Saturday, March 25, 2006
Kev F Draws The Crowds
Just returned from "Kev F Draws The Crowds" at Bracknell's South Hill Park. I had decided to take the family along because I knew of Kev Sutherland from his time organising the Bristol Comics Fairs. I wanted to see what he was like outside the stressful organiser role and also off the Internet (as no-one is really like their on-line persona).
The overall feel was of a sharing platter at a restaurant where they put in something from all the other starters - each tasty in their own way but not always perfect partners and never enough!
So you have Kev on stage telling us some stories, then armed with a flip chart and marker pen showing us how easy it is to draw cartoons, and not forgetting his metamorphosis into the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre performing King Lear in five minutes.
His stand-up today was modified to take into account the fact that half the 40 people in the audience were Beano target audience age. That's fine - I don't see much of a need for swearing in comedy anyway - there aren't too many classic punch lines with "Feck" in them, for example. He was definitely good with the kids and it was amusing to hear the suggestions they come out with. Their focus is very much on self or school and it was interesting to see how they were thinking.
At the end, Kev delivers on the show's titles and drew a caricature of everybody that turned up. I think Samantha's is spot on - the slightly sleepy eyelids give her face a relaxed look and the lips are the right size. Kev has Sue's eyes done really well with a sort of focused stare. I'm not too sure about mine as I can't see anything that jumps out as "me" but then I don't get to see my face as much as Sue's and Samantha's.
This is True
I thought I'd carry an advert for him to drive more readers his way. He already has "more than 120,000 readers in over 200 countries" so you'll be in good company.
Unfortunately I can't use scripting in my Blog so the story won't update every day with a new story so here's a static ad:
This is True®
by Randy Cassingham
Stories from Our Archives ©1994-2004
Jailhouse, Sweet Jailhouse
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Rubbish on the pitch
Sadly today's Reading v Wolves League fixture is unlikely to be repeated for a while as Reading will be in the Premiership next season. Wolves in 2005/6 have been very disappointing - pretty par for the course, really. The expectation amongst many Wolves fans is that the club should be able to reach the top tier and stay there. The fan base is large enough - the ground capacity of 28,525 is comparable to Bolton, Birmingham, West Brom and Wigan while both Fulham and Portsmouth hold less than 20,000. The Hayward years, though, are becoming a nightmare. Sir Jack bought his toy way back in 1990 about a month before his 67 birthday and has ensured the club has failed to succeed so many times. First he did nothing which meant middle-table obscurity for three seasons. Then twelve seasons of fiddling - "spending" money, not spending money and sacking managers:
- 90/91 - mid-table obscurity
- 91/92 - mid-table obscurity
- 92/93 - mid-table obscurity
- 93/94 - 7th (missed playoffs by 3 pts)
- 94/95 - 4th; playoff failures
- 95/96 - avoided relegation by 3 pts
- 96/97 - 3rd; playoff failures
- 97/98 - mid-table obscurity
- 98/99 - 7th (missed playoffs by 3 pts)
- 99/00 - 7th (missed playoffs by 2 pts)
- 00/01 - mid-table obscurity
- 01/02 - collapsed to 3rd from automatic promotion position; playoff failures
- 02/03 - 5th; promoted through playoffs
- 03/04 - Premiership collapse
- 04/05 - mid-table obscurity
None of the seasons have seen a really solid push for promotion, unlike Reading this time round. Even when Wolves were promoted, we weren't champion material and once we were in the Premiership no money was spent to ensure we stayed there. So, the best photo I took during the match was this one - self-explanatory:
Monday, March 13, 2006
Gran Via Grafitti
and some not-so-official...
Determining what mountains I was photographing was initially a problem but the terrain feature in Google Earth means I can create a 3D representation of the valley which I can then tilt until my point-of-view is looking down the valley just like the camera I used. These (below) are the peaks further up the valley from our hotel - Basses del Ruf and Estanys Forcats.
The next photo shows (I assume) how they have invested in avalanche protection. As you can imagine, this steep groove between the two peaks must make a perfect route for the snow on the peak at the back to slip down. Note the lack of trees... At the bottom of the photo is a white strip of snow. This is actually a concrete Toblerone bar 30 metres thick and 300 metres long which fits right across the valley bottom. I think this is an obstacle that stops avalanches flattening our hotel and neighbouring buildings.
Off in the distance are more lovely, snow-covered peaks (Estany de la Nou and Basses Roges, 13km to the SE of Arinsal and almost over the border into Spain).
Friday, March 10, 2006
Ancient and Modern
We are cruising at an altitude of 20,000 feet and out of the starboard window you will see...
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Snowboard level D
Thanks to Sue and Sam for sitting through the lesson and taking the photos
I would like to point out that I was happily stationary on the slope when some lump of a 'boarder slid down the slope into me.
