Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Friday, October 20, 2017

Day 8: Mayan Riviera to Chichen Itza: Get Your Coati, Dancing at the Hacienda...

We planned to have a lie-in this morning but was woken up by something moving in the gloom of the room. I fumbled for my glasses but when I made a move it darted - fast. It really made me jump. It was furry, dark brown and about two foot long with a long tail. It scaled the wall of the room with the fruit from our basket and stolen sugar sachets in its mouth (it left the Splenda though - don't blame it). It then took one look back at me with black glistening eyes and then scurried out through the gap between the top of the wall and the thatched roof.

Later on we discovered it was a coati (a sort of raccoon). Apparently it likes to nick stuff from the rooms. 

(Stuart sympathized, he does the same with the toiletries!) 

After checking out of our hotel we drove up to Chichen Itza to spend the night in a Hacienda. 

The place was rather grand, old style colonial, and pretty stuffy. 

But lucky us we'd been upgraded to a bigger honeymoon suite! So once the door was closed we had a little dance. Only to discover two gardeners were watching us through the back window. Oops.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Day 7: Mayan Riviera: Downtime...

We did very little today. For us.

Cycle ride through the local jungle (the mosquitoes loved us!), tried (and failed) to snorkel off the reef, lazed around on the beach, and then watched the local wildlife guys release 200 baby green sea turtles back into the wild at sunset.

Back on the tourist trail tomorrow. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Day 6: Merida to Mayan Riviera: Yellow, Deep, and White...

We were collected early from our Merida hotel by the ever-charming Pablo who drove us for the best part of six hours from the wonderful yellow city of Izamal, through to the deep watery sinkholes of Dzitnup Cenote, on to the white sandy beaches of the Mayan Riviera. Quite a daytrip.

Izamal is one of the oldest cities in the Yucatán region. Called the City of Hills (spoiler alert: the hills are actually deserted Mayan temples) Izamal is located right in the middle of the Mexican peninsula. The place was conquered by the Spaniards, and the monks in their eagerness to convert the Indians to Catholicism gave the city its religious distinction. To this day, Izamal's people are obsessively devoted to the Immaculate Virgin - hey, they even have a big wooden doll of her that they dress up each year in fresh clothes. Not weird!

In ancient times, Izamal was a place for the worship of the Maya God Itzamna, and the sun god, Kinich-Kakmo. A dozen temple pyramids were devoted to these gods (see the previously mentioned hills). These bold expressions of religiosity may be the reason behind the Spanish conquistadors choosing Izamal as the site for the enormous Franciscan monastery - The Convento de San Antonio de Padua - which still stands at the heart of the town on top of the main Mayan temple they found there. 

The place is now nicknamed 'La Ciudad Amarilla' (the yellow city) since this is the hue of the majority of the buildings.

After Izamal we headed on to the beautiful Dzitnup Cenote, where you went swimming in a cenote, a natural subterranian sinkhole created from collapsed limestone rock. The place was a bit scary to be honest. Dark, deep underground, full of blind fish, and of unknown depth. But great fun. Hey, I even came across some Mayas(!)

After spending some time there we drove to our beach hotel on the Mayan Riviera. It was a great find. Beautiful white sand and lovely sparkling clear turquoise waters. We might stay here a bit!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Day 5: Merida: Kabah, Uxmal, and Cacao...

Today we explored some of the temples dedicated to the Mayan Rain God, Chaac (he's big round these parts as it doesn't rain often - or so they say), climbed up some Mayan pyramids (even more impressive than the Aztec ones in central Mexico), and sampled some freshly made chocolate. Oh and drank beer too. More of that later. 

