Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Our kid!

It's my brother's birthday today.

It can't be bad having a birthday on New Year's Eve, although it might be a bit close to Christmas so everything comes at once and then it's a bit quiet for the rest of the year.

One of the advantages growing up was that he never had to go to school on his birthday. My birthday is in September so I usually had to go in.

Plus, everyone is up for a party on New Year's Eve so there's always something to do. You even get the next day to recover.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Paul!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

AT&T Update

By the way, still no word from AT&T.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Change is coming!

There will be some changes to this blog in the New Year.

Don't worry, it will still be here, but it will be mostly focusing on one subject.

What that subject is going to be will be announced on New Year's Day.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bury that bone

This year we had Christmas dinner at some friends house.

Their dog was a bit disturbed by all of the action so they gave her a bone to keep her quiet.

Next thing, she crawled under the Christmas tree, started digging, placed the bone down and then covered it up with the tree skirt.

She then backed out, and walked away thinking no one had seen her, even though the whole room had seen the whole thing!

Daft dog!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Go easy on the mince pies!

Have fun!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Adrian Chiles

BBC TV presenter Adrian Chiles has announced that he is giving up on beautiful women because they are "too complicated".

Are you sure that's the only reason Adrian?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

AT&T again

I thought I'd give you an update on AT&T and our attempt to get U-Verse installed.

No one has called me back yet.

I thought someone was calling to arrange installation on Saturday but it turned out that they were just calling to see if I was interested in signing up for AT&T U-Verse.

I politely told the woman, well, not so politely, that I'd already tried signing up for it but the three people who'd been out to do it so far had not been able to.

I asked her to check on it and get someone to call me back.

No word yet.

Friday, December 18, 2009

One Headlight

Driving home the other night, we noticed that one of the headlights at the front of the car had gone out.

We were on our way to Walmart at the time so we went to get a new bulb.

When we got there, we were met by Support Manager Alan who kindly helped us pick out the right bulb for our car and then offered to fit it for us.

I'm glad he did!

It took him, and another guy around 40 minutes to figure out how to remove the old bulb and get the new one fixed in.

It was around 8pm on a Sunday night and you just know that Alan was secretly cursing to himself how the last car he works on is such a problem!

I know I would've been frustrated trying to work it out so I'm grateful to Alan, who stayed good natured despite the cold.

Cheers mate!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trifle Tasty

I made a trifle the other day and if I do say so my self, it was very nice! I haven't had trifle for years and it was as good as I remember.

We always used to have it around Christmas. It was one of those easy to make emergency desserts for when we had family round.

I didn't make it from scratch but I reckon I could next time.

There's still a bit left in the fridge so I'll be tucking in to some more later.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs was crowned Sports Personality of the Year away on Sunday.

You can't argue with Giggsy, he's been there and done it all. He's the most decorated footballer in British history with 11 premier league titles, 2 champions league, 2 world club cups, many FA Cups & League Cups so far.

He'll be 36 soon as has just been offered a one year contract taking him to the end of the 2010-11 season.

I remember Giggsy's debut back in 1991 and the guy is a United legend. Not only that, but I think you'll be hard pushed to find supporters of other clubs who dislike the guy and that can't be said for many players.

He was crowned the PFA footballer of the year last season too and it was probably a surprise to see him voted Sports Personality of the Year ahead of Jensen Button who came second, despite winning the Formula 1 championship this year.

Ryan Giggs made his 800th appearance for Manchester United last season and also broke the club's record for number of games played which is especially impressive these days when so few players stay at one club for their entire career.

The only downside to the Ryan Giggs story, for me at least, is that he wasn't English.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Another AT&T Update

The AT&T guy phoned about 3.30pm to say that the problem, whatever it was, had been fixed but he was on another job so I needed to phone up and schedule another appointment.

So I phoned AT&T and explained the situation, only to be transferred to another department where I was invited to explain the situation again.

The lady very politely asked me if I would be home tomorrow morning so I told her I was off work today so can they come and install my TV today, like they said they would.

She put me on hold while she tried to get through to dispatch. About 10 minutes later she said they were fully booked today but she would schedule an appointment for first thing tomorrow morning.

And that was that.

Until about 5pm when there was a knock on the door and a young lady said she was with AT&T and was here to install U-Verse.

I repeated the tour of the house I'd given the guy this morning to show him where the TVs were and where the computer was and she went outside to check something.

And then she returned to say that the problem hadn't been fixed so she would have to put in a call to get someone to come out and see what the problem is, and fix it, and then they would be able to install it.

So after a day of waiting, we don't really know where we are up to as they could show up first thing in the morning not knowing there is apparently still a problem, or someone might show up at an undisclosed time to fix the problem, or nothing may happen.

Who knows? At least we still have Direct TV.

AT&T Update

The AT&T guy has just left.

Apparently, the AT&T box that brings the signal into our neighbourhood is not working properly.

He has put in a repair call so we may get U-Verse later today, or if it can't be fixed today we'll have to make another appointment to have it installed (so long as they can fix the box).

I'm glad I hadn't cancelled Direct TV yet.

I was about to call them the other day but I mentioned to my parents that we were getting U-Verse installed and they said they had looked into it but it wasn't available in their zip code.

The thing is, we live in the same zip code as my parents so just on the off chance something would go wrong, I didn't call Direct TV.

It's a good job I didn't, or we'd have no TV!

You see, what had happened was...

The other day I called AT&T.

The problem was that I had my mobile phone, my wife's mobile phone, plus our home phone on three separate accounts. It's been like that for a while so it was probably time I sorted it and saved myself some money.

I was on the phone for 54 minutes and by the end of that, all of our accounts had been merged into one, and I'd signed up for AT&T U-verse.

All combined, it will save us around $70 a month so you can't complain.

AT&T U-Verse also means you can record four shows at once on the same DVR, plus you can watch the shows you've recorded on any TV that has the regular receiver.

You can even pause a TV show in one room, and carry on watching in another.

I checked they had all the channels we need, Setanta & Fox Soccer Channel for me, daft reality channels that show babies and dwarfs for my wife (sometimes even dwarf babies).

Any way, it's my day off today and the guy from AT&T just called so he'll be here in about 20 minutes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my wonderful, amazing, beautiful wife!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

This year, my wife has decided we need to take ourselves off into the country armed with a saw and chop down our own Christmas tree.

She's full of great ideas like this that mean more work for me but I think I've found somewhere not too far away where we can give it a go.

The Old Time Christmas Tree Farm is just a few miles from our house and allows you to pick your own tree, and also provides a saw to cut it down.

Whatever we end up doing, I'm sure it will be much easier than last year. After getting the artificial tree down from the loft, setting it up, finding all the decorations, almost killing myself trying to get the angel on the top as well as a near electrocution by twinkly lights, my wife decided she wanted a real tree instead. So down came the artificial tree and off we went in search of a real tree.

It's all good fun!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving today so I hope you are having a lovely time...

We're going to my parents' for dinner which is good as we've just got back from two weeks in the UK & Ireland.

Except somehow my wife and I are cooking. How did that happen?

Last Christmas, my parents came to our house and I made my first attempt at frying a turkey. It went down so well that I was asked to do it again this year.

It's also my Dad's birthday today too so Happy Birthday!

Obviously we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in England but we're planning on having as authentic a Thanksgiving as we can so after dinner we're heading to the local reservation to burn down some wigwams.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

X Factor

We don't get the X Factor in the US but everyone I know back home in the UK are going on about the twins John and Edward.

