Monday, 17 December 2007

Little, and often

Hello Peeps!

Howz it hangin'? What's shakin'? Whaddup? You fill in the gaps with all those other greetings people my age have no business uttering. Go on..

Anyway, i have decided that the way to go vis-a-vis blogging, is little and often. You know, like those crazy ass diets, slavishly followed by hollywood starlets, recommend. Because, alas, my mojo appears to have eloped with Naapali's muse to embark on a torrid and nasty affair in some far away land!

So Christmas party season is in full swing. We had our work do last friday and the rest of this week is just going to be a complete write off, as various teams go out on their Christmas lunches. In fact, i've just returned from one such lunch at a 'gentleman's club'. And depending on the way your brain works you're either thinking of a strip joint or an old, dusty establishment filled with old, upper-class white men smoking cigars (before the smoking ban, of course) and sipping port and/or brandy. Turned out to be the latter.

One of my colleagues actually belongs to one of these aforementioned establishment in St James' Park and for the second year running, we have had our team lunch there. This particular one does allow peasants in, as long as they are suitably dressed. Another male colleague was told he couldn't dine in the restaurant because he didn't have on a jacket. They did loan him one though, so it was ok. My boss, who is relatively new, was a bit worried as to the nature of a 'gentleman's club' and we had a running gag about poles being hidden in corners. Quite funny, actually. Unfortunately, the most exciting pieces of equipment we saw were the stair lifts attached to every stair case!

I've always had a phobia of all things electric and therefore have never had the guts to buy or use an electric blanket. Unfortunately, i'm also one of those people who cannot stand the cold. I must have warmth. Lots of it. Always. It beats me why, because i was born in the middle of the bleak, mid winter. One would therefore think that my default setting would be more favourable to cold temperatures. No chance!

I lived in a flat share last year and one of my flat mates was a Kenyan girl who was the direct opposite of me. We used to play this game in the middle of the night - i would turn the heating up to the highest setting and snuggle down under my covers for a good night's sleep, only to wake up one hour later, shivering with my teeth chattering. Why? Because this girl had turned off the heating! I've lost count of the number of times i patiently explained to her that she could actually adjust the setting on her radiator to whatever level she was comfortable with. All to no avail. So i would get up and put the heating back on and she would get up and switch it off, and so it continued. Grrrrr!!!

I now live alone in a flat with a pay as you go gas meter. It's much easier to consume gas when you have no inkling of your consumption levels until the bill arrives every quarter and you just grit your teeth and pay it. Also easy when you live with 2 others and split the bills 3 ways. Not so easy when you can actually see the meter ticking away and counting down your gas usage with breathtaking speed. Hence, in my new accomodation i do not under any circumstances leave the heating on all through the night. No sir. Not an option. I just suck it up and wear lots of layers. But that was until the proverbial light bulb pinged above my head and i went to Argos to buy an electric blanket.
I cannot explain the experience to you. It's something you have to experience yourself to fully appreciate. That first night was pure bliss! You should have seen me sliding across my bed from side to side, luxuriating in the warmth. It was...beautiful! I'm sure my moans of pleasure made the guy who lives above me (i can hear him when he snores, so he must have heard me) think i was getting some hot bedroom action. Come to think of it, i was....

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Okay, so here's how it's going down... birthday celebrations today, i mean.

The Venue

The Ride

The Dress

The Shooooozzzzzz

The Entertainment

The Food & Drink

Okay, who am i kidding...

The Escort

The Grand Finale

Yay!!! Happy Birthday to me. You go, girl!!! You da Man!!! Many happy returns of the day.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

30 Days of Thankfulness - Day 20

Join me in the Thankfulness Chain....if you've been tagged, please complete the tag on the assigned dayexample... if you're tagged for November 20... that is day 20 and you should title your post 30 Days of Thankfulness 2 - Day 20 provide a link to the person that tagged you previouslyAlso provide a link to the two people that you're tagging for the next day so we can all follow the chain... DO let them know they're being tagged.. why they're being tagged, and how to grow the chainif you're unable to do the tag on your assigned day... still choose the day to reflect the date you do it (if you're choosing not to back date it) ...example... if you're tagged for November 25 but dont get to do it till November 27... and you're not back dating.. it's okay to do it as Day 27 you can post these rules or something to this effect to help it along.. :-)

I was tagged by 30+

As i walked to the bus stop the other day, i felt the bite of the frosty wind against my face and nipping at my fingers, and it struck me - winter is here! This year has been a strange one weatherwise. At a point, it seemed as if Summer would go on forever. Being the worrier that i am, i was concerned that the balance would not be restored, but feeling the bite of frost against my face and fingers that November morning gave me the reassurance that all would be well.

I'M THANKFUL that just as the seasons have been restored against all odds, God is able to do exactly the same in all life's situations. When things are all jumbled up and look as if they will never/can never return to 'normal', he is able to restore order to my life and for that i am thankful.

I'M THANKFUL for my family. My sisters, my gorgeous nieces and nephews, my parents - in particular my Mum whose belief in me is second to none and never ceases to amaze me and make me strive to be the best i can be just to make her even prouder than she already is. She's still in the process of mastering email, so it's very unlikely that she will ever get to read this, but all the same, i love you mummy!

