Monday, May 31, 2004

Here we are in our summer years. Living on ice cream and chocolate kisses. Would the leaves fall from the trees if I was your old man and you was my missus?

I had one of those moments last night. Hopefully other bloggers will recognise it. You know when you catch yourself in a moment? A rare moment of clarity when everything seems to make sense. You suddenly see it all so clearly.

And, of course, I wanted to put it down on paper while it was still fresh my in my mind. Except I couldn't. So this is almost a day later and hopefully my hazy head will recall enough and my tired limbs might just find enough energy to key it in.

As I mentioned I was on a stag do this weekend. It was superb. Organised expertly and in the relative civilisation of Keswick. Behaviour was as bawdy as it should be, but never crossed the line. In short our actions were befitting of a group of respectable thirtysomething males.

We kicked off with a fantastic quad bike session, followed by a meal and a pub then a club. I must admit I was struggling that night. Afternoon boozing has never agreed with me and a persistent headache meant I resorted to paracetamol to get me through.

The second day we attempted to clear the cobwebs with a short walk through the lovely countryside before retiring to a lakeside bar. Actually it was more of a tea room but in true Withnail and I fashion we managed to get the drinks in.

A couple more pints followed, then a curry and we had a quick rest at the house before going back out to the club.

It was that night that the moment of clarity arrived. I got that feeling that you get after a wedding. It's a kind of melancholia but in a positive sense. The feeling of "we've lost another good one, but the lad's happy, so we're happy", and you collectively inwardly digest the thoughts while smoking cigars in his honour.

There was a genuine end of an era feeling. All the trips we've made to night clubs all came back to me. All the brilliant times when, although we'd drunk too much, it was really life we were high on. All the times when, as much as we would have loved to catch a lady's eye, it was also pretty good to be a little group of blokes singing along to something funky and grinning like idiots.

I've called these times DGM's before (dopey grin moments). Last night was more of a LWNBTSA . Or in full, "life will never be the same again". And that is how it felt. A watershed, an end of an era. But, amongst all the nostalgia for the good times, it also felt right. Like we are all ready to do our own thing. We will always be there for each other but we also have the need to build our own lives and seek our own destinies.

Last night was also the first time when the enormity of what I am undertaking with VSO started to hit me. I felt, all of sudden, two years was such a long time and South Africa such a long way away. I never doubted my desire to do the job and to complete my stint, but there was a feeling of "wow". "This is big, and it isn't going to be easy."

But those feelings were viewed against the wider picture of what was happening in all our lives. In our own ways we were all making our choices and setting off on our journeys. The boozing and the clubbing was fantastic. But it was also hard work and there was a definite realisation that maybe our time had passed.

In a thoughtful moment, stood clutching a pint on a balcony overlooking the dance floor, I watched the bright young things. Earlier I had found myself unkindly thinking of them as small town airheads going wild on alcopops and crap tunes.

Later, as my thoughts cleared, it felt more like they were just the next generation and we were passing the baton on. Our time has been and gone. There will be more wild nights, more stags, more drunken behaviour. I have no doubt of that. But they will be the exception rather than the rule. And that's the way it should be.

So, in a couple of weeks single mate becomes married mate. The couple will be fine. Two lovely people who seem very happy with each other. I wish them all the luck in the world but I know they won't need it.

Then a few months after that I set off on my own, non-metaphorical, journey. Both journeys have the capacity to change us for ever. Both will mean that LWNBTSA and that is how life should be. Always changing, always evolving, always throwing up fresh challenges.

It was a brilliant stag, enjoyed in the company of a brilliant set of lads.

The wedding is going to be a blinder.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Whoops there goes another year. Whoops there goes another pint of beer.

Right I'm off for the weekend. I'm going to a stag do in Keswick. It should be fairly civilised.

Have fun.

Oh and I nearly forgot. Let me be the first person to try this.

Naked pictures of Big Brother Vanessa.

I'm such a hits junky.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Friday, May 28, 2004

I kept the faith and I kept voting. Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand. For theirs is a land with a wall around it. And mine is a faith in my fellow man.

I include the image and link below because up until last night I had never been excited about a Party Political Broadcast.

Not sure how much I trust Galloway. But he had the guts to stand up and say "this is wrong". That counts for a great deal and for that reason he has my vote.

And I don't think I have ever started a post with a more apt lyric.

The Respect Coalition
I escaped my tormentors by crossing the sea. What I cannot escape is memory
Washed up on a distant shore. Can't go home anymore.

I've been a thinking a lot recently about my motivation for doing VSO. It's not that I have been questioning my decision to sign up, far from it, but I was worried that I wasn't doing it for the right reasons.

Then last night, while I was at a client do, it came to me.

I want to do VSO because I don't want to do this.

I don't want to be attending wine and canape events while chatting with strangers about the importance of branding, PR, or whatever.

When you talk to someone whose main concern is how to market their upcoming training event or whatever, I just wonder where they find the motivation to care.

During a question and answer event a young graduate asked what was the best way to get into the creative industry. One panel member gave her the usual "go for it" hyperbole, but also said: "Set yourself a target, where do you want to be by the time you are 35, shape your own career, ask yourself what you want out of life."

I couldn't decide whether it was the best piece of advice I had ever heard or the worst. The best in the sense that my answer would be "I don't want to be here. I don't want to do this." or worst because it all sounded so work related. What about happiness, fulfillment, contentment? Do you really expect all of these things to drop into your lap just because you have your work life in place.

But as I said, I worry that I don't want to do VSO in order to save the world, or "save some Africans" as David Brent put it. I want to do it because the other option just seems so horrific.

Every executive "do" I go to I seem to spend more and more time looking around just trying to get to grips with WHY? Why people would put themselves through this? Is everybody else here really enjoying this, or are they as bored as I am?

