LA for Parents II

Now, when your parents are in town, it always pays to take them to the Getty musuem, it’s beautiful, impressive, and best of all, free!  It sits on a mountain top in the Santa Monica hills, between all the wealth of Bel Air and Brentwood, to the west you can see the ocean, and to the east all of LA stretching out before you.  It was a beautiful day today, though I was wishing for socks and shoes…my chanclas will have to be traded in for the year I think, that’s always a sad sad parting.

Anyways, here is the getty from the gardens:

Built of travertine from italy, the blocks are hung from a steel frame…took the architectural tour with my folks of course, I never take the tours normally but this was worth it I think.  We spent half the time just wandering around the outside…look at this thing!

what is she doing?  What?

As you go in there’s this famous statue by Giacometti which I like a great deal, it’s disturbing of course, I’m not sure if humanity can really be reduced to this but it makes you think, it’s like reading Sartre or Camus and staring at a harsh reality and wondering what it is that animates us to be so much more than this…I think we are.

Mr. John Paul Getty did not buy this of course, it was acquired only recently… Mr. Getty preferred Monets and french porcelein and period furniture like this:

Is it a bed? A couch? a bed? a couch?  It does look like fun however, they shouldn’t cordon off enormous monstrosities like this, I would pay serious money to jump on it!  Or kip down for a night with a bottle of wine and a big-screen plasma tv (unless I was allowed company.  Definitely room for two up there!).  The guard did not seem bribable however, he didn’t even think I was funny, he was like one of those London guards who keep a straight face no matter what you do to them… There was a whole set of pink china as well, I suppose it was immensely valuable but uglier stuff you couldn’t imagine, had lots of pictures of silly courting couples in rural scenes…but around that time my dad developed some bad gas, he doesn’t like china at all.  Anyways, he’s allowed since he is missing most of his colon, but it is not pleasant for any of us, less so for those not related to him who don’t know he’s missing most of his colon.  We headed back out to the open air….

There was a Van Gogh – Irises, he is my favourite painter…a nice Degas, a Brueghal showing the sermon on the mount with all classes of tiny little people going about their business in an amazing and amusing way…it’s quite a nice museum actually.  We missed the drawings sadly, too much to see entirely.  Still, the place is highly recommended.

LA for Parents

Why is it that so many of my favourite places in Los Angeles are restaurants? I love eating out and there are so many incredible places here…last night took the folks out to Phillipes to cap off the day, it’s one of the oldest places in LA and you can walk there from my house, and we did! It’s famous for french-dipped roast beef or lamb sandwiches and deli sides, here’s my dad with our fantastic tray of food and some of the decor:

That is my Heineken, I must confess. And here’s me and mum after the meal – you can see the counter behind us, jars with purple pickled eggs, the waitresses with their 50’s uniforms, the sawdust on the floor (only place I know of has kept that particular tradition!), and the crazy man behind us on the left…that is indeed a large Bible on the table in front of him, he had a strong southern accent and I could swear he was wearing eyeliner and a formal suit…characters abound at this place! Ussually it is packed to overflowing, but Sunday evenings right before it closes seems to be the time for short lines and a table to yourself, take note!

So this morning we ate breakfast at Happy Tom’s in Echo Park, it’s yummy but not terribly photogenic. Then we went to the La Brea tar pits, but first, on the way, guess what we passed on Alvarado! Check it out:

Banksy in my own scenic stomping ground! Woo-hoo! It is a true tragedy that he was here while I was in Scotland, I was enjoying my brave facade of actually being Banksy myself, that story’s blown though.

So, La Brea tar pits, they are very cool! They have skeletons like this:

It’s a mastadon…nice, would like to have seen those in the flesh. To it’s right is a camel…who knew there used to be camels here in LA? They also have a display of over 1,500 skulls belonging to something called the Dire wolf…the most plentiful creature in the pits so I suppose not much needs to be said about why they are now extinct.

The display was well done, but the skulls remind me of soccer cleats, I cannot say why…they have sharper teeth however, and do not come in a range of colours. I also found out that the latin name of the saber-tooth tiger is smilodon…I don’t think it’s ironic exactly, it’s just funny. To me.

