Friday, 31 December 2010

Of Slovakia & Austria 2010

Wow! What a great holiday! Two great countries. Two great capital cities and a wonderful skiing holiday in between. Now back to porridge!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Óf Beans Means ..Poor Youngen

We spent a day yesterday sightseeing and being the sort of tourist I normally can´t bear. We hopped on a tour bus and followed a lady around with an umbrella in the air. We did the main palace then the opera house and finally a good walk back to the hotel caused mainly by jumping on the wrong tram.

My German from university days was coming back to me slowly and Youngen was having a go too with his "zwei heiße Schokolade bitte".

In the evening we went for a Serbian dinner just around the corner from where we are staying. Youngen´s eyes were popping out of his head as each waitress appeared prettier than the next. They do even less for Veggies than the Austrians´the Serbs it seems. Pretty waitress No.1 informed me that all they had to give me from the buffet menu was a plate of beans. This was my bad news but also Youngens for he knew that we were sharing a room later that evening. The waitress added that I could help myself to the salad bar (which, as it turned out, was jealously guarded by a roasted pig´s head).

I chatted to the pretty waitress as Youngen ogged on. Chatting to females is a skill that takes a long while to develop I thought afterwards. In fact, so long that by the time its of any use it´s of no use......

Monday, 27 December 2010

Of Vienna and Veggies

Youngen and I left Kosice, Slovakia yesterday having spent a great evening in the company of "Mo n Katz" two locals and former employees of Legal-Island. They had arrived in NI in 2008 and their first jobs were stuffing our company brochures into envelopes. It was great to catch up on them both again and find out how they are doing and I supppose, put some local context to our first ever foreign employees.

They kindly gave us a bottle of Modevina - a Solvakian alcoholic delicacy which we both strained hard not to drink on the 7 hour train journey to Vienna. We arrived to our Hotel last night and immediately went out looking for something to eat. No-one seemed to be around even though it was only 10p.m. except for the police that is who stopped us and demanded to see our passports. They wanted to know what we were doing out so late (clearly Vienna goes to bed early over the Xmas period at least). When Youngen informed them we were looking for a veggie restaurant they laughed. Getting back in their van they shouted "this is Austria we eat only meat here".

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Of Santa and very kind human beings

Wow! What a way to spend Christmas Day skiing among gorgeous scenery as snow flakes trickled to the ground. It didnt end the best however. Youngen knocked over a geezer on the nursery slope and his son skiied after him looking for a row which he promptly got from his uncle. Goodwill on Christmas Day was not in great supply between us all. Hey Ho as Santa Claus himself might say.

Our drinking pals from Warrington didn´t make it out on the slopes yesterday on account of a couple of thunderous hangovers. Apparently they stayed on at the night club for a good two hours after we had left them on Xmas Eve. They left at 4a.m. bladdered. Richard made it back to the Hotel but his mate Lee slipped over and couldn´t get up. He waited on the ground hoping Richard would realise he was unaccounted for but didn´t. Still unable to get up Lee decides to phone his mate but thereś no answer. Eventually Leeś discovered on the ground by the nightclub DJ walking his dog before going to bed. Heś then dragged back to his hotel by this poor samaritan with Lee in his pickled state declaring "Youre a very kind human being" every 10 minutes. The British abroad hey? No wonder people remember us.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Of Table Wizzardry

I went to a night club last night and was reminded how I mispent my youth. I played 20 games of table football and wiped the floor with every oppostion that dared face me across the table. So why isn´t table football in the Olympics? Lifeś just not fair.

Youngen and I went with a couple of guys from Warrington we´ve befriended. Theyŕe true down to earth Northern lads with no airs and graces - just great good old fashioned solid company. We popped into the Liptovsky for a quick one and were the last to leave at 3a.m. Boy they can drink. When I say "we" it was Youngen and I who left. The Warrington lads may well still be there for their pints and shots kept on coming and we left them stuck to the bar. Best go find out later I suppose.

The weather has turned misty and it hasn´t snowed for 3 days but I´m determined to ski on Xmas Day. So watch out world the table football wizz is on the slopes....

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Of Mulled Wine and Christmas Crackers

Hah! Unlimited access to the Hotel internet. Not a kid in sight. Granted it is 4.45a.m. so I´ve had to earn my little nugget of Internet time by crawling out my pit at some ungodly hour.

