Quote Of The Day

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Canada: Whistler...

We left Vancouver behind us yesterday and boarded the glamorous Whistler Mountaineer train. We were booked in Glacier Dome class (first class to you and me) so Stu was smiling from ear to ear; free food, free booze and a glass domed carriage to see all the passing scenery. And what scenery it was!... mountains, forests, gorges, waterfalls, bridges and rapids.

Whistler itself is a beautiful alpine skiing and mountain biking resort nestled 78 miles north of Vancouver in the southern Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains. It will jointly host the 2010 Winter Olympics and there is plenty of evidence of the preparations.

Sadly it was raining when we arrived so many of the vistas were obscured. We settled for dinner (oversized steaks @ The Keg) and a movie (two hours forty-five of Inglourious Basterds. Good but waay too long.)

Luckily the weather this morning is a lot better so we're planning some more exploring before heading back into Vancouver on (you guessed it) the Whistler Mountaineer. Glacier Dome class 'natch.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Canada: Stanley Park...

On Monday we decided to have a slightly more active day. Kicking off early we swam, we walked and we hired a tandem (yes, again) and circumnavigated really rather wonderful 405 hectare Stanley Park - an urban park bordering downtown Vancouver. It was a fantastic day and basically what coming to Vancouver is all about for us.

Flushed with the warm feeling of having done ourselves some good we went... shopping. American Eagle to be exact. Think we might need an extra suitcase now!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Canada: North Vancouver...

On Sunday Stu and I headed north to do a bit of exploring. First we walked down to docks and took the Sea Bus over to North Vancouver. Then we took the regular bus up the hill to the (inexplicably) popular Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park. It's an eco-park whose centrepiece is the world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge (450ft) spanning the vertiginous Capilano Gorge. I have to say that apart from the bridge the place was a bit tame. Trap de tourisme, je crois.

Later on we headed back into town for a swim, sauna, steam and jacuzzi before heading off to Pumpjack for their Sunday night beer bust. Great night.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Canada: Vancouver...

We hit the town running and went straight down to Davie Street; Pumpjack to be exact. Vancouver is a rather lovely place so we didn't stay out too late - just long enough to pick up a number and get our bearings.

Our hotel is the Metropolitan on Howe and perfectly placed for walking everywhere. Still, the next day we jumped on a hop-on hop-off open-top City Tour bus to get a slightly more guided look around town; Gastown, The Station, Canada Place, Granville Island, Davie Street (gay village), English Bay Beach, Second Beach, Stanley Park, Robson shopping district, the coliseum-style library and finally Chinatown.

In the evening we had a quite one as we were pretty knackered.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Canada: Rockies...

The second day on The Rocky Mountaineer train ride was quite spectacular. The first day had been been full of landscape fashioned by glaciers (mainly U-shaped valleys) whereas the second day was landscape fashioned by rivers. An altogether more dramatic erosion tool altogether. So it was meandering deep ravines, amazing torrential rivers and precipitous drops. Way cool.

It took us eight hours to eventually wind our way down to Vancouver leaving the awful Kamloops behind us. Kamloops reminded me of my favourite repetitious film title - "The Hills Have Eyes 3: The Hills Still Have Eyes".

The city awaits!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Canada: Kamloops...

The Rocky Mountaineer train ride is quite something; a two day trip through the mountains, ravines, rivers, glaciers and gorges of the Canadian Rockies. We started off early fromn Jasper and are currently staying at Kamloops - halfway through the trip to Vancouver.

Kamloops is a pretty dire town to be honest in the middle of nowhere but it served fine as a whistlestop. Battling banjos, you get the idea.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Canada: Jasper...

The Icefield Parkway is a three hour stunning drive through mountains, gorges and along rivers starting at Banff, up through Banff National Park and into Jasper National Park. We saw sweet white mountain goats, giant jet-black crows, deer, squirrels and chipmunks en route.

Once in Jasper itself we settled into our (frankly mediocre motel) Lobstick Lodge for a couple of days of rest and relaxation. We had nothing scheduled - just lounging by the pool, eating, drinking and reading trashing books (yes, you, Dan Brown). It was the halfway point of our holiday and time to reflect both upon all the places we'd visited thus far and also were looking forward to seeing.

