December 30th, 2007

The classic post, see also – Best of 2004, Best of 2005 and Best of 2006.

Album of the Year – MIA – Kala

Sadly it pipped Smashing Pumpkin’s Zeitgeist to the post, actually it didn’t stand a chance. This South East London / Sri-Lankan artist is keeping it real and has some excellent tracks. My favourite track is Paper Planes on this album.

Cinema Trip of the Year – 300
I didn’t see enough films at the cinema this year as I’ve found it very hard to pick a favourite. Amy and I saw 300 at the cinema in Byron Bay when we went there for Easter, the special effects were amazing but suttle at the same time, even though the world of 300 is completely surreal. A very interesting film and highly recommended.
DVD of the Year – The Life and Death of Peter Sellers

I only saw this film recently and thought it was totally amazing. The acting is great and the story of Peter Sellers’ life is extraordinary. Sellers died four hours after I was born so I was intrigued to see this film and it didn’t disappoint. An extremely interesting life story about a very complicated man.

Book of the Year – The Business Rules

The Business Rules: The 7 Irrefutable Laws that Determine All Business Success – is probably the best book I’ve read all year. It contains a lot of common sense guidelines that I recommend if you ever consider or do actually run your own business.

Game of the Year – FIFA 2008

This game is truely brilliant, it makes you feel like a pro even though you are probably helped along by the AI of the game. When you hit the post from a long shot volley, you actually believe it was entirely your doing. The WII controls are excellent as well.

Website of the Year –

Kind of a “friends reunited / blog / social experiment” mashup that works really well. I’ve got back in contact with people I never thought I’d here from again. The ability to upload pictures and videos to the system and tag people is extremely clever. Some people think their targetted advertising is an invasion of privacy, but for me to be able to target surfers with my surf forecasts application is an extremely handy tool.

December 25th, 2007

From Amy and Gary

Picture taken at Compton Verney on a very cold day!

December 23rd, 2007

A short video of Prague to get a feel of what the place is like in motion, set to some classic Czech style music, I think –

[flv: 560 306]

Or download a higher quality WMV (17meg) of the video for a crisper experience.

December 23rd, 2007

Last night was a trip out with my mates from the village, it was really nice as there was a good group and some faces I didn’t expect to see namely Chris and Ian and Mark.

First off we met at the Golden Bee Weatherspoon pub which doesn’t have any music playing so you can actually here what people are saying –

Me, Chris, Rachel and Alex

See if you can spot any of the characters above in the ‘Benidorm Boys‘ holiday webpage I created 8 years ago now!

Dino was back from his 12 month trip to China and Eastern Asia, 10 months of working in a Chinese School in the factory district of Guandong and eating things that you shouldn’t eat has given him some great stories to tell, especially the one about a stand off on a 22 hour bus journey – you’ll have to ask him yourself!

Me, Kim, Dino and Gino

As the night wore on and many more drinks were being drunk (Kim’s favourite of the Polish Lech beer really had a kick) we headed to Chicago Rock which Kim described as “after 8 seconds of being in there you’ll want to leave”. It was worth it though as Mark and Ian (Fathand) were in there and it was great to see them, Mark even has a little baby (although he wasn’t there).

Me and Fathand after “a few”

A great night out but now suffering the consequences of a hang over!

Also, here’s a great picture from my parents camera of my Dad’s Birthday party that we had on the canal boat which went down the river Avon –

Dad’s Birthday Party on the Canal Boat
December 21st, 2007

This is something you are not going to want to miss out on this Christmas. Andres has created some Christmas labels for your gifts. We printed them out and have come in super handy, not to mention look really cool –

The Andres Touch

From Andres’ blog –

“I draw the little fellow with Rotring pens, and the curls with a soft grey marker. I left the place for the name of the lucky recipient of the gift blank to write it after printing. I scanned and painted the whole thing on Photoshop.”

Checkout the full blog entry here where you can download a PDF version to print out!!

