Thursday, January 31, 2008

KL Day 2

Have managed to survive the first day of my workshop despite the jetlag and have had a lovely dinner with people from Thailand, Hong Kong, India and China. Had quite a laugh actually, largely at the expense of English tourists. Just learnt that Derby avoided defeat yesterday which was amazing. Still reeling from the fact that the new American owners dream of turning Derby County into a 'global, iconic brand' and paid £50 million for the club.

Have recently finished reading 'A Spot of Bother' by Mark Haddon. It's been in the bestsellers list for quite a time now and I can understand why. It deals with everyday issues that many people face: ageing parents, family tension, marriage, retirement, adultery and does so with humour and sensitivity. This is very different to 'The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time', which I loved. Not quite as good, but worth reading.

Am flying back tomorrow evening and have got updgraded to First Class! Can't wait. Apparently its been quite chilly back home

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

KL Day 1

Arrived early this morning in Kuala Lumpur and have spent all day at the Marriott Hotel preparing for a 2 day workshop. It was a daytime flight, so didn't sleep much. Read Nigel Slater's 'Eating For England' which is an easy, funny and nostalgic view of our food culture. I also saw Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney. Good film, worth taking out on video I reckon. Has received a surprisingly high number of Oscar nominations.

Experiencing humidity, fab food food and jetlag. All the usual pros and cons of a short trip to Asia. Must try and get to sleep soon, so I can focus on being bright and breezy tomorrow

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lia's Cooking Party
On Saturday, for Lia's 7th birthday we had a cooking party. This involved 12 girls preparing, cooking and eating their own pizzas and decorating fairy cakes. It was a really enjoyable afternoon, largely masteminded by auntie Silvana with Mae in charge of games. And the pizzas were yummy too. None left for me unfortunately.
Lovely Day For a Long Run

Yesterday was a crisp sunny day. The perfect conditions for a 10km across the Epsom Downs. the Perch IX is a really enjoyable event and recommended for anyone who is vaguely interested in running. The course is quite demanding, but is very pretty and very varied with great views over London. It starts off at Epsom Race Course. The going was good and no, we didn't have to jump over any of the fences. Luckily nobody fell over and had to be shot.

The results are out and I finished 543 out of 561, which fulfilled my ambition of not finishing last. There was a bit of a party atmosphere afterwards where music was blaring out over the loudspeakers and we were given water, mini Mars bars and our souvenir t-shirt.

Need to book in my next race soon to keep up the momentum. I can't believe I'm actually enjoying all this running.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Teenage Fanclub Gig

Despite a 3 hour delay in Helsinki due to the snow, I just managed to get back in London to see Teenage Fanclub play at KOKO, which I always remembered as Camden Palace. My friend who got me the ticket has seen 'The Fannies' at least 6 times, but for me it was a first. (He's also a big fan of The Jesus and Mary Chain, by the way)

Anyway, really enjoyed it. It's so good to see live music - one of my New Year resolutions. They were excellent. Great vocals with lots of uplifting tunes and jangly guitars designed to put you in a good mood. Perfect end to a frustrating day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thank You, BBC

I know I'm a late adopter, but I've just discovered BBC iPlayer on my laptop. So, sitting here in my rather bland hotel room in Helsinki, I can watch last week's TV instead of the Finnish ice hockey. And it works!

Next, I think I'll Listen Again to The Archers. Am a bit out of touch with what's going on.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Feeling Depressed?

Apparently this is the most depressing week of the year. This is because
- the spirit of Christmas has worn off
- its dark and cold outside
- you've got huge credit card bills to pay
- you've broken your New Year resolutions.

However, I'm a born optimist and prefer to look on the bright side, which means remembering that:
- days are getting lighter
- it's the year of the Beijing Olympics which are going to be amazing
- you can stay in eat lovely, filling food and catch up on your favourite movies

Plus today's Lia's 7th birthday and there's a party at our house on Saturday!

Just landed in Helsinki and it's properly cold with snow everywhere. Bit of a shock after leaving a mild and wet London, where apparently night time temperatures have been the warmest ever recorded for this time of the year. Thanks for the update, Met Office.

