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October 24, 1977

Snowcat

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October 25, 1977

Two Programs

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October 26, 1977

Fire in a Field

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October 27, 1977

Magic Show

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October 31, 1977

Bridge Cyoo

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November 2, 1977

The Fonz

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November 8, 1977

Keven the Kitten

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November 9, 1977

Upchat Line

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November 14, 1977

Desert Boots

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November 24, 1977

Rokfird Firse

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November 25, 1977

New Shirts

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November 28, 1977

Scraping Windows

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November 29, 1977

Advent Calendar

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December 1, 1977

Playing with Ginny

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December 5, 1977

Danceing Lesenes

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December 6, 1977

Rocferd Firese

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December 7, 1977

Spase Program

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December 9, 1977

Christmas Tree

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December 12, 1977

Lorne Street Market

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December 13, 1977

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

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April 3, 1993

Word for Windows

Called Jim Armstrong tonight. We discussed setting up a joint venture for importing tobacco and marketing it in Scotland and it looks interesting. Tonight I also finally managed to get all of 'Word for Windows' working! I'd worked on it until 03:00 this morning

April 8, 1993

Up at 06:00

I've been wakening up about 6am lately, lying in bed and watching the BBC business news, then getting up, having breakfast, and doing some work in the office. At the weekend I worked on a mailshot for wholesaling Linden, I now have to create a mailing list.

April 10, 1993

Country Club

I've been up to the Country Club tonight, worked out and had a swim.

April 12, 1993

Busy...

Went to Century 2000 on Saturday night with Ged after a 1hour 50 minute mass. On Monday I was up early as usual and working in the office at the back of 7am. I was in the shop most of the day, and when I got home I was straight back into the office, and carried on working until about 01:30. Completed most of the ITL promotion.

Today has been fairly upbeat also, and it's gone in quite quickly. Brian dropped into the shop, and I've been trying to tidy the place up a bit. I called Jim Armstrong tonight, and he's due in Gleneagles next week so we might have dinner.

April 24, 1993

Fitness Evaluation

Last week I had my fitness revaluation, it wasn't too good & they've told me I have to sleep as well which seems to be the problem. I went out clubbing with Ged last night, Friday. He took the car & we drove to Stirling, decided the place was a dive, then drove to Dunfermline & went to quite a good club there - Marquis or something. Got home at 03:00 this morning so I'm having an early night & I'm a bit knackered.

I've been looking at cars this week. Monday I got BMW brochures, Tuesday I got Mercedes, and Wednesday I got Porsche brochures. Very sexy.

Met Jim up in Gleneagles on Wednesday night, well actually he came into the sunbeds looking for me! Had dinner with him in the Dormy House but was later asked to leave the hotel bar as I wasn't wearing a jacket and tie so I decided that I need to smarten myself up. So on Friday I spent �99 on a green double-breasted jacket from Marks & Spencer which I really liked until I saw someone else wearing one today as well!

I'm going to really find out about importing. A customer was in today who was in a massive tobacconists in Amsterdam, "The place to buy your tobacco in the Netherlands", and apparently they operate a mail-order service anywhere. So I'm going to look into importing from them.

April 26, 1993

22nd Birthday

My birthday. I'm 22 now.

Jim Armstrong called twice in the evening. I got deals on Gizeh papers, a good one on Martins tobacco, and a price on a new tobacco I persuaded him to get, Look Out.

It's been a lovely day today. I'm going to do well this year, I can feel it, and make a lot of money. Watched the Pirelli advert with Sharon Stone, and a 600SEL AMG Merc!!! Growl!

April 27, 1993

Made Bank Manager Nervous

Copied a list of ITL directors from Kompass in the library. Robin Welch called from TSB to say that they would not drop our bank charges; they're virtually doubled. I made him nervous on the phone (surprisingly), and told him that I wouldn't accept that.

May 3, 1993

Drove to Kercock

Yesterday I cut some of the grass & went off to the Country Club where I had a good workout, and spoke to Stewart afterwards. Then I dropped in on Brian, Gillian, John, & Co. in the Royal Oak, and the three of us drove up the Law Hill, then onto Kercock where the moon lit up the water and patches of mist lay in pockets across the land. Got home at 01:30, and ate till 02:30.

May 5, 1993

Working on VAT return

Wednesday. I've been doing my VAT return since I got home tonight. Yesterday, realising that I needed to cheer myself up, I called Richard Armstrong to ask if his offer of getting me a discount on a new car still stood. It does. I called him today with my shortlist; Mercedes 320CE, 320TE, Porsche 968 and BMW 540i. Should hear from him soon. Lets hope he can do something good. Have to get back to my VAT now.

May 28, 1993

I can feel it...

I think I'm finally ready to buy a Porsche.

July 19, 1993

Sunny in Dundee

The sun shone on Dundee today, and in spite of my mother, car, and girl problems I lay in it. Now let's see what the future brings.

August 1, 1993

Mensa meal

I went to a Mensa meal then out with Ged tonight. Helped an ambulance find the fishers' bothy when I got back though as I'm staying in Balmerino.

August 4, 1993

Moving back from Balmerino

I drove over to Balmerino tonight. I was picking up my stuff and moving back. I walked along the beach, I'd just been told mum had to go in the following Wednesday to find out if she has cancer or not. I was scared. It was quite a calm evening as the first signs of dusk were appearing. The water was calm and low. I gazed out at the view and then went back to Briar Cottage, and started to pack my belongings.

August 8, 1993

Worried

Mum was at Fernbrae on Wednesday at a specialist and she has to go in on Wednesday to find out if a lump she has is cancer or not. I'm worried.

September 14, 1993

Big Changes

My life has changed so much since I last wrote here, I don't really know where to begin.

Mum has been diagnosed as having bowel cancer. She's been into Fernbrae, but the tumor was too large for them to remove. She is going up to Ninewells for radiotherapy every morning, but it is such a strain on her that they are taking her in tomorrow to monitor her. She is on morphine, and is hardly eating, and I am having to manage the shop and house on my own. I took delivery of a new car a few weeks ago - a BMW 325i, and it is fantastic!

I am a bit disturbed about Mum going into Ninewells tomorrow, as Dad died there.

October 22, 1993

If only...

If only everything in life was as reliable as...
Mum has since had to have another operation. She developed an abscess in her bowel, and she had to have it removed. Now she has another three, but they are draining them to see how that works instead.

Beth phoned me last night to tell me to get someone else in the shop next week. She was finishing after tomorrow. I don't quite know how I'm going to get through the immediate future, and I feel like crying right now, but I'll pull myself together and work an extra hour or two a day.

November 7, 1993

No problem

No problem. I can handle the shop as a dawdle now. I sometimes work a bit longer & I close for 20 mins to take Pal out, but it's all going really smoothly, & I feel really good as I've risen to the challenge myself.

December 5, 1993

Feel Good

I feel really quite content and mellow right now. Not that everything in my life is right but just that I feel good about myself and what I do.

December 18, 1993

Working till 03:30

Saturday night. Right now I'm waiting for Ged to call when he gets home. I am pretty much worn out so I won't really be going anywhere though. I was working in the shop until 3:30am on Thursday night and the shop has naturally been very busy.

January 3, 1994

New Year in Kinloch Rannoch

On Hogmany, Andrew, and the rest of the crowd from school spent New Year up at Kinloch Rannoch and I was going up to visit them the following night. By the evening, however, I was not feeling too great, and when I finally got home I went straight to bed, and about 8pm, started to vomit. I felt really bad, and just lay in bed unable to move without being sick again. The vomiting stopped about 23:30, but I just brought in the New Year in bed.

The following day I had a long lie, and went to mass in the evening, then drove up to Kinloch Rannoch with Ged and Zoe. We arrived at the hotel in almost half the time it had taken everyone else to get there. I walked up to reception, the guys had agreed to be in the chalet at that time, but just in case, we checked the bar. There in the corner they sat, looking exactly as they had when I last saw them years ago. Checked lumberjack style shirts merged into one another, and non-descript jeans lounged around. We sat down and I ordered the drinks, a white wine, Budweiser, and a mineral water for myself. When the bar closed we took the BMW around to the chalets. "Anyone want a lift?", I asked, as the snow started to fall. "OK, I haven't seen your car yet", Paul Boylan replied. The rest of my friends preferred to walk. Subconsciously, I realised that this would be the first time they would see my 325i. Mauritius blue. Sleek and bespoilered. The six-spoke alloys turning through the snow effortlessly beneath the growl of the engine. We parked round at the chalet. Otter 5? Or was it Squirrel 2? Once inside the chalet, I organised drinks while Ged mowed people down with the camcorder, and consumed half a bottle of Southern Comfort. I was wearing a red Hugo Boss jacket I had bought in Jenners on Thursday, aquamarine Principles trousers, and a marbled aquamarine shirt. Cool. Outside it was dark when we left and we almost slid down the steps, and the snow, which had continued, was now getting deep. We got into the Beamer, and started to head home to Dundee, the Police playing on the CD system. We drove down the A9, and finally got back at 5 or 6 in the morning.

February 14, 1994

Coffee in Kinross Services

This evening Ged and I drove down to Kinross Services in the BMW, and had a coffee there and a chat.

February 16, 1994

Ash Wednesday

It's Ash Wednesday, and no I haven't managed to get any ashes. I also haven't did my diary for some time either. I've had a cold for the last ten days or so, and so I've been getting out of the shop earlier at nights to get home to the warm, but it hasn't helped much. I haven't had as much energy at nights either, and so haven't managed to get much done in the office.

February 20, 1994

American Psycho

I just finished reading 'American Psycho' by Bret Easton Ellis, and I am now onto 'Rules of Attraction', his previous book. I was actually supposed to be going through to Glasgow last night to see Andrew Mortali, but he called on Thursday night to say he'd crashed his car, wasn't feeling too well and would be coming home for the weekend. I dropped in to see him after mass, and we chatted for a while. I am possibly going through next weekend, or possibly going out with Ged (who currently isn't clubbing because he's saving up to get married or crucified or something). I'm just back from Tesco where I had a chat with Bryan Cartwright who was working there tonight.

February 22, 1994

Rain and work...

It rained quite a lot today. I stopped off at the shop to unload some stock from Martex, and the shop got mobbed so it took me some time to park the car. After the initial burst today it quietened down so I had a chance to grab an early lunch. I managed to get lost on two companies' phone systems today. 17:10 I called Andrew Mortali at his flat in Glasgow to see if he fancied going out at the weekend. He says he's probably coming home again so we may go out together here. We had a good laugh and talked about fast cars, Armani, etc. I dived home in the BMW after work and took Mum to an auction viewing at Curr & Dewar's. We were there until about 19:00, then came home, ate, and I watched a 'Without Walls' on cars which had a good roadtest match against a Viper and a Ferrari 348. I took Pal out, did the money, and now here I am. My spare time often doesn't amount to much nowadays. I have to get the shop organised for the Rothmans visit on Monday, and somehow I have to make space for an ITL delivery on Thursday.

March 7, 1994

Updating While I Work

Well how about this? Being able to update my diary whilst having a till system running simultaneously on Excel. As you may have guessed I have now installed the PC in the shop as the till went down a week ago. It's running great. The only problem is that I don't have a PC to use in the office right now... yet.

A week ago romeley the Gawith Hoggarth rep came in & I got our discount raised from 1.5% to 7.5%!!! Mainly because they are opening another factory and they want to be more competitive - especially with us! Also, last Monday morning I had an 08:00 meeting with Rothmans down at the Earl Grey. I managed to get our account kept open! I'm currently waiting for some software for the till system arriving - it's DOS though and I do like this windows system!

On Thursday I went up to Gleneagles for a haircut and ran into Julie at reception. She seemed really pleased to see me. I said, "We have to have a game of squash sometime". "Yeah", she said, "Phone me... that is if you want to." Of course I don't want to, and probably won't. I did get a good haircut though and then had a fabulous workout.

On Saturday I was supposed to be going out with Andrew. That was until he phoned at 19:00 to say he had to stay in Glasgow that night & take a friend to the airport. He had pulled at a club on the Friday night. Suddenly I had a free night! Workout then Century 2000? Yeah!! So I finished cleaning the car then grabbed something to eat. I got up to Gleneagles at 21:00. Wild workout. Get left in the gym late as there is a late bar for the Law Society crowd. Changing room to myself and I take plenty of time to get my hair and things right. I leave, taking it easy past the new 'Speed Camera' signs outside. I take a short detour through Leith and get into Century shortly after midnight. I didn't even fall asleep driving home later!

March 15, 1994

Dinner in Glasgow

Last night I dropped the things off at home, then drove up to Gleneagles whilst guzzling down a 2 litre bottle of Evian. I had a terrific workout, met a guy from Stirling whose name I can't remember, and Ingrid up there. Increased my fitness level to 62!!! Showered, dressed. Got into Glasgow late, took a wrong turning, but still miraculously managed to find the Koo-i-Noor restaurant where I was meeting some people for a meal.

April 3, 1994

Running with the BMW

Had a test drive in a BMW 840i last weekend and someone cut me off while I was thundering around a roundabout. It's computer systems avoided him though. Had a 24hr test drive in an Alpina B2.8 last week which was incredibly fast and a sexy handler. Went through to Hamilton with Ged on Saturday night, but didn't really get into the mood of things. On Sunday (Easter) I went out with Andrew, Steve, etc. DeStihl's was mobbed so we went to Fat Sams. The blonde who comes into the shop from Marks & Spencers was there and gave me a knockback, then I lost my cloakroom ticket (for my Boss), had to wait until everyone else had left, and all my friends had then got taxis home. Took Beamer and went for run through Camperdown park with it idling alongside me. Started to feel a bit better.

July 28, 1994

Update

Haven't did this for a while.
Mum has died. Beth is pregnant. I am seeing a gorgeous blonde called Deborah, and I have a 325i Convertible on order which should arrive in Dundee in the next day or so. I'll fill in the details later.

January 9, 1997

Aug94 - Jan97

I said I'd fill in the details later. Where do I start? Two & a half years have passed since I last wrote in this & things have changed so much in that time. As I said above, I met Deborah in June 94 about 3 weeks after Mum died. I had the convertible delivered at the beginning of August that year & we took it to Jersey on holiday. Deborah moved in with me & we lived together for almost 2 years. I met her through Zoe. Around October 94 we started to discuss moving abroad. I flew out to Spain to look at property & found out about offshore banking & we started to clear things in the house up. It helped, however, at New Year 1995, when the house flooded while we were down in London, but it took us a long time to get the work completed. We went down to Falmouth that summer & did our Padi courses. Around the 11th or 12th of January 95, however, I was looking through the sports books for something on skiing in James Thin when I picked up one called "Voyaging on a Small Income". I bought it & it made a lasting impression on me. Instead of trying to travel around the world in a BMW with a tent, I reasoned, why not buy a yacht? I persuaded Deborah, who had always been interested in sailing while I had not, but she didn't seem very enthusiastic. I set off to learn the art of sailing. After months of searching, we travelled down to Guernsey in May of last year to look at a Westerly Sealord. This was the yacht, and how pleasant Guernsey seemed.

About a week later, Deborah went down to Falmouth (which she had did several times) to do another diving course. I gave her �1200 to buy herself diving gear for her birthday. She phoned me to tell me she was thinking about leaving & moving down there. Massive shock. I asked her to come home so we could discuss it, but she told me she was going to stay down there for an extra few days after the course to think about it. And so I was left sitting in the shop, about to buy a yacht, not knowing what would happen with this relationship. I unplugged the phone for the next few days. I did not want upset by her any more. She had by this time spent the money on diving gear too. A couple of hours before her train got into Dundee, I agreed to buy Zamindar (this was to be the new lady in my life). I met Deborah at the station. She came home & told me on the bed that she was moving to Cornwall. I tried to change her mind. I still don't truly understand it. Deborah agreed to stay a few weeks to help me get things cleared up here. I called Peter to ask if I could delay the decision on the yacht for a couple of days as things were moving so fast, but he said he had already told the seller. So here I was. About to close the business I had known all my life. About to move away from Scotland. Moving onto a yacht. Stopping working. And now breaking up the longest relationship I had ever had. What was happening in my life?

I could have stayed & carried on working in the shop but it was time to do something else. So Deborah & I started packing our things. I still hoped that she was just having one of her "wierd turns" & that she would stay or come over to join me in Guernsey. I asked her if the caravanette, which she had been driving recently, would make things easier for her. She said it would, so I told her she could have it. It didn't look as if I would sell it anyway, so it would be something else cleared up. A few days later though someone called about buying it. I told him it was gone.

Pal, my best friend through all the years, now started acting strangely. I took him to the vet. They diagnosed a brain tumour. They told me he didn't have long to live. I wasn't even going to have Pal. He would walk around & around in circle & sometimes urinate indoors (which had happened occasionally for a couple of months now). One evening he got really bad & seemed to be in pain. I called the vet & Deborah & I took him down to the Broughty Ferry practice & they put him down. I still miss him. I buried him in the garden that night.

