Saturday, 7 February 2015

Old Ladies and the Bay City Rollers

Last night I went to a concert of my childhood favourites, The Bay City rollers.

When I was 13 I lived in Germany where my dad was in the army, we lived in a very British community but with news from back home restricted to what was in the Sun newspaper and even that was about 2 days after the fact. This was 1975 and the height of the Bay City Rollers popularity. I remember one friend, Jacqueline and I wore tartan trews all the time, and we flew back to England in the holidays dressed that way, much to the embarrassment of our parents. I specifically remember standing at the top of the steps from the plane and not understanding why everyone wasn't dressed that way, 'the Sun' said they were bigger than the Beatles!!

I did find an old photo of me at the time, very faded but I know it was a BCR t shirt and you can just see the tartan on the trousers.

This was an amazing concert, much anticipated and a sell out crowd.
Local shops had sold out of both tartan and incontinence pants as ladies of a certain age got ready for the event of the decade. I did have a friend with me but have decided not to name her as she has a professional reputation to uphold.

Only one member of the 'famous' lineup remained, Les McKeown but that didn't matter, the five old men on the stage could have been anyone, no-one would notice. They sang well but again you couldn't hear the detail above the screams of the old ladies. My heart throb from the main lineup was 'Woody', he wasn't there but the 'new' old bass player was quite attractive from where I was sitting.

According to the 2011 census Northern Ireland has approximately 100,000 women between the age of 50 and 60 (the demographics for this concert, those who were teenagers in the BCR  heyday of 1975), and the Waterfront hall sits 2,250, so over 2% of all those who could attended this event. I did see a few men, not many and they all looked like a lone woman who has wondered into a lap dancing club in error.

All the ladies danced all night, probably because if they sat down they would never get back up again, and I am sure I am not the only one today suffering from sore arm muscles from holding a scarf above my head all night. Probably the equivalent of planking for teenagers. But we were not as old as the band, the breaks between songs were quite long as they got their breath back and swigged from bottles I am guessing contained sanatogen! in the middle they did quite a long instrumental piece which i am sure was to help them recover.

The crowd were pretty good, to start with a few brave ones would approach the stage to give flowers or a scarf, and they queue well, guess we have plenty of practice queuing for our pensions, but then Les kissed one lady and the crowd went mad, it was our equivalent of Black Friday, like if Asda reduced bread by 10p a loaf, the crowd went mad. Luckily the bouncers who all looked geriatric but were probably younger than the band, soon brought order back to the chaos.

Many of the crowd dressed up, some ladies appeared to have the same haircuts, and the same clothes, pity their figures weren't the same. I had a new outfit I made for a party in Seattle last year, so felt so pleased I didn't throw it out. Felt great.

They played all their old hits and just a couple of covers, including Daydream believer which just made me cry.

All too soon it was over and of course they had to finish with Bye Bye Baby, but the old ladies had a great time, and now they need to recover, after all it is only 8 days till '50 shades' is released.

Friday, 26 December 2014

A wasted afternoon - Annie 2014

Oh dear some things are just so wrong! I saw a Graham Norton show recently and two of the guests were Cameron Diaz and Jamie Fox promoting their new film Annie (2014). They talked about the music being updated as well as the setting, quoting Jay-Z's 'It's a hard knock life"; so I thought why not?

Normally I don't go to the cinema much, I wait till a film comes out at a 'setback near me' and watch 3 or 4 in a row, but my daughter likes the cinema and loves musicals so I thought it would be a great thing to do together.

So today, boxing day we went to the cinema excited about the film.

The popcorn and 'pick'n'mix' was ok and it was a nice building but that was it. The film would have been ok if the music was simply a soundtrack but them bursting into song, made a bad film awful.

Don't waste your money.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A Proud Mummy in San Francisco

Not really anything to do with OOW except that a write up about OOW wouldn't be complete without a mention of my companion for the week.

I am mum to a wonderful child, not only my daughter but my best friend. She is 26 ( having had a birthday during OOW) and a serving officer in the British Army; yes I am a very proud parent.

She has been on an extended period of service and on completion had a long vacation, but having packed in meeting a new cousin for the first time, being godmother for her best friends daughter, best woman for her dad's wedding and buying her first home, she didn't have much time for me; who had also started a new job! So I suggested she come out to San Francisco with me, she came out once before 9 years ago and entertained herself while I worked so she knew what to expect.

I think she had forgotten just how busy I am and combined with jet lag that she does suffer from (I don't) she was a bit grumpy at first but soon met up with friends she had met around the world at various conferences (she has attended more conferences worldwide than most users and met many of my fellow ACE directors).

She is technically an Oracle user, at university they used PeopleSoft Campus Solutions and the army use EBS for HR /Pay. Not that she wanted to attend any sessions or even talk Oracle!

