Monday, 29 November 2010

No.428 Of When One or Two Just Wont Do

I'm back! After almost a week away from the blog I finally have time to write and explain where I've been.

I suppose the answer is not very far but I've been mixing business with pleasure in Dublin, London and Belfast as I try and get ready for next year's work on the Island.

I was at a great Moroccan restaurant last Friday night in London. As I waited for my dinner guest I was given a lovely bowl of black olives. I took one. Then another and then some more. In fact a load more. I never realised black olives could taste so good.

Shortly thereafter we were at the Royal Albert Hall watching, among others, Ruby Turner and Alison Moyet. The latter used to be as large as the former but not any more. She came on stage looking very slim and attractive and gave a packed auditorium a real dose of her beautiful voice. I have to say she was upstaged however by Ruby herself who just seemed to belt out the notes from the back of her mouth to the back of the very highest row of balconies with so much ease and aplomb. There's something about large black American soul singers - almost like you can't be a truly great soul singer unless you have all three of these qualities/characteristics - one or two just wont do.

Monday, 22 November 2010

No.427 Of Big Weeks & Little Trips

It's going to be a huge week this one. We're full out here on the Island getting ready for tomorrow's conference. We're expecting up to 200 people there at the Ramada Hotel and a good number of VIPs (including my parents!). Mummy's boy is speaking on mediation and I had better be good otherwise I'll be in trouble and they'll be demanding back all their hard earned and quickly spent university funding from all those years ago.

Later this week I'm in London for a few days. This is to work. I keep telling myself London trips = work but I know I'll find time for a good few restaurants, jogs round Hyde Park and may be a bit of theatre too. Shopping? Don't know depends on the crowds.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

No.426 Of Last Night & This Morning

Dinner last night with the Earlybirds was a rip roaring success. My guests fell for the "Homemade" soup not to mention the "Homemade" bread which one of them declared as being "Far nicer than any of that rubbish you can buy in the supermarket".

We got talking politics and then religion. Bruce, who has known his mate John for 37 years, discovered something about him last night that took him by surprise. It turned out that John was not a Prod after all but a Catholic. Bruce, still flabbergasted, promptly retracted and apologised for the multitude of anti-Catholic jokes he had dealt out in John's company for the past 37 years and we all laughed.

This morning I took part in yet another river clean up - or perhaps more correctly river path leaf sweep. I was doing well until Arnold turned up. He's 75 and was going at twice the speed of me and without my frequent stops too (the excuse being to see to the dog). It does give you cause for optimism however seeing guys in their 70s zipping around like they're 35.

Friday, 19 November 2010

No.425 Of "Home" and "Away"

I'm entertaining tonight. I'm cooking vegetarian spagbog for three carnivores. It's quorn mince in place of the three deal. I wonder if they'll notice? I'm starting with "homemade" tomato and lentil soup accompanied by "homebaked" bread - I wonder if they'll suss the "home" bit. My guess is not because I've been known to "talk the talk" when required.

I've spent the last two days shopping for tonight's dinner whilst at the same time buying the last of the items for my new kitchen. I now have a replica station clock. I have two lovely wooden forks for my salad bowl but I still have no butter dish. Neither TKMax, nor Tesco, nor Poundstretchers sell butter dishes for some reason. I wonder if there's a gap in the market there?

I need to spend sometime this weekend giving thought to the Christmas holidays. Youngen says he's got all the gear for the ski trip but we've no hotel booked to receive said gear and us for our stays in Bratislava and Vienna if we make it over the border.

So much to do and oh yes loads at work to be getting on with too...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

No.424 Of Media Obsessions & Pressing Concerns

Oh No! The royal couple are to tie the knot. It's not that I'm not pleased for the happy couple don't get me wrong. But I'm old enough to remember the last royal wedding and the Press's obsession with it 12 months beforehand and indeed several days afterwards too. It seemed liked nothing else was going on in the world during this time and it didn't matter which TV channel you were on all you saw were two people standing watching flash photography go off everywhere giving daft answers to daft questions. (Incidentally,. as I type at 7.03a.m. Radio 3 is playing Grieg's Bridal music).

Of perhaps a tad more concern to me at the moment is that Ireland is on the verge of bankruptcy and may be too proud to ask for help. Perhaps the nation could swallow some pride and start manufacturing wedding memorabilia for next year to help its balance of payments problems......

No.423 Of Quality Celebrities

Apparently "I'm a celebrity get me out of here" received record viewing figures yesterday for an opening night. It seems this obsession with celebrity of ours is getting worse. I wonder if soon schools will be giving out career advice on how to be a celebrity and perhaps universities will offer degrees in the same too.

Another record is expected to go this week when a rare a pink diamond is auctioned in London. It is 24 carats in quality and huge. To quote one celebrity (wife of Wayne Rooney) "the diamond's the size of a chicken nugget". Thank goodness for quality celebrities hey?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

No.422 Of Remembrance Sunday

Its Remembrance Sunday today. I never go to wreath laying ceremonies and then feel guilty because I feel I should. I also agonise over wearing a Poppy in Northern Ireland for it is seen as making such a political statement yet it's important to remember those who lost their lives fighting to keep Britain safe and free. These may have included descendants of mine. I don't know for sure for there are many in my line who remain unknown and yet to be discovered.

