Sunday, 31 August 2008

BlackLOG in which I question the dubious parentage of bike tyres

I have been having a bit of trouble with my front tyre recently. If I leave it for any length of time it’s as flat as a pancake on my return - not reassuring when you actually want to go for a bike ride. Previous experience indicates that the tyre will be fine until I get to the furthest point from home, at which point it will inexplicably expel anything that remotely resembles air from its, for want of a better word, stomach, leaving it flapping around like Mick Jagger’s (aside 1) lips in a stiff breeze.

I decided to take no chances, so went out and purchased two new inner tubes and a set of road tyres, since we spend most of the time on roads anyway. For some strange reason my mountain bike came with Presta valves, which I associate with racing bikes (The valves are thin, a bit precious and make your tyres appear to be bulimic as they lose weight when you are not looking. I'm just surprised size zero catwalk model don't have them fitted). I took the complete front wheel along to a professional bike shop and asked for their “professional advice” on whether I could use an inner tube with a schrader valves (The fat ones that are also used on car tyres. I like these as when you're feeling lazy you can get a lift down to a local garage and get their compressor to do all the work).

“Oh yes, no problem with that Sir”
came the advice from the seasoned employee i.e. he looked about 18.

Inevitably when I tried to fit the new inner tubes, not a chance, the valves won't actually fit through the hub. Was he on loan from Halfords? I decided to change the tyres anyway. Now bearing in mind I did not touch the back wheel until after I changed the “problem” front one it was a little mystifying to find a couple of days later that the front one was now fit and healthy, while the back one looked like it had found a new home, which unfortunately for me happened to be a flat.

With bike pump on board I decided to chance it and set off with Mrs B and friends for a ride. Now that I had my nice new road tyres fitted I was overcome with a desperate desire to take every bridleway and byway I could lay my wheels on.

During the afternoon I discovered a number of things:

• Road wheels don’t have the same grip as the off road flavour but are great fun as you slide along muddy tracks.
• Men’s love of gadgets and gizmos can sometimes pay off. The male riders (Joe, Ash & myself) all had front shocks on our bikes making off-roading more fun while the girls, Mrs B and Kirsty (Ronnies Ex) made do with static forks, which turned out to be a bit painful, certainly for my ears, as the girls complained about my choice of route...
Mrs B giving me the "One more byway and it will be the highway for you" Look

• Men really don’t listen when given instructions (Ash needed to break off early from the ride, he managed to go wrong at the first instruction that I gave him). Either that or men really don’t give good instructions. I would really like to clear this matter up and let you know which it is, poor instructions or inability to listen. Unfortunately I can't help as I was otherwise engaged, not listening to the instructions I gave to Ash.

• Despite over 20 years difference in our ages (sadly not in my favour), when Joe and I saw groups of old people we jumped to the same conclusion:

Old people + large numbers = Tea & Cakes. This proved accurate and provided a very welcome end to our ride.

• Little old ladies running tea shops don’t take kindly to having their routine messed with, as Joe found out to his cost. He attempted to serve himself, as the little lady was alittle on the slow side. Not only did she do her best to avoid serving Joe after this, acting as if he did not exist, but when we left the establishment Joe discovered that his back tyre was mysteriously flat. The damage to the tyre looked suspiciously like it might have been done with a hat pin…..

Joe learns the hardway not to mess with the Lady of the Urn....He's lucky it was not his legs

Breaking News
Criminal friends
I discovered that our friend ‘Teach’ turns out to be an Alco-terrorist, taking on those nice people at Tesco’s in a desperate attempt to turn her two well-behaved under age sons into drunken ASBO candidates. Just as you think you know someone they manage to shock you Tesco Titters That’s Lincolnshire for you, I did try to warn you a few weeks back
Lincolnshire: just like the News of the World brought to life

Odd nuts!!!
Many years ago KP sold peanuts in Salt & Vinegar flavour. I Liked them ergo they stopped making them. I recently noticed that this odd snack is back. Much celebration, including back flips and high fives, I am happy to report that they are as good as I remember or would be if I were to try them (could someone please tell me when Mrs B has left the vicinity).
Not to everyones taste, but I like them, Which I suspect will lead to their rapid demise for a second time.....

