I’m a Rambler……Postcard from Wales

22 04 2012

Quieter Elephant:

Now I live in BC, it’s easy to forget the hard-won rights of access that the UK now enjoys. Even 10 or so years ago, I remember farmers “accidentally” ploughing up paths over their fields to discourage hikers. The “use it or lose it” clause can eventually mean they can remove the path if it remains unused by the public.

Originally posted on dianajhale:

Commemorative plaque of Mass trespass of Kinde...

It is the 80th anniversary of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass in the Peak District which led to the opening up of much of the British countryside to ramblers. Hundreds of people risked imprisonment to walk up the then publicly inaccessible peak of Kinder Scout.

The effects of this remarkable action are still with us today. Many battles have been won but there are still many to fight (see related articles at bottom of post).

A Success Story

The official opening of the All Wales Coastal Path on 5th May will mean Wales will have the first footpath in the world around a whole country’s coastline.

Here is why Lonely Planet made Wales its No 1 world destination for 2012:

What a wonderful thing: to walk the entire length of a…

View original 172 more words

We’ll be glowing in the dark

22 04 2012

So you remember how I said the Mother Mother concert was beyond awesome? No? Then go read it here.

Well it’s not surprising that the somewhat larger budget of Coldplay lent itself to a correspondingly further step beyond awesomicity in Vancouver last night. They have so much sway that the Canucks/LA Kings playoff game was postponed to tonight just so Coldplay could take over Rogers’ Arena, cover the ice with some 8×4’s and rock the joint (I can attest to this latter part from all the heady fumes being wafted my way.) Hopefully the Canucks didn’t waste the extra day… we’re 3:1 down at the moment!

Though the concert was to support the Mylo Xyloto album, there were plenty of old favourites in the nearly two hour show. My favourite “Green Eyes” was not there to share in the mix though, sadly.

We arrived at around 7pm which was the “doors open” time, but there was already a support band in full swing. The Pierces. Meh. Wasn’t too upset we missed most of their set. A bit like a karaoke version of Fleetwood Mac. The sound mix was all to cock, and too distorted. On reflection maybe that was for the best. Anyway, as we entered the venue, we were all asked to take a wrist band. It seemed like a bit of a naff souvenir, but what the hell…

We made our way to our seats in the arena, caught the tail end of The Pierces, and watched the main support band, City and Colour. This is basically Dallas Green (City/Colour, geddit?) from Alexisonfire, and a bunch of rotating musicians. There was a most unlikely suit and tie clad slide guitarist in last night’s lineup. Kudos! I’d not heard any of his stuff before, but it it was interesting enough to track some down, though one or two of the offerings went on a bit…

So then the lights go down and the roadies get the stage together for the main event. During this time, the screens (which were bloody distracting – I had to keep forcing myself to watch the actual band. We are so conditioned to watch screens, George Orwell‘s Big Brother would cream himself) kept showing instructions on how to wear the boring looking bracelets and assuring us they were part of the show. OK – I’m convinced.

Then firstborn sends a text. She and beau have been forcibly ejected from their seats (all the way on the other side of the arena) due to a problem with their tickets! We’d all been barcode-scanned on entry, all the tickets (6 in total – 2 eldest plus their drooling beaus, Mrs Elephant and I: well away on the other side of the show) had been bought via TicketMaster… what could be the issue?

Anyway, it turns out that a Canucks season ticket holder had bought tickets to the Coldplay concert, and he had preferential access for HIS seats. No matter that TicketMaster had already sold them to us. With only 15 minutes to go before the show kicked off for real, and a sold out stadium, this was NOT good news. Thankfully my wife was off dealing with it, otherwise there might have been expletives and RCMP involvement (actually VPD, since Vancouver is too poncy to rely on the RCMP: they need their own police force.) Being Canada though, the lady dealing with seating was all polite and helpful, and firstborn and beau were quickly re-seated with the disabled people in a much superior viewing spot. The only slight downside being that she felt unable to get up and dance when the mood took her, out of consideration of her new permanently-seated neighbours.

