Archive for March, 2012

Not a bright moment

It didn’t actually happen, although, I was looking for the corkscrew…

I had grabbed a bottle of St. Germaine Assemblage (Cuvée), whipped off the foil cap, and went to look for my corkscrew. Then it dawned on me that in my haste I hadn’t noted it had a screw-top. It was the first that I had seen on a bottle of wine; so I could have been excused if I had.

If I had really been in a hurry, dying of thirst, maybe I could well have fallen into this diabolical trap.

It also got me to thinking… WTF is wrong with a cork?

Recently many corks have been replaced by a spongy cork-coloured blob; and I thought that was cheap. Now there is screw-tops, nah, I have resolved not to buy a screw-top bottle of wine again.

I am a traditionalist. I don’t take to changes kindly. I like things the way were. There is very little in this world that is classed as ‘progress,’ that I find is actually better than it used to be. In the main, technology is a crock o’shit! ‘Progress’ really means, “we have found a faster, cheaper, more lucrative way to do something.” It doesn’t matter if you are talking about screw-tops on wine bottles or shoes. Show me a pair of shoes that lasted as long as the ones did 40 or 50 years ago. See, cant. When my mother bought shoes, they lasted until we grew out of them, then they were passed on to my little brother, and they lasted until he grew out of them, then they were passed on to cousins or neighbours. But today, I have to buy a pair of shoes each year, whether they were grown out of or not; they are in tatters.

Generally goods are designed to last only until the guarantee has expired, then you find they can’t be fixed, because the part that broke, collapsed, burnt-out, etc is only available to the manufacturer; you can’t buy it. You are forced to buy a new one. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about LCD monitors or cars, the result is the same. We are being held ransom by the corporations to buy, buy, buy, spend, spend, spend, simply so they can make more money. I am not complaining that a company or business has to make money; I am complaining about the abusive way they do it.

1950 Rotrax JAP Speedway, National Motor Museum Monorail in Beaulieu - Photo from Wikipedia

In the 1920s there were motorcycle engines designed by John Alfred Prestwich (JAP), they were used in AJWs and Cotton motorcycles, as well as early aircraft and cars like the Morgan. They came in many sizes, including  500cc and 600cc single cylinder for motorcycles. Fifty years later (1970s) these engines were still being used on the world’s speedway track at World Championship levels, by riders like Barry Briggs, Ronny Moore, etc. Then the advent of the Japanese engines (not to be confused with JAPs) as used by Ivan Mauger and the newer champions. These engines didn’t last five years. The newer engines simply weren’t the same quality.

The world is really in a sorry state. I wrote about the social fabric becoming threadbare this morning on a post Cotton Wool Culture. It’s about parenting, but more importantly it’s about kids and the way ‘progress’ has kept them from nature, the outdoors producing a pack of wimps and sooks.

Homemade, not bought

Right now, I am thinking about lunch. Weinerschnitzel. Homemade, not bought. I refuse to buy things like this in the supermarket. There are two reasons, firstly, you have no idea of the quality of the meat, secondly, it’s so easy to make it at home.

To prepare schnitzel at home takes you all of five minutes. It takes you nearly that long to open a supermarket pack.

I usually buy a slab of rump steak. From it I cut my own schnitzels and inch thick steak, so I know the quality of the meat. I’m having mine today with salad (to use leftovers) and fried whole garlic cloves. I know you’re probably thinking “Oh the bafo de alho!” Garlic breath… but garlic cooked like this doesn’t have the same effect, even less so if you roast whole garlic bulbs.

Well, lunchtime…


Not Eremophobic

There, bet that’s got you running to the Great God Google…

Each team are carried in the manner they deserve

I had this picture sent to me by a Vasco fan, of course, I am a Flamengo supporter.

From top left, clockwise – Vasco, Botafogo, Fluminense and Flamengo.

My only retort was that ‘boiolas‘ (gays) need buses, real men use trucks! While that may have been stereotyping and running the risk of offending a minority, here in Brazil such things are understood, implicitly. There was no returning comment….

Ganhei! (I win!).

Monday again. This is the start of a poor week. Actually two. I have two students less this fortnight while they are in the US for a course. Only one of them knows for certain he is returning to lessons after the trip. So, not many classes., four in fact.

I was up early, 5am; then I was down again, then up again and down again. Now I am up again. It’s been a very up and down type of day.

Israeli Heron Drone

I have, in my moments of lucidity, written/posted on each of my blogs; which has been a rarity of late. Maxine on Monday is always a giggle, then I wrote about the Train that’s not in the clouds, Vietnamese coffee – no that’s not an oxymoron (and a draft for a post tomorrow). I had a good Monday Moaning and wrote a post which will probably get the Israeli’s sending a drone to exterminate me; Shit Happens.

