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Friday, 27 April 2007

One for Barnard...

Calzone in Venice

I've been walking around Venice for an hour or so, watching the way the light on the water changes as the sun goes down. It's a beautiful place. Somewhere I can't wait to take my wife to. But more importantly, I'm hungry. I remember passing a little take-out pizza place, which in any other country wouldn't be the best place to try out the local cuisine, but in Italy, it's exactly what you want to do.

Behind the counter is a good-looking local guy, late 20's, black hair to his shoulders, a beard and a big smile. "buonasera", he sings at me, "buonasera", I reply, my command of the Italian language now 25% used up. I point to a gorgeous looking calzone under the counter and ask him what's in it. "Habla Espanol?", he asks. "", I reply. He laughs and says that at his shop he speaks all languages of the World. He says this in Italian, which to some extent disproves the very statement he is making, but I let it slide.

There is a young couple eating pizza at the little stand-up table to my left, they laugh. Turns out they are German and have obviously just gone through this conversation with him minutes earlier. In broken Italian I tell him that I'd like a magareta calzone, and he relays my order to the chef before asking me where I'm from. We chat for a while and then he asks the German couple how to say buonasera in German. they tell him, "Gutenacht" and he tries it a couple of times. The chef laughs and joins in, putting lots of emphasis on the last syllable, "GutenACHT". The couple finish their pizza, say goodbye, and leave. Once they're gone, the guy who took my order leans over the counter conspiratorially and says, "She was beautiful. Perfect, huh?". "Molto Bella", I reply. He grins widely and points at me, "Yes!"

He starts joking with the chef in Italian about the girl and why she was with her boyfriend instead of him, I can make out that they're decided that it must be the seductiveness of the German language. They start repeating "GutenACHT" and giggling, then he finds the key, makes the linguistic quantum leap and announces proudly, "buonaserACHT" and we all laugh.
Suddenly the chef gets very serious. "She was nice, but not perfect.", he decides. Then, sliding the neat cardboard box containing my calzone across to me on the counter top, smiles. "Here is perfect".

New ship, old ship

I'm on the Emerald princess. Having a few days ago just left the Crown Princess. They are sister ships, something that I didn't quite understand until recently. They're identical. Completely the same, down to the last rivet, the last centimeter-square tile on the mosaic floor of the piazza, down to the last pebble placed artistically in the water feature by the atrium lifts. Identical. But they're thousands of miles apart. One is sailing between Caribbean islands, the other - the one I'm on - is currently moored at Venice, and will, in a couple of hours, set sail for Dubrovnik.

Except they're not quite the same. Everything that has been designed is identical, but just occasionally - particularly as I wander around the crew-only parts of the ship - one stumbles across tiny, but jarring differences.

Obviously, that the two ships are facsimiles of each other is useful, as it took me a good 36 hours to stop getting lost on every journey on the previous ship, but here I am, knowing where everything is, which is great. So, without thinking, I can walk through the art gallery (with the same pictures), to the stairs, drop down a level, go through a crew door into the M1 corridor, right to the far end, cross through by the staff lifts, through the little green door, up the stairs, turn left and into the crew mess, where there is the same juice machine with the same flavour juices under the same buttons. Except that on the journey, some of the health and safety posters have been put up in slightly different places, and there are slightly different notes on the staff noticeboards, and in the crew mess the little portable televisions that are constantly on have been placed in slightly different positions. About a quarter of a percent of everything is different. Slightly.

This gives one a feeling of intense and creeping deja-vu. I've been here before, but not quite. It took me a while to figure out what it was, and now that I have, I'm fascinated by which things are different. The things that the corporation have no control over, or more likely, don't care about. I don't get lost, but as I find my way around the ship, there's the tiniest feeling that I am lost, because every so often a visual cue that my unconscious is looking for isn't there, or is different. Weird.

