Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Happy Holidays on Holy Island

I am absolutely shattered, but it is a price worth paying for the superb time I have had surrounded by family on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne just off the Northumberland coast. My aunt and uncle have a cottage there and invited a few of us up for the Christmas festivities. We ate and drank obscene amounts, even when the power went off for several hours on Christmas Eve, and walked for miles around the rugged coastline of the island, taking in the views and unique vibes. One of favourite times was when I dragged myself out of bed early to catch the sunrise and take some photos. The wind had dropped to nothing and for a splendid hour, I was the only soul for what felt like miles. It was great. I'll leave the pictures to say the rest.

Pictures of Holy Island.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Today is the day...

that marks the death of an intellectual giant, Christopher Hitchens. Agree with him or not, he was a man who was able to provoke debate and thought. He was strident and obstinate to the end, assuring everyone there would be no Pascal's Wager death-bed conversion. He has to be admired.

Hitchens talks to Richard Dawkins.

Also, today marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of Stuart Adamson, lead singer of Big Country. Their album, "The Seer", is one of my favourites of all time, particularly the last song, "The Sailor". I could listen to that song forever.

The Sailor

Sunday, 11 December 2011

You Are My Boro: The Unlikely Adventures of a Small Town in Europe

My second book is now available to buy at Amazon.

You Are My Boro.

Friday, 2 December 2011

That was the day that was....

pretty shite, actually.

I found myself with several metaphorical knives in my back at work today. I'm going to be transferred from the project I work on because one or two people don't think I'm up to the task. To be fair, they don't think many people are up to the task. They have had it in for me since I started back in July.

They conveniently forget that I have come into an environment of utter mistrust and apprehension because of the reorganisations that are about to occur. People have, understandably in some cases, played cards so close to their chests that even they can't see them. They have seen me as a threat because I'm a consultant, and have therefore only drip-fed me information and left me in the dark many, many times. I've also come up against some Kafka-esque procedural problems with gaining access to computer systems that are pretty much essential to my function. Yeah, maybe I should have pushed people and asked questions, but when the atmosphere is so non-conducive and people only want to talk about the negatives, you get bored of trying and you get depressed.

I was looking to get away anyway, so it's not all bad. I guess I'm just a bit sore about the way I feel people have behaved. Two weeks ago I was being told I was doing a good job, even with everything that's happened in my personal life (surgery and family illness). Now I'm a pariah.

Oh well. I've bounced back from worse than this. I will bounce back again. It helps when you're a touch rotund, of course...

U2 - Acrobat
Don't believe what you hear
Don't believe what you see
If you just close your eyes
You can feel the enemy
When I first met you girl
You had fire in your soul
What happened your face
Of melting in snow
Now it looks like this

And you can swallow
Or you can spit
You can throw it up
Or choke on it
And you can dream
So dream out loud
You know that your time is coming 'round
So don't let the bastards grind you down

No, nothing makes sense
Nothing seems to fit
I know you'd hit out
If you only knew who to hit
And I'd join the movement
If there was one I could believe in
Yeah I'd break bread and wine
If there was a church I could receive in
'cause I need it now

To take a cup
To fill it up
To drink it slow
I can't let you go
I must be an acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that
And you can dream
So dream out loud
And don't let the bastards grind you down

Oh, it hurts baby
(What are we going to do now it's all been said)
(No new ideas in the house and every book has been read)

And I must be an acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that
And you can dream
So dream out loud
And you can find
Your own way out
You can build
And I can will
And you can call
I can't wait until
You can stash
And you can seize
In dreams begin
And I can love
And I can love
And I know that the tide is turning 'round
So don't let the bastards grind you down

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Romance in Arabia...

In some of the lighter and more pleasant moments of my time in Dubai, I could appreciate that the place had a certain mystical allure. When we went out on desert safari, there was certainly a romantic atmosphere, being in the desert with belly dancers, camp fires and starry skies.

Here is an extract from a contemporary romance novel set in the Middle East called "The Royal Sheik" written by Katheryn Lane. It is available on Amazon.

Sheikh Rafiq clasped Clare tightly around the waist and whispered into her ear, “Hold on tight”. With his free hand he pulled off the cord wrapped around the cloth on his head and used it to whack the camel, yelling out in Arabic as he did so. With a great lurch forward and then backwards that made Clare pull Rafiq’s arm more tightly around her, the camel arose and broke into a run.
They speeded off into desert and Clare could feel the hot wind against her face and bare legs. After several minutes riding, she began to get used to the lumbering motion of the camel and loosened her grip on the Sheikh’s arm. He yelled out again in Arabic. The camel stopped and dropped to its knees, making Clare resume her tight hold on Rafiq’s arm. He stepped off the camel and grabbed her around the middle. His large hands almost spanned her waist. He lifted her off and for a brief moment it was as if she was floating on the hot desert air.
“Here is the site of your building,” he announced.
“It’s your building, not mine,” she corrected him, as Mark had done earlier.
“No, it’s your creation. I will just be lucky enough to live in it once it’s built.”
She could smell salt in the air and was sure that she could hear the quiet lapping of waves breaking on the shore. She looked around and could see a deserted beach behind her. The moon had come out and it cast just enough light for her to see it reflected off the sea. It was beautiful. She wondered if he brought all of his women here.
Her defences rose again. “You only asked me to design the building, so that you could get me into your apartment.”
“Can you blame me for trying to find a way to get to know you better?” He sat down on the sand. She sat down next to him, slipped off her shoes and let the waves splash against her toes.
“Do you treat all the women you know like this?” she asked.
“I’m not sure what you mean. I am nice to you and you back away. I try to treat you like a business associate and you accuse me of ignoring you. How do you want me to treat you? What exactly do you want?” He looked hurt.
A pang of guilt struck Clare. “I don’t know. I just don’t want to end up as another one of your conquests,” she blurted out and started crying. And for the second time that evening, Rafiq held her in his arms and tried to comfort her.
Slowly her sobbing receded and he took her face in his hands. Tears still glistened in her sea-blue eyes. He looked deep into them and lent towards her. She could feel his breath hot on her skin.
“You have been honest with me. Maybe it is time that I was honest with you,” he said caressing her hair. “When I first met you Clare, all I saw was an exceptionally beautiful woman that I longed to know better.”
He twisted a long strand of her hair around his fingers. “When I saw you the next day in the cafe, I couldn’t believe my luck. I desperately tried to think of how I could stop you from slipping away again.” He pulled the strand of her hair a little tighter, drawing her towards him. Clare’s heart lurched along with it.
“I admit, asking you to design a house was just a way to see you again,” he said. “I didn’t really think you would come up with something I could use. Remember, all I’d seen of your work was a few sketches on the back of a catalogue.”
“You’re right,” she admitted, “it wasn’t much to go on.”
“However,” he said, letting go of her hair and staring at the sea before him, “when you came up with those designs, I couldn’t believe it. It was my dream house. The one I’d always wanted, but could never conceptualise. You understood my vision; you made it real.” He grasped her hands in his.
“You still haven’t told me why you ignored me,” she said. He gently squeezed her fingers, sending tingles shimmering up through her arms.
“I thought that was what you wanted; a business friendship.” He stood up, lifting her up with him and together they paddled along the gentle surf.
“I was scared of loosing you. Also, I was a little caught up in the excitement of the project.” He gave her a broad smile. They walked a bit further, his body moving nearer and nearer to hers with each step.
“Do you swim?” he asked, looking longingly at the sea, or was it her?
“Yes, why?” she replied, excited but anxious all at the same time.
“Come on then,” he said and slipped off his robe, letting it fall onto the sand at his feet.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

One Year In Wonderland: Now available in touchable paperback!

It's nice to be able to hold the book in my hands...

Here's a link for it.

One Year In Wonderland

Friday, 18 November 2011

Got it covered...

New cover for my first book, One Year In Wonderland. Along with a shorter and sharper blurb, it seems to have helped sales pick up again.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Coming soon...really soon...(fingers crossed)...

No-one chooses to support the Boro; you are born to it.

Many in Middlesbrough might well tell you this, but it’s not entirely true. Some people did choose, even if success isn’t exactly a word associated with the team from Teesside. Maybe we were seduced by something; something mystical and intangible. I’m hoping it’s wasn’t all the chemicals in the atmosphere.

I couldn’t have chosen a better time to follow Middlesbrough Football Club, just as they struck out with new ambition, signing glamorous players and moving to a new stadium. There was no way I could know where this journey was going to take us.

But take us it did, and we were swept along on a ride like no other, down a path that was never straight or smooth, to places we would never have dreamt of. Not many people dream about places like Cardiff and Eindhoven, to be fair…

This is the story of Boro’s Golden Decade and a bit, from the emotional goodbye at Ayresome Park, through the cup finals and relegation fights, to the unlikely adventures of a Small Town in Europe that would take us to places no Boro fan had gone before…

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest we forget...(but what happened to the dignity?)

I bought myself another poppy at York Railway Station today. The one on my coat had become a bit battered and scruffy, so I handed my pound over to the friendly old timer standing by the British Legion stand and took my new paper and plastic flower, complete with a handy pin through the leaf.

I buy a poppy every year as a matter of course. I have since I was old enough and ugly enough to pay for them. I never thought of it as anything more than just a token of my remembrance and appreciation for the thousands of people who gave their lives in the two World Wars so that we could enjoy the freedoms we take for granted today. Armistice Day itself, the 11th day of the 11th month, was always marked with a quiet and dignified minute or two of silence and wreath laying by Heads of State at the Cenotaph. Remembrance Sunday was always about quiet and dignified ceremonies in towns and villages around the country, where wreaths were laid to remember the war dead, attended by the British Legion, Scouts, Guides, Army Cadets, Air Training Corps and son on. Remembrance and appreciation with dignity. The British way.