December 21st, 2007

On our second day in Prague we hit the tourist walk which took us to all the major sites of the city. It is actually quite a small place so only takes a day to walk around, we even got to go inside a castle!

We headed out of a great hotel and walk alongside the Vltava River and headed fo for the biggest castle complex in Europe –

Prague Castle

First off we walked through a park with a giant swinging pendalum in it. The park was covered in graffiti which spoiled it a little bit but when we got to the castle it was a different story. After walking around the castle and having an apple strudel and macchiato at an overpriced cafe we walked this stair way back down towards the city centre and over the Charles Bridge, famous in recent times for being the film location for Linkin Parks ‘Numb’, INXS ‘Never tear us apart’ and Kanye West’s ‘Diamonds are forever’.

Amy and stairs from Prague Castle

After hitting the Charles Bridge we walked past the ‘Astronomical Clock’ which was pretty amazing, we actually saw it the day before but didn’t realise what it was as we weren’t as clued up on the historical sites of Prague at that time –

Astronomical Clock in Prague

That night we headed out for dinner at a nice restaurant which had live music playing, Amy had traditional Czech food “Shoulder of Pork with Dumplings and Cabbage” where I went for the even more traditional Czech dish of Spaghetti Bolognaise.

Czech Repulic Favourite Car

We went back to the airport the next day in even colder temperatures with snow falling all around us (in a luxury Skoda). Prague is a great city and really nice to go at Christmas time as it appears the drunken louts don’t come at this time of year!

Sorry for the strange aspect ratio on the pictures but this is the way it will be until we can get a new pocket camera!

December 18th, 2007

UK airport security has reached “ridiculous” on the threat level stages, you are only allowed to take on board one bag and anything you have that has 125ml of liquid must go into a plastic bag and if your hand luggage weighs more than 10kg then back to the check in desk for you! A guy in front of us had his bag weighed and it was 12kg so he wasn’t allowed through security. When you finally think you’ve got through the metal detectors and the bag x-ray you get to another security checkpoint where you have to take your shoes off and they go through an x-ray machine. Then when you think your finally into the shopping area of the terminal you go through another security checkpoint where your greeted by police which semi-automatic machine guns and the spanish inquisition.

On the flight over to Prague you can see the fields from the plane going from a nice green colour to an icy white colour. The temperature in Prague is mild to say the least, the first thing we did after arriving in the country was to buy some mulled wine from a little market stall, here’s Amy buying some with the temp. gauge at a freezing minus six degrees –

Amy, Mulled Wine and -6 degrees

We had a walk around with our mulled wine and checked out the square near the Powder Tower which is one of the sights in Prague, here is me outside one of the buildings in the square wrapped up for the cold –

Cold with Mulled Wine

We walked on a little more and looked for a restaurant to get dinner from, there is a lot of choice and some amazing architecture in the city, this is another square we came across that was selling all sorts of food and drink. It had a stage with a choir singing Christmas songs which was very nice.

Nice Square

We eventually found a pizza place which was off of the main square down another little side street. It had some amazing decor, here is Amy and me enjoying some lovely authentic Prague Pizza?

Prague Pizza

We went into a mall to look for some drinks and came across another C&A Shanghai style. We tried to take a photo outside of it but then the camera tumbled out of our hands and onto the floor from which point it has ceased to work 🙁

Looking forward to tomorrow day time to get out and see the sights of Prague and maybe some even see some snow!

December 16th, 2007

We took a visit to West Midlands Safari Park with my parents which was fun, it was the old style drive through zoo, where you are in there with the tigers and other creatures which just the protection of the car. Here is Amy’s best picture of a cow that was approaching the open window –


We then celebrated my Dad’s 31st birthday on a restaurant boat that went up and down the Avon in Stratford, through a few locks. It was good fun and the food was great, another Christmas dinner! The next day we went to Bicester Village which was actually cheaper than Australia for shopping which was great.

