Saturday, 31 May 2008

Concerned About the Balkans?

Well, don't be.

A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which looked at nine Balkan countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia and compared the statistics it found with samples from Western Europe and around the world.

Here are some of the highlights:
  • You are more likely to be assaulted, robbed and burgled in Britain than in the region of southeast Europe
  • Your car is at least ten times more likely to be stolen in Britain than in Albania, Croatia or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
  • Western Europe suffers from double the amount of burglary, over four times as much assault, and 15 times as much robbery as the Balkans.
  • There are more police and more public prosecutors in Albania than there are in England and Wales, per head of population; even impoverished Moldova has more judges.
  • In Britain, 1 330 vehicles in every 100 000 are reported stolen annually, compared to 166 in Croatia, 113 in Macedonia and just 90 in Albania.
  • In England and Wales there are just five judges per 100 000 citizens, the lowest proportion among the countries examined.
  • In Croatia there are 42, while even Albania, has 11. Moldova just beats England and Wales with seven.
  • England and Wales also have fewer policemen and women. There are just 261 per 100 000 citizens compared to 353 in Albania and 427 in Croatia.
  • There are also fewer prosecutors (5.2 per 100 000 citizens) than in Croatia (12.3), Albania (12.7), Macedonia (8.6) and Moldova (16.6).

We've been to eight out of the nine listed countries (Moldova the only exception) and whilst we obviously can't confirm or deny the findings, we can certainly add weight to the topic by saying we have never felt safer or more at ease whilst in any of the places mentioned.

The people are friendly, generous and nothing is too much trouble for them; something I'm not sure I'd be able to say with hand on heart about England any longer. And that, is such a crying shame. :-(

The report is entitled "Crime and its Impact on the Balkans".

Left or Right Handed?


The Calloway Company, which manufactures golf clubs and associated equipment, has spent over $100 000 trying to develop a specialised tee for left-handed golfers, without success.
I am struggling to understand that, as all the tees I have ever seen (and see above) seem entirely uniform. What am I missing?

And Another Thing

This article in the Telegraph made me smile. How true?

Gordon Brown beware. Disgruntled drinkers are today invited to band together in a revolutionary organisation that could change politics forever: The National Association of Grumpy Clubs.

The very British revolt is being organised by Stephen Potten, the president of the UK’s first official Grumpy Club. Grumpy HQ is the 300-year-old Bishop Blaize pub in the market town of Romsey, Hampshire.
Mr Potten, 57, wants pubs all over Britain to form their own grumpy clubs, and liaise with him by writing to the Bishop Blaize in Winchester Road.


He said: “There is a plot in this country to stop people talking. Pubs, post offices, corner shops – all places where people talk, all going. Pubs are closing every day, post offices vanishing in their thousands, corner shops disappearing because of supermarkets.

“It’s to ensure people have nowhere to communicate, so they can brainwash you into doing whatever you are told.”

He added: “Pubs should have grumpy hours. Well, they’re banning happy hours. We’re all middle class binge drinkers now, apparently.

“And another thing, people have smoked in pubs for centuries. Now they ban it…”

“And another thing” is, naturally, the official Grumpy Club motto.


The Bishop Blaize Grumpy Club, meeting every Tuesday, was formed when regulars realised just how grumpy they were.

Mr Potten explained: “Not so long ago, if you asked someone for their view, they wouldn’t have one.

“After the last disastrous ten years, though, everybody voices opinions. They are so fed up with being the butt of everything and having to pay for it through their taxes.”

Occasionally assisted by (brave) guest speakers, the club has tackled big issues: Gordon Brown, the death penalty, Gordon Brown (“sadly not during the death penalty debate,”), beer prices, Gordon Brown (“well, he’s disastrous isn’t he?”). And grated cheese.

The Telegraph found Mr Potten on his Grumpy Box, railing against the evils of improperly served dairy produce.

El Presidente – as he is known in the pub – stood on a soap box bearing a picture of one of the few men he truly admires: Grumpy, out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Mournfully surveying his audience - Big Ray, the brewery technician, Dapper Don, the marketing director, and 20 other regulars – he warned: “And another thing: grated cheese. I asked for a cheese sandwich this lunchtime. It came with grated cheese. More went on the floor than in my bleedin’ mouth…”

His cheery greeting over, he signaled the start of the debate, on the topic: The Trouble with the Media. (They had seen us coming.)

Taking turns to hold the sacred 'poisoned chalice’ - actually a key fob inscribed "Everyone’s entitled to my opinion" – the regulars mounted the Grumpy Box and fulminated.
With the assistance of Messrs Ringwood Best and Adnams Explorer, there was little hesitation, much deviation.


“Everyone harps on about fuel prices,” Neil Sheppard, 32, a tree surgeon, declared. “What about the price of beer?”

“He doesn’t know whether to drink or drive,” observed Stuart 'Macca McCormick, 45.
Eventually, it was sort of concluded that the media destroys winners, makes the nation dumber, and “You’re all talking bloody nonsense.” (Mr Sheppard again.)


For a Grumpy Club, there seemed a lot of laughter.

Mr Potten’s sunken eyes suggested a life dedicated to genial cantankerousness. He tried insisting he doesn’t delight in being grumpy, but confessed: “I love this country. Abroad, you know it’s going to be sunny every day. Here, you can open the window and think: 'Jesus, there’s frost on the car - in May.’”

Mr Potten, an ex-teacher who started an export business when 'modern’ thinking diverged from his robust approach to classroom discipline, would have liked the wealth to form his own political party: “The Majority Party, for the 90 per cent who pay for everything through taxes.”
Instead, he hopes the National Association of Grumpy Clubs can build on, but change, British tradition.


“We have a tradition of moaning, but fixing nothing. If we were French, we would be marching in the streets.”

When the formal debate ended in the Bishop Blaize, informal discussion continued. The whole pub was soon deep in conversation, managing directors bantering with delivery drivers.

Mr Potten would have smiled at all he surveyed – but he had to stomp outside to smoke.

He muttered: “And another thing: why are they so determined to stop us smoking or drinking?”
Grumble noted, cigarette lit, he added: “There’s a complete mix in there. All talking. By moaning, you create a community. They offer advice: 'Don’t use him, he charges a fortune. See the bloke down the road.’ People help each other. It’s great.”


The corners of Mr Potten’s mouth engaged in curious upwards twitching. The President of the Grumpy Club remembered who he was. The mouth drooped to its default position.

“And another thing…”

And Next Week, Teleporting...

Chris Parry, is the new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), and he predicts that children will learn by downloading information directly into their brains within 30 years in a similar way shown in the matrix trilogy.

He said:

"Within 30 years, sitting down and learning something will be a thing of the past. I think people will be able to directly access, Matrix-style, all the vocabulary you need for a foreign language, leaving you just to clear up the grammar."

I say "bollocks" and wonder how this clown got the gig?




Parry is a former Rear Admiral who spent three years determining the future strategic context for the military in a senior role at the Ministry of Defence. He is now preparing the ISC's 1 300 private schools, which collectively teach half a million children, for a high-tech future.

My Mate the Taxi Driver

A taxi driver has been refused a new licence because of his failure to use apostrophes correctly.
Laurence Kirk had to take an English exam designed to weed out foreigners who cannot speak the language when he tried to renew his licence in Bournemouth but failed.
He must now attend a GCSE college course funded by the taxpayer before he can re-sit the exam.
"I used to be a taxi driver and I was a successful one," he said.

"But now the council is telling me I can't work as a taxi driver because I don't know how to use an apostrophe or where to put a semi-colon.
"No one has asked me if I know Bournemouth or what I would do if approached by a drunk person, just where to put an apostrophe."
Mr Kirk, 50, described the test as "barmy".
A spokesman for Bournemouth borough council said it was designed to check if drivers were suitable to take the BTEC in transporting passengers by taxi and private hire.


As regular readers will be aware (yes, we do on occasion manage more than the singular viewer), I'm not the biggest fan of cabbies. This however nearly makes me feel sorry for him.

Taken from the Telegraph, by the way.

See This?



Well, not for long you won't be.

