Monday, 19 December 2011

Flight or fight

Thanks Airmiles.  Now you have become Avios you have almost single handedly managed to force us to fly to Japan....

I probably owe you a bit of an explanation on this one as it is a bit left field, even for me.

So let me attempt to explain.....Under the airmiles scheme (which we have been collecting miles for the last 20 years) you could book flights which included all costs including fuel surcharge, stepping on the cracks in the airport tax, looking the wrong way at the check in staff fines etc.....  Under the replacement Avios scheme, we now have the wonderful opportunity to pay for everything except the  flight itself – which these days does not seem to include the fuel for the flight,  the crews’ wages, or the little snacks. I did a bit of off-the-cuff maths  and have worked out the actual flight bit seems to cost about £1.28 to any destination.....   

Avios gave about a months’ notice that the old scheme was ending and a new  improved (well, certainly improved for them if not us users) where you get a free £1.28 flight to anywhere in the world and pay twice the amount of taxes, fuel duty and cabin staff wages for the privilege.  They gave a deadline of 8pm on December 15th to use miles under the old scheme  i.e. not paying a 225% tax rate.

The tight booking deadline made finding a holiday slot a heck of a challenge as I’ve got my London Ambassador commitment which takes out the majority of the year through to the end of September. Then there is Mrs B who seems to have black out Holiday periods in 56 weeks of the year.  We managed to nail it down to a two-week period by doubling up some of Mrs B’s Holiday Blackout periods.

So I was now  juggling a short window of holiday opportunity with a rapidly narrowing porthole of booking possibility, 6 hours and counting..... and when I opened the Avios web site I discovered a rather horrendous,  slow and cumbersome interface. Deep joy.  I also had the knowledge that in order to book under the old scheme I had to find the flights and then ring through to Avios....

After an age of wrestling with the site I discovered I could get:

One of us to Cape Town
Or one of us to Rio
Half of one of us to Sydney (possibly a quarter of each of us)
Or both of us to Tokyo....

I called Mrs B with the news

Mrs B – “I don’t fancy Japan, it’s never been on my list of destinations....Can I get back to you - I’ve got meetings all afternoon.”

I felt a bit deflated....

Oh well, I thought to myself, I’d better find some information to sell Japan to Mrs B.

I discovered that the weather was probably at its best during our  window of opportunity – Tick

I then looked up top things to do in Japan...

The number one thing apparently is....Sleep on the floor
(hang on a second I can do that at home and to be honest if I try and sell the holiday on that to Mrs B I’ll probably get the opportunity rather sooner)

The number two thing....Eat fish for breakfast
(Gulp – Mrs B hates sushi...)

The Number three thing.....Take a communal Bath
(I can imagine how well that would go down)

The number four thing.....Sit on the toilet
(Apparently the seats in public toilets are warm – frankly that’s not even selling it to me – it’s not unknown to find warm seats in UK public toilets but I wouldn’t sit on one with yours yet alone mine)

The 5th thing....Ride a bullet train
(I was the only one getting a bullet if I tried to sell Japan to Mrs B on this....)

Looked like I was on my when Mrs B came out of her meeting:

Me – "How do you fancy flying business class to Japan...I might even be able to get us into First?"

Mrs B – “I’m really not sure”

Me – “We use them or lose them”

Mrs B - “Go on then...”

It was 6:15pm and I had an hour and 45mins to get the flights.  No sweat.....

An hour and a half later I was still waiting in a phone queue – but it was alright because when I called up I was assured the waiting time was around 20 minutes....Oh well – I tried.

Just as I was about to call it a day.....

Avios booking agent - “Hello can I help you?”

Me - “Oh, yes.... I would like to book two first class flights to Japan please under the existing Airmiles scheme ”

Avios booking agent -“Just a moment while I check the details.”

I hear Keyboard tapping noises

Avios booking agent - 
“Computer says no...... you don’t have enough miles to fly first class...”

Me - “But when I looked on your site I have enough air miles.”

Avios booking agent - “Yes but that’s under the new scheme ....we have a special conversion rate to get you back to the old scheme.”

Me - “OK, what about Business class?”

