Monday, March 30, 2009

Pretty Green

One of the strangest things I’ve heard recently is that Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher is launching his own clothing range.

Called Pretty Green, and made up of “key industry professionals” it is “an up front, straight talking, classic clothing range.”

Now, I love Oasis. I love their music anyway, and I find Noel Gallagher funny and intelligent when I hear him speak but I can’t say I’ve ever really noticed what they’re wearing.

I grew up in Burnage, Manchester, the same as the Gallagher brothers and we even went to the same school (St Bernards), although at different times so it’s pretty much required by law to be a fan and to have some link to them, however tenuous. We even lived next door to Tony McCarroll, the original drummer of the band.

Liam says “Clothes and music are my passion. I’m not here to rip anyone off and I’m not doing it for the money either. I’m doing it cuz there’s a lack of stuff out there of the things I would wear.”

Very noble Liam, and I might do the same thing myself if next time I call in to Target or Old Navy their shelves are bare.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Deathbed Confession

Do you ever do something on the spur of the moment, and then regret it in the cold light of day?

I think most people occasionally do something, or say something that leads to a Homer Simpson moment. D’oh!

Thankfully, the BBC brings us news of someone more unlucky than us, and deservedly so.
James Brewer suffered a stroke and, convinced he was going to die, made a deathbed confession telling police how in 1977, he had shot and killed 20 year old Jimmy Carroll who he thought was making a move on his wife.

The murder was never solved. Brewer was originally arrested and given bail but he fled Tennessee and moved to Oklahoma, changing his name in the process.

This is all well and good. A dying man wants to confess his sins before meeting his maker.
Only James Brewer didn’t die. He made a full recovery and then had no choice but to surrender to the authorities in Tennessee after they were notified by Oklahoma police.

The funny thing about this story is that Brewer may now face the death penalty for the murder. What goes around comes around.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Word up

Last week, while commentating on a football game, Alan Pardew, the former West Ham manager described a strong challenge during the Chelsea – Manchester City game as ‘rape’. His actual words were: “he absolutely rapes him!”

I agree that this was an unfortunate turn of phrase but I think the media have got a little bit carried away, as usual.

To put the quote into context, Michael Essien, Chelsea’s physical midfielder had made a strong tackle on a young Manchester City player. Pardew commented: “He’s a strong boy. He knocks him off.” Another commentator interjected with “He mauls him!” to which Pardew followed up “He absolutely rapes him.”

The issue the media have is that they think it is obscene to liken a strong challenge in a game of football to sexual assault. I agree. There is nothing that would happen during a sporting event that could be compared but that is not what Pardew was doing.

If you look up the word rape in the dictionary (try it gives the above meaning, but it also means ‘to seize by force’. In fact, it is often used in this context when describing the ‘rape of the countryside’ for example. When you hear this meaning, it seems a perfectly reasonable description of Essien’s tackle.

Yes, the most common understanding of the word is to describe sexual assault. Unfortunately it is within that context we hear it most, on the news etc but are we forgetting, in our rush to make our displeasure public, that a lot of words have a number of different meanings?

Yes, I agree it was an unfortunate choice of phrase but let’s not get carried away. Let’s not get upset about something that isn’t there. There are more important things to get upset about. Actual rape being one of them. Complaining about the use of the word during a football match doesn’t help victims of this most heinous of crimes.

Often, in football matches, teams are described as taking a ‘battering’ or ‘thrashing’ after a particularly heavy defeat. Is this meant literally? No. The defeat on the football pitch is not being compared to physical violence. It’s not making light of actual physical violence. Can we just get over ourselves?

These days, every media site invites the public to comment on their stories so whereas in years gone by one person may have thought Pardew’s comment to be inappropriate, now that person may post that comment on a national website, leading others to read it and then think, ‘yes, I agree it was an inappropriate thing to say’, even though at the time it never registered in their mind. Another website can mention the same comment and then all of a sudden people who didn’t hear the original comment, and don’t know the context it was used in complain about it and it becomes a huge media storm.

Lee Eggleston, Chairwoman of Rape Crisis England and Wales had this to say: “That something as serious as sexual assault has been misused to describe football is appalling. He has trivialised and undermined the seriousness of rape and anyone who has suffered sexual violence will rightly be angry.”

