Saturday, 25 December 2010

McCartney, Shakira and a Stortford Wonderland

After the disappointment of last week’s “James” gig and a journey to forget, we faced a similar trip - only this time we set off in the middle of a snowstorm. As the BMW has a nightmare at just the mention of ice it was our trusty old VW Golf that came out (we got it 12 years ago, travelling over to Belgium to pick it up in the days when it was worth importing a car from Europe). It has not let us down in all that time and is still going strong. I was beginning to regret managing to purchase those Paul McCartney tickets when they put some extra tickets on sale last week.

Despite the weather, the journey was not that bad and we even made it in time to get something to eat. Then because the tickets were purchased only a few days before the event we had to pick them up from the box office. This put us in a queue with Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan and Sharleen Spiteri (Texas lead singer)  waiting patiently behind us. I thought it was a little strange to see the rich and famous rubbing shoulders with us ordinary folk, it was only when we got to the door did it become clear and the line separated into the ‘freebies’ line (i.e guest list) and the ‘hard working citizens who paid for our own’ line. I would have taken a few pictures* of them but thought that might have been a bit dumb since I was trying to smuggle the Mega Mini Beast in and the venue’s security men were only about six feet away…..

* Glad I didn’t, since Mr Brydon failed to mention seeing me and Mrs B in his McCartney Tweet. How rude and unfriendly is that? Clearly not a BlackLOG fan.

Mrs B asked me what all the fuss was and to tell the truth when we saw McCartney in the 90’s I had not been that impressed. I think the venue (Wembley Arena) was wrong and his music was going through a down turn. Hammersmith is a much more intimate venue and PM, despite being 68, was very much back on form. What an incredible back catalogue he has, being able to mix Beatles songs, Wings songs and even some half decent solo work. I always felt that Wings were unfairly judged in comparison to his Beatles work. Listening to them side by side they stood up pretty well and if anything rocked the house more. Where else could you hear the likes of:-

Hey Jude

My Love

Back in the USSR

A Day in the Life

Live and let Die (With full on indoor fireworks and shooting flames – The reviewer in The Times thought it was a bit cheap and tacky while Mrs B and I thought it was pretty impressive and we go to a lot of live music)

Hey Jude

Ob la di- Ob la da (Never one of my favourites but certainly a great sing along live – well probably not for anyone around my out of tune wailing….)

Even a cover of George Harrison’s Something – as McCartney lamented from the stage “always quoted as one of Frank Sinatra’s favourite Lennon and McCartney songs…..”

Well over two hours worth before climaxing with:

Sgt Pepper

And finally

The End

So, just two days later how was Shakira going to follow such a legend of the music industry….?

The answer was with pure, 100%** energy and lots of talent – I was surprised that not only can she dance (we have all seen those video’s), but that Shakira has a decent live voice as well, which did not falter as she sprinted, rolled, stretched and writhed provocatively (I lost count of the number of underwear changes I costume changes that she went through) around the stage.

Mrs B once said that she would only ever contemplate a threesome if it included Kylie....Hmm, I wonder if I could convince her to update that to Shakira. Knowing my luck though, if I ever did manage to convince Mrs B and then talked Shakira into it, Kylie would pop up and prevent it stating a previous verbal agreement.... Oh well, I doubt if I could cope with all that excess energy.... 

It was a bit annoying that the words "No cameras or video allowed" was emblazened in large letters all over the ticket.... I decided not to risk even Mini Mega Beast and found an old camera, in the back of a draw. As it turns out they hardly even checked and besides as Shakira walked down through the center of the crowd, on her way to the stage she stopped and posed for photo's.....Grrr  

** There are certain sayings that really annoy me like:-

When people claimed to put in anything over 100% (normally it seems to be 110%)

The statement – “Back In the day”

One hell of a journey to work
With a good amount of snow finally reaching Bishops Stortford and Mrs B having  bagsied  the Golf,  I was left tentively to take ElleGee (oue rear wheel BMW) out of the garage the other day.  I spent the next half an hour sliding and slipping all over the place, losing the back end numerous times. I even had to get out and put planks and blanket’s under the back wheels a couple of times. I eventually gave up and managed to slide my way back into the garage.

I think a brave effort all around but statistically possibly not that impressive……

Distance travelled – roughly 12 feet (that’s a mind blowing 24 feet an hour. Better buckle up snails it’s going to be one hell of a ride). I never even managed to get the car off the driveway (unless you count sliding into the bushes a couple of times….they needed a bit of a trim anyway). It’s not as if the slope on our drive is that great so a 35 mile trip in the snow and ice was probably not the best of plans. I just hope none of the neighbours were watching or even worse filming – that would probably be a U-Tube clip for sure…

Energy watch

Monitoring our way to a fortune (or not) with our Solar Panels

KW Produced so far - 100

This has earned us approximately – £42.63 so far

A snow and cloud impaired 5kw this week, very poor and hardly worth getting out of bed for....

A record of the week

Hips Don`t Lie- By Shakira

Live And Let Die - by Wings

Hey Jude - by The Beatles

Whenever wherever – by Shakira

Back In The USSR – by The Beatles

She Wolf - by Shakira

Band On The Run – by Wings

And Your Bird Can Sing – by The Beatles

Photo finish
Having failed to take The Beast to either concert I thought I should take him out for a click  to capture Stortford in winter wear.....