So, disaster averted, Mrs E. returned in good time (with a small tub of Häagen-Dazs) to resettle before the show began, and all was well with the world once more. Until she couldn’t get the lid off the ice-cream. I’m ashamed to say that with two degrees and not a little engineering background between us, the removal of the lid took several minutes. No matter – the ice-cream wasn’t too slushy by the time we succeeded, and had returned the blowtorch and wire-cutters.

And then the lights went down and it began…

The wrist bands were actually strings of very bright LEDs – presumably triggered by some RF signal. The entire black stadium erupted into a sea of bright colours as the music began, and the fastest two hours of my life shot past. (Well, not counting those spent on Friday night over drinks).

Chris Martin is a great showman, and parodied the common airline spiel with: “We appreciate you have a choice of entertainment for your Saturday night and are grateful you chose to spend it with us.” At one point, air blowers threw out what appeared from up at the top in the cheap seats to be confetti, but looking at photos from closer in, I now see were tissue paper butterflies! (Oops – update… that was a photo from the Viva la Vida tour in 2009. This year there were a few different shapes.)

Flickr: by spacehindu

There were many visual elements to the show, with UV lighting picking out neon colours in the stage, on the instruments and the band’s casual clothing (no Sgt. Pepper-esque clothes for THIS album!) balloons of the globe were released from the ceiling and at one point large inflatable icons were produced in the galleries to add to the lights. These too included a giant butterfly.

During “God put a smile on your face”, Martin further endeared himself to the local crowd by tweaking the lyrics and assuring us we were going to beat the Kings 4:3 in the play-off series, which obviously went down a storm! There was one awkward moment when he threw his guitar into the air and let it smash down onto the stage. It made for a great slo-mo on the screens, but was very un-Canadian and a waste of an apparently perfectly good guitar!

Yellow was a great number, with the lights obviously being mainly, well, yellow…

Warning Sign had me closing my eyes to “be in the moment”, so I was glad to see someone had posted it to YouTube!

Charlie Brown was VERY colourful, with wristbands being a key part of the rendition, lasers everywhere, neon by the bucketful.

In the end, a very traditional close with a solid 20 minute plus encore beginning from within the crowd where they just suddenly appeared after a quick change into dry T-shirts, and the band eventually all lining up to take their final bow.

For more photos, go and check out Flickr!

The whole setlist is here if you missed it and want to recreate a local facsimile.

By the way, UK street artist “Paris” was key to the entire styling of this album. Read more here.

Fresh 102.7: Coldplay’s Resident Graffiti Artist, Paris – “It’s The Ultimate Dream Job”

Snow Patrol on 30th. Fiona Apple in July (if I can still get tickets and find someone to go with who appreciates her style).

Who says old people got no rhythm? (Don’t answer that…)

The Sexual Politics of Finger Food

21 04 2012

Food and fingers. Finger food.

Been thinking about the deep philosophical connection lately.


I get bored easily. There was nothing on telly. Aw come on – nobody’s making you read this. Stop moaning! OK – stop whining, moaning’s actually totally OK.

Flickr: licking fingers

So regular readers will be aware of my recent trip South of the line. I met some new colleagues for the first time and much flavoured ethanol was imbibed whilst consuming less than healthy food. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. I consider it economic foreign aid, and I sleep guilt-free. Well – a bit.

We ate things with names like “rattlesnake balls”. Thankfully these turned out to be jalapeño flavoured finger food, and not actually anything to do with herpetology. Much conviviality, and good humour with various snake-related travel tales. The deep fried balls of flavour were shared amongst us most politely with the use of forks, and made no particular impression on me at the time. (I usually like to dip jalapeños in habanero sauce just for shits and giggles – sometimes literally). Last night though, I met up with some old friends from my previous company. Folk were in town from Australia, the UK and all over the shop. I ordered nachos for the table and everyone tucked in.