But that’s not what happened is it love? Is someone in her position really not aware that the word ‘rape’ can be both a noun and a verb? Is this word in danger of being limited to only one meaning like other words such as ‘pedophile’? The etymology of the word pedophile shows that the original meaning was to innocently describe someone who liked children. Mary Poppins may have been described as a pedophile. There was never any mention of anything sexual. Maybe it is a sign of the times, or maybe it is just the bastardisation of our language by common ignorance.

Alan Pardew has since apologised for his comments which I believe is the right thing to do. He unintentionally offended a lot of people and I think the apology signifies that he is innocent of that intent and allows us all to move on.

This issue does leave one question unanswered. Why are we all so eager to be offended?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fairweather Johnson

Last Sunday in Houston the weather was glorious. It was the perfect weather to spend outside.

You can always say that about Houston. In a few weeks the humidity will likely be unbearable to make sure we stay inside until October!

Having grown up in England, I don't mind the humidity so much. Obviously I'm not too keen to get in my car at the end of the day when it is like an oven but I love the hot weather. You pretty know where you are between April and October. You can make plans without giving the weather a second thought (not forgetting those pesky hurricanes obviously).

I actually like leaving work and the weather is still nice enough to do something in the evening, go for a walk, sit outside with a beer, whatever. Back home it would likely be cloudy and raining so you just want to get home and watch Coronation street!

People who grew up in Texas hate the summer. They crave cooler weather or different 'seasons' as the rest of the world knows them but I like it. I've lived through too many cold winters without heating to want more than a few days of cold.

I think if I had grown up in Texas I would be a more out-doorsy person, but I'm trying. I've spent this afternoon in the garden replacing part of our fence and we currently have a couple of steaks on the grill.

We've done a lot of work in our back garden, with lots of new plants so we really should make better use of it and spend more time out there. I think a big part of the reason we don't is because of my Englishness. I'm not used to being able to sit outside so most of the time I don't think of it but we should be proud of our home and make use of the nice weather. I'm definitely getting better with the grill anyway!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reality Bites

So today Jade Goody finally passed away.

If you're not familiar with Jade Goody the BBC, as always have issued a suitable obituary.

To be honest, I feel for Jade and her family, it's pretty awful what she had to go through but this is not really an event on the scale of Diana back in '97.

I remember watching Jade on Big Brother back in 2002 or whenever it was and most her antics were cringe worthy and like all reality tv shows like Big Brother, American Idol, Survivor etc, they're good fun to watch but once the winner is declared, my interest in the contestants ends but there was something about Jade that kept the British public interested.

It's things like this that I miss about my home country. The way one event can unite the entire country. If you talk about the latest goings on in Coronation Street the majority of people will know what you're talking about. Everyone will know the football results, and everyone will know who Jade Goody is, even if they never watched Big Brother. She's made enough headlines of her own since then for people to have avoided her for too long.

When the World Cup comes around I miss home most. The way the entire country stops when England are playing, and all the talk in pubs, on tv and radio and in newspapers is all about the next game. Britain is a country of huge historical significance, but it is also a small island where one event can unite everybody.

Going back to Jade, I must admit I haven't followed her story too closely recently but she seemed to have behaved with dignity and knowing death was on it's way, she made preparations to ensure her children would be looked after when she was gone. I'm sure they will be ok financially but growing up without their Mother, who died at a tragically young age will be tough to take.

Today is also Mother's Day in the UK so a big hug and thank you to all the Mothers reading.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Patrick's Day

Happy St Patrick's Day!

I'm not Irish, and neither are most of the people who will no doubt be wishing you a Happy St Patrick's Day today but my Wife is so I don't mind hearing it so much these days.

I've never understood the obsession with St Patrick's Day in the US, although it actually started in the US so I suppose the Irish took the idea and to ran with it. They don't need asking twice when there's a drink involved!

I always buy my Wife a little something for St Patrick's Day. Something to remind her of home, although this usually involves something Guinness related and some four leaf clovers but it's the thought that counts.

My Wife doesn't get away scot free though. In return, she has to at least try and remember when Saint George's Day is and if she makes the extra effort to cook some roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, all the better.

Whenever I mention St George's Day to anyone they give me a blank look and ask who St George is. It's not really important but I'm just trying to make a point that if they're not Irish, or of Irish descent, why they celebrate St Patrick's Day? I'm all for a trip to the pub but I don;t need to wear something green and say "Top o'the morning" to everyone I meet.

