Thursday, March 30, 2006

Hong Kong Sevens

Posting will be very light until next week....unlike my alcohol consumption.

I will be here!

or as Hemlock puts it....

That curious migration each Spring, when every Anglo-Saxon expatriate east of Suez feels compelled to come to Hong Kong and cram himself into a stadium along with thousands of others, all wearing rugby shirts, to drink and watch oafish Fijians run up and down a field.

can't see what's wrong with that myself...but there you go...!!!!


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Imitation being the highest form of flattery.....

Due to lack of any brain power at the moment, I have swiped two things from another blog that made me laugh out loud today....

Both are from MLQ3....

the first...Over heard in New York...with crackers such as this....

Girl: Excuse me, do you have any biographies of TuPac?
Library guy: Probably, though they'd be with the other biographies on the second floor.
Dude: But isn't this the fiction section?
Library guy: It is. You might be able to find some books about him in non-fiction.
Girl: "Non-fiction"?
Library guy: Non-fiction means true.
Dude: ...And fiction means false.
Library guy: Sort of.
Girl: So if it's in non-fiction then that means he must still be alive.
Library guy: I don't think you understand.

--Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza

Overheard by: Matthew Sahd Mohammed

and this cartoon taken from captainaqua


Monday, March 27, 2006

Hotel speak….

Whilst I try and organize somewhere to sleep in Moscow for my holiday I am being entertained by some of the descriptions that these hotels have….

Hotel Tourist is a lovely tourist class hotel situated in a very green area of Moscow. – middle of bloody nowhere

The building itself is one of Moscow´s Stalin buildings and has an atmosphere reminiscent of the time of Stalin – and we all know what a lovely atmosphere that was

Unrenovated, outdated furniture, private bathroom with bath, shower and WC, table and armchairs, satellite TV, refrigerator – nothing like brutal upselling tactics

Elegant spacious rooms – each with unique layout – professional staff, moderate prices and broad payment alternatives – would you accept two cats in payment

The western management keeps things ticking over smoothly at the Slavyanskaya, which is nicknamed “Chechenskaya” because of its connections with Moscow’s influential Chechen business community – take arms….

The interior of the onsite restaurant, designed in the cosy style, is a large dining room for 500 persons – how cosy; only 500 people!

The colour scheme is an unoffensive mix of pastels once again. - ????

And the award for the most confusing name goes to…..
Best Eastern East West

And the award for the hotel I am least likely to get home to after a bottle of Vodka
Radisson Slavyanskaya, Berezhkovskaya Naberezhnaya
(actually the vodka may help!)

And the size of the hotels….

Izmailovo Gamma-Delta – 1,972 rooms in that block, however 7,500 in the complex
Rossiya Hotel – 2,722
Ukraina - 950

Not to mention how expensive they are.....


Sunday, March 26, 2006

It's Tom it must be Sunday...

Either the radio stations in the Philippines have some strange love for Tom Jones or it is just coincidence....but this is the fourth Sunday in a row that coming to work in a taxi I have been subjected to Mr Jones crooning, and it's not just one's two or three!

Maybe it's a Tom Jones Sunday morning hour....will ask next week! Sunday I will be at the Sevens.....~smirk~!


Saturday, March 25, 2006

They flash upon that inward eye.....

Although the weather in the UK at the moment is not particularly 'Springy' is always at this time of year that I start to think of Spring...particularly daffodils, which are my favourite flower. I'm not sure why - if it is their colour, their rather brief stay each season, the fact that they herald spring or if it is the rather jaunty way they sit and bob their heads in the breeze. Which ever it is...they are my favourites.

I know it's a cliche but there is only one poem....all together now.....

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth


Friday, March 24, 2006

Let them eat squirrel...

When I was a child*, school dinners were fairly average (lots of boiled cabbage, baked beans and pies!), they seem to have got worse if Jamie's School Dinners was anything to go by.....and if one of the British Lords has anything to do with it school dinners are about to become even more alarming and a lot furrier!

*When ever I say 'when I was a child' within earshot of my mother, her standard response is "You are still a child, because you are my child"!


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Maid Marian move over…..

My first archery lesson passed without too much incident….although one of the arrows did hit the outer edge of the target which was metal and bounced backwards unfortunately rather close to a fellow archer…however, one other mishap included part of the bow falling off as I was drawing the string resulting in a hell of a noise and my arrow flying off across the room – although I hasten to point out that was not my fault.

The archery centre is just north of Ortigas and so fairly quick to get to from home which in this city is an added bonus. It is an indoor centre and seems to be very busy all the time. The whole time I was there each of the 10 lanes was occupied…some of the other archers were from the Philippine national team and will be competing in Doha at the Asian games.

Unfortunately it seems in archery terms that I am left handed i.e. means I can only use my left eye to aim, as the only eye I can wink with is my right. This caused a certain amount of confusion at the beginning as the one left handed bow was found for me, apparently there is only one other left handed archer that attends the center…lets hope we are never there at the same time! They did spend a few minutes trying to get me to wink with my left eye…reminded me of my days at the QE when the doctor was trying to get me to write with my left hand after loosing my right thumb i.e. almost impossible!!! The other problem with being left handed is that when everyone is lined up in their lanes I have to face them which is very disconcerting.

The first lesson just consists of getting ones stance correct and firing arrows at the target. Technique is not concentrated on too much. My main problem was that I couldn’t bring myself to let go of the string of the bow to release the arrow…some mental hang up there – rather unfortunate really! However, with the exception of the two arrows mentioned above I managed to get all my arrows within the circles of the target – unfortunately no bulls eyes but I was quite pleased with just hitting the targets. Granted I was only firing at a target that was 10m away….indoor archery standard is 18m.

