Wednesday, 25 February 2009

More pensioners should rollerblade!

This blog entry is just to bring to light a story from the BBC website. A 71 year old originally from Belfast was fined £300 for skating around a pedestrian area in Southport.

Here is the BBC's report, starting with CCTV footage of the Rollerblading pensioner which sadly stops just before he ... probably ... showed off his ollie on that bench in front of BHS.

I'm not going to comment on the fine though I reckon he should visit Belfast more regularly. He could show the skater kids who hang around in Custom House Square a thing or two and around these parts I doubt he'd get a fine so much as a pat on the back.

I love Northern English towns like Southport, they remind me so much of the one I grew up in - the folks in the clip aren't even batting an eyelid at someone old enough to be their Granddad whirling around fellow pedestrians. Too many TV 'set up' shows maybe?

Here in Belfast I would like to think most folks would at least give some encouragement. One observation I would make is that people tend to keep their eyes open a little more and not always look at the floor all the time, at least in Belfast. Saying that they aren't always looking forward.

I'm thinking with his new found celebrity status he could start a club. With a bit of funding maybe he could start up a skate park for the older generation. Though probably complete with extra padded surfaces and insurance liability waiver forms.

Who knows - before long and if enough can, we might get a 60+ x-games. Probably with no upward jumps though, I suspect that jumping would be a bit of an issue. Sure, my joints make noises they probably shouldn't and I've not even made a quarter of a century yet.

Even if the over 60's X-games doesn't come to fruition, long may Geoff be wheeling past us all. I for sure hope at the age of 71 I can be a likeminded loony and be rollerblading (with some skill I might add!) about the place to keep healthy. He for sure has this blogs support, though I would maybe advise to take an IPOD rather than using buskers, it’s a little less expensive in the long run or so it would seem.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

T-Shirt folding and beyond

So everything I was going to type just got ditched into the category of ‘for another day’. 3 things stole the limelight tonight in the slightly worrying place that is my head.

The first thing is as shallow as it gets but still worth a mention. At tonight’s Brit Awards 2009, which I think was brilliantly hosted by James Corden, Mathew Horne and Kylie. Was it just me or is Natalie Imbruglia turning into a Carol Vorderman look-a-likey (there are worse fates in the world I’m sure most would agree). It was probably just her makeup and the lighting, especially when she was presenting on stage, but sure... judge for yourself:

Natalie Imbruglia
Carol Vordeman

The second thing is also TV related but I just have to mention it – Supernatural. For me anyway, its the best ‘not a repeat’ show on the TV at the moment. For anyone who hasn’t ever come across it before (where have you been?) I would have to describe it as a dark-comedy-action-horror-thriller; something like the X-Files meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a Chevrolet Impala. Anywho, we watched last Sunday's episode tonight and it was great as usual. Apparently it was the Halloween episode when it was aired in the States. It was all in Black and White to go with the theme of the episode. It reminded me a lot of the Captain Proton holodeck episodes and scenes from Star Trek Voyager - playing with the medium to go for the giggle and it worked on me :)

The third thing is maybe something everyone else already knew about but me. If that isn't true let me share with you this little secret that amazed me today...

It's a magical machine my future mum-in-law had built. A T-Shirt folding machine to be precise. And not just any kind of t-shirt folding machine, a YouTube inspired homemade Cardboard T-shirt folding machine.

In just 4 swift movements you can have a T-Shirt folded perfectly. Years of putting away piles of washing more misshapen than a crushed bag of unwanted prawn crackers are no more! By the way that’s also worth trying, something very therapeutic about crushing a bag of prawn crackers, almost bubble wrap worthy.

I didn’t have my camera on me, but here is the YouTube video demonstrating the production and use of such a handy device. This guy even goes one step further and makes it portable and gives it the ability to make a double upper fold. Its brilliant!

Upgraded T-shirt folding Machine

Should you be short of time and cardboard, there is still a way to speed up that removal from your chosen drying place to storage location. This also really does work, try it for yourself:

Japanese T-shirt folding in English

It seems the internet is finally trying to make up for some of that lost time we've all spent on it. How did we ever live without it!?

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Commuting - Northern Irish style.

Walking through Belfast City centre or sitting on the bus before and after work, it seems to be the time when things, well... just happen.

