Wednesday, 31 December 2008

2008 - a retrospective

So goodbye then 2008. You weren't a great year.

Thoughts of the year are dominated, inevitably by the illness and subsequent death of my Mum. I remember her, and miss her, as the year draws to a close. My Dad's year was of course not good either - losing his wife during the year and, just at the close of the year, his only brother. He also had his illnesses and particulaly the macular degeneration of his eyesight to deal with.

But of course there were good moments and I hope I have continued to learn throughout the year. I hope I have done my best where I can, helped others where I can and generally tried to be a good person.

I have enjoyed work and feel that I have again made a positive contribution to the continuing success of AGI, the organisation where I work.

I have enjoyed playing golf and tennis, enjoyed the company of friends and enjoyed my travels to Spain.

Andrew has as always been a tower of strength, and I am grateful to him for his love and support during the year.

So it is onwards and upwards into 2009.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Leaving Malaga

The weather hasn't been great, but we have enjoyed our time in Malaga. On Sunday we had a drink with some clients who are on holiday here with Amro and we had an excellent meal at the Vino Mio in the evening. On Monday we met Reg and Gloria and again went for a meal at the Vino Mio. And today, Tuesday, we left to head back to the UK. ironcally, today was warm and sunny.

After a couple of hours at Luton Airport, I headed north to be with my Dad in Keith for New Year.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

El Chorro

After an hour of so in Ikea, we carried on via Cartama and Pizarro to El Chorro, my favourite part of Spain. We had an excellent meal at a restaurant at the end of the lake, walked up to one of the miradors from where there was an amazing view of all of the lakes and then drove home via Ardales.

It was cool and very windy, but very enjotable.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day on the Beach

It was much sunnier, warmer and calmer today. Perfect for a few hours by the beach. Not exactly sunbathing in speedos, but relaxing, reading and having a couple of beers at the beach bar beside the lighthouse.
In the evening, I cooked a chicken meal from a recipe entirely in Spanish. It didn´t quite look like the picture in the recipe book, but it tasted okay.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Navidad en Malaga

We are in Malaga for a few days over Christmas. Today we went to the Christmas Day service at St George´s Church in Malaga before going for a drive out of Malaga and up into the hills where we had a drink and a picnic lunch. In the evening I did a pork casserole which served as our Christmas meal. It was a good relaxing day.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

John Sergeant for BBC Sports Personality

Strictly bonkers.

So John Sergeant has gone. Not voted out by the viewing public, but made to feel that he had to leave because of the pressure he was under.

I for one will miss John's dancing. There is only one solution.

Let all those who voted for him in Strictly Come Dancing now vote for John Sergeant as BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

That would be so cool. Maybe I should start a campaign.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Yes We Can

I do not have the ability to put this as eloquently as I would like. But after years of increasing cynicism about politic and politicians, I woke this morning with hope in my heart. Perhaps at last we have the person soon to enter the White House who can bring the nations of the world together and who can also ensure that we protect the world for future generations; someone who will listen before taking action; someone who is intelligent; someone who is not beholden to vested interests.

Although Barak Obama was ahead in the polls, I dared not believe. But now he has won and is President Elect of the United States. He is the most impressive politician for many years. I think he will work well with Sarkozy, Merkel, Brown(orCameron), Medvedev etc. in order to take collective action to make the world a better and safer place. I think he can deal with Iran in a sensible way. I think he will use the UN in a beneficial way. I think - and I hope.

And since I do not have the eloquence to express fully what I am feeling, I will simply quote from the latter part of Barak Obama's victory speech. I think he can, and I think he will.

'This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.
She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.
And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.
At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.
When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.
She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.
A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.
America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?
This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:
Yes We Can.'

Thursday, 2 October 2008


Perhaps the fact that the flight was delayed by 3 hours was an omen. Anyway it was raining when we arrived in Malaga at 2.30 am and still raining 3 days later. meanwhile in London, they were having a glorious weekend.

Finally the weather improved but by then it was time to return home.

Nonetheless I enjoyed the weekend. We had some excellent meals. We went down to the Malagueta on a couple of occasions and I did swim in the sea both times.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

AGI Geocommunity´08 (part 2)

Some of the delegates who attended the conference have written blogs. Not all were entirely complimentary, though the criticism was about content and not organisation.

Since I am the finance guy and not a geographer, I cannot really comment on content or direction of the conference. Except perhaps to say that with nearly 600 delegates, the content will not reflect everyone´s views on every occasion. And some of the quality of presentation was in my view a bit disappointing. But if the sessions have stimulated debate, then surely that is a good thing.

Yes the final session was a bit flat, and we will have to look at that for next year. How to conclude a conference on a high note is a difficult issue for us - especially as many delegates are keen to catch trains or to get home before dark. Keeping a buzz right up to the last minute is not easy.

From a personal viewpoint, I thought the conference went well. I had to come out of my confort zone as an accountant. I had to run the Icebreaker evening, attend a number of sessions, deliver the finance report and generally keep a profile that is a bit higher than I am used to. I was pleased at how well I acheived that.

I thought the AGI team and volunteers were exceptional. All took their responsibilities very seriously.

We will of course have a debrief. Next year we will strive to make the conference bigger and better. But to bring 600 delegates to Stratford, manage all of their arrangements, produce a conference of a high standard, and have many of them intending to return next year, is a considerable achievement.

I am happy with that as a reflection on the past three days.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

AGI Geocommunity´08

The conference is over. I have returned from Stratford upon Avon after the 2008 AGI Conference. I am exhausted, but very pleased with the way it went. A lot of people did a lot of work to make sure it went well.

The AGI Conference is always a bit strange for me, especially since my training is not in geography. It is a mixture of hard work and alcohol and not much sleep. And most of the work is different to what I am used to back in the office.

