Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I read the news today, oh boy (The Fabs)

In praise of old fashioned newspapers, you know - ones that are actually printed.

It's so nice to be back in a country where you can visit a newsagents, corner shop, whatever, and choose from a quality selection of daily newspapers.

Mr Patel's shop opposite Patrick and Randy's house in Ferntower Road (a.k.a. Shire central in Highbury/ Islington) has a nice selection that includes the biggies: The Independent, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and the greatest paper in the entire world: The Guardian.

Within 30 seconds I can leave their front door and buy a newspaper... every day if I so wanted (and I do).

That's pretty damn cool.

Back in NZ I never bother to buy a newspaper - I read The Guardian online instead. There, the local papers (and I include ALL NZ papers in that description) are rubbish. Sorry, but they are.

But even reading The Guardian online is not like the real thing - flicking through a paper and reading stuff I had no idea was there before I bought it.

[To wit: read this - it's great! and I never would have seen it online]

When I read online I scan headlines and maybe read one or two things before heading to the English football stories. I scan them and maybe read one or two involving Arsenal or the train wreck that is Chelsea right now. 

When I buy a print version I take so much longer to read it. I read stuff I never would online and I relax as I'm doing it. A nice cuppa goes down nicely.

Yes, I know - I'm a simple soul, but I really miss that experience.

Making the most of it right now!

Love and peace - Wozza

Saturday, December 26, 2015

You're the skin I never want to shed (Train)

In praise of Bed and Breakfasts.

I love staying at B and B's in England, Wales and Scotland (haven't tried one in Ireland yet because I haven't been there but I'm sure I'd love them too).

SWMBO and I much prefer the B and B experience to staying in motels/hotels.

The buildings that house them are quirky and the people who run them are quirky and the people who stay in them are quirky because they prefer to experience quirky.

In my experience no two B and Bs are the same. The breakfasts, the decor, the people and the rooms - different every time. And that's all part of the appeal and the charm.

John Cleese obviously stayed in a few and studied them thoroughly. Fawlty Towers is a genius creation that taps into all that quirkiness I mentioned. We've experienced small degrees of Fawltyness over the years.

Our most recent one - The Courthouse in Betws-Y-Coed (pronounced Betoos-er-koyd which means prayer house in the wood) in Snowdonia National Park (North Wales), is at the awesome end of the scale.

It's run by a lovely couple who genuinely seem to love what they do - which is basically, meeting people, putting them up in their (big) house by the river in Betws-Y-Coed and serving them breakfast. A simple transaction really but made extremely pleasurable by their efforts.

We've spent three days here over Christmas and it's been a wonderful experience. 

Love and peace - Wozza

Monday, December 21, 2015

With a Ho! Ho! Ho! and a Hey! Hey! Hey! it's Santa's super sleigh (Will Freeman's dad)

As you know I'm a fan of and the various groups I follow via that site. One such group is called Coffeelicious

Recently they presented a writing prompt that I thought I'd have a go at.

Call it my Christmas message if you like.

The idea is pretty simple - write a Christmas letter to someone you miss in five paragraphs.
Dear DMP 
Christmas, as you know, is a difficult time for me. First I have to get through early December (your anniversary this year made it 32 years) and there are the usual Christmas decisions about family celebrations and when I look around and don't see too many of my family left my jealous streak emerges.
So what have you missed? Well in the early days - our own family celebrations. The first one in 1983 was just me and the gorgeous Miss Smith. Along came Keegan just in time for Christmas 1984, then Adam just in time to get in on the Santa sack action in 1986. The expansion continued when we had five of us to feed for Christmas dinner in 1989, then a fulsome table of six by the end of 1991. By then Christmases had settled into a routine of the usual morning scenes, which you would have loved. Sometimes they included grandad and your old friend, Nita.

We made our own traditions and routines: visits to see Santa, holiday meals with the outlaws, and trifle bowls that multiplied as the years progressed. And then suddenly having the six of us at a Christmas table became a rarity and life went on (within me and without you) as the kids developed their own lives and their own Christmas routines.

I catch myself looking at your photographs and then wondering what you would make of my life since you’ve been gone. I think you’d approve of all the big stuff: the life decisions and the battles fought along the way. That’s important to me. 

And so to this - the toughest part of the letter to write: the last paragraph. Again, this Christmas is going to be just me and the gorgeous former Miss Smith. We’ll be away from our family, a long way away, in Snowdonia, but thinking about them all, without a doubt. And I’ll be thinking about you, and getting through another one without you as best I can. 
Love – as always - your buddy – Warren.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

L.A. is a great big freeway, put a hundred down and buy a car (Hal David)

In praise of Heathrow airport!

Recently, SWMBO and I went from one extreme to another. One day we were cruising Santa Monica Blvd (as you do) with Fanfa and Jesse after travelling alone the Anaheim to L.A. freeway. 

There were cars everywhere. Open spaces. Blue skies.