I have to say my right shoulder and right hand are definitely feeling it today!

It is enjoyable, not as much fun as fencing and not as all consuming as fencing. When fencing your mind is completely on the game for long periods of time however, with archery you concentrate for the few seconds it takes to fire the arrow and then that’s it.

As you can see from the picture below, everyone faces one way in their lanes. I was standing facing t’other way…not fun!


The ears and nostrils have it….

Everyone knows how certain things trigger memories or trigger a mood. For me it is music and aromas.

A waft of Calvin Klein’s Eternity for men takes me back to the first real love of my life, YSL’s Kuoros reminds me of a rather dodgy Norwegian I used to skulk around with in Switzerland, a quick sniff of Estee Lauder's Pleasures for Men takes me back to a fling I had with a Frenchman in Jordan and Giorgio Beverly Hills reminds me of my mother. The smell of aircraft fuel always excites me….even if I am not traveling, it can take me a few hours to come down from the high of smelling an airport even if I have just had to go and collect someone! The smell of Kiwi shoe polish reminds me of a very good friend of mine who has rather a shoe shining fetish!

On the flip side the musty smell of damp takes me back to a job I had at Heathrow airport, the smell of burnt toast takes me back to a weeks work experience I was forced to take in a hotel pantry when I was 16.

On Tuesday when I left work I was feeling quite down, basically as the result of a crappy day….as I walked through the Shang Mall, all the shops were closing up, but one shop had their music on really, really loudly as they were packing up – the song…Culture Club’s - Karma Chameleon…stupid song but every time I hear it it makes me laugh and improves my mood no end. So my mood lifted dramatically.

Then I got in a taxi, just as we turned into Wack Wack Road, the radio station started to play Neil Diamond’s I am…I said, I love Neil Diamond but that song always makes me very morose and introspective, so yet again my mood swung…

Anyway, when I finally got home on Tuesday I decided to wire up my speakers so I can use my Airport Express to play my music wirelessly from my computer…so I could play so more lively and cheering music.

Finally today, I came home to watch my DVD of Closer, When I took it off the shelf it was still in its plastic wrapping, I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t watched it before when I had really enjoyed it at the cinema…anyway about half an hour in, I remembered why I didn’t watch it before…Bebel Gilberto’s – Samba de Bencao reminds me of the one person who has broken my heart! So back it goes on the shelf!


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Open mouth, insert foot...

The other day I was talking to a couple who I met at work...They were Americans and as one does I asked them what they were doing in the turns out they were response to that...

"Isn't the Philippines a saturated market?"

There are some days I should just stay in bed...


Decisions, decisions...

It looks as if the Trans-Sib is not going to work out... Moscow and St. Petes are still on, so the Russian adventure still stands

However, I now have choices....

A friend of mine is getting married in Calgary in June. I would really like to go the wedding and given my long standing love affair with Canada, any opportunity to visit is I have been promised cowboys and, having just seen Brokeback Mountain one can't be too careful....but still....

SQ now flies to Moscow, so I could combine Russia with a few days in Singapore...I hear the gentle call of Raffles on the wind!

Emirates also flies to Moscow, I could break my trip in Dubai and go over to Oman and possibly Jordan - or just one....

Of course CX flies codeshare to Moscow so HKG could be an option - but it's low on my list of priorities.

I could fly back to London and leave from London for Russia and then back to London for a few days with friends and family and enjoy one of my favourite cities....

Final option would be a RTW ticket....Manila-Singapore-Moscow-London-Canada-Manila - at which point I would arrive in Manila so exhausted I would need another holiday to recover!!

Does anyone else have any other suggestions...?


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Shake it to the left, shake it to the right....

I have mentioned before (here and here That I am terrible with telling the difference between my right and left....

Last night in an e-mail conversation with Mia (I lost the chat thingy in my new gmail account! - which is still lost if anyone has any great ideas where it is...)

Anyway, Mia wrote...

"Ok look on the left side of the screen ......... noooooooo the OTHER left ~grin~ "


Getting sorted...

I have in the last two weeks moved into a greater state of domestic bliss. I have a helper. Yes, it is the height of laziness, however, with one day off a week and fairly long hours on the days I am working, I am not keen to spend 3 hours or so on my day off cleaning the house as I have been doing for the last 6 months.

So the helper started at the beginning of last week, and I can't tell you what a joy it is to have my house all nice and sparkling when I get home at night. Given that my apartment here is bigger than HKG and given that Manila seems to be a 'dirtier' city than HKG, I have splashed out and Mrs Mop will be visiting twice a week. It's wonderful.

The other thing I have sorted is education. One should always be learning something new, even if it is not even vaguely useful to every day living, in Jordan I learnt to Salsa, in Hong Kong I learnt to fence. Unfortunately in Manila I have found nowhere to continue my fencing lessons which I loved, so I have decided in favour of archery!

I don't think I will be using a long bow, however given that I have no idea about archery I wouldn't recognise a long bow if I fell over one!

Now, bearing in mind that I have only ever fired an arrow once and that was an unmitigated disaster (suffice to say it was at Tamar site and the arrow missed the target completely and sailed through the fence and through the open window of a passing taxi - no one was injured, however it was all quite stressful!)this could be a huge learning curve.

Wednesday morning I shall have my first lesson. Manila, be warned.


Monday, March 20, 2006

I'll bet Cherie is pleased....