She arrived on the Thursday evening at the end of the first day of the ACE Director briefings and we had a quiet evening with friends. Friday morning she joined in the Chi Gung led by Kent Graziano ( which was the only day I managed it). Then I sent her off slowly to the city to get a jump start on checking into the hotel, when 80 ACEs arrive together you can imagine the queue.

Saturday I had free time and we did the cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, the first stage of my OOW Triathlon.

Sunday started with the bridge run and she ran with her friend Alex Gorbachev and made many more new friends. That evening was the ACE dinner and thank you OTN for her invitation. She loved the entertainment and had a great time.

Monday we had the bay swim and she is a great swimmer. She had been disappointed she didn't know about the Alcatraz swim on the Saturday, she isn't up to Connor McDonald level but could have completed this, but at least she got to swim, and was impressed with my attempt.

Fiona Martin from UKOUG had been unable to take part in the bridge run but wanted to so having never met my daughter before they got together and ran the bridge together, making Fiona entitled to a t shirt. After dinner they went to Foley's the Irish bar in San Francisco were all UK delegates / Oracle & partners end up and I joined them there to celebrate her birthday as it reached midnight.

Tuesday her actual birthday was my busiest day, but she had a late breakfast (having celebrated well into the night) and then her great friend Mogens Nørgaard, with whom she has previously taken part in the Nijmegen Marches  and who had visited her when she was at Sandhurst, took her for a champagne lunch. I joined them later and then we had coffee in the most fantastic coffee shop and Gallery I have ever been in. Mogens has a party trick of opening champagne with a sword. She had never tried this and he promised to put that right. Unfortunately he couldn't find a sword in downtown San Francisco but never one to get hung up on details brought her an alternative later in the week.

I had to go to a partner dinner but my friend Alex Nuijten offered to take her to dinner and onto the Benelux reception. I think she had a great day.
Wednesday she came to the Appreciation event at Treasure Island although she opted to leave early with me about half way through the Aerosmith set. But before the party we went to the Bloggers MeetUp where Mogens arrived with champagne...........and an axe. Bottles opened the problem was then what to do with the axe? Mogens took it back that night, but then gave it to me in the restaurant of the hotel the next day, not that anyone seemed worried. Then I got to bring it home in my checked luggage.
Then all too soon it was Thursday, I was speaking I the morning but we did have time for lunch again with Mogens and some other OakTable people, included the MOFIL Graham. This was when Doug Burns asked if she was my real daughter.
Yes she is.


Friday, 26 September 2014

Interview with Tim Hall

His interviews are so funny Michelle and I thought we would turn the tables!

MM: How are the Oracle ACE Briefings?

TIM: Fine but I am in the doghouse with the wife

DL: Let’s move off that subject, how are the briefings?

Tim: They are good but I can’t tell you anything its under NDA

DL: OK tell me about your job

Tim: No

MM: Looks like you're not talking to her either so, tell me what you do outside of work?

Tim: I told you the wife hates me

MM: Is she your whole world?

Tim: No, I love laundry.

DL: OK…Anything else?

Tim: And I am working on a secret project

DL: (at last something interesting), tell me about it

Tim: It’s very secret but code named OGC

DL: you can’t talk about THAT it’s under NDA – this interview is terminated!!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Vi Flyder I Vin - Part 2

Back at the start of June I took part in the Vi Flyder I Vin 'We Float in Wine' challenge. Sailing on a trampoline using wine box liners as floats.

It was such a success it was decided to do it again this time around the parliament building in the centre of Copenhagen. Somehow this time it was to be two trampolines.
I thought it was just another mad idea from Mogens Nørgaard who has these frequently and it is best to just humour him, however apparently there was a political point behind it...............................or so the official story goes.

Nicolai Oster the other protagonist from the original story has a bit of a reputation as a political activist, harmless but passionate and feels the need to have his say. He is well known to the Danish authorities and so when he applied for a permit for a protest, they were not surprised and granted it.

Now I am not saying they are nuts in Denmark, but I do like their freedom of speech. The protest was against the no recyclable status of garden trampolines and wine boxes, and his solution.... to builds boats that would sure up the Danish Navy against possible attacks! The permit not only granted the right to protest but included actual permission to demonstrate by having no more than 8 persons on each trampoline craft. For my friends in N Ireland, try getting that through the Parades Commission!

Malov is about 20km from the centre of Copenhagen so the challenge was to get two 4.2m diameter trampolines into town! Even with the help of a 32ton (we think they gave us the wrong stats here we would estimate at least another 30%), they had to be partially dismantled.

On arrival in the town centre, just by the Black Diamond Library they put them back together again and we got on with the building. Last time we had 272 bags for 1 trampoline, which was much more than needed, this time we had about 320 for 2, not quite enough but it would do. We had to reduce number of passengers and got wet feet but they were sturdy and safe.

