Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I'm back....

And just a few bits of drivel...

As I arrived at NAIA (aka the only other airport that even comes close to Dhaka!) last night I was greeted by the sight of new luggage trolleys...this news has a good side and a bad side....the good side is that the new trolleys are wonderful - they do everything a luggage trolley should....the bad side is that if they have put new luggage trolleys there does that mean that the new terminal is never, ever, ever going to open....and then I saw Torn & Frayed's comment...

The best thing about coming back last night....my French friend & I managed to catch about an hour together at the airport...worth coming back a day early for...again I ponder the odd I life I lead where a snatched hour at an airport with a friend is worth so much. He gave me the update of ex-colleagues and I found out that one of my other French colleagues in Jordan (who has since been working in Cairo) is going to work at the Grand Hyatt Amman....I am immensely jealous and also glad - now I have somewhere really classy to stay in Amman instead of my usual bolthole which is allegedly ideal for the "wary traveler"!!

those of you who have cats will be well aware of the 'returning from holiday' syndrome whereby the average cat goes into a monumental huff when you return from a trip...mine are usually no exception - however, two weeks is obviously long enough for them to miss me..."I have a little shadow, that goes in and out with me..." they have both been hard on my heels since my arrival home!!

I am one of those people that once I make a decision I want to see it through as soon as possible....whilst in Koh Samui I decided to get my ears pierced....nowhere on the island appealed so I waited until I returned to HKG...after trawling around Central, Admiralty and Harbour City - I gave up...."Will no one stick a pin in my ears?"!!! Anyway, back in Manila - some nice man at Powerplant obliged...so here I sit with my aching ears wondering how I got to my age without doing this....next up - a tattoo....just have to find the right dragon now!!

Whilst in Koh Samui I met a good group of people...particularly three others with whom I spent the better part of two days just sitting talking and laughing ( a lot) with....it felt really good just to sit and talk about nothing in particular - and made me realise that these days I never really do that with my real friends...we chat over dinner or lunch...but there is a time limit on that - the thing in Koh Samui was that there was no time limit....I must remember that in future. I have to say that I laughed so much my face hurt afterwards - it's a good feeling!


Monday, January 30, 2006


I guess it is one of the best disguises in the world but does Wacko Jacko really have to do this...?


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Koh Samui

Koh Samui was lovely....all I hoped and a little bit more....not too much to write…so a few pictures….

The more perceptive will note that the following picture was actually taken at CLK...I can't resist a picture of a jumbo...after Concorde I think they are the most amazing commercial aircraft...

I couldn’t resist the next two pictures at Bangkok airport…one after the other rolling past us as we sat waiting for take off

En route to Koh Samui


the view from my Bungalow…

Random beach shots!

Samui’s Seated Buddah

It’s tough being a cat

The sun shines on art

The year of the Rooster coming to a close

There was the odd cloud in the sky....

which developed into two days of rain....I love the sound of the rain in the trees...

Sun set at Lamai beach...

the Marine Park....just beautiful - a wonderful day out and my factor 70 ensured that even after a day in the sun...I was still as pale as ever!!


Playing catch up...

Having been out of internet contact for a while...I am now playing blog catch up...the award for "Making me laugh out loud in a public place whilst sitting on my own"...goes to this post and the following comments from fumier!!


It makes you wonder....

Over the last two months I have been struggling with my contact lenses...something has been making them fog up and get really filthy after being in my eyes for about 3 hours...so a quick visit to my optician yesterday reveals I have too much protein in my tears...a little search on the internet on contact lense issues reveals that some people are not too clued up on contact lense care...

A study revealed that 27% of patients admitted that they don’t clean their lenses daily, and it is likely that an even higher percentage of lens wearers are non-compliant in some way. Some patients have used dishwashing liquid, baby shampoo, or even toothpaste instead of the recommended cleaners;

...toothpaste....to clean your lenses...??!!!!!


Leaving town...

"It is better to travel than to arrive"…..not if NAIA is involved…

The start of my holiday was as usual a battle at Manila aiport…

Being tired…finishing work at 10pm..going home to clean the house and pack and then an airport pick up at 4:30am…does not for a happy camper make…

I have developed a loathing for NAIA that is out of all proportion for an inanimate object. Even the garbage bins here have wildlife (of the dark brown shiny variety)…I am assuming that not many people scream very loudly in the departure lounge at 5:30am – assuming because the reaction I got after screaming when wildlife ran out of the bin that I was putting my teabag into; was quite impressive…I can now cross “Bring an airport to a grinding halt” off my life ‘to do list’!

Yet again I was grateful for on line check in…saves so much waiting and allows far more time to sit in the ‘wonderful’ departure lounge!

This time as I leave I have a little more understanding of the Philippines (not much!) and it strikes me that in relation to the cost of living in the rest of the country the P550 departure tax is astronomical…add to that the average cost of a trip – flight, hotel etc etc and it really puts into perspective how the average Filipino is bound to never leave the country.