A short ten hour plane trip later and we were in London public transport heaven: the London Underground and a London black taxi. It got dark. It was wonderful.

I love flying into Heathrow.

They've revamped the arrivals area and it's different (much more open) but still great (I did like the compactness of the old arrivals as celebrated in Love Actually)

We arrived to be pleasantly surprised by the new arrivals and after a flutter of OMG it's changed, I found the Cafe Nero and WH Smith (for the Observer, being as it was a Sunday).

The Cafe Nero was fabulous! So was The Observer - a REAL paper.

Next was a refresh of our Oyster cards and onto the Underground. SWMBO is still talking about the grin I had on my face as the Piccadilly line train headed into the station.

Love and (contented) peace - Wozza

Saturday, December 12, 2015

When you meet temptation and the urge is very strong, give a little whistle! (Jiminy Cricket)

Coming to you from my Hilton Anaheim hotel room. 

We've been on a stopover before heading to London's winter wonderland.

Anaheim is wonderful - everyone is helpful and pleasant and polite (and loud - Americans LOVE to talk, all the time - they don't do silence).

The politeness is a shock to the system. I was aware of saying 'thank you' a lot and I always got a 'You're welcome' back. This from Disney cast members and the public at large. Quite, quite wonderful really.

There is so much to love about America but the super sizing of food and drink is NOT one of them. 

No wonder their is rampant obesity here - I asked for small of everything and got NZ large sizes - apart from the hotdog which was just right!

SWMBO and I spent Thursday at the happiest place on Earth. Disneyland is a wonderful stopover for us. We were last here in January 2007 with Fanfa and Jade when the park was pretty empty.

This time we're visiting this side of Christmas and OMG - what a difference. Long queues (fast tracking rides is a great way to not queue though) and the vastness of humanity was the order of the day. I did notice that everyone seemed to either come from Seattle or San Francisco (Seahawks, Giants shirts everywhere).

We had a blast though, doing the rides (SWMBO loved the horse drawn carriage ride down main street) and eating hotdogs and ice cream sundaes (we never do that at home) - Star Wars stuff in particular was incredible, we spent ages in the mega shop after the Star Tours attraction.

Temptations everywhere and we gave in to quite a few!

Love and peace - Wozza

(Next post stars Samantha Purdy and Jesse Rowbotham!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I won't cry, I won't cry, no I won't shed a tear (Ben E. King)

Credits: Jens Lelie (Unsplash)
It's sometimes interesting to speculate on what might have been. 

I come across articles from time to time about the choices people make. Recently, this one from caught my eye and my thoughts turned to my own decisions.

Unlike a friend of mine who found himself in the wrong queue and ended up as a teacher (a shout out to P.J. - a fine human being and a great English teacher) I decided on that career when I was 12 years old. I wasn't faced with two forks in the road at that point.

Having found my bliss, from that point on, my path has been set. 

I finished at Mt Albert Grammar School, having failed School Certificate the first time and Bursary (in Year 13), and went off to Auckland University intent on a Masters degree in English (Auckland because my parents lived there and I had no need to leave home).

My pathway lead to my first job (no choice was involved - I only had one positive interview) in New Plymouth where I fell in love at first sight with a beautiful girl. We married and started a family.

My career and life decisions since that one age 12 have been dictated by pragmatic responses to family situations in the most part, but the pathway has remained.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

My teaching career eventually lead me to the position of Principal for a few years and it was then that I was faced with a two roads situation. 

One road, the safe one, was to remain on the well traveled path and remain a Principal. The one through the undergrowth was to accept a contract to work in The Middle East as a consultant.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

In the end I rather selfishly did what I needed to do. I wasn't happy and knew that wasn't about to change and I needed a fresh start after dad passed away in 2009. So SWMBO and I went to Qatar and then the U.A.E. and it was amazingly fabulous.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

The danger at the time was that I would be giving up my teaching career and subsequently it proved very difficult to get back into it in 2013.

So - no regrets Coyote? Well maybe one.

I have flirted with the idea of doing a doctorate for thirtyish years off and on.

It wasn't an option back in 1993 because I had a teaching studentship and they'd already been a bit prickly when I told them I was going to do post graduate work.

In between Qatar and the U.A.E. contracts I was in the middle of enrolling at Waikato University to do a PhD in English (or education - I was still thinking). The idea was that SWMBO would earn our keep while I studied but Cognition kept asking me to reup and after a while, I did.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

After The Middle East (and a sidebar stint in China), I accepted a Head of English position at Woodford House and there have been no regrets about that either.

I'm not sure about what's next. Maybe the road less traveled needs another go? Time will tell.

"You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need"
(The Rolling Stones)

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, December 4, 2015

I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn (Bob Dylan)

When I got home that night, I noticed the smiling jack-o-lantern in my front yard was crushed.

Perfect! As a metaphor it was right up there. 

I'm pretty naive but even so I can't be completely blamed for my total inability to read signals, can I?

And that particular day had held so much promise too.

Ah well. Never mind. Mustn't grumble.