Saturday, 24 December 2011

HAPPY
HOLIDAYS
TO ALL MY 
FRIENDS WHO 
HAVE EVER 
VISITED 
ANY OF 
MY BLOGS!!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Hee Hee Hee!!

A drunk man who smelled like beer sat down on a bus next to a priest. The man's tie was stained, his face was plastered with red lipstick, and a half-empty bottle of gin was sticking out of his torn coat pocket. He opened his newspaper and began reading. After a few minutes the man turned to the priest and asked, 'Father, what causes arthritis?' The priest replies, 'My Son, it's caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol, contempt for your fellow man, sleeping around with prostitutes and lack of a bath.' The drunk muttered in response, 'Well, I'll be damned, ' Then returned to his paper. The priest, thinking about what he had said, nudged the man and apologized. 'I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?' The drunk answered, 'I don't have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope does.' MORAL: Make sure you understand the question before offering the answer.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

7th December.





Thank you for clicking through to here and I'm guessing if you have done that you may already know and fully appreciate why these two fantastic tracks are here and why they are here today!
12 months ago today was my Mum's funeral.
At her service at the crematorium at the beginning was Bruce Springsteen, "Tougher than the Rest" basically she loved it and she was!!
Towards the end of the service was a short version of Meatloaf's, "Bat out of Hell" without doubt her favourite track of all time. It was this 'sweaty' version she loved the best.


"Keep on rockin' Mum/Grambo/Auntie/Sister/Friend" 


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Horse name.......

Many of you already know that I have been known to back the odd horse. Odd being the operative word! I have also occasionally imparted information to you about horses that could win for you and have been known to get it right once or twice. To those who I know and am close to, friends and family, I do occasionally back horses on your behalf, may be your name or place or whatever and use all my friends to possibly even influence my choices. Personally I like horses with American connections, which of course there are many. I love the way horses are named, a lot of thought and effort goes in to the name and hats off and good luck to all those dear animals that carry 'ridiculous' names!! However in all my searching, looking and laughing at names, today I came across what I think is the best ever.. You can check it out it's running this evening at Kempton at 5.50, to be honest it's probably a bit of a donkey but it should be backed just for it's name.


SANDFRANKSKIPSGO





Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Criteria to be met...... NOT!


So anyone that knows me even slightly know that my likes and interests are basic and simple and as all that applies to criteria for travelling, it's made a fair bit easier.
All that really is required is in basic terms, A Hard Rock Cafe, a pint (at least) of Guinness and where possible a Cirque du Soleil show!! Also any (vague) connection with Disney and of course the sights and vistas that will allow me to take 1,000 pictures in half an hour!! Well at least one, but where possible one obviously leads to another!! So the way it goes - travel to Las Vegas primarily to see 5 Cirque shows! In the process of course visit HRC and have a pint of Guinness - yes in the HRC!! The taking of pictures is a given!! But is Las Vegas off the list? No!! There are new Cirque shows and a new HRC as well! Also of course, my camera has changed!!
It works excellently with the touring (CDS) shows as well. It's heaven sent when they visit cities with Hard Rock Cafes. Amsterdam, next week Paris and so on!! In most places despite it not travelling so well Guinness is available in the countries version of draught but nearly always in cans or bottles. The Guinness experience is usually followed by a tirade of 'poor' language regarding it's quality and on investigation of named can or bottle find that it was additionally "bottled in Toronto" or wherever unDublinish!! But Dublin of course also has a Hard Rock Cafe plus the added advantage of having a pint at the brewery!!
No trip to Niagara Falls is complete without a trip also to the potentially 2 Hard Rock Cafes, one in New York state USA and the other in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Or the CN Tower without now only the one in Toronto but there used to be a HRC actually at The Skydome below the tower.
But I digress!! That was then, this is now......
Let's just examine my latest travelling....the saga continues. Only one of those criteria apply and that is of course the camera and the pics!!
Having said that on two occasions, the National Monument in Havana and the underground boat trip at Vinales I had to pay (extra) to take my camera in to take pictures and because begging and busking in Cuba is illegal any picture you take of people they think should be paid for. I posted this picture on Facebook with the following caption.."Every band has its groupies but her vigilance cost me a peso just to take the pic!! They were better visually anyway!!" 


