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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hakuna Matata - It Means No Worries....

Bet you're smiling now....

Remember September

That's it.  Another month is disappearing down the hole in the middle.
  1. It was the 70th anniversary of the start of WWII
  2. The European Union bans the manufacture or import of 100 watt incandescent light bulbs, beginning a phase-out in favour of energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps
  3. American pop star and entertainer Michael Jackson was laid to rest at a private ceremony during a sunset service in a mausoleum at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles, USA.
  4. Australia experiences its warmest August on record amid soaring winter temperatures.
  5. Kraft Foods Inc. says it will pursue a takeover of Cadbury Plc after the British maker of Trident gum and Dairy Milk rejected a $16.7 billion bid.
  6. "Beatles Day" is celebrated worldwide as remastered versions of The Beatles' albums are released, as well as The Beatles: Rock Band.
  7. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologises for the post-war treatment of celebrated WWII code-breaker Alan Turing, who was chemically castrated for having homosexual relations.
  8. In football, Germany beat England 6–2 in the UEFA Women's Euro 2009 final, claiming their seventh European title. (see Sarah's blog about women in football)
  9. American actor Patrick Swayze dies at age 57, after suffering from pancreatic cancer for more than 1 year.
  10. Singer Vera Lynn, aged 92, becomes the oldest artist to obtain a number one album in the United Kingdom.
  11. Sir Alex Ferguson, Gary Lineker and Fabio Capello are among 1,000 guests at a memorial service held for Sir Bobby Robson, a former England manager described as "one of football's best-loved figures" who coached clubs to titles in Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain and England.
  12. The cities of Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane in Australia are covered by a dust storm, the worst in at least 70 years. Aviation in New South Wales is disrupted.
  13. The United Kingdom's largest haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure, a collection of 1,500 gold and silver pieces comparable to the Book of Kells, is discovered buried beneath a field in Staffordshire.
  14. Poland approves a law making chemical castration mandatory for paedophiles.
  15. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Brown denies rumours concerning his health as the British Labour Party gathers for its conference in Brighton, expressing his amazement with Andrew Marr of the BBC for questioning him live on television.
  16. An award-winning essay written by Paul McCartney as a 10-year-old for the coronation of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is found after lying undiscovered in Liverpool's Central Library for more than 50 years.
  17. Oxfam launches an emergency appeal for £9.5 million for Ethiopia and other East African countries to fight the worst drought in a decade.
So there you have it.  A busy, varied and interesting round-up of some of the key stories of the month.

What will October have in store?

What will I write about?  Do you really care?

Information gathered from Wikipedia

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Oscars 2009 - Opening Performance

Following on from my movie post, I thought I'd give you the opening to this years Oscar ceremony, performed by Hugh Jackman.  I loved this, and if you missed it, you might enjoy it to.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Decisions, Decisions!

I realise that my posts tend to roll around, with no specific direction; covering an eclectic mix of subjects like:
The question is, what now?  Do I pick a specific subject to concentrate on, or should I continue as I am, just writing about the 'stuff I do and like'?

I find the world of blogs fascinating; there are blogs for everything; technology, sport, finance, cooking, movies, and everything in-between.

I could join the fray, but I'm not master of one - more a little knowledge about a lot.
So, I've made up my mind, and I'm going to continue the way I am - moving around, keeping you on your toes!

Therefore, my next subject will be films. Or movies. Call them what you will.

There is something magical (no matter how cliched) about movies.  That feeling, when sitting in the cinema, of the anticipation of what I'm about to watch.

In my next post I'll write about some of the films that have had an impact on me, and others that I wish I just hadn't bothered.

It's truly subjective, and I'm sure we'll disagree on some.  Don't judge me by my taste in films (but I'll tell you now, I don't like horror).

So, to borrow that well used phrase; "See you at the movies"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Do you really want to pay more tax?

The government, in their infinite wisdom, have decided that they will charge all landline owners 50p per month for the priviledge of using the phone. That's an extra £6 per year that you and I will be taxed!!

They claim that this will raise £175m annually, which will enable them to invest in future telephony networks. They seem to have forgotten the people with phones, but don't use the internet.

This seems, to me, that this is a way to nationalise the internet and is totally unacceptable.

I have created this poll to try to gauge reaction - it's just for fun, and I'll publish the results next week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who Do You Think I Am?

The BBC hit "Who Do You Think You Are?" has done wonders for the genealogy business.
About 4 years ago I decided to pull together my family tree.  More out of interest than anything else, and having asked a couple of questions, I decided it would be fun to see what I could find.  All this was before I had even heard of the BBC programme

It's fascinating learning about your history.  The little bit of history in which you come from and are part of.  I suppose the immediate history is the easy bit.  Been there, done that.  The memories are all mine.

