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.