The work started on Tuesday when the team had to stuff a huge number of inserts into 600 delegate bags. My back hurt. Then in the evening came the pre-conference Icebreaker event. It´s the first time we have had one of these, and, scarily, I found myself volunteering to run it. I decided to run a dinner, a quiz and a theatrical event - Buffet, Brains and Bard.

So I found myself on stage leading a ´Very Spatial Quiz´. It was not long into this that I realised that I´d made the questions too difficult, but there was nothing I could do now. So on I went. I got particularly nervous over question 20 where I had to sing the question. But anyway I got through it and it didn´t go too badly.

Then came the Earl of Oxfords Men who did two performances from Shakespeare, one from Henry V and one from Midsummer Night´s Dream. The standard of acting was mixed but overall it was fine and delegates enjoyed both pieces.

Finally I gave the quiz answers and announced the winners. The winning team got 40 points out of a possible 60 which I guess shows how tought the quiz was.

Over the next two days I was heartened by the number of delegates who came up to me to tell me how much they´d enjoyed the evening.

Next day, feeling a bit groggy from the glasses of wine I´d had the previous night, I was room monitor in the Blenheim Room. No real difficulty there - just handing the microphone round during question sessions. At the AGI AGM, I then had to deliver the Finance report. The news was good, and although I do get nervous when delivering prepared reports, it went okay.

That evening I dressed up in a very spiky wig for the party which had an eighties theme. It was fun. And crucially, I did not drink too much and went to bed shortly after midnight.

Next day I resumed my room monitoring duties and, despite dozing off on a couple of occasions, got though them without incident.

And suddenly the conference was over. Tomorrow I will reflect a bit more about the conference. For today, I am just tapping into the positive remarks from delegates. I take my share of a collective pride in a job well done.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Where does the time go?

I was not working on Friday. I was not going anywhere over the weekend. I had a list of things to do and time to do them.

Therefore on Thursday evening, I was anticipating three days in which I could tackle some or all of the items in the 'to do' list.

So there was no need to make a start on Thursday. I could have a relaxing glass of wine and watch some television.

The weather was quite good on Friday, so I went up practice my golf. Which left me tired in the afternoon. And in the evening visited A for some dinner and to do the Amro management accounts..

I teed off at 6.57 on Saturday morning. Then we had a couple of pints. I checked my email for a couple of hours. Then I was off again to have dinner with A.

On Sunday morning I watched Andrew Marr and washed some clothes. Then we went to Sadlers Wells to see Matthew Bourne's 'Dorian Gray'. Dinner followed in Kings Cross. Train home and read the Sunday papers.

At about 11pm on Sunday evening I looked at my 'to do' list for the first time. But it was time for bed.

Maybe next weekend....

Saturday, 6 September 2008

60 Years Ago

Yesterday we visited the house where my father stayed when he first arrived in Crathie in 1948. We visited the top dam where my Mum used to swim as a child. We saw the location of the house in which she was born.

And it was today, exactly 60 years ago, when my Dad and Mum first met, in September 1948 at the Braemar Gathering. 60 years ago today. This evening I was looking at old photos and I found a photo taken on that very day of the group at the Braemar Gathering with my Mum at one end and my Dad at the other end. Then I read my Mum's diary of that very day 60 years ago, about her day at the Braemar gathering. It was all very poignant.

And now here we are, 60 years later. Reviewing the past, but living the present and looking to the future.

Friday, 5 September 2008

The Paths of Glory

I am up in Scotland and today we again went over to Crathie, this time to visit the churchyard and to visit the gravestone of my grandparents which had been cleaned up and now had my mother's name added.

It was very strange and slightly unsettling to see my mother's name there. Somehow it didn't seem to fit. The finality of her death has not quite hit home yet. I wanted her to be beside me, as she had been on so many previous occasions. But today there was a space beside me but a name on the gravestone. It is too unsettling to share the photo of the gravestone here but this is a general photograph of the churchyard.

In another way it was deeply comforting to have my Mum acknowledged and in such a peaceful place in the area she was brought up and amongst so many family members who have died over the years. It of course seemed strange to know that some of the gravestones, of great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents would have been seen by my Mum when she was a child. And now she has joined them

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Randy Pausch

In my post on 29 March, I put in an extract from a talk given by Randy Pausch who at that stage knew he had only a few months to live. I hope this is still running on YouTube and therefore still available on my blog.

There were two things he said which were really so hopeful and so uplifting. Randy died a couple of weeks ago and this is therefore a good time to repeat them. They need no embellishment.

'Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted'

'Luck is where preparation meets opportunity'

Thank you Randy for those two great thoughts. And rest in peace.

Monday, 1 September 2008


Today is 1st September. I always feel that as soon as we hit September, something changes. The 1st September is the start of the end of summer and a sign that autumn is just round the corner. Except of course that this year we didn't have much of summer. Where were the hazy, crazy days? Nowhere to be seen. And now the mornings are getting darker, the evenings are getting darker. No more shorts and tee shirt. Bring out the jackets and woollens. Switch on the heating.

But I mustn't get too down about it. On Wednesday I head for Scotland and at the end of the month I head for a few days in Spain. So I am lucky really.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Una Semana en Malaga

We've just returned from another week in Malaga. As ever I still love the city. And this time we were there during feria week which was fascinating. Everyone is on holiday and everyone parties all week. In the morning it is the turn of the more-elderly, more-traditional residents to take part in traditional music and dancing, espcially flamenco. By the afternoon the youngsters have taken over, carrying bottles of wine, meeting their friends, doing impromptu dancing etc. Everyone seems to disappear about 5 pm, presumably for a siesta. Then at around 11pm the party starts again either in the feria ground or in the streets of Malaga. Few are sober by this time, but there is no trouble and those who can still remain upright continue their dancing.

