Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Winter Olympic's coverage, including a live on the spot report from Vancouver

I'm currently enjoying the Winter Olympics' coverage, in between bouts of wedding photo sorting - I have got the 500 shots down to about 80 and sickness - basically a persistent cold that has more than outstayed its welcome, I've been trying to get it to pack it's bags for the last two weeks but as soon as the taxi arrives to pick it up it gets scared off by a big sneeze and hacking cough.

As a skier I'm ashamed to admit that amongst my favourite events so far have been the boarder cross racing (no that is not trying to break into the US) and the half pipe star the Flying Tomato* (aka Shaun White). The short track speed skating has also been great fun to watch. It was really great to see Bode Miller finally get a gold medal - I love his do or die attitude and as a bonus he has a personality that he can take off the slope with him. My last sporting hero, who showed the same all or nothing spirit, was F1 driver Nigel Mansell who appeared to have traded a personality for a pair of fluffy eyebrows and a circa 1970's porn moustache.

* Who is a dead ringer for England's (since she has won a medal we can now hail her as English**) own Amy Williams, just without the bumps. If he ever develops Moobs it will be almost impossible to tell them apart....

** Works in reverse for Scottish athletes who miraculously become British if there is a hint of a victory but revert to being Scottish as soon as they lose. The same could be said of the Welsh but since they don't win Winter Olympic medals (synchronised sheep shagging has yet to make an appearance at the Olympics', summer or winter) they are hardly worth mentioning.....

It's strange, other than supporting British athletes I generally support the Americans and Canadians but that might just stop (Bode Miller being the exception) after the disgraceful behaviour of the US and Canadian teams over the Womens Skeleton event. (This appears to be nothing more than throwing yourself head first on a tray down a white track but is set to become the most talked about winter sport in the UK for at least the next four years. To be honest, I'm a bit bored of it already). God knows we needed that gold medal (although Amy would be wise not to let Gordon Brown anywhere near it, otherwise it will be winging its way in a pre-paid envelope to cash4Gold before you can say "UK Gold reserve, what gold reserve?" for about 1/16 of it's actual value....) Now I'm sorry America but how bad did you want to win? To lodge a complaint about the design of a helmet, that has already passed the sports governing bodie's rules, when you get to the halfway stage of the competition you are trailing is petty and bordering on gamesmanship. As for you Canada- wow. What have you done to your reputation for friendliness and sportsmanship - Once you had removed Amy from the podium you would still have had to get passed the two German and the American athletes before you could "Own that podium".....what would the next steps have been? Assassination, over- zealous tazering? Remember these are fit athletes not vulnerable pensioners. It would take quite a large hit to bring them down....
Mischief and  MgG do their version of the
 "Own the podium "called "Own the bed"
I can confirm they are both Olympic
Champions at the sport....

Mischief for the short snooze event
while McG won the Freestyle kipping,
just edging out a zzzzz'ing Mrs B

Let's face it, the "Own the podium" campaign was misguided at best. Yes, I applaud that you have built the worlds fastest and most technically challenging toboggan track but find it unacceptable that you should then restrict track time for anyone but Canadians. That smacks of a kid taking his ball back because he's not winning. Contrast this with the behaviour of the two German athletes who not only congratulated Amy on her victory but also hoisted her above their heads in celebration. At least, I hope they were celebrating with her and not attempting to chuck her off the podium. The footage I saw stopped short (a bit like Mrs B's efforts to watch the final run, 20 minutes before the conclusion of the competition Mrs B was out like a light .....). Yes, winning is important and should be worked for and celebrated when it happens but not at the cost of the spirit of competition...... Besides you are giving the organisers of the London 2012 games ideas, only they will probably get it horribly wrong and restrict access to the facilities for any UK competitors.

That's enough from the studio here in England. I have a real treat for you this week and with no expense spared (or even spent) we have a man on the spot in Vancouver. We sent him out about three years ago to report on the build up to the games only to find that he has gone native on us and married a Canadian (Joyce, who I'm sure still retains the spirit of friendliness and sportsmanship). He has recently taken up the Canadian past-time of falling off the roof and yes this is his first and only post in three year....For those of you mad enough to want to know anything further about Mitch he as appeared in a number of BlackLOG adventures...

Please note that these blogs were in the days before The Beast.....

