Monday, December 25, 2006

Staff party for Santa's Little Helpers

On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus harnesses up his sleigh and sets off on a very long journey to deliver gifts to all the boys and girls who have been good.

After working so hard through the year, preparing all the presents, Santa's little helpers finally get a chance to relax and let their hair down a bit.

I think I may have gate crashed that party!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ring ding dingaling ling

On Saturday morning my radio alarm awoke me from my slumbers at an un-Godly hour. I lay there, listening to some American rock ballad, without really waking up. A few minutes later the alarm on mt mobile phone goes off, and I remember that I am going on holiday today.
I got up quickly, jumped in the shower, got dressed had a cup of coffee, then I locked up the apartment, jumped in a taxi to the Airport Express station. I was glad that I had had the foresight to check in on Friday evening, as the check in counters were very busy. I took the train to the airport, and the queues there were even worse, but that is only to be expected at the start of the holidays. There was even quite big lines for the electronic immigration barrier for Hong Kong residents.
The flight with Dragon Air to Phuket was uneventful, and being a direct flight, I was happy to travel so quickly. Two other flights had landed just before ours, so I had to wait a while to clear immigration and collect my suitcase. Once I had those and had a cigarette outside I was ready to go to the resort.
Its good to be back in Patong, and all the hotel staff greeted me warmly. I showered and went out for a massage at a hut by the side of the road. I was quite sleepy under the ministrations of the lady, and every now and again she would touch me on the shoulder and whisper “excuse me, Sir, please, turn over”. It was great and set me up nicely for the holiday. I then went and had some phad thai, washed down with a couple of bottles of Heineken, and went back to my room for a siesta.
I had planned to go eat at one of my favourite outside restaurants, but for reasons that I still can’t quite work out myself, I ended up going straight to the Kangaroo Bar. One of the girls greeted me with a big grin of recognition. We ended up playing a few games of four-in-a-row. Although, I managed to avoid a white wash defeat, I was soundly defeated. After that I headed for Soi Eric, and a bar run by a Swedish friend. When I got there Nicke wasn’t there, but his delightful Thai wife Ead was, dressed in a red Chinese dress. She looked quite a picture. When Nicke arrived, he asked if I wanted to play backgammon, and he brought out a board, and I beat him a couple of times, which made up for losing at four-in-a-row. Nicke is a great host but he does like to hand out shooters. These come in two flavours: Black Death or Fisherman’s Friends. Although these go down quite easily, they are quite potent, so I didn’t hang around.
At the next place I went to, I bumped into Peanut. She was a little bit non-plussed by my arrival, but we had a good natter, and it seems that everything is fine with her life. After a few more drinks, I was well and truly sizzled. Peanut took full advantage of this situation, and ended up coming back to my hotel for the night. This was not the start of the holiday that I planned, or even envisaged, but I have to admit that Xmas is looking up.
Merry Christmas to my eight readers, and anyone else who happens to be passing

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ju Dong

Winter solstice has arrived, which means the shortest day and the longest night. I read somewhere that people celebrated the winter solstice, just in case the days didn't start to get longer again, and carried on getting shorter. The Mesopotamians had a twelve day festival, designed to help the god Marduk tame the monsters of chaos for one more year.
The main thing, it seems to me, here in Hong Kong, is that we all get to go home early - my office will close at three o'clock. This is the first time I have been in Hong Kong close to Christmas, and its certainly different to the UK.
For instance, in England you can't get close to a bank or ATM on the last weekday before Xmas, because of the crowds; here, I have never seen my local HSBC so quiet.
In England you have to put up with Cliff Richard singing "Mistletoe and Wine" only when you venture out to the shops, or if your local boozer has a totally naff jukebox. I am sure that that song has been banned by most radio stations. Here, we are constantly subjected to Christmas tunes, not only in the shopping malls, but even in the toilets in my office block.
But the main thing for me, is how quiet the place is. I suppose a lot of people travel back to their home countries to be with their families, or just go on holiday.
That is what I will be doing; tomorrow I fly to Phuket with the recently restarted Dragonair service. Why am I going back to Phuket. Well for me, Patong is a bit like Blackpool on steroids, but I have learned that when you venture aq short distance away from the tourist traps and tacky souvenir shops, you will find wonderful seafood restaurants ( I use the term loosely ), a really relaxing atmosphere, and a great beach. However the real gem of the place is the wonderfully friendly people. I have been to Phuket many times both before and after the tsunami, and I would say the place has improved a lot since the tsunami. I am glad to see that the tourists are returning to this nirvana, so that the people can make a living there. And I am even more glad that there is a direct flight - thank you Dragon Air!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Extra virgin

