Sunday, January 29, 2012

Alone in her apartment she'd dwell, till the man of her dreams comes to break the spell (Paul and Linda McCartney)

As you can tell from recent post titles I'm missing my habibi and  the whole living alone thing does not move me.

I think it's also fair to say that I have quite a bit of spare time at the moment while SWMBO is in NZ because I prefer not to go places on my own. I much prefer sharing experiences with TLOML.
Therefore four main things occupy my spare time
  • Reading
  • Listening to what SWMBO calls 'Hillbilly Music'* on CD and DVD
  • Practising guitar chords
  • Watching Arsenal
* (This is a wide ranging term, as used by my habibi, that encompasses Jazz, Folk, Country, Blues, Heavy Metal, and Rock'n'Roll music. Actually the only thing slightly exempt is Pop music from 2010 to 2011 but even then...)

All three things are often combined and all are noisy pursuits you'll notice. I don't like living in a silent apartment. So I read while I listen and lately I've been practising my guitar while watching TV.
Two Irish blokes, one of whom has the Pope on speed dial.
Details? Details!
I've just finished Killing Bono, a kind of autobiography by Neil McCormick - by his own admission a failure as a fame chaser and a very frustrated man who has had to settle for not being as world famous as the lead singer of U2.
Cry me a river you might think and he skates close to that at times during the book but the self deprecating humour really helped me through the narrative of dashed dreams.
The other books I have on the go at the moment (I do a chapter of each in rotation) are also non-fiction titles: Unlocking The Meaning Of Lost (an unauthorised guide); the Star Wars title in the Film Classics series; and the Classic Rock title in the allmusicguide series.
The practising guitar one is self explanatory (I'm getting tougher fingers from the E chord in particular) and you can go to my Goo Goo blog for the hillbilly stuff.

That leaves what? Mmmmm...Arsenal.
They are trying my patience at the moment.
Tonight is the latest round of the F.A. Cup. We are playing Aston Villa. Here are my reactions. [Events take place in real time (Jack Bauer voice please)].
Pre game stuff and the commentators have already mentioned how long ago it was we won a trophy (apparently the F.A. Cup - I don't remember).
Kick off - Arsene has a spiffing red tie on.
My friend Colin tells me that Arsenal and Scotland's tennis boy wonder Andy Murray have a lot in common. They both look great but don't win anything!
So far we've passed the ball beautifully - no threats on goal yet though.
AV's Robbie Kean handles (muppet) and we get a free kick - Vermaelin has a great strike on goal but keeper saves. If Kean scores against us I will be turning the TV off in disgust.
12 minutes gone - Fabianski in our goal has flirted with disaster three times so far by rolling the ball out to players in shocking positions.
19 minutes gone - a lot of boring sideways and backwards play. We win a freekick on the edge of the penalty area, Boy wonder Robin Van Persie hits the ball straight at the wall. Sums us up so far.
30 mins gone. Still 0-0 and still no sign of a goal coming at either end.
Of course as soon as I say that - One nil to Aston Villa. Header from Richard Dunn. Maybe we'll start to create some chances now.
45 minutes gone - all Arsenal attacks since the goal. Still 0-1. Of course Darren Bent then goes down the other end and scores. AV 2 nil up and not even half time.
Boos ring out at half time! Fabulous. My brevrin aren't happy - but you should never boo our team.
Can we come back and win the game? Oh sure - it could happen. It's possible but it's not going to happen. Not if we played for another 2 hours. This game is dead and buried. It's over! I should go to bed.
Will I? Will I eck as like.
Second half starts, Come on Arsenal!!!! Maybe Tierry Henry can come on and be a hero again. Hey I need to cling to something. One thing's for sure if we go 3-0 down we will be sunk.
47 minutes gone and we have a shot cleared off the line. Not our night clearly.
53rd minute - Penalty! We get one back via Robin. AV 2- 1. Why is the AV player (Richard Dunne) not sent off though? Last player, goal scoring opportunity. Typical!
57th minute - Walcott scores!! 2-2. Come on Arsenal!
59th minute - another Penalty!! Robin has 2 as we go 3-2. And Tierry is warming up.
71st minute - Arteta on for Rosicky. Rosicky has had a great game too. Everyone's looked much more lively this half. We do need that 4th goal to be safe in this one I feel.
87th minute - been a bit cagey. A few scares but now Henry and Sagna come on for the last few minutes. Great to see them both back. Henry in particular. What a legend.
Clock is winding down in injury time. Fabianski is still rolling out shocking balls!
It's all over!
And there you have it - the best and worst of the Gunners right now. A rollercoaster of the great and the terrible.
Bedtime at and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yeah the truth is I miss you so (Coldplay)