So without further ado; over to Mitch live in Vancouver***

*** Please be patient there may be a little bit of a delay as we are using UK developed and built equipment (yeah like a couple of slits in the back of your helmet are suddenly going to give you super speed and strength). Don't forget this is the country that brought the world the Austin Allegro (the world's only car with a square steering wheel.  There is a rumour that they wanted to use the same technology for the tyres to stop it rolling backwards on hills) and the Austin Princess (Like a wedge of cake on a skateboard, only not quite as aerodynamic. Best used for keeping doors open in the summer).

This is Mitch's first Blog so be kind - I will be passing on any negative comments and steal any nice ones for myself.....

Only Mitch has missed his deadline, so maybe next week

Late breaking news

  • As British Airways cabin staff vote to strike, you have to ask, is it less of a case of the rats leaving the ailing airline so much as them chewing through the bottom of the craft?
  • I see that Marina and the Diamonds are playing the deaf institute in Manchester - is it just me that finds that concept of a musical combo playing an institute for the deaf  hilarious?
  • Watched the coverage of the ski-cross last night, 4 skiers 1 track no prisoners...even better than the snowboard racing.
  • To the woman at work who thought the guns in the Biathlon were in case of Bear attacks as competitors race through the forest. Don't be silly,  it's for enforcement purposes in case Canadian athletes are struggling to "own the podium"
Left over from last week, "The Cake Maker" meets The Beast.
Yes I did get a well deserved thwack from that red bag......

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

One wedding 3 events and a lost voice

Bit of a hectic weekend what with :-

  • Mrs B's sister's wedding (me as official photographer);
  • Our niece Trinity's 18th Birthday (me as unofficial photographer)
  • Varekai - Cirque Du Soleil (me as no camera allowed non-photographer) - The Beast had to stay outside in the car with a packet of crisps and a diet coke*
What is it with the second weekend in February? Last year we had events stacking up like planes over Gatwick in a snowstorm.  In fact we even had to sell our tickets for last year's Cirque Du Soleil and turn down a party invitation. This year, at least the timings were in our favour and even though we had long dashes between events, we made them all.

* Like McG, the Beast is somewhat heavy.   The vet has ordered us to cut down McG's food ration even more, as he is clearly not burning off the paltry amount he was being given. With even less of a ration I'm sure McG has now taken to leaving his food to dissolve on his tongue so he can conserve what little energy he has left to make it to the airing cupboard, his sleeping place of choice at the moment (perhaps we should try turning the heating up even more so he could sweat off the excess pounds.) and then crawl pitifully back to his food bowl for his next meal.

The wedding
A real fun day, there is something about second weddings that is more relaxed. This probably also explains why I was asked to be the photographer as they wanted informal wedding shots.  Just as well really. So as long as the Bride and Groom don't have second thoughts and miraculously expect to see traditional wedding shots, everything should be sweet...

A slightly nervous Groom and his best man

Mrs B's dad was gutted when he found out
he had to give JL away for a second time.
Perhaps third time lucky he might get
something for her........

The first kiss - feel free to say aaahhh

Mrs B - a very proud and happy sister

Sorry, this is almost encroaching on the formal.
I'll try not to let it happen again...

Some table decorations - I know some of you ladies
(and I guess some gentlemen) like these sorts of things...

The wedding Cake, hand made and
decorated by Mrs B's mum.

Feel free to give it the standing ovation
that it truly deserves

Those aren't real flowers
they are handcrafted in sugar.

I think that deserves another standing ovation

JL - a true rock bride

Matt not to be out done

No wedding is complete without an impromptu conga ....

I put the Beast down for a second to have a bit of a
boogie and Mrs B turns paparazzi on me.....

Is it me or are we starting to drink much younger these days?

The wedding night.

Fortunately they insisted on lights out.
I'm just shocked at how flexible they are.....

Hope you enjoyed the taster of the wedding shots and agree that I managed to captured the sense of fun.  I took around 500 shots, so  I'm going to be pretty busy for the next few weeks. 

The Bride and Groom are currently honeymooning in Africa.  The official photographer is currently recovering "quietly" in Britain.

18th Birthday party
It's interesting going to a dinner party when you have lost your voice.   I tried to hold up my end of the squeakersation but it was a losing battle.  Fortunately I was seated next to a woman who could talk the hind legs off a donkey (Mala she would have given you a run for your money).  She was more than capable of filling the huge gaps that I left.  To be honest I'm not sure I was actually required  for any part of the conversation ......

Trinity makes a little speech, I think her
first legal drink helped with that....

