Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Next Stop New York

Managed to escape from Dallas just in time. Apparently its now snowing and it caused chaos. Flghts are being cancelled and apparently people in Dallas don't know how to drive when its icey, so there will lots of accidents.

Am staying in White Plains, an hour or so from New York. Feels very different. Pine trees and hills vs the flatlands of Texas and of course different American accents to contend with. I suppose I should go to New York, but still feeling jet lagged so don't think I'll bother.

Strange things happen to you when you've spent a few days in the States. I've found that I've modified the way I speak. In Dallas, I found myself describing things as 'kinda neat' and saying 'excellent!' and 'all right!' in a really loud voice when I liked something. I almost - but not quite - broke into a high 5. Someone tried it on me and I missed.

Then, over lunch someone told me that my English accent made me sound like 'a classy guy', which I of course found very flattering. I then became posher and posher and started saying things like ' in common parlance this is known as..' and 'that's jolly good' and began to revert to an English stereotype. 'Its 4 o clock everyone, so its time for tea'. I'm sure I ended up sounding like Hugh Grant by the end of the day. What an idiot.

In New York I'm sure this won't happen. I'll try and retain a Derby accent throughout. That'll confuse them. However, I'm sure that by the end of the day I'll sound like Tony Soprano. At one point today I found myself saying 'so who's the wise guy?'. I couldn't help myself.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I've just arrived in rainy Dallas for my last big trip of the year, staying at the Marriott in Las Colinas. The first road you see from the airport is the President George Bush Turnpike. I guess I'll need to careful what I say in my class tomorrow.

I'm convinced the Americans don't really want people to visit their country. Every official I've met has asked me when I'm going to leave, how I'm going to leave and what my return flight number is. I was let in eventually. The immigration officer looked at my documents and told me I was 'good to go'. I felt a bit like a fast food order.

I was hoping that they'd show Borat as the in-flight entertainment, but instead I watched some of Pirates of the Caribbean 2. A bit bored with Johnnie Depp's eyeliner and as usual Keira Knightley was rubbish.

Anyway I'm starving. I must order something to eat from the room service menu. As with everything in Texas, it's bound to be HUGE.

Why Germans are Cool
1. They always arrive on time. Which is very cool if you're running a workshop.
2. The manager of their national football, Jurgen Klinsman lived in California during the World Cup.
3. They were the most exciting team during the World Cup - until Italy knocked them out - hurrah!
4. They celebrate Christmas really well with their traditional Christmas markets.
5. Christmas always starts on time, ie this week. On Tooting High Steet the Christmas lights were switched on in October
6. They make the best kitchen appliances. Our new German oven has a 'dough proving' setting which is really cool. I can't wait to make pizza.
7. Our Bosch washing machine is much better than our crappy Italian Zanussi.
8. When you catch a taxi in Germany it is always a Mercedes. And you can pay with credit cards.
9. German taxis always arrive on time.
10. Forget Blue Nun. German white wines are fab.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

My Allotment

Last Sunday I visited my allotment for the first time in ages. It was a cold and sunny morning and I really enjoyed digging, clearing weeds and getting dirty.

Being a novice, my neighbours gave me lots of advice and handed out their surplus produce. The surrounding plots are immaculate and some people have had them for over 20 years. My plot is a bit shabby and I'm sure they're very unimpressed with my efforts. I must get down more often to keep on top of everything.

Having an allotment really makes you appreciate what good food should really taste like. Last year my tomatoes and broad beans were amazing. You also get to learn about growing seasons and how to look after plants.

This winter I'm not going to grow much. However, now is a good time for garlic. Simply take an ordinary bulb, break it into cloves and plant them 4 inches apart with the tips showing. They'll be ready next Summer. Easy peasy. However, watch out for the birds pulling out the green stems when they begin to grow.

In Wandsworth there's a 3 year waiting list for an allotment. I can understand why.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Have just been dropped off by my taxi in the German town of Ulm, famous for having the largest Gothic church spire in the world. I haven't got a clue where I am exactly. All I know is that its an hour or so from Stuttgart.

Sometimes I feel like a rock star - but without the sex, drugs and adulation. I arrive in places, do my stuff and leave as soon as possible.

