vincente, ensure you book a room right next door to a relaxing restaurant and take a baby monitor with you. They managed to enjoy a meal by themselves in a lovely beach side restaurant, but at the same time could hear what was going on in there room, could see the door into their room, and could physically be in their room within 10 seconds of anything that worried them.

Do I think they should be punished for this neglect? No, certainly not - they are being punished more than enough already, and it will not help Madeleine one iota after the event. Should it be a lesson for other parents - Yes - stop thinking "oh, it'll be all right" - just like the could be you...or your child.

Don't get me wrong, I sincerley wish for Madeleine's safe return and hope that she and her family will be reunited. As such please take a moment to vist the official website below and see if there is anything you can do to help.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Holidays with Mum

When did you last go on holiday with your parents? 12? 16? 18?.....try 40! I took a week out before Easter to pop over to the Costa Del Sol with my mother as I just thought it'd be a nice relaxing week. To say it was a slower paced holiday than normal might be under stating somewhat - far from spending my time windsurfing and paragliding, it was a novel experience to walk fast at any point in the week....and steps were to be avoided. This is not a complaint I hasten to add, for a) as most of you who know me will have already realised, windsurfing and paragliding normally take second place to sitting in a bar with a drink when I'm on holiday anyway, and b) with todays rather frantic lifestyle surely it's good for the health to slow down completely once in a while.
So we pottered about Nerja (lovely town that hasn't been anywhere near as spoilt as much of the Costa) from bar to bar (cup of tea? etc.) and drove about the countryside to Ronda and Alhambra (although due to a lack of foresight on the booking tickets front drove straight back for Alhambra without going in) at a pace far more consistant with the mediterranean lifestyle.
One thing there is to be said about taking a holiday with your mother later on in life is you tend to find out a whole lot more about your family history than you do when visitin gat home. In the UK there's always someone else about, so you don't tend to talk as openly - not that I'd say I learnt any family secrets or skeletons, just that you get on to topics that just don't come up as much at home. I never knew for instance that my father worked the dredgers in the solent after he left the Navy - not particularly interesting in itself, but for me it's nice to build up a better picture of my own family.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Pinot Noir - "I'm leaving if they choose Merlot! I'm not drinking f**** Merlot!"

Tesco finest Malborough Pinot Noir from New Zealand is a great buy at the moment at £6.99(save £3.00 in their wine sale). Of course I'm only trying it because I've just watched Sideways (those of you who have, will understand), but I must admit I'm quite surprised. I'm normally a good, heavy Shiraz drinker and like a red wine that takes hold of your taste buds the same way the Ebola virus take hold of your internal organs, but this is a very elegant wine at only 13.5% (which for me who averages 14.5 and 15% wines normally, is fairly weak) and flows across the tongue with a much thinner consistancy that your average Shiraz and to start with you think it's a tad watery, but all the flavours of the pinot grape then have a chance to get to you and you get a really complex set of tastes. At this point I should start using allsorts of words to do with summer berry varieties, tobacco, tar, plum and spices to numerous to mention, but to be honest trying to remember back to last night when I sank the bottle involves remembering back through the other bottle of french shite that I drank after it, so I haven't the foggiest exactly what those flavours were, but I can remember thinking it was bloodly good wine with an elegant and complex character and I must get some more. So for those of you who are now thinking "what a complete snobby tosser!" - why are you still reading this? And for those of you who like a drop of the red stuff and are happy to take a recomendation for something a little different, get down to Tesco before I clean them out! Red label and on the top shelf - I have to say that even at the sale price of £7 this is still an expensive wine compared to what I normally pay, but while these bottles that are normally a tenner and over are reduced, it's an ideal time to see if they are worth the extra.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sackings due at weather gremlin central after BH weekend balls up!

So, what happened over Easter? Sunshine and warm weather! Absolutely unheard of on a bank holiday weekend. We made the most of it with a few little trips out to Runswick Bay and Staithes and had a great time shooting arrows on the Sunday morning. Mixed in with this was The White Swans Beer & Cheese festival all weekend which warranted a couple of visits Laughing Leprachaun winning my vote as a delicious porter (even if some of the locals thought it was a bit girlie compared to the pubs own Black Porter) and Atlas Brewerys Three Sisters on the more traditional Ale front was leading the pack too. On the cheese front Oxford Isis (a soft creamy one) and Crabtree ( a firmer Italian Alpine style cheese dipped in brine, that comes from a farmhouse cheese maker in Cheshire) got my attention as very tasty cheeses that Id not come across before, and there was lots of the old favourites (Munster, Lincolnshire Poacher, Shropshire Blue etc.) to complement the Ales too.

