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Well you lot,I have a little announcement
After 12 years together, myself and my partner, Claire are finally getting married. I know, about time too, says you.
We moved in together in late 2002, and finally got engaged in 2005. Of course, a lot of things happened after that such as a crippling recession that put our lives on hold for years. But things are picking up now and I finally have consistent work with a good company.
We are getting married out in Cyprus, because my mum lives there now. She has been appointed Wedding Planner, as she is in the area, and knows everybody. I think we are going with a Catholic church, as there is a nice one in Paphos with a restaurant next door that caters for large parties.
This means we get a little sunshine and the country appeals to a Classicist such as me. So I wil keep you posted on the developments as they come in.
It is very rare that you get a personal post out of me. The reason I am doing one now is just to take stock of my life, check how far I have come and double-check where the hell I am going.
Our story starts way back at the end of 2008. Your intrepid hero here, was working as a manager within the hospitality side of a exclusive Golf and country club. It was a great job and I enjoyed it a lot.
I had heard on the news something about a recession hitting America, which must suck. A few companies had gone under and Wall street was starting to resemble the panic of 1929. Now this was a little worrying, but still nothing really to do with me and mine. The TV was full of pictures of people suddenly devoid of jobs, with huge debts and no savings or insurance to fall back on.
Like the Tsunami of 2005 I figured this was all pretty awful but still very far away and ultimately nothing to do with me. Then the recession hit Britain with the force of an economic hurricane, destroying all in it’s path. People in some industries were being made redundant, not in tens or twenties but in their hundreds, and even thousands. Businesses, often high street names, were folding at a rate of one a day. It was shocking and bewildering, especially to someone with a sense of history who had seen all this happen before.
Then one day I found a letter from the management in my pigeonhole. I was one of three people selected to be made redundant at the end of the month, which happened to be December.
This was completely unexpected, and thoroughly frightening. I had been doing really well at my job and had learned how to run large functions in a relatively short time. And now my skills were no longer needed, simple as that. They simply couldn’t afford to keep me on.
I knew the big executive cars in the car park were getting fewer and fewer. The Golf club had just paid out millions to build a hotel extension on it’s side, and now had been caught short.
With a pay-off of barely two weeks wages I was let go the day before Christmas eve. You have got to love the Dickensian twist on that one.
By sheer luck my better half knew of a guy at a small hotel chain who needed a night-desk receptionist for his premises. Naturally I took it while I looked out for something else. But it was quickly clear that there was nothing else. Nothing at all.
So I set to work every night, on my own in pitch blackness. Naturally I hated every minute, and simply could not adjust to such an inactive role after management. I sat and wrote my blog, as you can see through my posts of 2009. Some of my best writing was done at 04.00, fueled by some very strong coffee. You can probably tell.
After nine months I was promoted to day-time supervisor, which was much better. I felt I was finally getting back to somewhere like where I was. I had a huge restaurant and bar to look after, and a lot of responsibility.
About this time we were intending to relocate from Oxfordshire to Warwickshire, to be closer to my partner’s parents. They had not been well the past year and it would hopefully be cheaper to live up there, and find work.
Indeed we did find a home to rent just around the corner from her parents, at a surprisingly cheap rate. We both found jobs at a local pub and hotel. We settled into the town with little trouble, but not into the jobs. It is difficult to say why, but we just didn’t fit. We came from a different culture with a different style of management. The new place was run with a rod of iron, even though the end product was not great quality.
I began a desperate search for something better somewhere else. But therein lay the problem. Our new town was positioned between three cities containing well over fifty decent size hotels and clubs. Yet jobs were rare any applying for work had somehow become a nightmare. Literally hundreds of people were applying for every single position, no matter how small, or part time.
My current job was simply unbearable so I decided to take a gamble and do agency work for a while. Now this would be an experience. It was wholly manual labour, and very demanding at that. While I had stamina, I had no remarkable physical strength. Suddenly I found myself emptying trucks and lifting packages of every size and shape at all hours of night and day. It was very hard work, but I had nothing else so I could not complain.