After the tar pits, and with a fine appetite we headed over to San Pedro Ports O’Call, where you head into the fish market and get to choose from a selection of recently caught fish looking like this:

They don’t look so tasty now, but then you take them up to the grill where they clean them, and will grill or fry them up for you with potatotes and vegies and you end up with a tray of food like this:

It’s not fancy, but is absolutely the best fish possible, unless you’re eating fish you just caught yourself, and yes, that is garlic bread! So yum! I admit, I used to be among those who hesitated in facing a fish entire with its little eye staring up at me, but I have never in my life smelled or tasted a better fish than this so have no problems now, and at $10 a person you really cannot compare this place to anywhere else. There are also bands of travelling mariachis singing rancheras and love songs to the sweet sounds of the guitar and accordeon, and you are right on the water. Granted it’s the port and not incredibly scenic, but interesting! and there are pelicans! Look how cool they are:

And here are me, mum, and dad, happy, full, and about to roll off the pier and head back home…

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Gehry’s Concert Hall

Ahh, so sweet, the parents are all tuckered out and taking a nice little nap before dinner and leaving me to my own devices…The concert this afternoon was magnificent!  It’s an amazing place, the Disney Hall, every sound incredibly chrystal clear…You can sit back and let the symphony just wash over you, and put effort into separating the voices of each section in the orchestra while at the same time holding the whole sound in your head…I’ve never been in a place with accoustics like that, I shall be going regularly I believe.  I didn’t take this photo cause none are allowed, it’s from the website:

We had Hayden first, Symphony No. 82 in C major “the Bear” and it was beautiful, then a contemporary piece by Dean who performed on the Viola…I have to confess ignorance and say that I did not understand it, and did not like it at all, and while prepared to admit that it is very possibly because I don’t understand, am not sure I shall put effort into it.  The last was Modest (!) Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition, which was incredible and received a mostly standing ovation.  He wrote it originally for the piano, but Ravel set it for the orchestra and while intrigued with the thought of hearing it on one instrument, I can’t imagine it could be half as good.  It even featured a tuba!  Tubas just make me smile, I find them instruments of infinite comic genius, and after writing this shall look up when, where, and how on earth they came to be!  It also featured oboes, my favourite instrument, and an incredible horn solo which was carried out to perfection.

So had my dad sitting next to me, he enjoyed it immensely.  That did not stop his bad behaviour however, he likes to affectionately refer to himself as curmudgeonly but i have to say, I could think of other terms.  Still, I think he enjoyed the gift of tickets, and he loved the concert hall when we wandered about during intermission.  It is an incredible building, makes me feel almost kindly towards Eli Broad who mostly paid for it.  Days like today make me feel a bit schizophrenic, because I have a foot and a piece of myself in one world, and the rest of me out on the street with the people sleeping there…I can’t seem to reconcile the two, I suppose they should not be reconciled while injustice exists, poverty and beauty will probably live uneasily side by side as they have done through the ages, it is a tragedy that we cannot reconcile them.  Classical music is one of the few things that can make me cry, it has this unearthly beauty when it reaches perfection… the other things that make me cry are marches, movies, men, and the tears of people I care about…curious that four of those things start with the letter M.  My brother Michael has also made me cry on many an occasion, this m thing might be a discovery of some significance!

Low Culture and High Culture

About 5 years ago my friend Jeronimo took me to this restaurant in the depths of South Central, you could hardly call it a restaurant, it was like a trip to El Salvador…the way it looked, the way that it smelled…it took me back I must say. It’s all outdoors behind a white building that looks like a hole in the wall and closed to the public, with huge grills where they cook mojarras (grilled fish), and pupusas, and you eat at these long tables under plastic tarps, and on the walls are cheap decorations and towels with pictures of salvadoran scenes. They serve you on paper plates covered with foil, curtido and salsa on the side. I must say, the salsa could use a heavy dose of chile – that’s not the Salvadoran way however, and I can respect that…today I found it again without even looking! Like finding an old friend, Jose took me this time, it’s called Don Lencho’s and it’s on 61st and Normandie, and still delicious! I decided against the fish, for while delicious, its fragrance remains with you for the rest of the day, so had pupusas de frijol y queso, and I ate them with my fingers and they were soooooo good! I should have gotten Jose to take a picture before I ate them, because the remnants of a good meal are never classy, but here is Don Lenchos in all of it’s splendour!