Sometimes things really get up my nose and are more irritating than nose-hairs.

I have also had lunch, fed the cat, done the dishes and…. yes, and….

I was thinking about eremophobia yesterday. I did it in style, with a beer looking out over the park. Loneliness, for sixty years I have had mother, it’s always been comforting. I have never been alone before; mother was always there. Not here in Brazil, but there, at home. After the phone call last Saturday, it may not be for much longer. As the elder in the family, with whom I have little contact, we have never been a close unit, I will be alone for the first time in my life. Not sure how I will handle that.

Still working on the details.

I am a hermit by nature. I have always been a loner. All my sports were individual things, shooting I excelled at, the others were amusements. I traveled alone, I would have hated to have a travel partner to consult, as I tend to make radical and sudden changes to itineraries and plans.

I have now lived alone for four years since I separated from Shirley. I don’t feel alone, I’ve got my PC, all my friends are in there… well, most of them, I have a few in the botequim (neighbourhood bar) next door as well, and some at work. I don’t feel lonely, Lixo P. Cat sees to that; an ankle rub here, a meow there, a bite of the big toe at 3am.

This is new for me, intro-reflection.

Time for my lesson. *Presses ‘pause’ button on thinking*


Doing Nothing, just remembering

That’s what I promised to do this weekend.

Basically, I have achieved nothing much, apart from a little blogging yesterday.

I had meant to blog here too, in fact the “Add New Post” page has been open since about yesterday lunch time, and I am now preparing lunch today.

Fish ‘n’ Chips, that wonderful English standby.

I had several ideas about what to blog yesterday, but then that great dark cloud loomed over the horizon; you know the one that prevents you from thinking clearly.

One of the ideas was prompted by an image I came across in my vast archives.

Yes, an old fashioned razor strop.

This was the most feared weapon in our house. Not the razor, my father had some tucked away in an old cigar box in his writing desk; but the strop.

You see that was what Bush would have called a WMD. With this in the middle drawer we were subdued in acquiescence. It didn’t even need to be taken out of the drawer, which was the ‘junk draw’ in the kitchen. The mere knowledge that this existed was an unwritten guarantee of exemplary behaviour. I can only remember the sting once. I was about five, and I had disturbed my father’s sleep in by waking my little brother. My pyjama pants were down, I was bent across the bed and the strop applied. The harsh slap of leather on bare flesh, once felt, never forgotten.

Today, of course, I could rat on my parents for being so brutal and probably divorce them or something.

It’s not that my parents were into brutality, but I do remember the omnipresence of that strop. I can remember one time my mother, who was a little on the plump side of thin, chasing myself and my younger brother town the yard to the orchard where like a couple of cats treed by a rabid dog we sought safety in an apple tree. Our giggling at our narrow escape only served to enrage her with threats of, “just wait till your father gets home!” I don’t remember the final act of that particular play, nor the reason that prompted her to chase us down the yard in the first place.

So it was last night that my mother called, she is now 88 and I am 60; she calls me each Saturday for a chin-wag. Last Saturday she didn’t. That has happened before, but last night her voice was frail, I could hear it. She needs heart surgery, but her body is not strong enough, but this wasn’t the problem this time; her body is just worn out. On her own admittance, she didn’t ring earlier in the week, she didn’t have the strength to manage the phone. Whereas, the week before she needed hospitalisation, she was driving her car.

If you understand cricket; no batsman was ever sneezed at for a respectable innings of 88 not out, but we know innately when we are facing our final over; and this was tacitly understood between us last night. Myself, being the eldest child, I was always my mother’s confident, she would tell me things that she never dared tell my father. As we hung up last night, we each said, “I love you,” which we haven’t said to each other for many, many years.

So with that, later. Maybe there will be a Sunday Travel Tales, maybe there won’t.

Too Hot to Think

Today was supposed to be cooler than yesterday’s 40ºC…

Guess what?

Wrong again!

…45ºC (111ºF)

That’s too hot to think.

At 11am I could only think of an air conditioned environment, BBQ lunch and ice cold beer. So I called a taxi (too hot to walk ten minutes to the bus).

When I left the restaurant at 1pm, I felt like an icecream in the desert as I walked across the road to get a Kombi home sweat dripping from the brim of my hat; I couldn’t afford a taxi both ways.

Once home, I had a cold shower in the yard from the garden hose and lay on my bed sopping wet under the fan to study the principles of refrigeration as the fan chilled my dampened hide

It was my intention today to work & blog on my return.

It is now nearly 4pm and the house is stifling. The sky has clouded over and there is no sun, but inside even with all the windows open it is like an oven. We’ll get a tropical storm within the next hour or so, I am picking. One hour of torrential rain, then nothing, but it will be darkish by then and slowly the temperature in the house will become bearable.

