Tuesday, 31 August 2010

No.378 Of Water in Abundance & Short Supply

Day 2 and youngen is exhausted and is asleep in our room upstairs as I type this blog and ignore the last call to prayer of the day from the Mosque next door.

In truth we're both pretty tired and so's our driver Ibriham. For today we all did the length of Jordan top to bottom via the Dead Sea.

It was especially hard work for Ibi baby because it's Ramadam and he's fasting at the moment. This means he told us "No water, no food, no cigarettes and no of the other business between sunrise and sunset". By lunchtime today he confessed to feeling tired and weak which is why I kept a careful eye on him as he navigated his way first through the plains, then the desert then the mountain passes with huge drops either side between the Dead Sea and Petra.

It was hard too though for youngen and I because for much of the journey to keep himself awake he was listening to the same one tape of music. It sounded like a Jordanian Nana Mascouri in an awful lot of pain and the last 200 kilometres felt very very long.

It was 45 degrees today at the Dead Sea. Youngen and I must have sank at least 8 litres of water between us so how our guide managed the whole day without a drop I do not now. May be he's a human camel or something. Tomorrow I'll check for a hump on his back. He did stop near to the spot where allegedly Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist and soaked himself in water. I watched carefully to see if his tongue would come out to catch a precious drop of water while he thought no-one was watching but he didn't. Such discipline.

It's 8p.m. time to wake youngen go get some grub and treat Ibriham to a long slow drink.

Monday, 30 August 2010

No.377 Of Tintin and Travel

Wow! Our first full day in Syria and what a belter it turned out to be. We started by getting on the wrong bus to Bosra. Bosra is a Unesco world heritage site going back to 2AD not to be confused with Basra in Iraqi which doesn't really do tourists at the moment.
We hurtled out of Damascus at breakneck speed sharing our rickety old mini bus with 4 sacks of chickpeas, 3 hens and an awful lot of locals. One of them, called Joseph, looked straight out of a Tintin novel (Land of Black Gold if my memory serves me right) mighty shady looking but friendly and even a tad over helpful. He took great pains to explain that the driver needed all names of passengers "in case of crash and he tell you Fader". This is more information than we needed as the bus flies in and out of cars sometimes with heavy swerves as bigger buses sound their horns and right of way at even greater speeds. After an hour's travel all passengers are leaning forward onto the seat rest in front sleeping or possibly praying. Nephew David finds this journey novel, amusing, entertaining and a great story for the family at home. Uncle Barry finds it uncomfortable, claustrophobic, irritating and unnecessarily dangerous.

We arrive and I haggle with Mohammed a shop dweller for a full five minutes over the price of a Arabian head scarf. I knock him down a full 50 pence and we shake hands before going for a coffee where he tells me that he has one wife but is looking for another. The first he assures me cost him 25,500 Syrian pounds (about $800). "How much they cost in England?" he asked. I explained you don't really pay for a wife in England. "Ah then next one I get from England for free" he blagged with eyes turning huge and excited.

Tomorrow we head for Jordan and Petra. Our Hotel is wonderful but one of us at least will be glad to leave. Perched as it is between a mosque and a church David claimed to have slept little between bells sounding at 6.30a.m. this morning, the call to prayer at 7a.m. and someone's snoring. An eclectic treat for the lug holes if ever there was one if you ask me.....

Thursday, 26 August 2010

No.376 Of Greatnesss in All its Forms

We had a really busy day yesterday at Legal-Island. It was the day of the great Legal-Island Antrim river clean up. In less than two hours we had fished out of our local river in a space not much longer than 100 metres three shopping trolleys, 2 bikes, half a T.V or something similar and goodness know how many bottles of beer. The local Mayor came along to lend her support although this seemed to be expressed more in the way she posed for photographs rather than help us lug the rubbish to where it had to go. But hey ho I suppose you can't let the ceremonial chain get dirty.
After the clean up we rushed back to the office for the great Legal-Island business barbecue. It started at 12.30p.m. and by 6p.m. people were still arriving. Pictured above are the Antrim Earlybird swimmers who came to partake in the great Legal-Island buffet table clean up. In the last photo Bruce explains the intricacies of car booting to conference manager Heather Stewart who had already had a hard day.
Altogether a great day at the office....

