Friday, 28 December 2007

Still in Pattaya

I really hadn't expected to like this place. Yes it is brash, yes in parts it is noisy and yes in parts it is very sleazy. But it is clean, the beach is quiet, the sea is warm and reasonably clean and the people are all so friendly. I played golf yesterday and really enjoyed that. It probably helps that we are staying is a wonderful place, the Rabbit Resort .

But certainly this is a place that is growing on me. I can understand why some of our friends stay here for weeks and a few have moved here permanently. And I am grateful to two of them for hosting a party a couple of days ago which we thoroughly enjoyed.

But today we move on to Bangkok which I expect to be very noisy, very busy but probably fascinating in its own way.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007


I don't suppose that 'laid back' is a term normally used for Pattaya, but compared to Patong it is.

Our hotel, the Rabbit Resort, is fantastic and right on the beach. And the beach is great - warm clear water.

This evening we had an excellent Christmas dinner in Boystown in Pattaya - turkey and all the trimmings. It was strange to be eating this on Christmas Day overlooking the clubs of Boystown.

Tomorrow we meet friends for a lunchtime party on the beach.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Taking the train

We drove back to Chaing Mai via a different, and beautidul, route. Gave back the car and boarded the overnight train.

The journey was not withour problems. For a few hours all the lights failed and getting an engineer to fix this meant that the train arrived 2 hours late into Bangkok. But we managed some sleep and, as ever, I found the train journey to be fascinating.

We were met at the station and are now in Pattaya.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

The Mekong River

I cannot really believe that we are sitting having lunch on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. But here we are and it is such a magical place.

The driving was fine. We stopped off in Chiang Rai and then went onwards to the Golden Triangle and our hotel close to Chiang Saen.

Today we went for a leisurely drive along the road to Chiang Khong and back via the road which skirts the Mekong.

And we did a boat trip on the Mekong. The scenery is wonderful, tall mountains, the mighty river and trees everywhere.

It is amazing to think that I am here in the very north of Thailand overlooking the countries of Laos and Burma. I am very lucky.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Chiang Mai

We are now up in the north in Chiang Mai. Today we did an elephant trek followed by gentle rafting down the local river. All amongst the heavily wooded hillside so typical of the scenery here. I really like Chiang Mai - much more relaxed, no hassle from street vendors and plenty to explore.

I was visiting a local Wat when one of the young monks approached me and asked me to help him with his English pronunciation. I had an enjoyable few minutes doing that and he then allowed me to visit the Wat.

We pick up the car tomorrow and drive northward.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Koh Samui

We have of course only scratched the surface, but nonetheless Koh Samui is much more beautiful and much less frenetic than Patong. The beaches are wonderful - white sand blending into shallow, warm, blue water. Yes it is true that all beaches we have seen are fringed by hotels. And these hotels have commandeered a large part of the beach space for their sunbeds. So those who are not staying at beachfront hotels, and particularly the locals, are finding their available space severely restricted. But the hotels are not high-rise and the trees and greenery hide most of the hotel anyway. So lying on a sunbed at the beach is close to idyllic.

It has rained for a time every day, and very heavily. But in short bursts, so we can put up with it.

I am sorry our stay here is so short. We are heading for dinner at the Library this evening, we might catch an hour by the beach tomorrow, then we head north.

Monday, 17 December 2007


It is strange, and not a little frightening, when we are lying on the beach at Patong, or having breakfast in the ground-floor cafe, that one day only three years ago, the sea rose from the ocean and charged ashore here wreaking havoc and killing many many people.

Reconstruction is complete and life is back to normal. Sure there are now Tsunami evacuation routes and thankfully there is an offshore warning system, but otherwise there is no trace of that dreadful day.

Today we did hotel inspections for the travel business. An exhausting but very useful day. Now I am tired and suffering a bit from the heat.

Patong has been an interesting place, frenetic, full of street hassle and available sex of all types yet safe enough and still with a superb beach. Sleazy and raucous certainly, but endearing nonetheless.

Tomorrow we head for Koh Samui.

Sunday, 16 December 2007


We are in Patong in Phuket. It is even bigger and brasher than I had expected. Like Blackpool on an even bigger scale with added sun and even more sleaze.

Yes it is a fun place and I am relaxing into it.

The Thai government have decreed that no alcohol can be served for 3 days this weekend and next weekend, bizarrely because of the forthcoming election. Apparently it is to stop voters being bribed with beer. So in all the bars in Patong, and there are a lot, everyone is drinking orange juice or Coke.

Yesterday we did an all-gay boat trip to one of the outlying deserted islands. Interesting dynamic! And a beautiful beach. Good way to start the holiday.

Rest day today. We will relax on Patong Beach. I am just about over the jet lag. And becoming laid back and less stressed. A good start, I think.

Thursday, 13 December 2007


We head to Heathrow in about an hour for the flight to Thailand for a three week trip - part holiday and part research for the travel business. I hope I'll have a chance to report from Thailand on this blog.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Christmas message

Every year I do a round-robin letter at Christmas to insert with certain Christmas cards. It is a good round up of last year, so I am repeating it here.

2007 – time passes ever faster

I started the year as the Finance guy at the Association for Geographic Information I was working 3 days a week and was happy in the knowledge that I was bringing some financial discipline to an organisation which had not exactly shone in that department in the past. I was also happy in the knowledge that my lack of knowledge about Geography did not really matter in my work.
Then in March my boss resigned. I had been banging on about the need to reduce overheads, so I piped up and said that we shouldn’t replace her. ‘ So who will do her work?’ came the retort. I opened my mouth and found the words ‘I will’ coming out.
So here I am, now working 4 days a week, still doing the finances but also, as Chief Operating Officer, having to get involved in discussions about the world of Geography. So I’ve been in Edinburgh discussing the ‘One Scotland One Geography’ initiative, in obscure parts of Wales (Llandrindod Wells) discussing Geography in the Principality, in Glasgow discussing Geography in Education, going to UK Geoforum meetings, discussing the UK response to the European INSPIRE initiative, arguing for the retention of a UK geospatial metadata service and, strangest of all, being a judge for the best paper at our annual conference in Stratford upon Avon. It’s all a bit weird.
It’s been a steep learning curve, but has given me a whole new interest and I’m really enjoying it. It is certainly true that redundancy from the Festival Hall a couple of years ago has led to a positive change, workwise.