A few tense moments later................

more keyboard tapping noise comes from the other end of the phone 

Avios booking agent -“Computer says No.”

Me - "Gulp"

Me - “How about if I serve food and drink for part of the flight?”

Avios booking agent - “No need for that Sir.  You can go Premium economy....”

Later that evening as Mrs B comes through the door:

Mrs B - “Did you manage to get the flights booked?”

Me - “Yes”

Mrs B - “I’m excited now I’ve always wanted to fly first class.”

Me - “About that.....”

Non-blogging is the new blogging
For the second blog running I find myself fascinated by the antics of a fellow blogger. This time it is the rather entertaining Alpenwassar who has come up with one of the best blogging ruses ever – no content no pictures and yet this posting received more comments then the BlackLOG ever does. Now Al is claiming that it was an mistake and he was just giving his blog a bit of a pre-Christmas spruce up  when it accidently went off....sounds like a clear case of premature blogulation to me.  Nothing a  couple of cases of Bloggagra wouldn’t resolve....

Knowing Al through his blog I believe he is way too smart a cookie and have a couple of theories :-

Al’s playing the old silence trick, leaving people to fill the space – I’m rubbish at that one and always seem to get drawn into breaking the quiet ....

I’ll leave you to contemplate this in silence for a few minutes .... 

tum,ti, tum....

whistling noises .....

tapping of feet...

slapping of thighs, but not in a pantomime or an Asda advert kind of way....

is that enough quiet time for you?  Because frankly I’m getting itchy feet here.....


Al’s trying to widen his audience and has set the frequency of his blog at such a high level that only dogs and very odd people gifted people can read it. Not having a spare dog* to check this out with I have been unable to confirm this theory....

* my non-existent dogs are currently strapped to typewriters (I couldn’t afford the non-existent monkeys ) trying to poop out the entire works of Barbara Cartland** . I’m figuring that shit must be easy to do...
** 723 books, bless her, she kept trying (or at least her untrained Monkeys did) I wonder if Book No. 724 would have been half decent.... 

In my opinion Al has made it to Blogger Nirvana and I’m Jealpressed  or possibly Imprelous  i.e. impressed and jealous as hell in equal measures.

Even better, one of his regular readers SherilinR tried to cover up for him.  Just as well I recognised her typing otherwise he might just have got away with it....

Duran Duran
When we purchased tickets for this  concert it was set for a Saturday Night in the middle of the summer

The preference for gig nights – when not on holiday has to be in ascending order


So imagine our delight when it was swapped to a freezing cold Monday night, after Simon Le Bon  was stricken down with laryngitis in the summer .... It was only that we had really good seats in the 5th row, a big thanks to Mrs B’s old PA for procuring them for us (most impressive) that we didn’t decide to go for a refund.

It took a while to get going for me as they started off playing quite a lot from their latest album, which is fair enough but I hadn’t really listened to it. But all was forgiven after the big hits started to echo around the O2:

Save a prayer
Wild Boys
Union of the snake
A view to a kill
Hungry like the wolf

Even some of their mid-career work, such as Notorious has mellowed and developed into a more pleasing sound on my ears at least.

After almost 30 years it’s good to see the main stay of the band still together after a few splits, reunions and re-splits  
Simon Le Bon
Looking a bit like like an arctic explorer
Simon Le Bon (These days looking a bit like an Artic explorer)
Nick Rhodes - (maybe not as strange as Steve Strange but still pretty strange)
John Taylor - (Duran Duran's own version of Keith Richards)
Roger Taylor - (Not the queen drummer)

But no Andy Taylor

Strange to think - all those Taylors but not one of them is related.  It can’t be that difficult, after all the Gallagher brothers (Oasis) managed it, so did Ray and David Davies (The Kinks).  While the Kings of Leon may have lied about their royal connection they did manage three brothers and a first cousin....  

The big disappoint of the night was the Blue bar – which is free entry to O2 mobile phone customers. I was hoping that it would be a complicated initiation process...but it turned out to simply require you to flash your phone to the doorman.  As it was it was a plastic lean-to with a bit of blue lighting  attached to the side of the O2 - singularly unimpressive. 

