Saturday, 25 June 2011

Mostly Harmless

Just a quickie today. If you are in the Solar System, do not not forget to pop into a small ball of water and dirt called Earth:

(The Earth from the edge of their stellar system - a mere 18 billion of their miles away)

With six space ports in the Northern Hemisphere (Kennedy, Baikonur, Guiana, Jiuquan, Satish and Tanegashima acting as entreports to this insignificant planet and none in the Southern Hemisphere, finding an available take-off or landing slot can be tricky. Teleportation devices are very useful when trying to access Earth.

A fair minority of the local bipeds have just discovered the use portable entertainment devices. Hence while they are commuting from one side of their world to the other (which due to their primitive use of fossil fuels can take between half and one of their daily rotation periods) they are often engrossed in the entertainment output of their own species. Most of the time, this involves watching members of their own species copulate with each other (and occasionally copulate with other species). However, due to their lack of interstellar travel they have still not discovered the pleasures of either Vulcan Love Slaves or Jaba's brothel and emporium. Hence what they believe to be sex is in fact a much watered down version of the real thing.

There are some quite interesting sites to visit while on the planet. And amazingly, the local bipeds have built some impressive settlements. However, it is best to travel incognito. Already, there are too many wars in between the different areas of this planet as they are not used to people looking mildly different from each other - imagine if they found out that you had different genetics.

The main languages spoken are Insectoid and Russian. To be honest, most of the planet speaks its own languages and believe that the other species harbour no intelligence. For the most stimuating conversation however, head beneath the water's surface where you will be able to have a great time with a Warm Blooded species called Dolphins. They are also the kinkiest species this planet has to offer.

Apart from sex, the local inhabitants seem to spend a great deal of time eating. Some of the best food is found in the land of McDonalds...

Local currency is a flimsy Earth metal known as Gold. Otherwise they also throw bits of paper and plastic at each other.

Good luck. And for a more detailed guide, written by some very aware bipeds, click here!

Friday, 24 June 2011


...was one of those weirdly productive days that leaves you satisfied yet strangely mortified. Where did the time pass. In addition to the usual bouts of surfing the web for wank fodder and nibbling on various seasonally available fruits, I also had one hell of a day.

All right, it began by an alarm. Never a good sign, as I was working a shite job last night. Then it was off to the Doctor's to overcome my overwhelmingly male fear of seeing anyone who has studied for a minimum of seven years in order to practice. Next came a cycle ride to the motorbike shop, then went to the bank, a chatted with the bank's staff, off to get a WD-40 clone, then cycled back, do second 'corporate' job, eat lunch before heading off to East London to pick up motorbike from partial repairs (a good thing, saved me a pretty penny - thank you!). Caught up with life, had supper, rode back, broke down (chain slipped off and caught chaingaurd). Then call out friend (who bailed me out - thank you!), chatted with other friend while waiting for bail out, before returning and writing a blog at 3am or so after completing part 1 of corporate job.

Now in the lull that is video rendering, instead of making a cup of tea, I am actually doing something far more productive. Like writing a blog. Wow. Does it get any more sexy?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

I could get to love the banks...

Okay, I am not above bank bashing. It is a sport that generally amuses and entertains me. And for good reason.

But now I may have an interest in their speedy recovery. Not as a tax payer (as all my cash is wasted) but as a shareholder.

I look forward to this idea, possibly the single most sensible piece of policy to come from this government. But of course, someone has got to get paid, and it will not be us...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Man of Peace in Westminster

RIP Brian Haw, the longstanding protester against the government's wars since 2001.

(Photo by David Hunt)

A continual thorn in the government's side or an eyesore. That is how most people viewed him. A modern day Gandhi, or a sponger off the state. History, not me shall be the judge. But think about it. How he completely embarrassed the mighty Blair, Brown and Cameron, highlighting their violence on other people. Remember, these guys where respectable suits and do not get their hands dirty with the mucky business of war. No, that is left to soldiers fighting for oil and civilian mistakes, sorry, casualties.

