Just thought I would try and produce a blog post using my new voice recognition software.
It seems to work quite well
Just thought I would try and produce a blog post using my new voice recognition software.
It seems to work quite well
I haven’t blogged for just over a year, I don’t really have any reason to blog now. It’s just something else to do to stop me from getting started on my college assignment that I sat down at my computer to start on 4 and a half hours ago.
I was always the leave it to the last minute type when it came to doing school-work, that led to me becoming a not do it at all type when I went to uni, and led to me dropping out. I thought I might have developed a bit more self-discipline by now, but it appears that might just be wishful thinking.
I might go look at my bank statement to see the money that came out to pay for the course I’m doing, hopefully that might give me a jolt, but I wouldn’t count on it!
My sixth little trip of the year took me over some old ground in Budapest, Bucharest and Istanbul. As such I don’t have too much to say, or too many pictures to post, but the few I did take can be found on the following link - https://picasaweb.google.com/114797827300111691155/BudapestBucharestIstanbulOctober2011
If I’ve only got a weekend in a place I do like going somewhere I know and like, I tend to linger when I travel so being in Budapest for the 4th time meant I didn’t have to rush around seeing sights and consulting maps – but take things at a more relaxed pace and do my own thing. I always try and do something a bit different when I go somewhere I have already been, and this time it was a trip to see the ballet at the State Opera House, any readers who know me will probably be thinking something along the lines of “WTF”, so I’ll have to confess to a bit of an ulterior motive in the shape of Natalie from New York and, to be honest, the production of Gisele wasn’t that bad – although I doubt I’ll rush to the ballet again, it was certainly an experience.
Bucharest is a place I’d spent a mere six hours in back in cold, wet February 2007 and I decided that I’d give it another chance and that it would be more suited to the late summer we’ve been granted by mother nature this October. It was certainly a more pleasant experience this time round – the stray dog situation is a lot better than it was and the gyppos (I believe that’s the PC term) aren’t as omnipresent as they were almost five years ago (a lot of them are over here judging by a stroll through Bradford City Centre) so this visit was hassle free, though it doesn’t change the fact that the city itself isn’t that great and devoid of many attractions after the commies had their way with it - when a hostel carries leaflets for erotic massage you kinda guess there aren’t that many attractions they can refer you to. I did however stumble across Lake Herastrau, and it’s surrounding park (complete with bizarre Michael Jackson tribute) and I was able to while away a day wandering around there, with regular stops for beer.
Last, but not least was my third trip to Istanbul, which has now cemented it’s place in my “top three cities I’ve been to” list, behind Madrid and Buenos Aires. It’s such a big place with so many sights and contrasting suburbs that I could probably spend a fortnight here and not be bored. I managed to luck into a ticket for the Turkey/Germany Euro 2012 qualifier when a German guy I met in the hostel bar had to give up on his friend whose flight from Germany had been delayed, and that was a great experience with the expected fantastic atmosphere topped off by seeing a very impressive young German team in the flesh – though the least said about the karaoke bar I ended up in until 4am with a group of German fans the better! By day I explored a couple of lesser visited suburbs on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus (Kadikoy and Uskudar), and spent a very pleasant evening in Ortakoy, an up and coming arty suburb on the European side. The one disappointment of the trip was setting out with an American girl to find the cartoon museum, only to eventually find it closed for renovation, it wasn’t a total waste though – we managed to stumble upon a restaurant and had a rather pleasant long lunch for a pittance. Of course the fact my mission to find the museum failed means I’ll have to head back at some point!
As I was meeting a (fashionably late) friend by the Metrolink tram stop in St Peter’s Square I was lucky enough to pass some time by the “Occupy Manchester” camp, that they’ve moved to the adjacent peace gardens.
As someone who believes the role of the state should be as limited as possible (and practically limited to protecting the young, old and incapable in society and raising tax money for non-political experts to run our healthcare, justice, defence and education systems) it isn’t much of a surprise that I have little common ground with any bunch of rag-tag lefties who don’t believe people can be trusted to control their own lives and demand regulation, state control, spending and protectionism for just about everything and anything they can – but I have always respected people’s right to an opinion, and am happy to engage with people who can hold an intelligent and informed discussion, (though as it happens most people I know seem to have new and ever-changing views, taking issue with things depending on what circumstances they suddenly find themselves in, or are influenced by whatever opinions of a new group of friends they have hold, but that’s another matter).
