2006, Happy New Year and some resolutions

Well its 2007 tomorrow. For me it’s been a great year of travel, an uninteresting year of work, a year of watching others move on in ways and means and a time of following up on projects and of contemplation.

After spending New Year in a crazy bar called Sharky’s in Phnom Penh, I traveled through Vietnam (review here) for a month with Ben and Eloide, returning south through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia to Indonesia (review) and loved every minute of the place. Genuine sights and people. I returned to Thailand and flew to California (review), exploring the national parks and major cities. I then flew to Mexico and travelled Central America (review) and Cuba (review), meeting cool people and feeling more alive. I returned to LA and flew to New York (review) for 5 odd, odd days and then over to Dublin to meet Joe, Valencia (review) with Joe and John, followed by the dour Berlin (review) and Krakow and Slovakia for James’ stag do and meeting the legendary Clebson along the way (review). Overall it was a long but rewarding trip.

I returned in summer, excited to see friends and new family. They were all generally cool and the other teachers I met at Reading University were a funny, mixed bunch, making a month with Italian kids just about bearable, though never again. I managed a night with Carlin, a few with Dr Luke as well as James’ wedding down here in Devon. The World Cup came and went with pure frustration (and nothing has changed since). Beyond that, it’s been work to pay off debts and accumulate for next years trip which maybe the last for a while. I’ve read and studied a lot and so have grown that way but can’t help feeling that I am reaching as the Americans say, the ‘tipping point.’

For it’s difficult maintaining my lifestyle. While it has been highly enjoyable, I’ve sacrificed regular income, a graduate job, a firm footing in society and relationships for these wanders. Undoubtedly it has improved me in many ways; given me a broader outlook and a range of friends to be proud of. But as Nic mentioned recently, floating through life isn’t a virtue in England. I like to think I have bounded around rather than floated. Or ‘tugged on the teats of life’ as I coined earlier this year. It seems glamorous and I know many, especially men, profess some kind of envy for we will never do this again when we are older.

But there in is the rub. I am now getting older. And it means I must make choices. This life can continue if I forgo a career in England or more correctly a career in a respectable business. For that’s what really gets me. I want some kind of respect. I want to feel I have achieved something of worth in others eyes. The question is, do people respect what I have done so far or is it just a blind pat on the back? I have enjoyed my life and who I have met. But is this my life? Is this what I am to do? And does it matter anyway if I do this? My friends will still be happy as long as I am happy. My family, the same. Should I try something else, take the high road into a career for 10 years, join the Foreign Office and forgo my travels, my freedom.

While I have been down here in Devon, I have missed my friends immensely. Not so much for nights out but just being able to talk to them, laugh and joke, bounce off these ideas and come to some conclusions. For it would help my mind, no end. Next year is an important time for me. I will need to have resolved these issues and headed out onto the path with little regrets and no turning back. Looking back in 10 years time, I don’t want to regret anything and so maybe that I need to step out and use my gray matter somewhat. I don’t seek money, just self-satisfaction.

So looking back at my 2006 resolutions, I achieved about half which isn’t bad, is it? Kept myself in better shape, learnt some decent Spanish, continued with my Japanese, met old mates, saw my cat before she died aged 18, took care of my eyes more and picked up my guitar again. I never learnt how to roar like a bear or juggle like Ronnie or get to BA with Paul or draw better but I didn’t do badly.

2007 is the final year of my first 5 year plan. So far, so good. I want to apply for the FCO this year, do a Diploma with the British Council and a few others things. In no particular order, the plans are:

1) Travel North Africa, Turkey and Armenia

2) Dive in Sinai

3) Do a DELTA, probably in Poland in the summer.

4) Be able to play some good tunes on the guitar

5) Continue to take care of myself health wise.

6) Apply for the FCO in December

7) Meet up with Jeroen, Christine, LP, Dunc, Moneim, the Gorings, Matt and Minka and the other Japanese crowd.

8) Get back out to Asia for winter

9) Take my exams in Japanese

10) Continue my other languages

11) Start back on the book as Christine encouraged.

12) Keep my hair somehow.

13) And as Bernard Fanning sang, “I’m not too proud to hope for a little romance.”

Robbo Robson’s 2007 predictions

Includes such gems as:

February

Moves to reduce the 6 Nations Rugby Championships back to the 5 Nations are rejected and England are allowed to stay in the tournament.

