LATEST GOSSIP
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January 2012

New Years Eve was not the magical event that it's hyped up to be. None of us were that excited by it anyway...
The Bear came over and we mosied on down to Russell's place once more. For me the most fun was selecting YouTube tunes which shows the level of excitement. Anyway, we walked up the hill to see the fireworks...not bad and the champers was OK too! One of the main reasons for going to Russell's was the high stakes poker game that he'd promised. However, there were too many people present(most I didn't know) and not enough room to get it set up. When we finally did get started Big Andy and Swifty were so drunk it was a joke. They kept leaving the table every five minutes to go for a smoke, kept forgetting whose turn it was, what the wild card was. When Swifty left the table once more to talk on the phone it was the cue for Bear and me to get up and leave. Russell was upset by this and asked us to play for a bit longer as he hadn't enjoyed the evening one bit. Andy was pissed off because he had lost money on the food and drink transactions. It was a mess, arguments flying back and forth...A HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!!

My eight week stint working at TECO for Round Table business English came to an end with the inevitable photos. A decent class but I had to spend two hours preparing the classes beforehand...Waaaaay too long!

I went out on a Saturday with my students to Mr Paco which as usual was topnotch tucker. Fueled by wine I then invited them to come to On Tap to see the "Red Baron" throw some darts in a league game. This was something of a mistake because, with the pressure of a gaggle of girls watching me play I proceeded to lose every game!
Still on my sabbatical so when the weather permitted I was either out on my bike or up a mountain hiking. Yang-Ming-Shan is where I'm spending most of the time as it's years since I was last there so re-discovering places is fun.

Da-Tun Shan West Peak

The west peak is one of the best hikes in my humble opinion. If you do the main peak there are usually tourists on the top because of a road. The west peak involves a very steep climb over rocks with the aid of ropes. The views are great(if the cloud clears) and the weather is very unstable. I had rain, sun, wind, calm, warm and cold weather in just the few hours I was up there!

I now have two Chinese teachers, One, Shayla(pictured left), has been my teacher for over a year. When she first started she had barely any classes, but now with the help of some of my good vibes, she has little time to squeeze me into her schedule so I've taken on another called Mei who has class with me in Guang Dien, which is an art centre. One of the few attractive buildings in Taipei, it was the old American Ambassador's house and stood empty for many years. When I first arrived in Taiwan we used to sneak in to look around. The garden was all overgrown and the building was in a terrible state of neglect. We assumed at the time that it would eventually be demolished and a new office building would take its place. Luckily we were wrong about that! They have done a great job of restoring it and we have class in the upstairs coffee shop.

YET ANOTHER TRIP TO YANG-MING-SHAN

Last time I tried to climb Seven Stars Mountain in Yang-Ming-Shan I was driven back by the howling winds and horizontal rain. This time however, the sky was clear on the southern face and it wasn't till I got to the top that I was in the the cloud. The whole of the northern face has a different climate, wind and rain being the norm, and it acts as a buffer for Taipei. I chose a different route going down and passed a lot of thermal vents, this being a volcano after all. Strong smell of sulphur all the way down but impressive views. I had originally planned to take the bus back to my scooter but, being the dumbass I am, left my wallet in the bike and had to walk 4.5 km along the road back to the start.

With Chinese New Year approaching, my long wait for a permanent job was coming to an end. February would see me on a fixed salary darting between the two floors of the new expanded Eurocentre....Or rather it wouldn't. On the Friday before the start of New Year, Yann took me to one side and said he was no longer able to offer me this position as he's spent too much money redecorating the 8th floor ready for new classes...i was stunned. I'd turned down a perfectly good job to stay loyal to the Eurocentre and now back to minimal hours. Anyway, Chinese New Year came and as usual the weather was pretty awful. We went golfing on one day, bowling another, darts, poker...plenty of activities. The Taipei city government has meanwhile been beautifying the city by turning old bits of wasteland or abandoned buildings into green areas. Here is one area right next to my home that has been upgraded...I live at number 691.


View Larger Map

And here it is after the upgrade. Rumour has it that this is just a tie up between developers and the government, where if the developers turn wasteland into parks, they can then build on it after a year they can then build on it. It remains to be seen if this is true or not...

