Sunday, November 30, 2008

Spent Up

Busy day today, since there is a close-up show, lectures and also a dealer day. Luckily none of the dealers take credit cards, so since I can only be bothered to make one trip to the cash machine I don't spend nearly as much as I might have otherwise! Got some great DVDs and a couple of nice old tricks. Missed out on a wonderful German-engineered rising card mechanism from the 1920's which worked by clockwork - it's a wonder they ever got away with the trick given the noise this thing made but I would have loved to have it for historical interest.

The Close Up Gala kicked off with John Lovick. We saw him on Friday as his alter ego "Handsome Jack", but today was plain Lovick, and his routine was excellent. He worked a prediction routine with an audience member where he pretended they were estranged lovers and the patter was based around him "quietly" trying to work through his issues with her on stage, ending with the predictions being part of a break-up song lyric in the sealed envelope. Hilariously done.He also did the best ring vanish I have ever seen anywhere, which was way too complicated to describe, but involved two rings, and two spectators, with one spectator ending up with the other's ring before everything was resolved. Despite knowing exactly how the "standard" version of this trick is performed, this version had me baffled for a while. Extremely clever routine.

Peter Samelson did more of his wonderful story-based magic, the highlight for me being the production of coins in a glass from cigarette smoke.

Denis Behr form Germany did some clever stuff with cards which left me cold, personally, though I can appreciate the skill involved.

Andrew Goldenhersh did some more of his wonderfully controlled slow-motion magic, turning an origami butterly into a real one and a wonderful coin matrix. The only trick of his I was not keen on was the terminally boring and repetitive needles-on-thread-from-mouth trick.

Goldenhersh also did an excellent lecture which involved no magic at all, but was all about character development and training unused muscles in hands and fingers. Check out www.handhealth.com - it is pretty amazing stuff if you stick at it! Peter Samelson's lecture was also excellent. Denis Behr's was, predictably (for me at least) boring, given his total concentration on card work.

The close of the event is traditionally the award of the Berglas Foundation Services to Magic Award. This year, chairman David Berglas informed an astonished audience that the award was going to none other than "magician's favourite" (not!) Uri Geller. Despite coming across as very confident and charming, Geller continues to contradict himself at every turn.

He hints that his early work was indeed trickery, that he has no real powers, and yet he claims to have made his money not from magic, but from payment from South American oil and gas companies for finding new drilling sites for them simply by flying overhead in a helicopter and "feeling" them.

Then went on to say that because he does not claim genuine talents he would never offer his services to the police and families searching for missing children. This despite the fact that in the next breath he claims to have helped in such cases early in his career. Fortunately the person asking the question persisted and pressed him on why, if he believes he genuinely helped before, he would not offer to help now, even on the slight off-chance he could do something useful.

"Interesting question", replied Geller. "I have no answer to that"....

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Magic Weekend

The first full day of the conference kicks off with the 25th annual close-up competition.

I sat in the wrong place for this, obviously, wanting to get a decent view of the proceedings. Unfortunately, my excellent seat meant I was picked on four times to "assist" - mom, I'm nearly famous. You have to feel sorry for these guys - up close and personal you can see just how nervous they are. Shaking hands, shaking voices, fluffed moves flashing things they would rather you didn't see. Some of them pulled it off better than others, and I did pick the eventual winner from his outstanding, and very confident and amusing, performance. Congratulations to Canada's Shawn Farquhar - well worth seeing should you ever have the chance.

The afternoon lectures were fascinating, Richard Turner kicking off with an hour expanding on his one-man show from yesterday, showing us exactly how he did all of his moves. Once again, even as he slows it down and tries to make it obvious, I still cannot see him actually false deal any of the cards. Amazing. David Kaplan and John Lovick also give us a number of excellent insights into their acts from the previous evening - an amazing afternoon.