Halfway though the week, we took the train to El Chorro where we stayed overnight. A wonderful retreat. We also paid a visit to the Poseidon Beach, the gay beach, in Torremolinos. And at other times, we took trips to the Malagueta beach and just generally enjoyed wandering round Malaga. Most days we had a menu del dia in one of the local restaurants partly because this is the cheapest way of eating well and partly because it was just a bit too hot in the middle of the day to stay on the beach.

Having an apartment in the centre of Malaga, although small, is wonderful. It is somewhere to retreat to, a quite space for reading or just chilling, and a place where we can keep clothes which allows us to fly out with hand luggage only.

Although A's work interfered a bit (not his fault), it was a good relaxing week. I am looking forward to our return there at the end of September.

Sunday, 3 August 2008


As we have done for the past 6 years, we had a stall at Brighton Pride. This weekend we stayed down on the Friday and Saturday nights. I was disappointed not to have been able to spend more free time in Brighton, though the weather was not great.

Pride day itself was rather damp early on and quite windy all day. But it was fun, if rather exhausting, and I think we interacted well with potential clients, so it was worth doing.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

More Cohen

There are more videos of Thursday's Leonard Cohen Concert now on You Tube. So here is a longer one of Hallelujah.

South Carolina not 'So Gay'

The media frenzy around our ads for South Carolina is intensifying and moving round the world.

In South Carolina, the State newspaper again have an article.

In the UK, the Guardian and the Independent have big articles.

It has reached Northern Ireland and Taiwan.

It is being reported in newspapers across the USA.

I understand that the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) have issued a statement as follows -
“We would like to congratulate Amro Holidays and Out Now Consulting on a phenomenal advertising campaign. The very creative campaign was thought provoking and created discussions worldwide about gay travel and the diversity of destinations that LGBT travelers visit. We are honored to have both of these outstanding companies as members of IGLTA!”

Hey - thanks guys.

And all of this from one small ad on one tube line in the London underground. Ian from Out Now Consulting who devised and led the advertising campaign has managed the media interest brilliantly and truthfully (not always the same thing).

So at last we are getting the name of Amro Worldwide known throughout the gay and lesbian community and beyond. All thanks to a naive and rather stupid Senator and Governor in South Carolina who felt unable to resist making bigoted and, frankly, untruthful comments.

And who knows? We may have made the people of South Carolina address issues which previously they had never addressed. And some of them might have started to realise that they actually don't mind attracting gay travellers. That in fact they have no real problems with sexual diversity. As Michael (Mouse) Tolliver said in Tales of the City - [there are] people who don't consider sexuality in measuring the worth of a human being.

If we have made some people in South Carolina accept their spirit of tolerance, then not only has Amro Worldwide benefited, but hopefully South Carolina as well.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Amro Worldwide

Where do I start with this one?

It's been a surreal week, and I've only been on the edge of it.

Let's start at the beginning. Andrew wanted a new type of advertising for the travel business and hit on doing panels on the London Underground around the time of Pride. To spread the cost he dealt with 5 American states who were happy to come on board. The 'So Gay' campaign was launched. At the last minute, South Carolina asked us if they could join the campaign and we agreed.

So for the past 2 weeks we have had a series of posters running up Leicester Square Underground advertising a number of American states as well as advertising Amro Worldwide. The tag line is 'so gay' as in 'Las Vegas is So Gay', 'South Carolina is So Gay' etc. The reasoning was that this reclaimed this phrase for the gay community and showed the attractions of each destination for gay and lesbian travellers.

The campaign was launched and went very well.

Then a blog in South Carolina objected to public money going to fund a campaign to attract gay travellers. The blog should have just been ignored but suddenly a Senator and then the Governor in Sough Carolina agreed and demanded that the ad be pulled and stated that they would not pay for the campaign. The person who approved the campaign was made to resign.

Suddenly the story grew and by today it has been featured in numerous US newspapers, blog sites, television news broadcasts etc and also now by media outlets in Britian.

This has given Amro Worldwide publicity and focus which we could never have afforded to buy. For us it has suddenly put Amro in the spotlight and hopefully shown the gay community that we are a serious travel company in their market.

As examples, it has been reported on by Time magazine in the States and the Guardian over here as well as on American television and on various blogsites.

It's all amazing. I can't believe the welter of publicity which at the moment shows no signs of abating. I am sure that the Senator and Governor regret what they have started. Amro, meanwhile, will continue to tell the truth and hopefully gather the positive exposure from the story.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Leonard Cohen in concert

I was privileged to see Leonard Cohen live in concert last might at the O2 arena in London.

The arena was a bit of a problem. It is too large for what should have been a more intimate concert. In particular during the whole concert, there were people going out, getting drinks, bringing them in. There were many people taking flash photographs when they were so far from the stage that all the flash would have done is illuminate some of the heads which would have been in the way. All of this, for me, spoiled the atmosphere.

But Leonard Cohen was brilliant and so were his band. His songs, his poetry is magnificent. I saw him in concert in Edinburgh in about 1978 and never thought I'd get the opportunity to do so again. To hear the master sing Suzanne, Bird on the Wire, Sisters of Mercy and, of course, Hallelujah was fantastic. Thank you Leonard.

Here is a short clip of Hallelujah at last night's concert.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Scattering the ashes

The final farewell.

Today we went over to Crathie, as I had done with my Mum on many previous occasions. This time, though, it was with the urn of her ashes to be scattered around the family plot in Crathie churchyard.

When we got there, the churchyard was deserted, which was just as I had hoped. Suddenly an old guy arrived - obviously the caretaker. And he hovered around the whole time, which was a pity. So the leaving of the ashes in the churchyard was not as private nor as unhurried as I'd have liked it to have been. But we did it, and finally my Mum is laid to rest.

Then we went to Braemar for lunch and on to the Linn of Dee, another place where we had been many times previously with my Mum. And finally to the top dam at Lochnagar Distillery where my Mum and played and swam as a child.

I think it was a fitting tribute to my mother and to the place of her childhood.

