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Upcoming Games

Posted by admin on 22.02.2019 in Sport

23rd February

15:15 France v Scotland

17:45 Wales v England


24th February

15:05 Man Utd v Liverpool

16:00 Italy v Ireland

17:30 Chelsea v Man City


 
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Dispatches From Agadir

Posted by admin on 10.01.2017 in Bar, Home
Dispatches From Agadir
Started the day in the “breakfast buffet bar” a sort of communal tasting trough that allows hotel guests to pick up, smell, squeeze and sometimes lick the food before placing it back in the baskets for another guest to select. Anyone who knows me knows that I like buffets as much as I like prostate exams but, paprika flavoured potato chips being the only food item sold in the hotel shop, buffet it is. Safe enough start as I select the orange juice. I know that, having reached the doorway to my “middle’ years, the orange juice will give me indigestion but I also know that drinking 14 bottles of Becks and half a bottle of chilled vodka will give me a bit of a dry tongue the day after and that’s never stopped me yet. A waiter appears and asks me my room number. This is apparently pretty important to them judging by the amount of times I get asked this on a daily basis. He then pours me some fairly acceptable coffee. Now it’s time to put plan A into action. Having tasted the restaurant fare yesterday lunchtime I have decided to prepare a wee home made packed lunch.  I make my way to the bar and pick up a couple of bread rolls, some ham and some cheese. At my table I turn these into two small “mixtes” and slip them into my bag. I feel guilty for a minute having done this until I see a gigantor German gentleman passing with, what appears to be a full bakery on one plate and a charcuterie shop on the other. Fuck em. Sometimes I’m too British for my own good. OK now that I have lunch sorted I’ll start on breakfast. Tempted as I am to try the Moroccan harrissa soup memories of 4 days shitting through the eye of a needle in Tunisia convince me otherwise. I settle for a selection of sausages. Yes Sausages. Evidently they’re quite popular here judging by the 5 different types on offer. To accompany my banger breakfast I ask my waiter for some mustard. He asks me my room number. I tell him that it’s still the same as it was 2 minutes ago since the last time he asked me. He then informs me that they have no mustard but, helpfully, he tells me that he can find me some marmalade. This offer has completely blindsided me and I can offer no response other than “maybe tomorrow”. I manage to consume most of the sausages but draw the line at the chicken sausage which doesn’t appear to have been cooked for very long and looks, well, just wrong. I ask for another coffee and, when the waiter asks for my room number, I resolve to have a t-shirt printed with the details on it before tomorrow.
After breakfast I decide to try and confirm my flight for Friday. My ticket is very clear about the fact I’m flying on Friday but is less concerned about revealing the time of said flight. I ask at reception and am directed to the concierge desk. It appears that in Agadir the concierge uniform is exactly the same as the jockey on entry number 9 at this years camel derby. He even has a plumed hat. I tell him my problem in my best Franglais and am told not to worry because I will already have been automatically confirmed on the flight. I tell him that I don’t know what time the flight is and he informs me that I should bring my cases to reception around two and a half hours before the flight and it’ll be taken care of. I stare. I wait. He smiles. Nope we’re gonna have to try again.
“I can’t come here two and a half hours before the flight because I don’t know when my flight is”.
He smiles again, “Your rep will know the flight time”.
“Yes but how can I find out the time today?”
“You must talk to your rep”
“When is he here?”
“He is here every day at 6 but if you need any information when he’s not here then please talk to me. My name is Omar”
“Thank you Omar. What time is my flight on Friday?”
Bingo. He stares blankly. I’m sure I just saw his plume plummet. “Please come back at 6 sir”.
I quit while I’m behind. Maybe some Thalasso Therapy is what I need. As part of my package deal I have a complimentary 3-day “cure”. I’m not sure exactly what the cure is for but as I have a fairly substantial list of issues in my life that could use sorting I have absolutely nothing to lose. I present myself at the desk and give my now signature “I’m Scottish and unfortunately I only speak a little French” routine which has served me well in the vast majority of countries in the world that hate the English and the Americans. I am directed to the men’s changing rooms where I’m fitted out in a white robe and some snazzy white flip-flops. I then hand my card to a group of girls in chemist outfits (a convention perhaps?) and one chemist takes me to a small bathroom. Now I don’t actually mean that my white-coated friend brought me to the latrine but rather she took me to a small room that contained one item, a bath. Disrobed I stepped into the now prepared bath. When I was in place she explained to me about the rather strange over sized showerhead attachment that rose out of the centre of the bath like some sort of long necked dinosaur. When she turned a knob the bath filled with jets of water and the showerhead started to rotate. After my mind ceased to boggle I enquired as to the implements use. The chemist gestured towards my mid section and made circular hand movements. She can’t be serious surely. I realised that, as I’m somewhat vertically challenged, she was in fact pointing to the stomach of a normal sized Westerner. Understood she chucked a face cloth over my forehead, wished me luck and left. Now, I’m guessing they’ve done this before and that some sorts of tests have been done to establish the worth of this exercise. So, in for a penny, in for a diram I set about massaging my stomach with a rotating, water spouting showerhead. This lasts for approx. 10 minutes before the ridiculousness of the situation sets in. What exactly am I trying to achieve? I stop. I decide to examine the showerhead. It sprays salt water in my face. I decide to stop examining the showerhead. I put it off to the side. I just lie there in my Loch Ness Monster themed Jacuzzi. I fart. Well who’ll notice? After 20 minutes I see the chemist’s shadow approaching through the frosted glass door. I quickly grab Nessie and position her back on my stomach.
“C’est bon?” asks white-coat lady.
“Oui, c’est bon” seems to be the only thing I can reply.
She smiles, apparently content that I have enjoyed the experience. Maybe she invented it? Anyway it’s now time for me to move to the next room. My card is passed on to a young Moroccan guy who talks to me in rapid fire French. “I’m Scottish and unfortunately…..”, och you know the script. He points to my red stomach “Sunburn?” he asks.
“No, showerhead injuries” I reply. He stares.
Anyway, once again I’m disrobed and put into a steam room. Now I’ve been in steam rooms before but never one like this. I can see nothing. Nothing outside a 6 inch radius anyway. I raise my hand to my face just to make sure I haven’t suddenly gone blind. Sight confirmed I turn to where I think I have just come from. Apparently the Moroccan guy, through perhaps years of working in this environment, has acquired steam-o-vision as he can see me enough through the pea soup to say, “You sit down there”.
“Where?”
“Over there”
“Look mate”, I tell him in my best Aberdonian, “I can’t even see where ‘here’ is never mind fuckin ‘there’”.