The cold snap continues (something about weather coming from a northerly direction for a change). Abdulla at school showed me a snow covered street scene taken by his friend in Jordan. Feels like the wind is coming from that exact Jordanian street!

There was also a snow alert for the northern Emirates during the week.

Ya what? Snow in the UAE? Apparently.

And my heaters continue to blaze away.

I do need to add a slight coda to my heater story (previous post).

I got the heaters home and assembled them without a problem but then I went to plug them in and noticed they were of the two prong variety. Grrrrr. Not good as they are a safety issue! I read in the National recently that all two pronged plugs have to come fitted with a safety adapter from next year.

My ggrrrr was also because I had no spare adapters (did I mention that it was freaking cold??). I cruised around the apartment and stole one from the washing machine and one from the kitchen.

Sorted. I plugged the oil heater into the lounge power box and the convection heater into the bedroom wall socket.

At last I thought - it'll warm up soon!

The oil heater chugged into gear nicely but a strange odour started to waft through the bedroom. Hmmm I thought - probably just because it's new and it'll gradually disappear. I turned the heater up higher figuring I'd burn off the newness smell quickly.

EEEEERRR! Wrong. It got worse, much worse, and it dawned on me, finally, that it had an electrical kind of flavour to it.

I turned it off and went to pull the adapter plug from the wall. It took some force to accomplish - mainly coz the plug was fried and all black and nasty looking - hence the smell.


I had no other adapter plugs so I toddled off to the Al Jimi Carrefour to buy two more.

I related this story to the lovely lady shop assistant and asked the lovely lady shop assistant for some heavy duty adapter plugs. She directed me to the wall behind where I was standing (DOH) and told me to get some from the highest shelf possible because the quality descended (with the price) all the way down the wall until the lowerest shelf of all.

Guess which adapters were the cheapest and nastiest? Got it - the one's I had been using at home!

Sorted. I returned home and the heaters have been splendidly and safely employed ever since.

Warm love and peace - Wozza

Monday, January 23, 2012

I don't know where but she sends me there (Beach Boys)

Woh it's cold!!

I know this is going to sound pathetic to a lot of  blogosphere-ites but 7 degrees in the morning, in the UAE, is blimin cold.
When I described the cold to SWMBO I said it was not like a really cold winter day in Nu Zild but it was feeling like a cold winter's day if you know wot I mean.
Scarf, beanie, jacket, need to hug a heater cold.

Of course houses and schools in this neck of the sand dune do not possess heaters. Why would they – it never gets cold.

But this year is different.

And I needed a heater. But nothing is straight forward in the sandpit.