Tomorrow we'll be up early to climb aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train - heading off on the two day trip across the Rockies all the way to Vancouver.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Canada: Lake Louise...

Just before we headed up the road to Lake Louise we popped into the Banff Cave and Basin (barrel scraping as far as sightseeing was concerned really) a rather drab hot spring. After that we started up the Icefield Parkway towards the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise - a fantastic Swiss-styled hotel at one end of the lake (itself nestled between mountains).

Valet parking of course but sadly our lakeview room wasn't quite ready - so we hit the mountain trail hiking up to Lake Mirror and further on up to Lake Agnes. It was a tough three hours climb but well worth it for those panoramic views.

Once back down the trail we checked in, took a swim in the pool and a whirl in the whirlpool before dining in the saloon - 64oz beers anyone?

The next day we swam and whirled again before heading up the Icefield Parkway all the way to Jasper.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Canada: Banff...

Friday we had a very early start leaving for the absurdly picturesque town of Banff - a limo picked us up at 6:30 followed by a four hour flight to Calgary and then another limo ride at the other end. We were knackered by the time we got there.

Our hotel, the Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa, was fine however - comfortable and great service. After a spot of lunch we popped downtown for a beer and a sniff around before heading homeward for an early night and resolving to start the serious business of sightseeing the next day.

On Saturday morning we had a big breakfast in the hotel and, after consulting a map, picked up a car from National and headed up Tunnel Mountain Drive to (surprise, surprise) Tunnel Mountain. Then we crossed the TransCanada Highway to the Minnewanka loop; Johnson Lake (watch out, there's a bear about), Two Jack Lake, Lake Minnewanka itself, Upper and then Lower Bankhead.

After that we hopped, skipped and jumped up Mountain Avenue to the Banff Gondola to take a further eight minute cabin cable-car ride up to the top of Sulphur Mountain. 2.6km in the sky it commanded amazing views of all the mountains and valleys in the locale. Mind you, I was shitting myself on the way up. That's high, people!

Once we came down off the mountain we crossed over to the Upper Hot Springs - a municipal style 39C spa pool. Not a patch on the Blue Lagoon or Bath, mind you.

We had dinner at Bears Grill in town (for all your hot stone self-cooked meat needs) and we were sorted for the day.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Buffalo...

When we went to the Niagara gorge earlier in the week we went quite near the city of Buffalo. Or, as they say quite grammatically correctly, Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Canada: Toronto Islands...

Just off Toronto shoreline are a group of fifteen islands which were originally part of a peninsular. A massive storm separated them from the mainland and dredging widened and deepened the gulf. A short ferry journey however and we were there.

Most of the islands are now joined to each other by bridges so creating an interconnected network - known as Toronto Island Park. There are no cars on the islands - just bicyclers, boatmen, walkers and Rollerbladers. We were told that eight hundred people live on the islands but most of the uber-cute cottages looked fairly deserted.

Stu and I hired a tandem and had great fun criss-crossing our way everywhere the board walks and pathways would take us. The park is beautiful with many outstanding beaches. We even found one that was clothing optional. Fancy.

Later on, back in the city, we met up with Stu's friend Catheryn, her sister and friends for some wine, eats and TIFF star spotting in Yorkville. Biggest celeb was Verne Troyer (Mini-Me).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Canada: Toronto City Tour...

We got up later after our boozy night out and headed out for some trashy food; Wendy's. Stu had never had that particular variation of processed junk food so was keen to try it. And coupled with the fact that we saw on TMZ's TV show that Diana Ross had been spotted in Taco Bell he'd got a taste for the trashy.

In the afternoon we opted for a guided and narrated city tour to get a feel for the place. It turned out that the tour guide that we'd had the previous day to Niagara, Gord, was the man so we were in familiar hands.

The delights that awaited us were the Distillery District, St Lawrence Market (we were to return here later for a massive mustard purchase), City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square, the peace pagoda, Church St, a bunch of hospitals, the university and PATH.