Sadly, Humphrey, the Number 10 cat has died.

Back in 1997, Cherie apparently 'banished' Humphrey from Number 10; the ensuing PR nightmare (there were rumours that Cherie had ordered Humphrey to an early visit to the great Scratching Post in the sky), resulted in a flurry of press releases stating that Humphrey was not 'paws up' had been 'retired' due to ill health.

In true British style the media were heavily involved, being smuggled to his new residence and photographing Humphrey 'hostage-style' with copies of the days papers to prove he was still alive, later a photo was released of Cherie clutching Humphrey showing that there were no hard feelings...


The Hammer of the English.....

DVD viewing this week is Simon Schama's 'A History of Britain'...I've watched it a few times before but it is so good it stands up to repeated viewing.

Last night, Edward Longshanks (Edward I) aka 'The Hammer of the Scots' and of course his nemesis in the shape of William Wallace.

Simon Schama has a very dry sense of humour, and from last night's episode this was my favourite part....

"Here he is, the standard issue freedom fighter of the imagination...
the give 'em hell whiskers
the save me Jesus eyes
the hamstrings from hell"


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tech dreams

I am not a very tech savy person, I just know what I want and what I would like it to do (guess that phrase could be used for other things as well!!). But at present there seems to be a shortfall between what I want/need/would like and what is available…a short list…

A 40G iPod that doesn’t break…I have had three different iPods in the year since I first bought one, the first iPod I used as I thought it could be used (as in advertised!) …i.e. mobile - so I could listen to my rather odd selection of music going to and from work etc, it didn’t like that and died a very nasty and protracted death. Eventually I took it back to the nice Apple people in Hong Kong and they replaced it for me. My second iPod was stationary, it did not leave the house but sat in its cradle, when I moved to Manila I carried it hand baggage wrapped up in yards of bubble wrap to protect it, it lasted for a short while but soon had to go to the nice Apple people in Manila, who replaced it. My third (and as it turns out, final) iPod stayed in it’s speaker cradle without moving – at all, and then one sunny Wednesday afternoon it died…so I decided to go back to the nice Apple people who took it back to fix it. A week later they called me and said that as the one year warranty had expired they couldn’t replace it and it was not possible to fix it. And just to add insult to injury they told me "You should have bought the extended warranty"....maybe Apple shouldn't sell something that breaks so often for no reason and that is 'unfixable'...anyway, moving swiftly on....

So I have sitting at home a rather expensive (well for me anyway!) piece of very useless kit. And there was I thinking that the iPod was the answer to all my music troubles. My other Apple goodies (iPod shuffle and iBook) are wonderful (almost), with never a moment’s trouble (touch wood)..and my iBook has definitely been through some stressful traveling. So, in summary, I want something that is small (i.e. pocket size) and will hold all of my music (40G was just enough) and will not sodding break and leave me with nothing….is it too much to ask?

As I mentioned earlier I have a little iBook, which I love dearly and am so grateful I have compared to past experiences with notebooks (IBM, Dell, Gateway etc etc). My only quibble – is the battery life…..I know this sounds ridiculous, but I really want a battery that lasts longer than 4 hours…..I want something that lasts for days…..

Electronic book (or whatever they are called)
I read a lot. This means that when I go on holiday or even on a day trip I have to carry enough reading material to keep me busy for the trip – two examples – my recent trip to Koh Samui – I left with 10 books, that was insufficient so I returned with 18 books; that’s just reading books not other travel books and the like that I picked up in HKG, second example – my last day off when I visited the Chinese cemetery, I know it takes a while to get there, plus traffic so I have to be prepared with enough reading material for about 45 minutes, same for a possible return trip, plus reading material for any time I might sit down and have a cup of tea/lunch/glass of wine… I need two books (at least, depending on size) – plus camera, Manila guidebook, Manila map book – you get the general idea.

So – what I want is some electronic device on which I can store all my reading material, for which all latest releases, classics and obscure books are available for download, which is no bigger than your average paperback, which has battery life to last me at least 10 days of reading (the Trans-Siberian is looming!) and which is easy to read. I have seen that Sony is about to release some new thing that may answer some of the above points, but by no means all. Just think how much of my baggage allowance I would save.

Now, I can't be the only person that whinges about this....when I travel, I take with me...iBook, digital camera, mobile phone and my iPod shuffle - all different charging cables all taking up space and causing confusion in my luggage - why does no one come up with something to charge all these things using one cable?

Looking back over this post, I don't think its too much to ask - or is it?..


Saturday, March 18, 2006

I'd bloody go....

I think the latest ad campaign from the Australian Tourist board is great, the added storm in a teacup about the use of 'bloody hell' will add to people's interest in the ad as well.

I'd go...but then I'd go anywhere given half the chance!

See the full TV ad here


There's always something new....

Hong Kong has cornered the market on the sale of skin-whitening products, almost every shop sells some form of skin-whitening promise, and advertising is reaping the benefits with magazines, newspapers and billboards offering further promise of keeping one's skin pale and interesting.

However, here in the Philippines, there is potential for a new trend...Forever - pink nipples...

'The other day, dropping by a top hair salon chain, I just realized that another trend is emerging: women are going pink. Now, women want their whitened complexion to have that blush, that pinkish glow. What's new is that they're applying the pinkish color cream not just to their cheeks but also to their lips and nipples. Forever-pink nipples should be a perfect marketing pitch.

