The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Canada ’08: The Road to Saint John

An unwelcome and shrill alarm call heralds the long day ahead. It’s Christmas Eve, 2008 and today heralds the long journey to Saint John in Maritime Canada, via an initial flight to Montreal from London.

I crawl out of bed, yet with a purpose, to get dressed into makeshift running kit and head out of the door into a gloomy and damp 5.30am Nottingham morning, just as the electric whir of a milk float passes the front drive. Of course I don’t choose to shoehorn myself out of bed and on the road at this time of day for any old reason. Today’s itinerary tells me this will be the only opportunity to run on this elongated day however. Continue reading

December 26, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | Leave a comment

The difference with REAL snow

Many people here in the UK remark to me about the Canadian winter climate . They often say things like ‘yes, but it’s a different kind of cold’ or ‘but Canadians dress for it’ – that type of thing. I always feel that there is an element of truth in those kinds of statements but at the same time they over-simplify what, to British people, would often be a barbaric set of winter conditions. My partner largely hails from Edmonton, Alberta – a Province that is no stranger to harsh winter conditions. I’ve not experienced the very coldest temperatures in Edmonton – the mercury only dropping to a balmy  -30C at the worst during my many stays. It’s not rare to have a savage -40c plus another -20c of wind chill. When walking downtown in particular, as soon as the wind rises a few miles per hour it feels like it’s going to cut you in half.

Anyway , I slightly digress. Here’s a story I spotted on the BBC site today. It may seem pretty extreme by UK standards but it’s not such an unusual story by Canadian standards. Why, the last time I was in Edmonton over the holiday, a poor chap perished on the front door step of his own home having locked himself out on New Year’s Eve. You just don’t take any chances with Canadian winters…

Canada woman survives snow burial

December 23, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | Leave a comment

Lest we forget…

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

poppies

 

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow 

Between the crosses row on row, 
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields. 

John McCrae

 

November 11, 2008 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | | 5 Comments

A Nottingham Panthers All-Star line up

First of all apologies to some of the great players of the previous incarnation of the Panthers which ended in 1960. It would not be difficult to concede that the likes of Chick Zamick and Les Strongman operated at a higher level than any of the modern-day leagues. Their like would most certainly be shoe-ins for such a line-up otherwise. I am not of a generation that was old enough to be entertained by the great and the good from the early chapters of the Panthers’ glorious golden era.

I have watched the Nottingham team on and off from it’s re-inception from 1980 to present day. I’ve had the great pleasure in admiring some fine talent during those years and so many special players stand out in the memory. Indeed it is incredibly difficult to leave out some wonderful performers over the years and some personal favourites in particular. After racking my memory, I have distilled the players of the modern era down to these six choices. Feel free to disagree! (I probably will by tomorrow…) Continue reading

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , | 2 Comments

British Pubs: The Endgame?

One doesn’t have to be particularly observant to see great changes sweeping across the pub industry in the UK of late. For many years, particularly since the days of the inception of themed pubs during the 1970s’, there has always been change. What is apparent now though is something of a sad and ever-accelerating terminal decline.

Passing through many suburban areas, it is possible to see a selection of pubs now sadly having seen their best days. Boarded-up windows are rife, overgrown gardens and crumbling car parks frame semi-derelict buildings, many who’s eventual final fate will be demolition.

The former Town Arms/Aviary at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. A once-hugely busy pub, now fallen on hard times

The former Town Arms/Aviary at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. A once-hugely busy pub, now fallen on hard times

Times change and it should be said that many of the above pubs have been the architect of their own downfall. Dismal run-down surroundings, expensive drinks and mediocre food interest few, and people have higher expectations than of yore. Continue reading

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , , | 3 Comments

Nottingham commemorates Brian Clough

At last it has happened. I was pleased to note whilst making my way through a busy lunchtime Nottingham today that a large crowd was gathering for the commemoration of one of Nottingham’s favourite adopted sons, football manager, Brian Clough.

THE UNVEILING CEREMONY IN NOTTINGHAM TODAY

The eight-foot high statue stands in a prominent position at the juncture of King Street and Queen Street, just adjacent the city’s Old Market Square.

Among the gathered throng for the unveiling were many players from Brian’s illustrious career, including individuals from his great European Cup winning teams such as Tony Woodcock, Viv Anderson and Kenny Burns.

Brian’s lovely widow spoke for the first time about the tribute to her husband and revealed a side to the great manager that few in the public eye were aware of.

The video shows various moments from Brian’s glorious managerial career and brings back many fond memories of great football and great celebrations.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , | 2 Comments

Clocked

Right now (and in spite of a very welcome extra hour in bed this morning) it seems like one of the most depressing times of the year to me. The worsening weather combined with the long dark nights affect my mood and often send it spiralling. I make the most of the dismal weather. I still get outdoors walking and running in all sorts of conditions, but it inevitably deters or prohibits us all from carrying out a lot of enjoyable things like al fresco dining and drinking for example.

I’ve had two recent stays in western Canada recently and absolutely prefer the lifestyle there in sunny Kelowna which is officially a semi-desert with a climate to match. Day after day of sunshine, dry air and temperatures up in the thirties. A daily splash in the outside swimming pool or a read of a book on the beach by the lake. The UK has it’s compensations but they are fewer and fewer for me these days.

It’s what seems like the middle of the afternoon as I write. Only the gloom outside my window bids in a very long evening of darkness already. It’s a difficult thought that we now have around five months before a glimmer of daylight in the evenings reappears.

I wonder what steps others take to keep themselves cheerful at this time of year. Especially those who are now confined to traveling to and fro from work every day in the darkness? What are the compensatory factors for months and months of darkness?

October 26, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , , | 3 Comments

Canada ’08: The Colours of Silver Star

I had a recent trip up the road from Kelowna through the City of Vernon and on to the beautiful ski resort of Silver Star. I’ve been there several times previously with my partner, her family and our friends amidst the ski season on Christmas/New visits. This time it was to be a ‘dry run’ however, before the winter fun starts, hopefully promptly in November if snow conditions permit.

It’s been three years since my last visit on New Year’s Eve in 2005. On that occasion we skated on the excellent Brewster’s Pond at the resort. I whiled a couple of frigid but enjoyable hours on the ice, flipping a puck around with a rented hockey stick on that occasion. That was before retiring to a cosy bar to see in the UK New Year at 4pm Pacific Time.

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October 24, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Canada ’08: Janson Towers

A recent worrying rash of serious road accidents involving motorcycle-vehicle collisions in Kelowna was added to a day ago by the news of the rider of a Harley-Davidson who collided with a young driver’s pick-up truck in Westside. The rider is said to have sustained a leg fracture and it’s thought he will survive. The circumstances of the accident are not clear at this point.

This story, reported in Kelowna’s Daily Courier is a sad reminder of a tragic tale that hit the front page of the same publication just recently on October 12. None of us likes to hear these stories but this one struck me as particularly heartbreaking. It concerns the story of 21-year old Okanagan Sun running back, Janson Towers who died in a collision between his motorcycle and a large semi-trailer vehicle at the busy junction of Gordon Drive and Harvey Avenue. Janson, who was on his way home from training with the club, sadly died from his injuries in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

Janson is reported to have had a series of speeding convictions and some would quite reasonably point to his style of riding putting others in danger. Without delving into the why’s and wherefores of this and the accident itself, it’s always terribly sad to see someone so young and gifted with their whole life in front of them taken away from us in this way. In another heart-rending note, Janson from Alberta had just four days previously been honoured as the Okanagan Sun’s most inspirational player. 