PATH is a 27-kilometre (17 mile) network of pedestrian tunnels beneath the office towers of downtown Toronto. Quite amazing. An underground city.

At the end of tour we stopped off at the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre. Stu persuaded me to go up the CN Tower (181 floors yikes!) I was pressed to the back of the lift all the way up with my eyes closed.

There was a fantastic view out across the city, as you might expect, but looking down we saw U2 setting up for their gig later that night. They played a bit of "Beautiful Day". It also looked like RIM were closing off the CN Tower restaurant to host U2's after show party.

After the hot and dusty city tour we headed for the hotel spa. We had a swim, went to the steam room, the jacuzzi and the hot tub. After that we went out to Stu's favourite Alsace restaurant Les Trois Brasseurs (renamed The Three Brewers for Toronto).

The TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) is also here this week. We saw Steven Spielberg and also Whoopi Goldberg (no ghost of Patrick Swayze sadly).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Canada: Niagara...

When I was five years old my Dad showed me some grainy black and white footage from a trip he took to Niagara Falls. Ever since then I've wanted to go there. Yesterday I realised that dream.

Stu and I jumped aboard the Toronto Tours bus at about 9am and for the next ten hours we enjoyed a guided tour of Lake Ontario, the Niagara whirlpool, Niagara Falls itself (American, Bridal and Horseshoe), Journey Behind The Falls, a soaking trip on Maid Of The Mist, picture perfect Niagara-by-the-Lake and some local wine tasting. A great day out and a big box ticked for me personally.

On the trip we chummed up with a couple of Guatemalan guys; Roberto and Esteban. Later on back in Toronto we met up with the guys for eats, beers and a drunken (and perhaps ill-advised) trip to a strip joint. At least I've now seen what 'a private dancer, dancer for money' does. And what the going rate it. Sore head today though.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Canada: Toronto...

The VIA rail journey down turned out to be first class... er... First Class in fact. Posh waiting lounge, free massage, free booze and free food. Yay!

Our hotel is a massive tower block on the harbour front. Great view but also the CBD so not much happening at street level.

First impressions of Toronto? Not as friendly at Montreal, but we're warming to the place.

We checked out the gay district last night (OK, typical 'village') and today are heading to Niagara.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Canada: Montreal...

So we've arrived safe and sound in Montreal. The Air Canada flight was just fine - great service and not too many bumps en route. The films I watched to pass the time were Moon, The Hangover, Terminator Salvation and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. All suitably diverting.

The limo was waiting for us at the airport and before we knew it we were sitting in the Grand Plaza Centre Ville wondering how to spend out first night in Canada. Thirty minutes later we were in The Stud (at that point fairly empty) supping on a beer or two. Later we shuffled over to the L'Aigle Noir for a bit of variety before returning to the The Stud for a bit of a bop and a boogie. On the way home we popped in to a Maccy Ds for a MacPoulet and frites. Class.

The following day we started off with a swim before hitting the tourist trail proper. First we crawled all over the 343 acre Parc du Mont-Royal. Then we crawled all over Vieux-Montreal and Port-Montreal. Finally we headed up to the rather stunning Oratoire St-Joseph. All impressive stuff.

Next stop was the Sunday night bars on the morrow we head down to Toronto.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Arsenalisation...

Ivan Gazidis talks about the Arsenalisation (proof that we're not an American corporation as otherwise it'd be Arsenalization, right?)

Whale Meat Again...

That Vera Lynn - she may be back in the charts but it makes me sick that she pretends to be all into animal rights, when her whole lifestyle is based on royalties from a song about whale meat.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

iPhone OS 3.1 Software Update (here at last)...

• Better iPhone 3G Wi-Fi performance when Bluetooth is turned on
• Remotely lock iPhone with a passcode via MobileMe
• Use Voice Control on iPhone 3GS with Bluetooth headsets
• Paste phone numbers into the Keypad
• Option to use Home button to turn on Accessibility features on iPhone 3GS
• Warn when visiting fraudulent websites in Safari (anti-phishing)
• Improved Exchange calendar syncing and invitation handling
• Fixes issue that caused some app icons to display incorrectly

Products compatible with this software update:
• iPhone
• iPhone 3G
• iPhone 3GS

* Not available in all regions.