The principle is not new--it's revitalizing skin cells, enhancing their metabolism, to create that fresh, youthful glow. Women have been using this skincare technological breakthrough to 'whiten" their underarm, knees, heels, elbows. Now add the lips and nipples.'

How did the subject come up?....I was offered one of these....

And two nights ago on the Tonight Show....the longest nipple hair in the world (couldn't find the link on the show's site, so that link will have to do!)...

......quite put me off my toast and marmite!


Friday, March 17, 2006

Three years ago...

My friends and I sat in Jordan with the airport closed, borders closed, British embassy closed...and wondered what would happen in Iraq...

Three years on...things are not looking great.

Article from the BBC


The after life...Tsinoy style...

Yesterday was my second trip to the City of the Living Dead, Manila's Chinese Cemetery.

Second, because the first time around I turned down the offer of a guided tour, thinking I would just wander around knock off a few photos and be done. However, the place is too interesting and there is so little written about it anywhere that I could find...the internet did not cough up too much and Manila guidebooks were very brief on the topic.

This time around on my arrival at the cemetery I looked for Eddie who had offered his guiding services the first time I went. Eddie was born in the cemetery in 1948, his parents were both caretakers at the cemetery. He promised me such delights as seeing the Beverley Hills of the cemetery, Millionaire's Row, the oldest grave and other such 'delights' - his word, not mine!
Millionaire's Row

From what information I could find the cemetery was founded in about 1850 (although according to Eddie the oldest grave is from 1800), it covers 54 hectares of land and was originally used for 'unconverted' poor Chinese whose bodies could not be shjpped back to Mainland China. Families rent a plot of land which costs about P70,000 for 1 square metre for 25 years and then build their mausoleum’s on the land. When the 25 yrs expires and nobody pays a new lease, the body is then unearthed and relocated to a wall where the bones are slotted into a 'cubby-hole' and then the land released and someone else 'moves in'.

First stop was the 'home' of Gregory Uy, costing P3M to build with imported marble, lined with gold leaf.

Then on to 'Beverley Hills' defined because all the graves in this street have balconies!

In death, as in is all...

1st November - All Saint's Day, is the busy day at the cemetery, apparently from dawn to early morning the next day the place is packed with people eating, drinking, playing mahjong, singing karaoke and generally having a good time. Each grave is kitted out to ensure maximum comfort for the living, a toilet and a small kitchen area are basic requirements, some go a little further with air-conditioning, a terrace, sitting out areas, one was particularly singled out for having a bar - apparently the living relatives come over and get very drunk and consequently very noisy...but given the status of the neighbours, nobody really cares.

A lot of the graves show the man buried, with a space for his wife next to him, signified by the red Chinese character....

A couple of the graves show the husband and his wife buried there, with space for his second wife or mistress -

Or his second wife or mistress is already buried with him...

In many of the graves you see cans of coke or containers of juice, not the living being lazy with their trash, just ensuring that the dead have their favourite drinks in the after life. This couple show their differences by one liking diet coke and the other preferring the real thing!

The cemetery is well guarded and well lit; apparently some of the graves have jewellery buried in them. Each grave is charged for electricity and water, although apparently the letter boxes in the door are not for the bills but for letters for the dead.

The Lim Family Mausoleum is apparently one of the more 'luxurious' in the cemetery, with air-conditioning, imported marble and an upper level balcony all costing P5M to build. All this money and yet the furniture inside is plastic garden furniture.

As a cheaper alternative, some people are buried in what are called 'apartments', there are rows and rows of these...

The oldest grave in the cemetery is not as grand, with no house to shelter it. It is turtle shaped (a sign of longevity!), and is in the more traditional style for those familiar with the rural graves in Hong Kong and China.

Allegedly very good luck for the Chinese and very bad luck for the Filipinos, this grave has a tree directly central in front of the grave.

Visiting the cemetery one feels almost detached from the concept of death and the accompanying sorrows, until one visits the area where the children are buried. This is a long wall with niches for the tiny coffins with a plaque in front. The dates and ages are so sad with many of this children dying either on the day they were born or very soon after, one family lost one child on the child's first birthday, the same family lost their second child (born on the day that the first child died) two days after it was born – tragic. As Eddie kept saying, 'Children should be buried with their families, not all on their own'.

The Tseng Tsai Jun mausoleum is the largest that I could see, apparently there are three bedrooms inside on the upper level, the 'house' is permanently staffed and even seemed to have its own guard dog.

and their next door neighbours have a fairly large house...

Along one edge of the cemetery are rows and rows of block graves, apparently belonging to all the Chinese who died in one building that collapsed during the August 1968 earthquake.

During the Japanese occupation the cemetery land was used as part of the Japanese army base, according to Eddie, under the monument pictured below lies a mass grave of Filipino and American soldiers. There are three monuments through the cemetery that are related to the Japanese occupation.

Throughout the cemetery are signs that those buried are not all of the Christian faith, some of the graves are Buddhist.

The mix of faiths is most obvious in the Chong Hock Tong temple. Known within the cemetery as the 'Halo-Halo' temple, (obviously not in relation to the Philippine desert but the Tagalog word 'mix').

The altar holds figures of Buddha, Confuscious, Jesus and Mary.

The temple stands in one corner of the cemetery next to the Crematorium, which always seems to be busy and next door to 'The House of Ashes', here it costs P10K to have ones ashes interned for 'eternity'.

And as I left, a funeral procession with jeepneys....


Thursday, March 16, 2006

A taste of Russia...

Whilst I am putting together the photos from my day out at the Chinese Cemetery yesterday....some Russian entertainment for you...

