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#if we were having coffee 25 April 2017. My week of confusion, business and FFFFfrustration

I haven’t posted anything for a while..far too long in fact. 

The reasons for this are many and varied, but generally revolve around one constant..a lack of time. 

I am sitting on a train travelling home from London, and having a rare bit of idle time on my hands I stumbled across an idea on WordPress called ‘if we were having coffee’.

I like the idea and in fact I like it so much it prompted me to write again, which I enjoy but neglect too often. 

So, if we were having coffee I’d tell you about my week, frustrations and all. (Although it is only Tuesday I have enough frustrations to fill a week ordinarily!)

I have an ongoing self inflicted torturous ambition to learn German, and this ambition is frustrating to the extent that it is almost beating me into submission. 

I worked in Germany for a couple of years not long ago and was constant impressed and amazed at how many German people I met could speak very very good English. 

Before I arrived in Germany I literally only knew three or four words of German and naturally I felt woefully inadequate. 

This wasn’t helped by the fact that the project I was working on (it was an offshore wind farm) had a variety of people from various countries involved, but the project langauge was English, meaning that I could actually fly out to Hamburg on a Monday, stay the week there and fly back on a Friday without needing to speak a word of German.  THAT’S how good they were!

In an effort to show some manners and try and broaden my knowledge, I enrolled on a language course. 

This entailed me going to night school two evenings a week after work, and my German colleagues were REALLY impressed with this. After all, why would an Englishman want to learn German when the whole world speaks English …their words not mine. 

I enjoyed my classes immensely although to say I found it difficult would be a massive understatement. 

Being back home now for a couple of years, I figured it would have been a complete waste of time and money were I to not try and continue my langauge learning. 

So I use apps, videos, Skype lessons, books, dictionaries and as many other methods I can find…but still the struggle goes on. 

Tandem exchanges are good, I was told..but invariably I find that my ‘partner’ speaks more English than I do German, and so the exchange soon morphs into us having English only discussions, which is great for them of course but piles on the frustration for me. 

However…or übrigens as I like to say in German (!) I will not give up, and although this week has seen my studying take a backwards step due to an even more frustrating week in work (yes, I know..it’s only Tuesday, which should give you an idea of just HOW frustrating it has been grrr) I am determined that I will prevail and put this down to a bad week and move on.

So, let’s enjoy our coffee and if you want another I will order in German and smile inwardly as I tell myself that I couldn’t even do that not very long ago. 

How can you not love a Labrador?!

This is Bobby, who is now almost 10 months old  

Don’t be misled by the innocent look on his face, he’s up to mischief!

I only have to look at Bobby to cheer myself up and he makes me laugh constantly. He’s the most lovable dog I have met, naughty yes of course, (he is a Lab pup after all!) but so cute at the same time. 

A first blog in German (eine erste Blog auf Deutsch)

That is scary enough for me to write just as a title! Anyway, here goes…

Ich wünsche einen schönen neuen Jahr zum jeder Mensch und ich hoffe jedermann hatten einen sehr gut Weihnachten. 

In 2016 ich werde üben mein Deutsch lernen viel mal. 

Ich finde Deutsch sehr schwer (natürlich!) übrigens ich genieße, zu versuchen, zu verbessern!

Auch in dieser Jahre ich hoffe ich nach Hamburg zurück um zu arbeiten und sehe noch mal ein paar gut Deutsch Freunden. 

and so, back to English…..

As you can see, my German is not very good, but I am determined to improve and any corrections or suggestions, or help with learning techniques would be greatly appreciated!

Vielen Dank und tschüss!

Bobby and Billy

So who is Bobby, and who is Billy?

They are my two dogs. Actually, Billy is a dog and Bobby is a pyscho puppy!

My oldest dog, Billy is a ten year old Border Terrier and full of character.  

  He was, until Bobby arrived, top dog in my house. We had a black Labrador called Sam who died in January this year aged 14. 

Because Sam was an old man, Billy was the ‘main man’ and strutted about knowing there was no threat to his top dog status. 

…..and then Sam sadly died, and a few months later we bought a new puppy. A black Labrador puppy called Bobby, and so, in an instant, Billy’s numero uno status was no more!

Bobby is, to put it mildly, not a shrinking violet. He thinks everyone operates at his level, which is border line bull in a china shop meets sniff it, bite it, eat it, and worry about the consequences later. 

If Billy moves then Bobby has to see where he’s going.  