But what about before I was born? 
Before my parents were born? 
Where did my grandparents come from?
Where did my great-grandparents come from?
What were their jobs?
Where did they live?

Starting with now and working backwards, I built a tree, using my knowledge and asking my parents.  Who were their grandparents, could they remember anything about them?  Where did they live? etc. etc....

As with projects like this, I eventually hit a brick wall, so to speak. 

I needed to get more information, but the sources had, well, died!

I then created an account at, to search more deeply.

It was a bit like the BBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" except I'm not famous.  Nor do I have the resources available to me, like the people in various libraries, who have pre-researched the information for the celebrities! is a rich source of information, if you know where to look and how to search.  There is a lot of useful, helpful, knowledge available, and seeing the pages from an 1891 census, for example, started to bring my family to life.

My father's parents were born in England, but their parents were born in Russia.  With information from my dad, I discovered that his paternal grandfather was a cobbler (you always need shoes!) and I then found his entry in Kellys Directory (from 1912).

On my mother's side, due to a piece of good fortune, I even managed to find out the maiden name of my great-great-grandmother.  With that information, I then found her father - my great-great-great grandfather. Amazing.

I haven't been so lucky with other family members, yet, but there is plenty of other information available, that will bring a history to life.  For example, I found the telephone directory entry of my grandfathers business, in 1926. I also found the emigration notice for my great-aunt, who went to live in America, in 1947.  It's a copy of the actual handwritten notice.

It quite fascinating, and now I'm trying to build on the tree, with some knowledge about how and where they lived. Coupled with some photos of the time, this will be something not just for me, but for the whole family, and generations to come, to be able to understand where we came from, and, more importantly, who we are.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Few Of My Favourite Books

After my post about reading, I said I would mention a few of my favourite books.  Reading matter is subjective.  There are books to cover every genre; from classic novels to biographies; educational to murder mystery.

Usually, once you have an interest in a particular subject, or type of story, you tend to stick with the same.

There will be some types of book that hold no interest at all; for me, I don't like horror, so stories by Stephen King (for example) are not in my house.  (Although I have watched some film adaptations - The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, for example).

Then there's the author.  Once again, when I find an author I enjoy, and the style I like, I tend to go back and read the entire back catalogue.  It's exciting when I discover someone new, or realise I've been missing out by not reading them.

A classic example of this, for me, recently, was when I read my first Ian Rankin.  I haven't been a Rebus fan, however, I remember being in Tesco, and another customer saw me holding the book "Exit Music".
He suggested that it was very good and, based on that encounter and recommendation, I bought it.  I have since bought more Ian Rankin novels.

Give me a good police procedural story, or thriller, or action/adventure, and I'll spend hours immersed in the story. 
Michael Connelly and Peter James are a couple of my regulars; indeed the new Michael Connelly, "Nine Dragons" is due out at the beginning of October.

I'm not a massive fan of auto-biographies.  I find them to be self pompous, as the author speaks of nothing but themselves.  On the other hand, biographies are very different.

These are written by others, sometimes without the knowledge or approval of their 'subject'.  However, they're more interesting, as they are written without personal interest involvement. 
They are more subjective.

My favourite is about Steven Spielberg.  Writing about someone who is at the pinnacle of their career, and is as powerful as he is, can be difficult to get 'both sides' of the same person.  However, Joseph McBride manages it, and the information and story about one of the most influential film directors, is captivating.

Other great reads are by Tess Gerritsen; who as a former MD, turned to crime writing whilst on maternity leave.  The beauty of her stories is that they are all medical based, which is a twist on the standard police investigations.

A recent favourite of mine are the Jack Reacher novels.  I've read them all.  Created by Lee Child, these are the stories of a former officer with the US Military Police.  With no passport and no belongings (except his toothbush) and just a cash card, he traverses the US, somehow managing to cause a great deal of trouble as he solves local problems.  They usually end up in carnage, but they're good fun, and true escapism.

All of Dan Browns' books have proved to be a good read; although "Deception Point" I found to be the weakest.  His latest, "The Lost Symbol", was released on Tuesday, and so far is living up to the hype.  It's become the fastest selling hardback in the UK, with more that 300,000 copies purchased in the first 36 hours.  A lot of people are obviously hoping this will be good.  So far so good.

Finally, for now, I return to Agatha Chrisite; where I began my adult reading life.  No-one has managed to eclipse her as the Queen of Crime; in my opinion.  Her simple stories have that 'je ne sais quoi' and very endearing characters; especially in Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot.