The blogs
The diary is dead – long live the diary. But this time it is called a blog. Everyone has a blog, don’t they. So I have two. One is a general blog – and one follows my learning curve in the world of geography
Both started with much enthusiasm and a large number of blog entries in January. Both have rather slowed down and had much fewer entries later in the year. But both are just about still in operation.

The golf and tennis trundle on. My home golf course, after years as a building site, reopened in July now called ‘The Shire London’ Designed by Sevvy Ballesteros it is a really tough test of golf, lots of water, no flat bits, bunkers everywhere and some thick rough. But it is fun to play.
In June I came first in a corporate golf day at the Buckinghamshire to which I was invited by one of our clients.
In July I took myself off to Antwerp to represent the UK at Eurogames 2007. And I was really chuffed to win the bronze medal for the UK. It was a really fun weekend – 3000 competitors, opening and closing ceremony in the Grote Markt in the centre of Antwerp, and loads of parties.
Antwerp is a lovely city.
I arrived in Antwerp without any golf shoes. So we went to a huge sports shop and I ended up buying a tennis racket, as well as the shoes. When I returned to the UK, suddenly I was playing tennis better than I had done for years. I had thought I was useless at tennis – now I find that the racket I was using was useless. The first bit is still generally true of course, but we did reach the semi-final of the men’s doubles (veterans!) in the club tournament.

Not so much jet-setting this year. Indeed the year was notable for the trips I turned down – invitations to Iceland, the Caribbean and New Orleans were all declined. Well I do have to work 4 days a week now. But there were still some fascinating trips this year.
Malaga, where we have the apartment, was of course a regular destination – 7 visits during the year. I still love the city.
In late June we drove all the way up to the Orkney Isles. My first visit. I loved Orkney - the amazing story behind the Italian Church, the almost unbelievable fact that Scara Brae was a thriving village before the Pyramids were built and the stunning scenery on the island of Hoy. We were there during the St Magnus Festival which was an added bonus.
I made a number of trips to Keith to see my parents, but as usual these only lasted a couple of days each time so I was unable to visit friends in the North of Scotland. Sorry.

Amro Holidays
The travel business is still doing well, I help out where I can, which I admit is not much, doing the accounts, checking copy on newsletters, and helping out on our stall at Brighton Pride. But it is Andrew who works very hard at making the travel business more successful. And we have 2 members of staff now. And it led to a meeting with Dolly Parton. (too long a story)
As I mentioned, I had to turn down some research trips, but we are heading for a Christmas trip to Thailand. We don’t like to sell a destination of which we have no personal knowledge and neither of us has been to Thailand. So we are going to remedy that. I am particularly looking forward to visiting Chaing Rai and the Mekong River in the North of the country. And I hope to spend some time relaxing on the beaches of Phuket and Koh Samui.

Family and friends
It was great to see some people in 2007 that I hadn’t seen in years. I need to try to catch up with the others in 2008.
My sister is still living and working in Totnes. My Dad is reasonably well. I played 13 holes of golf with him recently at Keith and he played really well for a 91 year-old. But Mum had a stroke recently and is in hospital in Elgin. It is too early to know the eventual prognosis, but certainly we will all have to adapt to a changed situation. It happened just a week before the whole family were due to meet up in Malaga, as we had done in the past two years. I guess I can be thankful it didn’t happen in Malaga.
Sadly Andrew’s Dad died during the year, but we’d made his last years as comfortable as we could. He bravely endured the pain of illness and always had a twinkle in his eye. He was very kind to me and always pleased to see me.
Andrew and I have been together for over 10 years now and he has remained a tower of strength for me during the year.

Getting older
I can no longer leap out of bed. I hobble to the bathroom – and usually have to visit it during the night. I have a pain in my knee when I play tennis and a pain in my shoulder when I play golf. I’ve been to a few functions where I was the oldest there. I needed stronger spectacles this year. Bits of my teeth are crumbling. Running to catch a bus is a fond memory.
Yes, I guess I am getting older. The mind doesn’t get older, but the body certainly does.
However, recently I was at a quiz night in a church hall and realised that I was the youngest person there. So thank God, literally, for the Church of England – the only remaining place where nearly everyone is older than I.

Well that’s it for another year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.


My Mum has had a severe stroke. She is in hospital in Elgin and will be there for some weeks. My Dad, at 91, therefore has to travel 20 miles each way by bus to see here which is quite a strain on him. I've been up three times in the past three weeks, but feel so helpless.

And now we are due to be going to Thailand. I was going to cancel, but then Andrew would have to go on his own which is hardly fair. And since my Mum is hopefully stable, I have decided to go. But all the time I will be thinking of home.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Life plans

The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley.

I guess I knew this day would come. In past years I have made a few trips up to Scotland to see my parents and to play golf. When and for how long these trips were depended on my diary. The last visit was a few weeks ago when I took my parents for a drive through to Inverness and down to Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness. We have booked to go to Malaga for a week at the end on this month.

Then on Monday, my Mother had a stroke. A serious one. She is in hospital in Elgin and went up to visit her this weekend. She is paralysed down the left side and having difficulty swallowing. The hospital is 20 miles away from their home, so my Dad, at 91, is having to make the journey to Elgin each day by bus. A bus shelter can be very cold in Scotland in November.