 Of course, being a puppy means that Bobby thinks everyone is his friend and anything in front of him is there to put in his mouth. 

  If I’m not supposed to eat it why is it within my reach??!!
So Bobby is now 8 months old and has completely taken over the house. 

He has perfected the total innocent look, despite it being obvious He has been up to no good. He knows exactly how far to push a terrier before he has to run out of the way and keep himself from being bitten. 

I could ramble on for hours about what Bobby gets up to, but maybe that’s for another day!

My challenge, my struggle, to learn German. 

Being English generally means that wherever I go in the world I can usually communicate with people in my own language. I have rarely met anybody when either holidaying or working in another country who doesn’t speak some English, and very often their English is very good indeed. 

I believe this is the main reason the majority of British people cannot speak another language. In simple terms, we don’t have to. 

This of course makes us lazy in respect of language learning, and, although I hate to admit it, also makes many of us appear arrogant as a result. 

I have always had a desire to learn another language, and as my school did not give me any opportunity to do so, I have carried this desire through most of my adult life and shamefully, done nothing about it. 

I had a couple of attempts at night classes to learn Spanish, but they were generally unsuccessful due to the class size being too small for the school or college to continue. (I was once sat in a class of only 2 people)

I can order a meal or drinks in Spanish and have once proudly asked for directions in Spanish from a local, but this was more as a result of me researching books and dictionaries than any college course. 

Nowadays of course there is the good old reliable internet, a vast pool of material for just about any subject, and of course language learning is heavily represented, thereby quite simply, I no longer have any excuse not to at least try and learn another language. 

I was lucky enough to spend two years working in Hamburg, in Northern Germany recently, and whilst there I decided to face my fears and enrol in an evening language course. 

Although I could have easily spent all my time in Germany speaking only English (I would say 95% of the Germans I met spoke very good English), I wanted to show that I felt it was respectful for me to try and at least learn enough for a very basic conversation with my German colleagues. 

Now, I can order food and drink with a fairly good chance of getting what I ordered, but I can hold only the most basic of conversations in German. 

Although I am now back working in the UK, I don’t want to waste the little German I did learn, so I have started an online course to improve my very poor knowledge. 

I cannot pretend it is easy, or that there are any short cuts, but I am determined to give it a good go!

I will update any progress as I go along….bis bald!

Santorini-a must to visit 

  

Santorini has always been a ‘must do’ for me, and the photographs I have seen over the years of this lovely Greek island have captivated me for a very long time. 

If there is such a thing as a ‘typical’ image of Santorini, I would say it is a photo of whitewashed buildings perched high on a cliff top, with vibrant blue domed roofs framed by an idyllic postcard blue sky. 

  
My wife and I have just spent two weeks holiday in Santorini and I hope these pictures and my attempt at descriptive narrative entice you to do likewise. 

First impressions when arriving at Santorini’s ‘international’ airport were very misleading so please beware when you arrive there. 

We were transported from our aircraft by a coach to the terminal building, and queued up outside for around 30 minutes to enter the building and clear immigration. 

This consisted of forming an orderly line as we passed the solitary immigration officer, who languidly waved each of us through without so much as a cursory glance at our passports!

 Another flight from the UK arrived shorty after ours and we saw that it was an EasyJet flight. 

We were a little taken back when we were stood watching the single baggage carousel going round endlessly as our flight was a Thomson flight and all the luggage passing before us was from the EasyJet flight, with their passengers outside the terminal building unable to enter because the hall was full of passengers from the Thomson flight!

What ensued was the baggage belt becoming increasingly strained as the luggage from both flights was somehow crammed on to a belt barely big enough to take the luggage even from one flight. This of course guaranteed that the EasyJet passengers became more anxious to gain entry to the arrivals hall and soon the hall which was hardly large enough to accommodate one aircraft full of passengers and their luggage, was bursting at the seams with twice the volume of both passengers and luggage. 

Eventually we collected our luggage and made our way to our transport for the short and uneventful transfer to our resort of Perissa in the South of the island. 

The following two weeks were spent exploring the island and relaxing in the idyllic surroundings. 

We used all forms of transport available. We hired a car (an extremely well worn Kia Picanto) for two days, has a quad bike for a day (they are EVERYWHERE) and the island is very doable in a day, we went on an island cruise which was sooo relaxing, and took a famous sunset cruise. The island is renowned for fairly spectacular sunsets, and tavernas boasting excellent sunset views are plentiful. 

