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What time is love? July 21, 2008

Posted by stagedive in Holiday, Idle Thoughts, Kids, Music, Reviews, Travel.
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It’s been almost a week since I last put pen to paper on here .. I was so inspired by a Monday back at work after a week out that even looking at blog searches from a year ago inspired me.

Whats happened?? 20th Nov last year 31,517 people looked at these pages in one day – thats about a 5000% increase on when I actually wrote anything on here that (I thought) had meaning. If only working life was like that, you take some time out and the worker pixies press buttons for you .. if only. It was a search on panda eyes or something. There was me thinking the only person that read this was gf linking through to Annie Rhiannon’s site cos she is too lazy to bookmark it.

Tips brain contents out onto page so can look back and remember some of this in a year from now ..

We went on a fantastic long holiday and I meant to write about it, Moscow, across Russia, Mongolia, drank Yak’s milk, Beijing, Shanghai, celebrated National Day, Hong Kong, then home .. I even took some notes at the time to get the blog motors rolling, it seems so long ago.

We had a romantic weekend in Bratislava too for gf’s birthday. Lovely place & the best hot chocolate in the whole world ever. I didn’t think it were possible to get that excited about hot chocolate, but it is! A trip across the border to Vienna for the day, without my passport – life on the edge, the closest I get to being a bond villain.

A lovely trip to Canadia to see the in-law’s. The Ontario winter was a sight. I got to drive the Bobcat – I was momentarily ‘Mr Plough’, but alas I wasn’t there long enough to develop my obvious natural ability for a change in career. Two days cross country skiiing by Lake Pigeon in a little log cabin too, it’s harder than it looks.

A rejuvenated TFC had a couple of gigs, one at the Islington Academy with shiny new line-up. I always promised myself I would never be in a band with keyboards, oh the shame I have brought upon this humble home, but that’s another promise broken ..

Went to Latitude with the kids last weekend. Got dirty and didn’t care .. Saw a whole bunch of bands that I hadn’t heard of, watched a whole load of kids walk round with T-Shirts of bands that I hadn’t heard of. It was a great weekend. My shoulders are a different shape from carrying youngest son on shoulders for the enitire (almost) Elbow set down the front. They even had showers this year that worked & toilets that were bearable. Highlights were largely in the Comedy & Literature tents with Russell Howard topping the stand up list & Colin Watson at the Book Club just being mesmiringly mental & taking lots of laughs. I also saw Attila for a bit of left wing nostalgia who was bang on form. Musically, Elbow, Death Cab for Cutie, Joanna Newsome & Okkerville River all ruled.

Booked a bunch of holidays this year … at last. There was a worrying few weeks where we had nothing booked and a bleak horizon of work and no play. The sun is shining again though & in this house the summer starts next week, officially.

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Safari .. October 10, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Berlin, Holiday, Idle Thoughts, Travel.
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In a journalistic world there are assignments I would pay to be chosen for .. this is one of them;
http://travel.guardian.co.uk/flash/page/0,,2182588,00.html 

The same Berlin Trabi tour that we took earlier this Summer and spookily, the same car .. It was indeed like being trapped inside a Lawn Mower 🙂

Dear David .. October 8, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Holiday, Idle Thoughts, Travel.
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People spotting. Lining up in the Security Queue for our flight to Moscow and standing there right in front of us was … David Cameron. He was alone with a short bloke that had to be most likely an aide rather than a Body Guard. He was flying to Berlin. I had just read about his green polocies a few minutes earlier in the check in queue .. spooky ..

He wasn’t provided anything special by the way of treatment, I thought they whisked the VIPs through the side entrance. Despite the ‘Brits Abroad’ mob that all promised to vote for him if he posed for a picture, he could have been any other face in the crowd.

I am not a fan of the Tories, having grown up in Thatcher’s Britain, but I find increasingly that Cameron talks some sense .. not so much that I would vote for him, but good on him for hitting on some green ideas and some equality for single parents and un-married co-habitees ..

I didn’t ask for a picture, but neither did I have a desire to throw something at him – that might follow if he ever ends up in power for 18 years and (further) brings down the NHS ..