Our guide Pablo collected us at 8am sharp and after showing us the local graveyard (for reasons best known to himself - we didn't like to ask) whisked us two hours into the countryside for our first stop - the ruins of Kabah. Kabah is situated to the South of Merida and is "a monumental example of the Puuc style architecture in which each stone element is part of a total, linking men with its universe" (or so Pablo told us). Looked like just a load of rubble to us to be honest. But we could definitely make out the shape of the Mayan River God, the previously mentioned Chaac, in what was left of the temple wall when he showed it to us. We even nodded sagely when we recognised Chaac again on another pile of rubble. But wait. Then it started to make sense. Chaac was everywhere. It wasn't ‘just rubble’ at all. With his huge eyes, elephantine nose, massive jaws and funny ears Chaac was in every pile of rocks. The temple was originally one statue of Chaac mounted upon another reaching up to the sky. It was Chaac on Chaac on Chaac. Only the temple had been plundered by the Spanish and the European archeologists that followed them so that the multilayered Chaac temple was now in ruins. This rain god temple at Kabah had collapsed as the important bits of each Chaac layer had been stolen. These were relics not rubble at all. We were looking at a monument to 2000 years of Mayan civilisation. Destroyed. We were getting the hang of this.

Next up was the delightful ancient city of Uxmal. Unlike Kabah, Uxmal had been restored after the Spanish had 'visited'. And Uxmal was simply amazing. Set in rich green fertile land it provided the perfect setting for some of the most magnificent ancient pyramids, buildings and temples of the ancient world. Uxmal was an important city too; probably built around 700 AD, although inhabitants are thought to have lived in the area as far back as 800 BC - nearly 1,000 years before the city was built. It is a mystery as to why a settlement was ever made here: there are no rivers or local sources of water, and no evidence that they once existed. One of the features of Uxmal are the Mayan chultunes - or cisterns - which held water for the population to live from. Chaac features prominently in much of the architecture's carvings here too - no doubt an important source of water for these people. 

The restored buildings of Uxmal include the curved Piramide del Adivino (Magician's Pyramid) which stands majestically above the other buildings, the Nun's quadrant, the Turtle temple, and the pyramid Cuadrangulo de las Monjas which when we climbed up its central steps offered up spectacular views of the complex. The whole place was breathtaking. Hey, they even had a Quiddich Court. Look it up!

On the way back into town we visited the Cacao-Eco Museum to see how chocolate was made (spoiler alert: slowly), watched a rather smoke-filled Mayan rain ceremony praying to our old friend senor Chaac again, and stopped off for some rather lovely Mexican lunch at a traditional hacienda.

The heavens opened when we finally got home (hey, that earlier rain ceremony must have worked!) so we dived into a local bar to share a few local beers with some of the local barflies. A nice end to an enlightening day. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Day 4: Merida: Hot, hot, hot! ...

We departed Mexico City and headed to the airport (which was modern, efficient and welcoming) for our trip to the Mayan Reiiera and the ancient city of Merida.

The flight was a little bumpy (a small leftover hurricane maybe) but as we disembarked from the plane the heat hit us, Pow! Right in the kisser (as Peter Griffin might say). 33 degrees in the shade. Roasting hot in the sun. 

Our guide Pablo was there to greet us and as the sweat poured down our faces he explained that we had a day to explore and acclimatise to the city before our touring started properly. And talking one look at our pale skin said we'd probably need buckets of sunscreen, big hats, and plenty of water. 

Our Hotel Hacienda Merida was beautiful and cool with a pool to boot.

Once settled we wandered through bright painted houses and the dusty streets towards the city centre where we picked a traditional Mexican restaurant to dine. Weird and delicious we noshed our way through the feast trying to avoid the hottest of the hot chillies.

We then headed back to our hotel to swim and relax.

A calm day before the adventures (and heat!) to come.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Day 3: Mexico City: The Spanish vs The Aztecs, and Frida Kahlo...

Our second full day in Mexico City was one in full-on tourist mode.

The Spanish vs The Aztecs
Firstly we took a tour of the historic downtown zooming (well, as fast as the traffic would allow) along the main boulevard Paseo de la Reforma to the Centro Histórico. Mexico's explosive past is very well depicted by its central plaza, the Zócalo, which is the third largest plaza in the world. Surrounded by some of the finest buildings of the colonial era lie the remnants of one of the Aztecs' principal monuments, the Templo Mayor - now crushed under foot by the invading Spanish and their Catholic cathedral. 

The pre-Hispanic civilisations that flourished throughout Mexico long ago and most of Mexico’s turbulent history since are beautifully depicted in the murals at the Palacio Nacional, which were painted by the famous Mexican artist and husband of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera. 