England’s friendly is notable for the fact that Lampard and Gerrard come out the tunnel wearing the same shirt, with Gempard on the back of it. Both play okay but struggle to find space. McClaren says they proved the doubters wrong tonight. The press say Stevie and Frank – together they Stank.

More here

Merry Xmas??

So how you all doing in these post-Xmas days? Its not the same Xmas is it as you get older? As a kid, it’s about pretending to be asleep when your Mum sneaks in to put some presents on the bed or being waken by your sisters to charge downstairs and debauch the wrapping.

I originally wanted an iPod for Xmas but quickly changed my mind. Watching a kid on the train encased in his own world is a failure of modern society. A move to privacy and personal space in times where greater interaction is required. And beyond that, it takes away from your personality with others, your ability to observe and the soundtrack to your life. You miss out listening in on all those random conversations but more importantly you’d lack the inspired moments brought on by a feeling, a turn of word or an image that leads a man to song. I love singing, love the way my inner voice tells me how I really am. There is little better than understanding you are happy by the songs that you sing. I always find that the song I am humming is reflective of my inner being. When I am gloriously mumbling The Masterplan by Noel Gallagher, I am close to breaking out in am outrageous smile.

So what has Christmas brought for you? Well mine was fairly ordinary but pleasant. Two serious hangovers at the behest of old mates Nathan and Dr Luke, a bit of work, some reading and study. As a time of celebration, Christmas has lost its meaning for me but when I got the text from Scotty on Boxing Day informing one and all that Sarah had given birth to Aalia, their first child, I smiled a-more. Of course, it didn’t help the hangover the next day, but it put it all in a nicer perspective.

Merry Xmas Guys

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year 2007.

It’s been a great year for me even as I age in body and mind. New Year in Cambodia, followed by months travelling around Vietnam, Indonesia, America, Mexico and Central America and Cuba, then New York and Europe. James’ wedding came and went and told a lot. We all looked the same but we’re not. Which isn’t a bad thing either. I wish I could have talked to Jamesy a little more but there was more to the day that that.

I’ve worked and met many new good friends this year, as well as reinforcing the friendships I am blessed to have already. I’ve seen a lot of my family for once, catching up with the new additions and felt more comfortable with them. Next year will be important for formulating the plans I intend to put into practice over the next 5 years. Much to do but I’m in good shape for it all. I have missed my friends recently. Having many friends is great except they are so spread out that it makes me wonder how often I can see them. I guess I need to get married and have a huge stag do.

I’ll catch up with Scotty and Sarah next year as well LP, the mates in Korea and the boys from University and other friends. You are never forgotten and Jeroen, I’ll be there in April. I might even go back to Japan. After a quick trip round the Middle East and a summer in Poland, I’ll be looking better than this (<–). Well now, its 4pm Friday, the 22nd of December. I am off for a few well-earned beers or 10.

Buena suerte mi amigos.

Rest in Peace Scoobs

Joseph Barbera, creator of Scooby Doo, (ahh man I loved Scooby), The Flintstones, The Jetsons and of course, Tom and Jerry died yesterday aged 95, appropriately in a place called Studio City.

While I’ve always enjoyed Tom and Jerry, it pales in my love for Scooby. That daffy look he had on his face when the ‘monster’ closed, the cheeky smile at the end of every episode and his conversations with Shaggy will stand the test of time for the themes for kids are immortal.

That’s something I have learnt of late when with Tash’s kids, Imogen and Sam. Not matter when kids are born, they still love being chased, love to watch juggling and magic tricks and to be swung around.

Gotta love Scooby.

The twisting over time


Visiting Iraq this week, Mr Blair reiterated his determination to stand “four square” behind the Iraqi government in its battle to defeat terrorists.

In a time when even the Bush, the Macbeth of my story, is beginning to have doubts about the wisdom of his endeavours, Lady Macbeth playing a previously supporting role, attempts to reinforce their illegal actions to maintain momentum in fear of their political fall. Its pathetic. Politically bankrupt and almost universally loathed, our Lady Macbeth is still pushing the same policies, the same old, discredited rhetoric.

Meanwhile our troops fight and die without sufficient equipment in worn deserts, far from home at Christmas. To think I voted for Blair when I was younger. I hope my political trust comes back one day but with my outlook and personality, I feel it won’t. But I don’t feel like I’ll be losing out anyhow.

