Sunday, August 12, 2007

It doesn't make sense

I was over in Italy the other day and I saw this guy wandering around the streets in bright orange pants and a bright orange shirt. I gave him a quick glance, thinking that he looked quite stylish and continued on my way...

... a little while later I was thinking about this sighting and it occurred to me that if I had seen that exact same guy wandering around the streets of London, or particularly wandering around the streets anywhere in Australia, instead of thinking that he looked quite stylish I probably would have thought that he was some sort of nutter!

Why is that so? Why is it that you can get away with wearing particular clothing in some countries that you would never even contemplate somewhere else? I mean, it's not as if Australia and Italy are totally different cultures. In fact they're very similar.

I guess that it has something to do with the surroundings. When everyone else around you is dressed in similarly bright colours, when the sun is constantly shining and the countryside is scattered with a rainbow of different hues, you feel quite at home dressed head to toe in bright orange.

There should be warnings!

Good day faithful readers. As of today I’ve become strongly of the opinion that all mediums via which people learn French (eg. text books) should come complete with a warning… USE WITH EXTREME CARE! Now before you start wondering where I’m heading with this, I’ll tell you right now that it’s not because it causes it all women that you speak to go all weak at the knees. Rather, because it’s likely to get you slapped!

I wrote an email to one of my French friends the other day, in French, saying that I would take her a particular restaurant. To convey this message I used the verb “prendre”, which means “to take”. In response to this message she explained that this wasn’t the usual way to ask someone to a restaurant, but didn’t elaborate further.

Being the inquisitive sort of person that I am I asked what the correct way to ask was, and why the form that I had used was incorrect.

Apparently, in case you ever want to know, the correct way to tell someone that you will take them to a restaurant is “je passe te prendre au restaurant”. If, like me, you say “je te prend au restaurant” it’s probably not going to end well, because what you’re suggesting is that you would like to have sex with the person at the restaurant. Even if she likes the idea, I doubt your local restaurateur is going to appreciate your antics!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Brought back to earth

Good day faithful readers. Have you ever thought that you were particularly good at something, or at least would be good at something if you tried, but then had that theory put to the test and found that you had vastly overestimated your abilities. For example, you thought that you were fit, but then you brushed the crumbs off you stomach, got out of you lazy boy and before you had even taken a step found yourself gasping for breath.

This has never happened to me. Generally speaking I think that I'm going to be reasonably good at something, and then when I have a go am amazed to find out that I'm actually even better than I expected! That was up until the other day, when I tried orienteering...
I've always thought that I've possessed an almost supernatural sense of direction. Given a simple map or vague directions able to make my way to almost anywhere (kinda like Superman being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound). So, combined with my general fitness I thought that orienteering would be a great sport for me. One in which I would excel.
With this in mind I entered myself in a 10km orienteering event around Richmond Park and its surround, picked up my map, planned out my route and lined up at the start. Being a mass start with the first marker 500m away, virtually straight ahead, the race started off as a mad dash. I checked my timer at the first marker and set off after everyone else, assuming that they were taking the same route that I was planning... this was my first mistake! In the excitement I'd headed off on a western route rather than taking the northern route I was planning. After a little while I realised that I wasn't where I thought that I was, but continuing to trust everyone else I continued following, hoping that I would soon determine my location... this was my second mistake!

After following various different people (my third mistake... only ever follow a single person), I suddenly realised that I'd gone way past the second marker and was on my way to the third. Not wanting to look like I was completely lost I decided to continue forward and skip the second marker.

I found the third marker and decided to stop, take a breath, get my bearings and make sure that I found the fourth. Apparently I didn't stop long enough. I headed off and soon came across a road, which I was expecting, unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, it wasn't the road that I thought that it was. Fast forward 15 mins and I find myself wandering around the streets with absolutely no idea where I am!

Thankfully I soon came across another runner who was able to point out on the map where we were... I'd gone way past the fourth marker and was just about at the fifth, which was just on the other side of some bush land. I decided at that point that I may as well continue with only hitting the odd numbered markers and headed off toward the fifth. By the time I popped out of the bush land I'd deviated slightly, which meant I would need to run back a little way to get to the marker. I would then need to run back through the bush land to where I'd been in order to get to the sixth marker... or I could just go straight to the seventh marker, which was just around the corner from where I was standing. I'm ashamed to say I took the easy way out. I did however manage to find the seventh, eighth and ninth markers though, before heading to the finish, so that was something.