On the same note O2’s priority ticket booking system is pants as well. Yes as an 02 customer you get the opportunity to purchase tickets at O2 venues,  24 hours before everyone else but for the two events that I’ve used it for to check ticket availability the only ones available are up in the gods, the ones that  should come with vertigo warnings or a just sign at the bottom suicide note.... I managed to get better tickets by waiting 24 hours and fighting it out with the so called not so privileged .....  

Watch of the week
The regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business Xupes. Joe mentioned that they had been getting a number of hits via the BlackLOG.

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and  Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type…
This is your chance to acquire a very rare excellent condition Romain Jerome Limited Edition Moon Dust DNA Carbon and Stainless steel automatic mens watch. This is the mens size measuring 46mm. The watch has a carbon fibre & steel bezel with fragments from Apollo 11. Steel & Black PVD Coated case. Black dial in mineral structure containing Moon dust. The Black crocodile leather woven with carbon fibre strap contains fibres from an ISS Spacesuit.

Record of the week
Turning Japanese - Liz Phair  - Not in the traditional sense of the term - If you have to ask then you are far too innocent to be told.

Nothing Ever Happens - Del Amitri. - Except loads of comments over at AlPenwassar's

Wild Boys/Relax - live Duran Duran -

White Lines - Duran Duran -

Rio - Duran Duran (Ellen's Video!) - As a reminder  of one of the destinations that one of us or half of each of us could have gone to with Avios....

Photo Finish
I had no problems getting Mega Mini Beast into Duran Duran, having made the decision to not to even attempt taking in The Beast. As it was security were very relaxed and were even taking photos of the audience using the audiences own camera’s. 

John Taylor
"Still Breathing"
from Astronaut (2004)
"Shadows On Your Side"
from - Seven And The Ragged Tiger (1983)
"Save A Prayer"
Rio (1982)
Simon is
"Hungry Like The Wolf"
John Taylor
"Someone Else Not Me"
 From Poptrash (2000)

This would have worked so much better if it was a
picture of Roger Taylor (not the Queen drummer).

But as he was hiding at the back I didn't get a picture
of him....Just use your imagination and pretend....
"Hands up if you have any questions

Yes Simon....."

Simon - "Is There Something I Should Know? "
Nick Rhode's likes his
"Girls on Film"
Have a happy Christmas, I'm holding back on the New Year bit as I intend to publish between Christmas and New Year. If I don't feel free to come back and scroll down to the special message below...

P.S. I'm trusting you, no sneaking off  and peeking early....

Shame on you, I knew you wouldn’t wait

 ........And a Happy New Year....  OK not very special, just think of it as an 12" extended edition...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

It was the best of weeks it was the worst of weeks

This week’s title was Inspired by my blogging buddy over at Dear Diary.....Love Deranged  after she simultaneously posted about Chumbawamba while I was selecting their track Tub Thumping for one of the records of the week.

(Actually I published shortly before L-kat , the proprietor of Dear Diary.... , did but I’m not going to split any hairs over it – because quite frankly my hair is thin enough as it is thank you very much....). 

Now while I was merely using them to provide a musical  accompaniment,  Love Deranged had the much more inspired idea of bringing Dickens into the equation with a hilarious literary confrontation with her brother and father.

For those of you who have difficulty clicking links Let me do the hard work for you and bring  Dear Diary to you you are going to have do a little bit of the work and imagine suitable transportation sounds – think of the transporter on Star Trek -

Please note, you are about to arrive at Dear Diary.....Love Deranged (so any "me" you may encounter  is not actualy me but L-kat - confused you might be),  just use your intercom when you want to beam back on board the BlackLOG

What do you mean you didn't get an intercom? Oh, you must be one of the security detail, in red shirts, so I suspect you are not going to make it back - have a nice day and try not to make a mess on your demise....
Brother and my dad were busy discussing all these classic books (don't get me wrong: I love to read and my bookcase boasts a lot of classics, but to be honest, I can't say I loved or understood all of the classics.....I prefer nonfiction books about science or history or crime). Anyway here is the one part of the conversation where I felt I had some knowledge to contribute:

Brother: "I'm writing an essay on the how the works of Dickens compare with......(fill in something really brilliant here.......I wasn't listening .....didn't understand..... simply forgot what he said).