I learnt a very important lesson yesterday. You can´t enjoy mulled wine and then ski better or even really at all. Two cups of the stuff before doing another intermediate run proved to be a very silly idea. I felt like someone out of one of those Jimmy Saville alcohol campaign adverts where they show a bloke who thinks he can operate well after alcohol who then goes and proves otherwise. My ass and the ground must have met countless times from the end of the chair lift to the bottom of the slope. Never again. Not even on Christmas Day.

Speaking of which, it is Christmas Day today. Here in Slovakia they celebrate it on 24th December rather than 25. Who knows maybe Mother Mary went into labour on 24th anything is possible. According to the Hotel signs that pop up every now and again we were meant to reserve our place for the Christmas Dinner. If we didn´t, the sign warned us, we would be assigned one. Being the hell raisers we are we didn´t so who knows who weĺl get for company over Christmas Dinner and indeed, what poor crittas will get Youngen and I. I must find out how you say "Merry Chrismas" in Slovakian and "would you like to pull this cracker with me?".

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Of Kids in the snow

Hah! At last! Access to the Internet on the Hotel PC. Said access thus far has been severely restricted by kids, many no more than 4 or 5 playing computer games on the Net all day long. There should be a sign up saying "No kids playing computer games" or better still just "No kids".

I´m aching all over today. Every bone, joint and part of my limbs is aching or sore or both. I must have skiied the run outside the hotel 10 times yesterday. I also spent a good while teaching Youngen how to ski. For a while he just wasn´t getting in and he was running into the side netting, the fences, the young, the old and just about anything that moved or didn´t. We then decided we´d go down the slope together with him slightly behind me. Somehow we got the skis tangled and ourselves in a terrrible human knott but managed to remain upright. It must have looked as funny as it did quite incestuous. But now hes got it and for the last two runs hes remained upright. Granted I do have to ski in front of him and warn others that weŕe around but it´s a start.

And now to breakfast and to do the whole thing all over again.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Of Welcome Snow

Weve arrived. Its cold. Its quiet. Its beautiful. Tomorrow we hit the slopes and we cant wait. Youngen is all pumped up and ready to go and so am I. Theres a cable car right outside our hotel which will take me to the top of the local mountain. Cant wait top come down it. Must check my insurance.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Friday, 17 December 2010

Of snow and the way to go

I walked to work today. I had to. I tried to drive but got little more than 500 metres from the house when I got stuck on a slope. I then had to suffer the indignation of watching teenagers (including boy racers) go zipping past in their piddly front wheel drive Peugot 206s. Shouldn't be allowed that sort of thing. A good Samaritan eventually arrived and towed me up the slope in his jeep.

It's a funny thing but when snow comes you feel you're entitled not to do any work but I've loads to do before I leave on holiday.

May be I should do a deal with myself and work until lunch time then build a Legal-Island snowman with any staff that do make it in today then leave for home. Emmm I feel a plan coming on.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Of what beckons for us all

The neighbour's cat is about to croak it. The "wee dote" is a grand 19 years old and has been clinging tenaciously to life for the last 5 years at least. It hasn't eaten now for three days and has lost all use of its legs. The neighbour's dog realises that something is up and indeed very wrong. She goes to the edge of the sofa where the cat is wrapped in a blanket and sitting atop a hot water bottle and places her paw carefully on the cushion next to her. The dog is a grand old age herself and may be thinking that what she is witnessing she will have to face one day and sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, the neighbour is being very pragmatic and talking about getting to a local field quick with a spade to dig a hole before the cold snap returns. Ever the pragmatist.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Of Positive Thinking v Cold Feelings

Youch! I went swimming early this morning only I had forgotten my trunks. So I used the ones from yesterday which I had left in the boot of my car. Only overnight they had frozen solid. Youch!

I met a guy called Miro in Tesco today. Miro used to work for Legal-Island a long time ago. He's from Slovakia. He told me all about the mountains where soon Youngen and I are about to perform our snow aerobatics. It sounds like a great place and I can't wait to go.