Anyway, mine's a pint so it is. To be sure.

P.s. Saint George's Day is April 23rd.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Take the plunge

I've just been watching some clips of a group of British celebrities climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for this year's Comic Relief campaign. They spent around six months training, and then nine days on the mountain. You can follow their exploits on or by downloading the video podcasts on itunes.

It got me thinking how I'd love to do something big like that for charity one day. I've seen charities advertising for people to walk the Great Wall of China and if you raise enough money for the charity all of your expenses are covered.

I was lucky enough to go to China a few years ago and visited The Great Wall. It was an amazing experience. We drove for a couple of hours out of Beijing, then along the dusty roads up the mountain side before we reached the entrance to the wall. We then had to get a cable car up to the wall itself.

By the time you get on the actual wall you're at a high altitude and whilst I was there I blacked out. It was February so it was cold. The wall had spots of snow in places and I starting to feel sick so I sat down for a break. My eyes were still open but all of a sudden everything went dark. I was still conscious and it only lasted a few minutes but it was worrying.

The wall is built on a mountain so it is very uneven with some areas steeper than others. Here I am posing for a photo (thankful for a few minutes rest!):

You can see from the picture how steep it is and when combined with the high altitude and cold weather you can imagine why the old ladies positioned along the wall selling cold beer didn't receive my custom that day!

Going back a couple of years before my Chinese adventure, I was working in Halifax, England and I was offered the opportunity to the Lake District on an adventure/team building experience. I was very reluctant at first and took a couple of days thinking how I could get out of it before I finally decided to go.

Those four days spent with at Brathay changed my life.

I arrived there not really knowing what to expect. I vaguely knew a few of the others who were attending but there were others I'd never met before. I think there was 12 of us in total.

That first night we sat in the bar with our guide and he went round the table asking each of us what we were looking forward to, and what we weren't looking forward to. It was at this point that I realised I hadn't actually been told much about what was in store as I was invited late on, apparently because someone else dropped out. I remembered my supervisor responding to my questions by saying that it was hard to explain as you wouldn't understand unless you'd been yourself.

As people spoke about their expectations and fears I heard a few people mention a 'high ropes' activity. This set off alarm bells in my mind so when it came to my turn the only thing I had to contribute was my trepidation at this 'high ropes' activity.

The high ropes activity turned out to be a situation where two ropes were tied between two trees about 40 feet apart. The ropes were 30-40 feet off the ground and went out at an angle where they got further apart the further along you went.

This was an activity for two people with the idea that you each stand on one of the ropes and lean against each other, pressing your hands together. You then edge along the ropes, getting further apart and supporting each other until you can no long hold on and fall to the ground.

At this point I should mention that you're wearing harnesses so you don't plummet down to earth with a bump, but once they can arrest your initial fall, the rest of the group gently lower you the rest of the way.

I also must apologise to Alison, the older lady who was my partner for this activity who I inadvertently head butted as we fell.

Once I got to the ground and managed to catch my breath I felt amazing. I was really proud of myself that I'd climbed so high up the tree, got myself on to the ropes, and then walked across knowing I was going to fall. The ropes are positioned so it is impossible to make it all the way across.

The rest of the week included both indoor and outdoor activities including orienteering, rowing, blind folded tasks etc and turned out to be really enjoyable. It was cold and wet for most of the time we were there but that actually made it more enjoyable.

Taking part in, and surviving these activities made me realise that I had always been scared to try new things because I didn't know how they would turn out. I was actually surprised by what I could achieve and it made me crave more.

Indirectly, this experience led me to sell my house in England and move back to Texas. Once there, it also helped my take a chance on something that actually led me to meet my beautiful Wife so sometimes it does pay off.

Now, I have more confidence in trying new things. I'm not so scared of what might happen if something goes wrong. I have more confidence in myself that whatever it is, I can handle it. It made me realise that, as my instructor at Brathay said, I have more heart than I know.

So despite my initial reluctance, I wouldn't be where I am now, doing the things I am without that experience.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Six months later

This weekend marks six months since Hurricane Ike hit Texas. We were actually a lot luckier than most but for us, it was still a horrible experience.

It was around 2am on Saturday, September 13th 2008 when the storm finally hit land. Most offices were closed from the Wednesday before to allow people to prepare. We'd already decided we weren't going anywhere so all we could do was sit and wait.

