Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just How Clever Is A Muslim Man ?

Two BBC headlines caught my attention today and I've decided that they go together.

The first one was the result of a study into how being single in middle age can double your chances of suffering from Alzheimers in later life. At least I think it was.

It's bad enough that I'm a social pariah and never get invited to couples parties. I take up 3 seats wherever I go as the ones on each side of a single person are always left free. I have to pay a single supplement for my hotel room or cruise ship cabin. I have to buy my own clothes and fix my own meals. I have no one to blame for wearing black socks and sandals on the beach.

So now I'm told I can expect to start going downhill mentally just because I'm not married or have a partner. Wonderful. I'll put my chess set on eBay tomorrow and if you see me out and about with no pants on, be kind.

The other headline reported that a Saudi man had been accused of having six wives at the same time. Greedy bastard.

Actually he claimed he'd divorced two of them and this left four, which is allowed under Islamic law. Still a greedy bastard.

So if we combine both these headlines and make the big assumption that all Muslims take advantage of this law, then they MUST be a brainy lot right into old age !

But wait. Four wives ?

Four mothers-in-law ! Eight potential back seat drivers nagging you on every trip ! I don't care if you ARE on a camel, it's still a frightening thought. I'd be praying for a spot of memory loss.

No, I'd rather be single and I'll take my chances with 'the alzheimers'.

However, if any single women out there would like to help me decrease those chances, please feel free to drop me a comment. But be quick about it as I'm already starting to forget what to do !!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Canal Trip - The Slightly Improved Movie !!

I put an edited video of our canal boat trip up onto blogger yesterday and, lets face it, it was a bit pathetic. Size wise I mean !!

But thanks to reading Bun's blog, I found out about Vimeo and have used that site to upload the video again. So if you haven't seen the video yet, go to the next post down and have a look.

If you HAVE seen it already, oh go on and look at it again ! It's BIGGER and that always has to be good !!

Yes ?

Well no actually. Try as I might, I can't get the aspect ratio right and although it should be widescreen, it's not quite. So everyone and everything, including me, looks a bit squished up - although in my case, this is a definite improvement !!

Another plus point, maybe, is that you can watch the video full screen by clicking on the little icon to the left of the word vimeo - the icon shows 4 tiny arrows going off to the 4 corners. It'll all become clear when you look at the video.

Of course going fullscreen WILL make for a very grainy video so you may not like that unless you watch it from about half a mile away. But it's an option.

If anyone out there can tell me how to get the video to display in true widescreen, I'd be very pleased to get a comment from you. Right now, it's up there as 480 x 270 which should give the widescreen aspect of 16:9. But clearly it's not.

Anyway, I think it's still better than the original blogger video from yesterday so I'll leave it there.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Leeds To Liverpool Canal Trip - The Movie

Last month, Daphne, Stephen and myself went on a narrow boat weekend on the Leeds to Liverpool canal and had a jolly hockey sticks time. In case you want to read about it and see some photos, the June archive contains the 3 posts about it that will keep you busy, and hopefully entertained, when you have some time to spare on some wet and windy afternoon.

For the Brits who read my blog, this could be pretty much any afternoon in the next few weeks of this crappy summer. I think my cunning plan to spend Oct-March in Florida and April-Sept in England to ensure sunshine all year round has come up against a little problemette.

Namely that the April-Sept period has to be spent in England !!

Like the aroma of onions, Gauloises cigarettes and sweaty berets, Global warming seems incapable of crossing the channel and continues to stop annoyingly at the French border. Every country East of Calais enjoys summer weather like we oldies remember from our youth while we in the UK continue to suffer the effects of some sort of localised Ice Age.

Anyway, this is all the more reason to read my narrow boat posts and forget about chilblains and frostbite for a while.

As well as photos, I took an hour of video footage which I edited and then burned to a dvd which you can buy at the concession stand in the foyer after this presentation. It's well worth the Z$100bn price tag (that's Zimbabwe dollars to you and me) which apparently will now buy you a loaf of bread. And we think WE have financial problems ??!!

But in an effort to get some of the footage to a wider audience (and no, I'm not having a pop at you Americans), I've edited the already edited video so it now runs for less than 15 minutes which I believe is the attention span of a modern teenager.

Yes this blog version is not great quality. Yes it's jerky. But hey, it's history !!

I now present this Directors Cut to you and hope that you enjoy our nautical journey along 13 miles of the Leeds to Liverpool canal. Apologies to those without a fast connection as it's a relatively large file but it should begin playing as soon as the buffering gets enough data to make a start. And crank up your speakers.

Sorry but you'll have to provide your own popcorn.

