So, er, happy new year me!
Didn't get off to the best start with a call to Mia who was, er, otherwise engaged but I did book a flight to Costa Rica which cost me a shedload and signed on for a school at "Intercultura" at Samara beach in the N.W of the country. Why Costa Rica? Well, my usual choice, Spain would probably be a bit too wet and dreary just like the UK. I've never been to Central or South America and apart from being hot and sunny Costa Rica is supposed to have good nature reserves.
Saw my last game for a while at Reading and we were just unbelievable...it is just like watching Brazil!! we won 5-1 and should have scored more against a Cardiff team who are fighting for a play off position themselves.
So after a bit of a disaster spilling water everywhere in my house nick came round and drove me to the bus station for the start of my journey.
For full details of the trip you'd better check out the page here
Suffice to say I didn't learn a whole lot of Spanish but my beer drinking skills improved. Lot's of Americans and not the cheapest country in the world by any stretch but good fun nevertheless.
Wow February!! Time went really quickly. Before I knew it Anthony left. Top man, very nice guy. Fay left early on, she was great too. And then it was my turn.....
My last day was spent kayaking with Christina and Marie, the Guanacaste girls!! I have to say I think Christina is very cute...
It was quite a long way over to an island, but good exercise. We had all the sun! Back on Samara it was raining!! My last night unfortunately was a curfew due to national elections so all the bars were shut. We ended up at Sol y mar playing cards and a ribald game of "Assholes and Emperors"
Now, the next day I left fairly uneventfully and arrived at the airport in good time. Did a little duty free shopping and as I was trying on a rather fetching pair of Gucci sunglasses someone must have robbed my passport.......Nightmare.
Obviously couldn't fly so had to go to San Jose and check into a hostel. Next day down to the British Embassy where I managed to bag a new passport within 2 hours..pretty good huh!
Tried to leave that day but even on stand-by couldn't get a flight. So I finaly left on Tuesday. Back in the UK it was straight down the pub with Nick and Duncan who had been desperately trying to finish the decorating work on my house I had commissioned them to do...er...1 month ago.
Footy on friday to see Reading beat Southampton 2-0 followed by yet another trip to Dartmoor with Nick for a weekend hike. Checked in at the Oxenham arms at 2am. Back on monday, up to Sheffield on Tuesday to see us draw with United 1-1, London on wednesday to see Loree and Ev and Visa office thursday. Left UK on the Friday!!....bit of a rush you might say. Missed my flight from Heathrow due to traffic jams on the M4 but got a flight 2 hours later. So what did I do after I arrived? Thats right straight down the pub to drink Absinth with The Bear(formerly known as Shaun), Matt and Posh Mark's girlfriend. Now Posh is quite the sensible lad and doesn't like his bird getting drunk as she can get quite lairy. So what did we do? Ya! bought her absynth when Posh wasn't looking so she ended up getting drunk and lairy....Posh with a disdainful look in our direction took her home.
Am staying at Skelly's pad with The Bear because he's living at Jenny's place. Not a bad gaff but a few month's of the Bears paws over it have left their mark.
Taiwan isn't just about teaching English and going to bars....hell no, there are trophies to be won and the first one was up for grabs the following day. Golf, well pitch and putt actually. Can't believe the course wasn't discovered till a year ago when we've been in the country all of 15 years! Anyway, Skelly took the first trophy and I finished a respectable 2nd after trailing the pack by about 8 shots at one point.
Now, my rush to get back to Taiwan so early was for a reason. Nina was back in town for a holiday and I wanted to see her before she went back to darkest E.Germany. We spent an evening playing the games at the night market and came back with an armful of goods. Nina seemed to be very much on Germany time and didn't go to bed till way after me and didn't get up till 2pm the next day. Walked around the area which is new to me(E.Taipei) and before I knew it she was gone. Probably won't see her aain till the summer.
Met Skelly and Shaun's ex, Olivia in a puppet theatre/restaurant. A place I'd been to before with my students. Actually bumped into one of my old students "Yu" there with his parents...it's a small town Taipei!!