Saturday night is the one we picked for the evening gala show. Compered by the very funny Noel Britten, it kicked off with Soma, from Hungary. A complex series of manipulations of mobile phones and coins to a driving musical accompaniment was interesting to watch for a while, but quickly got old, despite the technical skill in evidence. Just like those interminable card manipulation acts where fan after fan of cards are produced from thin air before being deposited in the top hat, there are only so many times you can watch the production of a fistful of mobile phones before you are willing the next act to appear.

Next up was David Kaplan from the US. This was more of a traditional "variety show" act, with some comedy magic and juggling, and was not Lynne's cup of tea. Whilst I prefer the "serious stuff" myself too, I could appreciate the skill in this act and the light relief was welcome after the very serious Soma.

Peter Samelson, from the US, did a wonderful performance. Very skillful, and with each trick presented as a story there was nothing quick-fire about this one, but it held interest right to the end.

Rafael, from Belguim, was up next. His act had left me a little cold the previous evening, and this one - the first of three appearances tonight, was worse. I hate quick change acts unless they are done VERY well, and this one was not done well, or even that quickly, at all. Glad to get that one out of the way.

The second half opened with another act that left me a little cold - but for a very different reason. Robert & Emiel (Netherlands) present a ’second sight’ act which portrays Robert as a ‘boy trapped in a mans body, having a special gift to see.’. The on-stage portrayal of the mentally challenged young man was disturbing for all the wrong reasons and made it hard to appreciate the content of the act.

This sort of act - with objects in the audience selected by the associate and named by the blindfolded person on-stage - I find very dull. They obviously rely on some form of hidden communication or code, and it is not something I find particularly clever. However, even I had to admire the skill of this pair as the pace picked up to an unbelievable level and still almost all the objects were named correctly, finishing with a driving licence description and correctly naming the serial number on a audience members £20 note. Shame about the "mentally challenged" angle, which made me uncomfortable throughout.

The organisers juxtaposed the acts superbly tonight, and after the unsettling mentalism act we were treated to an hilarious comedy juggling routine from the UK's Rob Lavar. Five ping pong balls from the mouth playing tunes on empty gin bottles - say no more.....

Andrew Goldenhersh (US) presented an extremely polished routine of some truly excellent magic. He produced a live butterfly from a tattoo on his arm, worked a wonderful misers dream routine with a very small and dangerously curious boy from the audience, and finished with an extremely slow and controlled straight jacket escape, producing unbroken eggs and a live chicken from the jacket as the finale.

Rafael appeared twice more, and completely redeemed himself. With the only "big stage" magic in evidence (i.e big props and multiple assistants) he had a lot resting on his shoulders, but his first routine - the animated woman - was amazing, After producing himself from a large box, he animated a body-less head, which then apparently floated over to a headless body on the other side of the stage before the body was then animated and walked around the stage.

Red Hat was a late addition to the show, performing a reasonably skillful, if somewhat tedious, mask manipulation act. Like Soma's mobile phones, there are only so many times you can produce a fist full of face masks before the audience (or at least this particular audience member) starts yawning. This has been done - and done better - by Jeff McBride, and I would not rush to see this guy again.

The third appearance from Rafael closed the show, and was a fitting finale. An assistant was placed in a clear box, and swords were pushed through slots trapping her in place. An almost instantaneous switch behind a cloth revealed he had apparently changed places with his assistant in the box, but as the swords were removed and he was released, it turned out to be the MC Noel Britten, Rafael eventually appearing in the audience.

A truly excellent show, and a great first day, made even better with the finding - and trying - of a really excellent (and cheap!) sushi restaurant right around the corner from our hotel.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Welsh Wales

After such a long day traveling yesterday I sleep the sleep of the dead, waking up to a wet Welsh morning.

Over breakfast we watch the local speed cop setting up outside my parents home trying to catch the people speeding up the hill, not knowing that my dad has erected a big sign "Warning! Pigs R Here!" on his roof. Mum takes him a cup of tea on the off-chance that the guy will let my dad off next time he gets caught speeding. My dad gets more speeding tickets than I do!