Every weekend, most status updates on Facebook are about the show, and the newspapers cover it constantly.

Most people seem to hate them and their progress through the show is a huge talking point.

I'm not that bothered about missing out on their singing talent (or lack of) but I do miss how when there is a big event, the whole country feel involved and everyone, and I mean everyone, is talking about it.

Maybe it's because it's a small island and we all watch Coronation street, we all like football and for 3 or 4 months every winter, The X Factor dominates the nations televisions.

It's the World Cup next year and the whole country will be following. Bars and shops will be covered in England flags and most people you see though out June & July will be wearing an England shirt.

I miss that togetherness.

I think it's something that the US could never experience, and I feel sorry for them that they'll miss out. Maybe 9/11 is the closest they'll get but hopefully such occasions are rare.

So even though I won't see an episode of the X Factor, and I have no wish to, I'll still know all about what's going on and the scandal and shocks that are still to come and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Christmas Shopping in the Sunshine

I started my Christmas shopping this week.

It's hard to get in the Christmas spirit when it's still 80 degrees outside and it was a weird experience planning ahead when there's not a cloud in the sky.

The weather recently has been perfect. Not the humid sticky heat we get during the summer. It's been warm but with a nice breeze and we've been able to shut off the air conditioning and open the windows, which is something you don't get to do often in Houston.

I hate shopping usually, but it's much easier than back home, especially if you start early enough. For a start, the shops are much bigger, with a wider selection and open longer hours as standard. There's always lots of space to park, and the lines at the check out aren't too bad.

The shops have been preparing for Christmas for a while now but now we're into November they're going into full seasonal assault mode.

Christmas music is playing, the displays are set up with wintery scenes of snowmen and hot chocolate, but it doesn't quite feel like Christmas yet. Because we're only just into November probably.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mistaken Identity

The British police force were up to their usual high standards this week when they released photos of suspects wanted for questioning about the crowd trouble at last month's West Ham v Millwall game.

You might not see anything wrong there but they actually included pictures of six actors from a recent film about football hooliganism 'The Firm'.

They've now apologised for the error and any offence caused to the actors involved.

Good work all round!

Read all about it here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Texas Renaissance Festival

Last week we went to the Texas Renaissance Festival.

I'd been before about thirteen years ago but my wife had never been. She was unsure when I suggested it but undeterred, I went ahead and bought two discount tickets through work.

The tickets were good for any day of the festival which runs every weekend for eight weeks through October and November.

We got there around 10am and and followed the long line of people making their way to the entrance. Despite the crowds arriving with us, there were no lines to get in.

We had a bit of a walk round and laughed at the various people dressed up, not all of them employed by the festival.

We arrived at one of the many stages just as a show was about to start. We had no idea what the show was other than it was called Sound & Fury. It turned out to be three blokes who were going to perform a non-family friendly version of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.

The show was definitely not suitable for kids but we enjoyed it.

Afterwards, we had a bit of walk round the park and gardens to see what else was going on before heading to the Jousting show. This was a good show that featured four Knights of the Realm competing to become Champion of Champions. Our Knight, Sir Thomas was victorious in the end but the highlight of the show was the French Knight's horse who decided he wasn't going to play along and trotted along merrily instead of charging at full speed like the other horses. Well, that's the French for you I suppose. Everything he did was in slow motion, including the Knight being knocked off the horse which only added to the humour.

Here are some photos:

The weather was perfect for walking around outside.

There were rides for the kids for a small additional cost, as well as elephant and camel rides.

I had a go at axe throwing and we both tried throwing Chinese stars. My axe throwing needs some practice but I did manage to win a prize at the Chinese Stars. The prize? A coupon for a free kiss from any willing man, woman or beast. The guy happily advised that there was a bearded lady who was offering a 2-for-1 special.

We left around 2pm and the line of cars still heading in to the festival was crazy. The tailbacks through Magnolia, Texas must've been three or four miles.

The Texas Renaissance Festival is worth a visit if you've never been before, but I would definitely recommend getting there in the morning.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

It's Halloween tonight and I'm currently locked in the study with the dogs as they go absolutely mental every time the door bell rings.

It's gone four times in the last five minutes so it looks like it's going to be a noisy night!

My wife likes to see all the kids dressed up and hand out sweets so I don't mind being on dogsitting duty. The costumes and the strangers begging at your door is all a bit too American for me.

Last year we had people knocking all night and the ages of the kids got gradually older the later it got.

We even got one lady who must've been in her late thirties who showed up on her own. She hadn't even bothered to borrow some kids to look legit!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sticky situations

There's a new HEB near us where we've been doing our big shop for the last couple of weeks.

Usually I don't like being dragged around the supermarket on a Sunday morning but this place is different. They've got a great marketing ploy that makes husbands more likely to want to go there.

In the fruit and veg section you put what you want in the little bag as usual but they have electronic scales all over the place. That's not the exciting part but what comes next is. You hit the print button and it prints a little sticker with a barcode and the weight and price of the item. Brilliant!

This makes the check out faster and also makes the cashier's job easier but it is very exciting for the customer too.

Go on, give it a go. You know you want to.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cooler weather is cool

It's coming up to the end of October and the weather is almost perfect.

It gets very hot in Houston in the summer but this time of year it gets a bit cooler, while still being nicer than summer back in Manchester.

It was around 80 degrees yesterday and glorious sunshine so we've been able to turn off the air conditioning for a couple of days and open the windows.

It doesn't take much to get us excited these days!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Daddy of them all

You know when you're a kid and your Dad is a cross between the King of the world and a super hero?

And then when you're a teenager, you blame your Dad, unfairly, for all the bad things that happen?

If you're lucky, in your late twenties/early thirties, you realise that you were right in the first place and your Dad is a super fucking hero.

Today, my Dad is a Global Vice President of one of the world's biggest oil companies.

Twenty or so years ago we were living in Burnage, south Manchester and my parents were eating cheese and onion crisps for dinner so that me and my brother could eat properly.

I cannot express how proud I am of my Dad.

He's my hero, although I'd never actually tell him that in case he gets big headed.

Fort a start, my wife and I would never have met if he wasn't as ambitious/smart/hard working as he is. I grew up in Burnage, my wife grew up in Dublin, but somehow, thanks to our Dad's we both ended up in Houston, Texas where we met, fell in love and married.

Thanks Dad.

I don't say that enough. Not to either of our Dads. But every single day I'm thankful for the choices they made and the hard work they put in, at work, but especially at home.

My fondest memories as a kid often feature my Dad.

The Dad who took time off work during school holidays to take me and my brother out. Either to the football, ice skating, to the park etc. My Dad wanted to spend time with us, and that makes me want to spend time with my kids so they have the same happy memories as I have.

My Dad took me to my first football match and I hope he's there when I take my son to his first football match. Three generations supporting the same team. That will be special, for all of us.

My Dad is my hero, and it took me long enough to realise it. And even longer to tell him.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bands I've seen

After seeing Snow Patrol and U2 in recent weeks, it gave me an excuse to update the list of bands that I've seen live.

Sadly, I rank all of the bands I've seen and give them points whenever I go to a concert.

The headlining band gets 3 points, and the supporting band get 1 point.

At the top of the chart at the moment are Oasis with 15 points. I've seen them twice in Houston, and also at Wembley & Finsbury Park in London and Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester.

In case I happen to misplace my list, I'm posting the chart on my blog so I will have a record to update whenever I go to a gig.