February 2012

Did a misty hike up to Yang-Ming-Shan and climbed a couple of peaks off the beaten track before going to a peak where there were a couple of big radar type panels.


Also, attempted to climb the highest mountain in Northern Taiwan for the second time. An old student of mine invited me to go with her friends...which meant getting up super early. Check out the result here

Found myself a new kids job, but as soon as I started knew it was not for me and by the end of the week had quit! The school was badly organised and their was not enough material to teach...my worst nightmare, so decided to get out fast. In the same week I also went for an interview as an editor at a bank where a bunch of guys I know work! The editing test was tough but I managed to pass that stage...final interview to come. I've been getting into watching documentaries online, especially a series about "ancient aliens". I'm becoming a convert to the idea and the showed parts of the video to my students...don't think they were as impressed as I was!

A NEWISH BAND FROM THE UK CAME TO TAIPEI CALLED THE VACCINES

Their hit single is pretty catchy and they gave a good performance. Most songs were about two minutes long. I was there with Skelly and the Bear. Afterwards we were drinking in Alleycats down the road and the band strolled past, so I called them over for a chat. They seemed keen to have a drink but their organiser already had their evening planned and they had a 5am flight to Hong Kong in the morning!

I hadn't been out with Skelly for a long time so it was kinda nice to hang out with him again. However, a few days later I got a late phone call from Matt Wharton; Skelly had been involved in a motor-bike accident and was in a coma in hospital....shock. I was in disbelief for a while but nope it was true.
At first it seemed there was no hope for him as the injuries were too severe, but as I write this, nearly three weeks later, there is some progress and he might recover yet, only time will tell. In the picture here, he is looking a lot better. He's starting to breathe by himself, they're reducing the drugs, he's starting to make small movements...all little signs of improvement. When I went to see him in the hospital, there were literally crowds of people...Skelly is a well known man about town! I guess running a bar helps.

Due to my disappointment with the Eurocentre, I'd been out looking for more work. One job I bagged was doing editing work for a mate whose job is to send students over to the UK for study. I have to edit their applications to the university and sharpen up their CV's. Some of the papers are quite well written and can be done quite quickly, but others are just full of ridiculous language, waffle, self aggrandisement and obsequious wording. Here is a little example,

"And the Taiwanese traditional theories of architecture inherited largely, which believes that buildings and their interiors are not only planned to serve the purposes and styles of the times of their origins, but also they can exert their influence on the activities and lives that they house as long as they are in use."

Come again?
The Chinese love to the use the word "esteemed" everywhere; "your esteemed centre of learning" is a particular favourite. Anyway, the job keeps me busy. I also applied to do editing at an investment bank, where a bunch of my mates already work. Passed the first hurdle, which was an editing test, second hurdle, an interview with Russell and some research manager, by the third interview it was just me and another bloke left and the guy interviewing just wanted to know about my personal life....well, still waiting to find out.

March 2012

I didn't get the job...damn
Means I can go back to the UK for a month, see my Mum, my mates and Reading F.C. who are steaming up the league! Tickets booked and flying back beginning of April on Viet-Nam air...the cheapest airline in town!
Went on a weekend hike to Nantou, while everyone else was away for Russell's stag weekend in Manila. While they were all painted blue and Russell was chained to a dwarf, I was sleeping in a cave!!

Decided healthy weekends were better than getting drunk and spent time with my students going to, first Ping-Xi and then the following week, to Teapot mountain.

My take on a David Lynch song

David Lynch not only makes amazing surreal movies but has also turned out some pretty interesting music..Thought I'd have a crack at putting together a little video.


If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

Skelly has started to make some serious progress in hospital. One month in, you can see in this video that he is reacting to Jenny which is indeed a positive sign.

Went up the mountains with Calvert as it was a nice sunny day and I was(as usual) underworked...fine views but very windy.
If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

At the end of the month, just before I was just about to fly back to the UK was the social event of the year. The betrothal of Russell Curtis to Ellen Wu was an evening of magic and near fairytale splendour. My camera was there to capture the highlights and they will be posted as soon as I can be bothered!

And here you can see the happy couple!! The beautiful Cinderella carriage was waiting to take them away...but not before I got to have a go in it first!!
If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

The day after the wedding, with a bit of a hangover, I went hiking for the third time with my students. There is now a page dedicated to this healthy activity here Good fun, cleared my hangover and set me up for my trip back to the UK the following day.

