Friday, March 28, 2008

Son Of Rambow

There aren't very many advantages to being a member at the Ritzy but the occasional guest screening does come along; so meself and Ms T got a sneak preview of 'Son of Rambow' the other day. It's brilliant, particularly if you did any time in the 1980's. See trailer, below. Then go see.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

John's Last Week

Slightly funereal atmosphere in our house, as it's John's last week. John is our local butcher who is retiring on Saturday after many years of serving the local community with Smithfield Market's finest. To say Ms T will miss him is something of an understatement; the question of where we will go for our sausages is one of the key points of conversation at Hendo Towers.
Ms T is not too downhearted, however. She claims butchers are enjoying a renaissance as bourgeois South London spurns the supermarkets. It's just a question of finding someone who'll replicate John's attention to quality and keen pricing. Watch this space.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Obama's Won

It's over bar the shouting; Barack Obama has won the Democratic nomination. This well argued piece on the US based Politico site explains why. And as the writers explain, any attempt to present it as a cliffhanger has to do with getting bums on seats, or potatoes on sofas.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I Can't Face Buying a New Computer

I've got the money. My old computer is showing its age. The weather is certainly poor enough to justify sitting indoors and not doing something more worthwhile with my time.

But I'm stymied. Why? Windows Vista. They force you to have it with new PCs and the system is a dog, as this post from the techies at ZD net shows. And the author goes on to make another interesting point - even with a locked up PC there's more and more you can do on the web just using a browser. Microsoft is cutting its own throat here.

The answer is to get a Mac. Can I go there after PC's for over ten years? It's a desertion.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wandering in Woburn

Time Out Walk: Book 2 Number 17
Weather: Brisk
Animals seen: Squirrels, Wolves, Hundreds of deer and a number of Indian Elephants.

The plumber came at 7, turned off the water and the heating, so we headed to Bedfordshire for one of those Time Out walks. Winter's last throw; everything faded and chill. But no rain, so we did a good pace to Woburn where we lunched at a rather indifferent pub and then went on following the route into the safari park.

The public footpath network leads right through it; you can see the animals without paying, albeit a bit far away, plus you're out of the car. We encountered the elephants in their holding pen who ambled over to their fence to have a look at us. At one point two Apache helicopters swooped low over the trees and vanished with a low rumble.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hong Kong Breathing

There are some fantastic things about Hong Kong which will get me going back; the food, the people, and the fact that it's the safest city I've ever visited. We went to the races and one of our horses won. But walking about outside gives you a sore throat; their air quality makes London air seem positively pristine.


Some five years ago Ms T and I bought a house together. We both owned flats with some equity and had reasonably secure jobs, so I expected no difficulties securing a mortgage. But I was taken aback with the way our financial adviser virtually jumped over the desk when he looked at our figures.

What seemed to me to be astronomic sums were offered; four and five times our income, literally hundreds of thousands of pounds. It was all very tempting, but we're stingy northerners and didn't stretch ourselves to the extent we might easily have done. Hence we've an affordable mortgage on the edge of Herne Hill rather than something bonkers in Battersea. These are the modern urban choices.

I listened to the Today programme this morning in which the man who runs a hedge fund explained how the wheels were now falling off the elaborate system of borrowing founded on the value of people's homes in the US. (You can find it on the listen again page at 0810) And the spectre was raised of the government having to take over more banks and print money to shore up the system. Last night I heard the BBC's Economics Editor Robert Peston explain how powerful forces in the market were now moving against our currency - which last night hit its lowest ever point against the Euro.

The borrowing party is over. Who'll be left with the hangover?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Gary Gygax has Died

Gary Gygax, who has passed away at the age of 69, saved my childhood by inventing Dungeons and Dragons.

It was a stroke of genius which stopped my horrid spotty teenage years from being utterly intolerable.

The seventies wasn't an imaginative time, and Cheadle wasn't a magical place.

But thanks to Gygax, there was a place I could go that was both.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Things Not to Take - (memo to self).

Every holiday I have a sort of balloon debate as I try to limit the weight of my suitcase in the vain hope it doesn't drag my arm off. It's futile, since my suitcase is getting heavier every time I go away; I'm not sure why this is. Anyway this post is about items I have been taking but which I no longer need to take. These are in no particular order, some logical, some a teensy bit sad.

- Extra swimming trunks. Why should I bother? I swim addictively, but why have more than one pair? The days of taking three pairs are over, I have resolved.

- Short wave radio. I have a state of the art Roberts with digital tuning to find the world service, but in the ritzier hotels the availability of wifi means you can get any station in far better quality provided you have a lappie. The hotel here in Hong Kong plays you BBC Five Live from the room phone. Actually the hendo-jury is still out on this one. Roughing it in Turkey may still require a sw radio. But now the BBC have turned off the signal in that region, I think. So perhaps my pride and joy receiver is redundant.

- Trainers. I'm not going jogging in Hong Kong, I need to face this.

- Tee shirts. I always buy at least five of the silliest from the dodgiest market stalls in the region. So why pack five from home? C'est inutile.

- Suits. See Tee shirts. Actually sense prevailed on this latest trip, and I didn't pack one since even I knew taking lounge suits to Vietnam is taking coals to Newcastle.

- Scrabble set. I have a lovely travel set from Hasbro, the American owners of the franchise. I bought it in New Orleans, and it boasts a lovely linen case with a pocket for the scorecards and a well made bag for the little tiles, one of which I lost down the gap in a section of decking at a beach near Barcelona. On reflection, if it's not a 'travelling' kind of trip it may still make the cut, otherwise it's the computer version (which has the advantage of it being impossible to lose a tile, but the disadvantage of needing recharging).

- Loadsabooks. I always grab six, forgetting that I can often buy one later, or failing this, steal one from Ms T. These are the big culprits in weight terms. I once took a book called Cobra 2 on holiday which is a six hundred page analysis of the second Gulf War. It was in hardback! I pay the price for my reading habit in excess baggage charges.

- Mobile phone. It never ever rings yet I carry it religiously. I suppose I'm stuck with it now since I'm paranoid some emergency will occur. But the only emergency that's occurred so far on my travels is, you've guessed it, the loss of my mobile on the back seat of a taxi in Bangkok.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Reading in Vietnam

No way to post pictures in this net cafe - at least not my own. And too many thoughts and impressions of this kaliedoscope of a country to sensibly distil them into a blog post. Maybe in the future I'll put some together and stick them up here.

Anyway, reading here has been:

- Patrick o Brian 'The Surgeon's Mate' - these books are essential for long haul air travellers. Even Ryan Air customers can see that this is superior to cross continental travel two centuries ago. A long trip might take several months, involving scurvy, food riddled with weevils, 'jail-fever' and the very real possibility of drowning. You weren't so much a passenger as a survivor. Miss T feels I read too much of this author. 'When are you going to read some real books' she asks, so its on to...

- Neil Sheehan's 'Bright Shining Lie', which is a factual exploration of America's doomed involvement in Vietnam through the life of John Vann, a mad but inspired soldier. A trip through the Mekong Delta last week on a little boat filled me with awe. How can the US possibly have imagined they'd prevail in this terrain? This book explains the delusion which took ten years and hundreds of thousands of wasted lives to dispel.

- Now I'm Vietnammed out, so its Alison Weir's 'Henry VIII, King and Court'. A little dull so far, if I'm being honest, but I was fascinated to learn that cardinal Wolsey had a cat. And Katherine of Aragon had a monkey.