Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

About Me

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Initial musings on Dubai

The expected

Having to take a motorway to get anywhere.

Alcohol so expensive its not worth drinking.

Lots of sand and construction.

Feels like you're living in a computer game.

No snow.

The unexpected

Eating Chinese food on the beach in the Middle East.  

Watching men hold hands, caress and be tactile with each other.  

Reading signs prohibiting public signs of affection between man and wife.

(Seemingly) Thriving multiculturalism.

Annoyed expats angry with the coverage it gets in the West

What appeared to be an wannabe American gangster strolling up and down the promenade aggressively selling his wares, coconuts.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

A cabbies' tale

It’s early.  Darkened streets.  A 65 year old cabby drives his car up a hill past a row of shops. He has a passenger in the back.

Cabby: (Long dark hair, with an old fashioned South East London accent) “What’s that Golden Spice like?” 

Passenger: “Not sure.  I’ve only ever had one curry there”

Cabby: Used to be the best curry house in Crystal Palace (pause) What’s the Blue Orchid like?

Passenger: I don’t know it.

Cabby: That was the best Chinese. Used to be up the hill on Westow Street (pause) I moved here in ’72 with the missus.  Moved over from Bermondsey. It’s changed a lot.

Passenger: Yeah, it all has.  I grew up down the road.  Streatham.

Cabby: You grew up in Streatham did you?  Ha.  I used to be in the notorious Elephant gang. 

Passenger: (has heard this story before but doesn’t mind hearing it again) Oh yeah?

Cabby: Fraser?  Frankie Fraser?  He was part of them.  Kenneth Noye.  Those lads that did that bank job recently. We used to go down Streatham most Friday nights. 

Passenger: Caesars?

Cabby: Yeah.  The old Locarno.  Have a tear up with the Brixton boys.  (chuckling) There was murders some nights.  We were the biggest gang in London.  All through the 20’s and 30’s right up to the 60’s and 70’s.

They drive on in silence for a while.  The driver keen to continue reminiscing

Cabby: We used to carry razors in our hats.  (smiling) Oh, there were murders some nights.  New Cross.  Peckham.  Us.  We all had gangs.  Used to get together.  Still can’t go into some pubs.  Had to disappear to France for a couple of years.  Been doing this (nods to steering wheel) for fifteen years.
Keeps me outta trouble.

Passenger: Pubs round here?  You can’t go into pubs round here?

Cabby: Some of ‘em.  I drive past ‘em still.  Would be okay for a bit but sooner or later a call would go out.  “Here, you’re never gonna guess whose just walked in?  Better come down.” 

Passenger: Still see any of the old gang?

Cabby: Nah.  Still see some of the old faces when Millwall play West Ham.  (chuckles)  You look across at some old duffers and it’s “oh hello! You’re still alive are ya?” 

Passenger: Still go to the Den?

Cabby: Oh no.  Not anymore.  Maybe for the big games.  Last one was Wigan.  That kicked off.

Car pulls up outside a tenement block near the river.  The passenger gets out.

Passenger: Take it easy. 

Cabby: See ya.

Jack Bannister 1930-2016

My former colleague Jack Bannister died in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Jack was a professional cricketer for Warwickshire during the 1950's and 60's before becoming a leading journalist and voice on the game.

He had been talkSPORT's cricket correspondent for 15 years and was someone I listened and observed from close quarters for many years.

I posted this tribute to him on the talkSPORT website.

RIP Jack.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Here I go again

Despite a trip to New Zealand and Greece in 2015 it was a quiet year for flights. 

My flight count was 20-25 per annum from 2010 onwards. That's a lot of diazpeman and unnecessary stress.

So I thoroughly enjoyed my ten month period when the black cloud of air travel wasn't hanging over me.

It's back to normal now though. 2016 could be an expensive one for the carbon footprint. 

Although I did read recently that buying a chicken at the supermarket makes more of an impact on the environment that a package holiday to Crete.