I'll try to set the scene. Bleary eyed or just tired from work, I venture outside, usually in the mid morning glow or in the twilight of the evening (especially at this time of year) .

Its usually all a bit hazy until I remember to wipe the sleet from or refocus my screen-eyes and then it’s usually not so hazy. That is unless its before 8am. If it is, I have to admit I'm sleep commuting with Chris Moyles and the team. Sleep commuting is a fine art, a kind of semicomatose street performace. The main difference is that unlike a mime, you don't move after someone throws money in your hat, that just comes involuntarily after the bus hits the brakes.

The characters involved are everyday folks like you and me. They're hurrying to and from work wishing the bus wasn't late and the traffic so heavy. The exceptions being tourists trying to find the tour bus, the alcoholics who hang around together near Tesco, sipping their Cider purchased earlier that morning, oh, and not forgetting the odd TV personality.

Amongst these regulars over the past couple of years I've been caught up and had to walk to work in a Marathon - twice. I've walked past Jeremy Paxman. I once saw Billy Connoly. I've had the misfortune to walk past the aftermath of many a road accident, usually with cars ending up upside down or at angles you can't imagine how they got into. I've seen my work colleague get whacked on the back of the head whilst on the pavement by a passing bus's wing mirror. On another occasion I was stood still waiting to cross the road as I saw a coach doing the opposite and taking off its large wing mirror and a considerable amount of the side of the body work on a temporary road sign. Glad I wasn't 10 seconds further down the street with that one. I've walked very quickly past a fair few people using the street as a toilet and I've also rubbernecked from the bus at people shooting scenes for TV shows.

So it came as no big surprise on Tuesday when on my travels home the police closed the road ahead.

At first it was just a couple of police officers who arrived in an unmarked car, got out on foot and held back the traffic. Shortly they were joined by a marked land rover with the big blue lights swirling. 4 or 5 minutes passed by as the traffic stood in the glow of the traffic lights going through the motions and the blue flashes from the police vehicle swirled around and around and around some more.
Then out of the blue and adding to the blue swirls, a police motorbike, then another, a few seconds pause, and then a lone ambulance followed by a police car and last but not least another motorbike.

I’ve no idea who or what was in the Ambulance. Hopefully if it was something being transported, all went well and if it was a person they lived happily ever after. But sure, it brought a bit of excitement to those of us sat waiting to see what was going to go past. With all the build up I was anticipating a Hummer with an American, UK or Irish VIP. All the while though I was secretly hoping for the top gear crew to come driving past in some half baked contraption. Shame :(

The fun news is that although it is hardly the biggest or most exciting event in the world or even in Belfast that day. I managed to catch my view of the action on very low quality video and can share the experience with you - good times!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

N.I Politics - stuck between a rock, a hard place and an MLA.

*SPLASH* That’s me, diving in straight into the deep end with a slight belly-flop. Yep, my first real blog entry is heading into the most treacherous of all interface zones in Northern Ireland... Politics.

To get underway I’ll borrow the words of a local from Stroke City who is now working for the BBC, comedian Danny McCrossan;
“Asking people in Northern Ireland what they think of politics is like asking the Jews what they think of Hitler”.

I reckon this joke pretty much highlights the sentiment of disillusionment and anger towards those supposedly elected to represent our best interests - both here and in the wider world.

Why this feeling? Suffice to say the long version of the story goes back centuries longer than I’ve lived here. But sure, it’s easy to catch up with a couple of recent examples...

Just yesterday for instance, the Environment Minister and MP, Sammy Wilson decided to block a government TV advertising campaign. A campaign he described as an "insidious propaganda campaign”.

What was this insidious propaganda we wonder? Well it was TV advertisement to promote reducing your energy consumption – turning off lights and your TV when you are not using them, that sort of thing. So not exactly the ‘buy a portable nuclear reactor for you home today’ campaign his words conjured up (in my mind at least).

According to the BBC coverage of the story, it appears that our friendly Environment Minister was to some degree acting on his own hunch – He holds the view that man’s contribution is not the main cause to the current rise in global temperature. Seemingly therefore, he is telling us we shouldn’t be bothered to try to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.