Afterwards we visited the famous Anthropological Museum. Architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez's distinguished design provides the proper home for one of the finest archaeological collections in the world. Each salon on the museum's two floors displays artefacts from a particular Mexican geographic region or culture. The collection is so extensive - covering some 10,000 square metres - that you could easily spend a day here, and that might be barely adequate. We headed straight for the Aztec room though - death, decay, destruction, incredible stonework, human sacrifice, and fabulous feathers. What’s not to like?

Frida Kahlo
After our tour finished we headed over to the Frida Kahlo museum - stopping on the way for some classic Mexican street food and coffee as we fought off the last of our jet lag. 

What an amazing woman Frida Kahlo was...? Painter, poet, potter, photographer, and pioneer. Disabled by polio at 6, seriously maimed in a vehicle accident at 18, abused by her husband, she lived a bohemian life of art, politics, and passion. 

The museum is very popular (top tip: buy your ticket online) but very well organised. We didn’t feel crowded out and there was lots to marvel at. Her paintings of course but also her house, her remarkable clothes, and even the mirror and chair wear she painted her amazing self-portraits. 

No trip to Mexico City would be complete without a trip here. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Day 2: Mexico City: Pyramids, Congestion, and Corruption...

Our first full day in Mexico City was a bit of a whistlestop tour. 

After an earlier Mexican breakfast our guide picked us up at our hotel to take us to the ancient Toltec city of Teotihuacan, where we visited (and climbed!) both the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, and walked the Calle de los Muertos (Road of Death). Yes, my friends, we were in human sacrifice territory.

Constructed from two centuries BC Teotihuacan quickly became the largest and most populous urban centre in the New World and the massive pyramids were their defining feature. Each addition platform stage of the pyramids were built every 52 years at the time of each eclipse creating an extra platform upon the last. There are no tombs or graves inside, just monuments to the moon and the sun. And a place to offer up human sacrifice. 

The city seems to have functioned for centuries until its rather sudden collapse, possibly in the 7th century. The place was called Teotihuacan, by Nahuatl speakers, several centuries after the city's fall, but its original name, the language or languages spoken there, and the ethnic groups who built the city are still a mystery. There is prominent sign on display to reassure the idiots - "this place was built by man, not aliens." Ha, ha.

The pyramids of the sun and moon here are said to rival those of Giza in Egypt, and at the city's peak of power, between AD 350-650, it had many influences over other now ancient sites throughout Mexico and Guatemala, especially in relation to the pottery, sculpture and architecture.

The pyramids were certainly amazing and worth the trip to Mexico alone.


There are a lot of cars in Mexico City. And that is possibly the biggest understatement of the year. Traffic jams, pollution and crazy driving is a way of life here it seems. A car journey might take 30 minutes or 300 minutes - you have no idea until you hit the road. We spent many an hour sitting in traffic with our tour guide looking at other cars. 

They have tried various schemes here to control the congestion; free bike hire, car-free days, only allowing cars whose number plates end in certain numbers etc. but nothing seems to work. 

As the greater Mexico City population is 21 million people and with such high car ownership I can't see it being solved any time soon. 

Still, with all the extra time in the car our guide got to tell us about a darker side on Mexico City life...


Police, local officials, government officials, traffic cops, state politicians... You name it, we heard dozens of hair-raising stories of either bribery, fraud, corruption, intimidation, threats or death. Kick-backs, back-handers, brides, suitcases of cash, the stories we heard varied from simply turning a blind eye to having someone (or their family) killed if they didn't comply.

There is a lot of street crime in Mexico City. When an area is described as 'safe' that word has a lot of positive connotations to it. People live in such and such area because it is 'safe'. They walk along that street because it is 'safe'. You only eat in 'safe' areas. In ‘unsafe’ areas like the lawless shanty areas cars get stripped to their chassis if left unattended. Knife crime and gun crime is rife. But for me hearing of the widespread corruption was the most alarming. Street crime can be addressed. Corruption destroys a country from within. And it seems everyone is at it. 

So sad to hear. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Day 1: Mexico City: Arrival...