Please, please, someone open the new terminal…give the average traveler a better memory of their holiday in Manila…the Philippines can “wow” with their beaches, diving, fresh produce, tourist destinations and the friendliness of the people…but that first welcome and final farewell is just bad PR…

And a little word of advice for the NAIA catering department…making fruit shakes with dirty (literally!) ice will ensure that the average traveler will have something to remember Manila airport by for slightly longer than the 2 hours we normally spend here!!!

Once off the runway…a beautiful morning led to a good opportunity for pictures…unfortunately in my haste I only carried my little camera as hand luggage….anyway here they are….


Kung Hei Fat Choy...!

So the Year of the Rooster (my year!) has clucked its last...and the Year of the Dog is here...

Wishing you all health, wealth and happiness.


Monday, January 16, 2006

In haste....

Am off on my travels tomorrow...so posting will be light with a few gusts when I can access the internet!

I have my airport pick up at 4:30am for the 6:50am flight...it's not that I'm desperate to leave or anything...!!

Now I need to go home and pack...clean the house...and try to get some sleep.

As they say in Hong Kong..."ByeBye"!!


Be warned...this is a whinge post...

I'm going to do it again...and I apologise...but I am in a grouch...I'm going to compare HKG and Manila...

I need cat litter...I'm going on leave on Tuesday and leaving the four legged furry things in another's tender loving care....so I need to stock up on cat litter...however...Rustans and SM have been out of any form of cat litter for the last two weeks...so whatever supply I had has now dwindled down to 'emergency' reserves...

In HKG...I would go to the pet shop website and order for next day delivery...or even better...call up the pet shop on Caine Road...tell them what I needed...they would drop it round to my house and I would pay the next time I went through...

In Manila...I call every pet shop I can find on the 'Click the City' Site and ask if they have Cat Litter/Sand...whatever and the answer is no...However, there is one shop that I know has cat litter...but my principles have stopped me shopping there thus far....I do not like to support pet shops that sell live pets...it goes against the grain...because I know that a) the animals in the shop are not necessarily well looked after and b) the breeding conditions of these animals is sometimes awful.....However, needs must...

So I traipse over to MegaMall to Bio Research and pick up two 10Kg bags of Cat Litter...I ask if by any chance they do delivery (if so I'll buy whatever they have in stock)...the answer is no...so I just take the two bags..(they could have made some good money there..). I then have to slog all the way back the length of MegaMall with my 20Kgs of sand and finally make it back into the office where I collapse in a sweaty, heaving mess....

I guess it could be worse...they could have had no litter....or even worse...I could be the poor Swedish guy I found wandering around outside MegaMall searching for an address in Makati - someone had told him Makati was a 5 minute walk from MegaMall....he needed to replace his credit card that had gone through the wash in Puerta Gallera and was now useless...the odds were definitely agin him as he didn't seem the brightest firework in the box....

On a good note...a quick stock up of water, cat food and other 'heavy' necessities at my local branch of Rustans...one of the 'packers' approaches me as I am going through the check out..."Ma'am, would you like delivery?"..."Yes, that's exactly what I would like"...at which point he reels off my address (quite spooky really, but then he explains he always handles my deliveries - do I have a stalker??!!) and says..."No problem, it will be there in an hour"....And that's why I keep shopping there.....now if they could only sort out their supply of bloody cat litter...I'd be laughing.

OK - whinge over...or maybe not. Should I start on the indecision of people queuing at cinema snack counters (rhetorical question)...and this is not only in the Philippines...the world over; people stand in line for 10 minutes in front of the bloody great pictures showing what is available. Invariably when they get to the front of the queue they stand there umming and aahing about what they want..."Should we get the salty popcorn or the sweet..the sweet ok?, large or small..? now what shall we get to drink?, should we get some chocolate...?". Then they stand and faff around with the change. I am surprised no one has yet gone loopy with a shot gun at a cinema snack counter.

Well, I feel a bit better for all that!


Sunday, January 15, 2006

It's not just Hong Kong...

...that has cornered the market in strange names...


Have I got news for you....

Possibly the best TV series ever....and yesterday I received the most recent DVD of the series...

Excellent...!!! It is different now that Angus Deayton has gone...but it's still very funny and very clever....


Saturday, January 14, 2006

You have to laugh....

Buying condoms in D.C.


to test your brain power...

via Mia..a little test of your geography knowledge

warning...it is addictive and it will make you realise that your knowledge of world geography is not as good as you thought it was....

The only city I have got spot on so far...Baghdad....isn't that a sorry state of affairs?!


Perhaps there is a God after all....

A TV Evangalist in the US has now had his tourism venture in Israel blocked by the Israeli government...Mr Pat Robertson said that Mr Sharon's stroke was "divine retribution" for leaving the Gaza Strip....

The Israeli government has decided to block Mr Robertson's theme park plans as a result of his insensitive comments...

When I read the details of the theme park I realised that perhaps there is a God and a God who is trying to protect the Holy Land...The Sea of Galilee is beautiful, the surrounding countryside is spectacular and there is an overriding sense of peace all around the area...it does not need anything as crass as a theme park...biblical or otherwise...