Dad: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Me: "Hell-yeah!  Chumbawamba!!  That is a great song!  What does that have to do with Dickens?"  [Please tell me someone remembers Chumbawamba and their one-hit "Tubthumping"?  Please?]

Brother and Dad (speechless):  ................

Dad: "No, that is a quote from 'A Tale of Two Cities.'"

Me: "Oh!!  I've read that book before! I don't think I finished it though.  I must not have gotten to that quote."

Brother and Dad (speechless):  ................

Brother: "It's the first sentence."

Me (speechless):   ................

Don't be alarmed you will now find yourself dropping down to the comment section of "Dear Diary .....Love Deranged" for those of you who have never delved into a comment section before, don't worry it might get a little dark down there at times but it is very unlikely that you will get hurt and in some cases you might find some additional entertainment.

BlackLOG said...
Don’t feel bad, not many people realise that Charles Dickens often borrowed H.G.Wells’s Time Machine and spent his time going forward in history* plagiarising himself. In your defence in early versions of A tale of two cities “It was the best of times it was the worst of times” was the closing line. But after Chumba whamba popularised it old CD went back and put it up front. Just tell your dad and  Brother that you must have read a pre changed version which fell through a worm hole in time and space....

* Side note surely if you go forward in history, it is no longer history it is future???

L-Kat reply - Ah-HA! I knew it! Remember when you commented on a very early post of mine about how it was you from the future....and now you bring up how CD could travel through time?.........I am beginning to suspect that you either

1. already have unlocked the secret to time travel, have traveled back in time to tell ol' CD about the great line from Chumbwama's song and urged him to add it to his book

2. have not discovered time travel, but love the movie Back to the Future. Either way, it boggles my mind....history? future? both?!?!?? HELP!!

Not only is the proprietor of love deranged (L-Kat)  very entertaining she is also serial replier to comments - so get over your fear of Blinking (Blog linking) and go check her out. 

Any whoooo back to this weeks BlackLOG  

Please imagine  Star Trek transporter sound effects, as it's near Christmas why not treat yourself and use your mind’s eye to envision some really expensive shimmery style effects......

In short (regular readers will appreciate that this is not a natural state for the BlackLOG) Mrs B and I had a busy week with lots of late night events followed by ridiculously early starts..... for Mrs B that is. 

This means, however, that I have an even more ridiculously early start because, being the loving husband that I am (i.e. Mrs B is not at her best in the morning) to get her up I must provide encouragement in the form of copious amounts of tea, removal of bed covers and if all else fails gratuitious  foot tickling....   a very dangerous sport and should not be attempted without completing the full training course and having your life, health and inoculations up to date. To be fair Mrs B  has never bitten me** but that rabid look is worrying and McG seems to have been sporting a few bites recently which I had put down to Mischief but thinking about it, I’m suddenly not so sure....

** I was in the supermarket the other day when I heard a commotion behind me and saw two small children sitting in the kiddie seats of a shopping  trolley – I would estimate that they were both somewhere between 6 months and 15 years.  Not being a parent or paedophile I’m not particularly up on child sizes and ages (one definitely had teeth so he must be at least 12).

Child one :- wah...wah...he bit my head (tempted as I am, I will refrain from calling child two Charlie)

Child two (not called Charlie) :- No I didn’t

Child one :- building his way to a full-on tantrum

Mother :– “Sorry I didn’t see, darling”

Me :– “I think the hair in one of your children’s  mouth might be more than circumstantial evidence!” 

Mother :– “Oh yeah....don’t bite him again” (to child still not called Charlie)

Me :– “Or if you do, get rid of any evidence”

Mother :– Frowning in my general direction.... 

was not that bad,  with Mrs B leaving the house at 7am and not returning home till gone 9pm,  which sadly is pretty standard fare these days....although things didn't start well for Mrs B ....

Mrs B gets the chance to dance her way to work
For those of you who didn't know it Mrs B is a huge Strictly Come Dancing fan, so when she had the opportunity to dance her way to work, she jumped at it.... Her selected dance partner for the trip was our BMW – Carruthers.  As they were  running late they started off with a Quickstep but things went wrong when Carruthers decided to switch partners and attemted a cheeky little Foxtrot, unfortunately all Mr Fox could manage was an American Smooth,  leaving Mrs B and Carruthers to Waltz off into the distance....

