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Saddam Shame

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So, Saddam’s dead then, which will surely come as a shock if you’ve been living under a large rock this Christmas. But, in these cases, it’s always worth looking beyond the headlines. Robert Fisk has two articles showing the emerging murky facts about the execution. In “Our complicity dies with him,” Fisk notes that the many secrets Saddam Hussein had about the West’s business dealings with Iraq are gone forever. which is handy for George and Tony. In “A dictator created then destroyed by America“, he points out that “Osama bin Laden will certainly rejoice, along with Bush and Blair.” And finally, for those that wondered why the “official” execution video had no sound, IraqSlogger describes the common-sense and divisive conclusions you can draw from the timing of the execution and the soundtrack on the new sneaky mobile phone video of the execution. Nothing’s as it seems, is it? Happy New Year, Iraq!

A journey to nowhere

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There are very few places in the UK that haven’t been touched by
technology. But at 4.30am on Monday morning, I started
travelling towards one of them.
Most parts of west Wales can best be described as remote, and the previous night I swotted up on the location – a place called Aberporth, which would be far better named as Nowhere. Here it is.
The first two hours of the trip to Nowhere were a pleasure, with barely any cars on the road – who in their right mind would be up at that time on a Monday morning, eh? – but it was when I crossed over the Severn Bridge (who, to my horror, had upped their toll charge and wiped me out of cash for my morning paper) and climbed into the Brecon Beacons that the journey slowed to a crawl. There was no doubting the picturesque landscape that I was able to fully take in as I slowly creeped up the hills and dales behind an enormous truck. It took
thirty minutes to find a suitable place to overtake, and it took all my rallying skills to achieve the move.
The company I was visiting was deep in a virtually uninhabited village. There were no signs, no road names – and after using the navigational services of two local tradesmen and a map I found the offices down a small dirt track.
And it was there that I spent two days talking about the wonders of the company I work for, how we could help them – and no doubt save the world at the same time. The exaggerated hyperbole that comes out of my mouth is really top-notch nowadays. I’m fairly sure I could sell ice to an eskimo.
In between the two days, I stayed in an enormous room at an enormous hotel in the middle – again – of nowhere. There was no mobile phone reception, and very well hidden internet access, meaning that for the first time in years I had to make my own entertainment. I went shopping in a place called Cardigan – where, according to a cheery shop assistant, the sweaters apparently don’t come from – and read half a book. It was actually surprisingly liberating to be free from technology. My friend Simon B lives in a mobile-free zone near Guildford, and purposely hasn’t installed a landline. His home time is free from interruptions. I can’t wait to try it.
Despite the no-contact revelation, however, it was good to get back into the land of the living. But to my horror, on the very day I got back to the office another company a few miles from Aberporth we looking for my services. I didn’t think it was possible to have more than one company operating out of there. Looks like my no-contact experience is about to get another showing…

I’m still not liking London…

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“Is that your car?” the unkempt lady asked, hiding a smirk.
I groaned. Over the past hour, I had been sitting beside my car, waiting for a van to turn up and release me from my pain.
Why, you ask, couldn’t I just drive off? Well, I’m afraid to say I was well and truly clamped, rumbled for parking in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sure, I could blame it on my colleague Adrian (pictured), who directed me to the space in the first place – but really I should have learnt by now not to rely on him. “The left side of the road was for Pay and Display parking, the right side for Residents Only,” I explained to the bored helpdesk woman at the Camden Parking Office. To emphasise the point, I finished with “It was a genuine mistake!” – but then realised that they’d probably heard that many, many times before, and cut my losses. The lady took 115 pounds from my credit card before telling me (I’m sure with a smirk) that the “clamping team” would take between 1 and 4 hours to turn up. clamped.jpgThis, as you can imagine, was not welcome news. “Why,” I asked, feeling my blood boil, “does it take you up to four hours to arrive, when it only took to 10 minutes to find my car and clamp it?” The woman clearly had her answer ready. “Because, Sir, it will make sure you don’t do it again.” The phone call ended.
I had no answer to her illogical logic. I also had no choice but to sit there for the next hour, watching people go by, pointing and smirking at the cheery green clamp on my tyre. I tried my best to disown the car, creeping off into a nice little garden opposite and sitting on a park bench, but after a while I decided it was more important not to miss the Parking van. I rested on the car, watching the world go by.
It was a couple of minutes later that the unkempt lady bowled up. Very short, with crooked teeth and even more crooked hair, she wandered over and stared at my car. “I’m not a drug addict, you know,” she stated, which immediately made me suspect her of being one. “Not a hooker either, but you can probably tell that,” she continued. “I’ve been beaten up by my husband in Bournemouth. Ran up here to get away, and now I have no money to get back.” Ah, I thought, there’s the money shot. She’s after funds for her next drinking session. I stared up the road, willing the Parking van to arrive as soon as possible. “Have you got eight pounds twenty pence?”.
Now, I’m not a regular London visitor. Could she be genuine, I wondered? She said she’d been to the social services but they wouldn’t help as she had no identification. Same with the Police, apparently. I interrogated her on all the possible avenues she could pick other than me, partly to work out what she was about and partly so that she couldn’t get any further before the van turned up. I explained I had no money to give her.
She looked at my car. “Maybe you could give me a lift?”
Well, this I had no answer to, other than being rude. Thankfully, my van in white armour turned up right on queue, careering round the corner and screeching to a halt beside my stricken car. Within thirty seconds the clamp was off, and it only took another 5 seconds before I was in my car, revving the engine and screeching off, eager to avoid the woman’s glare. I could hear her expletive-filled screams a couple of hundred metres down the road. As I looked in the mirror, I could see her take out a mobile phone and put it against her ear.
I think we can safely assume she was lying.