This year, I have started to have serious doubts about poppy-wearing for the first time in my life, and it saddens me. When I see what has happened in the media over the last few weeks, I wonder what the poppy has come to symbolise in the eyes of many people, and wonder what motivates people to wear them or display them nowadays.

For me there are two issues at play now. First is the politicisation of the poppy. Somehow the issue of remembrance has become conflated with supporting the troops, which is also conflated with supporting the current conflicts our troops are involved in. For some people, both in a pro and anti sense, wearing a poppy means you are doing all three. People who see me wearing my poppy may assume I agree with the the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, even though I don't. I might be a supporter of the men and women in Her Majesty's Armed Forces, mainly because my father served in the Royal Signals for 22 years and my Grandpa was in the Royal Navy during WW2, but I don't agree with the political motives behind the invasion of Iraq or the continued occupation of Afghanistan. Of course, in today's climate of immediate false dichotomy, that makes me a supporter of the Taliban. If we're going to these ridiculous lengths, one could say that wearing poppies means you support the act of opium poppy growing in rural Afghanistan...but that would be churlish.

The other issue is the one of cosmetic grief. Everyone seems desperate to be seen to care about stuff these days. We have to ostentatiously display our feelings, and if you don't do this, you don't care. There's that false dichotomy again. I've noticed some troubling postings on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook about various issues, not just poppy-wearing. There are the things like: If you care about sick children and animals, like this! 97% of you won't! The implication being that if you don't like the post, you want all baby ducks to die of cancer. Give me a break.

And then you've got the unedifying spectacle of celebrities, politicians and footballers all elbowing their way into the screenshot to show off their poppies. The X-Factor judges and contestants all wore blinged-up sparkly poppies last weekend. There was a Tory MP on BBC's Question Time last night with the biggest poppy I've ever seen. And then there's the whole England football saga, where there have been more and more hysterical calls for FIFA to allow the England players to wear a shirt with an embroidered poppy on it. FIFA see it as a political symbol (there's that conflation again, can you blame them for seeing it like this?), so refused permission initially, but the histrionics got to such a level that FIFA eventually allowed England to wear armbands with poppies on. They even had a silent moment at the training session today and it was broadcast live. Quite bizarre, really. There have been loads of matches around this time in the last 90 years, but there was never such a hullabaloo made demanding that the players wear poppies to show they care.

Now I feel that if I don't wear one, I will be assumed to be some kind of uncaring, liberal pacifist. I could be two of those, I suppose, but I don't like people making such assumptions. Surely we all have the choice to wear one or not.

So this all leaves me wondering one thing: Where did the quiet dignity go?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Oh, and by the way...

I'm featured on a new website for Kindle Readers and Authors today, called AuthorOutbreak.

Coming soon, to a website near you...

The tale of Middlesbrough Football Club's golden decade and a bit, through the eyes of a Middle Class, Part-time, Glory Supporter.

I have finished drafting the next book and am seeking beta readers. I anticipate getting the book live and for sale by the end of November.

Oh yeah!

Friday, 4 November 2011

7 billion and counting...

Well, someone is, apparently. I don't know how they're counting the number of people on the planet, but according to the announcements in the news over the last week or so, this number is now seven billion. SEVEN BILLION. Did they herald the arrival of this particular soul with banners and balloons and cheesy grins all around?

When I was born in 1970 there were about half that amount. In 1900, the world population was about 1.6 billion, meaning the time it has taken to double has approximately halved. These are really quite astonishing and scary statistics. Official projections seem to suggest the population will reach about 9 billion in 2050 before starting to reduce. I'm not sure how they "know" that either.

All this makes me wonder about the dire warnings that a certain Thomas Robert Malthus made back in 1798, where he suggested that eventually famine and disease would check population growth. He didn't reckon with things like the industrial revolution and the use of oil, both of which made agriculture infinitely more efficient and allowed the food supply to grow so quickly. Nor did he predict the advances in medicine that would reduce infant mortality rates and increase life-spans. I guess we can let him off as he didn't have a crystal ball or a handy Nostradamus kicking about.

On the other hand, maybe his predictions will come to be true in time. After all, this planet is a finite, pretty-much closed system with finite resources. Have we passed Peak Oil? We can only keep growing for so long, surely. Maybe science will find some other way to cheat nature again for a while, but eventually something like a plague will do for us, if we don't do ourselves in with our stupid fighting or polluting first. Maybe an asteroid will hit us, killing off large swathes of the population. I think about this kind of thing at night, keeping myself awake. That's just the way I am. I worry about stuff; I always have, and now that I have children I worry even more. What kind of world will they grow up in?

Of course, I think the worst thing that we could do is even start to entertain any notions of population control or reduction. Such measures would amount to genocide. There are massive differences in levels of wealth, education and culture, and some might think they have a right to decide who is worthy and who is worthless, but this is dangerous ground. Don't even go there.

One book I read a few years still resonates strongly with me. It's called "Ishmael" and was written by Daniel Quinn. It basically tells the story of how man came to believe it had dominion over the Earth and all other living things and how the development of agriculture 10,000 years ago was a huge turning point in history which has lead to a profoundly sick civilisation where we live completely at odds with nature. It's certainly food for thought. Of course, it wouldn't be sensible to promote a return to caveman-style living, it's not practical and I look terrible in a loin cloth. Still, I do think we should think more about how we exploit the world around us, including other living things.

Excuse me now. I'm off to hug a tree.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The thousandth experience with self-publishing so far

I went to bed late last night with my total sales figure sitting at 999. It was a nice feeling to know that I would most probably be over that threshold of 1,000 sales by the morning.

I was. I was a few over the magical mark in the sand, actually. I am pretty damn pleased as to how well it has gone, and also a little scared to think that 1,000 people have paid (even if it is only 99c or 86p) to read my work. I am delighted at how easy it actually was to get into self-publishing after just a little research a few months ago. I had a book ready to go, having turned my Beer and Bloating in Dubai blog into book form, but I hadn't really considered this approach, holding onto some remote hope that I could land a publishing deal the traditional way, even sending out a dozen or so enquires to literary agents I found in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.

When I realised how easy it was to self-publish to Amazon, I went for it, and when I put "One Year In Wonderland" up on Amazon for sale in early July, I hoped I might sell a couple of hundred copies. To start with the sales rates weren't spectacular, they ticked over at around 4 a day. I had done some shameless plugging on a few internet forums I inhabit and had mentioned it a few times on Facebook to my circle of friends, but not much more than that.

August saw a slight increase in the sales rate to 5 a day, and my total sales for the month were just over 150. I got one or two reviews on Amazon and a little bit of good feedback from people I "know" from the message boards. One or two pointed out that there were a few typos and grammatical errors throughout the book, so I had a read through and found the problems. I also noticed that the formatting was a bit erratic, so remedied that at the same time. Finally I redesigned the cover, making it sharper and snazzier, in my opinion. I posted the revised edition in early September.

At the same time I sent out a few enquiries to Dubai blogs to see if they would do a review for me. One or two answered, and it was the lovely Grace at Sandier Pastures who offered to do a review. I sent her a copy by e-mail, waited a week or two and the review followed.

I don't think it's coincidence that my sales figures then started to rocket. From the middle of September up until the first week in October the rate went from 4 a day to nearly 23 a day. I sailed past 500 sales in the week following my birthday (24th Sept). The rate has dropped back a little, but I am still selling around a hundred a week, and am reaping the rewards of a little bit of marketing. My book is ranking at number 1 in the Travel>Middle East Category and has been there for at least a month now. I even rank in the top 10 of all Travel books some of the time, and got to the dizzy heights of #278 in ALL Kindle ebooks on UK Amazon. It was scary and exciting.

Around the beginning of October I read an article in a Sunday newspaper supplement magazine about e-book self-publishing, and from that I found a forum called Kindle Boards where readers and writers discuss Kindle books. I've found it a valuable place for advice on marketing, and a great sounding board for people with worries about their book. I do like to go on there and have a whinge about a bad day in my sales fugues occasionally. The article also talked about how to get your profile raised through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, so I've built up a network of people to annoy the hell out of.

Things got even mopre exciting the other week when a published author and journalist for a major newspaper tweeted me and said he wanted to ask some questions about my experiences for an article he was writing, so I ended up talking to him on the phone, trying hard not to come across as a completely desperate wannabe. I think I came across OK, anyway, and he gave me some glowing feedback on the sample he'd read. Soon afterwards a literary agency I had previously contacted got back in touch asking for sample chapters and a synopsis.

And now I'm plugging away at making my presence felt. The book is staying between 1000 and 500 in the rankings, and I'm getting more and more reviews, none of which have been bad. Of course I would still love to get it or another book into proper print so I can hold it and smell it and put it on the bookshelf. I don't see why this can't happen in the future.

The best side-effect of all this has been the effect it's had on my writing. I'm now writing every day, and am nearly finished the first draft of my next project, which is a book about the Boro. I've got 2 working titles competing for prominence and have put out some feelers to local artists and graphic designers with a view to getting a professional cover for it. I would love to get it out by the end of November, and then move on to something else. I've heard it said that the best publicity is to have more than one book out. There are some intriguing ideas in my head, and the chance to do some ghost-writing. I might even try my hand at fiction in time. Watch this space.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Peed off with being ripped off

I went to my usual morning coffee kiosk at York station this morning and asked for my occasional treat of a regular cappuccino (I asked if I could have it, not if I could get it, of course). I was horrified - OK, slightly surprised - to hear the demanded consideration had gone up by nearly 20 pence. Cuh, Puh, Fuh, and so on.