The first thing that struck me about the protest “camp” was that there were far more tents there than actual people (no more than 20), the second was that there were no real stated aims or demands from these “protesters” , in fact the banners and posters around were often contradictory - “Stop NHS Budget Cuts” next to “Stop buying drugs from big pharmaceutical companies, traditional medicines work” - I can’t think of anything that would lead to a bigger cut in any health budget – but I think people might be a bit pissed off when we go back to having a life expectancy of 46 and infant mortality spirals out of control if we followed this advice. It seemed they were just happy to have any kind of “protest” sentiment displayed, whoever it was from and whatever it was about. This contrasted quite nicely with the Spanish “M15″ movement which picked up in the Spring (and many say has inspired these “occupy” protests) – where (in the camps I have seen in Santiago de Compostela and Valencia) clear demands and issues were highlighted, and the organisers made it clear people with vested interests such as trade unions and political parties weren’t welcome to try and further their own agendas.
The other big difference between the two camps was the behaviour of the protesters, the civilised debating and events from Spain’s camps as opposed to the Manchester version where (in fifteen minutes) I saw a girl flee the camp pursued by her boyfriend hurling abuse at her about how she had stabbed him in the back by sleeping with someone else, and another “protester” chase after a couple of kids threatening to beat them up because they’d shouted something not very nice as they walked past. One hell of a way to make a political or sociological point that.
The system we have in this country, and in the world as whole, is far from perfect and there are plenty of things that could and should be changed, however what these people are expecting to achieve I don’t know. I’d have a lot more time for them if they just admitted they like the idea of camping out, while the weather just about allows it – getting drunk/smoking weed/popping pills and hopefully getting laid as a result, because for a lot of them that’s what it is all about.
Rugby League, in particular Super League, really hasn’t done it for me for a while – from a peak in 2004 when I went to every Bradford Bulls home and away game, and often additional matches involving other teams as well I managed to drag myself along to a mere 2 League and 1 Challenge Cup game in the 2011 season, oh and a freebie trip to Wembley for the final – and I can remember precious little about any of them apart from the fact I didn’t find the games too enthralling.
So, it was somewhat bizarre that I decided to head along to Leigh to see the first ever “England Knights” (pretty much an England U25′s team) in their first ever game against the full France side yesterday. My only rationale was that I had nothing to do for most of the day, I was going to be in Manchester to meet someone for drinks later – and someone tweeted that admission was £3 so I thought I might as well pop along.
Leigh’s fairly new Sports Village is one of those new, out of town, soul-less grounds that people in Rugby League wet themselves over nowadays – the cost of playing there has already sent the town’s football team bust and the RL team aren’t in much better shape – hence a collection towards their survival fund being held outside the turnstiles. Towns like Leigh, and their RL fans, like to make a lot of noise about how they are the heartlands and lifeblood of Rugby League but the ground was practically deserted, just over 2000 turned up (a few latecomers had obviously stayed in the pub to watch the end of the Man Utd/Liverpool game) and people started leaving after about 10 minutes of the second half.
I can’t particularly blame them for that, it wasn’t much of a game, the Knights played some good stuff at times, but the French looked largely uninterested – despite a strong team on paper, and the young England team cantered to an easy victory. What really summed things up for me was when, halfway through the second half, a France player chased the teams water carrier (who was leaving the pitch) not to take some liquid on board, but to ask how long was left. The impression was they couldn’t get out of there quick enough (well, it was in Leigh).
England’s senior side play at Leigh in the Four Nations tournament in a couple of weeks, I had been thinking about making the trip, but after yesterday I’m definitely not inspired to do so, I can’t quite put my finger on what has changed for me and the game but, just a few years after I’d happily make trips to places like Featherstone or Widnes to watch random “international” and representative age group games I suddenly can’t think of many things I’d rather not do.
I was out to dinner with a friend last night, as we sat down at the table in the restaurant I brought out my phone.
Her: You’re not going to do that checking-in thing are you?
Me (sheepishly): No, why?
Her: We were talking about this the other night and came up with three reasons people do it.
Her: One is that they think they are so important everyone should no where they are, two they think they are doing something or are somewhere so amazing they want to show off about it, or three they are letting someone they want to sleep with know where they can find them. None of them good things really.
Me (slightly more sheepishly): Well, I was just checking the time.
My phone stayed in my pocket for the rest of the night.
I updated my Facebook status just before midnight on New Years Eve, commenting on how my year had gone from starting in a salsa club in balmy Cali, Colombia to it’s end in a cold Leeds houseparty, and how that seemed quite an apt summary of how the year had gone. I stand by that, it wasn’t the best of years for many reasons – the death of my Grandad, work-related disappointments and a couple of failed job interviews all contributed to a general malaise and I spent a lot of the year (too much of it) feeling sorry for myself – but it wasn’t all bad, as I can remind myself here with a few selected highlights….
