Sunday, February 26, 2012

You're the only one I love and you can't change that (Raydio)

Wow - what a weekend!

Ipod dock for the ppod? Check. Earphones for the ppod? Check. Nail new guitar rhythms? Check. Bake a carrot cake? Check.

Eh? Ya wot? Bake a carrot cake???????

Well yes actually. On Saturday February 25, I not only managed to cook a cake but I was also able to eat it!

Now the kids are reading this - shaking their heads and saying - nah - never happened.

While the rest of the blogosphere will be stifling a yawn and thinking what's the big deal? - he baked a cake. Yeah - got that.

But the blogosphere doesn't know how useless I am in a kitchen. Mainly because I don't care about food really - it serves a purpose but I don't care about it. I'm no foodie, that's fer sure. I generally get by with omlets, baked beans, pasta. sardines on toast and filled rolls. All fast to prepare, limited fuss meals. Cooking a stirfry was alien territory a few weeks ago and I've plain and simple never even attempted to bake a cake before. Ever.

I know, I know. It boogles the mind but there you go. That's the truth Ruth. Hence the kids being open mouthed - no way did he cook a cake. But I did!

Of course, if I'm honest, it was not an entirely error free process. In fact it took me two attempts. The first was fine up to the oven bit. All the components (a.k.a. ingredients) are inside the pack from the foodmarket, I just needed to add eggs and some vegetable oil and then mix it all together, put into a dish and pop into the oven. What could go wrong?

Rookie mistakes is what.

The dish was narrow and tall fer a start and I guessed the 350F to Celsius ratio wrongly as it turned out. The cake was burnt on top but raw in the middle. Clever huh?

So I went back to LuLu's supermarket for another packet of ingredients and started again. This time with a broader, shorter baking dish and I checked on line for the correct temperature. Smart!

This time - success. I can't believe how nice it tastes. This is the first time I have ever been able to eat some baking that I have cooked.

I was on such a roll (as it were) that I made a spectacular stirfry as well.

Love and peace - Cordon Wozza

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I told you about the fool on the hill, I tell you man he living there still (The Fabs)

I told you about Brian's watch.
I told you about the heater story.

Now...dum de de dum dum dar (classy drum roll)...the story of the ipod earphones!

But first - this story is brought to you by...communication barriers, cunning put-a-tail-on-it-call-it-a-weasel packaging, salespersons who are perversely but genuinely infected by the overwhelming desire to please the customer (a.k.a. poor smucks) at all costs even when they have no idea what you are talking about, and, of course, there's my own raging impatience. Quite a brew huh?

What do I need?

I once had a badge in the late last century that I often wore to class. It read 'Just a simple guy with a complex life',

In this instance my need was simple really - a set of earphones for the ppod that I can wear while exercising (you know - ones that won't fall out of my ear) that have as good a bass sound as possible. And halas - that's it.

Why now?
I've been using a pair of Skullcandy earphones that I bought in Doha from the Virgin Megastore at Villagio Mall. They do the trick (just). The hook thing around the ear certainly works and they stay on during exercise but the sound could be more bassy.

Sadly they are now needing to be replaced - they fell apart on me last week!

So that means I need them NOW! I really struggle to exercise without music. I need those beats to push me and maintain some pace and I didn't have the time to search beyond Al Ain.
What don't I care about?

Colour, make, aesthetic looks.

So how hard can it be then?

Oh - it be hard... it be very hard!

Okay so the first attempt was at Carrefour. With memories of the heater purchase alive and well I decided to avoid salespeople and suss out the brands on my tod. Helpfully (boy am I a sucker) the packaging listed the bass quality amid some other features. I picked the one with the highest rating. I think the cost was 80 dirham. It was a lurid fluro pink colour. What was I thinking?

The problem with these things is that they are packed in a pretty plastic sealed container so it's impossible to try before you buy.

When I got home I ripped the container apart and found that the earbuds were the type that fit into your ear (rather than on the ear like my Skullcandy ones). That wouldn't have been so bad and the lurid fluro pink I could have lived with but the bass sound was well Alan Ladd. Into the bin it went.

Next stop - an electronics store in Al Ain Mall. The place we bought our cameras recently. This time I thought I'll ask for help. Mistake!

The bloke hovered around me for a bit until I broke and said - okay, yes you can help me. I need some ear phones, bassy ones, that won't fall off if I run. Yes sir he says and goes away. Comes back with three types. One of the types is like proper sporty ear phones so I say (having noticed the packaging is damaged) - can I listen? Yes sir he says (helpfully) and leads me to the MP3 display and hooks up these ear phones. 50 dirhams seems like a bargain (I never learn).

Hmmm - not bad I say, because what was playing did sound okay. I get home, plug in my ppod and...hey - what the...didn't sound like that in the store. Into the bin it goes.

Why is it that things appear fine in a shop but when you get home they seem to transform into tat?

