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Pig Sick

Carnitas. Chunks of pork wrapped in a tortilla, a little onion and cilantro. Delicious. Delectable. Deadly. Within a couple of hours of chomping on a couple of the tacos, I was feeling a bit off. I didn’t sleep the whole night, as I felt worse. I tried to sleep in the spare room at first, then on the living room floor with my head hanging out the patio door. Fever had hit. But sunrise my carnitas had exited the way they had entered. It came as no surprise. A few hours later what wasn’t expelled forced an exit via the same route. Is this all too much information?

But the fever burned on, until late in the evening when my stubborn refusal to go to the doctor was beat. I waddled in, got checked over, had my 100+ temperature ummed and erred over and left with a prescription for several packets of pills. Bless the make of anti biotics. By morning the fever was gone.

The photo below is from the guilty establishment. I had taken it thinking of post about  how I’ll miss the city’s taquerias. The ability to stop on almost any corner for a cheap feast. It didn’t work out like that. Right now the thought of carnitas has my stomach churning in a not good way. In fact anything in a tortilla makes me want to gag. Just as well this happened a couple of days before I leave, not a couple of days after I arrived. One thing is for sure. Whilst the Tres Coyotes taqueria has a long history and is very popular, it gets a serious thumbs down from me.

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The Fine Line

There’s plenty of controversy been doing the rounds during my final fortnight in Mexico City. It all kicked off with Top Gear’s tirade against Mexicans. And was rounded off with a little spat, which has continued elsewhere, about multiculturalism. I defended the former, in firm belief that a little stereotyped humour hurts no one. Many people disagreed with me. I disagreed with myself, a little bit at least, when I became aware of  one comment in particular, along the lines of ‘Imagine waking up in the morning and remembering that you’re a Mexican…’. That was indeed plain offensive. There was no pun, stereotype or witticism in that comment. I had missed it the first couple of times I watched it on YouTube. Not paying proper attention.

Although I still belief that poking fun at a stereotype, in most circumstances, with the right audience and when done in the right manner, is fine. And ambassadors are no more off limit than any other public official. But it has got me thinking. Who else found it funny? Fat, ignorant nincompoops living in the 19th century? Do I want to put myself in that category? Well, plenty of people, from all sorts of backgrounds found it, at least in part, funny. Even if with a reservation or two. So I can wipe the sweat from my brow and relax. It’s a shame about that one comment I mentioned. Rather soured things. And, dear Mexican amigos, be rest assured that not everyone in the UK thinks it’s fine to broadcast such ‘comedy’, as you’ll see in the video below.

On to multiculturalism. It’s a hot topic. One worthy of discussing. It has merit. Unfortunately, it’s one of those subjects that attracts the less intelligent, less tolerant, members of society who prefer to contribute to the debate via their backside. Politicians aren’t immune, either. I’ve often asked opponents to multiculturalism to offer a decent description of the concept. One with a decent consensus. I’ve not had a sensible response as of yet. It is many things to many people. Cameron refers to ‘state multiculturalism’ and says we must stop “encourages different communities to live separate lives”.

What’s to be done? Should we picket rest-homes and prevent old ladies from going down the Post Office to collect their pensions, which they then gamble away down the bingo hall? Of course not. What many people really seem to mean has nothing to do with multiculturalism per se. It’s about Islam. And for the most part, only about Islam. That Indian communities that exist, and have existed for a long time, in the UK are simply not on the radar. Nor are the Huguenots. Of course, with time, they became assimilated. Time…..

Elements of Islam in the UK present a genuine issue. As they do in a number of EU countries. So why not face that issue, the real issue, instead of hiding behind the pretence of there being a multicultural issue? Do we need common grounds, common forces that bind us together rather than seperate us? Of course. Language is one. And the rule of law is another. A law which is blind to race, colour, religion et al. A law that is fair and impartial. There is no more important ‘commonality’ in our society. And yet, one of the solutions being offered by some, mentioning no names, is to adopt racial profiling. Adjust the law to favour one over another.

That’s not providing a ‘commonality’. That’s doing quite the opposite. I do wish these people would think things through before making such silly statements. The law is there, or certainly should be there, to protect the rights and freedoms of everyone. To ensure that all law abiding citizens can go about their lives doing as they please, without interference or prejudice. And to prevent those who would interfere in others lives because of prejudice, extremism and ignorance, among other things.