A day later, the Sun’s opponents, the South Surrey Rams offered to postpone their fixture scheduled for The Apple Bowl in Kelowna but Janson’s family insisted the show must indeed go on. Janson’s number 25 jersey was carried aloft on to the pitch before the game and his teammates managed to produce a 38-7 victory in his memory with a gutsy performance. Condolences go to the young man’s loved ones and all who knew him.

One hopes that Janson Towers’ story, and all the other recent senseless accidents will not go unheeded. Motorists out there please keep an extra watch out for motorcyclists and motorcyclists, please think carefully about your speed and safety. Hopefully the sad and unwanted increase in these type of accidents can be arrested.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | 3 Comments

Thoresby Hall Craft Fair

With Autumn upon us it’s good to take the opportunity for an afternoon out when a decent day presents itself. It was such a day this past Saturday, one of lots of welcome sunshine and a plan to visit historic Thoresby Hall in North Nottinghamshire for the large craft fair that is hosted there annually.

 

Thoresby Hall

Thoresby Hall

I love this area of Nottinghamshire. Not only does it feature Thoresby Hall and Park but also Sherwood Forest, the huge Clumber Park, Rufford Park, Sherwood Pines and Clipstone Forest. All of these are in reasonable proximity and represent for me what people might imagine the ancient Nottinghamshire of Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood legend to be all about. Other areas to the south of what’s known as The Dukeries are heavily forested and offer a link to the past. It’s easy to take in the atmosphere of these lovely places and to let your imagination roam.

The first sight of Thoreby Hall is a very imposing one. The hall has a commanding and impressive frontage which makes a powerful statement. We are not here today to visit the hall though but rather to take in the well-renowned craft fair and entertainment on offer during the day. The afternoon doesn’t disappoint.

I always enjoy the fine foods on offer at these types of things and today was no different. Not gourmet on this occasion but I could hardly resist a ‘Giant Wheel’ from the liquorice stall! That and a pack of tasty Sicilian sausages to savour at home plus a sausage roll the size of a house brick. The latter didn’t make it home…

I’m not particularly a crafts fan actually. Some things I admire though, particularly woodwork. I also enjoy the associated events that come along on these occasions. Today’s fair featured ‘Chrissie’s Owls’, basically an owl rescue service. I’m no ornithologist per se but I enjoy and have an interest in all forms of wildlife, usually casually spotted whilst out on my walks. Hawks are my favourite creatures, I have a great fascination and appreciation for them.

Today in the small marquee were four Owls, perched eagerly on short tree stumps. An immature Barn Owl named Spooky, another indigenous bird a Tawny Owl and two altogether more formidable creatures in a Canadian Long-Eared Owl and a European Eagle Owl. Cute as the two former birds were the Canadian and European species were altogether more threatening looking, especially with that unblinking stare that most owls exhibit.

Canadian Long-Eared Owl

As I stood, a woman bought a tiny terrier dog into the marquee, it was peeping out of her handbag. The owl man had asked her not to take the dog in front of the owls but it was too late, already the Eagle Owl was poised to kill, poised menacingly on the edge of its perch, head pushed forward with a vicious glare. If you remember the arched look that Rod Hull’s Emu had just before it was about to strike out at Michael Parkinson or some other unwitting victim you’ll need no more description Even I felt afraid.

European Eagle Owl

More fun than you could shake a stick at was quite literally around the next corner. The Ferret Racing was about to begin. Four long pipes complete with a ‘Beeches Brook’ water obstacle were laid out for the keen ferrets to race for the public. The Master of Ceremonies built up the beginning of the race to a crescendo whilst a helper ran a book on the event. Fifty pence on a ferret’s nose would bring you fifty pence winnings – enough for a ‘down payment on an ice cream’ claimed the ring master! I’m not sure what I expected, something of a quick dash which lasted seconds but not so. The racing ferrets were up and back, up and back the piped raceways in a grand display of indecision and lack of interest! ‘Yellow’ finally extracted his whole body from the far end of the pipe and was proclaimed the winner ‘The last hair on the tip of the ferret’s tail must be out of the pipe ladies and gentlemen’. My choice, ‘Green’ did not trouble the finishing line. Great fun.

There were other oddities at the fair I mused over a pint of cold cider outside the beer tent with the sun washing down over us. Notably a marquee with wooden artifacts made out of spare wood from the refurbishment of Lord Nelson’s famous ship the HMS Victory. Slightly unusual but what was interesting was that the proprietor was actually dressed as Lord Nelson himself, complete with the strains of Rule Britannia rolling out.

All good things come to an end and it was time to leave as the sun left us for the day and a crisp evening came into it’s infancy. I’m not so sure about craft fairs one way or another. What I can say though is that they are fabulous places to observe classic English eccentricity. Nobody really does it better.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | On The Road, Ripping Yarns | , , , , | 5 Comments

Canada ’08: Hockey Refs eh!

I tend to go easy on officials in any of the sports I watch. I’m not one for thinking that the referee has some sort of mysterious vendetta against my favourites and will never give a decision their way come what may. It’s an unenviable job being a referee or a linesman in my view – I try to cut them a little slack.

Sometimes it can only be observed though that the official(s) are having a bit of an off-night. I recall one infamous occasion then an American referee and his linesmen officiating at a Nottingham Panthers game had such a woeful performance that prior to the following week’s game, the Lower Parliament Street organist played Three Blind Mice as the stripeys skated out to start the game. Dear old Eric on the organ was duly knuckle rapped for that piece of fun I believe but the officials in question took it all in fun by posing in their uniforms, complete with false mouse whiskers for the next edition of the Ice Hockey News Review publication.

Here’s a recent smile that came my way anyway. I love this sign, it’s so lovingly created and passionate in it’s detail. Hockey refs – we love you really.

October 19, 2008 Posted by | On The Road, Sporting Tales | , , , , | 2 Comments

Canada ’08: The Immaculate Conception Church, Kelowna

Last Sunday evening I paid a visit for Mass in the pleasant, friendly and welcoming, Immaculate Conception Church in Kelowna. I reconciled to arrive a little early and take in the atmosphere of the church, this being my first visit. No more than a mile’s walk along Ethel Street took me to the modern building situated on Sutherland Avenue for twenty to six in the evening, for Mass at six and a scattering of a congregation already in place.

My regular place of worship is Saint Barnabas RC Cathedral in Nottingham, UK, a traditional and older church and I was looking forward to comparing the difference with my regular Sunday evening Mass with that of the experience provided at the Immaculate Conception Church. Of course one understands that the message is the same one worldwide, but still it was interesting to spend my Sunday evening in a much more modern construction with a few different ways of doing things.

At the front of the church there is a welcome from Our Lady of Fatima, whilst upon entering from outside I picked up the Parish bulletin which was informative and free for worshippers. Interestingly there was a ‘Milestones and Anniversaries’ section which included the name of Hockey Hall of Famer, Mario Lemioux as a birthday boy that Sunday! Of course my interest and affection for the Immaculate Conception was now signed and sealed!