----------------------That’s it for another BlackLOG-----------------

(1) Talking about the lead singer of the Rolling Stones brings me neatly to our friend Kirsty, who ran into Ronnie Wood the other day. From what she told me it sounds like the randy old sod was flirting with her, even inviting her back to his place to check out the sofa he was purchasing. I pointed out to her that being in her mid 20’s she was at least 6 years to old for him and not nearly tarty enough. Ronnie takes on Russia. I guess I should count myself lucky that Kirsty is not a slapper either, she might be small but she looks like she might pack a punch….. (Return to text)

I can't remember if this is Kirsty or Ronnie trying to avoid publicity?

Monday, 25 August 2008

Festival on Festival, no holds barred, action

Having attended two musical festivals in a fortnight (Mrs B was less than impressed with her social secretary and has threatened to sack me). I thought it would be a good opportunity to compare the two events. A real David (Standon Calling) versus Goliath (V 2008) contest, so gloves on and lets hope for a clean fight which means no biting, scratching or kicking, unless you think you can get away with it.

Ding, Ding, Round one

Festival Length
Standon takes an early lead, as it gets out of the blocks a whole day ahead of V with proceedings kicking off on the Friday afternoon. This turns out to be a false start from our point of view as we couldn’t make it until the evening. Then, when we arrive to see Friday’s headline act (the “Mystery Jets”) they failed to show. Oh no, were we getting dragged down the same path as restaurants closing before our very eyes from a few weeks back? This feeling was enhanced when we arrived at V. We managed to miss the first three groups that we attempted to see as 1) the timing sheet that we had purchased with good money was wrong and 2) they swapped the main stage and the Channel 4 stage around from the previous year. Despite the evidence before our very eyes, written in LARGE letters, spelling out the actual stage that we were watching, our bodies were so conditioned to last year’s setup it took a couple of hours to get over it. A genuine case of Festival-lag……

1:0 to Standon

V 2008 – estimated attendance 100,000 (aside 1)

Standon Calling – Estimate 2,500 (aside 2),

While I’m tempted to say dealing with 2,500 is a much more pleasant experience, reality tells me that V 2008 has equalised by a rather large margin.


This depends how you score it, V 2008 managed to make itself look like a rubbish dump by early Saturday evening. Hardly any bins and a crowd that seemed happy to sit in its own muck.

2:1 Standon goes back into the lead.

Get serious, these are both music festivals – no score for either, even though Standon had pictures hanging in their toilets and hand cream, but it was still not enough…..

Mrs B has a great defence mechanism for this. Her bodily functions shut down and refuse to go until she gets home from such festivals. I wonder if she could package this and pitch it in the 'Dragon's Den'

Score remains at 2:1

Food and drink
Standon provided decent food at a reasonable price and the bar provided a source of entertainment (aside 3).

V 2008 offered punters over-priced rubbish to eat and the opportunity to queue for half an hour to purchase a beer token which then allowed you the opportunity to queue for an hour to pick up a watered down beer in a plastic cup for £3.30. Another easy one for Standon….

But hang on, I don’t drink and I discovered a fantastic Milkshake stand at V 2008 which was easy to get to as everyone else was stuck in beer queues.

So, 3:1 to Standon from 102,499 people’s point of view but 2:2 in my world.

I wouldn’t want to be accused of being biased though, so I’m generously going to call it another draw. What do you mean sounds like the judges at the Beijing Olympics scoring a Chinese athlete? Now where’s my Milkshake…?

Score remains at 2:1

For Mrs B Toblerone & Pims makes for a happy bunny, While Ediane demonstrates how people in Brazil drink using just a finger, Ingenious just wish us Brits could manage it.....

Standon £60 for three days including camping – not that we did V 2008 £135 for two days without camping

3:1 to Standon

Possibly a little unfair, as this is out of the hands of the organisers but life’s like that, while V didn’t get much sunshine, Standon attracted more rain.


Standon had 5 stages including an underwater one (well alright, speakers in a swimming pool).
One of the stages at Standon. On closer inspection it turned out to be a cow shed posing as a Disco

Highlights included
Super Furry Animals
Mystery Jets (well almost)
Florence and the machine
Old Street Musical Union

Low lights
Almost everything else

While V had 6 stages Musical highlights included
Kaiser Chiefs
Maximo Park
Amy Baxter
The Zutons
The Feeling
Noah and the whale
Pigeon Detectives

Low lights
Girls Aloud - Mrs B wanted to see them and then promptly fell asleep it was that dull. I just wished I had as well.

Amy Winehouse – I had hoped for either good Wino or bad Wino (ie the falling over abusing the crowd Wino). But all we got was ‘Average Amy’ who performed a lacklustre set and spent most of her time tugging at her short skirt threatening to flash an already frightened crowed. It was reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s rather embarrassing crotch-grabbing routine, from the eighties.

