Monday, January 29, 2007


Arrived this afternoon on a beautiful day in Dallas. Clear blue sky, bright sun, chilly but no wind. So nice that I went for a 50 minute gentle jog around the lake near my hotel. Flight was 12 hours but it wasn't too stressful. Saw 'Starter For Ten' - easy and enjoyable - and listened to some new music on my iPod. Started reading William Boyd's latest novel Restless which so far is really good. Looking forward to reading it later

As I had a bit of time, I decided to visit the Sixth Floor Museum in downtown Dallas. This is the building where Lee Harvery Oswald allegedly shot JFK. Really enjoyed it. Saw lots of great archive footage, photos and memorablia and the exact spot where Oswald was perched when he was looking out of the 6th floor window. The museum doesn't hide from the controversy of his death and lays out all the evidence before you and I have to say it all seems a bit fishy.

Afterwards I had a good walk around the Grassy Knoll and the spot where he was shot. Was quite spooky.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fitness Update

Its almost the end of January and usually the week where resolutions get broken. Well, so far I've lost 7lbs in weight. A long way to go, but doing OK. I'm going to be in the USA this week, which will be the true test where jeg lag disorientates you and food portions are so big.

To get fit you need targets and I've got 2. Target 1 is our China holiday in April, where we're going to Hainan Island. Gotta look good for the beach. Target 2 is a tough one. A long weekend cycling in the mountains of Liguria at the end of May

I've got some friends who are serious cyclists who invited me along. They've got all the gear, several racing bikes and think nothing of 100 mile bike rides. Last weekend I went on a 20 mile warm-up ride and it nearly killed me.

I'm going to have to get a new racing bike. My normal bike which I bought in the Halfords sale simply won't make it. When I was a kid my favourite racer was a Merican. I think they're still going, but don't think I can afford one.

And of course, will need to get all the fancy lycra.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Poznan Poland

Arrived late last night via Warsaw at the Novotel in Poznan. Drop in temperature was a bit of a shock. Is genuinely freezing here and didn't venture out for too long tonight. Think it might snow. Instead, will see what room service has to offer. The local specialities look the most interesting: borsch, dumplings, knuckle of pork, red cabbage, perch fillet...not sure.

Am currently reading The Spy Who Loves Me. Am up to p92 and James Bond still hasn't appeared. Where is he? Its a short easy read but is not great.

Am surrounded by forest. Feels like the kind of place where you would hide kidnapped spies.

Don't think there's much in the way of sightseeing, so think its an early night for me. Oh the glamour of international travel.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Top of the League!
Happy Birthday Lia

Today we celebrated Lia's 6th birthday. Her cake had a sea theme.

This is because Lia and her friends went to the London Aquarium

where we saw lots of beautiful fish.

We met some strange people on the South Bank.

We then to Wagamamma for noodles. Yum Yum.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Lunch at RIBA

Had lunch today at the Royal Institute of British Architects on Portland Place. Its got a really nice cafe that's open to the public and there are often exhibitions to look at. If you're in the area, its worth popping in.

I was introduced to it by Trevor Flynn who amongst other things runs life drawing classes in people's offices. He's a great teacher and his sessions are fantastic. I'm planning to go to one of his weekend classes in February. Another one of my 2007 resolutions.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Allotment News

In between the rain I've managed to get down to the allotment. Garlic is in. Could do with some cold weather to get it going. Have just planted the broad beans. I've had my delivery of organic seeds, but its a bit too early to plant anything else. Next job - add compost to the soil.

My friend Helen, who I used to work with, won £220 at her local pub for growing the biggest pumpkin. 44lb. Very impressive. The secret? Chicken shit pellets. Must buy some.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Science Boffins Party

Today, my daughter Mae is 9 years old and yesterday we had some of her schoolfriends round our house for a Science Boffins Party whereby a scientist, complete with white coat, spent an hour or so explaining and conducting a series of scientific experiments with everyday objects. Both adults and kids loved it.

And of course the party food was top notch. Silvana made the cakes, I made the pizza and Karen made the jelly.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

2007 The Year of the Golden Pig

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2007 is the Year of the Pig. However it won't be an ordinary pig year, its the Year of the Golden Pig which according to fortune tellers only comes round every 600 years.

Babies born this year will lead comfortable and healthy lives and in 2007 the birth rate in China is expected to surge.

It will also be a prosperous year for people running their own business. Especially if you happen to be a toy pig manufacturer based in Hong Kong.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

2007 The Year of Thrift

Yesterday the Bank of England suprisingly put up the interest rates by a quarter of a percent with further increases forecast for later this year. Consumer debt is out of control. Tube and train fares keep rising. There's no doubt about it, all except the stinking rich are going to have to cut back on their spending in 2007.

There's been a lot written about this recently. There was a great feature in the Guardian last Saturday on Free stuff and there was a really interesting article on clever ways to save money on train journeys.

Whilst cutting back on expenditure may be painful, it can often be strangely satisfying. It just requires a bit of planning and it can really encourage us to think differently and creatively.

Making your own packed lunch, cycling to work, staying in more, saving energy, lending / sharing stuff, mending stuff, growing your own veg, are all worthy pursuits. Its what made Britain great! And of course, we all love a bargain.

So - anyone what to come round our house for an evening of charades? Please bring a pudding.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Arrival of the iPhone

Steve Jobs has finally announced the arrival of the long awaited iPhone, the world's worst kept secret. Will it transform the mobile phone market in the same way that the iPod transformed the music industry? I'm sure its going to be the hottest topic of discussion at my workshops and classes over the next few months.

Initial reactions have been very positive. It certainly looks fantastic with a really cool touch screen interface and great features. Apple lovers are overjoyed, the share price has surged and Jobs claims that it is 5 years ahead of the industry.