There are these endless rounds of so-called "Networking Events". It's like speed dating for executives. There is not even any pretence any more that you are chatting to people because you find them interesting. Really you just want to sell whatever product or service it is you provide. Every handshake is the starting point in a deal rather than a friendship.

Or so it seems to me right now.

I have never managed to work out whether to admire or pity people who get excited by work. It must be fantastic to really long to go to work in the morning. I had that briefly while I was a journalist before it wore me down. Since then it's been about paying the bills.

Basically I want to do VSO because I want to do something worthwhile for a change. Selfishly though I am doing it for me. I don't want to be surrounded by suits talking about brand values or whatever. Just as I don't want to be stuck forever in those thirtysomething conversations about mortgages, pensions and colour schemes for the spare room.

I do want adventure. I do want to learn more about how other people live their lives. I do want to change.

But I can't imagine, after my two-year stint that I will come back re-energised and wanting to swap AIDS campaigning for marketing a local accountants. So what will I do next? Perhaps this is it. Perhaps the adventure will never end.

I hope not.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Don't give me no shit about blood, sweat, tears and toil. It's all about the price of oil.

Not sure whether this is mad, bad or just interesting.

But there has been one or two fasinating articles on the net regarding the Nicholas Berg beheading.

Nicholas Berg in orange jumpsuit Posted by Hello

Another deluded conspiracy theory? Maybe. But doesn't it strike you as odd that Berg is wearing an orange jumpsuit as worn by US political prisoners? I can't imagine they are easily available in Iraq.

Guantanamo, in orange jumpsuits. Posted by Hello

Perhaps it was a comment by the captors on Guantanamo or political torture in general, but as the article below says:

...does it seem likely that, having grabbed Berg, one of them had a bright idea and sent his mum to the markets for some fabric and got her to run up an orange jumpsuit?

And at a time when the USA was being hammered by the press and Bush was sliding down the opinion polls, wasn't it a rather useful piece of counter propaganda? Especially with the mpeg being available via the web so that surfers could see it in all its horror.

As I have said before, it never ceases to amaze me, how terrorist atrocities always happen when Bush and Blair need them most. Surely, in this day and age, everyone is media savvy enough to know to keep their heads down when opposition forces are taking a hammering. Why would you want to swing public perception back against you? If the media agenda is currently switching in your favour then why not just sit back and leave them to it?

I know I'm repeating myself but just like the bomb in Turkey, at the same time as the potentially disastrous Bush visit, and just like the bomb in Spain right after Blair's major war speech and on the day Dubya unveiled a memorial to 911, isn't this all a little too convenient?

I don't know. Don't hammer me for thinking this through in print. I am not saying anything happened, or didn't happen, I'm just trying to understand it.

I have no idea whether these thoughts are ludicrous. There is no doubting the Bush government is corrupt. It's links to oil and Enron prove that - but would they go this far?

Anyway, check out this link and see what you make of it. Suspend disbelief for just a second, go with the argument, and then make your own mind up.

As commentators on the CIA have said before, it's easier to get away with a big lie that a little one.


Since posting that I have found the following links on the net. As always, make up your own minds.

Berg beheading: No way, say medical experts

E-mails from US Consulate to Berg's family

15 anomalies surrounding death Of Nick Berg

Even CNN is asking question.

Check out the chairs

Curious 911 link.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Which side are you on, boys. Which side are you on?

Forget Kieron "Bling" Dyer and Newcastle United's array of under performers.

Forget the softies at Manchester United, Real Madrid, Arsenal and AC Milan.

I have found a place in my heart for a new team. This team may never know what it's like to be cheered on by a large crowd. They may never get to play in a stadium with floodlights or even changing rooms. But these boys are the real deal.

They are a team of enthusiasm, drive, honesty and ambition. They are a team that plays for the fun, the sport and the challenge.

Ladies and gentlemen. Please join me and help me make Bellavista Juventud FC the most famous football team in blogland.

Please feel free to add your messages of support for the coming season.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.
Sugardaddy took all my pain away. Now I have to say. I'd let him get away with murder.

Well it looks it's going to be South Africa.

After being initially told that I was second choice for the post in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, I heard this morning from VSO that the other applicant has pulled out.

Barring me failing a medical or the good people in Hillbrow having a change of heart then I am likely to be on my way some time in September.

Very very cool. Very very scary.

Hillbrow - my new home will be down there somewhere. Posted by Hello

The job will be part fundraising, part campaigning for an AIDS organisation.

Much of my training weekend was centered around the impact that AIDS is having on Africa. South Africa has the biggest problem of all. A staggering 20% of the population are either HIV positive or have AIDS.

One of the biggest barriers is that the message about wearing condoms is not getting through. It's hardly surprising when put into context. During the apartheid years the black population was frequently told not to have children. This was less for reasons of poverty and more an attempt to control the size of the black population.

Now there is the tendency for the black community to dismiss the virus despite its massive impact on the country. One acronym that is widely used is AIDS: American Invention to Destroy Sex.

We saw a video of miners working in the gold mines. They work long hard hours, a mile underground, and stay in hostels away from their families. At the weekend, they go understandably wild, drinking and whoring. Then they go back to their homes, often hundred of miles away, and pass on the disease to their wives.

They interviewed the prostitutes. They knew the risks, but men would offer more for sex without a condom and they usually gave in because they had children to support.

All in all its a bleak picture. The country remains crippled by debt. Debt that has been paid back many times over but the high interest has meant they still owe more than they borrowed.

Help from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund has come with conditions. The country has to agree to privatisation of amenities, tax cuts and cuts in welfare spending. Once again, the poor get poorer.

In other words they have to adopt a neo-liberal agenda.

Pop quiz - who popularised neo-liberalism?

Yes, Mrs Thatcher, followed by Ronald Reagan.

Is there no end to her legacy?

Anyway, it is going to be a huge challenge. I won't flatter myself that I can make any real difference. But having learnt about VSO's structure of development and how I fit in to the larger picture, it is nice to at least be a piece in the jigsaw.