It was only a couple of days later that the stock in the shop got so low that I closed up for the final time & sent the rest back as damages. I still wonder if I did the right thing. Would it ever feel like the right thing? On a Saturday in July, Deborah left in the caravanette. I left the house on the Monday evening (20th July?) & wondered if I would pass her on the road. I haven't seen her since.

I drove down to Weymouth & got the ferry over to Guernsey. The only person I knew on the island was Peter. As I sat on Zamindar's deck that evening, the sun setting as I watched Condor 12 pass on it's way back to the mainland, I thought, "Well, there goes the other half of my day return. Up until now I could have gone back to the life I had more or less." A new life had begun. I heard a voice & looked down. "Have you bought this? what did you pay for it?" It was Paul & Chris, who were to become great friends.

February 8, 1997

Back in the house

I'm happy down in Guernsey on my yacht. I've made so many friends there that it'll be hard to leave. Martin Lovell let me leave the BMW on his drive & Chris gave me a lift to the airport on Thursday. We stopped off at the cafe the climbing club goes to for breakfast on the way, but because they took a while to bring it they didn't charge us for it. I got my flight & soon I was in Gatwick but my flight to Edinburgh was delayed so I called Ged & he arranged to collect me instead of meeting in Ryans. So, we went back to the flat, then for a McDonalds, then to Ryans. I stayed the night in Ged's & he gave me a lift into town in the morning. I spent Friday morning in town then took the train to Dundee & went to my accountants meeting at 14:30. Grabbed some shopping then took the bus (!) home. Ged woke me up this morning & gave me a lift over to Balmerino to check it & I'm having dinner with Andrew & Catherine (probably) tomorrow. I found it really quite hard when I got into the house yesterday. I felt a bit upset but I'm over it now. Sometimes I guess I miss the life I had. The successful business, the companion, the expensive toys, my Pal, but I'm glad not to be living here in Dundee & I'm glad that I've made the break & I'm doing something different.

February 11, 1997

Sitting in the Office Again

Caught the train through to Glasgow on Sunday & Andrew picked me up at the station. We went for a coffee in the Italian Centre then went back to the flat. His nice, big, new flat. We went to the Ubiquitous Chip for dinner, just AC & me & had a good chat. It was somewhere I've been wanting to eat for a while. Later we went for a walk over to a cafe & I stayed the night in the flat. Julie, one of Kathleen's friends is staying with them right now after her marriage broke up last year ( I guess there really are people much worse off than me!). This morning Andrew went off to work & I just pulled the door closed when I left. Unfortunately I couldn't get together with Kevin as he went off on a skiing holiday today. I walked into town from the flat, had coffee & cake in Princes Square Centre, then wandered around the shops. Had lunch in McDonalds & then got on the wrong train & almost ended up in Maryhill! Eventually found the right train for Dundee after another coffee & I came home & wrote some letters & things.

It's strange sitting here in the office again working late at night. Feels just like any other normal night again... but it's not. Tommorrow I get the train to Edinburgh, meet Ged in Ryans, stay there the night, then get the morning flight to Gatwick. From there I'll get the train to London, spend the day there, & probably sleep in the airport, then fly back to Guernsey on Thursday morning, meet Chris & go back to the yacht... I guess that is better than standing in a shop all week. I do still want to take photographs & sell them, but I also want to concentrate on investment. I am going to leave Guernsey at the earliest reasonable opportunity as I am living on the yacht as I want to travel, & I'm going to. Strange, I always seem to quite like the place I'm staying in at the time rather than anywhere else I've stayed. i.e. St. Peter Port to Beaucette & vice versa.

June 10, 1997

Leaving Shop and House for Last Time

I'm back in Dundee to clear up things in the house as it's now sold & the new people move in on Thursday. I went into the shop last night for the very last time to check if I'd left anything. Then I closed the door & left. Zamindar is in Camaret, near Brest. I am drinking again & in fact, right now I'm finishing off some Wiznouwka which was in the house. I am happy I guess. The house & the shop are sold, I've got the yacht out of Guernsey & I guess things are pretty good. I really enjoyed being back in Guernsey & it's great seeing all my old friends up here again.

June 20, 1997

In Beaucette Laundry Room

Friday night, Saturday morning.

So I'�m sitting here in the laundry room at Beaucette Marina. I�m waiting for my clothes to finish, then I can head back into town & go to bed. It�s a bit of a damp, miserable night on Guernsey tonight & I can hear the wind whistling outside.

I got back onto the island yesterday morning, & last night Chris & I partied. We went round some bars then got seriously drunk in Follies. I had good reason to as well; I came back to a letter from Deborah (the first for many, many months) in which she told me how much she missed me & how unhappy she was. I was planning to stay with Chris & Paul, but their family were turning up for a holiday. I was, however, saved by Peter Pearson, who offered me the use of a Sigma 362 in QE2!

The drier has just finished so I�m going to leave it there for the night - I did after all decide that I wasn�t up to going out tonight �cos Chris got me up at 9am this morning. Off to bed I go...

June 23, 1997

Almost arrested by Harbour Patrol

Im sitting on the ferry, Emerauds Solidor 3, right now heading over to St. Malo. Id gathered together so much stuff to go back to the yacht that it was going to be a serious hassle getting trains & ferries so I bought a five day return for the BMW & myself & decided to take it over. Apparently Autohelm sent a complete replacement set of ST80 instruments over to the island an hour after I left, so Im going to change them over with the set on board & then bring the old set back with me.

Unfortunately theres always loads of kids around when I get ferries & they always seem to end up sitting near me. One of them seems to be unconscious with seasickness at the moment, and wheres she sitting? Yeah, behind me!

Last night I met up with Chris after he finished work, in Christies. He sat down and unable to resist his just when I have a drink cigarette, he had to visit the vending machine. We have our Club sandwiches (would we change?) & a couple of beers, then head back to the boat that Im staying on, Chris giving me a lift part of the way on the back of his bike.

We start playing Diablo, which is really quite scary in the dark, then Chris heads off back to Beaucette. Im just switching off the laptop when I hear voices. Its after midnight, the marinas normally empty at night & I really shouldnt be living there! I kill the lights & listen. They seem to have gone, so I have a look out the port. Suddenly I see two harbour patrol officers walking quickly along the quay! Theres a full moon outside, so I can see them clearly, I watch, & they come down the ramp to pontoon F. Ahh! How did they know that Im here? Did they see a light on? Did they see Chris leave? Theyre obviously going to think that Ive broken in & I cant say that Peter said I could sleep here, so what do I do? I strip down to my boxer shorts as quickly as I can & dive into my sleeping bag. I lie there knowing that theres every chance I could get arrested here, & hope they dont come over to the boat. No luck! Maglites get shone in all the windows, & they jump up onto the deck. Theres no way of locking the companionway & I know they can come in. Looks like theyve gone, I hear one of them say, but they carry on looking & trying to open the boat up. Harbour Patrol, they shout, Anyone in. At this point I know that if I dont answer them & they find me inside they wont believe any story I tell them, so I get up in my boxer shorts, trying to look like theyve just woken me up, & say,
Yeah?
Is this your boat, sir?
No its not, Im delivering it to the mainland first thing in the morning and Ive just been getting it sorted up for the trip.
Who are you doing the delivery for?
Castlemain. Peter Pearson, do you want his home number?
So, they eventually go, & I breathe a sigh of relief. I talked to Peter this morning & apparently they called him & werent happy at all.

June 26, 1997

Mont Saint Michel

Im in Mont St. Michel tonight, about to go to sleep in the BMW in the car park just outside it. I sorted the yacht up a bit then drove over here this evening. It wasnt until late last night that I thought of doing this - DJ mailed me from Melbourne & told me about his trip here & I thought, hey! Its really impressive too - I went on the candlelit evening tour of the abbey which was probably much better than going during the daytime; less busy, no screaming kids & much more atmospheric. They had some quite high tech lighting too - sort of a cross between a nightclub & a church; certainly the first church Ive been into that had dry ice! Its somewhere Ive always wanted to go since I saw it in an Audi advert years ago (I could live there I remember thinking). Its only now that I realise that it must have been somewhere else that was featured in the advert of him driving across the causeway with the tide coming in (the one in Cornwall?) as there isnt exactly a cobbled causeway going to this!

Im sitting here in the car looking up at the magnificence of it floodlit before me. Its starting to rain outside & I can hear the sea roaring not far away. I decided this evening that although I hate tourists & doing touristy things, maybe I should try to do more. One of the reasons that I wanted to do my Grand Tour was to see some of the fabulous & famous sites the world has to offer. While walking around the abbey tonight, the smell of burning candlewax reminded me of fires on the beach at Balmerino; I should make a point of having more beach fires as well.

Todays quote, which is from the new Batman & Robin film: Why do all the gorgeous ones have to be psychopaths? Or is it just me?
Goodnight.

Mont St Michel webcam

June 27, 1997

St Malo Ferry Terminal

I finally decided to order an L series Canon lens on Wednesday, my first. Its about 1000, but the lens test on it classed it as optically perfect. I was starting to see some flaws in the lenses Ive been using & Id really like to manage to sell some of my shots - at least now the only thing that can let me down is me. Having said that I dropped my camera last night on the ground when I pulled my top out of the boot, but it was fine. Felt stupid though.

Im sitting in line at the ferry terminal in St. Malo right now, just waiting to drive on. So far 3 911s & an M3 have come off the ferry from Jersey. I seem to have acquired some degree of fame myself in Guernsey; I was sitting in the Chinese last week waiting for my order when the woman behind the counter mentioned my number plates to someone she was talking to. The other girl then replies, Yeah, hes living on his boat over here.... Customs here took an interest in me & my BMW as well - didnt search me but asked where Id been & how long my boat had been in Camaret. I wonder if Guernsey customs will pull me over this time.
Ive really quite enjoyed this break over in France. Its been really pleasant driving through the countryside & seeing so much more of it.

July 7, 1997

Looking for McDonalds in La Rochelle

Last night I started talking to a couple of French girls who were eating dinner on the pontoon beside the yacht. I offered them a beer, then later went back to ask where the railway station was. Anyway, they came on board & sat & chatted & drank beer for an hour or two & it turns out that one of them is an actress & the other, Flo, is a reporter. She takes her Sony 3CCD camcorder away to places like Nepal & Morocco & films reports & tries to sell them to television companies. I then went off looking for McDonalds on my bike, realised that it was in the next town, & then got a puncture. So I continued walking for a mile or two, then came back sans le big Mac.

November 1, 2001

Tickets

Today we booked our onward flight tickets. We fly out of Heathrow on Saturday to Reykjavik and spend a few days in Iceland before flying onto Florida to go to the boat. We're still in Bristol, and after being re-united with my pc after four months I've been completely lost as to where to begin catching up with the website. Hence, apologies for the lack of updates, but I'll get into sorting through the 1000+ pictures and videos I took in Asia and get things up on the site as well as details on what I've been doing.

November 3, 2001

Trying to Pack

As usual I had great plans to get to bed early tonight as I have to get up at 04:45. As usual I ended up spending most of the night packing and watching tv. Maybe I should just go out to a club instead of bed...

Iceland tomorrow.

November 20, 2001

Life in Titusville

Our hopes of getting the boat into the water quickly disappeared with last week's storm which treated us to four days of sub-hurricane, but still intense (gale force I think they call it on boats), wind and tropical, but cold, rain. This had the effect of stopping our painting activities mid-stroke and sending us inside to catch up on other, less challenging pursuits, such as email, as everyone I wrote to last week will testify. Our hope is to complete the anti-fouling, boot-striping, and polishing, and get Zamindar afloat again in the next week, and unfortunately there are not even any bars in the vicinity to tempt us away from this work.

Here in Titusville it's difficult to detect any panic about anthrax outbreaks or biological terrorism. In fact walking down the street it feels like any other day in 1950's America, which appears to be the last time that anything, especially the music, was changed here. It's a thinly-spread out road town with little reason to attract visitors other than the marina, which is the first reasonably priced place to haul-out a boat on the way north from the Caribbean. Most of the inhabitants either drive pick-up trucks and spend their weekends hunting, killing and fishing, or ride electric wheelchairs, weigh 200kg, and appear to be about 110 years old. The town is especially proud of its lack of any public transport system, which ensures that everyone needs their own pick-up truck and helps the country use 80% of the world's oil consumption every year. As the town was designed to be driven around, however, there are few places within walking distance for us and most days we get no further than 'The Coffee Shoppe', the local diner which we frequent, and I'm sure, have a reputation for under-tipping, there. If we're feeling especially energetic we may walk the 40 minutes to Subway, Taco Bell, or McDonalds to ensure that our diet remains properly balanced, but normally we reserve that for special occasions.

November 21, 2001

We now have Mobility

We now have mobility. Today we found a solution to our personal transport needs and we are now able to cruise Titusville in style. After a late breakfast in the Coffee Shoppe, we passed the local thrift store and spotted two yellow 1970's bicycles for sale in the doorway. They appeared to be in fairly good condition apart from the steering, gears and brakes not working, and the fact that they had flat tyres, but we soon negotiated the price down to $15 for the pair. Delighted, we carried our new transport back to the marina and set about re-building them. Many of the other yacht owners appeared to be confused as to why we were choosing to fix two bikes instead of BUYING A CAR as they walked past looking puzzled, and we sense that we are getting a reputation as 'the two mad Europeans'. Nevertheless, by this evening, both bikes were rideable and we enjoyed the satisfaction of a sunset ride around the local swamp where we were both eaten alive by mosquitoes.

Unfortunately, we made no further progress with the boat today, but a whole new realm of fast food options is now open to us.

December 6, 2001

Am I a Nazi?

Sometimes Nina talks in her sleep. Last night she suddenly shouted out, "No Bron, you can't become a Nazi!" Maybe this says something about what she thinks of me.

As I said previously, we now have Zamindar in the water and we're sitting in the marina in Titusville. We're still waiting for a couple of parts to turn up, but we're in no real hurry to leave as we haven't decided where we're going to take the boat next. One of the parts was supposed to turn up today, but when I called about it this morning I was told that it wouldn't be here until 'around the end of the year'. So, I spent all day on the phone trying to find someone who had it in stock until finally I found a place in New York with one. This is normally how you spend your time with boats.

We did have some entertainment tonight in the form of the space shuttle taking off from the other side of the river. Titusville is the closest town to Kennedy Space Centre and the launch pad is about 5 miles away, so we walked down to the bridge and had a great view of lift off. The Americans really enjoy things like this, and they all became very excited and jumped up and down screaming. Nina declared it very retro, like something from the 70's, which I suppose it is.

April 8, 2002

On Tuesday, Nina & I

On Tuesday, Nina & I are flying out to Mallorca. Well, actually we're flying out to Stansted airport & spending the night there as our flights to Mallorca aren't until the next morning. In case you're interested, Stansted is one of the better international airports to squat in, but you do have to stake your claim on the seats early.

According to Dockwise, the ship should be arriving the same day, which would be good as we have to be there to take Zamindar off, and we'd like to have somewhere to stay. Nina is just coming down for a week, but I'll be down there for a month. Her boss at Speednames, where she's working part-time, has agreed to let her tele-commute while she's away, so I expect she'll be working from the beach.



No busking near me

April 22, 2002

Yesterday I woke up and

Yesterday I woke up and looked in the mirror to discover that I had grown an afro overnight, realised that I needed a haircut, and so off I set through Palma to find somewhere that I could entrust the job to. After much walking around, as it's never easy to choose a barber you've never been to before, I found the place, and sat down wondering if I'd be wearing a hat for the next two weeks. Instinctively, however, I had chosen the only hairdresser on the island which literally did not own a pair of scissors, seemed to specialise in sheep shearing, and so proceeded to shave my head at varying degrees of horror. As I looked around I saw that they were cutting women's hair with clippers too, and like topiary, they were able to create almost any shape out of it. In the end it turned out not too badly, and I feel much better after losing those extra kilos, though I did feel sorry for the woman with the chicken on her head.

May 27, 2002

I'm writing this from one

I'm writing this from one of the computer labs at Nina's university after spending another long day here helping out with her website project. You can see how it's going here. It hasn't been too bad actually as Berit baked a cake for all my hard work and we were sitting eating that. Later Nina and I had a kebab with Emad and Azim and learned lots about Afghanistan.

The other day Colin emailed me and he's flying down to Mallorca next week to spend a few days on the boat which should be very nice as I haven't seen him for a long time. Time to finish for the day now...

May 28, 2002

Early morning pastry

Finally about to go to bed after cycling home & picking up pastry from the bakery.

June 11, 2002

I'm writing this in one

I'm writing this in one of my favourite courtyard cafes in Palma, Grand
Caf. One of the best things about Spain is the free stuff; for instance,
here the waiter just brought a huge bowl of fresh cherries around all the
tables.