Tania and Jon - my youngest sister and her hubby - pop round for lunch on the pretext of seeing me, but it probably has more to do with a home cooked lunch. Unfortunately, nieces and nephews are at school today, which is a real shame since I will have to head off without getting to see them.

After lunch I have to catch the train back to London to attend the first night of the magic convention. It's my first time, and I have no idea what to expect, but I am not prepared for the amazing quality of the acts we get to see.

It kicks off with a one man show by Richard Turner, billed as the "Card Cheat". I am no fan of card magic, but this guy is amazing. He can control the deck completely no matter how many times he shuffles, dealing cards seamlessly and invisibly from the top, bottom or middle of the deck to allow him to deal any hand he likes to any one of the players around the table.

An hour whizzes by, and at the end of it, we realise that not only can he do all of this stuff without us seeing, but he is actually blind! He gets a well deserved standing ovation. During the interview which follows, he demonstrates some of his techniques, and yet even when he places a card face up on top of the deck and then proceeds to deal five hands from different parts of the deck without ever disturbing the top card and you STILL can't see him do it, I realise that there is not much point in ever taking up card magic, 'cos I'll never be that good in a million years. Even so, I splash out of his DVDs afterwards, just so I can remind myself of the brilliance of his work later.

The evening closes with a comedy show, hosted by Phil Butler, and featuring some very funny performance by Rafael, Handsome Jack (AKA John Lovick) and David Kaplan. A wide variety of magic is on show and all of the acts are very funny to boot.

Phil Butler is an excellent host, and if you ever get the chance to see him on the comedy circuit I recommend you take it. He closes with an outrageous routine whereby he makes speaking Fisher Price kiddie learning toys say some pretty disgusting things by manipulating the keys - extremely childish and very vulgar, and totally hilarious!

Bodes well for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

To London We Go

Hating England as much as I do - and London in particular - it has to be something special which drags me up there to the frozen north these days.

The prospect of visiting my parents followed by 3 days of the International Magic Convention just about fits the bill, so we pack our biggest winter woollies, brush up on basic eastern European vocabulary so we can at least make basic conversation with the natives, and off we go. Not before dropping Harry off at kennels, however. This will be his first time in kennels on his own, now Benson has gone, and when we arrive he is the only one in the place. Hope he will be OK.

The decision to take the later train is the first bad one of the trip. Normally we go for one around 7am, but we decide to have a lie in and go for the one an hour later. Big mistake, as we arrive just in time for the train only to find the station car park is full. We have to make a mad dash to the Arenes, followed by an even madder dash down to the station dragging our luggage. We make the train - puffing and panting - with only 2 minutes to spare.

We decided to go via Lille rather than Paris, since we intend to do lots of shopping and are anticipating heavy cases on the return journey. The problem is that the winter schedule makes the connections a little tighter than we would like. We make the Lille connection and check in with only 5 minutes to spare.

As usual, the contrast between the luxury of the TGV and the spartan prison van atmosphere of the Eurostar is marked, and the journey from Lille to London is not much fun.

We are staying in the Travel Inn at Euston, chosen for being just around the corner from St Pancras, and right opposite the Shaw Theatre where the convention is being held. Chosen for convenience alone, then, this one is a bit of a gamble. This is our first time staying in this part of London, and we are expecting to have to fight our way through drug dealers and prostitutes on the way to the hotel.

We are amazed to find nothing of the sort - Pizza Express, Pret a Manger, Starbucks and Costa Coffee are all in evidence, the sure sign of an area about to undergo massive redevelopment and increase in house prices. There is a huge, rather posh looking, Novotel, the British Library, Indian, Chinese and sushi restaurants, and the hotel itself is pretty good (as good as a Travel Inn is ever likely to be, anyway) and a bargain at 90 quid a night.

The bane of the Travel Inn - the check-in process - is as slow as ever, and it leaves me with only 15 minutes to catch my train from Paddington to Swansea. Hailing a cab and fighting through the afternoon traffic, I make the train at a run with only 2 minutes to go. This has been a day of near misses for the trains, and I shudder to think what would have been the results of missing any one of them.