We made sure we had enough food and water, as well as some building supplies should there be any damage. We filled bath tubs and buckets with water, exchanged numbers and plans with friends and neighbours and waited.

Everyone was glued to the local news channels for days before the storm was due to hit land in the US. We'd tracked it's progress from the Caribbean and hoped it would change path so to avoid us.

Early Friday evening, the water level around Galveston was already high, spilling onto land and flooding streets. This was even before the rain came. By the time we went to bed that night The Strand area of Galveston was already under 6 feet of water.

We decided that there wasn't anything more we could do so we went to bed around 10pm hoping to get some sleep while we could.

Around 2am my I was woken by my Wife to be informed that the power had gone out. I love her very much but Thanks. For. That.

From that point on there was no more sleep to be had. The rain soon arrived, blown inland by the hurricane strength winds. We lay in bed wide awake listening to the wind and rain. It battered our windows so hard that I was expecting them to smash any time. The roof was creaking so loud that I remember just hoping that it didn't fly off and leave us exposed to the elements.

We had no power so we didn't know what was going on. Friends back in England sent text messages to my mobile to see how we were and they were keeping an eye on the news and giving us as much information as they could find.

Around 9am, the rain finally slowed and the wind calmed down. I thought this break was the eye of the storm and that we would be getting the back end any minute. After about half an hour I spoke to my Mum who was a few miles away listening to a battery operated radio and she said that on the news they were saying that the storm had passed. I felt relieved because I'm not sure the house would've survived another round with Ike but also a little apprehensive as I hadn't heard the news reports myself.

It was finally getting lighter outside so I decided it was time to put on a coat and see what damage had been done. The back garden was covered in roof tiles, and our fence down one side had come down. I walked outside the front of the house and saw tree branches all over the street. Houses facing the storm had their garage doors blown in and most seemed to have suffered more damage than we did.

It turned out the roof tiles were from the surrounding houses and we had very little damage. The main problem for us was the lack of water and electricity.

The next few days were horrible. Hot humid days where we were stuck in the house with no TV to pass the time. We opened up the windows to let what little air there was inside. We played board games to kill a few hours, we read books but mostly we just walked around the house not knowing what to do with ourselves.

On the Sunday we decided to drive around the neighbourhood to see how everyone else fared. Fences were down everywhere, trees were blocking the streets, a couple of houses had lost their roofs, or had trees fall through them.

We were out chatting to a neighbour when his wife came out to excitedly announce that we had water again. Everyone made their excuses and rushed inside to shower and wash away the evidence of the last few days without water.

We used the BBQ to cook food and boil water so thankfully we were still able to have a cup of tea. In fact, I was outside cooking days later when I heard screams of joy from down the street. The power had flicked on, albeit briefly, but it was the first sign of a return to civilisation. A couple of hours later I heard the screams again and this time the power was back on.

The following weekend my Dad and I drove down to Galveston to survey the damage to the property they have down there. We left at 5am as this was the first day that the public were allowed to return to the island. The traffic wasn't too bad at that time, but as we approached the island we saw boats in the middle of the road and piles of debris along the side.

Driving across the island it was shocking to see the damage. I'd seen pictures on the news but to see it for yourself really makes it hit home. Houses had completely collapsed, cars and boats had been washed away, dumped in fields or in the middle of the road. Sand was piled about 10 feet high on both sides of the road, cleared so cars could get through.

My parents house had damage but it was still standing and could be fixed. In fact the repairs are due to be completed any day now. Others weren't so lucky and the island is still a work in progress but the residents are a resilient bunch so there's no doubt Galveston will be back to it's former glory. It's just a matter of time.

Six months later it still seems unreal. When I think back to those days with no power, sitting hot and dirty, playing Scrabble with my Wife it still seems like a bad dream, one I hope I will not experience again.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Genius is blind

How come that blind lad on American Idol always knows exactly where the camera is?

I've just been watching him on last week's show and there he is, sat clicking his fingers following the camera as it pans around him. At one point he even follows one of the girls as she walks across the stage.

Later in the show all became clear. He was sat down next to a blonde bird who was helping him get back to his seat after he'd been told to stand up. It's all a clever ruse to get some young lady to manhandle him. I'm on to you curly, and you're smiley mate with the big teeth who comes on occasionally when there are no young female vounteers.