Return .. October 8, 2007

Posted by stagedive in China, Holiday, Idle Thoughts, Mongolia, Russia, Travel.
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I haven’t had such a long holiday in years and today it feels like someone has sealed me to the seam of my office chair and layed my hands on the keyboard, flicked the on switch but forgot to charge the batteries ..

It is really nice to be home, to see the kids, approach a routine, but I am still in holiday mood, the wind in my hair*, the inabilty to wash for four days and that old russain lady that had a tardis for a food bag that kept delivering us booty ..

Moscow to Hong Kong, largely via land – the best holiday in the whole world ever .. I’ll write some more to remind me where it all was ..

* technically possible after four weeks with no hair clippers!

We’re all going on .. August 31, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Holiday, Idle Thoughts, Kids, My Girlfriend, Travel.
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It has been a Summer of holidays this year. I have got to the ungrateful spoilt brat stage of actually looking forward to a weekend at home doing nothing – I don’t mean that in the literal sense as all have been a lot of fun, but when we booked 5 weekends away in a row, it didn’t seem as ambitious as it was/is in reality.

First up was a 10 day roadtrip to;
Amsterdam – Anne Frank, Canal Boat, Trams a go-go, Nasty Hotel
Antwerp – Lavish Hotel, Transvestite Town Square entertainment, pretty walks
Brussels – Manneken Pis, Atonium (which I have wanted to visit since I was a kid & didn’t dissapoint), Euro Parliment
Luxembourg – Not a lot to entertain the tourist, but gorgeous views and the way the City is cut into the hillside has to be seen.
Paris – a day of being a City guide and one day at Disney ..

Then we went to Berlin to sign house stuff. We rented some bikes for the weekendand my Sister and her Boyfriend played the perfect hosts and we toured around on our Fat Tyres. It’s a great way to see Berlin as it is a very dispersed City and also very flat. We also spent a day biking out to Hohenschönhausen Prison, the former Stasi run establishment, used for housing predimenetly Political prisonors/the innocent – now a memorial. A really moving tour, all be it in German only, by former inmates that takes you round the depths of the U-Boat basement cells and recalls tales that you wouldn’t believe unless you were there. Moving and memorable.

Next up was Cambridge for a 40th Birthday Party on the River. For reasons of consuming alcohol, we stayed over and had a hotel looking on Parker’s Piece. Not having ever stayed in Cambridge before, it’s so picturesque and peaceful first thing in the morning when the greens are empty and the tourist haven’t yet woken up.

Last weekend was Warsaw. We flew with Central Wings .. never again. Our outbound flight was delayed by 7 hours, after already being delayed 5 hours advised by e-mail. We therefore sat in the departure lounge until 2am having expected to have landed in Poland at 10pm. The return journey was little better, an immediate delay of 5 hours .. both events the reasons were given as nothing more than ‘Operational’. The part imbetween was great though. My Sister once more played perfect host and we had an apartment all to ourselves. We stayed in and around the Old/New Town on Saturday, went Swimming and ate loads for ‘Brunch’ on Sunday, visited a memorial section of the old Ghetto wall & watched movies. Then Monday we visited a new (to me at least) Museum for the Warsaw Uprising. It was very atmospheric with excellent sound effects in each room, a sympathetic construction, and a number of genuine glimpses of the past.

It’s a lot to be grateful for, and we had a great time at each and every one, aside from some airline delays, but this weekend I have nothing planned, and it feels just great ..

Wheaten .. June 6, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts, Kids, Travel.
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A pleasant business trip to Northern Ireland last week, Hogwarts-esque plush hotel, on the coast, just up from the Border in the town of Newcastle. Sitting in the spa overlooking the sunny water, it was a world away from the smog and smoke .. I won the quiz too, impressing a few people with my knowledge of TV Theme tunes & I don’t even watch TV..

Newcastle also has a bakery that boasted the best Wheaten Breadin the whole of Ireland .. I’m not sure how they validate that, but it was pretty fine indulging nonetheless ..

It’s a rare occasion that work and leisure combine these days, I used to work located with my co-workers and miss the camaraderie of that. I think I need to change roles and become a Postman and call in to see people for a cup of tea and chat .. having said that, my Postman is not the happy ‘cup of tea’ type, he is a ‘geezer’ who calls me me ‘boss’ – he would probably be more happy with a Diamond White and an ounce of Charlie ..