I'M THANKFUL for the gifts and talents i've been blessed with and the opportunities i've been given to use them to make a difference in the world around me.

I'M THANKFUL for my senses - the gift of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste.

I'M THANKFUL for my job. We may have a love/hate relationship, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And i'm definitely stronger for having stuck it out on my way to bigger and better things.

I'M THANKFUL for the peace i have with my current single status. I know for a fact that this is a rare thing, so i do not take it for granted.

I'M THANKFUL for my 34th year on earth which is about to begin in oh....less than 2 days (yep, December 5th). Thank you, Lord for keeping me this far and for the blessed assurance that you will keep me till the very end!

I'M THANKFUL for my mind, my dreams, my hopes, my aspirations.

I'M THANKFUL for my friends and the joy and richness they bring to my life by just being there and accepting me unconditionally.

I'M THANKFUL for blogsville, of course. And the opportunity to embrace my inner geek and spend hours upon hours on the internet, networking with all you amazing people.

I'M THANKFUL because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.

I'M THANKFUL for the constant promise of a brand new day.

I shall not be tagging anyone, cos it seems like everyone on Blogsville has been tagged already :)

I hereby tag Florida

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Les Dossiers des Marrakech - Day 3

To the Ourika Valley
The driver turned up at the hotel at 9.30am to pick me up. I was the last pick up and the mini van already contained 5 others - a middle-aged Spanish couple, a young french couple, and some other random old dude. The journey is about an hour and a quarter and very quickly we cut through the town and the landscape changes to little villages. We make a few stops along the way to take pictures, and here's a clip of me being very lame

Our driver gives us a running commentary in English, French and Spanish. His English is passable. I couldn't comment on his French and Spanish.
We stop again for a tour of a traditional Berber residence along the way. Around noon, we arrive at Setti Fatma, the village at the end of the road into the valley which is between the foothills of the High Atlas mountains. The driver asks us if we want to have lunch before proceeding. It's a bit too early for me, but the others say they want to. I decide to take a walk while the others go to eat.

Feeling rather parched from the burning sun, i stop off at a kiosk to buy a drink. The owner tries to charge me 60 dirhams for a bottle of coke when there is an gigantic sign outside advertising Pizza, dessert and a drink for 40 dirhams. With a 'humph', i hand the bottle back to him and walk away. I eventually buy one for 10 dirhams at the restaurant down the road where we'd been dropped off! I sit down with my drink and read as i wait for the driver to come back. Half an hour later, i start to get concerned and go into the restaurant to ask for the driver, only to be told that the guy is sleeping. Sleeping ke? So what am i meant to do while he sleeps? I eventually piece together that he either forgot or neglected to explain (in English, at least) that his job ended when he dropped us off and anyone wanting to go up into the mountains to see the waterfalls would have to either hire a guide or make their own way.

I retrace my footsteps back to groups of random youths i had brushed off on my earlier walk when they had tried to sell me their services as guides. I find one called Mustafa (what is my own with guides called Mustafa!See Day 1 shenanigans).

Anyway, we cross a raggedy bridge over a little brook, and as i stumble and almost fall, it suddenly dawns on me that trainers might not be the best or appropriate footwear for mountain climbing!!

We pass some tiny settlements (i wouldn't really call them villages) with lots of women and children going about their daily business of washing and hanging out laundry and such like. They barely spare us a glance. Infact, it's quite interesting that up in the mountains and among the Berber people, i'm barely causing a stir, whilst back in Marrakech people openly stare. I wasn't even so bothered about the locals, because they were open and friendly with it. It was the FRENCH tourists who seemed to have an issue. I mean, after hearing 'du noir' (i.e. black) from almost every other group of frenchies i come across in the streets, it starts to get on my nerves. Firstly, because they couldn't be bothered to lower their voices just incase i happened (shock, horror!) to understand French. Or even happened to BE French. And on the way down from the waterfall, we pass another group of French people, and one middle-aged man actually called out to my guide in French, asking him something about 'du noir'. I really really wished i knew the French for 'shut up, grandpa and mind your own damn business'! I asked my guide what he said, but either he chose not to tell me, or the language barrier got in the way of what he was saying because i didn't understand a word he said. Anyway, i digress...

The journey is gruelling! I can say that i am fairly fit. I cancelled my gym membership a little while ago because after the first few months i just didn't go, however, i am fairly active and walk to work quite a bit (it's about a half hour walk). Having said all that, after about 10 minutes of clambering over gigantic rocks in stupid footwear and stripping off as many of my clothes as decency allowed, due to the ginormous fire-ball shining down on me from the sky, i'm practically begging Mustafa to let me turn back, as my lungs feel like they are going to burst out of my chest at any moment. It doesn't help that i also generally suffer from sporadic bursts of vertigo i.e. sometimes i'm not affected by heights at all and other times, i am - go figure! Sod's law is in operation on this particular day as i take a look around me and am overcome by bouts of dizziness. Who sent me? I still manage to capture a bit of it all on camera. Hah!

