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Rated: 13+ · Book · Biographical · #2177240
A blog. A repository of the inane. Thoughts, musings, and hopefully some wit and wisdom.
Please join me in my latest attempt to blog, to write, to entertain, and to educate. I am back on within the Writing.com community and hopefully I'll hear from you, as you'll hear from me. While these are my thoughts or impressions or stories, I love the interactive nature of the blog and I look forward to your comments, your challenges, and your inspiration.

Keep writing.
February 28, 2019 at 12:00am
February 28, 2019 at 12:00am
#953337
As you may have noticed with this blog, I do struggle putting words to paper these days. That spark of creativity, that desire to sit staring at my computer screen and write, long after I’ve sat behind a computer screen all day at work, has waned in the last few years. I still think I have stories to tell; it’s just that I struggle with my will to get them out. I’ve been hoping for it to change for a long time now, and perhaps it will … eventually.
Recently though, in an act of undeniable bravado, I have left my house with my camera, with photography in mind. Sometimes I would leave the house with my camera in the hopes I’d see something that inspired me to take a photo. Not this time. A couple of weeks ago the camera came out with an actual purpose. I had a friend visiting here, and not only wanting to show her skyscrapers and shopping malls, and knowing she’s an avid nature photographer as well, I set up a schedule of events where we would visit the wetlands (just a 7 minute drive from the tallest building in the world), the big zoo about an hour away, and head over to the man-made lakes in the desert that always attract a vibrant array of birdlife.

Even though I haven’t updated my Instagram account for several months, a quick glance shows it is nothing but wildlife photos. Most of these photos were taken in Africa, predominantly South Africa, and I have said numerous times that a safari is my preferred holiday. I did my first one in Africa 11 years ago now, and since then I’ve done 6 more (with another one on the way). It is, without doubt, my happy place. Since that first trip in 2008, my camera gear has improved, as has my ability to use it. I have also taken an online field guide course (the same one the guides in Africa need) so I can learn more about the behaviour of the animals I’m hoping to photograph. This way, I might be able to get a few unusual photos because I know how an animal might react.

So I got my camera out again. And I was impressed how easily it came back to me, how much I wanted to just wait a little longer to see if the marsh harrier would come back. It did, several times, but the bastard (or many bastards) were extremely skittish and didn’t like to sit around for too long. I found it exciting. I found it natural. I used to feel that way about spending all weekend writing. Maybe with time that will happen again.

All told I took well over 1000 photos during the week. That is the beautiful thing about digital cameras really. I haven’t had a chance to edit them yet, but I’m hoping at least half of them are good enough to be considered for release to the public (if I so choose).

They say a picture is worth 1000 words. Right now, I’m happy that I have so many pictures … I’d just like the 1000 words to follow as well.


Cheers,

a chilly penguin
January 14, 2019 at 12:06am
January 14, 2019 at 12:06am
#949595
As another year ticks over, I find myself thinking about changing my eating habits ... well, several habits. Is it time to eat healthier, live healthier, be healthier? I don't know. I just like food a little too much to cut back right now ...

Vegetarians, and especially vegans, beware. This is not a blog post you will want to read. Unless you want to use it to insult me, and if that is the case, you are not welcome here. I won’t come on your site and insult you, don’t come on mine and insult me. We can have a nice discussion of course, but let’s leave the insults for the politicians and the media. We’re so much better than that.

I am now, and have always been, a meat eater. While I do not hunt my own food, I do partake in the bounty proffered to me by others. Yes, there is a lot of bad going on the industries surrounding food; but there are also very ethical methods being used as well, which seem to be swept away with one big brush. But I’m not here to talk about that as the focus of this post. This post, in all its yummy goodness, is about eating while on holiday. Or on vacation, depending on how you do things. Actually, if you go on a holiday, you probably don’t do the things I’m going to talk about. If you go on a vacation, you probably do. I’ll just leave you with the gravitas of that little comment.

I had a Canadian friend who I met while we both worked in Saudi Arabia, and he was lamenting how the final two days of his trip to Nepal were ruined by food poisoning. He was immediately ill after eating in a Western-style restaurant. His three weeks of eating local food had had no ill effect on him; but the Western food had. He reckons, and I think I concur as well, that the locals don’t really know how to cook the fancy foreign food in a lot of these places so they prepare it incorrectly. He has a point. And besides, what’s the fun of travelling half way around the world to simply order Big Macs every time you go out?