Alongside with putting cigarettes under the counter in shops, banning packs of ten and restricting vending machines, the latest brain wave to stop kids from taking up the habit is that packaging for cigarettes may be replaced by plain black and white lettering, instead of the "distinctive" colours the brands are associated with.

We have another winner.

Topical Joke

The headline read:

Labour must get back to what it does best, says John Prescott

But it's never stopped lying to the country...

A Greek Tragedy

A British man took a tour operator to court because he was not warned that his Greek hotel in Kos (where we've been to just recently) catered mainly for Germans.

The judge at Stoke County Court said the Thomson’s brochure did not make it clear that the activities and entertainment were all in German and awarded the chap £750 damages.

I agree that he was certainly misled by the travel agents, but also wonder if he expected the islanders to speak in English for him too?

No Go

Figures from the Department of Health have shown that last-minute cancellations of operations have increased in the past year.

In the three months to the end of March there were 16 800 cancellations on the day of the operation, compared with 14 600 in the same period last year.

The department gave no explanation for the increased cancellations.

Why not? There must be reasons for this, so let's hear them, please.

** Update **

Ah, just found this in the Telegraph. Figured it would be figures...

A Harsh Deterrent

Ian Huntley, the convicted murderer of two schoolgirls, is being given a string of special privileges to keep him from attempting suicide.

A “protocol for the management of Ian Huntley” instructs prison officers to address him by his first name or as Mr Huntley and to “engage purposefully” with him and “offer him the required support”.

He has a plasma TV, CD player and computer games in his cell and is allowed to wear his own clothes.

Huntley, who has attempted to kill himself with antidepressants three times, is also allowed contact with other vetted prisoners at Frankland Prison in County Durham.

And people wonder why violent crime is rising in the UK?

L'Achy Breaky Heart

It seems that an outbreak of line dancing has reached France as 100 000 people regularly strut their stuff at least a couple of times per week.

The "epidemic" has snowballed so quickly that the country's bureaucrats have decided to bring the craze under state control by creating an official country dancing diploma as part of a drive to regulate the fad.

Authorised instructors, who have been on publicly funded training courses, will be put in charge of line dancing lessons and balls and the new rules come into force next year.

Step this way:

— Modern line dancing evolved from “contra” dances, popular in New England in the early 1800s and developed from earlier European folk dances

— In the 1970s, the country and western form was developed. It is this form that has global popularity today

— A promotional dance was choreographed for Billy Ray Cyrus’s 1992 single Achy Breaky Heart. The song and the dance went on to become Cyrus’s most popular hit and was one of the bestselling country songs of the 1990s

— The most popular line dances, “the old favourites”, are the “Tush Push”, the “Electric Slide” and the “Boot-Scootin’ Boogie”

— The most common move in line dances is the Schottische: step, cross, step, scoot

Ta to the Times.

More on Food

And once again we returned to our undiscovered (by the masses) "restaurant" tucked neatly away from prying eyes. I call it a restaurant but it's more of a room with a few tables and chairs, plus a counter where you go up and have a look at what's on offer for the day. There's no menu and no foreign face to be seen in the establishment.

As ever, there were at least three soups bubbling away in witches' cauldrons and alongside, the main dishes. Green beans in tomato sauce, traditional home-made "baked beans" (naturally, no tins here), a meaty goulash, a chicken stew, a dish of chicken livers in a rich and glistening, meaty gravy and piles of fluffy, light rice.

We went for two bowls of rice, one dish of baked beans, one of green beans and I plumped for chicken livers, something I'd not had in over thirty years. An inspired choice, even though I say so myself, as each and every morsel of liver just melted in the mouth, without sinew, fat or gristle. I was in heaven.

Included of course was a loaf of bread and a salad, plus drink (bottle of water and a tin of fizzy orange) and the bill shocked us once more. YTL 13.50. That's just under five and a half quid for two extremely well fed diners!

We intend gong back tonight, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the after, after...

Stalling for a Bargain

Up until now, the majority of markets we have visited have all been geared towards tourists looking for a shonky bargain or local memento. Yesterday however, we had the good fortune to find a proper, good old fashioned, local market selling produce to well... locals.

The fruit and vegetables on display were remarkable.

From the way they had been lovingly and painstakingly prepared for exhibition, to the delicious aromas and colourful assault on the optic senses, it was a treat to wander through the miles (kilometres?) of closely packed stalls, listening to the patter and banter of the sellers as to why their goods deserved your keenest attention and not their neighbours. Yet always with a beaming smile and a ready wink of the eye.

Peaches and cherries were the order of the day (no, the real deal and not Geldof's latest daughter) but had we had cooking facilities at our pad, we'd have been there all day, deciding what we were going to be cooking for dinner.

Anyone ever seen "green" beans before that are not green but white and flecked with red? Or olives that are as big as apricots? How about lemons that were individually wrapped in tissue and then stacked so high the table was in danger of collapsing. Fresh artichokes? No problem, we'll just peel them so you only get the hearts and don't pay for the fibrous waste. Eggs ranging in size from quail to ostrich with every hue from brilliant white to tea & coffee coloured browns.

What a fabulous way to spend an hour or two and if you fancy it, it's on every Friday on the outskirts of town, perhaps a 10 minute walk from the Dolmus main station.

Books in Turkey

We're running low on reading matter as we have little or no interest in Turkish TV (unlike most countries we've passed through, they don't sub-title here; they dub) but yesterday we stumbled across a delightful little bookshop ("bilim ve sanat kitabevi" is what it says on the bag, but that could be advertising McDonald's for all I know) down by the seafront.

Not just a vast array of books, as you'd expect from a literature emporium, but also a second-hand, English section. We swapped some of our precious Lira for a couple of paperbacks and can look forward to even the longest of bus rides without fear, once again.

Especially for chiara









Our American pal from the SEM was asking if we had any pictures of the recent cruise we were on. Here are a few, but they don't quite do it justice. Better off on their home page, here: easyCruise Life
There were quite a lot of American tourists on board and a whole mix of ages- probably a very cheap way to see a lot in a short space of time. With the low dollar, they need all the help they can get and for students, backpackers and senior citizens it's ideal. Same for us in fact- the pound is getting worse daily.

Yet More Irony

Law students spend more time in "ethics" training than any other professional students.

I wonder how many fail?

Friday, 30 May 2008

Unlucky For Some

Until early in the 20th century, Monday the 13th, not Friday the 13th, was considered unlucky.

Cool, we leave Fethiye, Turkey on Friday 13th...

:-)

More on Surcharges

It's not just airlines that are passing on the higher cost of fuel onto their passengers; the ferries are to introduce the extra charge for the first time too.

And it's getting worse.

In the last couple of months, Air New Zealand has increased its fuel surcharge twice, Japan Airlines this week raised its charges on flights to Europe and America by 40%, and Lufthansa and KLM have also knocked passengers with higher ticket prices.

Virgin Atlantic is imposing new charges today (Friday, 30th May) and, from next Tuesday, British Airways long-haul passengers will have to pay £218 on top of the ticket price simply to cover the cost of fuel.

That's going to hurt.

Come Again?

Firefighters in Devon and Somerset have been banned from demonstrating how to extinguish chip pan fires to schoolchildren in case they try to put one out at home. Instead, they have been given a leaflet.

A fire service safety coordinator said: “They are very dangerous fires and we don't want children to be tackling them.”

So instead of showing them how to do so properly with trained experts, they just leave the kids with a safety comic instead, where they could possibly do even more damage?

Aye, that makes sense...

Litter Bugging in Peterborough

If you're visiting, you may be encouraged to drop rubbish on the street by the litter wardens who patrol the area and whose job it is to ensure the town remains clean and debris free.

You see, for every £75 FPN (fixed penalty notice) a warden issues, (s)he will receive a £35 commission from the council, as they are not paid a basic salary.

So, what incentive is there for them to stop you lobbing fag butts or sweet wrappers onto the pavement? Hardly any, because if they were truly interested in prevention, they wouldn't get paid...