I have also decided to draw up a list of rules for myself. I want something to refer to when I am having a bad day. I need to put something in writing that reminds me why I am doing this and stops me either giving in or hitting out if anything should go wrong.

In the meantime I am working on the basis of leaving around late September. So I know now what I have to do in terms of my business and my domestic arrangements.

Anyone want to buy a house?

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Friday, May 21, 2004

IMF, WTO. I hear these words just every place I go. Who are these people ?
Who elected them ? And how do I replace them with some of my friends ?

Just a quick note to say that I am away for the weekend so this is likely to be my last blog till Sunday. I have another VSO training course.

I'll be staying in a very pleasant old hall in the suburbs of Birmingham and I will joining the dots between the third world, the world bank, WTO, protectionism, aids, exports, debt, subsidies, privatisation etc etc

I'm quite looking forward to it, it all sounds very Naomi Klein.

Maybe I shall write about it on my return. It would be an excellent excuse to include information on Sub Commadante Marcus who is fast becoming a real hero of mine.

If you don't know who he is then look him up. It looks like my generation now has its very own Che Guevara.

Anyway as Marcus would say:

"Ya basta".

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

My new home town It's far away. Too far to come and play. But I miss you

I go through phases of falling in and out of love with lots of blogs.

Right now though NoodlePie has me smitten.

It's the only website I can think of that makes me nostalgic and hungry all at once. The pictures are beautiful, the text is crisp and to the point, and together it makes me yearn to be in South East Asia again.

If you haven't already looked then I urge you to. It's a pretty simple concept. The writer tours the numerous eateries of Saigon tasting everything on offer. He then photographs it, reviews it and it's all there for us to see.

I love Vietnamese food. Since visiting I have been trying, with varying degrees of success, to recreate the chicken noodle soup that I lived on when I was there. It's beautiful, so full of fresh ingredients and it manages to taste hot, sweet and sour all at once.

When I make it I first stir fry little slivers of chicken. Then I add finely chopped garlic, chilies, ginger and shallots before adding salt, sugar, fish sauce and I throw in some shitaki mushrooms before adding stock (I wish I had the patience to make proper stock). Then I add some huge lumps of carrot and potato in order to make it into more of a meal. Just before the end, once all the veg is soft, I shred and add some Chinese cabbage.

You serve it by putting the noodles in the bottom of the bowl and you ladle the rest on top.

The best bits though are the fresh "leaves" thrown in as it is served. I go for basil, coriander, a few beansprouts and the sliced green ends of spring onions. If you squeeze a fresh lime over the top of this greenery before you add it to the soup then it adds another tasty dimension.

Then I serve it with some fresh chilies in fish sauce that you can chuck in if it isn't already spicy enough for you.

But much as much as I am proud of my own version, it doesn't taste quite the same as it does in Vietnam. Then again, seeing as I have only guessed at the recipe it's hardly surprising.

Most of Asia smells like fish sauce. You soon get used to it. In many ways, as pungent as it is, it acts as a fairly decent deoderizer and hides a multitude of sins from the occasional over flowing sewer to whiffy animals.

Anyway, check out NoodlePie, but try not to short out your keyboard by drooling over it.

And if you ever get the chance to go to Vietnam then I strongly recommend it. I absolutely, totally promise you will fall in love with the place.

I must must must go back one day.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

You know you are the only one. Yes, you are the only one.

I have seen the greatest singer in the world perform the greatest song in the world.

And this is my tribute.

I guess I better admit from the outset that I was somewhat under the influence but I hope that doesn't diminish my story.

It was witnessed by only a dozen or so people, in a mammoth coffee-shop tepee at Glastonbury. It was, at a guess, around 1am and the audience were lying on the tarpaulin floor sipping coffees and being generally mellow.

The coffee shop had a policy of free food and drink for musicians and a steady stream of troubadours came in through the tent flaps to entertain us. We sang along. We nodded our heads. We clapped when we could find the energy and we were all smiling like idiots.

Then HE came in. He was wild-haired and Celtic looking. I'm guessing he was Irish, he looked like he was no stranger to the craic and perhaps was one of those musicians that tour drinking holes to entertain Guinness swiggers.

He nodded to the crowd. Took a sip from his coffee and started to strum a battered acoustic guitar.

His voice, when he started singing, was howling. Deeply mournful at first and the small crowd caught each other's eyes and nodded and smiled in appreciation.

I had never heard the song before. I can't even remember how it went. All I can recall is that it soon started to pick up pace and it moved from melancholic to joyful as it progressed through the verses.

Our heads nodded more vigorously and our smiles grew wider as the song quickened. And, as it did so, it wasn't long before the strumming of his guitar became a blur.

By this time his howling voice was louder and clearer. He was holding notes for what seemed like forever. His eyes lighting up, watching us as we watched him in amazement.

Soon his right hand had become impossibly fast. You could no longer focus on it. The song was of the dueling banjos genre. He knew he could play faster and hold a note longer than anyone and he was enjoying watching our amazement.

It wasn't long before I realised I was in the presence of greatness. The song went on and on, faster and faster, all the time becoming louder and happier and the long notes, that should have turned him blue, seemed almost effortless.

I was nudging people and making amazed faces at them. Wasn't this the best singer and the best song they had ever heard? Were they as bowled over by it as I was?

I wanted to be Colonel Tom Parker or Brian Epstein. I wanted to go up to him and say "I'll make you a star". He was no pop puppet but he would have won Pop Idol or Fame Academy without even trying. He would have swept the board at the Brits and he would have had NME hacks gushing over him. Meanwhile, I would be there in the background, his greatest fan, puffing on a cigar and watching the world combust at the genius of my discovery.

Then, after reaching an impossible crescendo, the song stopped dead. There was a full five second of silence as we digested what we had just seen. Then the place went wild with whoops and clapping. If we had been capable of standing then the standing ovation would have gone on forever.