How can you not love an airline that has a selection of songs, including their own hymn!

Somewhere I will be avoiding in Moscow - Lefortovo Tunnel


Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Random thoughts....

Couldthis be the trigger for the start of the third Intifada? The Israeli’s historically seem intent on keeping stability and calm at bay with their behaviour in the West Bank…. Sharon going to the Temple Mount, the West Bank Barricade, and now this…. What the Israeli’s have done will give the volatile Palestinians just the excuse they need to start whatever actions they see as suitable for retaliation.

Texting a friend who has family living in Jericho….to check they are ok….we are both watching the BBC news…he in Kuwait, myself here… when we see the footage of the British Council being burnt….he texts me…”that’s where I took my English exams, wish they wouldn’t damage it, hope they don’t hurt anyone”. I only know the British Council in Amman, that’s where I learnt my Arabic….not heavily fortified, not the most secure building in Amman, a building for learning about other cultures, other languages and for different cultures to meet and talk….it is terrible to see such wanton destruction…..and apparently now the Ramallah B.C. is under attack….

given the high-tech equipment and intelligence the Israeli’s have surely they have better and more subtle ways of taking out prisoners they want eliminated….ah yes, I forgot…there’s an election coming up…historically a good time for the Israeli’s to get a little heavy handed with their neighbours…

For two years an Iraqi naturalized Brit lived in Britain protected by the British government against extradition to France….the government refused to hand him over….I wonder what would have happened if the French had decided to pick him up in London in a similar fashion, what would have been the world’s reaction?

It remains to be seen how involved the British and US govt. actually was…..were they in cahoots with the Israeli govt. or was their pull out really an independent move?

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again now….neither side is right, neither side is perfect but every so often one side makes a stupid arse move….this time – it’s Israel.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Your early warning system....

Beware the Ides of March....

Julius Ceasar didn't...and look what happened to him!

actually...maybe that's why I am feeling a bit off colour at present...tomorrow's my day off..probably best to stay at home safe and sound!



Feeling a bit blah at the nothing substantial...

Lucky she was only doing the washing up...a shower would have been unfortunate...although I hear that beer is good for the hair...

A blog to read....The Religious Policeman

The first film 'Elizabeth' was excellent.....I hope the second one is just as good.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Love 'N' Freshwater....and Handjobs....

I am trying to organise a night out with the work team, have asked them to come up with some suggestions and prices for where they would like to go...somebody left a menu for a suggested location on my desk...the menu was broken down into

Tongue foreplays
Hand Jobs

and yes it was a proper menu from an allegedly 'normal' restaurant...the Hand jobs apparently referred to a selection of pizzas...either way...that particular location won't be on my shortlist!!

It's March in the South of England so it must be about time for a hosepipe March...?.....and it's snowing in the rest of the country...

And the title of the post....the name of the taxi company that brought me to work picture as evidence as unfortunately my little camera and I have parted company (somebody wanted it, so they nicked it)


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Up, up and away...

Light reading for yesterday evening was...

written by Captain Ken Beere who first flew with the RAF and then with British Airways.

a few entertaining quotes...

Start-up clearance
After a British aircraft was given 30 minutes delay at a German airfield, a Lufthansa service was cleared to start immediately. The British pilot was furious. He demanded to know why Lufthansa was put ahead of him. Before ATC could answer, the Lufthansa captain broke in "We got to the airport early," he said, "and put our towels on the runway."

Unless the crew is very familiar with the airport's layout they resort to a map, the airfield plate. In the case of Heathrow the map doesn't help much as the British Airports Authority (BAA) is always in the process of digging it up - summed up famously by one American skipper who described Heathrow as 'The only building site in the world to have its own airport'.

The phonetic alphabet
Aer Lingus appropriately named their aircraft after saints and used their incomparable Irish humour to christen the simulator 'St. Thetic'.

Final approach
If the wheels gently brush the ground and an increasing rumble from below persuades the crew they really have touched down no pilot can resist a sense of pride and achievement - especially if it is the right airfield.

It is not uncommon for cabin staff to drop subtle hints after a heavy touchdown. One stewardess would stand disapprovingly at the cock pit door with her knicker around her ankles. Even the passengers assume they are qualified to join in. We recall an American who poked his head around the cockpit door as he disembarked and asked 'Was that a normal landing, or were we shot down?'


Saturday, March 11, 2006

A knight in shining armour....?

The Hong Kong Standard today has an article about Tony Kwok...he, who has been nominated to save the Philippines from he did in Hong Kong working for the ICAC....

I first mentioned Kwok in May 2005 as a little bit of Hong Kong coming with me to Manila....and then because I thought he had disappeared into the quagmire of Philippine politics I mentioned him (acutally almost posted him on a missing persons board) again in December 2005...

According to the article in The Standard, "Our man in Manila" still here, has settled in and is seemingly confident about his progress and future success...

"If you really want to fight corruption, you can do it," he says over coffee at the Ritz Carlton. "It can be done but only if you really want to do it. It's a matter of political will. We did it in Hong Kong and it can be done elsewhere."

Let me think....I have been here about 9 months...on average every other day I am told "...but it's not like Hong Kong here...." I allowed to pass on my words of wisdom to Mr Kwok...or is he just being polite!

How big is the problem of corruption in the Philippines....just one figure should give you a rough idea...

Agence France-Press recently quoted a calculation by the US investment bank Morgan Stanley that the Philippines had been bled of US$204 billion dollars between 1965 (when institutionalized corruption under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos began) and 2001.

Or this little anecdote...