So here it is in all it's glory.

Oasis 15
Gomez 12
Travis 12
Embrace 9
Doves 8
Shed Seven 7
Coldplay 6
Manic Street Preachers 6
Red Hot Chili Peppers 6
Snow Patrol 6
Charlatans 4
Happy Mondays 4
Ian Brown 4
Anechoic 3
Alan Jackson 3
Billy Bob Thornton 3
Brooks & Dunn 3
Celtic Woman 3
Christina Aguilera 3
The Complete Stone Roses 3
Fun Lovin’ Criminals 3
Hinder 3
James Blunt 3
Matchbox Twenty 3
Ocean Colour Scene 3
Paul McCartney 3
Paul Weller 3
Robbie Williams 3
Rolling Stones 3
Scissor Sisters 3
Stereophonics 3
Toby Keith 3
U2 3
The Verve 3
The Who 3
The Magic Numbers 2
Proud Mary 2
Athlete 1
Badly Drawn Boy 1
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 1
Black Stone Cherry 1
Burden Brothers 1
Cornershop 1
The Coral 1
Chikinki 1
The Delgados 1
Dogs Die In Hot Cars 1
Electric Soft Parade 1
Finker 1
Franz Ferdinand 1
Groucho 1
Idlewild 1
John Squire 1
Kaiser Chiefs 1
Kasabian 1
Keane 1
The King 1
Maroon 5 1
The Mars Volta 1
Muse 1
OK Go! 1
Pete Macleod 1
Plain White T’s 1
The Pussycat Dolls 1
Richard Ashcroft 1
Mo Solid Gold 1
Ooberman 1
Razorlight 1
The Redwalls 1
Shack 1
Sheryl Crow 1
Tim Burgess 1
Toby Lightman 1
Toploader 1
Witness 1

Reading through the list now, I have no idea who some of the bands are and have no recollection of seeing them.

Most support bands I'd never heard of before the gig turned out to be terrible, with the odd exception. Cornershop were unknown to me when I saw them support Oasis in Houston back in 1998. The Magic Numbers were scary to look at but if you closed your eyes they weren't that bad actually.

My first experience of Keane was when they supported Travis at the Manchester Apollo. A mate of mine had seen them the night before and said they were good but I'd be surprised by how many people were in the band. I'd recently seen The Delgados in a support slot and they had about 20 people in the band so I was expecting the stage to be full of people on various instruments but there were just three members, and no guitars. This was the first gig I'd been to where the crowd were actually shouting for the support band to come on. As you're probably aware, Keane went on to become (and still are) huge.

Ooberman were an annoying cockney student band and the only memory I have of them is a daft song about 'going down to talk to the cows', which actually turned out to be about talking to the girls.

The Fun Lovin' Criminals usually put on a good show and always surprise with their choice of support. They had a Chinese Elvis impersonator called The King at one show, and the other time I saw them they decided to do away with a support band altogether and made a film in the style of Hawaii 5-0 in which the band members starred. They also stopped a couple of times during the show to re-enact scenes from their favourite films.

There are some good memories on this list!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

U2: Updated


Where to start...

Those guys put on one hell of a show!

With huge stadium shows with bands that have been around for ever, you know you're in for something special. You know the will put on a show to remember, regardless of whether you know a lot of the songs.

With U2 however, you know most of the songs.

We arrived at Reliant Stadium nice and early to get a drink and grab something to eat ready to soak up the atmosphere. In line at the gate we got talking to a lady from Colombia who had brought here niece to Houston for the show as U2 weren't playing near where they live. They'd arrived about twenty minutes before us and were walking passed the back entrance to the stadium just as Bono was walking in.

I know what you're thinking, yeah right! But they showed us the close up photo of Bono signing the autograph they then produced. My wife was very jealous!

We were one of the first in the stadium so we found our seats and took some photo's of the impressive stage. We had great seats by the way! I will put up some photo's under separate post.

The roof was closed when we arrived but just after 7pm it opened.

Around 7.30pm, Muse came on and burst straight into their current hit Uprising. No introduction, just straight into the action. They would've blown the roof off if it was still closed!

They put on a great show and looked at home playing in such a big venue. Muse are only just breaking the US but they sell out stadiums this size on their own back in The UK.

After Muse exited the stage, the lights came back on and the roadies hit the stage to get set up for the main event.

Interestingly, one section of lights on each corner of the stage were lowered and we could see that each light was attached to a seat where the operator would go. We watched as 12 guys got in place and were raised up 150 feet into the air.

Just after 9pm U2 arrived. Larry Mullen Jr appeared from the back of the stage to thunderous applause. The remaining members all arrived from below the stage and we were off.

They kicked off with four straight songs from their latest album "No line on the horizon" before mixing it up with some older tracks.

Bono then greeted space city from his own space station stage and declared "Houston, we have no problem!".

One lucky lady was picked from the crowd by Bono who went on to hug her and hold her while serenading her. For the second time, my wife was very jealous!

The stage featured a number of rotating ramps that were set to various positions throughout the night for the band members to get in amongst the crowd.

Luckily, Bono kept his political preaching to a minimum, until near the end. We'd seen a lot of people in the standing section just in front of us wearing paper masks with a woman's face on them. For some reason it was mostly men wearing them and it was starting to bug me, not because I didn't know who the woman was (at one point it looked a bit like Miley Cyrus) but because so many were wearing them even though I'm sure they had no idea who it was either.

It turned out to be Aung San Suu Kyi who was elected Prime Minister of Burma in 1990. However, she has spent the majority of time since then under house arrest. You can read all about her here.

Volunteers from Amnesty International mounted the stage wearing Aung San Suu Kyi masks as her image appeared on the big screen.

Another video message appeared at the end of the show with Desmond Tutu describing how we should all care for each other as we are basically the same person. The introduction to "One" then started as the band reappeared.

You can tell the band like to mix it up a bit to make things a bit more interesting for themselves and at various points throughout the night their songs merged into versions of Ben E King's "Stand by me", "Two tribes" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and "Amazing Grace".

Stephen Gately, the Boyzone singer who died of natural causes last weekend aged 33 was also given a name check to an unknowing audience. Boyzone performed backing vocals on U2's "The sweetest thing" and also appeared in the video that accompanied the song.

At 11.15pm the band finished and we headed home.

As we made our way to the car we were passed by a prosession of speeding SUV's carrying the band off to their hotel.

We had no problems getting out of the car park, which was a nice surprise for such a big venue.

No problem indeed!

U2: Photos

Photos from U2 at Reliant Stadium, Houston.

U2: Set List

The U2 show last night was Epic!

I will post in more detail soon but here is the set list from the show:

Get on Your Boots
Mysterious Ways
Beautiful Day
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Stuck In A Moment
No Line on the Horizon
Your Blue Room
Until The End of the World
Unforgettable Fire
City of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy - Remix
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk On

Where The Streets Have No Name

With or Without You
Moment of Surrender

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


We're going to see U2 tonight.

It's at the Reliant Stadium in Houston so it should be a big show.

I've never seen U2 live before so I'm looking forward to seeing how they compare to other big stadium bands I've seen.

I saw The Rolling Stones at Wembley back in 1999 on their Bridges to Babylon tour. That was a fantastic show and even though I didn't know a lot of the songs they played it was one of the best gigs I've been to.

I've seen Oasis many times at big stadium venues, as well as smaller indoor arenas and they never disappoint.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers also put on an excellent show at The City of Manchester stadium a few years ago.