And I'm not even talking about the biggest difference on this ship. The crew mess serves chips. Never saw chips on the Crown Princess. Someone must have told them I'm trying to lose weight, and they're just trying to fuck with me. You'll be glad to know that I remained resolute and avoided having chips, then went out to explore Venice and have calzone. I did think long and hard about it, and then thought to myself, "Dude, you're in Venice and that calzone looks badass", all subsequent internal discussions were redundant by that point as the calzone did look, and indeed was, badass.

Luggage roulette

In Venice airport, to promote a local casino, the baggage carousels have been changed into giant roulette wheels so you can bet on where your bag will land!
This is brilliant.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Back in the UK for a weekend, and this is what I see...


Shock at women goading toddlers

Footage of four women goading toddlers to fight has "stunned" police and social services in Devon.
The seven-minute footage, filmed at a house by one woman, was shown in a case at Plymouth Magistrates' Court.
In the clip, a boy wearing a nappy was called a "wimp" for not hitting a girl back after she struck him in the face.

But surely...the first rule of fight creche, is don't talk about fight creche.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Cruise diary part 2

Cruise diary part 2 (San Juan to Aruba)

Saturday 14th April (night)

I go up to the gym and have a nice long workout, then back to my room to take a shower and head down to the mess to get some food. As I'm walking along the deck I have one of those nagging little stupid thoughts. I did read the schedule right, didn't I? I'm sure i did, but have to go back to my cabin to check it of I won't be able to relax.

Turns out I did read it wrong. I'm on tonight at 5.45. It's now 5.42. Holy shit.

I get changed, get my props and - amazingly - get down there not too late, and do the show. It's not bad either. Afterwards I talk to the guy who handles my table and he says my next show is at 8.30. No, I say, 7.45. I tell him I'll go and check my schedule but I'm sure it's 7.45. Sure enough, when i go back to my cabin, my show is at 7.45. I run down to the mess, eat, and am back ready for my last show. My man with the tables hasn't shown up, but all is not lost as I borrow one from the cafe to use. The p.a. announces that there will be a safety drill at 8, which isn't a problem as long as I pull the show down exactly on time, which I do.

Only thing is, after I finish the show, my table man tells me that because of the drill, my show is on a 8.30. The schedule I have is wrong. It's not a problem, I say, I'll go on again at 8.30, and I do. It doesn't seem to be a massive problem.

Well that was a hectic evening, but all the shows were fine and I'm done now. Nothing more to do until Friday morning then I go home. The best part of a week to work out, tan and explore various islands. Could be worse.

Sunday 15th April

Morning - workout, then ashore to check out St Thomas. It's not my favourite place, bit of an industrial estate once you get outside of the little shopping mall surrounding the port. I walk up the coast for half an hour, then turn back. Nothing to note really. When I'm back to the ship I go up to the lido deck and lay in the sun listening to the Kevin Smith podcast, which is very disappointing. Juvenile and dull - and has abysmal production. It's got constant music and film samples in the background, so, for instance, when someone mentions Waynes World, the theme to the movie plays - this happens all the time. It's horribly distracting and seemingly indicative of the lack of confidence they had in just having Kevin and Scott Mosier chat, which is surprising being as that's one of the things Kevin is very good at - just apparently not on a podcast.

Later in the day I go to see one of the big production shows - "Destination Anywhere". It's got good production values and is free.

Monday 16th April

St. Kitts. On first inspection it's not quite as yummy as I had expected. perhaps I was confusing it with Eartha Kitt. But the more I pad around it's hilly, potholey streets, the more I like it. Like San Juan, it's honest - not just a bunch of shops that have desperately and cynically sprung up around a port, but an actual town that exists outside of tourism and has people that do actual real jobs and stuff. Sure, lots of the businesses make money from the tour groups, but by no means all - it's a real community - and that's important to me. I don't want to feel that I'm watching a Caribbean pantomime performed for the benefit of rich American tourists, I want to think I'm being given a lucky glimpse into another place. That was certainly true for San Juan, and it's a little less true, although still true, for St. Kitts.