Mass began with Father Peter Tomkins who proved to be likeable and affable with the congregation, using an informal style when appropriate, particularly with the children that came forward to receive their awards.

A band played provided the music in a more modern, popular style than I am normally used to. It wasn’t my personal preference but it was hard to fault their excellent musicianship, sincerity and commitment. This echoed the whole feel of the Mass. I guess that I am used to a more sombre and serious affair and this experience felt very ‘light’ by comparison. Perhaps some would argue that this is just as things should be in these days of dwindling congregations.

Father Tomkins talked at length and with some authority in a pleasing manner, helping make Mass an enjoyable and interesting experience. One lighter moment was when a tiny boy ran clop-clop-clop-clop from the very back pew to him to eagerly be handed his award by Father Peter. The young lad was so small it was impossible to barely do anything but hear him, invisible as he was, beneath the level of the pews!

The Mass had a very mixed and (hey this is Canada right!) informal congregation dressed in a variety of ways! None of this ‘Sunday Best’ stuff here for some of the members!

The service ran promptly and finished a little quicker than I am used to. I walked out of the door with my usual lift in spirits for a Sunday evening and wandered off for the mile walk home in a rapidly cooling and crisp Kelowna evening. This was not before engaging in conversation with another member of the congregation whilst walking along the sidewalk. It’s pretty hard not to be sociable with people here in Kelowna, smiling and friendly as the locals invariably are. The congregation of The Immaculate Conception Church on Sutherland Avenue, Kelowna are certainly no exception.

Another view of The Immaculate Conception Church

October 16, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , | 1 Comment

Margaret Weaver: A Tribute

Sometimes, people pass through one’s life without too much of a stir being created. Occasionally though, we are truly humbled at the effect that a person has on your life. The things you learn from them, the wonderful times they give you, the different horizons they offer you. Such a person was my partner’s mum, Margaret Weaver. A dear lady I have been blessed to have in my life for the past fifteen years until we all sadly lost her recently after a brave fight against illness.

Years ago when I was in my mid-twenties I lost both my mother and father at a too-young age. As we know, never do we get over the loss, we merely learn to deal with the sadness. This was not lost on Margaret who claimed me as her own son. How humbled and proud do I feel of that? Extremely. I feel blessed that I had such a wonderful woman as a perfect surrogate mum. Not very many are as lucky.

Prior to Margaret’s funeral service, I considered that I might well be Margaret’s only fellow countryman present on the occasion, living in Nottingham England as I do. I considered it would seem quite apt to offer a little insight into Margaret’s origins and early days. Perhaps like me, you will come to consider that the type of upbringing Margaret had was quite strongly linked to the warm, funny and loveable lady many of us had the pleasure of having in our lives.

In the years between the two World Wars and especially post the second conflict, Nottingham, like many of it’s contemporary cities experienced a new vitality, partly born out of sheer relief from victory and also because of a need to redevelop the towns and cities. The war years had ravaged and impoverished many towns in Great Britain and now was the time to re-build – both physically and emotionally.

In Nottingham one of many new residential areas was created to the west of the city. This area, named Aspley was where Margaret and her large family grew up and thrived happily.

Anyone who knew Margaret well will recall how fondly she would talk of those early days in Aspley. As a young girl she would play in safety with the many young friends from the neighbouring homes in those new neat and pristine little streets, carefree and happy. Families such as Margaret’s were strong and all-important in that culture. Children responded to the love and guidance they were given. It’s my belief that these happy times informed much of the rest of Margaret’s long, positive and happy life. One that was widely admired, not least by myself.

Through her teenage and early working years, Margaret became a vivacious and fun-loving young woman, one who came to show love and be loved by all who met her.

A subject that Margaret would talk of very often to me was of her early secretarial and Personal Assistant work at Skinner and Rooke, a high quality department store in the Nottingham of the day. The store stood in a prominent position close by the city’s Old Market Square. By a strange coincidence many years later I came to work in the exact same premises (though for a different business). That was for three long weeks and what seemed like three years. This was mainly due to the Nottingham city centre clock ‘Little John’ striking loudly every fifteen minutes. I certainly envied Margaret’s patience and devotion to duty!

Margaret at that time enjoyed a full social life with her dear sister Joan, brother Alan and friends in what was a lively post war Nottingham. Shortly afterwards the call of Canada beckoned for this bright young woman. Many have witnessed the remainder of this exceedingly happy story…

Bringing things up to date and speaking of the past fifteen years I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing Margaret and her husband Sherman, I’d like to talk of the extreme kindness shown to me by the both of them. That fact I lost my parents at a reasonably young age was never lost on Margaret. Indeed she claimed me as her ‘other son’. I can’t say how touched I have always been by this. I was very fortunate in having the perfect surrogate mum.

Over the years, Melanie and I have always sought to visit Margaret and Sherman whenever possible. It has never been less than a great pleasure and a happy experience. We were recently able to visit for four weeks and although a difficult time in many ways I refuse to take away anything less than sweet memories from that visit. Through all the difficulties we were able to be together as a family, and I feel very much part of that.

Before ending, I’d like to also mention Margaret’s annual visits to Nottingham to visit us. These were always enjoyable and often epic times! Occasionally even Sherman was tempted out of the Garden of Eden that is Kelowna to come along too! On one occasion notably for a vacation in the remote Scottish Highlands. Great memories and as the song say’s: ‘They can’t take that away from me’.

Now is not a time to be sad. There really was no place for sadness in Margaret’s life so for those of us who knew her let’s enjoy rather, revel in her memory and smile like she would have wanted. Life was there to be lived and this, Margaret did with great expertise and joy. I’d like those who knew her to be true to that memory.

I’ll end if I may, with a few words written by Robert Burns:

Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure!

Had we never lov’d sae kindly,
Had we never lov’d sae
blindly,
Never met-or never parted,
We had ne’er been broken-hearted.

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, but not for ever!

October 15, 2008 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | 8 Comments

Canada ’08: Howie Morenz – The Stratford Streak

Hockey is a great game for nicknames. Consider ‘The Chicoutimi Cucumber’, the name given to goalie, Georges Vézina for his cool head in between the pipes for many a year in Montreal or ‘The Production Line’ used to describe Detroit legends Gordie Howe, ‘Terrible’ Ted Lindsey and Sid Abel of fabled scoring exploits. Howie Morenz of the Montreal Canadiens collected two such monikers in his all-too-short time in the game.

When playing for his hometown Mitchell Juveniles, Howie quickly became known as ‘The Mitchell Meteor’ for his blazing speed on the ice. When he moved over to the nearby team in Stratford Ontario, Howie again earned a new nickname when in winning the Provincial title he became widely known as ‘The Stratford Streak’ for similar reasons.

Montreal quickly got wind of Howie’s abilities and signed him on a two-year contract only for him to break his contract and head home to Mitchell, homesick. The Canadiens were not to be denied however and visited the Morenz family, placing the then huge sum of $850 on the Morenz kitchen table as a signing on fee. Howie was a Hab again.