It's getting silly. Prices for everything just seem to be heading up at a frightening pace wherever you look. I bought some extra strong mentholated sweets at the garage the other day...99p! I bought a couple of bags of sweets and 3 fizzy drinks at the cinema the other night...more than a tenner! Then there's the prices I've noticed in the supermarkets. Every little helps, I'm sure, but not at 2 pounds bloody 49p for a few scabby strawberries that go off after a few days. All those adverts and banners telling you that they are keeping prices LOW or crunching this or shrinking that...I just don't believe them, especially when you check their little games like charging more per unit for multi-packs of beans than they cost if you buy 4 tins individually. The swines.

Where we shop we use the petrol station on the way out. Once every few weeks we get a 5p per litre reduction if we've spent more than 50 quid at the checkout, which we invariably do on a weekly shop. That's nice, but it takes no more than a couple of quid off your bill of 60 plus quid to fill the tank of an average diesel-engined car. The prices have steadfastly stuck at over 130p a litre for weeks, despite news that world oil prices are coming DOWN. Now that Libya has rid itself of that Mad Dog the experts tell us we should see oil prices come down even more. Not that we should rub our hands with glee at such a bloody revolution of course; that isn't the point I'm trying to make here. I'm talking about profiteering. Will we see a price reduction at the pumps? Maybe a couple of pence, but they won't come down at the same rate which they invariably shoot up with when someone in Saudi Arabia gets annoyed about something insignificant...such as the price of a coffee at Starbucks...ahem.

And then there's those there utility companies. Their tariffs and tie-in, fixed price contracts are amazingly complex. On her request, I helped my mother-in-law choose what I thought was the best tariff when a chap came round from one of the big companies, and I struggled to understand what they guy was showing and telling me. I hope I chose right, but we do at least have some comfort in the prices being fixed for 2 years. I did have to let out a wry chuckle when I heard how the government had dealt so forcefully with these utility companies by basically letting them get away with all their price increases and confusing pricing systems and telling the consumers to "shop around". Really forceful, really flipping helpful...

As for insurance companies, they're probably the worst of the lot. When my car insurance renewal was due recently, the incumbents casually banged my premiums up by something stupid like 60% even though I hadn't made any claims. So much more retaining loyal customers. I shopped around and found a price more in line with what I'd paid before and switched. Of course, that in it itself isn't terrible, but I've seen how these slippery sods operate when trying their utmost to get out of paying up when you make a claim, and if you even think about making a claim your premiums will rocket. I've seen people who have suffered bereavement having their suffering amplified by these companies as they try every trick in the book.

So what can we do about it? Not a lot, I fear. It's all stitched up and the game is rigged. I hate to come across as a tin-foil-hat adorned conspiracy nutter, but I do wonder about who actually runs the world and who is benefiting from all these upward movements in prices. I don't see people's wages going up by these amounts. People bleat on about "trickle-down" economics, but that's a busted flush. It's a myth and has been exposed as such. We are being fleeced by a small elite who want to take us for as much as they can.

What makes me think these thought even more is seeing things like this: The 147 companies that run the world. , It doesn't surprise me to see how many of them are banks or similar institutions.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

KillerKindle - Home of indie authors and Kindle book reviews: Kindle ebook review: 'One Year in Wonderland' by C...

KillerKindle - Home of indie authors and Kindle book reviews: Kindle ebook review: 'One Year in Wonderland' by C...: I've caught many bugs down the years - colds, influenzas, gastroenteritis - but one bug I've never caught is the travel bug. I do...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Football Console/Computer Games...a Potted History

Today I went into the York branch of Game and bought a pre-owned Xbox 360 copy of Pro Evolution Soccer for 99p. 99p! I was just browsing, but I couldn't resist the temptation. I did have the 2011 version until a few months ago (I traded it in) but had been unimpressed with how the developer, Konami, had messed around with the controls. It's obviously trying to keep up with EA Sports' FIFA series, which has taken top dog status in the football gaming world in many's eyes.

I was also tempted because Pro Evo 2008 was the last version of Pro Evo I'd bought on the PS2, and my son and I had spent many a boyishly amused hour making teams of max-skilled giants with silly names (Phil Dinn and Tom Artoe, for instance) who would thrash Newcastle 37-0. Much more fun than playing out a full season as the Middlesbrough team featuring the likes of Jeremie Aliadiare...

All this got me thinking about how football games for consoles and computers have evolved throughout my life. I struggle to remember the name of the first footy game I played, but I think it was International Soccer on the Commodore 64 back in about 1987 or so. The graphics were shockingly basic, with zig-zaggy diagonal lines on the pitch and square-headed players who were able to head the almost ball from one end of the pitch to the other before smashing it past a 'keeper who dived - or fell over - about 3 seconds too late. I was horribly addicted, of course, and spent many an evening abusing the joystick and ranting like a man possessed at the crapness of my team. My mother told me I could be heard shouting at the other end of the street.

Things were to improve fairly quickly, however. Commodore upped their game with the Amiga, and the increased processing power brought about more detailed and faster games like the Kick Off series and Sensible Soccer. Kick Off 2 was ridiculously fast, but so, so smooth. The bend you could apply to the ball would shame Roberto Carlos. In the mid-'90s Sensible Soccer set the benchmark for football computer games, with easy-to-grasp gameplay and the ability to play against and humiliate friends, as we huddled together around portable TVs, mashing the joystick buttons and applying after-touch to our shots.

The Sony Playstation raised the stakes even more towards the late 1990s, and I remember thinking how superb it was to play a football game by Japanese developer Konami called International Superstar Soccer Pro that finally looked right in terms of dimensions and perspectives, and featured 32 International football teams. The stadiums looked pretty decent as well. The control pad for the Playstation, with its multitude of buttons, increased the options for players, giving them the choice of long or short passes, through balls and shots and also the ability to sprint and display skills. There was even commentary, even if it was some voice actor you'd never heard of before or since. The names of the players were a bit strange as well, although some were slightly familiar. The weird sound effects as you dribbled or passed the ball with a metallic clunk didn't detract from the smooth playability of the game.

FIFA 99 was the other football game I tried on my PS. It featured real teams from the English Premier League and real players wearing slightly dodgy representations of the club kits, and it featured commentary by John Motson and Mark Lawrenson. The graphics were pretty smooth, but the game felt a bit like you were playing on ice at times, and the player movements in cut-scenes made them look like angry gangsta rappers, for some bizarre reason.

Into the new millennium and I was soon investing in the new generation Microsoft Xbox, which took graphics up another level and offered the facility to engage in online play against your friends...who could be miles away at the time. So, so cool. The games didn't disappoint, either. The first footy game I got was Pro Evolution Soccer 4, and it remains one of my favourites, probably because it was such a quantum leap forward from the likes of FIFA 99. The graphics were great, with players looking like their real-life counterparts in many cases. The level of tactical choice was astounding and best of all, there was that ability to play against your mate who was 30 or more miles away and not risk getting a dead arm when you rubbed it in following a 4-0 drubbing. Even the odd bit of "lag", when the game slowed down, didn't spoil the experience. Of course, some people learned to exploit such things and strangers you'd been matched against by Xbox Live often just quit the games when they were losing. Leagues were even formed on on-line communities, but getting them finished was a real challenge.

PES went for realism with number 5, but that spoiled it for me. The game became less arcadey, yes, but it also became too hard. Some would say it got more realistic, but the harsh refereeing made it even more annoying. I was glad when they eased back on the "realism" in the next version.

I was an unashamed PES fanboy by now, obviously, and I gave the FIFA series short shrift for a while. I relented to the wave of popular opinion when I upgraded to the 360 and bought myself FIFA 11. It was slower and more measured, but the depth of the game was really something to behold. Being able to play as a League 2 team with the right kit and properly-named players is quite something, if that's what turns you on. Playing against them on the easiest level is more fun. The Ultimate Team add-on had me seriously hooked for a while as well. I got quite good, beating the likes of Barcelona on the hardest Legendary setting, and I spent a few quid on points for the Gold Packs. I never got a Messi or Ronaldo, though, and was soon bored of losing 7 and 8-0 to kids with the reactions of mosquitoes on speed. I'm getting old, you know.

So now I've got PES 2008 again and have convinced my son that he should recreate the team we called "The Jammers" (I don't really know where that came from, it was his idea). In the twenty-odd years I've been playing them, football games have changed a lot, but I'm still a sucker for a quick blast on a moderately easy setting to see who can score the best, acutest-angled, longest-range goal possible.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Feeling one's age...

Over the last two days I've driven to and from the Midlands for what was called an "Employee Engagement Day" at a large residential training complex. It was all presentations, speeches and team-building events such as building aeroplanes with brie and filling each others pockets with free cakes. Despite my latent cynicism about corporate BS, I had a reasonably good time. I ate far too much of the lovely free grub, and had one or two more glasses of red wine that I really should have during the evening social event.

For the trip down in the car I was joined by a young new recruit to the company. He is fresh out of university and was keen as mustard to absorb the information at the event and also mingle with his new colleagues. He asked lots of questions about the company and the projects we were working on, and I tried not to sound too world-weary when I answered them. Once the work talk had been exhausted on the three-hour drive, we started talking about music and books and films and all that good cultural stuff people have in common or otherwise. I was a little startled when more than a couple of a my cultural references went waaaaay over the young man's head. He hadn't even heard of the legendary band Simple Minds, for goodness' sake! I established that he had been born in the late '80s, and I started to feel every bit the archetypal Middle Aged man. When I had a little rant at the traffic (as is my wont) on the M1, he said I reminded him of Jeremy Clarkson. Oh sweet baby Jesus...