Earlier this week, the ministry's spokesman Ido Hartuv said Israel would no longer be signing a contract with Mr Robertson to build a biblical theme park by the Sea of Galilee.

The centre was expected to cover nearly 35 acres (14 hectares) north-east of the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus is believed to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

It would have had a park, an auditorium, a Holy Land exhibition, outdoor amphitheatres, information centre and a media studio.

Full story here


Another side to the story...

From The Standard (HK)... an article on the more human side of the forces in Iraq


Friday, January 13, 2006

You fight the battles you know (think) you can win....

Donald Tsang, moves on to more secure decision making...leaving behind the uncertain world of democratic reform....

finally bringing the five day working week to Hong Kong...well, for the civil servants at any rate....not sure how quickly the rest of Hong Kong will follow...


there must be a better way....

I cannot believe that yet again, the Hajj claims hundreds of lives.


Two idiots out on the town....

My visitor has been and gone...I did as promised and showed her only the non scary parts of Manila...Rockwell and Greenbelt....unfortunately she did have to use EDSA on many an occasion and that was a little alarming...our taxi ride home last night had her laughing hysterically...and I know she wasn't finding it funny...the strange thing was - I thought the taxi driver was driving really well!!! Have I been here too long!!!?

As I have mentioned before..this is a strange life that I (and so many others) lead...my friend and I worked together in HKG for a brief period of time...she then left HKG to work for another company and was based in Cebu - but doing so much travelling I never really saw the point of her being based in Cebu....I then joined the same company as her - but in Manila (obviously)...so now we see each other in Cebu, Hong Kong or here in Manila...but it's very likely that the next time we see each other will be in the Middle East....

Having said that, when we meet...it's so easy just to pick up where we left off...after I met her on Tuesday evening we went to Fully Booked (she also wanted to stock up on books)..where we both realised (much to our amusement) that standing reading the titles of the books out loud was not the best idea...particularly when we were reading the titles of the books in the 'sex' section....plus the shop was very quiet...and we both have voices that carry well....apologies to anyone who was disturbed on Tuesday...

We had dinner at Rockwell the first night and at Greenbelt on Wednesday...I had to introduce her to Cafe Havana for a quick drink first...it seems that I have picked up a habit of drinking cocktails since I have been in Manila...I didn't notice that...it was pointed out to me..as I ordered a Singapore Sling elsewhere before dinner...I wonder what that could be a sign of...?

I think overall my friend wasn't too horrified by Manila...although the sheer volume of traffic and level of noise was quite overwhelming...Manila was therefore labelled as 'scruffy'...more of an 'in joke' (her mother described Hong Kong as scruffy!!!) than anything else.

I have to say that the best part of her visit was that it was so good to have someone to laugh with and just be an idiot with for two evenings...I don't often get that opportunity here! It does the mind good to let one's guard down for a while...


Thursday, January 12, 2006


As of next Tuesday I will be holiday bound...Koh Samui beckons for 10 days...followed by 3 days in Hong Kong - actually more like two and half...

I have a stack of books at home waiting to be packed..plus my newly accquired water proof Factor 70 Sun Cream which no doubt will be used in the shade....I guess being a sun lover and going on a beach holiday and not being allowed in the sun is not the best combination...however...before 10am and after 4pm with sun screen on and I should be ok...allegedly! I think with all that I will come back whiter than I am now!!!

I sacrificed the trip to see Lawrence in London..it was tough but the decision was made easier by ordering this...some fantastic photos and material that I have never seen before...particularly the photos of him making his way from Saudi to Aqaba....The book kept me amused for the better part of two hours yesterday....I have always thought he was a bit of an odd character...even more so after reading some of the letters he sent on his final return to the UK...including one to a gentleman who was part of the police force of Trans-jordan....asking to 'be remembered to the Emir - if the Emir could remember him'....as if anyone who met him could ever forget...particularly the Emir...

This time next week then...I shall probably be.....asleep!!!!!!!!


It's the little things that make me smile....

Taxi to Makati - P80
Tea at Starbucks - P80
Bag - P210
The look on your girlfriend's face when she opens her present - priceless

The bag pictured above is for sale at The Landmark in Makati...a variety of colours are available...


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Don't forget your keys...

I am not disputing this article.....speaking from experience I know that Joe Public leaves many weird and wonderful things behind in hotels....my only question is...."Would a person who drives a Ferrari...stay at a Travel Lodge"?


Monday, January 09, 2006


I am not making fun of an incredibly serious situation...however, I think that the BBC website could have been slightly more careful about the picture of choice to accompany their headline at the moment...

From their homepage....

Israeli PM to be woken from coma


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Two different stories...

At about 8pm last night my phone bleeped into life with an arabic text message from a friend of mine...given that my reading of Arabic is very limited..I replied asking for the 'English' version....