Which brings me back to an earlier point. I pondered on who I was laughing with when watching Top Gear. Who are the ‘anti-multiculturalists’ aligning themselves with? Do they really want to be in that sort of a crowd? It could simply be that there are some shared and reasonable opinions that overlap between the moderate and extreme ends. But maybe there’s more to it. You’d think some might pause and reflect on that. But I suspect they won’t.

I received more email responses to my post than comments in the post itself. Something of a first. Like I said in that post, most people are intelligent enough to be able to understand a point of view without deflective defences, which are usually quickly seen through. All made the point, in different ways, that the only thing wearing lipstick and a pretty dress was a unmistakeable dose of bigotry. And that I was not the perpetrator. I thank you for you responses.

The most recent email told me to ‘keep up the good fight’. I disagree. There is no point engaging for too long with stupidity, once you’ve identified it as such. As the expression goes, they’ll only drag you down to their very base level, and beat you with their vast experience. The best thing to do is simply deny them creditability. The don’t like being put in boxes or to be labelled. It scares them witless. So I think it’s best to do just that most of the time. Put them in a box, quite literally unless you’ve moved onto flat screens, and laugh at them.

Labelling them can be more difficult, for reasons I gave in my last post. One shouldn’t hand out labels like candy and devalue the term. But labels do have definitions and sometimes, when bigotry is unmistakeable, and when the label fits, then stick it on. It seems unfair that it should always be the innocent wearing yellow stars on their overcoats.

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A Chocolate Goodbye

It’s traditional, if you’ve had a job for a while at least, to get a leaving party when you depart. One of the big bonuses of my form of employment is that I effectively have a half dozen jobs. And a half dozen leaving parties. I’m not going to grumble, not for a minute. A fabulous last plate of enchiladas poblanos at Bisquets Obregon yesterday and a big chocolate cake this morning. I’m being treated to a lunch tomorrow, and I have a meeting with a large burger at Chiulis on Monday.

So I must have done something right over the last five years and nine months, even if I did make at least one blunder. Look at that cake, darnit! With Love For Me. Leaving is sad, but at least I’m leaving with a full belly and fond farewells, not spit on my face and a boot in my behind! Although Top Gear made the latter a close possibility….thanks for that, Clarkson!

I had wondered how UK employers would react to my stay here in sunny Mexico. I think, unfortunately, the general reaction will be negative. Although I have this morning received the first positive email, asking to chat with me by telephone about the role. Not a job offer. Not even a formal job interview. But promising, and it’s a job I’d rather like. I know how I see my time here, with regards employment in the UK. I think it is fair to say that 99% of retail management is about people. How you can motivate, relate to, manage and organise people.

That’s a skill some people have, and some people don’t. My work as an English teacher has, in my opinion, enhanced those skills, leaving me better equipped for retail management, not worse. The rest of the required job skills – numeracy, common sense, analysis and the ability to work hard – are not lost in five and a bit years.

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Photos For Profits

The BBC have an interesting video on selling photography that I thought I’d share. Interesting for me on several counts. Firstly, the prospects of profiting from your photos – amateur snappers are getting an ever bigger share of the image sales market every year. Although I’ve never had a cent. True, the requests I have had I’ve accepted with a copy of the book or magazine in lieu of payment. But I’ve had nothing through the Getty arrangement with Flickr.

Secondly, they feature an MFT camera in the video, a Panasonic GF2. A little more expensive than my Olympus Pen, which is also in the video briefly, but they share much of the same tech. It’s a fabulous little camera. It also has a ‘smaller brother’ now, if you want quality but don’t want to leave the comapct market just yet – the Olympus XZ-1.

Thirdly…shooting photographs in London. Just 7 days to go….

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Censorship Abroad

I’ve always considered Mexicans, in Mexico City at least, to be a tolerant people. I’ve yet to be spat on for my lack of Catholic belief, nor turned away from a retail or other establishment for the colour of my skin. There are plenty of non Mexican communities who live happily in the city, without, to my knowledge, any grief. Well, without any of the grief that isn’t equally shared amongst everyone. Corruption makes no great distinction.

So it’s sad to see that a Chinese community is suffering persecution in the Distrito Federal. But this is an unusual case, because the persecution isn’t coming from the Mexican authorities, but the Chinese authorities. Apparently. Thugs hired by the Chinese Embassy, in broad daylight, dismantled a Falun Gong float. Chinese suppresion seems to respect no borders. Equally disappointing was the fact that Mexico City police officers were present, but simply stood by and watched.