To be fair, it was funny when he gave Ryan Seacrest a hi-5 after the latters previous attempt during the auditions. If you missed it, the blind guy came out of the audition room with a ticket to Hollywood only to obliviously leave Seacrest hanging (because he's, er, blind Ryan).

The blind guys inclusion does worry me a bit though. American Idol seems to be leaning more towards people with a back story, like the guy in the glasses who seems to be the happiest guy in the world whenever he's not talking about his wife who passed away.

The show should be about talent so I hope that isn't the way they go. Otherwise you'll end up with the ones who've missed out hoping that a close relative meets an unfortunate end so they might get re-instated as a wildcard.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dedicated follower of fashion

Yesterday, driving back from the garden centre we saw a guy with bleached blonde hair, driving a BMW convertible. He had a Wales flag on the back of the car, next to an Obama sticker. Oh, and he was wearing a Chelsea shirt.

What is wrong with this picture? In a word; Everything.

Is this a living breathing example of a brain dead sheep. Someone who does what he's told is the fashionable thing to do rather than thinking for himself.

Ok, maybe I'm being a little bit too hard on the fella, especially with the Welsh flag. No one would even suggest you pretend to be Welsh unless you really were born there so I'll let that slide.

As for the BMW. They're nice cars, but they're an obvious choice for someone who wants to drive something that will make people think he has taste. It wasn't a new BMW, in fact it was quite an old model so this would seem to enhance the perception that he didn't choose the car for other, more normal reasons.

Convertibles always seem a bit 'mid-life crisis' to me. He wasn't a young bloke, probably late 30's-40's so maybe he's just hit his a few years earlier than most.

This would also link in with the bleached blonde hair. All the kids are doing it aren't they? Yeah mate, maybe in 1995.

I'm not going to get into a political debate about the pros and cons of Barack Obama but there's no doubting that he was the media's pick for President. By that I mean he was a perfect candidate for the media looking for a story. This leads me to think that our friend was sporting his Obama/Biden sticker to show how in touch he is with current events.

Now last, but certainly not least is the Chelsea shirt. Maybe I could let all of the other things go if they weren't topped off by that blue shrine to the Russians of West London.

The Welsh flag would suggest that he wasn't born in the Chelsea area and when combined with the hair, and the convertible, and the Obama sticker it just screams New Chelsea.

New Chelsea has nothing to do with Chelsea Football Club, the rather irritating, small, one time champions of England (in 1955). New Chelsea is new money. Everything that is bad in the game today and since they bought two consecutive league titles in 2005 and 2006, they've attracted a different type of supporter. For example the young girl in the Far East who luv them long time, and our friend in the BMW.

I hope someone has a word with this guy friend and points out the errors of his ways and maybe makes him realise that he's giving BMW drivers, convertible drivers, fake blondes, the Welsh, Democrats and real Chelsea fans a bad name by mincing down FM529, boiling in a melting pot of all of the above.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Change of plan

My Wife volunteers at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. She's been there all afternoon today so I said that I'd do some work in the garden and plant a few things to cover the spot in the fence where a certain white dog has been attempting to dig through to the neighbours. I was thinking maybe 2 or 3 plants and some soil and mulch to make it look nice.

That was my first mistake, I was thinking. How come whenever I suggest doing a small job around the house to make it look nice my Wife always takes my idea and runs with it? She never wants to settle for the small improvement I suggested and it always turns into a much bigger, and more expensive job.

We were walking around Houston Garden Center and had 3 or 4 plants on the trolley so I hinted we had enough and that we should go. My Wife's response should have warned me what was to come. "Not yet, we have a lot more shopping to do."

Anyway, after loading up two trolleys, 35 bags of soil & mulch and spending over $300 the Expedition got us all home safely, albeit rather slowly.

I unloaded the car while my Wife toasted some bagels and made some tea, so I ventured inside for breakfast. Then a stroke of luck..

Our gardener turned up to cut the grass so we seized the opportunity to let him quote for the work. Now, this included digging a trench along one fence, then digging another in the corner of the garden joining two existing flower beds, and filling with the soil and mulch. This was probably more than I thought I would get done today so when he said he'd do it for $100 we snapped his hand off.

We gave him another $100 to actually plant the things we'd bought and it took two of them 4 hours. Money well spent in my opinion, especially as it meant my day was a lot more relaxing than it had seemed right around the time they showed up.