And no matter how much all these PM's tried, they did not dislodge him. Soon enough the peace protest in Westminster will come to an end, because after all the 'public' doe not like a blight on the fair greenway outside Parliament. But remember you corrupt little fuckers in Westmister, we really do not like you. Understand that word, really. It feels just like school, always turning your back, looking over your shoulder in case you get beaten up. Yeah, it is still the same now. Unlike the venerable Brian Haw, I hope you all never find any peace where you are going...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Porto Airport - how it should be done

After complaining about Gatwick last week, I thought it was time to look at the other end and to have a look at, what in my opinion is probably one of Europe's best airports. Seriously, I have done a lot of travel, and compared to anything I have seen in Europe, Porto Airport has to be one of the easiest travel gateways I have used worldwide!

It is a really new structure, I have no idea when it was built, but it was built to last. And cope with the crowds, all 5 million of them. Okay, this does not fall into the category of super busy that is any of London's gateways, but it is the little things that matter, that make this a little more civilised than your average airport. Firstly, it is really easy to get to. The metro line pops into the airport itself, albeit infrequently, it does run at all times of the day. For the adventurous, there is also a city bus that takes you direct to Porto's city centre.

But as I mentioned it is the little things. Do not get me wrong, the food is generally awful here (and overpriced) but that is to be expected, it is an airport. But those little things like clean toilets (simple, but usually a sticking point in many airports - CDG!) or free water, or even free wi-fi (and computer terminals!) They make life that little bit easier. Or music played in the departure lounge. Not tinny crap piped over the tannoy, but real, live music!

Civilised. And as an adieu to Porto, I have this to say. It has to be one of my favourite city's in all of Europe. Really, I cannot recommend this city enough . If you find yourself with a few days to spare, jet in, enjoy the scenery, soak up the atmosphere, eat well, and relax in one of Europe's better airports...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Porto's Weird and Wonderful 'Sights'

Little dinky houses overlooking the waterfront. How quaint. How pretty. How very Porto. Like everything else in this beautiful town, the quirky, the old and the new merge into one seamless blend of urban living. The tiles may be falling in on the collapsed roofs, but these houses are probably priceless for their owners.

Yes. The Cookie Monster. 'Nuff said...

How many men have said this to how many women, and yet we still come back to them. We are crazy, or at least sex-crazed, deranged fools. Or lovesick. Well, whatever, you drive me up the wall!

And at least someone gets a great vantage point of the city, in this case, by the Cathedral which is right next to the Dom Luis Bridge.

I cannot recommend this city enough. I do not know why Portugal's tourist board insists on advertising the Algarve, when Porto has to be one of Europe's best kept secrets!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Crossings of the Duoro River - Dom Luís Bridge, Porto

Possibly the most famous landmark in Porto, the Dom Luís Bridge over the River Duoro casts a magnificent arch across the gorge in which the city sits. It completely dominates the city centre, and is probably the highlight of any visit. Linking the Porto with its southern suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia, it was completed in 1886 by the same people behind the Eiffel Tower.

Getting to the bridge is easy, as there are two decks. The lower deck carries normal road traffic, but if you want those views across the river, then there is a more cunning way to get up there to the upper deck. You can take Line D of the Porto Metro or you can walk up from Sao Bento station, past the Cathedral to the upper deck, to get those marvelous views...

And it is a romantic place to take a stroll! If you have a loved one, someone special who you want to share a view with, well, this is probably one of the most beautiful parts of Porto (along with the Museum of Romance) to come and take a stroll. Sunset is a particularly stunning time to see the vista of the city from the Dom Luis Bridge.

It does not take long to take the bridge and to be honest, like the crossing, my holiday in Porto was over far too soon. I really want to come back to Porto. It was simply just a great place to visit. Fantastic food, great sights, a beautiful setting and shockingly cheap. Wonderful locals and a culture that is rich to the senses. What more does anyone want from a holiday? And the best way to crown my trip to Porto was by crossing the mighty Duoro over the Dom Luis I bridge. One of the world's truly great landmarks, a wonderful piece of human engineering, and an iconic piece of Porto that I was lucky to see!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Porto's Historic Trams

If there is one very fun way to travel in Porto, it is by their vintage tram system. Opened in 1872, like many other tram systems they faced a gradual dismantling by the city's authority until there was only one tram line left in the 1990's. Thankfully, there was one bright spark in the city's transport department who realised that this would actually be a really good attraction for tourists. So a few more tram routes were restored and today, three interlinked routes cross Porto, from the Atlantic coast right through to the city centre.