Anyway, despite the fact that I spent a large portion of my time being lost, despite the fact that it was raining and I was soaked through and despite the fact that my legs were itchy and red from having run through all manner of bushes, nettles etc, I had an excellent time and will definitely have to have another go... if for no other reason than I refuse to suck so badly at something that I should be good at!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tour of Wessex

Good day faithful readers. Last weekend I ventured over to Somerset for the long weekend to ride in the Tour of Wessex (3 day, 325mile bike ride). It was to be memorable for numerous reasons.

Firstly, and this is quite sad to say, it was the first time that I had been out of London (within the UK) over the year and a half that I've been in the country, for any reason other than work. Up until last weekend, every time that I had left London I had had at least one of my work colleagues to keep me company!

Secondly, it was the first time that I had driven a car on UK roads, and unfortunately I got to do a lot more driving than I had hoped to do...

I picked up my car Friday afternoon and drove over to the metropolis of Yeovil, in Somerset. It was a trip which should take about 2hours, but one which took me about 3 thanks to the fact that I convinced myself that I was supposed to be getting on the M4 instead of the M3, meaning that I had to cut across the countryside once I had realised my mistake. The mass of people leaving London for their long weekend didn't exactly help matters either I have to say. As a result I arrived shortly after 10pm, and after getting some dinner finally got to bed at 12, only to have my alarm go off 5hours later.

Saturday morning was glorious. Sun shining brightly, clear blue skies, no wind, little bit of chill in the air, perfect conditions for the first 100miles. Given that the longest ride that I'd done prior to this was 55miles I decided to take it easy to start with in order to conserve energy. My plans were thrown into disarray somewhat however when we got to the first major climb after only 20km. After the first 200m I found myself struggling along in bottom gear. "I hope this isn't planning on getting any steeper" I thought to myself, just before rounding a corner and seeing the road seemingly head straight upwards! Standing on the pedals I managed to get to the top, which is more than I can say for a lot of people who were already having to resort to walking.
Thankfully this was probably the steepest hill of the day, but it certainly wasn't the last. In fact I would suggest that there was only a very small percentage of the entire route that was actually flat. Despite my lack of training I seemed to cope with this much better than most, constantly passing people every time the road started heading skyward. My shoulders and neck started to get a little sore at about the 110km mark, but I powered to the finish, averaging 28.5km/h, feeling really good.

The next morning I jumped out of bed ready for another day of riding through the beautiful Somerset countryside. Then I looked through the window and saw that the heavens had opened and it was pouring with rain. Nevertheless, I packed all my stuff in the car and headed to the start line, ever hopefully that the clouds would part and the sun would shine through. It was not to be. Knowing that I had 200km to ride the following day, and not particularly wanting to go hurtling down twisting roads in the wet, I decided that I would pull out that day and go and visit Bath instead.

Monday morning I arose and tentatively looked out the window again. It wasn't raining, but it wasn't looking good either. On the way to the start it began to rain, and with the car's temperature gauge reading 5C it was looking less and less hopeful. Sitting there, eating cold porridge, on the verge of developing hypothermia, I decided to throw in the towel. Disappointed, I jumped in the car, turned up the heating and headed back to London.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

We have fire

Good day faithful readers. The temperature here in London has finally started to heat up. To such an extent indeed that last weekend my flatmate suggested that we have a bbq. “Great idea” I said, “I didn’t know we even had one”. With that she pointed over what I had always assumed to be some sort of strange wood oven shaped plant pot! Certainly not the sort that I’m used to operating, but given that everything that I’ve ever tried to cook on the gas variety has turned into a disaster I was willing to give it a go.

Just around the corner from my new place is a really good South African butcher shop, so I thought that drop in and pick up some steaks and sausages. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite prepared for the size of the steaks that they were going to give me. It seems that when I said two pieces of steak that was interpreted as the left side of the cow and the right! So now I had the world’s biggest steak to cook on the world’s smallest bbq.