Extra-virgin: Beyond the qualifications for virgin, the oil must exhibit the finest flavour and aroma that its variety of olive and degree of ripeness is capable of producing. And it must contain not more than 0.8 percent of free fatty acids. Fatty acids, which break off from the fat molecules, generally have unpleasant flavors.
So this is extra-virgin olive oil, its not cheap. Some people say it’s a good pain killer, some people say its healthy, I say its hype. Look, at home I don’t eat salads, if I am going to eat something I will cook it, so I will use Mazola, or something else, I am not going to waste good dosh on something that claims to have “the finest aroma and flavour”, if all I am going to do is fry some chicken or fish in it. Of course there are olive oil snobs, “oh we will only buy our olive oil, when we are in Tuscany. The whole area is exceptional for oil and it has the top Chianti Classico producers. Also, I enjoy shopping in the villages, I like to go to Pisa and Florence. I'm always on the lookout for new things to bring back. Salamis can often be hand-made and if you really search, particularly in the markets, you can find some fabulous ones. You might taste a really sweet finocchiona salami with subtle fennel, made so big that one huge beautiful slice is the size of a plate. Wild boar products, dried white beans and chickpeas - this year's - I'm always looking for those.” Makes me want to puke, what’s wrong with Park’n’shop or Tescos?

So you have this stuff, cold-pressed is even more expensive, and people like it – great put it in a fancy looking bottle and they will pay more! Even better lets dilute it with some other oils they won’t know the difference! So now all the shops are doing it, selling cheap olive oil as top quality, because it comes in a fancy bottle. So your clever marketing man has to come up with a new idea… Eureka! We will stick some things in the bottle, like garlic, chillis or herbs, and we can say our extra virgin olive oil enfused with whatever, and we can charge even more for it. What utter bollox.

So, now, you have a clear picture of my feelings on fancy bottles of olive oil, with things stuck in the bottle, right?

Last night, I cooked a chilli-con-carne for P at my apartment. I did all the cooking the night before, as I believe a CCC tastes better after one or two days. Like all good guests, she came armed with a gift (and what is all that about? I asked her around for a meal, because I want to share my meal with her. All I want is her thanks, not some gift that I don’t need and she probably didn’t want to waste the time buying). The gift was, that’s right, a fancy bottle of “Gourmet Lovers exta virgin, cold pressed olive oil with chilli and mint”. Aaaaarghhhhh.

Oh, well next time I buy some lamb chops, they can be fried in the stuff.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fame is the Echo of actions....

Freedom, tolerance and liberty are fine sentiments in an open society, but when the anti-social activities of a minority are allowed to blemish the peace and tranquillity of the general public, then something needs to be done.
Last night, I was in Carnegies, helping to celebrate P’s birthday. As P had her work’s Xmas dinner last night, she didn’t turn up until a bit later. When I got there, the quiz was going on, and the bar was fairly busy, including some crew from HMS Echo, who were enjoying themselves in a sensible manner.
After the quiz finished, two groups of girls came into the bar, first some western girls, who were celebrating their friends last night in Hong Kong. Another group of Asian girls turned up, who were quite merry and obviously enjoying themselves. These girls asked if they could dance on the bar, so the brass guard rails were put up ready for the gyrations of these lovely ladies. Well, when I say lovely ladies, there was one exception, who reminded me of Trace from two fat slags in Viz magazine, but I digress.
One of these girls made it onto the bar, and started dancing. The matelots thought this was great and about four of them decided to dance on the bar as well. One in particular was very unsteady on his feet, and nearly fell off the bar a couple of times. This same person thought it would be absolutely hilarious to get the soda siphon and squirt the bar maid. NOT a good idea. He was immediately thrown out of the bar, and his mates shortly afterwards.
In my opinion, one of the main problems is the lack of education about alcohol in the UK:- we have sex education, classes on the dangers of drugs, government warnings about smoking, but, nothing to advise youngsters on the short and long term affects of excessive drinking. Every year at Christmas the government launches a very expensive advertising campaign against drink driving, but I think this money would be better spent educating children on the dangers of alcohol.
Having watched members of the US navy on shore leave here, behaving so well (OK, I know about the fight in Joe Bananas, when the Enterprise was here, but I didn’t see it), I felt that having had a few drinks the behaviour of these people from HMS Echo was disgraceful. Yes, the incident with the soda siphon was only mucking around, but generally, there language was foul and offensive, with every other word starting with a F.
Of course these guys, should be able to go ashore and enjoy themselves, but they should also remember that they are ambassadors of the Royal Navy, and last night it was not a pretty sight.
P really liked her present though.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Schrödinger's cat