After the first day's presentations there was a chance for people to go and do some physical activity, be it football, swimming or jogging. I opted for a quick snooze in my room, after checking my e-mails and book sales numbers, naturally. If I'd had my mankini with me I may well have treated the swimmers to the sight of my body, but they were spared this particular ordeal. I mooched around for a bit near the social/fitness club and watched a few of the less fitness-minded people trying to play pool. I spied the footballers playing on the indoor court through a window. They were mostly young, fit things, but one or two were in their late 40s. I watched in wonder for a few minutes as they huffed and puffed gamely (as it happened they played for 2 hours straight) before heading back towards my room to get ready for the social event. I bumped into two other colleagues who were just back from a 10km run. They were soaked with sweat, red-faced and out of breath. I wasn't sure if I felt envious of them or sorry for them. I've decided that jogging isn't for me, having learned that the man who made it popular in the 1970s actually died of a heart attack whilst out jogging. Still, I half-wished I could motivate myself to run like these chaps.

At the social event after dinner I tried my usual trick of flitting between groups of people to see who was entertaining and who was easily annoyed by my presence. As the night wore on, people became more and more merry and relaxed, and started talking about possible venues to visit after the bar closed at 11.30. The night was definitely young for some of these people, even though many of us had started the day earlier than usual. I staggered to my room at the far end of the complex; that was more than enough exercise for me. I found out this morning that some had been in a pub in the nearby town until the wee hours.

How do they do it? Early start, long day of corporate stuff, sports, drinking, then on to even more drinking until some silly time in the morning. I wouldn't have been able to move this morning let alone get up at 7.30am for breakfast and breeze into the morning's events looking as fresh as a daisy. Well, OK, there were a few sweat-beaded foreheads and bags under eyes, but they lasted the rest of the day without too much trouble.

So I'm feeling my age tonight. Older than that, even. The drive home wasn't too bad, just tiring. I get very stiff sitting for long periods now and have to stop regularly for toilet breaks and stretches. My earnest colleague was still as lively as yesterday, and talked at length about the event. I tried to keep up with his energy levels but was just happy to listen to Radio 2 and mull things over. Radio 1 is too shouty and loud for me these days...

I guess that the last two days have shown me that I am approaching a mature age, but on the other hand I've seen people of my age, if not older, doing the sports and the socialising. I sometimes feel like I've got the body of a man twenty years older. I'm getting to one of those moments again, as I did in the New Year. Time to drag out the Wii Fit board and get my head around eating healthily again. I can't keep making excuses if I want to feel healthy and youthful again. There's no reason why I can't, right? Right!?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Bullying...It does hurt

I noticed this evening that BULLYING HURTS is trending on Twitter. It hit a nerve, because bullying is something I know about.

I went to a boarding school in the north of England between 1982 and 1989. For the first two years I became accustomed to running the gauntlet of the older pupils, especially those in the year directly above mine. It wasn't really bullying as much as a well-worn ritual of making life difficult, and I wasn't alone in being on the receiving end of cruel jokes, taunts, minor physical abuse and being given stupid and menial tasks to do as punishment for the most minuscule of transgression. It was the way of the world and everyone got on with it, and when our year moved up to become 2nd Years, we treated the new 1st Years with the same disdain meted out to us.

I expected life in the boarding school to become easier and easier as the years progressed, but had something of a shock waiting for me when I returned as a 3rd Year in 1984. There was a new boy in our year, and he was different to the others. He had lived abroad for a long time and had a brash confidence about him that bordered on arrogance. He didn't immediately make many friends. Was that partly why he behaved the way he did later on?

After a few months of settling in, this new boy - let's call him Peter - decided I was an easy target. I was quieter than the other boys, and was obviously more sensitive. He started by picking on my physical appearance and added in the fact I had a limp because of the disease I'd had in my hip as a child and the numerous surgeries I'd had as a result. I'd previously been given a nick-name by the rest of the school which connected me to a famous motorcycle racer with metal in his legs, but that wasn't really hurtful; in fact I liked the name. Peter made his names as nasty and vindictive as possible, calling me a cripple and other horrible things as often as possible. He knew it upset me by the way I reacted, so he kept doing it.He soon added a physical element to his abuse, putting me in headlocks and punching my arms when he got the chance.

I wasn't alone in the bullying. Another pupil in our year - a tiny slip of a lad with the nick-name "Twiggy" - also came into Peter's sights, and by Christmas we were glad to get away from his constant abuse. At boarding school, the only time we were away from his crap was in lessons. He was in the same dormitories as us, and made the most of any time he was alone with us. I remember quite well that he wasn't half as bad when there were other boys around.

By the end of the 3rd Year, both me and the other boy had had quite enough, and made the massive mistake of telling our parents about Peter's bullying. They in turn told the school, who told Peter's parents, and he was given a stern warning as to his behaviour.

When we got back into the 4th Year in September 1985, Peter was waiting for us. When he got his chance, he told us we were both evil little snitches who would now suffer even more for daring to tell on him. Nice. We were the guilty parties all the way, and the 4th Year was utter hell for a lot of the time. He found a diary I had written with entries about a girl in the day school I had a massive crush on. He delighted in keeping it and threatening me with revelation to the whole year. I was wise and lucky enough to steal it back and destroy it when he wasn't around one day.

"Twiggy" left at the end of the 5th Year, having managed to administer a black eye to Peter on one occasion, much to the amusement of the rest of the school, who knew what Peter had been doing. He was still not very popular.

From then on, things eased up. Into the Sixth Form years, Peter eased up on the abuse, even trying to be friendly with me at times. I played along, but didn't trust him one bit. The experience he had put me and "Twiggy" through wouldn't be forgotten quickly.

Years later, at a school reunion in around 2003, there was no sign of Peter. No-one at the reunion knew of his whereabouts, and didn't really seem bothered. The one person who was interested in where he was, and was slightly upset at his absence, was "Twiggy", who was now a strapping, 16 stone, shaven-headed man, dressed in military-style clothing. He stated quite plainly that he would like to punch Peter if he ever saw him again. He didn't stay long at the reunion, and I found myself feeling quite lucky that whilst I hadn't forgotten what had happened, I didn't harbour any violent intent towards my tormentor.

If I met Peter now, I'm not sure what I'd do, to be honest. I'd probably try and laugh it all off to his face, but I'd like to think he felt some kind of remorse. I don't hate him or pity him or anything clichéd like that. I just hope he knows that what he did was pretty awful, and affected two people quite profoundly. I can forgive it, but I will never, ever forget what it was like to be bullied.

And now that I have my own children at school, I watch like a hawk for the slightest hint that they are suffering the slightest of bullying. If there's any sign of it, I'm going to make sure they don't have to stand for it. I believe now that it has to be nipped in the bud before the person doing the bullying thinks they can get away with it.

Bullying hurts, and it needs to be stopped.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The book...

Has now sold over 500 copies and is going well.

I am continuing to put the word out and am now working at finishing another book. This one will be about football (or soccer, depending on your location).

Thursday, 8 September 2011

One Year In Wonderland: 2nd Edition

Now for sale, with a few additions, quite a few improvements, and all for only 86 English New Pence!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Under the knife...

Once again I go, tomorrow. Fingers, toes and every other appendage possible crossed that it does the trick!

See you on the other side!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Back on the wagon...

If I can catch the bloody thing.

Bit of catch up first...left the bloody AD job after 3 weeks of utter torture. As decisions go, taking that job was a bad one. The people I worked for were quite understanding about it, to be fair, and the lucky person who replaced me has got better working conditions, or so they tell me.

I ended up being out of work for almost 2 months. I applied left, right and centre, applying for almost 200 jobs. I had one or two interviews but nothing came of them, and was starting to get desperate. I even went to the job centre in York (although it wasn't as easy as just turning up there and saying I wanted to look for a job...bloody bureaucracy!), but thankfully something did turn up, with a consultancy I've talked to before about work, and who now had a position to fill in York. Oh yes please! They said I may have to work down south for a bit, but then I'd be based near home. Super duper. Shame it never really works like that. Looks like I'll be working down south for 2 years, not just a few weeks or months...Oh well, a job is a job at the end of the day, and I'm still in York for the time being and it's actually been quite challenging and enjoyable.

Shame my health has gone to shit again.

The Abu Dhabi abortion added to my weakness of will meant that most of the good work I did up to the beginning of March has been undone. I went on the Wii Fit the other night and after it had told me off for not using it for 120+ days, it told me I had put over a stone back on. Back in late Feb I had been down to 17 st 3 lbs. Now I am not far off 19 stone again. Bugger.

I have had the gauntlet slapped down again by my brother, with a 20 quid bet to see who can lose the most over 10 weeks. I want to do it, but just can't seem to click my mind into the right mode, as I was able to do back in January. I'm going to make excuses again, I'm afraid...I have another operation to go through!

I'm going for a septoplasty on 2nd September. That's a week on Friday. I have been needing this for a while with my bad breathing, snoring, poor sleep, constant rhinitis and recurrent sinus problems. I'm not looking forward to it, and worry about having to have a general anaesthetic, given my weight and history of irregular heart-beat. It should only be a short op, hopefully, and it should make a real difference. If I can breathe and sleep properly I will hopefully be able to get into the exercise thing with some real effort. I've got myself a bicycle again (thanks to the Bro again), and have had a few blasts on it, but really want to get serious about it, not just a few puffed-out-after-3-mile outings.

So, that's where I am. I sense another crossroads coming up. Please, please, please, let me choose the right path this time, eh?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Read all about it!

I'm now a (self) published author. My Dubai blog has spawned a book, which can be bought for Kindle for a very reasonable sum.