Yesterday I walked over to Cala Brafi, one of the beaches close to Porto
Colom. While sitting on the rocks enjoying the sun, I suddenly heard a voice
shouting, "Bernie! Bernie!" and wondering who the hell Bernie was, I turned
around to discover that he was me, and found Lucas standing there. His
Argentinian friends had apparently dragged a dead cow down to the beach and
were hard at work barbecuing it in the way that only South Americans can,
such is their love of meat. They invited me over and although they are
allegedly all drug dealers, I spent a very pleasant afternoon eating and
drinking with them on the beach.

June 30, 2002

Social skills

My only social contact today was giving the finger to someone on another boat. Must work on my social skills before Ninas parents arrive.

July 9, 2002

Nina arrived here on Wednesday

Nina arrived here on Wednesday and her parents are here also right now, so
apart from the fact that someone just burst our spare dinghy while it was
ashore, things are very pleasant onboard.

July 11, 2002

Nina's parents left on Monday

Nina's parents left on Monday and we spent the following day working on the
outboard engine. It turned out to be a combination of the impeller, water
pump, thermostat and some seals that were causing the problem, and it seems
to be running fine again now. On Wednesday, Lisbeth, Nina's sister, Jesper,
and Christina arrived and they're staying with us for the next week or so.

August 7, 2002

Alone at last

Spent the day drinking coffee and beer with Paul from Ballena then
attempting to fit our new water tank. Chris and all of our guests have now
left, and Nina has booked her return flight from Barcelona to Copenhagen for
the 26th August, which means that we should get sailing to the mainland
soon.

August 21, 2002

Sitting writing this in an

Sitting writing this in an internet cafe in Mahon. Nina has decided that we are now both nudists due to the fact that we`ve got used to showering naked on deck in the anchorage. We`ve just paid the deposit for our winter berthing here so this is going to be Zamindar`s home for a while.

August 28, 2002

Menorca is a curiously British

Menorca is a curiously British place. Whereas Mallorca is full of Germans and Ibiza (or should I say Eivissa?) is full of wasted people, Menorca still seems to hang onto some of its colonial past. Most of the tourists here are British, and there also seem to be many rich, English families (as no-one from Scotland or Wales is rich) living here.

I'm sitting at a cafe right now, and a young girl has just been sat down at one of the tables by what appears to be her strict, elderly, English nanny. She keeps telling the girl to sit properly, with hatred in her eyes, while she herself smokes fags, drinks beer and, I imagine, plans how to murder the child whilst making it look like a natural accident.

Nina flew back to Denmark yesterday, unable to cope with the hectic pace of life on board, and to start a new term at university. Overcharged by a taxi driver on the way to the airport, I showed my defiance by walking the 5km back to town afterwards, however, as there was no pavement, the taxi drivers asserted their monopoly by trying to run me down. Things have been going fine today apart from the wakeboard falling onto my foot when I was in the forward cabin, and I think, breaking one of my toes in the process. Hence, I am walking around like Herr Flick now.

There are a lot of thunderstorms and squalls around the islands at the moment. We were hit by one at 0600 this morning, and going onto deck I saw a Sunseeker dragging sideways through the anchorage. Once they figured out what was happening, they finally managed to re-anchor in the middle of the channel and almost got hit by the glass-bottom tourist boat when it came through later blaring its foghorns at them.

[Someone just managed to crunch a car parked in front of the cafe while they tried to fit an Audi into a parking space smaller than it. But here's the best part - the girl who was driving is wearing a t-shirt that says, "Road Kill Cafe". Maybe she's a taxi driver.]

September 3, 2002

I did a really embarassing

I did a really embarassing thing tonight. I'd been woken up by a mosquito buzzing around my head, and so was busy trying to hunt it down in the cabin when I heard a couple of English guys fighting ashore. Normally things are completely silent at night here, so I went out to see what was happening, as from where the boat is I can see all along the harbour front. Anyway, while I'm watching this I see another two guys wandering along looking into all the cars like they're going to break into one. Then they carry on walking and get onto one of the motorboats in the harbour, look around, then get onto the next one. They spend a bit of time wandering around it, then they get inside, and one of them keeps coming out to look around. This is happening at 0430, so obviously they're breaking into the boat. So I call the Port Police and say that there's a couple of guys acting suspiciously on one of the boats, thinking that someone will have a walk past to see if any of them have been broken into. However, ten minutes later a huge police launch with three armed police on it comes screaming out of the port and over to the pontoon I'm on, wakening everyone on all the other boats up. I, of course, point out the motorboat to them, tell them what I saw, and they go over to it. Which would have been great if only the two pissed, young English guys on the motorboat hadn't been the owners sons! As the police boat passed on its way back, I thought it prudent to keep my head down and spare everyone from being woken up again to be told the news, though I really did want to apologise.

September 12, 2002

Back in Denmark

It's really nice to be back in Copenhagen, and best of all the weather's been lovely here so I've been cycling in and out of town to my usual cafe. I'm also trying to catch up with all the things I've got to do to the website, having not done much work on it over the summer.

September 15, 2002

Spending the weekend with Nina

Spending the weekend with Nina at her parents summerhouse & doing some work on the site.

September 21, 2002

Everything always happens when I'm

Everything always happens when I'm in the bathroom - the other day I was interrupted by someone repeatedly ringing the doorbell. I opened the door to see a man standing there with a gun, which was a bit of a surprise until I realised that it was Danish police. He was looking for someone who had given our address as his, someone that I'd never heard of, but of course, he thought that I was the person he was looking for. It didn't help my defence much that the person he was trying to arrest had an English sounding name, and that I didn't speak Danish. In the end I gave him Nina's number, he called her, apologised, and stormed upstairs to interrogate one of our neighbours.

I've found a new cafe in Copenhagen, Espresso House, which I've been frequenting this week to do some reading and catch up on what was happening in the world while I was in Spain. Oddly, however, they have a sign in the toilet asking you not to flush condoms down it, which does make me wonder what kind of clientele they get.

One of the most interesting new trends to appear over the summer seems to be the practice of warchalking, which entails making a chalk mark on a building or pavement in an area covered by a wireless network to allow others to connect into it. BBC News story

This evening we're off to celebrate Nina's father's birthday and apparently going to a mooncake celebration as well that's being held as part of an Asian culture weekend here in Copenhagen.

September 22, 2002

We had a lovely evening

We had a lovely evening last night, although I'm feeling a little bit rough
today. We're just about to go off to have dinner at Emad's place for an
Afghanistan meal cooked by Azim.

September 26, 2002

Beer in cans and phone throwing

Here in Copenhagen it was summer a week ago, autumn seemed to last about three days, and now it feels like winter has arrived. So with the temperature heading fast towards freezing point in the evenings and the days getting noticeably shorter all the time, what are people getting excited about in Denmark?

Well, the biggest event this month is the arrival of beer in cans. Previously, due to environmental laws, drinks were only allowed to be sold in recyclable bottles, but due to pressure from the European Union to increase competition, the Danish government have implemented a refund system for properly marked cans and allowed their distribution. Hence, everyone is very excited with the opportunity to sample the new, metallic taste of beer from a tin. You just have to remember not to crush the can afterwards as it costs almost as much as the beer that's in it. [more info]

The other day I was happily flying along on my bike at 30km/h when I hit a bump and my phone flew out of my bag. I watched as it hit the ground, bounced twice, then overtook me and spun down the road for 30metres. I stopped my bike, expecting to pick up the pieces, but to my amazement it was fine and still worked. I think I may have shortened its life though, as it's now flexible, but maybe I should take part in the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships.

October 3, 2002

Sitting down here...

Looks like I'm back to normal, sitting here in the middle of the night, wandering aimlessly around in other people's websites, remaining lost in some South American time zone rather than going to bed in the hope of trying to be awake with the people on this side of the world tomorrow. Never mind.

October 4, 2002

New videos

We're heading up to the summerhouse for the weekend with Nina's parents and hoping to get some work done on a couple of projects. In the meantime, if you've got a fast connection, check out some of the new videos that are up on the site.

October 10, 2002

Chris and Berit have been...

Chris and Berit have been keeping in touch and continuing the relationship that they began when they met on Zamindar in the summer. They spent a dirty weekend in Paris, then she met Chris' family last weekend, and now he's taking a week off work to spend with her in Copenhagen next week. I do of course plan to ruin any romantic plans they might have by dragging Chris off to the pub at every opportunity to play the complex Danish drinking game, 'woopty-woopty-slam' and giving him a tour of Copenhagen's finest kebab houses.

click for big image

November 17, 2002

Nina's Vaio


Nina's Vaio
Last night Nina and I booked flights to Mahon so that we can spend Christmas and New Year on the boat. We're going down for 2-3 weeks, so it should be pleasant to catch up with things on board and be back in Spain for a while.

While I was in Scotland Nina bought herself an Asian import Sony Vaio laptop, and since I got back she's been using it intensely, even sitting up later than me at night.

About a Boy

Last week in Scotland I watched About a Boy on video. It's not a film I would have chosen because, well, it's about children, but Cathy went down to the video shop and brought it back. Surprisingly, it was a really good film, though the funniest part for me was seeing someone else who doesn't work get into confusing conversations every time he meets somebody new and they ask him what he does. Also, it's by the makers of Bridget Jones Diary, a film that managed to be much better than the book, in my personal opinion, and took far less time to read.

December 2, 2002

In a Sunburned Country

I'm currently reading 'In a Sunburned Country' by Bill Bryson, in which he tells of his travels in Australia. I've got it as an ebook on my Palm and I've been reading it on and off for the last 18 months or so, because first of all I'm a slow reader, and secondly it's such a good book that it would be a waste to read it quickly. So, instead I like to drag it out. By the time I finally get to the end of it, I'll have forgotten what happened at the beginning, and that way I can start all over again. He makes Australia sound so good that for the first time that I can remember I want to go there. In fact, it even sounds likeable. Here's an excerpt in which he describes how Australians are so fond of talking about their near-death experiences with animals.

They spend half of any conversation insisting that the country's dangers are vastly overrated and that there's nothing to worry about, and the other half telling you how six months ago their Uncle Bob was driving to Mudgee when a tiger snake slid out from under the dashboard and bit him on the groin, but that it's okay now because he's off the life support machine and they've discovered he can communicate with eye blinks.

December 7, 2002

Not Funny

Nina's sense of humour seems to be getting increasingly sick. She just told me that she had a present for me, went into her bag to get it, then screamed and threw a rubber cockroach at me! ...And I really hate cockroaches so you can imagine my reaction.

December 11, 2002

Arse Talk

Today was much like yesterday, except that after being laughed at by the skating toddlers I went to a different cafe for a bit of variety in my caffeine intake. Still the Americans found me. Do I have to grow a long beard and move to a cave to keep them away? This time it was three girls, one of whom had a voice which sounded exactly like one of those dolls that has a string hanging out of its arse with a plastic ring in the end, and when you pull it, it starts talking, tells you how 'awesome' everything is, and won't shut up. Her sentences would contain the word 'like' at least three times each, which I was greatly impressed by. At least now I can see where the expression, 'Talking out of your arse' comes from.

December 21, 2002

Barbie Girl

magasin-t.jpg
We're Christmas shopping right now, well, we would be if I hadn't just ducked into a cafe for a quick fix and some wireless access. Just passed the lead singer of Aqua in the street (remember Barbie Girl?), who was struggling to walk with a big box (take that however you want to) and whom I suggested that we trip up (as you do to people with large packages) when Nina told me who she was.

December 22, 2002

Bored of Luxuries

I've begun to take some things like running water, unlimited electricity, ADSL and daily showers for granted again from living ashore for the past few months. I don't feel like I'm spoiling myself with a long shower, and having always-on internet just makes it dull. Once I get down to the boat they'll all become luxuries again. Going ashore to hunt down internet access and get online was something I'd look forward to. Fifty litres of water could last us a week. Meanwhile I'll get to appreciate Spain's cheap food and drink, good nightlife, living on the water and spending time outdoors again - all of which I'd take for granted if I spent all my time doing them.

December 23, 2002

Leaving

Off to the airport now feeling a bit hungover and bruised.

December 24, 2002

Christmas Eve

Nina and I arrived in Mahon last night about 1900. We then spent two and a half hours trying to find someone who could take us across the harbour to where the boat is. Finally we found a friendly French guy who took us just as we were beginning to think about swimming it.

Its really nice to get back to the boat and Spain, and its about 17c and sunny here - warm enough for us to see a British tourist wearing shorts today. Ninas cooking Christmas dinner at the moment and Im just off to get a few last things from the supermarket.

Merry Christmas to everybody.

December 31, 2002

End of 2002

Havent managed to update this much over the last week as Windows 2000 refuses to work with my mobile phone so I have to go to an internet cafe. I ended up going for a swim next to the boat on Christmas day, though Nina in her wisdom refused to join me. We had a roast for Christmas dinner, or at least we thought it was a roast - after we cooked it we realised wed bought some kind of animals genitalia, but it was an interesting meal. My face has pretty much healed from my cycling adventure now, though my nose is still a bit sore.

Ok, off now to begin the celebrations.

January 7, 2003

Three Kings Festival

dinghy in mahon
While we were anchored on Sunday, we overheard the weather forecast mention force 7-8 so we decided to move back to the pontoon. We were glad we did when we had force 9 gusts coming through last night. On Sunday evening Mahon celebrated the coming of the three kings festival, and although were not quite sure what it was all about, it was a good party.

January 8, 2003

Fish Bait

Last night we went for dinner in one of our favourite cafes here, Cafe Ars, then onto a bar for some drinks as it was our last night ashore. Hence, today were feeling a little delicate. We fly back to Denmark tomorrow with the afternoon in Barcelona, though itll be a bit hard to leave here.

This mornings discovery was that when we flush the toilet on the boat, dozens of big fish turn up for breakfast. So we each spent some time flushing it while the other stood on deck looking at the fish. Now we know what to use as bait.

January 17, 2003

Royals Shopping

This afternoon we were sitting in Baresso having a coffee when the Queen of Greece, who'd obviously been doing some shopping, walked across the square and got into a waiting car. The surprising thing was that she didn't have any bodyguards or anything with her or - not something the British Queen would be seen doing.

Here's a great site that really makes you wish you'd thought of it - Things my girlfriend and I have argued about.

January 18, 2003

Off to Summer House

I'm just off to the summer house by bike/train/ferry so I may be offline for a few days. Will update things when I return unless I manage to stumble upon some wireless access on the way.

January 21, 2003

Mr Hankey... is that you?

bike
I had a very pleasant long weekend up in the summer house and it also gave me the opportunity to marvel again at the surreal efficiency of the Danish transport system. I had to catch three trains and a ferry, with about four minutes between each connection. Coming from Britain where trains never arrive less than two hours late, and usually fall off the tracks somewhere on the way, I really couldn't see any way that I would make it and had resigned myself to camping down in a country railway station somewhere for the night. But the trains all turned up, even though there were leaves on the tracks, and the journey went to schedule and was unexcitingly smooth. It was great to get out of the city and soon the train was passing through fields and past frozen bays, stopping at places that were really just a few huts in the woods. I war-cycled after I got off the train, but only picked up one wireless connection in the area, which was encrypted.

Nina's father had advised that it might be best if I didn't turn the water on in the summer house as the whole system was drained, so I took a bucket down to the stream and filled it. It was a bit like living in the wilderness. Unfortunately, a couple of days later I discovered that the stream had a sewage outfall running into it. A little sewage never hurt anyone though.

January 23, 2003

Muffs

muffs-t.jpg
Earmuffs still seem to be an essential fashion accessory in Denmark. Whereas in Britain the fashion police will come along and institutionalise anyone caught wearing them on the street, here in Denmark they appear to be so trendy that people insist on wearing them indoors as well, just like designer sunglasses (see photo).

January 24, 2003

Chris in Denmark

Chris has just arrived in Denmark for a long weekend to see Berit so I'm looking forward to getting together with him, catching up on things, and maybe even having a beer or two (must make it to the Carlsberg brewery this time).

January 27, 2003

Out with Chris

Chris and Berit pissed
Chris and I spent most of yesterday in town as I showed him Copenhagen's main sights... the cafes, the best kebab shop, where to get free wireless access. After that we decided it was time for a beer so we went to Alfi's Bar where we were a bit surprised to see cockroaches running up the wall so we decided not to eat there and moved onto somewhere else. Berit and Nina joined us later, by which time we were fairly well lubricated, and we all went out to dinner to celebrate Chris and Berit's 6 month anniversary (congratulations). I don't remember much more apart from having a small accident with the candle and I think someone spilt wine all over the table. Bit of a headache this morning.

January 29, 2003

IT Conference

I was at the Human-Tech Conference today, which aims to bring together IT in the resund region of Denmark and Sweden. Unfortunately, they couldn't decide which language to hold the conference in. It was held in Denmark, the website and the slides were in English, and most of the presentations were in Swedish. To welcome the attendants there was a guy who they'd painted silver to look like a robot, which was particularly sad as he just looked like a street entertainer who'd wandered in by accident. I went along mainly for the presentations on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but they didn't even have wireless coverage so I left after lunch and moved to a nearby cafe that was a bit better connected. One of the presentations was by Aptilo, who have put a wireless hotspot into Copenhagen airport which travellers can connect to at an exhorbitant cost. Nina stood up during the question time and grilled them about the type of security they had implemented on it, but neither of the speakers knew. We did - none.