U2's 360 tour promises to eclipse them all with a monstrous stage known as 'The Claw' that gives 360 degree views of the band.

Muse are the supporting band and I've only heard good things about them too so it should be a blast.

I will let you know what I think!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Old Dog & Bone

Our dogs get very confused when you're talking on the phone.

They don't quite grasp the concept of phone calls they see you talking away and they just stand there looking at you as though you're crazy thinking:

"what are you saying", "what's going on?". "are you talking to me?", "what are we talking about?".

Busby looks at you and tilts his head to the side if he doesn't understand what you're saying. I think this helps the words travel from his ear to his brain.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and some friends very kindly game me an iTunes gift card.

You can't go wrong with iTunes gift cards. Remember that if you ever feel the need to buy me something and you're stuck for ideas. Anything to do with music or movies will do.

Whenever I get gift cards for iTunes the hardest thing is narrowing down my choices but this time it was more like when I find myself at the mall, go in, grab what you came for and get out as quickly as possible.

I picked up the latest Gomez & Doves albums. They're two of my favourite bands of all time who I've seen live many times. They're bands that I will go and see every time they come to town, which unfortunately is less likely since I moved to Houston.

I also picked up the debut album from Proud Mary. This is a few years old but it's a great album from a little known band. I did own it before but somehow before I was able to load it on to my iPod the CD got damaged so I hadn't been able to listen to it for ages.

I'd much rather spend hours browsing iTunes than being dragged around the mall!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Snow Patrol: Update

Snow Patrol were excellent last night.

I was pleased they did a lot of songs from their last album and just three or four from their latest (less successful) album.

It was a smaller venue this time with around 1500 people tightly packed into the Warehouse Live! in downtown Houston.

Support band The Plain White T's were ok. They started off with a few decent songs but then got a bit boring. Plus the lead singer talked too much.

Maybe I'm old fashioned in my belief that at gigs this size, the support band should come on, sing 5 or 6 songs, let the crowd know the name of your band if you must and get off. We're not there to see you, or hear how funny you are. Keep us entertained for half an hour while we wait for a band we actually like to come on stage.

We do not care that you're about to go into the studio to work on a new album that you're dedicating to the good people of Houston.

The only wrong move Snow Patrol made on the night was when the lead singer suddenly thought he was in Austin. This was despite correctly saying Houston approximately 64 times before.

I think he was more upset than anyone and spent a good amount of time apologising and saying how much of an idiot he felt. At least it lead in nicely to the next song "Make this go on forever" which is all about begging forgiveness from a (perhaps ex) partner.

If the band are playing in your town, I would recommend catching them live.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Snow Patrol

We're going to see Snow Patrol tonight.

It's our first concert in a long time so I'm looking forward to it.

If you're not familiar with Snow Patrol, they did that "If I lay here, if I just lay here" song you've heard a million times on the radio and in TV shows.

We've seen them before, a couple of years ago but it's a smaller venue this time.

Can't wait!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

You're making me nervous

Last week, we attended a funeral.

Funerals are never nice but my wife was asked to do a reading during the service.

My wife is much better at that kind of thing than me and always impresses me when she's talking to a large group of people.

I remember when my Grandad died and someone decided to tell the Priest that my brother and I would read something.

I only found this out when we arrived at the church and that was it, it ruined the rest of the day for me.

Ok, so we're still allowed to joke where death is concerned but my wife made me very proud.

She was worried that she'd break down and be unable to get the words out. She even asked me if I'd go up and help her if that happened.

Knowing that she was nervous made me even more nervous than she was. I spent the whole time up to that point worrying about her reading, even though it was my job to reassure her that she would be ok. I knew she would be but it doesn't stop you worrying.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rio Olympics

If you haven't heard, yesterday the 2016 Olympic games were awarded to Brazilian city Rio De Janeiro.

Rio beat Madrid in the final round of voting after Tokyo and Chicago were eliminated earlier in the day.

The main thing I'm pleased about is that Chicago didn't get it.

I'm just really bored of hearing about, and seeing the Obama's on TV every single day and as native Chicago residents they were obviously involved in the city's bid.

I actually think the US gets too many of the world's big sporting events so it's good that they are spread around more fairly but it's surprising that this will be the first Olympic games held in South America.

Rio knows how to put on a show so I'm sure the games will be a big success.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A reason to watch Heroes again

Heroes is on tonight. Season 5 started last week with a two hour episode.

The first season of Heroes was excellent, but then somewhere during season 2 the writers lost their way. They tried getting too clever and introduced so many characters and story lines it was nearly impossible to figure out what was going on.

This season however I am optimistic it will return to form and the simple reason is the addition to the cast of Robert Knepper.

If you're not familiar with Robert Knepper, he played one of the greatest bad guys of recent years in the series Prison Break where he played Theodore Bagwell a.k.a. T-Bag, the inmate who double crossed pretty much everyone he ever dealt with.

This guy is a great actor and even though he carried out some despicable acts, he made T-Bag my favourite character in the show.

Rumour has it that his character in Heroes will turn out to be much worse than Sylar. Here's hoping!

In the US Heroes is on NBC Mondays at 9pm/8pm Central.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tight squeeze

Is your garage well organised, or a bit of a mess?

Ours is somewhere in between, at least we can find most things we need.

Just in case you think you have too much clutter, have a look at our neighbours garage:

I'm sure there's a place for everything and everything in it's place.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

All change

It's all change in our house today.

I've been sick all week with manflu and now my wife has found that it's a condition that not only us blokes get.

I didn't sleep much last night, and actually woke up dripping in sweat when my wife was freezing cold but I feel a lot better today. I still have a cough and it still tires me out to walk further than the fridge to get a drink but at least I know I'm on the mend.

My wife however is where I was last Friday. She aches all over, and even though she has a fever of 102 she's shivering and covered in goose bumps.

So the tables are turned. Now it's my turn to look after her.

It's a good job she was nice to me while I was sick!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The little things

Sometimes it's the little things that make you laugh.

My wife is very funny, often unintentionally but sometimes she'll do something that makes me smile.

Earlier today she called one of her friends and started to leave her a voicemail.

She spent the majority of the message trying to remember what day it was. "Hi, it's Jennifer, it's Monday August the wait, it's September, it's Monday September 21st. Is today Tuesday? Today is Tuesday the 23rd? 22nd! Anyway, I was just calling to see how things were going. Give me a call back. Bye."


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Derby Day Thriller

It was the Manchester derby today so I was hoping for a happy birthday present from the reds.

It was probably the best game I've seen in a long time and when Craig Bellamy scored for City to make it 3-3 with seconds left on the clock, it looked like it was going to be a disappointing finish.

Rio Ferdinand carelessly gave the ball away and Bellamy easily out paced him to score from a tight angle. But the drama wasn't finished there.

On 95 minutes and 28 seconds, Michael Owen got free in the City box and scored a dramatic winner for United in his first taste of a Manchester derby.

City were their usual bitter selves complaining that the referee had indicated there would be four minutes of injury time and were fuming that the referee hadn't blown sooner.

If they actually knew the rules they would save themselves some anger, not to mention embarrassment.

As we approached 90 minutes on the clock, the fourth official signalled there would be a minimum of four minutes added time. The important word there is a minimum.

If they're still not sure of the rules, let's break it down even further for them. City scored on 89 minutes and 58 seconds. There were over 91 minutes on the clock when the game restarted, which means that there is still the four minutes of added time left.