So that’s all square then, leaving value for money as the decider.

Value for money
When it comes to music, V is streets ahead but Standon hangs on in as it did provide some excellent non-musical entertainment:-

Reverse binoculars football
The theme for this year’s event was Japan – old and new. So I’m not sure where this event came in, perhaps it’s big in Japan. It was great fun to watch and made up for them not having one of those blow up Sumo competitions…..

Fancy Dress competition
Worst entry for the Fancy dress competition had to be the four idiots that dressed up as Pandas. Hello guys the theme was Japan not China. They were so embarrassed when their geographical error was pointed out to them as they were informed that if Pandas had been in Japan they would have all been eaten centuries ago. They were christened Japandas after that and went onto make even bigger fools of themselves by losing to a team containing girls in the Reverse binoculars football.

I can understand the "Monkey" costume, just not sure about the rest of the fancy dress costumes

Cornetto Trilogy
OK, not strictly a Standon event but it was part of the weekend and with the weather turning against us we were all rather relieved not to be camping so returned home early on the Saturday and watched the first part of the Cornetto Trilogy. I had not realised until Costas, who had not even seen the films, informed me that the Simon Pegg films “Shawn of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” contain gratuitous scenes of Cornetto purchasing (this is a homage to the famous French trilogy “Three colours red", "Three colours white", "Three colours blue”. Apparently it’s not that famous, however, as Mrs B just informed me that she has never heard of them). With the weather even worse on Sunday it was the perfect opportunity to catch up on the second part of the trilogy, followed by a rather nice pub lunch and a short tour of the delights of Bishops Stortford. This proved a bit too exciting for Ediane and Costas who took the opportunity to exit stage left, leaving Mrs B and I to return for the Headline act “The Super Furry Animals”. Mrs B almost recognised one of the tunes…..

But just as I start to waiver towards Standon I remember those glorious Milkshakes…

V is the clear winner (In my warped mind anyway).

Sorry Standon, my advice for next year is do whatever it takes and get a decent milkshake purveyor and some more groups that people have heard of.

-----------The end of another BlackLOG hope you had fun---------------------------(Click if you want to leave a comment )------------

(1)On the Sunday, Teach sent her two boys down to us for their first large festival experience. They did OK for teenagers but just did not have the stamina to keep up with us festival veterans. Plus they got embarrassed by two people the wrong side of forty having a good time… (Return to text)

Mrs B and her minders, if only they had been trained to stand behind her she might have seen some of the shows

(2)Standon Calling apparently started 8 years ago with 30 people. Unbelievably my Brazilian friend Ediane and her Italian husband Costas accidentally volunteered to join us for this event. I don’t think they realised what a low key event it is. (Return to text)
While Edian embraces the Japan Theme, Mrs B and Costas don't seem to be quite so up for it

(3)The world’s worst Barmaid When we first reached the bar there were only a couple of people about. Costas and I watched in amazement as the barmaid, almost in slow motion, served a round of drinks to a couple of people. She then spent 5 minutes chatting to some friends (not even serving them) allowing a size able crowd to build up. Undaunted, our gallant barmaid took an order for a couple of bottles of wine - only she was incapable of opening them. With the crowd getting restless Costas took pity on her and took the bottles and opened them for her. She then tried desperately to sell them to him. When he pointed out that we had not ordered them, she took off with both bottles in hand and did a convincing impression of a nomad wandering around the bar desperately trying to off load them. I then took pity on her at this point and bellowed across the bar

Me :- “Has anyone ordered a couple of bottles of wine?” Silence…….

Me :- “Has anyone ordered a couple of bottles of wine?” ……

Nameless woman :- “Oh, that was me, I hadn’t forgotten that I had been served.”

With the wine delivered safely we looked forward to being served. Not a bit of it, despite our assistance and long term residency at the bar our barmaid sold us out and ignored us, choosing to serve other people really slowly…….

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Monday, 18 August 2008

Splash, Splash Donk!

Splash, Splash Donk!

Splash, Splash, Donk!

What is it with Hotel swimming pools, if they are going to have one they should at least have it more than a slightly extended bath….

Splash, Splash, Donk

Splash, Splash

Geriatric :- "Ouch!"

Me :- "Sorry"

Donk, Splash

Geriatric :- "Ouch!"

Me :- "Sorry"


Second geriatric :- "Ouch!"

Third geriatric :- "Ouch!"