As so often happens with agency work (as I found out) I got a phone call to say I was no longer required there. No reason given, beyond that they were a bit quiet there at the minute. So I applied to another agency. From now on I would be packing internet orders for a well known British high street shopping chain. I packed everything from dresses to toys to christmas gifts. Then suddenly after christmas it tailed off completely, for over six weeks. Now this really left me out on a limb. I had no money, no work and no prospects of getting a job. I applied and applied, stating my numerous qualifications and years of experience, but somehow nobody seemed interested. I was so scared and bewildered. It just didn’t make sense, I had done nothing wrong, but I was an outcast.
As a person, I changed. I must have been unbearable to live with. I became prone to outbursts of temper, deep, dark moods, and attacks of panic every time I checked my bank balance. One day when another agency cancelled my shift again, I sat at home on my own and screamed at the top of my lungs for maybe ten minutes. I had just had enough.
Even now, writing this, I feel haunted by that day. I had known people who had committed suicide, and had seen the devastation it caused their families. It was only that knowledge that kept me from ending it.
The calls from the bank came daily and more persistently. I just couldn’t get through to them that I could not pay bills with no income. But, through family help and sheer bloody-minded persistence I managed to scrape work here and there.
I took an assymetrical move back into hospitality by becoming a chef. Something I never really wanted to be. At first I wasn’t very good. I had trouble prioritizing and committing menus to memory. Luckily my head chef was no overbearing Ramsey type, and very patient with me. Mostly because I never refused a shift and would change my plans at the drop of a hat.
At the same time I was still doing agency work as a packer for an internet sales company. But work came in drip form and money was tight
But I just kept chipping away and I found another job as a chef for a small garden centre cafe at weekends. I held this down while still doing two other jobs, and barely scraping to survive. Then a chef went out sick and I was required to cover two more days a week, which was just fine. The new kitchen was much harder, however and required a level of skill that I did not possess at this stage. Although my new chef and manager were great people and true professionals, I knew I was letting them down. Also, I needed to find a job with a full time contract, somewhere, somehow.
For a long time, none seemed to be forthcoming. Your applications just seemed to get lost without a trace. Other interviewers who saw me would smilingly offer a zero hours contract. This meant they could drop you like a stone at zero notice.
The summer of 2012 and very miserable and suited my mood entirely. As desperately as I tried, I just could not make enough money to pay the bills.
Around this time two of my biggest character strengths began to pay off. Firstly I have huge physical endurance. This let me just go on working without getting ill or overly tired. Secondly, I have a sheer bloody minded refusal to quit anything I start. If you show patience, sooner or later, the other guy will blink, or get bored and make a mistake.
A vacancy came up for a chef at Birmingham airport. I heard about it through a friend, who put my case forward to the powers that be. In an echo of an earlier episode of my life a long line of “no’s” ended up with a guy taking one look at me and saying “yeah, alright.” and put me on a trial.
The job itself was right up my street, cooking food fresh and fast. But the hours were hideous, and still are. But I adjusted my life to suit. The only other problem was my security clearance that took a lot of work. They needed a full career history of everything I had done for everybody for the last five years. Now this took some doing, and involved taking two weeks off work while it was all sorted out. But now it is done and I am a bona fide chef for a very good company with international perks.
So, on that note I am downgrading my state of personal emergency to a code yellow. I am looking forward to 2013 and maybe getting my life back in some sort of order. I may even return to writing.
Be good, you lot.
Now this is something we guys seem to do rather badly, for reasons that seem genetic rather than practical. We are born to be bad gift givers, and we are just in denial about the whole thing. So for the lady in your life, be it your mum, wife, girlfriend or sister, here are a few tips.
1. Just ask her what she wants. It’s that simple, then you know she will be happy with the purchase.
2. If you are buying underwear for your good lady make sure you write down the exact sizes on a piece of paper and take it with you. And always keep the receipt, as you can guarantee she will take it back and change it.
