Category Archives: travel

Junk mail

recycle your old menus

We live in a block of flats, we being my wife and child and I, and have a constant problem. We are targeted because of where we live, singled out due to our locality, victimised due to our choice of dwelling. “What is it?” I hear you cry, voices full of concern. We are the victims of junk mail. It’s so bad that our estate manager, fed up with collecting mail from the floor and lifts, has put a bin under the bank of post boxes by our door so people can put it from letter box to rubbish in seconds. The worst offenders are as follows

1) Takeaway menus. These seem to multiply at a rate of knots! We have to sift through menus for Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, American, Indian and Greek foods. I caught a guy the other day putting leaflets, plural, in each letter box. I realised that this guy must be employed by a few if the restaurants to place a certain amount of leaflets through a certain amount of doors. Flats + various menus = easy pickings. We should put a sign on our box…

We are creatures of habit. We will order from the same pizza, Thai and Indian eateries every time. It’s not that we are unadventurous, we just don’t order often enough to risk it being crap. Sometimes we walk to the fish and chip shop (although that’s not really relevant to this sign). Please save a tree and move on.

lots of pizza menus and boxes

 

2) Cab cards. These are like business cards for cab companies. They are small, thin, shiny and a bugger to pick up if you have sausage fingers and bite your nails. I fall into both of these categories and will often be seen, and laughed at, by my neighbours with my hand stuck in the letter box. Some choice phrases will often accompany this activity.

3) Dear homeowner. These are relatively new ones on us. It’s a letter that tells us that they have someone lined up to buy our flat. The bit I don’t get is why they wouldn’t ask us first and then go out looking for prospective buyers. It would be like me painting a picture portrait of you and then asking if you if you would like to buy it. Of course I know they are lying to me but I do find myself tempted to phone them and ask them for a) the name of the agent (estate not secret) who has been staking out my home b)ask them who he has been showing it to and c) why I haven’t seen him while doing my counter intelligence surveillance? I could even try to bill them for my James Bond spy kit.

 

007 spy kit for kids james bond

This is on top of all the regular rubbish that comes through our door. My bank seems to be desperate for me to take a loan, companies I used once in 2007 think I might still want to be a customer, credit card companies pre approve me for 10,000 on a regular basis and British gas still ask if I want to go to their AGM even though my shares are worth about as much as a happy meal.

Yep, all in all I think I throw away more than I read. I suppose that maybe, just maybe, I might need a mini cab or my favourite restaurant might shut down or I might decide to sell up. I would hope though that, being the awkward bugger I am, I wouldn’t use any company that has put a leaflet through my door out of pure two finger salutedness. A big up yours, if you will, to those who would like to influence my decision making process.

Next week I shall attempt to tackle virtual junk mail without swearing. Until then enjoy your weekend.