Don't worry, I am not going to start blogging about quantum physics, but I will tell you about my Saturday night.

I arranged to meet up with P at Carnegies at about 10pm. She had asked me if I wanted to accompany her to a display of modern jazz dancing, but, I had declined, as it probably wasn't my cup of tea. She then sent me a message saying that traffic was very heavy, and she might be late - this was around 8pm. I headed out about 9pm, and there was no problem with the traffic.

When I got to the bar, it was fairly quiet, so I managed to secure a stool close to the beer taps. Because it was quiet I managed to have a bit of fun with the waitresses and bar staff, and the evening was going well. By about 11pm there was no sign of P, and I had almost given up on her. I went to the loo, and when I came back she was sat on the stool next to mine.

We had a good natter about this and that, she seems a lot more relaxed than the previous weekend when she was getting problems at work. A bunch of about ten guys walked in wearing dinner jackets, and P said that she thinks I would look good in a tuxedo. I explained to her that I would never make the faux pas of wearing a wrist watch with a dj, as most of these guys seemed to be doing. "Oh, so they have no class!" she says. I don't know about class, but the style guru would have a fit if he saw these guys.

Then the dj (disc jockey not dinner jacket) started playing a whole load of heavy metal tunes, presumably for the guy in the black ramones t-shirt, which afetr a while did the trick and drove us off to 109. 109 was fairly quiet as well, and we spent a couple of hours there. Then it was time to take P home.

I have already told my readers about the bijou apartment P lives in, but I may not have mentioned her psychotic cat before. I have not seen this beast, but I have heard its sounds and seen the blanket under which it hides, move about in a ferocious manner. I have also seen the claw marks that stand as a monument to the cats nature, even to the person that feeds it.

P invited me up to her apartment, and it was fairly obvious that she was hot for a serious bit of hanky-panky, but the idea of making love in an over sized coffin shared with a demented feline was not my idea of a good time. I suggested that she came back to my flat, but she said she couldn't do that.

Having seen her to the front door of her building, and said good night, I headed off to Neptune. By now it was about three in the morning, and I thought the place may be thinning out a bit - far from it, it was fairly busy. I spotted Hera, who secured us a couple of stools at the bar. She told me she was very happy, because she was going home for a couple of weeks over Christmas.

I suppose I must have been there slightly over an hour, but not seeing anything that tickled my fancy, I headed off home alone.

I don't know if my refusal to go to P's apartment last night was a reluctance on my side not to move this relationship on to the next step; sometimes I am not sure about P, she does have mood swings and comes with a fair ammount of baggage, or was I really not fond of the cat? The cat lives under a blanket in a shoe box appartment, would it mind being shut in a smaller box, while P and I have some fun on the bed? Anyway if P doesn't come to my apartment then I think I will have to recreate Schrödinger's experiment.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Just too busy