Green shoots of recovery?

 Looks like got Tom Sawyer got
board half way through this job....

"Blackbird sing in the dead of night..."
Ok you got me, it's actualy
"A crow flying in the broad day light...."
But there is no McCartney song that covers that

Not exactly Strawberry fields
but at least the colour is correct..

Just be thankful I did not use
"Ice, Ice baby" - Vanilla Ice
as one of the records of the week 

McCartney Hammersmith Appolo (18th December) - taken with Mega Mini Beast
While my Guitar gently weeps - that's not a bass guitar*
Perhaps the rumours are true and Paul did die in the 60's....

* or even a McCartney song title....

What do you mean I'm too old to sing "When I'm 64"?

Lady Madonna, guy Richie half asleep
How will you make end meet...??

Yesterday or Scrambled Eggs to those in the know....

Shakira - Taken with our old Panasonic FZ10 - (O2 20th December).  Just think what The Beast could have made of her....

BlackLOG, Mrs B just for you that
threesome we talked about.... 

Damn should have read that contract a bit better,
not really the three I had in mind....

She Wolf - "Ah-wooo"
Hips don't lie.....
but her feet might fib

Lucky that my breasts are small and humble
so you don't confuse them with mountains

Hope you had a great Christmas and are still enjoying the Festive season, we are off to France for some Skiing , so will catch up next year.....P.S. the cats seemed to be perking up a bit, although McG is throwing a bit of a major strop, as he always does when ever he sees us packing bags.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

It's like Santa has come early......only

This week it was as almost as if Santa had come early…..only he had trampled reindeer poo all over the carpet (brand new, for extra artistic impact) and thrown up on the new white suede sofa.* Santa (bless him) then left the wrong presents** and crashed his sleigh into the car, taking off the front wing and most of the bumper. (Again, kids - what do you expect? That is one heck of a lot of sherry to absorb, even for someone that high up on the body-mass index…) In short it has been a crap week.

* Remember kids, Santa might only be a figment of your over-excited imagination but even figments have limits on the number of mince pies that they can eat. Billions of houses and billions of mince pies………. it was only ever going to end in one of two ways. Either the large chunder-blunder or some fat guy in a red suit stuck in your chimney until he loses enough weight to slide on out of there.

** I certainly don’t remember asking for the complete works of Val Doonican, including the very rare country and western and reggae remix versions…….although I might have asked for a subscription to “Learning to model with earwax, toe jam and bogies”

Mrs B and I appreciate that we are very lucky. While the BlackLOG often seems to portray a “back against the wall” mentality, with nothing ever going right for us, in general, this is pretty much tongue in cheek as I know that most of you only read blogs to see a bit of hardship and suffering. The reality is we have a pretty good life but where is the fun in reading about that?

So why was it such a bad week? Well:-

Wednesday - Dead cats walking
McG has been under the weather for a couple of weeks now. He’s been off his food (possibly because his teeth are hurting him) and has been more subdued than normal (he’s always been quite a laid-back boy - lazy’s a bit harsh but not far off the truth). Then he started having a few “accidents” around the house. I’m ashamed to say that my initial reaction was to get annoyed with him and lock him outside. I gave that up though when he managed to sneak back in through the cat flap just as Mischief was going out through it, leaving just her locked outside. So much for lockable cat flaps.

I decided to bring forward the cats’ bi-annual check up at the Vets. It turns out McG has lost an awful lot of weight since his last check-up in June (not that he didn’t have a lot to lose and not that we hadn’t noticed) but losing that much weight in such a short time is not a good sign in an aging cat (he’s 15). The Vet then told me he also has a growth on his back and implied there was nothing she could do. She even hinted that I should bring him back in a few weeks time when his suffering becomes too much….I was stunned - it was all happening so quickly. I appreciate he’s no kitten but even so……

Then the Vet turned her attention to Mischief, who has been fine and was just in for her flea and flu booster injections. Apparently she too is also losing weight and has developed a heart murmur. According to the Vet, she is not in much better shape than McG….I went from stunned to devastated in an instant - we weren’t ready to lose McG let alone Mischief as well…..

To round off Wednesday, I failed to get Paul McCartney tickets, which went on sale 10 minutes after I got back from the Vets. I was in no state to deal with anything and by the time I was the tickets were long gone – they had sold out within seconds.

Friday – Sometimes things are just not meant to be
With all the cats’ woes we really needed something to cheer us up and on Friday we had a gig to go to. I had been looking forward to seeing the Pigeon Detectives live for ages but they had disappeared off the scene….So about six months ago when I saw they were playing a joint concert with James I snapped up the tickets. A couple of months later it changed to a concert with just James and special guest “the Pigeon Detectives”. Finally, when the tickets arrived it just said James – no mention of the PDs or any other special guests or support. I did a bit of research and established that the PDs were still on the bill. In my view James are OK but not a band I would travel halfway across London to see. With this bit of good news in hand we set off on our planned 1 hour and 15 minutes journey.

An hour and a half later we were five miles from our destination and in the middle of the Rotherhithe Tunnel.