Mark Wallace, the campaign director of The TaxPayers’ Alliance condemned the policy and said:

“This is outrageous and completely unjust. We are all being treated as cash cows by councils, who see schemes like this as an excuse to raise funds rather than a way to discourage littering. These wardens have no incentive to stop people littering – indeed if they stopped people doing it their pay would dry up. That’s no way to run a justice system.”

He makes his point rather well.



Since introducing its wardens in April 2007, 1 772 FPNs have been issued in Peterborough.

D'oh

While the suffrage movement publicly demanded a woman's right to vote, historical private correspondence indicates that they were willing to settle for women being exempt from income taxes.

I know which I'd rather have now...

Kusadasi in Colour






It looks a bit hazy, but that is because it was gone 19:30 and it was still very hot. Lovely.

Ebony & Ivory

Biologically, zebras are black with white stripes, not white with black stripes.

That's told you lot then.

Some Old, Some New

But all are still funny as feck. Taken from a book called Disorder in the American Courts, and all are things people actually said in court, word for word:

ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there

ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, "Where am I, Cathy?"
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan!

ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
ATTORNEY: Voodoo?
WITNESS: We do.
ATTORNEY: You do?
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: ; Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: Uh, he's twenty-one.

ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Are you shittin' me?

ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: Uh... I was gettin' laid!

ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
WITNESS: Yes.ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
WITNESS: None.ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
WITNESS : Are you shittin' me? Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Now whose death do you suppose terminated it?

ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
WITNESS: Guess.

ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.

ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All my autopsies are performed on dead people. Would you like to rephrase that?

ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?
WITNESS: Oral.

ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 P.M.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at t he time?
WITNESS: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!

ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Huh....are you qualified to ask that question?

And the best for last:

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

:0)

The Aegean Islands


Kalymnos- 25th May 2008


Kos- 20th May 2008

Mykonos- 22nd May 2008

Paros- 21st May 2008

Syros- 23rd May 2008

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Turning Japanese

Top ten tips to blending in, in Japan:

1. Addressing Someone, Respect

Bowing is nothing less than an art form in Japan, respect pounded into children’s heads from the moment they enter school. For tourists, a simple inclination of the head or an attempt at a bow at the waist will usually suffice.

The duration and inclination of the bow is proportionate to the elevation of the person you’re addressing. For example, a friend might get a lightning-fast 30-degree bow; an office superior might get a slow, extended, 70-degree bow. It’s all about position and circumstance.

In addition to bowing, addressing someone properly is key. Just as a “Dr. Smith” might feel a little insulted if you were to refer to him as “Smith”, so would a Japanese if you do not attach the suffix “san” to their last name, or “sama” if you are trying to be particularly respectful.

Usually children are content with just their first names, but you can add the suffix “chan” for girls and “kun” for boys if you like.

2. Table Manners

Some simple bullet points here:

- If you’re with a dinner party and receive drinks, wait before raising the glass to your lips. Everyone will be served, and someone will take the lead, make a speech, raise his drink, and yell “kampai!” (cheers).

- You will receive a small wet cloth at most Japanese restaurants. Use this to wash your hands before eating, then carefully fold it and set it aside on the table. Do not use it as a napkin, or to touch any part of your face.

- Slurping noodles or making loud noises while eating is OK! In fact, slurping hot food like ramen is polite, to show you are enjoying it.

- You may raise bowls to your mouth to make it easier to eat with chopsticks, especially bowls of rice.

- Just before digging in, whether it be a seven-course dinner or a sample at a supermarket, it’s polite to say “itadakimasu” (I will receive).

3. No Tipping

There is no tipping in any situation in Japan – cabs, restaurants, personal care. To tip someone is actually a little insulting; the services you’ve asked for are covered by the price given, so why pay more?

If you are in a large area like Tokyo and can’t speak any Japanese, a waiter or waitress might take the extra money you happen to leave rather than force themselves to deal with the awkward situation of explaining the concept of no tipping in broken English.

Just remind yourself: a price is a price.

4. Chopsticks

Depending on the restaurant you decide upon for that evening, you may be required to use chopsticks.

If for some reason you aren’t too adept with chopsticks, try to learn before passing through immigration. It’s really not that hard.

One false assumption among many Japanese that’s slowly being dispelled by time is the “uniqueness” of Japan. Japan is an island nation; Japan is the only country that has four seasons; foreigners can’t understand Japan; only Japanese can use chopsticks properly.

If you’re dining with a Japanese, don’t be surprised if you receive a look of amazement at your ability to eat like a Japanese.

5. Thresholds

Take off your shoes at the entrance to all homes, and most businesses and hotels. Usually a rack will be provided to store your shoes, and pair of guest slippers will be sitting nearby; many Japanese bring a pair of indoor slippers just in case, though.

Never wear slippers when you need to step onto a tatami mat (used in most Japanese homes and hotels; the standard unit of measurement for area even today), and be careful to remove the toilet slippers waiting for you in the bathroom.

It is extremely bad form, for example, to reenter the main room of a house wearing slippers that have been running across dirty linoleum.

6. Masks

SARS is long gone, though I did happen to see a “SARS Preparation Kit” during my brief stay in a Japanese hospital.

Nevertheless, sterilized masks, like the ones you’d see in the emergency room, are commonly used by salary men, office ladies, and municipal workers to protect other people from their germs.

Rather sensible when you think about it, as masks do not protect the wearer so much as the ones around him. The reason could be anything from a slight cold to simply being worried about exposing other people; don’t let it concern you on your Japanese vacation.

7. Conformity

When groups of high school students in Japan were asked to identify the dangers facing children today, the majority agreed on the number one threat: individualism.

Japanese society is focused on the group. Western cultures are focused on the individual.
Does this mean that the Japanese are nothing more that worker bees in a vast hive of steel and concrete? Certainly not, but their presentation of such individual qualities are carefully calculated and given in doses.

Drawing attention to yourself as an individual is a huge no-no: don’t blow your nose in public, try to avoid eating while on the go, and don’t speak on your cell phone in crowded public areas like trains or buses.

The main problem with this is that foreigners simply can’t avoid standing out; we stick out like sore thumbs no matter how long we’ve been here, or how much we know about Japanese culture and society.

As a result, being in Japan gives foreigners the status of D-level celebrities: you’ll get glances, shouts for attention, calls to have pictures taken with people, requests for autographs (happened once to me on a southern island), and overall just more awareness of being a “stake that sticks out”.

8. Bathing

Public bathhouses are alive and well in Japan.

Sento, or neighborhood bathhouses, can be found from the largest area in Shinjuku to a small town on the island of Shikoku.

Onsen, or hot springs, are very popular as weekend excursion resorts.
Unlike in western cultures, the Japanese bath is used after you have washed and rinsed, and feel like soaking in extra-hot water for 10, 20, 30 minutes. It’s an acquired taste to be sure, but can be very relaxing.

If you happen to be invited into a Japanese household, you will be given the honor of using the bath first, usually before dinner. Be extra careful so as to not dirty the water in any way; the sanctity of the ofuro (bath) is of utmost importance.

Take the time to visit a sento if you have the opportunity. These are places without barriers, without regard to skin color, age, or language… well, they are separated by sex with the exception of some mixed-bathing areas.

Lying in the hot water and slowly listening to my heart beat slow down is a time when I feel most attuned to Japanese culture.

9. Speaking English


Japanese will generally assume you are a native English speaker until you prove otherwise. Even during a short visit, you’ll see:

-A group of schoolchildren in neatly pressed Prussian uniforms walking across the intersection, shouting “Hello! Hello! Herro!” as they assess your foreign features

-A random person just walking up to you and asking “Where are you from?”

Friendly? Certainly. But I can see how constant celebrity status might get confusing or frustrating for travellers who don’t speak English.

Although you may speak some or fluent Japanese, the default language of choice is English. Many Japanese will insist on using their own English language ability, however limited, to converse with foreigners, in spite of the fact that the person on the opposing end may have more knowledge of the local tongue.

10. Safety

Every Japanese person I have met warns me to be safe in my travels, to take care of my belongings. Every foreigner tells me not to worry, nothing can go wrong, nothing will be stolen. This may be based on individual experience, but there are other issues:

- The fear of crime in Japan is high, especially among Japanese citizens.