April 2012

Inside the shop. They didn't pressure me to buy and the girl spoke very good English.
Here you can see then making the laquerware.

Up at the crack of dawn for my flight to Hanoi. Sat around in the airport for ages while all the visa formalities were sorted out and then it was off to see the city. My guide tried taking me to places like markets and temples, but I had to tell him I've seen all that stuff in Taiwan.
If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

My first experience of Vietnam Airways, and a very positive one at that. City tour of Hanoi(well trip to the souvenir shop!) hotel and a half empty flight back to Gatwick meant I could stretch out over three seats...luxury. I came back to the end of a good spell of weather, which turned crap shorty after I arrived. well, that didn't stop RFC from winning games and they are now looking solid for automatic promotion!


As part of my training for the coast to coast walk, I got a lift with my Mum to her shop in Twyford and walked back to Bracknell. It took six hours but I did stop for what I thought would be a quiet pint in The Bell at Waltham St Lawrence. However, it was completely packed and the only seat I could get was at the bar...
If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

With Reading F.C. not only promoted but going up as champions, I felt it was my duty to knock up a web page to show a couple of vids of games that I went to. To see the drama, click here

Well, Nick, Richard and myself set off for St Bees via Birmingham(to see the last game of the season) and the following day started our Coast to Coast hike. This picture was taken in the Lake District, glorious sun while the rest of the country was being rained on!

The other two had done no training at all and it soon began to show in term of blisters, though not in terms of stamina...I struggled up those mountains!

May 2012

Part One of the Coast to Coast walk. The first part is St Bees to Patterdale.

Part Two of the Coast to Coast walk. The second part is Patterdale to Kirkby Stephen.

Part Three of the Coast to Coast walk. The third part is Kirkby Stephen to Richmond.

An epic twelve day trip, though we didn't make it to Robin Hood's Bay...only got as far as Richmond in North Yorkshire. Still, that was a 120 mile walk!
After I got back I made a couple of trips to London to meet friends, then bought a load of stuff to take back and when it came to packing realised I couldn't fit it all in!


Mum gave me a lift to the station and that was the end of a my six week jaunt to the UK. 20 hours of pain flying back...must remember to always book night flights. Came back horribly jet lagged and on the Sunday, logged into my e-mails and saw that I'd been sacked from the Eurocentre....welcome home!!

Soon met up with my EX!! students and went hiking again!!...this is becoming a regular weekend activity! Got offered a job working at UKEAS with Matt Walpole(Who is actually leaving) and accepted straight away...but after a few days also got offered a job at a kids school, the chance to work at Tai-Da and offered another interview at the Yuan-Da bank....good to see the Red Baron back in demand!

CALLUM IN "TAKING AFTER FATHER" SHOCK

Went to see Skelly in hospital and discovered Brett was back in town. Skelly's condition was not great, he can stand up, but only on tiptoe. He had been going out for assisted walks but that has to stop for a while. Anyway, Brett, Jenny, the kids and I went to ZOCA for some pizza, which the kids weren't that fond of. Young Callum however, took a fancy to the chocolate cake!!

June 2012

Torrential rain, flooding, landslides...Welcome to the plum rains!
Living on a shoestring while waiting for my new job to start, well actually not, just spending money I haven't got!! Found a new place to live in Jing-Mei. 2 bed, 25ping, rooftop, next to the mountains and with a big balcony. Just the ticket for when Nina comes back to Taiwan. Phoned Natasha to tell her the news and all she did was complain that it's too far from Banchiao(Where Nina will be going to school). She might have a point if Nina had to come home every day but she will be boarding there and only back at weekends.

The European Championship crept up on us and after a cagey 1-1 draw with France we came from behind to beat Sweden. The game didn't start till 3am and here we are in the Monkey closer to five in the morning!

GUESS WHICH PICTURE IS TAIWAN!!

With tropical storms coinciding with the plum rains, Taiwan has had a pretty wet June to say the least. Flooding and landslides meant people were advised to keep away from mountain areas.
What about my hiking??
The pictures here show water sports in various countries; The UK, USA, Germany and France. The last picture shows the fun people have on the streets of Taiwan!