Although I like steak, particularly when cooked on a bbq, I don't recall having ever actually cooked a good one. They're always overcooked, undercooked, tough. Basically everything that can go wrong would go wrong every time that I attempted to cook steak. Using my mini-q however my monster steak actually turned out extremely nice! Perhaps it was because I couldn't fit anything else on there and my concentration was focused on what I needed to do? Whatever the case, I ate well that night by the glowing coals. Bring on summer and more bbq's I say!

The missing link

Good day faithful readers. You can alert the presses, shout it to the world, the search for the missing link is over… and guess what? It’s me!

I went in to order a new bike the other day, which if you’re buying from somewhere other than Target means that they need to measure you up in all sorts of personal areas so that they can provide you with the right bike for you. Now, if you’d asked me beforehand to name two of my measurements which I thought would be unusual for my height, I would have said, broad shoulders, long torso. But apparently not! Apparently I’ve been fooling myself this entire time! According to the statistical data used by bicycle manufacturers, the average person of my height has a shoulder width of 426mm and torso length of 588mm, while I am 424mm and 577mm respectively. Strangely enough my leg length is also shorter than average, which can only mean that I’m not just metaphorically big headed!

Anyway, with these measurements it was all a matter of millimetres. Depending on where the guy happened to think my shoulder blade was on the day could have easily varied the results. When it came to arm lengths though it was a whole other matter. According to the results my arms are 3cm longer than average! Guess I won’t be able to use the short arms, deep pockets excuse at the next charity evening. With my short torso and legs and my extendable arms, my bloody knuckles will be dragging on the ground!

Connected at last

Good day faithful readers! It’s finally happened, I’ve finally got internet connected at my new place!

The saga began back in early March! I thought that it would be just a matter of checking out prices, calling the chosen one up and having them send me all the appropriate gear… but noooooo!

Because we didn’t have a land line in place it meant that I had to have BT install one, and in the process become a BT customer, despite the fact that we didn’t want BT as our supplier. Once this was done it was a matter of calling TalkTalk (the supplier that we wanted) and having them place a request to BT that we be swapped over… apparently it takes nearly 4 weeks to do this!

Anyway, the day finally arrived when we were supposed to be hooked up, so I got all the installation CD’s out, but to no avail, internet wasn’t working. After plugging a phone into the line into the socket I discovered that the reason for this was that there was no dial-tone! I call up TalkTalk and they say “we’ll have someone around there to look at it at 5pm on Monday”. Monday comes and I get a call at work at 11am from the technician announcing that he is outside my front door and asking if I’m around! Eleven o’clock on a Monday morning? Of course I’m around!

Anyway, I can’t complain too much, because whatever was wrong he fixed and when I came home I had a dial-tone.

So, now I have a great new house, really nice new flat mate and I’m finally bloody well connected to the internet again!!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Just call me Casanova

Good day faithful readers. The other day it was my birthday, an amongst my team at work it has become a tradition to write a poem for friends on significant occasions. I thought that I would share the one that was written for me...

Would you Adam and Eve it
Even we didn't believe it
He was born on April Fools Day
Another year gone and it's Sam's birthday

He always dresses real snappy
With a grin that shows he's happy
Coning to work in a funky shirt
On the prowl for any decent skirt

He's a ladies man through and through
Trying desperately to get that elusive screw
Blondes are definitely his preference
They think he's clever and look at him with reverence

Out of the office and on a trip
It's par for that course that he will slip
With coffee stains all over his suit
We always end up doing shopping en route

He thinks that he's a lean fighting machine
But then he saw Lynda looking real mean
He panicked and dived for the floor
Scanning the joint for the nearest door

He acts like a bit of an athlete
But he definitely dances with two left feet
He's doing a marathon in a few weeks time
We're going to cheer him on with a tequila and lime!

As a frequent reader you will realise that the coffee remark refers to the little incident that I had back in August last year (see my Good Samaritan post). In regards to who Lynda is... well she's the partner of one of my colleagues who once appeared on the Gladiators TV show, and despite being 50 now, could undoubtedly whip my butt good and proper! Anyway, I hope that you enjoy the poem... I always thought that I would make a good muse!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Where in the world is...