Test messaging in Jordan is probably at about the same level as the Philippines...Jordanians text all the time...I am surprised that more Jordanians don't suffer from repetitive strain injuries in their thumbs! That's how the rumours and news spreads so quickly around the city....texting is much swifter than a phone call..

This particular message..."The British Embassy in Amman is closing indefinitely due to a terrorist threat" - report from the BBC

The British embassy in the Jordanian capital, Amman, has been closed until further notice due to security fears.
Plans for attacks against western visitors to the country are thought to be in the "final stages", according to the Foreign Office.

The Foreign Office travel advice summary reads: "Terrorists may be in the final stages of planning attacks against Westerners and places frequented by Westerners.

"The British Embassy in Amman will be closed until further notice due to the security situation."

It goes on: "There have been a number of successful and attempted terrorist attacks in Jordan since 2001."

Extra care should be taken "when using Jordanian service taxis to cross into neighbouring countries" and, in particular, "at the borders with Israel and Iraq".

However, a Jordanian government spokesperson disagrees with the British assessment (link to Jordan Times article - link won't last past the week)

Government Spokesperson Nasser Judeh on Saturday described the current security threat against the British embassy in Amman as not sufficient to warrant its indefinite closure.

"Usually when there is a threat to a diplomatic mission in Jordan, the authorities liase with the concerned authorities through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and consequently the security authorities make a threat assessment," Judeh told The Jordan Times.

"In this case the security authorities concluded that the threat itself did not warrant the closure" he added.

With the Eid holiday coming at the end of the week the Embassy would have been shut for most of the week anyway, it will be interesting to see when the British decide to reopen the embassy. To the best of my knowledge the embassy has not been closed recently - except for when they all (understandably I guess) left during the Iraq war...(it's an interesting feeling knowing that you are in a country with no embassy support!!).

I have three thoughts on this..first, I would rather they were safe than sorry....secondly, I really, really hope that nothing does happen...thirdly, given Al-Zaqarwi's low opinion poll ratings in Jordan at present (see previous post)..if he does try something else...he is even more of an idiot than we all think he is anyway...

*Yes, there really are taxi services across the various borders...if you go to Downtown in Amman, there are taxis that will take you to Jerusalem, Baghdad, Beirut and Damascus!!! All destinations that most people would think twice about aiming for!


Saturday, January 07, 2006

It took death, violence and destruction....

Percentage of people considering Ben Laden's movement as a legitimate resistance group drops from 66.8% in 2004 to 20% in December 2005

It is tragic that it took the events of 9th November 2005 to make so many Jordanians realise the evil of Zaqarwi's ways...I also wonder what the results will be when the carry out the same survey in 2006, 2007 and onwards...

In the article below it is interesting to see how the perception of a violent attack increases as the targets get closer to home - London, Sharm...Amman.

From Thursday's Jordan Times
(Whole article copied below as links never last past the week)

By Alia Shukri Hamzeh

AMMAN — Public opinion on terrorism has significantly changed over the past year, with a majority of Jordanians classifying Al Qaeda as a terrorist rather than a “legitimate resistance organisation,” a poll showed Wednesday.

According to a study published by the University of Jordan's Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS), the percentage of respondents who consider Osama Ben Laden's Al Qaeda organisation as a legitimate resistance group dropped from 66.8 per cent in 2004 to 20 per cent in December 2005.

Similarly, a majority of Jordanians consider Iraq's Al Qaeda led by Abu Mussab Zarqawi to be a terrorist organisation.

According to the survey, 72.2 per cent of the polled national sample consider Al Qaeda in Iraq to be a terrorist organisation, while only 6.2 per cent said it was a legitimate resistance movement. A majority of public opinion leaders regarded both Ben Laden and Zarqawi's Al Qaeda as terrorist groups.

Pollsters told The Jordan Times they believe the Nov. 9 Amman bombings had a great impact on citizens' perception of terrorist organisations and acts.

They said the results indicate that one of the most important outcome of the bombings was the significant drop in the number of Jordanians supporting Ben Laden's Al Qaeda. In addition people were making a distinction between Ben Laden and Zarqawi's organisations.

The survey also revealed that public opinion was variable and changed its stance vis-à-vis terrorism depending on political developments in the region, pollster Fares Braizat said.

“It is reasonable to suggest that Jordanian public opinion regarding the issue of terrorism is not ideological,” Braizat added.

He said that he believes ending “the occupation of Palestine and Iraq would lead to a significant shift in Jordanian public opinion — and perhaps the general Arab public opinion — against terrorism.

“Ending the occupation may play a major role in delegitimising support and justification of terrorism,” Braizat added.

The poll was carried out between Dec. 1 and 7 to gauge public opinion on the issue of terrorism, especially following the bombings that rocked three Amman hotels and killed 60 people.

The poll, the second by CSS on the issue of terrorism, was conducted on two samples. The national sample consisted of 1,417 respondents distributed throughout the Kingdom, and the public opinion leaders sample (POL) of 669 respondents divided among seven groups, including businesspeople, political party leaders, professionals (lawyers, doctors, engineers and dentists), members of the media, leaders of professional associations, trade unions, high-ranking officials and university professors.

