Wednesday, 4 December 2019

You what? You’re going WHERE for a holiday? Colombia?


Crime! Drugs! Drug lords! Murder! Poverty! Litter! Rotten transport! Lousy roads! Third-world hotels! 

You must be absolutely mad! 

What on earth is possessing you to go there?

This was the general reaction when I mentioned where we were heading for our holidays this year. But the detractors and smart-Alecs couldn’t have been more wrong.

Crime, well we certainly saw none, nil drugs, yes, some abject poverty, but hey, there are around a dozen people currently sleeping in doorways on Manchester’s Deansgate; no litter anywhere, with tripartite bins for paper, glass/tins and non-recyclables on most street corners, superb speedy and cheap public transport with no peak fares for a substandard service, no road potholes, fabulous hotels . . . .  yes, Colombia is nothing but fantastic! Well, providing you exclude car drivers. They are like the drivers in Rome or Paris - suicidal!

We kicked off in Medellin, former home to drug lord Pablo Escobar, one-time richest man on the planet. However, it is now possibly more famous for Fernando Botero, the incredibly prolific “fat” artist. There are still signs of Escobar’s association with the city, but they are doing their level best to erase this somewhat murky blot on the past, although because of what he did for the poor, it has not been an easy task.

 A Medellin shopping mall

Because it sits in the Andes at around 4,905 feet (1,495 meters) and is extremely temperate, it is called the City of the Eternal Spring. It is so strange to visit a city where you won’t find central heating or even a solitary heater in any building or on sale in any shop. And what a pride the locals take in their city. Yes, there may be graffiti all over the show, but you won’t see even a cigarette butt on the ground, let alone the McDonalds coffee cups you see strewn all over the paths of say Salford.

Yes, you’ll see unfortunate Venezuelans on every street corner trying their hardest to sell you all manner of goods and chattels you don’t need in an honest effort to support themselves, having been forced from their home by the political situation in Venezuela. But everyone has a smile on their face. Everyone is proud of what they are. And they don’t have the equivalent of our rather expensive Brexit sucking their economy dry. In fact all Colombians in the international know think Brexit is a total joke.

Medellin (and Colombia as a whole) has turned around its legacy as the world’s Cocaine capital to become an incredible tourist attraction. It’s just that it doesn’t quite know it yet. The world-infamous District 13, where drugs, murder and mayhem ruled for several decades is now the premier tourist attraction not only for foreign visitors, but for out-of-town Colombians themselves. But there is something rather surreal about being able to access what is in essence an almost ramshackle, huge Favela-style hill town of several hundred thousand people via a series of escalators!

Medellin District 13

But this is just partially how Medellin (and the reminder of Colombia) has reinvented itself. Perhaps the most expensive commodity in Colombia is electricity. You see minimal if any lighting in most local shops (the large shopping malls are certainly the exception!) throughout the city. The region’s electricity company, owned by the city, generates (no pun intended!) in the region of $1billion profit a year, which unlike many British utilities owned by foreign interests, is ploughed back into Medellin’s infrastructure and transport. This is the reason they have a wonderful metro train that costs pence to travel on, public attractions that are free or as near as makes no difference to free to visit, a continual ongoing road improvement initiative with flyovers and flyunders attempting to ease road congestion with almost a complete one-way system throughout the entire city, fuel at around 23p a litre and a spectacularly low cost of living. And a four-bedroom, four-bathroom, three-reception house in gated grounds will set you back around £110,000.

However, we were spoilt – we had the services of a private driver for the entire week in Medellin, so we had a very full and well-planned itinerary (recommended).

 
Cartegena with the old town in the distance

And so on to Cartagena on the “Caribbean” coast. The famous walled city with its castle has seen many a blockbuster filmed there, including “Romancing the Stone” (Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner), and more recently Netflix’s “Narcos” and Will Smith’s latest film “Gemini Man”. The old city has a tourist peninsula just over a mile ‘up the road’ from the old town with some of the usual suspects such as the Intercontinental and Hilton. And across the bay near the cruise terminal is the business district with matching hotels that are less of a tourist attraction and more for those with corporate charge cards. Unfortunately, what dirties the brush in Cartagena is the constant on-street harrying by people trying to sell you boat and coach trips or trying to usher you in to their restaurants. A trip to the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo (a dormant volcano filled with mud) is quite an experience. However, with the mosquitoes having had my legs for lunch on a visit to a coffee plantation outside Medellin the previous week, I found the mud masseurs relieved the irritation almost immediately!

