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Archive for October, 2010

 

All we had left!

When you’re real tired and you need a shower, some food and a good sleep you really look forward to your hotel.

Maggie and I had traveled some distance out of London by tube to a suburb called Kenton. Not a bad place I suppose and the Premier Inn that we were to stay in was 76 pounds a night which was also not a bad price. We were relieved to discover that the Inn was a rather quaint looking building about 2 minutes walk from the station. Lugging our backpacks up to the receptionist’s counter I offered my VISA ony to be told “Your card has been declined.”

“Try it again.” I instructed slightly panicked.

“Declined”

“Phone the number on the back” I suggested to Maggie.

“It’s not working.”

We counted out our cash, every last pence – about 114 pounds. This would cover us for just a third of the time remaining in the UK

Well that’s a situation that just wasn’t what either of us wanted to deal with. Options were a park bench for at least 2 of the next 3 nights or sleeping on the station platform. I wonder if that guy with the Ferrari would mind if we crashed in his front hallway?

To cut a long story short we phoned one of Maggie’s relatives in Chester and they helped us by phoning in their VISA number to the hotel. The lesson here is to make sure you remember to phone VISA and let them know when you are going out of the country. My question is why could we not reach them by the phone numbers on the back of the card and also why does it take several days to reactivate your VISA and why when my brother in law phoned them from Canada could they not have been a little more helpful? WHY? WHY? WHY?

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Maggie and the Ferrari

In case you are wondering where I’ve been for the last week it has been in the UK visiting Maggie’s relatives.

I took this picture in downtown London somewhere around Lester Square. Second hand a Ferrari is worth somewhere between $150,000 (Canadian) and $250,000. Over the last decade sales have risen from 4000 to 6500/year. I’d be scared to drive one – especially in London. Check out what they’re selling in Canada right now – used Ferraris. I think this particular Ferrari is of the 458 Italia Variety – top speed 325 km/hr.

It becomes increasingly apparent that there are two kinds of people in London – those that are incredibly rich and those that are struggling to survive. I suspect people stratify themselves in concentric rings outward from the city core, those with the largest disposable incomes live at the center of the city and then as you move outward a compromise between what you are willing to spend on lifestyle and what you are wanting to save or spend on others occurs. Some people, who are too young to have already made their fortune are obviously living on the earnings of someone else – how else could they live here?

As London was once the center of the British Empire I suspect that there is still a lot of residual cash that will likely last a couple more generations – each generation being less capable than the last. It is hunger that drives a person to be successful, not a lifestyle of ease, nightclubs, restaurants and cocktail parties.

Anyway, London was a fascinating place – more to follow (including the “cash crunch” as my next post. Who would ever have imagined that my VISA would not work over there?)

Bet the guy who owns this car (A Ferrari) never has a problem with his VISA.

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Fountain Street – Guelph

Who says you only learn book stuff in school?

I learned to relax and have a good time – maybe too good a time, but if I didn’t do it then I’d be doing it now so better to get it out of the system while you’re still young and don’t have a mortgage and family to care for. I believe that there is definitely something to be said for not going to University until you’re good and ready.

Shortly after getting de-barred from school (the first time round) I moved into “Fountain Street”. Co-offending in the photo from left to right are Woody, Face, Al, Belushi and roommate (Kevin).

Prior to this we had all lived in Mills hall (University of Guelph) and had way too much fun. Well the fun continued in Fountain Street so this is one Sunday morning. we’d generally rise late, have some coffee, watch videos and order out for pizza or whatever. Seven of us lived permanently in the house, but there were several other temporary residents – Crazy Kurtie, Neil, Rubes, and others whom I cant remember.

The point is, no harm done (except to the house). I finished school eventually and resolved to never have people like me move in next door. Now I drive around Guelph and curse the parents who bought up irresponsible jerks like those who leave sofas on the porch and beer bottles on the lawn.

It all comes full circle – and yes, I became a star student when I eventually figured out what it was I was all about. I wish I could study more but life is just to busy.

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Canadian Grain, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here is an interesting little discovery in a market in Marrakesh some time in the early 1980s. Many of these sacks were labeled something to the effect, “Gift from Canada – Canadian grain for Ethiopia”. I cant remember the exact wording but it was something like that.

Any thoughts as to the confusion between Morocco and Ethiopia? Admittedly they are both in North Africa, but one was on the eastern edge of the continent in the midst of a terrible famine and the other is on the western edge with no such kind of problem. Do you suppose there is a deficiency in the geographical education of the pilots or ships captains who got the product here? Maybe in the interests of conservation the Ethiopians decided to send product from their own country to Morocco in those same sacks in which they’d received their aid supplies.