Possibly the worst pic taken in Havana
Would have been deleted if it hadn't been
the Colibri, the worlds smallest bird!!
However there is absolutely doubting that on the picture criteria CUBA fits the bill.... The 'old town' of Havana is indeed a UNESCO World Heritage site and the island is the home of the world's smallest hummingbird and numerous other feasts for the eyes, both natural and man made. Also a justifiable story, not necessarily true about every last little thing that you see. Explained always vividly in very poor English! Cuba was always the "best", "largest", "first" at whatever and everything. Sometimes not strictly true but we tourists love the idealism. Reality this is the last bastion of true Communism in the entire world and it has a complete 100% trade embargo with (arguably) the world's largest trader. (USA)

Ok Hard Rock Cafe was originally started in London and went through its biggest increase in outlets under British management before transferring to American management which opened hotels and casinos under the Hard Rock banner. The easiest way of describing what happened next is simply to say they bit off more than they could chew and were forced to sell the whole enterprise. Hard Rock Cafe is now wholly owned by a native American tribe based in Florida, The Seminole Indians.
The stories connected to both Communism and Cuba's trade embargo with the United States are quite often exaggerated and sketchy however whichever way you look at it, the Cuban government would have an extremely hard job justifying a native American owned company setting up a brash Western capitalistic bar in Havana, the only place in Cuba that it would stand a chance! Even if the regime were just to finish over night it would be at least ten years before as large an American enterprise as Hard Rock Cafe could/would ever ever open in Cuba. The fact that Florida is a mere 93 miles away from Cuba does not make the slightest difference.
The only American thing that you see in the whole of Cuba is Coca Cola and  there were years of negotiations and a huge expense to Coke to keep the brand in Cuba. Coca Cola had to guarantee that they would only use Cuban sugar and had a complete canning plant in Cuba using only Cuban workers including management, unheard of anywhere else in the world. Without Bacardi, a Cuban company it is very unlikely that Coca Cola would ever have been allowed to trade in Cuba and under Communist competition rules Pepsico that traded on the island until the revolution and the trade embargo had to leave, like all other American companies.
So El Rapido at the sign of the silver arches!!
The argument rages constantly but big business, never wins out. A rather bland alternative to MacDonalds has been set up by the government to partially satisfy 'visitors' demand for fast food 'El Rapido'. Now I saw about 8 of these around Havana and they were all double fronted like this one pictured. Now ask yourself as indeed I did, is that or is that not similiar to a golden arch? No of course not, he answered sarcastically!!


Cirque du Soleil are the largest French Canadian owned entertainment company in the world as well as being the third largest by turnover French Canadian company in the world. Cuba is perfectly happy with the French and the Canadians but two reasons prevent Cirque from ever touring there. First as far as poverty goes only a tiny percentage of all Cubans could afford to go to any Cirque show so they would struggle to have the 87% that they need of bums on seats at every show. Those that can afford to go can equally afford to catch Cirque shows as they tour Canada and South America or of course if they are not Cuban in America. The second equally important reason is that the international flavour of Cirque du Soleil would not go down too well with The Department of the Interior. This would see American cast members, about 10% of all shows, treated differently to most other nationalities, which would of course be unacceptable to all governments and companies involved. Let us not forget that the Department of the Interior is the most important government department and Che Guevara, himself not Cuban was the minister of that department immediately after the revolution in 1959. 


This is the Ministry of the Interior now, still with Che's 'influence'!



Guinness is really a far simpler story. Cuba is an island and only food and drink stuff available from Cubans on Cuba is available. This covers a huge amount of products and companies of which Guinness is just one! There may of course be people on the island that import Guinness and sell it but needless to say it would be black market and the cost would be prohibitive to all but the very rich of the non Cubans on the island. 