Locals laugh and argue in small dark bars, chickens walk around the streets pecking for leftovers, Fisherman on the beach continually shoo away pelicans who are after their catch. As I walk down the smaller streets away from the shops, music plays from the windows of brightly coloured houses with sun baked yards. While walking along the coast the warm air smells sweet, then the pungent smell of fish and salt from some fisherman, then I walk past a young woman seemingly explaining why she is late for something, "I is a laaaazy girl", she giggles.

So I've been watching TV in my room, being a laaazy girl, and I take a look at my schedule for the next few days to see where we're going. Tomorrow Grenada, then Bonaire, then Aruba on the 19th. Hmm. I fly home on the 19th. From Antigua. But according to my schedule we don't actually stop at Antigua. I must have made a mistake, the flight must leave from Aruba, so I go and look at my flight reservations. Nope. Antigua. Ok, don't panic. Antigua and Aruba are probably really close together or something. I fire up Google Earth and take a look. Close together, not so much. Entirely different islands. With sea in between and everything. I start to panic slightly.

Time to ask a grown-up. Off I go to the information desk and explain the situation to the nice lady. "No", she says, smiling, "We don't go to Antigua", "I see", I say, "So how do I get from Aruba to Antigua airport?". She ponders my various sheets of paper for a while, looks at me, then looks at them again and thinks some more. "I will come back." she says, and takes them away with her downstairs. I wait. She returns, with a cheery "Aruba!" and presents me with my flight reservations with Antigua scrawled out and "Aruba" written in biro underneath it. Well I could have done that. Strangely I'm completely calmed by this simplistic resolution. "It's fine", I think to myself, "If there's any problem at the airport I'll just tel them that the helpful lady at the information desk wrote it, so it's all legal and binding and stuff." I have a feeling that although this is the end of the story for now, it's not actually the end of the story. Either way, I have celebrated by purchasing some peanuts and convincing myself that they're good for me because of the protein.

Tuesday 17th April

Grenada. All I know about Grenada is that the US military wanted a beach holiday here a while ago. They've gone now, as far as I can see, leaving a fairly run down, bustling and dusty place. I walk through the busy streets and up the steep stone stairs to the fort. It's hard work in the hot sun, but when I get to the top the view across the cluster of bays and waterways is worth it. Roofs cluster together, vying for space in a random clutter, their busyness contrasted by the wide, flat light blue stretches of water that cut through the town.

I local is chatting good-naturedly to a family near me, as we all take in the view and get our breath back from the climb. "You all English?", he says. "yes" replies the mother, slightly sternly. "Cool. From London?", "No.", she says, this time very harshly, as she turns around and walks away briskly. Jeez, it's not as if he tried to steal your purse. It's easy to forget that even when they're on a Caribbean cruise, some people still find a black guy that they don't know a threatening prospect.

I amble back to the ship in the almost too hot sun. As I walk through one of the many security checks, I see a couple of local security guards taking photos of each other by the ship like tourists. This makes me giggle. Something about the juxtaposition of guns and uniforms, with the physical theatre of taking each other's picture. A huge white American guy with a big white beard and a marines baseball cap strolls by them and smiles, "How ya doin' Sir?", he says, "All secured?", The one with the camera replies chirpily, "Yeah, probably...", they all laugh.

Wednesday 18th April

Bonaire. I know nothing about Bonaire. All the other stops on this cruise I've at least heard of, but Bonaire? Nada. Good reason to go explore.

It's pretty. All the other places we have docked at, with the exception of San Juan, have had a shopping mall where the pier meets land, so you have to go through the mall to reach the actual place. Lots of tourists have a heard time making it past the onslaught of shops as they head up the coast. It's like Saving Private Ryan but with more duty free. Bonaire has no shopping mall, you walk up the pier and you're on a dusty road that stretches up and down the coastline. I 15 minutes one way and end up a beach side bar watching the primary-coloured fish swim below me. Then I head up the coast in the other direction.

I walk for about an hour in the sun along the coastline, as soon as you're 10 minutes away from the cruise ship, it gets so quiet. The only sound is the waves on the beach and the calls of the various brightly coloured birds that swoop around and hunt for food in the shallows. The warm breezes carry the sweet scent of blossoms and the salt from the sea. I find myself unable to avoid breathing deeply as I walk.