A further half an hour later we were still in the Rotherhithe Tunnel (this is not a long tunnel, a dead sloth could make it through quicker then we did). Not sure why but the road we were aiming for had been closed by the police and as it is one of the main routes through South London the roads all around were in total chaos…..

We arrived at 8:15pm, over an hour since the doors had opened and more than three hours since we had set off from home. I was not a happy bunny but figured that the PDs would play until at least 8:30pm so we would catch the end of the performance…………only there was still a massive queue to get in to the venue – WTF?

We hit the auditorium just as the PDs played literally the last chords of their final song and all we saw of them was the backs of their heels as they exited stage left….Aaaarrrggghhh!!!!!

Oh well, as we were now there we thought we might as well try to enjoy James…..

Half an hour into the set and we were heading for depression city. It was the dullest concert we had been to since REM failed to rock our socks off.

We were just about to leave when they played something we had vaguely heard before and which had a bit more life to it than the funereal type dirge they had been playing. So, at last, the concert was taking off….only it didn’t. They dropped back into hyper-dull mode and after another half an hour (and with Mrs B heading into a catatonic state) we left. Turned out the bar-stewards had tricked us in an attempt to try and keep us at the gig. We weren’t falling for it again.

To round off a truly excruciating evening I also managed to lose a pair of Oakley sun-glasses which fell out of my jacket pocket while I was at the gig (like me, they probably couldn’t take anymore of James) Certainly a night to forget.

Whoever says bad luck comes in threes was either wrong or lying through their back teeth.

To console myself I switched on our V-box to watch a programme I had recorded. With the week we were having it came as no surprise that the box had become corrupted and was no longer working. Everything that had been recorded was lost.

To end on some positive notes:

In an attempt to make their remaining days as comfortable as possible we have changed their diet completely. We had been feeding them on Hills Science diet (dry kibble) as recommended by the Vet since they were kittens. A bit of somewhat belated investigation on the internet, however, showed that a purely dry food diet is not all that it is cracked up to be and can, in fact, lead to the sort of health problems that our cats now appear to be suffering from. They are now both on a high-quality wet food diet. (The supermarket stocked brands are cheap because they don’t use good quality meat or fish and they pad out the food with vegetables, rice, corn and other rubbish.) Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need meat, there is no such thing as a vegetarian cat, or certainly not a long lived one…..

I also discovered that when cats get stressed they are more likely to have “accidents”, so telling McG off and shutting him outside was creating a spiral of accidents. A few more pieces of the jigsaw fell into place when we learned that McG is being bullied by another cat and so is sometimes scared to go outside. A litter tray seems to have resolved this problem.

I also suspect that Mischief being manhandled by the vet probably caused the irregular heart beat – if I had been monitoring for stress when the Vet gave me the bad news about both of the cats my stress levels would have been off the scale and when I received the fairly hefty bill I suspect my heart probably missed a few beats….

Within a few days of the new diet and a less stressful environment, both cats seem to be reviving. Fingers crossed we can get a bit more mileage out of them.

As for the Vet, prepared to write our little fuzzy buddies off without even trying – in TV speak:

You’re the weakest Link….goodbye

Or possibly

You’re fired

– It’s obviously time to find a new Vet….

Virgin Media turned up the next day and replaced the box. We might have lost months worth of programs but at least we are in a great position to record almost the whole of Christmas…..

Paul McCartney
I received an email saying a few tickets had been held back and were going on sale in an hour. I hit the internet at the designated time and managed to bag a couple. I may live to regret this as the snow is closing in for the weekend and I’m not sure I could face another tortuous journey only to find we don’t make it…..Plus poor old Mrs B now faces seeing Paul McCartney on Saturday night and Shakira on Monday night. It’s going to be a busy couple of days. The last time I had such a hectic run of gigs ended in a complete disaster.

Energy watch
Monitoring our way to a fortune (or not) with our Solar Panels

KW Produced so far - 95
This has earned us approximately – £40.35 so far
A slight improvement on last week with 20kw despite the snow and clouds

A record of the week

Don't Know How To Say Goodbye by The Pigeon Detectives – representing the shock of getting bad news about not just one but both cats

Seasons In The Sun - by Terry Jacks – A fairly sentimental song but it was exactly how I felt as I left the Vets, almost like it was all over. Just glad I decided not to give up

This Is An Emergency by The Pigeon Detectives – only we didn’t have any blue flashing lights to help get us through the traffic

Photo finish
Not the best pictures at the James gig, The Beast did not make it in. I was not really in the mood to be honest....

McG we havn't given up on him even if the vet has....

Mischief - lets hope she has more heart than the
#&@# vet gives her credit for....

Pigeon detectives - just about what we saw of them....

Tim Booth - Lead singer of James

Showing how much I'm a fan of James, I have no idea
who these guys are other than guitarists with the band...

I will try and get a Blog out before Christmas, if not have a good one....Wish us luck with the cats and for making it to Paul McCartney on Saturday and Shakira on Monday.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Like a fox having fun and the BlackLOG survival guide to Christmas music hell (Patent Pending)

Like a fox having fun

I often moan that we never get much wild life around here, yet I keep overlooking the foxes - the place is simply awash with them. As I drove back from a friend’s house the other night, a journey of less than a mile, I passed four of them.