Stuart and I pitched up at Heathrow T5 nice and early on Thursday to take advantage of the free food, drink and spa treatments in the Concorde Lounge. Having collected enough air miles to stun an ox and with a BA companion voucher to boot we'd booked ourselves a First Class return flight to Mexico for a couple of weeks. 

The journey was fine, long (11 hours), nice enough food etc. Stuart dropped his phone down into the gubbons of his seat though and it took hours to get it out. 

Immigration and security at Mexico City airport was fairly relaxed so we were in our tour guide Francisco's car fairly quickly and on the way to our very glamorous boutique hotel. Free bar, high tech room controls and shower that fought you from all sides were just some of the delights.

Today to start exploring.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 - Not Terrible - @BladeRunner #BladeRunner2049 ...

Premise: Set thirty years after the original Blade Runner film, the story depicts a replicant blade runner named K, who discovers the remains of a once-pregnant replicant. To prevent a possible war between species, K is secretly tasked with finding the child and destroying all evidence related to it, leading him to discover that the child bears a connection to missing blade runner Rick Deckard...

Good points: I liked it. The fact that a sequel to Blade Runner even exists and it's good. It looks great. It sounds fantastic. Ryan Gosling is great. Harrison Ford is good. Nice to see 'Pan Am' back. The plot is fine - albeit with a bit of a lame twist - but we've been there before with I Robot, Metropolis, Demon Seed, etc.

Bad points: Over long. Sexist. Very long. Slightly compromised plot. Too long. Takes 1h 45m before Harrison Ford shows up. Did I mention how long it is? Why is Jared Leto even in it? Long.

Overall impression: Relief that it's not terrible. I don't think I'll rush to watch it again anytime soon. Rather like Dune I think I'll catch it on a wet Saturday afternoon in three years time and think, "Oh I quite liked that".

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Against @AlmeidaTheatre Meandering and uneven...

The other Friday night Stuart and I went to see Christopher Shinn's Against at the Almeida Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

Starring the wonderful Ben Whishaw as Luke - a tech billionaire and a man who now hears the word of God - the play was pretty underwhelming to be honest. Great performances from the excellent cast on stage but the central conceit of a man singly charged with curing violence in a violent world seemed a bit of stretch. If the story had the power of its convictions it would have perhaps had stronger religious themes - twelve modern disciples, a doubting Thomas, a traitor, a death... But the uneven tone, the meandering plot, the three hour running time, and the lack of any resolution seemed more like a play that was underwritten or badly edited than one making a point about there being no cure to violence.

Quite a few people left at the interval too (something I really don’t agree with BTW.)

Monday, October 09, 2017

Weekend Away with The Girls @Amsterdam ...

Stuart and I had a fab weekend away with Kerry, Kerry, Angie, Denise, Kate, Natalie, and Monica in Amsterdam. We stayed at the Boutique Hotel View on Singelgracht near Leidseplein.

Did we have any quiet nights in? Did we bog-roll! Beers aplenty at Lux, an Argentine meal, bar Soho, dancing at Club Nasty(!), and then back to Lux.

On the Sunday we had a quieter one and met up with Claire and Ian for a coffee.

Lovely weekend all round.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Gay Gooners (and me!) on the BBC...

This is us on the BBC being interviewed about homophobia in football. Very proud of all the Gay Gooners who took part, shed a tear for those who ended up in the cutting room floor(!), and genuinely pleased to have played some small part in getting the right message out there.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Big thanks @RealMattLucas as @GayGooners story re-published worldwide #ArsenalForEveryone ...

A big thank you to Matt Lucas as he has helped the Gay Gooners story get published/re-published around the world in English, French and Spanish in India, Pakistan, Kenya, Malaysia, USA, Ecuador, France, UK… so far!













Coming out still taboo for players, say @MattLucas and Arsenal's @GayGooners @AFP ...

Video published by AFP on Gay Gooners.

The item has also been picked up and covered by the BBC here


Matt Lucas: First openly gay footballers will be superstars

Matt Lucas says the first openly gay footballers will be icons who'll get "every advertising contract".
The Doctor Who and Little Britain star grew up an Arsenal fan and is now patron of the club's LGBT supporter's group, the Gay Gooners.
He says that, while things are changing in the game, he doesn't expect a professional player to come out for at least five or ten years.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Amazing. When he soared, boy did he soar - @MarcAlmond #ShadowsAndReflections #RFH ...