The poll showed that half of the national sample respondents considered Ben Laden's Al Qaeda to be a terrorist organisation, while around three quarters of respondents described Zarqawi's Al Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the Nov. 9 Amman attacks, as a terrorist group.

However, a majority of the POL sample of respondents viewed Ben Laden's Al Qaeda (73.4 per cent) and Zarqawi's Al Qaeda (84.6 per cent) as terrorist organisations.

The poll also noted a significant shift in the percentage of respondents who reject the killing of civilians belonging to a state that is occupying a Muslim country.

With regards to organisations like Hamas and Hizbollah, the poll noted a significant drop in the percentage of respondents from both samples that view the two as legitimate resistance groups.

On the national level, the precentage of those who view Hamas as a legitimate resistance organisation dropped from 86.7 per cent in 2004 to 73.5 per cent in 2005. The same trends were evident with regards to Hizbollah, which saw a decline in the percentage of those who view the Lebanon-based group as a legitimate resistance organisation from 84 per cent in 2004 to 63.9 per cent in 2005.

As for POL, the poll showed a significant shift in the percentage of businesspeople who consider Hamas a legitimate resistance organisation, falling from 91 per cent in 2004 to 76.9 per cent now. A similar drop was also evident amongst the media community, from 94 per cent in 2004 to 84 per cent in 2005.

However, a majority of POL or 84 per cent still regard Hamas as a legitimate resistance movement.

The highest percentage or 100 per cent of respondents was among the sample of political parties, while the lowest percentage or 73.6 per cent was the professionals sample who identified Hamas as a legitimate organisation.

In regards to Lebanon's Hizbollah, 84.2 per cent of the entire sample viewed the group as a legitimate resistance organisation. The highest percentage was among the sample of political parties, with 98 per cent, while the lowest was with professionals with 75.8 per cent of respondents identifying it as a legitimate resistance organisation.

The survey revealed a tangible change in the way people view killing of Israeli and American civilians, as opposed to a non-significant change in the stance of opinion leaders about Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza, and American forces operations in Iraq.

“These operations remain, to the Jordanian public, acts of terrorism,” the CSS said.

It said there has been a rise in the percentage of national sample respondents who see the killing of American civilians (9/11 attacks), as well as the killing of Israeli civilians inside Israel, as acts of terrorism.

The study said citizens make a distinction between killing American and Israeli civilians on the one hand, and killing Palestinian and Iraqi civilians on the other.

In 2004, 90 per cent of respondents considered the killing of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza by Israel to be a “terrorist” act. This opinion did not change in 2005.

When it comes to Israeli assassination of Palestinian political leaders in the West Bank and Gaza, 84 per cent in 2004 and 88.7 per cent of respondents in 2005 considered the acts to be “terrorist.”

In a similar notion, 86.3 per cent of respondents in 2004 and 78.3 per cent in 2005 regard US-led armed operations in Iraq as “terrorist” acts.

With regard to armed military operations carried out against US troops in Iraq, the majority of Jordanians, or 68.8 per cent in 2004 and 63.6 per cent in 2005, termed the attacks as “not terrorist.”

The poll showed similar results with the POL sample. It said the Arab-Israeli conflict and the occupation of Iraq had a large impact on shaping opinions.

While the majority of opinion leaders sampled, 83.4 per cent, view the 9/11 attacks on the US as a terrorist acts, and 82.8 per cent of respondents said they consider armed military operations against the US-led allied forces in Iraq to be non-terrorist acts.

However, 87 per cent of opinion leaders do consider the US-led armed operations in Iraq a “terrorist” act.

The majority of opinion leaders view the subway bombings in London, Sharm El Sheikh attacks, and the Amman hotel bombings as acts of terrorism (respectivly, 92 per cent, 95 per cent, 96 per cent). While two-thirds, or 63 per cent, of national sample respondents view the London bombings as terrorist acts, three quarters, or 77.4 per cent, view Sharm El Sheikh blasts as terrorist and 94 per cent find the Amman attacks as terrorist as well.

“It becomes clear that Jordanians take political factors into account. Political issues such as the Israeli occupation, the American support for the Israeli occupation, and the American occupation of Iraq, as well as the British role in the occupation of Iraq are taken into consideration when viewing attacks as terrorist or not terrorist, “ Braizat noted.


Friday, January 06, 2006

And there I was thinking that I read a lot...

This can't be right/good...

Via Skippy-San, the top 100 best sellers of 2005 (according to Barnes & Noble); and out of the 100...I have only read 11...

I read a ferocious amount...a quiet week at work (i.e. working about 13 hours a day) will see about 3-4 books being devoured, a busy week only about 2 books. My day off normally includes one book being read...whilst on holiday - depending on the type of holiday and the type of book..possibly 1-2 books a day...

So there are a few possible conclusions to make r.e. the top 100 bestsellers...either I have bad taste in reading material...or I don't read nearly as much as I should...or I am buying my books in the wrong place...or it's just a naff list and the rest of the world has naff taste...(along the lines of "Every one's out of step, except my wee Jimmy").