So when I looked out of the window the other evening and saw one hanging around in the street, I grabbed The Beast and shot outside. It was like the fox was waiting for me, not only that he was posing in the street. So there we were just a few feet apart, bad light and no flash. In my haste I obviously hadn’t thought this one through….. I can report there was a fascination by both man (that would be me) and animal, the fox came within just a couple of feet. The Beast happily clicked away, hardly batting a lens shutter at the close proximity.

As it was a rather cold night, the only other people about were dog walkers and they were very interested in my attempts to capture Mr. Foxy. I think having The Beast made me some sort of honouree dog walker* - they were all eager to talk about their fox experience. They reported instances of either being stalked by a fox, or a fox wanting to play with their dog or one person who said that the fox just sidled up to them and sat down right beside her dog. It sounded almost like a chaperoned blind date.

* For pity’s sake don’t tell The Beast, or for that matter McG and Mischief, or I will be ostracised….

Sadly the fox had no fear. I say sadly because I suspect that this will not end well. Cunning as foxes are they don’t seem to have worked out that head butting a car is not a species enhancing trait…The only two other occasions that I have got as close to foxes were:

1). As I drove along a dual carriageway a fox ran out about three feet in front of me…. a distraught Mrs. B gasped and got very emotional. I assured her that the fox had crouched down and managed to avoid the worst of the collision. It might have a bit of a headache but was otherwise OK. What I failed to mention was that a headache was the least of its trouble as I suspect that its head was no longer attached to its body….ouch….Is there a vet in the house?

2). The second instance came a couple months later and coincidently I happened to be discussing the fate of the first fox with a friend of mine. Within seconds another fox ran (and this is no word of a lie) at the car and managed to take out one of my fog lights…..again this proved less than conducive to a long and happy life for the second fox….

Incidentally I got almost as close to President Obama, when he was travelling along the M11 a few years back – fortunately there was a crash barrier in between us, which prevented him running across in front of me. Otherwise I suspect that might have taken a bit of explaining to my insurance company……..

See the Photo finish section at the end, for The Beast and my attempts to capture Mr Foxy...

Christmas Music
It’s that time of year where you can’t escape those unbearably cheerful festive tunes escaping from every shop, radio and gramophone (don’t let it be said that the BlackLOG does not at least attempt to cater for the older reader – Yes Grandad Mitch that was aimed at you….sorry could not resist. Congratulations on the birth of your first grand daughter). Love it or hate it, unless you lose your hearing you can’t escape from it, so you may as well bow to the inevitable. So here is the BlackLOG guide to what Christmas music you should be listening too:-

You can’t go too far wrong with the Bob Dylan Christmas album. It pitches Christmas at a really depressing level, which I think is a good thing ….

Now readers don’t go all girly on me, hear me out…

It’s like when someone builds something up to such a degree that it can never hope to live up to the expectations (i.e happy jolly Christmas songs) whereas when your expectations are set low you can cope with even the worst Christmas. How much lower can your expectations get than Bob Dylan massacring Christmas songs? After a couple of hours of listening, the dog running off with the turkey, the Christmas tree lights catching fire and burning down the house and your partner giving you a handkerchief as your only present (with the wrong initials on) can all be taken in your stride….

Anyone for a Leonard Cohen Christmas Album? I think the in-laws** have invited themselves around and are insisting that everyone goes vegetarian for the festive season….. If things get worse than this you might have to call out the big guns and step up to Hitler's Speech at the Nuremberg rally in 1936. OK so that might not be very Christmassy to you but while I was growing up one of my friends had an uncle who insisted on playing the speeches over Christmas dinner.

** Please note no in-laws were hurt during the production of this blog comment. Any derogatory remarks were purely for attempted comedy effect and I can report that my in-laws are not in fact vegetarian and apart from a passion for giving really naff presents, very nice people….

After a few weeks of reduced comments I’m blatantly attempting to up my comment count with an irresistible and hard to ignore question:

What is your idea of heavenly Christmas music and/or Christmas music hell?

"Energy watch"

Monitoring our way to a fortune (or not) with our Solar Panels

(Not taking into account how much we have saved by not drawing electricity from the national grid)

KW Produced so far - 75
This has earned us approximately – £32.20 so far
A relatively disappointing 10kw this week but with so much snow and cloud not a great surprise

A record of the week

Fox on the run by Manfred Mann

Photo finish
I had said on one blog that I commented on that I was not going to take any snow photo this week unless something interesting happened...

Do you remember the game Hakee 1-2-3 (or variant)
Where a designated tree was home.

I think Mr Foxy was trying to play it with me....

Ice skating - whatever next? Those foxes are
getting way too domesticated....

In case you were interested this was a white stiletto shoe.
Looks like some poor Essex girl didn't make it home last night

Taxi Driver - "Taxi for Essex girl!"

Mr Fox - "No mate, she decided to make a hop for home..."

I do hope that's not Bolivian marching powder on his nose.....

I fear  it was drugs,  those eyes look spaced out to me....

Anyone know how to get rid of white eye in a photo?

"Hakee 1-2- 3 ready or not I'm coming to get you...."