So there is the short term aim to try to see an improvement in my Mother's situation. But there is also the long term scenario to consider. I doubt she will be able to return home. My Dad will not be able to look after her. So what do we do? I live 600 miles away. Suddenly there is a big decision to be made.

Thursday, 15 November 2007


Today I was in Edinburgh for the AGI Scottish annual conference, entitled 'Inspiring Scotland 2007' a reference to the INSPIRE European Directive on sharing of geospatial data.

It was a very successful conference and I enjoyed my brief time in Edinburgh on a very bright October day. The previous evening I'd enjoyed a few beers in the bars along the Cowgate.

I am pleased that my new role at work allows me to do a bit of travel within the UK. Next year I'll try to stay a bit longer so that I can visit some friends while a I am in Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007


I travelled today to Leicester for a SPLINT (SPatial Literacy IN Teaching) meeting. I left from St Pancras and this just happened to be the first day of the new Eurostar service from St Pancras. The renovated station looked fantastic.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Scottish Independence

Yesterday I watched Alex Salmond, the new Scottish First Minister, deliver the keynote speech at the SNP conference in Aviemore. I was hugely impressed, just as I have been impressed with the performance of the SNP since they took power in May.

And now David Cameron is playing into the hands of the separatists with his populist bandwagon to deny Scottish MPs a vote on English matters at Westminster. A cynical opportunistic ploy.

For the first time, I now think that full Scottish independence is likely within a decade. And I wouldn't be unhappy to see that take place.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Getting Older

I get out of bed more slowly than I used to because of my sore back. My left knee hurts every time I play tennis. My shoulder hurts every time I play golf. I've just had to get a stronger paid of glasses. My teeth are starting to crumble. In the evenings I sit and watch TV because I have no energy to do anything else. Jobs around the house remain undone.

I guess it is called old age.

On Friday we were invited to a function in Piccadilly by the organisers of Chateau Mystique, an upmarket weekend break for affluent gay men. I was the oldest person there.

Last week in Malaga I watched groups of people in bars and restaurants having a good time and regretted the fact that my Spanish was not good enough to start a conversation with any of them. But in reality, even if my Spanish was fluent, they would not have wanted me to speak to them because I am 30 years older than most of them.

More signs of old age.

Then last night, I was invited to a quiz night in a church in Potters Bar. Not only did our team win, but looking around I realised that almost everyone there was older than I am. Yes, older.

Thank God, literally, for the Church of England. The only place these days where I can still feel young!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

malaga beach

I have never seen the beaches here in quite such a state. Apparently it is all due to storms a week or so ago. There are stones, bits of wood and huge amounts of bamboo canes strewn all over the beach, especially just above the high water mark. A lot of work will be needed to get the beaches back to their previous state.

Today was sunnier and I went out to Guadalmar and to the naturist beach there. It was quiet but I enjoy the freedom of that beach and spent about three hours in the sun.

This evening I will find a bar, I hope which will be showing the rugby world cup final, probably an Irish bar. So a Scotsman will be supporting England in an Irish bar in Spain. I am sure they will lose, but they have done extremely well. Now we need Scotland to qualify for Euro 2009 by beating Italy in their final match. It´s a big ask I know.

I enjoy my visits to malaga.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Back in Malaga

Currently I am relaxing in Malaga. On my own unfortunately as Andrew couldnt make it this time. Yesterday I had a short swim in the sea but today the waves were really high, so I didnt bother. Rushing back to the flat now as I have some lamb stew on the boil.

Visiting Scotland

This weekend I went up to visit my parents in Scotland. On Saturday I played 13 holes of golf with my father at Keith, then took my parents in the car to Inverness, up the Bealy road, across to Drumnadrochit, stopped at Urquhart Castle and then returned to Inverness. We had an excellent meal at what was the Kingsmills Hotel, now the Marriott Inverness, before we stopped at Dalcross Airport for me to catch the flight south. My father then drove back to Keith. He did really well to cram that all into one day at the age of 91.

The weather in Scotland was amazing for October, warm and sunny with not a breath of wind. It was a short visit but very enjoyable.

Thursday, 4 October 2007


Today I sent an email to my friend Yura in Tomsk in Siberia trying to explain to him the battle of Culloden. This was the last battle on British soil, in 1746. As a kid in Inverness I often used to cycle to the battlesite at Culloden.

Wikipedia says the following -

The Battle of Culloden (April 16, 1746) was the final clash between the French-supported Jacobites and the Hanoverian British Government in the 1745 Jacobite Rising. It was the last battle to be fought on mainland Britain. Culloden brought the Jacobite cause—to restore the House of Stuart to the throne of the Kingdom of Great Britain—to a decisive defeat.
The Jacobites—most of them Highland Scots—supported the claim of James Francis Edward Stuart (aka "The Old Pretender") to the throne; the government army, under the Duke of Cumberland, younger son of the Hanoverian sovereign, King George II, supported his father's cause.
The aftermath of the battle was brutal and earned the victorious general the name "Butcher" Cumberland. Charles Edward Stuart eventually left Britain and went to Rome, never to attempt to take the throne again. Civil penalties were also severe. New laws attacked the Highlanders' clan system, and even highland dress was outlawed.

Then I was browsing YouTube and I searched for The Skye Boat Song. This was written about Bonnie Price Charlie's escape after Culloden to the Isle of Skye, helped by Flora MacDonald. From Skye he set sail for Rome and ended his days in France. This version is sung by the Corries, the best of Scotland's folk duos. Ronnie is sadly no longer with us. But anyway here is the Skye Boat Song.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The golf is getting better

Ever since The Shire opened in July, I have struggled with it. There is so much water, loads of bunkers and some fiendish rough. The picture is of the short par 3. Off my 17 handicap it has proved to be really difficult and I have lost many golf balls.