The red towel behind me with the ladies making pupusas is seen everywhere in El Salvador and actually something I own, it was a gift from one of my old clients and therefore one of my prized possessions since it was someone I loved and respected very much…I helped Juan with his asylum case, but when his father died we tried to get a visa so he could return for the funeral. We did not succeed and that I still feel was one of the most unjust things in the entire world, for Juan’s father…imagine – one of his sons was tortured and killed, the other son tortured and fled and he never saw him again…and all they had done was teach cathechism and literacy. Juan just left because his father dying without saying goodbye…it f*&ed him up a little, he came back with a coyote and I was so afraid he wouldn’t make it back…and he still found time to buy me a gift. Anyways, finding this place again was enough to make my day, I love it!

This evening after work I went to the Central Library to see Alain de Botton speak on his new book Architecture of Happiness…it was very highbrow and very nice, and I have to say, I enjoy hearing Oscar Wilde and Stendhal quoted, I enjoy discussions of architecture, and I enjoy wondering why exactly it is that the world is not more beautiful, and how important architecture really is, and how my surroundings affect my thoughts and aspirations…I’m a bit of an architecture enthusiast but politically feel people should come first, so I’m always a bit torn by beautiful, and expensive, buildings. I enjoyed laughing at pictures of aesthetes who wandered the streets with large sunflowers so as not to see the horror, who care more about the colour of the wallpaper than the people who put it up…and still must admit that I have my aesthetic side that cringes at what people decorate their homes with, though I do not allow even those horrible plaster cupids with gilding on their silly wings to affect my love for people. I even enjoyed the older eccentric woman, who twice whispered quite loudly “stop talking” when the other guy was speaking, though technically it was a dialogue between Alain and Christopher ? who writes the architecture column for the Times. I suppose she’s old, time is ticking and she just wanted to get onto the Q&A section…

Speaking of architeture, I bought tickets today for the LA Philharmonic which set me back a bit and though painful, will hopefully be worth every penny. I’m treating my parents to a concert in Gehry’s Disney Hall on Sunday…My first time inside and I’m pretty excited about seeing it and hearing the accoustics, will be a good weekend I think!

Sunday Morning Golf

Beautiful day today, even though I got up at the crack of dawn to play…golf!  My first time, got home to find that the Sunday after I left on holiday, Davin, Tafarai, and Chris had started going out Sunday mornings to play…coincidence or did they need something to fill the void I left in their lives?  When invited I thought I would go, after all, I have never really understood the lure of golf and found it quite curious…and my internal clock is still waking me up abominably early do what I will…this is what the world looked like on the way to Davin’s in Lincoln Heights:

Sunrise over the scenic LA river and the assorted school buses and factories that line its banks…must say, they almost look beautiful in this light!

Went to Pasadena, bumping the Young Jeezy (It’s understood, I do it for the hood) in Chris’ “new” truck, I think we made quite an entrance.  Had breakfast first, then hit the driving range for a warm up.  Chris showed me the ropes initially, but the guy next to me was hitting the hell out of his balls, straight and all the way to the end of the range, more impressive than I can say and making me feel quite low.  Until that is, I had what can only be called a “beautiful girl” experience, though I was unshowered and not especially nice looking this morning.  Now, I’m sure everyone knows what these are: beautiful women get the special treatment wherever they go, and men carry their things and do things for them and help them when they just stand around looking like they need it.  Needless to say this never happens to me.  But this lovely Japanese man stopped his practice, fixed my grip and stuck two tees between my thumbs and forefingers so I could tell I was holding the club right, fixed my stance, watched me hit poorly and gave very helpful suggestions, and even lent me his glove.  Would have let me hit some of his balls too when mine were done, but by then the others had finished our buckets so I had to bid him adieu.  He said he really hoped I came to love golf…and I think I do!  He’ll never read this, but I’d like to thank him because he really did make a world of difference in my swing!Went to the shop which was open by that time and bought my own glove…feeling like a cross between Michael Jackson and hot professional golfer, we started the first hole.  First shot went 10 feet to the right directly into a large bush, but I remained uncrushed.

Anyways, here is Chris…he is the only one of us who actually knows what the f$%k he’s doing and came in at 11 over par…

And that’s in spite of the fact that he had to work all of last night.  He gets to wear his name on his shirt, I’m a bit jealous, and shall add it to the criteria of what I’m looking for in my new job.