On a radio call-in program in Manila just last week, callers were discussing the routine matter of obtaining a passport. One person after another said they had been met by officials in uniform at the passport office demanding a bribe of 1,000 pesos before processing an application that is supposed to cost just 550 pesos. A representative of the passport office came on the air to deny that the practice was officially sanctioned but no one was convinced because such low-level bribery is an every day occurrence at virtually every level of government, according to many Filipinos.

I know from my colleagues that they have to factor in bribes in most official exchanges that take place...traffic infringements are the biggest consumers of their salaries.

Kwok "insists the president herself is honest. "There is no evidence that she is corrupt,"...but the present Ombudsman is "Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez,"......"a close friend of President Arroyo."

I hope that Tony Kwok continues his seemingly one man crusade and finally starts to cut away at corruption issues here so that the amounts of money involved in corruption can be put to good use...


Friday, March 10, 2006

See you later...

I think it's a Scottish thing....when ever I say good bye to someone, either face to face or on the phone, I generally add..."see you later" as part of the farewell... it doesn't matter if the chances of me seeing that person within the next 10 years are slim...I still trot out the phrase...

Only the Scots I know understand it and don't take it face value...and only the Scots seem to use the phrase...

Here I am very careful about using the phrase as most people don't get I have learnt to be wary of how I end conversations...but this afternoon I slipped up...I finished talking to one of my suppliers...said "see you later" and put the phone down....

half an hour later the same supplier walks into the office...I questioned why they were there...and their answer.."Well you said 'see you later' so I guessed I had forgotten to note down an appointment, and here I am"....

Fortunately their office is not too far from mine....


Thursday, March 09, 2006


Movie of choice last night was Casanova....

Entertaining, funny and ever so slightly ridiculous.....but at present I can forgive Heath Ledger anything!


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Cocktails – shaken, stirred and….political…

Yesterday I went to watch a flair bartending competition, I am always impressed by the standard of flair tending in the Philippines…it takes the art to a whole new level, with synchronization to music, costumes and a fair amount of dancing. Of course it is all totally impractical for the real job of bar tending but it is fun and gets the bartenders out of their ‘shells’…everyone know that bartenders need to be fairly gregarious…but not all are..

Yesterday’s competition saw them being tested on their free pouring skills, flairing, cocktail presentation and obviously the cocktail taste…30% of the marks were on taste..the rest on presentation.

Whilst we were sitting watching the competitors, my eyes wandered over to the table with the final drinks on which had the names in front…the names were the usual mish mash of competitors imagination….frostbite, summers day, mangotini…etc etc…but one was called Hackel 1017…now for anyone who has been around recently the number 1017 will immediately attract attention….so I asked my colleague what or who (a) Hackel was? ideas were forthcoming and they thought that the 1017 was maybe the time the cocktail was created or something as trivial…my thoughts were that there was no way this could be a coincidence.

On my return to work I googled ‘Hackel’…..only one result…an article from the Manila Bulletin.

A hackel is the “feather attached in front of a cadet’s parade hat .."

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will implement tight security measures on the foundation day celebration of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City on Feb. 19 after it uncovered an alleged plan by some disgruntled cadets to embarrass President Arroyo who was invited as the guest of honor. some disgruntled cadets will stand during the anniversary celebration and make gestures to disrupt the program as a gesture of protest against the government.

Dubbed as "Oplan Hackel," the cadets are reportedly aiming to lure junior officers in the AFP to join their destabilization efforts against the Arroyo administration. "

It just goes to show that politics is everywhere innocent cocktail competion with competitors which include student and professionals and someone still makes a political statement of some sort.


Post Bag #2

Today I ventured to the Mandaluyong Post Office to collect a parcel from Amazon (Fully Booked may be wonderful but it doesn't have everything!). What a stressful 40 minutes...

To start with the taxi driver dropped me at what I can only assume is Mayor Gonzales office building...if the statue of the great man himself outside is any guide...this guy has some ego!

No matter, the post office is just around the I pottered over wait....and wait....whilst waiting for all the paperwork, chatting and customs charges to be sorted out I had the "pleasure" of watching all the parcels that had arrived that day being opened and examined...with absolutely no heed to the contents which spilled out all over the place....including some piece of electronic equipment which was taken out of the box, all the wrapping taken off and the bits strewn all over the table...can't see that working in the near future...

Must remind friends and family not to send parcels after that little viewing...never have the bloody camera when I need it....

The reason for my little trip to the Post Office was because normally the charges for getting a parcel are P35, yesterday our messenger came back announcing it was P2,500 this time to release the goodies...I decided to see for myself what was going the end I had to pay P1,200...and just to add insult to injury....I still had to pay the P35 on top of that princely sum...

The form that my receipt is written on is entitled "Statement and Receipts of duties collected on informal entry" time I'll tell the parcel to come in a tux and maybe I wont't have to pay....and just for a little idea of how insecure the Philippine govt. in its own currency...there's a lovely line at the bottom..

If the total value of the entry exceeds twenty-five (25) dollars, United States Currency, two pesos (P2.00) customs Documentary Stamp shall be affixed to the original informal entry.

...obviously they don't have confidence in the strength of their own currency.

And finally, just to really piss me off.....they had opened my parcel of books and retaped it closed, in the process wrapping tape around my the covers are now my brother knows to his cost...willfull damage of books is not something I suffer gladly... (when I was 10 and my brother 5, he damaged a book I had bought ( a geography encyclopedia) which I had saved my pocket money to buy, we were in the car on the way home and he - on purpose - ripped a page....I actually saw red and that was the beginning of my family's awareness of my fearful temper).....I am seriously, seriously unhappy at present...

