Sunday, 31 May 2009

No72 Of Balloons in Broughshane

Ok so I may be a miserable git (See No.71 below) but I'm also a sometime adventurer and dangerous sportsman. Not many can boast hotair ballooning Saturday night followed by a surfing trip the day after.

We took off last night from the pilot's front garden narrowly missing his telegraph pole and headed - well anyway the wind was going to take us I suppose. The timing of the take off was n't great. By that I mean it was 8p.m which meant I didn't get to find out whether my Sue had triumphed on stage until much later. After clearing a hill by just a few inches (apparently it's a game balloon pilots play seeing how much of nature they can grab and stick in the basket when airbourne) we headed over a good number of wind turbines and got ready to land near the Battery pub just shy of Broughshane. As we floated over a farm house a family rushed out to wave and we shouted down "Did Susan Boyle win?" but they seemed unable to answer between them. Strange folk those round Broughshane!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

No.71 Of trends & old friends

I've decided I'm a miserable git. I attended a seminar yesterday which was very touchy-feely and interactive. We had to introduce ourselves to the person sat next to you. We had to play a game of word association going round the room. We had to walk around the room pretending to be a person of low status then a person of high status. The grand finale was getting up and being presented with a certificate to great applause whilst shouting out "I'm a failure". 5p.m and the end of the seminar couldn't come quickly enough. I was worried that feigned enjoyment was turning into mild irritation & possibly anger.

I was never into "trendy training" and now have to accept I never will be. What I learnt yesterday could have be put on three lines of a power point slide - or am I missing something?

The Internet tis a great thing. This morning I had an email from Katz the first contact from her in a good year or more. Katz ran into Legal-Island many years ago when Slovakia had just joined the EU. Her and her sister, Mo, did some great work for us. Like most migrant workers at that time we employed they were far too qualified to stuff envelopes for us but they were grateful for the work and we their labour. Katz had a great business head on her and it was always a regret of mine that we didn't do a bit of Biz together. Legal-Island/Katz & Co has quite a nice Slavonic ring to it say I.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

No.70 Of Beta Blockers and Missing Priests

So, it seems Legal-Island has been shortlisted for the Irish News Workplace Awards. I fear that we should not rejoice too hard at this stage for my guess is that everyone who made the deadline and got under the no-more-than four pages limit has been short listed.

Attending awards evenings when you're up for something is just the worse thing in the world - not looking forward to it at all. Perhaps I should pop a beta blocker on the night and Google "possible side effects of beta blockers when taken together with red wine" well in advance of the evening.

Had an interesting meeting with my performance coach this morning. He's got me thinking.

It's a beautiful evening with sunny days ahead forecast too. Am minded to go surfing on Sunday - waves permitting. I'm determined to stand up on the damn thing by the end of the summer - prefereably when the board is on a wave and not a sandbank either.

Planning to surprise a friend of mine with a visit weekend after next. He's a priest living in Liverpool but whether I can find him depends on just how good Google is nowadays.

I feel a dependency on Google developing in my life. How did we ever survive without it?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

No.69 Of Spending Money

Why do I always seem to go into the local newsagent when I'm in a hurry and get stuck in the queue behind the critta that's disputing something to do with his £1 scratch card? The latest this morning was eventually given £5 which he promptly converted into five more scratch cards.

Tried to help a friend last night with ideas for a presentation she has to do. Don't think I was much help. The creative juices just weren't flowing. Should have had a slurp of Shiraz beforehand perhaps or even popped a Ginko Biloba.

Currently working on an excuse to myself not to go swimming. Why am I so good at getting to results when I set myself tasks like this? Baha...

Must phone Peter McBride and find out how he got on in Malawi spending my money.

Monday, 25 May 2009

No.68 Start of the Week lets Rock N Roll

Oh No! I accepted an invitation a while ago to a party. Only yesterday I was told that it's fancy dress. I hate fancy dress parties! 60s and rock n roll for heaven's sake!

I watched Britain's Got Talent last night. Why do the judges still buzz people when they have already considered them good enough for the semi-finals? I suppose I will have to go with Susan Boyle same as everyone else now my favourite is out. There's just not the market for belly dancers from Latvia.

Loads on this week but trying to get a couple of days in the diary to do some networking in Dublin.

No.67 A Dose of Paxman & Shiraz

I had the stangest of dreams last night. Dream 1 and I visited a law enforcement centre and was asked to help demonstrate their latest restraint units to passing school children touring the building. They promptly asked me to step inside a steel cage locked me in and left me there!