So what do women like? Well if you need me to tell you I think you had better get out and learn a little about your spouse.
Firstly perfume is always a safe bet. If she has a favourite or an aspirational brand you know it will be a sure fire hit. Just don’t, for heavens sake, try and go for anything cheap, it just won’t work.
Expanding on that there is always the gift packs of toiletries and lotions from the body shop. Coconut smelling stuff always seems to be popular. Most of their products are fair trade so if she is into all that you will be a hero.
If you feel the need to take the tricky step of buying underwear for the good lady then Christmas is a better time to buy than Valentines day. At Christmas you have more money to spend and new lines are usually brought out then. If you wait till Valentines day you will still be paying off Christmas and the department stores use it as a clearance sale.
If you can, shop as La Senza or a decent boutique. If your pockets run as deep as mine, then Marks & Spencers are inexpensive and very attractive.
One word of advice: avoid Ann Summers, it is full of tacky shit that hasn’t been updated since the nineties. Unless you are getting something for the secret santa at work or you are trying to ditch said girlfriend, avoid, avoid, avoid.
Getting the lady alcohol isn’t a bad option, but again, don’t get anything cheap. BHS do some nice gift packs that you can give as a stocking filler.
In view of the current weather maybe it would be a good idea to get her some gloves, a hat or a scarf. Or even a new coat if you need ideas for a main present.
Finally if she has a sweet tooth look around W H Smiths, Thorntons, or Hotel Chocolat. The last one is the one I recommend, they have some wonderful new lines and gift packs.
Next thing, wrapping and presentation count for everything, and they can make or break a Christmas morning. If you need hints on how to gift wrap follow this video.
If not then don’t worry, just buy gift bags you can seal. No worries.
Right guys and girls, get all that done and get down to the serious business of enjoying yourself!
Well ladies and gentlemen, it is that time of year again when we start scouring the shops for gifts for our loved ones. I know, it seems to get earlier every year, does it not? Well in these straightened times we all have to plan our spending well in advance so I thought I would get this article in before your next paycheque.
For the Whisky aficionados among us there is one ideal place to shop and that is www.whiskyshop.com for the most rare and exciting brands.
Not only whisky, but they have an extensive range of hip-flasks, cigars and books on the topic of our favourite tipple.
But the right whisky can only be served in the right tumbler. A set of decent crystal tumblers can be found at John Lewis or Debenhams .
The John Rocha designed Waterford Crystal tumblers are available at your local John Lewis for £63 for a pair.
For an equally spectacular drinking vessel go down to your local Debenhams to gaze up on the Royal Doulton collection. They offer six Dorchester tumblers for £75.00
At the cheaper end of the scale John Lewis also do six 22cl tumblers at £10.75.
If the Whisky lover in your life is also a bookworm, or just looking to expand their knowledge of Whisky origins and products then there are several full-colour hardback books out on the market.
Whisky: The definitive world guide pretty much does what it says on the tin. It covers Whisky from Bourbon to the Scottish Highlands to the rolling hills of Antrim. The book combines a dedicated knowledge of the product with outstanding photography to produce the finest Whisky guide on the market.
Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible is a pocket sized annually updated guide to all that is new and exciting about the world of whisky. Less bulky than the definitive guide, it is a handy size to take on your trip around Scotland.
Now if recently hit the jackpot or you just have the cash to splash and fancy a weekend break there are several whisky tours that are available all year round.
From a short weekend in Edinburgh to an 8-day tour around the Highlands and Islands there is a tour for every wallet.
So good luck with your Christmas shopping and I will be back later this week with some more ideas for family gifts.
Hi Boys and Girls,
Sorry I have been away a while. I was actually in Dublin for a few days researching my new book. Nah, that’s a lie, it was the plan anyway. In fact all we did was chill out, spend time with friends, eat good food and drink a hell of a lot of Guinness. It is good stuff, very nice, and I totally recommend it.