I read Birdsong last year which is probably the best book I've ever read in terms of portraying the horror of war. War films always seem to glamorise the going to war but Birdsong shows nothing but the horror, the tragedy and the shocking waste of life.

Friday, 12 November 2010

No.421 Of Scores on the Electronic Doors

The scores are pouring in from this week's Annual Review of Employment Law Conference. I don't know that I've ever seen marks so high. The average score for all plenary speakers is about 4.5 out of 5 which is quite phenomenal. I'm teetering on 4.62 at the moment. I think that means I'm through to the next round and I'm in no sing off at least.

So far the overall satisfaction level from delegates is a gobsmacking 4.62! Well done Team Legal-Island says Mr.P!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

No.420 Of Painful Pauses

I spoke at our Annual Conference yesterday. I think it went ok but we'll see what the delegates thought when they reply to our survey by email today.

There's a great art to public speaking and I think it's one of those skills that need to be constantly practised and refined. Your style and pitch, not to mention content has to change each time in accordance with your audience, the time of day you're speaking, the venue and a whole load of other factors too.

There's a guru around at the moment that says before you can be considered excellent at anything you have to clock up at least one thousand hours of practice. He wouldn't claim that once you've clocked your hours you'll be excellent only that you'll never get to excellence before notching up over 1,000 hours of "air time". I've no idea how many times I've spoken in public but it must be well into the hundreds by now.

What I'm learning now is that waiting on feedback and scores is almost as nerve racking as walking to the podium. Perhaps it's the equivalent of that moment when on Strictly they say "and the couple leaving the competition tonight is...................[huge pause]."

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

No.419 Of Replacements for the Ulster Fry

I got talking to Mr Slimming World this morning as I waited to get in the pool. He runs the local slimming club and will tell you exactly what is wrong with everyone's diet and how best to lose weight. In fact its comes out at you like straight off one of his intro cards he no doubt uses when trying to attract new members to his club. As he was saying this two other early birds were looking away guiltily for they, I know, yesterday both availed of the local Spar's offer of 10 pieces of an Ulster Fry for just £2! Rotten for the heart but good for the soul I'm sure they would both say.

We have a busy day today getting ready for Annual Review of Employment Law Numero Uno at the Culloden Hotel. It's almost sold out. I'm speaking at it. Can't wait. It's a huge pleasure speaking at the Reviews. Beats a 10 piece Fry any day.

Monday, 8 November 2010

No.418 Of DIY Confessions

It's day 2 and my TV is still on the wall. I write this proudly for anyone who has gone before and doubted my DIY ability.

I was back in the pool today after a long absence on account of my cold. I did just 20 lengths and then called it a day. There were too many in the pool for my liking. It's bad enough having to go forward but forward and round people every now again at that time of the morning is just too much to ask.

I got talking to one of the Earlybirds afterwards. For some reason he told me that he's 64 and still can't read or write. A strange confession to hear in a pool I know. He told me he used to sweep chimneys and could remember everything discussed with the person the following year each time he went back to them. "Never had to write anything down either" he told me. "Things were much better in those days" he lamented. I bet he left his front door open too.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

No.417 Of TV Times

I spent much of last night wrestling with my new TV and fixing it to the wall. An easy enough task you may think but it's a process which requires an almighty bracket to be screwed to the wall and then the TV to be dropped carefully onto said bracket. I called the neighbour in for assistance. She duly arrived with a toolbox and a tube of prestles. An hour later all was up.

Problem is the reception is not great. On BBC1 all I can get is 42inches of fuzz and crackle. Even the good old time tested technique of shoving a coat hanger in the back of the TV for reception didn't appear to work.

Plan B whatever that is. Possibly Satellite TV.

Friday, 5 November 2010

No.416 Of Wee Buns

I was up at the crack of dawn today in Dublin. In fact earlier than that. It was 5.30a.m. to be exact to make sure I made a meeting in Belfast for 9a.m. This I managed but my opposite number didn't. He thought the meeting was for 11a.m.. We're going to try again next week and the cream buns are on him methinks.
I used the extra half an hour to go shopping and skipped up the alleyway featured here. I've always like this part of Belfast it has a certain je nais ce pas.
I'm keen to get home but I've loads of work to do before the weekend.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

No.415 Of Feeling Blogged Out

I have a really bad cold today. I feel groggie and not at all bloggie. Out.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

No.414 Of Jamie's Crabs

I'm in Leeds at the moment - home of Jeremy Paxman according to the Tourist brochure I found in my room (though how welcoming visitors may find this fact I'm not quite sure).

I'm staying at the Queen's Hotel in the centre of Leeds. It's like the grand old lady of the hotel industry. The lift says call "Car" rather than elevator or indeed lift and the old ballroom (home of our Annual Review conference today) looks like it's the kind of place the local parliamentary hustings take place every four years or so.

I was led astray by another bad woman last night. Jayne and I went to dinner at Jamie's (Mr Oliver, the waiter assured me, had only put in one appearance in the restaurant all year this year). She made me eat a bit of her crab brochette. I accepted partly on grounds of taste but mainly nostalgia for the poor thing had come all the way from Devon to be on the end of my fork last night.

Anyway, crabs or no crabs I'd better get on with the day....