The venue for Trinnie's 18th, most impressive

The Beast had some competition, but
nothing it could not handle

Varekai - Cirque Du Soleil  
As Mrs B and I were being corporately entertained,  I felt I should be on my best behaviour, so no trying to sneak the Beast into the Royal Albert Hall.  This was a real shame as I missed the opportunity to take pictures of the Clive Room where we were wined, or in my case cranberry juiced and dined. I was informed that the Queen is entertained in this very room when she attends functions at the Royal Albert Hall  - Which  probably accounted for the chewing gum stuck under the table.

I could certainly get used to being corporately entertained - good food brought to us in an incredible environment.  The views over the park were fantastic (damn no Beast) even the rain didn't dampen down the view. Moments before the show starts you are escorted to your seats in a box (none of that boring waiting around with the great unwashed), where a program and a CD of the tunes (sadly not the show's strong point) awaits. Now I have to admit that Cirque Du Soleil and I have had a bit of a chequered history. For Mrs B's 40th we went to Las Vegas to celebrate and booked tickets for 'O' at the Bellagio. It was fantastic or at least the 5 minutes I saw were. Despite how much I was enjoying it, my eye lids had other plans and I spent the majority of the show pushing up the zzzzzz while Mrs B slapped and hit me to no avail. Rather infuriating because once I hit the fresh air outside I was awake and ready to go.....Grrrrrr. The next opportunity was last year but we failed to see the show because other events took precedence and we had to ditch the tickets . Double Grrrrr.  So this was third time lucky.

So how was the show?

I'll start with the bad points - there is no storyline as such or if there was I missed it (no, I was not asleep this time) and I could not help thinking that Mr Bean was going to walk on stage any second - all the hand gestures, squeaky noises for conversation (I'm a fine one to not talk, as a typical BlackLOG twist of fate left squeaking as my only mode of communication) I guess they try and avoid using language so that it makes it easier to tour the show around different countries. While the music suited the show, it was, as I said before, a fairly weak point.

To balance this, however, the acrobatic demonstrations just left me open mouthed with how clever it all is.  If only there was a Cirque Du Soleil show with guaranteed brilliant, wait, there is "Love" , looks like it's going to have to be a trip back to Las Vegas.....

Have a good week

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

I could not make this stuff up if I tried

Cycle to work scheme
I picked up my new bike the other day. I had purchased it under the "cycle to work" scheme (it saves around 45% on the cost of a bike and you get to pay for it over 12 months - almost worth getting splattered across the road for). The bike scheme has a few basic rules, such as the bike :-

  • Must not cost more than a set limit
  • Must be suitable for cycling to (and I guess from) work
and that's about it.

Now, call me picky but in my book for a bike to be suitable for cycling to work it should have pedals.  Not the model I selected it seemed. Oh no - apparently this is a "special" bike. It's not like they warned me that it didn't come with pedals.  Fortunately, as I had already spent up to the scheme's limit, the shop kindly counted the pedals as optional extras and so allowed me to buy some. Isn't that a bit like purchasing a house and finding out that the doors and windows are not included but if you feel you really need them you can add them as optional extras?  (I guess if you live in a crime free, warm environment, doors and windows could be considered to be an unnecessary luxury. If anyone actually lives in such a place please let me know, it sounds like a great place to start a crime wave. I don't see why you should have to miss out on all the fun and excitement of being burgled)

My first bike ride (other than the cycle from the shop back to work - you have to show willing.) was less than event free. A big thanks to the Astra car driver who almost knocked me off the bike as he cut back in a bit too close to me. I had covered less than a kilometre at this point. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and put it down to him misjudging my tremendous turn of pace. I also managed to break one of the cleats in my cycling shoes. Again I would like to think this was due to the incredible power I was generating through my optional extra pedals  but the reality is the shoes are getting on a bit and the cleat just wore out...

More fireplace fun - Yes Skipper, you were right - this is going to run and run.
In the best traditions of the Black household we decided to have a launch evening for our new TV and the revamped living room. Five minutes before everyone arrived (well, those who were fashionably on time anyway)  I decided it was probably cold enough to have a fire in our newly installed stove. I had lit it the previous week and it worked perfectly so imagine my delight when the room filled up with smoke.  After taking almost 2 months to fit the damn thing they had not secured a plate properly in the flue which had fallen down and blocked the chimney.  You have got to hand it to our fire installers - from a blogging point of view they have been like gold dust.