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

No.375 Of the Great Antrim River Clean Up

We have the great Antrim river clean-up today when Legal-Island staff hit the local river with waders and bags to relieve it of all the rubbish that has accumulated over the past few weeks, months and even years.

At least that's how it should have been but alas circumstances have intervened. We've been told by the council that we have to have the right gear, an outdoor company with us that has an expertise in river safety plus a certificate of insurance proving we have more than £5 million cover in case something were to go wrong.

I wonder if in amongst all the litter today we will find reams of red tape?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

No.374 Of Funny Tasting Tea and what it means

I've decided for me swimming is like green tea. It doesn't matter how much I try and convince myself that I like it I don't.

Every bit of this morning's swim was a chore. The getting up for it. The drive in. The changing. The cold shower. The dunk in the pool. The 34 lengths.

On Friday of this week Legal-Island is competing against another firm in a "triathlon" of events including Rounders, Badminton and possibly Hockey. May be one of these will light a fire for me and will mean the end of early morning swims followed by rotten tasting tea.

Here's hoping...

Monday, 23 August 2010

No.373 Of the Rain & Radiators

I hardly slept night because of the heat and the noise. You see one was very much connected to the other. I had the heating on all night in an attempt to dry the plaster in my new extension in the hope it can be painted before I go on holiday. Unfortunately the radiator right next to my bed can't be turned down so it was on a full pelt. So I opened the window and listened to the pouring rain. Soothing though it is it doesn't help you sleep and it does tend to have you up in the night and looking for the small room more than you would otherwise.

Still I guess the heat is good practice for the holidays. Let's hope I'll not be listening to any rain day time or night.....

Thursday, 19 August 2010

No.372 Of Swimming & Souks

I swam my statutory 34 lengths of the pool this morning. It was going so well that by length 17 I thought I try a couple of tumble turns. Somehow I managed to rotate 360 degrees and ended up swimming headlong into the end of the pool both times. Not only that but there were so many bubbles going on it looked liked there had been a piranha attack. More practice methinks.

I'm now in count down mode for the holidays. 14 days of relaxation and sunshine. Yes! Can't wait. I wonder if Damascus has its own version of the Antrim Swimming Pool and if I can swim my half mile before a day in the Souks and sightseeing. No doubt I'll know soon enough.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

No.371 Of Best Guesses and Life's Puzzles

I checked the stats for this blog this morning. Yesterday I had visitors from all over the place. The two from Moscow I can explain. Likewise the clicks in Finland, Germany and Sweden for I have faithful friends there. Yes it may be random visitors from these countries I accept but it's my best guess that it's an old mucker from far afield checking up on me.

The click from Vietnam is more difficult to explain. For Vietnam I have never been to nor do I know anyone from that part of the world. Moreover, as far as I'm aware I don't know anyone who used to live in the UK and has for reasons of the weather or otherwise decided to emmigrate there. So who and why for pretty much every day for the last 12 months in Vietnam has clicked onto my page to follow this blog?

Boy, some of life's puzzles are almost unbearable to endure....

Monday, 16 August 2010

No.370 Of a High Five

At the moment I'm trying to find on the Internet the five most inspiring motivating uplifting video clips in existence.

So far and I suppose in no particular order I have the following :

* No Legs No Arms No Worries - about Nick Vujicic, a severely disabled man, who inspires others and teaches them to focus on what they have rather than what they don't have.

* Susan Boyle - the moment that made television history when a plump ageing lady faced a sexist, ageist should know better panel of celebrities and sang the house down for a British then wolrd audience.

* Are you Fired Up? Obama at his rhetorical best. Genius everyone should watch this every day.

* Africa Jazzile - Inventive creative and altogether very beautiful.
Suggestions in include :

Suggestions for number five on the modern day equivalent of a postcard please to : barryjphillips@hotmail.com

Friday, 13 August 2010

No.369 Of a Well Read Man from the Isle of Man?

