Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Back Home

Worst feeling: waking up in a hotel knowing that you've got to run a workshop with a gang of people you haven't met. Will the laptop work? Are they going to be friendly and chatty? Will I remember my stuff? Will I stay awake?

Best feeling: feeling of relief when its all over and you say goodbye to the last person and I start clearing the room. Sitting on the flight as it takes off. Waking up and going to down to my kitchen. Listening to the news and sports on Radio Five 5. Making tea for Karen and breakfast for the kids.

Which is what I've just done.

Monday, February 26, 2007


After a few days in rainy SW16, I'm back in another cold climate - Helsinki. Only minus 6 degrees, but cold enough to want to stay in the hotel. This evening I decided to brave the hotel sauna. I was going to go for a swim but the heated pool was bloody freezing. Lying in the sauna I closed my eyes and imagined I was in Barbados. Worked for a little while. I know saunas are supposed to be good for you, but I'm not quite sure why.

Two things I discovered today. Firstly, Fazer chocolate, which is apparently a classic Finnish brand. Really, really nice. I know I'm supposed to have given up chocolate for Lent, but I couldn't help nicking a couple of bits.

I also discovered that in the Finnish forests the wolf population is on the increase and you can get attacked by bears. I never knew it was such a dangerous place.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Red Square

Just back from a walk around Red Square. Its a place that everyone should visit at some point in their life. Cold, still with snow on the ground, imposing buildings.Fantastic.

At the moment there's an ice rink in the square which is much bigger than the one you see at Somerset House with some very accomplished skaters whizzing around. Also went for a walk through Gum, which used to a Soviet Department Store where hardly anything was for sale. Now its lit up like Harrods and is full of Chanel and other similar stores

Our hotel has a lamborghini on display in the reception where people like to pose and have their picture taken. There's also a list of celebrities who have stayed there which include Hillary Clinton, Boris Becker and oddly Ross Kemp, Never knew Eastenders was so popular.


Arrived in Moscow yesterday and boy is it cold. Minus 19. Had to go for a brief walk in the evening to get to our restaurant and nearly froze.

So far its been a fascinating trip. You get the impression that life is changing very quickly in Russia. There's a feel of rampant materialism everythere. New bars, new designer shops, new restaurants keep appearing and old ugly Soviet buildings are being torn down. People like to show off their new found wealth and there's no shortage of bling, fur coats and expensive cars on the streets. In fact there are so many cars that the traffic in Moscow is incredibly bad - the worst I've ever seen.

People say that Russian women are the most beautiful in the world and I can see why. They do like to dress up and enjoy the nightlife. They're attracted by money and wealthy Western men do get a lot of attention. (No me, I might add)

Off out again tonight - they're great hosts - and no doubt we'll go to a fancy restaurant, where I'll feel terribly dressed down. Not been round Red Square yet. Hope we don't end up drinking late night vodkas as have got a busy day tomorrow. Not been great for my fitness campaign. WIll need to catch up when I get home later this week.

Friday, February 16, 2007

South London Gentrification

A Caffe Nero has recently opened opposite Tooting Broadway tube station. Now that Balham has got so la-di-da, the trendy cafes are having to move further down the Northern line. What would Wolfie Smith think?

Before we know it, there'll be a Wagamama in Colliers Wood.
Pete's Photoblog

My friend Pete who lives 3 doors down has started a Photoblog called A day in December. Lovely pics, worth a look.

Anyone guess where the phrase 'A day in December' comes from? Sounds familar doesn't it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Milano - Short But Sweet

Despite my anxieties, the trip to Milan was really enjoyable. Although there were 30 in the class they were all chatty and friendly. We had pasta for lunch which was delicious. I don't know why, but pasta always tastes better in Italy. And it was lovely and warm. Nice enough to sit outside.

Malpensa airport was plastered with huge billboards of Furla, Roberto Cavalli, D & G, Prada, Armani, etc and there lots of expensive shops in Duty Free. I guess its to be expected from the fashion capital of the world.

However, only things I bought were a huge chunk of parmesan cheese and some nice balsamic vinegar.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day in Milan

No romantic dinner for me. Had to settle for an Alitalia sandwich and a piece of cake. In a hotel in a Milan suburban about to run a workshop tomorrow. Could try Italian telly. Bit dodgy. Or else will dive into Julian Barne's Arthur & George. Just started it and looks good. Early night I reckon.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What I'm Listening To

The Good the Bad and the Queen: Damon Albarn's latest outfit. Much better than his Gorillaz stuff
The View: Scottish version of the Arctic Monkeys, only not as good, although I do like the lead singer's voice
The Decemberists: The Word magazine keeps on plugging them and I think 'The Crane Wife' is really enjoyable. Well done The Word. Worth subscribing to for the free CD alone!
Adriano Celentano: Birthday present from my friend Sally who loves going to Puglia for her hols. (where my mum comes from) Easygoing Italian pop
Tracey Thorn: I love her voice and am listening to Everything But the Girl and an old Marine Girls cassette that I had when I was an 80s student.
Dustin O'Halloran: perfect de-stress piano solos
Jarvis Cocker's latest: prefer this to most of the Pulp stuff.

Richmond Park

Went out for a ride around Richmond Park with my fanatical cycling friends yesterday to try out my lovely new bike. 3 circuits (18ish miles). Was a bit knackering but much easier and more fun that my old bike.

