Monday, September 29, 2008

Time Out Walk Liphook to Haslemere

From Sussex Walk 290908

Time Out Walk: Number 6 from Book 1
Donkeys perceived: 2
Horses fussed over: 23
Pubs ensconced within: 1
Distance: Ten lovely miles

Maybe the last decent day of the autumn saw Ms T and I head for Liphook on the train, then walk in a big circuit lasting ten miles, pausing only to have a drink and lunch in the Red Lion in Fernhurst. The talk from the table behind us was all about 'those poor people with mortgages' which gives you a clue to the income bracket enjoyed by the locals. But we saw virtually nobody on the entire trek, just some horses, two donkeys and a man clearing undergrowth from a country lane. The sun shone through the trees, an occasional helicopter flew over.

Returned to find the world economy in meltdown, again. The Dow has fallen 600 points. I was going to go on the wagon, decided instead to pour myself a large scotch. It could be a long week.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

All that Jazz

A gloriously sunny Friday afternoon so, it was down to the Photographers Gallery near Piccadilly with Rachel for a look at a fabulous set of pictures showcasing Soho in the fifties and early sixties. A gloriously sordid set of prints (which you can get a taste of on the gallery's website) showcasing the musicians, strippers and punters from a fabulous looking era in the capital's history. Plainly a massive raucous party was in progress, held under the nose of an austere and disapproving post-war Britain. We need a party like that now. Perhaps there is one, but I have not been invited.
I went home after a good lunch and drank three glasses of red wine, so effectively jettisoning the prgress I'd been making with my diet. Ah well, onwards and upwards.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Strictly Decompressing

Spent today adjusting to the fact that sunshine and a beach won't be featuring in my life for the forseeable future. Fortunately there are compensations:

- Strictly Come Dancing has started , and Enid (our superb cat sitter) recorded the episodes we missed. I was going to review it but TV Dinners does it so much better, so rendering my effort pointless.

- Our cats. I kind of missed the little tykes. There was a cat at our hotel called Banjuk but he scratched me.

- Radio. Bunged on the Today programme on the way home from the airport and heard one of Norman 'Storming' Smith's politics two ways. These go out on the show most mornings at around 0630, and if you like politics they're about the best three minutes you can spend. This one summarised the Brown/Milliband position with great clarity and I felt bang up to date.

But I have some weight to lose. 13 stone 1 pound is too heavy for me, so it's no drinking for the forseeable and it's back to running and weight watchers points tomorrow. There can be no sin without retribution.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thoughts While Delayed At Dalaman Airport

I write to you, dear reader, from Dalaman Airport where we've been delayed for five hours in the middle of Monday night. Actually if this is all the XL disaster puts us through we will have got off lightly. But where else in Turkey, (an otherwise cheap and hospitable place) is beer five pounds a bottle, the staff shouty and the temperature nastily high well after dark? People sit crowded into underlit catrering areas subjected to pumping Turkish pop music. Screens in the lounge play episodes of 'Holby' to glassy eyed travellers. Dalaman airport is exploitative of its captive British travellers to a blatant and wicked degree. It's worse than BAA in that the UK operation, while charging stupid prices, does deliver a small degree of quality. But I shall be glad to be home which is a shame because we've had a lovely holiday.

Looking at the net I have to wonder what we're flying back to; the credit crunch which won't stop biting, one less High Street bank than there was when we left, the country in a funk.....but there is one bright spot on the horizon. The new series of Strictly Come Dancing has begun. Come on John Sergeant!

UPDATE: At home after a night from travel hell I discover that the head of XL bought a 800K house in his daughters names just a few weeks before his business went under - in cash, with what he says is 'family money'. Now Phil Wyatt intends to get back in the airline industry. Do me, the dumped XL staff, and the rest of us at Dalaman last night a favour Mr Wyatt: stay out of the flying business.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Reading List

Holidays are great for many many reasons, but I love being in Turkey because reading for pleasure, at a proper pace, becomes do-able again. So here's the holiday reading list, some details and links to be added later when I get more time.
Hard Times, by you know who. I hate Dickens because of his riotous sentimentality and his inability to write women as real people; as Woody Allen once joked his wife divorced him because he put her under a pedestal, and CD does the same. But it bounced along and had some good characters and you can't despise a book that features a dog called Merrylegs.
The Last Days of Newgate by Andrew Pepper. Recommended by Rachel of North London, it's a Victorian thriller with tinges of sordid realism, murder and melodrama. Beautifully done, go buy (or just borrow it off me). Also the Suspicions of Mr Whicher, which is a kind of factual accompaniment to the first two books, a shrewd and beautifully researched book about a real Victorian murder which happened in Road, near Bath.
I like taking big books about Hollywood in the suitcase and this years was Lee Server's superbly written autobiography of one of tinseltown's original hardmen, Robert Mitchum 'Baby I don't Care'. It's brilliantly done with a massive pile of anecdotes featuring everyone from Howard Hughes to Frank Sinatra. It seems you were nobody in Hollywood unless Mitchum had either hit you or taken you to bed.
Then Down River, which is overwritten nonsense from the Richard and Judy booklist. Everyone on this holiday thinks it's great but frankly it's deeply missable, and now I'm re-reading Dumas's Three Musketeers, which I didn't give proper time to the first time around, and I'm very much enjoying the second time about.
I did think I'd start my own book this holiday but the pool has got in the way. Shame that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Curse of Hendo