We also went to see the Goodies on Stage in Darlington on Easter Saturday, although Bill Oddie was only present on a pre-recorded video on a big TV screen that was scripted to interact with Graham Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor on stage. All in all a great evening of nostalgia, plus a few clips of the earlier work the guys did for the BBC that Id never seen.

By Monday when the clouds started to come over I think we were ready for a lazy day watching the telly.

But wasnt it nice to keep thinking for several days on the trot, It feels like Sundaybut, no, I dont have to go to work tomorrow! great feeling!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Posting by e-mail

It’s now even easier to post on The Virtual White Swan. As long as you register your email address as your google mail account used for blogging, then just send an email to and it’ll appear as a post, just like this one! Of course I’d appreciate it if you remove any standard headers and footers your email software may use

More new toys....

It has to be said that I'm always surprised at what stuff costs these days. Have I already become the Victor Meldew character whenever I see a price tag? ... "I don't believe it!". A new gas fire is called for this year, and here's me thinking that £500 ought to cover it, and the actual cost (including fitting etc) is going to hit somewhere between one and two grand. Ouch! The bar in the conservatory I was sure would only be about £2k and ending up being £3k after haggling. I think one of my main problems is that I've become a materialistic snob. So I could have had a bar put in for £2k (or even far less) but it wouldn't have been quite as nice. And we can have a new fire put in for a few hundred quid, but it wouldn't have that nice black marble and chrome finish and have ultra realistic coals. Consequently I should have known when it came time to go and buy the kit for archery that my initial cost estimates when I had my first browse on the web (£175 all in) were going to be a bit short of the mark. You see you can get everything you need to take up archery for less than £100. That's the bow, string, 6 arrows, a quiver, sights, finger tab, arm bracer, stringer, case, etc (yes there's a bit more you need other than just the bow and arrow) but that would be for the same kind of bow we've been using to train with - and a quick look at everyone elses kit in the club shows that no-one does anythnig other than train with that! So the next notch up in the entry level intermeadiate kit where all the bits you get are individually upgradable as you get better (and effectively outgrow them) which is where I settled on the £175 figure.
The real downfall was not going straight ahead and buying off the web, but instead visiting those nice people in Custom Built Archery in Guisborough to see all the kit before we buy. I knew it would be a bit more expensive to have it all setup especially for you, and had already assumed that the budget was going to be up at £300, but once you can see all the kit close up, and try it out then that entry level just doesn't feel as good as the next one up. And then if you are going to pay the extra for the next model you might as well go the whole hog....And to cut a long story not quite so long, £500 later I am now the proud owner of a Hoyt Nexus recurve bow.....which will mean absolutely nothing to any of you except Shelley, but look at the picture - doesn't it look nice?! Mine is a mottled red'n'gold colour rather than the blue

Friday, March 16, 2007

Red Nose Day

If you haven't already - give some money for Red Nose Day. But that's not what this post is all about. I'm sitting here watching the evening's entertainment on the BBC (very good as it is - who'd of thought Tony Blair would make such a good partner in a comic sketch to Catherine Tate..."Am I bovered?") and have just watch a sketch by Ricky Gervais based arround him faking a visit to Africa to help awarness for the charity. Various other famous people joined in (Jamie Oliver, Bono, Bob Geldof) and were convinced it's a better idea than actually going to Africa as it raises their profile.
Now although this is a fairly funny sketch with it's ironic twist on those famous celebs motives, my only problem is (again) with Ricky Gervais' part in this. As usual he's relying on the joke that he's doing the charity thing for the wrong reasons, which is OK, but I've yet to see him do anything for the right reasons first. To make that sort of sketch you need to earn the right first by being seen to do something first like going out to Africa and experiencing it first hand. The rest of them have put in the hours doing something for others, have made the effort to make a difference. Mr Gervais has "appeared" at charity events without being paid..gee whiz!...If I earned what he did, one night without pay in return for the airtime on TV wouldn't be to much of a burden.
Don't get me wrong, I have no idea if Ricky Gervais gives any money to charity or not. And I don't know if he does anything off camera either, but being in the public eye as he is I just think that he needs to make some form of serious comment on his commitment before continuing to, apparantly, join in for "the laughs".