- Murders happen. I repeat, murders happen. People are attacked, robbed, assaulted, raped, beaten, and swindled

However, Japan’s low crime rate is evident when you see businessmen who have missed the last train sleeping outside on a park bench, or a group of 5-year-old boys walking by themselves for over a kilometer to make the starting bell at school.

Pinched from here.

Objectum-Sexual

Outstanding story from the Telegraph:

A woman with a bizarre fetish for inaninimate objects has revealed she has been married to the Berlin Wall for 29 years.

Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer, 54, whose surname means Berlin Wall in German, wed the concrete structure in 1979 after being diagnosed with a condition called Objectum-Sexuality.

Mrs Berliner-Mauer, whose fetish is said to have its roots in childhood, claimed she fell in love with the structure when she first saw it on television when she was seven.

She began collecting "his" pictures and saving up for visits. On her sixth trip in 1979 they tied the knot before a handful of guests.

While she remains a virgin with humans, she insists she has a full, loving relationship with the wall.

Mrs Berliner-Mauer, who lives in Liden, northern Sweden, said: "I find long, slim things with horizontal lines very sexy.

"The Great Wall of China's attractive, but he’s too thick – my husband is sexier."

While the rest of mankind rejoiced when the Wall, erected by the Soviets in 1961 to halt an exodus from East to West Berlin, was largely torn down in 1989, its "wife" was horrified.

She's never been back and now keeps models depicting "his" former glory. She said: “What they did was awful. They mutilated my husband." She is said to have shifted her affections to a nearby garden fence.


Objectum-Sexual or objectophilia is feelings of love, attraction, arousal, and commitment for a particular object. The mere thought of a relationship with an actual human being seems ludicrous.

Lara Croft Over the Years

Click to Enlarge

Sporting Blunders

Taken from the Guardian:

1. Visiting Betty Shine

In 1990 David Icke was a TV sports reporter/commentator tipped for the top. Then he visited a medium in Brighton called Betty Shine who, having chatted to Socrates (the philosopher not the footballer), was able to pass on the information that he was the Son of God.
Humbled, Icke instructed all his followers to wear turquoise tracksuits and travelled the world making prophesies (e.g Teesside and Kent would shortly be underwater following earthquakes measuring eight on the Richter scale). None of his prophecies came true.
'My predictions were meant to be wrong on a massive scale because I have always been scared of ridicule,' said Icke. 'Unless you have experienced hot and cold you cannot know what lukewarm is.' In later years he modified some core beliefs: 'Turquoise is an important colour,' he revealed, 'but you don't have to wear it all the time.'

2. Opting for Bowie

It was perhaps understandable that Houston should have chosen local boy Akeem Olajuwon with the first pick of the NBA draft in 1984. And he did go on to join the Hall of Fame. Less forgivable was the Portland Trail Blazers' decision to go with the 7ft 1in Sam Bowie with the second. Rather than, for instance, Michael Jordan.
Bowie blazed a trail in the trainer's room, sitting out 189 games in his first four seasons. He retired shortly thereafter. Jordan fared rather better. Blighted throughout his career by comparisons with Jordan, Bowie too planned a comeback at 40, after resigning as basketball analyst for the University of Kentucky Radio Network.
'At one point some folks out there obviously felt he was a better player than Michael', said a member of Bowie's small posse, who requested that his name not be used. 'He'd like to think that some people out there still feel that way.' They didn't.

3. Dropping Basil D'Oliveira

Having scored 158 not out when England crushed the Aussies by 226 runs at the Oval in August 1968, Basil D'Oliveira must have considered himself a certainty for selection for England's winter tour to South Africa. Fat chance. He was omitted for 'cricketing reasons'.
The fact that President Vorster had warned Alec Douglas-Hume and Lord Cobham that the selection of the skilful D'Oliveira would lead to the cancellation of the tour was merely an irrelevant side-issue. The MCC President overseeing the decision was Arthur Gilligan, one-time member of the British Union of Fascists and author of an article entitled 'The Spirit of Fascism and Cricket Tours'.
In the event, Tom Cartwright was injured, D'Oliveira belatedly selected, and Vorster, as promised, cancelled the tour. It was the last time the England team was selected by MCC.

4. Roy Jones v Park Si Hun

Not a shred of evidence has been adduced in support of the contention that South Korea fixed the World Cup but some of the decisions at the Seoul Olympics probably helped found the allegations. In particular, the 156lb final in which a 19-year-old Roy Jones overwhelmed Park Si Hun. The South Korean took a standing eight count in the second round, landed 32 punches to Jones's 86, and still won by three votes to two.
Four months later, those three judges were banned for two years. In an unrigged vote Roy Jones was voted the Outstanding Boxer at the Olympic Games.

5. Cut to Heidi

On the afternoon of November 17, 1968, the New York Jets were leading the Oakland Raiders 32-29 with just over a minute left to play. All over America, gridiron fans sat on their couches, cracked open another Bud, and awaited the conclusion.
Imagine their surprise then when, after the obligatory commercial, NBC returned not to the action but to a made-for-TV premiere of Heidi with Jennifer Edwards holding down the role of the pig-tailed Alpine goat-herder.
Back at the match, the Raiders scored two touchdowns in the remaining minute to win. But only those who were actually there saw the denouement. Everyone else was swearing at Heidi.

6. The officials lead the pitch invasion

The French led 3-1 when Alan Giresse scored a contentious fourth against Kuwait at the 1982 World Cup finals. Referee Miroslav Stupar of the Soviet Union awarded the goal. The Kuwaitis went berserk. They claimed a whistle had been blown. The disgruntled team flounced off the pitch but the Kuwaiti president used his powers of persuasion to get the players to return. Stupar, possibly uniquely, changed his mind. The goal was disallowed. France promptly scored another and Kuwait were fined £6,500.

7. Mick McCarthy's team meeting

If Mick McCarthy hadn't called a team meeting of the entire Irish squad in order to berate Roy Keane for a perfectly lucid and sensible interview in the Irish Times then he wouldn't have had to put up with a 10-minute bollocking, Keane might have stayed, Ireland might have made the World Cup final, McCarthy might still have a job and he'd be richer than Jack Charlton. As it is...

8. John Bertrand loses his boat

In conditions that were described as perfect for racing, John Bertrand contrived to sink his boat in an America's Cup record time of 2min 22sec. As OneAustralia began to fold like a sheet of cardboard, Bertrand, sensibly fearing his crew might be injured, ordered them to kick off their docksiders and swim towards the chase boats. Within 48 hours of the sinking the sponsor of Team New Zealand boasted in a full-page advertisement in the New Zealand Herald: 'There's one thing that goes down faster than an Australian yacht...Steinlager.' A piece of opportunism which irked Australian senator Ian Campbell: 'It's like a death in the family: it's just not funny.'

9. JC's

It is hard to think of a more ill-starred business venture than Peter Osgood's decision to open a boutique in Mitcham, South London in 1970 ('the boutique closed after 18 months due to lack of interest, especially mine') but John Conteh managed it. In December 1980 he opened a restaurant called 'J.C' built around the original theme of his initials.
It was decorated with pictures of Julius Caeser, Julie Christie, Jimmy Carter, Jaffa Cakes... and so on. Sadly this USP failed to prevent the restaurant closing down eight months later.

10. Everett Sanchez's balls

With hindsight, Sanchez probably regrets accepting a bet from the fellow members of his golfing foursome as to whether he could wash his balls in a ball washer. Everything started well. Sanchez straddled the machine in such a way as to allow his scrotum to dangle in the machine. Then, a buddy spun the crank on the machine leaving Everitt well and truly wedged. He passed out, ripping his scrotum in the process. One ball remained in the washer, the other went through the mill, Sanchez went to casualty, his buddies were ordered from the course. To add insult to injury, Sanchez contrived during the prank to damage irreparably a new $300 driver which he had been relying upon for support.

Dodgy Car Names

Mazda LaPuta (in spanish: "the whore")

The car's name actually derivates from the book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, but go explain this to spanish speakers. For them, it means "the whore".