We finally make it to the top and i cannot lie, it has been well worth it. It's one of the most beautiful, serene, calming views of my entire life! As i sit down to catch my breath and take in the view, Mustafa points to a group of people on the rocks above us and asks if i want to go higher up to the next waterfall. I laugh and say nothing. I didn't come all the way to Morroco to fall off a rock and break my neck, thank you very much.

The walk back down to the Setti Fatma is much easier, as you can imagine, and soon i'm back in the mini van and we're making our way back to Marrakech. I'm dropped off first and as i get out, i realise just how completely and utterly drained i am. I go up to my room, crash out and can barely move.

To the Hammam

I decide that the perfect way to end this day would be to go for a Hammam (i.e. a type of Turkish bath)and so i rest with the intention of getting up and going back into the Medina and to the Hammam.

Still feeling extremmely tired, i finally drag myself up and set out on the 25-30mins walk into the Medina to my Hammam of choice. As i walk along the road, i pass several locals, all friendly, all willing to make conversation. Unfortunately, i am so knackered, the usual friendly and accomodating undacovasista has given way to her alter ego - pissed off bee-yotch (i am, unfortunately, one of those people who turn psycho when either tired or pre-menstrual. The rest of the time i'm a total angel and a joy to be around. I promise.). After being a bit rude to a random guy who has tried to engage me in conversation, i feel a bit guilty and decide to be nicer to the next person who comes my way. Big mistake!!!

The next nuisance turns out to be a guy called Abelle (or something... i didn't exactly ask him to spell it out). He's quite cute actually - tall and lanky, with nice eyes. Everyone i have met up till now have spoken better English than my pitiful French, but i can safely say that this guys English was probably worse than my French. Somehow, i communicate that i am on my way to the Hammam. I show him the map and he volunteers to show me the way. Incidentally, he is a tourist also. He is from another city called Fes and is visiting his brother in Marrakech. We walk down the well lit Avenue Mohammed V, but soon we have to turn onto a dark, deserted side street. Feeling a bit apprehensive, i nevertheless continue on. We've been making small talk (if you can call it that) as we walk, however, as soon as we turn on to the side road, he puts his arm around my shoulders. I shake him off and move away. He keeps trying and i tell him to back off and leave me alone giving him a dirty glare. He asks if it's a problem. I'm like, "erm, yah"!. Meanwhile, my heart is pounding seriously. Just at that moment a group of people start approaching from the opposite direction and he doesn't attempt anything else. We soon get on to another busy road and to the Hammam, which has just shut for the night! Ok, so now i'm really, really pissed off.

When we get back to the main road, I stop and say thank you and begin to walk away. He follows me, saying he's going back to his hotel also. I grit my teeth and continue walking. He asks if my husband is at my hotel,and i say "yes". Is he African? "Yes, and he'll whoop your ass if you don't leave me alone". He laughs and tells me how he likes African women. "Good for you", i think to myself. I don't say anything and he continues to ramble on. He now proceeds to ask me for a kiss. I pretend i don't know what he means and he puckers up his lips to demostrate. It's so ridiculous, i just have to laugh. At this stage, i have established that he is not dangerous, just a bit of an ass. To cut a long story short, he finally gives up and turns back.

Saved by Macdonald's

I'm really fed up now, so i decide to go against my carefully laid plans to sample the local cuisine at every given opportunity, and i head for the Mcdonald's which just so happens to be enroute to my hotel. Don't you just love Mcdonald's? I don't, by the way, but the familiarity of the place is somehow comforting. It's full of scantily clad teenagers giggling and chatting loudly to each other and on their mobile phones. Could be a saturday night in a Mcdonald's anywhere in the world really. There's a group of girls in front of me speaking a weird mixture of french, arabic and American-accented English. There is only one girl behind the counter serving, so it takes forever and i am getting even more and more peeved by the minute. All of a sudden, this woman comes steaming in from behind, ignoring me, and standing at the counter beside the group of girls. I'm like 'oh no she didn't'! I leave my spot on the queue and stand pointedly beside her. Immediately the counter girl finishes serving the teenagers, i signal to her and state my order. The woman says something in arabic to the counter girl and i tense, ready to daa si rough if the need arises, because, as i mentioned earlier, i am tired and for me, unfortunately, tired = extremely grumpy and confrontational. Luckily for the woman, the counter girl had seen me and knew i was next and she takes my order. I give the woman a look that says 'God saved you'. I would have shown her how we do things sub-saharan African style!!!

Mcdonald's. Whether you hate it or love it you just have to admire the 'system'. I think they should actually be awarded country status and all their branches worldwide declared to be mini consulates. The moment you set foot through the door, you are on Mcdonald's soil and the law of the country beyond the four walls does not apply. These were the thoughts running through my mind as counter-girl procesed my order of a Big Mac meal - medium, with a diet coke (yeah, yeah. The irony is not lost on me!). No "pardonez moi's", "excuse me's". Complete understanding and efficient compliance. Perfect! So what if i'm about to clog my arteries with over 1000 calories worth of goop. All that mountain climbing i did before nko?