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October 9, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , | 3 Comments

Canada ‘08: A Canadian Institution (3) The Dollar Store

From inauspicious beginnings ten years ago in 1998, The first Dollar Store opened in Merrit, British Columbia followed very shortly afterwards by a similar outlet in Kelowna in the same province. Those two early stores spawned a huge chain of successful stores Canada-wide, now numbering over 170 franchises.

Of course we know that the concept of an ultra-low-price retail store is not just the preserve of Canada. Indeed in the UK we have our Pound Shops, but there just seems something so erm…intrinsically Canadian about these stores.

I’m actually a real sucker for these places and I’m not entirely sure why. I seldom spend much (well I guess that’s the general idea) or anything at all in them but I still can’t resist them – I can’t walk past one. I guess I just take a feeling that I might well be missing out on a great deal on something I really need. Dollar Stores are like that – all the stuff inside them is merchandise that you feel you can’t possible leave without and well, it’s a only a dollar (or two) anyway so you may as well buy it!

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October 8, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | 7 Comments

Canada ’08: It’s Hockey Time!

It’s Hockey Time!

I feel fortunate to be in British Columbia now that the hockey season is upon us. It seems (and is) only days ago that I was lounging by the pool in 25C temperatures, now the Weather Channel is now predicting snow for tomorrow. Fall is a fairly dynamic concept in this part of the world!


As I write, a new theme for that great bastion of Canadianism, Hockey Night in Canada it about to be chosen imminently. The familiar original music that was a clarion call to the whole of Canada every Saturday evening during the Winter months has copyright issues surrounding it and can sadly no longer be used. Things change, but it seems a shame to lose this little Canadian institution.

I was watching a little pre-season hockey on the TV and was rewarded greatly by a terrific game between Detroit Redwings and my own favoured sons, The Montreal Canadiens. A few fresh faces being iced by both teams saw an extremely fast run-and-gun type of game that was hugely entertaining. Happily (for me) after two goals each in regular time the Les Habitants ran out winners in a knife-edged shoot-out with some well taken strikes by both teams. Viva le Blau, Blanc et Rouge.

Here in Kelowna a lot of the NHL interest is in the Vancouver Canucks, the nearest franchise to the Okanagan at around four and a half hours drive away. It’s from Vancouver too that a curious story is being reported in the local media of

Roberto Lunogo holds on to another puck

Roberto Luongo holds on to another puck

late. It concerns one Roberto Luongo, the Canucks’ ace goalie being appointed captain of the team. It’s been fifty long years since Bill Durnan performed the same role for Montreal in 1947/8. At that time Durnan would reportedly leave his crease regularly to talk to the officials in his capacity as team leader. This caused the league to introduce a new rule that prohibits a goal tender from acting as captain or alternate captain on the ice, or wearing a ‘C’ on his jersey.

The Canucks were being seen as teasing NHL bosses a little when Luongo appeared in a pre-season game against Anaheim with the ‘C’ not on his jersey but on the lower part of his helmet that protects his throat. When asked if the C stood for Captain, Vancouver boss Mike Gillis countered ‘it can stand for whatever he wants it to stand for’ presumably meaning that it may stand for Canucks as opposed to Captain.

Though it sounds a trivial matter, and is in some ways, the NHL bosses harbour concerns that allowing a goaltender to carry out a captain’s duties and obligations on-ice will offer a team unscheduled and unfair time-outs. At this time, stellar goalie Luongo is not allowed to discuss calls with officials. This however surely calls into question how effective he can truly be as the leader of the Canucks.

October 7, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada ’08: Up and Down the Okanagan – Penticton

Continued from, Canada ’08: Up and Down the Okanagan – Peachland and Summerland

The day moves on and the rains begin to fall as we drive into Penticton via a short stop at Summerland Sweets which is the front office business of a highly successful company that trades up and down the Okanagan area. It’s almost three years since I visited Penticton and it feels a little different from previous times. Kelowna by comparison appears to be exploding with life, vitality and wealth while Penticton looks older and more dated. The town however does prosper through vacationers during the summer swarming to the lovely beaches and also to Apex Ski Resort in the winter months.

Okanagan Lake at Penticton

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October 6, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Canada ’08: Up and Down the Okanagan – Peachland and Summerland

Midweek saw us travelling from Kelowna to the town of Penticton situated at the Southern end of the Okanagan Lake. Between the two lie the attractively named Peachland and Summerland. Leaving the city of Kelowna the new floating bridge, constructed recently lay before us. The William R. Bennett bridge was under consideration long before being given the green light so to speak. For many of those years too, the original floating bridge was deemed to be an inadequate crossing of Okanagan Lake with regular traffic jams. New bridge built alongside the original, the latter is now is now in an advanced state of demolition.

Immediately over the bridge and things are changing fast, politically at least. ‘The formerly proudly named Westbank is now known as ‘Westside’. An ignominious name perhaps for the proud and historic roots of Westbank.

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October 5, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada ’08: I Was Walking in Wal-Mart

An early start was required today as we were to take two of my partner’s aunts to Kelowna International Airport for their flight’s back home out East. Suitcases duly loaded, we were whistling through the early morning work traffic before 7am for a drop-off and goodbye to those dear ladies.

A welcome cup of coffee in the Skyview Lounge and a fond farewell, we were on our way back home before 8am, having picked up a rental Kia Rio for the journey and the coming week. Then came the call of Walmart before reaching home…

I’m always interested in inspecting stores in Canada, (albeit as we know Walmart is a very American company). They’re so different to British stores for many reasons. As we entered the huge hangar-like premises a meeting of sorts was being held on the shop floor. A convivial gathering of some fifty people was going in, something in the way of a staff meeting, rabble-rousing pep-talk for the day’s duties ahead. I’d heard of these corporate Walmart customs before but had never witnessed one in the flesh so to speak.

The speaker must have been some orator (or have the job positions of many of his junior staff in his hands) as the
gathering was eliciting a huge belly laugh here and there. ‘Way too cheerful for this time of day’ I considered in my regulation British manner. Phooey.

For the uninitiated, Walmart is a heck of a store. They sell just about everything – twice. You can actually marvel amongst the aisles in these places. They’re great for people watching too. My first port of call was in the area showing dental supplies. Like a modern day chamber of horrors they have a brush/tool/implement for practically every part of your pie-hole, probably powered at a rush by batteries too for the less-than-nervous.

I’d a lot of ground to cover here so I ignored my curiosity and strode purposely past the animal toys and boutique aisles. Another day they will be mine though. You know what I really like? There a certain male oriented scent found in many hardware stores. It’s that satisfying yet cloying smell of rubber, I call it Eue di Canadian Tire. The men reading this will understand exactly what I mean here.

Walmart assistants tend be of a different breed I have noticed. Mostly kindly, endearing and helpful certainly but there seems to be a hint of hard bitten, raging against the corporate machine, going off inside. Maybe those Wal-Mart!, Wal-Mart! ra! ra! ra! sessions in the morning don’t work that well after all. Just like in British supermarkets these days there are many seniors stocking the shelves and smiling benignly at the customers. I have mixed feelings about this as I always try to imagine them in their proud former working lives and careers. Having said that one always recognises the dignity in work and labour.