Mitsubishi Pajero (in spanish: "wanker")

The Spanish version ended up as "Montero", but still many spanish-speaking customer do have a wanker.

Nissan Moco (in spanish: "booger")

It was only marketed in Japan as such; otherwise it would have been a bad (nose) pick for spanish speakers.

Buick LaCrosse (in French: "masturbating teenagers")

When Buick launched the "LaCrosse" in Canada why couldn't it have come across as "the fancy pen on wheels," or something to do with archery? Nope, in French-speaking Quebec, the meaning is, of course, masturbating teenagers.

Chevrolet Nova (in spanish: "It Doesn't Go")

General Motors had a very famous fiasco in trying to market the Nova car in Central and South America. "No va" in Spanish means, "It Doesn't Go".

Opel Ascona (in Spain and Portugal: "female genitalia")

Why couldn't the "Opel Ascona" mean "little flower" or "cute worm," which would have been cause for just mild embarrassment? Instead, it means female genitalia in Northern Spain and parts of Portugal.

Honda Fitta (in swedish and norwegian: "cunt")

So why can only spanish speakers have genitalic cars? Here's one for up there: the Honda "cunt"
Daihatsu CharadeIt's not really a car, it's just pretending! This was one of those econo-boxes that was not merely humiliating to drive, it embarrassed its owner each time its name was uttered. "I drive a Charade." Good-bye, prom date!

Nicked from here, if you want pictures: oddee

Sweet Revenge


How to get your own back on someone who may not have delivered the best service...and for those suffering brain fatigue, the solution below:


Hats Off

To the Anglia Ruskin University who have banned the traditional custom of throwing off students' mortar boards at graduation ceremonies.

The university, which has campuses at Cambridge and Chelmsford, said the action had been taken because due to health & safety reasons, when a mortar board had injured a graduating student several years ago. The student had to be taken to hospital for stitches after he was struck in the face*.

That being the case, why bring in the ban now?

A university spokesman said:

"The health and safety of the students is the university's number one priority. Someone could be blinded by a falling hat or even worse. Students often throw their hats in the air for photos, but we have advised them not to. However there is not going to be somebody going round telling them to stop throwing hats."

Pompous arse.

The tradition of throwing off hats began at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1912, which was the first year when commissioned seamen were given officer's hats.

They no longer needed Midshipmen's caps, so they tossed them into the air.



*The incident is the only mortar board inflicted injury to have been recorded by the university.

The One That Didn't Get Away


This 31 stone halibut is thought to be the largest ever line-caught fish and was hooked by an angler in Norway. It measures 8 foot 1 inch long and has beaten the previous record for a line-caught fish by 24 lbs.



Halibut are are a slow-maturing fish which can reach up to 55 years of age. They are the largest flat fish in the ocean, with an average weight of 25lb to 30lb, and can be found in the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans.

Some Good Ads




Top Bods in Britain

The most influential men were:

1. Tony Blair 20%
2. Gordon Brown 19%
3. Sir Richard Branson 18%
4. Rupert Murdoch 6%
5. David Cameron 5%
6. Sir Terry Leahy 5%
7. David Beckham 4%
8. The Prince of Wales 3%
9. Gordon Ramsay 3%
10.Roman Abramovich 2%

The most influential women were:

1. The Queen 37%
2. Margaret Thatcher 18%
3. JK Rowling 11%
4. Victoria Beckham 6%
5. Shami Chakrabarti 5%
6. Elisabeth Murdoch 4%
7. Kate Moss 4%
8. Harriet Harman 3%
9. Cherie Blair 2%
10. Zaha Hadid 2%



The research was conducted by the Leaders in London International Leadership Summit who polled 1 000 business "leaders". God help us if this is what they feel...Gordon Ramsay, Victoria Beckham? You've got to be having a laugh.

He's Still At It

Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has successfully fought to retain a “grace and favour” pension worth about £38 000 a year.

While the Prime Minister (McBroon) and Lord Chancellor (Jack Straw) are soon expected to lose the right to have a pension of half their final salary from the moment they leave office, this perk will continue to apply to the Speaker.

As a result he will take half of his £76 000 salary for being Speaker from the moment he gives up the job. The Cabinet Office further estimates that he will receive an additional £26 000 in pension for having served as an MP since 1979.

Government officials said it had been agreed that the Speaker should receive a better pension deal than the Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor because a retired Speaker, due to the nature of the office, was never likely to return to the backbenches as an MP, so would forfeit an MPs' salary from the moment he or she left.

Money for old rope...

A Picture's Worth a 1000 Words


One for the Ladies

A 101.27 carat diamond the size of a squash ball has fetched £3.1 million at Christie’s.

It is internally flawless and one of only three colourless diamonds above a hundred carats ever to be auctioned.


But what on earth are you going to do with it? It would look hideous as a ring...

And So

With the discovery of the magic pound a pint in Turkey, we can offer you a revised edition of our Beer-o-meter:



Curry House

Claiming to be the only genuine Indian restaurant (with a proper chef all the way from England {45 years experience in London, Oxford and Newcastle}) in Kusadasi, we couldn't resist. The fact that they were advertising a large Efes at YTL 2.50 had nothing to do with it. Honestly.

It was average at best but it certainly made a change to eat something spicy, and the vegetarian samosas had a real kick to them. Perhaps we'll try the evening menu next time?

And Speaking of Football

Team Eng-er-land seem to be finding form as they beat the USA 2-0 at Wembley.

OK, so it was a friendly and the Americans were below par, but a win is a win right?

In the mean time Capello continues to struggle with his English as he called the victory in his third game in charge a "step forward", adding:

"The England team performed - all the players played very well. It was not easy to play against the USA because they pressed a lot. But the team played like in training. The pressing and tackling were very good. We tried to win back the ball and we did this a lot of times."

That's a lot of unnecessary words for "we was utter shite, innit, Garth"

Anyway, you guys can look forward to yet another meaningful friendly against the class opposition of Trinidad & Tobago on Sunday.

*yawn*

Singing When You're Winning

Reckon the British football "fans" are bad?

The Algerian city of Oran was deserted after two days of riots following the local football team’s relegation. Thousands of young fans reacted angrily, ransacking buildings, vandalising cinemas and looting shops.

Well Fancy That

It was the accepted practice in Babylon over 4 000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink.

Mead as we all know, is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, which we know today as the honeymoon.

Fore

During its flight, a golf ball rotates approximately 100 times per second.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

New AVG Anti-Virus Software

Is now available.

Version 7.5 is to be replaced by 8.0 and it looks good. Word of warning though, un-install the old version before down loading the new one as this saves time and a lot of frustration.

Get it here: AVG Ver 8.0

Lost & Found

A record 170 000 items of lost property were left on the London’s transport network over the last year including 32 268 books, 27 946 bags and 25 802 items of clothing. Other items left behind on London's trains, buses and taxis include:
  • a stuffed puffer fish
  • a harpoon gun
  • gas masks
  • inflatable dolls
  • a pair of breast implants
  • the coffin used in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.
  • an extensive array of prosthetic limbs and false teeth
  • urns of ashes
  • a postcard dating from 1908
  • a bag containing two human skulls (quite legitimate- they belonged to a university professor who used them in lectures)
  • a suitcase containing £10 000 in cash (an elderly gentleman didn’t trust banks and carried his savings with him)

Around 700 items are handed in every day to the office located in Baker Street (the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes), and a computer programme called “Sherlock” is used to match details with would-be owners.

About one in three items are eventually restored to the person who lost them.

Good News For Salad Lovers

Cucumbers, which can have an affect on the digestive system lasting for hours, may soon be a thing of the past.

A new thin-skinned variety of the fruit (aye, it's not classed as a vegetable) has been discovered which does not "repeat on" those who eat them. It is thought the thinner skin is more easily digested, reducing the risk of belching.

The variety has such fine, translucent skin that it does not even need to be peeled before it is eaten are specially-grown in Holland and are available in Sainburys for £1.19 for a pack of two.