Last night Stuart and I went to Marc Almond kick off his Shadows and Reflections Tour at the Royal Festival Hall in London's glitzy South Bank Centre.

I simply loved it. I had tears in my eyes for a few of the songs. I love his new album of 1960s covers Shadows and Reflections which he is currently promoting so I guess I was bound to love the show from the get-go. But having a 20-piece orchestra on stage (including a full complement of backing singers) to fully recreate that dramatic exuberance of the songs was just the icing on the cake.

The songs on the album are pure gold written by the likes of Burt Bacharach, The Action, The Yardbirds, Bobby Darlin, Julie Driscoll, Billy Fury and the Young Rascals. Marc had thrown in a couple of self-penned songs too - Embers and No One to Say Goodnight To - that actually stand up quite well to comparison to the standards.

Marc was on good form on stage, a little nervous at times perhaps being the first night, but when he soared boy did he soar. Hey, he even hit some of the right notes (joke!)

The first half was largely recreating the new Shadows and Reflections album plus a few other orchestral versions of favourites tacked on the end including The London Boys, The Days of Pearly Spencer, Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart and closing with I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten.

After a brief pause Marc was back to revisit more of his back catalogue and the full-on orchestral versions were a joy to hear.

He performed songs from the Heart On Snow album including The Storks (now renamed The Cranes), The Sun Will Rise, What Makes a Man a Man, Child Star, If You Go Away, Adored and Explored, My Hand Over My Heart, Jacky, Torch, A Kind of Love, and a glorious mashup finale of Tainted Love and The VelVets' I'm Gotta Find Me Somebody.


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

I'm Only In The Bloomin' Arsenal Matchday Programme!...

Last Sunday was a dream come true for me - I was featured in the Arsenal matchday programme in the "My Arsenal" section on the inside back cover. 

Here were my answers...


Age: 56
Live in: Highbury, London
Type of Membership: Gold

Why are you an Arsenal fan?

My local team. Destiny!

First Arsenal game? 

My mate Paul took me to a League Cup home game to watch Charlton. We won (I think!) I was too fascinated being at Highbury for the first time

Favourite Arsenal game? 

When we beat Barcelona - "the best team in the world" at the height of their powers - by scoring two in the final 12 minutes. It was that day that I was convinced about fans being the twelfth man. The roar of the crowd willed the ball into the back of the net. 

Favourite place to eat before a game? 

Piebury Corner.

Favourite place to hang out before kick-off? 

Meet up with the Gay Gooners.

How do you feel when you approach the ground? 

Wonderfully happy. I genuinely believe we are going to win every single game we play. Naïve fool or born optimist? You decide.

Where’s the best place in the stadium to watch a game from? 

Block 6. Brilliant atmos. Best for chanting.

Where’s the furthest you’ve travelled to watch Arsenal play? 

Sunderland. Grim.

Favourite away ground and why? 

White Hart Lane. No really. It is like descending into Dante’s Inferno. The noise, the thrill, the excitement, the Gargoyles! With adrenaline pumping, heart racing, we sing our hearts out. It doesn’t get any better than that.

What’s the most obscure piece of Arsenal memorabilia you own? 

I had a bar of Arsenal soap once. It just didn’t wash (boom, boom)

What do you wear to games? (A current shirt or a vintage one? Arsenal jacket/hat/scarf/lucky pants?) 

Current home shirt and my rainbow laces. Very “on message” me.

Whose name and number do you/would you have on the back of your shirt? 

Lacazette. I got it the day he signed but I didn’t know his number so had to go back to the Arsenal shop to get it added later.

Favourite ever Arsenal shirt? 

Bruised Banana obviously.

Who is your all-time favourite player and why? 

Ian Wright. He loves Arsenal and he lives Arsenal. 

Do you have an Arsenal ‘cult hero’ and why? 

Micky Thomas after his 1989 League title-winner from Alan Smith’s flick-on. We watched it on telly and rushed out into the street afterwards. It went crazy round our place that day!

