What’s In A Name?

I have uploaded 15,819 photos to my Flickr account over an eleven year period. Although some were taken before I joined up with Flickr but were uploaded later. Say, about a thousand images. Or less. At the time of writing, my photos have been viewed a total of 1,140,466 times. Which suggests I should probably have used Flickr as my blog, not WordPress. Continue reading “What’s In A Name?”

I Broke My Blog

Again. Since moving over from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, my blog has been broken numerous times. Two or three occasions were down to a plugin being hacked. It was almost certainly hacked just the once, but it took more than one go at reinstating the blog to fix the problem. On another two or three occasions, the blog simply shut down and disappeared for no good reason. Which left me with more time consuming repair work to do.

Continue reading “I Broke My Blog”

One CDMX Museum

A while ago I came across a Facebook post title, ‘If You Had To Choose One Museum In Mexico City, what would it be?’, with the basic premise that the visitor will be in the city for just three days. I never got around to putting in my suggestion, but I enjoyed reading other people’s recommendations. I’ve seen my fair share of Mexico City’s museums. In fact, there can’t be that many people who’ve been to more of the city’s museums than I. Continue reading “One CDMX Museum”

Farewell London

Tonight the baton will be passed by London to Rio, and the British capital will no longer be the current Olympic city. It scarcely feels like it was 4 years ago that Mrs P and I took our seats in the Olympic stadium in the revitalised east London borough chosen for the site of the games. It was a fabulous day and, though I may be biased, a fabulous four weeks of sports and entertainment. Continue reading “Farewell London”

The Euro Pioneer

Fifteen years ago, I worked as a service station manager for Texaco. Technically I worked for Star Service Stations Ltd, a wholly owned subsiduary of Texaco. A lengthy name, no doubt part of a tax reduction scheme. Whatever. It was for the most part the devil’s own work and I spent the best part of a decade despising my job. But the pay was quite good, so I stuck around and despised it all the way up to 2005 when I eventually had had Continue reading “The Euro Pioneer”

The Caledonian Sleeper

There’s a good set of benefits for those of us lucky enough to work on the railways. As is to be expected in a unionised industry that is very proactive when it comes to collective bargaining. As things should be in most industries if you ask me, but that’s another story. Pay, pensions, holidays and more all have generous terms. But there’s one benefit I really do like making the most of. The travel perks. Continue reading “The Caledonian Sleeper”

Living The Dream

Once upon a long ago, I upped sticks and moved to Mexico City. I happily blended in as well as a 6 foot plus tall pasty faced Englishman can in a city of short and (mostly) dark skinned faces. I embraced the food, the culture, the people, the life and everything in between. But I missed British television. The BBC in particular. But that was no problem. There are several neferarious ways to pick up British broadcasts from around the world. Continue reading “Living The Dream”

The Politics of Blogging

My transfer from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is complete. Well, the transfer itself was completed within the space of a few minutes quite some time ago. However, installing a theme, the required plug-ins and tidying things up – that took a little while longer. But it’s almost done now. Apart from any bits or pieces that I may have missed. Feel free to let me know if you find anything broken. Continue reading “The Politics of Blogging”

An Interlude

For the last year, I’ve been wanting to self host my blog. To move it from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. There are pros and cons to such a move, but in my view the pros win. But I’ve been stopped in my tracks each time I have tried to import my blog onto a self hosted server. A variety of error messages have left me at an impasse. I looked for solutions, but mostly found other people in the same boat, unable to cross to the other Continue reading “An Interlude”

The Commute

The mass commute must be a relatively modern creation. I suspect that few people will refer to its invention in the same breath as sliced bread or the wheel. By all accounts, most people seem to loathe their daily commute. But not me. I love my commute. I always have done, whether I was living in London or Mexico Ciy or here in Bournemouth. It’s a bit of me time.

These days I have a fairly varied commute. One of the joys of being a relief clerk, is that my place of work can change on a daily basis. The times change too. Sometimes I need to drive to work, setting out from home at 5am. The streets are all mine, other than the occasional fox slinking from driveway to driveway in urban areas.

Once I hit the countryside, I am more likely to see deer or rabbits grazing at the roadside. Some of them get closer to the roadside than is wise, and they become road rugs, until they are eventually squished into oblivion over a period of days or weeks. This is the only form I’ve seen a badger. Which is a shame.