Engaging people
I went on an "Engaging people" course at work - it could have gone better..............

One of the exercises on the course was to sit opposite someone, study them for a minute, and work out:-

What were the facts about the person

What you could you assume; and

What could you make up about the person.

As I studied the woman in front of me I went all Sherlock Holmes and proudly worked out:

  • She was not married or engaged - no rings;
  • She had a cold - the snot rag tucked into her sleeve was the giveaway; (Boy, I was on fire!)
  • and She was a bit shy - I based this on the fact that she spent the entire exercise looking everywhere around the room but at me.
I was right about the first two.  Apart from being rather intimate with a cold she was seeing no one.
Not quite so good on the third though as, at the end of the minute, she happily talked to the class about the exercise. I guess it was not a case of her being shy but that she evidently found me repulsive. A little harsh I feel - I might not be George Clooney but I'm certainly not the Elephant man...........

As she prattled on dryly about facts and assumptions that she made about me (what would she know? She never even looked at me) she made the mistake of saying fantasy instead of fiction and I'm afraid I took the opportunity to jump in with:

"Enough of that, young lady. Would you mind mentally putting my clothes back on?"

It did not help that the room erupted into laughter. Any chance of engaging with her after that was lost. Ooops - still, it got a good laugh.

It got worse though - at lunchtime I ran into someone I have known for years.

Me -  Hi, how are you?

Person I knew - no reaction whatsoever -  nothing, nada, apart from practically walking through me.

Me - Wow,  next time I'll throw myself in front of them.

Fellow attendee on the course - I wouldn't bother, she would have just stepped over you.....

Perhaps that was a bit of cosmic karma getting me back for being mean to non-engage girl .........

what I can't work out is, did the course make me worse at confronting engaging with people or did my encounters simply demonstrate that I should have gone on the course years ago.....

Some photos to finish you off with
The first is McG and Mischief - it's not a great picture but all I could get to record the moment. They have never been that close and would rather spend their time winding each other up. I happened to walk into the kitchen and caught them curled up together. I grabbed the camera and clicked. Within a nano-second they were as far apart from each other as the room would allow. It reminded me of the scene in "Trains, Planes and Automobiles", where John Candy (McG) and Steve Martin (Mischief)...share a bed.

[waking up after sharing the same beanbag in the kitchen]
Mischief :- "McG... Why did you kiss my ear?"
McG:- "Why are you holding my paw?"
Mischief :- frowns-  "Where's your other paw?"
McG :- "Between two pillows..."
Mischief :- "Those aren't pillows!"

Click - I capure the moment.....

For those of you who have not seen the film or who have blocked it from your memory. For the record no McG was not in the opening shot.....

You might want to pause the Jukebox before playing the clip, unless
you like clashing sounds - this is not a nanny state blog, you are free
to do as you please....

Sorry....I'm going to have to take a shower now...

Neither cat is currently talking to me, I compounded my sin of catching them snuggled up together by taking them on a trip to the vets for their annual check-up and inoculations..... Fortunately, like goldfish and Mrs B when she has done something wrong*, they have fairly short memories.

* I think this might be because Mrs B's storage capacity is full of all my misdemeanours ... from the day we first met.....and I thought it was men that had selective memories ....

The Love that dare not speak its name.

The rest of the shots are of Vampire Weekend playing the Corn Exchange in Cambridge - our first live gig of the year. I decided not to take the Beast with me but used Mrs B's new camera a Panasonic FD1 with a 45-200 lens on - which turns it into a Mini Beast** - not bad results considering  we were about 30 rows back ...

**Actually with the 45-200 lens attached the FD1 looks a bit like a flea with an elephant's erection.....I'll post pictures in a future blog but, for now, I'll leave you with your own mental picture.

So that's both cats and the Beast not talking to me at the moment and possibly Mrs B, for the remark about the selective memory...It's probably gonna be a quiet few days for me....Why, oh why did I agree to go on that Engaging People course..

Ezra Koenig - being attacked by a giant duck,
You have to love your fellow concert goers 

Chris Baio - "Did I turn the gas off before I came out?"

Chris Tomson -
"Does anyone have the instructions for using chopsticks?"
Rostam Batmanglij - "Perhaps the hat
was a bit of a mistake?"
Your telling me, it clashes
with the back drop for starters .... 