After a while did my usual thing and got sick...too much going out. So, became a good boy and stayed in a lot more.
It all started when I went to the mountains with Mia and we saw a dog caught in a gin trap. I tried to free it and got bitten on the finger for my troubles. Had to leave the poor thing because she just wouldn't let me near her, though I did undo the wire connecting the trap to a tree. Anyway, my finger hurt like hell and I eventually got a tetanus jab. Shortly after that I caught a cold that lasted for over 2 weeks...
The days became characterised by me sitting in front of the computer and The Bear in front of the telly whilst listening to music and reading a book....he's turned into a Skelly like Gen Xer needing constant sensory stimulation. Kept climbing mountains every week and played sport now joined by Matt from the Red Lions.
Fit in time for the big trip to the Spring scream in Kenting. Left with The Bear on the Tuesday and Back with Skelly on the Sunday, my longest scream ever. A bit of a disappointment however. Really crap bands put a dampner on it but exploration of the Kenting area on our hired SYM 125 was good value. Started hustling more for Advertising jobs and managed to blag one towards the end of the month for ASUS computers. Not going out so much was made up for by some serious Department store shopping. New suit, shoes, shirts and Cologne should keep me going for a while.
The Bear moved out....into a box apparently, I haven't seen it yet but at around 5 pings we're not talking huge here. Skelly want's to move back in so due to my slackness in looking for a flat might have to move into his girlfriend Jenny's for a cool 20,000 a month. Good trip to Maukong with my hiking pals which featured a temple set behind a waterfall.
More mountains, this time with Dave and his girlfriend sharon.
With the world cup just around the corner managed to get my act together to get the Mastercard world cup promotion page up and running. Some canny skills on display which would not go amiss in Germany.
Also the ASUS computers which was fun as there was a group of us doing it. Shite weather continues right into June....usually it's a furnace by now but oh no Mr Rain is still here and happy to play. Carnegies was the place to see England v Paraguay. They had a massive screen outdoing any other pub in town. The place was packed and the game was crap though we did win 1-0. It was also Skelly's birthday so afterwards we went to some Russian bar to meet them....Only problem was The Bear didn't want to go because Olly was there so we had to tell him we were going back to my place and once in the taxi changed direction. Arrived and Skelly was off to hospital with Jenny who had a fever. Everyone there was leaving for a bar called Karma. Matt, The Bear (who had an awkward meeting with his ex) and I said we'd meet them later after a game of darts. Problem was after the darts we or should I say "I" couldn't find Karma so we ended up going back to Carnegies which was nowt special...sorry Skelly didn't get to celebrate your 40th!
I haven't been exactly overburdened with work and seeing as Mia doesn't have a job at all we have made a lot of trips out into the wilds of Taipei county. My current favourite is Ping-shee which is famous for it's paper lanterns that are released into the sky with wishes scrawled all over the outside. They inevitably end up in the surrounding forests to be discovered as litter by the likes of my good self. The mountains in this area are quite spectacular and it does make me wonder why they don't attract more tourists...good thing really because most locals can't be bothered to visit them, unless there is Karaoke blasting out of course. The down side is you see weird shit like gin-traps, nets to catch birds and on one trip I saw a guy flogging "civet cats" by the side of the road...dead I think, but totaly illegal.
Another commercial, this time with not only Dave Silver but Olly as well. You can see her on stage, top right hand corner!
Stayed up far too late to watch the world cup with the result that it's become a struggle to get up before midday. England were pretty shite throughout it all and the hysteria over Christian Ronaldo's antics in getting Rooney sent off seem typical of the English press to blame every one else for their failure. We really can be a bitter and twisted lot.
Pretty wild night after England got knocked out. Drowned my sorrows with Mia and Dave in The Vibe which quite proudly holds on to it's title as the sleaziest bar in town. Very drunk and lots of bad behaviour, didn't get to bed till about 8am!!
Hardly any work at all in the first week but instead of leaving Taipei as I would have liked, didn't really do much as Mia was sick. First a general tiredness and then she was struck down with tonsilitis. Hospital, injections, drips and reams of medicine followed. I think I've been burning the youngster out!!