If you'll just excuse me I need to go re-examine my 'books to read' pile...


the Hajj...

When the Hajj season starts I am always filled with impending doom...it seems that each Hajj season there is something that will go drastically wrong and lives will be lost...this year is obviously not going to be the exception to the rule.

1998: At least 118 trampled to death
1997: 343 pilgrims die and 1,500 injured in fire
1994: 270 killed in stampede
1990: 1,426 pilgrims killed in tunnel leading to holy sites
1987: 400 die as Saudi authorities confront pro-Iranian demonstration


Christmas is over....

Discussions on promotions for Valentine's Day. Am I alone in loathing the 14th February with a passion...I have seen too many arguements, tears and divorces started on the 14th for it to be even vaguely romantic...also cannot bear pink flowers and gushing hearts...so one of my colleagues and I came up with something based around pink furry handcuffs and a whip....how badly do they need an Agent Provocateur in Manila?!!!!

Received an e-mail from an old (and very good) friend who is coming to Manila with his girlfriend...their holiday dates coincide exactly with my dates when I will be out of the country...methinks that his girlfriend had something to do with that...he and I had a little something going on way back in Jordan!!..apparently we will be in town at the same time for a few hours on 30th January...allegedly coffee could be allowed!

It is obviously the season for visitors...another friend of mine will be in Manila next week for a few nights...she is based in Cebu and travels around the region..this is her first visit to the big smoke and I sense a certain nervousness in her voice!! I will show her the more gentle sights...Greenbelt, Rockwell, the bay at sunset...not too sure if she is ready for big bad Mandaluyong yet!!!

The sink in my bathroom sprung a leak this morning...actually not so much a leak as a full scale flood...the U-bend seperated itself from the rest of the piping...whilst I was brushing my teeth...my one remaining good pair of black work shoes is now water and toothpaste stained...am thinking that I will have to run the gauntlet of shoe shopping in Manila afterall... but first, I need to check with a lawyer what the maximum penalty for GBH would be if it were committed under extreme shopping stress! Unfortunately not having a day off until next week means that I will have to invest in a bucket to go under the sink...

Today is offically the end of Christmas - Twelfth Night (or Epiphany) and my parent's 38th wedding anniversary...

And finally, is this not an unholy alliance. I realise that I know absolutely nothing about the Philippine political situation...however, as an outsider looking on...surely an alliance involving an ousted President who is at present (rightly or wrongly) having criminal charges laid against him - is maybe not the best method of attack against GMA...


Thursday, January 05, 2006

A dying bed....30% in it for me....

From : David R. Brimley
Reply-To : rdbrimley@yahoo.com
Sent : Thursday, January 5, 2006 10:08 AM
To : ddbrimley11@hotmail.com
Subject : Fast Response

Beloved (there are very few people on this planet who I know well enough to call me Beloved!!)

It is with the utmost feeling of regret and grief that I contact you concerning the unexpected and untimely death of the Nigerian First Lady,Chief Mrs. Stella Obasanjo who died in the late hours of Saturday,22nd October 2005 (it took a long time for them to get round to me!) after complications following a Surgery at the Clínica de Cirugía Estética Molding, Puerto Banús.Spain.I was one of the First Lady's close aides, precisely i have been working for her before she became the first lady, to be present at her dying bed (you have to know someone pretty well to be there when their bed dies) at the Clínica Marbella.See following references for more information.


I reveal to you in utmost confidence and due to the urgency at hand.I was handling a highly classified transaction on behalf of the First Lady which involved the Transfer of US$5.5 million oil sale proceeds. The funds in question were to be transferred to a disguised beneficiary's account due to the sensitive nature of such a position as the Seat of the First Lady of The Federal Republic of Nigeria.On Thursday, 20th October, I tendered Transfer Instructions for the aforementioned amount on behalf of the First Lady to the Holden bank.

(etc, etc, etc, - you know how they go on...)

David Richard Brimley
NB:I suggest a sharing ratio of 30% (is that all....) for you and 60% (at least he's honest! well - relatively!) for me and 10% will
be set aside for any local or international expenses (such as teaching Mr Brimley to spell) that may arise at
the course of this transfer.


The end of an era...

Sheikh Maktoum of Dubai has died.

Sheikh Maktoum was involved in the formation of the U.A.E. after the Trucial States and the vision and determination of the entire Al Maktoum family has made Dubai into the driving force that it is today.

Sheikh Maktoum has always been slightly lower profile than his father and his brother but has still been a visionary for Dubai over the last 10-15 years.

It is a very sad day for the Emirate of Dubai and for the Emirates as a whole.

From the Khaleej Times


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

2006 Reading List


Mother without a Mask - Patricia Holton
D.C. Confidential - Christopher Meyer
The seasoning of a chef - Doug Psaltis
My Horizontal Life - Chelsea Handler
Alwaleed - Riz Khan
Merde Actually - Stephen Clarke
Life Swap - Jane Green


New Year's Resolution #1

I have decided that 2006 will be the year that I finally keep a list of the books that I read.