On Friday I'm taking the photo's at Mrs B's sister wedding....Wish me luck and fingers crossed that the predicted snow storm (nothing like what the East coast of America has been enjoying) does not materialise and that JL (the bride) is still talking to me afterwards...

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Victory in the chrome wars and other rubbish

Big celebrations in the BlackLOG house as our infamous chrome feet finally arrived . Not only that but they have multiplied on their travels. We ordered and paid for 7 feet (which was what we were told we would need) and 14 appeared (which is probably what we actually need). They were also fitted for us which was nice because when Mrs B ordered the feet she was told that we would have to drill and fit them ourselves. (This did not worry Mrs B as she rightly figured that this would not affect her and any drilling would fall to me). The fitters came in, put them on the sofa (not just layed them on the top of the sofa mind, they actually fitted them properly underneath) and then left without a fuss - not even taking the offered drinks. I am now waiting for the company to try and bill us for the extra feet and fitting. Good luck with that - they can deal with the BlackLOG customer diservice line.....

There is nothing like extra chrome feet to give a Sofa a lift 

I was asked by my friend Ash if I would take some photos at his 50th Birthday party. Not a problem as I was always going to bring the camera.....but suddenly it's a little bit more official which suddenly puts a bit of pressure on, even if that is only self applied. It's not as if it was a paying gig or anything. I started off a bit experimental, trying out different things, but it was not working that well. By the time I got the camera setting correct, they turned the bloody lights out........Aaarrrggghhhh! I then had to break out the flash - not my favourite form of photography. A bit more experimenting later and I came to the realisation that the Beast's 70-200mm lens was not working with the flash (I'm sure it probably does but I was running out of time). I then decided to switch to the 50mm lens which would have been a lot easier decision if I had not left it at home. A frantic car journey later (no speeding tickets or near death experiences - despite my best efforts) and I returned with the 50mm lens. I hope the end results were OK for Ash. You never know if people are saying the pictures are good just to be polite.... I would also like to apologise to the first group I took pictures of - they were very patient as I subjected them to a round of experimentation which went on far too long, I should have been embarrassed but I was having too much fun...

None of you are leaving until I get this shot I want
That's right it's going to be a long night.....
Spaghetti Bolognaise
The Italians are complaining that us Brits aren't making Spag Bog properly. For starters we should not use spaghetti but tagliatelle. Just who are they trying to kid? That would be Tag Bog. Sources close to no one in particular reported that Spaghetti Bolognaise is not even an Italian invention. I have not been able to corroborate this statement but that has not stopped me printing it.

CacTus club
The Cheap as chips Tuesdays got off and running with its first outing for the year. The price has got even better at only £2.95 for any film, which probably accounts for the impressive attendance of 7memebers. The choice of film was "Up in the air", which I can highly recommend. It had me in stitches, I hope it is supposed to be a comedy, as George Clooney travelled around the states firing people while collecting loyalty points (no not for ladies products , sorry Imo).

Yes Kirsty you get credit for the best
 choice of Cactus film this year ....

Mala - you can get credit as well,
when you selected a decent film....

I finally got to see Avatar, although I ended up going on my own because everyone (including Mrs B) was either busy or not interested. Not sure that the 3D added much to the event but the film was quite good if you like watching effectively a Western with extremely tall Blue Indians. Perhaps it was filmed in a cold climate.....

Baby you can drive my car....when you pass the test that is
After 30 years' of driving in the UK, our friend Mitch struggled to pass the Canadian driving test. At his third attempt he finally got the hang of:
  • Drinking 1 litre of coffee for every 10 miles driven
  • Sounding the car horn whenever stationary for more than 3 seconds
  • Keeping full beam on at all times day and night
  • Compulsory use of cell phone during every journey
  • Shaking his fist at every passing pedestrian and motorist
  • Wearing a baseball cap back to front at all times while the vehicle is in motion
He was marked down on his third attempt for not saying "Eah!" at the end of every sentence but this was only considered a minor offence and so was let off with a light tasering, before finally being granted his Canadian driver's Licence ."Well done Mitch, we are proud of you, Eah!"

If he wants an American Driving licence he will have to add the following skill :-
  • Driving while shooting at least three different types of guns
Who needs a Zimmer frame when you have Helium balloons

Unbelievably no money changed hands

At last we find out why Pisa has a leaning tower 
It wanted to get into a group photo....

Well at least Alison and Debs
thought the last caption was funny
Have a good week, or if  you decide not to come back have a great life