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.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rain rain come again

Having grown up in Manchester, you would be surprised that I would actually be happy when it rains but after a very dry couple of months with temperatures regularly over 100 degrees I was surprised, but also a bit relieved when it started raining this morning.

The lakes and reservoirs in the local area are all running severely low, and the garden is certainly in desperate need of some rain so I hope it rains some more.

I don't mind if the rain comes at night though when we're all safely tucked up in bed rather than during the morning rush hour as Houston drivers do not know how to drive in the rain.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Culture Club...Part 2

The second of my occasional feature of free things to do in the Houston area is Galveston and namely the beach.

We went down for the long weekend and set up base camp on the beach to watch the fireworks on July 4th.

The main thing I noticed over the holiday weekend is how lazy the majority of people are. The areas of the beach where you could drive your care directly onto the sand were completely rammed. Cars were dumped wherever there was space as people tried to find enough room to enjoy themselves.

We stay down on the west end of the island close to the San Luis Pass. There is a public beach with parking here but the only thing is you cannot drive directly onto the sand. Parking is close by and you just need to walk over a small foot bridge and bingo.

We set up our canopy and loungers on both Friday and Saturday and had plenty of room. After the effects of Hurricane Ike the beach is much larger than it used to be and there were plenty of people around, but everyone was so spread out that it was in complete contrast to the area further down the beach where you could not see the sand for all of the cars lined up like sardines.

There were people fishing and when we were in the water you could see hundreds of fish swimming around so that can't be the reason people didn't want to join us on our section of the beach.

Friday was quiet and I expected the car park to be much busier on Saturday (the 4th) but it was completely empty all day. Not a single car was parked as local residents and renters enjoyed a more relaxed atmosphere.

So if you're in the Houston area and fancy getting out of town to relax for a day or two, why not head down to Galveston? Just being there will help the island get back to business after the storm.

If it is too busy down the sea wall, head west, or actually, don't because we like the quiet!