The last time I was in Ulm, Italy were playing Germany in the World Cup semi final. There was big screen in the town square which was packed with excited Germans with their face paint and flags over their shoulders. Italy won near the end and the crowd were all so sad and crying. Of course I was supporting the Italians and was delighted. I almost felt sorry for Germany. Almost - but not quite.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What I'm Reading

On the flight back to London last night I started to read Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang, another donation from my brother Nick. I have to say, it's a great book. I was keen to read it after having seen Sidney Nolan's amazing Ned Kelly Series when I visited the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra earlier this year.

I know Canberra gets a bad press, but I thought it was a really nice place with lots of things to do and see. Was weird to see so many kangaroos wandering around, but I guess the Aussies must be used to it.

Whilst I was there I also saw a film called Jinderbyne . I know it was critically acclaimed, but boy was it depressing. Give me Skippy any day.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

L'Oreal Male Models

In Finland (yes, I'm still here), Sammi Hyypia the Liverpool footballer is the face of L'Oreal. Now I know he's Finnish, but he's hardly gorgeous is he?

I can understand why they chose David Ginola as his hair was so shiny and lustrous, but I think they've taken the principle of global advertising and local execution a step too far.

If they had to a choose a footballer role model for the UK, I'd choose Sol Campbell. I met him a couple of times a year or so ago and I have to say he's a good looking boy.

If they wanted to look beyond a footballer, I'd suggest Richard Shelton the Emmerdale star. I know he's a murderer, but he's got lovely skin.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What I find interesting about Finnish people...

1. They're still very proud of the fact that they won this year's Eurovision Song Contest with Lordi

2. They're very introvert and hate small talk...but apparently they're very excitable when they're drunk

3. They like to got to lunch at 11.30am. I guess it gets dark very early

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Snow in Helsinki

My flight landed at 11.35 this evening and I saw my first snow of the winter. It looks beautiful and I feel that Christmas should begin this week. I don't think I've brought enough warm clothes but at least I've remembered my Derby County bobble hat. Thank goodness.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Back from Jakarta early Thursday morning and then off to Switzerland this evening. Briefly saw the kids to remind them that they've still got a dad.

Wasn't in Switerland for very long, but what I do remember is
a. the trains ran on time
b. the air was crisp and clean

I guess that sums up Switzerland really. Wasn't it Orson Welles in 'The Third Man' who said something like 'the only thing the Swiss invented was the cuckoo clock'. Of course, this isn't strictly true. Henri Nestle was a great chocolate pioneer.

It was also whilst working at Nestle that I met my lovely wife Karen.

I still buy Buitoni pasta whenever I can. Of all the brands I've worked on it's my favourite. Although as all Italians know, the best pasta brand in the world is da Cecco

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Jakarta News
In my workshop today I showed the recent Dove 'Natural Beauty' ad campaign, saying that it was a great example of how female stereotypes had been successfully challenged. However, everyone in the class thought the women were fat and ugly.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Staying in the huge and very swanky Ritz Carlton hotel running a 3 day workshop. (2nd time I've stayed in 1 of these - the first was in Dubai earlier this year.) Have been here a day now and not stepped out onto the streets of the city. So far have only seen the view from the airport to the hotel and the view from my 20th floor room. Feeling jetalagged from the 17 hour flight and the bed is so comfy, so not inspired to move..although all the spa facilities seem quite tempting. Even the locals tell me the city is dominated by pollution, traffic and shopping. I can get plenty of that in London.

What I didn't realise about Indonesia is that it is the biggest Muslim country in the world. Population of over 200 mill with over 90% muslim. Not sure George Bush will get much of a welcome when he arrives here.

Everyone says I should stay on and spend some time here eg go to Bali. Another time maybe.

Shame I missed bonfire night. However managed to stay up to see the live footie (Chelsea v Spurs) As usual am listening to Radio 4 re-runs on my laptop. Reminds me of home. The Archers is really hotting up. Will also try and finish my book. Murakami's 'A Wild Sheep Chase'. Very funny. Very surreal. Nick gave it to me.

Have got 19 items on my phone's To Do list. Guess I should try and knock off a couple if I can whilst I wait for my food to arrive. I quite fancied the Chinese breakfast: congee, dimsum, noodles and soy milk. I really do feel in a different time zone

Thursday, November 02, 2006

7 things to look forward to by christmas
1. bonfire night
2. derby in the play-off zone
3. time off in december
4. dinner at the river cafe
5. karen's party
6. the new kitchen
7. snow