Everywhere I go, and it isn’t that long of a list but longer than I ever thought possible when I was a kid, I try and eat at least one local dish, but usually many more. These might just be a certain meat, a different way to eat potatoes, or on occasion, the rare delicacy of stick insects or deep fried spiders. When in Rome, right? Actually, in Rome you’re pretty blessed for food options that won’t scare you. Unless you hate pasta. If you hate pasta, then Rome might scare you. Unless you somehow visited ancient Rome and found yourself in the Colosseum. On the sand, not the stands. Then I think the pasta isn’t what you should be scared about.

And this desire to try something alien to me is a complete conundrum to what it was to be me growing up. I would eat nothing that I didn’t recognise, and I would only eat things a certain way. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I started to eat tomatoes; although I loved tomato sauce on pasta and pizza. Hated ketchup though; and I still do. I blame my older sister for that. Long story. I’ll tell it another time if I remember. I still don’t eat a lot of sauces on food, and I prefer my occasional salad without dressing, but I have been readily willing to sample something a little meatier. Perhaps it’s the “go big or go home” version of picky eating?

I have been to South Africa no less than six times. It is my happy place. Put me in a jeep on safari and you will meet the happiest man on the planet. South Africa is a meat eater’s paradise. It still surprises me every time I go there that the whole country isn’t morbidly obese. Must be all the sports they play and all the hiking trails. Plus they have some great beaches to stay in shape for. Yeah, it is a great place. On my first visit, back in 2008, I ended my tour in South Africa. By the time I had arrived there, I had sampled a wide variety of game meats that the region has on offer. In fact, on one of our nights in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, my friend Chris and I went to a place called the Boma, a big open-air restaurant where the food is unlimited, they have dancers and drummers to entertain you, and you dress you in ceremonial robes and paint your face so you blend in. At the buffet table, where you can choose no less than 10 types of meat, you can also find a delicacy called the mopane worm. For those who know Bear Grylls – he’s eaten them. Except he found his own and had to cook them. The ones I ate were already prepared for consumption. I grabbed a small handful and tossed them in with the small salad I had gathered. A little crunchy but mostly chewy, they had no real taste. During that same feast I also ate crocodile, springbok and kudu (two types of antelope), and various cuts of steak. Before the end of the trip I had also sampled oryx and impala (another two types of antelope), and warthog. My mouth salivates just thinking about it.

In Thailand I managed to eat tarantula legs. I figured they’d be crunchy and little else – I was right. I couldn’t bring myself to take a chunk out of the body though. I thought that might be a little too gooey for my liking. Too much like sauce I guess. But even with an abundance of Western-style restaurants in the tourist towns, it is much safer and much cheaper to eat local. Even the street vendors, frying up rice and prawns on big metal sheets on the back of motorcycles produce some amazing food. And never once did I wish to eat at the luxury 5-star hotel we were staying at. The free buffet breakfast, yes. I’m all about the included meals too. I’m on a budget on most trips after all.

From reindeer in Sweden, to a skewer of meat in Cape Town that would not look out of place on Game of Thrones, you need to step out of your comfort zone from time-to-time to fully appreciate the world we live in. Okay, so meat is meat I hear you yell at me, and you’re right, it is. But preparation methods are different. Flavours and spices are different. What one country calls a small portion could feed half your family. And most of these foods, would not be found on the buffet table at the hotel you’re staying at. Leave the hotel. Explore. Set your taste buds free. Order the zebra steak after an appetiser of mussels. Get the massive selection of crocodile, warthog, impala, kudu and ostrich on the weapon they used to cut Ned Stark’s head off. You won’t be sorry. Well, you might be. Meat sweats is a real thing. Just make sure you’re going to do some form of walking the next day. Unless, unlike me, you have money left over when you return and can afford to buy a bigger pair of trousers.

So, are you a meat eater? Even if you aren't, what is the craziest thing you have ever eaten?