In the airport there were Christmas lights everywhere which was a bit strange. Maybe they're to promote Lapland as an all-year-round holiday destination.

Staying at a very strange concrete hotel in the middle of a forest. Will probably go the gym tomorrow as it's too cold to run. May even decide to go to the sauna if I'm feeling brave.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Laserquest Party

Mae's Laserquest event was a big hit on Saturday, with virtually every child saying that it was 'the best party ever!'

Can't quite see what the attraction is myself, but what do I know. She's already said that she wants the same thing next year.

On Saturday it's Lia's 7th birthday party and she's having a cooking party with her auntie Silvana. Much more my kind of thing

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Same Old Derby, Always Losing

Poor Paul Jewell. I bet he's wondering what he's got himself into. Another game. Another defeat. Despite 5 new players joining, nothing has changed. We still can't defend and we aren't creating enough chances.

The answer. Take the long view. Plan for relegation and rebuild. I hope the fans and the chairman continue to support Jewell through this tough phase. I also hope Jewell doesn't get too disheartened and sticks with us.
Our Chinese Weekend

On Friday night we went to see the Ang Lee film Lust, Caution. It's a story that's set in Hong Kong and Shanghai in the early 1940's. Very atmospheric, tense with some very explicit sex scenes. It's too long (over 2 and a half hours) with a plot that moves very slowly, so you have to be patient. Plus, you have to read substitles all the way through, which can be challenging. However, stick with it and you'll really get drawn into it.
A lot of the scenes in Lust, Caution take place over games of Mah Jong and on Saturday night our friends taught us how to play. It's a really good game which combines a few rituals, some skill and a fair amount of luck. I got a Mah Jong set for Christmas and am sure I'll get into it.

Today we went to see the terracotta warriors at the British Museum which was great. It's a small and intimate exhibition and you can very close to the warriors which are really impressive. The audio commentary is essential to ensure you get the most out of it. Highly recommended. Lia comes from Xi'An the home of the warriors and we went to see them in their original settings. We hope to return in a couple of years time.

And of course afterwards we went for some delcious dim sum in Chinatown.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Is the New iPhone Any Good?

I don't own one but have played with a couple that my friends have bought. So far, I'm not convinced that it is. Of course, the touch-screen user interface is very cool. However, I don't think the key features (camera, video, diary, etc) are any better than a lot of phones you get today and I don't think the keyboard is that easy to use. I'm sure there will be better versions in the future, so I'll hold back for now.

However, the new iPod Touch IS really cool. It's slim, has the same amazing touch screen as the iPhone and is a genuine improvement on the previous model.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I need to buy a new pair of running shoes and to help me choose I went to Profeet near Clapham South, a specialist running shop. Being heavy, slow and having dodgy knees I thought it best to get some expert advice.

At the shop they diagnosed my running style via video camera and came to the conclusion that I overpronated and that my old (expensive!) Nikes weren't doing me any good. They then custom-made an insole to give me the support I need and recommended a new shoe - Brooks which were designed to give me greater stability.

I've just been on a run and I must admit it did feel a bit odd as I'm not used to having so much support. However, my knee felt OK and the shoes were very comfortable.

Definitely worth a visit to Profeet if you're thinking of buying new shoes and have some problems with your running. Convinced me never to buy Nikes again!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Doesn't Time Fly

Today is Mae's 10th birthday. Amazing isn't it? She's now into double figures, which for her is a big, big deal. As it's a weekday we didn't really have a big celebration - just an M & S chocolate cake and a couple of rounds of 'Happy Bithday to You'. This weekend there will be a proper Laserquest Party. The fun never ends!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mamma Mia, Here I Go Again

We've just come back from a weekend in Bristol, where a group of us saw the hit musical Mamma Mia at the Bristol Hippodrome.

We went to see our old friend Richard Shelton, who starred as Harry Bright.

Before the performance we had a backstage tour and wandered around the set which was really interesting.

Mamma Mia is the world's number 1 musical and it's easy to see why. The songs are great and there's lots of laughs. A show that everyone will enjoy. And of course, Richard was great.