On the way out of the post office I noticed a sign on the wall...

Mass Blood Letting
February 28th

Believe me, you have no idea how much I want to participate in a mass blood letting in that post office....


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Post Bag

I received this post card this morning....

Lieutenant-Colonel T.E. Lawrence CB DSO, 1918
James McBey (1882-1959)

someone went to the Lawrence exhibition in London..and thought of me!


Two tribes go to war.....

The Philippines is famous (or infamous) for people arguing over the most (seemingly) minor things and the argument developing into a fight which develops into the protaganists attempting to (and often succeeding) in killing each other....

In the Jordan Times yesterday I read this...

500 members of two tribes involved in fight

MUTA (Petra) — Around 500 members of two tribes from Muta in Karak Governorate were involved in a fight on Sunday, which resulted in several injuries and the destruction of private property. The police used tear gas to disperse the people taking part in the fight, which broke out following an argument between two young men. Traffic was disrupted for four hours during the fight, which took place between 2:00pm and 6:00pm.

I know Kerak fairly well, I lived nearby as a child...I can imagine that 500 people scrapping would disrupt the traffic!!!

Also in the Jordan Times I read that the Petra exhibition that had been doing the rounds in North America has come to it's final destination in Ottawa, it's an exhibition I would love to have seen...but sadly I think not possible...

The Treasury
David Roberts

Not virgin white — like that old Doric shrine
Where once Athena held her rites divine:
But rosy-red, — as if the blush of dawn
Which first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
Which men called old two thousand years ago!
Match me such marvel, save in Eastern clime, -
A rose-red city - 'half as old as Time'!

John William Burgon


Monday, March 06, 2006

Quote of the Day...

"Bjork could not be here - she was trying on her Oscar dress and Dick Cheney shot her."

Jon Stewart - Oscars 2005 host


It’s an odd world out there…

I left work early yesterday (7:30pm – it’s all relative I guess!) feeling really quite awful – dizzy, faint – the works….managed to crawl under the covers, after forcibly removing the moggies – (why is it when I’m sick they insist on getting as close as they possibly can?). This morning I woke up feeling not much better but as Wednesday’s my day off I figure I can last until then!

Given that I still don’t have internet access at home I only read a selection of blogs on a daily basis, the rest I catch up on about once a week…which with the more personal blogs can be a bit of a shock…a lot happens in a week. A few months ago (actually quite a few!) I highlighted the story of Petite Anglaise, as you can see in the comments Torn had a few thoughts on this….when I clicked over to see her weeks postings I find that within a week, her ‘Lover’ has moved on….it is quite shocking when you follow someone’s life that closely – be it in real life or through the blogosphere – and one day you find their world has changed.

Over on the other side of the world it’s Oscar time, I’m glad to see that already one of my favourite actors has his little mits on one of the statues…and for a film that overall I thought was excellent. And so far, one British win in the shape of Wallace & Gromit…

And on a final note...a quick summary of life returning to normal in the Philippines...via Torn & Frayed


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Two thoughts....

Alistair Campbell is right...they shouldn't "do God".

The demonstrations and riots are fading away, the world is moving on, Al Qaeda think it's fitting to stir up more religious hatred...


"With broken heart and head bowed in sadness but not in shame...."

At the entrance to Manila Bay, 26 miles from Manila, lies the island of Corregidor. Four miles long and shaped like a tadpole, as it lies at the entrance to Manila Bay the island is a natural 'check-point' and was used as such by the Spanish for hundreds of years. The Americans fortified the island and it played a major role in the WWII battle for the Philippines.

During the second world war Corregidor was the scene of heroic defence, brutal attacks and horrific treatment of POWs. The island is so beautiful and peaceful that it is incredibly hard to imagine just how awful the five months between December 1941 and May 1942 were.

As well as housing the American troops, the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth, Manuel L. Quezon, his family, the Vice President, Chief Justice and other leaders of the Philippine government were evacuated to Corregidor on 24th December 1941. On the 30th December, Corregidor played host to President Quezon's swearing in ceremony for his second term as President. Quezon did not remain long on Corregidor, he felt that he would be able to inspire a greater and stronger resistance movement elsewhere in the Philippines and unfortunately living in the Malinta tunnel severely aggravated President Quezon's already present tuberculosis; on the 20th February 1942, Quezon, his family and other presidential aides left Corregidor bound for the Visayas.

Tragically Quezon never lived to see a free Philippines, at the end of March 1942, Quezon and his family left for Australia, finally settling in the US, where he died on August 1st, 1944. He is now buried at the Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City.

The defense of Corregidor centered around the Malinta tunnel. On the island there is the Malinta hill, burrowing through the hill is one major tunnel which is 835 feet long, 24 feet wide and 18 feet high, the tunnel runs from East to West. Off the main tunnel there are a number of laterals; 13 on the North side and 11 on the south; each of these laterals were about 160 feet long. The tunnel and its laterals housed the headquarters of the forces, the hospital and living quarters. When you visit the island there is an excellent sound and light show that takes you through each area of the tunnel and simulates and aerial bombardment. It gives an excellent idea of what life must have been like deep in the heart of Corregidor.