I'm a little worried about the weather forecast however for Ireland. It's not great and I'm wondering if Youngen & I will have to ski to our respective departure points. However, I'm actively replacing worry in my mind with positive thinking for this as we know is all powerful.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Of Turning Pages and Turning Back Time

I've just finished reading Lord Sugar's tome of an autobiography - all 600 pages of it. Well to be truthful I probably read only about 400 pages of it because some of it I found hard going at times with far too much unnecessary detail.

It was interesting to read that many of the products I bought as a kid or teenager, which for one reason or another were quite ground breaking in their day, were actually thought up by and designed by Alan Sugar. When I say this I don't mean by his engineers or his design team but his lordship himself. This includes the twin deck tape cassettes and the stack hi-fi system. I remember my mate buying the hi-fi in probably about 1978. It looked great but at £399 I just knew it had to sound wonky. I was wrong. It sounded great.

I'm a great Apprentice fan and I've huge respect for what Lord Saccharine has achieved. In his life time he's built an empire from nothing. He's improved significantly the quality of many electrical products making them available to an awful lot more people than before. He's created jobs and wealth for hundreds if not thousands of people. So why couldn't I take to him in his own account of how he achieved all of this? May be it was because in these 600 pages he comes across as belligerent, petty, vindictive and lacking in any empathy. You'd expect to find this in a biography of someone that was out to be controversial and make headlines but not in your own work. Churchill once said "History will be kind to me because I intend to write it". Will history be kind to Lord Sugar as a result of this autobiography? It's hard to see.

Of Climbing Mountains

I've just had a great weekend. It started on Friday lunch time with the Legal-Island Christmas Party. It was a hoot and everyone appeared on great form. Best of all were the impromptu speeches made by everyone at the party. They all commented on what a great year we've had and how much each of us had got from it and achieved. It was lovely to see. Rock on the Islanders!

On Saturday I tried out the new spa at the Slieve Donard Hotel (where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea). It's nice but to be honest I would have preferred to be out hiking over the Mournes. It's just as relaxing and a good deal less demanding on the wallet.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Of Secret Santa Detectives

It's our Christmas party today. We're off to the Ballyrobbin for lunch with our secret santa presents bursting to be opened. I caught one of the Legal-Island staff having a nosey at the presents yesterday. The incident reminded of my sister who used to sneak down stairs and go through all the presents under the tree one by one to work out what they were. She'd shake them, listen to them and sometimes sniff them too. She was so good at it that before anyone had opened their present she was able to say who it was from, what it was and no doubt she had also worked out in her mind roughly how much it had cost.

It's funny what you remember about Christmas. I recall waking up Christmas Day with my first ever hangover aged about 17 I guess. It was a humdinger and collected following my first ever college trip to the pub. This was followed by a trip home on a bus in which I was conducting all passengers on the top floor in Christmas carols. The waking up the following day was the hard part though. Tugging on my foot hanging off the bed was my brother-in-laws Mum. A lovely woman but golly could she talk the talk and her constant "Merry Christmas duck" (for everyone in Northampton is called "duck" for some reason) "Merry Christmas duck" just felt like a knife through my brain.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Of Sloping Off to the Slopes

I love my BMW. But I have to accept that it's a fair weather car. It seems to get stuck everywhere I go in the this cold snowy weather. I have to park it on slopes so at least I have a chance of rolling it out of where ever I left it. Last night I tried to nudge it out of my drive way using the neighbour's car. It didn't work. I tried to pull it out but there's no tow hook on the front of the car that I can see (almost like BMW didn't want to facilitate the humiliation of its car being seen on the road towed by another vehicle). May be the solution is simply to change the tyres to winter ones. According to Arnold our Polish employee lots of winter tyres are being imported from Eastern Europe at the moment at £75 a pop.

I'm off skiing with Youngen (MkII) soon and leaving the car far behind out of trouble out of sight and out of mind.

Of Patently Long Mornings

I'm off to see a patent attorney today or at least the Northern Ireland equivalent of one. I want to see if someone has already come up with and protected an idea which I think could be worth a fortune. I can't believe someone hasn't thought of it yet so I'm not getting my hopes up. But then I don't see it in the market place either so occasionally I fill up with excitement thinking there is still this gaping hole in the market that Mr P and his merry folk could fill. Guess I'll know by lunch time today.

Could be a long morning....