Last week Hisham had told me that the weather forecast for the weekend was for colder and windy weather so I toddled off to the LuLu store close to my school to buy a heater.
Found one – I like oil column heaters so I was thrilled to see it sitting there all needy like – eventually I found someone to serve me (could the guy 3 feet away serve me? Don’t be silly! Heaters are not his area).
Anyway 5 minutes later – I find the guy whose area it is. Sorry sir – that’s the last one he says. Me – does it go? Yes sir. Okay I’ll have that one I say. Do you want the box he says. Yes I say.
He goes off to find the box. I browse.
10 minutes later – he returns and says – sir – there is no box. Never mind I say and he puts the heater on the tiled floor. I notice a big wobble when it’s on its feet. I point it out. He says – sir it’s the floor. La la la (no no no) I say – it’s not the floor. Someone has assembled it incorrectly. The nuts were tightened too much and it has bent the bar the feet sit on. Can you fix I say. Yes sir he says. Okay I say – I’ll be over there.
10 minutes later he finds me. Is it fixed I say. Oh yes sir he says. I say – show me (I’m not as green as I am cabbage looking). We go over to the heater. It still wobbles!!
Of course.
Sorry I say and return to school heaterless.
After school I drive to Al Jimi Mall. No luck with any of those shops. I return home heaterless.
A heater, a heater. My kingdom for a heater!
Next day:   Off I troop to Bawadi Mall with a feeling that I would have to return shame faced to LuLu's and buy the wobbly one. Sure enough – no luck at Bawadi. I buy a convection heater for 50 dirhams figuring I better get something. I then try the last place on my list – another LuLu store on the Oman border.
I head for the heater area and I spy one. Only catch – it has NO LEGS!! A shop assistant spots me (must be the heater guy I think) and asks if I need help.
!!!!!!! Boy do I.
Yes I say – I want to buy a heater like that one but it needs to have legs. Yes sir he says and bids me follow him. I trek to the clothing section of the store. Eh????????? No – heater I say. Yes sir he says – this one?
And suddenly there it is. The clouds part, the sun beams down, celestial choirs kick into action. A column heater. With legs. That don’t wobble. And a box!
It’s been going non-stop in the lounge ever since.
Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, January 19, 2012

But every now and then I feel so insecure (The Fabs)

I had a sizeable amount of money stolen from my office recently and I immediately had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I discovered the theft.

Took me back 35 years to 1977. Wow - is it that long ago?

My first year at Auckland University and I'm feeling pretty good. I'm at University which is a minor miracle in itself.

I'd failed School Certificate first time in 1973 and had to repeat the year. I scraped through the 6th form and got my University Entrance accredited in 1975. It was back to normal in 1976 when I failed my seventh form year (for a University Bursary). It was a bumper year actually as I was also turned down for a scholarship from the Teachers' College to pay my costs at University (I was entitled to go via the UE success and picked up the scholarship in my second year at University).

So I was battling to fulfil my dreams of getting a Masters degree in English and becoming an English teacher (a dream begun when I was 12)..

Early 1977, though, and I was proudly a 'varsity student' making my way to lectures, tutorials (scary things those - everyone knew a hell of a lot more than I did), and the library to study in peace.

All this was to become routine for the next five years - especially the library visits.

I still remember the day in 1977 when I went down into town from the University campus and bought a couple of second hand records (Skyhooks Greatest Hits and a few others). I waltzed up to the library storage locker area outside the library entrance and took out the books that I needed for study, leaving my bags in the locker shelf.

Up to the library third floor I go and suffer over some English essay on D. H. Lawrence's poetry for an hour. Tired of that I return to my storage locker and gape in astonishment and bewilderment.

My records have gone from my bag.

I don't know what to do. No one has stolen anything from me before. I go into the library to ask what to do. It takes me a while to realise that I am invisible.

Embarrassed, red faced and miserable I slink back to the bus station for the trip back home to 4 Ramelton Rd., along the Dominian Road extention in Mt Roskill. I ride the bus in a daze.

The sick feeling in my stomach comes when it dawns on my naive brain that my fellow students can not be trusted. Everybody cheats - I just didn't know until that point. Innocence shattered.

It was a rude awakening let me tell you.

And so to this latest example of experience trumping innocence. My heart tells me that my friends at school are not to blame. I suspect some visiting workers who were doing routine maintenance are responsible but I can't prove it.

I hate that sick feeling.

I also hated the hour Hisham and I spent at the Al Jimi police station to report the theft. The hour was how long it took for us to be seen (there was no one else around - I half expected someone was going to throw me the keys and tell me to lock up when we left), only to be told that we couldn't report it! It had to come from my boss, signed and stamped by Cognition. Perfect!

I got home, did a big workout on the cross trainer (the Fabs' Help did just that too on the ppod shuffle), practised my guitar chords until my fingers hurt and then I played an Opeth DVD...loudly.

Somedays you eat the bear, somedays the bear eats you!

Love and peace - a mauled Bambi

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on (David Bowie)

Why are people so down on Tom Cruise?

I don't think it's a 'hate' thing (why would you hate an actor?) but people seem to dislike Tom Cruise for some reason.