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Armchair tourist

Hi, my name is Andrew and I’ve been a TV addict for 33 years.
teacher, mother, secret lover
Television is, for me, the single greatest invention of the last hundred years. I know we have cured diseases, travelled the world, travelled the stars, built communication networks and seen the birth of the computer. I’m not saying that all of these are not important, it’s just that they’re not TV. Television allows me to do all of these things vicariously, and for that I love it.
I love the fact that I can trek through the stars, I can enter a courtroom, I can see into the past and can even get to know the people I admire better. What TV does best though is allow me the opportunity to travel the world. I don’t mean documentaries or travel shows, I’m talking about something much more fun. American crime drama. Here’s my top 5 wish list of crime capitals as portrayed on TV.
las vegas strip csi
1) CSI Vegas. I used to watch all the CSI series, now I don’t watch any. Actually that’s not true, I have recently started to watch the first few series on re-runs, only the Vegas one though. So enamoured were myself and the wife with it that we decided to go. The casinos on the strip, the desert, the odd people who live there and the allure of the tables. I had visions of strolling from casino to casino, losing a fortune and looking like a rockstar in the process. The reality was so much better and so much worse in equal measure. The downside was the fact that it takes 20 minutes to find your way out of a casino let alone get to the next one (at least another 30 minutes). Playing at the tables was really intimidating, like being a kid at the adults table, it was serious stuff. The upsides were as follows 1) You got free drinks, even if you were only playing on the slots. 2) Our room (booked by my lovely wife) was bigger than our flat and had a TV in the bathroom. 3) The shows were amazing. We saw Elvis, MJ, Madonna and old blue eyes in the same show. 4) The all you could eat breakfast spread spanned the length of a couple of buses. 5) It was so weird it was like being on a different planet. If you’ve been you know, if not you should. Blimey, that was lengthy. Maybe I should make it a top 3.
Jed Bartlett for president
2) The West Wing. What a show. Smart, funny, satirical and smart. It showed you what life would be like as the leader of a superpower and what goes into it. It’s one of those shows that disproves the myth (perpetrated by Brits) that the people of the USA are stupid fatties. I would love to visit the white house, do the tour and make the famous pose in the oval office. The last part is less likely but never say never.
get your white t's here
3) The Wire. Possibly the best show ever. This show though made me realise I didn’t want to go to Baltimore. I’m quite happy watching it through the screen. The grit, the despondency and the ease of which drug and gang culture can swallow you whole. I am sure that it has some very nice parts and would make a great holiday destination. The reality though, I would imagine, is that it has done more in deterring tourism than promoting it.
The nearly made it list…
Sex and the City. Not my cup of tea really but instrumental in our (mainly the wife’s) honeymoon choice. A winter wedding with a weeks honeymoon equalled New York. And yes, we did the tour. It showed off New York beautifully and led to us seeing parts that we might never have thought of.
sex and the city bus
NCIS:LA. I would love to visit LA. The beaches, the bars and the beauty. The strange thing is that I never watched the original NCIS series but the new one really appealed to me. I think the perfect holiday would be being shown around LA by LL CoolJ. All the best sites and you’d never get mugged.
mama said knock you out
A bit of a bucket list? You bet. I have a dream of retirement (many years in the future) where the wife and I can tour every state in America. Maybe staying in swanky hotels, maybe in an RV or maybe just sitting at home all day watching old re-runs of our favourite shows with a nice cup of tea.
Enjoy your weekend.
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London 2012 and all that

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I would have loved to have done a blog all about the Olympic village, the amazing atmosphere and the buzz of the events, but I can’t. I didn’t go. I did a few very silly things in the long and arduous run up to the Olympics and so guaranteed myself zero tickets. A fact that I now regret and thought that I was over, until this morning. Here we go…

1) I didn’t go in for the draw. Way back when, the Olympics seemed to be a real pain in the bum for those of us who live in East London. Our tax would have to fund (and continue to fund long after the flame had moved on) the new stadia of various shapes and sizes. These stadia were also under scrutiny around who would get them after. The ticketing system seemed unfair and the general feeling amongst us was that they would never sell all the tickets and they would eventually go for cheap. That was mistake number 1. The ticketing was a nightmare, and I really didn’t want to end up with synchronised swimming tickets. What I hadn’t taken into account was the fact that it got me onto the village or that the village tickets would disappear the day they came out. As I said, mistake number 1.

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2) I booked a holiday in the first week of the Olympics. So the tickets did go back on sale thanks to the media coverage of empty seats. The problem with this was that I was in a caravan in Great Yarmouth (check out last week’s blog if you’re interested; don’t bother if you’re not). The tickets were still on sale when I got back but they were now in huge demand as the quarter finals and up had already started by this point so they were a) in demand and b) bloody expensive. I did try to get tickets, but all for nothing.

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3) Every other person seemed to go. Facebook and texts have been mocking me. Not in a horrible way but due to the fact that many of my friends status updates and messages have been about how great the park is and all the different coloured Olympic flags they have had the time to wander round and take. Even my Dad got a free ticket from his company, a company he retired from months ago! Just when I thought it was safe someone else would pop up with a, “lovin the park, it’s the most amazing thing in the world ever!!!!”

This though was to be topped by something far worse…

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4) I don’t have a Visa Barclay card. Just when I thought that was it, when no more needles could be inserted into my now paper thin skin, one of my old university friends posted that he had won tickets to the games. It looks to be VIP and all that (I haven’t been able to ask as he is in the middle of it) and he has amazing seats for all the events he gets to see. The problem is that he is a nice guy so I can’t begrudge him his good fortune. This is him below by the way, smug so and so.