Dream 2 and I was ascending the stairs of a building with Jeremy Paxman to visit two old ladies who were friends of his. Both were Austrian and made antique chairs but I was given a present which was something like a wooden monkey puzzle.

Emmm may be the combination of a Vitamin A pill plus a glass of red before sleep was not such a good idea....

At work today covering phones realising only this morning that the ROI is not on holiday today unlike the UK.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

No.66 Of Bitly, The Beeb & Bank Holiday Weekends

It's a Bank Holiday weekend and saddo here is at work hoping for rain and not sunshine. If the latter makes an appearance I may be tempted out to play.

First task of the day is to work out why is telling me there were 400+ clicks to a particularly page on our web site when google analytics says there was only 40. Someone is telling fibs.

I woke up this morning listening to the BBC World Service and learnt that scallop shells harvested off the coast of East Anglia are sent to China to be bleached in factories in which few health & safety regulations apply and returned to the UK to serve as dishes for prawn cocktails. There's something about a radio porgramme that gives you information you just can't pick up anywhere else.

Planning to complete National Training Awards today, do an awful lot of work on Twitter whilst chewing an awful lot of pumkin seeds.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

No.65 Of Playing Silly Games & Principals

I hurtled back from Dublin yesterday to get well settled for The Apprentice with a nice bite to eat, glass of red and good company all provided courtesy of a neighbour only for the evening to end in bitter disappointment as Ben was promptly dispatched. Ben, you showed great humility in the programme afterwards. "Noren Iron" is proud of you, finally.

Travelling back from Dublin over several hours with dodgy radio reception and just one tape cassette of Van the Man's Greatest Hits prompted me to play a variation of "Goodies and Baddies" -something I last played in a car with my sister probably as many as 35 years ago (yikes..). That's when you count something to relieve the boredom. Anything. It may be the strangers who wave to you when you wave first. It may be the numbers on motorway lamp posts. Yesterday, for me it was the number of people driving whilst talking on a handheld mobile. The final tally was 27. Does this mean we need better enforcement of laws or just that we should scrap those that everyone ignores?

Had a great meeting today devising a new legal programme for the education sector at O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors with a bunch of solicitors and School Heads. There's something about being in the company of School Principals. They bring a certain gravitas to a meeting and for some reason made me terribly conscious about the importance of proper use of English, diction and grammar.

I'm just off the phone to my Mum making arrangements for my visit to Devon for my nephew's 18th (yikes more milestones that make me feel old). It seems like only yesterday that he was standing in his cot making a hash of my name and I've been Uncle Baggie ever since...

Mum's partner Alan informed me that the MGB covertible he has purchased on my behalf at knock down rates is on further reflection too good for me. He's convinced I'm going to ruin it. It's the real deal he assures me. It's twim cam, unleaded head, bionic suspension and best of all sticks to the road like "S..t to the soldier's blanket". Alan you always had a way with words. I'm sure your School Principal would not have approved.....

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

No.64 Anyone for Twitter?

Off to Dublin imminently. This involves a 2-3 hours drive down and the same back for about 60 minutes of meetings in between. Hey at least its The Apprentice tonight!

Still playing around with Twitter. As well as becoming an addict I fear I'm becoming evangelical about it too. I had at least three conversations yesterday on the phone each featured the following bit of dialogue "Are you twittering yet? If not, I really think you ought to. It's going to be big". I wonder whether I should work on becoming a Twitter bore too and take someone for lunch and talk about nothing but Twitter from start to finish? Hmmmm who to call?

No.63 From Fry to Wilde

I think I'm developing an addiction to Twitter. I wonder whether I'll be the first person ever to be admitted to somewhere like The Priory as a guinea pig to their Twitter cold Turkey programme.

Twitter makes blogging seem so last year and terribly long winded. I note Stephen Fry has now clocked up 500,000 users. (I've clearly a bit to go). This means he has doubled his audience in just two months. Impressive Mr Fry.

I plan to spend early part of today today reviewing newly published cases from the Equality Tribunal. These take ages to get right condensing pages of judgements into just three paragraphs. The process reminds me a little of Oscar Wilde's quote "I'll write a long letter today because I don't have time to write a short one". Bet he would have Twittered.

Monday, 18 May 2009

No. 62 Of Female Cruises & Male Crises

I spent much of the weekend catching up on house work if you don't count a night out to an Italian restaurant near the QU followed by a showing of "No Country for Old People" - which I don't.
I can't say how long the ironing took me but I started at the beginning of a Sean Connery Western on T.V. and finished right at the end of "Britain's Got Talent" which followed immediately after.