We also saw Dave McSavage performing his stuff live on the streets of Dublin. Have a look here:
When we came back we had a few days with our respective families too, and caught up with loads of people we had not seen in ages. Good times had by all.
So what now? Well I have decided that my blog has been concentrated on the dull, serious stuff for way too long. I missed the last Grand Prix too (unforgivable) because I was elsewhere and it is a bit pointless adding it now.
But coming up next we have an interview with Comedian and Model Jessica Delfino, fresh from her ordeal of touring Britain.
We also meet Scream Queen Ryli Morgan who will be lifting the lid on what goes on behind the scenes of a horror film. And after that, who knows? But I promise I will leave the serious journalism stuff behind now for the rest of the year, nobody read it anyway.
Take care people,
Silvio Berlusconi is a man on a mission. As womanizers go he makes Peter Stringfellow look like Cliff Richard. And in a weird way Italian voters love him for it. I swear you would think he only took the job as Prime Minister as a way to meet hot babes. Evidently it is a tactic that works jolly well.
Only recently, when caught carousing with several leggy lovelies at a spa he said he was there to recover from back pain. I really must use that as an excuse myself one day.
Since before the days of Kennedy and his low-rent cousin, Bill Clinton, the world loves a shagger.
Silvio started out as a cruise ship singer back in the sixties after graduating college. Since then he has been everything from a real estate tycoon, insurance expert, media proprietor, and the owner of a football team. He came into politics late in the day and his policies are generally centre-right. He is an expert in manipulating the media to get his stories on the front page and any bad stories stuffed well in the middle.
His choice of cabinet recently looks more like the line up for Miss World. Not that I have a problem with that, naturally, just a bit unusual. I mean can you imagine Gordon Brown making Jordan the Home Secretary? The Cheeky Girls the minister for transport? Naomi Campbell the Minister for war? She would be good at that.
Well that is pretty much what Silvio did. And, annoyingly for some, it worked surprisingly well.
Silvio is married to the long suffering Veronica Lario, who is currently carrying out divorce proceedings. This is no simple process is catholic Italy. And when you are the wife of the serving Premier, it is a hell of a lot harder. But the case will, no doubt, be making headlines every day next year, as long as it gives Silvio’s side of the story in a good light.
I think Silvio’s problem is that he is, on face value, far too light hearted for a sober political career. Not that this has done anything to effect his popularity at home, but it has worked badly for Italy’s foreign interests. He compared a German official to a death camp guard, and implied that a Spanish minister was a cuckold. He didn’t mean it of course, it is just that the foreigners have no sense of humour.
Silvio is very intelligent, working as he has in many careers and is subsequently very rich. This works to his advantage as 94% of Italy is working class. They see a man who is very self made yet still has a laugh and a bit of hanky panky when the wife isn’t looking. Had he not entered politics he would probably have been even richer. But he understands that influence is a stronger form of currency than the Euro.
To understand Silvio’s popularity is to understand Italy at all. This is the country that has, on prime time TV a show called Italian Stripping Housewives. Even the Fast Show couldn’t make this programme up.
The first time I saw this programme it was 20.30 on a saturday night. I was ten and on holiday with family. I remember thinking holy shit, I love this country!
This is a country where the women stay home, and by God, they rule the home. But outdoors the boys do play hard. They love their football and chase the women incessantly. Infidelity is taken as par for the course. Until now their leaders have been dour gentlemen with quiet, measured policies. Enter Silvio, the human hand grenade. Immediately identifying with the boys, and winking at the girls, this is a man who just oozed charm, and naughty fun. And the serious stuff could go hang.
There have been gaffs and accusations. It has been whispered that he has Mafia connections. Hardly surprising, really in a country riddled with corruption and organized crime. In truth, as a prominent businessman in several fields, he probably does. But more likely he is pulling their strings than vice versa. He hardly needs them now, he has the power of the country at his fingertips. He isn’t an easy person to buy, he simply doesn’t need the money. He is hard to blackmail, as he is so shameless every transgression makes him even more popular.
And then we have the women. Right, deep breath..