The pricing in Walmart is of course what everyone is really interested in and here they stand comparison with most. Often enough there is a matching lack of quality but by no means always. It’s always occurred to me that Canada the country is the big boots capital of the world. It’s probably something to do with the weather to be honest but what really can beat a good ‘ol pair of Kodiaks for a winter spent kicking snow around. Nothing like that here though – just row upon row of workers boots that look a lot like walking boots. Tough, sturdy and masculine and starting at around twenty-five dollars. In Canada you can wear this sort of footwear anywhere – even at…no especially at weddings.

A few slightly incongruous items of clothing are available on the shelves too. Today’s ‘spot’ were tee-shirts displaying the logo’s of Juventus Football Club of Italy and Football Club Barcelona, the Catalan giants of the beautiful game.

The sports section of any large store in Canada is always an eye-opener. By comparison UK contemporaries are bland clothes shops with rack after rack of ‘leisure wear’ exploding with corporate logos. Not here. After passing the counter with firearms safely under glass, I pondered on a lethal looking archery bow with attendant arrows. Maybe I should acquire one, along with one of the menacing looking camouflage jackets and matching hats. A new-era British Columbian Robin Hood indeed.

After what seemed like half a life-time I managed to locate my partner (yes, that’s another problem) and sneak out of the door without buying anything. That surely has to be some kind of record.

October 4, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | 1 Comment

October begins in Kelowna

The Kelowna Daily Courier has the welcome sight of two bathing beauties on the front page of the October 2 edition today. Any excuse one might say but the real reason is that The city hit record high temperatures for this time of year yesterday of 25.5C, beating the previous best by 0.5C. It’s all very welcome of course and certainly ‘Esdra Gunn and Kelli Strynadka both 21′ pictured sunning themselves at Gellatly Bay are easy enough on the eye over breakfast.

That same page has a much less salubrious article too unfortunately recording the possible plight of the some of the large population of bunnies that are to be found running wild on the grass verges around Kelowna. I’ve spoken of Kelowna’a bunny problem previously but at that time the eventual destiny of the floppy-eared creatures was yet to be decided. Some weeks later a ‘rabbit eradication program’ has begun rather sadly. It seems the rabbits are being shot with air rifles by a company called EBB who have been instructed by the local authorities.

City calls stomping disgusting and appalling

Today’s Courier report however speaks of a review on proceedings and rather more sinister actions than a straight cull of the animals. This has occurred after an EBB employee was reported as stomping a rabbit to death after it failed to die to order after being shot. The EBB have claimed that stomping on the animal was intended to ‘put the animal out of it’s misery’ after only being wounded by the shot.


Joe Creron. The Kelowna City Parks Manager is quoted as having asked a veterinarian about the practice of crushing a rabbit’s skull as a means of euthanasia and was informed that this was considered ‘a humane means of putting the animal down’. Creditably Mr. Creron begs to differ, claiming that ‘Although this may be considered humane by professionals, it’s not acceptable to the city’. He added ‘I was disgusted and appalled when I heard about it;. Hear hear Mr, Creron.

It’s easy to understand and accept that the Kelowna bunnies are a problem in the city, particularly posing a threat to farmers and their crops. At the same time I have to agree with Joe Creron and the city’s stand against this unfortunate practice.

October 3, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , | 2 Comments

Canada ’08: Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market

Farmers Markets. I really quite enjoy he idea of these things as in my better moments I’m always keen to try fresh local produce wherever I am in the world or simply at home. These days we see an encouraging trend towards local produce and this can only be viewed as a good thing.

Driving through Kelowna this lunchtime, we realised that it was the last day of the current Farmers and Market situated off Dilworth Road not far from home so we decided to drop and and sample the wares. Such delectable goods on sale were a hat stand made of ice hockey sticks, a fridge magnet toothpick holder complete with Provincial emblem and other Canadiana. How much would I like that to fit that hat stand into my suitcase! What I like about these events is the food though. Pure honest to goodness local fruit and vegetables without the custom ‘perfection’ of the imported supermarket food, but stuffed with goodness and taste. Some of the corn on the cob bought on the market today was the finest and sweetest I’ve eaten in many a long year.

One thing I do find slightly difficult in my slightly reticent British way is engaging with the stall holders occasionally. I quickly begin to feel beholden to buy something. My cupboards at home can lay testimony to this in the past. Today a modern-day ‘medicine man’ was proffering his lotions and potions quite loudly from behind one of the stalls. I attempted to skulk past without him noticing but it was to no avail – he spotted me getting away and shouted a friendly ‘hey there!’. What was then delivered like a volley across from behind the bottles of goodness-knows-what still took me by surprise though. ‘Hey – I have something here for stiff limbs!’ Slightly nonplussed I flashed a weak grin responded equally with an equally lame ‘er…no. I’m alright thanks’. This of course has had me considering my gait for the rest of the day since that flip comment from Dr. Medicine. Do I walk kinda funny? Am I genuinely a little stiff after that slightly longer run by the waterfront the day before yesterday? Am I getting old. Damn you Dr. Medicine – you got under my skin with that off the cuff remark of yours, little did you know (or perhaps you did?)

A Cherry Pit Spitting Contest in full flow

This was not all by any means. There was further unwelcome thinking to do. I spied a printed leaflet detailing events held around the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market. Events that I could have barely imagined from my no-Canadian little world. Try this on for size, how would you fancy taking part in a Cherry Pit Spitting Contest? or a Gourd Bowling Contest? Perhaps a simple Weird Vegetable Contest would suffice if not? Fun, Fun Fun as The Beach Boys used to say. With a capital ‘F’.

I’m there already.

October 2, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking Notes

An early-ish phone call on Monday morning this week from the University Student Support Department contained a request to resume my work supporting students with disabilities today. It was a welcome call as I really enjoy the work and find it extremely rewarding. The majority of the time it entails sitting in seminars and lectures with the student and acting as notetaker to assist him or her. It’s a job that allows one to mix and meet with a variety of new people and participate, passively at least, in a wide range of academic subjects.

Some of the high points from the last academic year were in travelling to lovely Brackenhurst College, a campus based around a former large manor house set in rolling countryside near the attractive town of Southwell. Even the drive there and back was a pure pleasure with the views across the fields and copses. Other times, it conversely warranted a slow and irritating journey on the Nottingham Ring Road or a visit to the city campus.

It’s a curious job too in some ways. One never knows quite what to expect from the different students but perhaps one could say that about any job working with a section of the public. In the main it should be said that the students are always courteous and grateful for the assistance they are receiving.

A great advantage of the job can be in the knowledge the notetaker gains by sitting in lectures on a myriad of subjects. A single week might require an understanding of how to write useful notes about Law, Mathematics, Computer Science, Biochemistry or Animal Conservation for example. A two-hour gap between lectures and campuses would often see me switching off from being in a lab whilst a tube of deadly e-coli was being handled next to me to sitting at Brackenhurst Campus enjoying a lecture about Peat Boglands. There is much variety.

Another aspect is in learning about dealing with people with various disabilities. Working with the visually or hearing impaired for instance can be very humbling and also instructive in trying to understand others’ problems. To be proficient and able in areas where others are not such as with students with dyslexia can make one understand what it is to be fortunate and happy and content with what one has.