He smiled, bowed and left, walking off into the Glastonbury night.

I had wanted to at least know his name or how he had learnt to play like that. I consoled myself with the thought that this man would be a star. I would be able to buy his new CD on the day it was released and show off to friends that I had seen him play in front of a dozen people and that I had spotted his potential from the outset.

A year in and he hasn't topped the charts, or to my knowledge even been signed up or released a record.

But he will. His talent was surely too great to miss.

And as the people started to chat again after the post-performance hush I started to snap out of it. Someone passed me some Rizlas and I was back again in the now.

I wonder where he is now.

I wonder if he will be back this year.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Over here, over there, it's the same everywhere.

Okay as a little bit of light relief I shall tell you the story of the worm.

I became the worm's home for the best part of five months.

It all happened on my travels, I found out later that I had most likely picked it up during my time on the Perhentian Island of Kecil in Malaysia. I was doing my Padi diving course at the time and when my feet weren't encased in flippers I was barefoot.

Apparently that was when the worm made its move.

From there I traveled back to the mainland and took a fantastic three-hour boat trip up river to the jungles of national park Taman Nagara. The worm came along for the ride, although I was yet to realise it.

Over the next couple of weeks I traveled down to Kuala Lumpur, then onwards to Singapore before flying out to San Francisco. I was still blissfully unaware of the worm.

Shortly before I left San Francisco I did notice a mild skin irritation between one of my toes. I put it down to getting used to shoes again after months of going either barefoot or, at most, wearing sandals.

Very much in denial, I thought it might be athletes' foot.

Soon I flew to Antigua Guatemala.

By this stage I had already spent $20 - $30 on creams. By backpacker and local standards that was a fortune. However, when this failed to work I started to believe that there might be something slightly more wrong.

By this stage I had met London Girl and, like the old romantic I am, I shared my concerns over my foot. I admitted to her, and to myself for the first time, that it might just be a worm.

A week later we moved on to Rio Dulce, where completely loved-up we spent a week at the fabulously idyllic Hacienda Tijax. I must admit we didn't leave the cabin that much but we would sit on the balcony for breakfast and watch the turtles swim beneath us and I had never seen so much wildlife.

All in all it was a perfect few days. Except my foot was getting worse.

Luckily we spotted a sign saying "English-speaking doctor" in town. Now his English actually wasn't that good but I understood the first words that came out of his mouth.

"Ahhhhhh....," he said. "Parasito".

I got the drift.

Thankfully he could help. He prescribed some pills that would apparently kill the worm and my body would disintegrate it and it would vanish of its own accord. Total cost for consultation and drugs $60.

I started taking the pills, which made me feel a little rough. The worm seemed to get angry too. I could feel it moving around on the soul of my foot. During the day it didn't get much of a chance to roam because my weight was on it, but every morning it would have moved and made a new home elsewhere in my foot.

However, by the end of the course of tablets they seemed to have done the trick.

Then about a week later it was back. By this time London girl and I were in Placencia, Belize.

London Girl had by this point developed an acutely painful ear infection to go with my wormy foot. The journey by boat from Guatemala had only made it worse and she was in agony. We went in search of another doctor.

We were lucky to find one, he was Cuban. London girl was a lover of Cuba. London girl flirted and giggled along with Dr Cuba and got excellent treatment. She got all the best drugs and I got another tube of athletes' foot cream. She was cured and I was not.

To cut a long story short London girl and I traveled from Belize back through Guatemala, to El Salvador, stopping once more to see yet another doctor and spending yet another $60 on treatment which I couldn't afford and which didn't work.

I waved off London Girl in San Salvador and made my way through Honduras to Nicaragua where I traveled a while with a group of bright young things. By this time I had got used to my worm. It had become something of a conversation piece with people that I met. Far from repulsing female travelers it actually seemed to fascinate them and I went out of my way to say how little it bothered me, while implying just how brave I was being.

For a while I hung out with this Dutch girl who was lovely. Believe it or not, or so she told me, she worked on the Dutch equivalent of Changing Rooms. She was Holland's less foppish version of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. She was intrigued by the worm. I was intrigued by her, but having agreed to meet up again with London Girl on my return I was tempted, but decided against making a move.

All in all the worm stuck with me through 11 countries defying countless attempts to make it go away. The most scary was a old chemist in Belize who said he had just the thing for it, he came back with a razor blade and some disinfectant. I made my excuses and left.

As an aside it was in that very chemist that I did my most "New Man" performance ever. Apparently, and women readers can keep me right on this, antibiotics may cure most things but they can cause "women's ailments" to flare up, if you get my drift. London girl, suffering both ear and ailments begged me to go down to the shop on her behalf to pick up the requisite "ailment" cream. I had to describe aforementioned ailments to the chemist in my crap Spanish, using hand actions, in a full shop in order to get what was needed. I have never been so embarrassed in my life.

Anyway, when I was back in the UK, I visited my local GP. He was intrigued and made an appointment for me to visit the tropical diseases clinic at the local hospital that very afternoon.

The doctor took a look, and called in a dozen medical students for their first look at a real live worm. He invited them all to diagnose the problem and give a solution. I was quite a curiosity.

The worst part was when he asked me how many sexual partners I'd had while I was away. He was obviously concerned, what with me visiting Aids hot spots like Thailand and Cambodia. No doubt his next question was about condoms.

But what kind of question is "how many partners" to answer in front of so many people? If I answered "yes, one but she was British" it sounded terribly racist. If I said "none" then I looked such a loser, especially in front of these pretty young students who must have been shagging like bunnies. Reluctantly I settled for the loser option. I swear I could see the pity in their eyes.

The good news was that they prescribed me some cream which started to do the trick right away. Within two weeks there was no sign of the worm whatsoever. By this stage I had also worked out that British people are far less impressed by tales of parasites than international travelers.