"No officer I didn't see a taxi driver or an Essex girl...."


"Oops, sorry must have been that vegetarian curry...."

That's it I'm off...Tune in next week
or I'll eat your Hamster....

Until next week or as Foxy told you - The Hamster gets it....

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Photo envy, power generation and Athlete at the Junction

2010 Wildlife photographer competition

We visited the Natural History Museum this week for the 2010 Wildlife photographer of the year exhibition

I’m glad I am a member of the museum, there are some real advantages in that you don’t have to book a time slot in advance for any of the exhibitions and you can skip the queues of people trying to enter the free part of the museum (freeloaders, as I like to call them*) and who, on Sunday, were snaking around the block. You could see the seething resentment from the freeloaders as I produced my membership card and ushered our group through at the front.

* I myself can be a freeloader when it suits….

I don’t suppose I will ever enter anything for this competition but Mrs B sweetly said she thought some of my pictures were as good as many of the entries. I thought that was really nice until I remembered Christmas is just around the corner….. It’s a bit like bonus time at work when you suddenly remember it might be a good idea to be nice to the boss (Not that I’m the boss in the house - Mrs B made that clear years ago….)

This years overall winner
The judges must have been a bit wary after last year’s debacle, with the discovery that the winner (subsequently stripped of his prize) had hired a tame wolf for the picture.  The judges proably felt that the cost of either bribing or training a large number of insects to pose for a photograph would be more than the £10,000 prize.

My favourite – A springbok sandwich – take two slices of cheetah and a fresh springbok – I would like to think that they were just playing and all went home together for tea and jam sarnies…..
The fact that this picture was taken by a close relative of The Beast (another D700) may have influenced my choice….although the winner was taken by another cousin.....Hurrah! The rise of the D700s
If only The Beast had a better custodian (you don't get to own The Beast, he sometimes allows you to pick him up.  If he’s in a good mood you get a loud clicking that sounds like a contended purr) he could have been a contender...

Going Green
I reported a few months back that we were on the green path and had ordered solar roof panels. I am pleased to report that they are in place, which means that we are now electricity producers and get paid for every KW generated. While I don’t suspect for one minute that we will become millionaires, I have high hopes that we will make a good return on our investment. Unfortunately the short days, low sun and propensity for cloud cover in winter means this is not the best time of year to make this assessment. All I will say is that I’m glad the panels are not very prominent on the property.  I discovered (after we had signed up for them) that the income we will receive will, in turn, be derived from an increase in electricity prices. Ouch, that's not going to be popular with your average consumer......................

New regular section - "Energy watch"

Monitoring our way to a fortune (or not):
KW Produced so far - 65
Which has earned us approximately – £28.50
(Not taking into account how much we have saved by not drawing electricity from the national grid)

I can’t believe I didn’t get slapped

Martin, in spin class :– “I hate looking in the mirror, I look like sh*t”

Me :– “I wouldn’t worry about it Martin, you look like sh*t in person too”

My Doh! moment of the far
I was out with our friend Ash the other day and for some reason he would not let me use the Sat Nav and said he knew the way and I didn't need to use it. As we were driving along :-

Ash :- "Turn left....take the next right....note the camera coming up

Me :- "You see that's why I like using the Sat Nav...It tells me about the speed camera's"

Ash :- "Dude**, but I just told you about the camera..."

Me :- "Oh, yea.....Doh!...."

** What can I say, he lived in Canada for awhile...Mitch you have been warned....

A record of the week

Picture Book by The Kinks
Bein' Green by Sesame Street
Wires by Athlete
The Outsiders by Athlete
Orbiter by Alice Gold
You've got the style by Athlete

Photo finish
This week's photos are of Athlete at Cambridge Junction and the support act Alice Gold (I can't believe I did not get any pictures of the other support act Stony, who was so good I actually purchased his CD) - once again Mini Mega Beast was on duty while The Beast is still recovering from its over-exertions in Cuba.... 

Alice Gold -

"umm I write songs and sing them
loudly on guitar with a band."

Alice The girl with the guitar. or it would have been
if that head had not got in the way...


Athlete may not have the biggest following in the world but from a selfish point of view this is a good thing. Great music in intimate venues and unlike some of the mega stadium filling bands they actually appear to be still enjoying playing music 10 years into their career.

Joel Pott - Lead singer of Athlete

 I'm not sure if this is an advert for the latest werewolf
movie or for expensive bottled water.... 

During the encore someone at the front collapsed, Athlete
noticed and stopped the music and made sure they were
taken to safety- not very rock n’ roll but shows
what nice people they are.

from Tourist (2007)

"Best not to think about it" 


For the observant amongst you this is not Cambridge
Junction.  It is in fact the now empty space between
our property and the neighbours (the nice ones).

As soon as it was stolen Mrs B sent me
out to look for a local fence…..

No?, I guess that's why I'm not a stand up
comic, I thought it was quite funny...

I’ll get my coat……

It seems to have gone a bit chilly in these parts….