Perhaps best of all there is a sense of satisfaction to be gained from the duties involved with the job. It’s a nice proposition that one is helping someone – giving a helping hand in equalling up the disadvantages experienced by students with disabilities with others slightly more fortunate. It’s a principle that has motivated me at various times during my working life when so many jobs and careers these days offer little in the way of fulfillment. Let the term begin.

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | 3 Comments

Canada ’08: The Beautiful People

Not only is Kelowna a beautiful place but some of it’s residents have a claim to that description too. On a pleasant visit to Moxies Classic Grill on Cooper Road a relative informed me that the restaurant had the most attractive looking staff in town. Certainly, upon inspection, I was more than willing to agree! Now news comes through to substantiate the theory for a waitress in the restaurant has actually been crowned Miss Canada International 2008.

Kelowna’s Catherine Thomas, 22, a local resident and server at the restaurant won the prestigious title and was awarded her crown in Mississauga, Ontario last Saturday night to her’s and her families great excitement. Catherine, a graduate of Heritage Christian School also attended the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, BC last year in order to study dance, acting and singing.

It appears that the Canadian competition has evolved along different lines from it’s US counterpart. Gone are the swimsuit sections and the criteria being solely on looks, the essence is reported on being in aspects such as intellect, personality and even charity work. Contestants are quizzed on questions about politics, current affairs and Canadian history. They also have to produce an essay. This all sounds very ‘Canada’ doesn’t it!

The Kelowna girl’s favoured charity is New Opportunities for Women Canada, based in the city. It’s a worthy institution that offers assistance for sexually exploited women which Catherine will be speaking about at public functions. She plans to carry out these commitments whilst continuing to work at Moxies in Kelowna. Curiously, Miss Canada International could have been any one of a number of serving staff from the evening I spent there, incidentally.

Miss Canada International is a pageant which offers an academic scholarship to be used at a school chosen by the victorious contestant. It seems to be a worthy development to the tired and outdated former beauty contest formula. Well done to Catherine Thomas – one of Kelowna’s beautiful people.

September 14, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | Leave a comment

The Hollinwell Incident

Hollinwell is an area in North Nottinghamshire in proximity to the ex-mining town Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Perhaps it’s main claim to fame is a fine golf club and course of some considerable repute – that and a famous mystery still unsolved to this day.

The ‘Hollinwell Incident’ as it became known happened in July 1980 and people have been trying to understand what happened ever since. It was a story that reached the national media and one still enshrouded in mystery.

The story concerns a Summer marching band competition at a showground in the area. During the gala day approximately 300 children suddenly collapsed during the festivities. Observers likened it to ‘a battlefield’ and spoke of children ‘going down like ninepins’. At first children began to collapse in ones and twos but this quickly soon accelerated into dozens. Aghast spectators were bewildered at the dramatic scene, not comprehending what was unfolding in front of them. Children were scattered about the grass unconscious or vomiting and with noses and eyes streaming in a horrific scene.

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September 13, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , | 7 Comments

Canada ’08: The Cars are the Stars – Americans

During my recent stay in British Columbia it became apparent to me once more how important cars are to North American society. There are some obvious reasons for that. In such large destinations, distances are greater and perhaps more difficult to provide public transfer for. In such circumstances the car is king and in spite of a recent hike in gas prices can one imagine that ever being different in North America?

There are so many signs of a car-oriented society when walking around the average Canadian town or city and Kelowna is no exception. Something always notable for me is the sometime lack of sidewalks in residential areas. Being a runner and also enjoying walking this becomes very apparent to me. It should be said that where sidewalks are provided they are generally excellent (and spotless) however. Another great sign is the drive-in culture. More and more we see drive-in facilities in the UK but I can never imagine a drive-in liquor store for example, featuring in the environs of a British High Street. They’re quite commonly seen in Canadian cities though. One day I stepped out of the parked car and used a bank cash machine in a lobby. It was totally empty whilst a long queue of traffic waited patiently at a drive-through dispenser that meant not climbing out of the car. I’d estimate that line-up as at the very least fifteen minutes wait.

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September 12, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Canada ’08: When Penticton Ruled the World

Fifty-three years ago the might of the Soviet Union team were the world new super-power in ice hockey winning the World Championships. Always previously known as ‘Canada’s game’ the on-ice game was changing fast as the Soviets had defeated the East York Lyndhursts of Ontario who were representing Canada. This ignominious defeat by seven goals to two sent shock waves reverberating through Canada and the world of hockey. Previous to this, mighty Canada had always sent a top amateur team to contest the competition against other nations and now the call went out for someone to restore Canada’s pride. The team selected for the task were The Penticton Vees. 

Penticton is but a small (and very pleasant) town at the southern end of Okanagan Lake. Tourists visit for the fine beach and winter skiing. Although always being fond of it’s hockey, it’s probably an unlikely place to search for a team to beat the might of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the Penticton Vees were the chosen to claim back the title, the team and Canada’s reputation being seriously at stake.

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September 11, 2008 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , , , | 2 Comments

On the Trail of Robin Hood

A walk in the local Sherwood Forest this week set me pondering the age-old story of the Nottingham outlaw and the legends surrounding his associated characters and places. I’ve touched on the story previously in articles featuring St. James Church at Papplewick and Sherwood Forest itself but I hopefully have a different slant to offer within this piece.

Sherwood Forest was enjoying a day’s respite from the regular reign of late on Monday, the high clouds finally clearing to offer fresh sunlight dappled through the old oaks, the rays searing into the clearings amongst the trees. Many visitors only appear to consider the Major Oak as worth seeing and truly it is a tremendous sight, but within a few minutes one can be in seclusion within the boundaries of the 450-acre former Royal hunting park.

Being a busy visitor centre much visited by tourists necessarily affects the amount of wildlife in the Forest but there are still compensations along the many pleasant paths through trees. Out in the Forest today were dozens of different fungi carpeting the ground and felled trees. A close up study of the ancient oaks is also quite a wonder. As I walked the gunshot fire of squirrels dropping acorns from the tall boughs onto the otherwise silent woodland floors. It was against this backdrop that I considered this story of the world-renowned outlaw of Sherwood Forest.

North Nottinghamshire still remains an area of more than average forestry. Some of it no longer deciduous but still attractive in its own way. This is especially so when requiring a part canopy against the elements on a wet day’s walking. It was on just such a day recently that I found myself walking with a friend in the local Thieves Wood and Harlow Wood. It’s in the latter that the site of a legendary Robin Hood story can be found.

Wet days can sometimes bring their compensations ironically and so it was today for a series of inclement days had seen the formerly dried up waters of Fountaindale gurgling and flowing busily. The ballad of Robin and the Curtail Flyer documents the first meeting of Robin Hood and Friar Tuck at Fountaindale. It’s a story that has been enacted many times for Hollywood and television. One legend has it that Robin had a resting place near the dale whilst the Friar may have either been from Nearby Newstead Abbey or possibly a smaller Abbey at Fountaindale. Robin had the reputation as the best bowman in England and had heard that the Friar was his match and more. When searching for and finding Friar Tuck at Fountaindale, Robin Hood demanded that the Friar carry him across the water. Tuck duly and obediently acceded to Robin’s demand only to drop him in half way across. Stories record that within humiliated, a fierce fight ensued before the two became friends after gaining mutual respect with Tuck joining Robin Hood’s band of men.