And why do old people insist on floating in your slightly extended bath, when you are attempting to swim laps? If they had been there first then fair enough but when they enter while you are splash, splash, donking along, they should not moan about being ploughed down.

I wonder if there is an Olympic event for extended bath swimming, with and without floating geriatrics obstacles? If so I might make it to 2012 after all…… Probably only as a floating geriatric though….

Sorry bit of a short BlackLOG this week as a work trip to Hamburg, preparation for the Fantasy Football league that I run and V2008 all take their toll on my available blogging time. As compensation some photos from this years V for you, more to follow.

Maximo park lead singer wants a group hug

The Kooks

The Feeling

Mrs B's Gig view of Noah & the Whale
- I'm not sure which is the whale?

Monday, 4 August 2008

How to almost starve to death on a Cruise liner, with a 24 hour all you can eat policy

I made it look easier then you would imagine. It’s a bit like hitting sets of red lights; once you get one of them you seem to get them all. Only for red lights you substitute restaurants closing just as you get to the door. I managed a run of five, at one point, as I raced from one to another (I should probably have stayed at the first restaurant and waited the 12 hours, conserving my energy until it re-opened. It’s just I always thought I would make it to the next one). Admittedly I did not make things easier for myself. I was getting frustrated as the restaurants never posted their opening times at their entrance. I even got quite huffy as I stormed away from one of them exclaiming to one poor old couple.

Me :- “I wouldn’t bother they are closed!”
Poor old couple: - “It’s ok we know, eh”
I think they might have been Canadian…
Me:- “How do you know, they don’t post the times at the damn restaurants?”
Smug old couple: - “We just read the day’s entertainment schedule which includes daily opening times for all the ships restaurants, like, Eh!”
They were definitely Canadians. I should have murdered them on the spot and disposed of their smug sorry carcasses overboard, but all I manage was a rather deflated
Me :-“That’s no good I’m male and English and can’t be that organised….”
Before stomping off with my now growling stomach to catch yet another closing restaurant ceremony, I don’t know why I bothered to be honest, once you’ve attended one restuarant closing ceremony you’ve pretty much seen them all :-
Me:- “Table for two please”
Smug Maitre’d :- “Sorry sir we have just closed”
Me:- “Nooooooooooooo!”
SM:- “Yes, Sir it has”
Me:- “but, I’m starving”
SM:- “If you go up 7 decks and go to the very back of the boat you might catch last orders at the ‘Rancid parrot’ our low class Restaurant which hardly ever closes”
Me :- “hardly ever?”
SM:- “well, It closes generally on Monday through Friday for stocktaking ”
Me:- “So being Sunday it should be open”
SM:- “Probably not, the staff get weekends off, Sir”

I eventually found an area with stacks of Pizza, I went back to Mrs B and asked if that was that ok for her. It was and I returned no more than two minutes later - they had packed them away. Even the 24 hour popcorn machine ran out when I went to get some. Aaarrrrgggghhhhhh. At least I was getting some exercise but I was beginning to think that I would never find food again. Perhaps this is the way forward for weight watchers - an NCL “All you can fail to eat” cruise. I wonder if they cater for lardy cats……

Not all went well on the eating front once we returned to Vancouver. We had spent most of the morning and early afternoon at the Aquarium in Stanley Park. We decided to eat in the STANLEY’S PARK BAR & GRILL which we had been assured served food from 11.30am to 8pm daily, only…

And did I mention it was raining, there was no shelter and Mitch was not able to pick us up for an hour and a half.....

Breaking News
This week my favourite song is “Noah and the Whale” –5 Years time. You will probably be delighted to know that it features no unnecessary clothes loss, but there is a dodgy line about elephants….

Next week The BlackLOG deals with the joys of camping Canadian style and introduces you to some of the wild life and covers a local Music Festival……

How to go on a Honeymoon without getting married.....

One thing I didn’t expect when I accepted the position of Best Man was that Mrs B and I would share Mitch and Joyce’s Honeymoon. Not just us but 21 others for the cruise part of the trip, which then whittled down to 5 for camping on Vancouver Island. Different to say the least and I’m sure Joyce has plans for a slightly more intimate trip later in the year. I just wonder where they are planning to take us on that one……

I have to admit that in order to see Alaska, cruising is probably the best options, I’m just not sure Mrs B and I are actually cut out for the ocean lifestyle. There can be little in the way of argument that watching the Canadian and Alaskan coast, with it’s trees down to the shore line and huge Glaciers was magnificent site, even if they might be receding faster than my hairline.

