Monday, March 31, 2008

What I'm Reading

I've just finished 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy, the story of a man and his son in a post-apocalytic world walking along a road, because its all they can do. It's sparsely written, incredibly bleak and very disturbing.

However, despite the horrors of the world it's the relationship between the man and the boy that's at the heart of the novel. The father's unconditional love for his child and desire to protect him are truly inspiring.

It's a book that's very painful, very intense but definitely worth reading. Recommended.
Wimbledon 10K Run

Yesterday, I completed my 5th consecutive 10K run along with 4 other friends. Fortunately, the rain held off and despite having to run up Wimbledon Hill, the course was reasonably flat.

Need to plan in a run on April and I'm thinking about the Clapham 10K on the 27th. Anyone else want to come along?

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Launch of Terminal 5

Yesterday morning I received this email from BA. Didn't quite go to plan did it....

Dear Mr Franco,

Five and a half years ago the building of our new home began in our most visionary project to date. Today we opened the doors. There is no more waiting... Terminal 5 welcomes you.

At Terminal 5 everything has been streamlined and designed to make your journey through the terminal calm and relaxed. And this morning we saw all the planning fall into place. Check-in and Security have been designed to speed you through to Departures in just 10 minutes*.

And with a shopping concourse to rival London's West End, our premium flagship lounge complex, Galleries, and the state-of-the-art baggage system, you'll discover nothing has been overlooked to ensure your time at Terminal 5 is spent in a most relaxing and enjoyable way.

Ashes to Ashes vs Life on Mars

Managed to catch the last episode of Ashes to Ashes last night. Although I've not seen that much of the series, it's clear to me that it's nowhere near as good as Life On Mars. I think the key reasons are:

1. John Simm is much more compelling and charismatic than Keely Hawes as the central character. There's something slightly irritating about her - in the same that Kiera Knightley is hard to warm to
2. We've lost the element of surprise. When Life on Mars first appeared it was genuinely trailbrazing, whilst we know the basic structure now.
3. There's a greater emphasis on humour now rather than tension which makes it less gripping
4. The 70s are more quirky and interesting than the hard nosed 80s.

Having said all that it's still worth watching. I still really like the Gene Hunt character and his sidekicks. There's a new series being made. Will be interesting to see how they keep it fresh.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dutch Cuisine

I'm staying at the Holiday Inn in Amsterdam and at lunchtime today they served cheese sandwiches and milk. Holland - unlike its neighbour Belgium - is not known for its cuisine. However, it does have a distinctive fast food culture: frikendel (deep fried skinless sausage) kroket (deep fried meat croquette) and bitterbal (small kroket, I think). I don't think it matters what the meat is. Mention these to a Dutch person living abroad and they'll start salivating.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Book Vending Machine
Saw this at Heathrow Airport today. Can you think of anything less appropriate to sell in a vending machine?
Happy Thai Girls

I don't usually show pictures of people I've been working with, but these were such a cheerful bunch. See the two girls on the right? Why do people in South Asia always do that V for Victory sign when they pose for photos?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Brief Encounter, The Play Not the Film

Last night we went to see the the Noel Coward version of Brief Encounter at The Haymarket Cinema.

The production combined stage performance with cinematic backgrounds and at times the 2 merged together.

It was a really entertaining evening that managed to capture the England of the 1930s, with it's suppressed emotions, clipped language and endless cups of the tea. To add to the atmosphere there were ushers in period costumes and some very funny spoof adverts during the interval.

People who are expecting a faithful reproduction of the film may be disappointed as there is a greater emphasis on the supporting characters and less focus on the central couple. However, it's a relaxed and enjoyable night out and essential viewing for all those who believe in love at first sight.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Italian Lessons

One of my New Year resolutions was to improve my Italian and I've finally done something about it. Every Wednesday, starting on April 9th, we're going to have Italian lessions at our house with our own tutor.

I'm not the only Franco who's keen to learn. My sister and cousin are also going to take part along with Karen and a couple of friends. Really looking forward to it!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Delia's Cookery Show

Saw Delia's latest programme this morning via my BBC iPlayer and it made me feel a bit queasy. I've got nothing against short-cuts in the kitchen, but really don't think she should be extolling the virtues of tinned meat. Also I've got no interest at all in her mum's speeding fines or her religious beliefs.

At least Nigella was entertaining, even though she was mad.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Posh Paddy's Night

Last night we celebrated St Patrick's Night at the intimate and rather pricey Lindsay House in Soho. The chef is the renowed Irishman Richard Corrigan, so it was kind of appropriate that we were here. There were 8 of us in a private room, with various oil paintings, cartoons and photos of the chef. Just in case we forget that he's the main man here, I guess. The food was top notch as you'd expect and we had a really pleasant evening, without ever breaking into song. Strictly for special occasions or for when someone else is paying.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Great Week For English Sport

We've got 4 clubs in the Champions Leage semis, England beat Ireland at Twickenham, England beat New Zealand in the 2nd Test Match and Lewis Hamilton wins the season's Formula 1 opener.