Another interesting side story from the area describes Sir Walter Scott writing parts of his famous ‘Ivanhoe’ epic at nearby Fountain Dale House. Scott referred to the area as ‘Copmanhurst’.

An excellent video account of one man’s visit to Will Scarlet’s grave

At nearby Blidworth lies what is reputed to be the grave of another of that band, Will Scarlet. The Church of St Mary of the Purification on the main street houses a curious monument to the rear which was not originally a gravestone but rather the original apex from the tower of the church. There are no markings on the stone but generations of local people have passed down the legend that Will Scarlet was buried against the back of the church. Who really knows? As with all stories related within the legendary story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men one has to use one’s imagination. Certainly though if there is any accuracy in the stories, the area of Nottinghamshire containing Sherwood Forest, Fountaindale and Blidworth would present a worthy epicentre of its activities.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | On The Road, Times Gone By | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Twenty-five things to do in a lift…

It’s extremely rare and infrequent that I use others’ words for this site but I’m going to make an exception today. I spotted this work of genius on an online forum and it very much danced on my funny-bone. People in a lift can’t get away from you – let them know it! Have some fun in a lift near you today…

1) When there’s only one other person in the elevator, tap him on the shoulder and then pretend it wasn’t you.

2) Push the buttons and pretend they give you a shock. Smile, and go back for more.

3) Ask if you can push the button for other people, but push the wrong ones.

4) Call the Psychic Hotline from your cell phone and ask if they know what floor you’re on.

5) Hold the doors open and say you’re waiting for a friend. After a while, let the doors close, and say, “Hi Greg. How’s your day been?”

6) Drop a pen and wait until someone goes to pick it up, then scream, “That’s mine!”

7) Bring a camera and take pictures of everyone in the elevator.

8) Move your desk into the elevator and whenever anyone gets on, ask if he has an appointment.

9) Lay down the Twister mat and ask people if they would like to play.

10) Leave a box in the corner, and when someone gets on, ask him if he can hear ticking

11) Pretend you are a flight attendant and review emergency procedures and exits with the passengers.

12) Ask, “Did you feel that?”

13) Stand really close to someone, sniffing him occasionally.

14) When the doors close, announce to the others, “It’s okay, don’t panic, they open again!”

15) Swat at flies that don’t exist.

16) Tell people that you can see their aura.

17) Grimace painfully while smacking your forehead and muttering, “Shut up, all of you, just shut up!”

18) Crack open your briefcase or purse, and while peering inside, ask, “Got enough air in there?”

19) Stand silently and motionless in the corner, facing the wall, without getting off.

20) Stare at another passenger for awhile, then announce in horror, “You’re one of THEM!” and back away slowly.

21) Wear a puppet on your hand and use it to talk to the other passengers.

22) Listen to the elevator walls with your stethoscope.

23) Make explosion noises when anyone presses a button.

24) Stare, grinning at another passenger for a while, and then announce, “I have new socks on.”

25) Draw a little square on the floor with chalk and announce to the other passengers, “This is MY personal space!”

September 7, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , | 1 Comment

A Walk at Alstonefield and Dovedale

It’s an understatement to say that the weather back in England has been a trifle inclement since arriving back from the desert temperatures of Kelowna BC. Indeed it’s been something of a shock to the system having to replace an air-conditioned home with a centrally-heated one, such is the change to adapt to. Apart from getting out for the daily run I’m beginning to miss the great outdoors a little too. ‘Cabin Fever’ in early September? Surely some mistake… 

To offset the aforementioned, I took the opportunity to travel the short distance out to the Derbyshire Peak District yesterday with my good friend, Chris. Neither of us were particularly optimistic about staying dry even though early morning Nottingham was bright enough. We know only too well how different the hills of Derbyshire can be to the suburbs of Nottinghamshire. How correct we were proven today!

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September 5, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Hibs: The Prodigal Returns!

Hibernian yesterday completed the signing of former striker, Derek Riordan from Celtic after a torrent of rumour regarding a possible deal. Fans’ nerves were stretched to breaking point waiting for the Messiah-like return of the former golden boy of Easter Road until an announcement during the evening. Although the talk of a return seemed well-substantiated, it was far from a formality with Hibs having to comply with Celtic’s wishes regarding a sizable sell-on fee.

Hibs’ pre and early season form has been poor and erratic and Derek’s return will give a great boost a to a beleaguered club board and concerned and angry supporters alike. It’s just the fillip required at Easter Road and one can almost feel the tides of goodwill and optimism flowing from club’s faithful fans today.

Derek Riordan (right) celebrates another goal! (Click on image to view a sample of Derek's goals)

The rarest commodities in football are surely true goalscorers- those that have the happy knack of being in the right place when it matters and able to despatch the ball into the back of the net in a variety of methods. Derek Riordan is just such a player. Not for him the most robust aspects of the game as a very slimly built forward player it must be stated. His tackling won’t trouble too many apart from nuisance value but his talents are far more valuable in and around the opposition penalty area where he excels like few others. A study of Riordan’s goals is an examination of how to score in a myriad of ways. Twenty-five yarders, tap-ins, mazy dribble and finishes, all taken with a cool clinical precision. Hibs are very fortunate indeed to have the player, who is also a life-long fan of the club back in the fold. It is perhaps a regret to the player and at the same time incredible, that the Glasgow club seemed unable or unwilling to unleash his considerable talents too often. That is for them to reflect upon. In the meantime the whole of Leith (and those of us further adrift) with a love of the old club will be celebrating and have a new spring  in our step today.

DEREK RIORDAN IS BACK!

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Hibernian FC | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sir Garry Sobers: Celebration of a Great

It’s the 40th anniversary today of a very special achievement in the world of sport by one of the greatest sportsmen the world has ever witnessed. Sir Garfield ‘Garry’ Sobers was the great West Indies cricketer who at the time, playing for Nottinghamshire, battered the perfect six sixes from a single six-ball over off an unfortunate Glamorgan side. The venue was at the St. Helens cricket ground in Swansea, the hitherto unthinkable feat creating a huge impact in the media of the day.

The recipient of Sobers’ peak performance that day was a hapless Malcolm Nash, a slow left-arm finger-spinner who developed into a fine seam bowler despite the confidence-draining scalping from the great all-rounder in full flight.

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August 31, 2008 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Bad Day at the Office for Hibernian

Hibernian 0-1 Motherwell

More misery for the Hibees

Worrying times continue for the Hibees after another defeat, this time to a late John Sutton goal from Motherwell at Easter Road. It’s yet another blow for this toothless team in green and white that is long past beginning to concern me. Following on from an embarrasssing 3-4 defeat at the hands of Greenock Morton – a team two divisions below Hibs, last Tuesday evening.

The hopeful diversion of a possible return of former Hibs star Derek Riordan has perhaps contributed to some of us with the Easter Road club at heart taking our eye off the ball as matters are truly dire at the club presently. It will take more than a fit and scoring Riordan to turn things around for our currently ailing team sadly.

There are reports that towards the end of the game today there were shouts of ‘Petrie out’ directed towards the CEO who is taking a fair amount of the flack from sections of the support for a lack of re-investment in the team after taking in approximately £11m of late in player sales. It’s a stance I have a lot of time for as we watch a denuded team attempt to replace a galaxy of great young talent with generally very ordinary journeymen football players.