Off Line

Alton Towers Resort, the theme park in Staffordshire, UK, is to request that all parents with personal digital assistants, BlackBerry “smart phones”, laptops and mobile phones switch them off or put them in a “drop zone” so they can enjoy time with their families.

As the director said:

“I do not know why people do not just turn them off. The business world survived for long enough before e-mail. Our message is that when you are at Alton Towers, put your focus on the kids and make sure everyone enjoys the day.”

Jolly well said.

Second Class Service

With the Royal Mail being £279 million into the red and warning that it would need billions of pounds of extra government money, isn't it reassuring to know that the top banana chief executive is being paid £3 million.

He is receiving £1.99 million from a long-term bonus scheme on top of a £633 000 basic salary and a £381 000 bonus, whilst the chairman, received £200 000 from a basic salary of £20 000 and a £180 000 bonus.

Entirely reasonable, I'm sure.

Gun or Petrol?

A car dealer from Kansas City, America said that his sales had quadrupled since he started promising buyers a free handgun or a $250 (~£125) voucher for petrol with every purchase.

Only one person to date had opted for the coupon.

E-asy

It's an easier life if you're thick:

A judge in Brisbane, Australia ordered a teenager who was caught with Ecstasy to write a 3 000 word essay on the dangers of drugs.

However, the sentence was reduced to 2 000 words after the court was told that the 18 year old had achieved low school grades.

Legal Equality?

It would seem not.

A survey has revealed that there is a large pay gap in the earnings of men and women lawyers. Results show that male solicitors earn on average £19 000 more than women and that white solicitors earn £10 000 more on average than their ethnic minority colleagues.

HRT

Women who require Hormone Replacement Therapy may be in for a better solution to the current practice of taking the tablets orally and perhaps running the risk of blood clots.

French researchers have been developing HRT patches which appear not to increase the chances of unwanted side effects. However, they have also stated it needs further medical trials before a decision can be made.

** Update **

A while back we posted about a woman who ran a clamping agency which used not just underhand tactics to clamp motorists' cars, but was also accused of conspiracy to blackmail. She cheated drivers out of thousands of pounds.

You may be pleased to know she's just been gaoled for four years.

Reducing the Girth

A sad trend. Last year “stomach-stapling” surgery rose by 41% in the UK.

One in four people is now classified as obese and it is predicted that by 2050 only one in 10 will be a healthy weight.

Hit the Road Jack

It's been reported that men who walk or cycle for half an hour a day are 34% less likely to die from cancer than those who exercise less.

No mention was made of women, but getting a taxi to the shops does not count as exercise.





The seven-year study of 40 708 middle-aged and elderly men was made in Stockholm, Sweden.

Crimes of the Century

Plymouth Council wants to increase fixed penalties from £50 to £110 for those residents who put rubbish bins out early, fail to recycle, overfill wheelie bins or put rubbish in the wrong containers.

And should they be successful, similar fines may well be heading your way very soon.

And What About Kusadasi Then?

I have to admit that first impressions did not offer much reassurance.

A 30 second, down hill stroll into town put us directly next to genuine "Irish Pub Land" with pretty much all tavernas entitled Jimmy's Bar, Molly's Bar, Seamus's Bar, Blarney Bar, Blah, Blah Bar.

Naturally they all professed to be the only true "Irish experience" (although why anyone would willingly wish to get sweet talked and conned out of their life's savings is beyond me...) and advertised all kinds of ghastly "treats". Happy Hour, Karaoke, Live DJ, Pool Tables- all the usual suspects were flashing away in brilliantine neon.

And naturally so were the clientele. Pasty faced, vest-wearing, fat knackers, with hairy chests, beard stubble and spindly legs; the husbands were equally as delightful.

That however, was a bad wrong turn as we continued down our path of enlightenment and found the town open up into a sprawling mass of side streets, bazaars, restaurants, tavernas, chic shops and pretty much every type of attraction one could imagine.

It's also the port for many a cruise ship to dock for the day (the really massive ones) which explained the sheer volume of people milling around.

As ever, take the back streets away from the hustle and bustle of tourist convenience and Kusadasi really comes into its own. We already found a charming juice bar at half price, a fantastic little restaurant (see previous post and where we ate again last night) and far to many bars that look inviting but we'll never get a chance to use as we'll run out of time.

Quite honestly, I prefer Bodrum, but as our second experience of a Turkish coastal town, we could really not go far wrong. And of course, the weather has reached 30 degs C on each day so far; what's to complain about?

Our New Pad

Home for the next 10 days is a large double room with en suite bathroom and glorious broadband. Not the most modern of decor, but more than acceptable and comfortable for our needs- the place even has its own swimming pool (untested as yet).

Once again though we have continued in our jammy tradition of finding digs that chant the mantra "location, location, location" where we are but a mere 50 metres from the main High Street and perhaps double that distance to get to the harbour/sea front.

Let's hope we keep up our lucky streak of finding places to stay that put us right in the heart of the action. :-)

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Oh, The Irony

With Team Eng-er-land and the other British Isles out of the Euro 2008 Finals, you'd be excused for thinking that it's not going to hold much interest for the UK public. Particularly, the non-football fans.

However, as mentioned before, both the BBC & ITV plan to show at least 30 hours of football in prime-time evening slots (they actually have no choice, European legislation requires that major football tournaments are broadcast on free-to-air television) so there won't be much escape or choice.

But get this, the BBC is planning to send Steve McClaren, who will be paid to offer “expert analysis” for listeners to BBC Radio 5.

If he was that much of an expert, he'd have taken his team there.



McClaren was given a £2.5 million pay-off after getting dumped 18 months into a four-year contract, following the 3-2 defeat to Croatia which saw England fail to make the Finals.

Have This On Us

A Japanese customs officer stuffed five ounces (142 grammes) of cannabis into the side pocket of a randomly selected black suitcase coming off an overseas flight into Tokyo's Narita airport, because he wanted to offer a sniffer dog some practise at finding the drug.

Unfortunately, the dog couldn’t find it and the officer also forgot which bag he put it in, so the unsuspecting passenger left with £5 000 worth of free marijuana.

Now whilst this story is hilarious (if true?), what happens to said passenger if (s)he doesn't realise (s)he's carrying the cache and flies on- to Dubai, for example? They seem to have a really tolerant drug enforcement policy there and will surely believe the story...

Simply Brilliant

Burnt toast could be a thing of the past as a new glass toaster, that allows bread to be watched as it browns, is to go on the market. The bread is cooked between two sheets of heated glass so you can see exactly when it gets to the colour of the toast you want.

Outstanding. :0)

And Another Happy Wedding Anniversary

A couple (husband 100, wife 99) from Plymouth, Devon, believed to be the longest-married couple in Britain have just celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary yesterday, 26th May.

What a marvellous achievement and let's hope they share many more.

Bye-Bye to the Single

And it's not pub measures we're talking about here; although that too may not be far off either.

Whilst Woolworths sells one in three CD singles of all discs sold, it is to stop stocking them. Apparently it's just not worth their while as most people just download songs from the internet now.

That's quite sad. In the good old days, buying your favourite single, watching it rise up the charts and hoping to see your band play on the Top of the Pops was all part and parcel of growing up. Yet another tradition bites the dust.

Assuming TOTP is still going...

A Nothing Story

A parachutist who missed his landing site in Peterlee, Co Durham, had only minor injuries when he was blown into a tree in the graveyard of St Saviour’s Church, Shotton Colliery. Adam Bell, 21, said: “Someone must have been looking down on me.”

I have no idea why the Times felt this was newsworthy, but I have mentioned it merely because of the reference to Peterlee, where we once stayed in a quite ghastly B & B for Shaz and Dave's wedding.

I can't believe they still have a tree left; I'd have thought they've all been nicked by now...

Nick, Nick

A mother who suffers from Huntington’s Disease and Charcot Marie Tooth Disease was arrested and put in cells by our overly zealous Dibble (shame they never respond so vigorously when you've burglars in the house, isn't it?) after they assumed she was drunk.

Despite explaining that she suffered from a serious brain illness she had her car keys confiscated and was taken to a Plod shop for questioning after she was banged up.

