Tuesday 31 July 2012


After all the excitement of the Olympics the rest of the weekend was given over to relaxation.

There was one nagging doubt about things though. I have been thinking about it for some time now and concluded that if I didn’t do something about it now, it would be too late.

I live beside the seaside. I even have a sea “glimpse” from my upstairs window. I have always loved water hence living on a canal boat for ten years when the show came from Birmingham. Water I find very calming and relaxing.

I also like swimming. So why not put the two together?

Every year without fail I have a paddle or two. A gentle saunter along the prom with the Dark Lady who also loves the seaside, water and swimming, and it occurred to me that we should test the water. The sun was peeping out from behind the clouds and it was a warm day. So by dint of a quick check we scuttled to the water's edge and I dipped a toe in.

We then headed off to the Old Town to collect a nice big fat crab to enjoy later. Crab dressing is my signature dish (fill in usual gags about frocks and tights etc).

The water had had time to heat up as it does during the summer, so when we got back home I announced “I’m going swimming”.

And I did.

After the initial shock it was lovely. It has been twelve years since my last dip in British coastal waters, and I had better not leave such a gap before the next time in case the shock kills me!

Monday 30 July 2012


The Dark Lady is the sports fan in our family. Having been a long time QPR supporter she is also patriotic, without the "little Englander" tendencies I'm delighted to report.

Although I was interested in the idea of the Olympics, I wasn't all that fussed about tickets. So when she applied and failed to get any, I wasn't too fussed although we are both now seething at the masses of empty seats. Tickets you/we could have had.

With her job though, she was very lucky to be invited to the opening ceremony rehearsal although she refused to divulge any of its contents to me. She is also at the gymnastics today.

With this in mind we sat down to watch the opening ceremony. We watched every second of it and she got to wave the flag I bought her. I was also in charge of "snacks". We needed them as we didn't miss a second.

I was transfixed. I still don't really care much for sport, however it was with huge emotion and pride that we watched Danny Boyle's vision of the UK unfold in front of the eyes of the waiting world.

I only have two caveats and they probably say more about me than being a problem with the games.

1) I remember as a boy the teams marching into the stadium, smartly dressed, in step. Proud and yet respectful. Instead we got what looked like the cast of "The Only Way Is Essex" out on the lash Friday night, chewing gum, waving video cameras and phones and yelling "hello mum" into the TV cameras.

2) Why do we make impossible demands on our athletes? Commentators spend hours agonising over their form and building unrealistically high expectations, then when they limp in seventh we are disappointed. I thought one of the basic tenets of the Olympics was "it's not the winning it's the taking part".

We should remember we are British and are hosting the best games in history. (This from a non-sport type person.)

When the Italians won the archery, beating the U.S into second place, I logged onto an American chatroom. It was full of vile anti-Italian abuse.

Err excuse me pea-brains. It's sport. They were better on the day. Get over it!

Thursday 26 July 2012


In my role as "Wonderhusband" (a title I thought up myself with no confirmation nor approval from the Dark Lady)...

...it has fallen to me to wait in for various workmen and delivery people, as we strive to get the house sorted in time for the Olympics and the enormous amount of TV and associated coverage.

As a household of four including a thirteen year old boy who is often in his bedroom playing internet shoot em up games and a sixteen year old girl who is often in her bedroom on Facebook or probably something "way cooler", we need a lot of broadband.

Our existing system wasn't up to scratch. A new box was needed, so it fell to me to wait for the man.

"Sometime between eight and one" we were promised.

"That'll be one" I said.

8:15. Children still sparko. Wife at work. I had to let him in and help shift the furniture to help him gain access to all the relevant sockets.

With that all working, it was at that moment that the satellite system decided to give up the ghost.

"Sometime between eight and one" we were told.

"That'll be one" I said.

Children sparko. Wife needing to rouse them for a collective dental appointment at eleven. I was detailed to surface at 10.30 in order to police the last part of the satellite engineer watch, in case as expected he hadn't arrived by then.

I didn't get much sleep anyway, as it seems Thursday is gardening day. Everyone was out from the crack with their mowers, leaf blowers, strimmers and hedge trimmers. It sounded like a speedway meeting.

I roused myself to discover the man had been and gone, with everything all fixed leaving me to sit and watch Camper Van Crisis in peace.

Now due to my "intervention", all the technology in the house was working save for the DL's laptop. It wouldn't accept the new broadband wireless connection that had just been installed, despite repeatedly rekeying the appropriate codes.

So it was over to Wonderhusband.

Seventeen minutes on the phone to a man in Mumbai and we had lift off.

This was the life. Trouble? I can sort it. Off down the pub to celebrate.