I pass a tall skinny man with dark, leathery skin - partly due to his ethnicity and partly because he obviously spends a lot of time out on the water. He is sitting on the edge of a wooden pier fixing nets. He wears a T-Shirt that reads "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll spend all day drinking beer in a boat". Funny, but untrue, as, leaning up against my end of the pier is his bag with a large object with a tail sticking out of the top. Looks like he's got a good dinner tonight.

I drift into town, a little inland. The main drag is like one of those pretend Western towns, where stuntmen have gunfights and fall of roofs for tourists. It's all verandas and balconies made of wood painted pale light colours. Bizarrely, Bonaire is half American and half Dutch, which if you don't know beforehand, is surprising. You don't expect to see menus listing stroopwaffles alongside the more expected cocktails, but it's no bad thing. It also means that my favourite beer in the world, Amstel, is in plentiful supply. A fact confirmed by another guest entertainer on the ship who I see carrying a whole case of it back to his cabin, while moaning about the tiny cans it comes in.

Tomorrow I go home. It's been a fun time, cruising around the blue seas on this huge ship. I always miss home, so I'm looking forward to going back, even if it's only for two days.

Oh yes, home on Friday afternoon, Italy on Sunday morning.


Saturday, 14 April 2007

Is it me or does one thing not fit in here...

OK, I promise no more pictures of signs for a long time.
(Unless I find a really good one)

You have to admire their honesty...

Wait a minute...

I thought I was Mr Tablecloth...

Antigua diary (part 1)

10th April

This morning i woke up in South London next to my wife. Currently it's around about tea-time and I'm sitting on the balcony of my room at the Antigua Royal beach resort, overlooking a bay with a white sand beach and turxoise sea in which i recently swam, alone. I know a lot about swords, and I know that this one is double-edged. I've said it before and I'll say it again, crazyness.

I join the ship tomorrow, which means tonight i get a free room here, and can I just say that there is no better way to shake off a long flight and the threat of jetlag than a swim in a warm blue sea.

There was a shaky moment when nobody came to pick me up at the airport, but a couple of phone calls later I was being driven around the twisty-turny roads, past the dozens of little shack shops and bars, to the hotel. At one point we drove along a ridge overlooking the ocean, atop of which was a large new looking building, which i assumed to be a luxury hotel, "The new hospital", my driver grinned, "not a bad place to get sick".

Either him or his friend Peas will pick me up and take me to the ship tomorrow. yes, his friends name is Peas. "Like the vegetable, y'know?"

Hungry. room service. Pizza. I said I'd start the diet when I got on the ship, I'm not on the ship yet...

11 April

Not a great nights sleep, but not as full of stress dreams as it could have been. Unless you count the vivid "I'm having an epileptic seizure" nightmare, which probably you should count.

Anyway, up early and down to sit under a palm tree and eat french toast and pancakes for breakfast. Not too shabby. Then Peas arrives and takes me and an American comedian called Andres to the ship. He's done a few cruise gigs before so I chat to him about it, he says I'll like it and I reply that so far, so good.

Getting on board takes forever, with visas, passports, schedules, and the fact that the performer who was in my room before me has decided not to leave quite yet. I stash my bags and a very friendly and helpful crewmember called Susana shows me around the ship and answers my questions. She's only been on the ship four months so doesn't quite know where everything is yet. "Look. Here. I carry several maps of the ship. Always.", she explains. This doesn't fill me with hope for my 10 day stay. We turn a corner in one of the crew only parts of the ship to discover two big black body bags, with something human shaped inside them, slumped against a door, complete with signs on them saying "DEAD". We stop in front of them, my mouth hanging open a little. "Not actual dead", Susana assures me, smiling sweetly, "For drill."