I had this picture taken as discretely as possible so as not to create a stir. As you can see nobody seems too bothered. If I could have got closer without a problem I would have.

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Olmstead, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This is kinda odd. There was a huge round, polished glacial erratic that plugged this hole until we removed it. Beneath there was a shaft that led down about 15-20 feet in depth. Its sides were texturally striated which made it easier to climb.

Cavers called the shaft “The birth Canal”.

In digging at the bottom of the canal in the mud and numerous tiny medicine bottles I broke through one morning into a section of passage that connected on to the main tunnels of the Olmstead cave – explored by Nina Mueller, Kirk, Marcus Buck and others.

You will see that tripod above that was used to bring buckets to the surface.

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Cuban Farm – Beyond the Playa

This picture appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of “Atmosphere” – Air Transat’s inflight magazine. My article was “Beyond the Playa” though initially I had called it “Mario and the Crocodile”. Mario was not one of the fellows in this picture, he was our host and a very decent and generous Cuban at that! My visit with Mario was on the same trip that I visited the Cuevas de Bellamar with Jesus (pronounced hay-zeus).

Before dinner we went on a tour of Mario’s farm – he had an alligator on a chain that he goaded for our entertainment. It lived in a scum covered cement pool behind the shed where he kept his Lada. I wondered if I could keep a pet like that, but come to think of it, we have some kind of exotic pet law back in Guelph.

Here is a little bit of how the article had initially appeared (though in “Beyond the Playa”, the editor had coaxed it into something more about the dinner than the crocodile) …

““My he looks like a nasty fellow” I commented to my host. The creature eyed me coldly. “How long have you had him?” “9 years” “ And I suppose you are going to take his belly skin? Use it for handbags? Gangster shoes?” “Si, my pet, I feed”.  Still no reaction from the beast, it seemed indifferent to its fate. I doubt that it understood me, but then again, neither did my host.

Life never fails to amaze, I wondered at the bond that must have developed over those 9 years. Master gazing fondly over his ill-tempered charge; a rusty chain fastened around its armoured neck. Reaching over in provocation the farmer yanked it’s tether and the beast went absolutely beserk, snapping and thrashing it let loose a fetid hiss from its gaping mouth. Whereas a dog bites at 300 pounds per inch this killer pulverizes bone at a crushing 5000 pounds pressure.

I wondered what it was that had bought me here. My resort offered a perfectly suitable meal – rice and beans – typical Cuban fare, and chicken or some kind of fish. “What kind of fish?” I would ask. “Cuban fish” they would invariably reply.

Well here I was in the banana grove of a farm near Varedero; overlooked by the various creatures who lived there, my host’s Cocker Spaniel, Hootie, the hootia and of course the angry beast. “Nombre?” I asked my beaming host. “Crocodillo” he told me. The “Tinyosa” – great flapping black vultures watched from a tree nearby. I am sure they hoped that I might get to close.”

As for the piggies in the picture, sweet and snuffling as they were, I believe we derived a significant amount of guilt. I hadn’t realized that one of their brethren would serve as dinner until a part of him/her appeared with our meal. I believe we would have paid for his freedom if we’d realized the consequence of our visit, but then again, a wild pig soon grows ferule and even uglier, so freedom for these creatures might be good in theory, but in practicality Mario’s family would go hungry and so would we – “Circle of Life”.

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Cubans

I went for a walk along the beach front one morning. it was kind of a run down place and eventually I reached a settlement of some kind that had served as a holiday resort for Russians. On the way back these two characters emerged from the trees and followed close behind me making conversation.

Well one thing led to another and before I knew it I was getting a guided tour of their world. I saw the swimming pool – Olympic size but empty, the disco (a concrete pad beside the ocean with a barbecue) and the inlet from where a nearby oil rig was drawing water. A security guard was stationed there but these two guys were his friends so hung out a while and they chatted with him in Spanish.

I also met the community dog, a little runt that they seemed to love. Sadly it was almost hairless and covered in big pink welts and scabs.

If nothing, Cubans are happy, smiling and very generous. They don’t have much, and crime seems almost non existent. I get the feeling that these people are kind of innocent. There is no doubt in my mind that their poverty would be hard to take, but I also think that as a society they are in many ways better than us. Check out this site (Child of the Revolution), this person thinks otherwise.

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