The lack of posts last week was due to overindulgence of work, food, wine and ... Well let's not go there. The band at the shangri-la in Dalian turned out to be very mediocre, indeed with a limitted repertoire, and aloofness that did not endear them to the customers and a penchant for free drinks from the bar. Somehow I think that their contract will not be renewed when it expires.
One evening, our translator, Wendy asks if I want to go out with her for a drink. Knowing that she is married, I wonder what is going on, but accept her invitation. She takes me for a tour to see the sights of the city at night. Dalian hasn't many great sites and it doesn't help that its a foggy evening so you can hardly see anything. Then we head to this bar in town, that seems to be decorated as a skilodge with a palm tree and a glitter ball in the middle. The palm tree and the glitter ball marks the area of the stage where the band plays, and the bar staff go to sing their songs. Wendy, as usual is drinking water, whilst I try some dark beer called, Haida. Its a little bit sweet, but goes down OK. We listen to a few songs, half chinese, half english songs whose original singers have now died or been killed in plane crashes, etc. It turns out that Wendy wants to apologise for some imagined mistake with the Malaysian visas of our staff that she was trying to arrange. I had already told her that it wasn't her fault so just told her it wasn't a big problem. After a couple of beers I let her get home to her husband and her dog.
The next night was the big banquet type meal that we always do when we are there. The usual unimaginable food like drunken prawns, sea slug, etc Toasts going round ther table with rice wine, etc. Not too bad I must be getting used to them!
Got back into Hong Kong yesterday, and it was great to be back. I was too tired to go out, but will probably head out this evening.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Big Connection

I arrived here on Sunday, after a quicker than usual flight, so on arrival my usual driver wasn’t there to meet me. As I came out of the arrivals hall this Chinese man comes over towards me. Next minute, a Chinese soldier comes over and shoves him hard in the chest, away from me. A couple of minutes later he is been bundled into a grey van, and being whisked off to who-knows-where. I guess he was some kind of illegal taxi tout or something.

Eventually my driver turns up, and I am safely driven to the Shangri-La Hotel. After a quick shower, I felt like a beer so I headed to the bar in the basement that goes by the name F2. I like this bar for various reasons, only one of which is the delightful totty there. As I have mentioned before, there are some beautiful women in Dalian.

Sunday night is usually quiet, probably due to it being the bands night off, and tonight wasn’t different, but there was still six staff working there. All these staff are very, pretty, well, apart from the single barman. Although it was the band’s night off the was a DJ playing tunes and a video wall showing a film of the hotel’s band “Masterplan”. Now I have a feeling of deja-vu, watching this showing. I think this is the same band that was playing at the hotel I lived at in Jakarta a couple of years ago. This feeling grew stronger when I heard that the band was from Canada, and one of the singers was from South Africa. Oh well, no doubt I will be able to confirm or deny this tonight.

A couple of the girls in the bar approached me for a chat, and to try and to get me to allow them to give me a massage. Ha, fat chance girls, there are a lot more beautiful people than you around. A bit strong maybe, but when you can afford a Ferrari, you don’t settle for a Mazda, or do you?

Then, the Ferrari drove up and parked herself on the bar stool next to me. I had met C a few months ago, and we had a great time chatting about the last time we met. Then I realized that it was nearly midnight, and time to go to bed. C wanted to come with me, but this time I declined. I am not sure if I can resist all week.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friday on my mind

So, P wanted to meet up in SoHo last night. Now, SoHo is not a place I have ever visitted in the evening, so I had no idea of a good place to meet up - I gave her the chance to choose, but, no, it had to be my choice. A quick search on the WWW and I suggested Stauntons, to which she agreed.
I left my joint about twenty minutes early and the first taxi driver didn't want to know, but the next driver would take me to SoHo although he didn't know where I wanted to go. He drops me off near the escalator, and having no idea where I was I decided to up. Bad move, but, one that I soon corrected. I got a text from P saying she was stuck in traffic. Apparently there was some kind of smash on Cotton Tree Drive, and all the traffic was backed up through Central. Don't worry, I responded I am lost. Having sent the text I looked about twenty yards away and there was Staunton's.
As it was still happy hour, it was fairly busy, no seats available but I found a place near the bar. I was quite impressed with the place nice atmosphere, pleasant customers and some appealling eye candy to boot. Soon P turned up looking like .... well I don't quite know what, but she was a complete contrast to all the other smartly dressed people in there.
We had a really pleasant evening, and just as I was getting into my stride, they went and closed the bar! WTF bars don't close in Hong Kong, do they? Well yes they do in SoHo at 11pm!
We decided to stroll down to LKF, which, as you could expect at that time on a Friday night was absolutely heaving. So I dragged P into Bulldogs, which was an oasis of relative calm, and we managed to secure a couple of seats on their balcony.
Nothing of note happened in Bulldogs, but their was quite a party going on in the bar opposite - the best hamburger bar, I call it, but I am sure that's not the name.
P was getting more pissed, and quite flirty; however, she looked as if she was at the stage where she would either pass out, throw up or both, so I got her to go home, telling her I was staying out a bit later. So quite a boring end of the evening. I did toy with the idea of heading down to Wanch, but discretion being the better part of valour I decided to head home.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hot Dog at MacDonald's