Back at the Hotel, they tell me the trip to the beach at Essaouira the following day had been cancelled. You cannot imagine the joy that flooded my heart...

End of Day 3

Friday, 2 November 2007

Friday Morning Humour

Borrowed from Mad Priest

At a U2 concert in Ireland, Bono asks the audience for some quiet.

Then he starts to slowly clap his hands.

Holding the audience in total silence, he says into the microphone.....

"I want you to think about something. Every time I clap my hands, a child dies in Africa."

A voice from the back of the audience yells out........

"Then fookin stop clapping yer hands, ya arsehole!"

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Les Dossiers des Marrakech - Day 2

Excuse me while i wipe away the blood and sweat from my computer screen and press the 'publish post' button. Below is the account of my second day in Marrakech last month. I got there in the end!!

Day 1

Day 2

Sight seeing on Day Two got off to a slow start. This is because something arose back home which needed to be sorted out ASAP and although my mobile phone had registered itself automatically on to one of the local networks, i was somehow still unable to make calls.

I got up quite early determined to find Place Jemaa el Fna, having been thwarted by pesky Mustafa the previous night. I begin my stroll through the fairly quiet streets of Gueliz, using the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque as my marker. Apparently the square is north of the Koutoubia Mosque.

After about a half an hours walk, i get to the Mosque and subsequently the Square. It's virtually deserted at this hour, save for the numerous Cafes dotted along the perimeter. In between making phonecalls home, leaving sufficient time for the chinese whispers to filter down the line and calling back for updates, i read for a while in a cafe sipping espresso, then i take a walk through the Souqs (markets). Think the outdoor part of Tejuosho market. The Souqs are usually arranged according to, and known by the name of whatever goods are being sold e.g. fabric, jewellery, leather goods, spices etc. The traders are very friendly. Again, think Tejuosho market traders. Plus, i'm a bit of a novelty. They call out greetings to me in French, Spanish, and English and i respond in English of course, my French being atrocious. Someone invites me to have a look at his stall, offering 'ASDA price'. I found that quite amusing...

Still reeling from my Day 1 experience, i resist the urge to buy anything, or indeed even price any goods. I do manage to buy some spices from a stall with the prices clearly displayed.

Crisis back home averted, i now face the business of the day - sightseeing. Yippee!!! I purchase a ticket and jump on the Hop-on-hop-off bus and off we go. My first stop off is at the Jardin Majorelle, set up by French painter , Jacques Majorelle in 1919, and now owned by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge. The garden is not a big as i thought it would be and is packed full of tourists. Apart from that its nice and cool due to the greenery (trees and plants from all 5 continents) and the rich vibrant colours of the buildings and flower pots, and the gentle singing of the tropical birds are all très hypnotisant

Next stop, the Menara Gardens. By this time, the unrelenting heat and burning sunshine has begun to get to me. I'm also conscious of the fact that Mustafa will be turning up at the Hotel at 5pm. I take quick walk around and take some pictures. As i turn to leave, a guy comes up to me and strikes up a conversation. His name is Yousef, he's Moroccan but lives in Paris and every year he comes home to pass the month of Ramadan with his family. According to him, Paris presents too many distractions. We chat for a while and he tells me of how he had travelled home by boat and how it had taken 26 days! On further thought i realise he must have said 6 days. I have to leave to catch my bus and we arrange to meet up at Cafe France in Place Jemaa el Fna at 9pm that night. Or rather, he suggests it and i say i'll see what i can do.

Next stop, the Kasbah Mosque. This is where things get a little bit confusing. My real target is the Saadian Tombs, but i can't seem to find them. I won't bore you with the details of my search, though. However, i do get accosted by a so called 'guide' and whilst i insist on not boring with the details, can i just suggest to you that if you travel to Morocco or indeed any North African country, do not get carried away by the accounts you might have heard about the friendliness of the people, so that you are lulled into a false sense of security by random people offering to show you the way or give you directions, because, THEY WILL DEMAND PAYMENT!!! I had such an encounter and ended up giving the guy (couldn't be older than 13!) a 20 dirham note, after which he proceeded to tell me in no uncertain terms that that was the equivalent of £1 and i should give him more! I told him to bugger off, as we probably spoke for less than 5 minutes, which consisted of him giving me dodgy directions i.e. directing me to the women's entrance to the Kasbah Mosque, while clearly pointing me away from the mosque and down some obscure alley way. Needless to say, i didn't follow his directions!

Anyway, it's about 6pm now and i head back to the hotel for a short rest. As i pay the taxi driver, Mustafa rolls up on his scooter. He had come earlier, only to meet my absence. Tough! I pay him and he invites me to come and have dinner with his family. I politely decline.

I rest for a while, and then i head back to Jemaa-el-Fna for my rendevous with Yousef. Once i get to the Square, i remember i'd seen an imitation Gucci travelling bag while sight-seeing in the Souqs earlier in the day, and i decide to go and pick it up in order to fit my ever-increasing luggage in for the journey home. I then get distracted by the enticing aromas emanating from the several food stalls where both locals and tourists gather to chow down on the local cuisine, and i decide to have something to eat.