February 9, 2003

Edinburgh Weekend

Ged getting down
On Saturday we visited my house in Fife then planned to have a walk around Dundee, but as we drove in I desperately just wanted to leave and be anywhere else but Dundee. I'd never realised just how much I hated the place until then. So we returned to Edinburgh, went out drinking then stayed in a bed and breakfast close to where Ged lives.

February 11, 2003

Pub Lunches

I had a pub lunch in Wetherspoons with Ged today, and it felt wonderfully decadent. I would never really have gone for a pub lunch in Britain when I worked here and as there aren't really pubs in the other countries I've been in since, it felt like something that I'd been missing out on for a long, long time. Must remember to go to the pub more at lunch time while I'm here.

The other thing I didn't realise that I missed is the natural wit that's so much a part of a life in Britain. After lunch I was sitting in Starbucks listening to the banter that was going on in the conversations around me when I looked up to find a pissed old man staring into the window smiling at me. I looked at him and he blinked when I blinked then he made the sign of the cross, stared some more, and finally moved along to stare at some Japanese girls who were also looking out of the window. One of them was putting on make-up and jumped back terrified, streaking lipstick across her face as he appeared inches away from her on the other side of the glass. He gradually moved along the row of seats that looked out of the window and everyone, including myself, who had just been stared at found it very funny to watch someone else getting the same treatment from the wierdo outside. Maybe he'd been for a pub lunch as well.

February 18, 2003

The Young Ones

Just arrived in Bristol and was picked up at the airport by Chris (thankfully, not on his bike). I'm staying in Kryn's place at the moment, which is really central, and amazingly seems to be architecturally identical to the house in The Young Ones. I feel like Vyvyan wandering around here.

February 19, 2003

Zen and The Art

Chris rides again
I knew it would happen. Chris took me out for a ride last night on his new bike, a Kawasaki ZX6R. It has to be the fastest thing I've ever been on. Thundering down the motorway at 130mph (210kph), my legs numb from the cold, barely hanging onto the back, and hoping we didn't hit any ice, it was incredible! The acceleration and adrenalin rush you get is phenomenal. So now I'm thinking about doing my motorcycle licence here in Britain and getting myself a bike. I will of course kill myself if I do, but I do have to die somehow.

Top 10 reasons why bikes are better than women
1. You can ride your bike whenever you want
2. Your bike doesn't mind if you ride other bikes.
3. You do not have to keep sending money to your old bike when you get a new one
4. Bikes do not mind if you read bike magazines
5. You can let your friends ride your bike
6. Your bike only whines if there is something really wrong
7. Your bike doesn't sulk if you don't ride it for a few days
8. Your bike will never leave you for another cyclist
9. Other people can fix your bike for you if it is giving you problems
10. You can change the bits that don't work or look good on your bike

February 20, 2003

Breaking and Entering

We got back from the pub last night and after lots of searching through all of our pockets several times, realised that we'd locked the keys inside the flat. So we had to break into it. The neighbours took it very casually, however, as if pissed people breaking into a flat late at night is perfectly normal.

February 22, 2003

Aibo Psycho

I had a bizarre dream last night that I was being sexually assaulted by an Aibo. What does that mean? I think it means that I should really should cut down on the cheese.

Simon is in Bristol for the weekend so we're heading up to Birmingham to an exhibition in the NEC.

February 23, 2003

Broke Up

Nina and I broke up today.

February 24, 2003

Chris' Birthday

It's Chris' birthday today, though as you can probably imagine I'm not the happiest person in the world to go out celebrating with at the moment!

February 26, 2003

Don't Run

In a momentary rush of energy and temporary insanity I went out running this morning for the first time in almost a year. I soon regretted it though as I tasted blood in my mouth and realised that I'll be walking around like a cripple for the next few days.

Gizmodo has a page of photographs of the current gadgets on sale in Tokyo's famed Akihabara electronics district. Some cool, some already here in Europe.

March 2, 2003

Spring

It was a lovely sunny day, like winter was over and spring had arrived in Britain, so we went out for another life or death ride on Chris' bike to Bath. Later we returned to Bristol and looked around a yacht that Chris is thinking about buying in the centre of town as it's next to all the bars.

March 5, 2003

BMC Lecture

down pub
Chris and I went along to an Alpine lecture by the British Mountaineering Council this evening. It was a fairly good insight into mountaineering in the Alps and Himalayas, dragging people out of crevasses, and avoiding avalanches, though by the end of it we were desperate to escape to the pub.

March 9, 2003

Kylie Goes to Wales

Chris and I had a cold, fast ride over to Cardiff today on Kylie (his Kawasaki). We got there, looked around, decided that Wales was crap, got back on the bike and returned to Bristol. This is what I've done on every trip I've ever made to Wales, but in another few years I'll have forgotten about it again, and optimistically decide to go back.

In the meantime, here's a big map of deviant desires and fetishes to ponder over.

March 10, 2003

Off Cycling

Tomorrow I'm off for a cycle ride along the Severn-Thames cycle path for a few days. Chris is currently busy methodically removing all traces of my DNA from the flat as he's in one of his tidying up moods.

March 14, 2003

Flight to Denmark

I'm flying over to Denmark this evening with Chris to pick up my stuff. It's not something I've been looking forward to doing; in fact, I've been dreading it, but never mind. Click 'MORE' for my flight information.

Continue reading "Flight to Denmark" »

March 17, 2003

Copenhagen Trip

moving out of denmark
Well, it's 05:45 and we've just got back to Bristol. I drove from Stansted Airport to try to let Chris get some sleep, and managed to get done for speeding within the first five minutes! The sun's rising now, and it's not worth me going to bed as I have to drive Chris to work in an hour so that he can collect a rental car and drive back down to London to fly out to Turkey for a meeting.

Remarkably, we managed to get around 70 kg, including my bike, onto the Ryanair flight without having to pay any excess charges at all. I'd thrown out anything that I could when I was packing, including my lifetime's collection of Wired magasines. We had carry on bags that were well pushing it, 5kg of books in our jacket pockets and the bike was so well disguised that they didn't even realise it was one and so didn't hit me with the bike charge.

Ironically, Denmark turned out to be everything I least expected it to be this weekend. The skies were clear and sunny, not cold and grey. We went out on Saturday night and Copenhagen was warm and civilised, rather than aggressive and rowdy. I held a door open for someone and, unbelievably, they thanked me. I walked through the park, which was full of ducks and geese, people jogging and cycling, and watched the sun as it went down. After all the times I'd complained about Denmark, I packed my stuff, but I didn't want to leave. I sat on the airport coach as it drove out of Copenhagen and thought of all the pointless, stupid things you end up arguing about in a relationship, and realised that not one of them had ever mattered.

March 19, 2003

Bristol Harbour Swimming Club

The weather's been really good while I've been in Britain. Today it was fantastic so I sat down by the water having lunch and a beer in front of the Arnolfini. As I was sitting there, though, someone took their shirt off, ran over past me, jumped into the water and swam across the harbour! This is in the centre of Bristol, where, apart from the water not being very warm at all, is also not very clean, but he didn't seem to mind. I think he'd had more beer than me though.

March 21, 2003

D.D.Deborah

I just checked my email and had a huge shock to find one from Deborah who'd just found the site by chance. So we spoke on the phone for the first time in five years and it was really lovely to talk to her again and catch up with what she's been doing - she's still as sarcastic as she's always been though.

April 28, 2003

Bangkok Partying

My birthday on Saturday turned into a mammoth 19-hour drinking and partying session. First of all we went out to a big local restaurant in the centre of Bangkok and ate freshwater crocodile (though crocodile farmed in accordance with protected species regulations so it's ok) then we moved onto some other bars, then Narcissus, where we continued partying until a power cut forced off the music and drove all but the most determined clubbers away. The staff brought out candles which gave the place a great atmosphere and half an hour later the power came back on. After a bit of chanting, the DJ returned and cranked up the music, even though it was nearly closing time and then I have vague memories of dancing on a podium for a long time after that, convinced that if I stopped the party would end.

When the club finally did close, long after it should have, we took a taxi back to Koh San Road with good intentions of going back to the hotel. For some unknown reason, however, we found ourselves drawn into a makeshift bar which consisted solely of a few red plastic chairs and a carpet on the side of the street. We settled in fairly well, and began recruiting passing strangers into our new private club. After that things are a bit blurry. Spoke to some odd people. Ended up in a high-speed tuk-tuk journey drinking red bull and Singha beer in the heat of the morning. Sat in an expensive Bangkok tailors looking at suits then went back to the street bar again where the local toast was now "SARS!" rather than "Cheers!". Finally wandered quite drunk back into my guesthouse at 12:00 where everyone sitting eating lunch went silent and stared at me (still in clubbing gear and carrying a big beer). One of the staff asked, "How are you?", to which I replied "Fine." "Are you sure you're fine?" she said with a smile.

I stumbled out of bed sometime yesterday evening after it was dark, had breakfast, and after a quick meeting with Colin we took a taxi to Ministry of Sound and started partying all over again.

May 6, 2003

Colin Flies Out

Colin flew back out to Oman today, which was just as well really as it's unlikely we could have survived much longer at the rate we've been partying. We had great plans to get up early and get lots done but when we found ourselves still sitting drinking at 08:00 this morning it was fairly clear that the choice was either to stay up or crash out. Being completely nocturnal by now, we decided to grab some sleep. We came to in the afternoon, just in time for Colin to grab his bag and run out to the airport bus.

May 30, 2003

Bristol in the Sun

The weather's actually been pretty decent in Britain this week, causing much of the population to declare it a heatwave, complain about it being too hot, and don knee-length white socks with sandals.

I've been cycling and camping around Bristol over the last few days, taking advantage of the good weather and attempting to recover some form of fitness after two months of partying, though Chris et al have been doing their best to offset this by dragging me off to the pub at night. I also appear to have unintentionally stumbled into fashion while I've been away, as a girl came up to me in the park yesterday and asked if she could photograph me for her fashion degree.

June 4, 2003

British Wit

Now that the initial shock of arriving back in the UK has worn off, it is actually quite lovely to be back... at least for a short time. Being able to make random witty comments to strangers in the street, walk into pubs, then get kicked out of them, pissed, with random, witty strangers at 11pm is what British culture is all about. And I do love it more than anything else in the world. Just a shame about the licensing laws.

June 8, 2003

Fear and Loathing

Well, my time in Bristol seems to have come to an end and I fly up to Scotland tomorrow. It has been an incredibly good couple of weeks down here, though I'm sure Colin will insist on continuing the partying once north of the border.

The one thing I'm really not looking forward to is that I have to go for a small operation on Tuesday, which I've been putting off and putting off due to my dislike for hospitals since most of my family died in them. So I'm beginning to get a bit nervous about it. Still, guess I have to face my fears.

June 10, 2003

Under The Knife

The operation went fine today though I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. Colin came along with me, which was nice of him and made it all a lot easier. When I was handed a cup of tea afterwards I was still shaking enough that the cup rattled against the saucer.

June 23, 2003

London Calling

I've been unable to blog over the last few days due to having been away from internet connections of any kind - strange how it can be harder to get online in the UK sometimes than in developing countries. I had the stitches from the operation removed from my back on Friday, which wasn't terribly exciting, thankfully. Chris and I drove down to Heathrow on Sunday to collect Berit who's begun the arguable pleasure of co-habiting with him (good luck, Berit). I stayed with Claire (Chris's sister) and her boyfriend Henrik in Watford last night, who were lovely enough to feed me beer, food, and put me up, and today I'm off into London to catch up with Anne Marie, who I was travelling with in Laos and who's just got back into the country.

June 30, 2003

Jellyfish Attack

I was having a swim in a bay just outside of the harbour on Saturday when I suddenly felt a really sharp pain in my left leg. If Id been at all worried about sharks I would have thought it was a shark bite as it hurt so much. I managed to swim over and crawl into the dinghy, half expecting to see my leg bleeding, but luckily it was just a bad jellyfish sting - though the worst Ive ever had. I was in quite a lot of pain so I thought it was a good idea to head back to Zamindar, but as I tried to pull the anchor up it wouldnt budge. It had lodged into some rock. I got back into the water, watching out for the jellyfish that were still swimming around, and dived down to try to free it. We were in about five metres of water, however, and I didnt have a mask, so once I did get down I couldnt see what I was doing and I was beginning to feel pretty rough from the toxins in the sting. After some more tries to dislodge it, we finally decided to untie it and come back with snorkelling gear once Id recovered.

Zamindar is still on Isla Clementina, though incredibly, I was told off yesterday by one of the marineros for showering naked on the pontoon. Last year it was de rigeur not to wear anything there!

July 4, 2003

Neighbours

Today I finally had my arrest papers from Brazil translated by Rachel, one of our local naturist chums. When Chris, Poof, & I sailed across the Atlantic and arrived in Brazil we were arrested in a bar in the islands of Fernando de Noronha for some, umm, trivial offence, and taken off to the Policia Militar HQ. After a bit of hassle and interrogation they agreed to let us go if we signed some forms, so we did. The most interesting part is that they've written that we did not undergo any physical torture or assault whilst in custody.

One of the interesting things I discovered in Asia was that a lot of backpackers from the USA are now sewing Canadian flags onto their backpacks to hide their nationality. It appears that some US yachts are doing similar things as well now - there's a boat next to us in the normally peaceful anchorage tonight that isn't flying an ensign. The people onboard it talk very loudly, play very bad music at high volume (whilst I try to listen to Cafe del Mar at a respectable level), and, oh, the yacht's registered in Road Island. Time to play my 'Now that's what I call Arabia' cd, I think.

July 28, 2003

Cycle Frenzy

In much the same spirit of coincidence, it has come to my attention that after transporting my two yellow bicycles half way across the world from Florida and leaving them in Mahon, Formentera is the most perfect place in the Balearics to cycle. In fact almost everyone not on a moped is busy cycling around on the island and, perhaps it's my imagination, but looking particularly smug as they pass me. I know, of course, that this was bound to happen, but if anyone is interested, there are two yellow, 1970's era cycles, free to a good home on Isla Clementina in Mahon.

July 29, 2003

El Divino, Ibiza

I finally had enough of staring at the beach at the weekend and caught the ferry into Ibiza for a night of partying and self abuse. Due to the first ferry being at 0700 the following morning I knew I had a long night ahead of me so I headed off to a cafe for half a dozen espressos before beginning the hunt for cheap club tickets in Ibiza town. Entrance to a club here can be 50 but with a bit of hunting around you can usually find someone in a bar selling a free pass. I'd decided to check out Hed Kandi at El Divino, arguably one of the most happening places in Ibiza town on a Saturday night, and found a ticket for 20. One of the surprising things is that the big names in clubbing don't actually have clubs here but share the same six or so main properties on different nights. Hence there is no actual Ministry of Sound, Cream, Cafe del Mar, or Manumission club, with Manumission, for example, moving between two different clubs on consecutive nights.

So I walked into El Divino like someone on a pilgrimage to Mecca expecting to be impressed. The club is in a fantastic location, built in the port of Ibiza with views across to the old town and harbour (in fact arriving by dinghy could save you the entire entrance fee!). Immediately, however, you realise that the place is neither big nor slick with only one dancefloor and no chill-out room. The sound system is lovely, the mixing is class, but it felt a bit monotonous, most people weren't dancing and it just didn't cut it in atmosphere for me. On top of that it was 28c outside, much hotter inside, unbearable if you were dancing, and a glass of water was 5. All in all, it felt very much like a package tour destination, over-commercialised, and Americanised... in fact one visitor from the USA seemed quite intent on trying to beat me to a pulp for sitting in 'his seat'. It was lovely seeing the sunrise as the ferry came into Formentera though, and after 2 hours in bed I was woken by one of my new Spanish chums whom I'd promised to have a beer with.

August 7, 2003

Espalmador Mud Baths

covered in mud with Carita Ketola
Espalmador has hot, sulphurous mud baths in the centre of the island, which everyone heads off to and coats themselves in. They do tend to stink a bit, but it's worth it. Yesterday after drinking quite a lot of beer on the beach to celebrate her birthday, Carita and I went off there, soaked in the mud for a while, then walked back and washed off in the sea just before sunset.

August 21, 2003

Naked in Ibiza

Ibiza town really does begin to feel quite like home. There's such a relaxed feeling as you wander around the old streets and lanes and such a diverse collection of people that it never really seems to get dull which makes it an easy place to like. Sitting around in cafes watching the hip, the rich, the beautiful, the freaks, hippies, dwarves, fashion victims, as well as all the people just wandering around nearly naked, makes consuming caffeine here much more entertaining than in most other places. No matter what time it is something will always be happening and people willl be walking around - though often looking more and more wasted as it gets deeper into the night. Unlike in some of the tourist developments on the island, however, it still manages to feel civilised and safe, and freakiness gets accepted rather than judged as it would elsewhere.