This is Davin, his fourth time playing and he came in second, shan’t give you any more scores cause they’re a bit embarassing…still, he came in second after hitting three balls into the water, so that gives you some idea.

And Tafari in third on his third Sunday, though I beat him on the first 9!  Was feeling like a prodigy until I really started playing like crap.

No photos of me, sorry to disappoint…but I shall never more talk shit about golf as a sport, and must admit I’m feeling it a bit in places I didn’t know I was supposed to have muscles.  Though the fact I hit the ground rather hard a couple of times could explain the sadness of my right arm, especially going into the second 9, I would have been quite happy to call it a day before that.  The good news is that I can hit straight, just not far – that will come, right?  And I don’t like putting, it makes me feel like Happy Gilmore with the cursing and breaking things, but shall work on it.  Because I can think of few things that feel as good as getting a clean hit on a good swing and hearing that sound the ball makes when you hit it square and watching it sail away (not too far away in my case, but still)…it’s like that perfect shot in soccer when your foot catches the ball in that sweet spot and it feels absolutely effortless though the ball rockets off and goes exactly where you want it to go…I miss that!  I should try and start up soccer again…

It was quite extraordinarily entertaining, I admit I was a bit dubious, but think after all I shall be joing the Sunday ghetto golf brigade.  Might even buy myself a polo shirt.  I shall wait on the shoes, what right have they to charge $150 for golf shoes?  Makes me want to liberate a pair, but my conscience makes me keep pretty well to the straight and narrow.

Laughing at the Scots

Am exhausted, sending my manuscript out tomorrow and feeling very very nervous about that, and therefore not wishing to go tamely off to bed and stare at the ceiling thinking about how it’s not good enough…I have no alcohol to celebrate (and put me to sleep, perhaps I should go for the Nyquil?), so I am cheering myself up with silly things I saw on my holiday.  One of the best was this…and for my American readers, please believe the authenticity of the image you are about to see…

It is, indeed, a can of Ye Olde Oak (hilarious in itself, no?) American hotdogs…don’t they know that the only things that should go in cans are those little vienna sausages?  To be enjoyed in trailer parks everywhere?  I took a bunch of photos of crips/ chips as well, such lovely flavours like Prawn Cocktail, roasted chicken with lemon and thyme, teriyaki beef, pork rib, lamb and mint…but I shan’t bore you with those.

Hair straightening comes up next.  Now, in most lady’s washrooms in pubs across the land you can buy condoms and tampons…most sensible.  But in Pivo Pivo, Glasgow, while you can choose from an amazing selection of fine beers, ales and lagers, you can buy neither.  I guess no one’s getting lucky there…Instead, for only a pound, you can get seconds of hair straightening magic…maybe they figured that first priority was to score at all which requires having your hair straightened (that could explain some things about much of my holiday), and then didn’t have room for the condom machine so we shall just hope that the gents are well provided for, I didn’t think to take a peek.

No one told me you had to use one of these for true beauty until the very end of my stay, only think how much better my trip could have been had I only known!

What follows is possibly only funny to me (T thought it was funny as well), but found at Chatlheraut, first a fascinating discussion of

Apparently there are all kinds of “intriguing” and “secret” goings on when no one is looking, or possibly even when you are looking, since would you even know?  That’s nothing to what’s going on in the frank discussion of Chatlheraut’s herbaceous borders…I have a picture but am suddenly realizing that I have no idea why I think the words herbaceous borders are funny…possibly because herbaceous borders rhymes with curvaceous borders which just sounds naughty?  Perhaps it’s not funny at all, in which case I beg your pardon.

Place names, on the way to the wedding in Cumbria we passed Wigglesworth and Giggleswick, and I heard a tale of a small town called Piddle and the nearby village of Little Piddle…could be apocryphal but since it was Mrs. Burt told me, and she’s at least 80 years old and brilliant, I very much doubt it.  Also passed this sign:

The amazing village of Dull with its wild Highland Safari…can’t think of what was there, since we had left Hamish the wild Hielan Coo about 50 miles in the opposite direction.  Castle Menzies was a few miles away, where they had this facsinating exhibit:

The judicious hooker’s ecclesiastical polity…apparently even the hookers were dull in 1666, or did Dull have it’s more exciting side?