Crisis? What Crisis?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

No Country For Old Men

Saw the latest multi-Oscar winning Coen Brothers film on the flight home. It's a very violent film with an incredible performance by Javier Bardem who plays the part of a very scary, deranged psychopath. Worth seeing but certainly not for the squeamish.
The film was adapted from a novel by Cormac McCarthy who also wrote The Road, which is supposed to be really good. Was a big hit with Karen's book club. Will start reading it tonight.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bye Bye Bangkok

Work's over and I'm flying home late tonight. No real interest in shopping which seems to be an obsession here. Lots of noisy Americans in the hotel lobby and a fair smattering of Thai girls with Western guys.

People here make you feel so welcome and are always up for a laugh. I keep saying that I should take some time off and visit some parts of Thailand. However, it's no real fun on your own and I miss home. Relieved that work's over and am so looking forward to breakfast in Tooting.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

At Least We Scored One

Shame they scored 6. Next game Man U on Saturday. Tevez, Ronaldo, Rooney, Saha, Giggs, Scholes. Should be a close game.

Day 2 Bangkok
There's a lovely swimming pool right outside our meeting room, but unfortunately I've not had time to have a dip. Was taken out to a really nice Thai restaurant this evening where a band was playing old Beatles songs. Decided to avoid the temptations of Patpong and head back. Jetlag kicking in and have a full day tomorrow. How boring am I?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

First Night in Bangkok

Have just arrived in hot and humid Bangkok and am staying at the very smart Amari Watergate Hotel. Will be here until late Friday, working unfortunately. Very different from the wind and rain of England.

Slept during most of the flight, thanks to BA's flat beds, but managed to see Control, the film based on the life of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division. It's a really well made film, but not exactly cheerful. Unfortunately I didn't manage to see all of it before the in-flight information system was shut down, but everyone knows what happens in the end.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Great Film

Recently saw Once . A really enjoyable low budget film set in Dublin about a busker who meets a Czech immigrant and the time they spend together writing songs and recording a demo tape.

It's gentle, understated and lacking in sentimentality with some great music. A friend of mine who saw it said she couldn't stop crying at the end. It didn't quite effect me that much, but its definitely worth seeing. Must download the soundtrack.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Chelsea v Derby
Chelsea's next game is against Derby and Mae will take my place in the Executive Box which I'm really annoyed about. Will try and find a TV in Bangkok and watch it. After Chelsea's shock defeat against Barnsley in the FA Cup, Derby must start as favourites.
Stamford Bridge Stadium Tour

Yesterday I took Mae and her friend Ava on a guided tour of Stamford Bridge as Ava's birthday treat. It was really enjoyable, even for non-Chelsea fans, as you really get a behind the scenes view of the stadium: the dressing rooms, the walk down the tunnel, views out onto the pitch. You get a sense that Premiership players are really pampered, with their plasma screen tv in their huge changing room and their posh shower facilities with Molton Brown toiletries. Didn't see the big communal bath. Really interesting and recommended for all foootie fans.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

In Eindhoven

Am staying in a hotel in a forest just outside Eindhoven which used to be a monastery. Have just been for a run which is dead easy in Holland because everything's so flat. Biggest danger is avoiding the cyclists. There are so many.

Tonight Tottenham are playing the local team PSV in the Uefa Cup, so I guess I ought to watch it. Will be a big topic of conversation during the training course tomorrow. Got a call yesterday from a friend inviting me to see the Chelsea v Derby game in one of the hospitality boxes at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday. Unfortunately I'll be a in Thailand so will miss it. Blessing in disguise, I reckon. Dread to think what the score will be.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

This is England

Saw This is England last night, the Shane Meadows film set in 1983. This is a great film that really captures the mood of the times and gives a real insight into skinhead culture .The actor who played Shaun, the 12 year old central character was brilliant and had never acted before. Definitely worth seeing.

When you look back at that era, you realise how rubbish the 80s were. Terrible music, Maggie Thatcher, the Falklands War, mass unemployment, racism. The 70s were much better.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Gastronomic Weekend in Tuscany and Umbria
Just back from a long weekend in Italy where we managed to visit 4 different restaurants in 4 different towns. Highlights were:
Ribollito in Arezzo
Crostini in Anghiari
Tagliatelli with black truffle sauce in Assisi
Bistecca alla fiorentina in San Sepolcro
Plus managed to drink a bottle of Brunello and a few glasses of Vin Santo. Fantastic.