I was thinking about going to see the latest Mission: Impossible movie, called Ghost Protocol, and I wanted to know if any of my co-workers had seen it to gauge their opinion (it's been playing in the U.A.E. for a month now so I figured someone must have).

No one had. No one had seen it, nor did they intend to. Plenty of people also took the opportunity to tell me they didn't like Tom Cruise so they didn't intend seeing it.

Clearly I didn't hit the Tom Cruise demographic! Lots of people MUST like him - he is insanely wealthy from appearing in many movies. Movie bosses don't hire actors that people dislike. Ipso facto - lots of people must like Tom Cruise. Right?

Well I'm not so sure. He's made some clunkers of late.

Here's his filmography since the last big hit he had which was also a Mission: Impossible film:

Lions For Lambs, Valkyrie, Tropic Thunder, Knight and Day

Not great films and/or inappropriate roles huh (a senator in Lions For Lambs - a film that hardly anyone saw, a German of all things in Valkyrie, somebody in a stoopid Ben Stiller comedy, and somebody opposite Cameron Diaz in the Knight and Day rom-com).

Who’s advising him? What was he thinking?

Maybe that’s it. He’s whittled down the huge base of support he won with Jerry Maguire – for me the last time he actually played a person I could believe in. Incidentally it’s actually the last time he was nominated for best actor award in The Academy Awards. I agree with them.

Anyway – I hunkered down, rugged up in my thermal gear and went and saw Ghost Protocol.

Ethan Hunt is a good role for Cruise but he’s still a cardboard cutout. The set piece action sequences are generally amazing (I had to look away a bit during the scenes on the Burj Khalifa in Dubai), and the plot is what you’d expect from a Mission: Impossible – stooped. The movement between locations is non-sensical and gratuitous - I wondered as I was watching how much backing money had come from Arabic and Indian investors. Why else go to The Burj Khalifa and Mombay??

But I still enjoyed the film and I’ll be telling co-workers to give it a chance.
By the by - I notice he’s planning to play Jack Reacher in a film version of One Shot in 2013. I gasped in amazement when I saw that. Jack Reacher is the fantastic action hero creation of Lee Childs. As written by Childs, Jack Reacher is a massive 6 foot 5 inch guy.

Gasp and ha ha ha! Tom Cruise is nowhere near that size. This is surely going to be a joke of a movie and a travesty to Lee Child’s vision of Jack Reacher.

That’s why people don’t like Tom Cruise! What an ego to think he can play Jack Reacher!!

Love and peace - Wozza

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jacky came, she went away, deep in the valley I kissed her that day (Exponents)

Jalal is now 700Kms from Makkah (as at the 14th of January). He has about a week of walking to go.
For the full Gulf News story on his progress -

One of his comments particularly interested me:

"When you live in cities, you realise people don't walk any more. In fact, walking today has become almost an unnatural activity." The more he walks alone in places where no one walks, the more he realises that this is a limited period privilege. 
Having just returned from a shortish walk to my local mall to grab some phone credit and a morning tea, I'd have to agree.
The walk takes about 30 minutes there, 30 minutes back. It's a pleasant waste of time via lots of trees and a good footpath. The temperature is a pleasant sunny 29 degrees. Certainly not a deterrent.

I saw no one else walking apart from a couple of workers with wheelie bins picking up rubbish. I got strange looks from drivers and the taxis all slowed down to check out if I wanted a ride but I saw no other walkers.

Jalal continues to be a real source of inspiration to me. He was held up for two days recently when his walk was stopped by Saudi officials. Luckily sense prevailed and he was allowed to continue his charity walk after two days of wrangles.

Think about this for a while - on a 2,000 Km walk he is stopped 750 Km short of his goal and told he can't continue. Imagine you are him - what would you be feeling? How would you react?

The mind boggles but Jalal, I'm sure, took this in his stride (sorry 'bout that)!

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm so tired I don't know what to do, I'm so tired my mind is set on you (The Beatles)

Ah to sleep, perchance to dream.

I have struggled to sleep this week. What with my habibi (a.k.a. SWMBO) being in Nu Zild and the jet lag, it has taken me my usual week on the return journey to the northern hemisphere for my sleep patterns to return to normal.

Sure enough last night was my first full night of sleep since returning to the sandpit last Thursday.