Narrow Boat Trip from Silverback on Vimeo.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Can Ya Diggit ?

Many titles came to mind when I started this post as I just needed to get the word 'dig' in there somewhere. After losing 20 seconds of my life, I settled on the above.

So what's it all about then ? What can, or can't, you dig ?

First, the lead in story. I admit to watching a lot of tv but not a lot of tv adverts. They mostly annoy me and as you may know, the ones on during the day have driven me to write the odd email from time to time.

Yes I'm THAT sad.

Anyhoo a few minutes ago I was quietly having my supper-on-a-lap meal and half watching Corrie when it went to an ad break. I immediately gave full attention to my supper and so it came as some surprise when words on an advert got through to me.

Come to "The Ultimate Adventure Park Experience"

That got my attention. See it's finally school holiday time here in the UK and many evening adverts are trying to lure us out of our cozy homes at weekends and into theme parks that, due to building more and more record busting rides, attempt to empty our stomachs and wallets at roughly the same time.

So what was this one all about ? One of the big established parks ? Alton Towers ? Thorpe Park ? Maybe even Legoland ?

I looked up and saw diggers ? Y'know. Building site diggers. Dumper Trucks. Diggers scooping dirt out of the ground. Diggers carrying people in their buckets. Dancing syncronised diggers. What the f*** ?????

Holy backhoe, Batman, this was a digger theme park !!

The bright bods at the planning stage had pulled straws and come up with a natty name for this park - Diggerland ! You have to love that simplicity of thought.

Happy (and slightly pissed) mums and dads have to fork out £15 per person to enter this 'world of adventure' where you can watch the experts......ah.........digging holes. It appears that the visitors can also drive these diggers, under supervision as they say on their website. Oh what spoilsports.

We want NO supervision ! We want 15 yr olds wrecking the concession stands, picking up old age pensioners and dumping them in pre dug pits and generally having loads of jolly adventures.

We want digger buckets full of hoodies chanting footy songs and spitting on family groups from a great height. 6 feet maybe.

I think the excitement of being up close to a mechanical digger would run out after about 15 seconds and so that would be £1 a second by my calculations. A great day out indeed.

Oh but get this - under 3's are free. Well whoop-di-do. Little Billy can plunk his nappy covered botty onto the seat of a dumper truck and quite reasonably ask, why can't my feet reach the pedals then ? The web site says they have mini diggers so they could be for Billy and his age challenged pals. For some reason I've just had a sudden vision of Stewie.

However, of all the information on the Diggerland web site, the most impressive and to be honest, the hardest to believe, is that there are now 4, yes 4 Diggerlands in the UK.

And we have one here in Yorkshire. We've been chosen. God's own county. Hurrah.

It's in Castleford mind you so that is reason enough never to darken it's metalic doorstep.

To save you googling for this frankly astonishing theme park, I'll give you the link. Usually I'd have given it out when the name was first mentioned at the top of the post. But quite honestly I was doing you a favour as it comes with music piped straight from the lobotomy ward - so be warned.

I also feared that if you went to it early on, you'd be so taken with it's content, that you'd totally forget to return to my post. I just couldn't risk it.

So here it is. Fill your boots. Or your buckets. And after 2 mins, check that your mouth is closed.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hotter Than A Match Head

Thought I'd create a post title using a line from one of my favourite 60's songs, "Summer In The City" by The Lovin' Spoonful as it's such a happy positive song that goes so well with a hot summer day.

Ah the summer of '66. A time when haircuts looked like badly fitting crash helmets and songs lasted 2 minutes. MP3's ? Nah you strapped your Dansette to your back and set off with a stash of albums under your arm. Bit of a bugger when jogging but with the needle (yes a needle) jumping in and out of the vinyl tracks, it was the birth of rap and hip hop.

Bet you never knew that.

But I've digressed already. Back to hot summer days.

And amazingly in Leeds, we've just had a couple of hot summer days. I know. Hard to believe !
No doubt autumn will arrive next Wednesday and we'll be into winter by Friday. Ah well.

So while it lasted, I headed out for some much needed exercise and took my trusty camera with me.

I quite enjoy watching Ray Mears and his Bushcraft shows even though I know I've never be in a situation where I'll need to skin a snake for cooking purposes or chop the stumpy bits of certain trees as they make the best firewood.

I tend to zone out the important stuff and just enjoy it as an entertainment show.

So even if I was dying of hunger in the Leeds suburbs on a Sunday afternoon, as you do, I'd still not know if these pretty little red things were ok to eat or not.

I suppose if you're dying, it hardly matters and I'd pig out on them. Today, knowing I had a Chinese meal to go home to, I was happy to just photograph them.