Then it was off to London! There’s a few changes around the city, namely new buildings going up and old ones being changed, here’s the LSE with its new exterior, apparently its a listed building so they couldn’t knock it down and start again –

LSE Redesign

We met up with my old mate Matt who I went to University with, here we are in a ye-old English pub in the city Enjoying some London Pride. All the pubs in UK are now non-smoking which is great as a visit to the pub doesn’t mean you have to wash all your clothes the next morning, but the problem is the old smoke smell doesn’t seem to have completely gone so a strange odour has replaced it.

Me, Matt and Amy with London Pride

We then met up with some of Amy and my old work mates for a drink in the evening and somehow managed to end ourselves up at their Christmas party which was great because it meant we got a free dinner. Here’s Amy taking a picture of the corporate corporation department we used to work with. Lots of new faces in there!

Corporate Corporation Christmas Party @ The Fox

The next day we did a big trip around London to all Amy’s favourite shops, the shop I most wanted to visit, Reckless Records on Berwick Street went into Liquidation after 24 years of business some months ago and now has become a Mexican fast food outlet – which sucks, although Mexican food is great. We actually went to a place called ‘Ping Pong‘ for lunch, which was the best Dim Sum I’ve ever had.

That night we went to visit Karine et Mark in Clapham and to see Monsieur Felix. He is now a walking talking little boy last time I saw him he was just a little baby. It was great to catch up with them and we had a great dinner and we exchanged gifts, here is non-camera shy Monsieur Felix handing gifts out –

Monsieur Felix Present Handler

Amy has got a cold so we are going to take it easy on our last day in London before getting ready for a (very cold) trip to Prague – zero degree max temperatures.

December 12th, 2007

We have arrived in England and it has been very nice, the first day it was my job to sort out the loft much to my parents delight –

Mum in the Loft

The next day Amy and me went into Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon for some shopping, it was a delight to walk around Marks and Spencer and see all the delicious food, it makes you wonder why there’s not one anywhere in Australia, I’d probably shop there exclusively (not for the clothes but the food) – well here’s the scoop, in 1996 they had big plans to open up a store in Sydney, then in 1998 they cancelled plans to start an M&S franchise with Just Jeans due to the weakening AUD at that time, then in 2001 the company was restructured and contintental European stores were closed, however, last month they announced they were investing £1.1bn expansion program particulary interested in Ireland, China, India and Europe. Hopefully Australia will get into some of the action – we need Marks and Spencer Australia. Here’s Amy in the sandwich isle of the great store –

Amy in M&S – Nice sandwiches in boxes what a great idea

I have to admit it is a sorry state of affairs when I convert all the pound values in Australian dollar, I preferred it much more when I was doing it the other way around! So I didn’t end up buying very much as you might imagine.

New Twenty Pound Note

The next day we went into the Cotswolds which is a nice part of central England that has various old towns and villages to walk around. First stop was Chipping Camden, where we checked out the markets, then Stow on the Wold and then Bourton on the Water, where I had a luxury coffee and we had some scones and a mince pie.

Bourton on the Water

We did a bit more of a drive around to Broadway where we had lunch at a nice pub/hotel called The Lygon Arms, which was built in 1530 and in my opinion was definetly haunted, with its little passage ways and hidden rooms.

That night we headed back into Stratford-upon-Avon to see the Christmas lights, aren’t they beautiful –

Stratford-upon-Avon Christmas Lights
December 10th, 2007

Well goodbye China hello England! There is something very strange about waking up in a hotel room in Shanghai on the East Coast of China and then going to bed in a little village in the middle of England the same night. I’ve mostly been in the loft packing boxes to ship to Australia since I’ve been here, but we did go out for a very strange lunch at a German owned Guesthouse in Stratford-upon-Avon.

I made this video in China just before we left –

[flv: 560 306]

Or download a higher quality WMV (60meg) of the video for a crisper experience.