But in the last 2 rounds I have started to improve. As a discipline I have tried to keep a score each time I play, even if I start with an 8. Well last Saturday I managed to go round in 88 and this week I had a 91. That's 71 and 74 net which I am quite pleased about. I have the day off tomorrow and am playing at 8 am, so I hope that the good form stays with me.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

2 out of 3

Inverness Caley Thistle won against Falkirk 4-2
Scotland won against Italy 18-16
Richard and I lost our semi-final 4-6, 4-6.
We played well but our opponents made fewer errors. And there was a disputed line call when we were 4-3 ahead in the second set which we let get to us. We lost all three games from that point.

Pity - it would have been good to have featured in the final.

Friday, 21 September 2007

AGI 2007

I have just returned from our annual conference, which this year was held in Stratford-upon-Avon. I think it was a great success and that seems to be the feedback from delegates. We put in a lot of hard work both in the planning stage and during the event itself. It was worthwhile.

I am exhausted, but satisfied.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Tennis quarter final

This evening Richard and I played our men's doubles quarter final at Totteridge. We were playing a pair who play in much higher teams than we do, and I expected to lose easily. But I played well and somehow we scraped through 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.

So now we are in the semi-final.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Malaga again

We've just returned from 6 days in Malaga. I had meant to do loads of things, but I slept far too much, spent some time on the beach every day and did quite a lot of cooking. There wasnt time for anything else.

It was a good break though - and the weather was fantastic.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

The Ultimate Golf Shot

I have enjoyed recently playing golf at my recently reopened and revamped golf course now called The Shire London. So far though I have not mastered the fiendishly difficult par 4 18th hole. The hole slopes gently uphill. The is a huge 'S' toward the end of the hole shaped in water with the green enclosed by the lower part of the 'S'. So the shot onto the green has to go over two large expanses of water and not go through into the water behind the green.

On Saturday I was making an even bigger mess of the hole than usual. My drive went into the thick rough on the lest. I chopped the ball out but it ran into the bunker about 200 yards from the green. Bravely but rather foolishly I took a 3 wood to my shot in the bunker. I hit it solidly without taking sand. It soared towards the green, over the water, and landed softly about 30 feet from the hole. Miraculous.

Once I got to the green I hit the put confidently and it rolled down the slope, broke to the right and went straight into the hole. A par 4 - when I had feared at least double that. Now I need to try to repeat something like that when I next play in a competition.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Car Man

Last night we went to see the Car Man at Sadlers Wells. Wow!

It was fantastic. A dance adaptation of Bizet's Carmen set in an American mid-west town in the fifties. The music was great of course, and played live. The choreography was stunning and the dancing was sexy, physical yet tender, and wonderfully competent. The whole thing was riveting. Well done again to Matthew Bourne and company.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Eurogames 2007 - final thoughts

The closing ceremony in Antwerp was quite moving. We rightly gave thanks to all the volunteers who had done such a magnificent job. One of the volunteers suddenly proposed on stage to her girlfriend. A young kid sang movingly as part of a choir of the children of same-sex parents. There were more music acts including a superb 'Shirley Bassey'. Then finally the games closed and were handed over to Barcelona for them to take up the baton in 2008.

And we watched it all in the happy company of Michael, Ottmar and Heinreich over a few beers,

The weekend was well worth the journey. I think we will
revisit Antwerp.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Eurogames 2007 - a review

Well we have arrived back from a fantastic weekend in Antwerp. The organisation of Eurogames 2007 was excellent, the local people were really friendly and supportive, the city is small but vibrant and the weather was fine.

I enjoyed hugely being part of the opening ceremony and marching into the main square behind the British banner. And then came the golf. Having missed out on a medal in Sydney 2002 and Munch 2004, I was so keen to win a medal in Antwerp. But as my round progressed and I started to hit a few wayward drives into the trees or out of bounds, I thought I'd blown the chance. But I scrambled some points and then with a few holes to play, felt that I might, just might have a chance. I really concentrated especially on the 18th tee. I hit a good drive there, but leaked my second shot to the right of the green with a large bunker between my ball and the flag. Watched by those in the clubhouse, I managed to pitch the ball over the bunker to about 10 feet from the hole and then rolled in the putt for a par and 3 points to give me a total of 32 points. My playing partner, Michael finished with 33 points, so I knew I was behind him. I just needed to have only one other player ahead of me. And that is what happened. One of the other guys had 36 points to win the gold medal, but my 32 points were enought to win bronze. I was really chuffed.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


I am off on Thursday to take part in Eurogames2007 in Antwerp. Five years ago I played golf at the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney and somehow lost out on a medal by three-putting the last green and losing the bronze medal on countback. This time it would be nice to do better, but I am not playing very well and will be happy just to take part and enjoy the weekend.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Italian Chapel, Lambholm

I cannot leave Orkney without a mention of the Italian Chapel. During the war a number of Italian prisoners of war were sent to Orkney. In camp 60 at Lambholm one on the prisoners, an artist called Chiocchetti, asked to be able to create a place of worship. He was given 2 old Nissen Huts. Using materials which were available, he created a magnificent chapel. It still survives, a testament to his wonderful artistry and to the people of Orkney who have maintained the chapel to this day.

As one of the original prisoners of war, Bruno Volpi, said on his return to Orkney in 1992 - 'People cannot be judged by their precarious situations. Their culture, spirit and will to express themselves in creative thoughts and deeds are stronger than any limitation to freedom.'

Italian chapel from the outside

And from the inside

Sunday, 1 July 2007


Back from a week in Scotland with the main destination being the Orkney Islands.

Despite being born and brought up in Inverness, I have never been to Orkney. The Islands are much greener and much more beautiful than I had expected. Perhaps that is just because they are so close together, so one is never far from the sea and a view over a number of islands.

Most are flat, but we spent a full day on the mountainous, magnificent Island of Hoy. we took the car and drove right round the Island from Longhope in the south to Randwick in the west. And Randwick was stunning.