The usual trick that helps when going to NZ (live the time zone as much as possible) doesn’t deter the jet lag. I have no idea how athletes cope with the time changes.

I read a really interesting article in the National on jet lag and how horses don’t suffer from it.

Jet lag occurs when there is a mismatch in the day-to-day rhythms, known as circadian rhythms, of an individual and their sleep-wake cycle in their given time zone.
Unlike humans, horses do not have a primary period of sleep; they snatch sleep in any 24-hour cycle.

And their circadian rhythms are also suspended in darkness, whereas those of humans continue at a rate in tune with the solar cycle. That means that compared with us, horses do not have such rigid day-night cycles, and are much less easily fazed if they are disrupted.

The findings are the work of Dr Domingo Tortonese, a scientist at the University of Bristol in England. He found that a day after a simulated flight, a racehorse could run on a treadmill for up to 25 seconds longer before it hit fatigue. The difference lasted for up two weeks. for the full thing.

Interesting huh! Unlike the horses, the suspension in darkness does not help me on the flight. I use the eye shades and try to nap (20 mg of Temazapan doesn’t knock me out but it allows me to ride out the bumps and semi doze). Even an upgrade to business didn’t particular help me either, although I was much more comfortable in my semi dozing state.

I still need that week to recover.

Good news is I feel much more chipper today. The cross trainer sessions (every second day) are getting easier to get through.

Haircut tomorrow (and retail therapy at Dubai Mall), albeit without SWMBO, will be odd, but a welcome distraction nonetheless.

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Woke up this morning, feel 'round for my shoes, you know 'bout that babe, had them old walkin' blues (Robert Johnson)

Jalal  has been continuing his epic walk from Abu Dhabi to Makkah while I've been enjoying Christmas and New Year celebrations in Nu Zild. I did wonder from time to time how he was getting on.
Here, then, is an update for those of you who have been following his progress via my blog.

As the photo shows, on Saturday he was only 840 kms short of his goal, having reached Riyadh.

The update on his story can be found on the following link. It's a great story.

Love and peace - Wozza

It was written that I would love you from the moment I opened my eyes (Paul Ramone)

I found this great quote by Mark Twain in an article on the prog metal band Opeth (of all things!):

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
I am quite inspired by this, especially given that I was about to fly back to Al Ain when I read that. It was a good reminder that, although the flight meant the start of a temporary but painful  period of time apart from SWMBO, we are still challenging ourselves and not settling for a safe harbour just yet.

I'm not going to pretend for a second that this isn't tough going though and the time for safe harbour is rapidly approaching. If you doubt our commitment then you don't have a very strong partnership going on. SWMBO and I do everything together and we don't want to be apart for any significant time. Needs must in this situation but it doesn't mean that either of us likes it. I really, really don't understand how some of my colleagues spend extended periods of time away from their partner and even seem to enjoy it. Weird!

I am trying to keep busy and starting back at work has helped but it's trickier at home when, as I've explained, we watch TV series on DVD that we both enjoy. As you know that means Grey's Anatomy and Lost over the last few months.

We watched a few episodes into Season 7 of Grey's before Christmas, and we have completed three Seasons of Lost up to now, but now that I'm on my own for a while a hiatus has had to be imposed.

So what to watch? Well no box sets that's fer sure.

So far it's been music DVDs that SWMBO would not sit still for; namely Pearl Jam Twenty, Rory Gallagher live at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, a documentary on The Cirque Du Soleil's Beatles extravaganza called Love, and Opeth at the Royal Albert Hall.

Sitting in the wings are Marty Scorsese's documentary on George Harrison and a John Mayer live DVD.

I also have a selection of movies stockpiled that we've seen already but I want to see again.  That should last me, oh, about a week!

So it looks like a lot of football on TV, reading and practising my guitar are on the agenda to while away the hours.

Love and peace - Wozza

P.S. Abdulla has just told me that we have a staff BBQ on Tuesday so that's a night I won't have to cook!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How is the air up there? (The La De Das)

I arrived back in the sandpit yesterday after a terrific couple of weeks in Nu Zild for Christmas and New Year's celebrations.