One Year In Wonderland: A True Tale of Expat Life in Dubai

Friday, 29 April 2011

No Royal Wave from me...

Just yet.

I'm still here, although I'm not sure for how much longer. As predicted, the Koreans raised concerns about my health (if only they knew the half of it) to my company, and there are now moves afoot to try and reallocate me (hopefully in the UK) and get someone else to take over this role, but it's all very hush hush at the moment.

I was ultimately persuaded that rather than jump on the first plane home I should stick it out for another few days or weeks and not give my company a bad name. Fair enough, I guess. It's not in my interests to burn bridges, and a job hunt in the UK could prove to be a tricky task in the "current climate".

I did need a break, though. Just to get out of this concrete cell for more than a snatched hour or two, and since pay day had arrived, I decided to treat myself to a night in a hotel. The wonderful wide world web helped me find a very reasonable offer in a nearby establishment, so I hurriedly packed my holdall bag (forgetting underwear) and called my driver man to take me there. I spent yesterday afternoon munching on goodies from the mini-bar, snoozing, watching trashy movies on TV (Oh, the joy of TV!) and having an aromatherapy massage (given to me by an Indian man with large, rough hands, but it was OK). It was glorious, and I felt refreshed and revitalised enough to drop down to the hotel pub/bar establishment and have a 3-course WESTERN meal and a couple of glasses of red wine. I ended up staying awake far too late, as I always do when there's a TV to watch, and watched Red Dragon, the Hannibal Lecter prequel (I think).

This morning I had a lovely, lazy breakfast in my room before checking out and getting myself a haircut and shave at the Male Beauty salon. The young Syrian man who attended to me was expert with clippers and cut-throat razors and sculpted me a very natty little goatee beard whilst we put the world to rights and discussed beer, cars and women.

Feeling even more refreshed and renewed, and with clearer nasal passages than I've had for weeks, I went back to the hotel pub for a spot of carvery brunch/lunch. I ended up sitting in there for a good couple of hours watching the Royal Wedding. It was on every screen, and they had Union flags all over the place. The British contingent were well up for it, cheering the national anthem and clapping every pivotal moment. Some nearby Aussies asked if I was English and automatically assumed that made me pro-Royal. I couldn't be arsed to debate the issue, so just raised my glass with them and smiled.

Of course, one can't be anything but impressed by the pomp and ceremony of a royal occasion. No-one does it like we do, and it's nice to see so many Brits smiling for once, rather than bloody moaning (which is the other thing we're good at). What was remarkable to me was the level of patriotism displayed by many of the expats around me. If I'd asked them if they wanted a ticket home right there and then, they'd probably have guffawed loudly in my face and possibly shoved a broken glass into my jugular vein. I guess that there is some logic behind it. I'm no raving patriot, coming from the "I didn't choose to born here" camp, but can of course see the good stuff about the UK, and when away from home, one does come to miss the good things and forget the bad things that one whinges about when at home.

It's the same for the family as well, I reckon. I miss them like crazy when I'm away, but at times they have the power to do my bloody head in when I'm actually with them. You don't know what you've got until you lose it, is that clichéd, but nevertheless accurate, refrain.

I'm back in Prisoner Cell Block K now. I'm skipping the Kraken stew and rice tonight, having eaten a week's worth of western-style food. I kept a Mars bar from the mini-bar, just in case I get peckish.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Where do we go from here?

So I got to the weekend without any major upsets and battled on feeling like cack most of the time, making the most of the chance for a lie-in on Friday morning (they got the soju out again on Thursday night, but I only had a few small glasses this time). An idea for a road-trip to Al Ain or anywhere really had been mooted by the Canadian chap, but he didn't call me on Friday morning (he went on the lash Thursday night...nice for him) so I called Bashir the driver at about lunchtime but he was in Dubai so he sent a driver to collect me from the villa and take me wherever I wanted to go...the airport was tempting, but I settled for the Marina Mall in good old down-town AD. There are a few decent eateries there, so they tell me, and a chance just to get out and about.

On the way I noticed that AD has really come on leaps and bounds in terms of development since I was here 4 years ago. I remarked in my Beer and Bloating blog about how there were fewer high-rise buildings there, but now there are loads and many more being built. There are some real architect's flights of fancy and more than a few exhibitions of ego as well. They are definitely attracted to weird-shaped buildings in this part of the world, especially curves and wiggly lines. There's on at the Exhibition Centre that looks like a giant shiny sock. Hey, their money; their country, eh?

Marina Mall looks like a fairly mature, well-established mall, shall we say. There is a sky-tower sprouting from the back end, with what looks like a revolving restaurant at the top, giving views along the Corniche and the other way towards the sprawling, ornate Emirates Palace complex. The mall itself is airy and open with lots of natural light, and the choice of coffee shops and cafés is just mind-boggling. I made a bee-line for Belini, at the rear of the mall, having heard good reports of it, and had a very pleasant lunch of calamari followed by Quattro Staggioni pizza, sitting quietly and doing some people-watching. A young Bitish family with Southern accents were sat close by, with the obligatory blonde yummy-mummy and photogenic twin boys. One was called Sebastian, the poor child, and his father gave him a hard time over drawing a snake's head or something.

After lunch I wandered about for a bit, finding the Cinestar multi-screen cinema on an upper level, but deciding I didn't really fancy paying to see anything they had on, so decided to venture out the front of the mall and maybe take a taxi along to the beach and Corniche area. I ended up boarding an open-top double-decker bus that runs a shuttle to the beach park area and back and trying to take some photos of the AD sights as I went. The driver had other ideas, and sped along quite alarmingly, I thought. He took corners and roundabouts at high speed, and I honestly thought he was going to tip the bloody bus over, so when he came to his first stop, I jumped off and decided to use the two lower limbs and get some exercise. I hadn't reckoned with the heat.

It was knocking on towards 40 Celsius that afternoon, and I ended up walking a good half mile along a busy, bank-lined road trying to find my way to the beach. Luckily I found a shop where I bought a bottle of water to keep me going, and eventually I cut along a side street and came out at the Corniche road, not far from the beach park. I was getting very hot and sweaty by this point and was hoping to find a café with shaded tables to get an ice cream or similar, whilst making sure there were no inappropriate beach volley-ball games going on, otherwise I would have had to film them...

As it was, the options for drinks were rather limited, and access to the beach cost 10 dirhams, and since I had no swimming gear or towel, I decided not to bother, or risk being seen as a bit of an old perv just sat there watching people on the beach with my mega-zoom camera in hand. I ended up grabbing a taxi that had luckily just dropped someone at the beach and going back to the mall, finding Starbucks and ordering a large iced coffee. It was much needed, is all I can say.

So that was my weekend, pretty much. I tried hard not to think of the people in the UK enjoying the first of 2 four-day weekends, and apparently enjoying superb (not too hot) weather as well. And Saturday morning, I was woken at 5.30am by the alarm on my phone, and flung myself into another week of high adventure...or so I thought.

I got my blood test results back that morning. Nothing too alarming, just a bit of a naughty cholesterol profile. Tell me something I don't know. The anti-biotics should have been doing their job and ridding me of the sinus problem. If I could get my info together for the bosses, I might be able to get them to talk the client about moving me to my own place and reducing my hours, etc. and I might be better off within a week or two.


Sunday was pretty horrible. I felt horrible, and just didn't feel right. I had struggled to get up in the morning and just went through that day from one coffee to the next...drinking far too much caffeine again...and sugary stuff. My brother will kill me if this place doesn't, I tell you. I was glad to find out that I'm not alone in feeling tired and wretched. The main man I deal with at work and who I sit next to gets up as late as possible, turning up for breakfast five minutes before the bus leaves (even I'm not that bad), and I spent an hour watching him dozing off in front of his laptop one morning. He rarely types anything, just sits here with his left hand holding his head up, right hand holding the mouse and stares at the screen. Occasionally he rolls the mouse wheel. I can't see his screen from where I sit, but when I have managed to see it, it's always the internet on there. Everyone else is on it at least 50% of the time as well. It's insane. We could do what work we have in half the time we spend there, if not less. The stupidest bit is having the 90 minute lunch break which is spent sleeping to catch up on what we've lost in the morning. What is this about? It's fucking insane, people. Fucking insane!

But anyway, I got through Sunday, and half-hoped the soju would come out that night, as it had last Sunday. It did - for one or two tables - but not ours. Our department manager, sitting next to me at dinner, sent the bottle that came out for us back to the kitchen. I was not amused, and when I went back to my room, I got a migraine. I hardly ever get them. I can count the times I have had one on one hand, but my vision started going weird and then came the zig-zags, so it was an early night with 2 pain-killers for me.

So Monday morning, I'm thinking: this has to get better some time. I have to get used to this routine. My body clock has had 2 weeks to adjust, but no, I feel worse than ever, and sit at work wondering what the hell is going on. My head still hurts, and the nose is stuffier than ever. I tell the main man that I have to go back to the doctors, and this time I want to see a good one, not some dismissive prat who won't listen. I ring the insurance firm and tell them this, and they get me in with a very nice doctor called Doctor Vera, an American lady doc of oriental descent who sits and listens to all my worldly troubles, takes my BP, checks my ears and nose and then tells me I need to get some rest. I still have the sinus infection and my body needs rest to help it. I still have a high BP because of the lack of rest and the infection and probably the stress I'm under, and she thinks that a working situation like mine is unsustainable for someone in my fact anyone. What do you do for rest and relaxation, she asks? Everyone needs it. She gives me a letter for my bosses explaining this, and I take it back to the site, give a copy to the client and e-mail another to my company.