I said I'd list some favourites, which I now realise is difficult, because it's usually the author you follow, but I said I would , so, in no particular order:
That was a whistle-stop tour of my reading habits.  And I apologise for not being specific about favourites.  However, I decided it's much too difficult to single out one book.

I'm not sure what it tells you, but I hope you enjoyed it.

Postscript: Since writing this, I thought I'd also touch on audio-books.  Being stuck in the car, morning and evening, I have recently started listening to books.  It's a great way to while away a journey, and if the voice is right, the story really comes to life.
Some of the audio-books I've listened to include Michael Connellys' "The Lincoln Lawyer" and "The Scarecrow".  Most recently "The Book Thief" by Marcus Zusak - absolutely fantastic.  I'm currently listening to Harlen Cobens' "Long Lost"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Novel Approach

Being an avid reader, I thought I'd spend a couple of posts writing about books and what I like to read.

I'm sure it's no surprise to you ladies, that us men treat the 'smallest room' as a library! Indeed, in the bathroom, there is even a magazine rack above the toilet!!

Alright, so we're not talking magazines, but I did say I like to read.

It's books that are a passion. Allow me to explain.

When I was younger, like any child, I hated shopping. To be dragged around the shops was tantamount to child abuse! Why couldn't I stay at home and do what I wanted to do? Why do I need clothes?

Then, one day, whilst in WHSmith (I think that was the main place to buy books back then), I started to look at the books.
I even remember my first 'grown up' book.  It was Agatha Christie's "The Man In The Brown Suit".  Don't ask me how I remember it, I just do.
I was hooked.

Fast-forward 20/30 years(!!!) and books are everywhere in the house. Shelves positively creak under the weight of all that paper.

Favourite, well read, well thumbed, novels mix company with business and educational books.
From spy thrillers to murder mystery. Biographies to travel books.

In this age of the internet, it's easy to be swept up in digital purchasing. However, you can't beat a visit to a bookstore.

Take a wet Saturday afternoon, and head to a store near you.

There is a Borders near where I live. It's almost a second home! I could spend hours browsing the shelves, looking for the next great read.

The staff are quite knowledgable too. I've sometimes asked for inspiration based on previous reads; and they've offered quite good recommendations.

I'm trying to instil the same ethos in my children. If they want toys they can wait. If they want a book, I have no hesitation in buying.

The feel of a new book. The smell of the fresh print. I don't mind whether its hardback or paperback.

I'm feeling all nostalgic now; in fact I just want to curl up with a book. To immerse myself in the story. Whether it's a crime / thriller, comedy or travelog. It matters not one jot.

The latest novel from Dan Brown was released yesterday; I ordered it via Amazon (OK, not from a store this time) and it was deliverered last night.

I find there's always pressure on an author who has garnered international recognition; and in Dan Brown's case, courted controversy at the same time. 
So, as I begin to read it, I'm hoping that it hits the mark, and is every bit as good as the hype that's gone before has suggested.

Whatever the outcome, the feel of the cover, the smell of the pages, the anticipation of the story inside, means I will savour the time spent with my new 'friend'.

In my next post I will talk about some of my favourite books.

You obviously like reading, since you're reading this.  So tell me, what books interest you?  Who's your favourite author?

Did You Know?

This was originally posted on YouTube in October 2008...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunshine and Lights

What a lovely weekend that was.  The sun was shining, the temperature steadily rising.  After a morning of chores, we packed the car and headed up the M6.

First stop St Annes.  It really is a lovely part of the world, with Victorian architecture resplendant along the front.  The old pier-head still manages to convey a thought of yesteryear (although that could be down to overdue redecorating!!)

The beach is the main reason most people go to St Annes.  The miles and miles of sandy beach (albeit with a few pebbles dotted around) just stretched as far as the eye can see.

In our case, since the tide was out, it was an awfully long way, as the photo shows.

The kids had fun building sandcastles, digging holes and enjoying the fresh sea air.  At 21 degrees, it was a perfect, balmy, late summer afternoon.

Whilst there, I noticed the statue, shown here.  It's a memorial to the Crew of the St Annes Lifeboat, who lost their lives whilst trying to rescue the crew of the German barqe "Mexico".  It was in December 1886.  Read the story, it's extremely moving, and the memorial is a fitting tribute.

At around 5pm we bought some fish and chips before heading to Blackpool to see the 'lights'.

I have never seen the illuminations.  Oh, I've seen pictures, and heard about them; but I have never seen them in the flesh, so to speak.