Delicious! My only regret was ordering snails. Instead of the Naija style Igbin (what was i thinking!), tossed in a spicy, peppery stew, i got tiny little tachere things that had the tentacles on, and tasted as if they'd been boiled in salt and water, period! I wasn't impresssed, needless to say. Oh, and i also had the opportunity to meet the Moroccan (self-proclaimed) Jamie Oliver.

Dinner over and Jamie Oliver gives me directions to Cafe France, my rendevous spot. I make it to the roof-top terrace at about 10:15pm, over an hour late, and i find that Yousef had either not turned up or had turned up, got tired of waiting for me and left. Ah well! I grab a seat and watch the world go by for a while in the Square down below. Then i go back to the Hotel to get some sleep, ready for my trip into the Ourika Valley the next day.

End of Day 2.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Prison Inmates do Michael Jackson...

...routine (hah!)

A video of Filipino prisoners dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in bright orange uniforms has become an instant worldwide hit on the video sharing website YouTube.

Inmates perform the coordinated dance routine as part of their morning exercise ritual at a prison in Cebu, central Philippines.

Apparently this has been doing the rounds for a while, but i've just seen it...

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Black people 'less intelligent' scientist claims - Times Online

Black people 'less intelligent' scientist claims - Times Online

The 79-year-old geneticist said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really.". He said he hoped that everyone was equal, but countered that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

Erm...what testing? This is clearly a statement of his own prejudices, nothing more, nothing less. I, personally, am unaware of any tests to support his wild, and quite simply, foolhardy assertion.

Apparently we're all dumbasses! The guy has clearly been too busy deconstructing the structure of DNA to watch an episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show or indeed, Jerry Springer. * extra looooooooooooooooong hiss*. Nonsense!

Friday, 12 October 2007

No more 'smalling up' of me

No more meekly saying yes
when my heart is screaming no
No more taming of my feelings
so my power won't show
No more hiding my exuberance
from disapproving eyes
No more watering down myself
so my spirit won't rise

No more 'smalling up' of me
pretending I'm not here
No more running from the music
and the spotlight's glare
No more living in this prison
barricaded by my fears
No more turning and retreating
in the face of new frontiers.

Even as I am speaking
I am taking shape and form
harnessing my powers
like a gathering storm
There's no obstacle so bold
as to dare stand in my way
I am taking back my life
and I am doing it today.

By Jean Wilson

This is a repost. So sue me. Lol!

Saturday, 6 October 2007

I need a male 'plus 1'.

Well, i did say i'd go into blogging overdrive once back from holiday!

I am in dire need of a male 'plus 1'. I suppose he'd be the equivalent of Atutupoyoyo's friend with benefits, except without the benefits. We would trip together, but at the end of said trips, we would both go home to our separate beds, and under no circumstances whatsoever would he betray me by trying to move things to the 'next level'.

There would also be an element of what Waffarian describes as the 'party' friend. And i quote:

"..the one you can go out with and know you will enjoy yourself wherever you end up in. No complains of "I don't like the music", "I don't like the crowd here", "lets take a taxi" "I want to go home", etc. The "party friend" is spontanous and will be happy with any suggestion"!

'Why has this need arisen'?, i hear you ask. Well, my last male plus 1 got married, the inconsiderate sod!!! I subsequently found a suitable tripping buddy to replace him, but the only problem is that she is a she. 'Why is that a problem'?, i also hear you ask. Well, in certain situations, turning up as one half of a female duo is just not on. I mean, i'm not bothered about 'normal' functions. Family functions, i just turn up and scream 'tada, let's get this party started'! Other naija functions? I've got my female posse. No wahala involved. No. The tricky part is the non-naija stuff.

What got me thinking along these lines is that a couple of months ago, my boss (at the time) turned 40, and i received an invite from his wife to attend his birthday party. I had a good relationship with him and would have loved to go celebrate with him, but i had no one to go with. I had no male 'plus 1' and i just knew it would be couple city. You know the drill, lovey-dovey couples milling around, discussing mortgages, investment portfolios, eastern european au pairs and nannies, and holidays in the south of France. I couldn't take my female tripping buddy, cos they'd probably just assume we were a 'couple' too and i had no male 'plus 1' on speed dial cos aforementioned selfish male plus 1 had gone and got married.

So what did i do? I didn't go...

This was some months ago. Now, my boss has moved on, but his wife is expecting soon and we met up recently and he extended an invite to their christening. I'd love to go. Just not on my own. And certainly not with a female 'plus 1'. So again i reiterate, i need a male 'plus 1'.

Person Specification:
- Great sense of humour
- Killer converstional skills and intellect
- Sense of fun, sense of the ridiculous
- Unconventional
- Great dress sense and individual style (he has to look good on my arm)
- Kind heart and considerate nature...

Call me, Josh... know you want to!

But really, i don't know why it has become harder to establish platonic relationships with members of the opposite sex. Does it have something to do with the fact that i am getting on a bit (ha!) and thus dudes think i cannot possibly want nothing but friendship from them (conceited sods!). Because, of course women of a certain age are all marriage-obsessed and will latch on to any single man that crosses their path, club them over the head with a Gucci handbag and literally drag them, kicking and screaming, down the altar or what....? What is it? I don't know.....