So, having wasted the best part of $200 dollars over a period of months in Central America, I was cured in an afternoon, for free, in Britain.

Now I know compared to a heart operations or even a broken hips or whatever, this is a fairly minor situation. But I had never appreciated the National Health Service quite so much. If it had hurt me to part with $200 what would it be like for locals to have to stump up that kind of cash? No wonder they resorted to the razor blade option.

We moan too much about the National Health Service. I can't honestly answer questions as to whether it is under-funded, or mismanaged or whatever, but it is an amazing service and we should be very proud. Being able to nip to the doctors and be cured, for zero pence, is something we should never take for granted.

We should also be prepared to do whatever we can to safeguard it.

As for London Girl, we had a lovely week when she came up North and we toured the beautiful North East coast.

But, having talked about moving in together on our return, we ended up going our separate ways. Maybe, without the worm, I wasn't nearly so interesting.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

War! What is it good for? It's good for business.

I have become increasingly confused about political labels.

In the old days, in this country, you tended to be left or right, Tory or Labour. Even the Liberal Party/SDP was judged on how left or right it was at any particular moment.

There is a myth that politics became more centrist. It didn't. It made a massive lurch to the right and then re-calibrated itself. Thatcher set a Year Zero with the right as the new centre point. New Labour positioned itself a couple of degrees to the left of that point, with the Tories increasingly extreme as they become more and more desperate in opposition.

As Mandelson so horridly uttered: "We're all Thatcherites now".

Apparently Thatcher and Reagan were both Neo Liberals. Dubya, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld are Neo Conservatives.

Apparently if you are against this war then you are left-wing (in British speak) or Liberal (In US speak).

To be honest I am fed up with being labeled in this way. I am against this war simply because it is wrong. I am against it because I have bothered to find out more about it than those in favour.

I know about the effects of the sanctions since the last war, I know about depleted uranium, I know the current level of civilian deaths is at least 10,000 and more likely thousands more. I know that Iraq could never be a threat to the West.

I must admit I swallowed the WMDs line to a certain extent, I mean, I thought Saddam had SOMETHING, but it turns out that was all lies too.

I know that Iraq had nothing to do with 911. I know that Iraq had no links with Al Qaeda. I know all about the Bush dynasty from Bush snr's dodgy CIA days to Dubya's oil links and his various corporate sponsors (Enron anyone?).

I know that the list of nations that America has fought, illegally bombed, interfered with, funded rebellions, undermined governments, assassinated leaders etc, since World War 2 is as long as your arm.

So my views on this are based on knowledge, they are not based on political affiliations. My opposition to the war is not left wing, it is the correct view based on the information available.

In addition, not finding WMDs has proved that all the protestors were right.

As I mentioned in America they used the term "liberal". Which is more often than not used as a term of abuse. There seems to be a cartoon version of liberals (see Dharma and Greg) as long haired, pot smoking, Grateful Dead-listening, conspiracy theory believing, tye-dye wearing freaks. If you are against the war and a "liberal" then you are probably all of these. Or so goes the common TV/media cliche.

Having been a Labour voter, I always thought of myself as left wing. With New Labour, I haven't a clue where I stand. Increasingly I try to think instead about what is right and wrong.

I think politics needs to become more naive. Forget the fat cat lobbyists, the special relationships, the careerists, the focus groups and yes, forget even the media.

We need to do back to what is right and wrong. Not what is left and right.

It is right that health care should be available to everyone.
It is right that no one should starve.
It is right that everyone should have education.

And when I say this I mean the world, not just our little corner of it.

Talk to politicians long enough and they will tell you this is impossible. It is not, we have just come to accept that it is. And many of us have forgotten what is right and what is wrong.

I've had conversations with right wingers or racists or whatever who have rattled off the most abhorrent rhetoric. Have you ever noticed they never look you in the eye when they do this? They know, deep down, what they are saying is so horribly disgusting but they do it anyway out of hatred and greed. They are wrong. I believe they even know they are wrong.

If you want to take Britain as a microcosm. Then I believe that if you spend more on education then you create more entrepreneurs, you give more people a chance, you help more people to avoid poverty.

If, on the other hand, you make tax cuts so the rich get richer, then what are this rich left with? Outside their little compounds their surroundings get poorer. They have to spend more on security, they live in fear, they can't find anyone with the right skills to work for them because the education system has failed. They have to pay more on health care and education because public provision is under funded and failing.

This doesn't mean that entrepreneurship and hard work shouldn't be recognised and rewarded. Of course it should, but a balance should be achieved so society isn't the loser.

So yes, I believe naivete and the ability to see in black and white is a good attribute in politics. It should not be about supporting a team.

I could decide to support Arsenal instead of Newcastle United and every year I could celebrate silverware. But what would be the point? My heart wouldn't be in it.

Likewise, if you are Labour affiliated and you think you should tow the party line, just to safeguard power,then I ask you why? Surely politics is about right and wrong. It's about making a difference for the better. What is the point of being in power if you just abuse it? If you are not doing this then supporting the winning team is worthless.

So don't call me left-wing or a liberal or whatever other tags you might want to label me with. And I have used them myself before just to save time. I am me and I believe what I believe. And I know I am right.

What I believe might not be easy. It might not be practical. It might not even be popular. But it is right.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Okay big BIG BIG news.

I finally have details of a possible VSO post.

At present I am second choice for the job. In other words for it to be mine I need someone else to turn it down. But I like the look of it and I am pretty certain I will accept it if offered.

It's in South Africa, a suburb of Johannesburg called Hillbrow.

It looks pretty cool. I would be working as a fundraiser and marketing officer for an Aids awareness campaign.

Okay so it's not exactly the Maldives but Jo'burg man, how cool would that be? The best part is that there are plenty of other VSO volunteers locally so I wouldn't be enitrely isolated.

