Monday, December 31, 2007

End-of-year round-up

Seven things from 2007

Readers of this blog will already know much of what I did or that happened in my life over the course of the past 12 months, but I just wanted to do a little précis for my own interest to make myself feel good at what can be a depressing time of year.

1. I got tattooed on no fewer than five separate occasions, totalling three completely new tattoos and finishing off one older one that had been languishing in limbo. That's more tattooing than I've ever previously had in one year.

2. I received a letter and a box of goodies from author Chuck Palahniuk, to whom I had written late in 2006. Chuck is a god and a legend, and this was a fucking rad start to a new year. It arrived the day we left for Seville, so I only had a quick look before leaving...

3. Speaking of Seville, I, along with my dearly beloved wife, travelled out of the country on five separate occasions, visiting a total of six -- count 'em! -- new cities: Seville, Granada, Còrdoba, Taormina, Catania, and Valencia. That's more travelling and more cities than I've ever done in one year.

4. The wife and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. That's some feat, my friends, in these days of constant reminders of failed romance everywhere you look. And you know: she ain't a bad chick. The years have gone quickly, and I look forward to sharing the next decade with her. And the next, and the next...

5. It was a momentous year, too, for celebrations. Between our combined families, we celebrated not only our 10th wedding anniversary, but also a new birth, a turning-teenage birthday, and birthdays for a 30th, a 40th, a 50th, a 60th, a 70th, and an 80th! AND my mum got married again. Now that is quite astonishing, I think!

6. Red and I had had our first MIRL. Milla and her man Zorro were the lucky recipients of our presence, while we were the lucky recipients of their yummy food and hospitality. MIRLing was fun. We'll do it again one of these days, I hope.

7. I spent several hours in hospital. While this is, thankfully for me, not up there with the medical horridness that several of my blogmates have been through this year (stand up, Martha, for your courage under the most trying of times), it's not something I am terribly accustomed to... and I hope never to be. Hospitals in the UK are dirty, disease-ridden hellholes. Thank fuck it was only a few hours.

So... it was a year, that's for sure. I don't know what 2008 has in store. Who does? But one thing is for sure, I can't imagine it being as full of stuff as '07.

So what's on the horizon? We have our first gig lined up for the end of January; I have my first appointment to get my tattoo backpiece started at the beginning of February; March is my birthday; April looks like a trip to Germany... Hell, maybe it will be as action-packed. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I'd like to take a moment to wish everyone who stumbles upon my writings -- but most especially those of you who come back time and again and with whom I've developed something as close to friendship as any I have in real life -- a really great 2008. Take care out there, my friends.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Hey there!

So, I'm back from Christmas in Italy but I'm mad tied up trying to get some work done right now, helping out the missus, cos I have no work of my own. (Of course, all our work is our work really, but you catch my drift. Well, maybe you don't...)

Anyway, I hope you all had rad and rockin' Christmases, and I'll be trying to get round all your blogs in the next day or two.

Things I'll be posting about include:
Rudy, the fun-lovin' big bro;
Zaccaria, the even more fun-lovin' and allergy-inducin' fluffy little bro;
Guitar Hero (with video footage!);
and Petronilla, the 14th dinner guest.

Oh, it's all happenin', kidz! So let's catch up real soon. Laters!

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Monday, December 17, 2007

By the way...

We outta heeee. Catch you on the 26th, dudes!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Baby and quiz!

Well, my sister has given birth. Baby, probably to be called Liam, arrived at 4:38am today, weighing in at 6lb 10oz. To celebrate I took the "Which Ant Are You?" quiz. Click the pic to take it yourself!

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Friday, December 14, 2007

New beginnings and other musings

Today my sister goes into hospital to have her fourth child. It was not due until early January originally, but she has developed the apparently not uncommon condition of obstetric cholestasis and has been advised to get the baby out now rather than waiting. So an unexpected bundle of "joy" (read piss, shit and puke) for Christmas day!

We sent some gifts for the newborn, as you would expect. This is what we chose, from the gloriously named Nippaz With Attitude. Gotta start the kid off on the right foot, right? Click the CD pic for the ability to listen to nursery-rhyme version of some of your favourite punk records!

They reckon that the baby is going to be just shy of 7lb and that if she had gone full term, the baby would have shaken out at about 9lb. Jeeeeesus Christ on a bike!

On the subject of weight, Red and I are doing reasonably well on our non-diet diet. We're not really pushing it, but we are eating home-cooked meals at least 12 times a week (out of 14), I'd say, and we've cut down on portion size a bit too.