Now I'm starting to sense a pattern. By this time I'm at last weekend and I had committed my time to working on my Key Performance Indicator files for school (go to Baggy Trousers for the low down on these diabolical creatures). Therefore I couldn't go to Dubai Mall to suss out things.

So like a stupid person I figured I'd have one last go.

The salesperson on this last futile attempt was without much comprehension about what I wanted. He kept nodding and saying yes sir but I could quite clearly see the empty space just behind his eyes. I could have said, "Actually I'm really after an African Elephant but I need one with two trunks". He would have said yes sir and scurried off to find one in the storeroom.

Needless to say I gave this up as a bad joke and returned home, barb wired and annoyed that I'd wasted precious hours of my life that will never be returned to me, in a fruitless, pathetic search.

Anyway - here I am - Thursday afternoon - still ear phone less so I'm off to Dubai Mall tomorrow. No doubt I'll have material for another blog post when I come back!

Love and peace - Wozza

Monday, February 20, 2012

Have I told you lately that I love you? (Van Morrison)

This one's for all the people out there in the blogosphere who love me.

I don’t think we do this enough – tell the people we love that we love them. But I’m not sure. When I watch American films they are forever ending a conversation with ‘I love you’. So much so that it tends to devalue the sentiment.

At the other extreme is the stoic New Zealand ‘see ya!'

I guess it’s come from our ancestral British reserve. When Fiona tells her son Marcus in About A Boy that she loves him, just before he goes into school, he looks crestfallen and is immediately mocked by the other kids.

I don’t recall my own mum or dad ever actually taking me to school (kiwi kids in the sixties said ‘who-ru’ from the door as they skipped off to skool barefoot and fancy free) but if they did they would never have done a Fiona on me. Their love for me was never in doubt though!

The good thing is that Van Morrison is in the world with us to sing like a dream and say those things that sometimes we don't say.

Friday, February 17, 2012

When I fall in love it will be forever (Nat 'King' Cole)

I resigned from my job this week (for personal reasons) and will be back in Nu Zild permanently at the end of March. This is about 12 weeks shy of my two year contract but anyone who's read this blog regularly will understand those reasons.

I was dreading the conversations that inevitably go with a resignation. The two biggies were my local Cognition boss (Cognition is extremely hierarchical in structure and I’ve lost count of how many bosses I have) and Mohamed, the school principal where I advise.

But as is usually the case, the reality was far less blood splattered than the day-dreamed conversations I had been having in my head. Both men were understanding and supportive, which was great.

But it doesn’t take too long for self-interest to kick in and suddenly five minutes into my announcement I’m reassuring them that things will be completed before I leave (my boss) and that the new Lead Advisor will be in place after I leave and that person will be equally as awesome as I have been (Mohamed). Ha ha – just joking.

Graveyards are full of indispensable people and by July I will be a memory as far as the company goes.  But not with Mohamed. He is keen to visit me in NZ on the farm and he means what he says. He calls me his brother and although that is how I am often referred to by others (as in, “Good morning brother”), Mohamed and I have been on the same wavelength since day one. He is a very similar Principal to me in terms of style and approach. We have definitely been simpatico.

I will really miss him and the other staff and I must confess I got a bit misty eyed in his office – must have been the AC.

It’s a bitter/sweet feeling. Parting is always such sweet sorrow. I would have liked to have finished the contract at its end point in July but circumstances have made that impossible.

My reality is that I have five weeks left until the end of the Trimester. Work-wise - I want to end with everything firmly in place for my replacement. I also need to complete all the leaving protocols – close accounts, return the rental car, get a police clearance – all that sort of thing.

It will be a busy time before returning home where my first purchase will be a Maple tree (then chickens and cat with Jade and SWMBO’s help).

Love and peace - Wozza

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ooh baby I love your way (Peter Frampton)

It's Saint Valentine's day. The bouquet on the right is a virtual SVD pressie to SWMBO.

Valentine's day is a weird one. Originally it honoured a couple of Christian martyrs called Valentine but then in the 14th century Geoffrey Chaucer got hold of the idea of celebrating love and honouring Valentine and ever since pink hearts, flowers and chocolates have their way every February 14.

Just in case you know little about Chaucer – here he is being played by the brilliant Paul Bettany in A Knight’s Tale (movie version).

And this is the bit when Chaucer linked St Valentine's day with love/lust:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
Incidentally - St Valentine's Day exists here in the Middle East as well. All sorts of stores are selling the usual St Valentine’s Day product but apparently it’s banned in Saudi Arabia (they don’t like its links to the Christian holiday even though it's no longer a holiday in the west - PJ won't be surprised I'm sure).

Anyway, I have become distracted. This post was supposed to be a simple happy Valentine's Day to my habibi!!