It's down to them now. They have let me take the prescribed time off (which is boring as hell in this villa, but it's needed), as they should, and they are going to want to discuss this between them all, I'm sure. Whatever. I have got to the point now that if the worst comes to the worst, I will just have to go home and start looking for a job in the UK, be it as a QS or a bloody burger-flipper. I really don't think I can do this shit any more, and I think my body is telling me that. Is this all really worth paying the ultimate price for? I don't think so. I don't want my health to get bad again after the work I've done to improve it. I want to be at home with my family and friends. I don't want to watch my daughter crying every time we Skype as she tries to hug the computer screen. I don't want to miss any more family get-togethers or friends' weddings or trips to the seaside. I just want a life.

I'm off for a sleep. Typing this has actually worn me out.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Weak too

I managed to get into AD on Thursday night and had a welcome break from Little Seoul. I met with a chap I "know" from an expat website, and we shared tales of Asian woe over Lebanese food and a beer or three on the patio area behind an Irish bar. The people in the group all agreed that I had a tough gig.

On Friday I ventured out again, calling up my new best friend the private hire taxi gadgie called Bashir who conveyed me to the new Dalma Mall slap bang in the middle of an industrial area (Mussafah). It's supposed to be the biggest in AD. I soon discovered that there was only about 10% occupancy so far, with only a few shops open, including a huge Carrefour. I did find a nice little coffee shop with big comfy seats where I had a very decent cappuccino and read some stuff on the e-reader. There were few other options in there, and I was really after a decent feed, so I called up Bashir and asked him to take me to a different mall...the closest one that was open, and that he did. It was smaller, but had an open food court and a couple of American chain restuaranty places, so I was happier than a pig in muck as I ordered and scoffed a platter of chicken tenders with fries. They were GOOOOOOD.

Saturday was Suckyday. I can't really remember specifics, but I just felt awful. I think it was my proper full day without an excuse to get away, so I spent an interminably long day staring at the clock on my computer. 12+ hours is a long time to do that, believe me. By the time it was time to leave, I was ready to walk myself to the airport and get on the first plane, wherever it went to. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I was meeting my company boss in AD that night for dinner. Firstly I never turn down free food, and secondly I had a chance to whinge, which I won't pass up either, and it might even do some good this time.

I was ready and psyched up to lay down my list of demands and wave a plane ticket in his face, but my bravado dissipated a little on the way into town and all but disappeared when I met my boss at the hotel. He is a very easy-going, cool customer, and he just makes anyone he talks to feel relaxed and at ease. So I didn't go as forcefully as I wanted, but when he asked me how it was going, I did list my concerns to him...the accommodation, the food, the lack of personal transport, the ridiculous hours. He understood them all, thankfully, and said we should wait a week or two before going to the client with a list of issues and requests. I assented to this approach, seeing that it did really make sense.

After the meal we went to find beer and fortuitously ended up in a sports bar where the FA Cup semi-final between the United and City of Manchester was showing. We watched the last half hour or so over a couple of pints in a lively but not rowdy atmosphere and then went our separate ways. I ended up having a late night again, which isn't good when I have to get up at 5.30am.

Sunday was OK as well. I was sent with a driver to pick my boss up from the hotel, which meant another couple of hours out of the site office. We collected him and delivered him to the site where he spoke with the Korean management for all of about 10 minutes, going no further than a few pleasantries and general enquiries about the project. We then went on a lengthy site tour in a 4x4, and then it was lunchtime. I was hoping to escape to return the boss to his hotel, but was told the driver had other things to do afterwards, so I had to stay put.

That night, back at the ranch, I found the Koreans getting lightly sozzled over their dinners on a drink called soju. It's bamboo or rice spirit, something like that, and tastes like a sweet vodka, although it's only about half the strength at 20%. I was invited to sit with a table-full of Koreans and was soon learning the whole ritual surrounding the pouring of the drinks for other people and challenging to drink it down in one..."Gumbay!" A bit like the Chinese "Kampai" and the Japanese "Gambai". I don't know how much I drunk, but I was a little merry. The food that night was really good as well, featuring belly pork and onion-filled pancake things. It was the best meal I've had here by far, and I went to bed quite content...knowing that things were likely to improve.

That's been the peak of it, I think. Since then it has declined rapidly once more. Monday and Tuesday were pretty rotten. I have come down with another bloody sinus infection or something, and have been to the doctors. They gave me a load of medicine, half of which I've chucked away without taking because I probably know more about my own conditions than a new doctor and don't really trust what they give you here after a bad experience in Dubai. Blood tests were ordered as well, which I've had this morning, but they seemed to be surprised that my BP was up, when just getting to see the doctor was immensely stressful and involved 4 lengthy phone calls to my insurance company in London to arrange payment guarantee. It's times like this that you appreciate the good old NHS. (LEAVE IT ALONE, DAVID CAMERON!) I was at the clinic for 3 hours.

To make matters worse, I just can't fathom these Koreans. One minute they seem immensely worried about my welfare, the next they are completely ignoring me. I worry that I did something wrong on soju night, as I feel like a pariah at most meal times, and have watched them come in the dining room and purposefully avoid sitting with me. The 3 chaps I work with the most and share an office and even a villa with seem to have acquired their own car now, but have left me to use the mini-bus to get to and from work, and no-one says a word to me on there, other than the Indian driver who always says hello. I am showering...I'll say that now.

Do I make them uncomfortable in some way? I never had this level of cultural clashing when I worked with Japanese people in Taiwan, but then I was living with my western colleagues and mixing with them after work. I definitely need to get out of this villa ASAP. I've spoken to the Canadian safety guy again and he said it was hard. He lived with them for 4 months. Last night really took the biscuit when they decided to sit out in the common area (what could be a lounge in a normally-occupied villa) and blathered on in inscrutable words for a couple of hours...almost 11pm when they finished. I listened to my mp3 player to try and get some peace and maybe some sleep.

All in all, I am hoping things change quickly here for me, because I can't live like this for another 2 months. Last night I saw pictures of my daughter riding her bike without stabilisers for the first time. Of course, this could have happened when I was at work in the UK, but it's just another thing that got to me.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Day two at you know whooooo

To get my 8 hours of sleep in, I now need to retire at around 9.20pm. I feel like a 10-year-old. A 10-year-old who has been banished to his room without TV for 11 weeks...

Still, the accommodation is better than what I had for the first month or so in Libya. That was a shocker. The biggest shock here is one of culture. Getting up at 5.20am just isn't natural for me, and I can't see how it's natural for anyone, to be honest. Breakfast is served from 5.30am, and it's pretty much the same kind of food they offered for dinner last night. The cook made me 2 fried eggs, which was nice.

Then it was off to work at 6am. Another surprise awaited me, as my erstwhile colleague revealed on the way. Everyone does exercises before starting work. You've probably seen these morning exercises that Japanese and Korean companies get their staff to do...lots of star jumps and stretching. That's exactly what I had to do, feeling slightly absurd as I stretched my arms and legs in a group of people arranged in neat rows. The Koreans knew it off by heart, having been taught this stuff from school age. It did wake me up a bit, I'll admit that much.

I was put through a 2-hour-3-language H&S induction later that morning, featuring some rather gory pictures of men with broken grinding discs through their heads and so on, then was shuttled off by the helpful Indian admin man to get a local SIM card from a nearby newly-opened mall. As we set off over the bumpy site roads, a familiar rumbling feeling came to my stomach. It shouldn't have surprised me, really. I always get a dicky tum after a day or two in a new place, and I don't think the new diet has done much to help either. I informed my Indian friend that I needed a bathroom post haste, and he stopped at the same service station where I'd grabbed a bite to eat yesterday. A nice touch, I'm sure you'll agree. He pointed to the back of the station, saying the facilities were there. Again, I shouldn't have been surprised at what I found. I opened the door to find a squat-only-hole-in-the-floor bog. I wasn't going to even try it, not with guts like these, so I dashed back to the car and said I'd wait for the mall toilets. If they didn't have proper sit-down ones, I was screwed.

Luckily they did, and all was well. The primary reason for the visit to the mall didn't actually bear any fruit, because the supermarket phone counter was all out of SIM cards. We ended up driving to some back street phone shop where they had loads of them.

By lunchtime I was back at my desk, feeling very, very tired and hoping my stomach would settle. I went along to the canteen with a plan to eat some plain food, and was delighted to find the cook from the villa dishing up food for everyone onto delightfully prison-like metal food trays. I opted for some rice and some eggy stuff and a couple of pieces of fried fish. They didn't cause too much bother.

I managed to catch half an hour of sleep in the meeting room for the rest of the lunch hour-and-a-half, and resumed my work. The afternoon wasn't too bad, although I did have to pay a visit to the site clinic to get some immodium...just to be sure. My Indian friend plied me with Bombay Mix just before home time (although he quote forcefully insisted it was called KERALA MIX), pouring some very tasty mixed snacks into my hands. Before I knew it I was on the way back to the villa on a mini-bus, wondering what the cook had in store for dinner.

To my surprise she served up some steak...not really fancy, just some rump with some Chinese style veg and more spaghetti. Everyone got some, and I was left wondering if it was all on my account. There was still strange soup on offer and little dishes filled with a variety of tiny fish, noodles and a spicy dish called Kimshi or something. There are different types, and I tried a bit of a green one that had horseradish root in it. It was actually quite nice, and would have gone down well with the steak if I hadn't eaten it in one mouthful....recognisable foodstuffs will get that these days.

So now, I'm here in my room, with no TV, just Bejewelled Blitz and broken conversations on Facebook. I'll be turning in in less than an hour. All told, once I get back from work and have had dinner, I get less than 3 hours of spare time. Can I last the full 11 weeks in this environment? At the moment, there seems little choice.