The poor woman doesn't even drink, so how did she fail the breathalyser test?

Big up to the Rozzers for ensuring public safety from this vile and dangerous threat...

Happy Wedding Anniversary

To our old pals, Rickie & Lyn.

Hoping you have a great time in celebrating your special day.

Breath of Fresh Air

Having been captive with our mate Stelios (in Greece generally, come to that) and subject to Hellenic pricing structure, it takes a little time to acclimatise to life back on the outside. Yesterday though, we had two such examples with costs back to more manageable and reasonable levels.

First off, we had to catch the coach from Bodrum to Kusadasi, which we made with perhaps five minutes to spare (another bonus here; no "Greek time". In Turkey, they not only share the umlaut over some letters of the alphabet with the Germans but thankfully their detail to times and schedules, so if they say a bus leaves at midday, it will depart bang on 12:00.)

The 2.5 hour coach transfer cost us a mere YTL 15/head (~£6.00) and included a luxury Mercedes vehicle with air con, hot and cold drinks and a snack (biscuits/chocolate) all for free. Plus, they had four liveried members of staff on board to attend to our every need- again, something easyCruise could perhaps learn from? That's not all, part way through, they even put on a DVD for the longer haul passengers. How's that for service?

Next, we had to find our evening meal- two bowls of soup, and a vegetarian dish of rice, spinach and chick peas which even I enjoyed (it was simply too hot for a heavy meat dish) with side salad, fresh, crusty bread and drinks. The lot for another YTL 15. Amazing and the highlight of the day.

Are you taking note, greedy boat-type people? :0)

Toy Burgers

McDonald's is the largest toy manufacturer and distributor, based on the sales of its Happy Meal.

Remember This?







Here's the whole story in pictures. Thanks to Tomus for the follow up, with more details here: Uno Cycle

So, How Did They Rate?

It is a close call between Kalymnos and Syros of the Greek islands. Not overly spoilt by marauding tourists as we found in Mykonos (which certainly had its charms if you found the right areas), and not as “closed” as Paros. This was due to their four hour lunch break, but I also got the feeling we must have taken a wrong turning and missed an entire chunk of what it had to offer. Was that really it?

Towards the bottom of the trough was Kos but even that redeemed itself by having improved since our last visit and again, it was much busier after the semi-shutdown over the Easter weekend.

But top trump was and still is Bodrum, my personal Turkish delight and should you give this cruise a go, I’m sure you’ll see why.

Grease is the Word

Is the word, is the word... to fade...

And that word is bye-bye.

So long Greece and hello once again Turkey- it's great to be back.

:-D

End of the Road on the Water

It’s been a grand old week. We’ve visited some beautiful islands and seen some delightful towns and all from the comfort of our floating hotel. Minimum fuss and effort from our end as the mountain came to Mohammad and we can recommend this, and similar cruises, to anyone.

The highlight of the week though has been meeting up with Shaz & Dave whom we’ve not seen since Christmas 2006, so you can imagine we’ve had more than quite a bit to catch up on. Which we did handsomely, much to the delight of the local breweries and tavernas.

As we write, they’ll be preparing to fly back to the UK, having sneaked in a few extra nights on their quaint little island of Agistri, whilst we prepare for the next move up the coast, back in Turkey, to Kusadasi. A little over a week there and we begin our Turkish tour in earnest with the Fez Bus company and that promises to be fascinating.

Safe trip back, we’ll be in touch soon and also many thanks for picking up the tab on the last night. Wholly unnecessary but a wonderful gesture which was greatly appreciated. Next time it’s our treat but that is likely to be in Thailand, Singapore or Malaysia.

You can choose which.

Girls Aloud

What is it about younger burds, alcohol and walking down corridors squealing as if at some pop concert? The noise and pitch ratio also increases exponentially according to:

(a) time after midnight (bonus points if it’s past 2:00)
(b) height of stiletto heels (minimum 4”)
(c) nationality (American, American, Greek, Italian & American the current pecking order)
(d) number of imbibed air-heads in the party (two is already comparable to a local football derby crowd)
(e) type of booze consumed (wine is a clear winner)
(f) subject for discussion (boyfriends, make-up, clothes)

Try considering other people for a change- the world does not evolve around your fake Gucci hand bag and you are not the centre of anything else other than your own little universe.

Life on the Ocean Wave

Since joining the merry band of fellow cruisers a couple of days after kick off, it’s been interesting to hear the comments of our fellow passengers as to how they are finding their holiday.

Taking aside the gripes of onboard cost (a very popular and merited whinge) and the technical faults encountered by their IT system for issuing ID/key cards, the voyage is faring well.

Most have taken the robust attitude of “what do you expect for a cheap and cheerful trip, the QE II it was never going to be” and they’re right. This is done in the exact same manner as easyJet and if anyone has flown with them, they will understand that all cost considerations are pared back to the bone and you literally have to pay for anything above the basic minimum.

The cabins are larger than some we have used on previous trips and come with side by side beds as opposed to bunks. The en suite bathroom has hot water at all times and a more than adequate shower, and the beds are comfortable and clean. Reasonable hanging space is provided for your togs and even towels are provided free of charge.

What more could one need or expect? Quite simply, a chair or stool would be good to chuck your clothes on at night- they certainly have the room for one/two.

It also seems the service can be improved and it is immediately obvious here is where easyCruise have scrimped. Staff are scarce and come over as under trained and this is not really acceptable considering they’ve had months to prepare for this trip.

Another area for expansion is the sun deck. We have glorious sunshine as soon as one awakes and yet they feel it is only necessary to offer perhaps 40-50 odd sun loungers. Rumour has the capacity of the ship at around 300 passengers- what are the rest expected to do?

The entertainment is limited too. A live band churning out covers is all well and good, but that’s your lot, bar the standard happy clappy DJ who’ll rock your boat until the wee hours of the morning.

There is a gym on board (but come on, does anyone really work out on holiday) and a “swimming” pool, just about big enough to dampen a singular foot and ankle combination. It must also be the only pool that has a tide, for every time we pass it’s been drained for some kind of maintenance. They also have a trio of hot tubs as yet left well alone due to lack of interest by yours truly. Besides, any and all forms of bathing should confined to a private bathroom as all true gentlemen will attest to.

I’m surprised they haven’t got a cinema. Dead easy to set up as they have lots of space on the defunct car deck and a cinch to stock for mega-blockbuster films that are still doing the rounds in the theatres globally. Just sit back in any taverna and let enterprising young kids sell you knocked-off, pirated copies by the sack full.

And on the visual entertainment side, one TV screen is woefully inadequate. We had the Champion’s Cup Final on during the week and everyone went on shore to watch the match in the local tavernas and bars. Had they thought about it, they could have had a special footie themed night on board and watched the bar sales go through the roof. Ditto with an other major forthcoming events. Eurovision Song Contest Final any one? Euro 2008 Football Championships? Wimbledon? The list is endless.

All great opportunities to provide cheap and yet good entertainment for little outlay.

Counting the Shekels

Six coffees and three orange juices at a seafront “breakfast” café. Nigh on 35€, which is what we paid for lunch (see earlier post), for four, in Bodrum.

Turkey is much more my cup of dried leaves soaked in boiling water when it comes to meeting our budgetary requirements and the sooner we get back, the sooner we can start living again.

Do Not Chuck Paper Down the Pan

You’ll see this a lot in Greece, but here’s an appeal that made me chuckle. A notice was hanging up to remind us of this request, followed by:

“as the person who has to unblock this toilet is the same one who makes your sandwiches”.

:0)

The Aegean Islands

We’ve seen quite a number over the last few days and dutifully ticked them off the list. They all look idyllic boltholes away from the mad world of everyone trying to get one small step forward and yet on closer inspection, this illusion is chipped, as you realise that it comes over as not quite real.

Sure, the traditional tavernas line the tourist traps as one would expect, the quaint fishing boats are moored at the aging harbours and the sun beats down onto the picturesque setting, but something is missing.