Skelly has finaly started moving stuff into the flat. This is a major operation. Jenny has accumulated several shipping containers worth of possessions over the years so Kev has been round setting up shelves, cupboards and storage units and bringing over vast ammounts of costumes and "stuff" to cram into the available space. Looks like I could be moving out real soon!
As a Pink floyd fan I felt obliged to include this video clip as the man in the "tash" interviewing Syd and Roger is rather amusing.
With all the free time on my hands managed to get my TV Ad's up to date...Hollywood take note.
Seem to be just whiling away the time before Mia goes off to the UK and Nina returns to Taiwan. Hardly working and haven't hit the countryside too much due to Mia's health. Managed to get get my nose done though. I'd been diagnosed with a rodent ulcer about 10 months ago and surgery was recommended as it was potentialy cancerous. Naturally in England there were delays and I'd left before the operation was due. However in Taiwan, fifteen minutes after having it checked I was lying on the table having a big needle stuck into my nose to anaesthetize me before hacking it out.
I now have a scar with seven stiches which I hope won't be around for too long.
Another epic Ping-hsi walk that well overstretched and didn't end till 8.30 so we had 1 and half hours of walking in darkness! There was also a lot of rope work which I thought Mia wouldn't be able to do, but she found good reserves of strength and handled it well. Her arms did ache the next day and she admitted to being terrified once the light had gone!
Work had started to return to keep me more occupied but Mia who left on the 13th to study in the UK was becoming more and more frantic as the time got nearer and nerves were a tad frayed. I will be going to see her in September which should be fun and I hope makes her feel more relaxed about it all.
Her leaving coincided with Nina returning. I went to Panchiao to pick Nina and Jing-i and had the pleasure of being reminded what a desperate area it is they live in. Anyway, can't say it was a lot of fun. Nina was jet lagged and grumpy and kept falling asleep. When we planned to go to the night market we couldn't rouse her so I just played Risk on the computer while Jing-i watched TV.
Nina of course then woke up in the middle of the night and got Jing-i to wake up too with the result they were both knackered the next day. This picture was taken at 1pm on Sunday 13th August!
Usual frantic last week in Taipei seeing people, sorting my stuff out (as I decided to leave Jennies flat) and getting organised. Natasha informed me that Nina would be staying in Taiwan to study which was a shock...Did I want to leave Taiwan? Where would she stay? Would I be able to look after her?...Well, after a couple of days non response to phone calls I found out they had both gone back to Germany.
Did 3 commercial gigs in the space of 4 days and got into a bit of trouble on the last one for trying to consume beers on set...Kenny and I kept trying to sneak out to buy some as it was getting very tedious sitting around for hours on end. Flight home wasn't too bad but as I had so many bags to carry I managed to lose my laptop computer somewhere between Heathrow and Bracknell...well, it was 5 years old need to get another one.
So...back in England. Lots of things to do, footy, sort the house out, see Mia, see all other mates and the folks.
I was nervous about seeing Mia as it had all got a bit wierd when we were communicating by webcam. However it was soon back to normal and I was making the hellish trip to Guildford on a regular basis. Now, my original plan was just to stay for 2 months and then go back to Taiwan but pressure from Mia for me to stay longer made me apply for a course in "video production and film studies" at Thames Valley University in Reading. Unfortunately the course had now moved to Ealing so after much dithering and last minute form filling I enrolled....nice 100 mile round trip.
I am now a full time student(well 3 days a week) wondering what an earth i've let myself in for and now Natasha wants me to pick up Nina from Germany for a 12 day visit while she goes back to Taiwan. Naturally I agreed and despite the nightmarish journey from home to Berlin and back via Luton Airport it all went pretty well. Nina was talkative and warm despite my fears that she wouldn't be. It was Theme Park frenzy as we took in both Chessington and Thorpe Park. Nina is fearless we went on some of the fastest, scariest rides and she didn't seem bothered at all. It was soon all over and quite a shock for me to be without her.