The list will be kept here...with a permanent link to the right...


I know what they mean but....

9 suspects held but no brains yet...

Surely my favourite headline of 2006 cannot be chosen this early in the year??!!


Two Cows....


You have two cows. You create a website for them and advertise them in all the magazines. You create a Cow City or Milk Town for them. You sell off their milk before the cows have even been milked to both legit and shady investors who hope to resale the nonexistent milk for a 100% profit in two years time. You bring Tiger Woods to milk the cow first to attract attention.
You have two cows. They've been sitting there for decades and no one realized that cows could produce milk. You see what Dubai is doing; you go crazy and start milking the heck out of the cows in the shortest time possible. Then you realize no one wanted the milk in the first place.
Since milking the cow involves nipples the Gov't decides to ban all cows in public. The only method to milk a cow is to have a cow on one side of a curtain and a guy milking the cow on the other or to hire females and train them to milk the cows ... the debate is still going on.
You have two cows. Some high Gov't official steals one, milks it, sells the milk and pockets the profit. The Gov't tells you that there is just one cow and not enough milk for the people. The people riot and scream death to the Gov’t and carry Iranian flags. The Parliament, after thinking for 11 month, decides to employ ten Bahrainis to all milk the cow at the same time and so cutting back on unemployment.
You have two cows. One is owned by Syria and the other is controlled by Hizbollah.
You have two cows. Both are voting for Mobarak!
You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyze why the cow dropped dead.
You have two cows. You go on strike because you wanted three cows.
You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.
You have two cows. Both are mad.
You have two cows. You give one to the Americans and one to the British and you go back to shagging sheep!


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A tale of Two Cities...

Shopping is a past time that is really something I do from necessity rather than pleasure...particularly in Manila...although Manila is full of many shops and many, many malls with which to tempt the average shopper...the sheer frustration of buying anything makes it too bloody irritating...

Take today for example, I wanted to buy a juicer...so I go to the SM appliance shop at MegaMall and choose my juicer (that takes about a minute)...and then starts the pain in the arse procedures that go with buying anything here...

the shop assistant collects the new item from the store room
the shop assistant then fills out a form in quadruplicate showing the sale of the item (note in quadruplicate with only one piece of carbon paper..so takes twice as long)
I then have to fill out the warranty form by hand
we then go to the desk in front of the cashier where the first form is checked against the box by one person and another checks the warranty against the box
I am then allowed to proceed to the cashier...
One cashier processes the item through the till, filling out yet another form
Another cashier process the payment for me
The first cashier then checks the receipt from the till against the payment receipt
The supervisor then checks all the bits of paper against the box
The supervisor then calls the security assistant who checks the receipts against the box and signs the back of one receipt
The cashier then stamps the back of another receipt, signs it, checks all the other receipts again
Then finally, one cashier affixes the sold sticker to the box and hands me all the receipts and I am free to leave...

40 minutes in all to buy one item...

Now, to buy the same item in Hong Kong (which I did last year)...

I went to Fortress
Chose the item
Went to the cashier (all by myself)
Paid, had the receipt affixed to a one-for-all warranty form
And left...

total time..under 5 minutes...

Shopping here is so time consuming and I have lost count of the number of times I have left my shopping at the till because the two people in front of me are taking so, so long to be 'processed'.

And I can assure you...it is every shop here that makes the shopper jump through hoops to buy something...it is so frustrating..Marks and Spencers is one of the worst offenders here...I will now not shop there after a circus in December where I purchased 11 items and it took over an hour to be 'processed'...no special wrapping, no special coupons... just buying some stockings, shower gel, etc...will not be going back.

I really need some new shoes for work...but cannot be arsed to wait whilst buying a pair of shoes....so will hold on until I get to HKG, where I know I can get it done quickly with the minimum of hassle and minimum loss of time...


Monday, January 02, 2006

and now for the Good News...

I am sure most people will agree that keeping up to date with world news is a fairly depressing way to spend one's time...death, violence, health issues, Mother Nature, wars and humanity in general, all conspire to make life rather gloomy.

However the Philippine Daily Inquirer's web site Inq7 has something to conteract all the doom and gloom...The Good News section....

It is a summary of all the "positive or inspiring stories" that were posted on Inq7, within the previous week...It is an excellent idea and one that should be commended and followed elsewhere...starting with the BBC...

I remember the 'News at Ten' on ITV having a little segment at the end of each newscast which was always a little more lighthearted or quirky...it started with.."And finally"...not sure if I am showing my age here or if they still do that!!

And as a little follow up on the festivities of the season...from the Daily Inquirer...

If the Department of Health's statistics were any gauge, the revelry that marked the coming of 2006 was a bit rowdier than the previous New Year's celebration, as 448 people--mostly with firecracker injuries--landed in hospitals around the country from Saturday night to early Sunday morning.