Either way I now find myself in the normal position. Having negotiated check in without an upgrade I have supped my first beers of the year. 

My phlegmatic mood continues through the 2.5gm diazepam pill.

Alternating between staring out the window and watching the girl standing next to me going through a DVT avoidance workout. 

Aware that every text I send or update I post might be viewed one day as my last. 

If that proves to be the case then can I say I love my wife, my friends and my family and Fulham for the Cup!

Monday, 18 January 2016

From the Anahata

This is a yoga studio.

This is more than just a yoga studio.

This is an idea and endeavour.  

This is the decision to take control of a life rather than letting it control you.  It's taking time to find a room, spending money to hire it and having the imagination to make it look presentable.  

It's the risk that nobody will turn up, that it will cost more than it will make, that you may end up regretful and feeling foolish. In the hope it'll be a success, another achievement to be proud, that you don't have to traipse up to North London in the dark any more and doing this will make you happy.

This room is why some people get out of bed in the morning and the reason why some stay there.

Risk in the pursuit of happiness.  Making something of life.  Creativity.  

My wife has started her own private yoga sessions.  This is how the room looked ahead of her first class in the spare room above the Sparrowhawk pub in Crystal Palace.

She's taking a risk, putting herself out there, gambling, living life.  It's what she does.

It's a memory, it's a moment in time, it's why I married her.  

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

All change

A pretty woman sat next to me on the train to work. In her twenties she was blonde, slim and wore nice clothes. The moment she sat down next to me a waft of stale cigarette smoke hit my nostrils. Not for the first time in the last three years I thought to myself "I am so pleased I've stopped smoking".

I've given up many things in my life. Some toxic, some political.  Cigarettes, a friendship here or there, Gregg's sausage rolls. Starbucks, The Sun and caring about office politics.  All required mental effort but the hard work wasn't always about going without.  It was about the disruption it caused to my routine.

I remember reading that the physical addiction to nicotine is less than what your body craves from a cup of tea.  It's more the association you have with smoking that makes it so difficult to give up.  I'd agree.

Smoking went hand in hand with so many great moments in life.  The first cup of tea of a morning, an accompaniment to food, an excuse to go out and gossip, and of course the reason most find it almost impossible to give up.  A pint and a fag.  Thank god for the smoking ban.

As the years go on and the poisonous aspects of life are wheedled out what is left to give up?  Ridding yourself of addiction almost becomes an addiction in itself.

When I told my brother I had stopped drinking coffee his response was "Are you giving up coffee just to give up something?"  He had a point.

There are health benefits to coffee and it's not like when I see someone over the age of 45 puffing away. When that happens I find it difficult to not to go up to them and shake them.

The smell of coffee is also a pleasant one.  If the woman on the train had smelt like a coffee bean I'd have had a far different reaction.

I don't think I'm going to improve as a person nor live longer my reason for giving up coffee is financial rather than anything else.

As much as I'd noticed the paradox of drinking a stimulant when in a stressful situation it was more to do with the money I was spending.  £150 a month to be precise.  That's a ridiculous amount to spend on something I only started drinking a couple of years back.  It's not like I ever drink the stuff at home.

And two weeks into my abstention what do I feel?  Well, not a lot.  Giving up coffee is much easier than stubbing out cigarettes.

The only real benefit became noticeable towards the end of my first week.  I realised that the loose change in my trouser pocket was exactly the same as it had been at the start.  I hadn't spent a penny all week!

It reminded me of the difference in cost between my Ashes trip in 2006/07 and 2010/11.  The central character in the first tour was a heavy smoking, big drinking single man sampling his first overseas cricket tour.  Four years later he had matured into an occasional smoker and a selective drinker.  An engaged man enjoying his swansong tour with an assortment of friends and family.  This far more rounded but equally less interesting protagonist saved about $3,000.