And yes, before you ask, I've no idea about these little guys either.

Apart from thinking I once saw them on the earlobes of Bet Lynch, they could be Venus Fly Traps for all I know.

As there were no flies in the area, I gave them a wide berth just in case.

My walk was becoming a full blown botany expedition and as it was hot, I welcomed the numerous stops I had to make to take these photos.

I'd also like to save time and typing by stating here and now that I don't know what ANY of the flowers are on this post. I suspect there is a rose coming along later but that's just a guess.

This is obviously a singing plant of some sort as the flower is a definite copy of a gramophone horn.

I listened, but apart from a bee mistaking my ear for a flower and my ear hairs for stemen, I heard no music.

There were lots of bees about today but I only had my 75-200 zoom lens on the camera so I couldn't get all that close to any of them.

I really need a good marco lens but that's for another day.

Here is a little fella working away in the hot sunny weather. Go on my son !

I may be proving myself a liar now as I'm pretty sure these were lavender plants....or lilacs !

I donno. Why do I even try ?

But it was certainly a bee. I'm pretty much sure it was a bee. Yes it was a bee.

I think.

The next two photos are of roses. There, I've said it. I've also said it with a little more confidence than I have earned in this field.

Just about every garden I passed on my short walk today contained roses of one variety or another. Some were small and delicate, some were huge and just as delicate. Red, white, orange, yellow, they all made for a very colourful spectacle.

By now I was at the furthest point of my walk, a good 25 minutes from home ! Well I never claimed to be training for Bejing y'know !! No this was just a gentle walk with my camera on a lovely sunny day and what could be better ?

Eating an ice cream actually but that wasn't going to happen.

This was the final out and out flower shot I took.

I just liked the red against the green lawn as I knew that using the zoom lens with a large aperture would ensure the lawn would be totally out of focus and make it seem like the flower was in front of a green screen.

There was colour everywhere today and not just on my cheeks. We Brits do like our gardens and although you don't see vegitables being grown like you did in years gone by, front gardens in my part of Leeds are a joy to behold.

I just have to include one more photo of a bee ! I was at the corner of my street and thought I'd finished taking photos when I saw movement on this flower.

I got the camera ready and watched through the lens as this little fella made his way up the flower like it was his own spiral staircase.

He came around and went behind and came around again.

I focused on the top, knowing he'd get there eventually and sure enough, up he popped like a little buzzing sherpa.

I've left the other bulby thing in the photo as I like the look of it. It's like a little helicopter pad for bees !!

So that was Sunday afternoon walk. Was out for just over an hour and only took one photo that wasn't of a flower or plant or some sort.

And here it is.......this one's just for you Dennis.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Went To Cambridge, Y'know !!

As Daphne told us in her blog post today, we were in Cambridge on Tuesday and Wednesday to see "The Taming Of The Shrew" which was put on for my benefit, of course. Yes it is true. I wield such power in this country.

It was my first trip to this historic University city, a city of dreaming spires and classy 'Big Issue' sellers. Well actually not all that classy as we'll see a little later.

So early on Tuesday afternoon, after dumping our belongings at the B&B, we set off walking to see as much of the city as we could before 7:30pm when we had to be at the Robinson College Gardens for the start of the play.

There is one famous view in Cambridge and if I only got one photo, I wanted my own photo of that view.

And this IS that view.

It's the west facade of King's College Chapel and even on a cloudy day, it was pretty damn impressive.

I'd hoped to get across to where those people are walking but that's when I first found out that a lot of things in Cambridge can only be achieved when money changes hands, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, my hands are pretty tight.

You see, to cross the river to get to most of the colleges involves a walkway and a bridge. You have to pay to get across even if you don't want to go into the colleges concerned. We didn't and so we didn't. I got my picture from a little further away but that's what zoom lenses are for !!

Thankfully not all the walkways and bridges led into colleges and so the ones that led to the city, had free access.

Here are some views from a couple of these bridges looking down onto the river which, at the time, was swarming with silly punts.

All cock-a-knee rhyming slang aside, the number of punts out on the river was frankly astonishing.

My semi romantic notion of loving couples being punted downstream past these wonderfully historic colleges and beautiful scenery was completely shattered when I saw the chaos unfolding before my eyes.

It was like Venice at rush hour. Tourists were being encouraged to take their turn at a bit of punting and the result was like an RNIB Boat Race.

I think this photo shows it best.

Maybe some local can tell me if it's like this all summer long or did we just visit during some sort of punting madness week ?

Yes it was all good clean fun but it did sort of spoil the atmosphere a bit.