Pop in next week for further BlackLOG adventures

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Bury me with my bike so I can be recycled - Cuba part 3

Cuba part 3 - The cycling

In case you missed them

Part 1 - A Cuban picture view

Part 2 -  From well travelled cake to Che Guevara - Cuba part 2

Like our cycling trip to India over three years ago (it takes me that long to forget how painful an experience a cycling trip can be) this is a fantastic way to see a country, if a little harsh on parts of your body. Face it, 650km in 2 weeks is going to take its toll. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that after just 4 days it felt like my bottom was being sandpapered by a thousand monkeys who, having lost their typewriters, had given up their attempts to try to write the complete works of Shakespeare and were hell bent on creating a bottom version of Mount Rushmore….In short it was damn painful.

It was for this reason I was determined to spend as little time as possible in the saddle. I used a couple of techniques for this, the side saddle approach, propping one cheek on the saddle at a time and the other being the sprint. Give me a flat bit of road and I was off and out of sight. A downward slope was no barrier but I fear I’m starting to develop a real problem with hills, which I think might be psychological. It started a few years ago when the muscles above my knees started to spasm when I put too much strain on them. All my hard work on the flat would be totally undone and I would appear to be going backwards. As soon as I met even the most mediocre of slopes, fellow riders would catch up and pass me. I’m sure having The Beast in my rucksack didn’t help with the hills, but it allowed me to get some (even if I do say so myself) pretty decent shots.

I had great fun speeding off into the distance, jumping off the bike, whipping out The Beast and snapping shots as the group cycled pass. Then jumping back on the bike, off in hot pursuit, overtaking them and doing it all again. On a couple of occasions by the time I had packed The Beast away even the support bus had gone through. No problem on a straight road but a nightmare when you come across a junction with no one there with an nice big arrow showing you the direction to go.

Sat Nav Cuban style

 I cycled through one town and found almost the entire population screaming at me to turn around and take the previous turning. In the UK I would have taken this with a healthy dose of skepticism but I totally trusted my Cuban friends and they did not let me down. God only knows where I would have ended up if they had not helped me out as I had no contact number with me, let alone a phone.  Probably still cycling around Cuba in a futile attempt to catch myself up.....

Mrs. B had a couple of days where she was almost ready to jack it all in. First she came off her bike as we cycled through a forest. It had started to rain and huge puddles soon formed. While I was having fun going through the middle of the lakes, Mrs. B was attempting to tip-toe around the edges.

I seemed to have brought most of the
 mud  out of the forest with me....

This may have kept her cleaner to start off with but the inevitable soon happened and Mrs. B and her bike soon came a cropper. Fortunately her throat broke her fall, as it jammed into a discarded log (trees can be so untidy) leaving what looked like a vampire hicky emblazoned on her neck for a couple of weeks after.
Mrs B and minders (didn't stop her falling over though)
 The very next morning, just as we were starting out, Mrs. B got cut-up by another member of the group and came off the bike again*. Since this was followed by a day of riding on flat uninspiring countryside it made for a very dispirited Mrs. B. It took until the following day when she discovered that she could out perform her husband on even the most modest of slopes to perk her up again. I would like to say that I deliberately performed badly to make her feel better but in truth I was genuinely rubbish….

* Only one other member of our party of 18 had a crash that I am aware of.  Now I’m not saying that Andrea was competitive but after being crowned queen of the hills (the other contender for best climber on the tour, Tony, mysteriously came down with a stomach bug and had to ride in the support bus, just as we reached the hilliest part of the trip. Ummmm, was that really Andrea tampering with Tony’s water bottle…………..?) she was determined not to be beaten and when, just at the end of the last ride, she found out that Mrs. B was ahead of her in the fall count, she jumped right back on her bike, cycled 5 meters and promptly crashed to the ground.

If you go down to the Photo finish area there are some pictures of the cycling and a ditty created by a couple of members about the trip. I myself am finishing on the return flight

Coming home – A flight of fools
While the flight out had been unexciting, bordering on dull, the return flight became exciting before we had even taken our seats. Jesper and Andrea (see photos below if you want to see what they look like), had been allocated seats just behind us. As we approached our places we noticed a rather odd couple squatting in Jesper and Andrea’s seats.

I’m not sure Jesper and Andrea even said anything but just looked at their tickets for seats 45D and 45E.

This was met with a torrent of abuse from the squatting duo…

For five minutes they impressively managed to put up a one-sided fight screaming abuse at Andrea and Jesper. Some of the choice phrases included:

"Are you stupid or what? These are clearly seats 'F' and 'G'"
(The seat letters being marked on the lockers overhead, so you could not  fault their logic,  until you looked at the adjacent seats across the aisle which were labeled 'A', 'B' and 'C')

“Are you calling us liars? We have already told you that we are in the correct seats”
Hmm. Just telling everyone something very loudly and in your face does not necessarily make it true……………..

Well done to the cabin staff who did a magnificent job of vanishing just as the pairs verbal assault reached fever pitch…. Leaving the floor open to me...

I managed to calm them down by infuriating them even more with my statement:

“Wow, you guys clearly had a nice and relaxing holiday”

They seemed  genuienly shocked that someone had spoken  to them and inturupted the one sided argument they were ensconced..  All they managed was a rather weak and unconvincing: -

"We had been having a great time till we met rude f*ckers like you….”