September 1, 2003

Speed Freak

Going out of Ibiza harbour tonight I was pulled over by a Guardia Civil patrol boat for apparently doing 30 knots in a 3 knot zone and for not having my lights on. They were quite nice about it though and once they found out I didn't speak Spanish they let me go.

September 4, 2003

Briar Cottage, Balmerino

Yesterday, while torrential rain was pouring down, flooding the streets of Ibiza, I had a call from the estate agents who were marketing my cottage in Scotland and I accepted one of the offers for it.

Briar Cottage was where I grew up and spent most of my childhood and it still holds a lot of very special memories for me so I spent years deliberating whether to re-build the place or sell it. In the end, however, I realised that even if I did a lot of work to it, I'd never want to live there again, and with property prices in the UK being sky high right now I decided to put it on the market. Things still of course have to be finalised, so I won't be celebrating until I cash the cheque, but the very, very respectable offer should compensate for selling off my childhood memories.

September 12, 2003

Closing Parties

Tonight the closing parties begin in some of the clubs as Ibiza begins to wind down towards the end of September. Town is getting quieter, though more pleasant and laid back, and there are fewer boats around as people slowly begin to regain consciousness, leave the island and return to normal society. Personally I plan to stay right up until the end when Ibiza begins its winter hibernation and the dj asks me to leave. The evenings are getting cooler now, dropping down to a chilly 20c sometimes, forcing you to dig out a sweater and find the brandy to keep warm and I haven't decided where to leave Zamindar for the winter yet as I can't believe it's that time already, but wherever it is I don't think it'll be too far from here.

October 15, 2003

Barbecue in Espalmador

barbecue in espalmador
We took the dinghy down to Espalmador the other night, lit a fire, and had a lovely time barbecueing some food on the beach. It felt really great to be away from people and civilisation, and the food tasted better than anything we'd eaten all summer - obviously we're both turning into hippies. On the way back to the marina we passed the taxi motorboat from Ibiza which, for some bizarre reason, had run into the end of the breakwater in Formentera, smashed open its hull, and the skipper was being helped into an ambulance.

October 16, 2003

Thumb Tricks

We're just getting things cleaned and sorted up onboard in preparation for leaving on Friday. Today when we were lifting the outboard into the boat, however, the harness came off it and 65kg of engine fell down onto my hand, interestingly causing my thumb to dislocate and bend right back to my wrist. Don't think I'll be using my right hand for very much over the coming weeks.

October 26, 2003

Back in Bristol

We spent a lovely morning yesterday swimming in Simon's pool and using his sauna before driving back up to Bristol. It was so relaxing down in Cornwall that coming back to the city felt like a bit of a shock but we managed to make the most of it by going out to a bar in the evening with Berit and drinking a little too much.

October 31, 2003

Halloween

carita's pumpkins
Traditional Celtic Halloween traditions seem to be at risk of being eaten up by Americanism invading Scotland as children go around 'trick or treating' now rather than 'guising' or 'ducking for apples' as was normally the case just a few years ago. It's so sad to see these traditions and signs of local identity dying out and being swept away by consumerism and crap.

November 5, 2003

Gateway to the Highlands

Somehow the weather in Scotland seems to know when I'm outside and it starts raining. I can look out of the window and it's a lovely day and then deciding not to wrap myself up in bin liners I'll go downstairs, walk around the corner and torrential rain will ensue.

The train ride through to Perth was fairly interesting and I always appreciate the Scottish landscape after I've been out of the country for a while. The only unpleasant aspect of the trip over was that I was probably sitting a bit too close to the toilet which apparently, from the smell, something had died in recently.

The dentist was fairly surprised to see me and pointed out that I hadn't been there since March 2001, but he seemed quite happy after checking me out orally, made my teeth a new shade of white, and the Black and Decker stayed in his toolbag.

Perth was grey, windy and wet. Going there used to be a big day out for me when I worked and I would do some shopping or go to Littlejohns for dinner, soaking up the joy of having temporarily escaped Dundee. It didn't seem to have changed now much but it didn't make me as aroused as it used to. It took about fifteen minutes to walk around the main part of town, which was fairly empty apart from old and unemployed people huddling in the warmth of the shopping centre and most of the shops were identical to those on any other High Street in Britain. I had a keen desire to extract value from the 9.50 I'd paid for my day return ticket but finally I had to admit to myself that there was no point in standing around in the drizzle any longer and I caught the train back to Glasgow.

November 9, 2003

Clyde Rescue

Ged came through to Glasgow today and, seeing a police helicopter hovering just around the corner, we walked over to the river and saw a woman who'd apparently just jumped into the River Clyde. It probably isn't the best place to attempt to kill yourself, however, as the drop from the bridge into the water is only 15m and the river is just about 150m wide, so you're much more likely just to get cold and wet. We stood and watched as the police arsed around on the riverbank and hovered low in the helicopter wondering what to do whilst a member of the public dropped a lifering to her from another bridge downstream. By this time paramedics had joined the police on the river bank and were shouting the helpful advice, "Swim over here!" As we watched this pathetic attempt of a rescue, the woman began to sink under the cold water, and it looked very much as if she was beginning to drown.

Finally, after about fifteen minutes, in what you might have expected to see in a third world country, an old man appeared towing a rowing boat behind his car. This, they eventually managed to launch into the water, and paddled over to where the woman was. She, of course, was having nothing to do with being rescued and proceeded to fight off the two men in the boat who were trying to lift her over the side. The rowing boat then came very close to capsizing before they decided to give her a good slapping around the head and drag her onboard. One of them then had to lie on top of her to stop her fighting back as they rowed to shore.

About a quarter of an hour after this, Ged and I were crossing back over the bridge when a proper rescue boat turned up looking for the person in the water - apparently they'd not even been told that she'd been recovered.

November 10, 2003

New Town Architecture Tour

I'm sitting on the coach right now on my way back to Glasgow after a meeting in Cupar, which happens to be one of the most difficult places to get to. The coach takes almost two and a half hours (& the train takes even longer) so I arrived there, went to the meeting, then rushed back & caught the next coach to Glasgow fifteen minutes later. Hence, I've had the dubious pleasure of spending my day looking out of the window at the 1960's concrete architecture of Dunfermline & Glenrothes.

After spending hours trying to find the right menu to turn on the volume on my new phone (the manual is much bigger & heavier than the phone), I realised that it was broken & took it back to the shop for a replacement yesterday. Hopefully this one will last a bit longer! That, together with the fact that Carita is pissed off with me for not buying a Finnish phone makes me think that maybe I should have got another Nokia after all!

December 6, 2003

Finnish Sauna Sessions

Last night we had a serious sauna session. Carita's grandparents, who we're visiting in Turku, have a lovely, wood-fired sauna and so I was given a lesson on Finnish sauna culture.

Wood-fired saunas take about two hours to get up to temperature, after which Carita and I went in and did a bit of sweating - naked of course as it's unhygienic to wear anything. We took a break and stood outside on the terrace to cool off - there'd just been a fresh fall of snow and everything was white but, of course, it was pretty freezing and we soon returned to the sauna to warm up and beat each other with oak branches until our bodies were red. Apparently, this isn't just for sado-masochists but improves your blood circulation and softens your skin by leaving beneficial leaf extracts on it. We had some 'sauna beers' to relax us even more and threw some cold water over each other - I'm told it's normal to get pissed in the sauna here. Many saunas in Finland are wood-fired as it gives a smoother, less dry and more controllable heat, and it was lovely sitting there drinking cold beer. After that we had a cold shower and washed each other, which is apparently another very Finnish thing for couples to do.

We left the sauna and spent the rest of the evening eating oven sausage and drinking a Finnish snapsi called Koskenkorva, which I was pressured by Carita's grandfather to down with a slice of guerkin (which I do hate). Finally, somewhat dazed, we returned to the sauna to warm our bones before collapsing into bed together.

December 13, 2003

Embarressing Situations no.1

Now this is mortally embarressing. We're staying with Carita's parents right now and, as usual, her and l were going to bed at three o'clock in the morning. So I walked into the bathroom, closed the door, and while I was looking for the light switch a naked man sitting on the toilet (her father), said "Good morning" to me. Naturally, I made my apologies and left.

Time to leave the country.

December 28, 2003

Return of the King

Carita and I went to see the new 'Lord of the Rings' film last night, 'Return of the King' in Helsinki and it was wonderful. The special effects are so good that often during the film it's hard to believe that what you're looking at isn't real. It's nail-biting from beginning to end, and so moving that everyone in our row was wiping tears away from their eyes. Definitely the best film I've seen this year.

January 1, 2004

Happy New Year 2004

We spent the new year in Lohja, watched the fireworks in town, had some drinks, then brought in the new year. It's traditional in Finland to melt tin horseshoes at midnight then drop them into water - the shape they make tells your future for the year. Mine looked a bit like a dragon, though it also looked quite like a piece of melted tin.

A couple of hours later we celebrated the Scottish new year, checked out George Square in Glasgow on the webcam, which was packed (Dundee's webcam couldn't handle the traffic, ha), and Carita and I continued drinking until the morning. Happy New Year and the best of luck to all of my friends who check out this site, and all the people I don't know who come here as well!

January 3, 2004

Snakes and Frozen Lakes

Two new firsts for me today:
1. Went for a walk on a frozen lake, which was pretty cool, plus the chance of plummetting through the ice added to the excitement.
2. Held a snake, which was really beautiful and muscular close up, though colder than I expected.

January 16, 2004

Cornish Break

I've been staying with Simon in Cornwall for the last few days. We did a bit of walking on the south-west coastal path, sorted out his new pc, and generally had a very relaxing time. Broadband internet access is addictive for me, however, and I really have to go to bed soon as I need to get up in 4 hours and get to London.

January 17, 2004

London Boat Show 2004

I spent yesterday afternoon at the London Boat Show, which turned out to be incredibly unexciting. One of the attractions of it this year is that some of the boats are in the water, as it's at a new venue (not sharing the stage with Justin Timberlake in Earls Court), though actually it turned out there were only nine sailing boats on the dock. There were a fair share of stands selling miracle vegetable slicers and similar shopping channel delights, however, but most of the marine stands were staffed by people in boat shoes and polyester suits trying hard to avoid eye contact with anyone.

The electronics stands had hardly changed their products in five years. There was only one system that alllowed you to control your boat remotely by mobile phone (which was well overpriced), and none of the world's leading marine electronics companies had a wireless remote navigation system (which I've been using over wi-fi on the boat since last summer). But it was very easy to find a mechanical speed system exactly like they used 200 years ago, which seems to be what appeals to Britain's yachties.

I had been hoping to meet up with Chris as he was in London as well, but he called to say that he had to get up early the folllowing morning for a busy day involving ballet and couldn't make it. So I caught the coach up to Luton airport and slept in a corner there before getting up to check in for my flight to Madrid at 05:30.

January 25, 2004

Formentera's Flotsam

Today was a lovely, sunny, calm day so I went for a long walk along the beach at Platja de ses Illetes. I only passed a few people and as it was getting pretty hot I decided to go in for a swim. The water seemed tropical after swimming in Finland's frozen lakes earlier this month, but I soon began to lose feeling in my legs and decided to get out.

I dried off in the sun then continued my walk, and a bit further on I found the most interesting thing I've come across beachcombing so far - part of an aircraft's tailfin with 'Banshee' printed on it washed up on the beach. There didn't seem to be any dead bodies lying around it so I carried it to the end of the beach near Espalmador where there's a collection of cairns and sculptures made from flotsam, which I've been meaning to add to, and feeling creative, made it into a sculpture of my own.

January 29, 2004

Psycho Rasta Dog

Even the dogs are rastas here in Formentera. Walking along the beach today I heard a loud growl and looked over to see a huge, dreadlocked, black wig on four legs rushing towards me, intent on carnage. I'd never seen a dog like it before, and I stood there transfixed - judging from it's ninety year old owner, it's hairstyle was a bizarre, but natural occurrence, as he didn't particularly look like a Bob Marley fan. Luckily for me, however, it either couldn't see very much from under it's mop or it had just been taking mind altering, hallucinogenic drugs, and it rushed right past me, still growling at and chasing the emptiness of the beach.

February 1, 2004

iPod Cafe

I took a ferry over to Ibiza yesterday and spent a chilled day wandering around. I checked out Ibiza Town's newest cafe, which, although it doesn't yet appear to have a name, is directly across the road from the ferry terminal.

The Spanish really spend a lot of money fitting out their bars and cafes - many of them are so beautifully finished inside that if they were in Britain, they'd be too posh and expensive to go into for a coffee. They'd been outfitting this place all summer; it's all sollid wood, marble, and brass panels (though I'd be tempted to squeeze four times as many tables into the place, but that's just me).

Another thing that Spanish cafes invest highly in are their speaker and hi-fi systems, and indeed this place has lovely big JBL loudspeakers in the corners. I sat there, sipping my cafe con leche, enjoying the sound, and afterwards went to pay the bill. It was then I noticed that behind the bar, apart from a big Yamaha amp, there didn't seem to be any other hi-fi equipment. No cd player or anything. Then I spied it - a tiny iPod sitting in it's cradle. All the tracks were mp3s from it's hard drive, and though it's just about the size of a deck of cards, it was handling the whole sound system beautifully. Slick. I've been thinking about replacing Zamindar's stereo system with one for a while, but please Apple, give it wi-fi, and then it'll be the ultimate remote hard drive... and you could file-share with it as you walked around.

February 28, 2004

American Psycho

We're planning to head up to Ayuthaya sometime next week but for the moment Carita and I are 'acclimatising' to Thailand in My House. This basically seems to involve drinking quite a lot of Thai beer and getting Carita used to eating red or green Thai curry everyday whilst observing the strange habits of the backpacker community.

My House is normally a fairly peaceful, civilised place, however, we've endured several restless nights this week due to a room full of Americans down the corridor who insisted on shouting, screaming, and playing crap music at high volume all the time. Carita, as well as people from other rooms, asked them to keep the noise down, but after five minutes they were once again screaming excitedly to each other about the merits of different NFL players and similar gripping discussions. Finally, Carita met one of them, who was about twice her height, in the corridor, lost all attempts at diplomacy, and screamed various expletives up at his face. This pissed the guy off so much that he turned around and smashed down the door to one of the rooms, which resulted in them all being immediately kicked out of the guesthouse. This morning, however, we were awoken by a new bunch of yankee accents as our new neighbours played basketball up and down the corridor. Maybe we'll go travelling in the Middle East next time.

In something rather similar to a scene from The Beach, the people in the room next to us seem to have mysteriously disappeared. It seems they left their room one day last week with all of their stuff in it, and never returned. The staff keep going into the room every day to see if they've come back, but there's no bodies or any sign of them. They didn't piss us off before their disappearance either, so it was nothing to do with us.

March 20, 2004

Palm Gone

We survived the flight with Vietnam Airlines, and found quite a pleasant hotel in the middle of Ho Chi Minh. Unfortunately, my Palm didn't and went missing somewhere between the security gate in Bangkok and getting to Vietnam, and hence I've lost my brain as I'm unable to remember anything at all these days (including picking up my Palm, obviously, as well). So I'm fairly pissed off, but we were quite knackered when we were travelling so I guess it's just one of those things.

April 8, 2004

Sore Arse

The dullness of spending a night in Heathrow airport was tempered somewhat when I paid a visit to the toilets and discovered blood running out of my arse. I was, needless to say, a bit shocked, and not having taken part in any bizarre sexual activities the only cause I could think of was sitting on the plane for such a long time. Anyway, I reckoned I would survive the night, despite Carita's attempts to take me to casualty, and when I awoke in the morning it appeared to have healed itself. So I saw Carita onto her flight, caught the coach up to Bristol, and went to Chris's flat. Carita called me back in the evening to say that she'd spoken to her doctor who had remotely diagnosed me (without even a photo of my arse) with possible minor haemorrhoids! I, of course denied it, arguing that only old women got those, but apparently our recent bouts of diarrhoea, constipation, and spending weeks sitting on trains, buses, and planes, could well have caused it.

So it looks as if between that and smashing my knee up in Bangkok (I thought I could fly like superman if I ran fast enough but I couldn't), it's maybe not such a good idea to go off cycling this week as I'd planned to. In fact just sitting down is a bit uncomfortable, but at least I've got a memento of the trip!

May 6, 2004

Back Onboard

Ira seems to be settling down onboard the confines of the boat pretty well and enjoying all of her new experiences - chasing seagulls and lizards, trying to breathe underwater, and getting used to all the noises and movements of living onboard. It's also nice to have a dog around again as it's years since I last had one.

We were all quite knackered by the time we finally got to Formentera. Everything onboard Zamindar seems to be fine, thankfully, and although her camera hadn't been sending me pictures for the last few weeks, it seems to have just been a software crash and after a reset it's working fine again. We warped the boat around so that her stern is now into the dock and Ira can easily jump on and off - sorting up all the lines really felt like doing hard physical work after taking it easy for months. The weather was pretty awful for the first few days after we arrived, with gale force winds and driving rain but it seems to be improving now.