TIME TO MOVE HOUSE AGAIN!!

Got a removal company number off my student and when I called them, a decent price as well...3,000nt
The usual stocky crew of Bin-Lang chewing, Polita-B swilling, Taiwanese shouting men turned up and started straight away to shift my stuff. One of the guys complained about the 6 flights of stairs his guys would have to climb at the other end and demanded more money. After some negotiation a price of 4,000 was agreed. When they had filled the truck they said I needed another, which of course meant more money. The guy said another 3 ton truck wouldn't be big enough and that I needed a 5 ton truck. Another 6,000 on top. Total now 10,000. Miggins from the shop next door tried to negotiate with them as did a woman who'd just sold me a TV! To no avail, they just shouted louder. So that was it, a three grand trip had become a ten grander. Well, it's all done and dusted and I'm moved in...lacking furniture but I like the place.
If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

New house, new job, whatever next, new bird?
Started a three hour, four times a week class at UKEAS...and not a moment too soon as I'm broker than broke!

July 2012

Quite a shock to the system! Full time employment is something I haven't had for quite a while! Struggled by on my private classes, while I waited for my first full paycheque. The girls started coming to my house on Saturday mornings...waking me up and bringing my breakfast before class. Can't complain! Time seems to speed up when you're busy and July kind of just shot by. Went to a pool party in Xin-Dien which was fun...got pretty drunk on Margaritas, threw balls around in the water, did some group waterslides but had to suffer some gobshite singing with his acoustic guitar for at least thirty minutes...time I will never get back. The water was so shallow, all of us suffered some injury or other from hitting the bottom...it didn't come up much above my knees. At the end of the month Nina, Natasha and Nina's friend Andrea arrived back in Taiwan...

August 2012

Yahoo! First wad of cash I've had for ages. Paid off my On Tap bill and got faced with some cash demands from my little one. New phone, fix teeth, school fees and trip to Ilan have to be paid for...there goes my wad of cash!

River Tracing in Wulai

18th August 2012
Had had a large amount of beverages the night before and was supposed to have a class on the Saturday morn'. Not only that I had just caught my first cold in over a year...and it was a nasty one! Well, decided I didn't feel like teaching, so grabbed my stuff and headed off to meet the guys...just a mere half an hour late. There were some unhappy chaps when I arrived!
Well it was all good fun as the video shows.

If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

That night I got very drunk as Joanne was back and didn't get home till 6am. However, I still made it up for hiking the next day, though I wasn't at my fighting best. At one point I had to lie down on the steps and failed to make it to the top of Monkey Mountain, thus, denying Laura and Regina the chance to conquer it at their second attempt. Next week was sign on time at school for young Nina. I went along to sign a few documents as I'm in charge now with Natasha going back to Germany.

School Registration for Nina

21st August 2012
Made the jaunt out to Banchiao in time to sign some forms and hand over a wad of cash. It was roasting hot outside so the tour of the school was kept to a minimum, though I did get to see Nina's classroom.

If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

Later on in the month I went with Natasha, Nina, her friend Andrea and Nina's half sister Nadja to an "activity" farm in Ilan. A three day trip, it was nice to get away but the place is aimed at families with young kids so the one who enjoyed it the most was of course 7 year old Nadja.

Trip to Ilan

We left early on the Sunday, though there was some last minute panic because Nina forgot her yo-yo card.

Had to stand on the train for ages, which wasn't much fun, even less so when a group of "hash runners" boarded and started necking beer and getting pretty loud....
Anyway, we arrived to yet another beautiful Taiwan location and it wasn't long before I was sneaking off to check out the mountains. The food was pretty grim and I lost a bit of weight over the 3 days! Nina lost her new yo-yo card on the way home!

If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

September 2012

Hunter's House 1st September


Hunter was getting booted out of the country, so a group of us went up to his gaff for a farewell party.

First stop was Xin-Dien to meet up with the other guys. Then, it was the long trip in two taxis up into the mountains. Hunter has a proper house, garden, swimming pool, no neighbours and a T-off rug on the roof for some lairy golf!