I drove passed about an hour later and can confirm the fox was truly performing a Smooth (In fact he was flat out at it), although I’m not sure about the American aspect, I would describe it more like a Road Smooth.

For the record Mrs B was devastated at the demise of our  Vulpes vulpe*** friend.... Some of you will probably be pleased to know that I decided not to provide a photo record of the event.....those of you disappointed, shame on you...

*** is it me or does the Red Fox seem to suffer from a bad stutter in latin....

Was a ridiculously early start - something like 5.00 am -  Mrs B as she had a 7am meeting and since I was driving into London with her I got to share the joy.  In the evening  it was off to the Union Chapel for KT Tunstall.  A brilliant venue**** and a fantastic performance from KT.  The confidence to stand with just a guitar, her voice and an Akai E2 Headrush loop pedal, which she affectionately calls "Wee Bastard" was amazing.  One of the highlights of the evening was when KT climbed into the pulpit and sang unaccompanied - just incredible (see the Jukebox).  Her stories in-between songs were beguiling and witty and from these we discovered her early musical years were spent busking on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont.

**** Very friendly staff and not judgemental of The Beast i.e. they don’t perform extensive Kitchen sink searches and so The Beast can normally get in. I did write to KT for a photo pass but unlike James Grant she never replied...But she's cute so I'll give her a break... 

The Entertainer...
(Have I got a treat for you this evening.....)
Brought us to the joys of Mrs B’s profession’s annual awards dinner....  Not that she was up for a award  herself but her boss was,  for an outstanding lifetime achievement.  This was the last award (and the only sensible one) of around 25 of the dullest awards I have ever heard of , let alone had to sit through...The host for the evening was the BBC journalist and newsreader Emily Maitlis, who deserved a special acting nomination for the enthusiasm that she managed to show for each of the categories.

My mind started to shut down so I can’t be entirely sure of the accuracy (i.e. I had to make them up) of the names of the awards....

·         The best use of a full stop in a long sentence

·         The dullest sentence in an audit

·         The best sentence beginning with “the” in the northern hemisphere

·         The best sentence not even containing a “the” in the northern hemisphere

Faced with a list of a further 20 equally dull awards and no knowledge of the candidates up for each of them I went into survival mode and started a competition with one of my table mates to guess  who would win each category. 

After failing dismally to predict  the first 10 winners I could not contain my excitement at getting one right and such was my over enthusiastic celebration that the host for the evening, Emily Maitlis, looked over at our table and started to applaud me as the winner.  I did my best to make both denial and apologetic signs to Emily and was much relieved when the actual winner, after a horrendously long pause, eventually got me out of  the squirmy nightmare I was sinking into....  


was a moderately early start 6:30am – As we were meeting up in London in the evening, I dropped Mrs B at her office (no point both of us driving) and then fought my way to work, back through rush hour London traffic.  As it was another new venue for me I decided not to risk The Beast - b “The Electric Ballroom Camden” – a venue which has been going for over 70 years (I believe it is still owned by the original proprietor) and has managed to survive a few recent attempts by London Underground to have it flattened.  It’s a bit scruffy but has a certain charm and after I found my way upstairs proved an excellent venue for Mrs B to see The Pigeon Detectives. The Pigeon Detectives are a very lively band, demanding a lot from their devoted fans and enjoying nothing better than building them into a frenzy. Watching from on high gave an excellent view of the dynamics of a mosh pit in action,  as young and not so young men charged into each other..

After yet another early start it was off to the West End to see “Driving Miss Daisy”

We have been fortunate to have seats in  the front rows of three very good West End plays this year, seeing:

Keira Knightly
Elisabeth Moss (Peggy in Mad Men)

David Tennant (The Doctor in Dr Who)
Katherine Tate (Comedien and Donna Noble  the Doctor's companion 

And now

James Earl Jones (Luke’s father’s voice in Star Wars)
Vanessa Redgrave (acting royalty if a little iffy politically)
In Driving Miss Daisy

Sadly the one thing that all three plays had in common turned out to be wanton smoking.  For the third play running I found myself spluttering with eyes streaming.  If,  as is claimed, it is fake smoke it is mighty impressive and I just hope any cancer I get turns out to be fake as well.  This time, a full 1/3 of the cast lit up and from my point of view it was fortunate that the cast consisted of just 3 performers...