Here's something I love as a wee pressie to TLOML - a lyric by John Lennon. It's called Grow Old With Me. I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I used it here.
Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
When our time has come
We will be as one
God bless our love
God bless our love

Grow old along with me
Two branches of one tree
Face the setting sun
When the day is done
God bless our love
God bless our love

Spending our lives together
Man and wife together
World without end
World without end

Grow old along with me
Whatever fate decrees
We will see it through
For our love is true
God bless our love
God bless our love

Love and peace and warm fuzzy cuddles - Wozza

Friday, February 10, 2012

I'm just a hunk, a hunk of burning love (Elvis)

One of the whanau sent me this link to Ormie. You may have seen it, you may not. Maybe I saw it when I needed a pick me up, maybe you need one too. Whatever - I started with a few chuckles but was laughing my head off by the end.

Here's Ormie (it may take a while to load but hang in there - it's really worth it).

Speaking of laughing my head off - I can STILL not watch this sequence from the Get Smart movie without laughing so much my eyes close over, tears stream down my face and my tummy hurts!!! It's a pretty fun movie but this sequence with a mini cross bow just slays me every time.

Love and peace and ouch - Wozza

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

He's the master of going faster (George Harrison)

I was very sad to hear about the death of Jason Richards a few days ago. He died last year from cancer but I had no idea.

I was watching a Eurosports News programme as I do every morning before heading off to work and they alluded to his death. I found it hard to believe.

Something deeply weird happens inside when a student I've taught dies (sadly it's happened too many times).

I taught Jason at Waimea College and he was a lovely lovey guy. Everybody loved him - truely! The staff all thought he was great, he had a huge circle of friends and he was a natural born leader who had a dream.

His dream was to race cars, to go faster. And there was nothing going to stop him because he just knew he would.

I have a farewell card at home in my collection from when I left Waimea College in 1994 that has a lovely message from Jason in it. He was a very special guy. Although he died at an early age (35) he got to live out his dreams and that grin will always be a part of so many people's memories.

Love and peace Jason - Wozza

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hey Lord, take a look around tonight, and find where my baby's gonna be. Hey Lord, would ya look out for her tonight, 'cause she is far across the sea (Billy Joel)

Wahoo! I've had my first good weekend alone since returning from NZ without my habibi. I really haven't liked the lengthy down time on my own but this weekend was WAY better.

Friday - a sleep in. I struggle to sleep in during term times. My inner clock is set at 5am and I wake then every day alarm or no. On Friday (and today) I woke at 4.58am and read for a bit in bed and then turned the light off and slept for another hour. Magic.

Friday - a long Skype with SWMBO, during which she did a tour of the house and gardens - looking great! Actually the house and gardens were pretty awesome too.

Friday - collated all the teacher evaluations that have been completed so far (see the Baggy Trousers blog for the shake down on these things).

Friday - I like my routines (oh really the kids say - we haven't noticed!) and Friday dinner has become chicken stir fry night. My third effort and best so far.

Saturday - woken up by TLOML telling me about the hire-a-hubbys she's got to do my jobs. Gratifying to know it takes a few of them to fill in for me.

Saturday - travelled to Abu Dhabi to meet up with some of the Sivak whanau who are in town. I visited Kings Recording and got a couple of little things. Then taxied back to the Abu Dhabi Mall to meet Linda and Tommy Sivak. I can report that they are wonderful people. As a couple, they actually reminded me a lot of Annette and Stas (Tommy's big brother). Clearly the brothers have the same fantastic luck - Linda and Annette are both amazing. It was special to meet Tommy and Linda, having heard so much about them for years.

While I'm at it I best say a big hi to all the other Sivak whanau dotted around the world.

Saturday night - Got home to watch The Arsenal DESTROY Blackburn Rovers 7-1. What a result and the icing on the day was watching Thierry Henry score number 7.

As I said - WAHOO!!

Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Well I'll never be a stranger and I'll never be alone, whenever we're together, that's my home (Billy Joel)

This posting will be the final Jalal bin Thaneya update as he reached the end of his mammoth walk from Al Ruwais to Makkah on Sunday.

He's certainly one inspirational character.

Here are some quotes from the last news story in the Gulf News (
"This experience has given me a different understanding of myself. When I set off on the walk, I thought I was capable but now I am confident," he said. Self-confidence and the belief in one's ability to make a difference in this world, he says, are crucial. Not just for him but for everyone.

As life has it, transient circumstances can deflect your focus along the journey. Look what happened to him: Only a few hours before this, as he neared Makkah, the 50 days of walking were culminating in a disorienting feeling like he had just left an "operation theatre".

Physical fatigue and mental alertness on permanent auto-pilot had taken their toll on him. He couldn't wear sunglasses, he was walking in Ihram and the distance was playing tricks. "It was extremely painful, the last stretch."

His body was running on minimal instinct and his mind was taut with anticipation. But the moment he began his Umrah, the chimera of circumstance vanished like mist on a sunny morning. Such, says Bin Thaneya, is the power of belief.
Now that's writing you don't see everyday. When was the last time you read an article that included the phrase 'chimera of circumstance'?

Jalal at journey's end in Makkah.

Anyway - asant Jalal and enjoy your well earned rest.

Love and peace - Wozza