The link above and below indicates how little Blair influences Bush on the invasion and how our national credibility has been lost. And now, of course we want to develop more nuclear weapons when the missiles require American permission to fire which would never come from a fiercely pragmatic America. But once again, we are in the firing line with little way to protect ourselves. Similar to the Falklands War when we asked to borrow an aircraft carrier from the America yet were refused as America had ‘interests to protect and cover up’ in the murderous right-wing regime in Argentina at the time.

Who is the greater fool? The fool or the fool that follows.

Talking to strangers

When I was in London I can remember thinking that out of the 8m milling inhabitants, I knew maybe 50. We all love to say small world isn’t it? but it happens so little in reality. But why do we know so few people when I see hundreds, maybe thousands of people a day? It’s especially an English trait to be reserved, respectful of other’s privacy, unsure of the neighbour’s kid’s names. Maybe this is a more middle-class aberration.

When I was staying with my sister in London, I chatted with one of her housemates about travelling. She commented that she hated the fact that people she didn’t know would talk to her. She just wanted to sit on the beach. Consequently she left Thailand with no more friends than she had previously. I left the conversation disappointed but not surprised.

My travelling experience has taught me to talk to people as a necessity but more important as part of the growing up and out. I met Joe as we were both heading north into Brazil from Argentina; Ben as we were going to Cuba and both had no idea where to stay; I met Luke Parrott in Japan when I was invited to a dinner for a new guy in regional office and noticed through the meal how bored he was listening to his boss talk in his ear. I didn’t have much time for the boss either so I knew we would get along. I still remember the Japanese woman who tried to talk to me on the train in Hokkaido. I spent New Year with Ben, a French guy who I meet playing pool in Cambodia. I spent an incredibly drunken Chinese New Year a month later with Ben, his girlfriend and Kim in Vietnam. I had met Kim in the street and he was lost, looking for a place to stay. So I gave him directions to a hostel and ultimately walked him there. There are many more; Jeroen and Daphne, Gustavo and Lise, even Christine and Scotty.

The story is meeting Christine is a classic. I was in Japan. It was the 2nd of January 2002. I was due to meet Luke in Osaka but as usual I was late. When I got to the bar, LP was sitting with two girls. I got a drink, sat down and conversed like we were all friends. Later I asked LP how he knew the girls and he said he didn’t, just needed someone to talk to as I was late. 9 hours later, we were all drinking still. We were friends for the rest of the year and Christine and I lived together in Korea for a year and have been firm friends that first meeting.

Scotty, I met in a mate’s restaurant. I was talking to Sarah who was looking at clothes on the laptop and once I found out the Gorings were from Sheffield, the conversation flowed. Later Scotty professed his love for rugby and a bound was formed. We watched almost all the British Lions games together, drank ourselves silly throughout and when I returned to Korea later that year, I lived with Scotty and Sarah and did so happily and gratefully.

The link below is to a story on the BBC website. It’s an article on a photographer’s story of meeting those people we see everyday, yet never speak to. The newsagent, the street cleaner, the chip shop guy, the old man next door. All these ordinary strangers who observe you everyday in varying detail, yet you never know their name. How is it that you can have long conversation yet ever know each other’s names? This photographer, Susie Rea decided to talk to those people, ask about their lives and photograph them. It’s something I have thought about recently with the passing of my granddad. There was so much that he had seen. And as Phillip K Dick said, all will be lost, like tears in the rain.

European draws

The next round of NUFC’s glorious…alright, up-and-down season continues with the new UEFA Cup draw which pits us against Zulte-Waregem, a small Belgian team, followed by a draw against either Fenerbahce of Turkey or AZ of Holland. I just spoke to Joe and we’re gonna try and get to the away games. It’ll take some planning with my trip but sure it’s possible. Howay the lads!

Zulte-Waregem or NEWCASTLE (14/15 & 22 Feb)

Winner v Fenerbahce or AZ Alkmaar ( 8 & 14/15 March)

Champions League Draw below

Porto v Chelsea –> (Chelsea)
Celtic v AC Milan –> (AC Milan)
PSV Eindhoven v Arsenal –> (Arsenal)
Lille v Manchester United –> (Manchester United)
Roma v Lyon –> (Lyon)
Barcelona v Liverpool –> (Barcelona)
Real Madrid v Bayern Munich –> (Real Madrid)
Inter Milan v Valencia –> (Valencia)

My predictions in brackets.

I can’t see many surprises here. Liverpool could beat Barcelona but I can’t see Barca not scoring so it’s gonna be difficult for LFC to out-score them. Other than that, Only the last two games are a slightly unpredictable. Some good teams will be left after this. Gonna be a tough year to win it.