After thanking Susana, I kill time until my room is ready by wandering around trying to work out where things are. It's goes well, I can get from my room to the midship information desk, which is conveniently right next to where I'll be performing. Talking of performing, I was sure I'd been told that I was doing 3 or 4 shows per day - turns out that I got it wrong - it's actually 3 or 4 working days per trip. Ha ha. This means that I have today and tomorrow completely to myself, and then do two spots friday evening, followed by another day off. No complaint here.

Finally my room is free and I get my stuff in there and unpack. It's small but very neat and comfy. I like it a lot. I even have a window - sorry - porthole, so i can see the ocean from my bed.Yum.
I need an adapter for my laptop plug, so venture off the ship out into St.Johns. It's a bustling hodge-podge of shops, bars, restaurants, stalls, street performers, taxi drivers hawking for business. It's great. I can only think of one thing that it resembles, and that would be Mos Eisley spaceport in star wars. You know, where Luke and Ben find Han. It's just like that, but with more rum. As I walk down the main drag a taxi driver shouts at me "Want a taxi?" and then before I can reply he says "No, you look like a hiker", with real emphasis on "Hiker". I turn around and smile and he says it again, "Yeah - you're a HIKER" and cracks up laughing.

I find a shop to get the adapter and the guy who sells it to me, who obviously knows I'm British from the accent and the fact that I asked for an adapter for a British plug, says - in his thickest Antigua accent - "Fanks mate. Cheers" with the widest grin you've ever seen.

I'm hungry to I decide my next mission is to find the staff canteen - sorry, the crew mess. Surprisingly, I do. It's at the end of M1, the crew only, big long passageway that runs the entire underbelly of the ship from one end to the other. It's cool, being able to go through all the crew only doors as if I knew what I was doing. So the crew mess has some kind of food at all hours of the day, which is great. I am determined to eat healthily while I'm here, so I have some rolls with salad and kidney beans in which are a lot nicer than they sound, and a huge amount of glasses of fresh orange juice. It's a clattery, noisy, energetic place, the mess. Full of crew members from all over the world. They're not allowed to speak any language other than English in front of passengers (or PAX as I have learned they are called), so it seems that when they're below decks on their own time, they really make up for it. This makes the mess an interesting place to be.

During my earlier wanderings I stumbled upon the gym, so i decide to go back up there and work out. There is a line of at least 30 running machines and cross-trainers lined up at the front of the gym in front of the long round window that looks out the back of the ship. We're high up - on floor 16 - so the view is gorgeous, or would be if every running machine didn't have a large plasma screen attached to it. As you run, if you're careful, you can see a bit of the Caribbean around the sides of the TV. I hope I'm not the only person to tag this mentally as very wrong.

I have a welcome guide thing. It tells me all the rules and regulations of the ship - of which there are many. One of them is that i am expected to tip my cabin steward $3.50 per day. This fills me with fear. I'm not good at tipping. Oh, sure, I can leave money on a restaurant table, or say "keep the change" to a cab driver, but I'm not the kind of guy who can pull off the firm handshake with a couple of bills in it thing. Do I pay every day? What if I don't see him one day - do I pay double the next day? He came around earlier to check I had enough soap, I said yes thanks. Should I have tipped him? For that? Really? Oh god.

12th April

My sleeping/waking hours are still a little screwy, so I woke up at about 5am this morning and lay in bed looking at the ocean going by in darkness outside my window. I drift off for what seems like just a couple of seconds and wake to see learn blue sky. It's about 8am and we have arrived in St.Maartens. I get up and go to the gym for another work out, then down to the crew mess to see what kind of breakfast I can get. Fresh pineapple, mango, pear, peach and yoghurt. Quite stylish. I am doing well to avoid the huge amounts of cakes, pastries and fried goods on display.

When I get back to my cabin, the steward is cleaning my room. Oh god. Should I tip him now? If I decide to tip him once at the end of my stay will he just think I'm being tight today? I make the decision to tip him when he's finished today, so, as he says goodbye I say thanks and hold out some notes. He is clearly startled and confused. I say thanks a couple more times, still holding out the notes. He eventually takes them, smiling, and goes. I did something very wrong here but have no earthly idea what it is. Tomorrow I'll try not tipping him and see what happens. Way I see it, the embarrassing event has happened now, so the rest is just experimentation.