As you can see from this photo and even better in the next one, the normal rules of the water were being broken at every opportunity.

It's very difficult to pass on the left or the right when approaching a punt which is coming at you sideways !!

This was the view looking the other way, north in fact.

I loved the way the trees formed a natural tunnel for the river to flow through and this view of people on the bridge neatly brings me to the only form of transportation more numerous than the punts.


Cambridge, in line with it's University rival Oxford, has more bikes per head of population than anywhere apart from the Raleigh factory in Chipping Sudbury.

These silent killers are everywhere and you take one step off the pavement at your peril. Two things struck me as particularly ironic on this first stroll around the city.

First, given the many thousands of bikes that fill the streets of Cambridge, we never passed a single bike shop.

Second, the only passengers we ever saw in the numerous bike rickshaws that passed us were as oriental as the bike origins.

I don't know why this would be. Maybe Brits don't like being taken for a ride in this way and prefer the more traditional mini cab !

I loved the numerous narrow passageways and alleys of Cambridge and I was reminded many times of York. These two photos show when I mean.

In most modern cities, such 'streets' would be dark, dank and frankly dangerous to walk along. The ones in Cambridge were clean, safe and with the lovely buildings on both sides, were interesting as well.

Many of the main streets were just as narrow.

I don't know if it was the absence of the usual fast food outlets but I found Cambridge impressively free of the litter we find in most other UK cities.

By the time we left on Wednesday, we'd walked around a large part of the place and I never saw a Burger King or a McDonalds or a KFC.

I'm sure they are there, maybe in one of the modern city malls that we never went into. But it was refreshing to see that the city was very well 'stocked' with eating places that provided food that didn't fit into a polystyrene box and a small paper bag.

Speaking of which, we decided to have an early supper on the walk back to the B&B. Daffy spotted a likely candidate and what a winner it was.

I had a huge wedge of steak and ale pie, mashed potatoes and peas with rich gravy and was very thankful that we'd not had to resort to fast food. It was delicious and filling and perfect for sustaining me during the 2 hour play later that evening.

Next morning, after a monster breakfast at the B&B. we drove off to explore more of the city.

After parking on a road near King's College, we again crossed a bridge to get into the city proper.

The tops of both sides of the bridge were decorated with several very large stone balls and they just begged to be photographed like this.

It doesn't come across in the photo but each solid orb was about 3 times the size of a bowling ball.

After crossing the bridge, we picked up our tour from yesterday as we'd left it at the lovely outdoor market.

Everywhere you looked, it seemed like you saw the towers and turrets of some college building or other.

It's just that sort of place.

Here you can see some of the market stalls on the left and if you look closely, you can see 4 old style red phone boxes that are only kept now for tourists to photograph.

Oh they work and have modern phones inside them but sadly they've been replaced in most UK cities.

Remember the comment I made back at the start about classy 'Big Issue' sellers ? Well for those who don't know about it, the 'Big Issue' is a magazine sold on the streets by homeless people so that they can earn a bit of money for themselves. I know it's not just a UK entity but just in case you've never heard of it in your country, take the link.

In the UK the homeless people buy each magazine for 70p ($1.35) and sell it for £1.50 ($2.95) and the 80p ($1.55) 'profit' is theirs to keep. Given that incentive, the sellers have a well earned reputation for high pressure selling and in Leeds at any rate, they practically challenge you to pass them without buying a magazine.

This seller didn't really need to jump in front of people to get their attention.

He was also the sort of person you tend to remember long after you pass him by.

I thought we'd entered a black hole and popped up in Tibet but no, we were still in sunny England and had managed to find the only 'Big Issue' seller in the country who didn't say a word.

He just stood there and people went up to him.

Well except me. I told you my hands were tight.

He was a classic example of why I love people watching. And here is another reason for it.

I mean these 3 girls could've been anywhere but as well as admitting that I like taking photos of pretty girls, I took this one specifically so that someone could tell me what on earth the two on the right are eating ?

I kinda hoped I was going to witness a replay of the scene from 'Lady And The Tramp' which would've been a damn sight more titilating than the original, but sadly it was not to be.

Before we reached the car, I was able to get a photo of yet another bridge.

Although it was a fairly plain, basic and simple bridge, I liked both its reflection in the still waters and the fact that those same waters were punt free.

It just remains for me to show and explain one more photo. The final college we visited was Trinity College (founded by Henry VIII in 1546) and although there was an admission charge as always, we found a small open door which led to a locked gate which in turn gave a great view of the college quadrangle - also known as The Great Court.

If you enlarge the photo (just click on it) you will see the water fountain a bit better but it's not easy as it's somewhat swallowed up by the buildings behind it.