Veronica Lario is his current wife. He first saw her when he was married and she was performing topless on stage. They were married in months and she expected him to be faithful. Like, yuh!
Noemi Letizia is the daughter of a friend and colleague. Silvio states categorically that nothing happened between them and he never met her without her parents present. Her boyfriend claims different, that she met Silvio at several parties and spent several days at his mountain retreat. She calls him ‘papi’ and he says he will support her career either as a showgirl or a politician. Only in Italy could the two careers combine so poetically.
Barbera Matera is a dreamy Blonde ex-miss Italy. We knew one would figure in there somewhere. He is actively promoting her as a future MEP stating that she would be a first rate ambassador for Italy. Undeniably true, but did he have ulterior motives for the pneumatic Miss Matera? We would.
Elonora Gagglioni is a former underwear model turned TV personality. She was implicated as Silvio’s lover on tape last year.
The De Vivo twins. Yu-huh that’s right, twins. Holy shit, is this guy trying to be Hugh Hefner or something? After they appeared on a reality TV show Silvio met them at a party and persuaded a TV network to give them jobs as weather girls.
Finally give a standing ovation (most boys do) to escort girl, Patrizia Addarino. This little minx is the one who may yet be his undoing.
It is known that they slept together and that she was working as a prostitute at the time. But it is unclear if he paid her, a criminal offence in Italy. He has publicly stated that he didn’t pay her and doesn’t understand men who pay for sex. Given his track record this reply is understandable. This is a man who probably never paid for sex in his life.
In conclusion it is hard to dislike the guy unless you are a feminist or a vicar. He has a dazzling way of distracting attention away from his Government’s failings and he is a tabloid newspaper’s wet dream. And here is the clever bit, the newspaper belongs to him.
Can we get this guy doing Gordon Brown’s job?
It has been a while since I have caught up with Sarah Ezekiel, but she isn’t a lady to let the grass grow under her feet. Since our last visit she has been shocking the hell out of cinema goers who have actually wanted her advert banned. Newspapers (and one or two bloggers) have been queuing up for quotes on the controversial debate over the right to die.
But best of all, she has been to a Buckingham Palace Garden party, where she met the Queen, Prince Phillip and the Duke and Dutchess of Cornwall. She moves in some glamourous circles these days.
So what was it like at Buckingham Palace Sarah?
I was invited to the Garden Party by Donna Cresswell at the MND Association back in February and was absolutely thrilled. I knew immediately that I should ask Ruth. She is the sister I never had.
Outfit and hat hunting started in about March and wasn’t easy! The official invitation from the Lord Chamberlain arrived in June and I knew that I wasn’t dreaming. I’m not really a Royalist but love the history and enjoy reading about past monarchs. I feel honoured to have been invited and to have the experience of attending a Royal Garden Party.
So the big day eventually arrived and I felt excited and nervous. Ruth arrived and we both couldn’t believe that two East End girls were going to have tea at the Palace. Cameras are not allowed inside so my carer took some photos at home before we set off. We had been hoping for good weather but got heavy showers; this is England! I forgot the rain cover for my computer and told Ruth not to take her umbrella because we had raincoats…. BIG MISTAKE!
We were quickly through security and inside the vast Palace gardens. Everyone looked amazing, the women in beautiful outfits/hats and some of the men in uniform or top hats and tails. There were also people in their National dress which was fascinating to see. There were a couple of bands playing lovely music so we sat under a tree to listen. We were joined by Martin Anderson MBE, who helped to found the MND Association in 1979. He is a wonderful person, who has done so much for MND sufferers, and it was a real pleasure to meet him.
There were large tents with refreshments, sandwiches and cakes. We waited for the Queen to arrive and take tea in the Royal tent. It was raining and we needed an umbrella (sorry Ruth!) and a kind lady let us borrow hers. Then we spoke to MP, Lembit Opik, before waiting near the entrance to meet the Royal Family. Wheelchair users only; disability does have some advantagesOne of the Royal horsemen standing behind us kindly sheltered us under his brolly. He told us that all of the Royal horses have a six week holiday in the country every summer, lucky them!