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So that’s it. Gutted. I tried to get tickets most nights and early mornings this week but the website is a joke. Why did I think I was over it until this morning? As I came into the living room this morning my wife greeted me with an email from the borough (one of those blanket sign up for thingies) saying that they were giving away free park passes to residents. They had a thousand to give out and would do so at 9am. I chucked on some clothes, jumped in the car, parked very illegally and ran to get in the queue. 6 tickets per household, who would I ask? The queue went from the council building all the way round the block. I counted at least 800 folks queuing and I don’t reckon on any of them asking for less than the full quota of 6. As I walked past the front of the queue back to my car some horrid chav of a women (surrounded by all her chavy mates) shouted, “Look another casualty of the queue, hospitals up the road darling.” I did the only thing I could, the thing that I have been doing on face book and texts the last two weeks… I walked away without a word.

NB. It has come to my attention that I might be able to get Paralympic tickets. The nice bloke who won the tickets told me. What a nice bloke.

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Carry on camping

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So I’m staying in a caravan this week. A caravan on a caravan park. This is one reason why I’d never make a good travel writer, my lack of travel.

It’s our annual week away with the family (usually spent in centre parcs) and we have decided to come to Great Yarmouth.

I must admit to being a bit trepidatious about doing the caravan thing. It was partly to do with a change of scenery and partly to save money for the imminent arrival of child number 2. We also liked the idea of doing whatever we wanted and being allowed off site, as Center Parcs is harder to leave than a maximum security prison and harder to get into than the Olympic village. When there last year we asked some friends if they wanted to come and visit. Center Parcs wanted 50 quid for the pleasure. I’m not saying its not worth the money, but I am saying we wanted the same as Mel Gibson in Braveheart… Freedom!

So me, my son, my wife, her sister, her sisters husband and her sister and her husbands 2 kids are all sharing the same caravan. It’s one of those massive static ones, but space is still at a premium. So far, so good. Why so good? Here comes the list…

1) We are all together. Every year our family come over from Saudi Arabia. They live there in the ex-pat community and get the summer off to visit with their various families. Before the birth of our boy they used to stay with us, since then we don’t really have the space. It’s nice to all be together for a prolonged period of time, sitting around, doing as little or as much as we want. Its trying to make up for a year of not seeing each other by having a concentrated dose. Potent but effective (in the nicest possible way).

2) We have the big room. The upside to this is all the storage, the down side is we have to share it with the boy. The small rooms hardly have enough space to walk between the beds, let alone put a ready bed (a blow up mini bed with the duvet attached) between them. No one has complained yet, I think they are worries that we might give them the big room, 2 year old child included!

3) My nieces look after my son. This one speaks for itself. They chase after, get ordered around by, play with and generally entertain him. It’s a 2 way street though as they get some great video footage of his antics to show their friends back home. He loves it, they love it, me and my wife LOVE it!

4) The facilities. They have a bar and a pizza place. And some stuff for the kids I ‘spose. Soft play and a pool if it rains, a park and the beach if not. They are all in good working order and have all been enjoyed by the younger among us. To be honest, I absolutely love the ball pool and will jump in it whenever it is quiet and empty enough to stop me squashing a small child. My son thinks this is hilarious (my nieces have footage of this as well).

So there you have it. Would I caravan again? Probably not. Not that it’s not fun but we’ve had our break from the maximum security wonderment that is Center Parcs and am eager to go back. It’s like ordering Chinese food, you may try something new every now and again but you always go back to your favourite. Haven holiday park and campsite has been a nice bit of lemon chicken, but next time I’ll order the sweet and sour.

Have a wonderful rest of your weekend and feel free to share this post.

All pictures were taken on site at Haven, Caister-on-Sea and Great Yarmouth.

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Diamond Jubilee Quiz answers

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Hope you enjoyed the flotilla thingy, even though it was wet and cold. Her Royal Queenyness seemed pleased.

As promised, here are the answers.