Cheers,

a chilly penguin
December 26, 2018 at 3:09am
December 26, 2018 at 3:09am
#948208
I saw this prompt - not sure how old it is - but I thought I would break up the Christmas monotony with something funny.

Write a review of your life or the life of someone close to you - as if it were a movie or a book.
I've opted for movie.

At a little after two in the afternoon on 15 August 1971, John and Marilyn Isitt welcomed to the world a tiny bundle of perfection. Even in their wildest, most optimistic dreams, would either of them have imagined just how wonderful that tiny bundle of perfection would turn out. The word epic gets thrown around far too often these days, but in this case, epic just barely covers it. In a tale that weaves nearly 46 years, and is far from over, leave the children at home as this is a tale that is definitely adult only. It’s a Hard G, the true autobiographical masterpiece from a man so misunderstood he’s easy to read, will leave you in awe with tales of love, sex, laughter, sports, more sex, a little more love, heartbreak, travel, culinary disasters, and because the director knows it sells … even more sex!

It’s a story that has roots in Wales, leads us to the frozen tundra of Alberta, Canada, and finally, for the last decade, the arid heat of Saudi Arabia and Dubai. It’s a story of close family bonds, sibling rivalries, and a growing number of cast members that at times is impossible to deal with. For the most part, they remain in the shadows, barely blips on the social media radar, but those that are close to our hero, are rewarded with his time, his efforts, and his love. He may talk a big game about being awesome, but it is painfully obvious that he is just the sum of all the parts that helped shape him growing up.

But what of struggle and conflict, I hear you say. No great tale can be great without a smattering or more of each, and in It’s a Hard G, there is plenty of struggle and conflict to leave you on the edge of your seat. A natural athlete, perhaps taking after his father in this, he soon learned that he didn’t have to speak when he was commanding attention on ice rinks or soccer fields. His stutter became secondary, his silky hands and quick feet (to be replaced in his later years with silky hands and a quick wit) much more relevant to the dozens that witnessed his near-legendary (to himself) exploits. He was the only person on his hockey team with three different songs about him, and he was so good, he got away with giving his own mother the finger when she told him to “get some air up his ass” as she thought his performance at 6 am on a Saturday morning was below par. He ended the day with four points, not out of spite or because of the abuse, but because he was just that good.

Without going into too many details and spoiling the plot for you all, I will just glance past the decades and leave you wanting more. For a self-acclaimed genius, his scholastic record points to the opposite. Twice he left high school before graduating, but finally did so after moving in with a friend nearly 200 miles from his family. Twice he went to college. Twice he made the soccer team. Twice he dropped out immediately after the soccer season ended. School was probably not for our hero; that is until he turned 31 and decided to go back to college. He stuck it out, graduated with honours, and now works half way around the world and sets off on exotic travels because of it. Some people, our hero included, just need to find things in their own time.

The real attraction to this tale is the star himself, a lovable, likeable, ne’er-do-well with a heart of gold and head full of naughtiness. His rise from awkward scrawny teen to wannabe safari guide and stand-up comic is sometimes painful to watch, but through it all, his dimples shine and his “you either love me or hate me” attitude never wavers. For all his faults, and he will admit to many, he is ultimately worthy of our attention, and every time he enters the picture, it comes alive. For all intents and purposes, the sun shines from his remarkable ass (his words), and at times it is hard to disagree with him; even if by not doing so would bring the biggest “I told you so” grin to his face. On this form, it is easy to see why he has left a string of flings in his wake. He’s too charming for his own good. But, as they say I Hollywood, it is a role he was born to play.

Of the myriad of supporting characters, his younger sister Barbara is perhaps the most compelling, and possibly the only person who has ever really been able to put our youngish hero in his place. The constant give and take between the two, the rapier-like thrusts of wit and insults, lend itself to a comedic timing not seen much since Laurel and Hardy. His superior in every way, and he will admit this on occasion if he thinks no one is listening or that it might help him get a date, she has long been his best friend. All of the scenes they intersect are richer for her, and the historic Rice Pudding War might be the finest piece of dining table riposte that has ever been seen. A truly mouth-watering encounter.