The journey to Swansea is uneventful, despite the border tax of two sheep and a leek being somewhat extortionate, though is still amazes me that it can take longer to get from London to Swansea than it does from Nimes to Paris! Mum and dad are there to meet me at the station - it has been an absolute age since I have seen them and we have lots to catch up on on the way home and over a wonderful home cooked meal. Great to see them again, though I slip right back into bad habits by eating most of the lemon cheesecake on offer!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

No More Slice?

I just cured my slice!

That phrase should drive more traffic to my blog than any other I have written to date. Apart from "Angelina Jolie ballet dances naked before steamy sex session with Olla Jordan". There, that should wrap up most of the internet traffic for this week.....

Anyway, back to the slice thing. Those of you who know me and have put up with my endless moaning about my terrible incurable golf slice over the last few months - or even worse, have had to play a round with me and spent half of it looking for my ball in the right rough! - will be pleased and amazed that I have finally got to grips with it (no pun intended). When I use phrases like "got to grips" and "cured", of course, I use these in the loosest golf-related sense. In that whatever we do this week to cure the ills of our golf swing seems to manage to miraculously reverse itself the week after. Right now, however, I will take a week of decent golf and solve the next problem when it appears.

Today I shoot 95 and go from hitting 5 fairways/greens in total last week to hitting 9 out of 14 fairways and 3 out of four of the par-3 greens. Shame my putting has gone to hell at the same time otherwise I could have broken 90, but you can't have everything at the same time in golf, can you? Otherwise it wouldn't be golf.

For those of you remotely interested in my amateur musings over my golf swing, I reckon that the "epiphany" came about by suddenly realising that as I moved my weight from left to right leg on the downswing, I also shifted my entire upper body to the left at the same time. Head, hands - hell, everything - was ahead of the ball at impact and there was only one way the ball was ever going to go.

By keeping my head and upper spine fixed as close as I can just behind the ball throughout the downswing I seem to be able to hit much straighter. I have also cut my backswing in half in order to try and keep more control. Ironically, although my swing is shortened, I am getting more distance off the tee, thanks to the straighter ball flight. I hit 230 metres today, which is pretty good for me. Once I can get some consistency in this new swing I can probably start to dial back up the power with a bigger backswing - right now I'm just happy to keep more than half my tee shots on the short stuff!

And there you have it. Next week I will probably be bemoaning some new, suddenly-appeared, bad aspect of my new swing, but right now I am happy as a pig in shit.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Vatel

Wonderful lunch today with Ian, Sylvia, Clive and Fabienne at the Vatel in Nimes. This is the local cookery school, and thus you have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth in terms of both service and food quality given that it is students who are doing the cooking and serving. In addition, it is often a challenge placing an order since French is the first language of neither the customer nor the waiter/waitress in many cases!

Lynne and I have eaten a few times at the Vatel and never been particularly impressed, to be honest, so we weren't looking forward to the meal, although the company was certainly worth the trip under any circumstances. And in the end we were more than pleasantly surprised. The cold buffet of entrees is always good, the poached salmon being consistently excellent, but this time the main courses were superb too. Definitely the best meal we have had there, and good enough that we will be going again!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Berfday Boy

It's my birthday today - more grey hairs, more sagging flesh, more aches and pains. You know you are getting old when all these things no longer wait a year to appear, but rather accumulate on a weekly basis.

I don't even get a lie in! WIth dance classes on a Thursday night, we need to get up at oh-dark-thirty in order to fit in 18 holes of golf and give us enough time to recover before dancing. In fact, it is SO dark when we get up that we can't even see where the balls are going on the practice range. Complete waste of time that is! Because the practice is a wash-out, we are freezing by the time we get to the first tee and it takes us 4-5 holes to warm up. I shoot an abysmal 51 on the front 9, but make up for it partially with a back 9 of 47. For some reason my putting has gone to hell in a hand-basket.