So, just as I was re-building my relationship with my daughter the one with my girlfriend was deteriorating... The trip to Dunsford in Dartmoor with her, Nick and the Trademark family was fine. Nina saw her once and loved her, kept wanting to see her again. But things between me and her just weren't the same again.
College was not forgotten. I managed to keep going when Nina was here, Mum took care of her and Heather came over to play with her. My 3 minute video idea was selected by my group to be the one filmed so lots of preparation , meetings were required to get the shoot organised. "Any babes on the course?" is a fequent question and the answer unfortunately has to be "no" they're all too young!! but they seem a nice bunch.
Reading in the Premiership, despite a bright start were slipping down the table and trips to Portsmouth and Liverpool bore no points....not wasted journeys though, started playing pool again and listening to some of the comedy accents you hear up north make it worth the trip!
Filmed The Exchange , A classic post-modern take on neo-realism...or rather a three minute film shot in the Victoria area of London. Managed to get finished in a day despite some dodgy acting in some quarters, fading light and the unwanted attention of security guards!
Ev's party in Isleworth to celebrate the warming of their new abode was a roaring success with everyone in fancy dress(me as a punk, Nick as a pimp and Mike as a "Bad Santa"). I (ahem) was crashed out by 1:30 though. Mia has officially dumped me. Kinda strange as I'm still very fond of her as she is of me. But it's the problem of going back to Taiwan...She wants me to stay and I want to go back.
On the 25th/26th November I made a trip to Exmoor with Gareth and Eamon which was(as expected) a barrel of fun. Reading up to 6th in the league as I didn't see them win away at Fulham.....(must remember to remind The Bear)
So, er, I'm back with Mia like...probably won't be going back to Taiwan anytime soon as I'm pretty excited by the course once more. Our film has been edited and I think looks really good. Not only that but I've gone out and bought a Sony HDR-Z1 which is a high definition professional camera. I bought it second hand off an independent film maker who used it to make A Goat's Tail in Ghana! When I first met the guy I thought "Oh my god dodgy Nigerian scam" but the guy seemed a real film nut and I am pleased to have taken ownership of his camera! First assignment scores back: 64% for contemporary industry practice which isn't bad as I didn't complete all the work required.
Mike dipped out of going to Newcastle so I went instead. Nick and I flew from Stanstead. Great game even though we lost and phenomenal stadium. Just wish we'd had a bit more time to enjoy it all...mad rush there and up first thing next morning to get back to the airport. Nearly lost my passport...left it on the plane but remembered just before it took off again.
Weather is officially shit but luckily I have purchased the "world's warmest jacket" Car is suffering as there are holes in the roof so nice wet seats...Mia loves it.....NOT. Busy last few weeks of the year. Got my grades from Uni...64% in "contemporary industry practice" and a poor average of 52% in "film analysis".
Got a new roof for the car which has resulted in a happier Mia...no more wet ass for her. On the 24th we went To Loree's house in Neasden/Dollis Hill which is kinda sandwiched between the north circular and some other big road...suprisingly quiet though. Yuo can see Wembley stadium quite clearly...
Anyway, we were there for a dinner party and Loree's rather splendid nut roast. It was so good I took the left overs to make my Christmas dinner! Loree and Michel were off to Israel the next day. Went straight there to Mums house on Christmas day and Paul and Heather met each other for the first time in over two years. Luckily there were no problems and the usual eating and drinking went on without incident.
On boxing day we went to Ev's and then on to see Reading grab a point at Chelsea in a cracking match. Up to Manchester on the Saturday to see Reading unlucky to lose 3-2 at United. We had a rare guest for this game as Piggy Russell was over from Bowen in Oz. This meant we had to take two cars owing to his large size. Nicks cars was actually tilted over going down the motorway. The man hasn't changed at all and still farts and tells jokes and poems.
New Year's eve was the usual UK rock and roll celebration held in the......Fox and Hounds. Nice pub but Rock and Roll it wasn't. Luckily Nick drove home as I was drunk.