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August 30, 2008 Posted by | Hibernian FC | , , , , | Leave a comment

Derek Riordan

There – I’ve quoted the name. The one that’s tripping off practically every Hibs supporters lips at the current time. Presently Derek remains sitting out his contract at Celtic, shorn of match fitness by manager Strachan who appears to have taken personal exception to the young goal scorer and who has consistently refused to play him for the Glasgow club during his own at Parkhead.

At the time of writing – and this situation is a dynamic one that could change at any moment, the transfer window in Scottish Football is due to close on Monday and the usual rumour-mill is wound up to full speed. The Hibs online communities are beside themselves to discuss the possibly of a Messiah-like return to Hibs of the slimly built hit-man. Literally scores of forum threads have been dedicated to the subject rendering the persuing of those messageboads almost unreadable at times.

As those with an interest know, Derek left Easter Road around two years ago amidst a bad atmosphere and one of recriminations around the manner of his departure. He was seen by many to have sold the club short financially at that time and one of the many rumours surrounding his exit was that CEO Rod Petrie had played hardball with the youngster and in turn the player had responded accordingly. Of course this is just one of the theories and perhaps we will never know the truth.

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August 29, 2008 Posted by | Hibernian FC | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada ’08: Canadian Critters

Canada is a country of course renowned for it’s varied wildlife, readily accessible to view quite often. To this end I have a confession to make at this early point.

I have never seen a bear in Canada.

There, I’ve said it. In around twelve, usually quite long visits to this glorious, beautiful and wild country, I have never seen a live Bear. This must be some kind of record considering the amount of time I’ve spent in British Columbia and Alberta alone at various times of the year. I’m beginning to wonder if this notion of bears is a myth concocted by tourism officials in order to attract more visits to the Great White North. perhaps I’ll find out the hard way one day…

I’ve always had a notion of what to do in case of a bear attack. This time I had it spelt out for me. Apparently Black Bears are untrustworthy creatures, surprise surprise. The code is to never trust in their actions and in case of attack fight back however the best one can. I’ve never met or even heard of anyone who’s managed to land a haymaker on one yet without having their face ripped off though. This line of defense does seem problematic at the very least.

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August 28, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Three Cheers for Golden Girl, Rebecca Adlington

The remarkable Rebecca Adlington was celebrated as an Olympic hero in her home town of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, ten miles up the road from my home, this evening. Freestyle swimmer won Gold medalsat both 400M and 800M in Beijing to become the first swimmer in the games for around 100 years to perform such a feat.

The 19 year-old ‘girl next door’ from the North Nottinghamshire town witnessed 10,000 onlookers come out in the town to celebrate and commemorate her stunning success in China, lining the streets and filling the Market Place in a jubilee event. Rebecca arrived at the Civic Centre in a gold-coloured Rolls Royce to receive the pair of Jimmy Choo shoes which had been promised to her by the Mayor of Mansfield, Tony Eggington in the event of her striking gold in the games.

Enthusiastic crowds gathered with Union flags and banners plus huge gold medals in a time of celebration in the town to show their pleasure at the local girl’s medal haul and setting a new world record in the 800M event – a record that had stood since the year Rebecca was born back in 1989. Over 100 of Rebecca’s neighbours turned out in the street to laud her praises also.

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August 27, 2008 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada ’08: Wild Apple, Manteo Resort, Kelowna

Another restaurant review to offer for the visitor to the Okanagan. As previously stated, there really are some wonderful eating places to choose from in the city but Wild Apple is surely amongst the best at the ‘high end’ of the price range.For the UK visitor, that term will not cause too much dismay. Canadian prices being what they are, this attractive grill at Manteo Resort will not cause great consternation when ordering the bill.

On the night, at around 7.30pm Thursday, we found it a little difficult to park and finally had to park on Lakeshore a short walk down the road. On reaching Manteo, the foyer of the resort is very impressive and relaxed. Though plush and well-appointed, a resident bedecked in towelled robe and sandals wandered unconcerned across the polished and spacious reception area as we made our way to the two young female receptionists stood behind a lecturn. In a quiet alcove a businesswoman sat in a huge leather armchair tapping on a laptop.

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August 26, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , | 1 Comment

Canada ’08: Snakes Alive!

Out on of my daily runs around the sidewalks in Kelowna, a surprising thing happened to me the other day. I’ve got used to my usual daily slog in the Okanagan heat. The longer runs can be something of a strain in the mid-thirties sun, sometimes without too much shade whilst running alongside the local orchards. One thing they certainly do offer is a challenge.

There have been very few occasions in the past when I have found myself in something of a scrape. Two in Italy come to mind. One was getting hopelessly lost in the streets of Rome and another being confronted by a pack of dogs up a dark lane in Napoli. A few times I’ve felt dangerously cold whilst running, another occasion saw me contracting heat-stroke which left me pretty poorly for a day or two. (Curiously I have never craved ice cream as much as I did on that run!)

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August 25, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , | Leave a comment

Canada ’08: The Sunny Okanagan

I don’t claim this to be an original set of observations by myself but it tells one of the stories of living in the Okanagan area of British Columbia, Canada. It’s a hot place sure enough. A nice dry heat that I personally find easy to adapt to without the familiar humidity of the UK. Officially a desert, it really feels like it sometimes. I don’t find too many of the locals complaining though…

What’s not to like?

THE OKANAGAN – WHAT A PLACE !  

 

May 30th:
Just moved to THE SUNNY OKANAGAN. NOW THIS IS THE PLACE TO LIVE … Beautiful sunny days and warm balmy evenings. What a place! It is beautiful. I’ve  finally found my home. I love it here.         

 

 June 14th:
Really heating up. Got to 30C today. Not a problem. Live in an  air-conditioned home, drive an air-conditioned car. What a pleasure to  see the sun everyday like this. I’m turning into a sun worshipper. Continue reading

August 24, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada ’08: Guisachan Heritage Park

Sometimes when on our travels, we barely notice the little gems right under our nose. Such was the case when I visited Guisacan Heritage Park recently. The home I have been staying in for the past three weeks in Kelowna, BC. Canada is but a few metres across Cameron Avenue from Guisachan Heritage Park.

I should really explain. Not only is the park practically on my doorstep, shamefully I have been walking and riding past it for over three weeks now with only a glimpse through the trees at the inviting looking picturesque gardens, fronted by an ancient looking wooden cabin which is now a private home. Finally I popped in there on the way to the local Guisachan Village shopping plaza, armed with the camera, and what a pleasant and interesting surprise it was.

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August 22, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada ’08: In and Around Kelowna

It’s been a few weeks since I arrived in Kelowna, British Columbia from the United Kingdom via Vancouver. I had meant to compile a few observations about the old place before now. It’s certainly been interesting and fun in the meantime though.

Pandosy Street

The manner.

After some (around) twelve visits to Canada – most of them reasonably protracted ones, some of the first observations I ever made years ago still come back to surprise me. The first one is the openness ad friendliness of the people. In this instance I talk of people in and around the Okanagan Valley but the same could be said for the majority of my Canadian destinations east to west. Sometimes Canadian folk are just surprisingly friendly.

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August 21, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , , | 3 Comments