Great Balls of Pain

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“Would the birthday group please stay behind – the rest of you can go off and get changed.”
The words hit my ears like a juggernaut. We – Michelle, Lucy, Simon H, Jac, Shaun, Nick and I – had been fighting it out in the paintball battlefield somewhere in Horsley for the best part of five hours. Earlier in the month, Michelle had had the brainwave while trying to think of a birthday present for me, and knew that I’d loved paintballing when I’d been before. We’d arrived on time that morning – well, nearly. Jac had had “a hell of a night” and managed to arrive still drunk, still with most of the clothes he had on the night before and “unable to remember much before Junction 11 of the M25”. Still, it provided amusement for the rest of the group, if not for any policemen reading this…
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A nightclub invite

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Tony Ho comes and goes like a thief in the night. One minute he’s hosting the mother of all parties (you may remember my multiple visits to Cafe de Paris with Tony at the tail end of last year), the next he’s disappeared, his mobile phone goes dead and we all hope he’s still alive.
He chose the middle of my course in Switzerland to reappear again, inviting me to an opening party in the centre of Mayfair, at a nightclub he was promoting. So, not at all fresh from the flight from Switzerland, I jumped straight into my car at the airport and sped off to London, shaver in one hand, steering wheel (luckily) in the other. 11pm on a Wednesday, I thought, the roads should be fine. I hadn’t banked on the M4 being closed though and 45 minutes later than I should have been, I arrived at the “Capiche” nightclub. Slap bang opposite The Ritz, it was a location to die for, and Tony doled out free drinks for a couple of hours until my senses told me I may have overdone it. I bade Tony (and a slightly drunken Simon B) goodbye, and drove home. Thanks for the drinks Tony – if only I hadn’t had to have been at work 8am the next morning…!

3 Year Anniversary – Bath again

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“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.”
Hilaire Belloc
Two years ago, to celebrate out first anniversary, Michelle and I pootled off to take in the delights of Bath, braving all the jokes about “needing to wash” and “I should have a shower with a nice showerhead instead” from ‘amusing’ friends. Bath is a very picturesque place, with cracking restaurants, interesting museums and a shedload of shops. The trip was so blooming enjoyable we did it again last weekend, jokes and all.
The trip down was pleasant enough, but served to confirm one of my long-held geographical theories – the closer to Wales you get, the worse the weather becomes. After we sped through the rain (and a surprisingly-named town of Pennsylvania, causing Nick to ask “just how far have you gone?!” on a call from his romantic hotel in the New Forest), we arrived at the hotel at around 5 in the afternoon, after just the one wrong turning. We entered our room – and what a room it was. The majestic four-poster bed was accompanied by a side order of 12 deep red roses and champagne on ice. Marvellous.
Sadly we only had an hour to admire them before our stomachs marched us off to the Eastern Eye, a huge Indian restaurant in the town centre. It was essentially one big room, about 40 foot high and seemingly many miles long. It had been some sort of famous market area in the 1800’s apparently, famed throughout Bath, with ornate details on the walls and three glass domes set into the roof. I can only wonder at the protests that must have taken place when it emerged that it was turning into an Indian restaurant, of all things. Still, the setting was fantastic, with the food equally so, despite the dish I chose rendering my entire mouth numb for at least an hour.
By the time we’d finished there was nothing to do but get back to the hotel and sleep.
For following day we visited the Moon and Sixpence, and classy restaurant near the Roman Baths. Still suffering from the Indian the previous night, we barely managed a main course, and decided a window-shopping trip was in order to work the food off. We ventured into a nearby shopping arcade, and found a camera shop. A quick look at the digital cameras and Michelle was on a mission to buy one. After asking the assistants advice for a full 30 minutes, we nipped along to a cheaper shop and bought one, immediately debunking my schoolday retail theory that if you put in the hours, you’ll get the sale. Poor man.
And then, not to be outdone, I decided I was going to get a new mobile phone. And, in true geek fashion, I plumped for an O2 XDAII. As soon as my good friend from Phones4U gets me a hefty discount, it’ll be mine…
We left the next morning – back to Surrey, back to work. Ah well, we thought as Pennsylvania disappeared into the hazy distance – we’ll be back again…

Big Brother mobiles

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“I’m in Tesco’s, I’ll have to call you back later”.
I wasn’t of course, but the conversation was boring me to tears. They’ll never know I was actually in bed, reading my newspapers.
But I won’t be able to do that for long, if these two sites have their way. MapAMobile and FleetOnline track your mobile phone’s location. And if you’re like me your mobile phone never leaves your side. The worst thing about these sites is that anyone with cash can access them. They ask the mobile users permission before tracking them, but that can easily be done if you know the person. You’ll never be able to pull a sickie off work again…