I have lived and lamented this Life of Goodbyes enough (I'm a moaner and I know it) and just feel like my life is passing me by. I may be offered some relief tomorrow night if I can find a way into town for a beer and some recognisable the moment I feel like I could be in Seoul. Why is it never as bloody advertised?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Back in the Sand Pit...

I know, I know. I can scarcely believe it myself, but I type this from a villa in a remote suburb of Abu Dhabi, wondering how the fuck I ended up back in the land of camels, date palms and Insha'allah.

To cut a long story short, my current job went down the swanny, but this job came along just at the right time...well, nothing else came up in its stead, to be fair, and I had little choice. How things change in the space of 3 months. After Christmas, all looked rosy in the garden (if you dug the snow out of the way), and I was in line to get a stable, secure, permanent role after another 3 month contract. I was that confident it was going to come off I bought a new(ish) car. It all started going breasts north about halfway through, say around 6 weeks ago...not in the sense that I was doing anything wrong, but there was a strange feeling of doom around the workplace, and people were feeling generally unsettled. Then came the announcement about redundancies. They said our office would be unaffected, other than the shedding of one admin person. This didn't stop people fearing the worst, especially those who've been through similar scenarios before. As a contractor, I felt immediately unsettled, and my attempts to seek any form of assurance were met with silence. I put the feelers out, as you do, within the company and elsewhere. In the "current climate", of course, the UK market was not offering up many solid leads. Only overseas did that.

As time went on, the unsettled feeling got worse. Rumours flew around. People got more and more peed off and as much time as possible was spent planning exits to the pub at lunchtime or after work. A phone call came completely out of the blue for this role in AD, and I was invited to attend an interview near London. I went down on the train, and was offered the job about 2 seconds after I walked in the door. I tend to get alarm bells going off when such things happen, but it sounded like a good job, even if the rotations were a bit harsh at 11 weeks on/2 weeks off. I had to make a decision.

A few days later, the decision was made for me. My boss told me I was no longer needed as the client couldn't see my role being full-time. Nothing else was showing on the horizon, so I took this AD one. Since then, I have spent my time buying new pairs of pants and socks and being with the wife and kids. I knew what was coming, and it has hit harder than ever before this time. We spent a last few beautiful days together for 3 months in some wonderful weather, wishing time would stand still. By Sunday night, I was pretty much in pieces. My daughter was distraught again, and I thought through a dozen ways of getting out of coming, including self-mutilation with a rolling pin and running away with the dish and the spoon.

I didn't do that of course, I got on the train yesterday morning, having given more tearful hugs to my kids and wife, and set off for here. The journey was long, uneventful, pretty damn lonely. I watched movies galore on the first flight (Tron and then Tron and contrast!), then read some HG Wells on my shiny new e-book reader on the second. If I manage to stick this one out, I'll be doing direct flights from now on, at least until the new Doha airport opens, because the little old one is shockingly small and unfit for purpose as a major hub.

I landed in AD just after 3am local time, and joined the muddled queues to go through immigration. I answered 2 simple questions about previous trips to the UAE and journey start points, but then almost jumped and screamed when they scanned my passport through their machine and some horrible electronic alarm coincidentally sounded nearby. I got through without a problem, however, and picked up my suitcase before heading for the exit. I was meeted and greeted by the driver who conveyed my at Mach 2.1 to the villa I am sharing with about a dozen Koreans. It was nearly 4am local time when I turned in, and about 30 minutes later the Muzzein started the mournful wailing. Luckily, there aren't any mosques in the vicinity, so it didn't startle me this time.

About an hour after that I heard movement. The others were getting up for work. Crikey. This is going to be fun, thought I. What kind of hours do these nutters work, for God's sake? I drifted in and out of sleep, hearing the cleaners doing the stuff, listening to jets flying overhead, and dreaming of sunny days at Saltburn-by-the-Sea with ice cream and sandy toes. I finally roused myself around noon, showered and dressed and wondered what the hell I had to do. I managed to find some phone numbers for the company I am working for here and eventually found out that the main chap I was going to be working with was on his way to pick me up. He arrived 45 minutes later and very helpfully diverted to a petrol station so I could get some food. Maynards wine gums and coca-cola had been my only intake so far today.

The office was standard site office fare, with big wide cabins filled with desks and rumbling air conditioning units. I was shown round the offices, introduced to about 40 people with about 10 different job titles (mine, not theirs - it's political, you know. I'm being asked to be somewhat dishonest to two companies now). Then they made me attend a meeting with only one person who had a working knowledge of English, and expected me to understand the complex contractual issues they were bringing up. Thank goodness I have offers of support from around the globe, or I would be sinking faster than a stone with a really big stone tied to it.

It was a mercifully short afternoon, however, and I soon discovered that the hours are strictly adhered to at both ends of the day. We finish at 6 sharp and then have to make our ways back to the villa for dinner. The villa I'm in is one of about 4 in a row, full of Koreans. The food offered is therefore....Korean. I give most things a chance, and discovered some of the food they do is actually quite nice. It was like the proper Chinese fare you find in China rather than on Linthorpe Road, but with more fish and loads more heat and spice. I tucked in with some aplomb, impressing my colleagues with my chopstick technique and ignoring the naughty thoughts of possible canine consumption that cropped up in my mind. I could really have been eating anything, but it tasted pretty good. Then the Chinese/Korean lady cook came out with a huge plate of spaghetti blog that she'd made just for me, which I felt obliged to polish off as she sat there grinning at me and nodding her head.

So now I'm in my room. At least I have the internet. I need an early night as breakfast is served at 5.30am before the bus for work leaves at 6.05 on the dot. Oh joy of joys! At least there are only 2 more days until the weekend!

P.S. you may have guessed that the health/diet regime is on hold somewhat...the Koreans tell me that their food is velly hearthy.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Excuses, excuses

Yep, I've got a whole rake of them. The dog ate my homework and aliens abducted my dog, so I had to travel to Sirius to fight the fish-headed f*ckers and get my homework back. The dog wanted to stay there, unfortunately.

But really, it's been a bit of a whirlwind since last time. Work is really busy, and I've been in at weekends and staying late to fulfil my duties. Then there was the London trip on Tuesday and Wednesday this week to see a boyband (wife's birthday).

Diet-wise, I haven't completely fallen apart, but have had a few weak moments, but try and limit them to weekends. OK, more than a few, especially in London for those 2 days. I ate and drank what I wanted, pretty much. Such are the pitfalls of an unplanned and unstable life on the road. Thank God I'm not touring with a rock band. I like routine...well, in dietary terms anyway.

Exercise...I tried that Tabata stuff again, although slightly modified from the last time. I did 4 rounds of 4 exercises: sit-ups, squats, lunges and shadow boxing, 20 secs of each exercise, 10 secs rest, 30 to 45 secs between rounds. I found it easier than the previous time, probably because I wasn't doing push-ups. I HATE push-ups, and my scrawny upper body is testament to that. I really must try and build up some muscle on the upper body. Not Arnie Schwarzenegger stuff, of course, just something approaching average would be nice.

I know I need to refocus now. There is still a week of hard work to go at work, but then I should be able to get fully back on the wagon and continue on the journey to slimness.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

On the road

I'm continuing to lose weight, despite not being half as disciplined as I was before. I have the odd nibble of bad things, and even had a fairly big blow-out the other weekend with booze and food galore, but it hasn't stopped the weight coming off. According to the scales I am now 17 stones and 3 pounds. In another 8 pounds I will be out of the Obese BMI category.

I have dug out some old suits from my wardrobe, and found stuff in the pockets of them that confirmed how long it is since I've been able to wear them. One was a nice grey number which is just about a perfect fit, the other was a tuxedo, which will probably fit in another half a stone or so. The last - and only - time I've worn it, was over 8 years ago at a ball in Taiwan. There was still a map of Taipei in the pocket. When I get into it I am going to have my photo taken in it.

I am exercising somewhat sporadically, but my gubro (guru/brother) told me to try the Tabata style of exercise on Wednesday night. It is brutal...involving 8 cycles of four exercises, which you do for 20 seconds full pelt with 10 seconds' break between each exercise. I did push-ups, lunges, squats and shadow boxing and managed 2 cycles before realising my heart was already pumping like crazy and deciding that I'd stop there. My sides and shoulders were sore for a few days afterwards. Having read up on it a bit, it sounds like it could really help the weight loss, but is also potentially dangerous if not done properly. I will proceed with caution!

Ailment-wise, my stomach has been behaving quite well, despite the cheats. I seem to be having a recurrent abscess problem in a tooth, though. It's an upper molar which seems to flare up after colds and nasal blockages. I had the sniffles for a few days, but the cold didn't seem to want to take full hold. Is my body better at fighting things off now? Hope so. It would be good if I can fight off an abscess rather than having to go on more antibiotics or undergo expensive and uncomfortable dental surgery.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Well, well, not so well...

I hate my guts. They just won't give me any peace. The new meds worked for a few days, but then things came bad again on Tuesday. I suspected that it was the cheat meal I ate on Monday night (deep-fried whitebait, burger, a bit of sticky toffee pud), but it has only just got better today. I had been a bit cheaty over the weekend too, particularly on Friday night, and also drank a bottle of red wine over 2 nights. Can a cheat meal really do this to me, could it be the wine, or were the new meds to blame? I have gone back to the old, weaker anti-acid medication, and things have settled down again.

Maybe my body is just really, really full of rubbish and is still fighting a battle as the last 20 years' worth of crap makes its way out, like a drug addict on serious cold turkey. I really hope that's what it is, because eventually I will come out of the other side and feel great.