Practical? Most definitely not. Useful? Well, the bus is quicker...but fun? Absolutely! Rattling away on cobbled streets, these trams are from a different era. Rather than the sleek lines of Porto's modern metro system, these old metal and wooden contraptions slowly wheel you from one part of the city to the next. Up the steep hills and past narrow streets, Porto's vintage trams are the most fun you can have while getting from A to B. They do not run frequently (about every half hour) and they do not run late at night. But wen you are on the tram, you are not looking to break any records. Just to take a slow ride to somewhere in the past...

The trams are ridiculously fun, and being on the Adante Card network, they are practical as well. Oh come on, this is a great way to get round. Thoroughly impractical for the 21st Century, but when you are on holiday, it is not practicality, but enjoyment and slow, lay days that you are looking for. Especially compared to the trams in London, this is just Everyone from locals to the foreigners love seeing these cars rattle past. And it was great to see oncoming traffic stop and reverse for these great pieces of heritage. You want my advice? One of the best things to do in Porto. Hop on the tram...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Porto - To the Atlantic and Beyond!

Porto is the Atlantic Ocean. Both are the same. The winds from the Atlantic make Porto a blustery city, with changeable weather and surprisingly cool nights. Well, at least when I was there.

The best way to get to the sea is via the historic number 1 tram. It runs all the way to Foz which is crowned by a lovely little cafe in a green square and a historic fort by the mouth of the Duoro.

But I wanted to see the Atlantico! Te great ocean itself, and despite the fact that I live in Britain, I have never seen the Atlantic in this country. And so, Porto, with its prime location was the place where I would first see the Atlantic in Europe. Shocking to think that my travels have taken me to the Pacific and to the Indian Oceans, but to my own 'local ocean', I have never seen it until my visit to Porto...

The beach in Porto is actually dominated by the now modern container port that Porto has become. As always, ocean going trade is still as important to the economy of the city as it has historically been. Added to the fact that the sea is absolutely freezing, this is not exactly a wonderful beach by the sea. Still, it is nice to go and dip your toes in the Atlantic, and to take a view of the structures on the beach.

There is a lot of renewal happening in Porto. A lot has probably stuttered due to the recent financial crisis, but the buildings that do line the beach have a certain old world charm. Some say the structures are like Goa, others claim Havana. But the decay is ringed by a feeling of dignity. And basically, they do look really cinematic!

So if you find yourself in Porto, do not forget to head towards the ocean. it may be windy, the waters may be cold, but it is a really stunning part of the city!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A wander down Porto's waterfront

You can never get lost in Porto. Just find out where the Duoro is, and you can align yourself fairly easily. The Duoro River dominates Porto, it carved the gorge that the city now sits in and as a result, it gives Porto its unique characteristic beauty. On a clear day, this is one beautiful place to take a stroll.

A great place to start is by the Dom Luis Bridge and to head out east towards the Atlantic coast. With Vila Nova de Gaia on your left with its world famous Port Cellars,

you can easily distract yourself with the brands of Port that are sold worldwide, or in England at Christmas.

The Duoro is also a major place for bird watching. Maybe the bird is the word, but this is a major stopping off point for migrations as well as a great place to generally spot such ornithological creatures:

Heading further west towards the Atlantic, you will find many of the locals engaged in fishing. Portugal is big on its fish, being dominated by the Atlantic Sea, it is not surprising to find fish served in every restaurant and cheaply available in the shops. But a lot of people have the mentality of why bother paying for it, when it comes free. All along by the mouth of the Duoro I saw plenty of Porto's finest go fishing, catching their own food for their families. A quiet past time, with tasty results!