Cristal and Bucanero are the main and just about only Cuban (light) beers available. In general in Cuba beers are classed as soft drinks and therefore will be amazingly 'cheap' to Cubans and not even extortionate even to visitors! Anyway when it comes to drink Cuba is the without dispute the world's rum capital!! With all the sugar, berries and fruit, homegrown some of the most varied and different spirits are manufactured in small 'factory' units across the island. Havana Club in all its five varieties being the top selling brand of Rum to all of the America's. That more or less covers drink!! I'll leave tobacco until another time I think!! There is however a link between the two. On tobacco plantations across the island once the tobacco leaves are hanging to dry all the concentration of work is transferred to the making of spirits!! Sugar, guava and Guayabita, literally 'little guava', grow alongside the tobacco and all have  different seasons so spirits are hand made by the workers when they can't produce cigars! Certain amounts of these spirits are allowed to be consumed by the workers to add an extra incentive to the harvesting of the tobacco. Simply the way it has been since the end of the 19th century.

A bowl of guayabita ready to produce the local spirit,
described as a liquer of strength which is neither a whiskey or a rum.
It is simply called after the region it is made,
Guayabita from Pinar (del Rio)



PART TWO IS HERE

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Buses, trains, religion and curiosity!!

The noisiest, dirtiest, oldest and earliest running bendy buses in the entire world are Chinese and operate in Havana! This is a real fact, although in essence I have no proof about the earliest running part because although 4.25am seems pretty early - outside your hotel - and I was on the fifth floor, it will always seem ultra early. Clouds of polluting smoke and drivers that feel they have to over rev their bus for ten minutes before they leave.  Half full though what's that all about!!? However equally that makes them the emptiest of the day as well!! I guess being outside a tourist hotel is a good incentive though!! Once all the workers are home however you won't see many buses on the street at all and the one that terminates and consequently starts from the Hotel Presidente is noticeably missing from about 7.30pm, Monday to Friday! The funny thing is though that the only guaranteed service in the day is the earliest one, after that they become desperately irregular in a wonderfully, almost traditional, Cuban way!
Just a footnote to that "Cuban Way" I went down to the railway station to get a train to a town called Trinidad and I was down there well before 9am. Now since I was very young I have been able to read timetables, it's just one of those things. Whichever way I read it there was a train at 10.17. Cuba was the first country of the Americas outside of USA to have a railway system and was the only Caribbean island to have a railway system and it was a system, allegedly, second to none for reliability. I took some pictures, how unusual(!) of the 'living' museum of the old steam trains that adorn the street 



It distinctly says PISSTBURGH!!
in close proximity to the station and despite there being a few engines in the station there was no carriages. The day before there had been the longest train, made of carriages overspilling the platform ends I'd ever seen, but there didn't seem to be any movement of any rolling stock just hundreds of people. Despite my terrible Spanish I did make an enquiry as to the train, not a complaint of course, that would just have got "It's Cuba" - the traditional response! However I think she said something that included the word Manana, which this time I assume meant tomorrow!! I popped back later in the day and viewed from the tour bus the station that looked like there had been absolutely no movement at all!!
Back to the buses!! Oh yes Saturdays are slightly different. The first one on that service and not so full is about 7.30. Although I did see earlier services on other routes about 6am with completely full buses! Sundays however are family days and church plays a big part to an awful lot of people/families and the most grid locked roads, Monday through Saturday for buses and overall traffic are empty with no buses until at least 9.30 am and so much fewer buses running at all.


Religion is a strange thing to try and describe properly in a total communist regime. Active members of the communist party must not actively worship in a church. However the churches are all a) Catholic and b) Packed to the rafters, even for the limited services during the week as well of course as on Sundays when to be fair there is only one service. Families worship together and all children are welcomed and given free candy as they go in!! Most of the churches are open all day every day with no obvious presence of any church elders, kept in a perfect (ish) condition and are are all beautiful old Spanish type buildings. 