I also enjoyed Kirkwall especially since we were there during the St Magnus Festival. And of course the Islands are full of history. Skara Brae was so impressive - amazing to think that it was inhabited long before the building of the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids at Giza.

Yes I really enjoyed the few days on the Orkney islands.

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

Randwick Bay, Hoy

Near Birsay

Monday, 18 June 2007


This week brings my boyfriend's birthday, my sister's birthday and then my father's birthday. And I don't know what to get any of them. Time to put on the thinking cap and try to come up with a series of original presents.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Festival Hall weekend

The Royal Festival Hall officially opened this weekend and there was a 48 hour non-stop extravaganza 0f free events. Despite the manner of my departure, i still feel a tremendous amount of affection for the place. Not only did I work there for 19 years, but I found out recently that my parents went there for a romantic weekend in August 1951 - exactly 9 months before I was born. No wonder I feel attached to the place.

This is what it looked like on Sunday.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Golf Club reopening

Another day another reopening. This time, at my golf club. After years of playing golf in the midst of a building site, we were finally allowed to play the refurbished course. The new name is 'The Shire London' and it is fabulous. The holes are all difficult, require tactical play and a lot of skill, and have bunkers and water hazards galore. But I really enjoyed the round and played quite well for a 94, net 77 which I hope I can improve upon when I get to know the course better.

The course has been designed by Sevvy Ballesteros and had been very well laid out and professionally done. I think it will become a well-known golf course in a few years time. In the meantime, I shall enjoy trying to master it.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Royal Festival Hall reopens

Next weekend marks the official reopening of the Royal Festival Hall after the £100m refurbishment.

I am of course somewhat ambivalent after the way I was treated in the latter period when I worked there and the fact that I was made redundant a couple of years ago without any real logic to that decision.

But generally I retain a sense of pride in my work there over 19 years and still have a feel for the spirit of the place. This evening we were invited to a pre-opening concert. There was a technical hitch so the official concert had to be cancelled. Actually that allowed me much more time to talk to staff both current and previous. It was great to catch up with old faces and I guess to show that I have moved onwards from my time there and have made a successful switch into the world of Geography. So I'm glad I went.

And I wish the RFH well for the official reopening next week and into the future.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Jeff Buckley RIP

It was exactly 10 years ago - 29th May 1997 when singer Jeff Buckley, son of Tim Buckley who had tragically committed suicide, went for a a swim in the Mississippi River in the centre of Memphis. He was with a roadie. One minute Jeff was floating on his back, the next moment he disappeared. And drowned.

In remembrance of Jeff Buckley, and in thanksgiving for his talent, here he is playing Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Summer illness

I've returned from Spain. Despite indifferent weather, it was a good trip. But I developed a sore throat during my time in Spain and this has further developed into a full cold. So I am sniffling away, feeling tired and not at all happy about having a cold in the summer time. At least it is a bank holiday and raining, so I do not have to go into work today. But I don't do illness very well.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Malaga Beach

The forecast was for a wet afternoon. Andrew had returned to the UK and I decided to catch some sun before the rain came. So off I went to the beach. It was early and the beach was almost deserted. There were a couple of people about 200 years apart, so I plonked myself between them, 100 yds from either. I'd get some peace and quiet I thought. Just as I was settling down, three large Spanish ladies came down to the beach and plonked themselves about 10 feet away form me - almost within touching distance. This despite the empty expanse of beach on either side of me. I have no idea why they decided to lie do close to me - it was slightly disconcerting. Reminiscent of a similar incident in Cairns many years ago. But anyway I got on with my sunbathing, including a couple of swims in the sea. The rain did not arrive and I stayed until about 4 pm, before I left to get ready to meet Brian and Geoffrey for dinner in Torremolinos.

We had an excellent meal at the Vesuvius Restaurant, including some fun banter with Jorge the waiter. It had been a good day.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

The rain in Spain

Overnight we had torrential rain, constant flashes of lightning and loud claps of thunder. Not what I expect in Malaga in May. The rain continued throughout the morning but the sun came out late in the afternoon and we enjoyed a few beers at The Playa Chirunguito in Los Alamos.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Another birthday

Brian and Geoffrey came into Malaga from Torremolinos. We met them at the cafe of the Contemprary Arts Centre. Then we caught a bus up to the Gibralfaro where we spent a couple of hours wandering the ramparts and enjoying the stupendous views of the city of Malaga spread out below us.

Then we walked down to the Vino Mio restauruant for a late birthday lunch. They did us proud. Complementary starters, superb main courses, a selection of sumptuous deserts, Cava, two bottles of Rioja and a free baseball cap! The food was wonderful. Many thanks to them for looking after us so well.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Birthday in Spain

In 2 days time I reach a huge age. Not one with a zero on the end, but traumatic enough. My partner and I go off to Malaga tomorrow ready to celebrate in Spain. Two friends are already in Torremolinos so hopefully we will meet up with them on Sunday. I'd like to go to the Vino Mio, my favourite restaurant in Malaga. The weather forecast is not great, but I hope I'll enjoy the day.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Tennis Loss

Not so good this evening. Our team lost 16-8 and my partner and I failed to win any sets at all. Not good.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Golf Winner

Yup. Amazing. I was playing in a corporate golf day at the Buckinghamshire - lovely course. It was windy and then wet. I had 34 stableford points with which I was quite pleased given the weather. But I never imagined that it would be enough to win. But it was - on countback. So I won a lovely glass trophy and a bottle of champagne. I'd dead chuffed.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Scottish Independence

When I was a young kid in Inverness, I wore an SNP badge. I didn't really understand politics but was attracted to the emotional, football-chant, mentality of an independent Scotland.

Then I grew up and in the real political world became a Labour party supporter.

There is an election on Thursday for the Scottish Parliament. I don't have a vote. But it looks as though the Scottish National Party might become the largest single party and that Alex Salmond will become Scottish First Minister. And surprisingly, I find myself keen on that scenario.