It was a beautiful late summer's evening and people finishing work were very interested in what we were up to. I was like a kind of military quarter master, handing out and rationing materials (God forbid we rang out of duct tape), and explaining the build process (those bags have to sit just right). Defiantly not as perfect as the first outing good enough, we are now experts.

Once we had finished the construction we moved over to the canal. We started at the bottom left of the canal and sailed up and round to just past the arrow at Gammel Strand.

Last time I didn't believe we could actually sail very far so I volunteered to be a safety officer and stay in the water in a wetsuit, that way when everybody got wet I would be ok. I was also able to take interesting photos from the water. For this second challenge I was led to believe would have an outboard motor, and since I knew they were so stable I was sure I was not needed in the water.... I was wrong

Although I got on the trampoline I decided to get back in the water since there are no sharks in Copenhagen (that I know off) and there was a distinct lack of motor and the wet feet those sailing had already.
The original intention was to sail the 3 sides of the Frederiksholms Kanal spur, and our permit allowed us 3 hours in total but by the time we entered the water we had just over an hour to sail the 1.5km. The waterway looks quiet but in reality it is part of the tourist route and frequented by tourists so quite busy.

Being a tourist myself I  was keen to see this unique view of the Natural history museum, the original palace, the parliament and of course the old brewery.

As each tour boat passed us, we stood to attention and saluted as Nicolai would repeat his speech. The tourists loved it as did most of the crew but for each one we needed to move over to the side, the problem was the crew of my trampoline were too busy saluting and drinking to row so I spent the entire time towing them, just 6 weeks ago I did my PADI rescue diver and was worried I was not strong enough to tow an injured diver very far when in practice I towed a trampoline with 5 crew for over a km.
The reaction we got from tourists and locals was amazing with people stopping what they were doing to watch us and wonder what it was all about.

The whole experience was fun except for the final bridge, which was very wide and took us a long time to get through. I believe the rules of the water state that power gives way to rowers but we simply kept to the side and let them pass. three passed us in this tunnel, the first had about 1m clearance and was fine, the 2nd had very little clearance and it actually caused the trampoline to spin forward and I had to work hard to keep moving anti clockwise to avoid being crushed against the side of the tunnel. The third boat where we encountered our only miserable skipper, had no room and should have waited for us to clear the tunnel and we were literally 20m from doing so, but no he ploughed on literally into us causing me to actually be scared. The spinning was fine, I dumped my camera on the trampoline and moved quickly, but the speed was so fast that I was in danger of being sucked under the trampoline and I would not have been able to breathe, I may have had a wetsuit on but I had no air supply, so I had to kick out and push at the trampoline instead of pull it; but I was quite calm and it was all over ok quite quickly, and back to the important matter of sailing.

By now the light was starting to fade so the decision was made to finish at the 2/3rd point rather than continue to our planned finish, we were running out of time. we docked at the tour boat jetty but it was a bit high for me and I was exhausted and my legs were in danger of cramping. I can't pull myself up and there was no ladder. luckily another thing taught on the rescue diver course is how to lift a unresponsive body onto dry land and I just gave orders. Not very lady like and I made them promise not to take photos but I forgot the go pro was set to take them every 10 seconds.

As we had finished early we were not at our expected rendezvous point and thus had 2 trampolines too far to carry. We decided to leave them where we landed and arrange something for the next day. It was suggested they were simply dumped as performance art but I like to think it was a way to show our point, there ARE no recycling facilities for these items.
Interestingly the next morning one was covered in graffiti and was observed being dismantled add disposed of by Copenhagen refuse collectors as if it was an everyday occurrence, and the 2nd had found its way to the main square.


We finished the evening with a lovely traditional meal and I thought I would never be able to stand I was so exhausted (although nothing compared to my friend Alex Gorbachev the next day, but that is another story.....)


Trips to the yellow mansion are never ordinary and it is always a worry as to what will be the next adventure but this was fun, and how any people do you know who have experienced Copenhagen from water level whilst making a very important point about a global problem? I am proud to have done my bit for the cause.

And just in case you think this is too far out to be true here is the Time lapse video of part II


Sunday, 1 June 2014

Vi Flyder I Vin

A recipe for a great day out - Take one half baked idea….
It started one dark, dark December evening, two Danish guys sat at the OakTable drinking wine from a bag (in Denmark it is common for the inner bag of a wine box to be removed and stored in a novelty container - or so they tell me) and having squeezed the last drops out, the old guy decided to share his wisdom with the young impressionable visitor.

“”If you blow up the empty bag, you have an inflatable pillow as used by scouts and festival goers worldwide" he explained. Then followed a long discussion around alternative uses for these receptacles and this led to exploring their use as a flotation device and the idea that would later be MS Vinonysus was floated.