Uh oh! Of the three lagers, two have now run out. The delivery that should have arrived yesterday didn't.

I may have to offer my services before the entire neighbourhood goes thirsty!

Wednesday 25 July 2012


It can be hard and I'm as guilty as many of being sour at times. With the Olympics there comes a whole raft of niggling irritations that I hope will disappear when the games get properly underway.

I'm glad the women's football started before the opening ceremony as they garnered some much needed publicity. However, I doubt they'll get much of a look-in in the papers when the track events start.

The cynic in me wonders why we even need football in the first place as there is the world cup anyway.

Likewise beach volleyball. Who is watching it for the skill or due to national pride?

There was a tabloid scare story that if the weather was too cold, the athletes may have to cover up. Come on. The internet is groaning with pornography if you really need that much of a thrill!

I worry that the transport system will find it difficult to cope. Dark Lady and I hailed a cab the other evening. I think traffic lights have been rephased and so after going very nearly nowhere for twenty minutes, we got out and walked.

I don't understand why cabs can't use the Olympic lanes. You are not telling me they are going to be gridlocked by official vehicles?

On the buses you get recorded messages every few minutes from London mayor Boris Johnson telling us that it's going to be hard going transport-wise due to over capacity.

My beef isn't party political. It was the same with Ken Livingstone. I want politicians to make positive things happen, not leap at every chance to publicise themselves. You can't move without there being yet another Boris photo opportunity.

Why not hire a professional to record the announcements, thus lowering the irritation threshold and also giving a media professional a bit of extra work?

I am hoping once we get into the swing of things. All this will be forgotten in the once in a lifetime euphoria that the games will engender.

"Where were you during the Olympics, Granddad?"

"Stuck on a bus in traffic being forced to listen to Boris Johnson being 'eccentric!'"

Let's try that again.

"Where you during the Olympics, Granddad?"

"Right in the thick of it, as nations came together as one to celebrate sporting endeavour in an Olympiad that went down in history as being the best. It has never been surpassed".

So I am genuinely hoping the games passes off without incident, Team GB do us proud and we can once more say with pride we live in Great Britain.

I do have one major concern though My local pub is running out of beer as deliveries are not getting through due to the traffic. Come on Boris. Fix it!

Go for Gold!

Tuesday 24 July 2012


If you were listening to Chris Evans the other morning, you would have heard him talking about bells being rung across the land at 8.12am on Friday to herald the start of the Olympic day twelve hours before the opening. Everyone is asked to take part.

Big Ben will ring forty times, the first time it's rung out of context since 1952 when it tolled for the funeral of King George VI.

It's also aimed at setting a record for mass bell ringing, and is an artwork called All the Bells by Mary Creed.

Dark Lady is very excited about the whole thing and so wondered if I had a spare bell she could ring.

Err, not on me. However, being an adoring husband I set off to find one. Surely a city the size of London would be err teeming with the things.

So ting for yes and bong for no.

West End department stores:


Well known toy store:

"Try the first floor"


"Try the second floor"


"Maybe the fourth"


Customer services?

"We'll put out a call to all departments"

Bong bong bong bongety bong!

What about a major music store full of serious musical instruments, as well as inexpert guitarists grinding out Black Sabbath riffs in the demonstration booths?


"You could try the Acme percussion specialist in Gordon Square"

"Where's that?"

"Back of Piccadilly Circus"

Bong. They meant Golden Square!

"You got any bells"?


"We have this wooden handled school type bell. It's a little heavy"

"Excellent. How much?"



"We've also got this brightly coloured children's type bell"


"However, it's part of a tuned set so you'd have to buy them all"

"Go on"



So that's the state of play so far with 2 days to go. Dark Lady won't be too fussed if I can't find one.


However a husband never likes to disappoint.


Monday 23 July 2012


Quiet weekend for yours truly, mainly spent watching TV. For a slacker like me there is a world of wasted time in this multi-channel world in which we live.

As a lad we had a black and white two channel 405 line telly. Then in 1964 I think (it was when BBC 2 started) we had a black and white 625 line TV. Three channels of delight with programmes of great erudition - My Music, Call My Bluff with Frank Muir and Patrick Campbell hosted by the urbane Robert Robinson.

By the early 70s I had my own TV in my bedroom - an ancient "portable" 405 line two channel job that cost me 50p. It was only portable insofar as it had a handle on it and was covered in the same patterned fabric they made picnic baskets out of. It was still mains powered and valve driven.

If I wanted to watch programmes of erudition, namely The Old Grey Whistle Test, In Concert or even Jazz 625 I had to slink downstairs and slump sulkily on the settee, glowering with the full force of my teen rebellion, being roundly ignored by the rest of the family who were well used to my petulance.