   
    
 
We even took a donkey ride in the capital city of Thira

  
The donkeys all looked very well cared for, and an information board claimed that they ‘only’ dis two or three trips each day, had plenty of shade, were well fed and watered, and lived long and happ loves. 

This is of course, subjective, but I would say the donkeys looked healthy and bounded any duress to me.  

The island of Sanrorini is volcanic and there is still an active volcano there. There are actually 5 separate island which make up what we today know as Santorini. 

The sands on the beaches are black, but the ‘sand’ does not stick to you or even to itself as normal sand does, which was a pleasant and unexpected discovery for us. 

It a most goes without saying that the food on Santorini is delicious, if a little predictable. The menus in the restaurants are virtually all the same, containing Suvlali, Kleftiko, Gyros, and one or two other typical Greek dishes. 

We went to a restaurant on a ‘Greek night’ and the usual Greek dancing, plate amazing, and setting fire to the floor was the order of the day. A great night was had and the staff completely immerse themselves to ensure everybody enjoys the evening.  

 
There are churches everywhere on Santorini, and none of them are less than pretty. In fact, the overwhelming memory I have of Santorini is just how pretty the island is. Everywhere you go you enjoy ideal views and it is a photographers’ dream. 

   
    
    
    
    
 
Aw I mentioned, Santorini is volcanic, and the area in front of the main island itself is called a Caldera. As you look out from the island, over the Caldera, you gaze upon the dormant volcano and the active one. 

We went on a trip where we walked up the active volcano so don’t be alarmed, it is not expected to erupt again any time soon!

   
    
    
 
The photos above will tell you that Santorini is a favourite cruise ship destination, with three or four cruise ships arriving and departing every day when we were there. 

The sunsets, as I have mentioned already, are a big attraction on the island, and as the sun sets over the volcano it really is a spectacular and memorable sight. 

With the weather being as warm as it is in the summer, watching a sunset is a lovely way of spending an evening. 
   
 
All in all, a very relaxing and enjoyable time was had, and I will definitely visit again 

Who thinks this stuff up?

So, I can only imagine the scene inside an advertising agency’s snazzy full of mod cons office. All the latest gadgets for the resident geniuses to prevent them becoming bored

Maybe iPads everywhere and the latest gaming consoles with every conceivable refreshment to hand and modern chrome finished furniture everywhere you look.

In between ‘assignments’ or commissions or whatever they’re called, the intelligencia of the powerful advertising worldwide themselves thinking of their next tag line, winnable slogan or logo which will etch itself in the public’s mind eye for ever and eternity.

I don’t know if this really how it works, but I’m guessing I’m not a million miles away from the truth here.

By definition advertising people must think they’re uniquely clever, right?

Even though I cringe when I watch some TV adverts, or wince when I look at a shockingly embarrassing poster which is clearly intended to shock, or at best distract people from their daily grudge, I imagine the individuals behind these images and words were sat in a presentation meeting patting each other on the back, high fiving each other, and generally basking in their unshakable view that we, the general public, will be humbled by their creative genius when we we the fruits of their labour.

Mid this sounds a tad cynical to you, then I ask you this..how much money was spent, how many hours were used up, and how many prototypes were tested before the following product was unleashed on the world at large?

I leave it to you to ponder.

The following example of marketing marvel was spotted in a urinal at London’s Euston station.

image

Remember when Trolls were scary but cute?

  

It seems like only yesterday when as a child growing up, if I read a book or was told a story which contained a reference to a troll it immediately caught my attention and guaranteed an open mouthed focus to discover what the troll was getting up to. 
I must confess, I didn’t really know what a troll was or where they came from, just that they were ugly in a cute way, mischievous in a way naturally  attractive to a young boy, andpossessing of mystical powers that increased as much as my imagination encouraged them to do so. 

   There was enough mystery shrouding any tale of a troll to ensure my interest in them was kept at a respectful distance. 

The origin of trolls as I understood it then, was Scandinavia, probably Denmark. My only recall is that a troll was a mythical nuisance to travellers and could be either a giant or a dwarf (which in itself adds to the mystery of course) but most definitely UGLY. 

I remember that many of my friends also read books contains vague references to trolls but none of us really understood them. 

I think this was partly due to the obscure nature of whatever Scandinavia was, at least in the eyes of a child, and the relatively few books which even mentioned them. 