'Years have rolled on, Lochnagar, since I left you
Years must roll on ere I see you again
Though Nature of verdure and flowers bereft you
Yet still art thou dearer than Albion's plain
England! thy beauties are tame and domestic
To one who has roved on the mountains afar
Oh for the crags that are wild and majestic
The steep frowning glories o' wild Lochnagar'

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Wester Ross

This weekend both my sister and I are up to be with my Dad and, on Sunday, to go over to Crathie to scatter my Mum's ashes in the churchyard there.

But first today we went for a drive in the car. Quite a long drive actually. In fact we drove over to Inverness and then north westwards through Garve, Achnasheen, Kinlochwewe and finally to Gairloch on Scotland's north-west coast.

It was a glorious day - warm and sunny. There were people sunbathing and even swimming at Gairloch. It is a magical place on a day like this and I enjoyed just walking around, taking in the views of the mountains to the east and the sea and islands out to the west.

When I was a kid, we spend a number of holidays in this area in a caravan or a rented cottage, and since then I have visited on a number of occasions. Gairloch never fails to get to me in an emotional way.

This time of course there was an added bitter-sweet response. I had always been here with my Mum. She loved the place as well. So each time I took a photo, I remembered old photos both of the early visits when I was a kid and of later visits.

But it was right to come here and my Dad enjoyed the experience.

From Gairloch we drove via Poolewe round via Gruinard Bay - still in my opinion the most beautiful road in the world. There was a feeling of moving on, but also of remembering past visits with pleasure and almost of still being able to talk to my mum and remind her of past visits.

It was a great day.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Leonard Cohen at Glastonbury

I am really looking forward to seeing Leonard Cophen at the O2 on 17 July. He has been receiving rave reviews for the concerts he has done so far, including his set at Glastonbury. Here is part of that set.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


It has been a good week and reminded me why I love Spain, and Malaga in particular. We didn't rush around, but we spent time in the hills, time on the beach, had good meals and generally were able to relax.
This is a picture of the block in which our flat is. Still building work going on all around, but slowly the neighbourhood is improving and bieng upgraded.

Most of the morning of the final day was spent trying to pay our outstanding rates bill, but even that was an interesting experience. We grabbed a final couple of hours on the beach and that was that. Back to London.

Monday, 23 June 2008

La Noche De San Juan

This morning we were at the Malagueta where we spend a couple of hours in the sun and in the water. Then we met a couple of girls at El Poseidon in Torremolinos before heading to Reg and Gloria in Fuangirola.

Finally once we had returned to Malaga, we headed for the beach at midnight. This is the evening that the Spanish celebrate the longest night, the festival of La Noche De San Juan, by lighting bonfires all along the beaches and partying until dawn. We didn't stay quite that long, but it was an interesting experience.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Hills and beach

I really enjoyed today. We took the car into the hills up to Casabermejo, turned off to RoiGordo where we stopped for a coffee, and then took the spectacularly scenic drive via Vinuela to the coast.

Then we headed for La Herradura where we had a paella for lunch in the same restuaruant that my Mum, Dad and I had been to 18 months ago. It is strange that I feel the presence of my Mum very strongly over here, I guess beacuse I tend to visit the same places and can remember taking her to them during her two visits out here. The memory saddens me, but also I am pleased that I was able to show her these places which now mean so much to me.

Later in the afternoon we found ourselves at the naturist beach just along the coast from La Herradura, and had a pleasant couple of hours there.

Traffic was bad on the way home, but it didn't spoil the day.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Cirque de Soleil

Andrew had some work to do, so I went to the beach for a couple of hours in the morning, we had an excellent menu del dia in a small restaurant in Calle San Juan De Letran. Then we headed off to the tent at the feria ground to see Cirque De Soleil. I had never seen Cirque de Soleil before and I'm afraid I was disappointed. Yes there were some amazing moments, but it was a 30 minute show stretched to over 2 hours with a lot of padding.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Andrew's Birthday

Today was Andrew's birthday. We took the car to my favourite area around El Chorro and the lakes. I had given Andrew a flip video for his birthday, so he was able to learn how to use that and take some video footage of the lakes and gorge.

Later we had a very pleasant meal at the Vino Mio where of course we went for my birthday last year. The food was excellent and I enjoyed being able to be with Andrew on his birthday and in Spain. We ate too much, though, and didn't sleep very well as a result.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Malaga beach

Here we are back in Malaga for a week. It is some time since we have been here, and after all that has happened I am looking forward to a break. We didn't do a lot today. The morning was spent cleaning the flat and the patio, then we had a big lunch and managed a couple of hours on the beach. A gentle start.

Friday, 13 June 2008

My father

Since my Mum died, I have tried to comfort my father and help him with his deteriorating health, but of ocurse life is not easy for him right now.

Today we went into Aberdeen because he had another eye injection. These cannot be very pleasant, but at least my Dad's deteriorating eyesight has been arrested, maybe even reversed slightly. I hope that he can carry on with a reasonable quality of life and hope also that his understandable grief can lessen as the months go on.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Keith Seniors Open

I am back in Scotland to help my Dad and to take him to Forresterhill Hospital tomorrow. So I took the opportunity to play in the Keith Seniors Open golf tournament. I remember being a junior in Keith, which doesn't seem very long ago, and here I am qualified for the seniors. Scary.

In fact I played quite well and had a gross 86, net 69. Twice I landed in ditches which were not there last time I played at Keith. There were three prizes, and I finished fourth!

In the evening we went to the Delnashaugh for dinner. As always, I enjoyed the drive up there and so, I think, did my Dad.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Britain's Got Talent

Having watched most of the semi-finals, this evening I watched the final of Britain's Got Talent. And indeed it has. There were some wonderful acts. But I voted for George Sampson not only because I thought his performance was best, but because of what the prize would do for him and his mum, living as they do in some poverty in Warrington. And here is his performance.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Amro change of staff

This evening we went out for a meal to mark Charnelle's last day at Amro. She heads back to New Zealand with boyfriend Russell. It is a great pity. She has been an excellent employee and will be missed.