For feature descriptions and complete instructions, see the user guide for your iPhone at:

For more information about iPhone, go to:

To troubleshoot your iPhone, or to view additional support information go to:

For information on the security content of this update, please visit this website:

Cut!...

A mate of mine works in PR @ 11 Downing St. They had a kids party there earlier on today for some 7 year-olds to celebrate some kid's payment scheme or other. Alistair Darling was about to cut the cake when my mate stepped forward. With his back to the press pack he mouthed the word "CUTS?". The knife was hastily taken out of Alistair's hand. The cake was cut by Maggie Darling - *after* the cameras had left. PR in action my friends.

Jane's 40th Birthday Party...

Last Saturday night we and a bunch of other revellers were part of a surprise chinese karaoke for the lovely Jane. We ate, we drank, we sang. Great fun. More snaps here.

Afterwards we headed up the road to the uber trendy Dalston Superstore. Cool.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Marc Almond, I (Heart) You...

Last night I got to meet my idol. I went to HMV Oxford Street to an album signing. Marc Almond was signing copies of his new album Orpheus In Exile - The Songs Of Vadim Kozin. I queued for about an hour but it was totally worth it. He signed my copy of the album (well, my two albums as a took a different album for him to sign too), we chatted for a minute or two (OK, I gushed and he was utterly charming in return) and I had my picture taken with him.

My heart was racing, racing, racing. Afterwards I was on such a high. It's fabulous to meet those you worship and not be let down.

Is the album any good? It's OK. But I don't care. I got to meet my idol.




More snaps here.





Alan Cumming...

Last Friday night Stu took me out for a (three week early) birthday surprise. He knows how much I like Alan Cumming and so had booked us in to see his one man show at the Vaudeville theatre: I Bought A Blue Car Today.

The show was a mix of chat and singing. The chat was camp, gossipy and very funny. The sixteen songs all meant something to him - written by people he'd worked with (Cyndi Lauper's Shine), written by people he admired (Victoria Wood's Thinking of You) or from shows he'd been in (Mein Herr from Cabaret).

Favourite songs for me of the night were Where I Want to Be from Chess and a mash-up of Dolly Parton's Here You Come Again with Mika's My Interpretation.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Sparky's 39th Birthday Bash...

On Saturday afternoon we popped over to see the lovely Dan to help him celebrate his 39th birthday. We had a rare old time and it was of course marvelous to meet some of his other chums.

So now we know were Pink Mince towers is. More snaps here.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Synth Britannia...

Coming to BBC Four this autumn: the story of the synth.

In the late Seventies small pockets of electronic artists such as The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle were inspired by Kraftwerk and J G Ballard to dream of the sound of the future against the backdrop of bleak, high-rise Britain.

Gary Numan's 1979 appearance on Top Of The Pops heralded the invention of synthpop, which would provide the soundtrack as Britain entered a new, ruthless era in the Eighties.

Depeche Mode, four lads from Basildon, came to embody the new sound, while post-punk bands such as Ultravox, Soft Cell, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Yazoo took the synth from the pages of the NME and onto the front cover of Smash Hits.

By 1983 the Pet Shop Boys and New Order were pointing to where the future of electronic music lay – in dance.

Contributors to Synth Britannia include Philip Oakey, Vince Clarke, Martin Gore, Bernard Sumner, Gary Numan and Neil Tennant.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Gay Sports Day...

On Monday it was the Royal Vauxhall Tavern's annual sporting event - Gay Sports Day. Basically it was a 50/50 charity/piss-up event with the money going to GMFA.

Before the track and field events kicked off Darren and Mark hosted a brunch for a bunch which was just lovely.

Suitably fed and watered we headed down to Vauxhall Gardens to watch the games; egg and spoon race, tug of war, space hopper relay, 50m mince, sack race, drag relay, handbag throw and space hopper equestrian. Great fun.

Below is a montage; more snaps here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Wanstead Park...


We met up with Kerry, Fergal, John, Monica and the kids in Wanstead Park on Saturday. Great fun to see everyone. And that Lucy's a demon football kicker.