It's good to be back too, not that I didn't enjoy the break from the Al Ain apartment but it always helps when you don't have to go to the limited supply of clothes in the suitcase. Staying with relatives was nice but nothing beats being able to put a CD on whenever you want, eating food from your own pantry and sleeping in your own bed.

Arriving at Dubai airport was a treat, mainly cos I'm a nervous flyer and being on terra firma is always a great feeling anyway but Dubai airport is great - clean, friendly, and spacious.

The friendly bit is the starkest contrast between service in NZ and here. It didn't take long before I was asked (by the doorman at The Park Regis Hotel when I picked up my car) where Marm Jacky was! I know this will happen over and over again too. I told him that Marm Jacky was still in NZ to co-ordinate the move of our stuff into our new Hawke's Bay home.

I need to backtrack a tad before these posts get onto new business. Namely Zen/SWMBO and the wedding of the century (which lived up to its billing by the way).

Zen is big! Over 17 hands high which according to SWMBO, is big. But not as big as the grin on Jacky's face when she rode him for the first time. It was a thrill to see.

The wedding was also a special highlight of the trip back. We've been looking forward to it since last Christmas when Pat and Randy told us the news and invited us. Jacky and I felt really honoured to be included in the Cameron-Buckley global whanau.

Randy's parents and brother, Art, came from Canada; Pat's business partner and her husband came from Manchester, we came from the UAE and there were relatives from all parts of NZ in attendance.

Lindsay Loveridge, who officiated and is pictured between Pat and Randy, has had a long association with Pat, almost as long as Jacky, who has known him since she was a teenager. Lindsay did a great job keeping the ceremony on track when either laughter or tears threatened to deviate proceedings.

It was also a great chance for us to catch up with old friends, some of whom had actually attended our own wedding 28 years ago and it was fun for me to watch people as they recognised Jacky (Jacky Smith????? Is that you???). SWMBO looked stunning btw.

All in all, like everything Pat and Randy do, it was a classy occasion, even the rain cleared up and the sun emerged during the afternoon. Jacky and I loved being there and wish the groom and groom, two great guys, everything they'd wish themselves. Be happy!

So that's it for the NZ break - some great times with friends and family. It was so good to catch up with everyone - we even managed a couple of coffees with Jansy and Graeme in New Plymouth before I departed for Al Ain!

Now I'm back in the apartment which is VERY empty without Marm Jacky, but work starts again on Sunday which will be a welcome distraction.

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Love, devotion and surrender (Carlos Santana/John McLaughlin)

Here I am getting ready to return to the sandpit for Trimester Two; a little browner, a little more alcohol fuelled and a little more full of Christmas cheer and pudding than when we arrived in Nu Zild in late December!

It's been hectic with either too much happening to blog or else we were without the interweb. But before the return we need a catch up, don't we?.

But where to start?

Pat and Randy's wedding? A definite highlight.

Sitting on the deck of our new house, admiring the view and loving the serenity?

Jacky's first ride on Zen with a huge smile?

Christmas on Waiheke? Relaxing in the sun under poetic Pohutakawa tree blooms?

I'll get to them all but the place to start is to ask, he aha te mea nui? (What is the most important thing?). Easy - He tangata. He tangata. He tangata (it is people, it is people, it is people).

It was so so great to see the chuldrin again fer a while - no longer chuldrin anymore though - independent adults with their own responsibilities, hopes and dreams.

We Skyped Fanfa and Jesse on Haight St., San Francisco on our Christmas day, spent a day with Keegan in Auckland and had Adam and Jade with us on Waiheke Island for a day. Magic.

I was also able to catch up with an old buddy before Christmas. It was fantastic having a laugh and a coffee with Greg at the Viaduct Basin.

Unfortunately other friends were away for Christmas or busy with their own families. In honour of absent friends I visited an old haunt - the Queen's Arcade in Queen St. - specifically the Marbecks corner of the arcade and my very own happy place.

Christmas day was family time as it should be. The planned for summit between the O'Neills and Purdys took place at Brian's place on Waiheke. A merry Christmas was had by all!

To all the whanau - Happy New Year!!

Love and peace - Wozza

P.S. next post catches up from Hawke's Bay and the wedding of the century!