Most of the time, though, I take the train to work. I might turn east out of my home station and travel into the heart of the New Forest. More usually I turn west, into deepest, darkest Dorset. Let’s take that journey today. Through picturesque woodlands, well groomed farmlands, past one of the worlds largest natural harbours, across flooded plains and the rivers responsible for all that excess water.

From my little office on the train, from where I write this very post, I can gaze out at the scenery. It changes every day. Today the sun is up and the sky is blue, but the grass and hedgerows are still glistening white from last nights heavy frost. The smooth undisturbed waters of the bay have a surreal glow in the early morning sun.  Trees and pylons cast long, monstrous shadows across wild, untended heathland.

The train stops nine times along the way. But today I am on board for the full duration. My final destination , an hour after I set out, will be in a seaside town which gained temporary fame as the home of sailing in the 2012 Olympics. Locally, the place has become more famous, infamous even, for crime.

If the prowling chavs don’t manage to slip your lunch money out of your back pocket for their heroin fix, then a seagull will rob you of your lunch. British seagulls are big ballsy birds and will have your fish n chips away from your grasp in an instant.

The Apple Market

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There is a magical place in London, where all your technological dreams come true. Staffed by pixies and leprechauns, who have brought with them the finest gifts from the end of the rainbow to sell to those of us lucky enough to know the whereabouts of this secret marketplace. Freshly cut bouquests of iPads, posies of iPod Nanos and bunches of iPhones adorn the stalls. If you’re feeling flush, perhaps you might be interested in an extra special iMac arrangement, or maybe, as it’s Christmas, you’ll be tempted by a wreath made out of purest gold MacBooks.

Alternatively, I’ve been for a day to London, stopping by at Covent Garden, to enjoy the Christmas lights. Take your pick. Whichever tale sounds best to you, that’s the true story.

On another note, WordPress have changed their quick post editor. Again. I found the first version to be a bit ‘meh’. This latest update is awful. The full editor is still available, but I am a little tired of WordPress’ determination to always take me to the quick editor by default.

Explore the nightlife in Newcastle

Many poets have poetized the magic of the night. The revelry of nights in Newcastle have not been celebrated yet in poetry but have been given a high reputation. Newcastle was awarded the title of 2009 best UK party city for New Year’s Eve by the Times. This urban and vibrant vigorous city located on the north western bank of the River Tyne keeps on attracting more and more of those who wish to have an unforgettable night. I explored the nightlife of this wonderful city together with my cousins and some of their friends living in student accommodation Newcastle. Here is my report on the crazy nocturnal life in Newcastle.

  • The Bigg Market

This area has nothing to do with cultural time, chic and glamour. Here you will find cheap drinks, unashamed dancing, abandoned hilarity and people celebrating stag and hen parties. Despite the fact that there are more than two tens of pubs and bars, queues are rather common here. If your mission is not only drinking all night long, you may want to visit Italian or Indian restaurants.

  • The Diamond Strip

In case you are not fond of the above mentioned time-spending, the Diamond Strip will be the right area. Here you’ll meet for sure local celebrities and other VIPs. The Diamond Strip Florita’s, Madame Koo, Revolution, Bijoux, Perdu, Baby Lynch and Tup Tup Palace.

  • The Quayside

It is a historic part of Newcastle. Just picture the following scene, you sit at the table, sip a cocktail and feed your sight with stunning views of the river Tyne and bridges. The Gateshead Millennium Bridge is the most prominent of them. It rotates and has a shape of an eye which gives the impression of the eye opening. At nighttime the bridge is totally lit up. The Pitcher & Piano is the venue that is the nearest one to the river and allows you to witness such an awesome spectacle. Grey Street and Pilgrim Street will lead you to the Quayside. On your way you can pop in the bars to bars Al Vino, Bar Luga and the Lounge that will be definitely appreciated by cocktail lovers and enjoy one of the most beautiful streets.

  •  The Gate

This place owes its popularity to the proximity of indoor clubs and bars to each other. This complex has all required for a good fun under its roof, cinema, restaurants, bars, cafes and casino.  Tiger Tiger is one the largest venue and neighbors to other bars such as Sam Jack’s, Bar Bannatyne, the Keel Row, Beyond Bar & Grill and Players.

The nightlife of Newcastle does not yield an inch to daily activities.  It offers different bars for any taste and budget and amazing views.