Then the Queen arrived and I managed to say ‘thank you very much for inviting me today Your Majesty’, on my computer. She smiled broadly and said ‘how sweet’. Prince Phillip said hello and then we spoke to Princess Anne who asked where we were from. I was now covered by Ruth’s and my raincoat and she said how well prepared I was. If only she knew….
Prince Charles stopped to talk for longer than the others and I was really impressed by him. It was only general chat but he seemed genuinely interested. Then we spoke to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Alexandra and Lady Ogilvy. They were all very kind and polite and I was very pleased to have met them all. I could get used to a Royal lifestyle!
Away from the place Sarah has been busy lending her voice to the debate over the right to die. While many people feel they have the right if they are terminally ill, to a swift end. Sarah is a reminder that you also have a right to live, and perhaps a duty to do so with courage.
Sarah featured in a short advert that was to raise awareness for Motor Neuron Disease. When it was shown in cinemas it set out to shock, and it certainly did. They received five complaints. When it came to showing the 90-second advert on TV, it was turned down, as it was considered too harrowing.
Clearcast, the television watchdog is quoted as saying that:
“Even good-cause advertising is capable of causing widespread general offence. We felt the level and amount of distressing and disturbing images went too far for television broadcast, even late at night.”
So I will show you the advert and you can tell me what you think.
To read more about Sarah and follow her charity please follow this link:
Even as the Messerschmidts rained destruction down on England, Clement Attlee was preparing his post-war reforms. In order to reconstruct post-war Britain he proposed a series of far-reaching changes. The jewel of his manifesto for a postwar election was the creation of the National Health Service. When his party duly won the 1945 election Mr Attlee set his plans into motion.
The idea was that Britain could work towards full employment and spend huge sums of money during the wartime effort. Then, in a time of peace the bonds of social solidarity fostered as the ‘blitz spirit’ and financial resources could be redirected towards fostering public goods.
And they managed all this while Britain was virtually bankrupt and devastated by years of bombing. I would like to remind the nay-sayers of this fact in the Pharmaceutical industry.
The NHS has three core principles. These are:
That it shall meet the needs of everyone
That is shall be free at the point of delivery
That it is based on the patient’s clinical need, not their ability to pay.
The NHS is paid for out of public money from taxation and national insurance contributions. Extra things like eye tests and dental check-ups are paid for by the individual, and they are affordable.
The advent of an all American Healthcare system will be a good thing for everybody. Even the pharmaceutical bodies that scream they will go bankrupt will find a way to make it work. And it will work, it will keep people alive for longer.
Hillary Clinton did her best to produce a national Healthcare bill but it ultimately came to nothing, The sway of the private healthcare lobby was too powerful, even for her. I suspect she may have had a hand in convincing Obama to make it one of the prime objectives of his first term..
For further reading please check out this book:
So while I was a few miles away in Monaco the Cannes film festival drew to a close. The Palme d’Or was awarded to Michael Hanake for his film ‘The White Ribbon.” Click play above.
Well I hate to admit I was wrong but I really thought the award would be coming home to Britain this year. Frankly their choice of winner of the Palme d’Or defies sense. I couldn’t think of a less entertaining film to download (sorry, go to pay to see). I can’t help but think this was a reactionary vote, due to the swarthe of violent and horror entries for the prize. So they thought they would teach us a lesson by voting the dullest film since ‘The History of Wet Paint’.
And here is another interesting fact: The President of the Jury, Issabelle Huppart made her breakthrough film under the winning director. Coincidence? Ah, non.
And the rest of the prizes were not better, they all went to unwatchable movies. Never mind, as long as Up, Inglorious Basterds, and Antichrist make it to the local multiplex I am happy.
It has been fun following the full two week carnival, even though I didn’t get there myself. Ah well, maybe one day.
So I will leave you with the best the red carpet had to offer. Enjoy.
See you there next year?