Rejoined the Dark Lady and the Dark Stepson and Daughter for a fabulous BBQ on Sunday. Then the screen of delights seduced us once again so we settled down to watch the Shaft spoof "Hebrew Hammer".

The DL is very excited about the Olympics, so this Friday the phone is off the hook and we are glued to the screen.

"I've got you a little surprise for Friday" I beamed.

"Let me guess. It's a flag" she replied.

Seven months of marriage and I have become completely and utterly predictable!

Thursday 19 July 2012


Final day and all packed up. Just time for a coffee before we had to vacate our rooms.

One of the worst things about the last day of a foreign holiday is the hanging about, waiting for the trip to the airport and home. All your stuff is in your suitcase and you may sometimes get to share a vacant room with everyone who is leaving that evening. Otherwise it's thumb twiddlingly boring.

We however had a trip/trick up our sleeve.

The Blue Lagoon.

Iceland is powered by 99% renewable energy, thanks to all its waterfalls and geothermal activity. Some years ago it opened a power station near Keflavik airport. This is entirely powered by the heat from beneath our feet. It bubbled away happily for years before someone had the bright idea that the huge forty million gallon outflow lake with the temperature of a hot bath could be turned into a tourist attraction.

So the Blue Lagoon was born.

You board a bus from Reykjavik to the power station, where you fling your bags into a shed and head to the pool.

After a severe and systematic wash of your various parts (see earlier blog about public ablutions), it's on with the costume and a special wristband that not only opens and closes your locker but keeps tabs on everything you buy, from drinks at the bar to meals. You settle up on leaving.

We spent two glorious hours bobbing about in hot water, sipping drinks and smearing ourselves with naturally occurring silica mud (it does wonders for the complexion) then washing it off under a hot waterfall.

We exited through the gift shop, Dark Lady buying a couple of tubes of mud and back to the bus pausing only to rescue our badly dented cases from the luggage hut. Then it was a twenty minute trip to the airport and home.

To top off a perfect trip we flew low over central London along the Thames, so we had a bird's eye view of all the landmarks from the Houses of Parliament to St Paul's and the London Eye as well as a packed Hyde Park crowd getting down to Paul Simon.

We touched down just after 8PM, and after we cleared customs and headed to the car we noticed something a little odd. It was beginning to get dark!

Wednesday 18 July 2012


The last blog left us at the swimming pool. Bearing in mind the abundance of water (and naturally hot water at that) I'm surprised there aren't more pools in Reykjavik. The one we visited was an outdoor one which I had been to before. Down one side it had "hot pots" of differing temperatures, from 38c to 42c which was practically hot enough to brew tea in. The very first time I went in 1984 one of the pots was full of middle aged men and women in earnest discussion. We were told it was a cabinet meeting. Can't imagine our MPs doing that.

I'm jumping the gun a little here. Perhaps a good reason why our parliamentarians won't have a good brain storm down at the local baths is the er... changing facilities.

In Iceland the sexes are segregated but that's it. No changing cubicles and big signs everywhere reading "WASH" with a helpful diagram showing which bits to scrub. If you don't do as you are bidden using the soap provided, you will be barred entry to the pool until the assistant deems you hygienic enough.

Wonder what the Victorians would have made of that!

We continued the sightseeing with a trip to the cathedral. It is now finished but took ages to complete. You can take the lift to the top of the tower and marvel at the view, or thrill to the spectacular organ.

That evening we went to Harpa the concert hall and conference centre which is amazing - have a look at the video on Facebook.

We were going to a one man comedy show entitled "How To Become Icelandic In 60 Minutes".

It was fun, with a fifteen step guide which included the unique Icelandic gait, how to give vague directions with your elbow, how to wash, drink and be rude. We also learned how to pronounce the name of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull which caused all the aviation problems a couple of years back when it erupted.

We then headed back into the centre of town for something to eat. All fished out, we decided to try the Mexican place. Since my first visit nearly thirty years ago, the outside world has intruded so you have all the global fast food brands as well as dishes from different nations.

We ordered burgers. They didn't have any. So we ordered burritos and fajitas with a potato skin starter. After forty minutes and several enquiries the starter eventually arrived. Hard as rock and massively undercooked. We left. It was getting late as we strode into the sunshine and found a hot dog stand.

"Two cheeseburgers and one fries please."

"No fries. Fryer's broken."

Two fair cheeseburgers later it was bedtime. The sun shone through the window as we slept with the usual soundtrack of clacking skateboards and carousing.