For years it's been a standing joke that disasters occur when I'm on my holidays. My loved ones call it 'The Curse of Hendo'.It asserted itself in 1997 when myself and Chris were on a trip round the Southern states of America. We got back to the room to discover a live image of an underpass in Paris on CNN. I spent the rest of my holiday wondering whether to come home, and driving poor Chris bonkers in the meantime. This pattern, maybe coincidental, maybe not, repeats itself. 9/11 was the day after Ms T and I arrived in California. Northern Rock collapsed the day after I unrolled my towel at the poolside in Southern Turkey. A trip to Italy was marked by a nasty rail disaster.
This is a curse which is refining its aim, edging closer to me as it replicates. This year we flew out on XL airways only for it to collapse by the end of that same week. As if for punctuation Lehmann brothers fell apart yesterday, and HBOS shares, which I have a decent wedge of, fell some thirty percent.
In future I'll post up when I'm going and you can take your place in the nearest bunker.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Victorian Unpleasantness

Found this on my travels, a cleverly done Murder Map of London in 1888 from The Times archive. As today, the victorian media covers the crime in code. A doctor is found guilty of murdering a patient 'who was not in the condition she thought she was in'. She died what must have been an excruciating death from peritonitus after what looks a lot like a botched and unnecessary abortion. Dark materials.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

How Parking Enforcement Works

Since the Post Office closed my local office I've had to drive to Camberwell to pick up the parcels they can't be bothered delivering. There's the doorway to the office on the right hand side of the picture. Just visible behind the cars on the left of the picture is a man from Southwark council wearing a tabard. If you stop next to the office to pick up your parcel he gives you a parking ticket. Smart eh! Don't worry about what happens if he walks off. The council have installed a cctv camera on a pole just visible on the left of the picture, and presumably that arranges for fines in his absence. 

Top Five Worst Retail Experiences

The news that Dixons/Curry's are fairing badly in the economic downturn gave me a certain kind of guilty satisfaction, for I have sworn never to buy anything from them again. I don't like to see anyone lose their jobs but they get easily the top placing in my top five nasty retail places to avoid list.

1. Dixons/Currys. Hard to see the wood for all the trees when it comes to this dreadful store that's been on our High Streets for too long. Can it be the untrained staff who generally know less than you do about the stock? That's if they don't ignore you, like they do in Brixton's branch. Or could it be the high prices of said stock, which is often outdated. Or the way they try and flog you insurance for the thing when you've bought it, as if your consumer rights don't exist? Gah!

2. Woolworths. Controversial this, but I think this sad and shabby store is on the skids and the staff and customers both seem to sense it. Brixton's is a disgrace. The muzak is an assault on the customer, the staff don't really want to know and you can't wait to leave, never mind buy anything.

3. Ryanair. I can't top Bete De Jour on this, so won't try. But I won't use them if there's any kind of choice. They make me feel like a number, not a free man.

4. Starbucks. That people will mutely pay these prices for a cup of coffee and a sit-down lends weight to the idea that British consumers are moronic dumb cattle that pay anything for anything. I've heard they're not doing too well either.

5. Almost any British hotel. Overpriced, frequently sloppy in their sense of customer service and a calculated insult to foreigners. The usual experience is uncleared tables, food trays in corridors and a sense of being housed on a remand wing. I exempt the Hotel Du Vin and Malmaison chain from this though by God, you pay through the nose for the pleasant experience they generally offer.

I've got all the way through this and not mentioned KFC or McDonalds. Maybe this should be a top ten.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Citeh, The Future

If twenty four hours is a long time in Politics how much longer is it in Football? The last thirty six have seen Manchester City's fortunes apparently transformed and I'm only one of the thousands of Blues wondering what the next few weeks could contain, not to mention the January transfer window.

The Abu Dhabi royal family's acquisition of this blue and mancunian bit of English football will change the game across Europe. The going rate for a top class striker is now thirty one million quid, as of last night when United had to reportedly up their bid for Berbatov to stop City hijacking the deal. In January, if the reports in are to be believed (and they broke the takeover story in the first place), that price could have inflated to a hundred and fifty million quid with a another poaching effort, this time aimed at Ronaldo . This kind of money is beyond even Russian oligarchs. It's all incredibly exciting, and if you've watched them struggle season after season, rather gratifying.

You can see the attraction of football as a place to put money. But with players costing hundreds of millions can it really be seen as an investment opportunity? There's something about this which defies logic. If this continues I'll have to start turning up to games again, which will be another problem: I'm used to the troughs, not the peaks. Citeh is about suffering, not cruising. It just won't be the same.