At this point however, I noticed the communal behaviour. I consider myself a Canadian now. Blue passport and everything. However, I was brought up in the UK for several decades and as well as being fond of using words like “whilst”, “petrol” and “lift”, I have a personal space issue. Also table manners. Whilst (see – just can’t help it!) the communal sharing of rattlesnake testicles via fork struck me as unremarkable, I was much more alert to how people were sharing the nachos, since fingers were directly involved.

I think there are some pretty universally accepted behaviours. No “double-dipping” (which prior to moving to Canada I always thought referred to some dodgy sexual activity), which for the still uninformed is actually no more than dipping a chip (fry) or a crisp (chip) into a sauce, biting off the end, then repeating with the same item – thus theoretically sharing your spittle, gonorrhoea or whatever with the assembled group. The fact that the fingers themselves might be unwashed since their recent meeting with an eyebrow, dirty door handle or itchy scrotum does not however seem to cause any concern at all.

An example of a finger cot

An example of a finger cot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So we’re not exactly consistent in what is and is not acceptable group eating behaviour. As well as taking from the group plate, there’s also the possibility that someone may place items on your plate or even directly in your mouth using fingers. Usually items they don’t like and know you do. From general members of the group this is definitely verboten, but from particularly close friends, lovers or relatives this goes without notice as merely not wasting good food (for a given value of “good”), or perhaps even a sensual act. I’m not convinced even these criteria would excuse it if the doner was not of whichever sex you’re into. I look forward to reading thoughts on the matter. Being offered grapes directly to ones mouth seems particularly erotic. But enough – this was a pub, and no unfermented grapes were on offer, alas.

And then there’s the sexual aspect. There’s always been something sexy in watching a woman licking or sucking fingers. Either her own or preferably yours. I’m convinced this is the whole rationale for finger food in the first place – just to give men an excuse to put sticky sauce on food and pretty much guarantee the women in the gathering will be forced to lick their fingers.

And Esquire is always good for a comment on finger sucking too. Click the picture for the vaguely entertaining article.

Esquire: Why women suck mens fingers

She said “Wha’?”

21 04 2012

Just re-acquaniting myself with some Kate Nash music.

If you’re not familiar with her, I recommend “Birds” as a good introduction.

Kate Nash: Birds

She was waiting at the station
He was getting off the train
He didn’t have a ticket
So he had to bum through the barriers again

Well the ticket inspector saw him rushing through
He said “girl you don’t know how much I missed you but
We’d better run ’cause I haven’t got the funds to pay this fine.”
She said “fine”

Well so they ran out of the station and jumped onto a bus
With two of yesterdays travel cards and two bottles of Bud
And he said “you look well nice”

Well she was wearing a skirt
And he thought she looked nice
And yes, she didn’t really care about anything else
‘Cause she only wanted him to think that she looked nice
And he did

But he was looking at her, yeah all funny in the eye
She said “come on boy tell me what you’re thinking
Now don’t be shy.”
He said alright, “I’ll try:

“All the stars up in the sky
And the leaves in the trees
All the broken bits that make you trip up
And grassy bits in between
All the matter in the world is how much I like you.”

She said “what?”
He said “let me try and explain again

“Right, birds can fly so high
And they can shit on your head
And they can almost fly into your eye
And make you feel so scared.
But when you look at them
And you see that they’re beautiful
That’s how I feel about you

Right birds can fly so high
And they can shit on your head,
And they can almost fly into your eye
And make you feel well scared
But when you look at them
And you see that they’re beautiful
That’s how I feel about you
Yeah that’s how I feel about you.”

She said “what?”
He said “you”
She said “what are you talking about?”
He said “you”

Right birds can fly so high
And they can shit on your head
And they can almost fly into your eye
And make you feel so scared.
But when you look at them
And you see that they’re beautiful
That’s how I feel about you

Right birds can fly so high
And they can shit on your head
And they can almost fly into your eye
And make you feel well scared.
But when you look at them
And you see that they’re beautiful
That’s how I feel about you
Right, that’s how I feel about you

She said “thanks, I like you too”
He said “cool”

Salt Lake City

19 04 2012

So I’m not what you might call “religious”. Well, I suppose you you could, (it being more than likely that you live in a free-ish country if they let you even access this web site), but you’d be wrong.