Apparently I would live in a furnished "cottage" that comes with the post. Sounds altogether more alluring than I am sure it will be. But it comes with all mod cons. Well I say mod cons, it has clean water and the toilet is of the flush variety. That'll do for me.

But now the bad news. I did a quick Google search on Hillbrow and came up with this.

It includes the passage:

"A staggering 59,000 crimes were committed in Hillbrow between 1999 and 2001, including 640 murders, 988 rapes, 7,521 assaults, 6775 robberies with firearms, 7,689 other robberies, 3,523 vehicles stolen, 18,7171 other thefts ... 1,347 drug related crimes,".

Hmmm. Ah well, sounds challenging. It scares me a little but probably not enough to turn down the post.

On the details I have been sent by VSO it states:

South Africa receives much negative publicity worldwide regarding crime rates. Whilst the country certainly suffers more than its fair share of violent crime, it is important to put the violence into context. Car-jacking, armed robbery and rape make the headlines but much more common are street crimes such as bag snatching which are more prevalent in fast growing urban areas where the gulf between rich and poor exacerbates social tensions. Even here volunteers can take control of the situation by avoiding potentially dangerous areas and by being aware of the conditions and acting defensively. It helps to also heed warnings from locals on what or who to look out for. Burglary is also very common in certain areas – not surprisingly in a country which witnesses such extremes of wealth and poverty. The best advice for volunteers prior to departure is to think twice about taking anything with them that they wouldn’t like to lose and to take out insurance just in case.

Looks like I better not buy the IPOD I was considering forking out on to take with me. Not sure it would stay in my posession very long.

But I am excited. Excited because all the recent news I had been getting out of VSO was that they were finding placing me very difficult. But, however scarey, this looks it does look like a real option. It also looks like a job I can do.

My tasks are listed as:

 Communication skills
 Proposal writing
 Training
 Writing skills (Reports, Proposals)
 Marketing

Check, check, check(ish), check, check.

Almost there.

So without wanting to come over all Eddie Grant, Jo'Burg is "giving me hope" that something will soon come out of my VSO plans.

Space Hardware may soon be going international.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Goodbye and good luck to all the promises you've broken. Goodbye and good luck to all the rubbish that you've spoken.

It's not often I feel that I should share with you a message from the White House.

This is from Dubya himself. It's a little old, June 2003, to be exact. But I feel it has some very important points that should be reiterated.

I can't say I agree with all the details but, for once, I do agree with the main sentiments.

Look here to see what I mean.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.
Your life has lost its beauty, its dignity and passion. You're an accident waiting to happen.

Football as a metaphor for life anyone? Or how about for the way we live our lives?

Maybe it's just me. Maybe just I get too annoyed by everything these days.

Having spoken to returning VSO volunteers, without exception they found it harder to re-adapt to Western living than they did getting used to third world amenities.

When they came home everything suddenly just seemed so pointless. After dealing with life and death situations and working with people whose biggest problem is feeding their family, the western way of life just felt greedy, wasteful and decadent.

Adverts are a particular bugbear. Especially those for cosmetics or other non-essentials. All marketing is based on creating fear. Fear that you won't be accepted or won't fit in. This fear is used to sell us everything from clothing brands to anti-wrinkle cream.

If these cosmetic considerations are our biggest fear then we all need to take a long hard look at ourselves.

Now the football bit. Like the VSO returnees, after returning from my own travels, I shared many of their feelings. This eighties-style flaunting of wealth, this bling bling culture, the increased cult of celebrity wound me up no end.

I saw it everywhere. But most of all I saw it in my beloved Newcastle United.

Since I returned a snapshot of the tabloid press stories about players at Newcastle include: racist attacks, rape, group rape, various driving offences involving Ferraris, BMWs etc, attacks on women and numerous tales of drunken excess.

To add to this, tabloid fodder has also included the dating of celebrities, general high rolling and fall-outs with the manager.

Of course, most worrying of all of this, were the various rape allegations. None of these were ever followed up on, and from what I can make out, probably rightly so. This was as a result of what various players' associates called "roasting". The charming practice of group sex with very young girls flattered by such celebrity interest.

Typically Kieron Dyer managed to worm out of the last set of allegations. Newcastle's King Shagger had the perfect alibi. He wasn't having sex with the girl in question and he could prove it. Because he was off having sex somewhere else with someone else.

What causes all of this? Is it high-rolling bling culture meeting with the traditional hip-hop disrespect of women? Or it just a case of "too much too young"?

As Henry Winter in the Telegraph put it, as he compares the old pros to the kids:
" the opposite corner, an area strewn with party invitations and lads' mags, lurks the dilettante streak affecting prominent members of the younger generation, headed by Dyer. Until individuals like Dyer realise they are wasting their considerable talents, collecting niggly injuries through bad lifestyle choices, Newcastle will never see the best of them.

Life in the fast lane off the pitch often leads to a career stuck in the crawler lane. Dyer, like Bellamy, Jenas and Woodgate, was out injured for Newcastle's most important game of the season. Certain powerful people at St James' want Dyer out permanently."

On the way to the match on Saturday I saw a poster advert with Kieron Dyer looking all mean and moody while plugging Addidas. I didn't see him on the pitch he was injured again.
Typical Dyer stories include making the team bus turn around on the way back from an away game because he had left his diamond earring behind. Much worse was a story detailing the burning of a wadful of currency, on an England away trip, just to taunt a street beggar.

To me the worst feeling is that I am financing this way of life. No sooner had we endured the last game of the season at St James' Park, than I received a bill for £450 for my next year's season ticket. God knows were I will find the money but I know I will.

Every time I hear of Dyer, or the rest of the so-called "young guns" crew getting into mischief, while sipping their Kristal champagne, it always hits home that it is me that is paying for this.

When the initial rape allegations were made and it appeared that half of my team were involved then I just wanted them out. I was willing for Newcastle United PLC to transfer the lot even if it meant us suffering financial hardship and, most likely, relegation just so I could have my club back from the cluthes of these morons.