Good day faithful readers. I'm sure that after such a long absense on my part you are probably starting to question your faith. You have good reason for this. After all, I've gone several months with providing with you with any reading material, without so much as a word of where I've gone to. Well in actual fact I haven't really gone anywhere... I've just moved apartments. Unfortunately my new apartment didn't even have a phone line let alone internet connection. I am in the process of having myself hooked back up again though, so rest assured, come 16 Apr (that is when they tell me my connection will be up and running) I'll be back on board.

Until then dear readers...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Coffee in London and Melbourne, compare and contrast...

Good day faithful readers. Coffee in Melbourne is great, while coffee in London is crap! In Melbourne there are cafes all over the city, and in pretty much every one of them you'll be able to buy yourself a coffee that will make you just want to sit down, close your eyes and savour the taste. In London there are pubs... pubs don't sell good coffee.

London has many, many qualities, but supplying its inhabitants with good coffee isn't one of them.

I read in the paper the other day that Starbucks plan on opening another branch in London every two weeks for the next 10 years! Given that I am already aware of a two places in London where there are two Starbucks separated by less than 50m, that's a lot of stores! In Melbourne, just like when I'm in continental Europe, I wouldn't even contemplate going to somewhere like Starbucks for a coffee. I look at them with disgust as I walk past. In London I see a Starbucks and think "oh, I should go in and get a coffee". It's not that the coffee is in Starbucks is any different here to anywhere else, it's just that in comparison to most other places in the city the quality of the coffee is quite good.

When the Starbucks first opened I'm sure that they must have based their entire business case around places like London. "We'll target places that sell revolting coffee and flood the market!"

I was recently advised of a cafe in Soho called Flat-White, which was opened by two New Zealanders who share my opinion of London coffee. Now, I've never really regarded New Zealand as one of the great coffee nations, but I thought that I'd give it a go. I have to say... it wasn't bad. Certainly better than any coffee I can remember having recently. That being said, it still fell short of my favourite coffee places in Melbourne on the banks of the Yarra where I used to go regularly for breakfast.

That's another thing that I miss about Australia. Whereas pretty much everyone in Australia goes out for a late breakfast on a Sunday morning, when I've tried to do this in London I really struggle to find anywhere that even sells breakfast, let alone something appetising like sticky black rice with coconut milk and fruit with a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice!

he's so sweet, he wouldn't hurt a fly

Good day faithful readers. I don't why it is, but no matter how hard I try to stay clean I seem to be constantly getting stuff on my clothes.

The other day I was coming home from somewhere and I was dying of thirst, so I thought that I would stop in and buy something to drink from the supermarket. I ended up getting a 1L carton of Innocent black current and blueberry fruit smoothie, which someone had recommended to me on a previous occasion.

While I was waiting at the bus stop I pulled it out of the bag and unscrewed the lid. Underneath was one of those pull tabs that they use to 'keep in the freshness' and ensure that no-one has tampered with the product. You can see what's coming can't you? Trying to pull the tab while continuing to hold on to the various bags that I had, when it eventually did come out I ended up spraying juice all up my arm!

In disgust I threw the tab back in the shopping bag, had a quick drink and threw the carton back in the bag too.

The next morning I decided to run into work. Generally when I do this I pack all my stuff (eg. work shirt, wallet, phone) into a plastic bag before putting it into my backpack so that it doesn't get cover in sweat and/or rain. Lacking anything else I had to use the shopping bag that I had used the day before. So I removed everything that I hadn't put away yet and placed my shirt etc in there.

When I arrived at work I had a shower and got all my things out to get changed. Pulling my shirt out I noticed a little red dot on the collar. "Hmm, what's that?" I thought, "I only washed this shirt yesterday". It was then that I took a closer look and noticed that not only was there red on the collar, there was red all down the front too. It suddenly occurred to me that when I had taken the shopping out of the bag before I left home I had neglected to take out the pull tab, which covered with smoothie, had been merrily dancing around with my white shirt inside my backpack for the last hour.

Bloody Innocent smoothies! I don't think that they're so damn innocent after all!