The acquaintence with trolls therefore seemed to pass me by as a distant and brief encounter whilst growing up. 

Some years later, whilst probably about to enter my teenage years, trolls appeared again but in a much more friendly and cuddly form. 

  It seems that a Danish toy maker hit upon the idea of creating ‘nice’ trolls to appeal to children, and as you can see from the above picture, cuddly trolls with big hair are certainly more friendly looking than ugly traveller scaring dwarfs/giants!

Apparently the Danish toy maker patented the big hair troll design and went on to make himself some money, and lots of children very happy. 

You would think from these examples that the word troll would immediately bring to mind images of mysterious creatures or smuding dolls with big colourful hair. However, in these days of instant reaction, obsessive opinion giving, and the anonymity the Internet provides, the word troll generally makes one instantly think of something less pleasant. 

It seems like nothing is sacred anymore when it comes to people voicing their opinions in the most hostile and nasty way. 

Obviously in most countries freedom of speech gives people the right to express their opinion, but more and more often we see these opinions being given coupled with just sheer downright unpleasantness, which at times continues with a hounding of the individual who is the subject of whatever causes the antagonist to hold a different view. 

This practice is carried out by what are universally known now as trolls. Not the mythical scary but enchanting people of children’s fiction nor the smiling faces either the silly bright coloured hair; no, these modern day trolls are frightening in a  completely different way. 

These trolls take it upon themselves to vent their nasty thoughts and care nothing it would appear, for the consequences of how much hurt their venomous words may cause. 

Having a different opinion is apparently not enough for these modern day trolls, they have to virtually hound the person whose opinion they don’t share with cruel and often vicious posts with no regard for what harm they might be causing. 

Freedom of speech gone too far? You can be the judge of that, but for me, I would return back to the days when a troll was not so selfishly nasty in a heartbeat. 

Swimming with Manatees

if anybody reading this has a chance to swim with Manatees, don’t hesitate, it is an amazing experience. 

I’ve just returned from a holiday in Florida, and before we went I had arranged a trip to swim with Manatees. I wasn’t disappointed….

Before I left for my hol I had read lots of articles about Manatees and to say I was excited was a massive understatement!



This is my favourite picture which I took with my underwater camera (I am a keen scuba diver so am very comfortable in the water).

Here is my story of how the day unfolded…

We left Orlando for a two hour drive North West to Crystal River, where our tour operator was based. 

The company we chose to use for our experience was called ‘River Ventures’ and I couldn’t recommend them highly enough, they were brilliant!

Upon arrival at their offices, River Ventures made us welcome from the first minute. We are told to help ourselves to tea or coffee, and once the rest of our group had arrived we were shown to a small room where we had an introductory talk from a very experienced lady who worked there, then left to watch a short video on how to interact with Manatees. 

This was really interesting and informative, as I’m sure most if not all, of the people who visit had never experienced such close encounters with wild animals before.

The video told us what we should and should not do, together with telling us a little about the lifestyle of these amazing creatures. 

We were then given wetsuits to put on and driven a short distance to the mouth of the river where our boat and captain awaited. 

Our Captain (Donovan) was extremely friendly and helpful, and after a short safety briefing we were in our way. 

Naturally, as the Manatees are wild animals and not held in captivity in any way ( are you paying attention SeaWorld?!!) there were no guarantees that we would see any Manatees, but we were told that there was an excellent chance that we would, as the natural springs in the river had a temperature of 72 degrees (Fahrenheit) and Manatees could not survive for long in water below 68.

We were not disappointed….after about ten or fifteen minutes of searching, we pulled into a quiet second of the river and spotted three or four Manateees. 

The boat captain gave us a few dos and fonts, and we entered the water. 

We were told to keep as still as possible, and the 5 in our group did just that. Also on our boat were a family of 3 people from Kansas, then proceeded to do everything that we had been told not to do!

We swam amongst around 20 Manatees, and they were really tactile, coming over to be stroked and to ‘cuddle’ us!

We were in the water with them for almost two hours, and it was the most humbling experience of my life. 





The above photos show a Manatee with Mum, and also..how these guys have fingernails!

Why is golf so hard……?!!

There will be lots of people I’m sure who will laugh at that very introduction, the kind of people who naturally find golf an easy game to play.
But I’m not one of those people……to me, it is a game where constant work is needed to make very small improvements.
But, I’ve never shied away from hard work and I’m on a self declared mission now to improve my game to at the very least, a respectable level.