The show's about to begin an international tour, but you can still catch it at Bristol, Glasgow and Belfast.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Newcastle Delusion

I'm still shocked at the way Newcastle sacked Sam Allardyce, the latest managerial 'Messiah' to be dismissed for not providing them with the success they feel is their divine right. I still can't understand why Newcastle feel they're a top club. They've not won anything since the 1960s. They always pay over the odds for average players. Every player who joins the club ends up as a worse player whose value subsequently decreases.

Their fans are always banging on about the need to play football the Newcastle way - whatever that is - and keep going on about how they're the most passionate in the land. However, whenever I see them on Match of the Day they're always moaning about their team and streaming out of the ground before the end of the game if they're losing.

Of course, they've got wealthy backers who will know doubt again pay over the odds for another 'top' manager. There's huge support for another local hero - Alan Shearer (who won the league whilst playing for Blackburn, not Newcastle, incidently) who's never managed a club in his life. Harry Redknapp is favourite. He'd be mad to leave Portsmouth, but he'll be paid a fortune.
Good luck to him. He'll need it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

M & S Again

This was the Sun's story exactly a year ago. Will be quite different tomorrow, I'm sure.
M & S Advertising

Marks and Spencer shares dropped by 20% on the back of some fairly average sales results that were announced today. Just when we thought that everything had been sorted with the brand, it's now back in trouble.

Talking to a few people today, I didn't realise how many people can't stand their food ads, with their sexy voiceovers and the lingering close ups. I used to quite like them, but must admit they do make me feel a bit queasy now.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

All Change at Derby

Well, it looks like Derby will have a whole set of new players by the end of the month according to the Derby Evening Telegraph. This will probably include the most hated man in English football, Robbie Savage. So far, only Steve Howard has left. He was our player of the year last year, but clearly wasn't good enough for the Premier League. I hope he does well for Leicester.

Will it help Derby avoid relegation? Probably not, but it's very exciting seeing all these new signings. Fingers crossed.
My Next 10km Race

Have just entered a race on 27th Jan called the 2000 Perch which takes place over Epsom Downs. Anyone else want to enter? If so, click here. Closing date for entry is 18th Jan and there will be over 2 000 runners taking part. Apparently its quite a tough race but very scenic. Come on, you know it'll be good for you!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Birthday Weekend

Yesterday I turned 46 and had a really nice weekend. On Saturday, we went to Locanda Locatelli. Lovely, classic Italian restaurant. Delicious food, great service. Feels quite special, but without between pretentious. Reminded me of the River Cafe and in many ways it was just as good.

Went for lunch yesterday at an old friend's new house near Godstone which was really relaxing and was great to see them again.

Got some nice presents too!

If only Derby had won in the FA Cup, it would be the perfect weekend. However, we could only manage a 2-2 draw, which given Derby's season isn't too bad. Saw them play Blackburn over Christmas and they were so clueless it nearly made me cry.

Friday, January 04, 2008

More Money Than Sense

If you're over 40, male and health conscious the chances are that you've got a racing bike. If you're a real enthusiast you'll be in love with the Rapha brand. Rapha produces extremely expensive, premium quality cycling gear with extreme pose value. £105 for a pair of shorts, which my friends assure me are 'really good quality'.

Apparently the brand didn't exist a couple of years ago. It just shows you. There is always space for a premium brand, especially when targeted at professional males going through a mid-life crisis.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

London to Brighton

Saw this last night on DVD. It's a truly excellent film about 2 young girls trying to escape the clutches of a pimp who is out to get them. Incredible performances, with a gripping plot that avoids all the gangster movie cliches. Reminds me of Mike Leigh / Shane Meadows style films. Highly recommended.

The most enjoyable bit of telly I saw over Christmas was Extras. The previews weren't that postive, especially when it was being compared to the last ever episode of the Office. However, I thought it was fantastic and in its own way just as good. Very funny, thought provoking, sad, great acting.

I particularly enjoyed the cameos from the famous people, epecially George Michael as well as the Carphone Warehouse scenes. After the Office and Extras, what else will Ricky Gervais do next? Anything he wants, I guess. The world's at his feet. He was at the same university as me when I was there. Never knew him.