The chances of me writing a post are remote. To write a post I need coffee, it’s too hot for coffee.


Traditions in Peril

When I was a kid, thousands of years ago, we had Marmite.

I loved my Marmite on toast, or in sandwiches.

We also that that Australian imitation junk called Vegemite, which was even in the same category and refused by all in the family.

So it was disturbing to find that the earthquakes last year (and continuing trembles) in Christchurch damaged not only the famous cathedral, but also New Zealand’s only Marmite factory.

The Guardian: Marmite shortage leaves New Zealanders spreading themselves thin

This is such a disaster as to have made it into the international news. It leaves me wondering whether the NZ government will keep the news from the ‘mainstream media’ as a measure of national security. It ranks among such imagined disasters as Winnie the Pooh without Hunny.

Marmite on Toast

It has been 16 years since I last had Marmite due to my geographic relocation to South America. The third world has not been blessed with such endemic pleasures.

The British version doesn’t cut the mustard either and has been rejected out of hand as a substitute.

The report suggests that supermarkets are already out of some sizes and stocks could be depleted within weeks; with no respite until July. The makers, Sanatarium, are considering rationing the stuff, and Twitter even has a hashtag #Marmitecrisis, such is the level of concern over this natural disaster.

Today is Monday. I know it is Monday because of the way it started.

4am – Up for a pee and back to bed

4.10 – still tossing and turning, get up to read emails

5.30 – back to bed

5:31 – fly annoying me, pull up sheet

5.32 – fly finds nose is out of the sheet

5.33 – can’t stand it, get up

5.34 – find there is no coffee left to reheat for that morning emergency

5.44 – first coffee

6.30 – back for snooze

6.31 – Lixo finds big toe and decides this is fun

6.32 – convince Lixo to leave toe alone, a swift kick to the head, it was the knee-jerk reaction of a very sleepy person.

6.45 – dog next door goes berserk, yap, yap, yap, effin’ yap!

6.50 – decide that today is Monday and there’s no use fighting it.


Sunday Travel Tales

Train to the Clouds

The train runs 434 km. in almost fifteen hours (round trip). The railway line has 29 bridges, 21 tunnels, 13 viaducts, 2 spirals, and 2 zigzags. One of the highest train trips in the world, reaching 4,200 metres above sea level (12,600ft+/-).

The city of Salta, Northwest Argentina

Salta, Northwest Argentina.

San Antonio de los Cobres, the end of the line

San Antonio de los Cobres, near the border with Chile on the way to San Pedro de Atacama.

Literally, a train to the clouds

Photo credit: Moldeando la luz (Shaping the light) by José Luis Garcia Alonso

This has to be the most spectacular photos of the train I have ever seen.

An Argentine Tourism Promo




Lixo P. Cat

Rubbish… I mean Lixo.

I have finally managed to get a photo of Lixo.

It’s not a very good photo.

The camera is having an identity crisis, it doesn’t really want to be a camera anymore. But I can with some pressure and wriggling of buttons get it to perform its original function.

Anyway, there he sits in all his magnificence, guarding his realm and ready to trip me up at any given moment.

Now don’t ask me why the caption Lixo P. Cat is crossed out. I have just noticed it. I tried to correct it and it managed to displace the caption. Something I haven’t managed to figure out why with WordPress yet. So I did a crtl+z and it stays. LOL, in the final post, the strike through disappeared.

I have just a few moments to post, I have the last lesson of the week in about an hour, and I need half that time to get there. I still have to shower and get desmellified before I go.

This week, as I have explained elsewhere, has been terrible, lessons, split days, lessons cancelled, etc. As my mother would have said, “I don’t know whether I am Arthur or Martha.” Actually, after sixty years, I have that pretty much sorted, but it semed appropirate to describe the week.

I am panicking to get this done, because it has been a few days since my last post.

I was in town yesterday. I am so frail, I weakened. I saw the sign Brazeiro, my favourite restaurant and I could resist a small detour for a leisurely BBQ lunch. I was alarmed to discover that they have raised the price of beer. It used to be R$6.50 for a 450ml tankard, now it is R$6.90. They sneak these changes in from time to time to catch the unwary. So, instead of my usual 3 tankards, I only had 2. I used to have 5 or 6, but as they have increased the price, I have gradually reduced my consumption, they lose. The same beer at the botequim is R$3.70 for a 600ml bottle, so I drink less with my meal and have more when I get home at a more reasonable price.

That’s it, got to go.


Blogger at work

Bugger me! (don’t take that literally). It’s started raining here about a half hour ago, and now we are having hailstones the size of marbles. Unheard of.