Perhaps it is just that politics would become interesting again. But I think it is also that perhaps, just perhaps, Scotland should be an independent country. Perhaps, just perhaps, it would be financially and politically successful.

Anyway I shall watch the results on Thursday with interest.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

London Marathon

We went into London today to experience the London Marathon - from a spectators point of view. In fact we had a great day watching both the elite runners and the not-so-elite runners. And on a Toptable deal, we had a fabulous Sunday lunch at the Admiralty restaurant in Somerset House.

Here are a couple of pics of the runners -
Elite runners
Less elite runners, but just as impressive.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Embedding You Tube

I sometimes spend more time than I should on You Tube watching either sports videos, or political videos or music videos. Until now though I have been unable to embed these onto my blog. But now I will try. I will start with one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs. Here it is, I hope, -

Monday, 2 April 2007

New Job

My boss has left, and I have been appointed as Chief Executive Officer to her job. It is a bit scary, a bit daunting but could be very interesting. Time will tell.

Monday, 26 March 2007


Another visit to Malaga, this time with Andrew. It was a necessary break for him after a very stressful few months. The weather was okay. I particulaly enjoyed out trip to El Chorro and the lakes, as I always do.

Lakes above El Chorro

We also looked at a few flats for sale in Malaga. It would be good, and possibly financially beneficial, to upgrade to a 2 bedroomed apartment preferably with a terrace. We didn't find the ideal property this time, but will continue the search.

It was the time before Easter when Spanish towns have street processions. This one took place right beside our apartment.

Friday, 16 March 2007


Today was the funeral of Andrew's dad, Bertie, in Hastings. He had been ill for a number of years and his quality of life was not good, so in some ways its was a merciful release, though no less sad for Andrew. Only two weeks before he died we had a glass of wine with him and watched the Scotland-Wales rugby match together. He was unable to take in a great deal of the match itself, but was aware of the result.

Andrew had been brilliant at visiting Bertie every day, and I did my bit where I could. The funeral was a dignified one on a sunny day and it was a fitting send-off and celebration of the life of someone who achieved so much during that life. And someone was was very welcoming of me and interested in what I was doing. I will miss you, Bertie, and I remember you with much affection. Rest in Peace.

Thursday, 8 March 2007


More travelling, this time up to Keith to visit my parents. My sister came up from Totnes to complete the family get-together.

I played a round of golf with my father - he is 90 years old now and still plays golf twice a week. And we visited Cromarty on a rather blustery day. Somewhere I have never been, so it made the day a very interesting one.

The village of Cromarty

Saturday, 3 March 2007


We attended an IGLTA symposium in Antwerp. A very interesting city. Full of history, with beautiful squares and interesting museums but also very modern with fashion boutiques and diamond houses. We will be offering short break weekends to Antwep through the travel business and I might return there in July to compete at golf in Eurogames 2007.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Malaga again

Well we have an apartment there - might as well use it especially at times like this when the flights are inexpensive. Another enjoyable break.

You can see my musings about the beach on my Geography blog.

Saturday, 10 February 2007


A few inches of snow and London again grounds to a halt. It was good to see the snow, though, especially in the morning just after it has fallen. These are pictures of my street and my local train station, New Barnet, in north London.

Wednesday, 31 January 2007


I have just returned from a short break in Malaga where we have a very tiny apartment in the old Centro Historico.

Unfortunately the weather was not great - very cold. Indeed villages above Malaga had their first snow since 1977. But it was a good relaxing break. This picture shows the Plaza Merced which is just round the corner from our apartment. There are a number of bars around the square, and I enjoy relaxing there over a coffee or a glass of Rioja.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Casino Royale

Last night we finally went to see the latest James Bond film, Casino Royale. I enjoyed it. The action was slick, the excitement was well-maintained and the movie keps interest going for the full 150 minutes. Daniel Craig was an excellent Bond, taking the character back to the original intention in the books. He had the right blend of machismo and sensitivity and his acting was fine, although I am not sure there was enough in the part to justify his nomination at the BAFTAs.

I still have difficulty with West End cinema. The pervasive smell of popcorn, the incessant noise of munching detract from the enjoyment of the experience. But the occasional visit is okay.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Being ill

I hate it. I hate not being well. I hate especially being ill with something mundane such as the flu, which is what has given me headaches, sore joints, alternative shivering and sweating, and exhaustion over the past few days.

At least last time I was ill, it was with something more exotic. I spent some time in the tropical diseases unit at the Royal Free being tested for possible West Nile Fever.

Thankfully I am not often ill. I do believe that illness only happens if the mind allows it and that normally those who are determined not to be ill, seldom succumb to illness. In this case I was slightly unwell on Saturday, but fighting it. We were due to go for dinner with a friend. Although I could have gone, I didn't think that would be fair to the friend so I cancelled. Within 30 minutes I was really ill. It was as though the act of cancelling dinner was a sign that my mind was no longer going to be a barrier to illness and whoosh. The body was open to infection.

And so I was off work, no energy, couldn't sleep and thoroughly miserable. I am slowly recovering, but it has not been am experience I've enjoyed.

Sunday, 7 January 2007


Way back in the early 1960s, when I was a young kid in Inverness I used to go with my mates on a Saturday to see Inverness Thistle play football at Kingsmills Park. They were a non-league side playing in the Highland League which covered the North of Scotland. Their biggest rivals were Inverness Caledonian.

There was a shamefully abortive application to join the main Scottish League in 1967. However in 1991, Inverness Thistle managed to merge with Inverness Caledonian and became Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The merger was of course not without its detractors, but it went ahead and ICT were accepted into the third division of the Scottish League.

During the 1990s, ICT steadily climbed the leagues always doing better than the season before. They went up to the second division, up to the first division and then in 2004 they won the first division championship and were promoted to the top division, the Scottish Premier League.