United then made a substitution, bringing on Michael Carrick for Anderson. Substitutions mean an additional thirty seconds added on.

If you're still following, that means the referee should not blow his whistle before 95 minutes and 30 seconds are on the clock. Michael Owen scored on 90:28. Perfectly reasonable I think you will admit.

By the way, is it just me or is City's new kit one of the worst there's ever been? I don't know how grown men can actually choose to wear a shirt that resembles a baby grow. Especially when Craig Bellamy is wearing it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday dear Andrew.
Happy Birthday to me.

Hip hip, hip-hip, hip-hip hooray!

For he's a jolly good fellow,
for he's a jolly good fellow,
for he's a jolly good fellow,
and so say all of us.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two years ago today.

It was two years ago today my wife and I got engaged.

We were in Australia at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to propose to her in Sydney, which gave me pretty much four days to do it. One of those days was my birthday so that left me with three days.

Having never visited Australia before this trip, I had no idea where would be a good place to propose so there was added pressure to find somewhere memorable before I even got round to popping the question.

This particular day we visited Taronga Zoo which is over looking Sydney Harbour. The spot I actually asked her to marry me was sat on a wall at the back of area where they put on a bird show, although we didn't stay for the show.

We had a great time at the zoo, entering the koala enclosure for pictures, as well as mingling with the kangaroo's who seemed more interested in sun bathing than getting close to us.

Here is a picture of us minutes later on the spot we got engaged. You can see the Opera House and Sydey Harbour Bridge in the background.

The trip was amazing. We got to hand feed kangaroo's, climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, see fairy penguins come out of the sea to feed, as well as getting engaged obviously. We also visited Tasmania and Melbourne but we definitely have a good excuse to go back to Sydney one day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Waiting for the rapture

If you're a pet owner, as well as a God botherer, have you ever wondered what would happen to your pets after the second coming and the angels have saved your soul and taken you to a better place?

Well, wonder no more.

Eternal Earth Bound Pets have an offer just for you. For a fee of $110, they guarantee that should the rapture occur within ten years of payment one of your pets will be saved and housed with an atheist family who remain on earth. A further $15 per animal will save any others after the first one.

As the website says, this is indeed a small price to pay for peace of mind.

But how can we be sure that they will honour the agreement? Asks one of the FAQ's. They are after all atheists.

Worry not. Being an atheist doesn't mean they lack morals or ethics.

Phew, that's a relief.

Monday, September 14, 2009

R.I.P. Ike the fish

Last year, when I moved into an office at work, my wife bought me a plant, and a fish.

The plant didn't last very long. I put this down to the lack of windows so it wasn't getting any light.

The fish however seemed to prosper. Well, maybe not prosper but at least he didn't die in the first few weeks.

The fish didn't really have a name, until about a month after he moved in, Hurricane Ike happened.

The office was closed for a week and there was no air conditioning during that time so when I returned to work I expected to find a dead fish.

When he was discovered alive I decided to call him Ike.

Ike survived many long weekends and holidays without food and air conditioning but when I moved to a new office in August this year, I decided I would bring Ike home.

Unfortunately, yesterday, on the first anniversary of Hurricane Ike, Ike the fish was found dead.

Admittedly he wasn't looking too well on Saturday but he was a strong fella so I gave him some food and left him to it.

Ike was my loyal companion for 13 months, my longest fish relationship to date and we had some good times, so this is not a time to be sad but a time to celebrate a life well lived.

He certainly was a (Siamese) fighter. There was none beta.

R.I.P. My good friend.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

One year on

Today is the one year anniversary of a shocking event.

An event that was as unexpected as it was devastating, one which happened so fast, caused so much damage and yet left us all stronger for the experience.

That's right. It was one year ago today when Manchester United were beaten 1-0 by Liverpool. Obviously United went on to win their third title in a row, and record equalling 19th title ever, while Liverpool finished the season empty handed, again.

Also, today is the first anniversary of hurricane Ike but we won't go into that just now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

On a day like today

Eight years ago today, my brother was on his honeymoon. My parents were in England, staying over after the wedding for a few days before returning to Houston and I was working in Manchester.

I left work at 1.30pm and got the train to Halifax to see my parents.

The train journey from Manchester to Halifax is about 50 minutes through the countryside so it's difficult to get a phone signal. Once I stepped off the train in Halifax I had quite a few missed calls and a couple of voicemails.

While I was on the train terrorists had attacked the US flying planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The reason people were calling me was because my brother and his wife were flying from New York to Las Vegas on September 11th 2001. Their honeymoon was going to New York, Las Vegas, and then down to Houston to spend few days with my parents.

They never made it to Las Vegas.

Luckily, they were ok, but it was a frantic afternoon spent trying to get in touch with them, trying to get information, trying to remember their travel plans.

As all the phone lines were down in New York, they had no way to let us know they were ok. Our main contact was a limo driver in Vegas who was due to meet them at the airport. He called us a number of times to let us know what he knew and used his contacts in New York to try and get information.

My brother and his wife finally managed to get a flight to Dallas on Saturday September 15th. They then hired a car to drive to Houston.

Even 8 years on, the memories are clear. Whenever there's such a big world event you remember where you were when you first heard about it. I remember where I was during the Hillsborough disaster. I remember where I was when Diana died, and I remember where I was on September 11th 2001.

If I had been alive, I'm sure I would remember where I was when JFK was shot. As I wasn't born yet I'm pretty sure I have a solid enough alibi to avoid getting dragged into any conspiracy talk.

I'm still fascinated by September 11th. It is probably the defining moment of our generation. Watching the footage of the planes crashing into the World Trade Centre and the twin towers' subsequent collapse is still as shocking today as it was at the time.

As terrible as this event was, this was one hell of an attack on the part of the terrorists responsible. To hit the United States with such ferocity, within it's own borders was remarkable.

I've only ever flown through New York via it's airports but I would like to visit ground zero one day. Maybe it will still be a construction site when I do, maybe the Freedom Tower will be standing but i would like to go and pay my respects in person, as well as have a nose around myself.

The world has changed a lot over the last eight years, but a lot of things are still exactly the same.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

World Cup 2010

England qualified for next year's world cup today with a 5-1 win over Croatia.

It means England have won 9 out of 9 in qualifying so far and with one game remaining away to Ukraine it is possible they will finish with a 100% record.

I didn't see the game today but when I checked the score England were already 3-0 up and I felt excited. After the disappointment of not qualifying for Euro 2008 27 points from nine games, including 4-1 & 5-1 wins against a Croatia side who qualified in place of England last year is more than we dared hope for.

Fabio Capello has done an excellent job with what is basically the same group of players that failed so miserably under Steve McClaren.

It means that I can now look forward to the World Cup, and trying to ignore the British media who will no doubt have the team down as certain winners but we can now enjoy the build up and look forward to pitting our wits against the best in the world.

I just hope this time somebody practices penalties as I'm getting sick of going out in a quarter final shoot out.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Strachan does it again

Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-1 at Old Trafford last weekend.

Surprisingly after recent battles between the two clubs the match wasn't a particularly dirty or aggressive one, but one man did get sent off.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was sent to the stands with 30 seconds remaining in injury time for kicking a plastic bottle in frustration as Arsenal had what they thought was an equaliser correctly ruled out for offside.

Farcical scenes followed as Wenger didn't know where he was supposed to go but this Match of the day clip makes an already funny incident even better.