I am not going to make any conclusions about you and your chuches or even me and mine but only really mentioned as something to may be learned from.
The ancient cathedral in the centre of  the city.
Normally when you travel the way I do you have a bit of a poke about and will find a minority church or worship place but in all my poking (not the Facebook type!!) I found nothing but Catholic churches and of course a cathedral in the centre of the old city which is catholic. This 'may' be because that any other church for any other religion is considered by the state as a business and therefore is not allowed to be operated by foreigners, take for example Lutheran.... I am deliberately not including the Russian Orthodox religion, because it is considered to be more catholic than catholic by most people and that would explain the beautiful Russian Orthodox cathedral hidden away down by the docks. 
However again I didn't find any other Russian orthodox churches.
Finally no religion is spoken about at all by any of the tour guides of the state run tours, interesting hey?




IF YOU MISSED PART ONE IT IS HERE!


AND PART THREE IS HERE!!!

Friday, 28 October 2011

I really don't want to call this Cuba #1, so........

101 (ISH) AMENDMENTS THAT COULD/SHOULD BE MADE TO THE AVERAGE CUBAN GUIDEBOOK 
!!!!!!!!
First of all seriously there are parts of Cuba and huge parts of its capital Havana that really are not for for everyone. If you want to be a tourist of course go to Cuba, they need people to visit, but as a tourist keep to the huge Spanish/Latin American owned all inclusive resorts all around the coast and keep your eyes firmly shut all the way off your plane to the resort. Then it will be easier to imagine the luxury that you would be existing in to be almost any of the other Caribbean islands, Spain or its islands or Greece/Turkey.
Don't forget though there are high winds, hurricanes, tropical storms, lots of rain and thunder and lightning, flooding and power cuts. Even in the all inclusive resorts! Oh yeah as well as all year sunshine!

There is tremendous poverty and terrific pollution and in order for most people to accept either or both of these negative points you have to be a traveler and not a tourist!! These two negatives are balanced with an unbelievable greenness and people with an amazingly happy disposition.

Manana they say in Spanish territory around the world, it literally means "tomorrow". The Cubans say Manana, manana for which there is no literal translation! It's certainly not "tomorrow, tomorrow" more like "Maybe, maybe not". Closest is probably "This is Cuba - be Cuban!" 

I wrote copious notes while I was away, probably hoping to make them all Facebook status's or do the story live on blogger. This immediately created another problem... Internet access. For example it was my last night that I got a site specific internet card from the hotel that I was staying in. Although the books all say there are opportunities to get on the internet from all major hotels I had to pass two large hotels, one where you had to be resident, the other that suffered from the same fate as The Presidente where I stayed to get to another hotel about quarter of a mile away to buy a card at 25% more expensive. First time there was a power cut, the second - no internet available. Then a full half hour of my hour's card to get rejected three times by Facebook!! (This) Blogger was non existent and my gmail account was the easiest thing and only consistent thing I could access. Facebook got better but was never brilliant - forcing me on Facebook to say that Latin America and Facebook should never really be mentioned in the same sentence.

Anyway don't worry all those notes will be revealed bit by bit right here over the next (lots of) posts. Pictures will keep cropping up probably forever!! Here, here and Facebook!!

Some of the first notes involved the extremely long flight direct from Paris, Charles de Gaulle to Havanna but the first one I am going to relate is one filled with irony and now I look back is so funny!! 
A slightly older 'Jumbo' (incidentally I always feel so much happier with 4 engines flying that far!!) with only central video screens and not seat back but there the first film was to be 'Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides (4)'. I hadn't seen it and really looking forward to it. Many of you know of the link between Captain Jack Sparrow and myself and after all I was going to the Caribbean!!!
Channel #1 for the sound headphones on here we go............ English language film, dubbed in to Spanish with English subtitles. 
No worries, channel #2 English language film, dubbed in to French with English subtitles!! 
Serves me right I guess for flying to a Spanish speaking destination on the French national carrier, Air France!! Quite a surprise to me though to be in the third section of people language wise - that was a first! Now also it may become quite obvious that all the time I was away and until my return flight from Paris to Manchester I was never in the majority language group!! Unlike almost every part of the world very little English is spoken by the ordinary Cuban and poorly even in the hotels, where often French, Italian or German are more popular.
As for Pirates, well on the way back seat back DVD's I was able to watch it again in English!! My favourite beer on the island was called Bucanero, which means of course Pirate!!!