May 9, 2004

Signs of Summer

Gradually, Formentera is beginning to come to life with the first signs of the summer season. Whereas, when we arrived here a week ago most places were closed and the island was deserted, day by day shops and cafes are opening up, the day trip boats are running again, the buses and ferries are back on full timetables, and the first tourists of the season are turning up. The marina's getting busier as well, though it'll be another month or so until most of the cruising boats and superyachts turn up. We're not sure whether all of this makes us happy or not - the island did feel a bit like a ghost town but it was wonderful to have all the beaches to ourselves and already we've had the first British tourists standing on the dock staring into the boat watching us, but at least there's a bigger choice of bars.

May 27, 2004

Rent a Wreck

We rented a car today and went off to explore the full extent of Formentera's 17km of roads. It wasn't long before we reached the far side of the island. The eastern end of Formentera is covered with pine trees and rises dramatically to almost 200 metres above the rest of the island, which is essentially flat and sandy. There we stopped off at El Mirador, a bar with one of the best views in the Balearics, which looks out across the whole island and over to Ibiza.

After some caffeine to sharpen our senses we went off to find a viewpoint that was marked at the end of a road near the highest point on the map. The road, however, quickly degenerated into a potholed forest track which we bounced along until the rental car felt like it was about to fall apart. Later I realised that the red lines on the map were in fact footpaths, not roads, and that we'd yet again wrecked another rental car by driving it down a mountain

June 19, 2004

Maggots

We rented a car yesterday and were driving around in the Mediterranean heat when we began to wonder what the smell was. After Carita giving me a hard time about my socks, we parked in the sun and returned later to find it smelt so bad that we could hardly get back inside. It was then I opened the boot and found three cases of maggots, nicely heated up by the sun and stinking!

I wasn't sure if it was some kind of special offer I'd missed when I was renting it, kind of a, "Rent a car, get a lifetime supply of maggots free" sort of thing, so I thought it best just to leave them there. Anyway, I drove back into San Antonio this morning to return the car, parked up in a random place in town, and as soon as I walked away from it a van pulled up, two guys got out, opened up the rental car, grabbed the maggots, then sped off.

June 25, 2004

Chillout Sessions

Walking along a remote part of the coast with the dog the other day, we crossed over a hill and heard music coming from a couple of vans parked at the far side of the bay. At first I thought it was just someone with a very loud stereo, but as we walked closer I realised that it was a band playing on the cliffs above the sea. They'd set up all of their gear, a generator, and big speakers and were playing really good chillout music across the deserted landscape with no one else around as the sun set into the sea. It was nice to have some live music while I was taking the dog out but some things only happen in Ibiza.

July 18, 2004

Total Recall

My ability to pull any kind of meaningful information or fact from my clouding brain has now reached the point that I've had to begin outsourcing my memory. The other day I saw someone I knew in Ibiza Town, and, totally unable to remember her name but knowing that I'd blogged something about her last year I was forced to do a Google search on my phone to find out what she was called before I could go and talk to her. Alzheimer's can only be a small step away.

August 3, 2004

Seagull Pie

At the weekend we took the dinghy over to Isla Conejera with Sanna, one of Cyberdog's designers. The island, which lies about 10km west of San Antonio, is uninhabited apart from some endangered black lizards and the occasional drunken yachtie. Every day here the temperature is over 30c now, so after a hot walk across the island up to the lighthouse, Carita was bright red from the heat and we were dying for a swim, but the view was worth it. At the top of the hill, in a clearing, however, we came across a large, fairly fresh pile of seagull feathers stacked on the grass, and further on we found some large bones which had been cut through with something big and heavy rather than chewed the way you would expect an animal to do.

Not many people go to the more isolated parts of Ibiza, but occasionally if you do, you'll come across someone living in a cave who's (taken way too many drugs and) gone back to nature, surviving off whatever he can catch. But whatever it is we probably won't be going back there for the sunset.

August 11, 2004

Carita's Birthday

It was Carita's birthday at the weekend (22 now, so she's getting a bit past it) as well as being a year since we met so after having a bottle of champagne at sunset we went out for a lovely meal to Vaca Argentina, which serves the best steak in Ibiza (flown in fresh from South America). Being unable to stay away from work for a whole day, we then went around and had a drink with Carita's work chums before going out to Es Paradis with Sanna.

Es Paradis, one of the big clubs in San Antonio, is white and bright inside, with a dance floor surrounded by fake Greek pillars that worryingly took me back to Century 2000, a club in Edinburgh in the early 90's which has since been renovated several times. It was incredibly empty as well, so after a very expensive beer we took the dinghy back to the boat and continued drinking there.

August 16, 2004

Zami at night

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August 18, 2004

Neurotic girls nightclub

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Guestlist

We've had one of Carita's friends, Otto, and his chum, Janne staying with us onboard lately. This pic and this might give you an idea of how that was.

August 28, 2004

Environmental Driving

Colin's been here for the last week and I've been having too much fun to get a chance to do any updates in that time. He flew into Ibiza last Saturday and we borrowed a car to collect him from the airport. Although I was told there was hardly any fuel in the tank it was just showing reserve so I wasn't in any rush to put petrol in and most of the service stations had big queues as it was Saturday morning. Bizarrely, the indicator didn't seem to be moving though, and it was still showing some reserve when the tank ran dry and the engine cut out in the middle of the island. Luckily, however, we were going downhill at the time and momentum kept the car moving. It began to crawl as we climbed the next hill, pissing off all the cars behind us, and it looked as if we were going to be stranded in the middle of nowhere, but just as it was about to stop we reached the next crest, gathered some speed, and freewheeled down. This went on for about 5km until, amazingly, we freewheeled into San Antonio, around the traffic system, across the road, and came to a stop on the garage forecourt next to the petrol pump!

Some photos from our partying in Ibiza are here.

September 28, 2004

Not Well

As if having Chris and Berit down on the boat for a whole week wasn't punishment enough, I've since been in bed for the last three days suffering from the flu. Carita has been providing me with sustenance in the form of take-away club sandwiches and huge amounts of drugs, which she claims are from the pharmacy - but seem to do a very good job of cheering me up. Donations will be happily accepted to buy her a nurse's outfit.

October 9, 2004

Formentera Rentals

rent-a-wreck

We rented a car to show Carita's mum and sister around Formentera on their last day on the island. Carita, however, wanted to rent a Citroen Meharis; a pre-war looking convertible that appeared to have been dragged out of the sea. Hesitantly, I agreed.

Sitting in the driver's seat I couldn't figure out where the gear lever was until someone from the rental place came out and pointed to a black, shiny knob sticking out of the dashboard - to change gear you pulled it out or pushed it in, simultaneously causing a loud, grinding noise. The feeble handbrake was operated by another lever sticking from the dashboard, and the speedo, odometer, fuel gauge, and seat belts didn't work at all. There was a wooden board in the rear footwell as a previous customer had obviously put their feet through the floor, and the roof consisted of a pvc sheet, stapled on. Probably, it was the worst thing I have ever driven in my life. The clutch hardly worked at all, the suspension lurched from side to side as you went around corners, it had no brakes to speak of, and the steering had a mind of it's own, requiring you to fight with it to stay on the road.

Miraculously, we somehow managed to avoid running down any cyclists or pedestrians on our trip around the island, but by the end of the day I was more than happy to return it to the rental place, vowing to rent a proper car next time.

Here are the photographs from the last week.

October 11, 2004

Pontoon in Formentera Marina

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October 16, 2004

Leaving Formentera on the ferry

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Leaving Ibiza on the ferry to Denia

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Denia

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October 17, 2004

Camped in Denia

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October 18, 2004

On the Road

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October 19, 2004

Crossing into France

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October 22, 2004

Ardache Gorges

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Rental car 2

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Basel station

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October 23, 2004

Ira in Rottweil

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October 24, 2004

On the ferry to Finland

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October 29, 2004

No Rubber Ball

matrix catsuit
After just enough time to suffer freezing conditions and have a quick sauna, I'm leaving Finland on my way back to Ibiza. I fly into Stansted tonight, probably sleep in a corner, and tomorrow morning check in for the last Easyjet flight of the year to Ibiza at 05:00.

We had originally planned to stay in London and go to the Torture Garden Halloween party with Sanna and her boyfriend, Simon who owns Libidex and had promised to lend us some latex outfits - but I guess we'll just have to look forward to that for another time.

November 29, 2004

Burrell Collection

The last few days in Scotland have been a mixture of catching up with people and, well, drinking. Yesterday Colin and I went off to find the Burrell Collection and after a quick look at the map decided to walk there as it seemed so close (maps do that sometimes). We arrived two hours later after getting fairly lost. It's a collection of over 9000 pieces of art originally owned by a big industrialist who brought it back from all over the world and it's fairly impressive, housed in a gallery on the Pollock Estate (that's country estate not housing estate). Still, I'm sure we didn't find 9000 pieces there before we retired to the cafe and tried to figure out how to get back.

Here's some of the photos from the last couple of weeks in Britain.

December 1, 2004

Diamonds Are Forever

breasts
Sitting watching adverts on tv with Colin tonight, one came on for vodka. Anyway, in it the guy dies (probably from drinking too much) and looking for everlasting happiness for him his friend takes his ashes to a company which turns them into a diamond and it ends up in a tooth of a gorgeous girl's mouth.

So we both agree that it's pretty cool and probably better than feeding the worms but then we have the fantasy/reality discussion - Colin claiming that it's just a beer ad and hence, the things that happen in it are not part of the 'real world'. Anyway, by complete coincidence later tonight I ended up reading an article on things to do before you die which mentions LifeGem, a company which will happily turn your ashes into quality diamonds good enough to become part of a ring or, more practically, cut through glass!

December 4, 2004

New Passports

I renewed my passport this week and after complying with the regulations (mouth cannot be open, eyes cannot be looking away, no shadows on face...), got photographs from two identical looking photobooths with hugely differing results, chose the better set, handed in my application, and waited. Soon enough, and a whopping £95 later, I collected it, turned to the photo page, and discovered that the picture is printed so badly that it's barely distinguishable as me. Apparently the passport office are using such appalling digital scanners and printers that it looks like it's been printed out from a home computer from the 1980's. I can see problems ensuing when I use it, and as Colin pointed out, get accused of buying it on the street in Bangkok.

December 10, 2004

Swedish Rally Car

I'm lovin' it!
Yesterday, in need of some transport that would fit in with his retro lifestyle, Chris bought himself a Saab 96 from 1967 and we headed across the mountains to pick it up from the small town it was in. It turned out to be an ex-rally car, with sponsorship stickers across the bonnet, and this coupled with the fact that it had an oversize exhaust seemed to clinch the deal for Chris. He paid for it and we were soon on our way, flying back towards Torsby at a frightening 50kmh.

There seemed to be a few live wires lying around as when I moved my feet or touched the dashboard I was sometimes met with electric sparks. Also we discovered that occasionally when driving along a winding country road, the lights will suddenly cut out and won't come back on until you pull over, get out, and bang repeatedly on the bonnet. So it tends to have it's quirks but it means that going for a drive is much more interesting for you and for anyone following behind as the car periodically disappears into the darkness.

December 11, 2004

Fear of the Toilet

outside toilet
Probably the toughest thing about staying in Chris's house is the fact that it only has an outside toilet. It wouldn't be so bad in the summer but right now when it's sub-zero and there's snow on the ground you don't really feel like using it, especially in the middle of the night. It's in a timber outhouse at the bottom of the garden that also doubles as the woodshed and there's no heating or light in there so the entire process becomes something of an endurance test.

After trying to put the ordeal off for as long as is humanly possible you finally end up making a desperate dash across the garden to the shed, then sitting there freezing in the dark, listening for bears coming out of the forest. Then, before you lose all sense of feeling in your legs from the cold, you get things over as quickly as possible before making another mad sprint back to the warmth of the house where you spend the following twenty minutes standing against the wood-burning stove to thaw out.

December 27, 2004

Christmas 2004

For Christmas we travelled up to Turku and spent it with Carita's grandparents and family. Remarkably, my lovely girlfriend knew exactly what I wanted this year (other than some Valium) and ensured that Santa had visited the Apple store.

Christmas was white, really white in fact, as it snowed much of the day. In the evening, after lots of eating and drinking, Carita and I had some beer in the sauna then stood outside in the snow to cool off - we hadn't had quite enough beers to go rolling in it, however, this time.

January 2, 2005

New Year 2005

2005 started rather differently - in a hot-tub next to a frozen lake, with two naked men. We're staying at Carita's brother's log cabin in the forest here in Lapland and the partying began at lunchtime with whisky and beers. We spent the afternoon taking wood to his lakeside sauna with the snowmobile and trailer, drinking beer as we piled the logs. It was the inauguration of the new wood-burning hot tub, so after filling it with water, we stoked it full of wood, lit the fire, and went off to dinner hoping it wouldn't take too long to heat in the arctic temperature.

By the time we'd eaten we were pleasantly surprised to find that the water was lovely and hot so the girls jumped in and we took the snowmobile out onto the frozen lake where we launched the traditional new year fireworks. The first one I launched stuck in it's tube, fell over and nearly hit the other guys and the snowmobile, which wouldn't have made me very popular.

Next it was our turn to cook, so we sat in the wood-heated sauna for a bit before making a painful dash across the snow to the steaming hot-tub, which by now was near-boiling! We lost track of time sitting there and suddenly realised that midnight had quietly passed so we celebrated by making snow angels - lying down naked in the snow! We returned to the sauna to heat up a bit more and spent the following three hours alternating between the sauna and hot-tub, drinking beers and cognac in there until quite pissed and very dehydrated!

January 15, 2005

Zami Tattoo

zami tattoo
Sometimes, some things just cannot be explained. For instance, I've never seen the name of my boat used anywhere before, except in Hindu culture.

So, even in the most bizarre world...

What are the chances of one of Carita's brothers offering to show me his tattoo...

and it's the name of my boat?

January 27, 2005

Lack of Updates

Haven't managed to blog much recently as last week was really hectic, and now I've been ill for the last few days. Will get around to it soon when I'm feeling better though.

February 8, 2005

Formentera Hospitality

Either Formentera has become friendlier this winter or we're just more accepted after two years on the island, but whatever the case 
the last couple of weeks have been very pleasant. Even if fresh bread is still hard to get.

Ironically, after flying down and hauling the boat out specifically for an insurance survey, l spoke to the insurance company yesterday to tell them it was done and they replied, "What survey? Our records don't show that we ever asked you to get a survey done."

February 14, 2005

Liberation

gimp
While we were in London, Simon gave us a private, Sunday night tour of Liberation, his shop in Covent Garden. As well as being the main outlet for Libidex, his latex clothing brand, there's also an appropriately bizarre collection of vintage erotica and antique fetish gear. Naturally, we had to try on some of the lovely gear - my favourite item being the gimp mask which, personally, I think, suits me quite well!

Downstairs, the main showroom is complete with dungeon, prayer stool, and a collection of leather straps that took me right back to being belted at school. (Actually, I only got belted at my primary school, St Peter and Paul's which I went to until I was twelve, but it sadly doesn't have a website. Although this, the website of my secondary school is truly appalling as you can see!)

More photos from Liberation and our trip to Formentera.

February 16, 2005

Unable to Write

So yesterday I had to write a cheque & suddenly I discovered that I can't write anymore! It's something I just never do - I just use a keyboard all the time & never pen & paper. Henceforth, will stop using keyboards & go back to using pens!

March 2, 2005

The Joys of Moving

naked ikea
I got to Finland just in time to help Carita move into our new flat in Espoo so the last week has been spent moving boxes, visiting Ikea of all places, and putting furniture together. If I didn't like Ikea before that ordeal then I absolutely loathe it now. Hours spent trying to figure out where all the spastic designed bolts and attachments go and then it turns out they go into corners that are too small to get your fingers into unless you're the retarded five year old that designed it. Then, after ripping your hand open on a razor thin slice of veneer and your girlfriend trying to dig the splinter out with a potato peeler (don't ask), you find that you've put the nearly identical screws in the wrong place, or there's one missing, or that part of it is damaged and you have to take it all apart again, get it back into the car, and return to the centre of evil to get it exchanged and ruin another day of your life.

March 6, 2005

Join Me

join me
I'm currently reading Join Me by Danny Wallace - the true story of a man who started a cult by accident. It follows the growth of the 'collective' from humble beginnings as Danny sits in his flat watching films in his underwear until it's members multiply across the globe doing random good deeds, and he attempts to hide the entire thing from his girlfriend. A very funny read containing essential advice and guidance for anyone who's ever considered setting up a cult.

Apparently, the group is still very much alive and kicking at the Join Me website.

March 14, 2005

Antonov AN-2

antonov an-2
At the weekend I flew across the frozen Baltic to Estonia with a couple of guys who were bringing back an Antonov AN-2, the world's biggest biplane. After flying into Tallinn airport and clearing customs we took off for Amari, a military airfield in the middle of nowhere. It was bitterly cold, about -10c, as we hung around the airbase which used to be home to one of the USSR's MiG squadrons but now mostly consists of empty, bunkered hangars.