Even that was not without its problems. The league said that their ground was not big enough and forced them to play their home matches at Aberdeen, 100 miles away!

But now they are back at the Caley Thistle Stadium and they are still in the Premier Division. Recently they beat Rangers twice, but they have struggled against teams such as Falkirk or Dundee United.

On Saturday they were away to Stirling in the 3rd round of the Scottish Cup. This was a potentially tricky tie, but they buckled down and emerged as 6-1 victors. They are now at home to Dundee United or St Mirren in the next round.

But they do need to get a few more points in the league, especially with bottom club Dunfermline suddenly discovering how to win today.

So there will be times during this blog that I will pause to report on the progress of Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Watch this space.

And check out a YouTube video here.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Learning Spanish

Partly because of the apartment in Malaga, indeed entirely because of the apartment in Malaga, I am trying to learn to speak and understand Spanish. It shouldn't be too difficult. It's a straightforward logical language and I am hopefully a reasonably intelligent person. And I am going to an evening class in Spanish at Barnet College each Thursday.

So why do I find it so difficult?

Old age probably. And not giving enough time to the subject. And snatching an occasional 5 minutes to look at the Spanish book when I really need to devote perhaps an hour each evening to it. Not speaking it aloud. Not being disciplined enough. Skipping over bits I don't understand.

In particular, I don't seem to remember vocabulary. Anyone got any tips for memorising words in another language? So at the moment it is frustrating, but I will stick at it. My times in Spain would be much enhanced if i could get to grips with the language.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Reality kicks in

Second day back at work.

My rail fare from New Barnet to Old Street has increased from £6 to £7.20 - a 20% increase.

Yesterday evening I returned from work ready to tackle some of the jobs which needed doing. But before that I had a glass of wine, watched the news on TV, prepared and ate dinner, had a coffee - by which time I was ready for bed.

Making resolutions is easy. The apparent speeding up of time makes keeping them so much more difficult.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007


Christmas was spent in Spain, mainly at our apartment in Malaga. I don't exactly know why I like Malaga so much but I guess it is because it is a lively vibrant city and still very Spanish despite being so close to the Brit tourist resorts.

We had our Christmas meal in the Vino Mio restaurant which is close to the apartment and where we are known, and made to feel very welcome. The meal was excellent as always. Here are a few pics of Malaga over the festive period.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

New Year Resolutions 2007

I start 2007 with a mixture of optimism & apprehension, energy & lethargy. Such a strange mixture. And a confusing one!

The year just gone was a year of many successes, lots of achievements, some really enjoyable moments - yet many targets missed. Again I simply failed to get going with my resolutions and my time was not always spend as well as it could have been. But I know I can be too hard on myself. At my age, I need some time to relax and to do nothing particularly strenuous. Listen to music. Go to the theatre. Go for a walk. And I need to feel less guilty about the way I spend my free time.

So in 2007, I have fewer resolutions. Indeed I have no specific resolutions. I am not going to give up anything. Not totally.

But I must cut down on two things -
Alcohol. I do drink too much and too often. For the sake of my health and my sanity, I will reduce my alcohol intake.
Internet browsing. Too much time has been spent generally browsing sites. I do not necessarily wish to reduce my total time on the internet, but I must use that time more effectively.

And I must make more effort on four areas -
My flat. I need to get my flat into better shape - cleaner and less cluttered and hopefully with some the pending jobs actually getting done.
Time. I need to manage my time better. Complete tasks; give sufficient time to helping Andrew with Amro; get out more, especially on the golf course and tennis court; take some time to myself.
Work. I must make progress at work with AGI and try to do it in a mature way.
Andrew. I need to, and want to, be there for Andrew when he needs me. He is the most important person in my life - I get the benefit of that and I must also be aware of my responsibilities.

As ever, I have a need for balance. I didn't always get that right in 2006. I need to redefine my priorities and put all competing tasks into perspective and into balance.

And now I need to repeat something I said last year. ´I don’t know what the future holds. Outside events may alter my life. Many things I cannot change. Many things I should not change. Many things I must change. I need to exercise judgement in deciding the right category. Of course sometimes I will be sad, depressed and angry. I need to control those emotions as best I can, and move forward just being myself, but a slightly better version of myself than hitherto´.

Life is short - years pass ever faster. Carpe Diem.

Another year ends

Another year closes and again it seems to have passed too quickly without all tasks accomplished. Indeed if I look at my resolutions at the start of the year, 2006 has passed with very few tasks accomplished. That is a pointer to more effort required in 2007.
It has been a year of much travel - many trips to Malaga, a visit to South Africa in March, Boston and Provincetown in May, Costa Rica in October, Scotland at Easter (and a few times subsequently) Devon in July. Many places, many new memories. All very enjoyable. I have just returned from another visit to Malaga. I guess one factor in 2006 has been the new flat which we bought in the centre of Malaga and the visits we have been able to make to that flat. I still love Malaga very much.
And now I look forward to 2007. More effort needed; more effective time management. But I hope I can build on the enjoyable moments in 2006, of which there were many.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Giraffes, Golf and Geography

What happened to 2006?

The year in brief

That is what it was – brief.
Weekdays sprinted into weekends. Spring rushed into summer. Suddenly it was autumn, even though the leaves stubbornly refused to turn colour. And now another Christmas is approaching fast. Mind you, the year was not without variety. I spent more time in airport lounges than I’ve ever done. I played more golf than usual and I became fully settled into my new working environment. I was fit and healthy most of the time and there were only a very few occasions when I perhaps drank more than was wise. I revisited some old friends, though not as many as I should have. Inevitably I watched television more than was good for me and single-handedly kept the Macdonald Brothers in the X Factor longer than their talent deserved. I certainly spent more time on the internet than I meant to, especially after discovering YouTube (I love the Helsinki Complaints Choir). And so life trundles on and generally I am content with my lot.