Her goal was to hit XXkg (I'm a gentleman; it's not for me to say) and then treat me too a tassel dance with the as-yet-unused pasties I bought her last Christmas (at her request, I hasten to add). Mine was just to shed a bit of gut.

I'm essentially a slight-framed kinda guy, but beer and pasta take their toll on a rockstar physique. Anyway, today I'm weighing in at 69.4kg (153lb, or just under 11 stone). That's a loss of about 5kg in as many months, so I'm pretty happy. It probably helps that I haven't touched a drop of alcohol for almost two weeks, in part due to having been on antibiotics for that gum infection.

So, what else? Oh yeah, Christmas cards. This year, we have decided not to send as many cards as in the past. This goes for both friends and family, as well as for work contacts. We have planted some trees via the Woodland Trust instead of buying cards for work contacts, and most friends and family will get an email greeting instead. I just don't feel right contributing to the global waste of paper for something that invariably just goes in the bin within days of its receipt.

It's been hard convincing some of my family that this is acceptable. What is it with English people and greetings cards?! The funny thing is, after watching An Inconvenient Truth a few months ago, I had said that my gift to everyone I was buying for would be just a copy of that DVD. Like a dork, I failed on that promise to myself. I still think it was a pretty fucking rad idea, but I flunked out.

And speaking of dorks, we move on to nerds. I took the test. It was kinda dumb, but whaddya expect. I'm a lightweight nerd. Hey, has someone been peeking at my weighing scales?! says I'm a Light-Weight Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

Finally, just to give myself the slightest of pats on the back (not too hard; I might fall over with my new, trim body!), my video of the Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas, which I uploaded yesterday, is currently YouTube's 58th Most Viewed Travel & Events video uploaded in the UK. Hey, go watch it again and help me climb even higher, please. Oops, looks like I'm gonna go all Guy Kawasaki on yo asses!

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Valencia: the end of the trip

Sunday, 25 November (continued)
We walked on up into some of the squares and wandered around, as you do, milling about with the crowds and absorbing the laid-back Sunday atmosphere on what was, frankly, a fucking glorious late-November day.

Ultimately our goal today would be to get to the Oceanografíc, a massive aquarium complex within the City of Arts & Sciences, but there was more uncharted ground to cover in the main city beforehand.

This first video is a portrait of the Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas, a most incredible building in the heart of Valencia. Look out for Red swiftly removing her hands from the facade when told "Non tocar!" by the guard. An hour later, he was gone. If we had so desired we could have touched it to our heart's content.

And here's the last one... for now... The snack we stopped for at the beginning was orxata (aka horchata) for me, a local artisanal cold drink, and hot chocolate -- no, the thickest, chocolatiest hot chocolate in Christendom... literally melted chocolate, I think -- for Red. We each had our own dunking things, too. I finished every last bit of my deliciousness; Red, not so much.

Then dancing people in the square, in "traditional" dress -- so that's where they were going, those folks I mentioned in my previous post! And then, what's that? Shiiiit, ruins of the old city... underwater! How damn cool is that?!

After a lot more walking, we stopped for lunch at the most delicious steakhouse. The front-of-house woman was Italian, so she was able to tell us what was good and stuff! Really great food, even though neither of us was convinced we really wanted a steak, but it was about 3:45pm by now, and all the restaurants in Valencia close no later than 4pm, and many seemed not even to open on a Sunday. We had to take our food where we could find it!

Next up, we grabbed a cab to the Oceanografíc. At some point in the not-too-distant future I will go through that material, too, and post some clips of dolphins and penguins and seals, oh my. There's also some footage of the city by night that's quite cute. But for now, with the festive season right upon us and other things to move on to, it's hasta luego, Valencia. It was a fun ride!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Intermission over: Back to Valencia

Saturday, 24 November (still...)
So after our huge walk down to the port, we had to wait for the America's Cup store to open. And when it did, unfortunately we were unable to buy what Red had wanted for her mother. So while the walk had been for nowt, it had still been a fun one! We looked out for a cab and headed back to the hotel room.

At the time Red was looking at possible hotels, she had read that this one had, in some rooms, only a window separating the bedroom from the bathroom. This sounded like great fun, perv that I am, so we really hoped we got one of those. And we did! It was cool and wacky!

We chilled and nursed our blistered feet before heading our for some food. My tattooist Xam is from around Valencia, and so I had asked him if he could recommend any good restaurants. He had given me a couple of names, one of which is apparently frequented by Spanish stars and royalty. We had to give it a go. So we headed out into the night. We wanted to explore some of the busy streets by night before eating, and we also had to stop in at an Internet cafe to check in online for our return flight.