Well, that’s it for the photos, but I found one last splendid laugh in Bradford-on-Avon, in the small second hand bookshop right behind my great-aunt’s house…a pamphlet, for the extraordinarily affordable price of 50p, “Constipation and Common Sense.”  I do not know when it was written, but it originally sold for the price of 2 shillings, and it’s author, Cyril Scott, also wrote a fine treatise called “Crude Black Molasses” which, unfortunately, was unknown to the book store owner.  I shall share with you one of the opening paragraphs:

“Roughly speaking, there are three kinds of constipated people; those who don’t care whether they are constipated or not, and so do nothing about it; those who say, “what does it matter?  I always take some medicine”; and those who are constantly worrying over it…”

I shall leave you to ponder into which category you fall…but apparently constipation generally results from an absolute lack of commonsense, so go forth and find some, and you shall be cured!  Just don’t eat 20 apples all at once, swallow a bottle of cider vinegar, or eat bran for every meal, a “disastrous folly” in Mr. Scott’s considered medical opinion…

Scotland Remembered

Scotland remembered

So…struggling to keep awake and reset the old internal clock…up at 5 and I was absolutely finished today about 3 pm, but caught my second wind after I’d left work (I am hating this whole work thing I must say) and spent some quality time on the couch.  Nothing good to report about being in LA except being reunited with my chanclas (flip-flops to the Spanish deficient, and that reminds me, a chanclatada is a slap you give someone with your chancla, so I invented the spanglish word flip-floptada, but I don’t think it’s catching on), so I shall relive my holiday, and present…

drum roll please…

Edinburgh!  Lovely to be there with T and Chris, it shall live long among my happier memories.  We saw many sights, but just the city itself is lovely as you can see here

And here…

And here…

And here:

And here:

Went to a great pub and drank steadily, it is highly highly recommended but sadly I cannot remember its name…missed the train home but that wasn’t all bad…it was all right actually.  And finally, a few words of wisdom:

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Glasgow

Last day in Scotland?  Perhaps I’m staying here tomorrow as well and leaving Tuesday but who can tell?  I have to call the relatives and match up plans, we shall see how that goes, i have been truly terrible at communicating with my relatives so hopefully we all stay relatives at the end of this trip…mm, its only friends you can lose through lack of communication isn’t it, i’m just being very silly, possibly the massive hangover has something to do with that, erm, anyways, thought i’d do a little pictorial tour of Glasgow, I love this city!

Cool museums, though I’m not a hige museum person, but this is Kelvinhall, recently opened and FREE!  Also has Dali’s crucifiction on display…

And the People’s Palace, also FREE!  Where you can wear the displays!

Mm, we have great streets and great buildings, especially since i was lucky enough to have generally great weather

Everyone knows I like grafitti and some of the work here is great, we have one piper piping:

And one rogue

Also dragged the little brother to McKenzie’s Willow Tea Room…not happy…

He was hating until he discovered the joys of scones with cream and jam, then he thought it was all right…I must admit, pink and grey and tea rooms full of old ladies don’t do it for me really, but the billiard room was brilliant…Finally, St George’s Square…lots of other streets I loved and good times had and pubs enjoyed but they might have to wait for another day…

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Scotland holiday update

Just a short update for those of my friends anxiously waiting to hear how my holiday is going…very well!  Don’t have much time to write sadly cause i’ve been fiddling about with my photos but here are a few of the best…

Here is home base in Howwood where I’m staying with the uncle and aunt…

Went up to Loch Tay and saw Castle Menzies rather than the Crannog which was an excellent decision,

Tristram is in Hamilton, not scenic at all I’m afraid, but we took a little day trip to Chatlehraut – that is obviously a massacring of the spelling, but since i have already admitted i can’t spell…besides, it’s french

Climbed Ben Lomond as well, my first Munro!  Here is one view…

And a little bitty picture of me at the top!