But we had a good meal and a good evening at Number 32 in Hitchin.

Monday, 26 May 2008

A Wet Bank Holiday

If only I had gone to Scotland - where the weather was warm and sunny. Here in London it was cold, windy and wet. Very wet. And so I rather let Sunday and Monday slip by without doing much of note. On Saturday I watched the farce that is called the Eurovision Song Contest. On Monday I watched 'Britain's Got Talent.' In between, I should have been more productive. I really don't have the energy these days to get on with things. Yet I have so many things to get on with - most notably getting my flat into a fit state to be put on the market.

But I am working every day this week, I am in Stratford next week and Scotland the week after. So I have rather let opportunity slip by for at least three weeks.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Yesterday's Birthday

The service was a bit aggressive, but the food was superb and the evening was generally enjoyable. Certainly I would return to Albannich again to eat the food. And I would hope that the staff would be slightly less touchy every time we made a request. And hopefully the music would be less loud.

It was good to See Steve and Tom again and, as always, to see Alan. I enjoyed the evening and am generally looking forward to the year ahead.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


Yes, another one - another year gone. There won't be any wild celebrations today - I'm too old for that. But I am looking forward to seeing a few friends this evening and having a meal at Albennach, a Scottish restaurant near Trafalgar Square.

But of course there was no card from my Mum - and won't be a phone call from her either. I still haven't quite come to terms with that.

Today, of course, is the first day or the rest of my life. Time to move on and look forward.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Mannings Heath

I was deeply disappointed with my golf, but I enjoyed the day anyway. Anne, at Georgia Tourism, was an excellent host, the guys who had flown over from Atlanta or Savannah were very friendly - and it didn't rain.

If only I hadn't kept missing short putts.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Gone With The Wind

This evening I was invited by Geogria Tourism to a performance of Gone With The Wind in London's West End. I was slightly apprehensive. The show lasts for over 3 hours and has had some dire reviews.

Actually it was not at all bad. Darius Danesh, in particular, was excellent as Rhett Butler. And the hospitality of Georgia Tourism was great, and much appreciated.

On Friday I take advantage once again of their hospitality at a golf day at Mannings Heath.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

32 points

Not bad, I guess. Today I played in a Stableford competition at the Shire and scored 32 points. I certainly played much better than I had done yesterday.

The first hole, a par 3 over water, was a strange one. My drive landed in the water. So there was a penalty shot. And then I pitched straight into the hole for a par 3.

I was also pleased with my approach to the 18th. After two shots, I was about 130 yards from the green and with a tree in front of me. I needed to pitch over the tree, over two lots of water and stop the ball on the green so that it did not roll into the third lot of water at the back. This I managed to do and escaped with a 5.

The weather was glorious, hot and sunny. All in all, a good day.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


Today's trip was to Foresterhill for my Dad to have his second injection in his eye as part of his treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration, which is the commonest cause of blindness in the UK. The best we can hope for is that the treatment stops the deterioration. It will not restore the sight to its previous level.

My Aunt, made the day easier by giving us lunch. The weather in her back garden was glorious.

And it is just a well I was up in Scotland. Otherwise my Dad would have been ex-pected to make the two-hour bus journey to the eye clinic and back. Hardly very fair for treatment for loss of sight.

Monday, 5 May 2008


At the end what had been a really good day, I was driving back to Keith with my Dad. I was keen not to add to his stress and had been worried about his driving, but that was okay because I was at the wheel. I was on a quiet road just past Tomintoul, so nothing could go wrong.

I was following a large campervan with Swiss numberplates. There was a tractor coming the other way, so the campervan stopped to let it pass. I stopped behind the campervan. When the tractor had passed I waited for the campervan to continue on its way. Suddenly it want into reverse. I had no time to react. There was a sickening crunch as it hit the front of our car.

The drive as apologetic - she could hardly be otherwise. She had seen a pheasant in the field and decided to reverse to get a photograph. She didn't see our car behind.

I have been driving for 38 years and this is the first time I have been involved in an accident. And of course my Dad is now stressed by this incident, made worse by the fact that my Sister is due to come up in a couple of weeks to drive the car back to her home in Totnes.

Three weeks ago my Mother died. And now, on its first outing since, her car is involved in a crash. To put it mildly, it is something we could have done without.


I am back up here in Scotland for a few days. This morning my father asked if we could go to Crathie on Deeside. I was slightly apprehensive because this is where my mother was born, there my Dad met her and where they got married. The memories were going to be overwhelming. On the other hand, I was keen to get my Dad out of the house. And the sun was shining. So off we went.

In fact it worked out very well. The drive across was wonderful - I just love that view from just past the Lecht as you look down to Corgarff and over the huge expanse of hills beyond.

Our first stopping point, inevitably, was Crathie churchyard. Here are buried my grandparents, great-grandparents, assorted great-uncles, great-aunts and other members of my mothers family. And it is here in July that we shall return to scatter my mother's ashes and hopefully arrange for recognition of her on a plaque in the churchyard.

We then visited my mothers cousin in the old post office. I am not sure if I have ever met him or his wife. But I am glad we saw them. They were very welcoming.

There was a quick visit to Crathie Church, venue for many services with the Royals and venue in June 1951 on the wedding of my Mum and Dad.

Lunch was taken in Ballater, and after the obligatory view of the golf course, we took the South Deeside road back to Crathie and to Lochnagar distillery where my Grandfather was manager and where my mother was born in 1928. I took a stroll up to the top dam - a place I had only ever been to with my Mother, so a place which had bitter-sweet memories.

Of course during the day it was impossible not to recollect all those previous visits with my Mum and Dad, but it was also cathartic to go over there and to remember those occasions with pleasure.