What’s the best debut performance you’ve ever seen by a new player? 

Most impressive for me was Alexis Sánchez on his first competitive appearance against Man City in the 2014 Community Shield. He didn’t score but we could see he was "the man".

Have you ever met any Arsenal players? If so who, when, where and how?

 Freddie Ljungberg. Quite literally bumped into him on Highbury Corner. Only afterwards do you kick yourself for not talking to him.

Which current Arsenal player would you most like to go for dinner with, and why? 

Jack Wilshire. I just have a feeling he might tell it how it really is!

If you could erase one Arsenal moment from history, what would it be? 

The day Samir Nasri signed for Arsenal.

If you could watch Arsenal play any club side in history, who would it be and why? 

I'd love to see a current on form Arsenal team take on one of Fergie's Fledglings late 1990s teams and thrash them.

If you could play in any Arsenal team in history, which would it be and who would you replace (ie, what position would you like to play in)? 

I'd replace Thierry Henry in any game where he partnered the wonderful Non-Flying Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp so I could say I played with him. Just once. Bragging rights for life.

What makes you proud to be an Arsenal fan? 

Proud that Arsenal work with the community, proud they give their time and money to charity, proud they donate footballs and kit to refugee kids. Proud of their Arsenal For Everyone initiative and proud of their support of LGBT History Month and the Gay Gooners.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Fantastic day @Gaygooners #ArsenalforEveryone @Arsenal (and me!) #PrideInFootball ...

Yesterday was a fantastic day for the Gay Gooners, for the Arsenal for Everyone diversity initiative, for Arsenal Football Club's profile, and for me personally.

Prior to the midday kick-off of Arsenal FC against Brighton and Hove Albion (which we later won 2 - 0) Lea, Chris, Dave, Rosemary, Thierry and I went to the Arsenal Hub to take part in a penalty shootout against the Proud Seagulls (Brighton and Hove Albion's gay supporters group). We didn't score a single goal. Pretty foot work though! Ha! So Arsenal! Jokes all round.

Matt Lucas turned up too which was great so we got to chat with him and take some snaps.

There was some French TV media there as well so being the shy sort of person I am I launched myself at them with my half-baked ideas of how the men's game needs to change to be more welcoming to gay supporters and to look to support any male players should they want to come out. I told them about straight-on-straight homophobic abuse and how that affects gay supporters, how abuse had changed over the years, and bigged up Pride in Football and the Gay Gooners and told them what a great job Arsenal FC did to support us and how Gay Gooners are the biggest and the best gay supporters club in the world. We didn't conduct the interview in French(!) so I'll be intrigued as to how they are going to put French subtitles to some of my Arsenal slang! Oop Ze Arze-nel!

After that a BBC TV crew wanted a go with us all so we chatted to them too. When it came to Lea and my turn we played a bit of a double act being interviewed together. It was very funny and hopefully we got some of our points about homophobia, what the clubs need to do and our passion for the game. After the match the TV crew wanted to do some 'pick up' shots so we walked towards the camera and away from the camera a dozen times together feeling very self-conscious. We joked we should have had people doing our hair, our make-up and maybe even a fluffer(!)

During the game itself Arsenal broadcast on numerous occasions the Arsenal for Everyone pitch-side video banner along with its rainbow ending. Then at half time Matt Lucas was interviewed on the pitch about being a gay fan, his support of the Gay Gooners, and how his autobiography was on sale now(!) Our new Gay Gooners banner was shown a couple of times during the piece and my heart swelled with pride. The club I love, in the stadium I love, was very openly telling me I was accepted as a gay man. This made me very happy. Very.

And during the game or especially during the half-time interview there was no homophobic chanting near us. I was relieved as it's a lively bunch near me who aren't normally backward about coming forward with their banter. Then I saw someone shaking their head slowly… and I then speak up... oh no... here it comes... a negative comment... and all he said was, "it's meant to be fucking Arsenal for fucking Everyone day and all Matt fucking Lucas is doing is plugging his fucking book!" I almost spat my cola out! We all laughed though. For the right reasons I think. Banter is alive and well at the Emirates! Happy days!