I go ashore for a walk down the coast of St Marteen's. The sea is the bluest sea I have ever seen. Dozens of shades of green and blue, vivid, snake around each other as I stand on the rocks and look out to the horizon. I have a good friend from here, and I can only say it's as relaxed and shabby as he is.

April 13th

Again, I wake up at 5.30am and take some photographs out of my porthole window of the moon over the ocean. At around 8 I head up to gym and run for a while. As I'm returning to my cabin I hear my name in an announcement over the ship's p.a. system. Apparently I have to go to "Club Fusion" to take part in the mandatory US immigration procedures, because we've docked at St.John, which is, I guess, America or something. So down I go to be met by an exceedingly large fellow in US customs uniform festooned with shiny badges and guns who takes my passport and looks me up and down. "You're British", he says. "You shouldn't be here". They other staff start to bicker about why I'm on the list of Americans. My quip of "I can't even do the accent" fall on non-sympathetic ears. I eventually have to get off the ship, go the the "Centre for Homeland Security", which would have been a lot more intimidating if it didn't consist of two jolly large black women talking about eyebrow trimming in a shed. They sort me out, and send me on my way cheerily. On the way back to the ship I pass the customs guy again, complete with shades and baseball cap pulled down over his eyes. He is great. "You get done what you need to get done?", he asks. "Yes sir" I say. He grins back, "Welcome to the Island, babe." He is a great man indeed.

I'm still worrying about the stuff I need for my show - I leave a message for the head of production services, who I've been told is the person I've got to talk to. Still no reply. This isn't helping my nerves. It has come to my attention that today is Friday the 13th. Great.

After leaving two messages and then paging her, the production supervisor finally gets in touch and organises my table. As the first show time approaches I get more and more nervous. Then it's here. I go on. And it's not great. Very quiet, hardly anyone at eye level, and only a few more dot around the three levels that stretch up in front of me. I do a show, and people laugh and clap a little, but nowhere near as much as they might, and should. I go back to my room, feeling like shit.

Lesley calls and I'm really down and non-talkative. We agree that we'll speak again after my second show. I lay on my bed and watch the start of "Batman Begins" and let myself have half and hour of feeling crappy. Then I have a word with myself. I work out what went wrong and how I can fix it. I get myself in the right mood. I go back for my second show.

It rocks bells. I have the floor and all three levels packed full of people roaring with laughter and clapping their tits off. Obviously I'm elated. I talk to Lesley afterwards and she reminds me that whenever I work somewhere new, the first show is usually pretty bad. It takes me one show to solve the puzzle that each new venue poses.
I celebrate by getting some candy from one of the ship's stores. Then I head down to the crew mess and treat myself to an apricot cheesecake, which, as I'm on a diet, I hope will be dissapointing. Unfortunately, it's divine in every possible facet. I walk in the warm moonlight back to my cabin, passing a solitary old man sitting on one of the deckside chairs. As I pass him he smiles at me and claps. I thank him, completely aware that - solitude notwithstanding - things are more than ok.

One more thing: I've decided to handle the cabin steward by simply placing the "Do not disturb" sign on my door all the time, every day until I actually need something changed. This way I'll tip him only when he's done something. Seems fair to me. It's been working fine until just now, when he called me on the phone and asked me if I'd like him to come and do my room now. I have a suspicion that if I'd said yes he may have asked for a credit card number.

Saturday 14th April

I wake as we're pulling into San Juan, as I become conscious I hear someone slip something under my door. Thoughts of threatening letters from my cabin steward fill my head, but no, it's just a letter explaining my schedule for the next few days and what I have to do today legally. There are things to do today legally because today is changeover day - the cruise has come to an end for pretty much a whole ship full of people (except the rich ones who pay for two cruises back to back), so they all have to get off and let a whole new bunch on. It is, as you might imagine, perfectly organised chaos. I get off the ship and avoid it, instead deciding to go and explore San Juan.