Happy Birthday Mum. I cooked for her last night as she was otherwise engaged today. She loved it & we had a really nice evening, although she did take a fair while to blow out the candles & made a wish for ‘More Grandchildren’, to looks agast around the dinner table .. all parties have since recovered ..

Eldest Son is away on a school trip all week. I’m not soppy eyed, but I do really miss him. Reminds me of my school trips – setting off fire crackers in the sea wall at Dieppe and making hay on the back seat of the coach, metaphorically speaking of course .. I’m sure he is having a fine time – the joys of youth ..

Madrid .. April 18, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Holiday, Idle Thoughts, Madrid, My Girlfriend, Reviews, Travel.
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Of course your car will be safe parked in Luton all weekend .. <gulp> .. as we hauled our sleep deprived, adrenalin fuelled bones to Luton Terminal 1, I tried to sound reassuring .. it was quite good to leave Luton, it isn’t the most inspiring location in the UK ..

The taxi into Madrid centre is unassuming at first, but you get a great panoramic of the City about half way , with the bull ring menacing close and the Commercial district in full view ..

urban_hotel_central.jpgI still didn’t know where we were staying & when we reached the destination, I was somewhat speechless. The Hotel Urban is a gem .. a Five Star gem at that .. the fixed grin that started at the leafy tube station the day before just got a tad bigger .. with Madrid being more a place of atmosphere rather than manic sightseeing, having a plush hotel was just the best thing ever ..

Urban is full on .. part of the Derby Hotel Collection and notably a feature in the Design Hotels Guide that T had spotted when we stayed in the Three Sisters .. very clever girl ..

“Urban” is plush in the design sense of the word. It has oceans of glass and steel without all the twee fussiness of a traditional bell-boy-esque 5* establishment. If anyone would feel out of place in a 5* royalty, but wants some seriously lavish design, this is the place to come ..

The staff were all understated and friendly without being in your face, and their dress code is closer to Men In Black than Brideshead Revisted. There is ethnic art a plenty, which whilst not my bag, it does work really well with the contrasting uber modern construction.

What to do in Madrid? well aside from making full use of the hotel’s features and hospitality, naturally .. we did a walking tour of Old Madrid, taking in Tapas, Plaza mayor, the Palace, the Cathedral & the Opera .. ending up on the main shopping street of Casa Via .. it is a very clean city, and whilst my pre-conception of Spain is neutral take it or leave it, the country as a whole did go up in my estimation after only the first day.

Adjusting to the eat late and party principle, we Siesta’d and ate at a great little Restaurant called Root at something approaching midnight. It’s a marvl that old and young alike are out at this time, all looking bright and fresh .. if this were the UK, eating at midnight would be pissed blokes out for a Curry and nothing more. The place was rammed with locals, always a good sign, and the waiting time was acceptable. Food was fantastic and the atmosphere equal to it .. could have happily stayed there all evening, but we went drinking instead.

The following day we went further afield, slightly. A walking tour through the Bourbon District, including Parque del Retiro & its lazy laid back inhabitants. Then we headed out on the Metro .. I love getting underground on public transport, Faro de Moncloafor one thing it’s seemingly always cleaner and more efficient than London & also gets you a view of the real City. I then went on a solo tour of the Bernabeu Stadium whilst T hit the shops .. we then leisurely walked for miles toward the Faro de Moncloa tower .. a great vantage point over the City .. sadly it was a Woody World situation and the place was shut, but the walk was worth it ..

We did the right thing and slept, then ate late and then drunk more .. it is definitely the way to go, but it does screw your body clock up when you get back to blighty. It was a struggle to get up and out of the hotel before 3pm the following day, but it was for all the right reasons..

Culture injection on Sunday. Approx 3 stops at the marvelous Faborit Coffee Shop, bordered by a waltz through the Old town, up and round to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Depending on your taste in art this is well worth a visit .. a sweeping overview of 19th & 20th Century Western Art with some great Impressionist & Expressionist pieces. I tire at the older Baroque period, but thankfully my partner in crime feels the same .. the building and gardens are notable in their own right & also the £4 entry seemed cheap by US equivalents ..