Spoke to Dad over the weekend who's just back from a cruise down the Nile. I had forgotten he had taken his wife and three other women! Apparently everywhere he went street traders tried to sell him cheap Viagra!

Need to do some exercise big time this week - too much is gyrating nowadays when I hoof it down the office stairs for the morning meetings. Away to Google "Male bras"...

Friday, 15 May 2009

No 61 Of Zen, Zambia and Van the Man

Went for dinner last night with an old Derry mucker of mine to my favourite Belfast restaurant, Zen. I like Zen. Great food, great ambience and very good service. Aforementioned mucker, was born in Ireland but spent much of her childhood in Zambia. There's something about expat upbringings that make them into quite special people. They all seem very grounded, rich in experiences and very in touch with who they are. I left her company feeling I had a very miserable childhood indeed.

Hoofed it from Zen to a friend of mine who has just bought a new transit van for his business. He's more proud of this van than either his lovely house or BMW convertible that are recent additions to the family hardware. We sat in the cabin where he told me of its bluetooth facility, alarm reverse system and lots of other widgets and gadgets. Needless to say he soon found an excuse to take me for a spin and availed of many opportunities to be thoroughly abusive to taxis that were unloading in inconvenient locations and just about anyone else that wasn't fully obeying his understanding of the Highway Code. I put it to him that this new acquisition has had a positive impact on both his business and his sense of his own manhood which was vehemently denied. The van is not white by the way but silver.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

No.60 Letter to Malawi

Currently preparing for tomorrow's strategy day which promises to be a long day.

I've just started reading Letter to Daniel by Fergal Keene. This is the title of a book taken from a report he delivered on the radio programme "From our Own Correspondent" in 1996. It became the most requested report on the programme ever. If there's a more beautiful & powerful piece of journalism anywhere in the world I've yet to experience it. Mr Keene you made me cry.

Just about to hoof it over to see a friend before he shoots off to Malawi again this weekend with a letter I'm asking him to hand to a lady who looked after me when I was there. It's just occurred to me that I've been to Malawi and Moscow in the space of 6 months which makes me a lucky critta indeed.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

No. 59 Of Tracy & Dolly

Trying to find inspiration to write entry for Irish News Awards. This is difficult to do sat in front of a PC at 7a.m. swigging green tea whilst listneing to Tracy Chapman. Feeling the process should be far more organic. I bet Wordsworth wrote all his best stuff with a pencil and paper and the best view of Lake Windermere local knowledge could provide.

Will change the music and try Dolly Parton instead.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

No.58 From Russia to Rushing


Now back at work. I know this because I'm in my cockpit surrounded by opportunities to blog, Twitter and Google away the rest of the day. I know this also because in which ever direction I look I see a tsunami of work coming my way. I fear a few fast paced days coming on....

где сейчас as they say in Russian...

No.57 A Walk in the Park

Last night I went out and celebrated May Day by watching fireworks with thousands of Russians who packed the parks, the streets and the main roads in and out of Moscow. My party walked and walked until we got lost in the Moscow Olympic stadium park where we rested and then took a taxi which I thought might take us home. I had forgotten I was amongst night owls so we ended up nightclubbing until the very small hours which was actually great fun.

I managed to stay in bed until lunchtime today without any pangs of guilt that I should be working or at least doing something more productive. This holiday thing might finally be getting through to me on my last day here before flying home early tomorrow.

Friday, 8 May 2009

No.56 Moscow's May Day Parade

We left late this morning at 9.m. for a parade at 10a.m.. Worst still I was behind the wheel. All else in the party had written themselves off as drivers still being over the limit from jollies attended the night before.

Driving in Moscow is terrifying. Cars come at you from all angles. They overtake on your rightsde and on your left and weave in and out in front of you and the traffic flow like mad things in search of space and faster driving lines.

I parked with great relief barely a mile from the Kremlin in front of the Pushkin museum and an awful lot of policemen whose glare I was keen to avoid.

The May Day Parade I soon learnt is not for tourists or even local Moscovites. It's for about 4,000 specially invited dignataries and the media. For only they can see the parade in it's full glory as it streams by through Red Square - soldiers goose stepping, tanks and other hardware gleaming from newly applied coats of paint, aging war veterans clapping - most sporting chests full of huge numbers of medals.

The rest of us get to see the remnants and the parade either on the way to Red Square or on the way back. Don't get me wrong this is still impressive but a May Day for VIPS and not the Proletariat is an odd juxtaposition.