I'm thinking out loud, not advertising the position!

Related article
Just good friends

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Les Dossiers de Marrakech - Day 1

Marrakech beckons

I almost missed my flight, you know.

Well, i technically almost missed my flight. I actually almost missed my train, because i almost missed my cab to the train station, because my alarm clock did not go off. But i won't bore you with the details. All i will say is "the devil is a liar". This holiday that i've been looking forward to for months, i will now come and miss my flight? Iro ni, it's a lie.

The flight was the usual humdrum. The in-fligth movie was Ocean's Thirteen. I read a book instead. As we approach Marrakech, we've almost touched down, when all of a sudden the plane gathers speed and takes off again. After 5 minutes the Pilot announces that its too windy to land from the east so were going round to the west runway to land. On arrival, we have to fill out a form which is basically a visa for EU citizens. You don't have to get one beforehand.

The Hotel
I arrive at the Hotel and check in, but not before filling out yet another form *yawn*. The Hotel's 'public relations' lady comes over and introduces herself to me. I ask about day trips and she informs me of/tries to sell me what they have on offer. I decide to go for a day in the Ourika Valley, between the first foothills of the Atlas Mountains and about 1hr30mins outside Marrakech; and a trip to Essaouira, a seaside town about an 1hr outside Marrakech for Saturday and Sunday respectively. I haven't got any money on me so i tell her i will pop out later, once i've settled in. After unpacking and a short rest, and much psyching up of self, i venture out on to the mean (rather clean, actually) streets of Marrakech.

The Hotel is located in Gueliz, which is Marrakech's new town and was built by the French during their occupation from 1912 to 1956. The new town is as different as can be from the old town, the Medina (see below for a movie clip of my trip into the Medina). Gueliz is home to the business district i.e. banks, hotels, restaurants serving western type food, a McDonalds, bars and nightclubs.

The streets are very wide and as i stand at the zebra crossing trying to get to the other side for 5 minutes hoping someone will stop and let me cross, it suddenly hits me that that just ain't gon' happen. Taking a deep breath, i step out and manage to make it to the centre of the road amidst angry horn tooting from the oncoming scooters and cars. Heart pounding, i realise i'm going to have to be assertive here, so i take a step forward. More angry tooting occurs, but i give the scooter driver a look that says 'ok. You're either going to let me pass, or you're going to run me over'. Thankfully, he lets me pass.

I follow my nose and stumble onto a busy road with aforementioned McDonald's and several banks. Yippee. I withdraw the cash for my day trips and return to l'hotel.

Venturing out - again...

"You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes".
Morpheus to Neo (The Matrix)

I'm one of those people who enjoys watching local television stations when abroad, so i shun BBC News 24 and flick through the other channels. There's a German one, Spanish one, French one, Al-Jazeera and a local Moroccan one. My highlights so far have been watching the Spanish version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and German The Weakest Link. Great fun!

Later in the evening i literally have to drag myself away from the TV, but somehow, i manage it. I step out again, intending to find the Place Jemaa al Fna, the main square of Marrakech. At night, it's meant to come to life with food stalls, dancers, musicians, story-tellers, henna tattooists, and lots more. Definitely worth seeing, so i retrace my steps from my earlier trip out. At the busy road, i notice all the non-Moroccans heading in a particular direction, so i make like i know where i'm going and i follow. I'm like a man in that respect - i never ask for directions unless i have to, which usually turns out to be when i have become hopelessly lost.

Hardly anyone is out and about on the streets as it's the middle of Ramadan and everyone is at home, breaking their fasts. I stop to take a picture of something that's caught my attention, and that one simple act changes the course of my holiday. I reserve judgement as to whether for better or for worse.

A scooter swoops down on me and the driver rattles something off in rapid fire french-arabic. I reply with something to the effect of "me no speakie frenchie". Hey, Mr Oguchi my JSS french teacher was narcoleptic and spent 45 minutes of our 1 hour lessons asleep on his feet! He asks if i'm going to the Medina and i make the mistake of saying yes. He offers to take me. I say no, because i'm sensible. I do not know this man from Adam. There's no way i'm going to get on the back of his scooter and allow him to cart me off to goodness knows where in a strange, unfamiliar land. I remember that i was actually heading towards Place Jemaa El-Fna and i say so (turns out he speaks Anglais). He says there'll be no one there at this time (it was around 7pm). He's very persuasive and my resolve starts to crumble as i ask myself the point of coming to Marrakech on my own in search of adventure if i refuse to take any risks. "Oh, ok", i say. "Let's go".

The red pill...

I clamber on to the back of the scooter and away we go. My driver's name is Mustafa. Occupation - okada driver and part-time tourist guide (so says he).
"Take me", he says suddenly.
"Erm, what"?
"Take me".
It turns out he means i should grab hold of him. Now, if he was Josh Holloway on a Harley Davidson, he wouldn't have had to say it twice. Alas he is not, so i choke back my laughter and politely decline. "I'm fine, thanks".