The first 10 pictures of 3768 have been published around and about and are here to brighten up this post in an album that will be added to daily (ish!)











Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Sunday, 9 October 2011

How's your confidence?

How's Your....


C-ertainty of success?
O-pen mind towards change?
N-erve when fear is an easy alternative?
F-ortitude in thought and action?
I-CAN DO THIS ATTITUDE?
D-etermination to do what's right?
E-nergy for life?
N-ever quit attitude?
C-aring among apathy?
E-nthusiasm amidst the mundane?


How's your C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-E?

"It's not the mountain we conquer but ourselves"
          ~Edmund Hilary

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Retro Commercial!! YAY!!




"Oh we are the lads from Country Life —
And can´t put a better bit of butter on your knife,
If you havent any i-i-in have a word with your wife
And spread it on your toast in the morning!
Its Country Life, its English too,
From the cow to the dairy, from the dairy down to you,
Its pure and fresh, and creamy through and through,
So spread it on your toast in the morning"

Check out this Cool Coca Cola Clock!!


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

TUESDAY ACTUALLY!!

BLONDE : T-G-I-F
MAN : S-H-I-T

BLONDE (Confused) : T--G--I--F--
MAN (Slowly) : S--H--I--T--

BLONDE : T-G-I-F MEANS THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY
MAN (Giggling) : SORRY HONEY IT'S THURSDAY

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Stone baggage maybe all right for Fred & Wilma but don't think it will catch on!!


I love her little metal neck, her smile and her spikey hair only thing is she is a bit plastic!



"I believe that everything happens for a reason, people change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you can appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so that eventually you learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall together!"

-- Marilyn Monroe

Monday, 26 September 2011

Over 40 years I have been passing this clock but how long the centre has been upside down is anybody's guess!!


Happy Monday


I am frankly shocked, amazed and really just a bit disgusted at the level of belief shown by sensible people when they hear about total total shit about Facebook and how seemingly the whole world time zone by time zone post such crap about for example the charging by Facebook, like yesterday.
When asked to believe figures about mental health problems, nasty terminal diseases, domestic violence, abuse against children and countless other worthwhile things nobody will post a thing. You know it's true.
Do not under any circumstances repost this.... but please check things out properly and just bear this in mind in the future.


By just reading all this you have spent a couple of seconds doing something more worthwhile. Now how do you feel?










MEANWHILE HAVE A GREAT MONDAY!!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

X Factor winner.......?!!

Yeah ok I'm watching X Factor well with half an eye, checking on Saints game and editing some pics at the same time but I have just seen the winner. 
Let's just cut all the crap and the live shows and all the manic voting sh*t. 
Just make Janet Devlin X Factor winner 2011. Don't forget where you heard it first!!!  

The Amazing Race returns on Sunday.


SO FOR ALL MY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN FRIENDS DON'T FORGET THE BEST SHOW ON TELEVISION EVER IS ON ITS 19TH SERIES AND STARTS SUNDAY!!
TO MY SUPPLIER ON YOU TUBE - FINGER ON THE BUTTON PLEASE!!
TO CBS - YA BOO SUCKS TO YOU!!
IF YOU WANT RECYCLED LINKS SENT TO YOUR E MAIL ON MONDAYS JUST E MAIL ME HERE

Friday, 23 September 2011

Who said graffiti wasn't art? Or maybe the Spanish just do it better!!


A destresser from JK!! Thank you!!

For everyone who is a little stressed, I am passing on this useful information, it worked for me and we 
could all do with some inner calm. I looked around my house to see things I'd started and hadn't finished.
So I managed to finish off a bottle of Merlot, a botle of char Donnay, a bole
of Baylees, a bodle of Wum, tha mainder of Val, no wate Valiuminuium scriptins, an a box
of chocletz.
       Yu haf no idr how bludy fablus I fee l rite now.




Sned this too all that need inner piss.


AN TELUM U BLODY LUVUM.

Still Going!!

This was half way!!
OVER 35,000 POUNDS RAISED AND STILL COUNTING!!
WELL DONE ROSSI, SIMMO AND JAY!!