We went in to Elgin. We have applied to get my Dad into sheltered housing and now have been told that he doesn't have enough points to take him near the top of the waiting list. He is 91, poor eyesight, prostate cancer, is hard of hearing, has difficulty walking and has just lost his wife. But he doesn't have enough points. Who then, I have to ask, does?

We also had the car appraised for insurance purposes - new bonnet, new lights, new grille, new bumper. At least the garage will collect it and deliver it back once the work takes place. I just hope this will be before my Sister comes up to drive the car back south. Meanwhile it is another hassle my Dad could do without.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Golf Therapy

Every day is the first day of the rest of my life. Today in particular, though, was time to move on to once again enjoying what might be seen as mundane things. And so I played in my first competitive medal round since the Shire opened last year.

I didn't play particularly well, but I enjoyed the fresh air and exercise and the ability to concentrate 100% on playing golf and not let other emotions intrude. And undoubtedly I feel better because of this.

Of course reality hit later, because in the past I used to ring my Mum on a Sunday, tell her what I had done and discuss what she had done. That is not now possible. But I know she would want me to get on with life and this is what I will do. And perhaps my Mum's passing will help me to put life into perspective, to ignore trivial difficulties (like the ball I hit out of bounds at the 5th hole) and become more determined to get as much satisfaction and enjoyment as I can from this short and precarious life that we have.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Getting on with life

I am back in London. I went to work on Friday and played a few holes of golf today. Back into the normal routine. I know I must do that. But I do it with an empty feeling inside me.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Remembering Mum

My Dad, Sister and I went for a walk along the bank of the River Spey from its mouth to the old railway bridge a few hundred yards upstream. It was cathartic to get some fresh air. But all the time I remembered the walks we used to go on when my Mum was with us. When I took a photo of my Dad and Sister, I wanted to say to my Mum that she should be in the photo. But she wasn't there.

And I remember the final trip we went on back on October when I drove my Mum and Dad to Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness. This is the final photo I ever took of my Mother.

Goodbye Mum. You lived a full and active life and I must now live the rest of my life without you. And I need to look after my Dad who is greiving very much. May your soul rest in peace.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Remember - and smile

Today was my Mum's funeral. I was determined to say something, and although it was difficult to do this without breaking down, I was glad I did. It allowed my to feel part of the funeral service and not just a passive onlooker.

I finished my talk by quoting Christine Rosetti who wrote the following in a poem often quoted at funerals -
'Better by far you should forget and smile
than that you should remember and be sad.'

I said that my Mum would have put it differently. That she would have said to all of us -
Better by far that you should remember - and smile.

And I must try to remember with pride, love and affection without getting too angry or sad at my Mum's passing. Right now though I just feel an emptiness.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Funeral Arrangements

On Monday I got back from the Isle of Wight and then managed to get a flight up to the North of Scotland to be with my Dad.

He had already made most of the arrangements, but I was able to confirm these. And hopefully I was able to be of some comfort to him.

On Wednesday I went to the Chapel of Rest to see my Mum lying so peacefully and serenely in the coffin. It was important that I did that although it was very tough. She looked as if she was dozing and I expected her to open one eye and say 'Oh, it's you'. But of course she did not and can not.

I try to be strong, but it is not easy.

Sunday, 13 April 2008


As our weekend in the isle of Wight was coming to a close, I got a phone call from my father. My Mum, who had moved to a care home less than 2 weeks ago, had caught a chest infection and was not very well. He held the phone up and I could hear her wheezing and fighting for breath.

Two hours later he called to tell me that my Mum had died.

Although she had had a stroke back in November, I was not expecting this. It was a real shock. I can't quite take in the fact that I will never again speak to my Mum.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Isle of Wight

This weekend Andrew and I went to the Isle of Wight for the weekend with a crowd of his friends. We would be staying at a Warner Breaks Hotel at Bemberidge for an Abba weekend. I had been dubious beforehand. Even more so when I got there. I felt that I was the youngest person there. It was like a weekend in a care home.

But the location of the hotel was good and as the weekend progressed I relaxed into it. And I liked the isle of Wight. On Friday we went to the old Windmill, on Saturday we went to Osborne House and on Sunday we went to the Needles. Each evening there was entertainment, culminating in a show by Bjorn Again on the Saturday evening. And the food was excellent.

So in the end I was rather bemused by the fact that I was enjoying a weekend which I would not normally have said was my thing at all.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Accepting fate

I had a difficult weekend and felt really down at times. And I don't really know why. That didn't make the depression any less real. Then I saw this on You Tube. And I realised that I don't have any problems and just need to get on with life. Carpe Diem.

The Independent described this as follows -
These days, most people imagine that when they succumb to the inevitable and utter what must be their "last words", they will have time for little more than a brief, faltering sentence. If they are lucky, it will be shared with a few close family members before being swiftly consigned to the scrapheap of history.
Professor Randy Pausch is not most people, though. In September, the previously unknown computer science expert delivered a remarkable lecture to students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Thanks to the wonders of technology, the hour-long speech did not disappear into the ether, but went on to be heard by millions. It has since changed lives, touched American politics, and is about to spawn a publishing phenomenon.
At the centre of Pausch's remarkable tale is "The Last Lecture," an old academic conceit whereby teachers are asked to imagine they're near death and must therefore sum up the entire collection of wisdom they wish to pass on to their students in a single lecture. Pausch, a 47-year-old father of three, didn't have to imagine anything when he gave his own "last lecture" on 18 September. He had just been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
In a little over an hour, to a packed lecture-hall, Pausch delivered a deeply moving speech on the subject of "really achieving your childhood dreams." The optimistic philosophy he espoused, in a lecture punctuated by both laughter and tears, resulted in scenes resembling a real-life version of Dead Poets Society. To Americans who have recently, through the likes of Barack Obama, learnt to love public speaking, it has provided a timely reminder of how life ought to be lived.

And I love the line 'Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.' In other words - accept it, learn from it and move on. I'll hang on to that thought.