In the middle is the Clock Tower, or King's Gate and it has a movie claim to fame.

In the 1981 movie, Chariots Of Fire, 2 track athletes hoping to qualify for the 1924 Olympics test each other by racing around The Grand Court hoping to complete the course by the time the clock has finished striking noon.

It helped that for some bizarre reason, the clock strikes each hour twice and so the total time taken is 43 seconds. The distance is 341 metres.

But as always, all things Hollywood are not as they seem, although this time, the inaccuracy wasn't their fault.

The Dean of Trinity would not cooperate with the movie makers and so the race was actually filmed at Eton College near London. There was a recreation of the race for charity in 1988 with the two best UK runners of the day, Seb Coe and Steve Cram taking part. The runners restricted themselves to a course dictated by the flagstones between the cobbles, and hence had to turn very sharply at each corner. Coe won, getting round in 45.52 seconds and it seems that over lunch after the race, the Dean admitted that it had been a great mistake not to have cooperated with the making of the movie.

See, who says my posts aren't educational ???

We had a lovely time in Cambridge. The play was good; the actor we went to see in it was good; the food was good; the weather was good. But the overall winner was - the city itself.

I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Heartfelt Anniversary

Today, 3 years ago, I had a heart attack.

I'd had one before so I wasn't quite as excited about this one.

That 1st one had been 12 years earlier and I'll be happy enough if the same time period passes before the next one. Obviously I'd be even happier if I didn't have a 3rd, but what can you do ?

Initially I was more upset than anything else. I was due to leave for 6 months in America only a few days later and that had to be postponed. It also meant I'd missed a wedding over there and that WASN'T postponed. I'd have thought that being a friend of a friend of the ex boyfriend of the bridesmaid's sister would've given me a bit more status.

I mean how hard would it have been to have simply waited 3 months for me to get there ? Selfish lot.

Surviving a heart attack can make you take stock of your life. Surviving two ? Well it CAN make you want take up sky diving or base jumping as you start to think you are living a charmed life. But for me, things went along pretty much as usual.

I'm a worrier by nature and so, for a while, every little twinge and pain anywhere near my heart made me think I was on the way out. Hell, even a pain in my big toe made me think that. It's one of those 'toe bone connected to your....heart bone' sort of things.

I think I felt less worried after the 1st one as something had actually been done about it at the time. I'd had a quintuple bypass and felt like a kid again in many ways. The old body had gone into the garage, had the fuel lines replaced and I was good for another 100,000 miles or 12 years - whichever came sooner.

As it turned out, it was the 12 years.

Yes the attack scared me and made me feel very vulnerable and alone at the time. I wasn't covered privately anymore and was in an awful ward in a big impersonal NHS hospital which only increased my feelings that I'd not get over this one. Once again I was the youngest person there but being in a ward was a nightmare compared to the private room with all mod cons that I'd had first time round. Being 'happy' in hospital is such a boost to the recovery process and I firmly believe that if I'd not 'gone private' in 1993, I'd not be here now.

But after the 2nd attack, no surgery was done. They just altered my medication. The much older body had gone back into the garage but they'd just given me some engine flush and cleaned my hub caps.

At first I wasn't too happy but when I learned of the dangers of having my chest opened up again, then I took the pills and ran. Well I walked quite slowly out of the hospital actually.

Anyway that's all in the past and hopefully I'll have many more anniversaries to celebrate on July 20th.

Yes that's the ticket. I'm positive. I'm optimistic. I'm starving.

I'm off to have fish and chips with a curry chaser. I'll pop another pill and have them supersized.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not In MY Living Room !!!

I sent a photo of a naked woman to my female friend last night and she deleted it right away.

Yes I know, bizarre !

Now before you call the internet boys in blue and have me carted off in cuffs (and tight leg bindings and fishnet tights and a basque.....oh stop, I'm getting my thoughts mixed up here), let me explain that I'm not the new Yorkshire Porn King. Long way to go yet but I'm trying.

Anyway if you're sitting comfortably, I'll begin with the story :

Yesterday was Daffys 23rd birthday (that HAS to get me extra jaffa cakes) and I popped over to her place as I thought we were getting a Chinese takeaway to celebrate the occasion. I dressed accordingly. I just threw on a few items from my wardrobe from the Tang Dynasty, nothing too ostentacious you know.

Anyway when I got to her house, I was told we were going to a restaurant in central Leeds at 6:45pm but not to worry as it was a casual clothing type of place. So my flip flops would be just fine. Soon the time came and off we went.

There were 7 in our party and once seated, I noted from the menu that I could actually order pretty much anything - which doesn't happen very often, if at all. Shut it, Debby !