Also took a day trip out to New Lanark and the Clyde Falls, which were incredible, though those stairs after Ben Lomond caused me great sadness…

Lot’s more but have to run…these pictures all look very healthy and outdoorsy, but never fear, I have also been taking full advantage of the pubs and drinking heavily…

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Welcome to Tijuana

Left thursday night for San Diego and a Friday presentation for the Southern California Technology something or other, and stayed at the…at the…damn, it was a good weekend! my only excuse, but it was a hotel, on San Diego’s hotel circle no less.  Who thought it a good idea to build hundreds of hotels on a mile long strip beside the freeway I ask you?  Ensuring that you must get into your car and drive if you wish to do anything but sleep or eat, I suppose it is the American way and the reason we’re the fattest nation in the world.  Still, our little hotel was a 1970’s paradise with a fake stone interior, fake tropical foliage and, I am happy to say, home to the Waffle Spot and a host of engaging breakfast characters such as the Waffle King, Sir Up, Squire Browns, the Court Eggster, Sir Robin of Flapjack, Sir Waffleot, and the Banger Brothers.  They were quite tasty.  The conference went well, I didn’t choke, and then we were off to Tijuana.

Tijuana…hard to know where to even start, I can’t…perhaps I shall just give random impressions.  The smell first of all, I think all big border towns smell the same, TJ, Nogales, Juarez…a mezcla of urine, roast meat, chiles, cheap perfume, hints of rotting garbage and sewage from time to time, sweat, leather and fresh cut wood from the shops…Naco doesn’t smell quite like that if anyone cares.  If you like cheap, colourful, shiny things this is paradise, base silver jewelry, bead bracelets, statues of every character you can imagine.  Christ and the Saints and la Virgen de Guadalupe in bottles, on towels, on shirts and ponchos, on blankets, pasted on wood plaques with shiny acrylic painted over them, as garish painted statues.  Right next to obscene T-shirts, right below the bars and strip clubs lining la Calle Revolucion.  Liquor stores everywhere.  Most of the women are sadly bulging out of skirts that are far too short and halter tops that are far too small.  Or sunburned tourists wearing flowy “vacation in mexico” clothes.  It is common practice to look a woman from top to bottom and then back up from bottom to top, and while emancipated, I have to admit myself quite glad of Jose and Ryan walking around with us because when every man does it I stop being furious and begin to be a tiny bit afraid.  But that was later really, I suppose an all night fling in TJ requires sterner stuff.

Every visitor is quickly drunk, because all the bars sell buckets of ice and beer – 10 coronas for $10.  Or shots of course, and caballitos for the unwary.  I tried one of those on my 21st b-day in Guadalajara, everyone poured out of the kitchen banging on pots and pans while a waiter tipped a shot of tequila down my throat, covered my mouth with a hand towel and shook my head roughly while blowing loudly on a whistle.  I have never been drunker. This is background, because on Friday, I saw them pour 5 shots down people’s throats and even though the poor souls were begging for mercy, shake their heads all around. We saw cops wrestling this huge pelon to the ground, handcuff him, and throw him into the back of their pick-up.  I think it must have been a slow night because the dance floors were pretty thin of dancers, and so you were able to watch some rather disgusting displays, and I am really afraid that if hear another raggaeton song playing ever again it shall bring with it incredibly disturbing flashbacks.  Every strip club had men in front to bring in the customers with a variety of propositions for ladies and gentlemen alike…the place is just a mad mixture of drunkeness, sex, mad catholicism in bright colours, desperate poverty, falling down buildings and rubble, clubs blasting out cumbias and reggaeton and hip hop from all directions…

Highlights were the lucha match, that was awesome.  Sobering up a bit in the early early morning with tacos 3 for a dollar and Vicente Fernandez singing Por Tu Maldito Amor and Volver Volver Volver on the juke box and me singing along with him – I like singing with a beer in one hand and a taco in the other.  Our taxi driver who taught us the fantastic new phrase hijo de la mañana.  Really good tapas at a Spanish restauraunt. Wandering old men carrying guitars and accordeons and bases, singing us rancheras over a late and delicious breakfast.  A Darth Vader marionette.  Playing pool at 4:00 am in a sketch bar, where there were only 3 solids yet two cue balls, only two cue sticks one of which was sadly cracked, and the table felt was stained and still wet from, er, something or other…I played brilliantly though with an incomplete set who can care but me?  It happens from time to splendid time though how I make almost every shot I really have no idea since in general I am pretty bad.

Of course the best bit was just a memorable weekend with good friends.  Hope Britain can compete, only 4 to days to go and I’m off!

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