By all accounts they run rings round Sir Bobby, showing him a lack of respect. Young Jermaine Jenas is another prime example. Plucked from the First Divison by Sir Bobby and put straight into our first team he looked a potential world beater in his first season. He became an England international but now, two seasons into his Toon career, he's coasting, whinging and like Dyer, injured.

You're more likely to see him modeling in a style mag than running Newcastle's midfield.

Like I said, I feel like Newcastle United are a microcosm of our culture right now. The eighties nostalgia goes further than stupid mullet hair cuts and crap club retro nights. It seems like "Greed is Good" is back and parading your affluence is once more not only socially acceptable but actually encouraged.

Most people still think of Kieron Dyer as in his early twenties. He is actually 27 now. He is no longer a promising youngster he is an under achieving senior player. In the local paper one of the writers listed his attributes as "can't tackle, can't cross, can't run". He also said: "..he looks every inch a Spurs player and I don't mean that as a compliment". I can't really argue with any of this but on occasions he can still be a special player. He can still have it all if he wants it.

I know the fans want it all. We are the second biggest club, in terms of attendances in the Premiership and we have won nothing in my lifetime. This season has been yet another let down. In another year Alan Shearer, the very model of an old professional, retires then the young 'uns will be on their own. It's a scarey thought.

We're away at Southampton tonight. I can't say I'm confident. And I hate feeling like this.

I know I sound like an old man sounding off about the "youth of today" but I'm sure it's more than just the generation gap that is behind my dislike of all of this. I'm only 33 and younger than a couple of the players, but the lifestyle and attitudes of the less senior players are just so alien to me.

And yes, before anyone else points it out, I know it's only a game.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Nicaraguita, I love you much more. But now that you are free, Nicaraguita. I love you much more.

The picture that makes up my new masthead is very special to me.

Yup it's BykerSink, on the edge of a rather dilapidated pier, on the Nicaraguan Island of Ometepe. It's the biggest freshwater island in the world. Oh and the lake has the only freshwater sharks in the world. And yes, I still swam there.

A larger version of the picture is also my desktop wallpaper. Despite it being a couple of years old it still makes me smile every day. A friend called it my "Look Ma, I'm on top of the world" picture. In the comments box below Bob Piper called it a "Nicaraguan Angel of the North". I like that idea - as a representation of me it depicts my wanderlust and my love of home.

There are a few other pictures of that evening and my time on Ometepe. They are all beautiful (even a crap photographer like me couldn't have failed to make them look good). They are also a snapshot of a moment in time when I think I felt at my most contented. The scenerey was out of this world and the company fantastic. In addition I was nearing the end of my travels and I was looking forward to going home while still savouring the experience.

Certainly I have never seen a sunset like it. What made it all the more magical was that when the sun had finally dipped out of view and it was suddenly dark, we turned back towards the shore and, from our vantage point on the pier, we could see it lit up by hundreds of little fire flies.

More pictures of Ometepe, including the journey there by boat, the sun going down and the larger version of the picture above, are around here somewhere.

Finally thank you very much to Neil for his tips on how to actually design and install the masthead. The boy's a genius.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Friday, May 07, 2004

As part of freedom's price to pay. My youngest son came home today

It's the end of the world as we know it. 2004

Now with added links.

Illegal war, starts with shock and awe , bomb the poor, Michael Moore.
Depleted uranium, weapons of mass destruction, bombs dropped by the ton.
Bush serves his own needs, building up his own means, Rummy bombs a friend.
Peace. No. Talk. No, twin towers, world powers. Fight!

No going back, minutes from attrack, chemical threat.
Bring them on, Saddam's gone, turkey's on. war won.
Reporters embedded, reporters shot, bullied and burnt.
Uh oh, no bombs, dodgy dossier, whatever Tony Blair might say.
Gilligan, Campbell fun, read about it in The Sun.
Bush visits London, war isn't won.
Saddam found in a hole, boost for the opinion poll.
Torture pics, Bill Hicks, Hans Blix, Texas hates the Dixie Chics.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Twin towers, world powers, save Jessica, gets messier.
Suicide, run and hide, resistance escalates, Americans incinerate.
Withdrawal, inquiry call, sack Bush, sack Blair, Kerry wants war.
Uh oh this means no choice - no voice, sick of the corruption, Tories not at option.

It's the end of the world as we know i
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

More SUVs, more power, no Kyoto, Mirror photo
No oil - no toil. Axis getting eviler, George is a believer
Vietnam, Uncle Sam, hey hey, USA.
Bombs in Spain, democracy's a pain, A new leader - because of Al Qaeda,

More troops, more deaths, more fight.


It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

God's footballer stands on the doorstep.

Friends will be arriving in a couple of hours.

Tonight is a big night.

Newcastle play Marseille in the UEFA Cup Semi Final.

We are real underdogs. We have an injury list that includes five of our best players including the irreplaceable Bellamy and Woodgate.

It means so much to this city to win this game. I am so proud to come from Newcastle upon Tyne and it seems that, if there is a God, then Newcastle will win. We deserve this. We have been loyal for so long with no reward.

Newcastle is a city with a huge sense of pride. The love for our football team is unconditional. Just as well because we have nothing to show for it in the way of silverware.

We are managed by Sir Bobby Robson. He's 70 and the last of the footballing gents. This could be his last chance to win silverware with the club he supported as a boy.

Then there is fellow Geordie and captain Alan Shearer. He's nearing retirement too. Both Bobby and Alan are men you can only admire. They deserve to win something.

Tonight we will be represented by a patched up team. But, if they have half the pride in wearing their shirt as the fans do, then I know we will be okay.

Come on. Do it for the Toon Army.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.
There is power in a union.

Any one up for a bit of corporate mischief making?

I received this from a mate via email. On the surface it's a fairly worthy cause. It appears that the Cameroon football team has been ludicrously fined a hefty sum and has had six points deducted from its next World Cup qualifying Campaign.