The famous Bogota Cathedral, star of stage, screen and Spaghetti Westerns galore

Bogota, the capital is a quite attitudinal 8,660 feet (2,640 meters), meaning that when you land at the airport, your ears don’t pop. It is an enormous city, home to over seven million people. For those with little time for a working capital city, you won’t be impressed, although the ludicrously famous Bolívar Square with its cathedral is the main tourist attraction in the city, beloved by protesters, celebrants and the film industry alike – the cathedral has featured in absolutely hundreds of South American-filmed Spaghetti Westerns and crime dramas over the decades. Worth a visit is the Gold Museum, with its incredible exhibits that are so rare and fabulous that they actually cannot be valued. Personally, I loved the vibe, and my camera never stopped once!

 Bogota

We stayed in the suburban Dan Carlton Hotel, a quite luxurious five star conference hotel. It was somewhat of a surprise to find that five coffees, a beer and a sparkling water left change out of £10! But then that’s prices in Colombia for you!

In summation, I really can do nothing but recommend Columbia.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

You have to hand it to Apple

There can be no doubt that Apple make some really superb bits of (very expensive) kit. World class, aspirational and quite desirable stuff.

However, they are becoming a bit twee in their old age. Remarkable with it, but nevertheless very twee.

Their chopped-off (er, cordless) ear phones for one. Who would have thought that any company could design an in-demand product that makes the user look like they are on day release from a corrective institution? They have succeeded in turning "dolt-looking" into such an iconoclastic look that there are companies actually producing copy fashion accessory versions for £12 a pair. These purposefully don't contain any technology and don't actually perform any function apart from looking like ridiculous Apple iPhone ear buds.

Who would have thought it was possible that people would actually pay £12 to wear something that is not only stupid-looking, but has actually been designed NOT to work?

And the new iPhone 11 Pro. Does this infer that up to now we have all been using amateur phones? So is there now a pro vs amateur way of phoning, texting or glueing to social mediocrity that we have been unaware of thus far?

And what's this business with three lenses on the phone (yes, remember it's a phone not a camera)? Is it really necessary? The advertising is all around the three lenses on the camera. They might as well go into the camera business and sell it as a camera that you can make phone calls with, send texts from and access the internet to follow those vital 83% of social influencers who have been outed as not only clueless about the subjects they witter on about, but are simply being sponsored to lie .

For a phone costing £1,000, you can otherwise get a mighty fine SLR camera with a superb real multi glass lens for half that price and then spend less than the remainder on a phone that does most of the stuff you'd expect a modern day phone to do anyway!

Come on world. Wake up and smell an ordinary £250 smartphone.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Kinda like

It was a rather strange documentary. A Harry met Sally type of thing. But with a twist. The Harry who was dating Sally had originally been born a Sally, but through the passage of time, bullying, patience and drugs, had become a Harry. Meanwhile the Sally who was dating this Harry had themselves originally been born a Harry, but they too, through the the passage of time, bullying, patience and drugs, become a Sally. 

So what we were watching was a documentary about chap becoming a lass who was dating a lass who had become a chap.  

Now this gender realignment doesn't bother me in the slightest. The two people in this documentary hadn’t, thus far, and I can only surmise we're not in the future, in any way likely to do me the slightest harm. So I couldn't but wish them anything apart from being well. And as it happens, rather ironically, he who had become a she actually had a cracking pair of legs that outstripped those of the she who had become a he! 

OK, to change gender and then end up dating one another might seem somewhat pointless to the casual observer. They could perhaps have saved themselves all the heartbreak and pain, not to mention the hormone drugs and the shameful bullying from their so-called friends had they dated from the word go. 

However, what I found the most shameful of all was the continual usage of two particular words by Harry. Or was it by Sally?

Namely, kinda” and “like”.  

Everything was “like” or “kinda like”. Irritatingly so. Every third word so. Repressively so. Neverendingly so.

Why the programme producer couldn't call a halt on “kinda”  and "like"I do not know. It kinda like got to the, like, stage where, like, I kinda like wanted to like, turn the like, programme kinda like, off, like. Kinda.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

HRM the QUeen's 93rd Birthday . . Happy Birthday M'am.

Just back from Buck House celebrating Her Royal Majesty's 93rd birthday. She loved the Ferrari Experience voucher for Brand's Hatch that we bought her. She said she was looking forward to giving Phil a taste of his own medicine. Bless her.

Charles was there and he delivered a wonderful speech, and sang the Big Sea's hit "When I am king" and then introduced us to his new BF, a lovely palm tree from the Sultan of Brunei. His mom clipped him around the ear when he suggested it was a rather "gay" present. His nieces Fifi and Trixabelle, or whatever they're called (Air Miles Andy's daughters), were there, resplendent in their new Easter bonnets. Everyone was "fnarr, fnarring" about them except Camilla, who, always one to call a horse a horse, thought they were total crap. The hats and not the girls that is. Duchess Meghan was in the corner selling signed copies of "Suits" for her "Jeremy Corbyn Passover" Disaster Relief Fund, and fair play, she sold two copies to some Prince chappie called Harry.