Well I decided to get my once a month fix of reconstituted chiken, served between two halves of a stale bun today. I don't know why I bother, but then again, I will be eating in China next week!
Anyway I was sat at a table munching away, when I spot a small furry face peering out at me from a large handbag! That's right the lady sat at the table next to me had stuck her pooch in her handbag, and come to eat her lunch at Macdonald's.
Every time a member of staff came past the dog pushed back into the bag. It can't have been very comfortable for the dog.
I hope when the lady comes back in her next life she comes back as a pooch and is forced to live in a handbag.

Off to Stauntons Wine Bar tonite. Never been there before. Lets hope the weather stays fine so I can go out and take some photos tommorrow.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tooled up for the school run?

Waiting for my bus each morning, I mingle with the children on their way to one of Hong Kong’s better learning establishments. I will let other commentators talk about people driving their children three hundred yards to school, or maids carrying the chidrens school bags, but something of interest caught my eye this morning.
A very tatty looking BMW 3 series with two men in the front draws up near the bus stop, and the front passenger gets out of the car. He is short and stocky, wearing a loose black jacket that could conceal any kind of armament, and he has a good look around him before he opens the rear passenger door. Out of the back of the car climbs a child, probably about twelve years old, and visibly, no different from any other child going to school this morning.
Whilst the child walks past the bus queue and the ten yards to the entrance of the school, the man is casting a wary eye on all the people around him. When his eyes reach mine, they hold a menace in them that says “what are you looking at?”. I hold his stare.
Once the child is safely inside the school, the man gets back into the car, and it drives off, mingling with all the other traffic.
So, who is this child, that merits this special attention, and who was this body guard, some kind of plain clothes policeman or someone more sinister?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cold as ice

Last night I finally managed to visit the Foreign Correspondents Club, at the top of Ice House Street. I had been asked, previously, to lunch there, but, because my host to be was a member of the press, and due to the old adage of there being no such thing as a free lunch, I had declined that chance - perhaps a bit foolishly.
I travel past the FCC most days on the bus to work, and it has always intrigued me what it might look like inside, so when received an invitation to the Christmas party for the International Guild of Plumbers, Pipe and Sprinklerfitters, I was happy to accept.
The poarty was held on the balcony bar which is enclosed in glass and steel, quite a paradox to the ancient facade of the building. The food and drink service was as exemplary, as you would expect from this establishment. Although, it was a party, I was not in the mood for drinking and kept to the orange juice, probably a mistake, as if I had been drinking I may have enjoyed the company a little more. There were a couple of people there that I knew, but on the whole most people there were new to me.
After a couple of hours, I had about as much as I could take from this bunch of sycophants, so I headed down to LKF for some light relief and some ale.
It seems that P will not be coming on holiday with me, as she has some issues at work that she needs to sort out. In some ways, I am glad, but on the other hand it would have been fun to have someone to share the time with. Of course it is easy to find company in Phuket if you want to.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Its great to be back!

Yesterday afternoon, I got back to Hong Kong, after my 3 1/2 week tour of northern Europe. Its so good to be back, especially after a very mediocre flight with Bloody Aweful Airways, but let's not be negative!
I got home, and made a start on all the washing I have to do, then in the evening met up with P at Carnegies. We had a really nice evening, chatting about nothing in particular.
She took me to a soup kitchen near her apartment, and I had a bowl of beef brisket soup with noodles, which was really nice. P told me the shop has been under the same families management for many years, which must mean something.
P wants to come to Phuket with me at Christmas, which would be fun, and its her birthhday soon, so I will have to find her a nice present.
Anyway its great to be back!