He appears from the mist and directs me to a bench. I sit there. Steaming and not in the good way. It’s hot. Really hot. My brain seems to burble and boil until eventually I believe I can hear a high-pitched whistle exiting through my ears and nostrils. After what seems an eternity and just before I’m ready to quit and crawl out on my knees steam-o-vision boy reappears and pulls me to safety. Before I can thank him for saving my life he has thoughtfully pushed me under a cold shower. After the initial shock I am able to look up at the shower head and read the word “Groh” which is ironic as this is what I have just been thinking as I look down at where my penis once was. The steam, followed by the shock of the cold, has sent my poor wee boy over the edge and he has retreated into his cave. Well that’s my story anyway. After my shower steam-o covers me in some sort of olive oil based gunk. He leaves this on for approx. 2 seconds before telling me to wash it off again. Thinking that maybe it is some sort of special olive oil/acid combination I do as he tells me. Next I’m told to lie face down on the massage table. I am then rubbed down by what appears to be glass paper. This, I’m told, removes the top layer of dead skin but, in my case, seems to just remove my skin. Period. After 10 minutes of having my entire body licked by a cat’s tongue I’m chucked back under the shower before being sent into the next room. There is an overwhelming feeling of being on some sort of Thalasso production line.
In the next room I experience blessed relief as I’m handed a cup of hot, sweet mint tea. I love mint tea. I’m just pissed off that whenever you try to recreate it in your drab apartment at home it never tastes like it does here. Tea finished I’m shown into a larger indoor pool area. It appears to be like one of those Fisher Price activity centres but with……erm……bubbles instead. After another bloody shower I’m directed to a specific part of the pool where I sit in a shaped chair while bubbles are blown up from under my ass. I decide that it’s completely pointless for me to even try to fathom out the therapeutic benefits of this exercise. After 10 minutes of the ass Jacuzzi I am moved to another section of the pool where I get ass bubbles part two and also some back bubbles for good measure. Smashing. I now feel like a not so lean-cuisine boil in the bag meal. Another ten minutes pass and I’m instructed “You, two eyes, downstairs”. I figure out that he wants me to look down. I stand on, guess what, another bubble jet on the floor of the pool. This jet is extremely powerful and hits the soles of your feet so hard that they become numb after 2 minutes. Getting bored with the bubbly feet thing I let go of the hand support and try to balance on the jet. Bad move as I lose balance and fall off the jet. This of course makes me feel ridiculous as the first man to fall over whilst in a swimming pool. Next on my bubble menu comes the shoulder cannon. I am told to face forward whilst gripping a bar behind me sort of like a ski jump position. A veritable water cannon then batters me in the back almost sending me sprawling. This continues for approx. 5 minutes. While I’m enduring this form of water therapy usually reserved for Mayday protesters a very old Japanese woman enters the pool area with her younger female companion. They shuffle their way over to the pool and begin to descend the 5 or so steps into the pool. This happens in slow motion, as the older Japanese woman seems to have been stuck on “single frame advance” mode. This gives me time to imagine what will happen when she has to do the shoulder cannon. I debate whether the jet will simply punch a hole through the centre of her back and exit through her front or whether she will in fact be catapulted through the louver windows, across the garden and into some sort of old-Japanese-woman-catchy-net-thingy. Whilst I am mulling over this I look up to check their progress. I now realise that old Japanese woman is wearing a swimsuit that is not very suitable for a woman with her years already in the bank. I am given, what can only be described as a dry wretch enticing view, of a large section of her “lady garden”. Oh my god. And to think these people invented Bonsai tress so it’s not like they don’t know a thing or two about trimming. In a desperate move I realise that by angling my self on the shoulder cannon I can direct a fairly substantial jet of water in their direction whilst looking perfectly innocent at the same time. I try it. It works. Old Japanese woman decides she has had enough just as she has managed to negotiate the 5 steps into the pool after 10 minutes effort. I view this as a major success until I realise that what comes down must go back up. I am treated to a reverse view of the sight I’d never wanted to see in the first place. Curiously, from this angle, it now looks like Kevin Keegan circa 1978 bubble perm. I resolve to wash my eyes out with bleach and move onto the next step on the bubble circuit training set.  Swimming. Cool. Even I can manage that. I got my 100 yards swimming proficiency certificate in the Middle School in Aberdeen in the days before meters had been invented. Swim around the doughnut shaped, outdoor mini pool 3 times. Piece of cake. Or so I thought. The combined effect of bubbly feet thing and shoulder cannon have meant that the only swim stroke I can affect is a sort of spasticated Man from Atlantis. Then the guy went and turned on the current machine. Now I’m expected to swim 3 times round against the current. “Why?” I enquire.
“Because it’s good for you,” I’m told.
“So is jogging but do you see a pair of Lycra on me mate?”
We agree on a compromise. I will swim against the current when he’s looking and with it when he turns his back. We both seem to be happy with this resolution. As I’m drifting around the outdoor doughnut I see the old Japanese woman laying on a sun-lounger apparently wrapped in cotton wool from head to toe. She doesn’t look well but at least all I can see is her face. After my swim test I return to the indoor bubble park. It’s been ages since I’ve done any bubble exercises and I’m kinda missing them. I’m not disappointed as I’m introduce to stomach and back bubble machine. Great. While I’m standing there experiencing the multitude of beneficial effects of having air blown on your back in a swimming pool I look over at bubbly feet machine. The girl that is currently on bubbly feet machine has evidently became as bored as I did. Go on I think. She doesn’t let me down. She lets go of the handrail and tries the death defying bubble balancing act. Being a rather “top heavy” girl she experiences even less success than I did and falls forward off the jet whilst colliding face first with the pillar that holds the handrail. It makes a muffled thump noise. It doesn’t hurt very much by the looks of it as she quickly checks to see if anyone saw. I turn away. Almost no one saw what she did. Almost. Inside I’m laughing so much I want to wet myself but I know that if I did these buggers would probably have that stuff in the water that goes purple at the first sign of wee. I satisfy myself with the thought that I’m only the second most stupid person in the pool today.
When I leave the Thalasso therapy place I head back to reception. I ask about available Internet connection. “Oh yes we have wi-fi” I’m cheerily informed.
“Well I tried my laptop and couldn’t find any available networks”
“What room are you in?” t-shirt damn it.
“448”
“Oh it won’t work there,” she tells me.
“So where exactly does it work?”
“Well in this area here” she says gesturing to the reception area.
I go back to my room, pick up my laptop, return to the reception desk, pay the 30 dirams for 30 minutes fee, connect to the Internet and send you “Dispatches from Agadir Part One”.
Colin