The weight continues to come off. Another 2lbs gone, according to the Wii Fit board. I want to do more exercise...especially the resistance stuff to try and build/maintain some lean muscle. I just keep getting struck down with the bad gut episodes and don't have the energy to do any exercise after a long day at work.

Anyway, I've decided that the cheating has to be more controlled, if not eliminated pretty much completely. Maybe I should try and go clean for another couple of weeks and see how my body reacts. It's difficult when social occasions come up, though. There is a family thang on Saturday...meals and cinema-going and probably alcohol...What to do?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Settle down

Well, the acid and related stomach problems seem to have abated. That's probably the new drugs I'm taking. I guess I'll be on these for a while, until the healing happens. I need more tests and will be having another gastroscopy at the end of March.

In the meantime, I am managing to stick to the same way of eating. I have had the odd deviation, but nothing major. I can't eat massive amounts in one go any more, and to be honest, foods like bread and pasta hold no attraction for me any longer. I don't miss alcohol all that much, and am quite happy to have one, maybe even two glasses, once a week. I do fancy a pork pie, once in a while, mind. It will have to be a cheat meal.

The weight is still coming off. I've lost another 2lbs since last week. My clothes are getting seriously baggy. I do worry that my skin won't shrink back to my new body shape. I am trying to ex-foliate the skin when I bathe/shower. It helps with elasticity, apparently.

Exercise has been a bit scarce, I'm afraid. I had the bad guts for a few days over the weekend/start of the week. I am also feeling very tired after work. My head stuffiness and the related dizziness just refuses to leave me alone, and I still get headaches now and again. Gotta keep positive!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Acid House

The doc says I've got severe acid problems in my stomach. Seems there is probably damage in there, possibly even an ulcer. That would explain a fair bit of the way I've been feeling of late, and why it seems to be getting worse and worse. He said that STRESS could well be a factor in the increased acid. So I'm going to be put on more drugs, stronger drugs. I really didn't want to go down this route. I want to be off drugs and pharmaceutical chemicals altogether!

I am a born worrier, I'm afraid. A born stress-head, and it has had some serious implications for my health. I really need to learn to deal with it better. What makes it worse is that having time off work makes my work situation less stable...another stress factor. One of them there vicious circle things.

What's the answer? Anyone who knows....write it on a postcard, please!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

THIS is my life...

Self-indulgent rant time!

I think I may be suffering from depression, or something to do with lack of fresh air and sunshine (I invariably feel better when I'm outside, in the air). Despite the fact that I have been on this "diet" for nigh on 3 weeks and have lost over 2 stone since November, I still feel like shite for far too much of the day. Why is that? I worry that I have some horrible ailment that the doctors are missing, as is my way. I'm sure the blood test results I get tomorrow will show nothing untoward, leaving me thinking that it HAS to be all in my head.

It probably is, to be fair.

I watched a programme about people who emigrated to Australia last night. There was this woman who moved there with her son, who had suffered from SAD in the UK. After only a few months she looked better and said she felt better, with more outdoor living and sunshine. It was certainly food for thought...

Not that I am about to bugger off to Australia at the drop of a hat, of course. The big spiders they have there put me right off the idea.

It made me think about what I do with my life. What IS my life. I get up, drive the hour to work, stare at a screen for the best part of 8 hours, wondering how much longer I can blag it, drive back (another hour...I found out I spend more than 12 hours a week in my car), I have my tea, maybe do a bit of Wii Fit if I feel up to it, then get back in front of two screens...TV and laptop...fucking about on stupid games on Facebook or reading pointless posts on messageboards...till it's time for bed.

Weekends offer little in the way of excitement. Saturday is big food shop day. That's half the day gone. Sunday we take the boy to rugby and then we might get some fresh air for an hour or two. Once a month or so we visit my parents for dinner or something.

I'm telling you, whoever YOU are, right now...if this is what is the rest of my life is going to be like...well, I don't think I can face it. There's no point in getting healthy and fit if I don't make the most of it. I have little to no creative outlet at the moment (I am looking at joining a band again...that might help a bit).

So yeah, maybe I am a bit depressed. I honestly can't believe that this is the pinnacle of human life and civilisation. It can't be, surely.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Cheat, cheat, eat, eat...

I had my first cheat meal today for my breakfast. I had to have a blood test at the doctors, for which I had to fast, so hadn't had anything to eat since 8.30pm last night. After the doc I went to a favourite little coffee shop of mine in town and had my cheat meal. It was a bacon sandwich and a large cappuccino. I enjoyed the bacon, but couldn't actually finish the bread. Even though it was supposedly healthy brown bread, it was just too stodgy for me.

I haven't gone off the rails, though. It hasn't made me eat dougnuts, cake, crisps, chocolate and all those other things. I just slipped back into my new mode and ate a lovely ham salad for lunch and chicken wrapped in bacon with home-made tomato and basil sauce for my tea. There was no need for carbs.

I had another half an hour of working out on the Wii Fit tonight. I had weighed myself this morning and it said I was another 2lbs down, at 17st 8lbs. That's ridiculous! Back in October/November I was tipping the scales at 20 stones.

People are starting to notice the difference. My face is slimmer, and my belly is shrinking. It feels good when people notice these things.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

It's far from over.

This is just the beginning. The battle goes on towards a healthy weight and a healthy life.

I have completed 2 weeks of the detox phase, and haven't eaten an ounce of bread, pasta or other wheaty nonsense, and I haven't had a sip of alcohol. I haven't missed them either, really.

I will continue with this style of eating, but can now have 2 "cheat" meals a week. I'm still unsure how to play that, whether to have them both on a weekend, or split them up through the week. Whatever I do, I am not going to fall off the wagon. I feel much better in myself, although there is still room for improvement. I'm sure that I will feel better and better as the weight drops off and the fitness improves.

I stepped onto the Wii Fit scales tonight and my BMI has dropped again, but only by a few decimal points, and less than a pound. I have lost 13lbs, probably 13 and a half, and now weigh less than 18 stone. That's less than I've been in a long time, and as far as I'm concerned, the only way is down. Coincidentally I have reached the target I set myself at the beginning of November, and have set myself a target of losing another 1 stone and 1 pound in two months, which should be achievable. When that target is reached, I will be out of the OBESE category and into the OVERWEIGHT category according to the BMI scale.

Thanks to my brother, Stephen, for his support and encouragement. Thanks to the wife for cooking my tea when it is often different to what the rest of them have. I hope I can count on continued support from everyone. I also hope I don't bore people at work too much with my new healthy outlook!

Food today:

Breakfast: 3 egg omelette with spinach and peppers

Snack: chicken drumsticks

Lunch: Carrot and lentil soup

Snack: nuts

Tea: pork chop with roasted veg

Monday, 31 January 2011

Nearly there...

Tomorrow is the last day of the first phase of this new way of eating. I've felt reasonably good again today, aside from the odd half-hour here or there. I really think it's to do with my sinuses. Maybe my improved diet will help me.

So it was back to work, and today I tried a new approach to the snacking. I took a couple of chicken drumsticks I'd cooked last night with me as a mid-morning snack, and it definitely helped my energy levels stay constant. I had lunch a bit later than normal, then a late-afternoon snack of nuts, before having tea at about 7pm, AFTER a blast on the Wii Fit (step/hula/push-up/box) that was meant to be a quick weight check and 10 minute blast but ended up as almost 30 minutes of working out. Such are my energy levels, I just feel myself wanting to do it.

As for the weight, that's another 1lb off. That makes 13lb since the diet started, and overall since I got Wii Fit, I have lost around 2 stone (28lbs/13kg).

Food diary:

Breakfast: Greek yog, strawbs, bluebs

Snack: 2 chicken drumsticks

Lunch: 3 bean, tomato and bacon soup with side salad

Snack: nuts

Tea: Mackerel stir fried with veg and a few rice noodles.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The weekend comes, the motor hums...

bringing more cake to me. Well, near me. It was offered but refused...again. Why does everyone have to have birthdays when I'm doing this diet?

Anyway, I found myself going along to food shopping yesterday, and the shopping bill increased by about 60% on last week. Such is the risk of having me along, seeing this and that on the vegetables to try, chicken drumsticks to take to work as a snack...the wife knows that it's dangerous to have me with her now.

It would have been nice to be able to have a cheat meal this weekend. As I said, birthdays were on the agenda (my sister-in-law's), so we had a Sunday roast at the in-laws' house. I had pork, roast parsnips, carrots, cauliflower, 1 small plain boiled potato and NO gravy, stuffing or Yorkshire Puddings to start. I just sat in the living room during the starter. Maybe another time.

More temptation could have surfaced at rugby training (my boy's, not mine, I hasten to add). Bacon sarnies and cups of coffee are the order of the day from the clubhouse on most occasions, but this time I stayed out of the club and went to get the car washed before watching a bit of the training.

It wasn't too hard to resist. My resolve this time has been pretty unshakeable. It's just a shame I still feel crappy for periods of time. I don't know what it is, I just hope they reduce as I get leaner and fitter.

Another week beckons, then. I am looking forward to getting to Tuesday night and feeling like I've achieved something. I'm not going to go crazy, I'm going to stick to the prescribed 2 cheat meals a week.

So, food diary for the weekend:


Breakfast: Omelette with bacon, spinach and peppers

Lunch: Veggie soup

Tea: Home-made burgers, sweet potato chips and hummus

Snack: Can't remember if I did, actually!


Breakfast: Smoothie (using new smoothie maker procured on Saturday) made with banana, frozen berries and greek yoghurt. Yummy!

Lunch: Roast pork with veg (as described above)

Tea: Small burger left over from last night with small stir-fry veg portion

Snack: rice cakes with PB