Fast forward to today and I admit I've stared wistfully at someone holding a polystyrene cup a couple of times while strolling around Crystal Palace.  A coffee used to accompany me on my shopping trips.  While it's undeniable a London Bridge latte while walking along the Thames on the way to work is a pleasant way to start the day.

But my overriding emotion about coffee?  It's a faint feeling of nausea at the thought of consuming all that milk.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Dates for the diary

I lost my diary at my staff Christmas party. It was a boozy affair, my bag got upended, I didn't realise, I was lucky I didn't lose anything else.

I didn't realise for a couple of days but when I did I was perturbed. I keep all my work obligations and social events in it so for a good week I was waiting for the phone to go. "Er, Jon the match kicks off in 45 minutes where are you?" Or a text along the lines of "just got here what you drinking?"

I rang the pub to no avail and had given it up for lost when just before Christmas I walked into my bosses office to see him holding it in the air.

Afterwards he remarked about his surprise at just how pleased I was to see it. In retrospect punching the air and letting out a whoop of delight was probably a bit OTT.

Nevertheless for someone like me who believes in getting the maximum enjoyment out of all three stages of anything (the planning, the doing and the remembering) it is around this time of year when I actually look forward to getting my new Surrey diary.

And it arrived today. WHOOP!!!!! 

I'm punching the air as I type.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

My first indulgence of the New Year

One of the things I do at this time of the year is wonder where work and pleasure may see me head to in the upcoming 12 months.  The nature of my job means I usually have the off-chance of visiting three or four destinations.  And then there's always the personal holiday or trip to see the extended family.

This year the list is India (maybe), UAE (probably), France (possibly) and New Zealand (definitely).  You can probably guess which of those are for work.  Well, I say 'you' but I don't think anyone is actually reading.

With two days of remorseless batting ahead in the cricket and no chance of a result I began listlessly browsing the Web for inspiration and I came across a page which let me enter in every country I've visited. It's pretty cool to look at a map of the world in this way and work out where you'd need to visit to make a sizeable increase in the imprint.

Going to countries like Brazil, USA and Australia really helps to make me look more worldly than my trips to Antigua or Malawi for instance.  While I'm aware that the one afternoon I spent in a market on the Chinese border isn't really deserving of earning a massive blue splodge.

Not sure 'splodge' is the correct terminology but it passes the spellcheck test.

It has made me think that my next destinations need to be new ones and big ones.  I need to fill up the map fast before family and life get in the way of my travelling.  Looking back at the possibilities for this year India would be ideal but France has already been ticked off, or filled in in this case.  Hmmmmm.

My mind flicks to the possibility of going to Russia for the World Cup in 2018 and India for the cricket as two great opportunities.  While I am also oh-so-aware that a trip to Antartica would not only mean I've visited every continent it's huge as well.

I thought of posting my map to Facebook but decided nothing screams self-indulgence more than posting a chart of all the countries they've been fortunate enough to visit.  Well apart from posting it on your own 'blog, that is.

Create Your Own Visited Countries Map

Monday, 4 January 2016

God had done a bit more by day three it's true

2016 so far: No coffees drunk, three blog posts written, playing footy on Wednesday. Fruit and veg smoothie, cereal and homemade sushi for lunch. 

So a decent start but my TV and Internet viewing remains unchanged.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Dry January

Like many I welcomed the New Year with ambitious plans to improve as a person.

I have been spending £150 a month on coffee so that's got to go. Alcohol is on the back burner for the month. Eating healthily will be less of a problem though the exercise schedule looks ominous. Yoga, football and running around in the cold all sound fantastic in the planning stage less so when faced with actually doing it.

One of the conundrums is how to fit this panoply of self-improvement in and around work.  My career is many things but the routine? Well, consistent it is not.

Happily I stumbled upon this today.

Unhappily today was the day Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow smashed South Africa for 100 runs in the first hour of play.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

A New Hope

My New Year resolutions are thus. 

1. Blog more
2. Give up coffee
3. Work out how to use the blog spot app on my phone. It's surprisingly difficult

So far I am two for three.