We make idle chit chat and somewhere along the line, i invent a Fiance back home in London in response to his question, 'Are you married'? Some of the material i read beforehand actually suggested wearing a ring on your ring finger if you're a woman travelling alone. Suddenly, i realise the enormity of what i've done and i begin to speak in diverse tongues. "Father, your word says...".
Mustafa: You ok?
Me: Perfectamundo, mate! Just perfect! Never better.....Yea though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i will fear no evil...

First stop, the Koutoubia Mosque, the biggest mosque in Marrakech. It turns out that that day is the only day in the week on which non-muslims are allowed within the courtyard. I manage to get some good pictures, and then we resume our journey into the Medina. At this point, my apprehension that i might have hooked up with an axe-murderer has begun to dwindle and i somehow have the presence of mind to take out my camera and film part the journey. Please click here to share the experience with me.

Destination, Sahid's shop, a veritable Aladdin's cave nestled within a building in the labyrinth of dusty streets that make up the Medina. We go in and i'm invited downstairs to sit down. Sahid is a Berber Artisan who comes into Marrakech on a monthly basis to sell his silverware and other goods. He leads me down the stairs, warning me to mind my head on the door frame, but i still manage to knock my forehead. Aah well.

I ask if i can take pictures. He says fine. I take a couple. I've read that people might demand money for their pictures to be taken by tourists, and sometimes it gets ugly. I ask again and Sahid tells me they are Berber, not Arab. They don't mind. Hmm. Good to see North African tribalism at work!

No sooner have i sat down, than Mustafa swoops down with 2 bowls of soup. Oh no! I've always been squeamish about eating things whose origins i am unsure of, but do not wish to appear rude.

"What is this"? I ask.
"Vegetable soup", they reply. "Try it. It's good"
No spoons are provided so i mimic Mustafa and slurp the soup out of the side of the bowl, whilst noting to myself how surreal this whole experience is.

Vegetable soup is promply followed by mint tea, an accompaniment to every meal. "Do i want sugar"? "No", i reply, but they don't seem to be able to get their heads around the fact that i don't want sugar and proceed to cajole me. "Ok, already. Just a little". Sahid goes off and comes back with the tea. I take my first sip and it takes every ounce of self control i possess not to spit it out. Do you not understand the concept of little? The thing tastes as if it's one part mint tea, one part sugar! Disgusting!!! I manage a few more sips, but then i give up. If its a toss up between offending them and taking another sip of that goo, then sorry dudes...

Pleasantries out of the way, we begin to transact some business. What? You thought the vegetable soup and mint tea came without strings attached? Sahid begins to pull out some hand woven rugs and show me the intricate desgins, explaining how they've been hand woven with silk by Berber women in the Mountains. He whips out a cigarette lighter and holds it to one of them. I'm halfway up from my seat and about to knock it out of his hand, when he explains that pure silk does not burn. He demonstrates it and is proven right. Phew! Ok.

As you can see from the pictures, there are numerous rugs, of various designs and colours. Sahid pulls out a number and lays them on the floor, inviting me to take my shoes off and walk on them. I comply and then sit back down. They tell me the words for 'yes' and 'no', which i have now forgotten. He raises them up one by one and asks me to tell him if i like it or not. We finally settle on one rug, but i change my mind because i'm not quite sure how to fit it into my luggage. Also, the total price he gives me for the rug, a silver bracelet and another item is just too ridiculous for words. They actually have this fun system for bargaining. He takes out a little notebook and divides a page into two columns - one with my name and one with his. He then writes down his total price (which was 4,700 dirhams. At an exchange rate of approx. 15.6 dh to the £). I'm like, 'Yeah, right'! He says to not worry, just write down what i'm willing to pay. I write 500 Dh. He shakes his head in a mixture of shock and incredulity and is rendered partially speechless for a while.

Long story short, i select some smaller items as gifts for my family, and a bedspread for myself. Sahid gives me a ceramic bowl as a gift and i'm happy with the other stuff i got 'cos i know they'll make good gifts, but i still leave there feeling like i've been Punk'd! Well, i tell myself, that's my souvenir/gift budget blown on my first day.

I know Mustafa's was going to demand some sort of remuneration at some stage. As we leave, he lays it on me - 500 Dh. I laugh and say 'thou art not serious'! I beat him down eventually to 350 Dh, which i'm still not happy about but by now i'm tired and have had enough excitement for one night and wish to retire to my supposedly 4 star, but in actual fact 2.5 star hotel room, and just crash for the night.

He drives me to the cashpoint, where i find out i've exceeded the daily limit for withdrawals (£125 a day). Just great! I persuade Mustafa to come by the Hotel the following evening. He drops me off and i go to bed.

End of Day 1.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Overheard in Camden

Interesting Conversation
On my way to Sainsbury's yesterday, I turned off the High Street, taking a short cut to get to the Supermarket. About 100 yards in front of me, at the top of the side street i've turned onto, there is a couple - the woman sitting on the edge of the pavement and the man crouching beside her. Both are clutching beer cans. Both seem to be drunk and/or slightly spaced out. Both are black. The following conversation ensues.