After MUCH deliberation, I picked a 28 day aged rib-eye steak and asked for it a little bit pink in the middle as phrases like "medium to medium rare" can often be meaningless as that can vary from chef to chef.

This was what came.

My photo actually improves the look of the steak !

It didn't exactly look like any rib-eye I'd ever seen and it looked more like the cow had coughed up a kidney.

Maybe it had been aged a few days too long or something and had started to morph into what we usually associate with coming from a cow.

I cut into it and noticed that it was a few grilled minutes short of being 'pink in the middle' and was more at the 'autopsy red' stage.

But being that I was now in the UK, I just tutted my displeasure and tucked in. It was tender enough, with lots of flavour and so it wasn't all that bad. Just not what I'd asked for.

The conversation flowed and everyone enjoyed their entrees. Then it was time for dessert and once again, everything on the menu sounded yummy. Being an adventurous eater (oh stop that Debby) I went for the banoffee-in-a-bag with ginger snaps and farmhouse vanilla ice cream.

I only picked this because as well as liking all the ingredients, I'd no idea what to expect.

And this is it.....or them.

I looked at my bag with a mix of interest and bewilderment. A mixed bag in fact. Sorry.

The waitress had helpfully told me to slice the top open with diagonal cuts and peel back the paper.

Thinking I might stab the banana or damage the toffee (!!) I chose to ignore her advice and simply cut along the sealed edge of the bag closest to the ice cream. Big mistake.

This was fine to start with and I was then able to tear back the paper and get at the goodies within - 3 sliced bananas swimming in a lovely hot toffee sauce. I said 'to start with' as with a whole end of the bag now opened up, the sauce made a dash for freedom and most of it poured out onto the wooden serving board. With the melting ice cream dripping out onto the board as well, it wasn't long before the attentive waitress was asking if sir needed a bib.

"No actually, my mouth is pretty much mess free but the board is a disaster area."

And so after a round of cappuccinos, the meal was over and we left, full of stomach and, in Stephens case, empty of wallet. Thank you so much for my invitation, guys. I had a great evening.

But hey, Ian. What about the naked woman photo ? Ahhhh glad you reminded me.

The restaurant was on the 2nd floor of this 4 floor building. This meant climbing some stairs and at the top, the area opened out with a view of inviting dark wood dining tables and very comfortable deep backed chairs. As we settled down in those very chairs and looked for the menus, I glanced back at the stairs which, as I was at the end of the table, were just to my left.

On the wall was a painting that you couldn't see until you had climbed the stairs and looked back.
It was huge. She was huge.

So what do you think ?

Tasteful in a restaurant ?

Filthy smut that would upset small family members and if nothing else, cause them to ask questions best left to the privacy of the home ?

Well this is where the title of this post comes in.

I'd not want this painting in MY living room. I'm no prude and enjoy the naked female form as much as the next female tennis player BUT, not where I eat.

Yes I eat mostly in my living room. I'm single, what can I say.

And the name of the restaurant where we dined last night ?

The Living Room.

As I've said before, I just don't throw these posts together, y'know !

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What A Gay Day !

I read a BBC news report this morning about a Sicilian court ordering the Italian government to pay one of it's citizens 100,000 Euros compensation, or £3.67, because he had to retake his driving test when the authorities discovered he was gay.

It seems the 26 yr old had told doctors he was homosexual during a medical exam for military service. This information was passed to the defence and transport ministries and Mr. Guiffrida, for that was he, was told he would need to retake his driving test or he would have his licence suspended because of his 'sexual identity disturbance'.

Even that wasn't the end of it as when he DID retake his test and passed it, he was only given a one year licence rather than the normal 10 year one, due to his homosexuality.

Now in this day and age, several things about this story are frankly hard to believe and the main one has to be :

Has the Euro/Sterling exchange rate really sunk so low ? Frightening.

Then there is the bizarre fact that this story has come out of Italy, a country where waving your hands about, speaking fast in high pitched voices, wearing lots of leather and other stereotypical gay mannerisms are part of the culture. Just go to a Milan v Roma game and have a look at the crowd !!

And military service ? Italian military service ? Wouldn't waving your hands about, assuming they are over your head, be almost compulsary for a life in the Italian military ?

Of course, to be serious for a moment, all sensible, educated people would agree that Mr. Guiffrida should never be allowed to drive a car at all. I mean, a gay man behind the wheel of a car ? Come on. It's just unnatural. It's immoral. And I'm sure it's not mentioned anywhere in the bible and so it has to be wrong.