I actually have a lot of respect for people who have a personal spiritual faith. We all have faith in our lives, just not necessarily a spiritual one. I mean – think about it. When you drive down the street, you inherently have faith that everyone else out there steering 1/2 tonne machines will stay to their side of the road. When your faith turns out to not be well founded, the results can be a bit, well, “messy”.

But people who have a sincere spiritual faith go beyond that. They believe their lives have meaning beyond the transportation and reproduction of genes. I don’t have to agree with them to have respect for their views. [Unless they're dogmatic - I have issues with dogma, be it religious or company "rules is rules" merchants. They tend to make me take a contrary stance even if I actually agree with their core message. Blindly following anything is a dangerous step towards giving up free will. Remember how irritating it was when your dad always said "'Because I said so!" in response to you asking "Why?"]

And let’s face it, the Earth would be a bloody boring rock to sail through space on if everybody had the same opinion – even allowing for rampant and squidgy sex.

Anyway, my point is that I draw a distinction between “faith” (respect), and “religion” (not so much). Organised religion tells you HOW to have faith. That’s like telling you HOW to love someone. Yeah, right.

All this as a rather tortuous lead-up to sharing my thoughts on my recent trip to Salt Lake City (SLC). I was there for work, which tends to help when visiting new places. Someone else is picking up the bill, and though it can restrict where you go and what you get to see, you do at least get to go to places you might not have chosen for yourself. This opens up the potential for surprises – both pleasant and otherwise.

So, if you didn’t already know, SLC was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and his Mormon followers. I guess they were big downhill skiing fans. Or maybe snow-boarders.

Contrary to commonly held belief though, less than half of the current population are members of this particular branch of Christianity.

Salt Lake City - Salt Lake Temple

Salt Lake City - Salt Lake Temple (Photo credit: Kwong Yee Cheng)

I had several business meetings during my visit, and one senior person asked me how I found the place. Resisting a parody of George Harrison‘s flippant Beatles-era response to “How did you find America?” which was something along the lines of  “We turned left at Greenland”, I gave a politically correct, neutral response. It turned out he himself was not a Mormon but characterised the church’s membership as being highly family oriented, hard-working, and generally unlikely to stray far from their roots. As he pointed out – there are plenty of worse communities for a non-member to live within!

Indeed, I found the whole place to be generally clean and not at all unpleasant, though I did notice the disproportionately high number of police cars I have come to associate with pretty much every US town I have ever visited. Unlike taxis, I might add! I was told I’d have to wait at least 15 minutes for a taxi from the hotel to take me the 1.5miles to the office. Were it not raining like the Vancouver I’d so recently left, I might very well have walked it.

Which brings me on to the last strand of tonight’s tale – the hotel. I was meeting up with some new colleagues from another office. I’d never met them before, and they were flying in from another US city. I’d been told their hotel, but unfortunately it was fully booked, and I’d had to find an alternative. Google helped out and I found one by the name of “Crystal Inn“. This turned out to be a local chain, and was excellent value. It was around $80 a night, included a great cooked breakfast, and best of all… the hotel shuttle took me right to the office every morning. Even better, the friendly red-headed young lady on the reception (who doubled as shuttle driver), insisted that if I was struggling to get back to the hotel, I should just give them a call, and they’d come and pick me up.

Crystal Inn, Murray, Utah

Obviously, being male, I’d like to believe that this attention was all due to my magnetic personality, my wit, charm, and possibly my dodgy English accent. However, in truth, I believe it was actually no more than sound customer service and potentially one more aspect of the Mormon community. I would stay there again in a heartbeat, and when all’s said and done, that’s what customer service is all about: good repeat business.

The Crystal Inn chain, I am reliably told, is named after a lady called, er, well Crystal obviously. Her father was allegedly a successful local oil refinery and petrol station owner with an eye for a good location – be it for a filling station or a hotel. He gave her the money to start her own business, and hotels were her choice. It became very successful by all accounts and she ultimately took over the oil business too.