What I found out from the English newspaper in Moscow is that the army has built a replica Red Square and Kremlin "village" about 50 kilometres outside of the city where the May Day Parade is practiced for a whole month beforehand. Nothing is left to chance when the world's media is watching.

Photos of Moscow

Photos of Moscow taken day before parade they include a shot of St Basil's in Red Square and Guardsat the Tomb of the Unknown Solidier and Eternal Flame. 

No.54 From Boris to Baileys

Yesterday I went in search of Checkov's gravestone which I eventually found in a cemetary located somewhere probably roughly central Moscow. The entrance lists its residents which reads like a Who's Who of notable Russians including Gogol (not to be confused with Google who is, of course, still very much alive) Shostakovich, Raisa Gorbachev, Nikita Khrushchev and Boris Yeltsin. Everytime we asked for the location of Yeltin's grave we got the same reply "Just look for the crazy marble". They were right. It looks nothing like a headstone but more like a piece of something rescued from a water theme park. If my Interent skills are up to it I'll upload a photograph.

Last night I ended up at a pancake party in North West Moscow. In the kitchen I talked to a Sergey an ex military man and a veteran of a few more drinking campaigns than me at a guess. The Baileys appeared as did the Irish Whiskey and amid a good few drinks and cigars we chatted about Shakesbeare and Dovtoyevsky, sorted out Chechneya, & Bosnia and a good many of the world's other problems too. Right now the state of my head feels like the world's biggest problem....

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

No.53 Of Lifts, Jumps & Pirorettes

"Bolshoi" I found out last night is Russian for "big". Their theatre is anything but this at the moment because the whole thing has moved to a temporary arrangment whilst the original is renovated. This means we were in a rather small and cosy place perfect for someone who wants to see the faces of both those in the pits blowing their instruments and those on stage blowng ther lungs out whilst piroretting.

It was a new production of a ballet called Bright Spring. I think it must have been a friends and family night last night. The auditorium was stuffed full of loads of girls no older than 16 each as thin as a stick of celery all looking like aspiring ballerinas. They were there with their siblings (just as stick shaped) and their not so stick shaped Mothers.

We arrived to our seats late because four in my party were wearing heels which prevented us walking up two flights of stairs. Instead, we queued for a lift which took us up two floors only after three bells had sounded indicating the start of the ballet. The Russians by the way, may have got the first man in space but they yet to get me in a lift which inspires confidence.

The lead ballerina, Nina Kaptsova, was mighty. And wow could she pirorette. As a kid I could never understand how they could spin so many times without getting dizzy and fall over. But then I figured that they would probably spin 15 times round one way then 15 times back the other to cancel it all out....

If I'm not mistaken she also chucked in the odd entrechat-douze too. This, according to my google research of a moment ago, is a jump with beats of the feet or to you and me a jump in the air after which the toe of the left foot touches the heel of the right and vice versa as many times as possible before landing. The Englishman Wayne Sleep holds the record for doing more of these than anyone else in one jump (15 if I recall correctly). I remember this because to show off my knowledge of ballet to a newly made friend at Bar School I once asked her how many entrechat-douzes she could do. "17" she replied "with a rocket up my ass". Jo May your ad libs were great but where are you now?

Off to the Gulag museum today. Think a small early breakfast might be in order..

No.52 Of the Bolshoi and Bendy Rivers

Wow! According to Google I had a record 19 unique visitors to this blog yesterday and that's without mention of the two words that send the stats counters rocketing "Sex" and "Porn". What will it be tomorrow I wonder?

Moscow is a superb city but impossible to navigate. Each street name is in the cyrilic alphabet (something I have yet to master). Unlike London or for that matter Londonderry the river doesn't split the city in half. Instead it bends, winds and swirls itself through so that in some parts of the city it's possible to be standing both North and South of the river at the same time! Work that out?! The main landmarks (the seven towers) all look spectacular but pretty much the same. What's Russian for "Can I have a satnav please?"

The seven towers incidentally were all built by Germans after the war and finished some six years later. That must have been some life for an awful lot of men. Five years at war, which you lose, and another 6 constructing buildings each of which are about as high as the Empire State without much gratitude shown to you during and after I'm sure.

Off to the Bolshoi later. Can't wait.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

No.51 The Long and the Short of it is..

Terminal 5 turned out to be far better than I had expected. The only let down were the Humus dips in the Salsa café. Tasty but far too much garlic and boarding was cut fine as I hoofed it to the gate via WH Smith and a long queue for some mints.