Actually we DO read about St.Paul being 'on the road' to Damascus and having a blinding vision that changed his life completely. Who is to say he didn't get passed by a gay driver and the shock of it all was what he later wrote about ? A sort of biblical blog post rather like this one ?

Makes you think.

I mean there are young impressionable people out there who might be swayed by seeing a gay driver. Where will it all end ? What will be next ? Women drivers ? Surely not !

Naturally the two words dreaded by all good people in authority everywhere have come to the fore once again - civil liberty. Mr. Guiffrida had his civil liberties mucked about with and so he deserved lots of dosh to help him overcome the pain and suffering that ensued.

But what about the civil liberties of other road users ? I mean innocent, perfectly healthy, perfectly normal, heterosexual drivers and their families could be stuck in a line of traffic in Turin and never realise that the driver right behind them was gay. It's a shocking idea. Surely there is no room for this abhoration in a modern civilised society ?

These people need to wise up and just stop being gay. If you want a 10 year licence, pack in this gay nonsence. It's just a silly fad anyway. Snap out of it.

No, take gays off our roads, I say. Take away their car keys and let them walk. With sandwich boards proclaiming their identity disturbances.

Just don't take a leaflet off them. Homosexuality might be contagious.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Golden Sunshine Day

I know I've mentioned a few times that I feel very fortunate to live only a few minutes drive from beautiful countryside. But I don't even have to travel that far to enjoy wonderful parks and lakes as Leeds has plenty of both.

Today I revisited Golden Acre Park, my first visit since April last year - a visit I wrote about at the time. I promise you no more close ups of flowers but there will be photos of wildlife as the park is a dream if you like wildlife. Nothing spectacular you understand. No wildebeest being dragged by their throats into the water, no giraffes stretching up to eat the leaves from the tallest trees, no leopards resting on the...well you get the point.

GAP may not have anything to offer in the way of Attenborough style wildlife but what it does have, comes to you begging to be photographed. But more of the critters later.

As it was a lovely sunny afternoon, I went into the forest area at the top of the park to try and get some shots of the light filtering down through the trees.

This photo represents the views I came across. I was hoping for a few shafts of sunlight but I guess you need a bit of mist or dry ice for that. Maybe I need to visit the park early one morning.

Yeah that's likely !!

Anyway I was happy enough to settle for the light and shade I found today.
I was also happy that I seemed to have the entire place to myself.

Ok so I did occasionally hear some rustling in the undergrowth but after Florida, it was comforting to know that any critters in there wouldn't be likely to bite me, poison me or carry me off to be devoured at a later date. Not even a slightly larger than usual squirrel.

Still on the lookout for light and shade, I made it down from the depths of the forest and onto the main path that runs around the lake.

I sat on a bench to have the ham sandwich I'd brought from home and watched the other park visitors going by.

Then, for a fleeting moment, the sun picked out this couple like a spotlight picking out the main characters in a play.

Of course being a sci-fi fan and a lover of the movie Cocoon, I could also have been a witness to an alien abduction. Abductees always seem to be transported by beams of light after all.

"Stay away from the light" I shouted. Everyone knows that.

But to put all our minds at rest, the couple continued on their way and passed me and my ham sandwich a few seconds later.

I think I was the only person in the park today who wasn't part of a family, in a group or one half of a couple. Grandparents and their grandkids made up a large proportion of the visitors and it was so nice to see so many of them them pass me on my bench.

I'd just finished my sandwich and taken a swig of my can of Pepsi Max (Pepsico, please send me a 12 pack for this gratuitous product plug) when a couple of oldies came along with their granddaughter.

Maybe she wanted a drink or something but I was a bit unnerved when she stood right in front of me.

Still, emboldened by the fact that gramps and gramma were a few feet away, I asked them if it would be ok to take her picture ?

Well she wasn't getting any of my drink, that was for sure !!

This is exactly how she was standing in front of me so you can see why I was unnerved. Sadly in this day and age, you have to be very careful what you say and do.

Thankfully she was happy enough with the photo, which I showed her, and she danced off to meet up with a little girl who was coming the other way with HER grandparents.

This was my cue to skedaddle before I was added to some sort of registry and I headed off towards the lake. This was waterfowl central and the cute little things were everywhere. You had to be careful not to stand on one as they were all over the grass banks.

There was a stream leading to the lake and to add to the scene, there was a small wooden bridge leading across it.

It was while taking this photo that I saw that the path in the distance was bathed in sunlight when the passing clouds allowed this to happen.

From the comparative 'safety' of my location, I watched as walkers, joggers, families, couples, dogs and every combination of them all walked along and hit the areas of sunshine on the path.