At least the ridiculously early start sees us back home before lunch time, just in time to take Harry for a proper walk (way too dark for him to walk this morning - his decision, not ours!). Golf then dog walk - now I am really knackered. DId I mention I was getting old?

Dance lessons tonight focus on the tango again - my favourite - and afterwards we dine in style at le Cheval Blanc, overlooking les Arenes in Nimes. This is rapidly becoming our favourite haunt - the wine list is great, they sell it by the glass, and now we discover the food is fantastic as well. Best steak I have ever eaten in France, and the seafood is superb. Well worth a visit - even Alex should be able to find this one (right opposite that huge place where they used to feed gladiators to lions, Alex....)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Berfday Girl

It's Lynne's birthday today and we decide a trip to the beach with Harry is in order. We decide on Grande Mottes because it has dog friendly beaches and it is so close, and we have a wonderful long walk along the nearly deserted beach.

It is a strange experience because we tend to still compare Harry with Benson at certain points, and a trip to the beach is one such obvious comparison point. Whereas Benson would have gone hurtling up and down, in and out (but mainly in) the water fetching everything in sight, Harry is content to plod along beside us, or occasionally ahead of us if another dog comes over to investigate, and will only go in the sea if he gets particularly hot. Anything we throw for him is usually met with a very gallic shrug and an expression that clearly says "you threw it, YOU fetch it!". As a retriever, Harry makes a good door stop.....

We decide there is no point continuing to compare the two of them - Harry is a completely different dog. The very traits which occasionally frustrate us - his unwillingness to get excited about a trip to the beach, for example - are also those which we often find the most appealing. Benson, for example, would get SO excited about a trip out that he would stand in the back of the car panting all the way, would not sit quietly in a restaurant, and would usually crap in the most embarrassing places in his excitement.

Harry, on the other hand, is simply happy to be out and about with us. The car trip itself is wonderful, the walk is wonderful (as long as he gets to walk with us) and time spent with us in a restaurant is wonderful. If he is not home alone, then it is a massive treat for him, and this makes him extremely easy to take out and about with us.

The short of it is - Harry is not Benson.

We have the most wonderful meal in a restaurant directly opposite the marina, which appears to have some complex name like "When The Lighthouse Flashes Over Something Or Other". Sorry Alex - I know you like names, addresses and phone numbers but I am usually too pissed to remember.....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

AGF Competition

It's the AGF-sponsored competition today and I am in a 3-some with Lauren and Michel. The weather is fantastic and the game is great.

Just shows how nervous I must have been yesterday. Despite the fact that this is a competition I feel much more relaxed having got the championship stuff out of the way, and I shoot 45 out and 47 back for a total of 92. This is enough to win today's competition both brut and net - yay!

There are prizes to be had, but the biggest thing is that my handicap falls from 27.4 to 23.2, and this is enough to move me from the 3me serie to the 2me serie. This is the biggest division, and of course in one fell swoop I have gone from having one of the lowest handicaps in a small division to one of the biggest handicaps in a large division. Methinks the prizes will be few and far between next year!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Final

Today is the final of the golf club championship, and this means yet another ridiculously early rise to get there in time to practice before my tee time. Another 18 holes of match play, this time against Andel, one of the guys who I played with in my qualifying group last Saturday. A week ago I went round in more than 10 under his score - I am not expecting him to make life so easy for me today.

And he doesn't disappoint! This is another extremely tight game, with neither of us ever managing to pull more than two holes ahead before the other claws back the difference, and most of the game there is only one hole in it.

I start to pull ahead again on the back 9 and Andel gets slightly rattled. I am thinking "this is it", but then nerves get the better of me. Last week was easy because I never expected to progress past the qualifiers, never mind the final stages. Today things are different, and I start to make stupid mistakes with my short putts. I throw a couple of holes away missing the simplest of putts and we go to the 18th all square.