1.What is the Queen’s full name? ​Elizabeth Alexandra Mary WINDSOR
2. Who is the Queen’s husband? ​​Prince Phillip, duke of Edinburgh
3. How old is Queen? ​​​​86
4. Who are the Queen’s parents? ​​King George VI , Elizabeth
5. What is the name of the Queen’s Sister? Princess Margaret
6. What year did Queen Elizabeth get married? 1947
7. How many children does Queen Elizabeth have? ​4
8. How many Grandchildren does the Queen have?​8
9. What are the names of the Queen’s children? Charles, Anne, Andrew & Edward
10. Can you order the Queen’s children starting with eldest to the oldest?
Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew & Prince Edward
11. What breed of pet dogs is the Queen known for? ​Corgi’s
12. What year did Princess Elizabeth become queen? 6th February 1952
13. Who is the heir to the throne? ​​Prince Charles
14. Can you name any four of the queen’s Grandchildren?
Peter, Zara, William, Harry, Beatrice, Eugenie, Louise, James
15. What is the Diamond Jubilee a celebration of? 60 years reign?
16. What is the Queen’s well known residence? Buckingham Palace
17. What film did the Queen appear in? None
18. What is the first line of the National Anthem?
God save our gracious Queen
19. What does HRH mean? Her Royal Highness
20. 20. What material represents 60 years?
A Diamond

I would love to know how you got on. Enjoy the rest of your extra long weekend.

Lovely jublee

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Up in the sky…(or the Boutique and Bistro in the clouds)

I remember, many years ago, smoking on a flight to America. I was 16, away with a group of friends (most of them older than me but not all over 21 so the drinking thing wasn’t too awkward) and we had 3 smoking seats between 7 or 8 smokers. It was the longest game of musical chairs in history. I understand why they stopped smoking on planes, I also understand though that the air is recirculated less (due to the lack of smelly smokiness), and so the lack of smoking directly links to the increase in picking up coughs and colds while up in the sky (and why do they still have the no smoking signs?). The point is that flying has changed massively over the past 20 years.

I also remember when you got lots of free stuff. Nuts before take off, drinks throughout the flight, snacks as well as meals, headphones, ear plugs, eye blankets (I think the correct term is face mask but eye blankets sounds better to me). Now, you get food that tastes of plastic, the drinks cart comes round every couple of hours, you have to pay for headphones, you still get the nuts but they are now mixed in with pretzels. I think that flying has become like a long train journey. It’s so ordinary and everyday that you forget how good it used to be. The following things have happened to me in planes over the last few years…

1) I had a leaky seat. Well, it was the ceiling really. It still worried me and made me study my crash card more carefully.

2) My TV didn’t work. This was responded to with the utmost malaise. The promise of a DVD player that took 3 hours, and having to ask 10 times, to come. The film choices were pretty dire too.

3) They ran out of booze. This one was terrible. It was a morning flight, heading out to the crazy world of Vegas, and so I decided to wait until a decent hour to have a beer. At 11.30am they announced that the bar was closed due to lack of alcohol. I complained and was told that some people were very drunk and rowdy…

“Good for them, I’d like the same oppertunity”

“We are very sorry sir, but we can’t discriminate on who we serve alcohol to, so we can no longer give any out”

“So you haven’t run out?”

“No sir”

And try as I might, they didn’t give me a beer. They also have flights where they need to have enough for the round trip and so cut you off at a certain point. If they can fill up on fuel then they can fill up on beer.

But this isn’t the main point of my Blog today. The main point is that of the budget airline. They have really gone the extra mile in separating you from your money. They offer very small items (of the brands you know, so you think it will be bigger than it is) for a very big price. The can of beer that is the same size as a can of Coke, the packet of Pringles that is a third of the usual size, a bag of chocolate that has less than a handful of sweets. Grrrrrrrrrr, here comes the rant… The seats are too small. The leg room is rubbish. You have to fight and scramble to get aboard to sit together. You have to pay for your bags. They constantly use the intercom to try and sell you stuff. There is no entertainment. They all wear orange. And breathe. This is all nothing new, what has changed is the pretension of these airlines. While sat in my small seat, waiting for the trolley, the following announcement was made.

“If you would like something to eat or drink, or if you would like to purchase some of our special offers in perfume of spirits, then why not take advantage of the Boutique and Bistro”

I have heard some exaggeration in my time, I am a man so prone to it myself, but to call the food trolley a Bistro and the duty free a boutique? Words fail me, and that happens as often as a freebie on a budget flight.

I am flying home today with the orange airline, wish me luck.

As always, feel free to share the link, re blog or point people to my new (fancy pants) website address http://www.andrewauthor.com

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