Well the airports have announced strikes most likely for the weekend that I'm trying to get out of the UK on holiday. Therefore I'm loading up with some great books to read horizontal on the floor of Heathrow Terminal 1. They include "Bounce" by Matthew Syed and "The Lost Art of Great Speech" by Richard Dowis. I might even throw in an autobiography from one of the Dragons if the Heathrow bookshop is up to it but I need a fourth. So here's the plan. I'm meeting today a finance guy from the Isle of Man. I've never met him before but I'll ask what his favourite book of all time is and then add it to my holiday collection. Lets hope he's well read.

Keep it eclectic say I.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

No.368 Of Builders Blight & Barry's Flight

I wonder if there's such a thing as builder's blight? Over the last 8 weeks I've seen so many builders, bricks, slabs, stones, cement and dust. Yes an awful lot of dust. They're doing a great job but now all I want to see is my new kitchen, my new downstairs living area and my washing machine turning around and around making its way through my piles of washing.

I'd like to think there isn't worse to come but I fear there is. For this weekend it will be three days of decisions : wooden floor or tiles? If tiles then tiles that look like a wooden floor or that look like errr... tiles. If the latter, then what sort of tiles? Large ones? Smalls ones? Dark ones? Light ones? And where do I want these? Over both floors or just the one? And what about the walls what colour are they to be and what about the kitchen cabinets and what about the work surface marble or granite?
Oh gee I think I'll just not go home for a week. I'll live out and send a text saying "All in brown wood please".

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

No. 367 Of Three Strokes and You're Out!

I was playing tennis yesterday. This is the first time my tennis partner and I have been out playing this summer on grounds of poor weather and an awful lot of lethargy.

My tennis buddy, Colm, has one of the most spectacular first serves in the game. The wind up is so fast you'd think he's a human spring that has just been uncoiled. Sometimes he fires bullets over the net straight down the line without any hope of return fire. More often however, you hear a sound reminiscent of a "ping" colliding with a "crack" and the ball hits the service line his side of the court and bounces a few times before hopping over the net and dribbling out to where I am standing. "Not quite" I sport in the very best of British understatement.

When I first started playing Colm some two years ago I was so unfit that by about the fifth game in the first set I was so tired I was beginning to suffer from blurred vision. By the seventh I was positively hallucinatory and seeing two fluffy balls coming at me at once. What could I do but aim exactly for the point between the two?

I always had to win the point in three strokes for a needed a breather then before the next rally. Four strokes brought pain and God forbid if ever it went to five.

It's hard staying fit at our age. May be we should take up golf instead or abandon rackets and clubs altogether and do leisurely strolls. If we did I'd miss it I know. Just like his first serves...

Monday, 9 August 2010

No.366 Of Going the Distance

I swam 34 lengths this morning equivalent to half a mile. That's 26 miles swam since I started my fitness campaign three weeks ago. 26 miles is one marathon or a trip and a bit across the English Channel.

Yesterday I was working on three brochures for signing off this week. Each of these is 30c.m. long and we're probably going to fire out something like 70,000 of them before the year's out. End to end that's 2,100 kilometres of brochures or if you prefer enough for us to lay a path with to Germany and back. As they might say in Germany "Das ist eine Menge von Prospekten"

Sunday, 8 August 2010

No.365 Of Costly Days Out and In

I was thundering along the motorway yesterday when I saw a man with a gun on a bridge in front of me. I immediately slammed on the brakes. It was a policeman with a speed gun. I was doing 10 mph over the limit. I guess I await hearing from him in the post.

Twenty minutes later I'm in Belfast near the clock tower and I noticed a colleague of his also pointing a gun at me. Trying not to take it personally I threw on the breaks again. I guess I was doing about 48 in a 40mph area. That could have been a very expensive half an hour's driving. We'll see.

Yesterday a friend of mine texted me demanding a weigh-in. He and I had bet each other £100 that we could lose a stone in weight faster than the other. No doubt he's just done it.

All quite depressing really. Time to cheer myself up with a Latte and muffin..

Saturday, 7 August 2010

No.364 Of Spaces Double and Open

It's been an exhausting week. We've been trying to sign off loads of brochures. This is hard work. You have to get it right and looking best you can. Miss a typo or a double space and it comes back at you 10,000 times when the brochures return from the printers.