I have a great drive, and then fluff my second shot. We both get on the green in 3, but each with a 30 foot putt. We both miss our fourth shot, leaving around 3ft to go. He keeps his nerve better than me and drops it in the hole for 5 - I take 6. It is disappointing, but it was a great game - very exciting.

And I take comfort in the fact that I have come a long way in less than a year since I got my license - promotion from 4th to 3rd division, finals of the club championships, top 3 finish in 3 of the four summer competitions I entered, and halving my handicap from 54 to 27.

Tomorrow is another day - literally - I am signed up for the AGF competition!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Paso Doble

I am sure it is not coincidence that if you say "Paso Doble" real fast it can sound a lot like "Dance So Poorly"

I have trouble getting my head round the new steps tonight, especially as it switches between 6 counts and 8 counts depending on what part of the dance you are at. I have huge new respect for the participants in Strictly Come Dancing - even John Sergeant! In fact, I have even higher respect for the men because I am beginning to realise just how hard it is not only to remember your own steps, but also LEAD the woman. Apparently women are incapable of remembering which way to go on a dance floor and need to be steered around by the man - a bit like life, really... Only kidding... honest!

Anyhow, seems grossly unfair that I should not only be expected to remember where to put my own feet and which direction to turn, but also to push and pull my partner around at the appropriate moments. In fact it is so unfair that I decide not to do it for most of the night. That's my story, anyway.

Switching partners during the dance adds another level of stress, although one lady makes a bee-line for me for a second dance telling me that she much prefers dancing with me because her husband is useless. I sneak a look around the dance floor trying to spot the only guy in the room who must obviously be a double amputee, on crutches or in a wheel chair, but he must have stepped out for a while.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Semi Finals

I play Joseph in the semi finals of the club championship today, another 18 holes of match play.

Having had a REALLY bad practice game yesterday, I am not too confident, in addition to being really tired having now played Saturday, Sunday, Monday and faced with another game today. This was not helped by the fact that tee times are really early and I had forgotten to set my alarm clock back an hour last month (duh!), so I ended up dragging myself out of bed at 6am this morning - early enough by any standards - and was half way showered before Lynne told me it was actually 5am and I was an idiot!

Today, however, it all came together. At least it did after the first few holes. I have played Joseph before, and we are very equal in terms of our golfing prowess (if, indeed, prowess is a word which can be used to describe what I do with a golf ball), so this developed into a really tough game, nip and tuck. As we rounded the front 9 I had battled back from my early troubles to snatch a 1 hole lead, and I took the next 3 holes to make life a little more comfortable. I lost the 13th and we drew the next 3 leaving me 3 holes up with only 2 to play. Game over.

A nice par on the 18th rounded off a great game (51 out, 49 back for a total of 100), and Joseph was a very gracious loser. Indeed, the whole game was characterised by a very relaxed attitude, fair play, laughing and joking, and genuine cheering on of one another's better shots and dismay at some of the terrible misses, making it a real pleasure. Completely the opposite to the game I played the other day where the guy was severely stressed out and seemed to think it was unfair that I should win some of the holes to which he was clearly entitled.

I get to play Andel, one of the guys who was in my qualifying group on Saturday, in the finals on Saturday morning. WIsh me luck!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Quarter Finals

So it's up at the crack of dawn today to get to the club early enough to practice before my 8.30 tee time.

Today it is 18 holes of match play between myself and one of the other 7 who made it through from yesterday - no handicap is taken into account - this is mano a mano. Match play (where your total score is not recorded, but only used to determine the winner of each hole) is a new format for me, and I love it.

Although my instructor told me to ignore what the other player is doing and just play my own game, this ignores the strategy component of match play. For example, if your opponent is in the hole in 4 and you are on the green in 3 then you know there is no point in lagging the putt - you gotta go for it. If, however, your opponent takes 5 to get on the green and you are on in 3, then you know you can lag the putt and take 2 and still win the hole. It is tremendously liberating to know that you have no choice but to go for a risky shot or a long putt, and it is amazing how often these shots come off!