I spent 12 nights in BA all in all, and I enjoyed just about every single moment of it. The weather was great when I was there, I enjoyed the atmosphere in the city, it’s an interesting and rewarding place to visit, the food and wine was fantastic – and going to football matches there was a great experience. As often happens in the best places I also met a load of great people who I had a great time with, I’ll be upset if I never get back there.
Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate, Argentina
One of the few glaciers in the world that is growing, an amazing thing to see close up. It seems strange to say but I could have stood watching, and listening to, it for hours, it had a hypnotic effect on me, and all the other visitors too. If you get the chance pay it a visit.
Copa del Rey Final
OK, Atletico lost the game, but it was a fantastic experience that I’m unlikely to forget in a hurry. From arriving at Girona airport full of Atletico and Sevilla fans singing at, and with, each other to the family of Sevilla fans who “adopted” me in Girona where I spent the afternoon all the way to Barcelona and the Nou Camp (even though I had more of an idea of where we were going than they did) then just the experience of a big event with 60,000 Atletico fans it was a really enjoyable day. Maybe one day I’ll get to see Bradford City in the FA Cup final?
I’ve had a bit of an obsession with the Amazon since doing a school project on it when I was 11, so when I was visiting the jungle city of Iquitos in Northern Peru, and I found it was possible to visit the place where the Amazon itself begins (at the confluence of the Ucayali andMarañón rivers), I had to pay a visit. Being brutally honest, it’s nothing special – just where two rivers meet, but I was happy to sail on the river for a bit, and to have the chance to play with some dolphins for a few minutes.
2010 may have been the year when I started to appreciate nature a bit more, Cappadocia in Turkey was another superb area and landscape that was an enjoyable place to visit. A stunning natural landscape enhanced by the amazing human carved buildings in the rock, the fact I almost fell to my death while scaling across a sheer cliff face didn’t even put me off. Another place I’d like to re-visit and explore more at some point in the future.
On top of those there have been a few other moments, sporting wise Bradford City have given me nothing, but Diego Forlan scoring at Anfield to knock Liverpool out of the Europa League was a moment of sheer joy, England’s cricket team crushing the Aussies in the T20 World Cup Final, and in two tests to retain the Ashes provided some more. Back to travel I enjoyed spending some more time in Istanbul and seeing Suede, one of my favourite bands from my youth, in Paris was something to remember too.
All in all my 2010 wasn’t great, but 2011 still has a bit to live up to.
I’ve spent a lot of the last two weekends trying to sort out photos from the various travels I have undertaken since 2005, and the results can be found here
A few things strike me looking back through the pics I have taken, first and foremost is that I am a terrible photographer – the number of wonky shots is ridiculous, and I seem to struggle to capture the essence of places I visit, especially cities, as I don’t really seem to know what to take pictures of. Secondly it’s amazing how much I seem to remember about the places I have been, even if I was only there for a few hours or a night and, thirdly, I really need to go back to quite a few of these places again.
The biggest disappointment for me looking back is how few pictures I manage to have retrieved from my trip around Western and Central Europe in Spring/Summer 2005 – for a few of the places I visited (most notably Barcelona) the only pictures I’ve managed to retrieve are the ones I’d initially removed from albums I published online and in quite a few cities I had a great time in (notably Cologne, Vienna, Hamburg, Amsterdam and Munich) I don’t have any photos to look back at whatsoever. That’s simply down to my laziness in not transferring and backing up files over the years, and now I’m regretting it a little.
Hopefully there will be a lot more to come in future months, a few weeks in either Mexico or Chile is on the cards for next year, and I’ll try and get a few more interesting pics from Paris next weekend.
I’ve just had the pleasure of hearing one of the above type of person justifying the actions at Millbank today by claiming that, by increasing tuition fees, the Government is making today’s young “mortgage their futures” and “impeding their liberty”.
I could maybe understand some anger if that were the case, but one thing troubles me – where were these protesters and protests when our collective futures were being “mortgaged” by the sale of the countries gold reserves at record low levels? When our pension pots were raided, when we were being committed to expensive and poor value PFI building projects?
Where were the protests about liberty being impeded when control orders and detention without charge were introduced and extended, when draconian “anti-terror” laws were being introduced and misused, when children of asylum seekers are locked up?
Even if they think they do have a point about tuition fees, did the introduction, then trebling of the fees happen to pass them by?
In light of this forgive me for being unsympathetic to their cause and today’s “protest”, I’ve never been one for self-absorbed, shameless hypocrites – and whining about people being asked to pay for something they will receive the major benefit of isn’t going to do much to win me round.