Gordon Strachan certainly has a way of adding a bit of colour to the game.

This is the guy who, as Celtic manager was asked for a quick word by a reporter after a game to which he replied "velocity" before walking away. Brilliant.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Rodeo Time

Howdy Y'all.

If you live in the Houston area and have thought about volunteering on a Rodeo committee but were never able to find a vacancy, know is your chance.

My wife is a team captain on a new committee and needs volunteers. She needs 40 people in total for her new team so we need help spreading the word.

First up, you will have to pay your committee dues but volunteering does get you and a guest free entry to all Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo events.

The new committee is for Ticketing Services. For the 2010 rodeo it will involve manning a ticket booth selling carnival tickets. Your commitment will be for 6 six hour shifts.

From 2011, the rodeo committee will be responsible for selling all tickets. This is currently done by Ticketmaster but their contract ends in 2010.

If you're interested, please send an e-mail to: or check out the Facebook group.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Motherly Love

This post is for my Mum.

I'm not very good with feelings and all that but I just wanted to tell her that I love her.

It's much easier writing it down than saying it to her face.

She won't read this anyway as she thinks reading people's blogs, or looking at their Facebook page etc is prying and an invasion of privacy but we'll see.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Chelsea transfer ban

Chelsea have today been banned from registering new players for the next two transfer windows, meaning that they are unable to buy anyone until January 2011.

This is brilliant news.

The punishment was handed out by Fifa, the world governing body so it's not to be sniffed at.

Chelsea will inevitably appeal but I just hope for once a high profile club is told where to stick it.

The punishment is after the club were found guilty of inducing Gael Kakuta to break his contract with French club Lens in 2007.

Chelsea must also pay Lens £114,000 in additional compensation and the player has been banned from playing for four months.

The Chelsea scumbags official statements says they will "mount the strongest appeal possible" and they consider sanctions "totally disproportionate to the alleged offence".

You can buy Drogba, you can even buy the championship (sometimes) but you can never buy class.

Thirsty dogs

I think Busby was trying to tell me something.

I'm on the computer catching up on a few things when I heard a strange noise.

My wife is out at a rodeo meeting so I know it can't be her up to no good...this time.

Busby had jumped into the bath and was banging on the tap trying to make water come out.

He does that sometimes so I turned the tap on, then thought maybe the dogs didn't have water as he usually only gets in the bath when someone is there with him.

My hunch was correct and the water ball was empty so I grabbed a bottle out of the fridge and started to pour it into the bowl, only for Busby to barge Boomer out of the way and start drinking it straight from the bottle.

Next time boys just tell me you need some water.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Holiday weekend

Are you ready for the long weekend?

In the US, next Monday is labour day, or labor day as they incorrectly call it, which means a day off and a long weekend.

I haven't had a day off work so far this year, other than national holidays so I'm looking forward to a three day weekend. The week always goes much faster when you're not in work on the Monday.

We don't really have anything planned, except for a quiet weekend at the beach house in Galveston. We'll probably take a few dvd's down with us to watch, do some reading, and of course we'll have the dogs with us but it's nice to just sit on the balcony with a cold beer watching the pelicans.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The boy in the striped pyjamas

I haven't recommended a good film for a while so here's one we watched over the weekend.

It is called The boy in the striped pyjamas.

It's a holocaust movie, but don't let that put you off.

It explores the holocaust from a child's point of view and follows Bruno, the son of a German soldier who befriends a young boy named Shmuel (that's not a typo), an 8 year old boy who lives on a strange compound nearby and wears only striped pyjamas.

Shmuel is obviously in a concentration camp but the friendship between the boys grows as they get to know each other through the barbed wire fence.

It's definitely not a feel good movie but if you want something that will make you think more than GI Joe or Transformers 2 then give it a try.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to work

So the guy at work didn't win the lottery so there will be no Brewing Gum....yet.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Beer flavoured chewing gum

Apparently the Mega Millions lottery jackpot was up to $250 million last night.

A guy at work was talking about what he'd do if he won it and one of his ideas was to create a beer flavoured chewing gum.

I decided it should be called Brewing Gum.

The purpose of this post is just to record that I did in fact come up with this name and if you ever see Brewing Gum on the market, somebody stole my name.

I don't know if he did win the jackpot but you can't be too careful these days.

This post may one day be re-named Exhibit A.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Oasis split....again

So Oasis have split up. Or have they?

This time Noel has quit the band. A statement on their website says: "It's with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis last night. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer. Apologies to all the people who bought tickets for the shows in Paris, Konstanz and Milan."

And that was it.

One member of the band seems to quit every time they play a few live shows so you'll forgive me if I don't get too excited by the supposed collapse of one of Manchester's finest.

The band were playing the V festival last week and managed to play one show on Saturday before pulling out of Sunday's show claiming lead singer Liam Gallagher had 'viral laryngitis'.

Is it permanent this time? Probably not. Does anyone care? Probably not. As much as I love Oasis and will catch them live whenever they appear in or near the city I live in I just don't care about all of their petty little squabbles anymore.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vampires and aids...discuss...

My wife and I were watching Being Human on BBC America the other night when a question suddenly struck me.

If you've never seen the show, it is a comedy-drama about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost all sharing a house.

My wife is a fan of vampire movies but even she was stumped by my question.

Can vampires get aids?

In the show, the vampire and the werewolf work in a hospital. The ghost stays home because she's dead.

Obviously a hospital is a convenient place to find blood but what would happen if the vampire picked a victim who had aids? Would the contaminated blood be passed on? Would the vampire suffer any adverse effects or would they be unaffected?

You hadn't thought of that had you?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Miss Universe

It's the Miss Universe Pageant tonight.

If you want my tip, put your money on Earth. We have a good track record in this competition.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

E-mail responses

I've been pretty rubbishing at replying to e-mails lately.

It's not that I don't intend to reply but I'm blaming it on modern technology.

You see, the problem first started when I got my iPhone. After loading some fun applications on to it and then remembering that it could also be used as to phone people, I added my e-mail address so if I had an e-mail it would pop up on the screen and I could go and check it.

So far so good.

It's just that the keyboard on the phone is quite small so typing a lengthy reply would take a lot of time so I close the e-mails down with the intention of sending a response when I get home and can log on to the home computer.

My plan seems to fall down because I rarely use the home computer these days, mainly because I can do everything I need to on my iPhone!

It's a vicious circle!

So apologies if I haven't responded to your e-mail in the last three months, I do have a post it stuck on the inside of my eyelids with your name on it, but I wouldn't hold your breath!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Got to love those cheap flights!

As you know, my Wife and I are returning home for a flying visit for our first Wedding Anniversary.

As our families are scattered all over the place, we found ourselves having to fit in four different cities, in three different countries, in twelve days.

Luckily those three countries are all fairly close (England, Ireland & Scotland) and most cities can be easily accessed by train.

We also just booked flights from Manchester to Dublin, and then Dublin to Edinburgh.

Ryanair are running a special offer with flights from £5 one way so we snapped their hand off! Ryanair have unreserved seating so we paid an extra £3 per person for priority boarding but you still can't complain with that.

We booked a return flight to Edinburgh with the same deal, although as Dublin was the departing city the rate was actually 5 Euros so with the exchange rate, it worked out even cheaper than £5!

When I lived in England there were some good deals and I went to a few different cities for the weekend with friends. It's a shame there a no US airlines offering similar deals. We'd probably do a lot more travelling if we could fly to New Orleans, or even Las Vegas for $10!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Season

The new football season starts today so it is very exciting. Well, the Premier League kicks off today, the rest of the English leagues started last week.