Afternoon tea was a resplendent affair, with Marks and Spencer sandwiches and fancies service on the best Royal Doulton could offer. Plates. We couldn't get to grips with the organic, vegan, environmentally-friendly dandelion tea, although by then I'd retired to a corner with a crate of Guinness to discuss Chinese cuisine with HRH Prince Philip. He adores oriental people, although he has got the habit of addressing them all as "And what do you do?" Still, at his ripe-old age of 109, he has every right to be a little eccentric. He told me the joke "An Englishman, a Welshman and an Irishman walk into a bar". (The End). He then burst out laughing. I laughed along out of politeness, but have to confess I didn't get it.

Her Majesty's birthday speech was terrific. She had some great tales to tell about all the Prime Ministers she had met over the years. It seems Margaret Thatcher frightened her to death, She showed us the key to the tower she intends to use should "That Mr Cobyn" as she calls him ever get to No 10. She thinks he's frightfully frighteningly frightening and isn't sure at all how he got to be head of the Politburo in the first place. She's not keen on that Mr Putin at all. Naturally enough, as a loyal citizen, it wasn't my place to explain that he is just a very bad joke, especially at risk of ruining her birthday.

All in all. A lovely way to spend Easter Day.

Royal baby blues . . . .

I'm just back from visiting Meghan and Harry. Great afternoon. Boy, they had you all fooled! We laughed about the press hotly debating whether "the new baby was born at home" or "the new baby was born in hospital". He was actually born in a special birthing suite in Claridges using Thai silk towels and hot bottled Buxton water.

They had decided to ban the "Meghan went into Labour" stuff because of the row over Antisemitism. As it happens, Mr Corbyn was neither there nor involved. Harry was on great form about the ongoing naming speculation. He has already consulted his Granny, and has confirmed that although he's quite a Kardcashincan/Kanyaaaaaee fan, they won't be calling young Sussex either North, South, East, West or even the slightly Prussian Countyov.

Her Gracious Royal Majesty the Queen had been driven there by the Duke of Edinburgh, who sadly didn't make it to the birth as he was parking the Range Rover in the wall of the adjoining property at the time. Nigel Farage had been in earlier, but his jokes about lineage, immigrants and babies with ginger hair didn't go down well at all with the family. The straw that broke the camel's back was when he told the happy couple not to drive home via the Blackwall Tunnel, and he was asked politely by a large security guard to pick up his broken teeth, smashed beer glass and to Brexit via the back door.

Bye now!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Eyes wide shut. Brexit or Brexin?


Well. 52% of the population were happy to be sold a car they didn't need by salesmen who knew nothing about it (Farage and Bozza), and despite the fact the 52% were told and accepted it was the ideal family car, they have since found out nearly three years down the line that not only does it do only 13 mpg, but it can accommodate only the driver and one passenger, has no boot space, spare tyres cost £600 each, it needs an oil change every 500 miles and servicing every 2,000 miles by the one specialist service shop in the UK 230 miles from their home. 

And on top of that, businesses having nothing to do with the car, in fact not even in the automotive sector, are going to make a fortune out of it because so many of the parts that have absolutely nothing to do with the car, but will be used as an excuse to make money, will be "in short supply", "stuck in customs" or attract the soon to be introduced BAT (Brexit Added Tax).

Meanwhile Infiniti, the luxury side of Nissan have decided to pack their bags in Sunderland and head back to the Land of the Rising Sun. Needless to say they cite the usual blah-blah-depressed-car-sales nonsense.

And top of the stack for hypocrisy are bean counting consultants, Ernst and Young, one of the big-4 parasites and paid a seven-figure fortune to promote the Best of British and Building Future Britain campaigns. Well they're putting their money where their feet are and shifting their legal operation from London to Brussels as the company braces for Brexit.

A fine example of Brexit support - no doubt they will be contributing to the £650million a week the NHS are NOT going to receive as a result of Brexit, unless that £650million is coming out of the pockets of Farage and Boris, for which I humbly apologise to the two blokes if it is. With a chip in from another chief Brexiteer, Sir Dyson Bagless, Earl of Singapore Manufacturers.

So go on. Let's leave NOW, if only to be able to tell the Brexiteers and that smug Farage (with his huge EU pension - bet he won't be splitting that with any of the country's homeless any time soon) that we've gone and done it without their help. I'm just wondering if our "Nige" will manage to find a reason, other than £73,000 a year plus expenses and pension, to stay on as an MEP after we leave the EU - I wouldn't put it past him.

Neither presumably will Boris be sharing his £250,000 a year from The Telegraph for his weekly column) 5 years down the line - "We told you so". We have EFTA (the European Free Trade Association invented by the UK back in 1959 - do philatelists remember those useless 5th Anniversary stamps issued in commemoration in, I think it was, 1965!) to fall back on.