James Earl Jones as the chauffeur was wonderful.  That silky smooth voice has lost none of its vitality despite  80 years of excellent service.  As for Vanessa,  I shall start with the bad.  Her American accent as Miss Daisy was shakier than a building during a  10 magnitude earthquake – I could have done a better job and I’m hopeless at accents.....but, to balance this out, she is 74 and, accent aside, her portrayal of Miss Daisy from a feisty 70 year old to a doddering 90 year old was spellbinding.  Now, bearing in mind that both Mrs B and myself were absolutely knackered after a full-on, sleep starved week, (and it has not been unknown for me to push a few zzzzz in the theatre) were so caught up in the play that we remained alert and  bright eyed for the entire performance.

It was a relief to make it to the weekend.  Like I said: It was the Best of weeks (great gigs and theatre), it was the worst of weeks (not much sleep, a rather dull award dinner and certainly not great for Mr Fox ).

Now I have to admit to including  the KT Tunstall gig for dramatic purposes, when it actually  occurred the week before but even without it, it was a hectic few days (although checking back through some of this years blogs it always seems a but hectic...perhaps I'm getting old....). 

Snack of the decade
Handmade mince pie flavoured crisps.  When I first heard about them I had to check a couple of things :-

1.       That it was not April 1st i.e. an April Fool’s joke; (Which just happens to be Mrs B's Birthday) 

2.       That Mrs B was not around.  She is not a fan of mincemeat or indeed of me eating inappropriate snacks i.e. not Mrs B sanctioned food items.

I can report this odd-sounding combination is absolutely to die for but you won’t catch me admitting that in the presence of a certain Mrs B...

For those of you who thought I was kidding ....
I wasn't....
BlackLOG rule No.27 You never joke about snacks

Watch of the week
The regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business Xupes. Joe mentioned that they had been getting a number of hits via the BlackLOG.

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and  Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type…

Xupes price £5,495.00
Excellent condition Jaeger le Coultre Squadra Reverso GMT Chronograph automatic stainless steel watch on Black rubber coated stainless steel strap with stainless steel deployment buckle. This is the mens size measuring 41mm by 35mm. The dial is black. The watch is in excellent condition with original boxes, & manuals supplied from a UK authorized dealer on1st November 2011. This particular model is still sold in Jaeger le Coultre Boutiques Worldwide.
Record of the week
If you want to listen just press play on the Jukebox

Shanty of the Whale (Live at the Union Chapel ) KT Tunstall -- The video on the juke box is from  the very show that we were attended...not sure who put the video up, so can't credit them, but I can thank them in their anonymity.

If Only (acoustic) by  KT Tunstall - If only KT had let The Beast in legitimately I might have got some better pictures...

Funnyman (acoustic)  by  KT Tunstall - Very nice of her, we've never even talked - perhaps she's read the blog...well maybe not...

I'm Not Sorry by The Pigeon Detectives - Well we were a bit sorry when we got caught in traffic the last time I tried to take Mrs B to see them and we missed their set....

Lost by The Pigeon Detectives - Not lost guys we were stuck in traffic, honest .....

Tub Thumping by Chumbawamba. - Included for the second week running for obvious reasons

Photo Finish
All pictures this week thanks to The Beast, the Kitchen Sink, the Union Chappell and KT Tunstall

Black Horse and the Cherry Tree
(I think the cherry tree is enjoying life as a piano...No idea what
happened to the black horse... are there any French in the house?)
Girl and The Ghost
(unless you can see the dead, the ghost will be invisible to you )
Golden Age
(Certainly for trousers)
Shanty of the whale
(The word according to the reverend KT Tunstall)
If Only
(I had not drunk so much water and
gone to the toilet before I came on stage)
Through the Dark
(Who put out the colour?)
Boo Hoo
(It's all over and time to go home....)

Hope to see you next time....