The Atlantic is not that far from Porto's city centre. In fact, the Duoro is in reality little more than an inlet for the ocean. It is rough, windy and fierce but stunning at the same time. For centuries this was the edge of the European world and then came the savagery that was the Age of Discovery that in reality has shaped the world we have today. A lot of history started from this point, that today is one of the most westerly points in Portugal. Okay, not the most westerly point, but it is the symbolism rather than the reality that makes this point evocative. Feeling the breeze coming off the sea is a wonderful and inspiring feeling. Head that way, and you come to the Azores and some 3000 miles later, America. Wow. Yep, that is it, open ocean ahead. Land's end, the end of the world, or the beginning of something

Monday, 13 June 2011

Porto - Europe's Best Kept Secret?

Last week I was in the beautiful Portuguese city of Porto, in the north for the country. It was my first time to Portugal, and so that brings my tally of countries visited to 34. Wow. Not bad for a wandering bum such as myself.

But back to Porto. Is this my new favourite city? What more can I say about it. A great location, fantastic food, cheap prices, easy to get round and a population that almost universally speaks English. Really, my phrasebook was absolutely useless here, despite my humble attempts at Portuguese, there was only one time I really needed to use the phrasebook. Virtually everyone else I met would speak English to me. Wow.

And what a place to be. Situated in a gorge at the mouth of the Douro river, this city is blessed with one of the most beautiful locations in all of the world. Craggy rocks, covered in green shape the city. The fierce Atlantic wind batters its shores and gave Porto its destiny during the Age of Discovery. And of course, for any drinkers out there, the city is the home of the famed Port wine. As a sober man, this opportunity for tanking up escaped me, but the city houses far more treats than tours of wine cellars. History, culture and beauty combine to create what is for me, a fascinating destination.

(Yeah, that was the view from my hotel balcony. Nice!)

One thing I have to say about Porto was how cheap it was. Compared to Spain next door, this is one bargain place. Two people could go to a coffee shop, grab a couple of cakes, a couple of snack bites, two cups of tea and get change from €5! Yes, that is less than a fiver! Considering how lousy the pound is, this is one of the few bargain places left in Europe. Compared to my European travels in the past year (Poland, Hungary, Germany, Romania) this is stunning, only Romania was cheaper. And the food is great. Fish everywhere, and good quality stuff. Beautiful little bites, homely eateries, rustic cooking, all for a bargain price. And the tastes are divine. The big question I have to ask is this. Why does anyone bother with Spain? The other question is this - why didn't I come here sooner?

(Civilised, and cheap!)

So join me this week, as I take you on a tour of the sights, sounds and tastes of Porto - probably Europe's best kept Secret...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Caution WetPaint - UK Premiere!

Jay and Kay Save the World gets its UK premiere in August at the Deep Fried Film Festival:

Venue and Guide for CWP at the Deep Fried Festival.

I, El Director, will be there in Coatbridge for the night to watch the film and to see how our first UK audience reacts to and hopefully loves our film!

It is great to get a UK premiere. For me as a Director, it will be fascinating to see the reaction of the audience to the film's humour and one of the best ways in which to gauge how CWP is received and more importantly, how to improve on the formula of the films. What works and what does not is really important, and so every chance that I get, no matter how small, I will take.

So join me, at the Deep Fried Film Festival, Thursday 18th August at 8pm.

Venue: Conforti Institute, Calder Avenue, Coatbridge. Nearest Rail, Whifflet (trains every half hour from Glasgow Central).

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Flight Virus

Yes, again, someone behind me on that crowded flight was sneezing and now I have a cold - in summer! It is so simple, before boarding a plane, head to a cafe or the toilet and grab some free tissues. So when you sneeze on the plane, the germs do not come and infect half the aircraft!

Grotty. Utterly grotty!

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Voyagers - still discovering

Any machine that is 34 years old is considered pretty useless and knackered here on Earth. How many 34 year old cars do you see on the roads, or 34 year old computers. And yet the Voyager Spacecraft, launched nearly 34 years ago are still going strong. They are the furthest objects launched by mankind, that are still going strong. And today, 34 years from their launch, they are still providing information, answering questions and raising even more problems for scientists as their discoveries change the way we look at oursevles in the Solar System.