They eventually quietened down a bit and shortly afterwards leant over to Andrea and said:

“Sorry, I think we might be in your seats…” and then proceeded to try and strike up a nice friendly "how was your  holiday?" conversation with Andrea….  Jesper had already put in ear plugs and turned his back on the quarrelsome pair….

We heard nothing from them for a couple of hours and as it was a night flight Mrs B put her seat into the recline position and managed to fall asleep. (To be honest Mrs B can fall asleep on the head of a pin.) She was rudely awaked by the pair kicking the back of her seat and screaming abuse because they wanted a drink and objected to Mrs B’s seat being in the recline position….So if you shouldn’t use the recline feature during a night flight when can you use it?

They were last seen arguing with people (or was it with themselves?) as they fought for their bags at Gatwick airport.  To put things into context he was wearing what looked like pyjamas and she looked like she had finished off all the cakes that had ever been carried around Cuba. Rather impressively they managed to display a combined I.Q less than their row number.

It didn’t finish there; the woman next to Mrs. B started to get all fidgety and kept leering across at me. Having spent two weeks avoiding such unwanted attention** I was more than capable of ignoring her disdainful glares. After about an hour of this fidgeting, the demented woman managed to wake the dead (sorry, I mean Mrs B) for the second time in the flight and asked her if her husband (that would be me, the one avoiding all eye and ear contact with her) would mind if she angled the light at him. A bleary-eyed Mrs B looked across at her and said “Why don’t you just switch it off?”

Demented woman – “Oh it’s not my light, it’s your husband’s.”

Mrs B – “Have you tried your switch?”

Demented woman - tried switch and plunged herself into darkness, muttering something that might have been an apology or possibly a curse under her breath

Mrs B sank back into another deep slumber – no doubt dreaming of the day when we can sit up front with Jack Nicholson and not in the back of the plane amongst the extras from “One Flew Over a Cuckoos Nest”

While I tried hard (and failed) not to piss myself laughing….

** The Beast seems to attract the local Cuban tramp population by the bucket load. They would sidle up to me and just stand there, waiting for cash I guess. Since Mrs. B was holding the purse most of the time they were very much out of luck.

A Record of the week

Bicycle Race by Queen

[I Wanna Start A Fight] by  Pink

I'm Not Calling You A Liar by Florence The Machine

Strange Ones - by Supergrass

Photo finish
As a little treat for you this week, to accompany some of the photos I've hired, at no expense whatsoever, a couple of cycling poets - Ian Gray and Roger “Dr Death” Black (or should that be Dr Black Death).

While I was cycling around taking pictures, Ian and Roger were creating this little ditty about our cycling group (The Beast is a little disappointed that it did not get a proper mention as the unofficial 19th member of the group but I’m sure he will get over it). Ian performed it on the last night and kindly gave me permission to include it in the BlackLOG. So take it away Ian and Roger

(With apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
as written and performed by Ian
Co-written and directed by Roger
Lighting held by Jenny
We all came to Cuba to enjoy this Caribbean Isle
Not for us the all-inclusive food/drink/beach party style.
No we're travelling around the island the way we do all like
Donned in shorts helmets, pedalling on our bike.

So who's been in this group of 18 on our bus?
Here's our view in no particular order, without prejudice or fuss
 Please note that this was the backup bus for
 12 of the bikes not for 18 people ....

Now Andrea our Green Goddess Fitness Queen does train & train & train
The only problem she pedals so hard she keeps pulling off her chain !!

Andrea - Queen of the hills and winner with
two falls but no submission
Louise.Maid Marion forever on time, so organised in every way
No wonder her suitcase weighs a whacking 23.2 K !
Numerous changes of clothing,glossy lipstick, two alarm clocks,energy bars galore
She' prepared for EVERYTHING on this Grand Cuban Cycling Tour!

Poor Barry & Sally...had to dilly-dally
When ill & take to the bus
Thankfully they're both well recovered
And cycling without any fuss! 
Barry & Sally

So to Graham & Libby..Tis TweedleDum & TweedleDee !
They wear identical clothing
Didn't you see? Didn't you see? Didn't you see??? 
Graham & Libby - the one time I saw
them apart I was worried that they 
had got a quickie divorce 

Now Orla The Virgin Frequent Flyer has a case that seems to weigh half a ton
Goodness knows what's in it
Certainly enough for EVERYONE! 

I've found a secret about Roger the crafty so and so
That he will be surprised to know
So I will tell you what I've just heard
That from childhood he has been an anorak car nerd!! 
Dr Roger Black-Death

And so to Jen..My Mother Hen
She keeps her eye on me
She's pestering me to join her to climb Kili
But first it's Italy
Jen - so hungry she was
prepared to eat wood....
(Philip, Christian stop
 sniggering at the back)

Straight out of Dad's Army Stores supply
With special brim to keep sand out the eye
Were fancy helmets for Niel & Nicky.
Whose gloves were smelly & most sticky.
Why was this, we wondered why?
Til we saw the glint in Niel's eye
With telescopic sights all set to go
Who do you think you're kidding Mr Castro?
Mrs B with her cycle helmet.

 looks like it was another
  muddy day at the office for me....

I did arrive clean at the end of
a couple of rides.....honest....