His older sister, Susan, is the strongest of all the characters. Her strength for herself, and her family, and in fact those around her, deserve a film of their own. It bugs our hero that his older sister looks younger than he does, but once he casts aside this shallowness of his own nature, he heartily admits that he will never be as strong as Susan. Some people are just born to hold things together. And she does. And she does it with great poise and grace. And the occasional one-liner that threatens to steal the show.

Mum and dad a never far from the edges of this tale; after all, our hero is ultimately the culmination of many things, not least is what he was surrounded with at home. A home that saw the family eat together at dinner, laugh together whenever they could, opportunities provided as often as they presented themselves, and a push for knowledge, for caring, and for acceptance. If the hero is as remarkable as he lets us believe he is, he can thanks (and does) his mum and dad for helping his become so.

While this film is far from perfect, It’s a Hard G is an enjoyable experience. The lead can come across as a bit of a dick at times, but that’s just who he is, and his flaws are perfectly counter-balanced by his qualities. The karaoke singing in Saudi is worth a few laughs, the safari scenes are a treat on the eyes, and when he becomes the Park Ranger, well, the less said the better. But all in all, I’d give this a 7 out of 10.

Celebrity Reviews:

“My God is he hot!” Jennifer Lawrence

“Park Ranger. Classic! Only the brave would try that.” Hugh Jackman

“He’ll always be welcome at the Mansion.” Hugh Hefner

“If he wants to work with me, I’d be honoured.” Dame Helen Mirren

“I may have seen better films, but this one is made from the heart.” Ellen DeGeneres

“If there were ever a person to ‘make it so’, I believe it is Geraint.” Sir Patrick Stewart

"He can be my wingman anytime." Barney Stinson - How I Met your Mother

"This is like the Hangover but with only one guy. And he just does it so well." Halle Berry



Cheers,

a chilly penguin
December 19, 2018 at 2:05am
December 19, 2018 at 2:05am
#947784
In less than a week, it will be Christmas Day. This year, as was the case for most of the past decade, I will be sitting in my office at work. Tomorrow (20th December) we will be having our office Christmas party, complete with a visit from Santa, carols, a gift exchange, and of course, a turkey feast fit for a king!! Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Have I mentioned I live in Dubai, which is situated in the United Arab Emirates—a Muslim country?

I’ve been living in the Middle East for almost 12 years now, and in that time, I have only been back to Canada twice over the Christmas period. I have been back more times than that of course, but only twice over Christmas. So, I’m usually working on Christmas Day unless it falls on a weekend here. This year, it doesn’t.

While the shops in the malls have trees, even a Santa’s Grotto to take the kids to, and the incessant barrage of Christmas music piped over the speakers, Christmas Day is not an official holiday. That took a lot to get used to at first, but the first year in the Middle East was tough anyways. Miles away from home and from family, 10 hours ahead because of daylight savings time. My day was almost done when my family were all getting up and shredding wrapping paper like mad! A quick Skype to all three households back home sated some of the homesickness, but I remember going to bed that night with a heavy heart.

And here’s the thing … I didn’t really do a lot for Christmas when I was back in Canada. I have no kids of my own, so there wasn’t that excitement, that screaming for me to get out of bed on Christmas morning that my sisters experienced. Once gifts were open in the morning, it was usually a good few hours before we’d all meet as a family and have dinner. My family would always try to get together every Sunday at my parents’ house for a meal so Christmas was just an extension of this. An extension with a hell of a lot more food, but an extension nonetheless.

But this year it feels a little different for some reason. I visited my family for a month during the summer, the longest stretch of time with them since I’ve been away, and it drummed up a lot of feelings of longing. By no means will I be alone on Christmas Day when I leave work, and I’m sure there will be several phone calls proclaiming a Merry Christmas across the miles … but is it enough this time around? I mean, it’ll have to be, but …

I’ll wake up early on the 26th and Skype the entire family at once before they sit down for Christmas dinner back home. That’ll be good. I’ll also put on my clothes for work after I hang up with them and head to the office again, probably slightly hungover from the Christmas evening shenanigans with the friends I have here. There may be presents, but there doesn’t need to be. At this time of year, I feel especially lucky that I will not be alone. It might not be family, but we all have friends who are family. And it is better than many people have around the world.

As I finish this, I’m starting to feel a bit guilty about complaining about missing my family during the holidays. I am fortunate, I know that. I’m here because I want to be here. But I think I can still pine for a little home comforts once a year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.