This is as a result of wearing an all-in-one football strip which is apparently outside the laws of the game.

But I hate these email things. I hate viral marketing from big business, however genuine they appear.

I don't like forwarding branded emails. In particular, I dislike sportswear manufacturers. They have, virtually, without exception, out-sourced all their manufacturing to the third world in order to boost profits for shareholders and to free up cash to pay millions to celebrity endorsers.

So I did a Google check on Puma.

And I found this.

And this.

Then there was this.

Then I found this. Puma are set for a 30pc rise in profits.

So after all that I felt less like supporting their campaign, never mind forwarding the email on.

But I thought about it for a while. It is harsh on Cameroon. If you have followed the World Cup then you know what a fantastic team they are to watch. I would hate to see them miss out. I can imagine the damage it would do to Cameroon as a nation too.

So I posted a message on the Puma site. I said:

I support the campaign for the return of the six points but I also support a boycott of Puma for using sweatshop Labour.

If you would like to add something similar then go here and choose the "Vote Cameroon" option.

Then if you want to further support the Cameroon team then forward the email site to your friends. But why not ask them to put the same message.

You could use this as your email text:

Puma is campaigning for Cameroon to get six points back that were deducted by FIFA as a result of a their "all in one" kit breaking regulations. With the point deduction Cameroon may well miss out on the next World Cup. However, Puma have a history of using sweatshop workers and failing to recognise Unions. Add your message of support to Cameroon on the website but make sure you also let Puma know that sweatshops are unacceptable by also suggesting a boycott of their products.

To add your voice go to:

And cut and paste the message:

I support the campaign for the return of the six points but I also support a boycott of Puma for using sweatshop Labour.

Please forward to your friends.

Now I know Puma will delete the messages in time. But at least it'll be a complete pain in the arse to them. In the meantime other message leavers will read your comments.

See, isn't a little bit of mischief fun?

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Voices on the radio. Tell us that we're going to war. Those brave men and women in uniform. They want to know what they're fighting for.

"So there, we have figured it out, go back to bed America, your government has figured out how it all transpired.

"Go back to bed America, you government is in control again. Here, here's American Gladiators. Watch this, shut up!

"Go back to bed America, here's American Gladiators. Here's 56 channels of it. Watch these pituitary retards bang their fuckin skulls together and congratulate you on living in the land of freedom.

"Here you go America, you are free, to do as we tell you, you are free, to do as we tell you."

Bill Hicks, Revelations, 1993

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Those braying voices on the right of the House are echoed down the Street of Shame.
Where politics mix with bingo and tits. In a strictly money and numbers game.

It looks increasingly likely that the British "torture" photos are not real.

We will be hearing at 3.30pm from the armed forces minister. He is to make a statement on the pictures.

So far my emotions about the pictures have gone as follows: disgust but little surprise when they were first published, disgust at the army for denying them and now the realisation that they are probably fakes after all.

Looking at the Guardian's break down of the pictures they do look incredibly staged. The prisoner's t-shirt is pristine, the jet of urine being dispensed over the prisoner doesn't look right, the van is apparently wrong and the gun is of a type not used in that area.

As I said though, when these pictures were first questioned, I didn't believe their doubts. I applied the PR man's logic to what was being said. Like the Beckhams' latest tabloid dealings, they chose not to offer a 100% denial, instead they just expressed doubts.

My rule is this - if it's not denied 100pc then it's probably true. This way you make a noise about suing. Express your distrust at tabloid behaviour and generally muddy the water as to whether this is fact or fiction. Then, a year down the line, you conveniently drop the legal action by which time everybody has forgotten the story.

Of course this may well have been the military's intended tactic. However it now looks like they have a real case for exposing these pictures as fakes.

If this is true then what will the outcome be? Well it's likely that Piers Morgan will lose his job. And with Piers out of the way and the Mirror suitably bruised and shamed, will it carry on its anti-war stance? If it does then will anyone ever trust it again?

So the Mirror would be added to the post-Hutton BBC scalp. Two down and only the Guardian and Independent left.

However, we should also remember this. Whether or not the pictures are fakes, Amnesty International has highlighted numerous other reports of this kind of behaviour. Then of course there are those American pictures which are real.

If the Mirror pics are found to be fakes we cannot afford to sit back and pat ourselves on the back and praise British fair play and heap the blame on the Americans instead. This is a coalition. If our partners are found to be guilty then we are in this together. If our partners have turned out to be less than perfect then we must ask ourselves why we got involved in the first place.

Like the BBC, the Mirror appears to be guilty of having the facts largely right but the details wrong. And yes, for that they deserve to be taken to task.

But what about the rest of the free press? The papers that towed the party lines from the outset. Remember the Evening Standard's "45 minute from attack" front page? They got that horribly wrong. But, just like the Mirror, they trusted their sources.

The media, during this war, has printed often without questioning, the lies that have emanated from the White House and Number 10. No one is demanding resignations from the Mail or the Sun. It's fine to be wrong if you are doffing your cap to number 10, but if you are against the war and you are wrong then it appears you have to pay.

The Mirror has been very brave in its anti-war stance in a tabloid market that thrives on right wing, reactionary thinking. Historically tabloids have dished out nationalism and intolerance. Instead Piers Morgan decided to take the Mirror back to the days before its circulation war with the Sun. Back to the days when the Mirror was a left-learning working man's paper. A paper that, despite being tabloid, was often lauded for its serious content. He deserves credit for this.

Of course, if the photos are fakes then this is very serious. He will be accused of providing recruit tools for Al Qaeda and I can't really argue with that. However, if Morgan does go I would hate to see the Mirror's anti-war stance go with it.

At worst the photos were printed, with good faith, but without proper checks. The same could be said of the many statements about WMDs that have come from Tony Blair. In a fair world, they should both be out of work.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.