However I think it will tough for it to make a huge impact - at least in the short term. It will retail at $499 - not cheap, particularly for the hyper price sensitive US market. The global mobile phone market is massive. The 10 million sales target will be a drop in the ocean. It won't be available outside of the USA until the end of 2007 and I'm sure that in the meantime the other mobile manufacturers will have got their act together with their own innovations.

Most importantly, no-one's had a chance to play with it yet. Will the early adopter techno-geeks give it the thumbs up? If they do, then it will be the top of everyone's Christmas 2007 list.

Favourite South London Restaurants

Tooting is renowned for its Indian restaurants. One of the best known vegetarian restaurants is the Kastoori which is always great. However, my favourite at the moment is the Mirch Masala 213 Upper Tooting Road which is a BYO. You can't book a table so not recommended for a big crowd. You often have to wait for a table, but not for very long. Very relaxed, very informal and saw in the window yesterday that its been voted best Indian restaurant by the locals. Not surprised.

If you fancy a Chinese and don't want to go to Chinatown then try China Boulevard in Wandsworth. Have only ever been there for Sunday lunch but its always been good, especially the dim sum. Its a big place by the river and perfect for large gatherings. Has become a family favourite and a great place to meet friends. Apparently they have private rooms for karaoke. May give it a go.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The History Boys

To celebrate my birthday last night, we took a rare trip to the West End to see the History Boys. it had fabulous reviews when it was first shown at the National and I can understand why. Alan Bennett's a genius. No doubt about it.

Plus, Derby beat Wrexham in the FA cup and Lupoli scored a hat-trick. The first for a Derby player for 10 years. And I got some presents. Good day all round!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Grumpy Old Man

Tomorrow I'll be 45, which means that I'll be genuinely middle-aged. I therefore feel I've got permission to have a good old moan about some of the things that annoy me.

1. English Sport

Our cricket, football and rugby teams are all rubbish. The players are overpaid with no hunger or fighting spirit. The Ashes was humiliating. I also can't see many future athletic stars. How many medals will we win at the London Olympics? Zero. Its tragic that Zara Philllips is the best sports personality we can come up with.

2. TV

Television is turning us into a nation of zombies. The soap operas are depressing and I can't wait for East Enders to join Crossroads and Brookside in the soap graveyard. The Christmas schedule was shocking. God knows why people watch those reality tv shows and why the newspapers give them so much coverage. There's no decent food programmes nowadays. Silvana - where are you? Gordon - pack up swearing. Its not big and its not clever.

3. Celebrity Culture

Why are we so obsessed with celebrity? I really can't understand it. There's more and more celeb mags and web sites. Why is anyone interested in Jade Goody's love life or Kerry and Brian's latest tiff? They've got no talent and are really, really uninteresting. There's too many celeb biographies. Why has Wayne Rooney written his life story. He's only 21 and hasn't scored for England for years. How sad do you have to be to turn to Posh Spice for fashion and beauty tips?


I hated all the pictures of Colleen, Posh and the one from Girls Aloud shopping during the World Cup. They're dreadul role models and I think they contributed to our disastrous on pitch performance. The boys weren't focused on the job in hand. I don't want to see all the Ryder Cup wives lined up for photocalls on the 18th Green in their matching outfits. They've got nothing to do with the competition. Keep away.

5. Xenophobia

I hate all the media coverage that implies that immigrants have a negative impact on British life and that there are too many foreigners entering 'our' country taking 'our' jobs and that we should stop them. Its completely untrue. Britain has always welcomed foreign workers.They bring energy and a desire to succeed. Our economy needs them. Everyone who has had Polish builders think that they're fantastic. Our health system would collapse without foreign nurses and doctors. Our food culture has been enriched. London is the food capital of the world. Its a no brainer. Immigrants we love 'em. Fortunately all those people who think our country has gone to the dogs have moved to Spain or Thailand to build their idyllic communities. Good luck to them.

6. Air Travel

You have to arrive at least 2 hours before your flight is due. Virtually every flight I've taken over the past year has been delayed. It takes hours to get through airport security. The baggage handling at Heathrow is SO slow. There are always delays on the M4. Fags, booze, perfume. Every duty free shop looks the same.

That'll do. I'm depressing myself!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Christmas Elvis

Our friends who live on our road have recently come back from a holiday in New York. As a present for looking after their cat they gave us this Elvis Christmas decoration. I love Elvis and I love quirky Christmas decorations so this was a perfect present. Thanks Russ and Cheryl. Whenever I look at it, you'll be always on my mind.

Everything you read about at the moment is on how to get slimmer, wealthier, happier and sexier in 2007. Yes, its the time of the year to change your life, pin up those resolutions, start those new hobbies, join the gym, chuck away the remaining Thornton Continentals and begin the Detox programme.

I'm as bad as anyone. I always write resolutions. I recently discovered my 1997 resolutions sellotaped to the inside of my wardrobe on some yellow filofax paper. No 1. Lose 2 stone. Still not done it. Still need to.

There's a whole publishing industry built around 'Self Improvement' books. My friend in Devon has bought most of them - along with all those on how to 'Get Rich Quick'.

Over Christmas the most interesting book I read was by Tom Hodgkinson who runs the Idler magazine called 'How To Be Free'. Not exactly a Self Improvement book, but more of a call to action on how to change your lifestyle. Its very radical, but it is very insightful and thought provoking.

The most interesting idea I found was to encourage us to focus our lives on producing and not consuming ie to be creative and output focused and not to be passive and wasteful in the way we live our lives.

I'm certainly going to try and embrace this idea in 2007. And of course I REALLY am going to lose 2 stone.