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Old Harry Rocks

The world famous Jurassic Coast stretches along a 95 mile length of Dorset and Devon coastline and makes a mighty fine day trip from Bournemouth. It’s not even a long day, if you’re pushed for time. Old Harry Rocks marks the eastern most point of the Jurassic Coach and is only a few miles from Bournemouth as the crow flies. Indeed, if the weather is fine, or at least not too bad, you can clearly see the rocks from Bournemouth’s beaches. Getting there is a 45 minute drive or bus ride – the Purbeck Breezer leaves Bournemouth hourly.

The trip itself is quite pleasant, winding through the millionaires playground of Sandbanks, across Poole Harbour on the chain ferry and onwards through the Purbeck countryside until you reach the little town of Studland. From there, your journey makes use of your legs rather than the internal combustion engine. The rocks are a 3/4 mile stroll up and down rough tracks and across grasslands to the top of the cliffs.

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Why  the name Old Harry Rocks? No one knows for sure. One theory is that the devil, referred to locally as Old Harry, took a nap here once upon a time. It seems an unlikely tale to me. Another story holds that a local pirate, Harry Paye, used to keep his loot in the area. This strikes me a being a little more plausible. Whatever the case, the Rocks have been attracting visitors for a long time, although these days you’re more likely to find that they are happy day trippers, coming to admire the view.

Or else, rather unfortunately, unhappy souls who plan on making this view their last. It’s a long drop to the rocks on the bottom. It’s a popular spot for that sort of thing. Even more unfortunately, it is not unknown for visitors to slip and fall accidentally. The vase of flowers are there for a young woman who took an unplanned tumble the week before my visit. Suffice it to say, one should mind one’s step and tread carefully. And if you’re walking the dog, make sure you throw the stick in the right direction.

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The walk and fresh sea air will make you hungry. There are three dining options available to you. The Pig is a rather posh hotel serving fine cuisine with a price tag to match. Mains will set you back from £16 to £20 per head. Or there is the Bankes Arms, a pub that dates back to 1549, or so they say. Alternatively, if the weather is nice, bring your own grub. There’s plenty of space on the cliff tops for a picnic.

We chose to splash out and have something fancy at the Pig. We’d checked the menu out on our way there and I simply needed to choose between the liver and bacon or the veal. It’s a very cosy little place. Warm and a little worn, which just adds to the character. Alas, lunch service ends at 2.30 pm and we  didn’t have time to wait for dinner service. We headed back down the road to the Bankes Arms. Which is very worn, to the point that one wouldn’t feel out of place spitting on the splintered floorboards. But I didn’t. I’m pretty sure that is frowned upon.DSCF5944

Pubs in the UK are pretty hit and miss. With the chains, such as Wetherspoons, the food is cheap but consistent. You know what you’ll get. Otherwise, you could end up with either a feast or a plate of gristle and fat. And a bill which will sometimes make you wonder if you couldn’t have lasted a little longer till you get to Claridge’s. I always play it safe in these sorts of establishments. Most of them will do a reasonable fish and chips. A cheese ploughmans is also hard to screw up. On this occasion I was a little more daring and plumped for the faggots. The chalkboard told me that they are locally made. One hopes that anything locally made will be reasonably edible. And faggots aren’t hard to cook. As it turned out they were very good. A little overdone, but perfectly satisfying and pretty tasty.

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I took more than these three photos. To see the full set of my snaps from our trip to Old Harry Rocks, click here and you will soon find yourself at the right place for the photo tour.

The Scottish Independence Fraud

A couple of months ago I withdrew some money from a Tesco cashpoint. The screen came up with a little message. “All our call centres are in the UK. Because all our customers are in the UK“. It made me chuckle. I wondered how that would read in a year or two if the Scots choose to go their own way. In less than one week’s time the Scots will get to cast their vote and the decision will be made.

I’ve plenty of thoughts on the subject. But let’s look at that message on the cashpoint machine. The fact of the matter is, Scotland is host to quite a number of giant financial institutions and in the event of Scotland gaining their independence, they are all heading south of the border to London. RBS, Halifax, Lloyds and even little old Tesco. They have no choice. They need to be where their customers are. They need to have the backing of the Bank of England.

There’s the rub. That’s why Alex Salmond, the figurehead of the Yes campaign is so eager to ‘keep the pound’. His desire to retain sterling is not because of any historical link to the currency. Not because of any fondness for it. It’s because he wants Scotland to be underwritten by the Bank of England, for that inevitable day when everything goes economically pear shaped.

