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Most companies of any size offer a few benefits and perks to their employees. The railway offers more than most. Who wouldn’t want a final salary based pension? They’re hard to come by these days. Some (most? all? I don’t know…) Train Operating Companies also provide a scheme, which I participate in, to buy shares in the business. I buy three shares, two more are thrown in for free. There are conditions, of course, and it really only works if you treat it as a long term deal. But my favourite perk, which works in the here and now, are the travel benefits. I’ve probably touched on this before. But I’m not sure I’ve ever explained the full deal.
I have been to watch a day of sports at the Olympics. I’ve seen Liverpool FC play at Wembley. I’ve cheered on Mexico at the Estadio Azteca. But there are still a few more sporting events that I want to see in the flesh. I must see Liverpool play at Anfield. Hopefully next season. I have long wanted to watch a session of the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield – I have a ticket for the next tournament in April 2019. And my life won’t be complete unless I watch a World Cup game. And today, that may have just become possible. Mexico will host the 2026 World Cup, along with the US and Canada.
I strolled past this marvel of engineering at the weekend. It is truly a thing of beauty, one of the finest cars ever made. I don’t care how quirky it is, I love it. And I’m not alone – it came third in a poll for Car of the Century. Indeed, if I were more mechanically minded, cash rish and with time on my hands, I’d pick an old DS as a restoration project. Some unkind soul might suggest that the first DS was in need of restoration about five minutes after it came off the production line. French cars have that sort of reputation. Regardless, I have neither the know-how, money nor time to embark on such a project. Instead, I settle for photographing other people’s efforts.
Life on a narrowboat always greatly appealed to me, although it’s a life best suited to a singleton. In my opinion. I personally wouldn’t want to share quite such a limited amount of living space with another. I like solitude, even extended periods of it. I like the rural setting. I like living by, or in this case, on the water. And who wouldn’t like to be able to travel the country without ever leaving home? Modern technology means that you can cram so much more into the smallish space. Flatscreen televisions, microwaves and a kindle for a library’s worth of books. An iPad to keep one in touch with the world. And I noticed quite a few narrowboats with solar panels, which must keep down the already reasonable costs of narrowboat life. They don’t look pretty though. Mr Musk should get to work on a solution.
Three days to go, at the time of writing. The excitement is….not at all what it used to be when a World Cup was about to start. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, the tournament is being held in Russia. It feels wrong. It is, almost certainly, wrong. As with Qatar, there are suspicions, to say the least, that the right to host the World Cup has been bought – not won. But unlike Qatar, Russia is at least a major football playing nation. But then there is Putin and his regime. English fans usually travel in fantastic numbers. Not this time.
In a few short months I will reach something of a milestone. It’s a slightly notional milestone, some would say. It’s not so much that I will turn 46 years of age. It’s more to do with identity and how I see myself. If you were to ask me where I’m from, my answer might depend on where you’re from. To a Mexican, I’m British. To a Scot, I’m English. To an Englisher, I am a Londoner. To a Londoner? Perhaps I’m a bruv. I’m not sure. It’s been a while since I tuned into Eastenders. But anyway, given that I left the capital in favour of the south coast at age 23, in a few short months I will reach the point where I’m just half a Londoner, and then a day later I will become less than half a Londoner, and more than half something-else. If we are to be precise, I will be 50% Londoner, 37% Dorseter and 13% Mexican.
Death usually comes with a jingle. The jingle of a breaking news alert from the BBC, Guardian, Washington Post or Sky News apps on my phone. I’ve not monitored this enough to make a scientifically based assertion, but I sense that the BBC is the quickest at bringing bad tidings. News flashes are almost always bad news. Today, the news was that Anthony Bourdain had died. Tragically, at his own hand. I imagine you would know who Anthony Bourdain is. If not, he’s a chef, a writer and a travel/food show presenter. I’ve never had the pleasure of feasting on a meal served up by the great man, so I cannot speak for the quality of his cooking. But I love his writing. His television shows even more so.