Their first idea was an air mattress (additional sleeping arrangements is a common requirement in this house), but soon led onto building a raft that could sail in the local lake. Vi Flyder I Vin was born and translated this means floating in Vine.

Initially they intended to collect 42 (of course), bags for their raft and friends were recruited to help them find empties, which basically meant drinking lots of wine.

For me the idea also resonated because this house is in a village called Måløv and I do not speak Danish and always struggled with the pronunciation but was told to 'say it like Merlot' as in the wine, today that is a very literal town name.

Like most good ideas it snowballed and now today, the 1st June 2014 had arrived and the ship would sail.

Back to the recipe:

·         272 wine bags (and lots of hangovers later) - this equates to more than 1,000 litres drunk (most were 3lt but some 5lt).

·         Naval captain's uniform given to the old guy Mogens Nørgaard (not that any of you had not guessed the identity already) for his birthday.

·         A sailor suit designed by his girlfriend and made from a shower curtain by yours truly for the young guy Nicolai Oster and his hat fashioned from a real Russian Navy hat donated by Alex Gorbachev (don’t worry Alex we took all the important bits off and have now reassembled as before).

·         The girlfriend Cecilie will be the ships figurehead as a mermaid in a costume fashioned from an old nightdress and quickly crocheted flowers. Thank you Lotte for the sewing machine.

·         The ship itself will be launched with the name MS Vinonysus, taken from Dionysus the Greek God of Winemaking, Madness and Debauchery, all very valid here and the obvious Vino, thanks to Mogens’ daughter Christine for the idea.

·         The base of the ship is a large domestic trampoline donated by his young son Viktor but the hope is it too will be restored one day.

·         More duct tape than the average DIYer would use in a lifetime

·         Lots of champagne and food for the workforce

My role in all this? I am chief safety officer and photographer, dressed in 14mm of neoprene wetsuit stationed in the local lake (read murky pond) with waterproof camera and flask of whiskey (for sustenance only of course). My gopro luckily capturing all for a time lapse video.

Phase I – The build

The day started at 10am marked by the ringing of the local church bells (although it may simply have coincided with the Sunday morning service).

3 bags taped together made a T shape and using 37 of these (sorry the other 5 were used later), we wove them like bricks around the outside of the trampoline and using the duct tape created a firm, floating rim. The remaining bags were strung together across the centre of the trampoline and then the complete top was covered in netting to ensure no escapes.

Phase II – Getting to the Lake

The legs were removed and the trampoline rolled on its side through a side gate and then carried aloft by 4 strapping men (well Mogens and 3 strapping men) the 420 meters to the lake. In this journey only 1 bag was damaged as it hit a sharp stone.

Then rolled through the bushes to the landing deck of the lake.

By now I was in place, with trusty camera and whisky in place, and go pro attached at a dodgy angle to an overhanging tree.

Phase III – Launch

Re assembled the trampoline was placed upside down on the lake. The mermaid and the crew took up their positions and with the opening of champagne and a band playing sailing the MS Vinonysus had her maiden voyage.

Since it was such a success there were another 4 (.2) sailings (I lie there were 7 in total) allowing most of those who had gathered on the docks to have their go on board the latest addition to the Danish Navy.

I was able to video most from my vantage point at water level and only once had to tow the ship like a tug boat. My dive log and rescue credentials will record my part in this historic event.

Phase IV – Return to Port

After the most successful afternoon, in the beautiful sun, the ship was lifted from the water and carried home. Local walkers and car drivers were intrigued, this trampoline and frogman escort but we were soon home and then decided to leave it as it is, the next outing will have an outboard motor.

One small issue, I lost the flask and had to go back, but luckily the flask was bobbing about on the surface and not too far to swim and retrieve.  

Everyone then had a drink to celebrate and toasted to another successful albeit it unusual party at the Yellow House!


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Belfast Riots

I just want to say thank you to all my friends who have asked if I am OK? If you live in N Ireland, you know it is awful, unnecessary, and killing all the work done to bring peace to this beautiful part of the world. If you don't live here which is most of my friends, the media allows you to focus on the very worst.

It is horrible and spreading, but I live outside of Belfast about 20 miles from the centre and to date about 7 miles from the closest trouble. On Friday when I flew home from London my taxi driver had been affected getting to me and the drive home was very hairy. I was once in my own car in a riot and that was one of the worst times of my life and spent an hour on the phone to a friend who just talked rubbish to me to get me through it.

I don't want to belittle the problem, it is not what we want, it is affecting the economy, no one wants to go shopping in town, more than half of the cruise ships planned to stop in Belfast have cancelled, and I am sure we have lost our place in the top 10 places in the UK to visit. BUT it is not the whole story, N Ireland is beautiful, I love it and normally I am proud to stay I live her.

But thank you all for caring, I do appreciate the messages and emails - I love you all