I’ll not delve into my view on the legitimacy of his personal view too much, other than to say I disagree with it. I would also put forward the suggestion that as a Minister he might want to seek council from someone more readily informed (or maybe any second opinion outside his party) in the future.

The outcome of this is that the Environment Minister denied the public of something that could have benefited Northern Ireland (if only a little) - even if it promoted a view he didn’t share. Surely some people who aren't as 'clued up' as him, could have benefited by this push to advise them to save energy? The individual saving money in the long run and by doing so helping to cut emissions and reduce this countries demand on fossil fuels in the process.

Only in November of 2008, Wilson’s fellow party representative (Energy Minister, Arlene Foster) from the department of Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, declared;
“The era of us relying on cheap fossil fuel energy is over and we must become more energy efficient by seeking to reduce our energy consumption.”

Here is a thought! Maybe Arlene and Sammy could trade posts?

In my view and in this instance; Sammy Wilson hasn’t managed to uphold one of the first aims listed by the very department (The Department of the Environment) to which he holds responsibility and accountability for:

“The Department's aim is to improve the quality of life for everyone in Northern
Ireland through:
- the promotion of sustainable development principles in all the activities of government and wider society “

Sadly he isn’t alone in drawing controversy from centering his own beliefs at the expense of what most of us would probably call common sense.

Last year saw MLA Iris Robinson (wife of the current First Minister Peter Robinson) jumping into the headlines in a spectacular manner. To put it simply, she is quoted in the House of Commons committee minutes as saying;

“There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually
abusing innocent children”

I’m not sure if it was for this comment, her other opinions aired in a similar vein in a Radio interview I listened to at the time or comments made to other members of the press, but the end result is that quite rightly the PSNI have forwarded the case against her to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Sadly it does appear that there is a trend for those who (hopefully!) aren't the best candidates for the job to end up in a position of control here.

We all suffer the consequences.

Don’t get me wrong; I do believe the way to a truly stable and permanent peace can only be brought about through continued dialog, education, development and politics. Thankfully there are some MLA’s and Ministers out there (from just about all the parties) who bring back a little credibility to the show. People who seemigly work without letting their own prejudices and unfounded ideas get in the way of their judgment... if that is actually possible in the current climate of N.I Politics?

For the whole thing to work, I believe everyone has to be in politics for the right reasons but in N.I, probably more than most other countries, that just doesn’t appear to be so.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Northern Ireland... back to the future.

As a nervous 18 year old, flying toward Belfast city airport, I remember leaning my head on the side of the plane looking out of the window through the dancing sprites of light at the land below. I had no idea what would await me in Belfast with a girl I had only met once before in a city hundreds of miles away.

What I did know is that I had a fluttering stomach, and was filled with the most optimism I had ever had. I’d also never felt such a longing to be with anyone more than I did that day. More than I could have ever imagined before we had originally met and she had become a part of my life. Several years later, those memories and feelings from that day and many others are as clear and as strong as ever.

Now settled with her in N.I with the wedding planned for later this year I feel I have probably overcome the biggest first hurdle in life and one that I didn't realise was such a big thing until it happened - finding a sense of belonging with another and fulfilling the desire to love and be loved.

That may all sound a little sickly (bokey as they say around these parts) especially if you don't have a significant other at the moment but as with anything in life, I believe it is our experiences that make us who we are and what makes life... well, life.

Sun over the Irish Sea

And that brings me to why I've decided now to blog of my future experiences. The reason is threefold:
  1. Living in a society that is still so strongly influenced by Religion, National Identity and a sense of ‘them and us’, as a humanist and agnostic I would like to record my experience whatever there is in store.

  2. For anything that might be seen as a rant – I agree with Stephen Fry and because he puts across his views so much more eloquently than I could ever dream to type, I would recommend listening to the following of his podgrams:

    Stephen Fry’s Podgram Compliance Defiance

    If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, suffice to say the gist is “When something bubbles inside you, you have to get it out” and I would for sure like to bring it back to reason when I feel that way, so I figure giving 'typing it out and sharing a little' a go might be a good form of therapeutic release.

  3. I read a lot of blogs and I wouldn’t mind hopefully adding something worthwhile to the mix or at least giving it a good try.

So that’s why I'm going to put pixels on the page. On that note, it’s probably time to get back to the future... let’s hope it’s a good one!


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