If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

Later in the month, there was an events day to raise some cash for Skelly's hospital fees. Started off with with squash at Tai-Da which was not very successful for myself...lost both games!! Skelly was there himself, and talking...but he didn't recognise me and a lot of what he said turned out to be fantasy. Either his brain is still busy rewiring, or he really is never going to get back to anything like his old self. Time will tell.
Later in the day was the pub quiz which was loosely based on Skelly and Scotland. I was in Calvert's team but there was no Calvert! The Bear and I grabbed a couple of extras and romped to first place! Very poor show from Mr Daniel Calvert though...SHAME ON YOU!!!

So, with Nina back in Taiwan it was time for her to come and visit me. It was her birthday after all!

We went out for a meal on Saturday night and Nina opened her heart about the miserable time she had in Germany. I can't believe she was there for seven years! Next day went out and bought her birthday present... a second hand i-phone 4 AND some perfume AND some Lush products. I think she was quite happy with her gifts! After that I took her back to Banchiao. It's been a long time since I rode out that way and I didn't get lost! Anyway, the reason for going there was I had to bring back a pair of birds that Natasha had bought for Nadjia, and then left behind when they went back to Germany.

I don't really like birds in cages so I let them out every day and as you can see they are quite friendly chaps.

October 2012

My Birthday Garden Party

As my birthay coincides with Taiwan's, I thought it would be good to make use of the balcony space outside my house and hold a poker party.

We started the game about 2pm and soon the numbers were up to 9. Didn't have enough chairs, so soon we resorted to using buckets! Anyway, I lost(as usual). It's a pity Mr Calvert wasn't there as he is pretty much guaranteed to throw around 5,000 into the communal pot.

If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

The trip to Turtle mountain that I had so carefully planned was a bit of a washout. It all started pretty well, taking the train down to Toucheng and checking into our guest house before going to check out the sea view. Next day we were up at the crack of dawn to go and take the boat over to the island and all seemed to be going well until we went to register. The boat was returning after only two hours, leaving us barely any time to climb the mountain. The woman then said we were not allowed to climb the mountain, to which I replied I had a permit. No, she said. You have to go on a mountain climbing trip which is a later boat...OK, we'll take that one, I said. Not enough spaces...you'll have to wait and see if some people don't show up....We agreed to that and then five minutes later she announced all the boats had been cancelled due to the waves being too big and making landing on the island impossible. Damn! We decided to go for a hike nearby instead....

As you can see, Mr Daly is a little camera shy!
I knew about the hike because when I came to Ilan with Natasha and the kids I saw the sign outside the gates. The hike was pretty good but didn't take away the feeling of disappointment of not being able to get to see Turtle island.

If you can't see the embedded vid, click here

November 2012

November was a busy month workwise, though I still don't seem able to save any money. One of the reasons might be the discovery of a new restaurant which is Australian, has industrial decor and serves Italian food. Bread, super nice, Food, good, Desserts, excellent!

One class at UKEAS where the students standard of English was actually pretty high was my speaking and writing class. These two girls, Ginny and Sharell were the best of the bunch, Sharell had already got a seven and was looking to improve further...Ginny will probably get around that when she takes her test in December

After my Saturday class with Laura and Chloe I took them to see a lecture called "The Global Axe" by Andrew Revkin who had written books about the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The Taiwan times had said it would have a Chinese translation...but it didn't. Never mind good listening practice for the girls! Nothing much said that I didn't already know, but worth going to as it was pouring with rain and I wouldn't have done much else...Anyway, I decided to buy the book which will probably only depress me!

December 2012

My namesake from Sheffield has opened a coffee shop/bar which we paid a visit to for some, er, tea, coffee and culture! Actually we played some poker and drank London Pride..Nice little place and hope he does well!

After a busy November when I though I was going to be all cashed up, along came December and a ton of things to spend my money on. The weather turned to dreadful as well just for good measure. Then, in the middle of the month, many of my classes ended leaving me with two weeks of virtually no classes...bugger. The picture above is the last class of my Level 5 and the one below my Level 6.

Seeing as it's Christmas I thought a video like the one below would not go amiss. A sort of classical flash mob event I guess!

The year ended on a bit of a damp squib....went and threw some darts at Keelung's. Moved on to Alleycats and then ended up at some bash in Hua Shan that didn't capture my imagination at all so I went home about 2......

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