Corregidor's most famous long term resident was of course, General Douglas MacArthur. The General had a long history of being associated with the Philippines and as such was more than a military leader, he seems to have been the focus of Filipino hope for rescue and freedom, and the focus of despair when he left the island of Corregidor on 11th March 1942. It seems that (at least from his own records) that MacArthur left Corregidor against his wishes and was following instructions from America. When MacArthur finally arrived in Australia on 17th March he made the following statement: "The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese line and proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose as I understand it, of organizing the American offensive against Japan a primary object of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came through and I shall return". Return he did, on the 2nd March 1945, MacArthur set foot on Corregidor again after the American forces took back the island from the Japanese. After MacArthur's departure from Corregidor in 1942, the command passed to General Jonathon Wainwright who was soon after promoted to Lieutenant General.

The Battle of the Philippines started on December 8th 1941, Manila fell on 2nd January 1942 and once Bataan peninsula fell on April 9th 1942 the only thing that stood in the way of Japanese victory in the Philippines was Corregidor.

The siege of Corregidor started on 29th December 1941 at 11:54 with an aeriel bombardment lasting thirty minutes, eighteen twin engined bombers dropped an estimated 50 tons of bombs onto Corregidor, at 12:30 a second wave of 22 light bombers dropped their load of 66 bombs, followed by dive bombers and then 60 navy planes. When the raid finished, Corregidor was in flames and the headquarters of the US and Filipino forces had to move into the Malinta Tunnel. The Japanese had lost 17 planes - too great a loss for the Japanese to think of attacking from the air again until all the anti-aricraft guns on the island had been destroyed, this they achieved by the end of April 1942.

Bataan was captured on 9th April and Corregidor was 'on its own'; records at the time show that with 40 ounces of food daily for the 11,000 troops on the island, and 80 ounces for the 1,500 injured there were enough food supplies to last until 30th June 1942, unfortunately water was their greatest problem. Until the fall of Bataan water had been piped in from the peninsula (Corregidor has no independent water source), this pipe had been destroyed and the reservoir on the island had been damaged.

In an amazing show of solidarity, on the 26th April 1942, the people of Malta managed to get a cable through to the forces on Corregidor: "People of Malta send their warm greetings to the gallant defenders of Corregidor"

On the 6th May 1942 at 10:15, despite a heroic defence the American commander, General Wainwright told his men "We can't hold out much longer. Maybe we could last thorugh this day but the end certainly must come tonight. It would be better to clear up the situation now, in daylight. Tell the Nips that we'll cease firing at noon". Before speaking to the Japanese Wainwright wrote to President Roosevelt; "With broken heart and head bowed in sadness but not in shame I report to Your Excellency that today I must arrange terms for the surrender of the fortified islands of Manila Bay - ". At noon the Stars and Stripes were taken down and a white flag was raised. What followed immediately after seems to have been a chaotic time where the Japanese refused the General's surrender because he was only surrendering Corregidor and not the whole of the Philippines. Meanwhile the Americans were destroying all their armaments and the Japanese were still attacking the Americans from the air.

There remained 13,193 Americans and Filipinos on the island, including about 2,000 civilians. By the 10th May most of the military personnel were enclosed on the beach, with no water, no shade from the sun and no toilet facilites, the roughly 12,000 people were enclosed in an area about 100 yards by 200 yards. On the 25th May the soldiers were finally moved off the island where they were sent to POW camps Luzon. General Wainwright and his group were sent to Japan on what became known as the "Hell Ships".

I am sitting here going through the rest of the notes I made during the day and it seems that mentally I couldn't absorb the horrors that occured on the island and I just made notes on the inane;

The group was divided by language; different trolley cars for different languages; one group was Japanese; one of the Japanese tourists was wearing a t-shirt from Changi prison - I am sincerely hoping that he had run out of clean clothes and that he wasn't trying to make a point

The Filipina tour guide was so anti Japanese I couldn't help wonder that the guide for the Japanese group must have had a totally different script; her lines consisted of scathing comments such as:

"The Japanese Memorial garden has a statue of the Goddess of Mercy; didn't know the Japanese had any mercy"
"Let's talk about Japanese atrocities - "

Her scathing comments were not reserved for the Japanese, she had a few for the Americans as well but they were said without the aggression and hatred that accompanied the Japanese comments.

A few pictures...

General MacArthur leaving Corregidor

Japanese Memorial Garden

Malinta tunnel

Malinta tunnel lateral

Cine Corregidor

Battery Hearn, captured almost in tact by the Japanese, it was then used by the Japanese during the their defence of Corregidor against the Americans

The Americans did bomb Battery Hearn but as you can see from the crater next to the gun, they our tour guide said "Another miss by the Americans"

The war memorial

The sunlight from the hole in the dome above only falls on the altar at midday on 6th May each year

Looking over to the Bataan peninsula from Battery Grubbs

Battery Way.

The view from the war memorial

In the Pacific War Memorial museum, there are a few examples of the bombs that were dropped on Corregidor, allegedly (I can't find a news link to back up the story) in 2005 when GMA was heading over to Corregidor to participate in the May 9th memorial service, one of the security sniffer dogs wandered into the museum and on reaching this bomb started barking and generally getting over-excited....apparently the bomb was still live and it had been sitting in the museum for a number of years!

On the ferry over to Corregidor we had a Filipino war veteran give a talk, he said that the Spanish gave the Phillipines "Infrastructure, Education and Religion"...America gave "Coca-Cola". After having spent time at Corregidor I can't help feeling that America also gave the Philippines something that is more far, far more precious - "Freedom".

Sources and further reading..
Corregidor Historic Society
Back to Bataan - a survivor's story

I would like to point out that Corregidor is one of a group of islands that were used to defend Manila Bay. I'll write about the others in another post.