My opponent has a similar handicap to myself and, to be honest, I am not expecting to progress any further than today - I was happy to just get through the qualifiers. As if to underline this, I play like a complete muppet for the first 9 holes, recording a dreadful 56. However, miraculously, I score when it counts and go into the back 9 with a 6 hole to 2 lead, sharing only one hole between us,

This seems to rattle my opponent, but not as much as the fact that he plays perfect approach shots for the next hole while I end up in the rough. He puts his third shot on the green, and I put my third 2 feet from the pin. Another hole to me.

The next hole is a long par 5, and he is on the green in 3. I spend the first three shots languishing in the rough and hacking my way back onto the fairway and he is feeling pretty confident. This is where the strategy thing comes in - I have nothing to lose at this point. I am 120 yards from the green with a downhill lie, and I stick the ball three feet from the pin. We end up halving the hole and my opponent has a fit! "How am I supposed to win?" he asks, in all seriousness. "I play perfect approach shots and you stick it next to the pin from back there! How am I supposed to win a hole if you keep doing that?"

At first I laugh, but then realise he is not joking. He was not too unhappy about losing holes where he played badly, but clearly believes that when he plays a good hole I m not allowed to upset the apple cart. I don't really know how to respond to this one - as far as I am aware, golf is about sticking the ball in the hole in the fewest shots possible. Isn't it?

Two holes later and it is all over - he cannot win, and the rest of the game we are playing for fun. At least I am. He is still complaining that he is fed up with golf and is going to give it up. If it gets him this heated, perhaps he should.

Anyhow, having played out all the holes I win 11.5 to 6.5 and I am through to the semi-finals on Tuesday! Yay me! Just as important is the fact I manage to record a 47 on the back 9 to go some way towards balancing out the abysmal 56 I scored on the way out, only barely shooting to my new handicap.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Qualifying Round

The Vacquerolles golf club championship starts today. There are three mens divisions, one ladies and one mixed/beginners division, and your assignment to a division is determined by your current handicap. Right now, I am languishing in division 3 following promotion from the mixed in August, with a handicap of 30.

There is no championship for the mixed division, leaving three for the mens and one for the ladies. The qualifying round is today, with everyone playing a round of stroke play and the best 8 going through to the quarter finals tomorrow. This is pretty scary stuff for me, golf-wise, but I have a great day, recording a 47 out and 51 back, for a total of 98.

Amazingly, this puts me top of the table for division 3, so I get to come back tomorrow! My handicap also drops to 27 - only another 3 to go and I get bumped up to division 2 (where life suddenly gets a whole lot more difficult!)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Strictly Bum Dancing

Last night we had our first dancing lesson, an individual one to try and get us up to speed because tonight we join the group course which has been running for over 6 weeks already.

I am terrified. You are talking about someone with two left feet having to learn enough dance to catch up with a group who has six weeks of lessons under their belts. After an hour covering the basics of the tango and paso doble, I can barely keep anything more than the most basic steps in my head and I am more terrified than ever.

Fast forward to tonight, and after four hours of golf (terrible - 50 out and 53 back with some shocking play) my feet are killing me and I realise I have already forgotten everything I learned last night. To make matters worse, there are always more women than men at these things, so you have to brave the myriad pairs of eyes following you round the room, just waiting for Lynne to make a slip or get demoted so they can pounce.

Naturally, with my boyish good looks and raw sexuality, not to mention obvious dance talent, I am the focus of attention. Then Lynne pinches me to tell me I have just missed five minutes of instruction, and I wake up....

Anyway, it's a hoot. We spend the hour doing the tango, covering the stuff we did last night plus a few new steps, and it all starts to stick. I find myself already looking forward to the next opportunity to show off my amazing skills, and we sign up for the rest of the year in the ballroom class.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Good Sense Prevails

Let's face it, Obama wasn't running against McCain and Palin, he was running against Bush. And at this point in history, an illiterate gay black atheist would have had more chance of winning the presidential race than a Republican.

