Just been to Madeira for Christmas…what a lovely island out in the Atlantic Ocean. For those who have never been, it is small but perfectly formed reaching altitudes of 6000ft in just 309 square miles. Quite spectacular and very fertile with crops growing wherever possible in the volcanic soils.
It is the first time we have been away for Christmas and it was quite nice spending time with strangers and getting the pleasantries out of the way before enjoying a little time by the pool and in the sunshine…next time we have a warm Christmas will hopefully be next year in New Zealand. A good training exercise therefore!!
We had several glasses of Madeira wine which was a very pleasant diversion, the local Madeiran Poncha which is made from honey, white rum and fresh fruit juice (like a cold cold remedy I thought)…and with the hotel being all-inclusive there were excellent cocktails!! Try the black scabbard fish with banana if you get the chance!
I’ve been lucky enough to go to a number of different countries and I was reflecting on what makes something beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and can be represented in experiences, sights, activities and more. I love New Zealand, Scotland, Canada and the USA…and the spectacle of Norway is quite something too. I love great scenery and a feeling of isolation which is something you don’t get in the UK very often so perhaps a perception of beauty is culturally influenced too! Here are 2 taster photos of Madeira…and then one of the incredible Yosemite (USA) and then one of Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) in Norway…which do you prefer and why? So much beauty in the world…and so much which has been damaged over the ages.
Madeira North Shore
Monte Palace, Madeira
Football means so much to so many people in the world. I grew up watching Mossley FC in the Northern Premier League with my Dad. I first supported Manchester United (before they won anything under Sir Alex) and later switched to Sheffield United (and thankfully had many days of watching great entertainment in the Dave Bassett era). My Dad was instrumental in my love of the game…but nowadays it is as a neutral…almost.
I have another real friend (take a bow, Phil) who is a privilege to call as such. Phil has supported Frickley Athletic (founded around Frickley Colliery in South Elmsall, West Yorkshire) since he was a boy – something he owes to his Dad – and has chosen as he has found personal success to help the club (again in the Northern Premier League, one level above Mossley these days) and has become a director.
The upper echelons of the game are populated by primadonnas who earn huge wages and have no loyalty to the people who ultimately make the game what it is. Most clubs have no chance of winning anything and a lot of the romance of the game has been spoiled by the big business that it has become. At a non-league level (Frickley are in the 7th tier) the sport is more about community and not about making money – there are still trophies to play for but a club like Frickley exists for the people who go. They are currently trying to raise money to fund new community developments so if you have a mind to, please help.
Going to a game every now and again is just as much about the banter and the whole day doesn’t hurt the pocket at all. Hooray for the real joy of football. I am in the 2013 Frickley squad photo below just to the left of the goalkeeper in the pale blue shirt’s head. Magic.
The grand tradition of the British office Christmas Party is a strange one…you hear all manner of horror stories where people have a few too many drinks and then behave in an inappropriate way – forgetting that they are still in essence representing their employer.
It was our office party yesterday. It was very enjoyable. There were no obvious signs of misbehaving (thankfully!). We went to The Alchemist in the Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds and the set Christmas menu was very good. The best bit though was the Smokey Old Fashioned drink I ordered in a hipflask which you can keep or refill…Wild Turkey bourbon, maple syrup, Jerry Thomas’ bitters, oak smoke, served over an ice ball. Nice. I even bought some home to drink later!!
We then headed to a bar called Angelica at the top of Leeds with a nice view over the surrounding rooftops. Leeds is not a pretty place but with the Christmas lights glittering across the skyline you could be forgiven for a moment for enjoying the view.
A good evening with good friends…and one or two colleagues. I even saw Paul Jewell at the station.
Christmas next year is scheduled to be warm because it will be summer in New Zealand. Can’t wait for a new set of experiences and a new culture now.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I have a friend (yes, a real one as I type this to myself and an invisible audience) by the name of Mat. He is an expert at being able to twist almost anything you say into something of a smutty nature and is a master of innuendo…not just in words but in facial expressions as well.