A large family group came along, preceded by a little boy and girl. These kids ran up onto the steep grass bank beyond the path screaming and laughing and generally having a fun time. As they came down, the boy stooped to pluck a flower and I watched him give it to the girl.

Awwwwww. They held hands for a few seconds and just then they entered the small area of sunlight that I'd already spotted between two trees.

This was the shot I got and I don't care if I'm hauled up before the narrow minded people who may frown on taking such candid photos - it was a moment totally missed by every member of that family who were too busy chatting amongst themselves to notice it.

I'll never know if they were brother and sister or just good friends but wouldn't it be wonderful if this was the moment, THE moment that they'll say their lifelong friendship, or more, actually started.

Yes I'm an old romantic. They're probably brother and sister and he ripped the flower from her hand a few minutes later and made her cry !

Boys !!

I moved on to the edge of the lake where there is a very nice paved area where you can sit at picnic tables and watch the incredible variety of life on the water. And on the land. Yes these critters have worked out that people at picnic tables means food for all and very little chance of getting hurt in the process - as long as they watch out for toddlers who run around like headless chickens lashing out at anything smaller than they are.

There were loads of silly little coots - no I'm not talking about the toddlers - and they really are the most ridiculous looking creatures.

I suspect God was in playful mood when He created them as not only did he give them stupid looking white beaks on jet black heads but he decided to go totally of His cloud by adding the bird version of clown feet.

I had to wait for the right coot to come near me as I was far more interested in getting a good photo of its feet than its head.

This was the best I got and so, sorry about the head. But get a butchers at those feet. They don't need to swim across the lake - they could walk across it !! And as you might imagine, their gait is hilarious as they have to raise those silly big feet up quite a way to avoid bending parts of them under with every step.

It was like watching Krusty The Clown walk onto the stage in Springfield. Hilarious.

I sat and watched while families came and went. The kids fed the ducks. The men nibbled the women. The mallards bullied the coots. It was all good stuff. Not exactly Attenborough worthy, but it worked for me.

This little fella had suicidal tendencies and right before my camera lens, he decided to end it all and chucked himself off the ledge and into the water.

But it was all fruitless as the drop was only 18 inches AND he could float.

Time for a rethink, ducky.

Even though I'd no food to offer them, this didn't stop dozens of them approaching me on the off chance that I'd held back some of my ham sandwich. By now it was after 5pm and most people had left the area, and the park, to head home for supper.

I was actually the only person left at the picnic area and so, like some sort of cross between Dr. Doolittle and The Pied Piper, everywhere I went, a plethora of wildlife went with me. Even the clown-like coots tried to keep up.

This handsome little fella (or fellette) went as far as to peck my jean bottoms and so I rewarded his attention by crouching down and taking his photo.

I think you can see a definite mischievous smile. Cheeky chappie.

It was time to head home myself but as I looked back over the huge grass area that led to the bottom exit at the lower end of the park, I saw a family having a bit of a late afternoon picnic in the waning sunshine.

Once again a standard image was improved photogenically by the presence of a small child. Kids and critters. Always a good combination.

Like I said earlier, there weren't many people left in the park and so the birds and ducks had made their way to this family and the little girl was enjoying every moment. Just as I framed the image, she held her arms out to the nearest ducks and turned a good photo into a very good photo. IMHO of course.

This time I didn't ask permission. After looking at the dad, I decided if he came at me, I'd be able to take him !

I could out stroll him any day of the week.

Just then my camera battery gave up the ghost as I'd not recharged it since my canal trip weekend. This trip to the park was a spur of the moment thing and I just grabbed the camera and went.

So I started to walk up the steep path to the top of the park when I'd parked the car. As I went through the forest again, I heard movement in the bushes and a cheeky squirrel ran over my foot. I knew I could get a few more photos out of the 'dead' battery as that's how it goes.

It tells me it needs replacing and I say not yet. It tells me yes. Really.

But I know that if I turn the camera off, I'll get a few more photos out of the battery later.

And so here is cheeky squirrel. The one that didn't get away.

As they often do, he'd scampered up a nearby tree and then, in relative safety, had posed for photos.

My battery allowed me 2 more shots and this was the better one.

And that was it. A nice little trip to a local park on a sunny July afternoon.
I got fresh air, good exercise and about 120 photos.

I was nibbled by a duck, run over by a squirrel and best of all, I wasn't arrested for taking a few photos of kids. Always a bonus.

Yes it was a good day. Tomorrow we're due to get thunder, lightning and plenty of rain.
You really have to make the most of the sunshine here as, unlike with the ducks in Golden Acre Park, you just never know when the next one is coming along.

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