The Antonov turned out to be less than manoeuvrable, however, as they attempted to taxi to the runway and slid off the apron into deep snow. It took three of us to push it out, and ten metres later it once again frustratingly turned and slid into the snow. Once more we pushed to turn it into the right direction as the pilot revved the engine, causing so much airflow from the props that we were blown off into the snow! This repeated itself over and over again until my fingers felt completely frozen and I expected to see they had black tips when I took my gloves off. Finally the aircraft made it out onto the main runway and majestically lifted off the ground after only about fifty metres.

May 29, 2005

Meet The Neighbours

Tonight I was invited over to dinner by my neighbours in the boat next door to me, something ordinarily yachtie, but which hasn't happened for a very long time. After all the usual sailing talk finally died down, it turned out that one of them had been a producer for the BBC before he'd retired - they'd once spent 3 years making 13 hours of a documentary on Japan - and the other was a barrister.

One of the guys he'd represented - Mr A, was sitting in his cell eating steak and drinking port when he first met him. He'd painted a portrait of the prison governor's daughter, and since then prison life had been much more bearable. Once, long ago, he'd stolen jewellery from girls at a dance and had been arrested. As he was sent down for the crime the magistrate told him how he'd ruined a very special night for those girls and how they would be upset about it for years to come. Hence, he decided to only steal from very rich people from then on. He would break into a big house and, being an expert in art and antiques, steal an expensive painting and move the other paintings around to cover it up. Only months later would the occupants finally notice that one of their paintings were missing. One day he was arrested for possessing amphetamines - he'd been used to buying them from the chemist years before when they were still legal and didn't think it was against the law, but the police came back to search his house. The house, naturally, turned out to be packed full of antiques. They looked around rooms that were packed like antique stores, then walked over to Mr A's girlfriend who was lying on a chaise-lounge to ask where he was. She said that he'd gone to the bathroom. They knocked on the door, but there was no answer, so they broke it down. Inside was part of a bottle of Creme de Menthe, Mr A's favourite drink, and an open window with the curtains blowing in the wind. Mr A had left the building.

So, the police tailed his girlfriend for a week until finally she led them to Mr A and a car full of freshly stolen silver with half a bottle of Creme de Menthe in it. Mr A, however, never turned up in court on the day of the trial. It was only much later that he was arrested in an amphetamine factory in Essex from where he'd been watching the whole trial's progress.

June 7, 2005

Beach Bar Culture

Colin flew down on Sunday and since then we've been embarking on a tour of the island and, most importantly, it's beach bars. Yesterday, he rented a bike and we headed off to the 'capital' of San Francesco - a town of three streets in the middle of the island, to indulge in some ancient culture. This didn't last too long, however, before we were forced in the heat to detour to a beach and cool off with a swim. As the beach was totally open to the afternoon sun we sought refuge and shade in a nearby shack of a beach bar, sitting on the cliff above. With a terrific view across the cove and the clear, blue water, so we decided it was best to stay there until the sun lost some of it's heat and have a beer or two to pass the time.

We eventually found ourselves pedalling homewards just before sunset, deep in concentration to keep our balance and avoid cycling off into the bushes, and awoke back on the boat this morning, dazed with hangovers and a hazy recollection of the trip back.

June 15, 2005

Busily Chilled

The last week has been pretty busy with Colin and I doing lots of cycling around Formentera and visiting almost all of it's beach bars. On our way to one of them last week I suddenly spotted Jorge's boat, Taniwha, and not having seen him for ages we all ended up going out for dinner followed by a long night of drinking in Casa Paco.

At the end of the week the 460 foot long Rising Sun, apparently the biggest private yacht in the world and owned by Richard Ellison of Oracle, appeared at night, looking like a small city, and anchored close by us. They didn't invite us over but it was still a fantastic sight as it dwarfed every other superyacht in the area, towering over the beach.

The following day we had a great sail over to Salinas and spent a day or two on it's lovely beach and drinking in the famous chill-out bar of Sa Trinxa before Colin packed his bags and flew back to Glasgow and Carita arrived the following morning.

June 20, 2005

Espalmador Barbecue

The other night Carita and I had a great barbecue with Jorge from Taniwha on the beach in Espalmador. It went on until 02:30 but even at that time the air was still a balmy 20c as we sat around chatting and drinking too much wine under the moon.

Jorge explained the amazing power of Google marketing in the services industry to me whilst Carita, meanwhile, just passed out on the sand.

June 28, 2005

Too Much to Blog

Sorry for the light blogging recently but there's been so much going on and we've been so busy socializing and sailing that I just haven't had the strength to refuse to go out and sit down to blog. I promise to make up for it and redeem myself, but first tonight we have to finish some wine...

August 1, 2005

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

At fear of appearing to have suddenly got into poetry, or that I'm trying to come to terms with my feminine side, talking about Ithaca reminded me of my favourite poem when I was at school. Although I wasn't into sailing at all back then, it was, coincidentally, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and I ended up studying it for my English 'O' Grade all those years ago. But rather than make you suffer my dissection of it, here's the poem itself.

Continue reading "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" »

August 23, 2005

Huntin' and Killin'

southparkuncle12.jpgI was invited to a couple of days of duck hunting at the weekend in the east of Finland close to the Russian border. Although I used to do quite a bit of shooting in my youth it was mainly at clay pigeons and targets. I spent a bit of time last week considering how hunting and killing fitted in with my morals, and wondering if I really did have to shout, It's coming right for us before shooting. I needn't have bothered, however, as, only firing four times over the weekend, I didn't hit anything!

We were, nonetheless, staying at a lovely log cabin complete with sauna, next to a lake. At night, the only sounds were the noise of crickets as the full moon reflected off the calm water. The first evening involved lots of drinking and sauna-taking but getting up early the following morning, with only five hours sleep and nursing hangovers, was hard.

Beers were cracked open as we got into the boat at 09:00, then we stopped off on an island to drink with some other guys on the hunt for an hour or two before the shooting started. I managed to opt to be designated driver, avoiding mixing beer and guns, and lowering myself in respect amongst the Finns in doing so.

The following morning we had a sunrise shoot, getting up at 04:00 and heading off into the darkness. Somehow, though, the ducks won in the weekend war, and our boat shot a total of three, of which only one was retrieved. Luckily, we had sandwiches or we would have starved.

As South Park once put it...

Uncle Jimbo: Now boys, boys, I, I need to get serious for a minute. I want you to understand a few basic rules of hunting, since this is your first time. First, don't ever walk with your gun unless the safety's on. Second, don't shoot anything that looks human and third, never spill your beer in the bullet chamber.

September 20, 2005

Finnish Nudity

I've been surprised just how modest the Finns are during the summer compared to their Scandinavian neighbours. Nowhere do you see much nudism, and the topless sunbathing which any visitor to Copenhagen's parks can enjoy on a summer lunchtime would, I think, shock the average Finn. Although the Finnish do get naked in their saunas, these seem governed by a complex web of rules as to who shares a sauna with whom, rather than the general, mixed nude gathering that most non-Finns assume it is. Or maybe I just haven't been invited to the fun saunas, instead always ending up in them with a bunch of guys.

December 23, 2005

Christmas Tree Hunting

The one thing Finland has is trees. Everywhere. You can't see most of the country for them. So I thought it would be no problem to find a cheap christmas tree here. No chance. For some reason, which I'm unable to understand, they're importing Christmas trees and charging €30 for them, and naturally I wasn't going to spend that on a tree in a country which has them everywhere.

I've always been against cutting down a tree just to use it as a Christmas decoration and watch it die, and Carita advised me that picking your own Christmas tree in Finland seems to be one of the worst crimes you can commit in the country with a €300 fine, so I was now against chopping one more than ever. As so often happens though, we didn't have to hunt very far. We were on a bus passing a wood when we spotted some trees cut down quite close to the road. It was cold, dark and icy, but we got off the bus and went to investigate. Several huge pine trees had been felled, the tops cut off them, and left lying, any of which would make a good Christmas tree in it's own right. We hunted around, falling over branches in the darkness, chose the smallest one we could find, and dragged it out to the road.

We were far from home, however, and our only hope of getting it back was to smuggle it onto a bus - easier said than done with a four metre (12 foot) Christmas tree covered in snow! People in passing cars were staring at us as we struggled, looking suspicious, towards the bus stop with it, and stood waiting for the bus to arrive. When it did, Carita stepped on whilst I blended into the foliage (easy as I was wearing a pine tree), and she asked the driver to open the back door of the bus as if she had a pram or something to take on. At this I ran on with the tree, squeezing it to fit inside, before the driver could voice her obvious objections and the passengers looked on shocked.

The tree took up half the bus, depositing snow from it's branches on the other passengers as I tried to hold it from falling on anyone. An old woman complained that young people should be more careful what they take onto buses (yeah, we normally carry a four metre pine tree around with us). No-one but us seemed particularly amused by what was obviously a bizarre spectacle as they looked on glumly - in fact Christmas spirit in Finland seems to come exclusively in bottles.

After the mission of getting it home, we arrived back at the flat to find that we'd wildly overestimated the height of our ceiling and my Swiss Army knife saw was called into service to hack over a metre off the trunk. This it did surprisingly well, giving me renewed confidence in my Robinson Crusoe hut building abilities, while the dog looked on confused. Shortly afterwards we had a lovely, decorated tree stretching up to the ceiling.

January 8, 2006

The Crow

birds.jpgOn New Year's day, Carita came back from taking the dog for a walk with a bundle wrapped up in her scarf - an injured crow. Cold, hungry, and unable to fly, our bathroom was quickly given over to it, and by the following day she'd transformed the bathroom into a Finnish woodland habitat, complete with part of our Christmas tree serving as a perch for the bird.

This of course made going to the toilet something of a strange experience, especially for me, whom the crow hadn't yet developed such a close bond with. Some people meditate, others do yoga, but I attain that same hypnotic state on the toilet, which isn't quite as easy when there's a pair of glistening, black eyes and a big sharp beak staring at you. With Hitchcock films running through my mind and unsure whether it would make a fatal error and mistake part of my anatomy for food, my toilet visits were cut short. Ira, meanwhile, would hang around outside the bathroom door, waiting for an opportunity to get in and have the crow as a snack.

After a few days, however, Carita decided that the bird was well enough to move to our balcony, which it has now been given free reign of, and I can once again reach my state of nirvana in the bathroom. Still unable to fly, it does however seem quite happy just to sit on it's perch and wait for it's meals to be delivered.

January 12, 2006

Flight of the Crow

When we first found the crow we suspected it had a broken wing, but noticing some discoloured white feathers in it's wings we called around some vets and bird sanctuaries, describing it to them. Eventually, we spoke to someone who sounded as if they knew what they were talking about. In recent years they've found birds in the cities, unable to fly, with discoloured wing feathers and think it's something to do with a poor diet. Although they've tried feeding them up, however, they've never recovered well enough to be able to fly again. A quick google search, however, shows that discoloured feathers have long known to be a sign of poor nutrition in birds. It's illegal to keep a wild bird yourself in Finland, and new laws requiring them to have a five square metre cage to themselves meant that none of the sanctuaries wanted it.

So we kept our illegal visitor ourselves, Carita, continued feeding the crow well, and it seemed to be improving. We were still somewhat surprised, however, when the other morning whilst she was out on the balcony, it jumped up onto the wall, looked at her, then flew off. I was just relieved, as Carita's recent coughing fits had been making me think it had bird flu.

March 3, 2006

Out of Cold Storage

Having picked up everything I've had in storage since I left Dundee ten years ago, I'm now in Cornwall with it. Funnily enough an IRA arms cache of firearms and bomb making materials was discovered in the same storage warehouse so it seems that the security services have been going through all of my posessions looking for incriminating evidence!

Here's some older blog entries I've scanned in from those archives.

March 31, 2006

Illegible Scrawls

After years of consciously avoiding using paper and keeping digital notes I finally seem to have gone back to old hard copy. It all started with the Apple Newton way back at the beginning of the nineties - I bought one on a business trip down to London and never looked back... well, until both Apple and I finally gave up on it and it was relegated to the back of a drawer. It may have been billed as fitting into a jacket pocket, but keeping it there looked as if you were carrying either a gun or a big book inside your suit. Still, the software it ran was more advanced than any pda today - you could simply scrawl 'Lunch with Andrew tomorrow' and without any further prompting it would add a lunch appointment into your diary for the next day and decide which Andrew you were most likely to be meeting.

After that came some dark years of paper - my life was a mess of notes scrawled on tiny bits of paper and card lying around everywhere, none of which I could ever find. Then, one sunny day in Florida I discovered the Palm Organiser. Smaller, cheaper, more stupid than my old Newton, and looking like an overgrown plastic calculator, it let me keep notes, expenses, addresses, and run basic programs. I was hooked and I carried it everywhere, gradually moving to more exotic models as I broke or lost them over time.

Over the years, however, Palm stopped innovating, and what had once been a simple, reliable interface, became totally out of date. I went through a few phones that looked like they could handle what my Palm used to do, none of them were really useable for that all important purpose of keeping notes, and now that I was carrying a phone I didn't really want to carry a Palm as well.

So, on this recent trip to Thailand I began experimenting with paper notebooks again, partly because of the above reasons, and partly because it's not everywhere you want to pull out a pda. The result was that I kept more travel notes on the trip than ever before, plus being able to paste tickets, receipts, and local things into the notebook added a nice touch.

Convinced that paper does serve a purpose after all, I returned to Europe and immediately bought a couple of Moleskin notebooks. The marketing blurb goes on about how they were allegedly used by Picasso and lots of famous others, but beneath that they're genuinely lovely notebooks and a real pleasure to use. Like infamous black books with elastic bands to keep them closed, the paper has a lovely look and feel to it and they ooze quality. Now if only I could remember how to write properly and figure out how to sync them with my mac.

May 2, 2006

Back from the Dead

After my longest break from blogging since the drug-fuelled years of the seventies I guess I've got some explaining to do. Neither dead nor imprisoned, too much has just been happening, and that's my problem with blogging.

When nothing's going on you feel pressured to post something, wandering the streets hunting for inspiration, then end up posting a link to yet another boring website. On the other hand, when you're having the most exciting time of your life you can't just stop every day and go off and blog about it, especially if you're in an exotic location without internet access such as, err... Cornwall.

Being pissed every night for the last two weeks has had nothing to do with it.

May 5, 2006

Fear and Loathing in Zennor

Dazed, stunned, and suffering from denial that the course was over and we'd all gone off to our separate lives, my flight touched down in the hazy sunshine of Almeria early on Sunday morning after yet another night of just two hours sleep. The previous week on a writing and photography course in the depths of darkest Cornwall now seemed like it had all been a dream.

On the first evening in the village of Zennor, the group divided into those who wanted to sleep, and those who would rather sit up all night honing their drinking skills like dedicated journalists. Obviously, fitting into the latter group, we started off in the Tinners Arms, one of Cornwall's prettiest and unfriendliest pubs, before soon being kicked out and moving back to the hostel to continue drinking wine in half-pint glasses. By 3am everyone else had collapsed into bed except Nick, Faye and myself. Obviously, the three of us were not only destined to spend lots of time together, but being the same age, were deep in mid-life crisis.

The following morning at breakfast we discovered that the warm, amicable feeling throughout the whole group on the course had dissolved overnight and now everyone else hated us. Something to do with talking, laughing hysterically all night, and keeping everyone awake, but people were obviously just pissed off as we'd been having such a good time.

Those hard hitting words, "We could hear every word you were saying", were uttered. Unfortunately, due to the alcohol, I couldn't remember anything I'd been saying the night before, but inexplicably several people didn't speak to me again for the rest of the week.

The course itself was intense in a way that only the Foreign Legion could match. This wasn't helped at all by sharing a room with five other people, several of whom would get up at 6am, showing no respect for the more sociable participants who had just made it to bed. On many nights we'd still be working on some aspect of the course at 11pm, painfully sacrificing last orders in the pub. There was, however, lots of wine, with the bill being settled for whatever you drank at the end of the course, so naturally, this smelt of a challenge. By mid-week the wine stocks had run out and they had to order more.

It was strange spending all day in a classroom for the first time since leaving school, and several of us regressed instantly into our former school behaviour. Haunting images of old report cards loomed in my mind, "Bronek's head is full of nonsense", as we kicked and scribbled notes to each other during the writing classes. Obviously, I'd matured a lot since my school days.

Nick, who seems to travel everywhere with his own caffetiere and very special blend of Colombian, ensured we had a healthy amount of caffeine in the morning, allowing us to focus through our sleep-deprived hangovers. Whilst everyone else was drinking Nescafe during the lectures and complaining yet again of being tired, we would be enjoying fine coffee and truffles (or were they Kit-Kats?); which probably did nothing to improve our popularity.