There is a special magic to be found in the Arabic world. It’s in the architecture, the sounds, the smells, the language and the people. It is other wordly. There is a sense of a history more ancient than elsewhere. For the most part I guess that this is simply a matter of fact. I love hearing the call to prayer. I love listening to conversations on the street, despite not understanding a word. I love the hospitality that is shown by almost everyone you meet. I pity those who have allowed themselves to be convinced that the Arabic world is a dangerous place inhabited by animals. They’re missing out.
Here’s one of my rather infrequent self portraits. I’ve been missing in action longer than Melania Trump, but no one seems to have noticed. Regardless, here is proof that I’m still alive and kicking. I’m wearing my currrent favourite t-shirt, a snazzy green number by SuperDry. I like the brand alot. It’s good quality and fits nicely. It’s not cheap, but I shop once or twice a year in the sales, using any extra vouchers I can find. I prefer the stuff which has minimal branding, which prevents me from buying about 50% of their clothes due to the foot high logos stamped on them.
We are reaching the end of the road. We know not exactly where the road ends, as this is unchartered territory – not even Google has a map to get us out of this tangle. There are several ominous looking junctions ahead though. We do know when it will end, providing Brexit doesn’t crash and burn before then. And at the moment, Brexit is careening is a most alarming manner. To the casual observer, it looks almost out of control. Is the driver asleep at the wheel? Will she bail before it goes bang? We might be about to find out.
Decision One: A friend of mine bought his partner a new camera, her first ‘proper camera’. Very generous! It’s a Canon DSLR. Nice. He’s taken her for a couple of photo walks already. Good way to start off. Now he’s thinking of spending £300 on a ten lesson photography course – what do I think about that? No f*****g way! For that sort of money, you could take a three night break to a fantastic European city, including flights and meals, and throw in a Photography for Dummies book to read on the way. I’m pretty convinced that spending a few days roaming somewhere exotic shooting at everything and anything will be a more productive and enjoyable experience. I’m a big fan of on the job training. Not such a big fan of classrooms.
Some new technology ideas change everything, and one wonders what one did before. Others are just gimmicks, soon to pass into history. And others still look like gimmicks, but prove to be a fantastic idea. Apple Pay fits into that latter category. And Live Photos too, as I have discovered twice over. With the feature turned on, every photo you take is actually a three second video, with audio. My initial thought was, ‘what’s the point?’ And I turned the feature off. But then I thought I’d give it a proper try, and turned it back on a month or two later. Which was a good move. Because it turns out there are three good points.
Britain has no shortage of castles. There’s a huge range in size, fame and condition for castle fans to choose from. Some, such as the Queen’s favourite abode at Windsor, are superbly preserved, with well appointed interiors. Others, such as my local – Corfe Castle – is in a somewhat lesser state of repair. Indeed, Corfe is just a small collapse or two away from having its status altered from ‘castle ruins’ to ‘pile of medieval blocks’. But it’s a popular and well maintained set of ruins, run by the National Trust, so I suspect any intervention by Mother Nature would be put right soon after. It’s even just had mainline train services restored to its accompanying train station for the first time since the 1970s
Bournemouth is a popular seaside town. Very popular, even. If I had to liken it to a Mexican resort, then Bournemouth is our version of Acapulco. Is the sea as warm or the tacos as good as those on the Pacific coast? No, of course not. But the outrageous traffic jams of visitors from the capital city at the beginning of a holiday weekend, and back out at the end, are very similar. Bournemouth is one of three prime coastal hotspots for Londoners fleeing the smoke.
The photo is from 2006, and Lopez Obrador’s first attempt to win the office of president. This protest occurred at the IFE building across the road from our home. Obrador came and gave a speech to a sizeable and noisy crowd there. Voto por voto! I think I took this photo on that very day. In just a couple months time, Mexico will go to the polls to decide which political crook gets to screw them over for the next six years. Obrador has his hat in the ring again. And he looks to be in with a realistic chance of finally realising his dream.