It's gorgeous. All the other stops so far have been very Caribbean, but suddenly we're in a Latin country and everything is different. It's quieter, for a start. Less bustling. Gorgeous Spanish architecture in colours that were once vivid pinks, greens and yellows, but which have now faded to classy pastel shades. I walk around for an hour or so, taking photographs. I buy a hat, conscious that nobody's going to pay attention to my jokes on stage if all they're looking at is the comically sunburnt Englishman. The hat says "PR" on the front in orange letters. In West Side Story the Jets refer to the Sharks as "dirty PRs", so by buying the hat I officially announce my joining of the Sharks. They were always cooler anyway.

I end up in a bar called "Senor Frogs", and sit on a stool in with my back to the bar drinking a very cold beer while watching baseball and hockey on the TV, feeling like my favourite private eye, Spenser. The bar is perfect. It is a large, dark, cool room with a restaurant to one side. I look across the dusty wood floor and watch the palm trees sway in the breeze just outside the big open window. Old Atlantic soul plays and I giggle at hockey fights.

While I'm watching the sports channel, an advert for Las Vegas tourism plays. i think this might be the most honest advert in the history of marketing. It consists of two guys talking, i can't hear their conversation because the sound is muted, but then the tagline appears: "Las Vegas: Our fabulous Broadway shows can be your alibi". I mean, wow.

I walk around town some more. I liked San Juan before, but it's even better when you're walking off a pleasant beer buzz. After taking some more pictures, I end up back at the ship, walking past all the people in the long lines to check in. According to my schedule I have two more shows tomorrow night, then nothing at all until i go home on Friday.

Up to the lido deck to sit by the pool and read? Be a fool not to.

Monday, 9 April 2007

This years adventure begins...

By the time you read this, I will be on the above floating behemoth.
I'll plan to keep blogging while I'm away, so keep checking back for news of how the rich american tourists take to my overly-talky snarky juggling stuff.
I also aim to lose some weight this summer, so we'll see how that goes...

Friday, 6 April 2007

Not so silent...

Last night we went to see a Kevin Smith Q&A. It was 4+ hours of fun, although it was a little scary being trapped in a big room with quite so many late teen alpha geeks. While queueing for popcorn I encountered a couple having a very heated discussion about the relative merits of Terminator 3 vs The Phantom menace. A discussion that was ended when it was agreed that they both "sucked donkey cock". They then went on to have a lightsabre fight with drink straws. The girl couldn't do the noise. Girls can't do this kind of thing, fact of life.

I think Kevin might be one of the best American stand-ups currently working, although he'd never think of himself as a comedian, he clearly is. Even though his material has developed from audience questions, he tends to slide into structured stuff which builds to gags. Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing. He's funny.

Oh, and we learned some brand-new sweary phrases, way too much personal detail about his wife, and which hollywood pretty boy is a "sloppy party bottom".

Good times.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Small Town Gay Bar

Saw this documentary last night - all part of the benefits of having a wife who works for the BFI - very good, moving stuff about the importance of gay bars in small down American communities, and the hate that they attract. It has sad moments but ends up being very life affirming stuff. It's playing some festivals, so check it out, here's it's page :

Big Brother is watching you. And shouting at you.

Seen this?

'Talking' CCTV scolds offenders

"Talking" CCTV cameras that tell off people dropping litter or committing anti-social behaviour are to be extended to 20 areas across England.
They are already used in Middlesbrough where people seen misbehaving can be told to stop via a loudspeaker, controlled by control centre staff.
About £500,000 will be spent adding speaker facilities to existing cameras.


OK, so apart from the obviously horrific Big Brotherness of it all - and don't get me wrong - it IS horrific - my question is this:

Who will get the voice-over gig? It's a biggie - surely lucrative, and with great market awareness.

There can only be a couple of contenders, and frankly, there's not much that could make me angrier about the current surveilance state that the UK has become, but having Jimmy Carr or Justin Lee Collins telling me to walk not run might just be the tipping point into revolution. First against the wall, boys, first against the wall.