 
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Driving a Scooter in Paris – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Posted by admin on 13.01.2011 in Bar

I can’t remember what my life was like in Paris before I bought my scooter. Getting around on a wee 50cc vespa, zipping through the narrow streets of Paris is one of the great feelings in life. Then you remember everyone else on the streets. And the dream dies.

I can’t categorically state that Parisian drivers are the worst in the world. I haven’t driven everywhere in the world. They’re simply the worst I’ve ever seen. You learn pretty quickly that there are very few actual rules for driving in Paris and those that exist seem to have been created for, well, a laugh. My own particular favourite is that vehicles filtering on to traffic from your right have priority. Let me explain. I can be merrily driving along a straight road and any vehicle can pull into my path from any junction on my right without indication nor use of mirrors. And it’s legal. What this means is that you learn to drive in a sort of stop/start fashion whilst constantly slowing down whilst passing the smallest street. Just in case. Well that is if you drive a scooter and/or value your life. Should you drive a car, or if indeed your life is not that important to you, then just crack on. You’ll probably survive the impact right? In the early days I  had many barneys with drivers who, in my view, attempted to kill me by pulling out in front of me. This was until it was explained to me by a friend that what they were doing was in fact perfectly acceptable under the law. My gast was absolutely flabbered. I still lose it when cars pull out without even a cursory glance left but I’ve never yet met a driver who gave a shit about my feelings.