As the week progressed and we found ourselves more and more ostracised from the rest of the group, Faye, an ex-BBC employee in denial, began to slip ever more regularly into her own lucid, imaginary world. Over-stimulated by the huge intake of caffeine and alcohol, she would suddenly go off into a soliloquy about dolphins molesting people, or have a flashback that she was in the jungle, like something from a Vietnam film. The late night drinking sessions on the uncomfortable sofa were gradually turning into therapy sessions between the three of us, while everyone upstairs listened in bed.

My birthday coincided with the course, and at midnight Nick and Faye sang happy birthday to me on a damp bench outside under the stars. In the morning I came down to breakfast, nursing the prerequisite hangover to find a stack of presents on the table from them. A model boat, a model plane, water-wings, a copy of my new favourite magazine, Cornwall Today, and a can of McEwans Export. Basically, everything I'd ever dreamed of, and I was very touched.

That night we dodged out of the last of the class activities to hit the pub. Being the last full day of the course, it had been a tough slog of rushing off our assignments and making presentations, but between classes we'd been nipping into the pub for a quick shot to keep us going. The partying carried on late into the night, and the early risers came down to find us still deeply engrossed on the sofa, drinking wine. Forcing myself to bring the superb night to an end, I went to bed at 7am. After grabbing a couple of hours sleep, I staggered out late, wearing sunglasses into the bright, painful sunshine, to join the class for the wrap-up session of, "What we learnt". I'd learned I could survive a week, drinking every night with virtually no sleep, but I decided against sharing this with everyone.

Faye and I were awarded joint first place in the wine drinking charts, the most wine ever drunk on any course run by Travellers Tales, and a bar bill that could have purchased a small vineyard in Bordeaux. We would have made a speech if we'd been able to.

May 20, 2006

Mid Life Crisis... Again

Well, the combination of the course I did in Zennor and my 35th birthday seems to have successfully brought on yet another mid-life crisis. Am I supposed to only get these once in my life or is every five years normal?

Since then I've been completely disatisfied with everything in my life and desperately wanting to change it all. I spent a week in Spain, most of the time sitting in a small cafe near the water, watching the rain coming down, eating tapas and ordering coffee or beer; feeling like I was on the edge of a huge breakthrough - a revelation. Everytime I got close to the revelation, however, something would seem to distract me and I'd lose it, my mind returning again to it's empty, obscure state.

May 23, 2006

Leaving Finland

Carita and I have broken up.

I'm just about to leave the flat, Ira, and things I've built up over the last three years, catch a flight that I only booked yesterday with my stuff, and put the keys through the door.

November 23, 2006

Loft Inhabitants

We seem to have finally discovered what's living in the roofing space in our house. We've heard footsteps and the occasional fight coming from the ceiling for months and had been guessing that it was either palm-squirrels or a mongoose.

Tonight, however, there was a loud thud on the ground and we looked out the front door to see a small bundle of fur sitting there dazed, and a bunch of big eyed, inquisitive faces looking out from a hole in our eaves! The mother, black and white and about the size of a small fox, jumped down to rescue it and they climbed back up the peppercorn tree outside our door amidst lots of squeaking from the others. Later, one of the adults walked casually along the phone-line like a tightrope, high above us, before disappearing into the trees.

From the books we've looked at so far we think it's a family of Common Indian Palm-Cats, which look like a cross between a mongoose and a cat, but they're something we've never seen before, and we're constantly surprised by how many animals we seem to be living in close proximity with here.

February 3, 2007

Top Secret

Walking along the beach on our way to dinner at Top Secret it was just like any other evening - apart from the fact that Faye had unusually insisted on me smartening myself up. As we wandered up to the bar I spotted someone with an uncanny resemblance to Simon sitting in a deck chair with a beer. I pointed this out to Faye but she didn't answer - probably not even listening to me - and quite rightly so since Simon would be one of the least likely people to randomly find sitting on a beach in Asia. Never mind, I thought, maybe I'll tell that guy just how similar he looks to someone I know...

It was only when he looked up and said hello to me I realised that it was, in fact, Simon. Sitting in my local bar. In Sri Lanka.

Several beers later I still couldn't quite grasp it. It was just far too much of a culture shock. He'd spent weeks organising flights and secretly planning the trip with Faye so he could turn up in a bar on the other side of the world to surprise me in a Bogart sort of way.

We all had dinner together as I sat there shocked, then some more drinks, then we walked Simon along the beach to the guesthouse where he was staying that night. Not having been part of the planning process myself it all felt very surreal like none of it could really be happening.

March 7, 2007

Life on Mars

I flew back from Thailand the day after Cameron arrived in Sri Lanka so after a good night's sleep in Colombo we were picked up and driven down to our jungle house in Hikkaduwa. It was probably the first time I've been happy to get home after being in Thailand - mainly as it didn't involve returning to Europe in February.

Cameron produced Life on Mars, and as the series is set in 1973 there was much enjoyable talk of Ford Cortinas, the Tufty Club, and the evil BBC testcard girl - who still gives me nightmares to this day - during his stay. He'd previously sent us over the dvds of series one and Faye pointed out that watching it in outdated Sri Lanka is more like looking at life set in the future rather than the past.

We treated Cameron to the usual tour of the touts of Galle Fort, the swimming pool at the Lighthouse, and, of course, the bad music of Hikkaduwa's clubs before he escaped to the luxury of the Kandalama for a few days and met up again for a last supper in Colombo's Gallery Cafe before he flew out.

March 23, 2007

Snake in the House

I was wandering through to the kitchen the other morning half-asleep when something big moved on the floor. Instantly wakening up, I stopped and looked down to see a big snake just a few feet away from me in the corridor. Although we get lots of snakes in the garden, this was the first time I'd seen one inside. Once it realised that I was there it slowly slithered out of the back door and disappeared calmly into the undergrowth, leaving me a little bit shocked, and carefully watching wherever I walked in the house.

August 4, 2007

Passport Scrawls

I headed off to the visa office in Colombo on Thursday to apply for an extension to my Sri Lankan visa. There I was, filling in the form, when I noticed that they'd mis-stamped my passport when I arrived last month - stamping my arrival date as Jun 5 rather than Jul 5. So now it looked as if I'd overstayed in the country by a month and instant deportation seemed likely!

After lots of explaining and getting them to check their records they finally agreed and sent me off in the direction of the Director of Ports office to get the correct stamp (everything goes on stamps in Sri Lanka). He left his office when he saw me coming, and after a long explanation to his assistant, a half-page handwritten note was scrawled into my passport!

Eventually, after many hours, I did get my visa extended.

November 14, 2007

Flying Tigers

We woke up in the early morning sweltering - the power had been cut so the fans in the apartment had stopped. It was only later we read in the news that the government, fearing an attack by Flying Tigers, had cut the power to the whole of Colombo... again. Surely the Tigers don't have GPS.

Flying Tigers trigger Sri Lanka alert (AFP)

May 27, 2008

Talangama

Last weekend Faye and her mum treated me to a couple of days in Talangama Villa - a lovely, modern villa next to Talangama Lake and nature reserve, which Faye and I had all to ourselves. Duleep, our regular tuk-tuk driver took us there through the maze of tiny roads that wind between huge houses, and we wondered if he would ever find his way back to Colombo alone.

The shock of suddenly finding yourself somewhere serene and peaceful with only the sound of birds after a week in the pandemonium of Colombo is incredible. It really felt like we'd gone far, far away rather than just a tuk-tuk ride - it was so relaxing.

We spent most of the time evenly divided between swimming in the pool and eating the fantastic food their chef seemed to continually prepare for us. Gehan dropped by in the evening and we did a bit of bird and bat-watching at his nearby hide. Very generously, he left his 600mm lens for me to use for the rest of the weekend - which is just about the biggest lens that Canon make - and very easy to get used to!

Hungover from too much good wine and terrific food as we were, I therefore had to make good use of it and get up the following morning to photograph some of the birds on the lake. We then spent the rest of the day chilling out and eating too much before returning to the dirt and pollution of the city.

June 1, 2008

Tropical Bugs and Monsoons

Most of May involved either or both of us being sick with one bug or another. Faye seems to have developed the knack of bringing something nasty back from work and passing it onto me, causing us both to be bed-bound and in pain for the following week.

This week it's been a quite nasty stomach bug (I deny that my cooking had anything to do with it) - prior to that it was a strange, tropical flu-like virus - but both seem to have been sweeping across Colombo, hitting lots of people we know.

In the last few days, however, the south-west monsoon seems to have begun, bringing lots of rain but finally cooling things down from the highs of April and May (often the hottest months in Sri Lanka). Hopefully, the cooler temperatures will cut down on a lot of the bugs going around - though it's been raining ferociously all day long and it looks more like a grey day in Scotland than Sri Lanka outside.

August 23, 2008

Broken up

Faye and I broke up yesterday.

I'm in Bristol staying with Chris and I don't know where I'm going but sadly I'll probably not go back to the life I've had in Sri Lanka for the last 2 years.

October 11, 2008

Asia Bound

After what feels like an eternity back in Europe, I've just booked my flight out to India for Friday. I'd been hanging around waiting for last week's agency meeting in Paris - which was good fun and went really well - and now I'm more than ready to get back to Asian life, hot weather, and the best the third world has to offer.

December 12, 2008

Palolem

I've spent most of the last weeks in Palolem, a beautiful, long sandy bay in the south of Goa that's lined with bamboo huts but lacks the big hotels and package tourists that fill other parts of the coast.

Strangely, I happen to be reading the Bourne Supremacy at the moment and I've just discovered that this is where part of it, including his run along the beach, was filmed, which makes my morning runs a bit more atmospheric.

Cafe Inn, just back from the beach has free wi-fi and a chilled garden to sit in - but watch out for the mosquitoes at sunset!

January 26, 2009

Making for the Border

I'm sitting in Vista Cafe having just spent a lovely week here in Vientiane with Leila, who's just gone off to Vang Vieng. It's Chinese New Year so all the trains back to Bangkok are supposedly full and the only sensible option seems to be getting on a bus from here. Still, something inside is forcing me to jump into a tuk-tuk, head to the border on my own, and figure it out from there, so that's what I'm going to do.

January 27, 2009

Don't Believe the Hype

I persuaded a tuk-tuk to take me to the border for 200 baht, jumped in with my bag and sped off towards Thailand at 10mph. The afternoon sun was beginning to sink across the Mekong and the warm light softened the buildings of Vientiane as I headed south. It felt right.

After the border formalities, a pickup dropped me off at the railway station and I hurried in to see if I could get a ticket. 2nd class was full but they had space in 1st class so I bought a ticket, grabbed some food and a Singha, and delightedly boarded the train to Bangkok as the sun set.

April 8, 2009

Sayonara Tokyo

I dragged myself out of bed just after 05:00 after drinking Asahi and chatting online with Nina until 02:00, and checked out of the hotel.

The sun had risen, the city was wakening up, and it was going to be a lovely day in Tokyo. The sky was blue and the air had the cool, crisp feel of a hot day brewing - chasing away the cold of the night that you never feel in the tropics.

I was going to miss Tokyo. It looked like spring was kicking off and soon it would be a hot summer in the big city. Thinking of everything that had happened on this trip that I hadn't expected, I pulled my camera bag into the elevator and disappeared into the subway beneath the city, wondering when I'd be back.

April 29, 2009

Koh Pangan

After the stress of shooting the Bangkok protests I headed down to Surat Thani to photograph a Monkey Training College there, planning to only be away from Bangkok for a couple of nights.

I finished the job at lunchtime, but really didn't feel like heading back to Bangkok and the big city so I made a snap decision to head out to the islands if there was an afternoon ferry going to Koh Pangan. I made my way into Surat Thani itself, had a pizza for lunch, and the women in the restaurant told me there was a bus that went to the afternoon ferry at 14:30. One of them even took me to it on the back of her scooter with my enormous backpack! It was one of those sudden decisions and it felt good.

The ferry left at 16:00, gliding away from the dock into the smooth blue gulf as the sun gradually sank on the port side. I called a couple of guesthouses on the east coast, thinking I'd head to somewhere chilled, but they warned me that it would cost a fortune to get there by taxi by the time the ferry arrived so I opted to spend a night in Coco Huts near Hat Rin instead.

In the pickup taxi were a bunch of Canadians and a Scottish guy called Woodie, and the Canadians asked him what currency we used in Scotland and we both started laughing! It turned out that he'd lived in Dundee for a few years, we started chatting, and he was living on the island and working in one of the bars.

The next day I left my room just to buy sandals, but ran into Leila in 7-11 and ended up going off for an extended trip around the island. Back in Hat Rin, I took advantage of Woodie's offer of some cheap drinks and sat at Cactus Bar chatting with him and watching the firedancers on more than a few nights.

The last days I moved to Lighthouse Bungalows, a collection of huts built on stilts above the rocks at the very south of the island, looking across towards Koh Samui. The following morning, I decided it was time to go and check out Koh Tao and maybe return to Koh Pangan for my birthday. I packed my bag, caught a minibus to the ferry and walked ashore onto the much smaller neighbouring island in the late afternoon.

May 1, 2009

Free-Diving Course

I was chilling out by the beach in Blue Wind, trying to get some work done and failing, when I overheard Kester, the Scottish yoga teacher, telling someone about a free-diving course on the island. Immediately interested, I asked him where it was, and a couple of days later I found myself sitting excitedly in a classroom learning the basics of free-diving.

After working on our breathe-up, we headed out on the boat in the afternoon and began diving in deep water. I'd gone down to 12m before on my own, and that was our limit for the day, so I knew I could do it. I dived right to the end of the line, touched the weight at 12m, and swam back up.

The following day was a bit more challenging. Looking down from the surface, I couldn't even see the end of the 20m line, the maximum depth you can swim to on the course, and it still didn't appear when I was swimming down. After a few tries, however, I pulled myself down the rope using my arms and as little oxygen as possible, reached the marker, turned around, and pulled myself back to the surface.

Next, was swimming down next to the rope, which is tougher as it uses up much more oxygen. I kicked my way down to about 17m, clearly saw the weight, and decided to go for it, knowing that if I passed out my instructor would take me to the surface. I hit the 20m mark, but out of air by this time, I turned around, knowing I was risking a blackout and began finning back to the surface. Trying to keep my mind focused and calm I was suddenly hit with cramp in both my thighs, but knew I had to force myself to keep finning through the pain. My Argentinian instructor met me at 10m (most blackouts occur within 7m of the surface), with her big, brown eyes staring at me, and I kept pushing until finally I broke through the surface. Low on oxygen, with bad cramp in both my legs and things beginning to spin and blur ever so slightly, I recovered and gave her the OK sign. Although everyone who blacks out free-diving describes the feeling as euphoric, I was glad not to experience it.

June 12, 2009

Back to Zamindar

After being extorted by Easyjet for my vaguely overweight luggage at 5am & sent to the back of a long queue to pay the excess, I was dangerously close to missing my flight - which the staff seemed to be quite happy with. I skipped to the front of the security queue, sprinted across the airport, as my gate was the furthest away, and got there just in time to board.

Arriving in Almeria, tired and weary, I stepped out into the sunlight and heat and felt alive again - the last week in dreary Britain had been tough. I caught a taxi to Almerimar and was felt even better to see that Zamindar was fine.

I started off on the long list of jobs that would put her back into sailing condition. Just putting one bolt into the sprayhood, however, ended up taking over 2 hours, and afterwards, weary and disgusted, I headed off to a cafe seeking solace.

June 20, 2009

Splash

Yesterday, Zamindar finally splashed back into the water. The previous day had been full of Spanish frustrations... trying to get the anti-fouling done, it turned out to be full of lumps... trying to service the seacocks, 3 of them turned out to be seized and one of the handles broke off... and of course no-one was able to work on them until the following week. In the end I sorted them out myself and rushed over to the marina office at 19:00 to pay my bill and book Zamindar to be launched the next morning.

I worked late into the night, finishing off the seacocks, checking the engine, and cleaning fenders, then crashed out in bed and woke up at 08:00 to the sound of the Travelift.

The launch went pretty smoothly. The seacocks held. The engine started. And I managed to drive her around to the berth and moor her without screwing it up.

It's really good to be back in the water, I've missed it. So peaceful and relaxed, feeling the gentle movement of the boat and lying in bed hearing fish occasionally nibbling at the hull. I still have a huge list of things to take care of onboard, but somehow it feels like the most important part is done.

November 18, 2009

Bangkok Apartment

After a few days of hunting around, I moved into a nice, new apartment in Bangkok today. It's about a mile from Koh San Road so I can still head over to my usual bars and restaurants whilst having a base to leave all my gear at while I travel around.

January 1, 2010

On the Move in a New Year

I'm sitting in the True Cafe off Koh San right now, the sun's going down outside and I'm just about to head out to get some dinner then catch the 21:00 bus down to Koh Tao. I reckoned there was no point hanging around in Bangkok and spending money on guesthouses when I've got the house down there so I crashed out about 02:00 last night after celebrating New Year fairly quietly and checked out of my room this morning.