So, at 8pm, when the lights were switched on, the kids were all "ooh" and "aaarr".  I was impressed, as we slowly (and I mean S L O W L Y) made our way through the display.

An hour later, we had progressed not far (but the boys did see the Doctor Who display) so we decided to head home.

It was a good day, and whilst I hope there are more days like it before Autumn and Winter set in, I somehow think that was it for this year.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

New Look Wednesday

At last, as you can see, I have finally managed to give my blog a new look.

Admittedly, I'm not too sure about it, but at the risk of changing it 'willy nilly', I think I'll leave it for a while to see if it grows on me. It's not earth-shattering in design; but it's what I was after - clear and crisp, and uncluttered.

Now I can concentrate on the content, which has always been a little bit about much; so sit back, kick off your shoes and enjoy my musings...

Perhaps you'll tell me what you think. Your comments are always welcome.

Monday, September 07, 2009


Now, I consider myself an intelligent kinda guy.

I work hard, did quite well at school (a very long time ago!!) and everyone says I would do well on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire"!!!

So, why oh why, am I having such trouble trying to change the template for this blog.

I'm looking for snazzy, modern, clean and crisp, without making too much hard work. Indeed, the templates I've looked at look 'nice' but when I transfer them, they look bloody horrible, and in some cases you need a degree to change them!!

OK - I know a little HTML, and, again, I like to think this isn't beyond me. But last weekend nearly had me chucking the baby out with the bathwater - laptop through the window (which is double-glazed!!) and me stomping around like a grizzly teenager!

Tonight, I will sit down and concentrate. I know which templates I like, and I know where to find them. I just need to take some time and slowly, carefully, and considerately, put the changes in place.

So wish me luck, and check back here soon to see a new, fresh, look.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Mickey Mouse Jumps Into Bed With Spider-Man

I normally steer clear of 'real' news; however, I just can't ignore one of the biggest entertainment news stories of the year.

The might of the Walt Disney Corporation is buying Marvel Entertainment for a staggering $4bn.

First of all - I admit it. I love Disney. I love all things Disney. Ever since I was a child I have admired the professionalism of the company and the entertainment it produces.

I know it's a commercial operation, serving the needs of the shareholders, and therefore, it has to make money. However, when you enter a Disney Store, or visit one of the theme parks, you can't help but smile. The bright colours and 'happy' music really make you think that life is good - forget everything and enjoy the moment.
Even the opening of its films, with Cinderallas castle, makes me smile!

In fact, the 'perfection' of Disney has led me to use a phrase where something elsewhere is not quite right - "it's not very Disney, is it?" In other words, an attraction might be dirty, a lightbulb not working. At Disney, you would rarely find such issues.

The latest chapter in Disney history, this will give them the rights to over 5000 comic heroes, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men and many, many more.

What intrigues me is that Universal Studios currently hold the licence to the theme park attractions for some of these characters, and therefore, how will this be handled? I can't believe that Disney will be happy to have their property being utilised at another studio (unless, of course, they strike a deal where they are paid a fee!!)

Now, I know that Disney also has its detractors - those that think it's watered down, schmalzy, and, as a corporation, too in control.
Whilst some people may baulk at the idea of a studio the size of Disney controlling some of the iconic superhero characters of the last century, it does mean that Marvel Entertainment (and I hope the name stays) will be brought to a bigger audience, with the might of Disney behind it.

For the sake of future entertainment, I just hope that Marvel are allowed to contine to do what it does best, and Disney do not interfere with, or change, a winning formula. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Just don't make me angry - you won't like me when I'm angry!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Post Holiday Blues

It's been a while since my last blog; unless you count the one I did whilst on holiday (you can see it here).

The post holiday blues have started to sink in, especially now that I'm back at work. I can understand why we get this depressed feeling.

For a year (or more) we save up our hard-earned cash, in some cases not putting enough away due to other 'emergencies' and after a year of this saving, we spend just two weeks enjoying the fruits of our labours.

Don't get me wrong - the fruits are very sweet. Sun, swimming, entertainment, relaxing; everything you hope the holiday will be. It's a short, sharp

Once the two weeks are over, and we return home, we are immediately thrust into the reality of everyday life; cleaning, cooking, washing...

No more laying by the pool, soaking up the sun, reading a book in peace and quiet. No more relaxing meals, overlooking a blue sea. No regular evening entertainment (unless you really like EastEnders!!)

No more sunshine.

No - that's it. The holiday is well and truly over.

So, dear friend, it's time to put on my thinking cap, and consider the options for next year.

In the meantime, I'll start saving once again.


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