Once we decided it was time to eat, we got a taxi. It took us all the way back to the port area, but only when we got there did we discover that the restaurant was closed for the season. Fortunately, just a few doors away was the other restaurant that had been recommended.

We sat and ordered food, wine, and water. We were ravenous. We'd not eaten since a small bite at 1pm, and it was now about 9pm if memory serves. The chances are that it was probably later because the restaurant had quite a few people in it, and people eat late in Spain. (When we were in Seville, we found this great steak restaurant. We went there at gone 9pm one night and were the only people there. It started getting busier as we were about to leave. Can you imagine eating a steak at 11pm?! Amazing...)

We ordered paella -- what else, since Valencia is the home of the dish? I must say, I enjoyed mine. Red was a little less convinced. We have an ongoing beef about paella since her birthday in Seville. I won't go into it, save to say that perhaps I made a mistake that we both ended up paying for. Sorry, pet. Kisses!

After dinner, we looked for a cab and headed back to the hotel, I think. We were shattered, and I was probably a bit tipsy, so my memory is unclear now!


Sunday, 25 November
Next day we breakfasted fairly early so we could get out and pound the streets some more. We both love getting away from our desks, of course, and we love both beach and city breaks. But when we do city breaks, fuck do we do 'em! I mean, we walk our motherfucking feet off. You've got to, though, right? It might be the only time you go to a particular city, so you need to have no regrets about missing anything.

We headed into the old town area and walked the squares and looked at fountains and stuff. Just walking fairly directionless, letting the city be our guide. Well, letting the city and the guide book be our guides. And the map.

We found some crazy dogs playing in the streets. And then some men and women in "traditional" Spanish dress. By traditional, I mean, old-school, dancey, traditional, cos at the end of the day, traditional dress for everyone these days is jeans, T-shirts, jumpers, of course.

Then we stumbled upon a street where everyone was congregating. It was mayhem. Old and young, male and female. What was going on? we wondered. You know what it was...? Trading cards. Everyone was going crazy buying and swapping football cards. Incredible...

Here's the video of this leg of our journey.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

I’ll just start typing and see what happens

Gosh, it's been, like, four days since my last post. That's a long time in Asterisk-land.

Spent Friday working in the morning, then off to the dentist in the afternoon. The gum next to where I had my root canal has been giving me serious problems. All red and inflamed and throbby. It took me about 90 minutes to get there and 90 minutes to get back, a three-hour round trip for about a six-minute consultation in which I was told it would probably be best for me to see a gum specialist. I was pissed off. I mean, she's right and all, but in future I wonder whether I oughtta just email her a pic of my mouth and say "Whaddup?", y'know?

Anyway, gum specialist guy's schedule and mine don't match up until January. I've been on antibiotics since Friday night, and that's helped a lot. No inflammation now, nor throbbing; just redness remains. So fingers crossed we can get through Christmas and New Year.

The Saturday and Sunday were spent pretty much working flat out.

Then today, Red and I were due to pick up two shelves from an antiques place that they were having made for us by a restorer they use. We'd bought this lovely glass-fronted bookcase from them a few months ago, but we needed more shelves cos we're using it for CDs.

More than two months it has taken this restorer to make the new shelves. In the meantime he also had one of our originals as reference for dimensions, so we were even shorter on space.

We get them home, and neither one of the shelves fits. Both too long. What kind of knobhead, with a perfect reference to hand, makes shelves too fucking long for their purpose. And after keeping us waiting almost ten weeks! And we've paid for them now (£40), so they better fucking sort it out, or I will be an even less happy bunny than I already am.

I'm also spending some time looking for reference material for my backpiece. It's proving trickier than I'd imagined. The main sticking point, if any of you widely read guys and gals out there wish to take up the challenge, is I'm looking for a winged fish that we believe is a dolphin as used in heraldry and European (and possibly Japanese) fountains. It's almost mythological looking, even. So, if you happen to have a great reference book or heraldic symbols or mythological beasts or medieval interpretations of sea creatures, maybe you can help a brother out...

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Too Young To Worry

Too Young To Worry (2nd version)Yeah, I've long been the worrying kind, but in a bid to stop myself worrying about stuff, I've taken a leaf out of Martha's book and put a reminder of my new mantra on my forearm, for easy access, in the form of a sugar-skull tattoo. Click the pic for a closer look.