You can’t drive a scooter in Paris for 3+ years without taking a tumble or two. In my case it’s around 7 times with the latest being around a week ago. In every single instance rain or wet roads have been a factor. Unfortunately a vespa is simply not made to stop in the rain. Throw in the large amount of cobbled streets in Paris and you end up like a giraffe on roller skates when the heavens open. Of all the spills I’ve had, and none have been serious thankfully, I can honestly hold my hand up and say that on one occasion it was my fault. I should have slowed down more before the traffic lights and when they changed I braked too hard and the front wheel slid out from under me. On every other tumble it was another driver or pedestrian’s fault and I had little or no chance. From people stepping out onto the street between parked cars, to drivers throwing open their doors with looking in the mirror, to taxis suddenly changing lanes without warning (or indication), to police pulling out in front of me for no apparent reason, I’ve seen it all. On all of these occasions, when the “other guy” was clearly in the wrong, not once have they ever accepted any responsibility for their actions. Usually you are met with a bemused “well, you fell so it’s your fault” kinda look. It drives you nuts. Last week’s fall was the result of a car pulling out in front of me (from the left) and turning the wrong way up a one-way street. I braked suddenly to avoid collision and went down like a sack of spuds. Adrenalin kicks in, I jump up and run to the driver door ready to kick someone’s ass. Cue woman sitting there looking bemused. “I was just going that way” she said. “You’re not allowed to fucking go that way. You could have killed me. Do you care?” was my witty repost. “No” would apparently be the answer. End result, bust up knee (again) and a crooked pinky. Both hurt like buggery. I await with trepidation the day, in a couple of weeks, when they don’t hurt because that’ll be the day that I’m due my next tumble.

Another of my favourite “tricks” by Parisian drivers is the habit of indicating as they turn a corner. Not before. Not during the 2 minutes sat at the traffic lights but during the turn. It’s difficult to try to explain to Parisian drivers that indicating whilst turning is a pointless exercise. I don’t need you tell me that you’re turning whilst you are turning as, I can see that you are turning. Usually across two lanes and my path. Parisian looooove to turn across multiple lanes of traffic. It just doesn’t seem worth turning if you have already manoeuvred yourself into the correct lane. Where’s the fun in that?

You would be forgiven for thinking that there seems to be simply a basic communication problem between drivers on the Paris streets. You would be wrong. Paris drivers love to communicate whilst driving. Their favourite methods are iphones and blackberries. NEVER hands free. Too easy. Yup you can always tell if the driver in front of you is on his/her phone when they seem totally adrift from the traffic in front of them. They however pale into insignificance when faced with the other hazard (they at least have their eyes on the road most of the time).  I can tell with almost 100% certainty that when the driver in front of me starts veering all over the road, into oncoming traffic etc. that said driver is using an ipod or mp3 player. These drivers cradle the device in their lap and change the songs whilst looking at the screen. I’ve seen so many accidents or near misses due to these idiots and they don’t seem to be learning.

There are a few basic tenants that you learn over the years driving in Paris.

§  Scooters are invisible to the naked eye of a driver.

§  No-one ever uses indicators or mirrors. Fact.

§  Taxi drivers in Paris are, in my humble opinion, the lowest life form on earth. Whether you are driving alongside them or actually in their vehicle. More of this on another day.

§  Smart car drivers are, ironically, the dumbest people on the road.

§  If you drive in Chinatown (13e) well then you’re just asking for trouble aren’t you.

§  People that ride Velibs (the rental bikes in Paris) have no ability to ride in a straight line.

§  Red lights do not apply to velibs or sushi delivery drivers (what’s their rush anyway?).

§  Paris pedestrians have absolutely no fear of traffic and are, apparently, impervious to oncoming vehicles.

§  One way streets do not really mean that you can only drive one way up them.

§  Scooters have no right to legal parking spaces and can be moved/knocked over by car drivers if they happen to be in a space that they desire.

§  Parisian police can sense that I am not French and of a certain age and therefore still have a healthy respect/fear of them. Whilst other drivers can basically mount the pavement whilst overtaking a police car I get followed for 5 minutes while they wait for me to do anything suspect.

So, in short, riding a scooter in Paris when it’s dry, the sun is shining and you have a pretty girl as a passenger is one of life’s great thrills. My advice to you is to buy one of those 3 wheel MP3 things. Much, much safer. x

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