He is self-proclaimed Professor of Smutology. Quite hard to summarise how this works if you are not familiar with smut but let us use the example of the birthday card I bought him recently…
“It was such a lovely day that the birthday boy had decided to come in his shorts”
Looks innocent enough until you search for the double meaning…the double-entendre…in the use of the word “come”. There you have it…how to be a student of Smutology. Anyone who would like to learn from the Professor, let me know!
Unless you are of a very prudish nature, suffice to say Mat is a great guy to be around (smut again?) and makes days pass in the blink of an eye (more smut?)…and while of course such comment is not always appropriate, the ultimate fact is that laughter is what binds friends together. Without laughter, where is the fun?
In the year 2000, some then colleagues and I from work decided to go for drinks each lunchtime in a different pub and have a different drink each day for one week. We had a different drink group each day which included beer, lager, cider and stout. This took place in Leeds, UK. Yesterday marked the 14th such annual event.
Over the years it has gone from a week event to being one evening where we go round different pubs and have a different drink in each one. It has always been a men-only event (it just happened like that). People have left the business where we worked but we always meet up once per year. While the faces have changed there has always been a core group of YBA enthusiasts. The drink rounds have evolved to take in a cocktail round and a camp drink round and people often try something they haven’t tried before. A celebration of alcoholic beverages and the great British pub and of friendships!
To give an idea of what I had to drink last night…here we go (I can remember!!)…
The Stick or Twist – a pint of Yorkshire Blonde ale
The Wrens Hotel – a Campari and Soda (awful stuff – never try it!)
The Pit – a pint of Pit Canary lager
Mojos – a Mojo Swizzle cocktail – nice!
Templar – a sweet sherry
Santiago – a pint of Murphys stout
North Bar – barman’s choice – I shared a 15 year old Peruvian rum and a very peaty Scotch whisky with Mr T
Sela Bar – Buffalo Trace bourbon
Strange customs emerge over the years…we once found a hat in the Templar bar in Leeds about 5 years ago which has become the “YBA Hat” and each year it makes an appearance for photographs…
Mixing drinks is not a sensible thing…but it is always a great evening spent with friends and unlike the rather abysmal British culture of getting plastered at times, you might be surprised to learn that after about 5 hours everyone is still in a reasonably sensible state as the evening reaches a natural parting of the ways…
The start of this blog coincides with my wife and I looking to move to New Zealand from the UK. You could argue this was made easier by her having been offered a job from the skills shortage list by an approved employer but I thought I would give the benefit of my wisdom if you are thinking of moving overseas…
1. Get the job first…if it is on the shortage list then it smooths the process.
2. In our case, we were assigned an immigration advisor…to be honest, they didn’t do a great deal except help us fill in a few forms and steer us in the right direction…but it is great to have a comfort blanket. I am in the hat as a partnership application so I can do whatever job I wish for 2 years…my wife is restricted.
3. Get the police certificates to prove you are innocent of all crimes (get someone respectable to endorse it). A certificate worth framing. In 2013 the price was at least £45 each.
4. Get your medicals done. We used a private hospital in Manchester which was £300 each (I kid you not) for about an hour of appointment time. At least it proves you are disease-free.
5. Send off your immigration forms to New Zealand Immigration in London. They turned our work to residence and partnership visas around in just a week which was great.
We now have the task of getting ready to go. Loads to do but YES! WOO HOO!
I will keep you posted…
Anyone who knows me and is reading this will know why 42…but here is why…
- 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything…courtesy of a favourite childhood read of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
- 42 is part of Level 42…my favourite group. I have been to see Mark King and/or Level 42 in every tour they have done since 2000 (at time of posting although this will change now I live outside of their tour area). My very first album was World Machine in 1986…
O2 Apollo – Manchester