So when Mr Salmond boasts that Scotland is strong enough, confident enough and big enough to be its own master, he’s not quite telling the whole truth. He’s clearly not confident that Scotland is either strong enough or big enough to weather the financial storms without England backing them up. What Salmond really wants is devolution, but with a throne upon which he can sit.

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Independence comes down to two real issues. The first is, to state the obvious, economics based. So what sort of ‘independence’ is he peddling with his insistence on a currency union? Just how independent have Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain been these last five years? They’ve been effectively annexed into provinces of Germany.

It’s highly unlikely that Scotland will get to keep the pound. As an English person, I would not want them sharing our currency. If they want independence, that’s fine. But don’t cherry pick the good bits for yourselves and leave the rotten parts for us all to share. Do independence properly. Set up your own currency, or <suppresses giggle> join the Euro.

Only the most delusional Scot believes that they will be more prosperous in the short and medium term after independence. They will have extra oil revenues. And they will need them. To pay the costs of the unemployed. All the finance workers. The shipbuilders. The military bases. The industries currently based in Scotland which are dependent on being part of a United Kingdom. Plus all the basic set up costs of forming your own country. There will come a day when the Tesco cashpoints in Edinburgh and Glasgow might as well read, ‘All our call centres are in England. Because that’s where the money is. Bad luck’.

Then there’s the second issue that I referred to. It’s an emotional choice. It’s the chord that the nationalists are fine tuning to pull at the heart strings of the undecided voter. Cry freedom! Bad Westminster, Good Holyrood. It’s an unquantifiable argument that cannot be made with reason or logic. But it is effective. Mr Salmond is essentially pleading with voters to cast their ballot based on their heart, not their head. And the gap between the Yes and No campaigns has closed in the run up to the referendum, with some pollsters making it a neck and neck battle.

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There are other consequences to a Yes vote that are worth touching upon. In the last General Election, we had a hung parliament. The Conservatives failed to gain a majority of seats in Westminster. Their inability to woo voters in Scotland was a key part of this. They have just one of the 59 available Scottish seats. Without Scotland, David Cameron would have had a comfortable majority. Next year it is likely he will win a majority in the 2015 General Election if Scottish seats are removed from Westminster. Which means we will have another referendum. To be in the EU or out? (Caveat: the Scottish seats won’t be removed in time for the next election, but a year after which may prompt another General Election.)

Without Scotland it is more likely (though not necessarily likely) that the vote will lead to England’s exit from the EU. So many of the benefits that the Scots may assume will come from being in the EU with the rest of the UK may not materialise. It’s worthy of consideration.

My own feeling is that we are better together. The politicians are going to great lengths to predict the futures of our country/countries relative to the success of their own campaigns. But I look to the past, to the last 300 years. I am fairly certain that both England nor Scotland are be better off for having joined in union. I am equally certain that the future holds the same sort of story.

So what will happen? What would be the best result? If you’re interested in this story, I can point you in the right direction. The Yes campaign’s website is here. The No campaign website, Better Together, is here. The BBC poll tracker is here. And my preferred economics commentator, Robert Peston of the BBC can be read here. He has been posting plenty of interesting thoughts this last couple of weeks.

Finally, perhaps the soundest predictors of the future of them all. The bookmakers. They don’t like losing money. They don’t always get it right, but when it comes to uncertain outcomes, they have a better track record than most. What do they say? The bookies are convinced that this time next week, the United Kingdom will be intact. The No vote will triumph.

But the result is not entirely a foregone conclusion. Could Scotland have their independence? No, not if Alex Salmond gets his way. Ironically. But he might find in victory that the English force it upon them anyway. The Bank of England is for those inside of the UK. Not on the outside.

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London Then And Now

Photographers have been documenting the world we live in for nearly 200 years, since Nicéphore Niépce successfully managed to put an image on paper. Albeit temporarily. There’s been enough photography since those early days to create some ‘then and now’ comparisons, which is exactly what the Museum of London have recently done with a collection of old image of London. How many locations can you identify?

But it’s not just photographic comparisons that can be made. Video has also been going a while. Long enough for this side by side comparison of the UK’s capital city. It’s always interesting to see not just how places have changed, but also how large parts of them have stayed very much the same.

London in 1927 & 2013 from Simon Smith on Vimeo.