One would hope that this issue is taken up with the Chinese at an official level, but I have my doubts that any such thing will happen. I will do my part on behalf of the Falun Gong however. I have added the restaurants of the city’s small Chinatown area to the list of establishments I boycott. So, Chinatown and McDonalds. This won’t be hard to do. The restaurants don’t serve an awful lot that I’d ever associate with Chinese cuisine. And I’m leaving the country in 8 days time.

On a related, but different subject, censorship takes many forms. From the Bierce Account:

Gary Denness left another comment here yesterday in which he, alas, fell right into that. I’m a racist! He put a pretty dress on it, and daubed lipstick on its face, but it was still quite recognizable. So that comment went directly to trash. Bierce is not a free-speech zone, and I do believe in censorship.

Not so. I left a reasoned comment, with no profanity and no disguised accusations. Don Felipe begins many of his ‘racially sensitive’ posts with a disclaimer of one sort or another so I’m sure he knows full well onto what sort of ground he is treading. ‘Racist’ is an offensive label, no doubt about it. He has on occasion suggested that his current country of residence and the nationality of his bride is proof that he is not, couldn’t possibly be, heaven forbid, a racist. It’s a defence he has used or implied more than once, and one I thought I’d challenge. Among other issues I  have challenged. This was, really, a side issue. A ‘by the by’.  And was labelled as such.

I simply pointed out that his choice of country to settle in, and his choice of bride, does not in any way disqualify him from being a racist. I pointed out that there have been some incorrigible racists over the centuries, easily identifiable as such, who have settled on shores other than their own. Who have taken wives, or mistresses, of a colour that does not match their own. Sometimes slaves, sometimes not. And I also pointed out, to make sure I was being clearly understood, that this was not an accusation of racism that I was throwing at him. I made it clear. I was commenting on the defence. A defence that holds no water. It’s not a real defence. Whether or not he is a racist was by the by.

But as we’re on the subject, let’s get it out into the open. The Mexile isn’t so sensitive to such debates. Is Don Felipe prejudiced in any way? A tad racist, from time to time? Of course you are, señor! We all are. The definition of racism, xenophobia, sexism, sectarianism et al are all very basic. Catch-all terminology makes life difficult. In the simplest terms of the descriptions, we all fall guilty here and there. Of course, there’s a broad spectrum. Some appreciate their prejudices for what they are and do not let them break out into intolerance. Others believe most sincerely in their prejudice, labelled ‘common knowledge’ through ignorance and upbringing. Other people perpetuate prejudice through simple hatred. Where do you lie in the spectrum, señor?

I’ve never made firm judgement, nor can I be bothered to, nor am I qualified to. I suspect he lies further along the line into the ‘dark zone’ than myself. But I’ve always refrained from making any declaration as to exactly where on that spectrum he might be fairly posited. It is reasonable to say that ‘questions are raised’ when he advocates policies in favour of authorities forming suspicions, making judgements and detaining individuals solely on the basis of skin colour. But we all say things that ‘raise questions’ from time to time. Most of us, anyway.

But you see, I was not daubing lipstick on an accusation, or dressing it up to look pretty. I was in fact stripping his defence of its lipstick and pretty dress. Nothing more. That his defence is not valid does not of course infer that he must be a racist. That he wished to see more in my comment was his choice.

I have many goodbyes to say over the following week or so, as my Mexican adventure winds down. I’ll say mine to you now, Don Felipe. It’s a shame to end on a slightly sour note – I’ve long enjoyed reading about life in Patzcuaro, and enjoyed joining in conversations, even when you propose ideas I disagree with. But I’d like to think that when I take the time to contribute to a conversation, my views and opinions will be given fair airing. Even when things get a little heated, or tetchy.

There’s nothing wrong with things getting a little heated and tetchy, providing a degree of respect and politeness remain. Which was the case. I’m sure we could all shake virtual hands at the end of it, and agree to disagree.  But your choice of censorship is both a little irritating and a even a little offensive, particularly with your comment on my ‘trashed’ contribution. If you’ll comment on it, you should publish it.  That’s not an obligation, of course. It is your blog, after all. It’s really just ‘manners‘.

Your choice of moderation is not a very satisfactory way to conduct debate, but such is life.  The logical route for me to take is simply not to comment further in Felipe World. And to air my view here instead, where I decide what is allowed, and what is not. It doesn’t seem quite right that I shouldn’t be able to respond to something which, at best, was a bit of a cheap slur.