Then .. we came home .. the car was safe, lost and alone in a multi storey middle England concrete prison, with lifts that had aroma’s of piss & crashed the soul back to earth with a jolt ..

It was a fantastic weekend, primarily the company, but that aside, I hadn’t a clue where I was going and Madrid was in my Top 3 places to visit! I would have been happy as larry in Skegness, but there’s always T’s birthday .. I’m sure she would like the Smith’s tribute deep down .. I’ll work on it ..

I’m in love with a Girl .. April 16, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts, My Girlfriend, Travel.
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As surprise weekends go, I couldn’t really wish for a more perfect surprise .. that’s not to say I have had that many surprise weekend’s to gather a baseline, but I feel safe on my hunch ..

To the call of ‘Can I take you away somewhere for your Birthday Weekend?’, I have one stock answer .. 

I hadn’t made any effort to spoil the birthday surprise and have been rather impressed with the tactics to throw me off scent .. I’m not sure if I am easily pleased, but even the red herrings in this episode sounded very appealing .. there was the Smith’s tribute Band at Butlins, the Northern Soul weekender, non stop naughtiness in the Lake District & a Brighton coastal jaunt .. all mentioned with varying degrees of sincerity .. the fact that I loved the sound of all of them didn’t help .. if there is a weekend of Smith’s tribute bands at Butlins can someone please tell me about it as I feel farely sure I will have another birthday at some point ..

‘Don’t get too excited, we are going somewhere in the UK’  .. that stayed with me .. up until a friend of mine asked where I was going last Thursday.. I still had no clue at that point, but he asked whether T knew where I kept my passport .. I didn’t think she did, but after putting him on hold and going to check .. the passport was missing .. woo hoo .. I’ll make an MI5 agent yet ..

I met T after work at a leafy tube station and we loaded up the Polo for the start of our journey .. I wasn’t blindfolded, but wasn’t allowed to look .. On the premise of stopping for something to eat on our way up the M1, we pulled into Luton .. I looked curious as we headed into the hotel car park, and maintained the same gaze through checking in and sitting down to eat ..

‘You can have part of your present early’ .. ahhhh .. it was  guide book to .. … … Madrid .. OMG !!

I would have been more than happy with a weekend away anywhere with T, but this was pretty much a bullseye … I loved the fact that she wanted to take me away at all, to build up the surprise and to care as much if not more about the detail as the end product ..

I don’t believe in the term of a Soulmate, but if Carlsberg made them, I think I found the one they made for me .. oh .. and it got better too ..

Julian, Dick & Ann .. April 12, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts, Travel.
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I am going away on a mystery weekend. I didn’t really even get to pack my own stuff. I haven’t a clue where I’m going/being taken, and when people ask me I’ve just shrugged. It’s very exciting in an Enid Blighton kinda way .. I am thinking it’s going to involve bad guys and Timmy the dog, but I might be wrong .. quite liberating ..

It’s my birthday you see ..

Mapped .. April 3, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts, Travel.
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It used to be that when you got lost, you asked a native the way to your destination, or maybe in extreme circumstances you would consult the map, or even buy an Atlas at the nearest Service Station ..

It was with this context that the following amused me greatly .. Last night Extravagant Canadian Girlfriend, calls me on her way back from Shakespeare Country and finds herself off the motorway and in deepest darkest Birmingham ..

ECG “I’ve been on the Toll Road four times .. so I’ve had enough .. I stopped and took action ..”
Me “Sympathetic Murmurs.. but theres only one small stretch of road that is Toll Road?!’
ECG “I know, I know .. I asked directions after that and am now in Bromwich .. anyway, it’s all ok now ..”
Me “Oh good, why is that, are you near the Motorway?”
ECG “Not sure, but I have a travelling companion”
Me “Huh??”
ECG “I just stopped at Currys and bought a Tom Tom” .. in a tone that seemed the most logical thing in the world to do ..
Me <Stunned/Bemused/Amazed/Speechless>

So there you have it .. why buy a map or follow signs to the M6 when you can buy a new gadget for £200??!! I love that logic. I wish I were that compulsive, but naturally I wouldn’t have gotten lost in the first place .. ahem ..

She was even considerate enough to get the European version for me to use on my Summer Road Trip 🙂 There are, after all, some advantages in Girls not being able to read maps ..