The total number of casualties during the merrymaking last year was 407.

But while there were at least two people killed last year, no deaths were recorded in last weekend's mayhem.

One PNP official noticed there were fewer firecracker explosions this year, based on what he observed during the peak of the weekend revelry in Metro Manila.

"They lasted for about 10 to 15 minutes," said Chief Supt. Jaime Caringal, head of the police's Civil Security Group. "I didn't even notice smog in the morning."
(I think my photos would prove him wrong on that count)

Overall, firecracker victims had an average age of 18 years. The oldest was 88 and the youngest, 10 months old.

Neldina Laride, 43, of Pagadian City, was injured on Saturday night even while she was not doing anything. She was asleep when a bullet tore through her roof and grazed her head.

Only in the Philippines would a 10 month old child and a woman asleep in her house be injured by New Years' festivities.

Full article here


Top Gear - again...!!

Best television viewing in a few months - Top Gear last night....a race between a Bugatti Veyron and a Cessna 182 from Turin to London....Clarkson in the Bugatti (of course) and James May (piloting) in the Cessna with the ever impatient Hamster in the seat behind...

Just great viewing...Clarkson's constant refrain that he would not be beaten by a 'washing machine' was just classic, along with his references to the Wright Brothers being constantly behind him in the race...

Unfortunately May does not have his night rating yet, so as night falls over Northern France, they have to ditch the plane in Lille and catch the train..

At a cool 850,000 pounds sterling...the Bugatti is not a car to be trifled with (apparently 5 were sold at the Dubai Motor Show), however, it is still a car that I wouldn't mind getting behind the wheel of!!!


My Kingdom for a .........beach hut????

As the world knows the British have many, many quirks...some are vaguely amusing, some irritating and some just completely odd....

One of the odder traits of a certain number of British people is their obsessive behaviour in relation to 'Beach Huts'...

For the uninitiated, British beach huts are an institution on many of Britain's 'great' beaches...(yes, we do have beaches!), these huts are no more than glorified garden sheds with a view of the sea. Often they have no electricity, running water or other 'mod cons', however if you should find a hut with an energy source...it could be worth a relatively vast sum of money.

So what is the point of them? In essence it seems to provide somewhere for the average British beach goer to put their 'things' and of course to make their numerous cups of tea!!

If you do decide to buy a hut...this is how you could spend next Christmas...from The Telegraph

If you find the hut of your dreams...queueing for it for a few days is obviously not a problem!!

If you do decide to buy a beach hut...these people, will help you 'furnish' it!!!


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hogmanay in Muscat

From my friend in Muscat...classic Scottish weather in a desert outpost...

The approach of rain...

rising water...

....and a rainbow...


You have to wonder...

about a family that puts up a giant inflatable snowman outside their house...when it's snowing...

Particularly a snowman with such a 'come to bed' look in his eye!!

And, yes, that would be my family!! With apologies to Robert Browning "Oh to be in England, now the snow is there.."

The snowman reminds me of Otto, the inflatable automatic pilot in Airplane...


New Year's Day - Manila Style.....

I know I was warned...but still...going home from work last night at about 1:15am was like driving through down town Beirut at the height of the violence....not a single car on the road, save mine...which should have spelt out trouble from the start...the air was filled with a thick, acrid haze and noise from the constant fire crackers and fire works was quite unbelievable...as were the kids standing by the road throwing the firecrackers at the car as I drove past...and I have been assured that each year the situation is improving with less fire crackers and less accidents...hmmm...

I cannot believe the attitude of people here to firecrackers and fireworks...when I eventually got home last night there were kids as young as three, outside my building playing with fireworks with no adult supervision...horrified doesn't even begin to describe what I felt... It all makes me incredibly grateful for the HKG government's ban on personal fireworks...Having spent too long in countries where loud explosions are something to be really frightened of, adding in my naturally nervous disposition...the last few days and nights have not been enjoyable..

Fortunately I was fairly exhausted last night so going to sleep even with the rockets and crackers exploding around the building (including the idiot who kept setting them off from his balcony about four floors up from me) was fairly easy - ....what was really bad was the cats claws sticking into my shoulder every time a cracker exploded really loudly from our building...my shoulder looks like a pin cushion.

When the alarm went off at 5:45am (I love my job at moments like that!) the first thought I had was that something was on fire...even the air in my apartment was filled with the haze from the fireworks...going out onto the street to find a taxi (not a chance!) the streets were still deserted, the air still thick with smoke and the streets strewn with thousands and thousands of bits of paper - remnants from the crackers...and every so often another loud explosion - someone still having toys to play with...

And this from the SCMP(subscription required)
In the Philippines, officials were threatening to arrest anyone who set off powerful fireworks or fired guns, to try to prevent the deaths and injuries that accompany New Year's Eve festivities every year. Already, two people had died from guns fired in celebration, and two people from accidentally eating a popular candy-looking sparkler.

And to give you some idea of the air quality this morning with the firework haze...

Now all I need is to go home to sleep...but I can't see that happening until about 10pm...