The only downside I found to SLC was the rather arcane liquor laws. At least they have them now, I suppose. I am well into my 40s and was carded for the first time ever. It was quite amusing to watch the less than stellar intellect of a bar server try and work out why my BC driver’s license wouldn’t scan into her US-oriented barcode reader. Eventually she decided it wasn’t worth the effort. The bartender himself impressed me by knowing what a Caipirinha was, though admitted I would be unlikely to find one within the state.

Prior to the Salt Lake Olympics, I understand finding alcohol was harder than finding rocking horse shit. Not to mention coffee, or a decent cup of tea. Stimulants, you see? Dogma…

On the other hand, I think SLC must have the world’s greatest dentists judging by the amount of root beer that gets consumed there. By the bucket.

Anyway, the experience at one local bar & grill taught our little cluster of new friends that (i) you can drink as much beer (I use the word loosely – it was all 4%) as you like at the bar, but (ii) if one of your number might prefer wine instead, you need to decamp to the restaurant area. Once there, you learn that (iii) though you can now purchase anything from the wider drinks menu, (iv) you can only have ONE drink unless (v) you purchase food you don’t actually want, whereupon (vi) they will bring you enough of it to feed several families of starving Biafrans. Each.

Also – we discovered that they’ve never heard of port (or “polt” as the young lady translated my guttural English accent), and Angostura bitters (despite being an ingredient of things on their drinks list) were up there with fairy dust.

So – not what you’d call a holiday destination (at least outside of the skiing season), but definitely not a place to actively avoid… unless you’re hooked on soda water with bitters.

Vancouver Sun Run

14 04 2012

So when I foolishly signed up for the Sun Run, I didn’t actually expect to have to RUN.

But now both daughters, their associated beaus and the good lady wife have signed up it looks like I’ll actually have to try hard. That and the fact my previous company paid my entrance fee! Duty bound and all that.

It’s Canada’s biggest 10km run, and has been going since 1985. (Not the same race, you understand… even I won’t take 27 years to finish!!)

I realistically signed up for the 1hr+ group it being my first time and all (wha?!), but was mortified to learn that my daughter’s less than fit boyfriend put himself in the sub-1hr group. I’m the one who actually hit the gym reasonably often (well more than once anyway), not him! Now, as we say in masculine parlance: “it’s on!” Instead of merely concentrating on not finishing up in a vehicle with blue flashing lights and sucking on an oxygen mask, I now have to actually try and prove my alpha male superiority over the youth who’s having carnal knowledge of my first-born. (Allegedly).

As for second-born – that’s an easier challenge. She’d easily be in the sub-1hr group, except her boyfriend recently had his wisdom teeth removed and has stitches as a result (I offered to pay the doctor to remove them via his scrotum, but was turned down). Apparently the stitches could pop if he gets his blood up, and has been forbidden to run. They’ll therefore skip gaily around the course, (no doubt hand in hand) in well over an hour.

Depending on whether first-born feels she should stay with her man, or (more likely) gun it for the line, that leaves only Mrs Elephant out of the estimated 40,000 starters that I need to try and beat. Fat chance too!!

The weather looks set to be reasonable, it’ll be a grand day out, and I subsequently get to wear the T-shirt for ever more to say “I was there”. Unlike the camping at -30C, this feels like something I won’t feel the urge to repeat. (Unless there’s lots of scantily clad women, in which case all bets are off).

Wish me luck. I’ll wave, if you watch it on TV!


9 04 2012

No, this one ISN’T April Fool’s!

After the Kodak “print-a-kitten“, I discovered you really CAN print 3D in… chocolate.

No more is 3D printing limited to plastic bangles or prototyping of engineering samples. Now it can do useful things… in edible chocolate. Check out ChocEdge.com


Source – Time Magazine

Stiff upper lip and all that, eh? What?

8 04 2012

Once upon a lifetime I worked for a company that was acquired by Kodak. Big company culture didn’t seem to suit yours truly and I left. Not long after, the graphs at Kodak all started pointing South. Pure coincidence BTW!