Those plastic slopes certainly make your boots dusty.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Your name's not down, you're not coming in
|With a "thou shalt not pass" approach, I've put grills over the airbricks into the house to prevent mice getting in through them. I know they can as I've seen them do it before, many years ago at my parent's old house.|
|The job doesn't look too bad - folded in edges to minimise the sharp snags and screwed into the bricks. No doubt it will quickly rust and look terrible but hopefully it will have been worth it. Just need the number of mice appearing in the traps to drop off now.|
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Lovely building colours
Exploring the "Estufa Fria"
The first section is the Cold Greenhouse where the slatted roof lets in air, water and warmth but cuts out the direct sunlight, except for those trees high enough to burst through it.
Not too many weird and wonderful plants here except for what I shall call the "Egyptian Boat Plant":
Still, a lovely place just to walk through and relax. In the early afternoon when I went, there were hardly any visitors - I must have seen about 10 people the whole time - which I think helped. In other similar places I have been to there have been vocal birds adding some background noise to the greenery. Although there were birds here, they seemed to be quietly huddling in grilled caves and not enjoying life. There were no signs around so I couldn't tell what the birds were or what they were doing there - maybe they were injured birds recovering in peace before being released?
The more exotic plants were in the glass greenhouse - I can imagine that this place gets really hot in the summer; in the winter (like such a season exists in Portugal) it was still quite comfortable. Here I saw some cacti and spikey plants that left me scratching my head. Take this one, for example, with the aeroplane wings that alternate at 90 degrees:
Or this lovely flower growing from a vicious spiked creation.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Lisbon late at night
First stop was the Praça Marquês de Pombal (blogs passim) but the evening traffic was too light for me to really appreciate the terror that must be this 5-lane roundabout at rush hour.
Next a walk down the Avenida de Liberdade, which is the main avenue of the city. I was impressed how wide it was (over 300 feet) and, because it was still early on my trip, it being a mile long wasn't too much trouble. At the bottom was the Monument to the Heroes of the Great War (a tribute to the 50,000 Portuguese soldiers who fought in World War I).
One thing you notice on such a walk is that almost every piece of pavement is cobbled with small white stones, each a few centimetres across. It shows a lot of effort has gone into making the place look attractive, with occasional patterns of black stone to add variety. Although very nice, such flooring does have a few problems - any slopes (such as Rua Augusto dos Santos) are pretty slippery as the stones are so smooth; if a stone comes out, more soon follow and crippling pot-holes can quickly develop. But then people should always watch where they are going (unless they are blind when Lisbon may be a problem - I'm sure the pedestrian crossings, for example, were silent).
Next was the Praça Restauradores, a large square which commemorates the country's liberation from 60 years of Spanish rule in 1640 (big obelisk, vast areas of patterned cobbles - very impressive) which soon lead onto Rossion Square (properly called Praça Dom Pedro IV). Found a website with a lovely 360 view of the place - behind the fountain in my photo is the Teatro National Dona Maria II (not sure about the language of the graffiti):
|This wasn't something I expected to see in Lisbon - a red letter box! I did wonder if it was an ex-UK box bought by Portugal for some gimmick.|
Checking the Internet, though, I find that second-class mail (correio normal) goes in red boxes, just like in the UK. First-class mail (correio azul) is posted - as the Portuguese infers - in blue mailboxes.
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...
Yes, that is the magnificent Atlantic Ocean just outside my window - you can almost feel the sea spray on your face.
Stroll in the park...
|My hotel (and many others) is next to the Eduardo VII Park and it's really nice to have greenery to look at then just more buildings. Originally called Liberty Park, it was renamed in 1903 after the King of England who came to Lisbon to reaffirm the Anglo-Portuguese alliance (which dates back centuries to 1373).|
Walking past it on the way back from the bank, I saw a strange wooded floor with some plants growing on it. After a little research, I found that the flooring was actually a huge planked roof to the Cold Greenhouse and the plants were trees growing through it! Must check it out tomorrow if there is time.
This view is from the top of the park (where looking down from in front of João Cutileiro's sculpture/fountain/thingy. Is that the world's easiest maze or the work of a mad topiarist? Half a mile away is the notorious Pombal Marquis Square (notorious from a traffic point-of-view, rather than the Marquis' reputation!). In the centre of this square rises the splendid monument to Pombal, the man who was in charge of Lisbon's reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake. Two miles away is the Lisbon shoreline and then four miles of ocean to Barreiro on the far side.
What a cold day
Well below average for the month (March is High 17°C and Low 9°C) so I'll just have to grin and bear it.
One of the best hotels I've been in
Meridien Park Atlantic:
And the bathroom even has a set of stylish scales - these reported 94.3kg (14 st 11.5 lbs) and so instantly get into my good books.
Next you can have a Japanese breakfast in the morning! Incredible!
- Miso soup
- Japanese omelet
- Grilled fish
- Nori seaweed
- Oshinko/Tsukemono (pickles)
- Natto (fermented soyabean)
- Japanese green tea
All for just 28 Euros (£19).
I did a quick search to find out what these are and Natto looks like being really scary. I am tempted to order such a breakfast to make this business trip extra special.
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