Would you like G&T with that ice

It’s just the rest of the cruising experience left us feeling like we had entered a nightmare world just like a Butlin’s holiday, only surrounded by water rather than barbed wire to keep the guest from escaping……

No need for Barbed Wire to keep your
guests from escaping from here

The entertainment was definitely of the “Failed on land” variety, only able to survive due to its captive audience. Well almost, the singing act (and I use singing in the looses possible sense) ‘Harmony & Rhythm’, a duo of such poor ability that even completely deaf people stopped attending their performances. I had the misfortune to walk into Dazzles (or should that be Dismals) the night club, during one of their performances. My ears have not yet forgiven me. The only attendees looked either dead drunk or simply dead. Even the house band looked like they wanted to throw themselves overboard rather than endure another session with the talentless duo.

The house band often thought about swimming for it

The chief entertainment officer ‘Linda” was a complete dragon and would have been more at home as a prison officer. Scaring people into attending sub standard entertainment is hardly cricket, especially when many of the audience were confused pensioners. There surely must be something in the Geneva Convention that outlaws this type of disgraceful behaviour. Although on second thoughts I don’t know what I am complaining about it, the more of the old dodderies that got trapped into the substandard entertainment; the easier it was to get around the boat. The only time the coffin dodgers managed to get any speed up was when they announced Bingo. It was like something out of nature documentary, even the deaf ones sensed that a bingo game was in the air and seemed to jerk to life a few seconds before the announcement was made over the ships tannoy. “Bingo, in Dismals in five minutes” was followed by squeak, clunk, thud, clunk, thud, squeak, shuffle, shuffle as herds of false teeth and incontinence knickers made their way through the ships like a swarm of locust. Woe betides anyone who got between those pensioners and their daily Bingo fix. Trampled to death by a mixture of wheels, Zimmer frames and sticks is not a nice way to go, unless you happen to be a member of Harmony and Rhythms backing band in which case it would be light relief.

To be fair, the ships comedian was actually quite funny, just a little fragile. He crumbled completely, like a dropped Mcvity biscuit, when ever he was heckled. Being out at sea certainly helped him out here, a particularly persistent heckler was last seen being escorted from Dismals and there were unconfirmed reports of people hearing a short scream and loud splash shortly after. There was a general reluctance to heckle after that. My advice to any up and coming entertainer, of no fixed ability, is get your self a booking on a cruise liner. Even better, if you can travel in time, book yourself on the Titanic, at least you will have had the experience of being on something that will sink quicker than your half baked career. That just leaves me with the dining arrangements to deal with, but that will have to wait 'till the next BlackLOG.

Breaking news (i.e. the bits which are a bit more up-to-date)
I’m going to have to be far more discerning about my choice of favourite record. After last week mentioning the Ida Maria ‘clothes off ‘song, I daren’t say the full title, as I am currently listening to my Ipod classic which has already suffered a nervous breakdown on my latest trip to Berlin. It stopped playing during the first chorus of that very song and the apple icon of reset popped up on the screen, un-requested.

sadly does not count as 1 of your 5 a day

This was followed by a note telling me to restore the firmware via my PC, not very helpful when away from home. Not long after that a new sign appeared that quite frankly looked terminal, before the Ipod slid into a coma. As is normal for me in these situations I started to enter panic mode, eeekkk no music for 3 days. Fortunately I remembered I had my emergency back up Ipod Touch with me (aside 1). As it happens the classic must have gone for the Ipod equivalent of a cold shower and a bit of a lay down, because the following morning it sprung back to life, none the worse for wear, except I’m sure it now blushes slightly and looks a bit sheepish when ever Ida Maria crops up in conversation. Like I say I will have to be more careful with my choice of music and attempt to avoid Danish tarts with clothes issues. I’m a bit nervous of investigating further about Ida in case she turns out to be a part time Masseuse in Berlin Berlin - May your teeth and clothes be with you …… For those of you with an adventures nature (aside 2). I’ve provided a link to the song, if you dareIda Maria, the not interested in fashion song.......

----so ends another BlackLOG, you may return to your life or why not check out some of the older BlackLOGs on the right hand side-----

(1) So what if it only had 3,110 songs instead of the classics 17,087. I’m sure I could slum it for a few days.

For those of you thinking what a wimp you probably use alcohol to unwind while I prefer to use music.
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(2) like Frank from work who informed me that he Googled “BlackLOG” and found this very site on the first page of results. Marvellous all I need is some Book editor to do the same and offer me a deal to go away and never disgrace the English language again.
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