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

No.428 Of Disfunctional Snowmen

I was snowed in this morning. The only way I could get out was by driving forward and over my next door neighbour's garden. I wouldn't have felt so bad if the good lady doesn't suffer from OCD. But she does and the sight of two large tyre tracks across her lawn and drive wont do much to put her in a cheerful mood I know when she finally makes it out the house with the kids this morning. Worse still I drove over her kids' snowman. It wasn't deliberate. The back of the car just swung round taking out all in it's path including Mr Snowman. Not a great start to the day you might say.

The scenery at the moment is just beautiful. I don't think Antrim has ever looked so good. It's a shame we can't really function in it..

Monday, 6 December 2010

No.427 Of Banking on a Call

My bank manager is trying hard to get hold of me at the moment. She's phoned three times and even taken to emailing me now. I've not responded. It's childish I know but I'm rather enjoying the ball being on the other foot. For so long I'd phone a bank and get through to a call centre who would take a message and tell me that the appropriate person would call. But they never did. So my bank manager can wait, or write or fax or just have a Merry Christmas and I'll catch her in the New Year.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

No.431 Of Wintertime Bathing in Tents

I went to see the fabulous La Soiree on Friday night at the South Bank, London. It consists of a collection of acts the likes of which you're unlikely to see anywhere else in London. Done in Burlesque style in a tent and opened with Herb Albert music you know immediately that this night is going to be quite unlike any other you've experienced.

The evening finished with David O'Mer a former champion gymnast and his now famous bath gymnastics. This has to be the most sexy performance this staunch heterosexual has ever seen a man or, indeed, a woman do. It's explosively sensual, artistic and beautiful something I'm sure the row full of gay men sat nearby would attest to.

Good show La Soiree. Good show.

Friday, 3 December 2010

No.430 Of Coming Home and Going Away

It's not coming home : the football world cup that is. And thank goodness. It's bad enough getting over the dashed unrealistic hopes that we could ever win the thing again each time we lose and convincingly on the world stage - but double the pain when it's on home soil.

I'm in London at the moment. It's a great time to be here. It's not that busy because it's too cold for many to venture outdoors and some just didn't bother at all to fly into the capital with the weather reports as bad as they were. My strategy was to play the long game expect delay and lots of moaning people but go prepared and slowly but gradually I'll get to where I'm going. So far it's worked. Yes I did have a three hour delay at the airport but I had my Lord Sugar book with me and got through a good 200 pages before we took to the air. I like that man and what he's done but I'm struggling to continue reading his book. It doesn't flow like James Caan's book or Theo Paphitis's for that matter but hey lets hope, like the weather, it will pick up.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

No.430 Of Extremes & Extreme Embarrassment

It was Baltic cold when I got into the car this morning and the Z4 seemed to slip and slide its way out of the development before it managed to get any decent grip on the road outside.

Last night I had fallen asleep listening to the BBC World Service. The radio woke me this morning at about 4a.m.. There was a programme on about extremes in the world. The reporter was in a desert somewhere in East Africa which apparently is the hottest inhabited spot in the world regularly clocking 55 degrees centigrade. Later, the same reporter was in a small town in Siberia which is the coldest town in the world having once experienced -71.2 degrees and regularly clocking -50. She said the town folk seem to get use to it. The kids pile into the school buses just like anywhere else only all you can see of them as the bus goes by in the morning is lots of pairs of eyes peering through woollen face masks and oversized hoods

In the past 3 days the UK has seen -6 degrees and an average of 10cms of snow and it's crippled us. I wonder if any Russian or African journalists come over here and to report that news back home.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

No.429 Of Mainly Alistair Campbell

I was at a black tie dinner last night with master communicator Alistair Campbell. Whenever I go to these events I never know who is going to turn up. By that I mean what sort of mood I'll be in. Sometimes I love the networking opportunities each dinner presents and I work the room until my wallet can't take any more cards. On other occasions I look around and see mainly the same faces, mainly men looking mainly like each other and I wonder why I bother attending such events. Last night I was angling toward the latter type of mood and person but was saved by having great company sat either side of me at the table.

Campbell was superb. He seems to be able to pass on amusing stories and useful advice and wisdom he has acquired from working closely with some of the greatest leaders of the day whilst remaining grounded, modest and honest. Mighty.