It comes over as a little false, a little contrived- as if the local businesses are just going through the motions and they expect the passing trade to willingly lob over their Euros without any input from them. Have they become so jaded that they make no longer can be bothered or don’t care?

For example on Paros we docked at around 13:00 and found that pretty much everything was closed until 17:30/18:00 for lunch. There was a ship full of holiday makers landing directly on their doorstep and they couldn’t even be bothered to open up shop?

Anyway, if you have more time than just a day to spend on the islands, you’ll surely be rewarded with an entirely different experience, but for me, it comes over as too little effort for too much reward.

Tipping

Why is it that cruises love the idea of the customer bumping up Dickensian staff pay by introducing compulsory tipping? More to the point, why do we allow them to?

Traditionally, it’s the blank envelope routine at the end of the voyage that is used to “reward” the misguided souls who believe that they are embarking on a nautical career.

easyCruise however feel that we owe the waiting staff a gratuity and that we would like to express our thanks by automatically adding 10% to each and every item that is ordered on board.

They conclude that by doing so it will encourage your waiter/ess to eagerly serve with utter devotion to their duties to ensure you receive the best possible treatment. If however, you are not satisfied, it is up to you to put this in writing directly on your chit by saying you do not want the 10% added.

A kind of opt out clause where the onus is on you and a cynical ploy. It is nothing more than an exercise in emotional blackmail.

More so, can someone please advise me how one can deliver a packet of peanuts with any more care or deliberation than a vintage bottle of wine? Both require the same balancing act upon the tray and the same distance to the table, but why is one rewarded at 0.25€ and the other at 5.00€?

Sorry, this is an entirely corrupt policy which adds to the already bad taste of the sky high pricing structure enforced onto a captive audience at sea and should be stopped. Surely you are a better man than this, Stelios?

I Can’t Take It Anymore

FFS (go look up the meaning, this is a family show after all)- since I’ve started this posting session, about an hour or so, I’ve not only had to contend with CNN polluting my peace and serenity, but a lone American traveller who has taken it upon herself to bore to death the audience trying to watch the news.

Naturally she is informing all and sundry of her learned opinion on whom should be the next Prez-eeee-daynt of the Yoooo-Esssss-Ayyyyyyyyyyy, but how can anyone take her seriously when she is wearing checked shorts, lime green socks with Hush Puppies and a broad-striped shirt? She is also sitting in two chairs (one for each mammoth buttock) and insisting on regaling the now near suicidal captives how she once met an ex-vice-president and her recollections of 9/11.

Look pet, it’s 11th September, not 9/11, we don’t give a stuff on who the next pres is going to be, (although I favour the black dude, he’ll have natural rhythm) and your offensive attire should be confined to a locked cabin.

Nah, I can’t take any more. I’m off to the Sun Deck to watch as we approach our island of the day, Paros.

Counting the Pennies

They really do know how to rake in the copper on the ship. Everything is charged for and as we’re a captive audience, they ramp up prices. I can’t say I blame them, but it does get a bit much. Over 4€ for a coffee? 8€/hour to access the internet? Sorry, but that really is unnecessary in my opinion.

What’s worse though is that they employ a cashless set up and everything is charged to your key card/ID badge and they want to hold your credit card details.

No thanks, we’re paying by cash.

In that case we recommend that you pre-pay credit to your card and suggest 30€/day/person.

And I recommend we don’t.

That threw the lady at reception, but after all the problems they have been having, she didn’t put up much of an argument and sheepishly advised us to perhaps reconsider and come back to see her later.

I don’t think so. It’s hardly as if we’re going to do a runner is it? They hold your passport and don’t release it until the last day.

Lost at Sea

The ship’s maiden voyage after its full refurbishment over the winter months and it seems to be besieged with teething problems. Since we’ve boarded, there have been continual queues at the reception desk to lodge complaints and vent spleens and I have to say the staff has responded with a professionalism to be proud of.

We too have had cause to seek out their assistance when we requested a change of cabin.

It would seem that our original room was situated directly over the engine room and we were subjected to a mechanical/pneumatic pump that whined into life every 30 seconds for 10 seconds before announcing its shut down with an almighty clank.

Unacceptable, and after trying to get some kip we gave up and made our request for a relocation.

It seems that this was not going to be possible as they were fully booked.

Not the best way to open dialogue when confronted with two sleep deprived travellers and to cut a long story short, after meeting with the Chief Bursar (who seemed rather reluctant to help until I asked to take his name as I was going to discuss this further with Stelios, the owner of easyCruise, who is also on board to oversee things for the first sailing) we are now in our second kip pod and can happily report we are bright eyed and bushy tailed once more.

Don’t you just love name-dropping?

Other than that, we’ve thoroughly enjoying the experience. By following a few basic rules, such as don’t pay for anything on board if you can avoid it, wait until you dock and go to local places for food and drink, it’s been top fun, and of course the bonus is that we see a new island everyday.

Gadgy From the Telegraph

The cruise has a good cross section of clientele. Not just kids on a booze cruise and looking to party all night, nor the silver top brigade cluttering up the gangways with Zimmer frames. Lots of nationalities too, which is also rather pleasant as it adds to the adventure.

Presumably a lot of different vocations and professions on board as well , one of which is a travel reporter, who approached us by chance as we were discussing our disappointment of Kos. You may recall we were not impressed when we last visited as it was closed (Easter weekend) and everywhere was being “refurbished” in readiness of the fast approaching tourist season.

We got to talking (he is currently working on an article for the Telegraph about easyCruise and the Greek islands) and he seemed quite amused by our travel adventure. It also came across that he was not much of a fan of BLiar’s either and thus we got on rather well.

I’d like to think we may be included in his article, so keep an eye on the travel section of the paper and drop us a line if you spot a reference to ktelontour. It may come under the “escaping accountant” but we’ll just have to wait and see.

As if…

In the Blue Corner John Terry and in the Red, Rio Ferdinand

I’m sitting on board in the “Chill Out Zone” which is anything but, as the TV is blaring away in very close proximity to where I’m tapping the keys. I can hear the cries of “move, you oaf” but for such a large ship there is a distinct lack of power points, so here I must remain in a bid to transfer the erratic thoughts posing as ideas, into witterings of wisdom onto the screen, in the continued pretence that this Blog in some way represents a “travelogue”.

Anyway, whilst still chasing that elusive dream, I have for the moment, the company of CNN on the widescreen and they are currently highlighting the Champion’s Cup Final which is being contested by Manchester United and Chelsea today (21st May). An all England affair in Moscow (and I’d love to see the “fans” kick off with our Soviet Plod- they’ll soon drop them down to size and teach them a lesson) it doesn’t hold much interest for me, but I dare say we’ll find a bar to keep an eye on affairs to be “sociable”, like.

Which leaves me in somewhat of a dilemma; which team to cheer for?

Both captains were just interviewed (names in the post title in case you’re not fans either) and both were exactly as moronic as each other, as they struggled to utter a sentence without interjecting an “um”, “er” and “ah” after each and every word.

It is utterly embarrassing to listen to and I was literally squirming at what now passes off as hero/idol ship amongst today’s youth. When did we pass a law that stated “th” is now pronounced as an “f”? Has “do you know what I mean” replaced full stops? Does scratching your arse really inspire the thinking process? Ye, Gods, it seems that kicking a ball really is terminal for your mental health.

So I decided to follow the team whose captain resorts to the least number of sound bites, clichés, football-isms or retarded utterances.

Which didn’t help as it was a cringe inducing draw. Anyway, I’ll call it 1-0 to the Reds to compound Chelsea’s miserable season leaving them without any silver ware after boasting that they will clean up.

It’s a funny old game, innit?

Speaking the Lingo

We’ve been out of Greece for just over three weeks and already I have forgotten most of the language. For some reason, I really did struggle with Greek and what few words I did master (which can be listed on the back of mini Post-It using spray paint) over the six month tour are just not coming back automatically.

On the plus side, I only have to muddle through a few days so it shouldn’t be too bad and both Sharon and Dave are extremely fluent, so I can hang on the back of their coat tails.

In the meantime, I’ll quietly keep practising my limited Turkish, which seems to be easier.

*yay*