It's raining through the window as I sit and type this in my office. The weatherman has assured us it will get brighter later so I'm working until lunchtime. Thereafter I'm jumping in the MG with a friend and going off in search of open space, a good beach walk and a massive slug of fresh air.

Friday, 6 August 2010

No.363 Of Chips Then n Now

I was talking to Brucie baby this morning my swimming buddy. He told me that before he fell off a roof and injured himself he owned a chip van and would sell to the army bases. "£180 I'd take on a good night that was good money in them days". I reminded him it's good money nowadays too. When I asked him if he wasn't worried about his own security serving the forces he replied "Oh No. The RA did me a favour once they burnt out a van off the Antrim road which I picked up for £25 and I soon had two vans working for me". He swam off nostalgically.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

No.362 Of Rabbit in the Headlines & Duck on the Menu

I think I must be driving to work at the moment through bunny rabbit alley. For there are rabbits scattering everywhere as I thunder along the scenic route to work. So far I've managed to avoid a rabbit going "splat" under my wheels but it's been a close run thing. Two bunnies this morning did a pretty good impersonation of rabbits in headlights and seemed completely unaware that the sensible way out of their predicament was a quick dash to the right. Instead, they went left completely under the car but remarkably, out the other side in one piece. Oh happy bunnies!

The ducks about a month ago weren't so fortunate. I thought they would simply take off as I came flying round the corner. They didn't and there was feather and fluff flying up from the front of my car for a good two miles afterwards. When cycling the same route later that day with a friend she seemed visibly upset when I recounted how two ducks has lost their lives earlier that morning. "Why are you so upset? I asked "You told me you had duck for dinner last night at the Chinese". She replied "That duck died for a good reason and not at the hands of a w***ker in an MG..."

Friends hey...

No.361 Of Nothing to Envy

I've just finished reading "Nothing to Envy" by Barbara Demick. It's an amazing account of the lives of 6 people in North Korea in the 1990s who eventually defected. It's a fascinating insight into how the government tried to mislead, cheat and con its people into thinking there was no better system of rule. As thousands of North Koreans starved to death in the 1990s their government fed them nothing but propaganda. They simply instructed its people to be more loyal and work even harder. They told everyone that the food shortages were due to American sanctions when it was the USA who was sending in food aid. Aid incidentally, that was being stolen and sold on the black market.

What's particularly interesting is how the North Koreans, who had for decades relied on the government for subsistence,,were finally forced to fend for themselves as food became in such short supply. Overnight, they all had to become entrepreneurial or die.

This is a book everyone should read.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

No.360 Of Big Days in the Den

It's a big day today at Legal-Island. We plan our first appointment which doesn't involve yours truly. We've had 38 applications for one part time post many from law graduates who can't get a placement. Wow. It's tough out there.

Dragon's Den was superb last night. Probably the best show yet. They laughed, they partnered up, they rowed, they fell out. They sulked. One guy did the best pitch ever on the Den. His only problem was his product. : a football on the end of a rubber bar - what was the point?

The last punters on the show, as always, grabbed a load of cash but even then there appeared to be huge disagreement between the Dragons in terms of whether their product was going to take off. Business is loads of fun but no science which is why I suppose, it is so much fun.

Monday, 2 August 2010

No. 359 Of Holiday Plans

I booked my summer holiday yesterday. I had the choices down to one of three destinations Japan, Route 66 California and Syria. Japan was discounted on account of the likely jet lag. Route 66 was rejected on account of the driving. I decided a relaxing holiday didn't amount to driving through three times zones and an awful lot of kilometres. So my personal travel assistant and nephew, David Watts and I are about to step onto the road to Damascus. Two weeks of Arabian nights spent in boudins smoking hallucinogenic pipes - yes that's the way to relax. This gives me just 28 days to achieve the following :

* Refine further company structure for arrival of new MD in September
* Finish off remaining programmes for second season
* Take on new staff
* Develop new software for the company
* Finish off performance reviews
* Decide whether or not to build further extension to premises.

I have a few personal objectives too :

* Swim half a mile every working day until I go
* Learn Arabic!
* Finish Warren Buffets "The Snowman" (I've started the monster of the book so I'll finish it)

Hey ho. A busy month ahead.