Woman: People always treat me as if i'm ---- (i missed the last bit)
Man: It's because you're white, because you're white, because you're white.....

At this point, i had walked past them. But being the nosey so and so that i am, i had to do a double take, just to be sure my eyes hadn't deceived me.

They hadn't. She was black.

Marrakech trip update
I don't know why, but i can't seem to make myself blog about my trip. Perhaps i'm selfishly hanging on to the memories, savouring them for as long as i possibly can before sharing them with the world. Or maybe i'm just lazy. Your guess is as good as mine...

Friday, 28 September 2007

Outrage on the Southeastern Railway

I was on the train this afternoon, on the way to see my Mother. Nothing too untoward happened apart from the rain. I board the train and sit down and take out my magazine. The train pulls out of the station and we are on our way.

About half way through the journey, the man sitting across the aisle from me's umbrella, which he has propped against the seat, gets dislodged by the motion of the train, and it falls across the aisle, hits my thigh and lands at my feet, within my side of the carriage.

The man grabs a hold of the end of the umbrella and pulls it towards himself. He picks it up and stows it on his other side, thus securing it, and he returns to reading his newspaper.

I look at him and he pretends not to see me. "Excuse me", i say.

Man: ( with raised eyebrows): Yes?
Me:Your umbrella hit me when it fell.
Man (sarcastically): Injured, are you?
Me (with an equal amount of sarcasm): Of course not. But it's only polite to say sorry when something like that happens.
Man (in a subdued voice): Well, i'm sorry then.
"Whatever", i think to myself.

What is wrong with people? According to the British, it's Americans who are not supposed to understand irony, not black people (sorry to any Americans who might read this). What did he expect? That i would be so intimidated by his sarcasm, i'd have no response? Even if he hadn't realised the umbrella hit me, it had clearly landed in my space and he hadn't had the courtesy or gumption to say sorry. And when i point this out to him, he resorts to sarcasm. Blooming cheek!!!

I'm not really bothered actually, cos i'm happy with the response i gave, but i just felt like getting this off my chest...

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Morocco was a dream!

Pinch me.....

Hi people. I got back yesterday evening. I had the time of my life! I'll be blogging very soon about what i got up to, the people i met, the sounds, the sights, the smells (not all pleasant!) etc etc.

Morocco is an amazing country. So far removed from what you can imagine if you havent been there. I would whole heartedly recommend it.

The highlight of my trip was hiking in the High Atlas mountains. Words to describe the experience fail me.....!!! But it's still great to be home

Here are some pictures....


Friday, 14 September 2007

Save the Cheerleader, save the world

Can i just say, before i begin, that the title of this post has no bearing whatsoever on the content thereof. I am, however, a serious Heroes nut and believe this to be like the coolest catchphrase ever, like.

So, anyway as you have probably deduced from my last post and this one too, i have nothing to blog about! I gat naathin' *in bad italian accent*. I'm on the brink of :

So it's just as well i leave for my holiday in Morocco next week!

Yes, God be praised!!!!

I know i'll come back revived....

Yee hah!!!

...and probably go into blogging overdrive

But here's a little story to tide you all over till then.

Depending on your sex, you'll either laugh your head off

... or cross your legs and go "OUCH" or even "YEEPA"


Football fight ends in near castration
TEXAS-OKLAHOMA | Fan wore wrong T-shirt in bar

September 12, 2007
OKLAHOMA CITY -- To some Oklahoma football fans, there are things that just aren't done in the heart of Sooner Nation, and one of them is to walk into a bar wearing a Texas Longhorns T-shirt.
That's exactly what touched off a bloody skirmish that left a Texas-shirt-wearing fan nearly castrated and an Oklahoma fan facing aggravated assault charges.

The shocking case has set off a raging debate in this football-crazed region about the extreme passions behind a bitter rivalry.

''I've actually heard callers on talk radio say that this guy deserved what he got for wearing a Texas T-shirt into a bar in the middle of Sooner country,'' said Irven Box, an attorney.

According to police, 32-year-old Texas fan Brian Christopher Thomas walked into Henry Hudson's Pub on June 17 wearing a Longhorns T-shirt and quickly became the focus of football ''trash talk'' from another regular, 53-year-old Oklahoma fan Allen Michael Beckett.

Thomas told police that when he went to the bar to pay his tab, Beckett grabbed him in the crotch, pulled him to the ground and wouldn't let go, even as bar patrons tried to break it up.

When the two men were separated, Thomas looked down and realized the extent of his injuries.

''He could see both of his testicles hanging on the outside of his body,'' said Thomas' attorney, Carl Hughes. ''He was wearing a pair of white shorts, which made it that much worse.''

It took more than 60 stitches to close the wound.

Beckett's attorney, Billy Bock, said it was just good-natured ribbing and that his client apologized to Thomas. Later, Bock said Thomas approached his client and threatened him.

''My guy was defending himself and just took control of the situation," the lawyer said.

On both Texas and Oklahoma fan Web sites, boosters trade tales of having their tires slashed or windshields smashed for sporting the opposing team's sticker in enemy territory.

Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland said the rivalry will have no bearing on the way the case is prosecuted.