And so my view has been aired. With that I, genuinely and with sincerity, wish you all the best. I know we’ll both sleep soundly tonight anyway. I’ll continue reading your adventures and look forward to further ‘Tales’ from what will soon be my ‘former adopted homeland’. Adios amigo.

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Light At The End Of The Tunnel

My last memories of living in Mexico City? The photo below says it all. Bright lights and pain. Before I go back to rip-off Britain, I’m getting my dental work up to date. I’m typically British as far as having a sweet tooth is concerned. I have a bit of work to be done. It’s cheap here in Mexico, and there are some excellent dentists to be found. But it’s always worth asking around to see if there is a particularly good one that friends or family can recommend. The dentist you find round the corner might be fully qualified, but you want to make sure he’s a fully qualified dentist and not a fully qualified car mechanic who thought he’d try his hand at something new.

The Dentist

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Ten

Ten days to go. Goodbyes are underway. Two classes have finished, and all but one will be finished by this time next week. It’s traditional to have a leaving party when a job comes to an end. The plus point of being a independent teacher is that you have so many jobs. So many leaving parties. The first was this morning, although it had little to do with work. Homer, Mr Patel, Angel and Florecita all packed their bags shells and trundled off to a new home. But only after a last lamb feast to send them on their way. Four turtles down, six to go.

I said goodbye to American Football too this evening, at a ‘Packers Party’ at Paola’s godparents. It’s a pretty popular sport in Mexico. Plenty of the inlaws have family living in Wisconsin. Paola’s mum and nephews hail from that state. So Green Bay were the team to cheer on. They won, which made them happy. Will I watch the final next year? Not very likely. American Football isn’t really something we go for in the UK. There’s always something better on to watch. Sheepdog trials, for a starter. If you thought construction workers had a whistle on them, you’re in for an education. But the in-laws think I’m mad. How can anyone not love American Football? Meh.

The Godparents

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The Amazonian

Daniel Hernadez, in my opinion one of the best Mexico City bloggers currently blogging, has a new book out. I haven’t read it, so I can’t offer an opinion. But the link that lead me there got me wondering if my book, published with Lulu, had made it onto Amazon in paperback form. It has! I am a published author at last…..mwahahaha! An Amazonian. Who doesn’t want to have their name on a book sold by Amazon with a proper ISBN number et al? Having it on Amazon Kindle was nice, but having it in paperback is just more real.

I bought a paperback copy of the book through Lulu at the beginning of January. This wasn’t pure vanity, just partial vanity. I had to buy a copy in order to approve it before Lulu would list it on Amazon. It was nice having a real paperback in my hand for all the work I put into it though. It’s not bad. It’s like…a real book. The text on the spine is a bit big. The font choice inside was spot on though. Better than the recommended font and font size in the template I used.

So mission accomplished. From downloading a template, copy and pasting pages and pages of blog entries, editing, uploading to final product in just a couple of months. It can’t hurt my CV to be able to declare in small text at the bottom that I’ve had a book published. It didn’t hurt with ‘Dear UK Retailer‘, of course, who appear not to have read my CV beyond the first line. Do I have a really offensive name? It could be worse. I’m not Adolf Stalin, or Saddam Pot. But who knows, someone somewhere might be impressed. With the book, not my name.

It has been pointed out to me that the title of the book could be construed as being a little misleading. Is there any TEFL related stuff within the pages? Sure. But he made a fair point. There’s a lot of non TEFL stuff in there too. It’s my blog. If someone bought the book on title alone, there is the possibility he or she might feel they didn’t entirely get what they thought they thought they were getting.

But there is a description that can be read before clicking the ‘Buy’ button. And besides, one of the main objectives, in fact the main ojective was to be a published author of a book which bears employment relevance to my six years in Mexico. So TEFLers Guide – Mexico City it was. For anyone thinking of making a career in TEFL in Mexico City, or elsewhere in the country then, to be fair on myself, I think it makes a useful read.

I am going to create a new edition though. Or rather, a new book. Call it what it is – The Mexile. Change that spine text. Remove some of the TEFL posts. Add some of the posts I’ve written in the last couple of months. A new photo for the front cover, and a load of new photos inside. And where on my CV it says ‘my first book was published in 2010‘ I shall add ‘my second book was published in early 2011‘. Who’s gonna buy a copy of both to check they aren’t essentially the same book?!