It's always a long summer in an odd numbered year as there is no world cup or European Championship to fill the void.

This summer was fairly quiet on the transfer front. Ronaldo left Manchester United early and with the minimum of fuss which suggests a deal had been in place long before anyone actually admitted it. United can't complain about the service he;s given them over the last six years and the world record fee received will soften the blow further.

While still having a good season helping United clinch a third championship in a row and reaching the Champions league final, Ronaldo failed to reach the heights of the previous season and it was clear his heart wasn't always in it.

So the big four haven't really strengthed their squads during the summer and it coule be argued they are weaker. United also lost Carlos Tevez, Liverpool lost Xabi Alonso and Arsenal lost Emmanuel Adebayor.

Chelsea have made a couple of low profile signings and have retained their squad from last season so I think they have to be favourites this year.

Having said that, I definitely think it will be a lot closer this year. Manchester City have spent a lot of money and have assembled a good squad so it will be interesting to see how they fit together. This year may be too soon for them but they could be a threat over the next few years.

So there you have it, Chelsea are my tip for the championship, United and Liverpool will battle it out for 2nd and Arsenal and Manchester City will take 4th and 5th, although which finishes 4th will probably come down to the slightest margin.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Going Home

My Wife and I have just booked flights to England.

I haven't been back home since I moved to Houston just over 4 years ago. I don't think it's really settled in yet. It's been so long since I was there that I haven't started thinking about what I want to do when we get there.

We'll be in England for our first anniversary. I thought we should do something special so I'll be taking my Wife on a tour of Old Trafford. Ok, so I'm just kidding about that, we don't have to go on our actual anniversary..

We'll be there for 12 days and we have to make stops in at least three different cities, maybe four so we'll spend a lot of time running around getting to visit everyone.

My Wife hasn't been home to Ireland since 1999 so we're planning on going there for a couple of days. Flights from Manchester are only £10 per person (including taxes) so there's really no excuse not to. Maybe some of my friends can meet us there for a night out so we can kill two birds with one stone.

The first thing we've thought about is all of the goodies we can bring back with us. Obviously I will be stocking up on Cadbury's Dairy Milk and my Dad has already placed an order for some Mince Pies so we'll have to take a couple of extra suitcases. Times certainly have changed. We used to visit the US with a spare case for all of the clothes we could buy here, these days the spare case is for food you can only get in England (or Ireland).

Ever since we met, my Wife has been telling me about something called a Spice Burger. This is something you can only get in Ireland and apparently isn't actually spicy but I'm sure we'll get to try one on our trip.

I'm hoping to show my Wife where I grew up. I think she will be surprised at the part of Manchester we used to live. It wasn't any worse than most areas in Manchester but it is a world away from the life we have today. I think after the visit she will put any thoughts of moving back there one day right out of her mind!

It will be November when we're there so we can do some Christmas shopping, but the weather is going to be quite a shock after four and a half years in Houston. My Wife doesn't even own a coat so no doubt there will be a shopping trip to stock up on winter woollies.

It will be good to see friends and family we haven't seen for a while, especially those who couldn't make it over for the wedding and I'll finally get to meet the rest of Jennifer's family that I've heard so much about.

I did joke that I would have to check United's fixtures before we booked the flights to make sure I got to go to at least one game but we'll be so busy that there is plenty more I'd actually rather do. That statement alone shows you how much my life has changed since I left England!

Anyway, I'm sure the excitement will only grow between now and then as one of the best parts of travelling is planning all the places you're going to see.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sir Bobby Robson

The weekend before last, on Sunday afternoon, my Wife and I were pottering around the house when I turned on the TV to see what was on.

On one of the sports channels, there was a charity football game between England and Germany. This wasn't any old football match between the two historical foes. This was the teams from the 1990 world cup semi-final meeting again for the Sir Bobby Robson foundation.

Sir Bobby Robson was the England coach for both the 1986 & 1990 world cups. It says a lot for Bobby's standing in the game that so many former players, not to mention a full crownd at St James' Park in Newcastle turned out for the occasion.

Before the game, they wheeled Bobby out in front of the crowd and I was shocked to see how bad he looked. After four previous fights with cancer, Bobby had been diagnosed a fifth time with terminal lung cancer in 2008.

The reason I mention this now is that sadly, Sir Bobby Robson died on Friday and the football world lost one of it's greats.

The 1990 world cup holds a lot of memories for me. It is the first world cup where I watched pretty much every game. England started slowly but made it to the semi-finals, the furthest they'd got since 1966.

If you're not familiar with the outcome of that England-Germany semi final, the Germans won on penalties and it remains the only game of football I have cried over.

The game itself was full of drama, from the Germans' first lucky goal, to Gary Lineker scuffing in an equaliser, to Gazza getting booked and the tears of missing the final should England get through.

A penalty shoot out is a horrible way to lose a world cup semi final. I was 12 years old and after Chris Waddle and Stuart Pearce missed their kicks to let the Germans through, I calmly went into the kitchen and cried for about five minutes, hoping no one else came in. No one did and I wiped my eyes and rejoined the family in the living room.

One of my favourite memories of Bobby Robson is the legendary story of when he greeted England Captain Bryan Robson one day with a 'Morning Bobby.'

To which Captain Marvel replied 'I'm Bryan, you're Bobby'.

For so many reasons, Sir Bobby Robson will be missed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Office Move

I'm moving office this week so the last couple of weeks have been mostly spent getting everything ready.

Once we're actually in the new place I hope things will calm down a bit.

If you find yourself craving my thoughts on life, why not check out my rant blog over on Fine Red Wine.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Farewell little rat dog

So Gidget the Chihuahua from the Taco Bell adverts has died.

He was about 400 years old so that's not the shock but I think the cause of death should have received more coverage.

If you haven't heard, poor little Gidget died of a stroke.

Surely someone should have told us this was so dangerous?

I was shocked when I heard the news as Boomer & Busby like to jump on me for a bit of affection and I was worried in case I forgot as one false move could kill them. They usually only want a belly rub bless 'em.

So if you're a dog owner, please be careful. Stroking kills.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pick up a penguin

We stopped by Fiesta the other day and as we always do when we're in there, we stopped by the British Aisle where they have a small selection of British foods as ridiculous prices.

Feeling naughty we picked up a packet of penguins. If you're not familiar with Penguins, they're two pieces of biscuit with chocolate cream in between and covered in chocolate.

Later that night, we had one each with a cup of tea. Ok, I had two with my cup of tea but purely for research purposes for this post :).

Penguins are made by McVities and it reminded me of the McVities factory I used to live near.

If you lived in Burnage, or pretty much anywhere in South Manchester then the chances are that you knew someone who worked at McVities.

I remember when I was a kid we must've known someone who worked there as we used to get boxes of broken or unmarked biscuits that me and my brother used to love. There would be penguins in there as well as many other different kinds. I seem to remember a lot of 'United' biscuits too which had a crunchy coating with honeycomb mixed in the chocolate I think.

We used to pass the factory a lot, especially as it was across from Cringle fields where we used to play football and I remember they used to always decorate a little hut at the front with different coloured lights for Christmas.

As I grew older, my main memory of the McVities factory was riding passed it on the bus into Manchester. Most people on the bus were either asleep, wearing headphones or reading a newspaper, doing whatever they could to block out the rest of the world until it was time to get off and go to work.