However we weren't done yet. Iceland had one more treat on offer.

That was for our journey home.

Tuesday 17 July 2012


Day two of our trip and it was our turn to go whale watching. Apparently they were in short supply off Reykjavik, so we had to board a coach and head west to the port of Grindvik where we hoped for better luck.

You get your money's worth on a trip of this kind as you are out for hours. However, there's no guarantee of seeing anything.

Within the first half hour we glimpsed a couple of minke whale fins breaking the surface. That frankly was that for the trip. No dolphins. No porpoises. A lot of puffins in the distance clinging to the cliff waiting to be eaten. As for the whales I can only guess they've all been eaten as well.

Best bit was Dark Lady dressing like a penguin in a weatherproof suit to keep out the elements.

Safely back in Reykjavik, we had fish and chips plus couple of massively expensive drinks and headed for bed in brilliant sunshine with the usual soundtrack of clacking skateboards and the whooping of good-natured drunks.

Saturday and it was down for breakfast. Not bad for a budget hotel either. Cooked stuff, cold stuff, curious milk related Icelandic stuff and plenty of fruit.

A sign asked reasonably enough that people not take food from the dining room, but to ask and pay for a packed lunch if they so required.

We watched in a horrified and very British way as a woman made a huge pile of sandwiches in plain view and then shovelled them into her bag. Obviously not English.

We decided to head off for a walk and go for a swim in an outdoor geothermal pool. The air is so clear that everywhere seems closer than it actually is, so it was quite a trek before we reached the pool. However, we did enjoy the walk as Icelanders like their street art so there was plenty to see.

When we made it to the baths and went inside, I was confronted with something I had completely forgotten about. This is where our cultures collide. Tomorrow I shall elucidate!

Monday 16 July 2012


It was the Dark Lady's birthday and I had bought her a large and capacious bag. Large enough to swallow small planets whole in fact. However, I had one more trick up my sleeve - a weekend away. She had no idea where we were going, and constantly tried to trick me into revealing the destination with those feminine wiles.

"What shall I wear?"

"Will I need a thick coat?"

"What about a swimming costume?"

"Will it be hot?"

"Will it be cold?"

"Will it be windy?"

The answer to all those questions was naturally...

Yes. The reason being we were off to Iceland to spend a long weekend in Reykjavik.

When I first went there in 1984 it was a far less sophisticated place than it is now. However one thing certainly hasn't changed - the elements. There is a saying, apparently - "if you don't like the weather, wait a minute." Sure enough, rain gives way to sunshine gives way to a howling gale then snow and to top it off sleet and back to sun again.

We had cloud, sun, some rain strong winds and murk in the three days we were there, so the land of ice and fire still doesn't disappoint.

Our hotel was slap bang in the middle of the city. After checking in and sloshing down some very weak Viking beer (alcoholic Beer was illegal until 1989), we set out for something to eat. A stone's throw and we were into a fine all-you-could-eat sea food buffet.

It boasted pretty much all the things I remembered, although this time they seemed to have omitted the marinaded shark and whale blubber in whey. In '84 this tasted like tyre inner tubes in yogurt and was so disgusting it hopefully helped in the suspension of whaling. Sadly though, the meat is now back on the menu.

Ironic really as whale-watching is a big tourist attraction, and if they carry on like this there won't be any left to watch.

We sat and ate and ate, and had a glass of wine and lots of water. Iceland is eyewateringly expensive, particularly on the booze front so we got our money's worth and still outside the sun was shining. In fact we were beginning to flag and still the sun was shining. A saunter round the town and the kids on skateboards made all those youthful noises. The bars began to hot up. The sun shone. We began to flag a bit more.

People started to throng into town and the atmosphere began to electrify. The sun shone brightly in the sky. Reykjavik is a party town, and the weekends are when the populace likes to play. Some load up their four-wheel drives with buckets of booze and tents, head out camping and then drive slowly back red-eyed and hungover on Sunday afternoon. Others just hit the clubs and bars and stay out all night... in the sunshine.

Yes, so close to the Arctic Circle and the sun scarcely sets during the summer. I took this photo from our hotel room window at midnight.

In the winter it's a different story as it only manages a murky twilight by noon, and the rest of the time it's total darkness which doubtless fuels the desire to blot it all out with strong drink. Namely Brennivin, a schnapps made from potato mash and caraway seeds. I have an unopened bottle of 1989 vintage in a cupboard at home which will probably remain that way.

So what to do with the rest of our time? Well luckily, the blackout curtains solved the constant sunshine problem and the windows being shut deadened the clack of skateboard on concrete and thud of drunken body on floor. We slept until sunrise...

Five minutes later.