 

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Appleplectic Rage

Dear Steve,

I’ve bought three of your devices in recent years, all iPods. They’re all ingenious devices really, even if I am forced to sync them with the bloatware you call ‘iTunes’. And your customer service for in-warranty products is excellent. Which is just as well given that not one of the devices has ever threatened to work past the warranty. I popped the latest into the service centre this morning. I guess this is preferable to other manufacturers devices which seem programmed to self destruct a minute past midnight of the warranty expiration. Or worse, dying just as you’re presenting it.  But still. Might I suggest your next product being named iFunctionbeyond12months? Just so I can sue your sorry ass for false advertsing next time? I jest, of course. Good service or not, I prefer working products. I’ll shop elsewhere next time.

 

Dear UK retailer,

Thank you for your kind letter, courtesy of your HR dept, informing me that you are unable to take my application any further. I understand you need someone with, and I quote, ‘some previous retail management experience‘. I would instead like to apply for a job in your HR dept, as a replacement for the buffoon who didn’t notice the detailed description of my 20 odd years of retail management experience that consumed about half of my one page CV. Most of that experience in stores of similar or larger size to the store I applied to manage. I can also spell, or at least use a built in spell checker, which will drastically improve the professionalism of the dept. Are all of the HR staff semi-literate? I could bring along a trained chimpanzee if you wish, to take up some of the slack.

 

Dear Mr Douty

Congratulations! You’ve got a new job, and have had my precious Flickr account placed in your hands. Please note the word precious. My life in pictures are stored on your servers, watched over by your staff. Someone needs to take away the ‘Delete‘ key with urgent haste. I’m only half way through backing up my collection, having accidentally deleted my collection recently. I know, accidents happen. But I’m paying you to make sure they don’t happen to you. Or me.

What's Wrong With This Picture?
Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk

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The Favourite

Do I have a favourite turtle, of the ten living in my yard? It’s tough to choose. Bob has always had the most character. Florecita took an awful lot of TLC and cash to save her from an early grave when we rescued her. Paola’s favourite is Angus. And then there is Baby, the turtle with the least imaginative name.

Of all the turtles, I am her favourite. The others respond to me in a variety of ways. Terror being common, should I try and pick one up. Most though will tolerate my presence without running for dear life. Bob will tolerate a little petting. But Baby is downright curious. She’ll not run. She’ll hold out her paw. She’ll stretch her neck for a massage. She’s definitely the most human friendly turt.

Watchya!

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The Hunt Begins

I last job hunted back in the 90’s. It was such a chore. You had to wait for the jobs section to be published in the local paper on Thursdays. The state run Employment Centre had advertisements for the dregs of the employment market. The national papers ran adverts for top end jobs that were out of reach for 99% of job seekers. Job hunting involved quite of lot of speculative phone calls. Trying your luck. Largely wasting your time. When you did apply, you put a stamp on a letter, popped it into a box, knowing it could be days before it were even opened.

How things have changed. The wonders of the interweb. There’s no waiting for days on end for new jobs to appear. They are up on the net in minutes, in real time. Websites such as InRetail and Jobsite gather vacancies from a wide range of companies in one handy, searchable location. And with a little research and thought, you can trawl through the careers pages of companies that appeal.

I’ve started sending off my applications, even though it’s still a couple of weeks before I depart dear Mexico. Two weeks to the day in fact. The process might still take a little time, but the recipients have my stamp-less, envelope-less application a second after I press ‘submit’. It’s made the whole ordeal pleasurable. A pleasurable ordeal? There’s an oxymoron for you. But still.

I have no desire to remain unemployed for any length of time. I am hopeful that I will once again be an active participant of the British workforce. Perhaps I should apply for a role in Top Gear? I shouldn’t think anyone will be fired for the ‘Mexican incident’, but you never know. I promise to test drive the Mastretta through DF and up through the Central Highlands without mentioning tortillas, vomit or sleeping ambassadors. Actually, I have mentioned the Mexican super car not just once, but twice, without causing any great offence in the past. I think.

But anyway. I’m hopeful. Feeling positive. There are vacancies out there, and plenty of good ones which I know I could do well. The question is, will my six years in Mexico count for me, or against me? Will my adventures this side of the Atlantic be seen as a lengthy gap during which my ‘retailing know-how’ has been lost? It hasn’t, by the by. Or will it be viewed with more positive sentiments?  I have taken my business and communicative skills to a very new and challenging environment and been successful, during difficult economic times.

Retail, like many businesses, is primarily about people. The ability to communicate effectively, develop and maintain professional relationships and build a viable business using these attributes. Teaching English is primarily about people. The ability to communicate effectively, develop and maintain professional relationships and build a viable business using these attributes.  I see a very strong link between the two. I’m not convinced every employer will, but hopefully the smarter ones, those with a little more vision and understanding of commerce, will see it too.