Here is the talk -

Root canal treatment

There was a comment on the news a couple of days ago which said that Gordon Brown going into Prime Ministers Questions was like someone heading to the dentist for root canal treatment.

So I guess I know that it was a known treatment. My Dad thinks I should just have the tooth out and save the money. And after the crumbling of my tooth, I didn't think that saving the tooth was an option anyway. But today was my appointment and the dentist said that there was still enough tooth there for him to do the root canal treatment. So I went along with that.

It was not pleasant. The main problem was the time it took. Which is why, I guess, it cost £545. The whole process took two and a quarter hours. And all the time I had to keep my mouth open - I had to ensure that I did not get saliva into the tooth. So he drilled the tooth, pulled the nerve out of each of the four root canals, drilled further, filled the canals with inert material and finally built up the tooth again. Two and a quarter hours.

But in reality it was more uncomfortable than painful. I tried not to cough, and ended up in a coughing fit. I needed to go for a pee, but had to hold on. I kept wanting to swallow, but couldn't. Finally, finally, the process was over. And I have a tooth back.

It still needs a crown and that will no doubt cost more, but for now I am satisfied. And hopefully I can start to eat properly again.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The tooth crumbles

Just as I was thankful that I am free of the pain of toothache and almost looking forward to getting the root canal treatment, a problem developed. I was having a sandwich with malted wheat grain bread. Big mistake. As I crunched into a wheat grain, a large part of my dodgy tooth came loose. So now I have almost no tooth left. I doubt therefore that root canal treatment is possible. Perhaps extraction will be the only option. And will other teeth follow suit. I am reluctant to bite into anything. Mince and tatties for the next week I think until I see the dentist on Tuesday.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Weekend in Scotland

I went up to Scotland to visit my Mum in hospital and be with my Dad as he comes to terms with living on his own. It's quite stressful, but I hope I help by being there. Certainly the scenario is much changed, and I can only hope that my Mum has a reasonable quality of life in the future and will make some improvement, although her paralysis is, I think, permanent. And I hope that my Dad can continue to remain active.

I suspect that we will have to sell the family home sometime during the year with my Mum moving into a care home and my Dad, at best, moving to sheltered accommodation.

At least the antibiotics hare working and my toothache is subsiding. And I managed to play 9 holes of golf at Spey Bay with my Dad on Sunday.

I guess we just have to accept the directions life takes us and do our best to deal with that and stay in control. No always easy, though.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The Pain Goes On

I sat in the office today trying to work but in continual agony. And now I am suffering a reaction from the antibiotics - a very itchy skin rash. I am taking the painkillers and have bought oil of cloves, but to no avail. The only thing that helps is neat whisky, swilled round my mouth. And I have to spit it out because whisky is not recommended with painkillers and antibiotics. I am worried about my trip to Scotland on Saturday - will be pain be unbearable during the flight in the low pressure?

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


I am in agony.


My fault I guess. A few months ago a bit of one of my teeth fell out. I hadn't been to the dentist for years. And since this was not hurting, I still did not go.

So over the past few months, apparently, an infestion set in that attacked the nerve. Suddenly waaah - the pain.

This time I did go to the dentist. Well, he said, you could have treatment under the NHS. It will cost £46 and I would extract the tooth. Or you can have root canal treatment, but that would have to be done privately. The cost? £545! Suddenly the paid was moving to my wallet.

And it can't be done for two weeks. I've been given antibiotics and painkillers, but I am not sure how I can survive for two weeks with this pain.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Malaga again

This weekend I tried to do the triangle. On Thursday I flew to Aberdeen and on to Keith to visit my Mum in hospital. On Saturday I took the weekly flight to Malaga. We had three days in Malaga, and then returned back to the UK to Luton.

It all worked very well, though of course three days was not really long enough. We also had the surreal experience of finding that someone had stolen out washing line from our patio. They had climbed down from level one to do this and had left my golf clubs untouched. Very strange.

On Sunday we spent some time at the bar beside the lighthouse, walked out to the end of the harbour and ended up going to the Rosaleda to see Malaga playing Ejido at football. My first visit to the Rosaleda, and although the result was 1-1 and the game was less than totally riveting, it was a fun thing to do.

On the Monday we went to Mijas to see an Irish guy who runs a guest house there. The journey was a long one thanks to a delayed bus which then broke down climbing the hill to Mijas. But the guest house was good with fantastic views and afterwards we had a late lunch in Fuengirola.

Unfortunately Tuesday was not as good a day weatherwise, but I still spend a relaxing morning beside the beach reading my book and in the afternoon, when the weather improved, I managed to lie on the sand for a couple of hours and go for a paddle in the sea.

And then on Wednesday we flew home. A long journey, because my toothache flared up as soon as the plane was airborne. But it had been a good break.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Sports recovery

Yesterday I played 4 sets of tennis - my first games for a few months.

This morning I had a sprained ankle, a sore knee and a sore elbow as well as some very stiff joints.

Old age is setting in!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

80th birthday

No not mine. My mother's. It went better than I had expected. She is in hospital in Keith after a severe stroke and I really didn't think she'd really cope with a birthday. But anyway we invited a dozen of her freinds to the hospital, provided wine and nibbles - and a birthday cake - and it all went very well. My mother recognised everyone and knew they were there for her birthday. She was even able to make a short thank-you speech at the end.

The hospital were very good at getting her dressed and into a chair. And at allowing us to use the hospital lounge. And her friends were very kind and understanding.

It doesn't alter the fact that my mother is unlikely to get much better and certainly will not be able to resume her previous lifestyle. The future is very uncertain. But for today at least, we could celebrate 80 years of her life.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Snow in Scotland

I've come up to Keith for my mother's 80th birthday tomorrow. Today it snowed and although it is really cold, it is gorgeous. This is a photo of my parent's back garden this morning.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The 'no-diet' diet

Each day in the Independent, there is a free supplement which claims that it is 'the easy way to make 2008 the best year of your life'. We'll see.