Cheers,

a chilly penguin
December 13, 2018 at 4:29am
December 13, 2018 at 4:29am
#947370
Once upon a time, there was a kid who loved nothing better than to write. In fact, if given the choice between writing and hanging out with people, he would always choose writing. You see, he had a stutter, and that stutter led to immeasurable teasing (they’d probably call it bullying today), and it was easier to not say anything at all than to even say his name. And on paper, he could be and do anything he wanted to do. One time he scored the winning goal in the World Cup Final! Another time, because he could, he rescued the damsel in distress (who looked an awful lot like Christie Brinkley I might add) and talked the would-be damsel killing dragon into becoming his best friend and sidekick. You know, just everyday average happenings for a teenage boy with an imagination and a pen and paper.

Fast forward a few years … the stutter subsided and social gatherings weren’t as foreboding as they once were; however the love for writing still remained. It wasn’t just about the words either. The sound the pen made as it scratched across the paper that slid across the desktop. The clackity echo of typewriter keys, usually pressed violently with only two fingers as fast as humanly possible, replaced the tip-tap of a pen nib against the desk trying to get it to write again.

The fact that I held a pen completely differently to every other person on the planet and it meant that half of the ink smeared across the page, and on the outside of my palm (and sometimes my shirt sleeve), was of little concern to me. If I wanted to write, I was going to write. I was going to write a novel as great as Lord of the Rings actually, because it was simple. You just had to have an idea, lots of paper, and away you go. In hindsight, I’m not even sure 14 year old me knew it would be that easy; at least not all of me. I probably did, to a certain extent, believe it would be simple. If it was hard work, I wouldn’t have even started.

I kept writing into my 20s and 30s, mostly for myself, but I specifically went back to college in my 30s to study a writing programme as that is what I thought I was best suited for. And I was. The creative juices bubbled again, I met talented like-minded people, and my imagination soared. I even began work on the novel that would eventually lead me to meeting a publisher.

But those days seem a long time ago though. I joined writing.com in 2006, and had two separate blogs on this site. I moved, along with many writers I admired, to Open Salon, a platform now defunct. Since that time I have opened and cancelled an account with Medium, and still have a blog over at WordPress that I haven’t used in over a year. As far as funks go, I’m in a big one. When I moved my blog to a different platform, I stopped posting anything on this site. The creative writing of stories disappeared, save for a couple of efforts for NaNoWriMo. The clicking of keys had been replaced by the empty pangs bouncing around my head. I was used to those new sounds. I could live with those sounds.

The end was upon me. I could survive without writing. But then again, did I want to? A friend asked to read two completed manuscripts I’ve never sent to publishers. She was brutal in her reviews – both positively and negatively, and my first instinct was not to cower, but to cultivate ideas for changes that might work. I hadn’t thought about either story in years. A spark. A slight kindling out of nothing, but it was monumental. Could there at last be words leaking from my keyboard again? It’s too early to tell of course, but the fact you’re reading this blog entry is a positive giant step. I’m not saying it’s Neil Armstrong giant, but for the landscape in which I’ve resided recently, it’s bigger than that.

When my good friend and fellow storyteller David David McClain , started posting links to his blog here, I asked him how it was going. I know writing was/is a huge part of his life and I was excited to see him writing again. Story tellers need to keep their voices. Through his dedication to his craft, he convinced several other people who used this platform over the years to start again. Voices out of silence. Words where blank pages used to be. Will they be read by many? It doesn’t matter. The words need to escape, to grow, to have a chance to be read. Maybe now is the right time for me to realise that again.

Exactly how long I’ll keep this instalment of my blogging history going is to be seen. Exactly how often I’ll post is another thing. Life has a funny way of keeping me busy. I was once told I was an incredibly difficult person to be around because my brain was always ticking, always thinking, always moving at incredible speeds. Somehow I managed to compartmentalise all of the creative ideas and keep them tucked away like your estranged uncle’s deepest darkest secrets. The unpacking of ideas has begun.

There might be a lot of dust to sift through, but it’s time I rolled up my sleeves and started. I hope you join me.


Cheers,

a chilly penguin

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