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Spike vs. Angel

Is it just me, or should Spike have been the one to get his own spin off rather than Angel?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bits of News

Well Cinders is back out in the far east and having an affair with his new motorbike (see picture) which he refers to as "the best ride of his life", and I'm about to have my first session in a 6 week archery course for beginners. That starts on Wednesday which appropriately enough is St Valentines day (don't forget the cards fellas - the ladies seen to get upset if you don't say "I love you!" with cardboard) so Shelley and I will be competing with Eros for arrows for a few hours that night. The instructor said the first lesson is free as it's a chance for us to decide if it's worth continuing and a chance for them to decide if they wish to continue teaching us. Apparantly they have only refused one person who, when asked why he wanted to take up archery said, " I want to shoot small furry animals!". [ So I'm keeping my mouth shut :-) ]
At least the snow has gone (for those of you that had to travel in it of course) and hopefully days are getting longer. Roll on Spring & Summer

Friday, February 02, 2007

New Blogger

Some off you may have noticed that Blogger have teamed up with Google, and they have been encouraging people to start using a Google account to sign in. I have succumbed to this which unfortunately means anyone wanting to post on any of my sites will also have to start using a Google account.
The good news is that blogger will guide you through the process when you next try to sign on, and your Google account can just be you own email address, so you won't have to think up another unique ID name or anything like that. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Some people use heroine....

....I upgrade my camera at least once a year. Not quite as expensive but probably it still could be ranked as compulsive behavior. I've now got the Fuji Finepix s6500FD (click here to view the webpage), which is Fuji's new camera with Face Detection technology (at the flick of a button it recognises when you are pointing at a person's face and automatically adjusts the exposure/focus to suit) which I've yet to remember to turn on so I don't know how good that feature is, but the first big improvement I have seen is that the virtual ISO setting now goes down to 3200 (so it can take pictures in even less light) and the exposure time can go up to 4 seconds (again allowing you to take pictures in even less light). To illustrate take a look at a couple of cave photos. One is taken with my previous camera in caves on the Lassithi plateau in Crete in Spring 2006 and the other over Christmas with the new camera in the caves at Nerja in Spain. I'll leave you to guess which is which... needless to say - I like my new toy!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Money, money, money!

Came across this webpage the other day... (
...where you can input your annual salary and it tells you your wealth in comparison to either the rest of the UK or the rest of the world. It's obviously not going to be spot on by any means but it is a sobering thought when you realize just how much of the world's population is poorer than you. I took the average salary between Shelley and I (as for most being a couple is about shared wealth) and we're in the top 3% of the world's wealthiest people!

I pointed this out to someone who said, "yeah, but that includes all those staving millions in Ethiopia" as if that fact somehow invalidated the ranking. No - that's exactly the impact this meter had - the other 97% of the world consists of people who worry that they can't afford an education for their children, or can afford medicine for their illness, or can't even afford food to keep them alive. And here's me worrying about if I can afford a second holiday each year!

Not that I'm going to start feeling guilty about either my "wealth" or about the fact I will continue to worry about affording holidays and other luxuries, but I like it when things like this give me pause to sit back and realise just how lucky I am. Life is good to me really.

Now let's get back to moaning about my work....!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Cat Dragged In

Once upon a time my cat was very cute - just look at the picture of him with his late sister - but every since he stopped being a kitten (which is strange as "kitten" is still the pseudonym when calling him as he is now the size of the average snow leopard) he has become something of a crap-cat. His fur is always shedding, not just a bit, but bucket loads. Even in the depths of winter there are clumps of white fur lying about all over the place. His ear tips are always black with oil where he's been crawling under cars. He drools and slobbers whenever you make the mistake of stroking him a little - often those nasty several inch long dangly dribbles that flail about from his chin. His eyes always have crud in the corners as he can't be arsed to wash his face. And he even sits with his head hunched down into his shoulders as if the weight is just too much to support. All in all he's fairly revolting, but he's still my cat and every once in a while he manages to look like a proper cat like now as he's curled up on a cushion on the floor asleep. He's peacefull and he's just had a brush so looks quite clean.

Shall I give him a stroke as he's looking cute? Best not.....It'll just start off the drooling again and the half squwark/excuse for a meow that's his ever present cry for more food. Best just let him sleep.