Has the Dagenham dustbin been laid to rest?
Have you not seen Phil's manly chest?
No Escort required. No Ford Orion
He focussed his sights onto the horizon
The rest of us could only marvel
At the speed & power of the dashing Blue Oval !

Tony The Dubliner did the boot camp lots & lots
But was oh so unlucky to fall ill with the trots !
He went to his hotel room to recover from the heat
To find a brand new toilet but ALAS no toilet seat!!
Tony - before Andrea got to his water bottle
- I think he has got some of my mud.

 Our friend from North America was on an adventure
Was this however a case of dementia?
Unable to name a famous Canadian
From that great & mighty Nation
What about anything a countryman had invented?
Could Jeanette perhaps be getting demented?
A vegetarian vegan.......Whatever next?
The famous item was her green cycling vest !
 Jeanette, I was only this
far behind, on a 1 Inch = 1 Mile scale


Hans Christian Jesper is a transport buff
Pedalling so fast on terrain so rough
Full of guff on the reddish stuff
Made of bananas known as ketchup!
Jesper - tried to convince Ian & Roger
that Cuban Ketchup's main ingredient
was banana....

And so to me "failed pop-star" OAP
This is what Roger penned about me!!

Ian was our thinnest member
Novice cyclist but serious contender.
Pedalling frantically but talking faster
Showing his comrades who was faster.
His slim profile was enhanced
By his camera stuffed down his pants!
Thus he excited every local
Who all became extremely vocal.
It fell into a foetid crack
Did the unfortunate Kodak !
Alas the sweat of his crotch
Proved for the camera just too much !!
 Ian, where did I stuff my camera?

First in the pool First in the sea
I wonder who on earth that can be?
He removed his footwear so we could all inhale
A pungent aroma, exceedingly stale.
Even worse was the halitosis
Athlete's Foot was the diagnosis!
On the tarmac Gracita could be seen
Pedalling furiously to keep up with Mr Bean !
Yes David is a quirky guy. Doesn't do the norm.
Hardly wears his helmut.Hates having to conform.
Totally anti PC. Won't bother to put on the deet
Then takes his shoes off in the bus.
Oh God ,It's those smelly smelly feet !
David - Look no hands...


Thanks to Exodus,Jose Loius, Alexis.& of course our great guide Freddie
Who between them all ensured us well informed & ready.
So have we all enjoyed the trip? I CERTAINLY know we have.
Despite some of the group spending too much time "sat on the lav"
Some of us also suffered from a very sore bum
Soon remedied by a tot of white rum
Freddie - Tour Guide

Alexis - our driver


The country is so fascinating. There's been lots for us to see.
Just a pity we could never find drinkable milk or a decent cup of tea!
So all of us together stand .This is what we say
"Viva La Cuba! Viva La Cuba". OLE OLE OLE !!!!!!!


To finish off some final images of our  Cuba trip - Would we go with Exodus again - 100% yes 

Me and my Shadow - David was apperntly part
of the 1834 slave revolt......

Military precision as Libby and Graham
lead the 2010 bike revolution....

They had orderd matching black uniforms for
everyone but they were still in the post.... 

Mirror lake....

David - look no feet

I was not aware it had to be only one or the other.....

Tony speeding through in search of a toilet....

Another day another view

Only another 80km to go....

Trinidad - Old town square

Is that Oasis on the Cuban leg of their tour?

The Cuban Police seemed pretty relaxed

The world famous Cuban drag act..

Roger tries to explain one of his complex
life theories to Mrs B

Hope this gives you some idea of the scenery
that we got to cycle through.

I was so intent on getting ahead
taking pictures of everyone
and then trying to catch up
that I've only now started to
appreciate the landscape....

Mrs B and Mega Mini Beast were trying to take a
picture of the nice rock when this Lizard
walked into shot....How rude....
Roger could probably tell you
The make
The model
the year of make
the MPH
the engine size
The designer

While all I can tell you that it is green,
not very helpful unless you are colour blind.

For any colour blind people grateful for
 my assistance I will happily accept  
cash or cheques

Feeding time at the Zoo

The Cuban moon liked to come out during the day

Actually I'm not sure if I ever saw it out at night

I wonder if it is afraid of the dark?

You could  play Catchprase with this

Roy Walker - "Say what you see"

Contestent - "Is it a pool with rocks"

Roy Walker - "It's a good answer, but not what's on the card"
Under his breath "Where do they get these idiots from?"

The Peleton has yet another photo finish

One last look at that little puppy

And to balance the books for you cat lovers....

At last Freddie gets his spinach
 ration but still comes in last.

 Lou, never one to miss out on
 a quick photo opportunity.

 "Che" Guevara

A bit of info for you

Che was just a nickname, his real name
 was Ernesto. Che means somthing like mate  
and is an expression used by many Argentinians. 
So I guess Ernesto probably over used it when he first
 met  his Cuban revolutionary friends, who adopted it
 for him.

He's lucky he didn't call them somthing rude.
I'm not sure "Shit for brains" Guevara would have
 had the same gravitas .. 

Mrs B, happy to be almost there....

Mrs B salutes putting the end of
 her suffering behind her.

Hope you enjoyed the Cuba review - next week it's back into the daily grind of life in Bishop's Stortford. feel free to drop in and say hello.....