I did run out to buy another spade so they could both dig and a wheel barrow so they wouldn't have to break their back carrying all the soil and mulch round the back. Each bag weighs 40 pounds and the day was already getting hot so we kept them supplied with bottles of cold water.

Too bad my Wife was still home when the gardener arrived, otherwise I could have been cashing in those brownie points for a long time to come!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Where's my damn answer?

The following post first appeared on the popular blog 'Where's my damn answer?' earlier this week.

Who’s in DA DAMN house Wednesday - Mancunian Moon
By Guest Blogger March 4, 2009

Introduction from our very own jodycakes:

I’d like to introduce everyone to Andy over at Mancunian Moon . It is nice to ask the men if they dare venture over into WMDA land. He was kind enough to do so, with this poignant post about being a foreigner in this strange place called Houston (pronounced Eww-stun for those of you not living here). You might wonder what the word Mancunian in the blog name suggests? This term refers to anyone who is from Manchester, England. Probably the only reason I know this term is because I’m married to a Liverpudlian, which by the way Andy says is so near, yet so far away (40 miles) ::read rivalry here::! He, like many other people from the UK, is a diehard football fan with an undying support for his team, Manchester United. As you will read, he is a transplant to Texas, living la vida loca with his brand new blushing bride Jennifer and their little furry friends, Boomer & Busby (who is actually named after the World Famous Sir Matt Busby, who managed ManU for several years). Without futher adieu, I present to you Andy…

You can probably tell that I’m not from around here. Texas that is. I was born in Manchester, England at the tale end of the 70’s. That’s not a misspelling, those are the days I always heard about growing up, you know “you’ve never had it so good’, “when I was your age” etc. You get the idea.

So I guess I’m a pint of real ale to compliment the wine (& tequila).

There are lots of things I miss about home that we don’t have in Houston - real fish & chips, good beer, driving lessons, the list could go on (and no, serving beer ice cold to numb the taste buds does not make it good). But I think there’s a danger in concentrating too much on what you don’t have rather than what you do have. This is a great country, and Texas is a great state. I have a good life and I prefer to think about the things I can experience here that I wouldn’t be able to back home.

I definitely think that the way you view things affects how easily you take to new experiences. I’m a long way from home, but pining for the things I miss will only cause me to miss out on a lot of opportunities that are available to me.

I know a lot of people who have moved to Houston from all over the world and it tends to be the older ones who settle easiest. This surprises me, as they have more memories back home, and seemingly have more to leave behind. The problem I think the younger ones have, the ones who have basically grown up here, is they have only romantic memories of the place they left.

I lived in Texas between the ages of 18 and 21. I found it hard to settle that first time because I was thinking about what I’d left behind. I hadn’t had the chance to experience life as an adult where I grew up so I knew I would always feel I was missing something. After six years, I returned to Houston wizened by the cold struggle I’d endured and looking forward to spending my days in the sunshine. I haven’t been back to visit since I left for the second time in. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t need to. My new life always seems to get in the way.

My six years back in England gave me the experiences I craved when I was younger. Experiences I wouldn’t have had staying in Houston and I don’t regret it at all. In fact, now that I’m settled in Houston with a good job, a nice house and a beautiful wife I feel I’m really seeing the benefits of that time served. I also think my kids (when they come) will benefit from my decision, although it is important they learn about their English and Irish heritage.

So it’s not where you’re from that matters, it’s where you’re at, and I don’t mean the city you currently reside in. It’s a state of mind, one open to new experiences and other points of view.

I try and follow my own advice about keeping an open mind so usually I never know what I’m going to blog about until I get to the 5th or 6th paragraph. I just start typing and see where it takes me, so I apologize that this isn’t the funny blog you might’ve been expecting.
Anyway, there’s so much estrogen in here I’m going to leave before my cycle is in danger of synchronizing…but try not to worry too much about your damn answers, sometimes it’s ok to just enjoy the questions.

Peace, if you want it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Doing my bit

You know how I like to do my bit for those less fortunate than myself (honestly!) so I'm delighted to share with you a brand new way of helping out.

Chocolate makers Cadbury's, makers of the excellent Dairy Milk range are to become Fair Trade certified.

Now, those who know me will be aware that I'm quite partial to a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk. There's nothing better before bedtime than a nice cup of tea and dairy milk. They come in all different sizes now from the tiny 'fun' size to the huge 5kg monster bar!