Most of the buses in Manchester were so old and dirty that it was virtually impossible to see out of the windows but you always knew when you were approaching McVities. The smell of freshly baked biscuits filled the air. This was the only break from the diesel fumes you'd get and every single person on the bus would stop what they were doing, distracted by the smell. People would lift their nose into the air to breathe in a bit more biscuity goodness.

It wouldn't last long and everyone would soon be back in their own little world but as long as you could smell the biscuits, everything was alright in the world.

It was even better on the way home as the smell was just as strong but it also signalled that it was nearly my stop.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A crack of thunder

I was at work the other day when a big fella walked in to the toilets while I was washing my hands. He proceeded to one of the stalls (the handicap one as it's probably the only one he'd actually fit in).

I opened the door to leave just at the exact moment he let rip one of the loudest farts I've ever heard! He'd obviously relaxed himself ready to make kaka as they say in Italy and the first shot was a release of the gasses that had probably been building up in his intestines since the 6 breakfast burritos earlier that morning.

The porcelain of the toilet bowl only added to the volume and also created an echo effect and a number of people who sit close by turned and looked to see what the hell that was, looking right at me!

Luckily, as I was leaving the toilets at that very moment, I don't think anyone assumed it was me causing the floor to shake but I found myself involuntarily making an exaggerated shocked facial expression in an attempt to erase any doubt and I also found myself physically taking a step back just to enhance the fact that this wasn't my doing.

I've never moved back to my office so quick!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

United bomb on Indonesian tour

Manchester United are spending the summer, as they always do, whoring themselves on corporate junkets to the other side of the world. This year, once more it is the turn of the far east including Indonesia & Malaysia.

The stop in Indonesia has been cancelled however after the Jakarta hotel the team were due to stay at was bombed, resulting in the death of nine people and injuring 50.

The incident had nothing to do with United's tour but it's not the first time the team have been mentioned in reports on terrorist attacks.

I remember a few years ago when I was working in Manchester, they used to hand out free copies of the Manchester Evening News at the bus station some Fridays so I grabbed one to read on the journey home.

The front page story was about a raid on a house in Manchester where suspected terrorists lived and the police had found tickets to Manchester United's game that weekend. United get over 76,000 people at every home game so it's not hard to imagine the chaos such an attack would cause.

Being a season ticket holder, I was attending the game, I think it was against Arsenal and I spent most of the time before, during and after the game looking for bearded men acting suspiciously.

Luckily, the game passed without incident but due to the coverage English football gets there is a very real chance that a game or team could be targeted.

United have cancelled a stop on the tour and are considering playing the game at another location but that still leaves 100,000 people who had tickets to the original game who will lose out seeing their heroes.

On the bright side, Michael Owen played his first game for United and scored the winner in a 3-2 win over Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

Not a bad record after being written off by so many. An average of a goal a game is better than most!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Do you ever avoid posting on your blog on the 13th of the month as 13 is generally considered an unlucky number? Then when you come to post on the 14th you've forgotten what you were going to post about?

Me neither.

I only posted this because it's my 88th post on this blog and 87 is 13 less than 100 and therefore an unlucky number.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Culture Club...Part 3

Part 3 of my guide to cheap and exciting things to do in the Houston area saw me do something I've wanted to do for a long time - a drive-in movie.

Like most people, I had no idea there was a drive-in theatre in the area until a lad at work mentioned that he'd taken his family last weekend. When he sent me the link to the website I was very excited and couldn't wait to phone my Wife and tell her about it. She was equally excited and we decided we would go this weekend.

The Showboat Drive-in is located in Hockley, just outside Houston and it only took us around 25 minutes to get there from our house.

We weren't sure what to expect, or how busy it would be so we aimed to get there just after the gates opened at 7pm. As it wasn't as far away as we thought, we actually got there around 7.10 and there were already people there, although it covers such a large area that I know next time we can get there a little later.

It costs $5 per person, with kids $4 and babies are free. They ask that you don't take your own food as there is a concession stand but there were no formal checks and we were able to take in a cooler with some bottles of water hidden under our blankets.

There are two screens showing different films and you actually get two films for the entrance fee. We were on the front screen and our double bill was "Transformers 2" followed by "Drag me to hell". The other screen was showing "Ice Age 3" and "Night at the Museum 2" (which we'd already seen).

The films start 'at dusk', although this was 9.10pm last night, so you do have some time to kill waiting for it to go dark. There is a park area for kids in front of the screen with swings and various other activities and people took their own balls etc to keep the kids entertained. As I mentioned, there is a place to get something to eat, burgers, hot dogs, chicken strips, drinks etc and of course popcorn and other snacks. This is how they make their money but it is reasonably priced.

To listen to the sound, you just tune your radio to the relevant frequency. If your car battery runs down they will give you a jump. I only noticed one car that wouldn't start and that was before the first film even started so wasn't caused by having the radio on for a couple of hours.

It's up to you how you actually watch the film. Some people stayed in their car, others took chairs and sat outside. We started off with the back of the car facing the screen intending to sit or lie there but we soon realised this wouldn't be too comfortable, especially considering Transformers 2 is two and a half hours long! I turned the car around and we were comfy enough just sitting in the car with the seats back to give us plenty of room.

Transformers 2 finished around 11.45pm and a lot of people left after the first film, especially a lot with kids. We decided to stay for "Drag me to hell", mainly out of curiosity of what it would be like to watch a horror film outside, at midnight, in the middle of nowhere, with a drive down winding country roads to get back to civilisation.

The film started at midnight so we had enough time for a let stretch and toilet stop and we were actually surprised by how many people stayed for the second film.

We were finished around 1.30am which is a late night these days but we'd had a great time and the novelty of it all had kept us awake.

I think it was the experience rather than the films we saw. They were ok, but it was so new and exciting that it probably wouldn't matter what we were watching, we'd still have a great time.

Even thought it was a late night, it is still July in Texas so it was warm. You can't have your engine running during the films so we opened all of the windows hoping for a breeze.

I'd definitely recommend the drive-in. You can't argue with two films for $5. I would suggest getting there before 8pm to get a good spot but there was still plenty of room when the film started. The parking area covers a large space so if you want to get close you should get there early. We were on the third row in the centre and had a great view. The second row would be just as good but I wouldn't want to be much further back. The rows are slightly raised so which ever way you park your car, you're looking up towards the screen.

I bet it would be nice to go a bit later in the year when it's a little cooler, and when it goes darker earlier so you're not getting home at 2am.

The Showboat is open Wednesday to Sunday and the films change weekly (although some films are on for more than a week). The website is updated each Tuesday with the films they are showing.

Here I am early on waiting for it to get dark:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bank of Burnage

A nice move by Oasis.

After a recent show at Manchester's Heaton Park was marred by sound problems, they offered the entire crowd a refund, even though the problems were fixed and the show resumed.

That itself was a nice PR move for their home town crowd, but I was even more impressed when the refund cheques were mailed out this week.

Although legal tender, the cheques were printed as special souvenir items from "The Bank of Burnage", the small neighbourhood in South Manchester where Liam & Noel Gallagher, and of course me and our kid grew up.

Noel described the number of people who claimed the refund as 'cheeky' noting that he didn't see such a huge gap in the crowd that night and questioned whether fans were really disappointed but the cheques were issued in the hope that they will become collector's items and people would decide not to cash them. Everyone's a winner.

Smart move boys.