We can re-join Norway and Switzerland who seem to manage quite nicely, and while not party to the EU Customs Union, it includes Schengen membership.

As for the NI situation. . . . . . let's all head over to the Titanic Museum and have a huge p*ss up!

Monday, 31 December 2018

Predictions for 2019

Well, another year over, and a new one just about to begin. By special request (i.e. the wife and kids asked me not to), here are my predictions for the year 2019:

January
The date for the annual November “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sale event is announced by Amazon. November. All 30 days of it. Chocolate eggs for Easter 2020 go on sale in Sainsbury’s. Weightwatchers come up with a new resolution to weight loss – they encourage you to help all of your friends gain 15 pounds so you look thinner. To demonstrate Diane Abbott is not as stupid as she is, Jeremy Corbyn encourages her to take an IQ test, which proves negative.

February
So as not to be accused of turning kids into moronic zombies, Snapchat starts a campaign to encourage its users to read more. They put sub-titles on their pages. A story about Brexit makes it on to the front page of the Beano. George Galloway announces he is changing sex to become a man. Labour blame the Tories for something which the Tories blame the LibDems for who in turn blame the SNP when it was actually the fault of the DUP all along.

March
One Direction announce they are splitting up. Girls start fainting in their tens of thousands. One Direction apologise that they forgot they had already split up in 2016. David Beckham finds an area of skin that hasn’t been tattooed. Aliens land in Doncaster, see what a craphole it is and leave immediately. Britain leaves the EU.

April
Britain re-joins the EU. Labour declare that if they are elected to government, they will ban the John Lewis, Asda and Argos Christmas advertisements due to start next month. The Mayor of Liverpool unveils a new roundabout, the largest in the UK, made entirely from hubcaps stolen in the city. Mike Ashley of Sports Direct announces he is taking over bankrupt Peterborough Council and making it the first Pay-As-You-Go Council in the country.


May
Elon Musk announces that he has found a way to offer hairdressing online. Meanwhile his new electric car Tesla 5 is announced with a range of over 25 miles between charges. Sir Bagless Dyson declares that he is developing an electronic helicopter. The Welsh Government concede to popular demand and announce that for ease of use, Welsh words will, from now on, contain vowels. The late Sir Harold Wilson declares he will be running for leadership of the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn campaigns for Venezuela to be allowed enter the Eurovision Song Contest.

June
Yorkshire Water announces a hosepipe ban ‘just in case’. The National Lottery increases the number of Lotto balls to 102 as the new Gambling Tsar declares that advertisement breaks on television will be limited to seven bingo sites each. Gladstone Brookes announce their own TV station devoted entirely to the PPI deadline in August.

July
Virgin Trains announce a new travel initiative whereby if you can find a Manchester-London return train ticket cheaper than a return flight from Manchester to New York, they will refund the difference. President Trump admits he is a figment of the Republican Party’s imagination. The Green party announces plans to fight farming, saying “Plants are people, too!”

August
Tesla announces plan to build psychic autonomous driving software that predicts where you’ll want to go before you’ve made a decision. The Labour Shadow Energy Secretary says Labour are declaring war on coal. George Ezra announces he is splitting up. Giant Haystacks is the new face of WeightWatchers. Easter Eggs for 2021 go on sale in Sainsbury’s. Despite the best efforts of Labour, the 2019 John Lewis, Asda and Argos Christmas advertisements begin airing.

September
As the effects of the warmest summer since 2018 take hold, Yorkshire Water declares their hose pipe ban is to continue. Ozzy Osborne confirms he is still alive. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott sues Italy for inventing pasta and pizza thus creating the current obesity crisis. Dyson develop the first nuclear-powered vacuum cleaner.

October
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell admits he has been dating all Labour Party Cheques “2017”. Sub-aqua suits (torn at the knees) become a popular fashion item. A privet hedge is declared odds-on favourite to win “X-Factor”. Valentine cards for 2020 go on sale in Sainsbury’s.

November
Black Friday and Cyber Monday month begins. President Trump finally ditches the idea of his Mexican wall in favour of an invisible dog fence. School safety is outsourced to private military contractors. The Rolling Stones announce their 60th Anniversary tour. The LibDems announce that in the run-up to Christmas, to avoid death on the roads, motorists should drive on the pavement.

December
Artificial Intelligence bots will serve as proxies to fight our social media wars, relieving us all of the anxiety of fighting each other on Facebook and Twitter. Ticketmaster announce the ending of the hated “booking fee” and instead announce the introduction of a flat fee for each visit to their website regardless of whether you are booking their overpriced tickets a year in advance of an event or not.