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Tradiciones

Remember the Estrellas del Bicentenario series of short videos that Televisa produced? Well, they are back at it again, with a series called Tradiciones. Here’s the Veracruz episode. There’s more to be found on YouTube if you look around. British TV has also been celebrating Mexico. Although not everyone has seen the funny side. Humour doesn’t always cross borders successfully!

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A Footballing Interlude

Today is the last day of the transfer window in the UK, and Europe, a last chance to buy a player or three to help chase a place in Europe. Or to stave off relegation. While the window opens on January 1st, the most exciting deals are often completed in the final hours on the 31st and this year is no exception. Especially if, like me, your team is Liverpool. Especially after the painful torment of the first half of the season, with a dunce for a manager, two crooked owners and the crazy threat of relegation hanging over the club.

But we’ve got what we wanted. Hicks and Gillett are gone, and so is Hodgson. King Kenny is back in charge after a 20 year absense, and our star player, Fernando Torres, is firing again. Except. Torres then goes and hands in a transfer request. He will in all likelihood be a Chelsea player by 11pm this evening, heading one way down the motorway while £50 million is going in the opposite direction. Disaster?

Not in my opinion. In fact I am feeling more positive about the second half of the season than I ever thought I would be. As I write, Newcastle have just accepted Liverpool’s record breaking bid of £35 million for striker Andy Carroll, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez has agreed terms on a £23 million deal, Charlie Adam looks like switches Pool’s, from Black to Liver, and there may yet be more to come.

I’ve been suggesting for the last year at least that if someone comes in for Torres with £50 million or more, the club should take the cash and run. Nando has spent far too long injured over the last couple of years, and I have more than a sneaky feeling that he’ll carry on hogging a table in the physio room for years to come. Yep, he’s a fine striker, one of the best. Yep, his goals per games ratio will always be better than Carroll’s over the long term. But no, he probably won’t be scoring in as many games. And that is key. Goals in bunches looks great, but earns very few points. We need a player who can scores 10 goals in 20 games, not a player who’ll score 11 goals in 5 games.

Carroll is just 22 years old too, and will undoubtedly improve further still. He is the closest thing in the Premier League to Alan Shearer in terms of attributes – great with his head and with either foot, from 1 yard out or 20. Not that he is the ‘new’ Alan Shearer. The stats reveal there is really only one Alan Shearer, metaphorically as well as literally. And Carroll is a perfect foil for Suarez, who can add some very literal bite to the Liverpool attack. If his name sounds familiar, it may be because he was the guy who broke Ghana’s heart in the World Cup with his handy intervention.

Liverpool still lack width, and I’d have loved to see a wide player or two come into the squad. I guess there’s still four hours of the transfer window going, so you never know. Defensively, the team have looked fragile for a year, so strengthening there would have been nice too. But that may stretch the coffers too far. There’s a recession on, you know. The prices we’ve paid for Carroll and Suarez are way, way over the odds, but if they work out, and if Torres does go on to have an injury plagued few years, then this might well be looked back on as having been good business.

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Portions and Profiteroles

When I first came to Mexico City, portions were always generous, and quality was a quality necessary for survival. Mexico City lives on its stomach, and if a restaurateur/street stall fails to deliver, his business will fall over in no time. There’s no better business to get into if you believe the statistics. While the average new business in DF folds within a couple of years, the life of a food stall averages 11 years apparently.

But I have noticed over the last year, maybe two years, that quality is falling. Vips and Sanborns used to offer a trusted option. Nothing too adventurous, but you knew what you’d get, and that you’d get it quickly and with a smile. Not so anymore, in my experience. If I previously gave them 7 stars out of 10 (you’d need 50 Gary stars  to get one Michelin one – I’m really no food expert) , they’re hovering between 4 or 5 stars these days. Small portions, often not hot enough, served in understaffed joints by harassed waitresses.

There’s still a whole load of great places to eat, make no mistake, but the downsizing of portions has become more common. So it’s a pleasant surprise when you get a giant plate load of food delivered to your table. There’s an ice cream/coffee shop on Plaza Luis Cabrera (map number 49) that serves up good coffee in fairly average sized mugs, but profiteroles on giant plates with plenty of chocolate. Tasty, plenty and…expensive. But worth it. And it’s a nice area, just off Alvaro Obregon, one of my favourite haunts. And home to everyone’s favourite bus company.

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