Anyway, I was pleased to see that despite their recent financial troubles, Kodak still has a few folk in Marketing with a sense of humour. On April 1st, they “launched” a product line called “LivePrint”. A very novel idea! Click the photo for more on the story.

7 04 2012

I don’t know. You click here, you click there, and you end up in places you find interesting. Nuff said.
This posting reminded me of just how well the Marketing Department at Tiffany’s have done over the years. Audrey Hepburn‘s spirit being the obvious attraction. I have known women who have positively gone moist at the mere hint of a pale blue bag though. No matter what the contents ultimately turn out to be. Sadly the bags themselves are now made in China and the ink smells funny.
Their in-store catalogues are free and full of pretty photographs though, if you’ve left your wallet at the office…
Ask nicely and they might let you have a bag to put it in.

A Walk in the Park

6 04 2012

Today started out sunny, so Mrs Elephant and I went for a drive into town to VanDusen Gardens off Oak St. Being BC it was no surprise that moments after we’d paid the very reasonable entrance fee and entered the gardens proper, the heavens delivered a little “liquid sunshine”. For the second time so far this Spring I was treated to that unique smell of fresh rain on expectant earth. It only happens when the rain starts gently, and leaves once the rain gets into its stride. If there are short light April Showers though, you can get multiple moistenings. As it were.

Onwards then…

So, much the the annoyance of Mrs E., I took along my trusty box brownie, and captured a few images of the day. We stopped after an hour or so for a bite to eat in “Truffles”, the café in the newly renovated entrance building. I had a very tasty panini (“Italian Sampler”) with a beetroot/goats cheese/pecan nut salad on the side. MOTEAS’s Earl Grey with rose as the tea accompaniment, and all was bliss in the QE GI tract.

Entertainment was provided by the age-mismatched couple on the next table. The younger lady being quite clear that his priorities were (i) work, (ii) hobbies and (iii) her. Words like “nurturing” were being used and personally, I think he’d probably made the right priority choices, given how readily scowls came to her countenance. She was way too caught up in herself, and though he was plainly in it for the fantastic sex (she was no conversationalist, but was undeniably lithe), his calm and measured voice spoke volumes. Subtext along the “I see your lips moving, but am not hearing anything rational” lines. Prior to this, he’d attentively acquired them a table and gathered chairs for a window view. Offered to get tea and nourishment. Yet whilst he was off hunting wildebeest and fine tea she had furtively texted some other party. On his return he’d asked “So what was it you’d like to talk about?” and been bombarded with a detailed list of his supposed faults. As one might expect from his English accent, he just sipped his tea and politely let her talk until her piece was said.

I don’t doubt for one split second that couples with age differences north of 10 years can live very harmonious lives together. In the same way that couples with only months of difference can run out of energy to put up with each other. But from the outset they need to accept that there is not just a gulf in age, but of expectations, experiences, values, and much more besides. These two seemed to share a taste in tea and culture, but she was plainly not interested in providing enough of those “soft” attractions that would move her up his list of things to spend effort on, beyond of course, the purely hypothetical fantastic sex. She wanted to be the centre of attention, and he looked successful and sounded well-cultured (despite being English :) ). Well experienced in gaining stimulation by way of many things beyond a mid-afternoon bed-ruffling, I wouldn’t doubt.

Who knows? Perhaps if she was concerned more about the real him instead of his bank account, he’d naturally be more interested in understanding what made her tick, instead of whether his yacht was ready for the season. Peeling back the layers of her psyche because she interested him as a human being – not just a horizontal acrobat. I suspect in this particular case he’d have hit bedrock pretty quickly though. The veneer looked pretty thin from where I sat, and I suspect there weren’t many layers to discover new aspects beneath.

My view… age can indeed be a barrier in a relationship, but when two souls intertwine, they’re ageless. They’re not interested in getting, only giving, and if the balance isn’t right, the house of cards falls in a heap. If it is equal though, the world stops every time their eyes meet. They might even have sex sometimes. On a yacht.

We left before this couple concluded their discussion. I wish them both well. I suspect they’ll go their separate ways, and both be happier for that.

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