The premise is that in order to lose weight permanently, one needs to change one's ingrained habits in all areas. I am not sure that I am very adaptable, but I'll give it a go. There is a different task each day. Today's task is to write something. I suppose that is proof that I have done that.

Monday, 7 January 2008


My Mum is not really improving after her stroke. The doctor today was very downbeat, talking about the possibility of her catching an infection and being unable to cope with that. Yet in fact she when I visited her, she was awake and alert and able to chat away. But I know that she will not be able to return home and that, at best, major changes will have to be made in her life, in my Dad's life and to a degree in my life. We've had a good number of years without major illness, so something like this was inevitable I guess. But it is still hard to see her so helpless when only a few weeks ago we went on a day trip to Loch Ness and she was fine. it certainly makes me think about my priorities and the need to look after myself.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


I like playing golf. I am not obsessive about it. But it is an enjoyable relaxation. I started playing as a youngster in Inverness. I've never been a really good golfer, my handicap remains at 17, but I have my moments.

This weekend, I am up in Scotland to visit my mother in hospital and to assist my dad who is now 91. Suddenly this morning, despite the temperature being barely above freezing, he decided he needed a game of golf. So we had a very pleasant 9 holes at Spey Bay, where my score was a very erratic 4,5,4,3,3,9,5,4,4. A strange way to go round in a respectable 41.

Of more importance, though, was the fact that I can have this game with my elderly father, we can get some fresh air and exercise together, and for a couple of hours at least he can forget about the problems with my Mum's illness.

Thursday, 3 January 2008


A New Year. A new beginning? Or more of the same?

Well I am not going to produce a flurry of resolutions, all likely to be broken within days. I simply want to reflect on, and built upon, things I am doing well. And try to make some improvements in things I don't do so well. I want to improve the balance in my life and realise that there will be moment of stress and moments of happiness, but mostly there will be long moments of just getting on with life.

Yes I need to lost some weight and tone up my rather pudgy body. This will be done through eating more healthily, drinking less alcohol and getting more exercise. It's not rocket-science, it is just common sense. I just need to actually do it.

My Mum has had a stroke and the effect of that on her and on our family will be an important part of the year.

I still need to work, and I need to progress that. In particular, I will need to manage my time better and try to find specific time to relax without using that time to delay those things which I need to do.

I would like to move home this year, but first there is work to be done to my flat to make it saleable. That needs to be completed early in 2008.

But above all, 2008 must be about balance. Time for me, time for others. Time for work, time for play. Moderation, but not inertia.

And since I have just returned from Thailand, I will give myself a Buddhist thought to take with me into 2008 and keep me focused.

'As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life'.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

2007 Retrospective

Okay I am a bit late for retrospectives, but I have been away for 3 weeks. And anyway I am not planning a major detailed review of 2007 - I did that in the blog entry on 12 December.

Last year I said the following -
´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´.

Did I manage to do that? Well partly I did. I didn't drive myself forward as much as I should have. I didn't manage my time as well as I could have. But I did my best for myself and for others. In the first half of the year we were spending time with Andrew's Dad through his illness. In the last part of the year I was spending time with my Mum through her illness.

In 2007 I travelled quite a lot, I played golf and tennis, I tried to give love and support to Andrew. Of course sometimes I ate too much and sometimes I drank too much. Sometimes I was depressed without reason, sometimes I was having fun.

My concern about the passing of 2007 is not so much what I did or didn't do during that year, but on the fact that life is short and it has just got a year shorter. So it is now the future which is important, not the past.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008


The visit is over, and shortly we will depart for the airport.

My impressions? I guess the country took a few days to grow on me. Or maybe it is that I took a few days to relax into the country. It is a country and people without moral judgements - totally accepting in a calm and friendy way. The beaches are great, the mountains are impressive, the weather is brilliant and the people are so friendly.

It has been a long way to travel, and for that reason I do not expect to be making regular return visits, but certainly I would like to return and to spend more time in those areas where our time was limited.

I could easily spend a week in Koh Samui chilling out. I could spend a week in the north exploring. And I could happily spend some time playing golf here.

And if I say that I an looking forward to getting back to the UK, that is because of issues which need my attention there and not because of any disappointment with Thailand.

The visit was partly a research trip for Amro Holidays and inevitably that meant that hotels has to be visited, people has to be seen and we partly looked at everything in the context of whether it was suitable for Amro clients.

But we have been able to enjoy ourselves as well. My highlight was probably the Wat at Chiang Saen, beautifully peaceful in itself and with an amazing view over the Mekong River to Burma and Laos. And I will remember the friendliness of the people always ready with their 'Sawatdee Kha' or 'Sawatdee Kraap'.

I am really glad we have come here.


Like all big cities, Bangkok is noisy, dusty and difficult to get around. But it is also fascinating and not without its oases of peace.

Inevitably we have done some of the organised excursions which one is rather forced to do for the sake of expediency. This meant that the grandeur of the Royal Palace was muted by the huge number of visitors there and by the fact that at each stop we had a ten minute photo opportunity before we were herded on. No time to stand and stare.

And the trip to the River Kwai suffered in the same way, although nothing could dim the moving experience of visiting the graves of the thousands who gave their lives during the notorious building of the railway during World War 2.

Of course we sampled the nightlife in the Patpong area - an extraordinary mishmash of restaurants, sex clubs and massage parlours. The climax of the Dreamboys show was, well, interesting.

Last night we welcomed in the New Year. We had a meal at Richards, made more interesting by meeting a couple from Finland and Mark, a lovely Australian guy, with whom we had a few further drinks before we moved down to one the bridges to watch the fireworks as 2008 started.

And today we had a trip on the river which showed the city at its best.

I guess anyone who visits Thailand should spend at least a couple of days in Bangkok and I am glad that we have done so.