There were literally hundreds of people out cycling yesterday. I didn't realise how popular cycling was and how much technical jargon is involved. Once they get started, bike enthusiasts can go on for hours talking about shimano vs campagnola brakes, cleats vs toe straps, aluminium vs carbon fibre frames, Big Mig vs Indurain. Am doing my best to keep up and stay interested.

My bike is still in the lounge as I don't want it to get wet outside. Causing a bit of grief with Karen. Luckily she's in Poland this week, so it can stay there for the time being. Not sure for how long though.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Still Top

Despite only drawing today, Derby are still 7 points clear at the top of the Championship. Dare we dream of the promotion into the Premier League? Will be an amazing achievement.

Heard on the radio that Stephen Frears who directed 'The Queen' is planning a film about Brian Clough's life. Can't wait!

My New Bike

I bought my new racer this week which is really exciting. Still not ridden it yet, but planning to go for a big ride around Richmond Park tomorrow with my fanatical cycling mates. Richmond Park is full of serious cyclists who whizz around at top speed. A bit intimidating for a novice like me.

Not sure where to keep the bike. Its currently in the lounge, but I'm not sure I'll be allowed to keep it there indefinitely. Can't possibly leave it outside.

I bought it from De Ver Cycles on Streatham High Road, one of the friendliest bike shops in south London. Really enthusiastic staff and lots of great bikes to look at.
Streatham High Road has been voted the worst High Street in the UK. Its reputation hasn't been helped by the recent shooting at the Ice Rink. Its a shame really, because when you get close up there are a few nice independent shops and some OK restaurants. Its just so ugly and busy you don't want to hang around too long.

One of my favourite Streatham High Road venues is La Pergola, where they have a famous Elvis impersonater. It feels like you're back in the 1970s, but its a great place to go with a gang of people. Its recently been renovated and has re-opened again.Wonder what its like now?

England vs Italy

Today I went to Twickenham, courtesy of my friend Vincent to see England vs Italy. I love big sporting events and it was a privilege to see Jonny Wilkinson in action again looking so good. One of the all time greats.

The atmosphere at a rugby game is very different to a footie game. Its a very middle class affair with lots of big blokes with posh girls wearing expensive scarves and barbour jackets. In the car park there's lots of entertaining with lovely food and champagne dished out from the back of Range Rovers.

It still seems strange to see Italians playing rugby, but I'm glad that they played well today. However England still won quite easily, thanks to good old Jonny.

A really enjoyable afternoon. Thanks for the invitation Vincent and thanks Silvana and Rob for looking after the kids.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Posh and Becks in LA

One thing that surprised me in the States was that Posh and Becks are genuinely big news. Not many people know who he is and what he does but they sure know he's coming.

As with the UK media, a lot has been made of their friendship with Tom Cruise and Katie and there's lots of speculation about whether Becks will become a scientologist.

I think they're going to do really well in America. There's a lot less cynicism about celebrity than there is in the UK. They don't have to go to the trouble of learning a language and the glitzy, shallow Hollywood lifestyle suits them down to the ground. I'm sure they'll have no trouble spending all their money.
Two Weddings, One Marriage

In between my week in the USA I went to 2 wedding days, to celebrate the marriage of Deidre and Rupert (aka Dee and Roo). Let me explain.

On Saturday 27th January they got married at the famous Chelsea Town Hall, where they had a civil ceremony. It was a lovely event which attracted a lot of attention from the shoppers on the Kings Road when we were posing on the steps outside. We all went back to Dee and Roo's house in Chiswick for Kristal champagne - which was really, really nice - and posh nibbles.

However coming from West Cork, Dee wanted to celebrate back in her spiritual home of Glandore, a small coastal village in one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland where all her extended family, friends and neighbours could celebrate in true Irish style. We've just got back and have had the most fantastic weekend.

On Saturday 3rd February the marriage was blessed at St Fachtna's church. We then went on to the local pub, Hayes bar for more champagne followed by a recption at the posh Rectory for dinner, tearful speeches and dancing. The event ended at 2.30ish after lots of Irish songs in the bar when we were thrown out.

Mae and Lia were both flower girls. They looked lovely and really enjoyed all the attention.

On Sunday 4th February the partying continued as it was Dee's 40th birthday which we celebrated at the local hotel. Fortunately, the Irish beat the Welsh at Rugby so everyone was in a good mood. There was more dancing, live music, more Murphys more emotional speeches and even more guests.

Such a fantastic weekend which is going to be hard to top this year. Thanks very much Dee and Roo for inviting us to join in.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

San Diego

Arrived yesterday evening in sunny San Diego, which I didn't realise is only 15 miles from the Mexican border. Its a real contrast to the blandness of Dallas.Warm weather, wide beaches, palm trees and mountains. Had a free day today so with the help of a friendly taxi driver had a good look around

One of the highlights was Coronado Island which has a strong association with Marilyn Munroe. It was at the famous Del Coronado Hotel where 'Some Like it Hot' was filmed - one of my favourite films. it was also popular with the Kennedys and it was at this hotel where JFK - him again - was rumoured to have had an affair with her.

There's loads to see and do in San Diego and it has a real holiday feel to it. Southern California would be a great place for a family holiday. You never know we might go one day.

Am staying at a fancy golf resort called the Double Tree Golf Resort and had a really pleasant jog around the course, trying to avoid all the golf buggies. Shame I've got to work tomorrow, Will have a quiet night in and listen to the Archers omnibus edition on my laptop.