I found that the regular 6 chunk works best. I like to tear the wrapper so that three squares are exposed then I dip those three into my tea, and eat enjoying the slightly melted chocolate. Then wait a few minutes for the tea to cool down a bit and break the three remaining pieces into separate chunks. I then place one chunk in my mouth and have a drink of the tea, then repeat the process for the last two pieces. Perfect!

There's obviously an art to these things so I would hate for someone to just dive in and eat the chocolate willy nilly but each to their own I suppose.

Becoming Fair Trade certified basically means that Cadbury's will pay a guaranteed minimum price to cocoa producers in Ghana, even if the open market price falls below it.

The Fair Trade initiative was set up to secure a better deal for commodity producers in developing countries.

Cadbury's will triple the amount of cocoa sourced from Ghana to 15,000 tonnes during 2009. Ghana currently produce over 600,000 tonnes of cocoa per year.

Cadbury's is the world's largest confectionery manufacturer, founded in 1824 and even comes with the royal seal of approval!

For those of you living in the US, a word of warning. Those Cadbury chocolate bars you see in the stores are mostly poor imitations, manufactured by Hershey's. They don't taste the same as the ones manufactured in Europe so it's worth looking around to make sure you get the right ones.

Even though we're only just into March, Cadbury's Creme Eggs are already on sale and they always pass the taste test!

Now you have no excuse not to do your bit for Fair Trade and eat some chocolate!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Surely he took a wrong turn?

Thanks again to the BBC for bringing this story to our attention.

Now, I was born in Manchester and lived there for most of my life but come on, if you're going to sneak into a country and work illegally, surely there would be a better option? Personally, I'd pick somewhere hot, like Texas maybe (don't worry, I am allowed to be here). Sydney perhaps? Bora Bora??

I would imagine Manchester would be quite a culture shock to a Mexican, especially one stupid enough to leave a good luck card in his luggage! I'm guessing customs have had much harder cases to crack (pun intended)!

To be honest, I don't think I've ever seen a Mexican restaurant in England. An Indian restaurant maybe. You don't get much more English than Indian food. We certainly love our curry but I don't think most people would know a quesadilla from a burrito. It was only today that I found out what a burrito was and there's certainly nothing that appeals to me in the words 'bean burrito' whether I know what it is or not!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dangerous Driving

My Wife was born in Dublin, Ireland and occasionally she gets a little homesick so I thought this story from her homeland might help.

Police in Ireland were baffled how the country's worst driver, Prawo Jazdy had managed to evade arrest after so may offences. Mr Jazdy had racked up a large number of motoring offences but managed to avoid detection by giving police a different address each time.

Luckily, one police officer decided to do a little digging and found over 50 different addresses recorded for Prawo Jazdy when he stopped him for motoring offences. On further inspection, it turned out that Prawo Jazdy is in fact Polish for Driving Licence. Officers had wrongly been recording Prawo Jazdy as the offenders name.

A memo was issued throughout the police force in an attempt to avoid the same mistake from happening. Poles are Irelands second largest immigrant group behind Romanians so I'm sure there is plenty of opportunity for a repeat!

I heard so many Irish jokes as a kid but I don't get much chance to air them these days so thanks to the BBC for bringing this story to the world.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

There may be trouble ahead..

I've been married for just over 3 months now and occasionally I get myself in trouble. It's usually not intentional and sometimes it's not even my fault.

For example, two Christmas's ago, my Wife bought me a first aid kit for the car. It was a nice gift that showed she was concerned for my well being when I wasn't by her side so I put it in the car as I was supposed to do.

Fast forward about a year and my Wife cuts her finger on something in the kitchen. The only first aid kit I know the location of is the one in the car so it gets brought into the house and my Wife opens it and finds what she needs and comments on how much is contained in the kit. "This was a great present!" she exclaims excitedly. Followed by "and you've never used it!".

Sorry, what now?

Ok, I could understand that you'd be upset if you bought someone a nice gift and then it was still in the box a year later. However, the lack of use of the gift could surely be excused in the case of a first aid kit?!? Personally, I hope I never have cause to use this particular gift!

At least now I'm prepared. If next year I find a fire extinguisher under the tree I'll be sure to start a little fire somewhere just so I can give it a go.