Now tell me there aren’t climatic changes afoot.

The weekend was singularly unexciting. Sunday, I went for a walk to the mini-market, no bread; then I went to the bakery, no bread… so I got changed and called a taxi and went out for lunch. Yes, my favourite BBQ restaurant. A leisurely three-hour lunch in an air conditioned restaurant just the answer to a hot day.

Wow! The storm has really kicked up. Strong winds are buffeting the trees in the park. Still heavy rain and hailstones are battering the tin roof of my carport.

I have never seen this in Rio before.

Prince Harry missed it by two days, he would have felt right at home.

Half an hour later…

A heavy downpour for an hour, and now the sun has appeared as though nothing untoward had happened. I hope it stays that way until 5pm, I have to go out for class then.


Sunday Travel Tales

The last two posts we have looked at the Colca Cañon and Cabanaconde; this week we have a brief look at Chivay, the main city (town really).

The first sight of Chivay as you descend from the five hour journey from Arequipa

Rumillacta (Stone Village in Qechua), the best lodgings in the area

Plaza de Armas, the main square

Kids in the plaza during the Women's festival, even the men and boys dress as women and girls during this festival

In the centre of the photo is a boy, he has the face mask on. The Festival de Mujeres dates back to the times of the conquistadores, when a Spanish soldier fell in love with an Incan princess; he dressed all his men as women so he could attend the royal ball.

One of the side streets near the centre of town

Kids playing on top of the cathedral during the festival. Boys will be boys wherever in the world

Just a quick look at Chivay with some of the old photos I have.

After our return from the canyon, we stayed the night in Rumillacta and had a local group of musicians with pan pipes and dancers entertain usa long with dinner. In the morning we returned to Arequipa. This clipe found on YouTube from 2005, looks pretty much like the same group (I was in the area 1997/98).

Next week, something different.


I haven’t decided on a title yet. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I haven’t decided on that yet, either.

Had a little snigger yesterday when I read that basically 3D films started with Avatar and stopped there. Subsequent films have been flops. Shit like 3D doesn’t interest me one iota and I had predicted it as a fad. Oh dear.

Maybe that’s just more proof that I’m a boring old fart.

The world is so interested in advances and progress. It’s a very selfish attitude.

It’s like the brand names, Nike, Addidas, Rolex, Wrangler, Gucci, etc; I don’t give a damn. I have never owned any of these, I have no hankering to own any of these things, I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone else wants to own any of these things. It’s all status, who needs it?

Waste of time, money, energy and resources and one day we’ll all regret this selfishness. That day is coming very soon. I wonder at how many 99% Greeks are buying these things? This financial failure thing is going to effect us all one day very, very soon.

Lethargy, no I haven’t felt lethargic, I have been busy. Apathy, no not hit by apathy not feeling at all apthetic. Procrastination, no I haven’t procrastinated. I simply have been busy. I have been watching the series Ancient Aliens. That’s why I have posted the first of the series above. Very interesting. It is something that I have been interested in since I read von Danniken’s Chariots of the Gods when I was about 13/14. Which even at that age made me see the sense in his logic. It was logic that seemed far more logical than anything I had seen in the Bible, even though much of it was from the Bible.

But of course, I was too young to make an informed decision. The law says that; I cannot make an informed decision until I am 16, or in some cases 18.

What a crock of shit.

I cannot drink beer until I am 18, I cannot vote until I am 18, I cannot get married until I am 16. I cannot have sex until I am 16, I cannot smoke until I am 18, I cannot drive a car until I am 18.

In South America, it is even worse. 18 for everything, even criminal responsibility. The Latin American view is that you are still a child until your 18th birthday. Example; 1 17 year old pulls a gun and commits an armed robbery killing someone…. “Oh dear, he’s just a child, he didn’t know what he was doing!” They smack him on the hand give him three years in a children’s home from which he can escape at any time. Adn they often do, and go and do the same thing again.

Crock of shit!

There, got that off my chest.

I had three very geriatric looking tomatoes in my vege bowl. This morning I took the wizened tomatoes, chopped them roughly, added to a pot with a splash of water, spronkled salt and pepper on them and let them stew. Wonderful breast, stewed tomatoes on toast.

The week has been hot again. Not as hot as the previous two weeks, nothing over the 40ºC mark, but thankfully, while it begun as a hot one today, it has clouded over and we expect a thunderstorm this afternoon. So I will look forward to that, refreshing. I love thunder and lightning. But it is a worry, because sometimes my wi-fi connection goes down, then it’s beer o’clock. So every cloud (even thunder clouds) has a silver lining.

Enough waffle for now.


I’m off to watch the next Ancient Alien video.

Thunder in the distance, even before I managed to post this…

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