We were frequent travellers on EasyJet to Malaga as we enjoyed a number of long weekends in the apartment in the Calle Pena. I love Malaga more each time I visit, both the city itself and the hills and lakes inland. I am rather less taken with the neighbouring coastal resorts and if 99% of the Brits go to Torry and Benny and leave Malaga to us and the Spaniards – es muy bien.
The first big trip of the year was in Spring with a visit to South Africa – the route covered a game reserve, Cape Town, the winelands and Knysna. The tour started in Madikwe Game reserve where we were privileged to see wonderfully elegant Giraffes, noisy elephants, sleek lions and a whole range of other wildlife in their native environment. One interesting moment came as I took a shower in our private outdoor shower. Well I thought it was private until one morning I heard a rustling in the long grass and out popped a crocodile only about 20 feet away from me and my shower gel. I finished off with an indoor bath that day.
Then a potential problem became a wonderful moment after we were informed that our names were not on the passenger list for the flight back from Madikwe to Johannesburg and the flight was full. The airline accepted responsibility and wondered if we would mind if they sent a helicopter for us. So there we were just the two of us (plus pilot of course) in a tiny helicopter flying very low over the African bush, which was fantastic.

A few weeks later we were off again to Boston and Cape Cod where I spent a wonderful birthday in a restaurant overlooking the bay at Provincetown, getting a surprise party, and Happy Birthday being sung by a very interesting group of fellow diners.
In September we headed firstly for New York and then down to Costa Rica. Brilliant trip, amazing country – fantastic beaches, volcanic mountains, colourful wildlife. Two highlights stand out – sitting late at night in hot springs watching nocturnal fire-spitting from the top of nearby Arenal volcano in what was a natural light show; and at Tortuguero on the beach at midnight watching turtles emerge from the sea, dig a hole, lay their eggs, cover them up and head back to the sea. And then there was my scary canopy tour.

Back in the UK, at Easter we visited Andrew’s uncle and aunt in Perthshire and were pleased to see some old friends in Edinburgh on the way back. In July my parents and I met with my sister in Totnes for my father’s 90th birthday celebrations. It was a very hot and sunny week and I really enjoyed revisiting old haunts that I’d previously visited on caravan holidays 45 years ago. My father visited the house of his birth in Plymouth and we had lunch in the Finnygook Inn in Craftole where, in 1964, while my parents had a beer inside after their round of golf at the adjacent course, I had to sit outside drinking lemonade, children not being allowed in pubs in those days. Also it was good to see a number friends near Exeter during this week.

Amro Holidays
The foreign trips were all research trips for new destinations for the travel company. It’s been a good year for the business, with many clients now having travelled with us on a number of occasions and most saying very nice things about their holiday and our service. We now have 2 employees, which has allowed Andrew to continue to do the consultancy work in the world of civil engineering which he enjoys. I try to help out when I can on the wording of newsletters and on the finance side. We have built up very good relationships with suppliers, airlines, hotel owners and inbound operators which allows us to tailor holidays to individual clients and which is reaping rewards in terms of repeat bookings.

There have been the usual visits to the theatre or to restaurants with friends, and the occasional party. I have still managed to play tennis occasionally and more golf this year. And the standard of my golf has improved recently – I’m even putting quite well. My home course, now strangely renamed The Shire London, is still undergoing huge rebuilding, having been redesigned by Severiano Ballesteros, and reopens in the spring. It looks as though it might be really superb, if fiendishly difficult, and I am looking forward to being able to play the new holes.

Family and friends.
I am aware, as always, that some friends and family members have not had a good year be it though ill health, accident, stress or whatever. I hope those who read this do not mind me rabbiting on about holidays in exotic places or the trivia of daily life.
My parents, despite some ailments, continue to thrive playing golf and bridge. As well as their trip to Devon, they joined my sister and I in November for a week in Malaga. Unfortunately the weather was not good, but I think they had an enjoyable week. A couple of weeks ago I phoned home to be told that my Dad, at age 90, couldn’t come to the phone as, after playing golf in the morning, he was now up a ladder trimming the hedge! Andrew’s father has fared rather less well, but we do our best to improve his quality of life.

I still work three days a week at the Association for Geographic Information and am really enjoying it. After the misery of the last few years, it is great to be able to have an impact and I am enjoying learning about the world of geography. When I was at Aberdeen University, I knew quite a few geography students and it is strange that I have now joined that world. I wonder if I’ll bump into any of them?
As well as helping Andrew with Amro Holidays, my two spare days allow me to play some golf and particularly allow the weekends in Spain to be longer than they otherwise would be, which is great.

And finally
I look forward to 2007, thankful for continuing health and hopeful of a year of progress and perhaps some more visits to both potential destinations abroad and to old friends at home.
Andrew and I wish all friends and relatives a very Happy New Year.

The Blog Begins

My first blog.
But not my first diary.
Nor even my first on-line diary.
I guess I kept a diary when I was a very young boy. You know the sort of thing - what the weather was like, what I did, the score for my soccer team, etc.
Then in about 1976 I started to keep a detailed diary. It was an introspective, frank account of how I was feeling, what I was doing - my life exposed. Except of course that it was exposed to no-one expect myself. And for years I kept this detailed diary each year and retained them all. They are currently in my garage. Who they are for I know not. But I do sometimes dig them out and remember.
In 1999 I set up my own website and started putting my diary entries on that website. But subtly the nature of the diary changed. People could now see it. Including those I was writing about. Especially my close friends and my partner at the time. So I ceased to be so open. That was no bad thing, perhaps. I also found that I was enthusiastic at the start of each year but the enthusiasm waned as the year went on. Also my limited knowledge of HTML remained limited. But the web moved on.
So here I am at the start of 2007 beginning a new chapter in my diaries. The weblog. I do not know how this will unfold. Will it be of interest to anyone apart from myself? Who knows. I will let it evolve in the way that feels right at the time.
Let the blog begin.