But credit where credit is due, it only took $600 million and we have America's First Black President. Have you noticed that in every news item you listen to you can actually hear those capital letters? Why, in this day and age, is it such a big issue? Would the British press make such a big deal out of Britain's First Black Prime Minster? Or Britain's First German Royal Family? No, of course not.

Hilary Rodham must be spitting feathers right now, though. Even she could have won against Mc Cain and Palin!

All kidding aside, this was the smart choice. I worry that too much will be expected of him, despite the fact that he didn't really give much away in terms of how he was going to tackle the major issues, and I hope he really does try to make a difference. My fear is that his advisors will try and have him campaigning for a second term as soon as he sets foot in the oval office, and that his presidency will be characterised by astounding mediocrity. This will do a huge disservice to those who took a leap of faith and gave him the biggest majority the Democrats have seen in a long time.

I hope instead that he gets his head around the fact that his will be a one-term presidency - no way will he get elected again. That way he can consider himself free to upset whomever he likes on his way to enacting some real legislation and making a real difference.

And if he can do THAT, you never know what could happen in four years time....

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Garbage

Just rented the remake of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth starring Brendan Fraser from iTunes. Was expecting good things. Was not expecting it to be such total, utter garbage. Avoid at all costs.

Also watched 10,000BC - not sure what I was expecting from this one, but if you want to give it a go I would definitely recommend renting rather than buying - not worth the price of a DVD.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Swing Change

We take advantage of a break in the lousy weather to play some golf - warm enough to play in a t-shirt today, if not shorts!

Continuing to tweak my swing to try and get some consistency in length and stop taking these huge divots. Some light at the end of the tunnel today, although there have been numerous occasions in the past when I have made a "breakthrough", only to find myself digging holes in the fairway next time out.

But today felt good, swing-wise and, let down only by some sketchy driving, I manage 49 out and 49 back - 98 total. Hoping this is good enough, since I have just signed up for the club championship this coming weekend. Gulp!

I know I am not going to progress past the first round, but I do quite enjoy playing in the competitions, and it is the only way you can have your scores recorded to reduce your handicap in France, so they are a bit of a necessary evil. As long as I can shoot around 100 I should be OK.... probably just jinxed myself right there!

We finish the day by watching The Return Of The King, the final installment of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson did two amazing things with this trilogy. Firstly, he managed to avoid disappointing the real fans of the books (apart from those morons who thought that Tom Bombadil should actually have been included in the film!). There was not one single moment throughout where I thought "Hmmmmm that's not how I imagined it". And that is pretty impressive! I would have liked to have seen the ending remain truer to the books, but that was never going to make is past Hollywood's Mushy Ending Enforcers, was it?

Secondly, he managed to engage people like Lynne, who actively disliked the Tolkein books. Some will probably just enjoy the films. Otheres, like Lynne, will be inspired to go back and re-read the books. That is also pretty impressive.

44th Time Lucky

US citizens are on notice.

Sane people think it is about time that you got it right. Two fuck-ups in the last eight years - two too many. Get it wrong this time and we will have to call off this whole independence experiment thing.

You will have to go back to speaking and writing Proper English, stop waging war willy nilly, ditch the whole republic idea, and get yourself a proper health service.

And despite all the possible benefits, just think about the fact that if you think it has been bad under George Bush, just wait 'til you have to contend with that wanker Gordon Brown as your new leader!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Weather-Induced Slobbery

Two more days of poor weather see us taking things rather easy.

We walk Harry before the rain sets in, have a leisurely breakfast, and an even more leisurely lunch while settling down to watch the Lord Of The Rings films.

Fellowship of the Ring yesterday, Two Towers today. I had forgotten just what an excellent job Peter Jackson had done with these films. Looking forward to the final installment.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sexist But Funny....

Just like me....



This one I quite liked too, possibly because the situation is so familiar...