At the moment they are on the boundary of interstellar space. For the non-space geeks out there, this is the place where our sun influence comes to a halt and the influence of the rest of the Galaxy comes into play. In reality, this is a boundary that is defined by humans rather than by any law of actuality, as we are still discovering. But nonetheless, before the power packs of these spacecraft die out, they will have begun to tell us of space that is far beyond the Solar System. Fascinating to think that when these spacecraft where launched, the hope was to get to the Outer Planets. Now that they have achieved this, they are still going strong, telling us so much more than their original design intent.

I am a space geek, and I was fascinated by the Voyagers during the 1980's when they went past Uranus and more fascinatingly, Neptune. And now they are at the edge of the Solar System, telling us more of what lies beyond. Should they reach the edge of the Sun's influence before they power packs die out, they may tell us the first glimpses of Interstellar Space. The next time a probe will do that will be in 2029, when the New Horizons Craft leaves the Solar System. Should I live that long, I will have to wait until my 'yet to have' children have grown up before more information is received from the rest of the Galaxy. Wow. That is far into the future, and yet, a mere blip in the span of the cosmos...

Clickity links:

Voyager at the Edge of the Solar System by NASA - a great video, watch it!

BBC Article from Yesterday.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

London Gatwick Airport (or the first circle of hell)

There is probably no other part of London and its environs that is as unloved as Gatwick Airport. Consisting of two terminals, located some 30 miles to the south of Central London, this is actually the second busiest airport in the UK and the ninth busiest in Europe, despite the fact that it is London's second airport. Yes, it is true. The British like to fly. It holds a few other records. It is the busiest single runway airport in the world, it was the first airport to build a satellite terminal and it was the first airport in the world with a direct rail link.

Can I just say, despite the breathtaking vision of connecting a city to an airport (ridiculous to think that forty years ago, Gatwick was unique in this), today, getting between Gatwick and Central London by rail is utter crap. Thanks to the privatisation of the UK's railways, the amount of choice is astounding, and likewise the amount you will pay will take your breath away. In total, there are 3 different services to the centre of town. The Gatwick Express to Victoria (direct and fast), the Southern Railway Service to Victoria (it takes ten minutes longer, but is a lot cheaper) and the Thameslink to London Bridge and St Pancras (cost price between the two and just as fast). There are also local trains to destinations across South London, over the river and towards the coast, but again, it is costly and the frequencies are at the whim of the railway companies.

But let me get back to the airport. I do not mind Gatwick, but I certainly would not be singing its praises from the rooftops. I have used this airport, both of its temrinals, far too many times. During my younger days, before Heathrow was truly opened up, I was there a lot as it was where most of flights to places like Seychelles and Sri Lanka left from. As the planes got bigger and the rules surrounding Fortress Heathrow were lifted, Gatwick changed from a major port of call in the international trade to a major port of call in the European Low Cost trade. And due to its location to where I live in South London, if I have a low cost flight, it is the first place I will pick. I have now used it twice this year, and I have planned another trip later this year, to depart from Gatwick.

So, yeah, it is not Luton. But, it is not exactly great either. I am not sure why, but for some reason, I do not have a real love for the place. Maybe it is because every scumbag from South London is heading out on their cheap flight to f**k some girl who also lives in South London but is holidaying in Spain, because it is just so hard to get laid while surfing the net for pornography in their own homes (wow, that's a bitter line Charlie - Ed). Maybe it is because Gatwick is forever being enhanced for the visitor experience, but there is still no place to get a decent bit of food (McTea, McSandwich and McShite will induce airsickness). Maybe it is the dread of encountering the local branch of the we hate colour and dirty foreign people league who also check your passports when arriving in the country (one terminal at the UK's second busiest airport had a total of seven immigration guards yesterday - think about it).

Okay, so I am back in the UK. And I would have to say that it was a great holiday. Where to? Oh, that little thing. Well, I will tell you all on Monday. While the break was short, I think I have found a new favourite country.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Holiday Mode...

It's back, my trusty old backpack, once again, for a little trip. I will be off next week, but will be 'unblogging' for the next few days in order to tie up some loose film ends. Until then, toodles!