The flight to Moscow was barely half full. We were assured that the landing would be bumpy and we weren’t disappointed. The whole plane shook as we hurtled to a stop. The ashtrays popped out their sockets, the video screens seemed to move first left then right and the air stewards strapped firmly in their seats in front of me both looked at each other as though to say “only in Moscow”. The captain then came on and explained that they keep asking for the runway to be resurfaced but that it hasn’t happened yet.

I got up to see two passengers behind wearing face masks. Swine flu or Garlic humus I wondered?

Oddly, the only programme on Russian TV in English I could get last night was National Geographic on Aircrash Investigations. It did not make for cheerful viewing but left me grateful that the only incident yesterday was a bouncy landing.

Today I had my first business card exchange with a Russian. I swapped with someone from the Russian Ministry of Agriculture. Her title is Deputy Head of Department of Science, Education, International Cooperation and Maintenance and Head of International Cooperation and Maintenance Division. Boy can the Russians do titles? And did she feel short changed I wonder getting just Barry Phillips Director back?

Monday, 4 May 2009

No.50 Of Moscow & Madge

Fulfilled a lifetime mini ambition of mine today to go jogging round Hyde Park. I was hoping I'd see Madge out too as she's playing the O2 arena tonight and stays in a hotel in Mayfair by all accounts. Alas 7a.m. must have been too early for her or may be she was busy on the phone to Malawi instructing her lawyers.

Hyde Park is great. There's so much going on. There's joggers everywhere in the finest of gear that West London can turn out. Soldiers trotting by on horses off to Horseguards Parade. There's lots of drivers parked up in dark suits and glasses waiting no doubt for the call to swing by in their very large cars to one of the many embassies that hog the edge of the Park.

Had a terribly civilised Veggie breakfast outside a cafe in Kensingtom talking to two airline pilots from Singapore airlines.

About to jump of the tube and head for Heathrow and Russia. "Must go".

Sunday, 3 May 2009

No.49 London - it's serious...

Ah London finally somewhere you can order a peppermint tea without the waiter looking at you like you're a complete moron - bliss.

I flew in with Aer Lingus. Their headrests are great and can be shaped to fit round your head perfectly guaranteeing a power nap without minutes.

I saw Morrisey last night at The Waterfront having ventured into the Chinese next to it beforehand only to make a bolt for the door when we saw just how lousy the menu was. There was nothing on the Japanese menu vegetarian. The photos of the food made you feel like you were in Benidorm or the Canaries rather than Tokyo or Shanghi. Guess we should have guessed from the green astro turf type carpet that led us to the door. Ho hum! For their Dim Sum...

Morrisey. Wow! What a consumate performer. Had forgotten just how pleasing it can be listening to a guy sing "Girlfriend in a coma I's serious".

Friday, 1 May 2009

No.48 Mr Shonga for President - Malawi Moments Part 3

Day 6 (or thereabouts)

So far we've met loads of Malawians. They all pop up to the house say hello and disappear as quickly as they arrive. There's Janet our house keeper. She's in her 60s and laughs all the time. And I mean all the time. Even when she talked about a bad area of the district where as she put it "They'll have you for your body parts" she laughed. There's Mr Shonga the one eyed house keeper and sometime entrepreneur. There's Zion the young Bob Marley look alike, artist and part-time farmer.

23 December.

We went to Mr Shonga's house for tea. He has two wives and they both served us encima the national food. It is pale white in colour and comes shaped like silicone breast implants. It's made from maize. It's an acquired taste and one day I hope to acquire it.

The following day Mr Shonga took us as guests to visit a village community. This involved an early start and a drive along a very bumpy track once off the main road that soon disappeared into little more than open bush. Three seats were placed in front of a small tree offering some shade and a little comfort to Peter, Debs and I until we waited for the village folk to arrive. After about half and hour they had and Mr Shonga give the welcome address. Other dignatories present were introduced including the Chief, the Assistant Chief, the Chief's advisor and the advisor to the Chief's advisor. Questions were asked and answers were given and the floor reclaimed by Mr Shonga. He duly addressed the ensemble and as the 3 of us peered at him in his suit, mobile at his side he delivered what the occasion required of him and much more besides and for a goodwhile too. He looked every bit the next president of Malawi or at least the man who wants to be.

There's something about the name Mr Shonga that suits him entirely and his persona. I can't help but feel that had he been born in Blackpool 100 years ago George Formby would have had a song out for him on his ukulele. "Oh Mr Shonga...your speech was too longa.."