It took just about 2 hours 15 minutes, which is super-quick. One of the first things Xam told me at the beginning of this year was that he works fast, and he wasn't kidding. I'm mad pleased with the end result and have also made my first appointment for my backpiece...

So, while this one heals and we get through Christmas (without worrying, of course), New Year, and the wife's birthday, I can also be looking forward to yet more ink. Jeez, how much fun can one guy have?!

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I am well aware that I can get carried away with my holiday blog posts, and while they are interesting to some for a couple of days, I can fully understand why comments drop off after post #4 and I still haven't finished Day One. Sorry guys, but I guess it's at times like this that we bloggers fully realize two contradictory things:

1. I blog for myself and want to put stuff up that is a reminder for me of stuff I enjoyed; BUT

2. Damn if I don't like getting comments, and so I have to please those peeps who show me the kindness of popping by.

Catch-22, right?

Anyways, so I'm up to my eyes in work right now, and haven't got time to do much vacaysh blogging or otherwise (especially since it takes a wee while to edit those clips [yes, they are edited!] and throw them on YouTube etc).

But I just wanted to say "hey".

Plus, man, my tooth is giving me some gip. I've got a fucking great swollen bit or maybe ulcer right next to where I had that root canal a couple weeks back, and it's getting on my tits.

Also, just two more days till my next trip to the tattooist, and I'm very excited about that. Three hours of needle time, yeeeaaaahhh!

But I'll end on the teddy bear Muhammad. So, the English teacher who was imprisoned in Sudan for allowing her young students to name a teddy bear Muhammad has been freed and is now back home, after spending eight days in a Sudanese prison.

The Sudanese people (or at least the militants among them) wanted her shot by firing squad!

I say, call your bears whatever the fuck you like, but don't be a dummy and not understand the laws of the land where you are working/teaching. Especially in these uncertain times when misinterpretation of Islam appears to make it an insult to the religion to name a fucking teddy bear after the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Personally I think it's a ridiculous crock of shit, of course. But she should have put her brain in gear and asked herself, "Would I call this bear Jesus or Moses or Abraham if I were in England?" Chances are, she probably wouldn't, so why not apply the same logic in a Muslim country. Silly old cunt.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Weekend diary, part 4

Saturday, 24 November (It just keeps on giving, right?)
I mentioned a couple of posts ago that we bumped into some more lost tourists on our way from the City of Arts & Sciences... Well, we teamed up with the four of them to find our mutual end destination: the port.

We doubled back on ourselves and, rather than walking all the way back to the Ciutat, we chucked a right, down what looked like a semi-residential area. We walked to the end, which was only a couple hundred metres, and found ourselves at the river. Instinct (with a face all screwed up like George's in Elaine's clasp) told us to go right, along a trail of dirt and bare grass, heading towards the railway bridge that spanned the river. We could see from our map that this was the right general direction. But this was most definitely not the right tourist way.

Then we saw a man stepping down off the railway bridge. "Well, he must've crossed it," we say to ourselves, "so it must lead somewhere." We continue. As the man approached us obvious tourists, one of our number still wheeling her suitcase over the great mounds of dirt, he appeared to have a wry smile on his face...

We got to the bridge and realized it was a pretty crappy affair, certainly not likely to be the major river crossing we were hoping for. Still, it was wide enough for us to walk down without fear for our lives, so we did.

The interesting part was when we got to the other end. Y'see... there was no exit point. The bridge ended, and our way was blocked by a fence. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we were fenced in like half a dozen wild animals. Caged in our prime. Well, there was nothing else for it, of course, but to climb...

After our climbing adventure we continued to walk. We passed the place where refrigerators go to die and we threw a right at the next road junction. At this point our merry group splintered. Suitcase Lady, it turns out, was not with the rest of them, and she trucked on alone. Red is a fast walker, so she trotted on ahead while I chased after her coat-tails, and the other three held back to check their own maps rather than be dragged into the Great Unknown by us crazed Ingle types.

But we were right, and as quick as a very very slow flash or quite a quick tortoiose we were at the port. Well, it probably took the best part of another 45 minutes, past various abandoned cars, and more fences where building work was going on, until finally, FINALLY we got to the port, where a guy was offering boat tours around part of the America's Cup course. We declined. By this time, it was about 3:50pm, we'd been awake for about 11 hours, and we wanted to get into the America's Cup shop and buy something for the mother-in-law and get back to the hotel room that we still hadn't even seen...!

Here's the video of these stages of our misadventures:

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